REPORT OF AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVE OF STATEMENTS FROM A PERSONAL FRIEND WHO HAD ESCAPED FROM SOVIET RUSSIA, OF JULY 2, 1919.
Terror is daily increasing and people are shot not only for agitation against the Soviet Government or for any other accusation; the nonbelonging to the Soviet service or relatives being abroad or the possibility of intending to join a new government are sufficient reasons for execution. For instance: Bakharev was shot because he was not serving the Soviet and his wife had gone abroad. He was a young officer who lived in Chernigov with the parents of his wife and his mother went to Moscow. When in August, 1918, all officers had to be registered, he could not appear, living in the Ukraine. His old mother was then arrested in Moscow. Hearing this he managed to go to Moscow and see the commandant. He was immediately arrested and his mother remained one and one-half months longer in prison. The judgment against Bakharev was the following: "Is not in Soviet service; lived in the Ukraine, appeared only after arrest of his mother. To be considered a White-Guardist and to be shot." The cook serving at the Extraordinary Commission, where Bakharev and many thousands have been shot, related afterwards that serious differences arose between the so-called “commissaries of death” as to whom Bakharev's clothes should belong. Bakharev was very well dressed, and it is usual that what the delinquent wears belongs to the commissary of death carrying out the sentence. When Bakharev was brought to the room of “souls” where prisoners were taken for final questions and for taking away of any valuables, the commissaries of death, noticing his fine clothes, began to quarrel as to who should execute. After long disputes and quarreling they decided to toss; the winner then hastened to carry out the sentence on tbis unfortunate Bakharev.
The officer Kamensky was executed on the supposition of the commissary tbat he was expecting a change of Government to which he might be useful; and people dangerousto the Soviet power must be shot.
Beginning from the middle of April terror increased, people were shot on suspicion of being in sympathy with Kolchak or the Allies. After the decree of Lenin concerning the cleaning out of all counter-revolutionists in the rear, on account of the danger from Kolchak and others, besides executions, many have been taken as hostages. The names of only a small percentage of those shot are published. When I was two and one-half months in prison at the Extraordinary Commission I had occasion to notice that of 36 shot 7 names were published, and another time of 58 persons 11; on other instances (executions are going on nearly every night) either the names are not published at all or only very few, and the names of thieves and other criminals are always mentioned.
Many people were shot by mistake, especially in August and September, 1918. Officer A. Leite, who was in prison from July, 1918, till February, 1919, told me that from the day of the attempt on Lenin's life 80 to 100 persons were shot daily, of which on an average 60 per cent were officers and former policemen, 20 per cent bourgeois, and 20 per cent workmen belonging to the Right Socialist-Revolutionary or to the Menshevist Party. Mistakes were made due to the arrests of persons having the same name, not much attention being given to the first names. Often men were shot at night and called up for judgment or release the following day. For belonging to the Socialist-Revolutionaries the president of the Trade Union of Workmen in Smolensk was arrested and shot. But his trial was the next morning. When called up the chief jailer declared that prisoner was sent to the "staff of souls."
In the house where I lived a man called Lvov died of smallpox. His corpse was sent to the cemetery and remained there with several hundred others, unburied for three weeks, although the widow asked several times to be allowed to inter her husband. It was refused and all were buried in one big grave.
A workman, Polianker, receiving 800 rubles a month, was not able to supply his family with sufficient food. His wife was unable to work and had to look after the children. Friends helped with 200 to 500 rubles a month; still they remained hungry. He could not stand to see their sufferings and killed them all and himself.
The administrator of my houses received from the Soviet Government 400 rubles a month; I gave him 300 and besides he earned another 700. Still he could not find sufficient food for his only daughter, and committed suicide.
A wealthy house owner, Mrs. I. Shaposnikov, committed suicide, leaving a note saying: “Hunger and cold forced me to do this.”
The president of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission, Dzerzhinsky, appeared last New Year's Eve in our prison and commenced asking all the reason of their imprisonment. Most declared that they were absolutely ignorant why they were arrested. I was next to Col. Fraise. When Dzerzhinsky asked him, and the colonel knew only English and French, whilst Dzerzhinsky only Russian and German, I had to translate in French. The colonel's exhausted condition induced me to transmit only part of Dzerzhinsky's talk; I did not wish to increase his sufferings. No wonder he was exhausted. Long imprisonment and bad food were sufficient reasons. Our rations were: Morning, one-eighth to one-fourth pound of bread and one teaspoonful of sugar; at noon: Very small amount of bad fish. Nothing more, only after the second half of December we received at 4 o'clock a second portion of fish. That is how prisoners are kept for several months in the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission. In the regular prison food was slightly better. We received 1 pound of bread and twice, at 12 o'clock and 4 o'clock, the same fish and some sort of porridge, consisting chiefly of water. Still all prisoners want to be transferred to the regular prison in order not to hear the nightly shooting at the Extraordinary Commission.
