Experiences in Russia 1931


Days 20 to 28


First published & copyrighted by the Alton Press, Inc, Pittsburgh, USA in 1932.


Transcription & republication by Dr. M. S. Colley & N. L. Colley. © 2002-03. All Rights reserved. For further information: www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/legal.htm  ; the domain from where this file was originally downloaded.


Original Source material from the diaries of Gareth Jones' visit to the Soviet Union with Jack Heinz II , in Autumn 1931.  For further Soviet articles by Gareth Jones, please visit: www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/  



Twentieth Day


We arrived in Nijni-Novgorod this morning at about eleven and were met by Mr. Davis, of the Austin Company, who took us out to their building site in one of their cars.  To our left lay the town of Nijni upon a hill at the juncture of the Okha and Volga rivers.  Its Kremlin looked impressive in the distance.  It took about twenty-five minutes on a very bumpy, cobbled road to get to Autostroy.  Here the engineers have a street to themselves, with about a dozen houses in all.  All the single men live in the club house, where we were bunked very comfortably.


The Autostroy layout is a large one, including a forge shop, machine shop, assembly building, and power house.  Here Russia will build and assemble the Ford car at the hoped-for output of 140,000 per annum.  The assembly building is truly remarkable in size, 1,800 feet long, with 600,000 square feet of floor space.  It is of steel and glass construction throughout.


The labor situation, in which 30,000 are involved, is interesting.  There is a very high turn-over - about 250 per day - due to the nomadic character of the people.  Labour efficiency is very low, for it takes three or four men to do the same job that one man does at home.


There are many women employed to do both the heavy and the light work, and they can do it, too.  The engineer told me that the women showed more aptitude than the men in learning their electrical jobs.


There is a minimum wage of three rubles per day, which applies to about twenty-five percent of the workers.  The five-day week works badly against production, for a foreman or engineer may have his day off just when there is a big job to do.  There the workers are, but no foreman or chief!  All the Americans agree that this is a serious handicap.


We passed a crowd of 200 men and women digging ditches, but they did not look like the others; they seemed better dressed and less coarse.


“Oh, those are subbotniki [persons who work in factories, other than the ones in which they are regularly employed on their free days] who come up from Nijni every day by boat, 5,000 of them.  They are working ‘voluntarily’ out here on their free day," explained Mr. Davis.


The methods of work are amazing. Carpenters use only an axe and a handsaw, but they are very clever with these two tools.  They haul much dirt on little stretcher-like devices that two people carry, and then, of course, there is the ridiculous Russian wheelbarrow with its tiny wheel and very wide handles.  On this job they use about 1,000 horse drawn wagons, mostly owned by Ukrainian peasants, who make the wagons themselves, except the wheels.


We visited the water intake and filtration plant they are building at the river, a very considerable engineering project in itself, for it will produce 60 million gallons per day.


Life at the club house where the fifteen single men live is very congenial. They are a jolly bunch, so we found meal-time very pleasant. The food was excellent, too, and everyone was extremely kind to us.


Twenty-first Day


Jones stayed in bed all morning today while I visited the “Mill of the Revolution” with Mr. Davis and Dr. Wells, a minister from Cleveland.


This factory for making Diesel engines was quite a surprise.  It was apparently well run in every way from the casual viewpoint.  The men were all busy, and work and materials were well organized.  Here some 6,000 men are employed.  The dining room was very fancy, with potted palms scattered around and a great red banner saying:


“Co-operation will increase control over social eating.”  I wonder how many understand what that means!  The meal cost only thirty-seven kopecks.


A huge bulletin board near the entrance displayed the names of those workers who had received prizes from the government for good work.  The prizes were not in cash, but certificates of loans to the government, on which the worker receives interest.  It’s easy! Win a prize and then hand it back to the government!


The children’s nursery at this factory was one of the best.  For thirty-three kopecks a day the child was fed two meals, and taken care of properly.


We also saw a nearby brick factory.  Most of the brick is made by hand in a primitive fashion on a little machine which has a weight-like hammer to pound the clay into the mould, and then a plunger below to push the brick up out of the mould.  The average man or woman can turn out 800 to 1,000 per day.  The clay is mixed by a machine, however, and hauled in little mine carts by ailing old horses.


