16 MAY 1931, Page 14


[We have . received the , following accounts from sources that we believe to be thoroughly trustworthy.—En. Spectator.] . [To. the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Six,—The following particulars of pre-War conditions in the timber country on the west coast of the White Sea have been given by an Englishman who spent many years on the White Sea as mill manager. The apologists for the Soviet methods spare no pains to show that conditions before the War were very primitive, not to say bad. .

For felling there was no day wage, but the men were paid at piece rates at so much per log. The rate was fixed according to local conditions and distances and a man earned from R.75 to R.125 per month (£7 10s. to £12 10s.). This was exclusive of a horse and its keep if the worker brought his own animal.

Mill owners were compelled by law to maintain provision stores at their mills and to deliver provisions- to the forests where felling was being carried on. • Prices were fixed under the. control of Government factory inspectors and were always lower than the prices in the local private shops. The same applied to clothing which was also stocked at the mill stores. Before the felling season began the men went into the foreSt and built .log barracks and bath houses: Every -mill had- to keep a doctor and hospital. The doctor visited the felling camps twice a month, but in case of serious accident or illness a man was sent down to the hospital at any time. From 1905 the working day was eight hours at the mills, but the fellers at piecework worked as weather permitted.

The mill workers lived at the mills, the single men in good barracks and the married men in small family houses. The single men formed themselves into " artells " for messing and engaged a woman cook. Messing cost them from R.6 to R.16 a month (12s. to £1 12s.). Wages ran from R.18 to R.38 a month, but there was some piecework at which men earned from R.30 to R.90 per month.

The following is an extract from a letter received from

Russia recently :—

" . . . And now I will tell you about my trip to the lumber camps. I had a very long way to go, and when I arrived at the concentration camp I began to be afraid. I never imagined what the place would be like, the more so as we arrived at night. We went to the authorities and asked permission to stop there a few days to see relatives who had been sent to the concentration camp. They allowed us to stay one week and took us to a barrack for persons visiting their relations. We stayed there seven days. I can tell you that if I were to attempt to describe all that is going on there it would take seven months. In the first place there is such an amount of building going on that you cannot grasp it all, you can only wonder, factories and works are growing up like mushrooms. Of other buildirigs it does not do to speak ; and all this is being done' by prisoners.- All the workers, beginning with the common labourers and ending with the engineers are, one and all, prisoners. So too are the chemists, doctors and all the medical personnel. There are dispensaries, hospitals theatres and a cinema, and the artistes are also prisoners ; the whole of the orchestra consists of musicians who are prisoners. In a word everyone is a prisoner for various terms. There are many women, also prisoners. Everybody works at what he can and as he can, and I may tell you that life there in comparison with our life in freedom is not so very bad. The main thing is that one cannot leave or go where one will and visit one's relations. I do not know how far this is true, but I was told that even the minor authorities are prisoners. Only the highest command, the guard and the G.P.U. are not prisoners. One must say that the discipline is what one would call

iron." Everybody must do what he is told, and if one disobeys or is lazy there is punishment, which is generally to be shot as an example to the others.

I saw B—. He works in a saw-mill. His work is light, but he is sixty-five years old. It would not be so bad, but he is very depressed and is ageing and getting very thin. He looks quite an old man. He has begun to get round-shouldered and just drags along. He is very ill. At the present time he is suffering with his eyes, he has trachoma. He is getting very nervous. Regarding the food, I must tell you that there is no fat at all, nor any milk products. He gets nothing but dry bread. The ration is one kilo of bread a day. There is nothing to complain of as regards the bread. They also get one herring, but B— cannot eat it. Sometimes they get groats. They also get clothes, not cloth, of course, but made of coarse linen.

The place is beautiful. For a hundred versts all round there is nothing but forest in which there are masses of people, all prisoners who have to work as much as they are able. I was told that in winter there are forty degrees of frost (presumably reaumur, approxi- mately sixty degrees below zero fahrenheit). If I were to tell you everything I saw it would take a very long time. It would take me 100 pages to set it all down."

The letter ends with a request for sugar, butter, wheat, flour, lard and canned meat, especially lard, for there is no fat to be obtained at all. That is not only in the concentration camp, but outside too.—I am, Sir, &c.,

X. Y. Z.