I went out to Minusinsk at my own expense, accompanied by my mother.We arrived in Krasnoyarsk on the first of May, 1898, whence we had to go up the Yenisei by boat. Navigation, however, had not started yet. In Krasnoyarsk I made the acquaintance of the Narodopravets Tyutchev and his wife, who, being experienced people in these matters, arranged a meeting for me with a party of Social-Democrat exiles who were passing through Krasnoyarsk. Among them were two comrades – Lengnik and Silvin, who had been charged with me in the same case. The soldiers brought the exiles down to be photographed and sat a little way of, munching the bread and sausage with which we had treated them.
In Minusinsk I went to see Arkady Tyrkov – one of the First of Marchers, banished permanently to Siberia – to give him regards from his sister, an old school friend of mine. I also went to see Felix Kohn, the Polish comrade, who had been sentenced to penal servitude in 1885 in connection with the "Proletariat" case and had had a very hard time in prison and exile. He had for me the aura of an old intransigent, and I liked him tremendously.
It was dusk when we arrived in Shushenskoye, where Vladimir Ilyich lived. He was out hunting. We unloaded and were shown into the cottage. In the Minusinsk district of Siberia the peasants live in very clean log-built cottages. The floors are covered with bright home-woven carpet strips, and the walls are whitewashed and decorated with branches of the Siberian fir. Vladimir Ilyich's room, though small, was spotlessly clean. My mother and I were given the rest of the cottage. Our landlord's family and all the neighbours crowded in and looked us over and questioned us with great curiosity. At last Vladimir Ilyich returned from the hunt. He was surprised to see a light in his room. The landlord told him that Oscar Engberg (an exiled St. Petersburg worker) had come in drunk and?thrown all his books about. Ilyich ran up the steps. Just then I came out on the porch and we met. We had a good long talk that night.
There were only two other exiles in Shushenskoye, both workers. One was a Social-Democrat Prominski, a Polish hat-maker from Lodz, with a wife and six children, the other was a Putilov worker named Oscar Engberg, of Finnish nationality. Both were very good comrades. Prominski was a calm, steady man with a very firm character. He read and knew little, but his class instinct was strikingly developed. His attitude towards his wife, then still a religious woman, was one of tolerant amusement. He was very good at singing Polish revolutionary songs, such as Ludu roboczy, poznaj swoje si1y, Pierwszy maj and others. The children joined in the chorus, and so did Vladimir Ilyich, who sang a lot in Siberia and obviously enjoyed it. Prominski also sang Russian revolutionary songs, which Vladimir Ilyich had taught him. Prominski planned to go back to Poland to work, and slaughtered a little army of hares to make fur coats for the children. He never got back to Poland, though. He just moved a bit nearer to Krasnoyarsk with his family and got a job there on the railway. The children grew up. He became a Communist, his wife turned Communist, too, and so did the children. One of them was killed in the war, another barely escaped with his life during the Civil War, and is now in Chita. Prominski did not leave for Poland until 1923, but he died on the way from typhus.
The other worker, Oscar, was a different type altogether. He was a young man, who had been deported for taking part in a strike and behaving violently in the course of it. He had read a lot of all-sorts, but had only the faintest of ideas about socialism. He came back from a trip to the volost once and said: "A new clerk has arrived – he and I have the same convictions." "Meaning?" said I. "We are both against revolution," he answered. Vladimir Ilyich and I were just flabbergasted. The next day I sat down with him to study The Communist Manifesto (I had to translate it from the German), and when that was mastered, we passed on to Capital. During one of our lessons Prominski came in, and sat puffing at his pipe. I asked Oscar a question in connection with what we had been reading, but he could not answer it. Prominski answered it for him with calm smiling ease. Oscar dropped his lesson; for a whole week after that. He was a good fellow, though. There were no other political exiles in Shushenskoye. Vladimir Ilyich said he had tried to strike up an acquaintance with the school-teacher, but nothing had come of it. The teacher was drawn towards the local aristocracy, that is, the priest and a couple of shopkeepers. Their only pastime was playing cards and drinking. The teacher had no interest whatever in social problems. Prominski's eldest son Leopold, who was already socialist-minded, was always arguing with him.
Vladimir Ilyich had a peasant of his acquaintance whom he was very fond of. He was Zhuravlyov, a consumptive man of about thirty. This Zhuravlyov had formerly been the village clerk. Vladimir Ilyich called him a revolutionary by nature, a protestant. Zhuravlyov came out boldly against the rich and would not put up with the slightest injustice. He was always travelling somewhere, and shortly died from consumption.
