Postal Telegram No. 2886-a

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To Comrades Chicherin, Lenin, Karakhan, Krestinsky, Radek and Kamenev

News has just come in that our forces have taken Kiev. As they left, the Poles blew up the aqueduct, the power-station and the Cathedral of St Vladimir.[1] Such senseless and base acts of destruction did not happen even in the imperialist war. The Germans destroyed Rheims Cathedral because it was being used for military purposes[2], but the destruction of a monument of art just for the sake of destruction – that did not happen even during the imperialist slaughter.

The destruction of the aqueduct dooms between 600 and 700,000 people to frightful epidemics. The destruction of the city’s power station creates very great distress for the population, while serving no military purpose. Thus, what this means is that the maximum harm has been done to those very people whom Pilsudski and Petlyura were going to liberate from us. An extensive agitation must therefore be developed without delay.

The Moscow Committee must forthwith send out into the streets agitators who will relate these facts at corners and crossroads, and call for vengeance on the Polish gentry. Brief appeals to this effect must be issued forthwith, to be distributed in the streets and posted on walls.

Rosta [‘Rosta’ was the Soviet news agency which later became ‘Tass’. – BP] must set its apparatus to work, informing the provinces by wireless and calling for demonstrations of protest and anger there.

In all our agitation we must fasten direct responsibility upon Britain and France for the outrages committed at Kiev and Borisov. The Cathedral of St Vladimir, the power station and the aqueduct were blown up with French dynamite and British guncotton, by the hands of French [sic] incendiaries. Everything said by Lloyd George to Krasin must be looked at in the light of the explosions in Kiev and the conflagration at Borisov.

We shall appeal to the representatives of the British, French, Italian and other workers present on our territory, we shall appeal to the proletariat of the whole world, with a call for ruthless vengeance on the ruling classes who are arming the Warsaw scoundrels for their crimes, which are unprecedented in history.

In our agitation, besides the themes already mentioned, this point must be stressed: in reply, we shall smash the Polish gentry, we shall wipe the landlord and capitalist barbarians from the face of the earth, but we shall not revenge ourselves on the working people of Poland, with whom we seek to form a fraternal alliance. We shall not destroy monuments of art and technical installations like aqueducts, electrical equipment and so on. On the contrary, to the free and fraternal Polish people, when they have thrown off the yoke of the bourgeoisie and the gentry, we shall render whatever help we can for restoring their destroyed technical apparatus.

June 29, 1920

  1. The Poles denied that they committed these acts of vandalism, claiming that the only deliberate damage they carried out during their evacuation was blowing up the bridges over the Dnieper, for strictly military reasons. The Vladimir Cathedral is still on the itinerary for tourists visiting Kiev. A note in Trotsky’s Works (in Russian), Vol.XVII, Book 2, p.620, states that the report of the blowing-up of the Vladimir Cathedral turned out to be incorrect’. – B.P.
  2. The Germans alleged that the tower of Rheims Cathedral was being used for spotting by the French artillery, but the Archbishop denied this. – B.P.