Letter to V I Lenin from a sailor, Ya. Lachugin, on conditions in his home town, Shuya, 1920

This letter, sent to Lenin on 2 April 1920 by a politically loyal sailor at home on leave, reports on the state of mind of many ordinary peasants after almost two years of war communist economic policies. - Francis King, translator

Comrade Lenin

Being at home for seven days' leave, I have been listening and observing. I have become convinced that in our uezd the peasants are against the authorities to a man, and the workers, through hunger, feel the same way. The communists are becoming more right-wing, discontent is increasing by the hour, and, hardly surprisingly, all sorts of dirty dealings are going on in Soviet institutions - all as a result of hunger, just for a piece of bread. In the course of March this year the workers were given five pounds of flour and three boxes of matches - and that was all. Is it possible to exist on five pounds of flour and not starve? Market prices are hellishly expensive: flour is 15000 rubles per pud, potatoes are 1500 rubles, while workers get just 800 rubles before deductions. At present the factories are picking up, but nothing can be sent by train - it is forbidden. What can be done? A hungry man is capable of anything. There is a new slogan on everyone's lips: "Who cares who rules, so long as there's bread!" Dark forces are making use of this, it plays straight into their hands. The people is not against the authorities (although it must be satisfied), but it is against the reactionary bureaucrats, who have wormed their way one by one into Soviet institutions. They are trying by every means possible to wreck and hinder our food policy in particular, as their main weapon against Soviet power. At the same time there are surreptitious cries: "This is your Soviet republic for you! It was better in the old days, under Nicholas!" The masses are unenlightened, have little understanding, and their views on life are too narrow. Appropriate measures must be taken. Hunger will not wait, and it might have undesirable anti-Soviet consequences.

Ya. Lachugin, Sailor

Original in RGAE, f. 1943, op. 1, d. 693, ll. 34 - 35.
Reprinted in A K Sokolov (ed.), Golos naroda: Pis'ma i otkliki ryadovykh sovetskikh grazhdan o sobytiyakh 1918 - 1932 gg., Moscow, ROSSPEN, 1997, p. 64.