Espionage and provocation are developed to highest perfection. Agents of the Extraordinary Commission are everywhere - in all departments, railroad carriages, streets and private houses. A. Hoelzke, with family and several friends, was arrested and remained one and one-half months in prison for expressing the opinion that the Bolsheviks would scarcely be able to collect the extraordinary taxes, as they were too high. I. Lopatin was arrested because he said in his home that he did not believe the Allies would recognize the Bolsheviks. His servant denounced him and he sat two months.
N. Potelakhov, a well-known cotton dealer from Turkestan, was arrested in April, 1918. President Dzerzhinsky declared he would remain in prison till Orenburg was taken by the Red Army, then he would be sent to Turkestan to buy cotton. When the cotton was received he was to get a commission of 2 per cent and to be free. After an imprisonment of six months, in October he was tried for the first time and asked why he was in prison. When he assured his ignorance, the commissary said he would look into the matter. In December he was tried again and as there was no charge against him the judge explained that prison was now the place for rich people. When he was arrested it was found that he possessed 68,000,000 rubles, which were confiscated, and the informant received the usual 20 per cent reward. In February, he was sent to Turkestan to buy cotton to the amount of 2,000,000,000 rubles.
Even Bolsheviks are alarmed at the misdeeds, and the newspapers publish sometimes protests of dissatisfaction against the numerous executions of innocent persons without judgment or even examination.
Krylenko and Diakonov protested in meetings and newspapers; they agitated against the right of the Extraordinary Commission to execute people without proof of guilt. The official Izvestia answered: “If among 100 executed 1 was guilty, this would be satisfactory and would sanction the action of the commission.”, Still a compromise was found: The Extraordinary Commission obtained the right to execute without judgment only in places where martial law was declared. But as the cities are long ago under martial law, and in other parts of Soviet Russia martial law can be declared any time, nothing has changed. In fact, prisoners whom it is desired to shoot without judgment are simply brought to Moscow, as it was done February last with those officers of the organization in Vladimir.
No meetings except those arranged by the Bolsheviks are allowed, and those caught at any gathering are shot or interned, according to the character of the meeting, in former monasteries.
February last the Socialist-Revolutionaries were permitted to publish their newspaper, which, however, was suppressed after a few days. From time to time anti-Bolshevist proclamations appear, but in case it is discovered where they have been printed, the owner of the typography, even if he knew nothing of it, is shot. Such was the fate of the owner of the typography Ivanov.
About half of the arrested persons sentenced to death are not examined, and it is for this reason that so many deplorable mistakes occur. During the time of my imprisonment five such cases occurred.
Discontent and hatred against the Bolsheviks are now so strong that a shock or the knowledge of approaching help would suffice to make the people rise and annihilate the Communists. Considering this discontent and hatred, it would seem that elections to different councils should produce candidates of other parties. Nevertheless all councils consist of Communists. The explanation is very plain. That freedom of election of which the Bolsheviks write and talk so much, consists in the free election of certain persons, a list of which had already been prepared. For instance, if in one district six delegates have to be elected, seven to eight names are mentioned, of which six can be chosen. Very characteristic in this respect were the elections February last in the district of * * *, Moscow Province, where I have one of my estates. Nearly all voters, about 200, of which 12 Communists, came to the district town. Seven delegates had to be elected and only seven names were on the prepared list, naturally all Communists. The local Soviet invited the 12 communistic voters to a house, treated them with food, tea, and sugar, and gave each 10 rubles per day: the others received nothing, not even housing. But they, knowing what they had to expect from former experiences, had provided for such an emergency and decided to remain to the end. The day of election was fixed and put off from day to day. After four postponements the Soviet saw no way out. The result was that the seven delegates elected by all against 12 votes, belonged to the Octobrists and Constitutional-Democrats. But these seven and a number of the wealthier voters were immediately arrested as agitators against the Soviet Republic. New elections were announced three days later but this time the place was surrounded by machine guns. The next day official papers announced the unanimous election of Communists in the district of Verea. After a short time peasant revolts started. To put down these Chinese and Letts were sent and about 300 peasants were killed. Then began arrests, but it is not known how many were executed.
Of course no freedom of professional trade union exists either. If a union elects as member of the committee one not belonging to the Communists, the union and committee are subject to all sorts of illtreatments, like requisition of their premises, arrest of members, house searching, etc., as it happened to the printer's union who elected Mensheviks as managers.
