Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

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

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