John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    Transcribed by the John MacLean Internet Archive

Russian Political Refugees Defence Committee

by John Maclean

Source: The Call 29th November 1919, p.4
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive ( 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Sir, — In the interests of justice and to at least preserve the good name of the workers of Britain in the eyes of their now triumphant comrades of Russia we desire to draw the attention of your readers to the cases of George Tchitcherine, Peter Petroff, Mrs. Irma Petroff, and other Russians unjustly interned in prisons in and around London.

In November, 1915, Petroff and his wife came to Glasgow at the invitation of the Glasgow Council of the British Socialist Party to undertake work of use to the working-class. In January, 1916, he was taken to Edinburgh Castle, the pretext being “hostile associations.”

In Parliament House Lord Dewar heard evidence from Petroff’s Scottish friends to prove that all his activities were regulated by the B.S.P.; but everyone concerned knew that the enquiry was as much of a farce as the Scottish Advisory Committee itself, and that Petroff was sure to be kept as a prisoner. He was transferred to the Islington Internment Prison where he still lies at the mercy of the Government: Shortly afterwards, his wife was put into Calton Gaol, Edinburgh, and thence transferred to Aylesbury.

This autumn, George Tchitcherine was treated similarly. The trumped-up excuse for his removal was association with Germans and pro-Germans at the London Communist Club, and anti-Ally and pro-German sentiments. The only members of the Communist Club since the war started are Russians, so readers can judge for themselves the thinness of the Government’s first pretext. The Government refused Tchitcherine an open trial and that ought to dispose of the second excuse in the eyes of fair-minded people.

Tchitcherine was the most prominent Russian in London, having at one time been in the Russian Foreign Ministry. Since 1903 he has lived in exile in many European countries, always working for International Socialism and for the victims of the brutal Tsarist regime tortured in Russian prisons or exiled in Siberia. In London he was secretary of five Russian committees, all of a working-class composition.

The real reason for his internment was his spotting of Tsarist spies in Britain and tracing their connection with Scotland Yard. This work he was doing at the instigation of M. Svatikoff, Commissioner of the Provisional Government, when he was taken to Brixton Prison.

His English secretary was Mrs. Bridges Adams, one of the best known women in this country and one who has done exceptionally fine work on behalf of the wage-earners. She is refused permission to see Tchitcherine and Petroff.

If the Government has real evidence against these persons of international reputation let that evidence be forthcoming.

As we are convinced that no evidence can be forthcoming we appeal to all Britons who have still kept their ideas of fair play to personally protest to Sir Geo. Cave and the Prime Minister, and demand the release of all interned Russian subjects. Once free we feel convinced that these Russians would be only too glad to return to help their distressed country, and prevent the growth of bitterness against the British people.

SHAMMES, Secretary,
Russian Political Refugees Defence Committee.

42 Auldhouse Road, Newlands, Glasgow.