Jones gave us a break by getting up for lunch.  This afternoon we saw the “Workers’ City,” which is to house 50,000.  It is an interesting fact that originally all these people were to have lived in community houses with a common dining room, a crèche, a kindergarten, and a club.  But now only 3,000 are to live there and the rest will dwell in three-room apartments.  The community house plan provides for 500 to the house, the layout being as follows:


[The Plan   Has not been included. ]


The plan for the rest of the city is rather good. It can be seen that there are large open parks between the house blocks and a school at one end, with no streets for the children to cross. Two hundred families are assigned to each house. The layout is like this:


[The Plan   Has not been included.]


The Workers’ Club is a fairly good building, but the decorations are simply beyond words.  The entrance hail has robin-egg blue wails, a grey ceiling, a brick colored baseboard, and a black and yellow balustrade on the stairs.


We went for a swim in the Okha this afternoon; my first and, as it turned out, my last swim in Russia.


We spent the day tramping.  It was overcast and cool, but nichevo!


We came to a typical village of about 700 people, with one long muddy street, the usual wells at intervals making oases in the desert of mud.  Crowds of small children were running about, in and out of the mud, barefooted and scantily clothed in dirty garments.  Few older people were about, except some elderly muzhiks.


We stopped to talk with one group that was seated on a porch eating black bread and tomatoes.  There was a bearded old man wearing a fur cap with ear tabs, and three boys in their teens.  They smiled cordially as we said “Strasvuitze”[greetings] in answer to our query, the man said:


“This is a Co-operative where they grow vegetables for Autostroy.  They took away our land - Plokho! They forced the individual peasants to join the Kolhozi by putting on heavy taxes.  The peasant could not pay.  The only thing he could do was to join the Koihozi.  They do not give us meat, butter, or anything.”


Jones: “Was it better before the war?”  Old Peasant: “Yes, much, much better.  There was everything then.”

One youngster: “No! No! It is much better now!”

A sad-looking horse, unshod and badly fed, was tied to a rail.

“Is that your horse?” we asked.

“Oh no, it’s the horse of the Kolhozi; I’ve been out looking at the potatoes,” said one of the boys, evidently not caring at all how the horse looked, while the old man shook his head knowingly.


The next person we saw was an old man sitting on the ground, weaving baskets out of willow rods.  He had a long grey beard, a tattered cap, and dirty felt boots; the latter, I feel sure, were never removed.  Behind him a couple of old women sat gabbing in the cottage window.  He shook his head and cursed softly as he said:


“Communists?  No, there are no Communists in this village, but the Party is responsible for things as they are now.  Most of us used to make baskets.  The baskets were used in Astrakhan, and we were well paid.  Now we make baskets for the Co-op. society here.”  Then he made a face.


Woman: “It’s hard to feed my child. They don’t give us meat, butter, or eggs.”

Jones: “Can you sell freely?  Could you sell eggs in Nijni if you wanted to?”

Woman: “But we haven’t any eggs!”


We moved farther along the Street and sat down to rest.  A group of children soon gathered around.


“We want our names down to be Pioneers,” said one, “but they don’t send an organizer.  The chief of the Kolhozi is a non-Party man; he’s a drunkard and takes the best horse out and has a good time.  There are no Communists here.  There were three or four Komsomoltsi (members of the Young Communist League), but they had a hard time.  No one would attend meetings.  Now they have gone. It is much better now than before the Revolution.”


A young man of thirty came strolling up and sat down.  It was his rest day from the factory.


“It’s hard to live here now," he said, “but it is better than before the Revolution. Then these people used to make baskets for a Kulak [peasant money lender]

Now they make them for a Co-op. society.  Before, there was schooling, but only for three years; now, it is for much longer.  Before, the children used to make baskets; now, they are playing.  Most young people work in the factory now.”


An old peasant came along and said:


“They took away our land and nobody has more than one cow.  Still that’s not bad because we haven’t enough to feed more than one cow.”


Just outside this village we came to a milk farm-to-be.  There were 1,000 head of cattle in ten buildings, then under construction - adequate but nothing fancy.  I saw them filling one of those underground silos, and was amazed at the silage they used - beet, turnip, and grass.


“But we are to have four regular silos, ten metres high, like those in America,” explained the foreman with evident pride.