This is in general the political situation. Appalling terror, defenseless population, espionage and provocation are the factors thanks to which the Soviet Government still exists.
The economic situation is still worse and according to the People's Commissary Krassin's statement, a catastrophe. Transport scarcely exists. Notwithstanding the fact of abundant quantities of grain brought to eastern and southern governments there is no possibility of moving them, not even enough for the larger towns. The quantity of locomotives sent for repair is twice as large as that coming out ready for use; and adding to this the want of fuel, thanks to which trains often remain at stations several days waiting for delivery of wood, it is comprehensible why Moscow and other cities have no heating material and electric light.
For three months Moscow will have no electric light and no gas; tramways are running on three lines only and till 6 o'clock. The price for one cubic sashen (7 feet) now is 4,800 to 5,000 rubles (normal price 30-50 rubles). About 50 per cent of houses with central system of heating are no longer fit for use; the pipes have been frozen and burst.
Water and canalization pipes also burst and there is nothing to replace them with and no workmen either. The best houses were occupied by Bolsheviks; having no fuel they used the parquetry and when pipes burst and canalization would not work, they used a room as W.C., and when it was no longer possible to live in such a flat they requisitioned another one, remarking cynically: Let the bourgeois clean the place after us; plenty of lodgings remain for us yet.
Furniture from private houses and storeshouses is requisitioned and given, free of charge, to Communists and commissaries; the commissaries take and sell the best furniture, carpets, and pictures.
Most factories and mills have stopped working and the machines left to their fate; the rest, due to want of fuel and raw material, will soon follow. Zinoviev remarked of these: "They barely groan and scarcely cover the cost of fuel."
The productiveness of labor has fallen to a minimum, thanks to hunger and unwillingness to work for the Bolsheviks. Twenty-four rubles per day has been declared as the minimum wage and February last an increase of 30 per cent was accorded, but not paid for want of currency. Payment of wages is delayed four to five weeks and sometimes two months. According to Commissary Gandler, who was in prison with me, most of the printed money is used for propaganda in all countries; in February large amounts were sent to India and Afghanistan. As the exchange has now fallen too much, the Bolsheviks send diamonds and other jewelery stolen from safes and during searches, and from the results of their sale the propaganda is carried on. Still this was not sufficient and from the beginning of March the Bolsheviks have been printing foreign money. I am repeating the words of former Commissary Gandler and believe he said the truth, as he was furious on account of his arrest. He could reveal much as he was a special commissary on the frontier and received particular instructions for passing agitators.
The bourgeoisie are literally starving and are selling their last belongings; belonging to the third category, they received three-fourths of a pound of bread and during the whole winter a few pounds of herring and other fish. Sick persons received increased nourishment, if certified by a Soviet doctor and a local Soviet. My wife obtained this grant after a series of petitions. And besides the ordinary allowances sick persons received in the course of one month 5 pounds of lentils and one-eighth pound of salted butter.
On all market places one can see bourgeoisie selling clothes and other belongings, to be able to buy food.
The agricultural situation is desperate. All agricultural equipment stolen from the estates is spoilt and there is no one to repair it, and it would not be of much use as there are no seeds and persons possessing such do not intend sowing them, but try to sell on the sly, as the Bolsheviks took last autumn's crop from the peasants at a low figure. Peasants just cultivate sufficient for their own needs and a quantity, which allowed, is kept. Former private estates are managed by a commission of all kinds of rabble or by a Soviet steward. In most cases all that was left on the estate disappeared; enormous accounts are presented, money received, and except immense losses, the estate produces nothing. Live stock, formerly stolen and sold by the Bolsheviks, now is requisitioned from the richer peasants.
Prices in Moscow in April were:
1 pound black bread..................................................................
1 pound butter...........................................................................
1 pound pork.............................................................................
1 pound hay...............................................................................
A drive by cab. from the center of town to the station (about 2 miles) 250 to 300 rubles. Very often fallen horses remain in the streets for several days. Moscow is slowly dying from hunger, cold, and epidemics. Corpses remain unburied for two to three weeks; coffins cannot be had in sufficient numbers. Frequently some unfortunate bourgeois makes a coffin out of a chest of drawers for his dead child. Suicide is now not at all unusual. Last winter corpses of persons, who did not die from any contagious disease, were buried temporarily in the snow. Hungry dogs were feeding on these corpses and one could find in streets near the cemetery, hands or legs torn off these bodies.
