The Russian Revolution in a Rural Community

PEASANT MASTERS

BY EMMA PONAFIDINE

I

‘MADAME, war is declared; Yakov and I are called, and all of our horses must be at the mustering-place in half an hour.’

Thus, with pale face and trembling voice, the manager of our estate announced the breaking-out of war, as I was quietly sitting at my desk that fateful afternoon in the summer of 1914. To me, as to all others who were not of the inner circle, the first intimation of that mobilization came as a thunderbolt out of a clear sky.

My husband at once ordered out all the horses. A carriage with a troika was harnessed for us, and we were soon driving to the village. Everywhere, in the fields and in the villages through which we passed, the peasants were hurriedly unharnessing horses from loaded carts or from ploughs, and men, women, and children were riding them bareback to the meeting-place.

Here we found army men with measuring rods, getting the standard height of horses, and the other requirements as given in posters that were already up on the walls of the headman ’s house. Nowhere, in all that crowd, did we hear a protesting word or see a discontented look. Though the war was unexpected, undesired, and wholly incomprehensible, the fact that it was forced upon us made everyone respond, if not cheerfully, yet heartily.

To understand the full significance of this, the first, sacrifice, one must remember that we were living in the country, in an agricultural district where the horse was one of the chief factors in the welfare of each peasant family.

Horses coming up to the required conditions were gathered at the volost, or canton centre, some sixteen miles from us, and from there were taken to our county town of Ostashkoff, about thirty miles farther around the lake, where they must be by the following evening. Each horse was to have a three days’ supply of hay brought with it. In this way, within thirty hours of the order for mobilization, men and horses were to be at the railway station, gathered from a radius of about forty miles.

We at once returned home, men were told off to harvest two cartloads of grass, and seventeen of our horses were taken by my sons to the second, or canton, rendezvous, and from there to Ostashkoff. Our farm superintendent and a workman, who had their marching-orders, were busy making preparations, their women folk cooking, baking, washing, and mending, through their tears.

When everyone was ready, all turned out to follow that little procession for some distance in the gathering twilight. The women whose husbands were going sobbed quietly. I kept by the side of my favorite horse; and as I felt for the last time his soft muzzle nestle against my cheek, I was ashamed of the tears that would come; for others were giving up those far dearer than a horse could be.

In the spring of 1915 we were faced with fields waiting to be ploughed, and no men to do it on the large estates; and though our peasant women are used to doing farm work, even to the ploughing, they too were short-handed. The Government, therefore, sent out circulars, stating the conditions under which farmers could have German and Austrian prisoners to work for them, or our own soldiers who were stationed in the rear.

Our soldiers were not very satisfactory, as we had to hold ourselves in readiness to give them up at an hour’s notice; and yet we all hesitated at first , for many reasons, to take prisoners. Finally, however, we sent for ten soldiers and five prisoners; and later on we added five more of the latter.

The arrival of the prisoners created a great sensation among our peasants, many of whom had never seen any foreigners except those who had visited us from time to time; and when these men, with their queer uniforms and their strange language, came, they were objects of mingled pity and curiosity, but never of hostility. The peasants did not regard them as enemies, and very justly said: ‘They are not to blame, and probably did not wish this war any more than we did. They were ordered to go and fight, as our men were.’

It was touching to see how, in a few days, these men were treated by the simple village-folk. While they were working in our fields, women would often steal up to them and, unfolding a napkin, would take out a fish or a potato pie, saying, ‘Take it, eat, poor fellow. I have a son a prisoner in Germany and perhaps your women are good to him.’ In an amazingly short time the prisoners learned enough Russian to make themselves understood; and before they left us, most of them could read and write to some extent. After his return home, one of the Austrians wrote me, in rather weird Russian to be sure, a touching letter, full of gratitude for kindness he had received while in Russia.

After the Revolution, the attitude of the peasants changed toward the prisoners, who were regarded as occupying posts, and eating bread, that belonged by right to the Russian people. The good years w e had been having changed to bad ones in 1917 and 1918. Our crops almost failed, and the people begrudged bread given to the ‘enemy.’

At this time the Bolsheviki began a very energetic propaganda among the prisoners in Russia, and our men were called twice to hear speeches and instruction . They were told to study the Revolution carefully, and to go back to Germany and Austria and tell their people how happy the Russian workingmen were, who had got rid of their Tsar, and who had all the land and forests, as well as freedom from capitalists.