We were hungry and wanted to eat in the dining room there.  It was so dirty and smelly, however, and there were so many flies that we decided otherwise and persuaded someone in the superintendent’s office to heat some beans we had with us.  A little soggy black bread that we bought at the Co-operative store tasted very good.


While we were eating, a little girl about twelve years old came and sat by us.


“In my class there are thirty-nine,” she said, “five believers and thirty-four Pioneers.  In the whole school there are one hundred children and only fifteen believers.  I am a Friend of the Ossoaviakhim {Society for Chemical Defense and Aviation] and of the M.O.P.R. Society for Help of Revolution Abroad].  We visit the factories and the Red Army.  We, also, handled rifles once.


“There will be a revolution soon in Germany.  America and England will also have revolutions, and they will be much happier.”


Jones: “What do you do in school?”


Girl: “We have four hours of school.  The first is devoted to reading from revolutionary books.”


Jones:   “What do you learn about America?”


Girl: “Oh, that workers live very badly there.  There are few Communists because they won’t give jobs to Communists. But the workers will some day have it as it is in the Soviet Union.  There is going to be war.”


We passed on from here through fields of potatoes in rolling country and came at last to a charming little village.  Many handsome trees grew in the middle of the street and around the houses.  There was a little of the usual mud, but the streets did not seem quite so dirty here.  A few squawking geese ran toward us as we entered.  The place seemed deserted.

We sat down to rest in front of a house from which three garrulous women soon came and proceeded to tell us their troubles.  The same story:


“Plokho!  It is bad here now - not enough to eat; everyone is unhappy.”


They shook their heads and sighed!


We went to the house of the priest.  It was a simple cottage like the rest. He was not at home, but his mother asked us to come in and wait.


He came shortly, a tall, fine-looking man in his long robe, crossing himself twice as he entered the room.  He seemed genuinely glad to see visitors and was most hospitable.  I was surprised at the neatness of the house - curtains, flowers in pots, even fly screens.  He had a little room of his own just off the tiny sitting and dining rooms, where hung a large icon with the ever-burning oil lamp in front of it.  There were several others in the sitting room.  Here lived a “lishenets” (man deprived of rights and bread ticket) in comparative luxury.


We sat and talked until tea time!  He told us many things that had been outlawed. For him, life had not been easy.


“I spent two weeks in prison a little over a year ago,” he said.  “In our village a decree forbade the ringing of church bells the week before Easter.  The villagers were angered and rang the bells anyway.  They could not arrest the whole village, so I was arrested and put in a prison for two weeks.


“I do not know what the future will bring.  Last year I had to pay 2,000 rubles in taxes for keeping my church open.   Everywhere the priests and the churches are weighed down with taxes.  And it is so hard to live!  We cannot buy from the Co-operatives; we must rely on what the flock brings to us and on the private market in Nijni.  But meat costs eight rubles a pound and tea eight rubles a quarter pound.”


Here he was interrupted by his mother’s cousin, who had joined our party.  She was an ordinary peasant of about thirty-five, but could not keep still.


“It is terrible for the lishentsi.’  My cousin was a trader before the revolution and owned his own house . In 1926, they took away everything he had.  Then he went blind and now he lives with my sister in Samara.  He has nothing, no boots, and almost no clothes.


“My brother was a priest and he could not pay taxes.  So he was taken away to the North.  We could write to him, so we made a collection in church and bought him some clothes and sent them to him.  He wrote back to us, saying that he had been put in a prison cell with bandits.  They beat him and stole his clothes.”


Priest: “Do you know that in a village far away, the Communists came to take away the Kulaks, but the villagers collected their scythes and sickles and attacked the Communists.  So they sent the Red Army soldiers to quell them.  But the soldiers refused to fight!  Finally, they sent Komsomoltsi with rifles and they shot many peasants. Some escaped and they came here and told us.”

Priest’s mother: “There is forced labour now, too.  The subbotniki have to go to the Autostroy whether they want to or not.  They send 4,000 a day and often there are no shovels and they are forced to carry earth in their skirts.  Last winter it was terrible.  They took seventy ‘lishentsi’, old and young, but mainly old, old people, and forced them to cut timber in the freezing cold.  They made them sign papers to say they were dobrovolvo [voluntary] They shivered and froze and the ice hung from their clothes; their feet were wrapped in rags.  One woman had just had an operation and there was a large wound in her stomach.  She went to the doctors, but they refused to do anything.  So she had to work.  She died!”


