History recorded him as Novsky, which is only a pseudonym (or, more precisely, one of his pseudonyms). But what im¬mediately spawns doubt is the question: did history really record him? In the index of the Granat Encyclopedia, among the 246 authorized biographies and autobiographies of great men and participants in the Revolution, his name is missing. In his commentary on this encyclopedia, Haupt notes that all the important figures of the Revolution are represented, and laments only the “surprising and inexplicable absence of Podvoysky.” Even he fails to make any allusion to Novsky, whose role in the Revolution was more significant than that of Podvoysky. So in a “surprising and inexplicable” way this man whose political principles gave validity to a rigorous ethic, this vehement internationalist, appears in the revolu¬tionary chronicles as a character without a face or a voice.
In this text, however fragmentary and incomplete, I shall try to bring to life the memory of the extraordinary
and enigmatic person that was Novsky. Certain omissions— particularly those concerning the most important period of his life: the Revolution and the years immediately following it—could be explained in much the same way the above commentator explains other biographies: after 1917, his life merges with public life and becomes “a part of history." On the other hand, as Haupt points out, we should not forget that these biographies were written in the late 1920’s: hence the significant omissions, discretion, and haste. Haste before death, we might add.
The ancient Greeks had an admirable custom: for any¬one who perished by fire, was swallowed by a volcano, buried by lava, torn to pieces by beasts, devoured by sharks, or whose corpse was scattered by vultures in the desert, they built so-called cenotaphs, or empty tombs, in their home¬lands; for the body is only fire, water, or earth, whereas the soul is the Alpha and the Omega, to which a shrine should be erected.
Right after Christmas of 1885, the Czar’s Second Cav¬alry Regiment halted on the west bank of the Dnieper to catch their breath and celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. Prince Vyazemsky, a cavalry colonel, emerged from the icy water with the symbol of Christ in the form of a silver cross. Prior to that, the soldiers had shattered the thick crust of ice for some twenty meters around with dynamite; the water was the color of steel. The young Prince Vyazemsky had refused to let them tie a rope around his waist. He crossed himself, his blue eyes gazing at the clear winter sky, and jumped into the water. His emergence from the icy whirl¬pools was first celebrated with salvos, and then with the popping of the corks of champagne bottles in the improvised
officers’ canteen set up in an elementary school building. The soldiers received their holiday ration of seven hundred grams of Russian cognac each: the personal gift of Prince Vyazemsky to the Second Cavalry. Drinking began right after the religious service in the village church and continued until late in the afternoon. David Abramovich was the only soldier not present at the service. They say that during that time he was lying in the warm manger of the stables, reading the Talmud, which, given the profusion of associations, seems dubious to me. One of the soldiers noticed his absence and a search began. They found him in the shed (in the stables, according to some) with the untouched bottle of cognac beside him. They forced him to drink the liquor given him by the grace of the Czar, stripped him to the waist so as not to desecrate the uniform, and set about flogging him with a knout. Finally, when he was unconscious, they tied him to a horse and dragged him to the Dnieper. A thin crust had already formed where they had previously broken the ice. Having tied him around the waist with horse whips so he wouldn’t drown, they pushed him into the icy water. When they finally pulled him out, blue and half dead, they poured the remainder of the cognac down his throat and then, holding the silver cross over his forehead, sang in chorus “The Fruit of Thy Womb.” In the evening, while he was burning with fever, they transferred him from the stables to the house of Solomon Malamud, the village teacher. Malamud’s sixteen-year-old daughter coated the wounds on the back of the unfortunate private with cod-liver oil. Before leaving with his regiment, which was being dispatched that morning to crush an uprising, David Abramovich, still feverish, swore to her that he would come back. He kept his promise. From this romantic encounter, whose authenticity
we have no reason to doubt, Boris Davidovich was born, he who would go down in history under the name of Novsky, B. D. Novsky.
In the archives of the Czar’s secret police, the Okhrana, three birth dates are entered: 1891, 1893, 1896. This was not just the result of the false documents revolutionaries used (a few coins to the clerk or the priest, and the matter was taken care of); it was one more proof of bureaucratic corruption.
At the age of four he was already able to read and write; at nine his father took him along to the Saratov Tavern near the Jewish market, where at a corner table, by the porcelain spittoon, his father practiced his trade as a lawyer. The place was frequented by retired soldiers of the Czar with flaming red beards and deeply sunken eyes, as well as by converted Jewish merchants in their long greasy caftans, whose Russian names went awkwardly with their Semitic gait (three thousand years of slavery and a long tradition of pogroms had created a gait peculiar to the ghettos). Since he was already more literate than his father, little Boris Davidovich recorded their complaints. In the evening, they say, his mother read the Psalms to him, chanting them. When he was ten, an old estate overseer told him about the peasant uprisings of 1846: a harsh tale in which the knout, saber, and gallows dealt out both justice and injustice. At thirteen, under the influence of Vladimir Soloviev’s Antichrist, he ran away from home, but was brought back, escorted by police from a distant station. There follows a sudden and inex¬plicable gap. We find him at the market selling empty bottles for two kopecks each, then offering smuggled tobacco, matches, and lemons. It is a known fact that at that time his father fell under the dangerous influence of the Nihilists and brought the family to the edge of disaster. (Some insist that tuberculosis played a part in it, probably seeing in the disease the symptoms of a treacherous, organic nihilism.)
At fourteen he worked as an apprentice for a kosher butcher. After a year and a half we find him washing dishes and cleaning samovars in that same tavern where once he recorded legal complaints; at sixteen, classifying artillery shells at the arsenal in Pavlograd; at seventeen, as a dock worker in Riga, reading Leonid Andreyev and Scheller- Mihaylov while out on strike. The same year we find him in the Teodore Kibel box and cardboard factory, where he earned five kopecks a day.