Another acquaintance of Ilyich's was a poor peasant, with whom he often went out shooting. He was the simplest of fellows – Sosipatych, his name was. He thought a lot of Vladimir Ilyich, though, and used to give him ail kinds of odd presents. Once it was a live crane, once some cedar cones.
Through Sosipatych and Zhuravlyov Vladimir Ilyich studied the Siberian village. He told me once of a talk he had had with a well-to-do peasant in whose house he had lived. The man's farm labourer had stolen some hides from him. The peasant overtook him at a brook and finished him off. Ilyich in this connection spoke about the insensate cruelty of the petty proprietor, and his ruthless exploitation of his farm-hands. Indeed, the Siberian farm labourers worked like cart horses, and never got enough sleep except on holidays.
Ilyich had yet another method of studying the village. On Sundays he gave free legal advice. His reputation as a lawyer rose high after he had helped a gold-mine worker, who had been given the sack, to win his suit against his employer. The news of this success spread quickly among the peasants, and men and women came to Ilyich with their troubles. He heard them out attentively, went deeply into the matter and then gave his advice. Once a peasant came twenty versts to ask how he could prosecute his brother-in-law for not having invited him to his wedding, at which everyone had had a good time. "Will your brother-in-law treat you to a drink if you go and see him now?" "Aye, that he will." Vladimir Ilyich wasted an hour, trying to persuade the fellow to make it up with his brother-in-law. Sometimes you couldn't make head or tail of what they were talking about, and so Vladimir Ilyich always asked them to bring him a copy of the various papers in the case. Once a bull belonging to a rich farmer gored a poor woman's cow. The volost court ordered the owner to pay the woman ten rubles. The woman refused to accept the decision and demanded a "copy" of all the evidence in the case. "What do you want, a copy of a white cow?" the assessor said, laughing at her. The enraged woman came running to Vladimir Ilyich. Sometimes it was enough for the wronged party to threaten to take his complaint to Vladimir Ilyich to make the offender give in.
Vladimir Ilyich made a good study of the Siberian village. Till then he had known the Volga villages. Once he told me: "My mother wanted me to go in for farming. I started, but then I saw it was no good. My relations with the peasants became abnormal."
Strictly speaking, Vladimir Ilyich had no right as an exile to handle legal affairs, but those were liberal times in Minusinsk. Practically, surveillance did not exist.
The assessor – a local well-to-do peasant – was more concerned with selling us his veal than in seeing that "his" exiles did not run away. Life was surprisingly cheap in Shushenskoye. Vladimir Ilyich's monthly allowance of eight rubles procured him clean lodgings, and meals, and paid for laundry and mending – and even that was considered dear. True, the dinner and supper were simple enough meals. One week a sheep would be slaughtered, and Vladimir Ilyich would be fed with it day in day out until it was all gone. Then they would buy meat for a week, and the servant girl would chop it up for cutlets out in the yard in a trough used for preparing the cattle feed. These cutlets were fed to Vladimir Ilyich for a whole week. But there was milk and cream enough for both Vladimir Ilyich and his dog, a fine Gordon setter named Zhenka, whom he taught to retrieve, and point, and do all other kinds of canine tricks.
As the Ziryanovs – our landlord's family-often had drinking parties at which the men used to get drunk, and as home life there was in many ways inconvenient, we shortly moved to another place, renting half a cottage with a vegetable garden for four rubles a month. We set up on our own. In the summer it was impossible to get anyone to help about the house. Mother and I tackled the Russian stove between us. Sometimes I would knock over the dumpling soup with the oven-fork, and upset the dumplings all over the coals. But I got used to it in time. We had all kinds of stuff growing in the garden – cucumbers, carrots, beetroots, pumpkins and what not. I was very proud of my little vegetable garden. Vladimir Ilyich and I had also made an orchard in the yard, fetching hops from the woods for the purpose. In October we got a girl-help – a skinny lass of thirteen with bony elbows named Pasha, who quickly took things in hand. I taught her to read and write, and she decorated the walls with specimens of my mother's instructions: "Neva waste eny tee," and kept a diary in which she made notes such as: "Oscar Engberg and Prominski came. They sang 'stump' and so did I."
I remember how we celebrated the First of May.
Prominski called in the morning, looking very festive in a clean collar and tie, and himself shining like a new penny. His mood quickly infected us, and we all three went to Oscar Engberg, taking the dog Zhenka with us. Zhenka ran on ahead, yapping joyfully. We walked along the bank of the River Shusha. The ice had broken up and was drifting down the stream. Zhenka waded into the icy water and defied the shaggy Shushenskoye watchdogs to follow his example.