Priest: “I worked one and a half months ‘voluntarily’.  We call it ‘obligatorily voluntary’.  We got thirty kopecks per arshin [one cubic yard] and I could cut only two arshins per day.  It was awful in the icy weather.”


Mother: “In Moscow they are taking down the Church of the Redeemer.  All are sad.  In the street where I lived, a big five-story building collapsed and there were 250 killed, but the papers said there were only five killed and twenty wounded.  Some Communists in our village are at heart believers.  One called the priest some time ago because he felt ill and was dying.  ‘Do you believe in God?’ asked the priest.  ‘Well, of course I do; otherwise I would not have called you here,’ was the reply.”


We asked the priest about religious publications.


“No libraries are allowed in the churches except the books for the service,” he explained.  “The penalty for distributing religious books or pamphlets is very severe.  Only the Journal of the Moscow Patriarch can be published, and it is but a chronicle of events.”


The young woman, who had kept quiet, was fairly bursting with some news.  She bent low over the table and spoke in a loud whisper:


“They forced me to work in February and March.  For a whole month they paid me one ruble, thirty-five kopecks, four pounds of bread, and seventeen little pieces of tea - I counted them.  We had to sell our clothes to get food.  Conditions were terrible.”


She became very much excited, and nearly cried.  Then off on another tack, she said:


“The udarniki [Shock Brigades workers] get better food than we do.  They are about 10% active for the Five-Year Plan and ninety percent opposed to it - only they are afraid to say anything.”


Obviously, this must have been an exaggeration, but it is significant that such an attitude exists among those supposed to be hundred percent Communists.


Priest: “What is wrong with George Bernard Shaw?  Is he mad?  He saw nothing at all. If only he could see one-hundredth of what the peasants are suffering.  It is unbelievable that he can be so easily fooled.  We were pleased to read the speeches of Sir A. Chamberlain in the House of Commons.”


He suddenly changed his tone, his face became serious, his voice lowered, his eyes burned with emotion.


“We hope to have help from God - but also from foreign countries,” he said. We are hoping for war.  We read that the Pope wishes to have a crusade against Soviet Russia.  That is fine!  If there were intervention, the peasants would rise in revolt, but now there are no leaders, and all are afraid.  Do not buy from these people who are crucifying Russia -- poor Mother Russia!”


After all this, we decided to take a walk.  We strolled through the village, admiring the neatness of the cottages.  An old woman with sad, care-worn features and usual peasant costume, without shoes, stood at her gate.  We stopped to talk.


“And how is it with you, little mother?”  I asked.


“Oh, it’s terrible. How can one live without a cow?  They are taking everything away, and do they pay for it?  No such thing!


“Have you heard about the deacon?  He was drowned in the lake behind the village.  He came up three times, and then a ‘russalka’ seized him and pulled him down.  Poor man!  But then he was a little drunk.  Oh. yes, there are a lot of ‘russalka [water sprites] around here.  They live in the water and on sunny days come out and walk on shore.”


We walked into the Co-op. store to learn what it had and were greatly surprised to see a lot of lamb hanging up.  It was only for children, we were told, but Jones said he was nine years old and I eight.  As we were foreigners, the clerk smiled and gave us two kilograms for two rubles, fifty kopecks.  We took this and some butter back to the priest, who was delighted.


There was a service in the church at 6:00 p.m., which we attended. About twenty-five women formed the congregation.


Back at the priest’s house his mother was getting supper ready. She offered us some excellent cherry and apple preserves. Good cabbage soup with sour cream, boiled kasha [oatmeal] with butter, and some cream cheese with milk and sugar on it -all very good.


The young woman spoke again:


“I was wearing my little cross when I went to work in the factory.  They told me to take it off.  I said, ‘I won’t; it doesn’t hinder my work, does it?’  And now I wear it under my dress.


“I was a ‘lishentka [deprived of rights] because I used to work in a monastery.  My father was a peasant. I escaped from my village some months ago and came to work at Autostroy.”


Jones: “Do they know that you are a ‘lishentka?”


Young woman: “Gospodi bozhe moi Nyet!” (Good lord, no!)


Jones: “What about marriage and morals now?"


