The torture of politicals

We have previously reported the case of Isia Shkolnikov, the Anarchist workingman, who has for years been the victim of Bolshevik persecution. Briefly the history of Shkolnikov is as follows:

An active Anarchist of long standing, he participated in the radical labor movement during his sojourn in the United States; but at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution he returned to his native land in 1917. There he devoted all his experience and energy to the revolutionary work in various parts of the country and was known as a most loyal and effective worker in the cause. In 1921, during the wave of wholesale arrests of Anarchists, Isia Shkolnikov was also imprisoned, being at first held for a considerable time in the special jails of the Cheka. Finally he was sent to the Solovietzki Islands, and thence transferred to another prison island. After several years of incarceration our comrade was ordered into exile, though not once during, all that time has any definite charge been made against him. He was simply considered an Anarchist and as such either prison or exile was the place for him.

In his distant exile Shkolnikov led a miserable existence, suffering from lack of proper clothing and insufficient food, yet hoping that he would now at least be left in peace by the Cheka. But unexpectedly he was again arrested, no reason being given, as usual. He was informed that he was to be transferred to some other place of exile, but he was taken to Moscow instead and there placed in the cellar of the Butyrki prison. For almost five months he was kept in absolute isolation in the underground cell, without permission to receive any visits or the customary packages of food from friends. He suffered repeated attacks of rheumatism in a most severe form, and soon his general health was shattered. Unable to bear such conditions any longer, Shkolnikov demanded to know the charge against him and petitioned also for a transfer from the cellar. Both requests were refused. Driven to desperation, Shkolnikov attempted suicide by setting fire to his mattress. He was very severely burned before the keepers saw what had happened and dragged him out of the dungeon. In spite of his terrible condition he was then condemned, without hearing or trial, to three years in the Polit-Isolator at Yaroslavl.

Two years have passed since the condemnation, and during that time we have received a number of letters from other politicals informing us of the continued torture of Isia Shkolnikov. And now comes the news that our comrade has been again transferred to Moscow and there placed in the psychiatric ward of the Butyrki. They have driven the unfortunate man insane.

(The same “Bulletin.” [Bulletin of the Relief Fund of the IWMA for anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists imprisoned or exiled in Russia,] December, 1928).

From: The Guillotine at work, p577-8.