Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

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Aron Baron letter to Boris Yelensky October 27 1924

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Muksolma, [Solovetsky Islands] October 27, 1924

What’s the matter, friend, that you don’t answer? Back in early August I received a postcard from you which I immediately answered. And since then I haven’t heard a thing from you. This just won’t do. Or maybe my letter just didn’t reach you? Really there wasn’t anything in it which would cause our censors to hold it up. In any case, I expected you to let me know about yourself in more detail. In my last letter I asked you a whole bunch of questions about what life is like in Chicago nowadays and about the new people there. I also asked how you returned, what sort of adventures you had. And regarding Klara, I wanted to find out how she got out of Japan – when and under what circumstances. When you get around to answering, don’t forget to write about all this.

Concerning myself, I can mention that on January 5 my current term will end; accordingly, by the end of November I am to be transferred to finish the rest of my sentence in the town of Kem, where there is a branch of our camp. This letter of mine, if it travels at a normal speed, will reach you in the middle or latter half of November. Taking this into consideration, I want to propose to the following. You wrote that you and Klara wanted to send me a parcel or money. It’s not a good idea to send parcels here, friends, because there’s duty to be paid on every little thing. It’s best to send money. The more the better, because there’s a few of us here. My proposal is this: collect as much money as you can and send it soon enough that it will arrive in Kem not later than the end of January or beginning of February. The address is: Kem, Karelia oblast, camp, political prisoner Vera Kevrik. Don’t forget, Boris, and if I’m no longer in Kem by the time the money arrives, it doesn’t matter: it’s still very necessary.

I’ve had some correspondence with Vanya – the poor fellow is getting worse. It’s possible I’ll soon end up in his situation. Your namesake Boris, who also used to live in Chicago and was a fanatical IWW, together with Yefim were settled not long ago in Turkestan. Some other acquaintances have been settled even farther away in Siberia. I was sick recently, but am better now. I heard that Erman has been spreading all sorts of filth in your circles. What a swine! This is taking a toll on Mark’s health.

Well, good-bye friends. Don’t forget. Greetings to all my Russian, Jewish and American friends. Keep your spirits up.

Your Aron

Answer promptly. Klara, write me about yourself and also about Wilma.


Translator’s Notes: The letter was written to Boris Yelensky. Mentioned in the letter are fellow prisoners/exiles Vanya Charin, Boris Klichevsky, Yefim Dolinsky, and Vera Kevrik. “Klara” may refer to Klara Chornaya, a colleague of Yelensky’s in the Odessa group he belonged to. They left the USSR together in 1922. Don’t know about “Wilma” (Yelensky’s wife’s name was Bessie and their son was Leon). “Erman” may refer to the “anarcho-bolshevik” Herman Sandomirsky. He was sent abroad in 1922 to convince anarchists to support the USSR and created quite a stir in Germany and Italy, with Voline and Malatesta attacking him in the anarchist press.

From: IISG, Boris Yelensky Papers, folder 61. Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.

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Written by gulaganarchists

20, August 2014 at 9:13 am