Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

Files from the Boris Yelensky Papers

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Some files from the Boris Yelensky Papers have just gone up at The Senya Fleshin Papaers blog. Notes on contents at: https://senyafleshinpapers.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/files-from-the-boris-yelensky-papers-june-2015/

Contents:
Folder 61. Political prisoners in Russia. 1924-1927 and n.d. (Letters)

Folder 62. Russian refugees in Europe, Canada and USA. 1927, 1939-1963.

Folder 68. Chicago Aid Fund and Alexander Berkman Aid Fund.
Administrative documents ; Financial statements and reports of the activities. 1926-1965.

Folder 80. Chicago Aid Fund and Alexander Berkman Aid Fund.
Publication initiatives ; Documents concerning the publication of the book of G.P. Maximoff The guillotine at work, including the agreement for publication, reviews and correspondence concerning orders, delivery and receipt. 1939-1957.

Happy researching!

Written by gulaganarchists

26, June 2015 at 8:52 am

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Letter from Max Chernyak, Buenos Aires, March 15 1931

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Buenos Aires, March 15 1931

 

Dear Com[rade] D[ubinsky].

Although I still havenʼt received any reply from you, [Iʼm writing] because of the rising chorus of abuse directed against me by the Montevideo group. Their sec[retary] Lisitsa has sent out letters to organizations claiming that I am a Bolshevik and a provocateur, and in order to force them to put an end to these nasty pranks, Iʼm demanding to be put before a court [of honour].

I wrote to com[rade] A. Berkman and asked him to commission a com[rade] in Montevideo to investigate this sordid affair.i

Also I sent a declaration to “Delo Truda” in Chicago, “Freedom” in London, “Freie Arbeiter Stimme” and to other anarchist editors, [asking them] to publish my request to all organizations and c[omrades] to cease any contact with me until the resolution [of the issue] by a com[radely] tribunal. Thatʼs why I need to have everything in order with the groups.

I wrote to you that our group sent 20.00 pesos to com[rade] R. Rocker to the address you sent to us in correspondence. R. R[ocker] has not replied to us. And although I have a postal receipt, it would be desirable for our records to have either a receipt or a letter about receiving [the money]. Itʼs possible the money was lost.

And since you correspond with him, I beg you to ask him about this money. By the way, I want to know if you know David Elak-Berman? A member of our group was looking for work in Montevideo and visited the group there. They didnʼt want to talk to him. D. Elak-Berman insisted vehemently that A. Chernyakov is an honourable anar[chist] and that these protocolsii are worthless. He insisted that I be told that if I write an apology admitting that I made a mistake not recognizing the Arshinov platform and the An[archist] party, [then] they will work with me. They wonʼt deal with other An[archists] except on this basis. He spoke for the whole group.

The comrade made a reference to your opinion about the protocols. He [i.e., Elak-Berman] began to scream! “Why is Chernyak dealing with D[ubinsky]? I donʼt want anything to do with Chernyak!”

I donʼt know you personally. Itʼs enough for me that you replaced com[rade] A. B[erkman]. But Iʼd sure like to know who D. E[lak]-B[erman] represents. In his letters to me concerning A. Ch[ernyakov] he swears like a trooper.

Further, I beg you to inquire of com[rade] Yudiniii why he doesnʼt ask me what kind of people I hang around with. I would reply to him that I hang around with people I met through Chernyakov, thanks to letters of introduction provided by com[rade] P. Arshinov. Iʼve already fingered Chernyakov and some of his henchmen; the rest Iʼll go after when the hearing is over. I can pick them out better by working with them. But P. A[rshinov] is not writing to me and doesnʼt respond to letters from the group.

Com[rade] Yudinʼs letter to B[uenos]-A[ires] gives Chernyakov the possibility of boasting that I donʼt deserve the trust of the Anarchist movement. Since he knew Chernyakov through work in Russia, c[omrade] Yudin can vouch for his activity. And this is good enough for Arshinov. As for the rest … .

Nevertheless, I doubt if anyone from Russia knows about his an[archist] work. More than a few of the protocols are at variance with such activity. No one has personal knowledge of his work or knows the places where he might have worked.

And when he told his story to people who know something about the Rus[sian] An[archist] movement, they caught him bluffing, and even outsiders could tell he was lying.

But what will be, will be.

Please excuse me for using the wrong stationeryiv; the fact is Iʼm writing to you while sitting at my place of work.

After 11 months of unemployment, I found myself a job as a janitor in a hairdressing salon. I work 7 days a week, 16 hours a day. The boss gave me the keys. Itʼs dark when I come to work and I donʼt leave until 12 or 1 am. Today after finishing cleaning up I couldnʼt find the keys. It looks like theyʼre lost.