Oscar was excited at our coming. We all sat down in his room and began singing together:
It's come, the merry First of May!
And let no sorrow bar its way.
Let songs ring out, sing loud and gay,
We'll have a jolly strike today
Police arrive with no delay,
To prove they're worth their dirty pay:
Put us behind the bars, would they.
Police be damned! Is all we say,
And meet our May Day bold and gay.
For merry May!
Having sung the song in Russian, we sang it in Polish, and decided to celebrate May Day out in the fields after dinner. That is what we did. There were six of us in the field – Prominski took his two little boys along with him. He was as radiant as ever. Stepping on to a dry mound in the field, Prominski pulled a red handkerchief out of his pocket, laid it out on the ground and stood on his head. The children squealed with delight. In the evening we all got together at our place and sang songs again. Prominski's wife came too. My mother and Pasha also joined in the chorus.
That night Ilyich and I could not fall asleep for thinking of the huge workers' demonstrations in which we would some time take part.
There was a childish element too. A Lettish settler, a felt-boot maker by trade, lived across the way. He had had fourteen children, but only one survived – Minka. The father was an inveterate drunkard. Minka, who was six, was grave of speech, with a wan little face and bright eyes. He came to see us every day. We would hardly be up when the door would bang, and a small figure appear in a big cap and his mother's warm jacket with a scarf wrapped round him, exclaiming gladly: "It's me!" He knew that my mother doted on him, and Vladimir Ilyich would always say something funny and play with him.
Minka's mother would come running in.
"Darling, have you seen a ruble lying about?" she said.
"Yes, I saw it on the table, so I put it in the box."
When we went away Minka fell ill with grief. He is dead now, and his father wrote asking to be given a bit of land across the Yenisei – "as I'd like to be able to have enough to eat in my old age."
Our household kept growing. Our latest acquisition was a kitten.
First thing in the morning Vladimir Ilyich and I would sit down to the Webb translation, which Struve had got for me. After dinner we spent a couple of hours together copying out The Development of Capitalism. Then there were all kinds of odd jobs to do. One day Potresov sent us Kautsky's book criticizing Bernstein, which we were allowed to keep no longer than a fortnight. We dropped everything else we were doing and translated it exactly on time. After work we went out for walks. Vladimir Ilyich was a passionate hunter. He got himself a pair of leather breeches, and prowled about all the swamps in the neighbourhood! They teemed with game, I must say. Arriving as I did in the spring, I had been rather surprised at it all. Prominski would come in – he was passionately fond of hunting too – and say with a huge smile: "The ducks have come over – I have seen them." And then Oscar would come in, talking ducks. They would talk about them for hours, and the next spring found me, too, capable of talking about ducks and who had seen them, and where and when. Nature in the spring burst into riotous life after the winter frosts. Her sway grew powerful. Sunset. Wild swans swam in the vast puddles which spring had formed in the fields. Or we would stand on the fringe of the woods, listening to the babble of a brook and the mating call of the wood-grouse. Vladimir Ilyich would ask me to hold Zhenka while he went into the woods. I would stand there holding the dog, who trembled with excitement, while I felt this tempestuous awakening of nature tingling in ail my veins. Vladimir Ilyich was a passionate hunter, but apt to get too excited over it. in the autumn we went far out into the forest cuttings. Vladimir Ilyich would say: "You know, if I come across a hare I won't shoot it, because I didn't bring my bags. It will be awkward to carry." Yet as soon as a hare came bounding out he would let go at it.
Late in the autumn, when sludge was already drifting down the Yenisei, we went out to the islands after the hares. The hares were already turning white. They could not escape from the island, and ran about like goats. Our hunters would sometimes shoot a boat-load of them.
When we lived in Moscow, Vladimir Ilyich in his latter years would still go hunting sometimes, but with nothing like the old zest. Once a fox battue was organized, and Vladimir Ilyich was greatly interested in the enterprise. "A clever idea," he said, when he saw the strung flags. The beaters drove the fox straight towards him, but he seized his gun when it was too late. The fox stopped and looked at him, then slipped away into the woods. "Why didn't you shoot?" I asked him. "The fox was so beautiful," he said.
Late in the autumn, when the rivers had frozen overbut no snow had yet fallen, we went far upstream. Every little fish and pebble could be seen distinctly under the ice. It was like an enchanted kingdom. In the winter, when the mercury freezes in the thermometers and the rivers freeze right through, the water flows over the ice, and quickly forms a frozen crust. You could skate a couple of miles on this sagging ice crust. Vladimir Ilyich was terribly fond of this sport.