Priest: “Most people get married in the Church.  Every mother has her baby christened in the Church anyway.  Yes, there is a great number of divorces, and morals are certainly declining. God knows where it will lead!”


He had asked us to spend the night with him and offered his bed to us, but we said the floor was fine.  They fixed sheets and pillows for us; it was quite comfortable.  We slept well after the most interesting day of the trip so far.


Twenty-third Day


We were supposed to take a boat from here down to Autostroy, but after we had waited three hours, it sailed by our dock loaded with soldiers.  We walked it two hours of stiff tramping.  Ah, the vagaries of travel and Russian uncertainty!


Tonight being Sunday, Dr. Wells, the visiting Cleveland preacher here, conducted a simple little service - a few hymns, a few words, a little prayer.  It made me feel a lot better.  Somehow the value of the spirit “when two or three are gathered together,” is brought home to one in a far off and also atheistic country.  It was an ennobling evening!


Twenty-fourth Day


Poor Jones was sick today - a bit of a chill.  I drove into Nijni this afternoon and saw the old Fair buildings, famous for one thousand years.  The Fair is not held anymore -a great pity!  In the private market, there were many people, buying and selling.  Some excellent tomatoes were for sale - cheap, too!  We visited the old Kremlin on the hill, and had a fine view of the Volga and the Okha and the flat countryside for miles around, dotted with church domes.  The crumbling wall at our feet had looked out over this scene for a thousand years - a proud and wealthy town!


We saw in Nijni this evening, as guests of Messrs. Appleton and Jorgesson, “The Ace of Spades,” and it was fair.  The costumes were of the 17th century.


“Isn’t it bourgeois?” we asked a man next to us.


“Yes, the Communists do not approve, but then the people like it tremendously.”


Twenty-fifth Day


We were supposed to sail down the Volga yesterday and found today that we could not have done so – yesterday’s boat had not sailed yet.  We got on our steamer - a side-wheeler.  It was sup posed to sail at 11:00 a.m. It did - across the river, and it was nine hours later when we finally left Nijni.  It was cold and rainy and there was no place to sit except on our bunks.


Jones struck up a conversation with a mechanic on the boat.


“I am a Party man,” the stranger said.  “There are only four of us on board and only six candidates, and we have a crew of forty-six.  On some boats, there is only one Communist.  Why?  Because the boatmen are mostly of peasant origin and believe in things like private property.  The peasants do not like the collective farms because they do not understand.  A lot think they are something foreign and not truly Russian.  They are superstitious, too.”


It was difficult to get food all day, but finally by the use of some more cigarettes we got the lone waiter interested.  The food was not good, although it was very expensive.


The boat was crowded in the third and fourth-class sections.  Peasants with huge bundles, dirty clothes, and many babies lay around on every square inch of floor space.  There must have been a thousand of them.  Smell!


A doctor’s wife on the boat said to Jones:


“Exiles?  The peasants have been sent away in thousands to starve.  They were exiled just because they worked hard all their lives.  It’s terrible how they have treated them; they have not given them anything; no bread cards even. They sent a lot to Tashkent, where I was, and just left them on the square.  The exiles did not know what to do and many starved to death.”


Although there were a fine comfortable lounge and a dining room forward, we could not get the steward to unlock them.  He kept insisting that it was against orders to have them open before the boat left port.  We finally wore him down with arguing and cigarettes.


So to bed, with rather grim prospects for this trip!


Twenty-sixth Day


Somehow we managed to get some eggs for breakfast, and also had some of that Florida grapefruit we brought along.


A Russian engineer opened a conversation with us:


“It’s a good thing the engineers have been put in the first category since September 1St; we hope we will be better off now.  I hope my child will be permittedd to go to school.  We used to be at the bottom of the scale; now we are equal to the factory worker.


“Forced labour?  Of course there is.  Nobody has any choice.  I call my work forced labour because I have to go to work in the Urals.


“There are a lot of religious ones among the young who pretend they are Communists.  I have a friend who joined the Party just because the majority of the people with whom he was working had joined.  Very few are really sincere, I believe.


“Nationalism is very strong.  Here the Tartars and other peoples hate the Russians.  This has made local nationalism fanatical.


“The Russian intelligentsia is still longing for liberty.  Lack of freedom here is degrading for a man.”