His biography does not lack information; what is puz¬zling is the chronology (which his aliases and the dizzying succession of places make only more difficult). In February 1913 we find him in Baku as a fireman’s helper on a steam engine; in September of the same year, among the leaders of a strike in a wallpaper factory in Ivanovo-Voznesensk; in October, among the organizers of the street demonstrations in St. Petersburg. Nor are details lacking: the police on horses scattering the demonstrators with sabers and black leather whips, the Junker variation of a knout. Boris Davidovich, then known as Bezrabotny, managed to escape through the side entrance of a brothel on Dolgorukovska Street. He spent several months with tramps in the public baths, which were undergoing renovation, then joined a terrorist group pre-paring for assassinations with bombs. In the early spring of 1914, we find him, under the name of the night guard of the public baths, with chains on his ankles, on the hard road to Vladimir Central Prison. Ill with a high fever, he passed through the successive stages of the trip in a kind of fog. At Narym, where they took the chains off his thin and calloused ankles, he managed to escape in an oarless dinghy he found tied to the bank. He surrendered the dinghy to the fast current of the river, but soon realized that the unbridled force of nature, like that of humanity, does not submit to dreams and curses: they found him five miles downstream, where a whirlpool had capsized him. He had spent several hours in the icy water, perhaps aware he was experiencing a repetition of his family legend: on the bank of the river, a thin crust of ice still remained. In June, under the name Jacob Mauzer, he was again sentenced to six years for organizing a secret terrorist group among the prisoners; during his three months in Tomsky Prison, he listened to the screams and last words of those being led to their death; in the shadow of the gallows he read Antonio Labriola’s texts on historical materialism.
In the spring of 1912, in elegant St. Petersburg salons, where talk of Rasputin was growing ever more anxious, a young engineer named Zemlyanikov appeared, dressed in a light-colored suit in the latest fashion, with a dark orchid pinned to his lapel, a dandy’s hat, a walking stick, and a monocle. This dandy, with his fine bearing, broad shoulders, small, trim beard, and thick dark hair, boasted of his con¬nections, talked of Rasputin with derision, and claimed to be a personal acquaintance of Leonid Andreyev. From here on, the story unfolds in a classical manner: suspicious at first of the young braggart, the ladies discovered his indisputable charm and began to pester him with invitations, especially after he had proved at least one of his stories. Marya Gregorovna Popko, the wife of a high official of the Czar, spotted him one day in the suburbs, sitting in a black lac¬quered carriage, giving orders while bending over his plans. The news that Zemlyanikov was the chief engineer responsi¬ble for setting up electric cables and installations in St.
Petersburg (a fact historically verified) only added to his popularity and increased the number of invitations, Zemlya- nikov arrived in the black lacquered carriage at the appointed times, drank champagne, and talked about Viennese high society with undisguised sympathy and a certain nostalgia; then, promptly at ten, he would leave the company of the tipsy ladies and get into the carriage. The understandable suspicion that Zemlyanikov had a high-society common-law wife (and a child, according to some)—a suspicion he him¬self encouraged by his sudden departures promptly at ten— could never be proven. However, many saw this as a part of his eccentricity, especially after that famous blunder in the salon of the Gerasimovs, where, while Olga Mihailovna was singing an aria, Zemlyanikov looked at his silver pocket watch and, to everyone’s astonishment, left the concert with¬out waiting for the end of the aria.
Zemlyanikov’s sudden and abrupt leave-takings from St. Petersburg’s salons did not surprise anyone. It was common knowledge that, as chief engineer, he often traveled abroad: a responsibility he alleviated by using the occasion to renew his wardrobe with elegant accessories and, along with suitable presents, to bring some new anecdote about fashionable life outside Russia. Thus his absence from a famous soiree that fall elicited only regret, the more so since Zemlyanikov had confirmed his attendance by telegram. But this time his absence lasted a little too long, and it could rightfully be said that Zemlyanikov’s presence in St. Petersburg salons was only a seasonal fad, one of those that undergo the sad fate of sudden oblivion. (His place was filled by a handsome young cadet who brought fresh anecdotes from the Court, from the immediate presence of Rasputin himself, but who, unlike Zemlyanikov, had no other duties and so would entertain the company till dawn.) The astonishment was greater when that same Marya Gregorovna Popko, who seemed to enjoy roaming the city in her carriage like a queen, spied a familiar face on Stolpinska Street among the frozen and starved prisoners who were sweeping the pavement. She approached this man and dropped a coin in his hand; without doubt, it was Zemlyanikov.
So the ghost of Engineer Zemlyanikov had returned again to the salons, and briefly threatened to undermine the fame of Rasputin. It was not too difficult to establish certain facts: Zemlyanikov had used his frequent trips abroad for thoroughly disloyal purposes; on his last return from Berlin, under the silk shirts and expensive suits in his black leather suitcases, the border police had discovered some fifty Brown¬ings of German make. But what Marya Gregorovna couldn’t have known—and for its revelation, some twenty years had ro elapse (until the discovery of the Okhrana archives stolen by Ambassador Malakov)—elicited a much greater shock: Zemlyanikov was the organizer of and a participant in the famous “expropriation” of the mail car, when several mil¬lion rubles came into the hands of the revolutionaries; in addition to the confiscated Brownings, he had on three separate occasions transported explosives and arms to Russia; as the editor of Eastern Dawn, which was printed on cigarette paper in a secret printing shop, he personally transported rubber stencils in his black suitcase; the spectacular assas¬sinations of the last five or six years were his doing (they were different from all other assassinations: the bombs assembled in Zemlyanikov’s secret workshop reduced their victims to a heap of bloody flesh); as a consequence of his arrogant behavior (doubtless simulated), the workers assigned to him hated him; by his own admission he dreamed of creating a bomb the si2e of a walnut but with
tremendous destructive force (an ideal, they say, to which he came dangerously close); the police believed him dead after the assassination of Governor von Launitz (three wit¬nesses confirmed that the head displayed in an alcohol-filled jar was Zemlyanikov’s; the appearance of the demonic Azef was needed to ascertain that the head in the alcohol, already somewhat shrunken, was not identical to the “Assyrian skull” of Zemlyanikov); he had escaped twice from prison and once from a labor camp (the first time by smashing through the wall of the prison cell; the second time by escaping during bathing time, dressed as the prison supervisor whom he left naked); after his last arrest, he crossed the border in a Jewish one-horse cart, disguised as a traveling merchant, by way of the famous Vilkomirsky smugglers’ road; he lived with a false passport under the name M. V. Zemlyanikov, but his real name was Boris Davidovich Malamud, alias B. D. Novsky.
