Life in Exile [political exiles in Izhma, Komi Autonomous Oblast]

Information from a reliable source has recently reached us concerning the visit of the notorious chekist Drozdov to the political exiles in Izhma, a small village in Eastern Siberia*, almost one thousand miles distant from any railroad. Our correspondent writes: During his stay of two weeks Drozdov created no end of trouble, particularly because of his brutal and arbitrary demeanor. He distributed governmental aid in a most unjust manner: some received 10 rubles for the past month (about 5 dollars), while others were left without any support. The older revolutionists were allowed a very small share, while some of the younger element got very little, and in some cases, practically nothing. A protest signed by all the exiles was sent to Moscow. Drozdov was furious. In consequence,  the exiles were deprived of their work and means of support. Seven Zionists were ordered transferred to the most isolated and wretched places, such as Ukhta and Ussa, populated almost exclusively by non-Russian, nomadic tribes. Life there virtually means death. Naturally, the exiles refused to go, and the other politicals supported them. They all barricaded themselves in a house, almost 18 persons. Drozdov sent against them a detachment of unarmed soldiers, militia and peasants. No shots were fired, but extreme brutality was applied, and one by one the victims were dragged out, thrown into sleighs, bound and gagged… . It was a terrible sight: men laid flat in sleighs, most of them bleeding, and tied hand and foot. No hats, some with just their shirts on, and outside a frost of 40 degrees. Drozdov himself was the “hero” of the occasion, personally dragging the politicals out and pulling them down the stairs by the hair. “When you’ll be in power,” he kept shouting “you’ll drag me by the hair!” … His purpose in issuing governmental aid to the Anarchists and other revolutionists, while refusing the same to the Zionists, was to create enmity in the exile colony and set it against itself. But he figured wrong, because the entire political population demonstrated its solidarity. Now the greater number are threatened with transfer to unknown places. It was the greatest outrage ever perpetrated in the region of Izhma… . It is feared that similar scenes may repeat themselves in the near future, because much bad feeling has been created… .

Bulletin of the Relief Fund of the International Working Men’s Association for Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists Imprisoned or Exiled in Russia, No.1 (December 1926). Reprinted in The Guillotine at Work p.546-547.
See also three typed copies of the report, Senya Flechine Papers, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam, Folder 47: the five following images. The report is dated 11 March 1926 and signed ‘Gr.’

Note: Izhma is west of the Urals, in the far north-east of European Russia.

Note on Drozdov:
Drozdov, Aleksandr Nikolayevich
Born 1891, Petersburg province. Elementary education.
Member of the Russian Communist Party (bolsheviks) from 1918.
In the Cheka-OGPU-NKVD from April 1919.
Chief of the Murmansk Provincial Department of the OGPU (1922-24)
Chief of the Komi Oblast Department of the OGPU (1924-26)
Chief of the Kara-Kappaksky Regional Department of the OGPU (1929)
Chief of the Chardzhuysky Regional GPU of the Turkmenistan SSR (1930- )
Chief of the 3rd detachment of reserves of the UNKVD for Leningrad Oblast
Awarded a military medal.
Arrested October 14 1937.
Sentenced by a Commission of the NKVD and Procurators of the USSR on November 15 1937, according to Article 58-1a of the Criminal Code, to the highest measure of punishment.
Shot on November 21 1937.
Rehabilitated in 1958.

M. V. Taskayev attributes Drozdov’s ferocity to the fact that he had once been a member of the Left SR Party.

See the original version of this letter translated as Letter from an Exile in Izhma at