When the prisoners came home, they told us of these meetings and said: ‘We understood everything, but pretended we did n’t, and only shook our heads and said we did n’t understand. They told us when we went home we must make a revolution in Austria and Germany; but we are not such fools as to bring upon our country such a life as we now see here. When we first came to Russia, we were frightened. Our officers taught, us that the Russians were very cruel: that they would torture and then kill us if we were taken prisoners; but we found it was not true. The Russians everywhere were kind to us; they treated us as human beings, and not as prisoners. In the villages the women were like mothers to us; there was plenty of bread and they shared it with us. Now see what the Revolution has done! The kind peasants have become bad; there is no bread; the working people are told they are free, but their lives are worse than before. No, no, we don’t want any such liberty in our country! ’

II

When I returned, on that fourth of May, 1917, — this is one of the few dates I remember, — from our little post-office where letters were received three times a week, I brought the astounding news of the abdication of the Tsar. As I read my husband the details, he sat with clasped hands and bowed head, and over and over he repeated brokenly: ‘Poor, poor Russia! God have mercy on her! They don’t know what they are doing.’

My husband was one of the very few who were farsighted enough to realize that the time and the form in which this change came would be fatal to Russia. A monarchist himself, in that he always believed that this form of government was the only one for so heterogeneous a country as Russia, he had long felt, however, that, unless the Tsar consented to give Russia a constitutional government with responsible ministers, a revolution was unavoidable.

We in the country heard of the deposition of the Tsar, of the formation of the Provisional Government, and that a provisional committee was also appointed in our county town; but it was some time before any visible form of new government showed itself in our cantons or in the village communes, though the old order disappeared. I think it spoke volumes for the lawabiding instincts of the people that, in this interim, when we had literally no one to represent law or police, there was not one case of lawlessness in our vicinity that we heard of.

In a short time we had a ‘militiaman’ to take the place of the old representative of the police, and our canton government was centred in a local committee, with new powers. The peasant communes and we ourselves came under the immediate control of this latter committee.1

The first act of hostility toward us was in restricting our pasture-lands and hay fields. Realizing that the next step would be the requisition of live-stock, we forestalled this event by selling them off as quickly as possible, keeping only as many horses and cows as we could feed on what land was left us. When later we were accused of selling what was ‘the people’s property,’ we justified ourselves by pointing out that we had received no orders prohibiting the sale and that, in any case, we had disposed only of such animals as the committee, by their own action, had left without food.

Later we were visited by a deputation of peasants, who stated that, although we had no longer any rights to the land, the woods, or anything on the estate, they would not touch us or expel us until a ‘paper’ came, saying how the property was to be divided among the people. An inventory of everything on the place and in the house was made by a delegation of peasants who, in spite of the tragedy of the moment, furnished us with much amusement. They were armed with papers and pens and, dividing up into different parties, scattered themselves through the various rooms, counting the contents. When they compared notes, it was found that, in counting tables, chairs, and pieces of furniture, the names and uses of which were often quite unknown to them, they had become hopelessly mixed. I remember, one day (for this process was repeated over and over), they failed to get down all the large mirrors. ‘No one will believe us if we say there were only ten mirrors in such a big house; let ’s put down fifteen.’ ‘No, better say twenty,’ interposed another; and they wrote down twenty.

We were then informed that, so long as we did not sell or hide anything, we should be permitted to remain in our house; but they took care to see that we fulfilled their orders. Without so much as ‘by your leave,’ they would often go through the house, rummaging in bureau drawers, and sometimes calling me to account if they happened to find fewer articles of linen than when they last counted; and I had to explain that the missing garments were in the wash, or being mended!

From this time we might be said to have been the unpaid managers of the estate. We did the work and paid taxes, but could sell nothing, and were even restricted in the use of milk and flour. Our old employees were turned off—in some cases faithful men who had lived, together with their families, on our estate for years. In their place were put men quite incompetent in some cases, and decidedly hostile to us in others. All these questions and changes were discussed and settled in hours spent at the village meetings, or skhodkas, and ratified after long talks with the volost committee. At this time all Russia attended meetings of some sort: from the soldier at the front and the workingman in the mills, down to the men and women in the villages, all gave up what should have been workinghours to such gatherings.

Our own village commune included three villages. When a question came up for discussion, raised by an individual, or by the canton committee, or by ourselves, the headmen would be asked to summon a skhodka. Generally a boy was sent around with a stick, to knock at the windows of each house and shoutt the hour and place of meeting. If it happened to be winter, the gatherings would be in different houses, in turn; but in summer the street is the place for holding the meetings; the whole village, including children, can gather and listen.

