Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

Archive for May 2015

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

leave a comment »

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

Advertisements

Written by gulaganarchists

28, May 2015 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Texts

Tagged with

New files on the Senya Fleshin papers blog

leave a comment »

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

leave a comment »

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