Iʼm worried that theyʼre not getting enough good customers into the shop and pretty soon thereʼll be nothing for me to do. Right now Iʼm writing this letter to keep from going to sleep. I have my fill of grief, so I may be a little off my rocker.

Send my home address to com[rade] R. Rocker.

With com[radely] greetings, M. Chernyak


IISH, Flechine archive, Folder 85. Translated from the Russian by Malcolm Archibald. Thanks to Yuriy Kravetz for help with reading this handwritten letter, which contains numerous errors of orthography and grammar.

i Letter of M. Chernyak to A. Berkman of 6–7 March 1931 (in English), see IISH, Alexander Berkman Papers, Folder 17.

ii The “protocols” refers to a dossier of evidence put together by Chernyak purporting to prove that Chernyakov was a Soviet agent.

iii Ivan Yudin, leader of a group of anarchist students in Moscow, was arrested on March 18 1921 and expelled from the USSR in January 1922.

iv Chernyak was writing on the stationery of Casa Ner, the hair salon where he worked.

From: https://senyafleshinpapers.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/flechine85-135.jpg / https://senyafleshinpapers.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/flechine85-136.jpg / https://senyafleshinpapers.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/flechine85-137.jpg / https://senyafleshinpapers.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/flechine85-138.jpg. Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.

Originally posted at: http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/n8pmg5

Written by gulaganarchists

18, June 2015 at 9:59 am

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“A charming, cultured old man”: anarchist Non Varshavskiy in 1950s Siberian exile

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Anarchist Non (Noi) Ilyich Varshavskiy was imprisoned in 1927 for producing a leaflet protesting against then-imminent execution of Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, which also called on proletarians to protest against persecution of anarchists in the USSR. (http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/v15gb3) He spent much of the rest of his life in prisons and Siberian exile, and did not betray his convictions. In the early 1930s, he corresponded with the Relief Fund of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) for Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists Imprisoned or Exiled in Russia (http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/tx97g0). In 1949, he was arrested again and sentenced to 10 more years of exile in East Siberia as a “socially dangerous element”. There he met the members of the Levin family, who held fond memories of Varshavskiy.

Theatre actress and director Sarra Mikhailovna Levina-Kulneva (1920 – not before 2004) was sentenced to eight years in exile in Siberia in November 1950 as a socially undesirable element. Her husband Naum (Nokhem, Nokhim) Yakovlevich Levin (1908-1950) was a secretary of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. He was arrested in September 1949, sentenced to death on November 22, 1950, and executed the next day (http://mishpoha.org/n33/33a11.php).

In her autobiography “Sorele” (http://www.memorial.krsk.ru/memuar/Kulneva.htm; written down by Anna Mass and first published in Zvezda magazine in 1991), Sarra Levina-Kulneva recounted meeting Non Varshavskiy when she served her exile term. In Spring 1951, she started working on a construction site in the Krasnoyarsk Territory village of Taseyevo:

Our works foreman was Non Ilyich Varshavskiy. He was 64 years old, of that he spent 33 years in prison and exile*. For 33 years he could not be forgiven for being an anarchist. A Jew anarchist! His wife Anna Lvovna [Varshavskaya] and daughter [Liya Nonovna Varshavskaya], both of them medics**, came from Moscow to visit him each time they had holidays.

A charming, cultured old man. We made very good friends with him. He saw how hard it was for me, living with two children, and he offered me monthly assistance, but I refused. I said: “Non Ilyich, you are given help yourself by your relatives – they save their own money and send them to you. By what right would I use that?”

When Levina-Kulneva was called to the local NKVD office in 1952 to get a response to her query concerning Naum Levin’s fate (she was not given a confirmation of his execution), Varshavskiy met her in the street: “He suggested that they want to recruit me as an informer, and as we walked there, he taught me how to respond so they wouldn’t catch me”.

The memoirs of her daughter Miriam Levina, “Stories not for children”, about her life as a child exile, were published in Golosa Sibiri (“Voices of Siberia”) almanac by Kuzbassvuzizdat publisher in Kemerovo in 2007 (http://golosasibiri.ru/almanah/vyp_5/092_025_lev.htm). She also mentioned Non Varshavskiy: “I heard how mum told someone that Non Ilyich was first imprisoned even before the revolution. As a kid he joined the anarchists and was jailed for the first time when he was 15 years old, for revolutionary activity. And from 1922 he was imprisoned all the time, as an anarchist***.”

Levina also described how the various exiles drank vodka and danced to mournful music as the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was announced in 1953: “Non Ilyich lifted me up to his arms and started spinning as he traversed amongst the people who gathered here for some unconceivable reason. My step-father [Vladimir Kulnev] turned a button on the radio, and heavy mournful music started to sound louder, which made the bright smiles of the guests seem even more absurd to me.”

