Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

Archive for January 2009

Russian Anarchist letters in Amsterdam

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[Some information on Russian anarchists whose letters are preserved in the Senya Fleshin (Fléchine) archive at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.]


If you want to know more about Bolshevik persecution of the Russian anarchist movement or anarchist solidarity with it, you should read the Bulletin of the Joint Committee for the defense of revolutionists imprisoned in Russia (1923-26) and the Bulletin of the relief fund of the International Working Men’s Association for anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists imprisoned or exiled in Russia (1926-31). They published contemporary eyewitness accounts of the repression, which makes them a vital source of information. Inevitably they’re a partial source: they couldn’t publish everything. Also, they chose to protect the identities of their comrades inside Russia. Correspondents and other prisoners and exiles are often just referred to by a single initial, which makes identifying them a challenge.

The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam hold the Fléchine (Fleshin), Yelensky and Maksimov (Maximoff) archives. These archives are full of documents which would help reconstruct both the Bolshevik crushing of the anarchist movement, and the anarchist response. Many of these files are given a quick and basic listing: “Illegal letters from Russia. 1922-1925” (Fléchine papers, folder 80); “file of letters from Russian exiles 1923-1927” (Boris Yelensky papers). But in the Fléchine papers the letters dated 1926-32 written to Senya Fléchine and Jacques Doubinsky in connection with the Relief Fund of the International Working Men’s Association have been listed by name and date. They fill 31 folders. Presumably the bulk of these letters are in Russian, but some might be in Yiddish or even English. What follows is a listing of who these people are, a cross section of the Russian anarchist movement [nb, of course, it’s possible that some of the unidentified people are ‘non=party’, SRs, etc.]. That’s one reason to produce this list. But it’s also a signpost to further research. Translating these letters would fill some of the gaps in what we know from the Bulletins of the Joint Committee and IWMA Relief Fund. Beyond that, what else might we learn? What will we hear from anarchist voices that have been silenced for seventy years?

The International Institute of Social History website is at:

Memorial website (in Russian) is at:

NB names are transliterated from Russian twice: ISO (which the IISG/IISH use) and Library of Congress-style.

See the list of names at

[NB more biographical details added July and August 2015]

Written by gulaganarchists

27, January 2009 at 10:04 am

The Anarchists in Russia [Anarchist prisoners in Russia, circa-1972]

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Recently the Union of Former Zionist Prisoners (a Russian Jewish organisation in Israel) met in Habimah (Tel Aviv) for its annual convention. It was adressed by Absorbption Minister Natan Peled, who called for economic attacks upon the USSR (something which does not move their policies: he obviously does not understand the State Socialism of Russia has, after all, dispensed internally with many capitalist myths, even though replacing them with new ones). Secretary of the Union, Mr Yehiel Perelovitch, called for a ‘permanent petition’ of free peoples – a typical liberal gesture.
From the floor, however, Mrs Tevye Weinberger made an attack on such policies and called for direct action inside Russia, which was denounced from the platform as provocative. Mrs Weinberger said that “the anarchist prisoners in Russia stick together and fight for what they think. They will never get what they want but we are only asking to get out … we can succeed.”
Asked later by a reporter whether in fact there were any dissidents in Russia, Mrs Weinberger said, “Trotskyists, socialists, anarchists, you find them all in the prison camps. I mentioned the anarchists because I was witha  group of anarchist women. There are students, there are grandmothers … they have been there since before Stalin.”
It is not clear if Mrs Weinberger meant to say that there are some individual prisoners still in prison from before Stalin, which is possible though it hardly seem credible (nearly fifty years) or if she just meant, what is a fact, that anarchists were in Russian jails under the Tsar and under Lenin. It is interesting to note, however, that the Russian Anarchists, long cut off from contact with the outside world, still survive and fight (“there are students…”) and that Mrs Weinberger approved of their direct actionist methods, though exactly what they were did not come over in the report in the Israel papers, understandable in the present climate of opinion there.

“Black Flag” vol. 2, no.14, October 1972, p.16
Presumably written by Albert Meltzer

Written by gulaganarchists

20, January 2009 at 9:56 am

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