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Three Days in “Auschwitz without Gas Chambers”: Henry A. Wallace's Visit to Magadan in 1944

Three Days in “Auschwitz without Gas Chambers”: Henry A. Wallace's Visit to Magadan in 1944
Three Days in “Auschwitz without Gas Chambers”: Henry A. Wallace's Visit to Magadan in 1944

CWIHP e-Dossier No. 34 


In late May 1944, a group of four American officials headed by US Vice President Henry A. Wallace visited the Soviet Far East on the way to China. The group included John N. Hazard, an expert on Soviet law who was deputy director of the Soviet branch of the Lend-Lease Administration, John Carter Vincent,  Counselor to the American Embassy in Chongqing and Owen Lattimore, a well-known China specialist and Mongolian-speaker from the Office of War Information. Hazard spoke Russian and served as a translator during the trip. Colonel Richard T. Kight, the pilot of the Vice President’s plane, and three other American officers accompanied the mission.

The purpose of the mission, initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was to visit the Soviet Union’s Far East and Central Asia as goodwill envoys and then to continue to China for a meeting with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek. The 1942 trip of Wendell Willkie, Republican nominee for President in 1940, which was also a goodwill trip initiated by Roosevelt, went in the opposite direction.[1] Willkie flew to the cities of Kuibyshev (the location of official Soviet agencies and foreign embassies during WWII) and Moscow from the Middle East. In Moscow, on September 23, 1942, he met with Joseph Stalin in the Kremlin and then attended an elaborate banquet.[2]  After that Willkie visited the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, then flew on to China. On the way back to the United States his plane made short stops in Siberia and the Soviet Far East—Chita, Yakutsk, and Seimchan. However Wallace and his fellow-travelers made rather long stops in the Far East, including Seimchan, and Siberia. Perhaps historian Barbara Tuchman was right in suspecting that Roosevelt sent Wallace out of the country on this long trip in order to select another candidate for Vice President for the next election with a minimum of opposition.[3]

Interestingly, Wallace’s trip attracted FBI attention. On May 12, 1944, agent D. M. Ladd reported a conversation between Wallace and Soviet Ambassador Andrei Gromyko regarding Soviet visas to J. Edgar Hoover. Gromyko advised  Wallace “to issue visas to anyone whom Wallace desired to take with him. Wallace stated that in so far as he knew John Carter Vincent, Owen Lattimore and John Hazzard [two “z” in the original] would accompany him. Wallace indicated that they planned to visit China and Siberia.”[4] Ladd provided his boss also with the data “concerning these three individuals . . . obtained from the files of the Bureau.” However, all the pages containing these data were deleted from Wallace’s file, available on the FBI website, and it is unclear if Hoover took any action based on this report. Later, from 1950-52, two of the people mentioned in the report—Vincent and Lattimore—became targets of Senator McCarthy.

In their turn, Soviet officials were suspicious of Wallace. In August 1941, due to his involvement in the effort to provide the Soviet Union with military equipment after the Nazi attack, Konstantin Umansky, Soviet Ambassador to Washington from 1939-41, reported to Moscow: “Wallace . . . strongly despises [Harold L.] Ickes [US Secretary of the Interior], in particular because of his friendly attitude to us and and his progressive thinking.”[5] However, in July 1944, after Wallace’s trip to the Soviet Union and China, Andrei Gromyko, Soviet Ambassador from 1943-46, wrote to Moscow that Wallace was among those politicians who actively supported Roosevelt’s policy of “the continuation of friendly relationships and cooperation with the Soviet Union . . . due to mutual task of both countries, —the utter defeat of Hitler’s Germany.”[6] As for Wallace’s own defeat as a candidate for another term as Vice President at the Democratic Party Congress in 1944, Gromyko informed Moscow that “on the [American] issues, Wallace has set the business circles against himself. He has also set the Southern Democrats representing the influential right wing of the Democratic Party against himself. Their influence in the Congress and in the party apparatus is very high.”[7]

The book that Wallace wrote about the trip, Soviet Asian Mission, published in 1946, triggered a storm of criticism, especially when it became clear he had apparently been completely duped by the Soviets. Both Wallace and Lattimore considered the NKVD organization, Dalstroi (an acronym of a Russian phrase meaning ”Far North Construction Trust”), “a combination TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority] and Hudson’s Bay Company.”[8] Their attitude became especially embarrassing six years later after the memoirs of Swiss citizen Elinor Lipper, a former Kolyma prisoner, which described Wallace’s visit to Magadan from the point of view of a labor camp inmate, were published in English.[9]

Since then, numerous additional Gulag survivor memoirs describing the event have appeared, which make Wallace and Lattimore’s enthusiastic descriptions of Dalstroi even harder to understand. Recently the former Hungarian Dalstroi prisoner George Bien called the Gulag “a giant Auschwitz without ovens.”[10] Similar to Auschwitz, there was a sign extolling work above the gates of one of the Dalstroi camps: “Labor in the USSR is a Matter of Honor, Valor, and Heroism!”[11] But Pavel Galitsky, former political prisoner in Dalstroi, wrote: “In a labor camp a human being turns into an animal.”[12]

Two Russian archival sources that have not previously attracted the attention of American historians, two telegrams from the Head of Dalstroi, Ivan Nikishov, to NKVD Commissar Lavrentii Beria, allow us to see the trip through Soviet eyes.[13] Copies of these telegrams, which were forwarded to Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov, Foreign Affairs Commissar, were filed in Stalin’s so-called NKVD/MVD “Special Folder” which is now kept at the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GA RF) in Moscow.[14] It is interesting to compare Wallace and Lattimore’s descriptions with the details given in the telegrams. 