After Stalin’s death, Varshavskiy was rehabilitated in July 1955 (http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/zs7jdj). Levina-Kulneva wrote: “Non Ilyich Varshavskiy died from throat cancer, he did not even live one full year after returning. A near and dear man! When I felt really bad, I ran to him, he would always find me a glass of strong tea and a ship biscuit, he would sit me down, he told me something, I told him something.”

[Translated by Szarapow]

* Varshavskiy was born in 1892 or 1895 and first arrested in 1927, so these numbers may be incorrect (http://gufo.me/content_pol/varshavskij-noj-ilich-2417.html).

** Apparently, Varshavskiy’s daughter worked as a school teacher (http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/tx97g0).

*** I presume that the numbers may have been borrowed from her mother’s book.

 

from http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/tx97h5

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28, May 2015 at 7:53 pm

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New files on the Senya Fleshin papers blog

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The introduction to the scanned Senya Fleshin papers has been updated.

The new files are:
Extra material from Folder 76 – Venger, Rachil’. 1931, 1932.
Folder 85
Folder 86 part one and
Folder 86 part two
Folder 85 and 86 are administrative documents including minutes, letters to the Aid Fund etc)

Happy researching!

Written by gulaganarchists

24, May 2015 at 10:47 am

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Exhibition on Russian anarchism and Disussion of the Spanish Civil War: Cultural activities of the Russian section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA-AIT)

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Activists of the Federation of Workers in Education, Science and Technology (FRONT), an affiliate of the Russian section (KRAS) of the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT), participated in the organization of a series of cultural events in Moscow, the purpose of which was to familiarize the public with the history, experience and practice of anarchism and the anarcho-syndicalist movement.

KRAS1

On April 17 2015, in the Centre for Social-Political History of the State Public Historical Library (GPIB), an exhibition entitled “The History of Anarchism: Sources” had its official opening. On display were a sampling of the books and periodicals of the most valuable collections of the former State Public Historical Library (GOLB), devoted to the prehistory of anarchism, to Russian anarchism in the 19th and 20th centuries, to the international anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movements of the 20th century, and also to the contemporary Russian libertarian movement. Included were works by William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Joseph Déjacque, Ernest Coeurderoy, Max Stirner, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Jean Grave, Sébastien Faure, Benjamin Tucker, Anselmo Lorenzo, John Henry Mackay, Vsevolod Voline, Alexei Borovoy, Nestor Makhno, Peter Arshinov, Apollon Karelin, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Émile Armand, Federica Montseny, Rudolf Rocker, Karl Roche, Abel Paz, and many other famous libertarians, published at various times in various languages. There were also issues of the newspapers Obshchina [Commune] and Chernyy peredel [Black distribution – a revolutionary slogan referring to the radical redistribution of land to the peasants]; anarchist publications from the Russian revolutions of 1905–1907 and 1917–1921; newspapers of the global anarcho-syndicalist movement – Der Syndikalist (Germany), La Protesta (Argentina) and Solidaridad Obrera (Spain); and libertarian Samizdat publications of the period of Perestroika and the 1990s.

Members of FRONT assisted Library workers in assembling and annotating the materials for the exhibition.

The scholars, library employees and libertarian activists (including members of FRONT) who spoke at the official opening not only commented on the materials on display, but also briefed those present on relevant examples from the rich history of the movement and its practice in various fields of endeavour, such as anarcho-syndicalism/labour movement, anti-militarism, the struggle against repression and prisons, equal rights for women, “free love”, literature, art, etc. The speakers called upon researchers to expand the study of anarchism, both its ideas and its practice. Splendid opportunities for this exist thanks to the availability of the necessary research materials.

* * * *

KRAS2

On April 19 2015 a round table on the history of the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 was held at the Dostoevsky Library in Moscow. Comrades from the Russian section of the IWA-AIT acted as co-organizers of the event, along with the administration of the Vkontakte [Russian social network] group “Guerra Civil Española / Grazhd. voyna v Ispanii” [Civil War in Spain]. Addressing the meeting, researchers told about the role and actions of the anarcho-syndicalists in the Spanish revolution, about the May events of 1937, about the radical wing of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism (which led the struggle against concessions to bourgeois-Stalinist “antifascism” by the leadership of the movement, about the Russian anarchists who fought in Spain, about cultural aspects of the Spanish drama and civil war. . . During the round table, as one would expect, a debate developed among the participants. On one side were those who defended the line of the radical wing of the Spanish libertarian movement; on the other side, the proponents of “antifascist unity”, who tried to justify the concessions of the steering committees of the CNT and FAI . . . The audience had the opportunity to ask questions and convince themselves of the compelling nature of the arguments of the supporters of anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian communism.

The Russian section of the IWA-AIT attaches great importance to such events, which not only contribute to the spread of knowledge about the theory and practice of our movement, but also strengthen the position of anarchism in the uphill struggle for “cultural hegemony” that has to be carried on today against reactionary, liberal and authoritarian views.

