1922 - Former Red Army man returns to civilian life

Letter to the People's Commissariat of Agriculture, 19 March 1922, from G Erofeev, Pas'ma village, Ropyarovskaya volost', Kologrivsky uezd, Kostroma guberniya.

For four and a half years the Russian worker and peasant have been bearing on their shoulders the harsh but glorious struggle for the great slogans of socialism, freedom and equality, and for the wealth of the country, for all its riches which by law belong to them. They have borne much physical and spiritual suffering, and many privations. The best comrades have given their lives. Many of them returned unable to work and others with their health undermined. And those who stayed at home also played their part in this struggle, giving their labour, their last bread, while they themselves ate substitutes. But they bore all this with honour, believing in the future.

But what has turned out in reality? A lot of words, interviews and articles are being written in the papers about raising up agriculture. But these are all just words on paper, and Soviet power has in fact turned out to be no better than Tsarist power. The newly-issued decree on land use says that all bought land and allotment land will be returned to the peasantry. Well that's fine, but has Soviet power forgotten that too little land was granted to the peasants on 19 February 1861 and that their allotments are not large. Many more people have been born and many have returned from the towns, where they had been driven by the Tsarist despotism. Are they the stepsons of the Republic? It is saying nothing about giving extra land or generally increasing the size of the previous miserly allotments. It is not giving the peasant a definite figure for land holdings, which can lead to conflict between villages, because one will have more land and another less. They need to indicate a set norm of land for use by the peasants in each guberniya, taking account of the tax burden, divide the population of the villages up into categories, and give land to everyone who wants to work it, cutting back the state's land holdings. Then there won't be hostility between peasants because everybody will have the same amount. Just let Soviet power be a bit kinder and not only return the bought land but take some out of its own holdings.

Secondly, the peasantry is upset by the slogan: "All the wealth of the Republic to the people", when in fact it is not so - Soviet power has turned the peasant into a thief. The peasants, ruined by 7 years of war, need to make repairs and put up new buildings, and also need fuel, which means wood from the forests. But here the peasant is in a blind alley, and cannot see how to get out of this position. For all building timber and even for firewood, the peasant has to pay, and the rates are exorbitant. But here is the question: where is he to raise the money to pay the state? He doesn't have any land with forest of his own, it's all been nationalised. In order to equip a house he needs at least 800 000 000 rubles, and for firewood and that he has to pay 260 000 rubles per sazhen'. Where is he going to find that money from? What is more, he gives a lot without getting paid. And so he is forced by necessity to steal timber in order to repair his farm (and this is in the RSFSR!!!) - timber which by rights belongs to him. Tell him where he can find that sort of capital. And there is nothing to justify this sort of measure by Soviet power. If it refers to the massive destruction, and the need for money, then let it spend less by getting rid of those hundreds of thousands of forestry employees since they are quite unnecessary and are just getting their rations for nothing. Soviet power should act on the slogan "to each according to his needs", and realise that if a peasant needs some materials for his farm but does not have anything to pay with he will steal them, that is, take them off secretly. This shows that all those forestry employees are unnecessary, the huge amount spent on keeping them could be cut. The peasants would think better of you for it, and they wouldn't take any more than they needed. Repressive measures to get payment for materials will just anger the population.

Let Soviet power pay for the suffering of the workers and work out the price for the blood spilled for the Idea of Socialism, then the peasants will pay for the timber they need for their farms. If Soviet power can find the price for all that. But for the moment I think the peasant has a perfect right to the materials he needs, as they are the wealth of the people, and he has paid for it with his life. It would be no bad thing if those concerned were to think and moderate their keenness to take money off the peasants for timber. Think whether Soviet power is going to pay the peasant for his work and everything that has been taken off him.

I am a Red Army man who returned from the front on 20 December 1921. On the basis of the VTsIK decree on providing timber materials to those that need them, I put in an application to my Land Department for 100 trees so I could build my house for free, as a Red Army man. I filled out this form and gave it to the forester, and he passed it on to the guberniya forestry committee, and it's been three months already and I have not had a reply. I don't know who is at fault here, or whether I need to give a bribe, or whether VTsIK decrees exist only on paper.

But time is passing and I am wasting it doing nothing, where I could be setting myself up.

I ask you to indicate where else I need to apply to get timber or am I just crying in the wilderness. As for paying for it, I didn't earn that much in 2 1/2 years' service.

Please reply.

Archive source: RGAE 478/7/564/258-258 ob.
Published source: A K Sokolov (ed), Golos naroda: pis'ma i otkliki ryadovykh sovetskikh grazhdan o sobytiyakh 1918 - 1932 gg., ROSSPEN, Moscow, 1998, pp. 78 - 79.