Documents of the Stalin Era
Excerpts from the Original Electronic Text at the web site of the Library of Congress Soviet Exhibit.

Letter from Gorky to Stalin

Dear Iosif Vissarionovich:

The emigre and bourgeois press bases its perception of Soviet reality almost entirely on the negative information which is published by our own press for self-criticism with the aim of education and agitation. The products of the these "individual journalists" of the bourgeois press are not as numerous and harmful as they are made out to be, in contrast to our own release of self-revealing facts and conclusions.

By strongly emphasizing facts of a negative nature, we open ourselves up to our enemies, providing them an enormous amount of material, which they in turn very aptly use against us, compromising our party and our leadership in the eyes of Europe's proletariat, compromising the very principle of the dictatorship of the working class, because the proletariat of Europe and America feeds on the bourgeois newspapers for the most part--and for this reason it cannot grasp our country's cultural- revolutionary progress, our successes and achievements in industrialization, the enthusiasm of our working masses, and of their influence on the impoverished peasantry.

It stands to reason, I do not think we can positively influence the attitude which the bourgeoisie has already formed towards the Union of Soviets, and I do know that European conditions are zealously raising the revolutionary consciousness of the European proletariat.

I also know that the one-sidedness of our treatment of reality--created by us--exerts an extremely unhealthy influence on our young people.

In their letters, and in their conversations with me, it seems that today's youth displays an extremely pessimistic mood. This mood is very natural. Direct knowledge of reality of our youth from the central areas, especially our provinces is limited, insignificant. To acquaint themselves with what is going on they turn to the newspapers.


It is furthermore imperative to put the propaganda of atheism on solid ground. You won't achieve much with the weapons of Marx and materialism, as we have seen. Materialism and religion are two different planes and they don't coincide. If a fool speaks from the heavens and the sage from a factory--they won't understand one another. The sage needs to hit the fool with his stick, with his weapon.

For this reason, there should be courses set up at the Communist Academy which would not only treat the history of religion, and mainly the history of the Christian church, i.e., the study of church history as politics.

We need to know the "fathers of the church," the apologists of Christianity, especially indispensable to the study of the history of Catholicism, the most powerful and intellectual church organization whose political significance is quite clear. We need to know the history of church schisms, heresies, the Inquisition, the "religious" wars, etc. Every quotation by a believer is easily countered with dozens of theological quotations which contradict it.

We cannot do without an edition of the "Bible" with critical commentaries from the Tubingen school and books on criticism of biblical texts, which could bring a very useful "confusion into the minds" of believers.

There is a fine role to be played here by a popular book on the Taborites and the Husite movements. It would be useful to introduce here "The history of the peasant wars in Germany," the old book by Zimmerman. Carefully edited, it would be very useful for the minds.

It is necessary to produce a book on the church's struggle against science.

Our youth is very poorly informed on questions of this nature. The "tendency" toward a religious disposition is very noticeable--a natural result of developing individualism. At this time, as always, the young are in a hurry to find "the definitive answer."


Letter to the Central Committee


To the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik)

We appeal to you, asking you to pay a minimum of attention to our request.

We are prisoners who are returning from the Solovetsky concentration camp because of our poor health. We went there full of energy and good health, and now we are returning as invalids, broken and crippled emotionally and physically. We are asking you to draw your attention to the arbitrary use of power and the violence that reign at the Solovetsky concentration camp in Kemi and in all sections of the concentration camp. It is difficult for a human being even to imagine such terror, tyranny, violence, and lawlessness. When we went there, we could not conceive of such a horror, and now we, crippled ourselves, together with several thousands who are still there, appeal to the ruling center of the Soviet state to curb the terror that reigns there. As though it weren't enough that the Unified State Political Directorate [OGPU] without oversight and due process sends workers and peasants there who are by and large innocent (we are not talking about criminals who deserve to be punished), the former tsarist penal servitude system in comparison to Solovky had 99% more humanity, fairness, and legality. [...]

People die like flies, i.e., they die a slow and painful death; we repeat that all this torment and suffering is placed only on the shoulders of the proletariat without money, i.e., on workers who, we repeat, were unfortunate to find themselves in the period of hunger and destruction accompanying the events of the October Revolution, and who committed crimes only to save themselves and their families from death by starvation; they have already borne the punishment for these crimes, and the vast majority of them subsequently chose the path of honest labor. Now because of their past, for whose crime they have already paid, they are fired from their jobs. Yet, the main thing is that the entire weight of this scandalous abuse of power, brute violence, and lawlessness that reign at Solovky and other sections of the OGPU concentration camp is placed on the shoulders of workers and peasants; others, such as counterrevolutionaries, profiteers and so on, have full wallets and have set themselves up and live in clover in the Soviet State, while next to them, in the literal meaning of the word, the penniless proletariat dies from hunger, cold, and back- breaking 14-16 hour days under the tyranny and lawlessness of inmates who are the agents and collaborators of the State Political Directorate [GPU].