It was nice and warm in the sun today, and we spent part of our time on the top deck.  Suddenly we were aroused by a shout:


“Get back into your cabins!”


We all had to go within doors and close the windows while we passed under a railroad bridge on which were sentries with guns.  They are told to shoot anyone standing on deck.  All Russian railroad bridges have sentries to guard against sabotage.  It gives one a funny feeling!


This afternoon we stopped at Kazan.  As usual, the people swarmed down to the boat to get on. It seemed impossible that so many could ever squeeze on with all their huge boxes, and bundles, and children.  The usual case of someone who gets left, or a child who gets separated from its mother makes each stop a drama and a tragedy.  A group of gypsies created a furore and much amusement when they carted their pots and pans, and tent poles, and junk onto the boat, making much noise and many trips, scuttling on and off the gangway.


But we saw a real tragedy on the bank near our wharf, a group of about a hundred - men, women and children - sitting sullenly and gloomily upon the bank waiting - for exile!  They were Kulaks, the hated and hounded Kulaks.  It was a pitiful sight; I have never seen such a dejected group.




Twenty-seventh Day


It was nice and sunny again today.


We arrived at Samara after dark at about 9:00 p. m.  It must be a half-mile tramp from the river to the hilltop where the town is inches of dust, and a tough climb.  We drove three-quarters of the way with our heavy bags, and blew a fuse; so Jones went off to find a droshki.  He returned forty-five minutes later.  The big hotel was full, so we went to the Bristol, and found a group of German-American munition workers who were living there for eighty rubles a month, with food.  They were glad to see English-speaking men again.  A meal - served immediately - was very good, and cost us only one ruble, 75 kopecks.


‘The following remarks on discipline were made by a man we encountered:


“The administrator is made responsible for his business.  The captain of a boat is made responsible.  The power of the captain has been made greater; the director of a factory has greater authority than formerly.  Now they can dismiss a man.  This was difficult until now, because of the Trade Unions.  The Unions said: ‘No, he has a big family, etc..’ Until now a case of dismissal had to go before a court, and often several courts.  The great task of the Trade Unions now is to educate the masses.”


That means the power of the Trade Unions has been broken, according to Jones.  Their work is now to carry out the Plan.


Jones: “Who is now the secretary, or the head of the Trade Unions?”


Party man: “I don’t know.  [Up to a year ago everybody would have known who held important position, according to Jones].  The role of the Trade Unions is now to help production and education, to prepare Shock Brigade workers, to mobilize the masses; and they cannot interfere if the administration dismisses a man.


“A director cannot take on a ‘flyer’ [worker who leaves his factory] now.  A worker must have documents showing that he had permission to leave his work.  The worker must remain in his factory.  If I am a worker and want to leave my factory, the director can say ‘No,’ and I cannot go.  But any reasonable changes - for family or climatic reasons are allowed.


“Now there is to be less centralization.  Now Kazan is more independent.  The Kazan administration used to wait for orders from Moscow, but now it acts for itself.


“We can now make use of our local supplies without permission from Moscow.  Formerly, we had to wait a long time for action on our requisitions, and iron and supplies would remain idle in a port or in a factory.  Now two local factories can exchange goods without permission from Moscow.


“There is no more direct paying between factories, the money goes through a bank, and factory accounts are settled by check.  This is under the new cost-accounting system.  Every engine driver must be responsible for the expenses of his locomotive.  Every factory or institution must account for its expenses.  If the director is economical he receives a premium; if he spends too much, he must pay a fine or sacrifice a part of his pay.”


Twenty-eighth Day


Off to the Kolhoz today!  It’s a tough job for the “boys” riding “hard,” as I found out from our half-hour trip to a neighboring town, which consisted simply of a station and fifteen houses.  It was very quiet when the train had gone.


Russian trains have two classes of carriages, “soft” and “hard,” the former having separate compartments with cushions for four persons, and the latter only hard wooden double-decked “shelves” throughout the car.


About a mile away, a tractor was threshing, and we could see the forks of the workers flashing in the afternoon sun; so we walked over.  It turned out to be a State farm threshing unit, employing about thirty persons, mostly girls, who seemed amply able to do the job of pitching.  They all but quit work when we came up, and pretty soon the engine coughed and wheezed and stopped.  They had seen my camera and wanted to have their pictures taken.