After an obvious gap in our sources (with which we don’t want to burden the reader, so he can retain a pleasant but false satisfaction in believing that this is a story like any other, which, fortunately for the author, is usually equated with the power of his imagination), we find him in an insane asylum in Malinovsk, among severely disturbed and dangerous lunatics, from which, disguised as a high school student, he escaped on a bicycle to Batum. Undoubtedly he faked his madness, its certification by two eminent doctors notwith¬standing; even the police were aware of this, retaining the two doctors as sympathizers of the Revolution. His later whereabouts are more or less known: one early September morning in 1913, just before dawn, Novsky boarded a ship and, hidden among tons of eggs, headed for Paris via Con¬
stantinople. There, during the day we find him in the Russian library on the Avenue des Gobelins and in the Musée Guimet, where he studied the philosophy of history and religion; and in the evening, in La Rotonde in Montparnasse with a glass of beer, wearing “the most elegant hat to be found in all Paris.” (Bruce Lockhart’s allusion to Novsky’s hat is not, however, without its political implications: it is common knowledge that Novsky was a functionary of the powerful union of Jewish hatmakers in France.) After the declaration of war, he disappeared from Montparnasse. The police found him in the vineyards near Montpellier during the harvest season, with a basket of ripe grapes in his arms: this time, putting handcuffs on his wrists was not difficult. Whether Novsky escaped from France or was expelled is not known. We do know that lie soon appeared in Berlin as one of the collaborators on the Social Democratic papers Neue Zeitung and Leipziger Volkzeitung under the pseudonyms B. N. Dolsky, Parabellum, Victor Tverdohlebov, Proletarsky, and N. L Davidovich, and that, among other things, he wrote a famous review of Max Schippel’s The History of the Pro¬duction of Sugar. “He was,” writes the Austrian Socialist Oscar Blum, “a strange mixture of amorality, cynicism, and spontaneous enthusiasm for ideas, books, music, and human beings. He looked, I’d say, like a cross between a professor and a bandit. But his intellectual brio was unquestionable. That virtuoso of Bolshevik journalism knew how to conduct conversations which were as full of explosives as his edi¬torials.” (The word “explosives" leads us to the bold con¬clusion that Oscar Blum might have been acquainted with the secret life of Novsky. Unless it is only a matter of inadvertent metaphor.) In Berlin at the outbreak of war, when the workers who rallied to the flag resembled ghosts,
and cabarets full of thick cigar smoke resounded with female shrieks, and all that cannon fodder tried to drown its fears and despair in beer and schnapps, Novsky, Blum adds, was the only one who didn’t lose his head in this European madhouse, the only one with a clear perspective.
On a bright autumn day, while lunching at the salon of the famous Davos Sanatorium in Basel, where he was undergoing treatment for his nerves and his slightly tuber¬cular lungs, Novsky was visited by one of the members of the Internadonal named Levin. Dr. Griinwald approached them; he was Swiss, a disciple and friend of Jung, an author¬ity in his field. According to Levin’s testimony, the conversa¬tion was about the weather (the sunny October), about music (a recent concert given by a woman patient), about death (her musical soul had expired the night before). Be¬tween the meat and quince compote, served them by a waiter wearing a uniform and white gloves, Dr. Griinwald, losing the thread of the conversation, said in his nasal voice (only to fill an awkward silence): “There’s some kind of revolution in St. Petersburg.” (A pause.) The spoon in Levin’s hand stopped in mid-air; Novsky started, and reached for his cigar. Dr. Griinwald felt a certain uneasiness. Trying to infuse his voice with absolute indifference, Novsky attempted to calm his trembling hands. “Excuse me. Where did you hear that?” As if apologizing, Dr. Griinwald said that he had seen the news that morning posted in the windows of the telegraph bureau in town. Without waiting for coffee, deathly pale, Novsky and Levin quickly left the salon and went into town by taxi. "I heard as if dazed,” writes Levin, “the murmur coming from the salon, accompanied by the din of silver utensils like the tinkling of bells, and saw as through a fog
the world we had left behind, and which was irretrievably sinking into the past, as into murky water.”
Some documents lead us to conclude that Novsky, swept away by a wave of nationalism and bitterness, received the news of the truce, in spite of everything, as a blow. Levin speaks of a nervous crisis, and Meisnerova passes over this period with the haste of an accomplice. It seems, however, that without great resistance Novsky dropped his Mauser and, as a sign of remorse, burned the plans of his assault bombs and his 70-meter flame throwers, and joined the ranks of the Internationalists. Soon we find him, tireless and ubiquitous, among the supporters of the Brest-Iitovsk peace, distributing antiwar propaganda leaflets, and, as a fiery agitator among the soldiers, standing on boxes of artillery shells, erect as a statue. In this quick and, so to speak, painless transformation of Novsky, a certain woman appears to have played a major role. In the chronicles of the Revolution, her name is recorded: Zinaida Mihailovna Maysner. A certain Leo Mikulin, who had the misfortune of falling in love with her, has portrayed her with words that could easily have been engraved on marble: “Nature gave her everything: intelli¬gence, talent, beauty.”
In February 1918, we see him in the wheat fields of Tula, Tambov, and Orel, on the banks of the Volga, in Kharkov, where under his supervision convoys of confiscated wheat were sent up to Moscow. In the black leather uniform of a commissar, with shiny boots, and a leather and sheep¬skin cap without insignia, he dispatched the convoys, his hand on his Mauser, until the last boat disappeared into the hazy distance. In May of the following year, he put on a camou¬flaged uniform and became a sharpshooter cutting off Denikin’s rear guard. The terrifying explosions in the south¬west sector of the front, taking place suddenly and myste-riously, leaving a slaughterhouse behind them, bore Novsky’s stamp just as handwriting can reveal character to an expert. In late September, on the torpedo boat Spartacus, which flew the red flag, Novsky set off for Reval on patrol. Suddenly the boat ran into a strong British squadron of seven light vessels armed with 2 5-millimeter guns. The torpedo boat swerved and, with a reckless maneuver under the cloak of the descending night, succeeded in reaching Kronstadt. If we can believe the testimony of Captain Olimsky, the crew of the torpedo boat should have been much more grateful for their lucky rescue to the shrewdness of a woman, Zinaida Mihailovna Maysner, than to Novsky’s presence: she was the one who negotiated by signal flag with the British flagship.
A letter from those years, written in Novsky’s hand, remains the only authentic document that combines, deeply and mysteriously, revolutionary passion with sensual love: “... As soon as I entered the university I found myself in prison. I was arrested exactly thirteen times. Of the twelve years that followed my first arrest, I spent more than half at hard labor. In addition, three times I walked the painful road of exile, a road that took three years of my life. During the brief periods of my ‘freedom’ I watched, as in a movie theater, the passing of sad Russian villages, towns, people, and events, but I was always in flight—on a horse, on a boat, in a cart. I never slept in the same bed for more than a month. I’ve come to know the horror of Russian reality in the long tedious winter evenings when the pale lights of Vasilevsky Island barely blink, and a Russian village emerges in the moonlight in a false and deceptive beauty. My only passion was this arduous, rapturous, and mysterious profession of revolutionary.... Forgive me, Zina, and carry me in your heart; it will be as painful as a kidney stone.”