In the evenings Vladimir Ilyich usually read books on philosophy – Hegel, Kant or the French materialists – and when he grew very tired, Pushkin, Lermontov or Nekrasov.
When Vladimir Ilyich first turned up in St. Petersburg I had known him only from hearsay. Stepan Radchenko told me that he only read serious books and had never read a novel in his life. It had surprised me at the time. Afterwards, when I got to know him better, this question had somehow never come up, and it was only in Siberia that I found out that the story was sheer invention. Vladimir Ilyich had not only read Turgenev, L. Tolstoi, Chernyshevsky's What Is To Be Done? but reread them many times and was generally fond of the classics which he knew intimately. Afterwards, when the Bolsheviks came to power, he set Gosizdat the task of reprinting the classics in cheap editions. His photo albums contained pictures of Zola and Herzen and several photos of Chernyshevsky, as well as photos of his relatives and old political convicts.
The mail came twice a week. Our correspondence was extensive. Anna Ilyinichna – Lenin's sister – wrote fully about everything from St. Petersburg. Nina Struve wrote me, by the way, that her baby boy was "already holding his head up, and every day we show him the portraits of Darwin and Marx, and say:'Nod to Uncle Darwin, nod to Uncle Marx – and he nods in such an amusing way." We received letters from distant places of exile – from Martov in Turukhansk, from Potresov in Orlov, Vyatka Gubernia. Most of the letters, however, were from comrades scattered throughout the neighbouring villages. The Krzhizhanovskys and Starkov wrote from Minusinsk (fifty versts from Shushenskoye); thirty versts away, in Yermakovskop, lived Lepeshinsky, Vaneyev, Silvin and Panin – the latter a friend of Oscar's. Seventy versts away, at Tes, lived Lengnik, Shapoval and Baramzin, while Kurnatovsky lived at a sugar refinery. We corresponded on every possible topic – the Russian news, future plans, books, new trends and philosophy. We corresponded also on chess problems, especially with Lepeshinsky. Vladimir Ilyich played games by correspondence. He would set out the figures and ponder over the board. He got so enthusiastic about it that he once cried out in his sleep: "If he moves his knight here, I'll put my rook there!"
Both Vladimir Ilyich and his brother Alexander had been enthusiastic chess players ever since they were children. Their father had played chess too. "Father used to beat us at first," Vladimir Ilyich once told me, "but then my brother and I got hold of a chess manual and started beating him. Once I met my father coming out of our room – it was upstairs – with a lighted candle in one hand and the chess manual in the other. He made a study of it too."
Vladimir Ilyich gave up chess when he returned to Russia. "Chess is too absorbing, it interferes with your work." and as Vladimir Ilyich was incapable of doing anything by halves, and always gave himself up wholeheartedly to whatever he was doing, it was usually with reluctance that he sat down to a game of chess when relaxing or when he lived abroad as a political emigrant.
Vladimir Ilyich, from his early youth, had a knack of being able to cast aside whatever interfered with his work. "When I was a schoolboy I went in for skating, but it made me tired and sleepy, and interfered with my studies, so I gave it up," he said.
"At one time," he related on another occasion, "I was very keen on Latin." "Latin?" I said, surprised. "Yes, but it interfered with my other studies, so I gave it up." Only recently, while reading an article in Lef dealing with the style and sentence structure of Vladimir Ilyich's writings, which were said to resemble those of the Roman orators, did I understand Vladimir Ilyich's interest in the Latin writers.
We not only corresponded with other comrades in exile, but sometimes, though not often, met them.
Once we went to see Kurnatovsky. He was a good comrade and a highly educated Marxist, but life had dealt harshly with him. An unhappy childhood dominated by a cruel father, and then exile after exile, prison after prison. He had hardly ever done any work – after a month or two of freedom he would be snatched back again for long terms. He never had any real life. One little incident stands out in my memory. We were passing the sugar refinery at which he was employed. Two girls were going along, the youngest quite a little one. The elder one was carrying an empty pail, the younger one a pail with beetroots. "Aren't you ashamed, a big girl like you making the little one carry things," Kurnatovsky said to the bigger girl. She just looked at him with a puzzled air. We also went to Tes. We had received a letter from the Krzhizhanovskys, saying: "The ispravnik is wild with us Tesians over some protest or other, and we are not allowed to go anywhere. We have a mountain here of geological interest. Write and say that you want to explore it." Vladimir Ilyich did so just for fun, and asked the ispravnik for permission to go to Tes both for himself and his wife, who was to assist him. The ispravnik sent his permission by messenger. We hired a dog-cart for three rubles – the woman assuring us that the horse was a strong beast and not a big eater at all – and off we drove. The "not-a-big-eater," however, proved to be a jibber, but we got to Tes all the same. Vladimir Ilyich discussed Kant with Lengnik and the Kazan study-circles with Baramzin. Lengnik, who had a fine voice, sang to us. That trip, on the whole, is a very pleasant memory.
