By April 1925 on the territory of the Komi AO [Autonomous Oblast] there were 117 political exiles, including 43 SRs, 17 anarchists, and one Kadet. The anarchist exiles conducted work among the Komi peasantry, mainly oral anti-Soviet agitation. Thus, in May 1925, the GPU detained two anarchist exiles, who “urged the peasants not pay taxes, not to submit to orders from the Soviet authorities, etc.” In May 1925 in Ust-Sisolsk there were around 40 political exiles. They “… hold discussion meetings every evening. With the exception of the anarchists, they don’t carry on any work among the masses. The anarchists are beginning to spread their ideas among the local youth and are trying to organize a circle. Thanks to their influence, there was one case of one person withdrawing from the KSM [Komsomol], supposedly to become the leader of this circle. Once the circle was organized, they intended to publish a journal with the help of a typist working as one of the Oblast institutions … .” According to the GPU, the anarchist exiles in Ust-Sisolsk did succeed in organizing an anarchist youth group, which already in August 1925 began preparing for propaganda activity among the peasants.
The propaganda of the anarchists in the 1920s was based on the 1924 “Manifesto of Anarcho-Communists,” which included such principles as: “The state (that is, people exercising compulsory power over other people) always and everywhere kills the independence of the labouring masses, kills their initiative, hinders their creative work, indoctrinates the working masses with the spirit of complete submission, makes it impossible for them to arrange their own affairs. Even socialist states, organizing a system of state capitalism, depersonalize the workers, turning them into various kinds of semi-slaves and delaying the implementation of the free society … One can not dream of prosperity, freedom, brotherhood, and equality when the landlords and capitalists have been replaced by government bureaucrats, even though they call themselves socialists and communists.”
In relation to the peasants, the anarchists put forward simple slogans: “All the land must belong to the people. Not to officials managing supposedly model farms with their incompetent hands, and not to landlords, but to the peasants, understood as persons who want to work on the land … The imposition of taxes by the rulers of the state is exploitation of the population pure and simple … In the so-called socialist states, taxes are replaced by the outright seizure of output produced by working people to be used or put at the disposal of the rulers.”
The anarchists proposed: “The whole land to the people, to the tillers of the soil to use as they see fit. The factories to the workers, and not to the officials of the state … All power to the whole people, and not to bureaucrats or deputies … We declare the cities and villages free and we unite them for common concerns and for self-defense from the enemies of the free people. We do not want to be subjects or subordinates, i.e. slaves, any more. We want to live as free people on the free land.”
In June-July 1925, the SR and anarchist exiles in various volosts [counties] of the Komi AO held party meetings at which political questions were discussed. Thus, in Ust-Vym on July 2 the anarchists demanded “all exiles in a single volost so that they could pursue their own work.” According to information received by the GPU, the anarchist circle in Kodzvilsky volost had as many as 50 members. The circle was run by exiled anarchists.
Along with agitational-propaganda work, in the mid-1920s the political exiles also began large-scale preparations for escape. According to information received by the Chekists, the political exiles even began trying to produce 10-ruble banknotes, although “without result.” One of the first attempts at escape was made by Rudakov-Porokh, a member of the Central Committee of the Right SRs. In the night of December 31 1923, Rudakov together with a cellmate who was a common criminal, escaped from the Ust-Sisolsk prison and skied towards Kotlas, hoping to catch a train there. However, their escape ended with failure. On January 5 1924 both fugitives were seized in Prokopevsky Volost of Ust-Vymsky uyezd [district]. In 1924 the political exiles Sh. S. Aizenberg and A. G. Andreyev were caught while preparing for an escape attempt. In July 1925 the GPU reported: “Some activity has been observed among the exiles and local counter-revolutionary elements. There have been cases of spreading propaganda among the peasants. Some of the exiles intend to escape from their places of exile. During the reporting period there were four cases of escape attempts: two anarchists and two SRs.” In 1925 the anarchists Sergeyev, Malov, Grebenshchikov; the SRs Gadevsky, Gusev, Semyatitsky; and the Zionist Vilenchuk escaped from places of exile. The GPU believed that “anarchist escapees intended to form armed bands.”