A girl of about twenty-five said:


“When will there be an end to our misery?  We have suffered and are suf­fering so much.  We are hoping and hoping that there will be a war - then there would be a revolt [with meaning in her eyes].  They took away our cow for a whole week and it was shut up and not fed.  Now we have nothing at all.  Our land was taken away from us and we were forced to work here.  They do not give us anything.  We work twelve hours a day.  It is a thousands and times worse than ever; we are actually hungry.  We get a tiny amount of milk and not enough bread, only half a kilo a day, and no meat.”


The continual use by peasants of the third person “they” in reference to Communists is a constant reminder that the mass of the people still feel that Communism is something extraneous and foreign.


“Those two,” pointing to a man in a red shirt, on a white horse, and the tractor mechanic, “are Party members,” the girl continued.  “They have a good time.”


“Red Shirt” was kissing all the girls, and ordering people about.  The mechanic just stood and gazed aimlessly around.


The other girls told the same story.


We left the girls working away, and started out for a little village we could see at the foot of some gently rising steppes five or six versts (kilometers) away.  We passed two wagons drawn by camels, and turned to watch their silhouettes against the orange sky.  Then the stars came out.  Walking through the dark streets, we came to a small house which had a bright light streaming from the window.  Evidently there was someone about.  We walked in, and found several bearded men huddled over account books and papers spilled in confusion on the table.  They immediately jumped up to welcome us, and began asking questions.  More and more collected until the small room was quite full - and very smelly!


They were much impressed by an old Cosmopolitan magazine we had, especially the illustrations:


“Kakaya krasievaya kartina!” (What pretty pictures!).


As usual, Jones talked and I tried to look interested.  We met the president, a small, sharp-eyed young man with a little military cap, and also the vice-president, a jolly unshaven fellow with a big voice.


This was the Stalin Kolhoz, a village of 4,000 persons.  The village Soviet had fifty-two members, of which about one-third were Communists.  From all sides they bombarded us with such questions as,


“When will there be a revolution in America?”


“Is it true that the English want war?”


“Why not let the Soviet Union live in peace?”


“Aren’t there thousands of workers dying in England and America?”


After a lot of this, we began to get pretty hungry, so the vice-president took us to his house for supper.  It was just like any village cottage, one front room with an old oil lamp burning over a table, covered with a piece of dirty oilcloth.  There were three chairs and a bench along the wall, a glass fronted cabinet with the family china, a bed in one corner and the stove - a large brick one - extending out into the middle of the room.  There we met the “Madame” and five children, all very dirty, especially the two little ones.  But while there was a lack of beauty and cleanliness there was nothing missing in hospitality. They heated our baked beans, and proudly produced a water melon and tea for us.  Everybody spat the seeds on the floor, and then after a while somebody swept them into the corner.


Our hostess said:


“Oh, it is terrible!  We used to have three cows, two horses, sheep, and ten chickens: now look around. The dvor [farmyard] is empty, and we only have two chickens. Now we only get half a litre of milk a day.  We used to have as much as we liked; one cow used to give fifteen litres a day.  That is why my children look so pale and ill.  How can it get better when we have no land and no cows?”


Our friend the president came in to say goodnight to us, and, of course, stayed to talk.


“There were forty Kulak families in this village." he told us, “and we’ve sent them all away [proudly].  We sent the last man only a month ago.  We exiled the entire families of these people be-cause we must dig out the Kulak spirit by the roots!  They go to Solovki or Siberia to cut wood, or work on the railways.  In six years, when they have justified themselves, they will be allowed to come back.  We leave the very old ones, ninety years and over, here, because they are not a danger to the Soviet power. Thus we have liquidated the Kulak!


“In June and July we had a campaign against illiteracy; there were a lot of illiterates.  We have liquidated the illiterates and now there is none at all.”


Imagine that!


Well, about this time we began to feel pretty sleepy, and said so.  Our friend offered us his bed, but we said we preferred the floor.  So after carefully shutting all the windows, and seeing that his four children were adjusted in a filthy bunch of old bedding on the floor, and ourselves likewise, he blew out the light.  Well, folks, that was some night!  In spite of tucking my trousers in my socks, etc., the flea and bug situation was very discouraging to any connected shut-eye.

Click here for days 29 -41