During the summer of 1917, and up to the spring of 1919, when our estate was turned into a state farm, we were constantly called to attend skhodkas, whatever the object might happen to be. When my sons were at home, they found it utterly impossible to do this and their farm work, so I was generally told off to represent the family.

If a cow calved, we had to lay the matter before the village commune, and a long discussion would take place as to what should be done with the calf. If a litter of pigs appeared on the scene, their future was settled in the same way, after long parleying, sometimes with orders to sell them, half the proceeds going to the canton committee, and the other half to us for our ‘trouble’ in caring for them.

One day, toward evening, one of our cows broke her leg while at pasture in the woods. The herdsman came running in, crying from ‘three streams,’ as they say in Russia, and said that she ought to be put out of her misery at once. My son went to the village; but by the time he could get three responsible citizens to come and examine the cow, it was too late to kill her that night, and the poor beast had to lie where she had fallen, suffering, until morning. Then a ‘paper’ was given to us, stating that, as the cow had evidently broken Iter leg by accident, and in no way owing to our carelessness, the meat and skin were ours.

As it was warm weather, I immediately went to work cutting the meat preparatory to salting it. While I was thus occupied, some raftsmen, who were making rafts of our — or what had been our—timber to float down the lake, came to me with a proposition. It seemed they were negotiating the purchase of a young bull in the next village, to butcher for meat. They knew we were in need of a bull, and proposed that we give them meat in exchange for their live animal. Now this would strike anyone as a very simple proposition, one that we might decide ourselves; but alas! the process of free revolutionary government is not so easy. We should have been accused of ‘speculation’ — that heinous crime which is linked with the ominous words, ‘capitalists,’ ‘landowners,’ ‘nobles,’ and ‘clergy.’

So we called a skhodka about ten o’clock in the morning. We appeared, the raftsmen and I, and stated our cases. I pointed out our own need of a bull, and that of the village, which had always profited by our having one. I undertook to keep this animal until one which we had, of better breed, should grow up; this promise, of course, holding good so long as we ourselves were permitted to remain on our estate. It was for them to fix the price of the bull and of a pound of meat; and then they could easily decide how much meat I was to give in exchange for the bull. A simple proposition, was it not?

We all gathered in the street , women as well as men — for a woman is permitted to represent a householder and to vote as such. For a long time everyone talked at once, as they always do, until tired out. Then they proceeded to select a chairman and a secretary. At noon we adjourned for lunch, no conclusion having been arrived at. Then we took it up again, After hours of talking, it looked as if the decision were turning in our favor, and one of the raftsman went off down the street to buy a keg in which to salt the meat. He soon returned, rolling a small barrel in front of him, which was immediately seized upon and set on end to be used as a table for the secretary. The powwow continued until evening; and when we saw the village herd approaching, the young bull was rounded off, a rope was thrown around its neck, and it was brought up to take a passive part in deciding its own case. Finally, when it was almost dark, the secretary, who had gone through as many agonizing throes of composition as any young writer ever experienced, handed me a remarkable document. It was signed by every householder present; illiterates made their crosses. It stated the amount of meat I was to give for the bull, and emphasized the fact that the skin of the cow, as well as the live bull, was my ‘personal property’; and this, remember, at a time when private property was abolished!

We went home triumphantly in the gloaming, I leading my bull, the men trundling the keg and helping me to persuade the refractory beast whenever he rebelled, as he often did, against changing his abode and his masters. The next day, one of my sons and I rowed over to the volost committee headquarters across the lake. There we found a long table, around one end of which was seated the military subcommittee and, at the other, the agricultural. The members of both committees were local peasants with whom we were acquainted. None of them had any education other than the course of four winters in the little village schools.

We showed the document given by the village commune, and asked to have it endorsed by the committee. The chairman read it over and remarked, ‘It is very simple. In the inventory of live-stock under your care, one cow must be erased and a bull substituted.’

‘No,’ said the secretary; ‘you see, the village has voted that so long as the cow’s meat has been given to them, and would have been eaten by them, that is, would have belonged to them, the bull that replaces the meat must also be recognized as belonging to them.’