We went to Yermakovskoye once or twice. The first time – to adopt a resolution on the "Credo," (Vaneyev, seriously ill with consumption, was dying, and his bed was carried out into the big room where we had all assembled). The resolution was adopted unanimously. The second time we went there was to attend Vaneyev's funeral.
Two of the "Decembrists" were soon put out of action – Zaporozhets, who went mad in prison, and Vaneyev, who died from an illness contracted there. Both passed away just when the flame of the working-class movement had begun to burn high.
On New Year's eve we went to Minusinsk, where all the exiled Social-Democrats had gathered.
There were also exiled Narodovoltsi in Minusinsk – Kohn, Tyrkov and others – but they kept aloof. These old revolutionaries were sceptical of the Social-Democratic youth. They did not believe that they were real revolutionaries. In this connection an incident occurred in the Minusinsk Uyezd shortly before my arrival in Shushenskoye. There was an exiled Social-Democrat named Raichin living in Minusinsk. He was connected with the "Emancipation of Labour" group abroad. He decided to run away. Money was provided for his escape, but the date for it had not been fixed yet. Raichin was worked up to such a nervous state when he got the money, that he ran away without telling anyone. The old Narodovoltsi accused the Social-Democrats of having known of Raichin's intended flight and not warned them about it so that they could have cleaned up in case the police made a search. Feeling ran high. Vladimir Ilyich told me about it when I arrived. "There is nothing worse than these exile scandals," he said. "They get people terribly worked up. These Old Men have bad enough nerves as it is after what they've been through, and all the convict prisons they've been in. We mustn't let ourselves get mixed up in such scandals – we have all our work ahead of us, we mustn't waste ourselves on such affairs." Vladimir Ilyich was for breaking with the Old Men. I remember the meeting at which that break occurred. The decision to break off with them had been made earlier, and it was now merely a question of putting it through as painlessly as possible. We made the break because we had to, but we did it without malice, in fact with regret. We kept apart after that.
On the whole, our exile was not so bad. Those were years of serious study. The closer the end of our exile drew in sight, the more did Vladimir Ilyich think about the work facing us. The news from Russia was scanty. "Economism" was gaining ground there, and there was no Party to speak of. We had no printing plants in Russia, and an attempt to arrange printing through the Bund had failed. On the other hand, we could no longer confine ourselves to writing popular pamphlets without expressing our views on the fundamental questions of our work. Party work was completely disorganized and constant arrests made any continuity impossible. People had gone to such lengths as the "Credo" and the ideas of Rabochaya Mysl, which had printed a letter from a worker, boosted by the "Economists," who wrote that "We workers do not want any of your Marxes or Engelses."
L. Tolstoi wrote somewhere that during the first part of his journey a person usually thinks of what he has left behind, and during the second part – of what is awaiting him ahead. It was the same in exile. At the beginning it was chiefly a matter of summing up the past. Later we thought more about what lay ahead of us. Vladimir Ilyich gave ever closer thought to the question of what was to be done to extricate the Party from the plight it was in, what was to be done to direct the work into the proper channels and ensure for it a correct Social-Democratic leadership. Where were we to begin? During the last year of his exile, Vladimir Ilyich had conceived the organizational plan which he afterwards developed in Iskra, in the pamphlet What Is to Be Done? and in his Letter to a Comrade. The thing was to start with the organization of an all-Russian newspaper. It was to be established abroad and linked up as closely as possible with the activities and organizations in Russia, and the best possible shipping arrangements had to be made. Vladimir Ilyich hardly slept at all, and grew terribly thin. He sat up all night, working out his plan in fullest detail. He discussed it with Krzhizhanovsky and with me, he corresponded with Martov and Potresov about it, and made arrangements with them for going abroad. He grew more and more impatient as time went on, eager to throw himself into the work. Just then, as luck would have it, the police came down on us with a search warrant. They had found somewhere a postal receipt for a letter which Lyakhovsky had written to Vladimir Ilyich. The letter was about a tombstone for Fedoseyev, and this was a good enough excuse for the gendarmes to make a search. This was done in May 1899. They found the letter – quite an innocent one – and went through our correspondence without finding anything of interest. By old habit acquired in St. Petersburg, we kept our illegal correspondence apart from the rest. It was not much of a hiding place, though – the bottom shelf of the bookcase. Vladimir Ilyich pushed up a bench for the gendarmes to stand on, and they began their search from the top shelves, which were lined with various statistical publications. They got so tired that they did not even look at the bottom shelf, and were satisfied with my statement that it only contained my books on pedagogics. The search passed off safely, but we were afraid they might make this a pretext for adding a few more years to our term of exile. An escape in those days was not the common occurrence it became later. In any case it would have complicated matters, because, before going abroad, a good deal of organizing work had to be done in Russia. Everything went well, however, and our term was not increased.