The wedding ceremony was performed on December 27, 1919, on the torpedo boat Spartacus, which was anchored in Kronstadt harbor. The documents are few and contradictory. According to some, Zinaida Mihailovna was deathly pale, with “the pallor that unites death and beauty” (Mikulin), and looked more like an anarchist before a firing squad than the muse of the Revolution who has just escaped death by a hairbreadth. Mikulin mentions a white wedding wreath on Zinaida’s hair, the sole symbol of old times and custom, while in his memoirs Olimsky talks about the white gauze which “like a wedding wreath” was wrapped around Mays- ner’s wounded head. The same Olimsky, who proved more objective in his memory than the lyrical Mikulin (who passed Novsky by in silence, so to speak), gives an altogether sche¬matic picture of the political commissar in that intimate mo¬ment: “Handsome, with a stern look, dressed monastically even for that solemn occasion, he appeared more like a young German student who had emerged the victor in a duel than a political commissar who had just come back from a fiery skir¬mish.” Everyone more or less agrees in other details. The boat was quickly decorated with signal flags and lit up with red, green, and blue bulbs. Simultaneously celebrating the wedding and their victory over death, the crew appeared on deck freshly shaved and pink-cheeked, fully armed, as if for an inspection. But the cables informing the general staff about the course of the operation and the lucky rescue had drawn the attention of the officers of the Red fleet, who now arrived in blue military overcoats over their white summer uniforms. The
torpedo boat greeted them with whistles and the cheers of the crew. The breathless radioman brought to the com¬mander's bridge, where the young married couple had taken shelter, uncoded cables with congratulations from all the Soviet ports from Astrakhan to Enzeli: “Long live the newly¬weds!” “Long live the Red fleet!” "Hurrah for the brave crew of the Spartacus!” The Revolutionary Council of Kron¬stadt sent armored cars with nine cases of French champagne seized from the anarchists the day before. Kronstadt’s brass band climbed up the gangplank and onto the deck playing marches. Because of the temperature, 22° below zero (Fahr¬enheit), the instruments had a strange, cracked sound, as if made of ice. Patrol boats swarmed around, greeting the crew with signals. Three times stern trios of Chekists came on deck, their guns drawn, demanding that the celebration be stopped for security reasons; three times they returned their guns to their holsters at the mention of Novsky’s name, and joined the officers’ chorus in its shouts of "Bitter! Bitter!... Sweet! Sweet!” The empty champagne bottles flew over the sides like 25-millimeter artillery shells. At dawn, when the sun broke through the fog of the winter morning like the flame of a distant fire, one drunken Chekist saluted the birth of the new day with a salvo from the antiaircraft gun. The crew was strewn all over the deck as if dead, lying on heaps of broken glass, empty bottles, confetti, and small frozen puddles of French champagne rosy as blood. (The reader recognizes, surely, the awkward lyricism of Leo Mikulin, a student of thelmagists.)
This marriage was dissolved after eighteen months, and Zinaida Mihailovna, during an illegal excursion to Europe, became the companion of the Soviet diplomat A. D. Kara¬mazov. As far as her brief marriage to Novsky is concerned, some documents tell of tormented scenes of jealousy and passionate reconciliations. The claim that Novsky used to whip Zinaida Mihailovna in his. jealous fits, however, may well be the fruit of another jealous imagination—that of Mikulin. In her autobiographical book Wave After Wave, Zinaida Mihailovna passes over her personal memories as if writing them on water: the whip appears here only in its historical and metaphorical context as the “knout” that mercilessly whips the face of the Russian people.
(Zinaida Mihailovna Maysner died of malaria in August 1926. In Persia. She was not quite thirty years old.)
As we have mentioned before, it is impossible to estab¬lish the exact chronology of Novsky’s life during the civil war years and those immediately following. It is known that in 1920 he fought against the rebellious and despotic emirs in Turkestan, and subjugated them with their own weapons of cunning and cruelty; that during the hot summer of 1921, noted in the annals for the invasion of malarial mosquitoes and horseflies that swarmed down to suck the people’s blood, he was in charge of the liquidation of banditry in the Tambov Region, on which occasion he received a saber or knife wound that gave his face the cruel stamp of heroism. At the Congress of Eastern Peoples we find him at the presidential table, aloof, with the perennial cigarette between his yellowed teeth. His speech was greeted with applause, but one reporter observed the absence of zeal, and the dull gaze of this man whom they had once called “the Bolshevik Hamlet.” We know also that for a time he served as the political com¬missar of the Caucasus-Caspian Revolutionary Naval Com¬mittee, and that he was an artillery corps officer in the Red Army, then a diplomat in Afghanistan and Estonia. At the
end of 1924 he appeared in London as a member of the delegation negotiating with the perpetually distrustful Brit¬ish. On that occasion he personally initiated contact with representatives of the trade unions, who invited him to the next congress in Hull.
As far as we know, he held his last position in Kazakh¬stan, in the Central Office for Communications and Liaisons. He was bored; and in his office he again began to draw plans and make calculations: a bomb the size of a walnut, with tremendous destructive power, obsessed him until the end of his life.