After this extremely complicated, but decidedly logical, explanation, the chairman solemnly wrote a resolution on the document, agreeing with the village commune in considering the bull the ‘personal property of Citizen Ponafidine, who had a right to sell or eat the same at the expiration of the time that she had agreed to keep it.’ This precious document was made legal and imposing by being repeatedly stamped. It may be of interest, to note that, after all the trouble and energy spent on talking and getting such a wonderful document, in the end this, our only ‘ personal property,’ was taken from us when our estate was turned into a state farm.

What saved the landowners in our part of the country from many of the horrors experienced in other places, was the fact that, in 1918, owing to bad crops, no one had seed enough to sow his own land, and therefore our fields were not coveted at this, the most critical moment, when passions ran high.

I am not speaking now of the government as seen in large cities, but as we, living in the country and provincial towns, felt, in our own lives the Revolution in its various stages; but as the peasants make up three quarters of the population, this part, of Russian life is not to be ignored, and yet unfortunately it is the least known abroad. To have given the peasants a leading part in state matters, and then to blame them for the disastrous results, is like blaming a child for setting fire to gunpowder,

rather than calling to account a grown person who gave the child the powder and the matches.

III

But it was not only with the village commune and the volost committee that we had to deal during these years. Questions of state interests had to be taken to the County Committee of the Provisional Government, and I had occasion to make the acquaintance of various types here.

One interview of the kind — I think it was in 1918 — we shall never forget. We received a notice demanding taxes, based as in former years upon the number of acres in our estate. We at once drew up a protest, in which we pointed out just how much land had been left for our use, and while consenting to pay dues on that number of acres, objected to paying anything on the rest. This I took with me to the Commissar of Agriculture in Ostashkoff.

He was a former sailor, who had taken part in the historic mutiny on the Potomkin of the Imperial Navy during the revolution of 1905 and 1906, when the crews brutally massacred their officers, and for weeks terrorized the Black Sea, threatening Odessa. So this Commissar had passed through a pretty good school, and was a formidable opponent for us to meet.

He had been in the village next to us, addressing a meeting, a short time before. In his speech he reproached the peasants for having allowed such an estate as ours to exist, adding that if they needed live-stock or agricultural implements they were to help themselves. If they needed houses and buildings, they were to turn us out. Here a woman rose and said: ‘We will never drive the Ponafidines out; they have always been good to us. When I had no milk, they gave me milk for my child, and our lady gives us medicine when we are sick.’

‘And you thank her for it?’ the speaker asked.

‘Of course,’ she replied.

‘The more fools you. She should thank you for so many years letting her and her family live there and profit by the land and woods and all that by right belong to the people. She should thank you, that you have not turned them out long ago; and here you thank her for a bottle of milk or a box of pills!’

Is it not a wonder, with such encouragement from above, that the peasants did not all rise and turn us out?

Well, this was the man whom we had to face. From the first I had tried to take upon myself the responsibility of dealing with the Bolsheviki, as it seemed so much more dangerous to have the men-folk of the family implicated. In this case, however, the man was so notorious that my sons would not hear of it; so we compromised, and one of them went with me, though I made him promise to stand in the background and take no part in the conversation, if he could avoid it.

It was with a beating heart that I went up the dirty stairs and into the equally disorderly room where the Commissar of Agriculture received. There were a number present and, stating the subject of my visit, I asked to whom I was to present the written statement, and was motioned toward the secretary, seated behind a handsome desk which we recognized. Indeed, nearly all the furniture in the various rooms we identified as having belonged to families of our acquaintance.

The secretary looked over my paper and, handing it to the Commissar, remarked; ‘It seems reasonable, does n’t it? ’

After reading it, the Commissar said, ‘Certainly, they are quite right; there is no justice in their paying taxes on land that in no way belongs to them now.’. Then, glancing at me, and then at the signature, he said: ‘Who is it? I did not notice the name.'

‘Ponafidine,’ I replied calmly, never dreaming, after his peaceful reception of us and recognition of our rights, what a storm the mention of our name would raise.

‘Oh, Ponafidine! I have heard of that mischievous family.’

And then a scene took place, so wild, so utterly savage, that could I remember the exact words and repeat them, they would hardly be credited. He ran back and forth, raving, and from time to time beating his breast with clinched hands, or stopping to strike the table with his fists, as we had heard he was in the habit of doing when he was greatly excited. He harangued us all, stopping in front of various persons, who were astonished, and in some cases evidently pleased, spectators, telling them of this family of ‘bloodsuckers,’ ‘oppressors of the poor, who under the protection of a blind husband and lazy minors were continuing to live as bloated capitalists, keeping their workpeople little better than serfs’; and much more of the same kind.