If you complain or write anything ("Heaven forbid"), they will frame you for an attempted escape or for something else, and they will shoot you like a dog. They line us up naked and barefoot at 22 degrees below zero and keep us outside for up to an hour. It is difficult to describe all the chaos and terror that is going on in Kemi, Solovky, and the other sections of the concentrations camp. All annual inspections uncover a lot of abuses. But what they discover in comparison to what actually exists is only a part of the horror and abuse of power, which the inspection accidently uncovers. (One example is the following fact, one of a thousand, which is registered in GPU and for which the guilty have been punished: THEY FORCED THE INMATES TO EAT THEIR OWN FECES. "Comrades," if we dare to use this phrase, verify that this is a fact from reality, about which, we repeat, OGPU has the official evidence, and judge for yourself the full extent of effrontery and humiliation in the supervision by those who want to make a career for themselves. [...]

We are sure and we hope that in the All-Union Communist Party there are people, as we have been told, who are humane and sympathetic; it is possible, that you might think that it is our imagination, but we swear to you all, by everything that is sacred to us, that this is only one small part of the nightmarish truth, because it makes no sense to make this up. We repeat, and will repeat 100 times, that yes, indeed there are some guilty people, but the majority suffer innocently, as is described above. The word law, according to the law of the GPU concentration camps, does not exist; what does exist is only the autocratic power of petty tyrants, i.e., collaborators, serving time, who have power over life and death. Everything described above is the truth and we, ourselves, who are close to the grave after 3 years in Solovky and Kemi and other sections, are asking you to improve the pathetic, tortured existence of those who are there who languish under the yoke of the OGPU's tyranny, violence, and complete lawlessness....

To this we subscribe: G. Zheleznov, Vinogradov, F. Belinskii.

Dec. 14, 1926

True copy

Letter from the Health Inspector
to the Western Siberia Board of Health


Top Secret




On the instructions of the Regional Committee of the All- Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) issued to Kiselev on 24 March 1932 on the subject of finding hunger-caused illness, several families of the Kartsovskii village soviet were observed and the following was found: as stated by soviet chairman Comrade Sukhanov and secretary of the First Party Organization Comrade Medvedev, a series of written and oral statements from the kolkhozniks of this village, that they and their families suffer from starvation, were received.

The statements were made by the following people: Gorokhova Mariia, Pautova Malan'ia, Rogozina Irina, Logacheva Ustin'ia, and others. The soviet chairman, the secretary of the First Party Organization and other communists substantiate the fact that the kolkhozniks use animals that have died as food.

Together with the soviet chairman and other citizens I visited the quarters of the above-mentioned kolkhozniks and also as per my wish I observed a series of homes besides the aforementioned in order to be convinced that the worst family cases were not chosen as an example.

From my observation of 20 homes in first and second Karpov, I found only in one home, that of a Red Army veteran, a relative condition of nourishment, some flour and bread, but the rest subsist on food substitutes. Almost in every home either children or mothers were ill, undoubtably due to starvation, since their faces and entire bodies were swollen.

An especially horrible picture of the following families:

  1. 1) The family of Konstantin Sidel'nikov who had gone to trade his wife's remaining shirts, skirts, and scarves for bread. The wife lay ill, having given birth 5 days earlier, and 4 very small children as pale as wax with swollen cheeks sat at the filthy table like marmots, and with spoons ate, from a common cup, hot water into which had been added from a bottle a white liquid of questionable taste and sour smell, which turned out to be skim milk (the result of passing milk through a separator). Konstantin Sidel'nikov and his wife are excellent kolkhozniks--prime workers, ex-perienced kolkhozniks.
  2. 2) IAkov Sidel'nikov has 2 children and elderly parents, both 70, living in one room, but they eat separately; that is, the elderly obtain their own food substitutes with their savings; the son, IAkov Sidel'nikov, with his own; they hide their food substitutes from each other outside (I have attached examples of these food substitutes to this memorandum). The elderly in tears ask: "Doctor, give us death!"
  3. 3) Filipp Borodin has earned 650 work-days, has a wife and 5 children ranging from one-and-a-half to nine years of age. The wife lies ill on the oven, 3 children sit on the oven, they are as pale as wax with swollen faces, the one-and-a-half year old sits pale by the window, swollen, the 9 year old lies ill on the earthen floor covered with rags, and Filipp Borodin himself sits on a bench and continuously smokes cigarettes made of repulsively pungent tobacco, cries like a babe, asks death for his children. In tears he asks Comrade Sukhanov: "Give us at least 1 kilo of potatoes, give us at least 1 liter of milk, after all, I worked all summer and even now I work unceasingly (now he takes care of the bulls and in the summer he tends the grazing cows).