In February 1900, at the end of Vladimir Ilyich's term of exile, we set out for Russia. Pasha, who had grown into a beautiful girl in two years, wept rivers of tears at night. Minka busied himself, collecting and lugging home the paper, pencils, pictures and other odds and ends that we were leaving behind. Oscar came in and sat down on the edge of a chair, evidently deeply agitated. He brought ms a present – a hand-made brooch in the form of a book with the inscription "Karl Marx" on it, in memory of the lessons on Capital which he had taken with me. The landlady and her neighbours kept looking in. Our dog could not make out what all the fuss was about, and kept opening all the doors with his nose to make sure that everything was in its proper place. Mother busied herself with the packing, coughing from the dust, and Vladimir Ilyich tied the books up with a business-like air.
We arrived in Minusinsk, where we were to pick up Starkov and Olga Silvina. The whole exile fraternity were gathered there, and the mood was the usual one that prevailed whenever one of their number returned to Russia. Each was thinking when and where he would go himself when his time came, how he could work. Vladimir Ilyich had already made joint-work arrangements with all those who were expecting shortly to return to Russia, and now arranged for carrying on a correspondence with those who remained. Everyone was thinking about Russia while talking trivialities.
Baramzin was feeding sandwiches to Zhenka, who was being left him as an inheritance, but the dog took no notice of him. He lay at Mother's feet and did not take his eyes off her, watching her every movement.
At last, fitted out in high felt boots, heel-length fur coats, etc., we started out. We travelled 300 versts down the Yenisei by sledge day and night, taking advantage of a full moon. Vladimir Ilyich wrapped us up carefully at every stage-house, looked round to see that we had not forgotten anything, and joked with Olga Silvina, who was feeling the cold. We raced along at top speed, and Vladimir Ilyich – he rode without a top fur coat, assuring us that he felt too hot in it – sat with his hands thrust into a muff borrowed from Mother, his thoughts flying ahead of him to Russia, where he would be able to work to his heart's content.
At Ufa we received a visit from the local comrades on the day of our arrival – A. D. Tsyurupa, Svidersky and Krokhmal. "We've been to six hotels," Krokhmal said, stuttering. "At last we've found you."
Vladimir Ilyich spent two days in Ufa, and after having talked with the locals, he entrusted me and Mother to the care of our comrades and moved on nearer to St. Petersburg. All I remember of those two days was our visit to Chetvergova, an old Narodovolets, whom Vladimir Ilyich had known in Kazan. She had a bookshop in Ufa. Vladimir Ilyich went to see her the very first day, and there was a peculiar gentleness in his voice and face when he spoke to her. When, later, I read what Vladimir Ilyich had written at the end of his What Is To Be Done? I recalled that visit. "Many of them" (meaning the young Social-Democrat leaders of the workers' movement), Vladimir Ilyich wrote in What Is To Be Done? "began their revolutionary thinking as adherents of Narodnaya Volya. Nearly all of them in their early youth enthusiastically worshipped the terrorist heroes. It required a struggle to abandon the captivating impressions of these heroic traditions, and it was accompanied by the break of personal relations with people who were determined to remain loyal to the Narodnaya Volya and for whom the young Social-Democrats had profound respect." This passage is a piece of Vladimir Ilyich's own biography.
It was a pity we had to part just when the "real" work was starting, but it did not even enter our heads that Vladimir Ilyich could remain in Ufa when he had a chance to move nearer to St. Petersburg.
Vladimir Ilyich went to live in Pskov, where Potresov and L. N. Radchenko with his children afterwards resided. Vladimir Ilyich once laughingly related how Radchenko's little girls, Zhenyurka and Lyuda, used to mimic him and Potresov. They would walk up and down the room together with their hands behind their backs, one saying "Bernstein" and the other answering "Kautsky."