"All Moscow" is seen daily on the Sukharev market, buying and selling. Everything can be bought for money: Forged passports cost from 1,000 to 5,000 rubles; for all sorts of false orders and certificates prices vary according to their importance. I have myself paid 10,000 rubles to a war commissary for a forged certificate for the right to travel by railroad.
From all this the economic bankruptcy of life is evident; organized theft and corruption increase the breakdown. The military situation is also very poor. No one wants to serve; fear of being shot forces recruits to appear, but at the first possible moment most soldiers run away. In every regiment, in every battalion some Communists are placed and it was decided not to form any more special units of Communists. Trotsky came to the conclusion, that by spreading Communists all over the army the process of communism would be more complete; they play also the rôle of spies and provocators. When advancing they are behind the lines and shoot any deserters or those not showing fight, also in case of retreat. Only this threat keeps the soldiers back from more general desertion. It must be regretted that among the Russian officers a certain number serve the Bolsheviks, and not out of fear but sympathy; some are even staff officers, colonels, and generals - of the old army. But the bulk of officers going to the front only think of how to go over to the other side. The war commissary, from whom I bought the forged certificate, told me that in the real sense of the word there is no army; there is a highly unreliable element ready at any given moment to turn arms against the Bolsheviks. He accompanied a division from Petrograd to the eastern front, and upon arrival only 280 soldiers remained with him. Horses are few and miserable, guns and ammunition are still sufficient from the old stock, but the new output does not replace the consumption.
Regarding the part Japan is playing in our country, I only know what Bolshevist papers say and we know next to nothing of what is going on abroad. They informed us chiefly of their successes and of different revolutionary movements in other countries. It is clear that the Russians have been deceived by beautiful phrases, exhausted under the yoke of Bolshevism and notwithstanding the earnest desire they can not emancipate themselves; the Intelligentsia is frightened and impotent, workmen went to the villages and mixed with the peasants who are also apprehensive, unarmed, and not organized. Those few who were able to escape the claws of the Bolsheviks and are ready to give their lives for the freedom of Russia, are not only doing this for their country but for humanity; the danger of the Bolshevist disease is threatening the whole cultured world, and if immediate and very energetic steps are not taken for the reestablishment of order in Russia, if a State power guilty of the worst deeds is allowed to remain in the hands of bandits, every day will increase the danger for the whole world, and make the difficulty of relief more precarious.
Help for Russia is needed immediately. Setting aside all other considerations, the liquidation of Bolshevism is not only a Russian, it is an international problem, and delay weakens the position of cultured humanity and thereby strengthens Bolshevist forces - the stranglers of all culture. The nations of the world can not silently sit by, witnesses of organized murder, theft, and plunder.
Let representatives of French workmen ask their compatriots Baré, Vaquié, Jeannean Harrié, who have been in prison with me, of the torments they suffered. Let the English working class take information from Col. Fraise and others, returned not long ago, of those horrors the latter have gone through and witnessed. And just let the workmen of all countries more closely and in detail become acquainted with what is going on in Soviet Russia. Then they will understand that Russia in the hands of the Bolsheviks is nothing but a source of enrichment, and of propaganda in other countries, that the interests of the working classes are worse looked after than even under the Tsar, that at the head of the government are not the representatives of workmen and peasants, but a gang of bandits and mostly criminals. This gang persecutes all, bourgeois and workmen - whoever raises his voice to reveal their doings.
Covering themselves with the high-toned name of "workmen's government" they do not hesitate to execute workmen and by shooting them throttle the expression of opinion and righteous demands.
By a decree of the Soviet Government no strikes are allowed, and for this reason anyone guilty is handed over for sabotage to the revolutionary tribunal, but most are punished without judgment.
The workmen of the Alexander Railroad had a meeting February last, demanding more bread; this meeting was dispersed by Chinese and Lettish troops resulting in several dozens dead and wounded. After this suppression all workmen received warning. Alarmed by the agitation amongst other workmen, the Soviet power published in the press that the suppression was an arbitrary act of the commissary who was dismissed. After a short time this same commissary received a new and better position in another town.
Scarcely any representatives of workmen are in the Executive Committee, unless one counts those criminals who years ago were workmen. When workmen began to object strongly, in order to smooth matters, a workman, Kalinin, was elected and this election was then strongly advertised.
The barbarous suppression of the workmen in Briansk and Orel is unparalleled in the history of labor riots; even those of January 9, 1905, and the Lena trouble can not be compared.
The working classes of other countries who sympathize with the Soviet Government in Russia should learn to know more closely the activity of that power. Then they would understand that by supporting the Bolsheviks they are undermining their own existence.
I repeat: Help is needed immediately and in great strength, without limit; Russia, torn to pieces and exhausted, will show that she can thank her rescuers.