Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

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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:

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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: / / / Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.

Originally posted at:

Written by gulaganarchists

18, June 2015 at 9:59 am

Posted in Texts

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