EXPERIENCES IN RUSSIA
IN 1931 - A DIARY
This book was anonymously written &
privately published by Jack Heinz II, heir to the Pittsburgh food corporation,
and was based extensively on Gareth's diary notes of their one month's
visit. It portrays Gareth's first-hand observations of the great food
shortages and the extent of the starvation caused by the policy of Collectivisation,
whilst making a tour of the Russian & Ukrainian countryside.
(Photo of Gareth's Diary Notes used for Heinz's Book.)
Apart from Gareth putting his name to
the Preface, there was no mention of Jack Heinz as being 'The Author'
- most probably because it was not until 1933, that the USA formally recognised
the Soviet Union.
below sets out Heinz's Foreword and
Gareth's Preface in full and a few selected short transcript of of the
conditions they found in the countryside as well as covering their four
days in Soviet Ukraine.
This book is written in the form of a diary. Most of
it consists of interviews with Russians in every walk of life, - the object
being to obtain a cross-section of public opinion about the things that
are transpiring in their countrys remarkable experiment in practical
Socialism. No attempt has been made to reach conclusions, and the reader
may from his own opinions.
First published & copyrighted by the Alton Press, Inc, Pittsburgh,
USA in 1932.
IN 1932 Russia finds herself in revolutionary chaos
compared with which the shots and terror of 1917-18 were but dramatic
episodes. This is the revolution of the Five-Year Plan which is changing
the whole life of the country even more than the initial seizing of power
by the Bolsheviks fifteen years ago. The aim of this new Communist Party
set before it. These new rulers of Russia, having issued a challenge to
the age-old rights of private property, are attempting to build up a State
where the good of the community, and not the private profit of the individual,
shall be the guiding motive, where classes shall disappear, and where
all shall receive according to their needs and give according to their
abilities. Throughout the centuries, philosophers have talked of such
a State, but up to 1917 their arguments were based upon pure theory. Today,
however, the ideas propounded by Socialist thinkers are being put into
practice. How do they work out in real life?
It was in quest of an answer to this question that I
was permitted to accompany the author of this diary to Russia in the autumn
of 1931 when the Soviet citizens were in the very thick of the struggle
to build up Socialism. I believe the authors approach was as non-partisan
and open-minded as possible for any one reared under a regime of Capitalism.
With a knowledge of Russia and the Russian language,
it was possible to get off the beaten path, to talk with grimy workers
and rough peasants, as well as such leaders as Lenins widow and
Karl Radek. We visited vast engineering projects and factories, slept
on the bug-infested floors of peasants huts, shared black bread
and cabbage soup with the villagersin short, got into direct touch
with the Russian people in their struggle for existence and were thus
able to test their reactions to the Soviet Governments dramatic
It was an experience of tremendous interest and value
as a study of a land in the grip of a proletarian revolution.
GARETH R.V. JONES.
Sixteenth day (Moscow)
...Jones translated the following remarks
by the servant girl (a peasant) of two old Russian noblewomen living quietly
The peasants are terribly dissatisfied. They have
been forced to join the Kolhozi; they want their own patch of land, their
own house, their own cattle and pigs, and to work for themselves. My two
cousins worked day and night. With their own hands they made bricks. They
built houses, and what happened. They did not want to join the collectives
and they were taken away to the Urals, where it is very bad. My other
cousin had two cows, two pigs, and some sheep; he owned two huts. They
called him a Kulak and forced him to sell everything. Only three hundred
rubles did they give him. In the Kolhozi, nobody wants to work.
In my village, I hear they have murdered two Communists.
The peasants cannot kill their cows or their pigs
without getting permission from the Natchalnik, the village boss. They
were told that if they did not join the Kolhozi, everything would be taken
from them. Many were sent to Archangel. They eat very little now; they
used to have meat, but not now.
On the way home from this visit, Jones asked a worker
in a restaurant if he now ate more or less meat than before the Revolution.
Less, of course, came the abrupt reply.