B. D. Novsky, the representative of the People’s Com-missariat for Communications and Liaisons, was arrested in Kazakhstan on December 23, 1930, at two o’clock in the morning. His arrest was much less dramatic than reported in the West. According to the reliable testimony of his sister, there was no armed resistance and fighting on the stairs. Novsky was asked urgently over the telephone to come to the Central Office. The voice was probably that of the engi¬neer on duty: Butenko. During the search, which lasted until eight o’clock in the morning, all his documents, photographs, manuscripts, sketches, and plans, as well as his books, were taken. This was the first step toward the liquidation of Novsky. On the basis of very recent information, given by A. L. Rubina, Novsky’s sister, this is what happened later:
Novsky was confronted with a certain Reinhold, T. S. Reinhold, who confessed that he was a British spy, and that by order he had been sabotaging the economy. Novsky main¬tained that he had never before seen this unfortunate man with a cracked voice and a dull gaze. After fifteen days, which were granted to Novsky to think things over, he was again brought before the interrogator, and ofFered sand¬wiches and a cigarette. Novsky refused the offer and asked for a pencil and paper, to get in touch with some people in high places. At dawn the next day he was taken out of his cell and sent to Suzdal. When the car arrived at the railroad station on that icy morning, the platform was deserted. A . single cattle car stood on a siding, and it was to this car that they took Novsky. Fedukin, the tall, pock-marked, and un¬bending interrogator, spent some five hours alone with Novsky in this cattle car (the doors were locked from the outside), tiying to persuade him of the moral obligation of making a false confession. These negotiations failed entirely. Then followed long nights without days spent in solitary confinement in Suzdal Prison, in a damp stone-walled cell known as the “doghouse,” which had the major architectural advantage of making a man feel as if he were buried alive, so that he experienced his mortal being, in comparison with the eternity of stone and time, as a speck of dust in the ocean of timelessness. Novsky was already a man of failing health; the long years of hard labor and revolutionary zeal, which feeds on blood and glands, had weakened his lungs, kidneys, and joints. His body was now covered with boils, which would burst under the blows of rubber truncheons, oozing out his precious blood along with useless pus. Nevertheless, it seems that in contact with the stone of his living tomb, Novsky drew some metaphysical conclusions undoubtedly not much different from those suggesting the thought that man is only a speck of dust in the ocean of timelessness; but this also revealed to him another conclusion, which the architects of the “doghouse” could not have foreseen: nothing for nothing. The man who found in his heart this heretical and dangerous thought, which speaks of the futility of one’s own being-in-time, finds himself, however, faced with another (final) dilemma: whether to accept the transitoriness of this being-in-time for the sake of that precious and expen¬sively acquired knowledge (which excludes any morality and therefore is made in absolute freedom), or, for the sake of that same knowledge, to yield oneself to the embrace of nothingness.
For Fedukin it was a question of honor, the greatest challenge: to break down Novsky. In his long career as an interrogator, he had always succeeded: in breaking their backs, he had also broken the wills of even the most tenacious prisoners (which was why they always gave him the toughest material). Novsky, however, stood before him like a scien¬tific puzzle, an unknown organism that behaved quite un- predictably and atypically in relation to Fedukin’s entire experience. (There is no doubt that in Fedukin’s laudable theorizing there was no bookishness, given his less than modest education, so that any connection with teleological reasoning would have escaped him. He must have felt like the originator of a doctrine, which he formulated very simply, to make it comprehensible to any man: “Even a stone would talk if you broke its teeth.”) *
* The journal Worker published several fragments from Fedukin's memoirs, called The Second Front (August and November 1964). Thus far, this auto¬biographical "piece” covers only the earliest period of Fedukin’s "background activity," but judging by this material, in which the vividness of his actual practice is replaced by overly schematic reflections, I am afraid that even the complete edition of his memoirs would not reveal the secret of his genius: it seems to me that, except in actual practice, Fedukin was a theoretical zero. He extracted confessions according to the most profound principles of inner psy-chology without even being aware that psychology existed; he dealt with human souls and their secrets without knowing that he did. But even now, what really attracts us in Fedukin's remembrances are his descriptions of nature: the austere beauty of the Siberian landscape, the sunrise over the frozen tundra, diluvial rains and treacherous waters cutting through the taiga, the silence of distant lakes, their steel color—ail of which testifies to his undeniable literary talent.
On the night of January 28—29» they led from his cell a man who still bore the name Novsky, though he was now only the empty shell of a being, a heap of decayed and ever- tortured flesh. In Novsky’s dull gaze one could read, as the only sign of soul and life, the decision to endure, to write the last page of his biography according to Ms own will and fully conscious, as one writes a last testament. He formulated his thought like this: ‘'I’ve reached my mature years—why spoil my biography?” He therefore seemed to have realized that even this last trial was not only the final page of the autobiography which he had been consciously writing with his blood and brain for some forty years, but also that this was indeed the sum of his living, the conclusion on which everything hinged, and all the rest was (and had been) only a minor treatise, the arithmetical calculation whose value was insignificant in relation to the final formula that gave meaning to these subordinate operations.
Novsky was led out of the cell by two guards, who supported him on each side, down some half-dark stairs that wound vertiginously into the depths of the triple cellar of the prison. They brought him to a room illuminated by a bare light bulb that hung from the ceiling. The guards re¬leased him, and Novsky staggered. He heard the iron door close behind him, but at first he nodced only the light, which cut painfully into his consciousness. The door opened again, and the same two guards, preceded by Fedukin, brought in a young man and left him about one meter from Novsky. It flashed through Novsky’s mind that this was probably an¬other false confrontation, one of many, so he stubbornly clenched his toothless jaws and with a painful effort opened his swollen eyelids to get a look at the young man. He ex-pected to see again a corpse with dull eyes (like Reinhold), but with a shiver very much like foreboding he saw before
him young, living eyes full of fear that was human, altogether human. The young man was naked to the waist; with aston¬ishment and the dread of the unknown, Novsky realized that his muscular body was entirely devoid of blue marks, without a single bruise, with healthy dark skin untouched yet by putrefaction. But what astonished and frightened him the most was that gaze, whose meaning he could not penetrate, that unknown game into which he was being drawn, at the point when he thought that everything was already over in the best possible sense. Could he have fathomed what the ingenious and infernal intuition of Fedukin was preparing for him? Fedukin was standing behind him, invisible yet present, holding his breath, letting Novsky discover it for himself and be horrified by it and then, when the denial born of terror whispered to him that that was impossible, ready to hit him suddenly with the truth, the truth more awful than the merciful bullet he could use to blow his brains out.
At the same moment that the denial born of terror whispered to Novsky that that was impossible, he heard Fedukin’s voice: “If Novsky doesn’t confess, we'll kill you!” The young man’s face grew distorted with fear, and he fell on his knees in front of Novsky. Novsky shut his eyes, but be¬cause of the handcuffs couldn't cover his ears so as not to hear the young man's pleadings, which suddenly, as if by some miracle, began to shake the hard rock of his resolution, to break down his will. The young man was imploring him with a trembling, broken voice to confess for the sake of his life. Novsky clearly heard the guards cock their guns. Behind his tightly shut lids there arose in him, simultaneously with the reawakening of pain and the premonition of failure, hatred; he had enough time to realize that Fedukin had seen through him and had decided to devastate him where he felt the strongest: in his egocentricity. For if Novsky had discovered the saving but dangerous idea of the futility of one’s own being-in-time and suffering, this was still a moral choice; Fedukin’s intuitive genius had sensed that this choice does not exclude morality—quite the contrary. The guns must have had silencers, since Novsky hardly heard the shots. When he opened his eyes, the young man was lying in front of him in a pool of blood, his brains spilled out.