According the the statement by Comrade Sukhanov and the brigadier of the kolkhoz "Red Partisan," Borodin was a non- complaining worker. Borodin does not even have food substitutes for nourishment, two days ago he and his family ate two sickly piglets thrown out of the common farmyard. In the Borodin home there is unbelievable filth, dampness, and stench, mixed with the smell of tobacco. Borodin swears at the children: "The devils don't die, I wish I didn't have to look at you!" Having objectively investigated the condition of Borodin himself I ascertain that he (Borodin) is starting to slip into psychosis due to starvation, which can lead to his eating his own children.

My inspection of the series of families took place at the dinner hour, where they use those same food substitutes which they eat with hot water, but in several homes (2) on the table there were gnawed bones from a sickly horse. According to the explanations of the kolkhozniks, they themselves prepare food in the following manner: they grind sunflower stems, flax and hemp seeds, chaff, dreg, colza, goosefoot, and dried potato peelings, and they bake flat cakes. Of the food substitutes listed above, the oily seeds are nutritious, which are healthy in combined foods since they contain vitamins, by themselves the vegetable oils do not contain vitamins and by not com-bining them with other food products of more equal nourishment and caloric value they are found to be toxic and will harm the body. Based on: General Course on Hygiene by Prof. G. V. Khotopin, p. 301-4--_.

The homes are filthy, the area around the homes is polluted by human waste, by diarrhea caused by these substitutes. People walk around like shadows, silent, vacant; empty homes with boarded-up windows (about 500 homeowners have left their homes in Karpov village for destinations unknown); one rarely sees an animal on the street (apparently the last ones have been eaten).

In the entire village of 1000 yards I found only 2 chickens and a rooster. Occasionally one meets an emaciated dog.

The impression is that Karpov village seems to be hit by anbiosis (hibernation, a freeze, falling asleep).

The livestock is free to feed on thatched roofs of homes and barns.

In reporting the above-related to the Pokrov Regional Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), Regional Executive Committee, Russian Com-munist League, and to you, as the regional health inspector and doctor of the Pokrov region, I beg of you to undertake immediate measures to help the starving and to notify me of the practical measures taken.

March 25, 1932 Regional health inspector--doctor--KISELEV

Resolution of the Ukrainian Central Committee

Addendum to the minutes of Politburo [meeting] No. 93.


In view of the shameful collapse of grain collection in the more remote regions of Ukraine, the Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee call upon the oblast executive committees and the oblast [party] committees as well as the raion executive committees and the raion [party] committees: to break up the sabotage of grain collection, which has been organized by kulak and counterrevolutionary elements; to liquidate the resistance of some of the rural communists, who in fact have become the leaders of the sabotage; to eliminate the passivity and complacency toward the saboteurs, incompatible with being a party member; and to ensure, with maximum speed, full and absolute compliance with the plan for grain collection.

The Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee resolve:

To place the following villages on the black list for overt disruption of the grain collection plan and for malicious sabotage, organized by kulak and counterrevolutionary elements:

1. village of Verbka in Pavlograd raion, Dnepropetrovsk oblast.


5. village of Sviatotroitskoe in Troitsk raion, Odessa oblast. 6. village of Peski in Bashtan raion, Odessa oblast.

The following measures should be undertaken with respect to these villages :

1. Immediate cessation of delivery of goods, complete suspension of cooperative and state trade in the villages, and removal of all available goods from cooperative and state stores.

2. Full prohibition of collective farm trade for both collective farms and collective farmers, and for private farmers.

3. Cessation of any sort of credit and demand for early repayment of credit and other financial obligations.

4. Investigation and purge of all sorts of foreign and hostile elements from cooperative and state institutions, to be carried out by organs of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate.

5. Investigation and purge of collective farms in these villages, with removal of counterrevolutionary elements and organizers of grain collection disruption.

The Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee call upon all collective and private farmers who are honest and dedicated to Soviet rule to organize all their efforts for a merciless struggle against kulaks and their accomplices in order to: defeat in their villages the kulak sabotage of grain collection; fulfill honestly and conscientiously their grain collection obligations to the Soviet authorities; and strengthen collective farms.



6 December 1932.

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