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The crowd jamming the aisles grew interested whenever the court fearlessly broke into questions about bread lines-about things that touched everyone present to the quick. (And, of course, bread had been put on unrestricted sale just before the trial, and there were no bread lines that day.) A question to the accused Smirnov: "Did you know about the bread lines in the district?" "Yes, of course. They stretched from the store itself right up to the building of the District Party Committee." "And what did you do about them?" Notwithstanding the tortures he had endured, Smirnov had preserved his resounding voice and tranquil righteousness. This broad-shouldered man with a simple face and light-brown hair answered slowly, and the whole hall heard every word he said: "Since all appeals to organizations in the provincial capital had failed, I instructed Vlasov to write a report to Comrade Stalin." "And why didn't you write it?" (They hadn't yet known about it! They had certainly missed that one!) "We did write it, and I sent it by courier directly to the Central Committee, bypassing the provincial leaders. A copy was kept in the District Committee files."
The whole courtroom held its breath. The court itself was in a commotion. They shouldn't have continued questioning, but nonetheless someone asked: "And what happened?" And, indeed, that question was on the lips of everyone in the courtroom: "What happened?" Smirnov did not sob, did not groan over the death of his ideal (and that's what was missing in the Moscow trials!). He replied
loudly and calmly:
"Nothing. There was no answer."
And his tired voice seemed to say: Well, that, in fact, was just what I expected.
There was no answer. From the Father and Teacher there was no answer! The public trial had already reached its zenith! It had already shown the masses the black heart of the Cannibal! And
39. Your own blood, too, is going to flow soon, Klyugin! Caught in the Yezhov gang of gaybisty, Klyugin will have his throat cut by the stool pigeon Gubaidulin.
I 428 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO the trial could have been called off right then and there. But, oh no, they didn't have sense enough for that, or tact enough for that, and they kept rubbing away at the befouled spot for three more days.
The prosecutor raised a hue and cry: Double-dealing! That's what it was. They engaged in wrecking with one hand and with the other they dared write Comrade Stalin. And they even expected a reply from him. Let the defendant Vlasov tell us how he pulled off such a nightmarish piece of wrecking that he stopped the sale of flour and the baking of rye bread in the. district center.
Vlasov, the bantam rooster, didn't have to be asked to rise--he had already jumped up, and he shouted resoundingly through
"I agree to give a full answer to the court, but on condition that you, the prosecutor, Karasik, leave the accuser's rostrum and sit down here next to me!" It was incomprehensible. Noise, shouting. Call them to order! What was going on?
Having gotten the floor with this maneuver, Vlasovexplained willingly.
"The prohibitions on selling flour and baking rye bread were instituted by a decree of the Provincial Executive Committee. One of the permanent members of its presidium is Provincial Prosecutor Karasik. If that's wrecking, then why didn't you veto it as prosecutor? That means you were a wrecker even before I was!" The prosecutor choked. It was a swift, well-placed blow. The court was also at a loss. The judge mumbled.
"If necessary [?] we will try the prosecutor too. But today we are trying you."
(Two truths: it all depends on your rank.) "I demand that he be removed from the prosecutor's rostrum," insisted the indefatigable, irrepressible Vlasov.
Now, in terms of indoctrinating the masses, just what significance could such a trial have?
But they kept on and on. After questioning the defendants they began to question the witnesses. The bookkeeper N.
"What do you know about Vlasov's wrecking activities?" "Nothing."
I 429 The Law Matures "How can that be?" "I was in the witnesses' room and I didn't hear what was said in here."
"You don't have to hear! Many documents passed through your hands. You couldn't help but know."
"The documents were all in proper order."
"But here is a stack of district newspapers, and even there they were writing about Vlasov's wrecking activities. And you claim you don't know anything?" "Well, go ask the people who wrote the articles."
Then there was the manager of the bread store.
"Tell me, does the Soviet government have much bread?" (Well, now! Just how could you answer that? Who was going to say: "I didn't count it"?) "A lot."
"Why are there bread lines at your store?" "I don't know."
"Who was in charge?" "I don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know? Who was in charge of your store?" "Vasily Grigoryevich."
"What the devil! What do you mean calling him Vasily Grigoryevich? Defendant Vlasov! That means he was in charge."
The witness fell silent.
The judge of the court dictated to the stenographer: "The answer: 'As a consequence of the wrecking activity of Vlasov, bread lines resulted, notwithstanding the Soviet government's enormous stocks of bread.' " Repressing his own fears, the prosecutor delivered a long and angry speech. The defense lawyer for the most part defended only himself, emphasizing that the interests of the Motherland were as dear to him as they were to any honest citizen.
In his final words to the court, Smirnov asked for nothing and expressed no repentance for anything. Insofar as we can reconstruct it now, he was a firm person and too forthright to have lasted through 1937.
When Saburov begged that his life be spared-"not for me, but for my little children"-Vlasov, out of vexation, pulled him back by the jacket: "You're a fooL" I 430 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO Vlasov himself did not fail to take advantage of his last chance to talk back impudently.