Then, stopping in front of me, he would repeat over and over, ‘I know you, I know you, I have heard all about, you! We will call you to account yet. We are very busy and cannot be expected to get the whole county in order at once, but your turn will come, and when I take you in my mailed fist, my conversation with you will be short, Citizen Ponafidine. You have been a lady long enough. I ’ll teach you to work.’ He continued his tirade, running back and forth, literally foaming at the mouth.

My son could keep out of the fray no longer and, stepping to my side, tried to explain to the madman the conditions under which we were living, adding, ‘look at ray mother’s hands, and see if they look like the hands of a lady.’

‘That’s nothing,’ he answered sneeringly. ‘You think she works, but she don’t know what it is yet. I ’ll teach her. I ’ll get her tamed by 1920, and then she ’ll know what it means to work.’

We always remembered that date, and strange to say it was in October, 1920, that we were finally expelled from our last place of refuge on our estate.

When we went out, I felt as if I had received a stunning blow on my head. We both were so utterly dazed that we went on and on down the street, without saying a word, until my son stopped and we realized that we were far from the place for which we were bound. Never in my life had I been so treated or heard such language; but that was not what stayed with me, and haunted me, but the consciousness of the fierce, horrible hatred toward me—that is toward our class — which the Commissar had shown in his voice and look. It was appalling to be so hated! It took me days to get over the shock; and so long as that man was in power, I took care to avoid the very street on which the Agricultural Department was situated. But it was not for long, for the personnel of our government changed as often as did their decrees.

The reader may wonder why we did not appeal to headquarters. Some did, and while they occasionally received justice in the individual case, it brought down the persecution of the local powers worse than ever when the revising commission had left. We, therefore, always endeavored to avoid conflicts, and with this one exception I was never treated with anything but politeness (bearing in mind that everything in Soviet Russia is comparative) when I went to the different departments; though I did not always get my way, by any means. But we were not in a position to demand much. The Commissar who searched our persons more or less politely, or who was good-humored as he loaded boats or sleighs with our personal effects and household goods, was regarded by us as quite a ‘decent fellow,’ and the next time we met on the street it was with a pleasant bow on both sides.

IV

Throughout the summer of 1917, ‘instructors’ were always coming to the villages, no matter how busy the season, haying-time or reaping. Everything was dropped to hear what they had to say. These men were sometimes soldiers, and always men of little education, both at this time and later, when the same methods were carried on by the Bolsheviki.

When the time approached for voting for the ill-fated National Assembly, an ‘instructor,’ a young Esthonian soldier, was sent from Tver, the capital of our state, to teach us how to vote. I was obliged to attend, as neither of my sons was at home. The meeting was held in the one street of the village, and I drove my cart up near the speaker, and remained sitting in it. He began by explaining what the National Assembly was, and what the candidates stood for. He first read off the numbers of the cards bearing names of undesirable candidates. ‘ Nobles, landowners, you don’t want them!’

Cries of ‘No! no!’

‘ Priests — you have had enough of the long-haired clergy lording it over you.’

Cries of ‘No! no! we have had enough of them.’

‘ Landowners who have taken the land that belonged to you, and the forests where for generations they have cut down trees that did not belong to them.’

‘No, no, we don’t want landowners,’

Then he explained what list would bring them the representatives of the people. Candidates who, if elected, would work for the peoples’ rights, secure the land and the woods for them.

‘Now,’ he concluded, ‘you go to the schoolhouse to-morrow, every one of you, men and women, no matter how busy you are. Drop everything and go. Cast the vote that will secure the land for you and for your children. If you cannot write, no matter: make marks, and it will be just as good as if you could write the numbers.’

The next day we assembled and, for the first time in my life, I voted — though, I am afraid, not according to the desires of our ‘instructor.’

Where the effects of Bolshevism were first felt by us was in the suppression of all private trade, and the disappearance, as by magic, of everything buyable. That was the period when, in the cities, one might die of starvation, while possessing millions. Peasants ran every risk to take bread and other food supplies to Moscow and Petrograd, where they were sold at exorbitant prices.

Of course, we in the provinces did not suffer as much from hunger, having our own bread, butter, and vegetables. But all groceries, dry goods, soap, kerosene, and the thousand and one little things without which the civilized woman is not supposed to be able to exist, were not to be had. How often has the want of a button, a needle, or a spool of thread faced us! Imagine never shopping for four and a half years!