For connections with the “main country,”  the exiles had a “central post office” in Ust-Sisolsk, run by A. Ya. Gorbunov and M. P. Lysenko. On September 3 1924, the Chekists carried out a search at the home of Gorbunov, who worked at the local normal school. They removed a large quantity of letters by exiles living in Ust-Vym and Ust Kulom, a lot of illegal literature, mainly anarchist, and an album of counterrevolutionary verses entitled “In Memory of Exiles.” Lysenko was arrested on March 19 1925 for having “illegal contacts with exiles, and transferring various kinds of correspondence through his agents.”
In February 1924 the Komi Oblast Committee of the Russian Communist Party (bolsheviks) acknowledged that the work of the Oblast GPU “was unsatisfactory … in regards to the carrying out of secret operations.” The toughening of the regime of the political exiles and the persecution of non-Bolshevik illegal groups in Komi Oblast was begun roughly a year later, with the installation of a new boss of the Oblast GPU — A. P. Drozdov. (It’s curious that the new boss had been a member of the Left SR Party in the past, therefore was motivated to zealously persecute his former comrades.) In April 1925, Drozdov presented a report at a meeting of the Komi Regional Committee of the Russian Communist Party (bolsheviks) about the activities of the oblast department of the GPU, where, in particular, he stated: “The general work of the Department is mostly to do with secret stuff; the political situation in the oblast as a whole is satisfactory … For the period from January 1, 1925 to April 1, 1925, 37 searches were carried out, and 31 arrests were made. So far in the second quarter, 6 people have been arrested, and 25 have been released. Twenty case files were opened, of which 11 have been completed and 4 are investigation cases, 20 of which 11 have been completed and 4 are being processed … .”
M. V. Taskayev, “Political Exile in the European North in the first half of the 1920s (according to materials of the Komi AO) // Dvina Land. Materials of the inter-regional Stefanovsky readings, (Kotlas, 2002), pp. 181-186.
The Stefanovsky readings (an annual event) are named after St. Stephen of Perm, who converted the Komi pagans to Christianity.
1 “main country”: the literal translation is “big country.” This is roughly equivalent to the British “Blighty.” In gulag slang, it was commonly referred to as the “mainland” (materik), i.e. the main civilized part of the country.
Excerpted from a chronological compilation of the monthly surveys of the political situation, prepared by the information section of the OGPU. Its source is the collection of documents: “Top Secret”: The Lubyanka to Stalin about the Situation in the Country (1922-1934). The years included in the article are 1922 through 1927.
In Komi oblast exiled anarchists are conducting agitation among the peasants. The publishing of an illegal anarchist journal has been noted.
In places it has been noted that anarchists are getting together with the goal of carrying out exes [expropriations] and terrorist acts (Komi oblast, Astrakhanskaya and Amurskaya gubernias).
The special interest of anarchists in work among youth of the RLKSM [Russian Leninist Communist Union of Youth = Komsomol] has been noted (Semashko Farm Plant in Moscow, Yaroslavl, Ural, Komi-Zyryanskaya oblast).
Along with the general heightened activity of the anarchists, it must be noted that they are trying to orient themselves in the peasantry and establish themselves in the villages. In Komi-Zyryanskaya oblast, the anarchists are carrying on agitation among the peasants of villages near the large towns (and among members of the Komsomol).
In addition, a strengthening of activity of the anarchists is taking place in the following regions: Crimea; Gomelsky, Bryanskaya, and Amurskaya gubernias; in Bash-republik, Komi-oblast; in Chernomorsky, Poltavsky, Yekaterinoslavsky, Kievsky, Cherkassky, and Odessky okrugs.
In Komi oblast, one anarchist escaping from exile was arrested. In Izhma exiled anarchists are continuing their hooligan antics.
Heightened activity of adm [administrative] exiles has been noted in North-Dvinskaya gubernia, Komi-oblast, Tverskaya gubernia, Kazakhstan, Siberia, and DVK [Far-Eastern Region].
Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.