Ogonek – Огонёк 1928
THE COVER of this edition of Ogonek depicts a well-groomed woman conversing with a peasant. It deals with one of the daunting problems facing the country in the 1920s and 30s. Underneath is a message from N. Krupskaya, Lenin’s widow.
“Every literate person, teach an illiterate one!” If you can’t teach one yourself, if you don’t have time – then take charge of an illiterate and pay the cost of his lessons so he can have an alphabet book, paper, pencils, so his education can be followed all the way through. We need every communist, komsomol and pioneer to be able to say, ‘Petr Petrovich Petrov was illiterate, I took charge of him and now he is literate, his address is such-and-such. You can check the facts’. That’s what every Party member, komsomol, every literate member of the ODN*, every literate trade-unionist, every literate Red Army soldier should do.”
*Oбщество «Долой неграмотность» – The ‘Down with Illiteracy’ Society, a USSR voluntary organisation that from 1923 to 1936 taught over 5 million people, mostly peasants, to read and write.
The Shakhty Affair
THE LEADING ARTICLE in this edition of Ogonek is called ‘The Donbass Workers Won’. It refers to the ‘Shakhty Affair’, one of the first ‘show trials’ (as they are still known, although they should be called ‘sham trials’) organised by the government to deflect its own responsibility for the dire condition of the country.
Shakhty is a mining town situated in the Rostov region of Southern Russia, near the border with the Ukraine. In 1928 the OGPU (state security apparatus) arrested several engineers at a coal mine and accused them of conspiring with the former mine owners, who were all now living abroad, to wreck the mines and thus injure the Soviet economy sufficiently for the Government to fall and the subsequent re-establishment of ‘capitalism’ in the country, obviously leading to the re-instatement of the owners, all of whom had left the country 10 years before.
Although the charges were completely fabricated, the accused were partly ‘persuaded’ to confess either due to physical torture or under false promises of reduced sentences. In all, 49 out of 53 were found guilty. 11 were sentenced to death, of whom 6 had their sentences reduced to 10 years hard labour. The rest were sentenced to hard labour for 1-10 years.
In a speech on 13th. April, 1928, STALIN stated: ‘The facts show, further, that these experts were banded together in a secret group and were receiving money for sabotage purposes from former owners now living abroad and from counter-revolutionary anti-Soviet capitalist organisations in the West.’ The trial had not even started. It opened on 18th. May and ran for 41 days.
The motivation to hold the trial was not only for the government to nominate scapegoats for the terrible state of the coal industry. It also wanted to show that the country itself was in mortal danger from foreign agencies who had infiltrate all levels of society, thus justifying any action taken by the government against its own people. Such was the enormity of the lie perpetrated by the government of the USSR with the ‘sham trials’ that almost the entire population believed that indeed the accused were guilty and should pay for their crimes. Most people simply could not believe that a government would go to such lengths to miss-inform its own population.
The case was reviewed in 2000 by the Russian Federation Procurator’s Office. That office declared that evidence had been falsified and the accused were not guilty.
Spot the Revolutionary!
1928 USSR was certainly the ‘place to be’, as evidenced by this sensational entertainment offered up in this issue of Ogonek. It is from the ‘Viktorina’ series of Ogonek readers’ games and this is number 26 -
THE OUTSTANDING WOMEN OF THE REVOLUTION.
‘In the pictures are 20 portraits of women who played important roles in the revolutionary movements of Russia and Western Europe and in the construction of the new life in the USSR. Some of them were killed at the barricades and on the Échafaud (Guillotine platform), others spent the best years of their lives in Tsarist prisons and still others were cut down at the front during the civil war and now give out all their power to consolidate the conquest of October....Every portrait recognised wins the player 5 points.