newspaper, Krasnaya Gazeta, announcing the start of the Red
Terror on 1st September, 1918.
turn our hearts into steel, which we will temper in the fire of suffering
and the blood of fighters for freedom. We will make our hearts cruel,
hard, and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them, and so that
they will not quiver at the sight of a sea of enemy blood. We will
let loose the floodgates of that sea. Without mercy, without sparing,
we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds. Let them be thousands;
let them drown themselves in their own blood. For the blood of Lenin
and Uritsky, Zinovief and Volodarski, let there be floods of the blood
of the bourgeois - more blood, as much as possible.
Felix Dzerzhinsky, interviewed in
Novaia Zhizn (14th July, 1918)
for organized terror - this should be frankly admitted. Terror is
an absolute necessity during times of revolution. Our aim is to fight
against the enemies of the Soviet Government and of the new order
of life. We judge quickly. In most cases only a day passes between
the apprehension of the criminal and his sentence. When confronted
with evidence criminals in almost every case confess; and what argument
can have greater weight than a criminal's own confession.
teacher in a Moscow secondary school escaped from Russia during the
Red Terror. When he arrived in London he (referred to as Mr. A.) was
interviewed by the British Foreign Office (21st, January, 1919).
still continue in the prisons, though the ordinary people do not hear
about them. Often during the executions a regimental band plays lively
tunes. The following account of an an execution was given by Mr. A.
by a member of one of the bands. On one occasion he was playing in
a band, and as usual all the people to be executed were brought to
the edge of the grave. Their hands and feet were tied together so
that they would fall forward into the grave. They were then shot through
the neck by Lettish soldiers. When the last man had been shot the
grave was closed up, and on this particular occasion the band-man
saw the grave moving. Not being able to stand the sight of it, he
fainted, whereupon the Bolsheviks seized him, saying that he was in
sympathy with the prisoners. They were on the point of killing him,
but other members of the band explained that he was really ill, and
he was then let off.
Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1945)
first massacres of Red prisoners by the Whites, the murders of Volodarsky
and Uritsky and the attempt against Lenin (in the summer of 1918),
the custom of arresting and, often, executing hostages had become
generalized and legal. Already Cheka, which made mass arrests of suspects,
the was tending to settle their fate independently, under formal control
of the Party, but in reality without anybody's knowledge.
endeavoured to head it with incorruptible men like the former convict
Dzerzhinsky, a sincere idealist, ruthless but chivalrous, with the
emaciated profile of an Inquisitor: tall forehead, bony nose, untidy
goatee, and an expression of weariness and austerity. But the Party
had few men of this stamp and many Chekas.
that the formation of the Chekas was one of the gravest and most impermissible
errors that the Bolshevik leaders committed in 1918 when plots, blockades,
and interventions made them lose their heads. All evidence indicates
that revolutionary tribunals, functioning in the light of day and
admitting the right of defence, would have attained the same efficiency
with far less abuse and depravity. Was it necessary to revert to the
procedures of the Inquisition?
beginning of 1919, the Chekas had little or no resistance against
this psychological perversion and corruption. I know for a fact that
Dzerzhinsky judged them to be "half-rotten", and saw no
solution to the evil except in shooting the worst Chekists and abolishing
the death-penalty as quickly as possible.
Lord Kilmarnock, the British ambassador in Copenhagen, sent Lord
Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary, reports of what was taking
place in Russia. This report written on 3rd February, 1919, was based
on information received by a Frenchman who had just escaped from the
night the counter-revolutionaries held secret meetings to plot against
the Bolsheviks, but never once was a serious attempt made to carry
through the conspiracy. The starving condition of the people quite
paralyzed their will-power.
many of the Red Guards themselves were being shot on account of the
crimes which they had committed. An effort was being made to carry
out the principles of "communism" on a more ideal basis,
and though there was no effective restraint on plundering and thieving
on the part of the Red Guards, still it happened now that selfish
thieves, i.e., thieves who stole and refused to share the booty with
the other Guards, were shot by their comrades.
of a British owned company in Petrograd was interviewed by the British
Foreign Office (13th February, 1919).
parties which have been most oppressed by the Bolsheviks are the Socialists,
Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries. Owing to bribery and
corruption - those notorious evils of the old regime which are now
multiplied under Bolshevism - capitalists were able to get their money
from the banks and their securities from safe deposits, and managed
to get away. On the other hand, many members of the Liberal and Socialist
parties who have worked all the time for the revolution, have been
arrested or shot by the Bolsheviks.
continue to hold power by a system of terrorism and tyranny that has
never before been heard of. It has made the history of the French
Reign of Terror, or the Spanish Inquisition, appear mild by comparison.
People were arrested wholesale, not merely on individual orders on
information received from spies, but literally wholesale - people
arrested in the streets, theatres, cafes, every day in hundreds.
was reached after the murder of Uritsky. Hundreds of people were arrested
in various parts of the town, mostly officers, who were shot and thrown
into the river, bound and thrown into the river, or bound, put into
barges, and the barges sunk.
letter to Florence Lennon (December
Much that we read of Russia is imagination and desire only.
And no person is safe from intrigues and the danger of prison. The
prisons are jammed with anarchists and syndicalists who fought in
the revolution. Emma Goldman and Berkman are out only because of their
international reputations. And they are under house arrest; they expect
to go to prison any day, and may be there now for all I know. Any
Communist who excuses such things is a scoundrel and a blaggard. Yet
they do excuse it - and defend it. If I'm not expelled or locked up
or something, I'll raise a small-sized hell. Everybody calls everybody
a spy, secretly, in Russia, and everybody is under surveillance. You
never feel safe.
Maxim Gorky, letter to Alexei
(3rd July, 1922)
If the trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries will end
with a death sentence, then this will be a premeditated murder, a
foul murder. I beg of you to inform Leon Trotsky and the others that
this is my contention. I hope this will not surprise you since I had
told the Soviet authorities a thousand times that it is a senseless
and criminal to decimate the ranks of our intelligentsia in our illiterate
and lacking of culture country. I am convinced, that if the SR's should
be executed the crime will result in a moral blockade of Russia by
all of socialist Europe.
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