  • Confederation of Russian Anarcho-Syndicalists (KRAS) [Translation, Malcolm Archibald]

Written by gulaganarchists

8, May 2015 at 10:37 am

Postcard from Aulie-Ata, 1931 – Berta Tubismann

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25/VIII Aulie-Ata* 10/X/1931

I very gratefully acknowledge receipt of the items most kindly sent to me in a bag containing: 1 kg butter, ¼ kg semolina & 4½ kg flour, all the other items listed in the customs declaration disappeared on the way here — where to, I have no idea. They took 15 roubles in customs duty on these few things that are left. The first consignment reached me complete and in good condition; I did acknowledge receipt of same too but I don’t know whether you received what I sent. If all is well, I am thinking of leaving here in January of next year.

Berta Hibes Tubismann

63 Bazaar Street, Aulie-Ata

* Aulie-Ata: town in Kazakhstan, now called Taraz.

From: From Folder 75 of the Flechine Archive at the IISG in Amsterdam: http://search.socialhistory.org/Record/ARCH00414/Description.. Translated by: Murray Glickman.

 

From http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/v41qd6

Written by gulaganarchists

30, March 2015 at 9:44 am

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Soviet anarcho-mystic Julian Shchutsky commemorated by plaque

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On March 21, 2015, a plaque was unveiled on the house in St Petersburg where sinologist Julian Konstantinovich Shchutsky (1897-1938) lived [1]. The plaque was installed as part of non-state, public-funded “Last address” project, commemorating the victims of Stalinist repressions in the USSR [2]. Shchutsky’s plaque, one of the first in St Petersburg, is located at 9 Dekabristov Street. The unveiling was attended by two of his granddaughters [3].

Professor Shchutsky, who worked at the Leningrad State University, Institute of Oriental Studies and the State Hermitage, is known as the first translator of “I-Ching, or Book of Changes” into Russian [4]. Shchutsky was arrested two months after defending his PhD dissertation on “I-Ching”, on August 3, 1937, at the Leningrad Region village of Pitkelevo. He was charged with counter-revolutionary activities under articles 58-10 and 58-11 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The investigation, led by State Security officer Jr. Lt. Drozdetsky, fabricated the case against the “terrorist” anti-Soviet anarcho-mystical group “Order of the Templars”, based on remaining personal connections between former anthroposophers and anarcho-mystics. The fabrication was sanctioned by the head of department No 4 of the Leningrad Region directorate of the NKVD, Capt. Karpov. Testimony incriminating Shchutsky was forced from Moscow architect G. V. Gorinevsky, who was not personally acquainted with him, and from F. B. Rostopchin, who was brought in to testify from exile. Rostopchin”testified” that he recruited Shchutsky in early 1935, on his way home from work. During his second interview, on September 3, 1937, Shchutsky signed a confession, as he was unable to withstand moral and physical torture. On February 18, 1938, he was sentenced to death by a visiting board of the Supreme Court [5].

He was executed by firing squad on the same day, alongside physicist Aleksei Sinyagin (1901-1938), sentenced in the same case. In the late 1920s, Sinyagin joined the Leningrad branch of the anarcho-mystical “Order of the Russian Templars”, in which he was the supporter of “anarchist, not mystical current” and tried to persuade his comrades “to go into the streets to oppose the evil personified by Soviet dictatorship”. In 1935, Shchutsky joined the same group [6]. During an interview on Sept. 3, 1937, Shchutsky said that Order of Templars was “a deeply clandestine organisation of anarchist current”, which used mysticism as a cover [7, p. 308]. Toymaker Andrey Sparionapte (1893-1937) told investigators that Shchutsky “expressed anarchist views” although he did not reveal that he identified as an anarchist [7, p. 317].

Shchutsky was rehabilitated in 1958, and his translation of “I-Ching” was published in 1960 [5]. Buried presumably at the Levashovo Memorial Cemetery [8].

[Compiled by Szarapow]

1 http://www.poslednyadres.ru/news/news45.htm

2 http://www.poslednyadres.ru/about/

3 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10206129697030874

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Shchutsky

5 http://vostokoved.academic.ru/667/Шуцкий,_Юлиан_Константинович

6 http://www.makhno.ru/forum/calendar.php?do=getinfo&day=2015-2-18

7 Orden rossiyskikh tampliyerov. Tom 2. Dokumenty 1930-1944 gg. M., 2003. (Order of the Russian Templars. Vol. 2. Documents 1930-1944. Compiled and published by A. L. Nikitin. Moscow, 2003. Materials concerning the Shchutsky and Sinyagin case are at pp. 304-322).

8

http://www.poslednyadres.ru/articles/shutskiy.htm

Written by gulaganarchists

30, March 2015 at 9:15 am

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