Fedukin didn’t waste words. He knew that Novsky had understood; he signaled to the guards to take Novsky away, and they lifted him up by the arms. Fedukin gave him twenty- four hours to think it over in his well-guarded cell, where again he would be able, “under the death shroud of stone,” to ascertain his moral position, which was whispering de¬moniacally into his ear that his biography was final and well rounded, without flaws, as perfect as a sculpture. The next night, that of January 29-30, the scene was repeated: the guards led Novsky down the vertiginous spiral stairs into the deep cellars of the prison. Novsky realized with horror that this repetition was not accidental, but part of an infernal plan: each day of his life would be paid for with the life of another man; the perfection of his biography would be destroyed, his life work (his life) deformed by these final pages.
Fedukin’s direction was perfect: the mise en scene of the previous night was the same, with the same Fedukin, the same cellar, the same light bulb, the same Novsky—the elements entirely sufficient to give the repeated action the appearance of something identical and inevitable, as the alteration of day and night is inevitable. Only this half-naked young man trembling in front of him was slightly different (only as one day spent in the same cell differs from another). Fedukin probably sensed, by the silence that fell for a mo¬ment, how much harder today’s trial was for Novsky than yesterday’s; today, while Novsky stood eye-to-eye with the unknown young man, there remained not even a shred of hope for his morality, no taking of shelter in some thought that could come to his rescue, a thought that could whisper to him, despite certain clear outside indications, that this was impossible: last night’s quick and efficient demonstration had shown him the futility of this kind of thought, that such a thought was deadly. (And tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and in three or ten days more, this thought would become even more absurd, even more impossible.)
Novsliy thought that he knew this young man from some-where. He had fair skin sprinkled with freckles, an unhealthy complexion, thick dark hair, and slightly crossed eyes; most likely he wore glasses, and it seemed to Novsky that he could even discern their marks still fresh on the bridge of his nose. The thought that this young man actually looked like him¬self some twenty years ago struck him as absurd, and he tried to discard it; nevertheless, for a split second he couldn’t help thinking that this resemblance (if real and purposeful) carried a certain risk for Fedukin’s interrogation, and could be regarded in some way as an error and a crack in Fedukin’s direction. But Fedukin must have sensed, too, that if this resemblance was purposeful and the result of his careful selection, then this notion of resemblance, of identity, would inevitably lead Novsky to realize the major difference: this resemblance would show him that he was killing men similar to himself, men whose role carried the seed of a future biography, consistent, well rounded, much like his own, but destroyed at the very onset, nipped in the bud, so to speak, by his own doing. By his stubborn refusal to co¬operate with the inquiry, he would find himself (indeed, he already did) at the beginning of a long series of murders committed in his name.
Novsky felt the presence of Fedukin behind him, hold¬ing his breath and waiting in ambush for his thoughts, his decision, just as he felt the presence of the guards, who stood to one side with cocked guns, ready to commit murder by his hand. Fedukin’s voice was calm, unthreatening, as if delivering the result of an entirely logical operation: “You’ll die, Isaievich, if Novsky doesn’t confess.’’ Before Novsky had a chance to say anything at all, before he had a chance to think of the shameful conditions of his surrender, the young man sized him up with his nearsighted eyes, moved close to his face, and whispered to him in a voice that made Novsky shudder: “Boris Davidovich, don’t let the sons of bitches get you!”
In that same instant two shots resounded almost simul-taneously, though barely audible, as when a cork pops out of a champagne bottle. He could not help opening his tightly shut lids to verify his crime: again the guards had shot point-blank into the back of the neck, their barrels aimed up toward the skull; the young man’s face was unrecognizable.
Fedukin left the cellar without a word and the guards took Novsky away and threw him on the stone floor. Novsky spent nightmarish hours in his cell, surrounded by rats.
The next evening, after the third shift of guards came on, he asked to see the interrogator.
That same night they transferred him from the stone cell to the prison hospital, where he spent some ten days, as
if in a coma, under the watchful eyes of guards and hospital personnel, who were given the assignment of rebuilding out of these remnants a man worthy of that name. Fedukin knew from experience that men far less tough than Novsky became infused with an unsuspected strength when the moment be¬yond all limits was reached, and when the only issue was to die honorably: at the moment of dying they tried to derive from death the greatest possible gain by an obstinate resolu¬tion, which, perhaps because of physical exhaustion, was most often reduced to heroic silence. Practice had also taught him that the restored functioning of the organism, normal blood circulation and the absence of pain, gave convalescents and former death candidates a certain organic conformity, which caused as a consequence, paradoxical as it seems, the weak¬ening of the will and the ever-decreasing need for heroic bravado.
In the meantime, the accusation that Novsky had be¬longed to a spy network for the British was dropped, espe¬cially after the unsuccessful confrontation with Reinhold. (British trade unions contributed greatly to this, by making a loud noise in the European press about Novsky’s arrest and by denouncing as entirely unfounded and absurd ac¬cusations that appeared in the official press: the rendezvous in Berlin with a certain Richards, who had allegedly bribed Novsky, like Judas, with thirty pieces of silver, was refuted by the perfect alibi of the said Richards: on that day he was attending the trade union conference in Hull.) This awk¬ward intervention by the trade unions placed before the investigators the none-too-easy task of proving the accuracy of their claims, in order to save their reputation on a much wider international plane.
