Interview with Israel Chernitsky,
Q: When and why did you join the Komsomol?
Chernitzky: I joined the Komsomol in March of 1927. I was fifteen years old. The Soviet power celebrated its 10th Anniversary, out of which four years we had civil war. A new economic policy was started, and we wanted, young people wanted, to take part in this new life.
Q: What was the appeal of communism for you?
Chernitzky: Before Marx, philosophy of mankind was chaos. Marx gave a description of society and explained what he expected of mankind in the future. His slogans were very attractive for common people. Later on, I started the higher education establishment, and I had an opportunity to study economics, politics, and our teachers gave us a description of what this society should be. Many people would write that society would reach its highest level in a socialist society .
Q: Israel Abramovich, could you please tell us the story of the de-kulakization meeting you went to in the village.
Chernitzky: Complete and utter collectivization was in process, and was to take place on the basis of eliminating the Kulaks as a class. The Kulaks were considered the bourgeoisie of the countryside. They made obstacles to collectivization -- that's what the powers above thought -- and it was decided to get rid of them. Meetings of poor peasants, Komsomol members, the country activists, were held in the villages. At one of the meetings the head of the chair said, "There's an order from the Center to carry out the elimination of the Kulaks as a class -- Here's a list of Kulaks" He read the list of 10-12 people, and then many others were added to the list.
Q: What did you do after the meeting?
Chernitzky: Our commission went to eliminate the Kulaks. We went to the home of a family with the name Rudichi. We went into the house -- a commission of 5 or 6 people. The secretary of the party organization announced "According to the decision of our meeting, your family is de-kulakized. Put all you valuables on the table. I warn you, no hysterics, I've got strong nerves, we'll stand firm." A woman burst into tears, and cursed the authorities.
They had just built a very big new house, and they lived well, they were quite rich. There were only women and children there, no men. We started opening the wardrobes, and there were many suits, dresses, coats, women's shoes. I'd never seen so much, I thought, "Why so much stuff?" I'd grown up an orphan, never seen such riches. Gold jewels were on the table and noted down by the chair of the village council. The rest, two cows, two horses, were also noted. They were told that they couldn't move them before the next morning. "If you move them, you'll be sent to prison. This already belongs to the state."
He left a receipt for the family, and in one or two days, all these people were taken to a railway station to be transported to Siberia, Kazakhstan, or the North. We guarded them to stop anyone from running away.
Q: At the time did you think it was right to expel the Kulaks under threat of force?
Chernitzky: Yes. If Stalin decided to start de-kulakization and to start creating collective farms, then it was what we needed. This policy was run in the whole country, and being a boy of seventeen, I didn't have any feelings of this kind. If they had a local party leader who told you, "You have to do this and that," then we had to do it. We had no doubts. Everybody lived with belief in the party.
Q: Were you aware, at the time, of the suffering this was causing?
Chernitzky: At my age, at that time, I thought it should be done that way -- I didn't think about the feelings of these people.
Q: Did you think that your hopes then for a bright future stopped you seeing the suffering you and others were causing to the Kulaks?
Chernitzky: Everybody lived with the hope of a radiant future, everyone lived like that. It was a kind of surge, a romance and apart from that, we really trusted the party. If Stalin said "Do it," then it was necessary. Every day the Center gave reports of how many people had been de-kulakized, how many had entered the Collective farms. If not many had entered the Collective farm in an area, they'd say, "Make up for it, remove the local district or party secretary, punish...." They campaigned to get people to join the Kolkhoz. People who still resisted were summoned to the village council, and all kinds of ways were used -- they were induced or even threatened to join the Collective farms.
In one of the regions, if they didn't de-kulakize the proper number of Kulaks, they would be punished by the party. It was a kind of competition between regions where the percentage of de-kulakized people would be higher.
Later on we realized that it was a very bad policy in the country.
Q: Why was collectivization necessary?
Chernitzky: Collectivization was necessary in order to make it possible to use machinery on Collective farms. The state couldn't get enough grain from individual farmers. Using machinery on Collective farm fields, it would be possible to get richer crops. The state could then sell this grain abroad and buy new machinery for the industry and to build up its defense. At that time, our socialist state was surrounded by capitalistic countries, and we thought that capitalistic countries would fight against our country. So when Hitler came to power in the 1930s, we understood that sooner or later there will be war.
Q: What was your role in collectivization?
Chernitzky: Beginning in the summer, we would collect grain in the country. In the center of region, where I lived, we would go to villages to get grain from Collective farms. I was sent several times with my friends to collect this grain. We came to one of the villages not far from here -- and told people that the village owed more bread to the state. We didn't threaten them, and only made calculations. Then we would tell them how many kilograms of bread they had to give to the state. The grain was then collected, transported to the railway stations. Sometimes even grain which was left for next year's planting was taken from the farmers. So Kulaks used to hide their grain in big holes they dug in the ground. Our task was also to search for this grain that was hidden -- the country needed this grain to feed the proletariat and the army.
Note: Red text is available in RealAudio.
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