There, in Pskov, Vladimir Ilyich assiduously wove the threads of the organization that were to closely tie up the future all-Russian newspaper abroad with activities at home. He had meetings with Babushkin and many other comrades.
Gradually I acclimatized myself to Ufa and got translation work and some lessons.
There had been one of those exile scandals in Ufa shortly before my arrival, as a result of which the Social-Democrats had split up into two camps. In one camp were Krokhmal, Tsyurupa and Svidersky, in the other – the Plaksin brothers, Saltykov and Kvyatkovsky. Chachina and Aptekinan were neutral and maintained relations with both groups. The first group stood nearer to me, and I soon became associated with it. This group did some work of a kind, and was the more active of the local fraternity. They had connections with the railway workshops, where there was a circle of twelve Social-Democratic workers. The most active worker was Yakutov. He often came to see me to get books and have a talk. He spoke a lot about "popularizing" Marx, but when he did manage to get the book he could not read it. "I haven't the time," he complained to me. "You know how it is, with the peasants coming to me with their troubles. You've got to talk with them all, so's they won't think bad of themselves – and it leaves you no time." He said that his wife Natasha was a sympathizer, and that exile did not scare them. He'd get on anywhere, his hands would always feed him. He was well up in secrecy technique, and there was nothing he hated more than heroics, boasting, and claptrap. Everything had to be done quietly and efficiently.
Yakutov was president of the republic that was set up in Ufa in 1905. Later, during the years of reaction, he was hanged in Ufa prison. He died in the prison yard, while the whole prison sang – they sang in every cell – and swore never to forget his death and never to forgive it.
I also helped other workers in their studies. One was a young metal-worker employed at a small factory, who told me about the life of the local workers. He was a very high-strung, nervous man. I learned afterwards that he went over to the Socialist-Revolutionaries and became insane in prison.
One of my visitors was a consumptive bookbinder named Krylov, who painstakingly made double bindings to hide illegal manuscripts in, and made paste~board out of manuscripts to be used in binding. He told me about the work of the local printers.
Subsequent correspondence sent to Iskra was based on these stories.
We carried on our work at the neighbouring factories as well as in Ufa itself. The doctor's assistant at the Ust-Katavsk works was a Social-Democrat. She conducted propaganda there among the workers and distributed illegal popular literature, which we needed ever so badly.
There were several Social-Democratic students at the various factories. Our Ufa organization had an illegal agent in Ekaterinburg – a worker named Mazanov, who had returned from Turukhansk, where he had been in exile together with Martov. The work made no headway with him, though.
Ufa was the gubernia centre, and the exiles of Sterlitamak, Birsk and other uyezd towns were always trying to obtain permission to go there. Besides, Ufa lay on the road between Siberia and Russia. Comrades returning from exile stopped over to make arrangements about work. Among these were Martov (he had not been able to get away from Turukhansk for some time), G. I. Okulova, and Panin. Lydia Knipovich (Uncle) came illegally from Astrakhan, and Rumyantsev and Portugalov came from Samara.
Martov went to live in Poltava. We were in touch with him and hoped to receive literature through him. The literature arrived, I think, a week after my departure, and Kvyatkovsky, who went to fetch it, got five years in Siberia for his pains – the box containing the literature had broken open on the way. As a matter of fact, he was not an active member of the organization, and had only undertaken to go for the parcel because it was addressed to the brewery, the daughter of whose proprietor he had been giving lessons to.
There were Narodovoltsi in Ufa too – Leonovich, and afterwards Borozdich.
Just before leaving the country, Vladimir Ilyich had a narrow escape. He arrived in St. Petersburg from Pskov together with Martov. They were shadowed and arrested. He had two thousand rubles in his waistcoat, which he had received from Auntie (A. M. Kalmykova), and a list of contacts written in invisible ink on the back of an ordinary invoice. Had it occurred to the gendarmes to hold that invoice before a fire, Vladimir Ilyich would never have established an all-Russian newspaper abroad. But he was in luck, and after ten days or so he was released.
After that he came to Ufa to say good-bye to me. He told me what he had succeeded in doing since we had last met and the people he had managed to see. Naturally, a number of meetings were held on the occasion of his arrival. I remember that when it transpired that Leonovich, who considered himself a Narodovolets, had not even heard about the "Emancipation of Labour" group, Vladimir Ilyich flared up: "Fancy a revolutionary not knowing that? How can he intelligently choose a party he is going to work with when he does not know, has not studied, what the 'Emancipation of Labour' group has written?"
