The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man. — G. K. Chesterton

I Speak for the Silent Prisoners of the Soviets - V. Tchernavin




Real Wreckers of Russia

Despair and panic ensued. No one thought of work; everyone feared for his own life, expecting at any moment to be seized and to see his friends and relatives arrested. The Communist chiefs recommended calmness, assuring us all that those left free were safe, but their efforts were in vain. Nobody believed them. It was too well known that the termination of a trial, the announcement of a sentence and even the fearful words "carried out" do not mean, in the U.S.S.R., the end of arrests, but are only preludes to more repressions and executions.

The sentence itself contained clear indications that it was only the beginning. In the announcement of the execution of many of the "48" the GPU had stated: "leader of a group of wreckers in such and such a trust," "initiator of wrecking activity in such and such a region." It was clear that now they would go after the participants of these "groups" and "organizations" which they had "discovered." Realizing, as we did, that no such groups or organizations had ever existed, we did not feel secure from arrest simply in the knowledge of our own innocence.

Subsequent events quickly proved that the case was being carried on further, that the Political Bureau and the GPU were not satisfied with the number of victims they had already sent to their deaths. A second "weeding out" process in all those institutions mentioned in connection with the case of the "48" was announced, in spite of the fact that, in the summer of 1930, before  the arrest of the "48," a drastic "weeding out," with the active participation of the GPU, had already been effected. At that time they had found the very ones who were later shot in connection with the case of the "48" to be loyal workers. The new "weeding out" was to serve the special purpose of exposing the "concealed accomplices of the wreckers." At meetings held for this purpose the GPU not only gained new victims but also collected more evidence against those already detained in prisons. It was a great temptation to those still at liberty, for by actively coming forward at these meetings to denounce their fellow-workers they could thus gain a reputation for reliability in the eyes of the GPU. There were some who basely succumbed to this temptation, while others, fearing for their skins, went even further. Thus Professor F. I. Baranoff came out with a base and libelous article in the magazine "Bulletin of Fishing Economy," under the title of "Lessons of Wrecking" wherein he attempted to prove that "as he now understands" it the work of those executed had been of a "wrecking nature" and that those who had opposed his scientific work had done so with only one purpose—"wrecking."

It was not long before new arrests were made in all the institutions and enterprises of the food industry in Moscow as well as in the provinces. In the Institute of Fishing Economy Professor N. N. Alexandroff, A. F. Nevraeff and a number of other employees were arrested; in the Directorate of Fisheries, the well-known experts, S. A. Tikhenko and S. I. Parakhin; while in the Fishing Union there remained not one of the old employees. And similar arrests, all of more or less prominent specialists and employees, were taking place in the provinces.

By the autumn of 1930 the disruption of the fishing industry in all its branches—scientific, administrative, production and distribution—was complete. Of the old staff of experts there were left only units and these made up mostly of men who had carefully avoided taking part in practical work, of a few good practical workers spared by chance because they held secondary positions and, finally, of individuals connected with the GPU.

Such Communists as had succeeded since the Revolution in acquiring some education and some knowledge of the fishing business, due to their work in contact with specialists, were also being removed and transferred to other positions. Such were the cases of Frumkin, Kryshoff , Babkin and many others. The entire industry was handed over into "proletarian" hands, that is, into the hands of men who knew nothing about the business. The results were what might have been expected and were felt almost immediately.

I cannot here give a complete statement of the havoc wrought in the fishing industry—some future historian will, no doubt, be able to do it much better than I could. I can only say that during the short period of 1930-31, out of the scientists and highly qualified specialists in the fishing industry whom I knew personally or of whose fate I have been definitely informed, twenty-six were shot and thirty-four deported to concentration camps. Many more whom I did not know were either killed or deported at this same time. In the Far East alone five were shot and sixty sentenced to hard labor.

Without any doubt the systematic destruction of the remaining specialists and men of culture is even now being continued in the U.S.S.R. No disaster, no epidemic, no war could destroy with such selection the cream of experienced and active workers in the industries which the GPU attacked. This wholesale destruction of specialists could not fail to have fatal results for the fishing business. In spite of the large sums of money spent by the Bolsheviks and the enormous efforts exerted to develop the industry, it was broken down at the root by this mass destruction of specialists in 1930-31, and all endeavors later to revive it were defeated because of the absence of men with a knowledge of the business.

The same conditions prevailed, in general, in all the industries of the U.S.S.R. I specifically mention the fishing industry of the north only because I know it so well, but it presents no exception and was only in line with the other industries in all parts of the country.

The Bolsheviks for the second time were leading a rich and prosperous country into terrible poverty and dreadful famine. "Wrecking" did, indeed, exist, but it was wrecking of unbelievable proportions, preplanned by the organization headed by Stalin, the Political Bureau and the GPU, together with their thousands of branches, called nuclei, of the Communist Party.

A time will come when these real wreckers will have judgment passed upon them by a true court of justice.