...The following statements were culled from a conversation
with two factory workers, one railway man, and a caretaker.
Before the Revolution we could get everything,
and cheap. We had plenty of meat, butter, eggs, and milk, and they were
cheap. Now we have to pay ten rubles for a kilo of sausage. Before, it
cost only thirty-five kopecks. We have had only ten eggs since January
Moscow is the best place. In the provinces, it
is far worse. And as for the peasants, they are worse off than they have
There is no opposition left now. Bukharin wanted
to give more food to the workers, but Stalin said, No, we must hurry
up, quicker and quicker to industrialize. It is dangerous to be
What about the figures they publish? asked
Figures! the speaker exclaimed. You
cant eat figures! You see that tree there. It is not an apple tree,
is it? But the Communists say, Tomorrow that tree has to grow apples!
Twenty-eighth Day (Samara)
Off to the Kolhoz today! Its 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
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
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?
Arent 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 weve 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.
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.
This afternoon we got our Intourist guide - a man, thank
God! - and left by train for Kharkov and the South. On the journey, we
chatted with a white collar worker, who lived in one room with six other
people. The nervous strain was terrible, he said; never a moment of privacy.
"All the workers in my house are discontented," he declared.
"There are many false Communists who do not believe in Communism
"I just threw my lottery ticket away. I was obliged to buy it. Usually,
big Communists win, and you read in the newspaper that they have returned
the prizes to the State for the sake of the Five-Year Plan. Legally, you
are supposed to receive the prizes in money, but often you are pressed
to give it to the "Osso" or M. O. P. R.
"Very many Russians will never forgive the Americans, British, and
Germans for trading with the Soviets. They are trading with crooks. And
they are crooks! All the best stuff is sent abroad - we starve."
This train was quite comfortable, for we were in a
Wagon Lit, and right next to us was a dining car, with potted plants on
the tables, and other decorations, including a decanter of vodka, half
of which I drank in mistake for water. Nearly burned up!
We arrived at Alexandrovsk tonight at 8:00 p. m. The
train was punctual to the minute. There we were met by a car from Dnieperstroy.
That was fine and we steamed out to the dam in about forty minutes. There
I got the surprise of my life. Colonel Cooper and his men have superb
houses, of the regular Florida brick bungalow type, set in fine gardens
and with many trees around. We stayed with a Mr. Wilkinson in the house
where Colonel Cooper lives. It was grand!
Mr. M., chief engineer, took us all over the dam. I had hoped to get some
photos, but only yesterday the Russians began to prohibit the taking of
The dam is an amazing project in size and concept. Stretching from bank
to bank, it is built in a graceful curve, three-quarters of a mile long.
At each end are rock-crushing and concrete-mixing plants, through one
of which we went; and then down into the power house, which is about two-thirds
built, and contains all American equipment, with its nine turbines, each
twenty-five feet in diameter, and developing 90,000 h. p. apiece - the
largest in the world. They poured more concrete in three months last year
than had ever been dumped before anywhere in the world, with an average
of about 4,000 cu. yds. per day and 146,000 cu. yds. in one month. Eighteen
thousand persons are employed on this job.
We went right down inside the turbines and saw how they worked. After
much climbing of ladders, we eventually reached the top again and watched
the steam derricks lower two-yard buckets down into the fills. Mr. M.
explained how a dam like this is built by constructing a preliminary coffer-dam
and then pumping all the water out of the center and building right on
the bottom. We returned through the center of the dam, by way of a passage.
"It's a secret," said Mr. M., "but you don't generally
build large runways through dams - nor those either" (pointing to
small passages running out into the piers).
Evidently everything is all set for
The purpose of the dam is two-fold:
First, to develop 80,000 h.p. for electric transformation, and second,
by backing up the water and having locks at one side it will make the
Dnieper navigable from the Black Sea to Kiev. The kilo-watts developed
here will light a new industrial city of a million persons that is being
built adjacent, and will furnish power for a large steel works, an aluminium
smelting plant, and other industrial establishments there
I spent the rest of the day in bed with a stomach ache.