The negotiations lasted from February 8 to 21. Novsky prolonged the inquiry, trying to incorporate into the con¬fession—probably the only document of his that would re¬main after his death—a certain wording that would not only cushion his final downfall but also whisper to a future in¬vestigator, through the skillfully woven contradictions and exaggerations, that the whole structure of this confession rested on a lie squeezed out of him by torture. This was why he fought with unsuspected strength for every word, every phrase. For his part, Fedukin, no less resolute and cautious, made maximal demands. Through long nights the two men struggled over the difficult text of the confession, panting and exhausted, their heads bent over the pages enveloped in the thick cigarette smoke, each trying to incorporate into it some of his own passion, his own beliefs, his own outlook from a higher perspective. Fedukin knew just as well as Novsky (and let him know it) that all this—the entire text of the confession, formulated on ten closely typed pages— was pure fiction, which he alone, Fedukin, had concocted during the long hours of the night, typing with two fingers, awkwardly and slowly (he liked to do everything himself), trying to draw logical conclusions from certain assumptions. He was therefore not interested in the so-called facts or characters, but in those assumptions and their logical use; in the final analysis his reasons were the same as Novsky’s, when Novsky, starting from another premise, ideal and idealized, rejected any assumption beforehand. Lastly, I believe that both acted from reasons that transcended narrow egocentric goals: Novsky fought to preserve in his death and downfall the dignity of not only his own image but also that of all revolutionaries, while Fedukin, in his search for fiction and premises, strove to preserve the sternness and consistency of revolutionary justice and of those who dispense this justice;
for it was better that the so-called truth of a single man, one tiny organism, be destroyed than that higher interests and principles be questioned. If, in the later stages of interroga¬tion, Fedukin lunged at his obstinate victims, this was not the whim of a neurotic or a cocaine addict, as some believe, but a struggle for his convictions which, like his victims’, he considered to be altruistic, inviolable, and sacred. What provoked Fedukin’s fury and dedicated hatred was precisely this sentimental egocentricity of the accused, their patholog¬ical need to prove their own innocence, their own little truths, this neurotic going around in circles of so-called facts en-compassed by the meridians of their skulls. It enraged him that this blind truth of theirs could not be incorporated into a system of higher value, a higher justice which demanded sacrifice, and which did not and must not care about human weakness. This was why for Fedukin anyone became a blood enemy who could not comprehend this simple and almost obvious fact: to sign a confession for the sake of duty was not only a logical but also a moral act, and therefore worthy of respect. Novsky’s case was all the more defeating for him since he respected Novsky as a revolutionary and, for a period of time some ten years ago, had regarded him as a model. That day in the cattle car on the siding of the Suzdal railroad station, he had, despite everything, approached him with due respect for his person and in full confidence. Since then, however, he had experienced a disillusionment that had entirely destroyed in his eyes the myth of a revolutionary: Novsky could not understand that his own egocentricity (surely a product of flattery and praise) was stronger in him than his sense of duty.
One early morning in late February, Novsky returned to his cell, exhausted but satisfied, ready to memorize the
revised manuscript of his confession. The manuscript was edited, with corrections scribbled over it in ink as red as blood; his confession seemed to him so weighty that he could not escape the death sentence. He smiled, or it seemed to him that he was smiling. Fedukin had accomplished his secret intention of preparing the final chapter of his honorable biography. Under the cold ashes of these absurd accusations, future investigators would discover the pathos of a life and the consistent ending (despite everything) of a perfect biography.
So the indictment was finally revised on February 27, and the trial for the saboteurs scheduled for the middle of March. At the beginning of May, after a long postponement, there was a sudden and unexpected change in the plans of the investigation. Novsky was brought into Fedukin’s office for the last rehearsal of his memorized confession. Fedukin informed him that the indictment had been altered, and handed him the typewritten text of the new one. Standing between the two guards, Novsky read the text and suddenly began howling, or so it seemed to him. They dragged him again to the “doghouse” and left him there among the well- fed rats. Novsky tried to smash his head against the stone wall of the cell; they put him in a straitjacket and took him to a hospital room. Awaking from the delirium induced by morphine injections, Novsky asked to see the interrogator.
In the meantime, Fedukin, conducting two interroga¬tions simultaneously, succeeded in getting a confession out of a certain Paresyan, who, influenced only by threats (and most likely a drink or two), signed a statement in which he claimed that he personally had delivered the first sum of money to Novsky as early as May 1925, when they were co-workers in the cable factory in Novosibirsk. That money,
Paresyan claimed, was a part of the regular trimonthly sum they received from Berlin as a bribe for the satisfactory arrangements that Novsky, through Paresyan and a man named Titelheim, was setting up for certain foreign firms, primarily German and British. Titelheim, an engineer with a small goatee and glasses, a man of the old school with old-fashioned principles, couldn’t understand why he had to drag into his confession other people whom he didn’t even know, but Fedukin found a way to persuade him: after a long resistance old Titelheim, determined to die honorably, heard terrible screams from the adjoining room, and recog¬nized the voice of his only daughter. Promised that her life would be spared, he agreed to all of Fedukin’s conditions, and signed the statement without even reading it. (Years went by before the truth about the Titelheims came to light: in some transit labor camp the old man found out almost by chance, from a woman prisoner named Ginsburg, that his daughter had been murdered in a prison cell on the very day of his interrogation.)
In the middle of May the confrontation between those two and Novsky took place. It seemed to Novsky that Paresyan reeked of vodka; with a thick tongue he threw at Novsky in bad Russian the fantastic details of their long¬standing collaboration. From Paresyan’s sincere fury, Novsky knew that Fedukin, in his art of squeezing out confessions, had in Paresyan’s case attained that ideal level of cooperation which was the goal of every decent interrogation: Paresyan, thanks to Fedukin’s creative genius, had accepted the prem¬ises as the living reality, more real than a jumble of facts, and had colored those premises with his own remorse and hatred. Titelheim, oblivious, with a gaze turned toward a distant dead world, couldn’t remember the details he had put in the signed statement, and Fedukin had to remind him sternly of the rules of good conduct. TiteLheim slowly re-membered the amount, cited figures, places, and dates. Novsky realized that his last chance for rescue was slipping away, that Fedukin had prepared the most dishonorable of deaths for him: he would die as a thief who, like Judas, had sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver. (Most likely it will remain forever a secret whether this was only a part of Fedukin’s prepared plan to get Novsky to cooperate sin¬cerely, or yet another revision of the indictment brought about by the one who didn’t want to die dishonorably.)
That night, after the confrontation, Novsky again tried to commit suicide and thereby save a part of the legend. The watchful eye and doglike hearing of the guards, however, detected some suspicious sound, probably the sigh of relief that reached them from the dying man’s cell: with his veins slashed, Novsky was taken to the hospital cell, where he stubbornly kept tearing off the bandages, and they had to feed him intravenously. (This was the next step toward the final liquidation of Novsky. )
In the face of such obstinacy, Fedukin gave in and named Novsky (on the basis of the previous indictment) as the leader of the conspiracy. Confronted separately with each member of the alleged sabotage cell (which was being assembled under Fedukin’s supervision), Novsky, staring into space with dead, astigmatic eyes, recognized in some of the frightened strangers those with whom “he had been hatching brave plots to blow up installations that were of vital importance to the military industry.” Along with this he added certain details from the memorized script. Fedukin, who had finally discovered in Novsky a useful and skillful collaborator, left it to Novsky’s own intelligence to smooth out some contradictions and inconsistencies in the complex
script of the indictment. (In this, Novsky used his lifelong experience, acquired in the Czar's prisons and in fights against cautious procurators.)