Vladimir Ilyich stayed about a week, I believe, in Ufa.
He wrote to me from abroad, chiefly by ciphered messages in books, which he addressed to various Zemstvo men. Things were not moving as fast with the newspaper as Vladimir Ilyich desired. He had trouble in coming to an understanding with Plekhanov. His letters were short and cheerless, and ended with: "I shall tell you all about it when you come over." "I have written down for you a full account of the conflict with Plekhanov."
I could hardly wait for the end of my exile. On top of it all I had not received any letters from Vladimir Ilyich for a long time.
I had intended going to Astrakhan to see Uncle (Lydia Knipovich), but was in too great a hurry.
Mother and I went to see Maria Alexandrovna – Vladimir Ilyich's mother – in Moscow. She was alone there at the time, her daughters Maria being in prison, and Anna abroad.
I was very fond of Maria Alexandrovna. She was always so tactful and considerate. Vladimir Ilyich loved his mother very much. "She has tremendous will-power," he told me once. "If this had happened to my brother when Father was alive, I don't know what there would have been."
Vladimir Ilyich inherited his mother's strength of mind as well as her tact and kindness towards people.
When we lived abroad I tried to describe our life to her in my letters in as lively a way as I could to make her feel a bit nearer to her son. When Vladimir Ilyich was in Siberian exile in 1897 (I had not joined him yet) the papers published an obituary notice on a Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova, who had died in Moscow. Engberg told me: "I came to see Vladimir Ilyich, and he was as white as a sheet.'My mother is dead, he says." But the obituary notice turned out to be that on another woman of the same name.
Maria Alexandrovna had suffered much, what with the execution of her eldest son, the death of her daughter Olga, and the repeated arrests of her other children.
When Vladimir Ilyich fell ill in 1895, she came immediately to nurse him, and cooked his food herself. His arrest found her at her old post again: sitting for hours in the gloomy waiting-room of the House of Preliminary Detention, coming to see him on visiting day and bringing him parcels. But for a slightly shaky head, she had not changed a bit.
I promised her to look after Vladimir Ilyich, but I could not keep my promise....
From Moscow I took my mother to St. Petersburg, where I fixed her up and went abroad. I had some amusing adventures on that trip. I went to Prague in the belief that Vladimir Ilyich was living there under the name of Modracek.
I sent him a telegram. At Prague no one met me. I waited as long as I could, then, greatly embarrassed, hailed a top-hatted cabby, piled my baskets into his cab and rode off. We arrived in a working-class quarter, and stopped outside a great tenement house in a narrow turning. A multitude of featherbeds were being aired in the open windows of the building.
I flew up to the fourth floor. A fair-headed little Czech woman answered the door. All I could say was: "Modracek, Herr Modracek." A workman came out. "I am Modracek," he says. Bewildered, I stammered, "No, it's my husband." At last Modracek saw daylight. "Ah, you must be the wife of Herr Rittmeyer. He lives in Munich, but sent books and letters to you in Ufa through me." Modracek spent the whole day with me. I told him about the Russian movement, and he told me about the Austrian movement. His wife showed me her needlework and treated me to a meal of Czech dumplings.
I arrived in Munich in a fur coat when people there were going about in dresses. Made wise by experience, I left my luggage in the cloak-room and went in search of Rittmeyer by tram. I found the house. Flat No. 1 turned out to be a beer-house. I approached the fat little German behind the bar and timidly asked for Herr Rittmeyer with a feeling that something was wrong again. "That's me," said the publican. Absolutely crushed, I mumbled: "No, it's my husband."
And there we stood, staring at each other like a couple of idiots. At last Rittmeyer's wife came in, and glancing at me, said: "Ah, it must he Herr Meyer's wife. He is expecting his wife from Siberia. I'll take you to him."
I followed Frau Rittmeyer through the backyard of the big building to an untenanted-looking flat. The door opened, and there at a table sat Vladimir Ilyich, Martov and Anna Ilyinichna. Forgetting to thank my guide, I began to give Vladimir Ilyich a piece of my mind. "Damn it all, couldn't you write and tell me where you were?"
"But I did! I've been going to the station to meet you three times a day. How did you get here?"
As we afterwards learned, the Zemstvo man to whom the book with the address had been sent had kept the book to read.
Many a Russian travelled afterwards in the same manner. Shlyapnikov first went to Genoa instead of Geneva. Babushkin very nearly landed in America instead of London.