This was the time when real ingenuity was shown. Joseph, in his coat of many colors, was not more brilliantly arrayed than were the sons and husbands whose women made them suits of bright blue or green, often sewed with cotton of a different color than the garment.

The winter of 1917 and 1918 was one long season of mental torture to us. We were watched, searched, threatened, and we suffered great privations, as our own supplies were under control. This was the year, too, that the peasants in our part of Russia suffered, owing to partial failure of their crops, and when armies of them, men and women, went back and forth to the ‘ bread states,’ the same Volga basin which in its turn is now starving. So many were these northern pilgrims, going south and returning with bags of Hour on their backs, that, a new word was coined to describe them — ‘baggers.’ And soon these baggers were recognized as the greatest menace to the country.

Having succeeded in getting the flour in the districts rich with food, our people brought back with them the epidemics of typhus and Spanish ‘flu’ that were raging in the south. The railway stations were horrible beyond description — so packed with ragged, unwashed humanity, many already ill. The floors were so covered with people lying on them as to make it almost impossible to find a spot to place one’s foot in stepping. As the trains left, those who could boarded them; but every day many were left on the floor, dead or dying.

In this way the epidemic was brought to us, and at a time when we were beginning to feel the lack of drugs. The little state hospital and free dispensary for the peasants near us, which in olden times had always been supplied with necessary drugs, was now badly stocked. I had always kept myself provided with medicines, and had been in the habit of treating the peasants, with the knowledge and help of our local state physician, who was overworked. As he was quite unable to do the dressings and follow cases in all the villages, he would often turn over to me those living near us. Also first aid was always brought to me, both for men and beasts. This outburst of typhus and Spanish flu kept me busy. In all those months I do not remember a single case among those I attended that could not be traced to some member of the family who had been south and had brought the germs — generally vermin being the direct means.

Attempts were made to stop the baggers from traveling; but this was not easy to do. They were of two kinds — speculators, and those going for their personal needs. This was when the Bolsheviki were making their experiments in the first steps of Communism; an experiment that carried off many, and shattered the health of more.

Private trading was abolished, and all buying and selling set down as illegal. Each citizen was supposed to receive all he needed in the way of food and clothing, either as payment for work done, or as rations for those too old to work and for children under age. This was a very lovely state of things on paper, and yet more so as heard from the lips of an eloquent and fanatic Communist. But Bolshevist doctrines in practice and in theory are, as we all found to our cost, as different as daylight and darkness. Food products were duly nationalized and vanished, together with markets and shops, as projected; but somehow the second part of their programme fell through, and the rations were never given out at the time and in the quantities promised.

The result was that, had it not been for these same questionable baggers, who constantly succeeded in smuggling bread, meat, vegetables, and butter, into Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities, the mortality would have been even greater than it was.

It was interesting to note how quickly the peasant women adapted themselves to the new order of things. Women who had never seen a train, and had hardly ever left their homes, went fearlessly to the far, Lower Volga states under circumstances that would appall experienced travelers. Others would carry on a regular traffic with Petrograd. Going to Moscow, they would lay in a supply of such articles as are most needed in the villages, such as warm head-kerchiefs, calico, thread, sugar, soap, and matches. These they would take to a county adjoining ours, where the people lived mostly on small farms, and were more prosperous than those about us. In these villages the speculator exchanged her goods for flour, baked bread, butter, cereals, eggs, and currants, to take back to Petrograd and Moscow, returning home to repeat the operation. Women gave up all former occupation, young mothers left the children to the care of grandmothers and aunts, and for years practically lived on the trains. Some came under our own observation, who kept this up until their careers were ended by disease, that sooner or later one must contract if constantly traveling in the vermin-stocked cars, or by accidents. One woman whom we knew well was pushed off the car platform and had both legs cut off. Thus outwitting the Bolsheviki, these baggers, while doing harm as vehicles for contagion, and causing infinite discomfort by overcrowding the cars, yet do a service that cannot be overestimated, in feeding the large cities, and in furnishing the villages with much needed goods.

The good crops that we in the north had in 1919 and 1920 naturally led to the falling-off of baggers, who went south for flour; but the number of speculators is sufficient to overflow the limited transport from which Soviet Russia is now suffering.

  1. The ‘government’ of Tver is equivalent to the ‘state’ of Tver. Within the ‘state’ is the county or uezd; the volost, or canton, consisting perhaps of thirty villages; and finally, the village commune, made up of one or more peasant villages.