The quiet course of this collaboration was marred only once, in late May, when Novsky was confronted with a cer¬tain Rabinovich. 1.1. Rabinovich had been Novsky’s spiritual mentor since the early Pavlograd days; he was an expert engineer, who had discovered talent in Novsky and initiated him into the secrets of making explosives. In the course of Novsky’s irregular but no less brilliant studies, the role of Isaac Rabinovich had been manifold: not only had he sup¬plied young Novsky with advice and professional literature, but also on many occasions he had, by his reputation and intervention, come to his rescue, putting up high bail for him, etc. (The fearful results of certain explosions that shook St. Petersburg around 1910 had provoked justified suspicions in old Rabinovich, and for a time had alienated him from his overly talented student.) For the many favors he had obtained from him, Novsky had repaid Rabinovich during the civil war, when he pulled him out of the clutches of zealous Chekists, who saw in Rabinovich a would-be assassin and harbored a profound distrust of him, inspired by his knowledge of explosives. It seems, though, that the bond between Novsky and Rabinovich was primarily one of affection: the old story of the idealized father, and that father’s discovery of his secret dreams in a young man in whom he recognized his own traits. Consequently, Novsky refused to sign the part of the indictment that referred to Rabinovich. (The presence of Rabinovich in the courtroom, however, was of primary importance for the interrogation, because of his profile: heredity, race, environment.) There¬upon Fedukin played his last card: he pulled out of his desk drawer Paresyan’s and Titelheim’s confessions, which in the meantime had been enriched by new details, and by the confessions of three additional participants in what was called "the Great Theft of Public Funds.” All three named Novsky as the ringleader and gave details about his charac¬ter, reducing his revolutionary élan to an unscrupulous lust for money, and his legendary asceticism to a comical mask and to shrewdness. Some documents touched on the early Paris and St. Petersburg days, with clear allusions to the fashionable life of the young revolutionary, who undoubtedly bought his famous hats and red vests with money received from the fat funds of the Okhrana.
Novsky realized that he had no choice. In exchange for a return favor from Fedukin, he signed the confession to the effect that Professor Rabinovich had collaborated with him in the making of explosives. The details concerning the kind of shrapnel and detonator; the destructive power of the gun¬powder, dynamite, kerosene, and TNT; the method of con¬struction, and place where the infernal machines were made, as well as their destructive power under particular conditions —all this Novsky himself dictated into the statement. In exchange, in front of Novsky, Fedukin burned in a big iron stove the compromising document (now useless) about the group of thieves and speculators.
In the middle of April, the trial of the saboteurs, now involving twenty members, was conducted behind closed doors. According to the testimony of a certain Snaserov, Novsky, despite his occasional obJiviousness, spoke with a passion that Snaserov attributed to high fever. “It was his best political speech yet,” he adds, not without malice (clearly alluding to those false rumors that Novsky was a poor speaker: the first premature sign of the destruction of the myth known as Novsky.) Another survivor of this trial, Kaurin, gives him credit, stating that, despite the horrendous torture to which he had been subjected during the many months of his interrogation, he did not lose any of his sharpness, “which overwhelmed us all.” He also says: "Once he was an agile man with quick, lively eyes, and now he drags his feet, he is gaunt, his eyes deep in their sockets, and at times he seems totally absent; he looks like a ghost, but not his own. At least not until he speaks; then again he is more a devil than a man.” It should be pointed out, however, that Novsky’s role in this trial was greatly determined by the trade unions and the émigré press, which insisted that in the framework of this trial lurked hidden provocateurs who had nothing to do with revolutionaries. Therefore Novsky aimed the deadly power of his eloquence in that direction, trying in a fit of honest fury to demolish these arguments of the Mensheviks and the trade unions, which could reduce his biography and his end to that which he feared the most, and against which, all these months, he had fought a bloody battle to the death.
The state prosecutor, V. N. Krichenko, an expert on high treason, asked the highest punishment for the first five men indicted, but, to general astonishment, as Kaurin says, in his closing speech Krichenko did not “drag Novsky through the mud.” (I tend to believe that the role of Novsky in this trial was bought at that price. ) In a way he even gave Novsky credit, since Novsky was able to retain his integrity until the very end, in spite of everything (as proved by his sincere cooperation with the interrogation). Krichenko even called him an “old revolutionary,” stressing the fact that Novsky had always been a fanatic in his ideas and convic¬tions, which in one fatal moment he had placed in the service of the counterrevolution and the international bourgeois conspiracy. Striving to find a scientific explanation for this moral deviation, Krichenko discovered it in the petit-bourgeois background of the accused, and in the destructive influence of his frequent visits to the West, during which he was more interested in literary trivia than in politics. In the Kolyma hospital, where he was lying half blind and sick with scurvy, old Rabinovich told Dr. Taube about the meeting that took place after the trial between himself and Novsky in the anteroom of the court. "Boris Davidovich,” he had said to Novsky, 'Tm afraid that you must be out of your mind. You’ll bury us all with your plea.” Novsky answered him with a strange expression on his face, which seemed to be the shadow of a smile. “Isaac Ilich, you should know the Jewish funeral custom: at the moment when they are ready to take the corpse from the synagogue to the cemetery, one servant of Yahweh bends over the deceased, calls him by name, and says in a loud voice: ‘Know that you are dead!’ ” He paused a moment, then added: “An excellent custom!”
As a sign of gratitude—and probably convinced that he had got out of death the most a living man could— Novsky insisted in his final speech that his crimes fully deserved the death sentence as the only just punishment, that he did not find the decision of the prosecutor too severe, and would not appeal the case to save his life. Since he managed to avoid the noose of the shameful gallows, he considered death before a firing squad a happy and fitting ending; even outside this moral context, he must have felt that some higher justice demanded that he die by steel and lead.
But they did not kill him (it is more difficult, it seems, to choose death than life): the sentence was reduced, and after one year in the shadow of death, he embarked again on the hard road of exile. At the beginning of 1934, under the name Dolsky—the same one he had adopted during his last imprisonment under the Czar—we find him in the recently
colonized Turgay. (One should not try to find in his change of names a message for the future, a sign of defiance and provocation, for Novsky was guided primarily by practical considerations: some of his documents still bore that name.) The same year he received permission from the government to settle in the even more remote Aktyubinsk, where, sur¬rounded by suspicious colonists, he worked on a farm growing sugar beets. In December, his sister was granted permission to visit him, and found him ill: Novsky complained of pains in his kidneys. By this time he had permanent dentures made of stainless steel. (Whether his teeth were broken during the interrogation, as Dr. Taube maintained, is difficult to say.) Novsky refused her suggestion that she try to obtain permissi