"I consider you not a court but actors pretending to be a court in a stage farce where roles have already been written for you.
You are engaged in a repulsive provocation on the part of the NKVD. You are going to sentence me to be shot no matter what I say. I believe one thing only: the time will come when you will be here in my place."4o The court spent from 7 P.M. to 1 A.M. composing the verdict, and all the while the kerosene lamps were burning in the hall, and the defendants sat beneath drawn sabers, and there was a hum of conversation among the spectators who had not left.
And just as it took them a long time to compose the verdict, it took them a long time to read it, piling up on top of one another all kinds of fantastic wrecking activities, contacts, and plans.
Smirnov, Univer, Saburov, and Vlasov were sentenced to be shot;
two others to ten years; one to eight years. In addition, the verdict of the court led to the exposure of an additional wrecking organization in the Komsomol in Kady (whose members were, of course, immediately arrested. Remember the young merchandise manager?). And of a center of underground organizations in I vanovo, which was, of course, in its turn, subordinate to Moscow. (One more nail in Bukharin's coffin.) After the solemn words "To be shot!" the judges paused for applause. But the mood in the hall was so gloomy, with the sighs and tears of people who had no connection with the defendants, and the screams and swooning of their relatives, that no applause was to be heard even from the first two benches, where the Party members were sitting. This, indeed, was totally improper. "Oh, good Lord, what have you done?" someone in the hall shouted at the members of the court. Univer's wife dissolved in tears. In the half-darkness, the crowd began to stir. Vlasov shouted at the
"Come on, you bastards, why aren't you clapping? Some Communists you are!" The political commissar of the guards platoon ran up to him and shoved his revolver in his face. Vlasov reached out to grab the revolver, but a policeman ran up and pushed back his political commissar, who had been guilty of a blunder. The chief
40. Generally speaking, he was wrong just on this one point.
I 431 The Law Matures of the convoy gave the command: "Arms at the ready!" And thirty police carbines and the pistols of the local NK.VD men were aimed at the defendants and at the crowd. (It seemed at the time as though the crowd would rush forward to free the defendants.) The hall was lit only by a few kerosene lamps, and the semidarkness heightened the general confusion and fear. The crowd, finally convinced, not so much by the trial as by the carbines now leveled at it, pushed in a panic against the doors and windows.
The wood cracked and broke; glass tinkled. Univer's wife, in a dead faint, was almost trampled to death and was left lying beneath the chairs until morning.
And there never was any applause. 41 And not only couldn't the condemned prisoners be shot then and there, but they had to be kept under· even stricter guard, because now they really had nothing at all to lose, and they had to be taken to the provincial capital for execution.
They managed to cope with the first problem-sending them off by night to the NKVD along the main street-by having each condemned man guarded by five men. One of the guards carried a lantern. One went ahead with a pistol at the ready. Two held the condemned prisoner by the arms and kept their pil:tols in their free hands. The fifth brought up the rear, with his pistol pointed at the condemned man's back.
The rest of the police were ranged in formation in order to prevent any attack by the crowd.
Every reasonable man will now agree that the NKVD could never have carried out its great assignment if they had fussed about with open trials.
And that is why public political trials never really put down roots in our country.
41. One little note on eight-year-old Zoya Vlasova. She loved her father intensely. She could no longer go to school. (They teased her: "Your papa is a wrecker!" She would get in a fight: "My papa is good!") She lived only one year after the trial. Up to then she had never been ill. During that year she did not once smile; she went about with head hung low, and the old women prophesied: "She keeps looking at the earth; she is going to die soon." She
died of inflammation of the brain, and as she was dying she kept calling out:
"Where is my papa? Give me my papa!" When we count up the millions of those who perished in the camps, we forget to multiply them by two, by three.
Chapter 11 • The Supreme Measure Capital panishment has had an up-and-down history in Russia.
In the Code of the Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich Romanov there were fifty crimes for which capital punishment could be imposed.
By the time of the Military Statutes of Peter the Great there were two hundred. Yet the Empress Elizabeth, while she did not repeal those laws authorizing capital punishment, never once resorted to it. They say that when she ascended the throne she swore an oath never to execute anyone-and for all twenty years of her reign she kept that oath. She fought the Seven Years' War! Yet she still got along without capital punishment. It was an astounding record in the mid-eighteenth century-fifty years before the guillotine of the J acobins. True, we have taught ourselves to ridicule all our past; we never acknowledge a good deed or a good intention in our history. And one can very easily blacken Elizabeth's reputation too; she replaced capital punishment with flogging with the knout; tearing out nostrils; branding with the word "thief"; and eternal exile in Siberia. But let us also say something on behalf of the Empress: how could she have changed things more radically than she did in contravention of the social concepts of her time? And perhaps the prisoner condemned to death today would voluntarily consent to that whole complex of punishments if only the sun would continue to shine on him; but we, in our humanitarianism, don't offer him that chance. And perhaps the reader will come to feel in the course of this book that twenty I The Supreme Measure 433 or even ten years in our camps are harder to bear than were the punishments of Elizabeth?