Jones went out this afternoon to see a German Kolhoz
not far from here. I was not able to go. There he talked with a Communist.
Suddenly a man came up, slightly "buzzed", and interrupted with:
"Tell him the truth!" he shouted. "Why are you telling
him lies? We are being oppressed. Nothing but taxes, taxes, all the time.
How can we live? The truth! The truth!"
This fellow went off talking to himself.
There is only one member of the Party at the Kolhoz,
because the Germans are religious. This Party man explained how they sent
workers to the factory. The man who goes continues a member of the Kolhoz.
If he earns 150 rubles there, he must give from three to ten per cent
to the Kolhoz. People do not mind going to work on the construction job,
but nobody wants to go to the Donetz Basin.
One peasant said:
"They sent the Kulaks away from here and it was terrible. We heard
in a letter that ninety children died on the way - ninety children from
this district. We are all afraid of being sent away as Kulaks for political
reasons. We had a letter from one, saying they were cutting wood in Siberia.
Life was hard and there was not enough to eat. It was forced labour! They
sent all the grain away from our village and left only 1,000 pounds. I
heard that in a village thirty versts away they came to seize the grain,
and the peasants killed three militiamen. They wanted to have enough grain
for themselves instead of starving. The Communists then shot sixteen peasants.
"They force us to work on Sundays, although we are Mennonites and
don't want to. They won't allow us to have Sunday Schools, or religious
magazines. The Russians have lost their religion, but we Germans still
stick to ours. A lot of people have gone to America - take us with you!"
Tonight we left Dnieperstroy by train to go to Kharkov. Our guide had
secured train accommodations for us and so everything was easy.
Here we are in the capital and industrial center of the Ukraine. It boasts
of the highest buildings in Russia - houses and government offices. Large
industrial plants, with their adjacent apartment houses for workers, are
being built here.
We visited the offices of Stuart, James & Cook Co. today. Unfortunately,
Mr. Cole was away, but we talked with several other men who told us of
the present conditions in the Ukraine, where they are designing coal machinery.
They reported bad epidemics of cholera and dysentery there now. Conditions
are terrible at present and the food is worse than a year ago. They treat
the workers like cattle.
"They think they can make skilled miners out of peasants," we
were told. "It can't be done quickly. Those workers can only dig
half a ton of coal per day. They are very inefficient. The machines keep
breaking down and everything gets jammed. It's a swell mess! And, of course,
transportation is terrible, too, which means they can't distribute properly."
This afternoon we went out to the new tractor factory, which is soon to
be in operation and which is designed to produce 50,000 tractors per year.
Our first general impression was of a group of modernistic factory buildings
rearing their heads above the mud which surrounds them. We went to the
trade school in which a crowd of young, unintelligent looking muzhiks
was learning how to handle lathes and machine tools. I'd hate to have
the job of teaching those blokes.
After much fussing around we managed to get permission to go in and see
the assembly and machine departments. American engineers were around,
installing equipment, and they all told the same story, that the Russians
had a great curiosity for machines and liked to take them apart without
much idea of what to do then. Last week in the Moscow News appeared the
picture of three tractors outside this plant -"the first ones turned
out"- but they had been sent from Stalingrad just for that picture!
It will be weeks before they can produce here.
Tonight we took a train for Kiev, ancient city of the East.
Kiev was a bright spot, for there we got our mail. Our hotel was an old
one of the most florid Baroque architecture. But we had a piano, a bathroom,
and several sentimental statuettes of thwarted and unrequited love, etc.
We had a great surprise at the Sports Park where they have a modern restaurant
that makes you think you are in Europe when you get the food you know
you guessed wrong.
Kiev is a charming old town, with its many ancient churches
and handsome avenues of trees. Jones and I walked through a park, where
we saw a fine flower bed with two numbers outlined in flowers - 1,040
and 518. What did they stand for? One thousand and forty machine tractor
stations and 518 industrial plants to be opened in 1931. Say it with flowers!