Letter from an Exile in Izhma

March 11 1926

Yesterday I received your letter after a rather significant interval of time since your last postcard. I will answer everything as accurately as possible. There’s a lot that’s happened recently to tell you about. But I’m afraid the “black cabinet” [censorship] won’t let me. Drozdev spent two weeks in the backwoods and caused quite a ruckus. He distributed money for clothing and petty expenses according to his own discretion: some got 10 rubles per month, others 6, and some got absolutely nothing. The one-time clothing allowance was in the range 10 to 20 rubles, but also not everyone got it. The older guys were best off, while many of the young ones did very poorly. They made a fuss and sent a protest to Moscow, signed by all the respectable people, demanding that [Drozdov] be fired.

But here’s the main thing. Because of this scandal, seven people were sent to volosts along the Ukhta and Usa [rivers], very unpleasant places. They were sent on March 9, but not without a struggle. They categorically refused to go, and we supported them. Everyone gathered in one house in the centre of the village — there were up to 18 people. Drozdov launched an attack on us with a squadron of unarmed soldiers, yahoos, militia, and many suspicious characters — more than 40 people. One by one those to be sent were dragged out into the street; they had to be tied up. There were no shots fired during the arrests. But those arrested, as well as us, were beaten. It was an amazing scene. The arrestees lay on sleighs, tied hand and foot. People were bleeding, and were outside without hats and wearing only their shirts. During the attack windows were broken and some of the victims had cut their hands. Drozdov also distinguished himself: he dragged people down the stairs by the hair and kept repeating: “When you’re in power, you’ll drag me by the hair.”

I can’t write about everything. I’m even afraid to write as much as I have. By giving allowances to us while depriving many other exiles, [Drozdov] intended to divide the exile community into hostile groups. But we defended ourselves and did not capitulate. Now they are threatening to disperse us. In Izhma and the volosts this scandal is unprecedented. The first four they captured at 2 pm; then in the evening on the street they seized the remaining three and again there was a struggle. On this second occasion not all of us were there — we didn’t know what was going on. Eventually you will get all the details about this affair. Who knows, maybe the same thing will happen again one of these days — or worse!

Our peaceful life has been overturned from top to bottom. People had been arranging their lives, finding various kinds of work, and now things are looking bad, especially for families. No one feels like writing thanks to the recent events. I’m writing in a very illegible fashion because the girl who reads the letters at the post office is barely literate. Maybe all of them won’t fall into the hands of the high-ups. Just try and read it. We remain in complete ignorance of what will happen tomorrow, what the Cheka will do, but we’re prepared for anything. Please write, greetings to all.


[The published version of this letter, titled Life in Exile [political exiles in Izhma, Komi Autonomous Oblast] is at https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/z34wfd. See also Taskayev, M. V. Anarchist exiles in Komi Oblast at https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/pk0qn1]

Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.