The Americans began their trip on May 20, 1944, and on May 23, after flying over Alaska with a stop in Nome, the plane landed at Velkal in the Chukotka Peninsula, one of 16 Soviet Union airdromes of the Alsib (Alaska-Siberia) route between Velkal and Krasnoyarsk organized for transporting lend-lease cargos from the United States. The Dalstroi was created in 1931 as a state trust for the development of the Kolyma River area, building roads and settlements necessary for mining gold, tin, and other rare metals including uranium, after Stalin personally launched project at a Politburo meeting.[15] In 1944, its territory covered approximately 10 percent of the total USSR’s territory including the present day Chukotka Autonomous District (okrug), Magadan Province (oblast’), Kamchatka Province, and part of Yakutia, whose official name currently is Sakha Republic.[16]

Dalstroi did not exist on the maps of Stalin’s time. Officially, its territory was part of the Khabarovsk Territory (krai), and only in 1954, after Stalin’s death in 1953, did the main part of this area became Magadan Province. By April 1932, the North-Eastern Camp (Severno-Vostochnyi lager’ or Sevvostlag) of the GULAG (the NKVD Main Directorate of Labor Camps), which could accommodate 25,000 prisoners, was built, and from then on the majority of the work in Dalstroi, including gold mining, was conducted by prisoners.[17]  The remaining workers were free employees (vol’nonaemnye), contractors or released prisoners who were forbidden to leave Dalstroi.

In 1938 Dalstroi was included in the NKVD system and became a unique NKVD enterprise. Its official name was changed to the NKVD Main Construction Directorate in the Far North (Glavnoe upravlenie stroitel’stva Dal’nego SeveraDalstroi’) but it continued to be known simply as Dalstroi. The headquarters of the Dalstroi Main Directorate, located in Magadan (which became a city in 1939), consisted of a number of departments. Dalstroi consisted of many other directorates—the Political Directorate, also located in Magadan, four mining directorates, directorates for the construction of buildings and roads, directorates for marine transportation, river transportation, agriculture and forestry, and even fishing. There was also a department of vehicle transportation and a small air fleet.

The labor camps of Sevvostlag continued to provide Dalstroi with prisoner workers until 1954. Although formally Sevvostlag was part of the GULAG labor camps, in fact the GULAG headquarters in Moscow received only reports from Sevvostlag, while it was operationally controlled by Dalstroi. From 1941 to 1945, State Security Colonel Evel I. Drabkin headed Sevvostlag, and his wife headed the Cultural-Educational Department in the central labor camp Magadan Camp (Maglag). The name Sevvostlag (singular) – as well as the other names of centers of the Gulag Archipelago – is misleading. In fact, each of these “lags” (camps) was a complex structure consisting of a large central camp with prisoners and administrative offices, smaller camps called “otdeleniya” (departments), and a number of subcamps known as “lagpunkty” (camp sections). Additionally, there were groups of prisoners attached to a particular industrial or agriculture enterprise. Before Sevvostlag was disbanded in 1953, it consisted of 26 departments, 168 camp sections, 392 zones where prisoners lived, and 189 industrial enterprises with prisoners.[18] In the 1930s, political prisoners sentenced for “counterrevolutionary crimes”  comprised 50-60 percent of all prisoners. On January 1, 1945, six months after Wallace visited Dalstroi, there were 1,446 political prisoners from a total of 87,335 prisoners in Sevvostlag. During 1944, 6,657 prisoners died in Sevvostlag.

 As Wallace wrote, at the airport in Velkal he “met Major General Ilya Sergeevich Semeonov, commander of the Yakutsk military area extending from Lake Baikal to the Arctic Ocean. . . General Semeonov, a short man with a good-natured face, was very proud of Velkal.”[19] Semyonov was head of Alsib from 1943 till the end of 1944. At first he was in charge of building airdromes and then of the transfer of American and Soviet planes through Alsib.[20]

Wallace described that upon landing in Velkal, “our mission was escorted by three delegate officials: two men from the Soviet Foreign Office, Dmitri Chuvakhin and Gregory Dolbin, and one man from the Soviet secret service, Major Mikhail Cheremisenov. . ., and a few unidentified associates of the major. . . As an escort Chuvakhin was A-1; the fact that he speaks English well was a help.”[21] Chuvakhin was deputy head of the American Department of the Foreign Affairs Commissariat, and was in charge of relations with the U.S.[22]

But Grigorii Dolbin was not a diplomat as Wallace thought, he was a professional intelligence officer and had previously been a rezident (head of a spy group) from 1939-43 in Tokyo using a diplomatic cover—1st Secretary of the Soviet Legation.[23] At the time of Wallace’s trip, Dolbin was in fact head of the 1st Section (Japan) of the 4th Department (Far Eastern countries) of the 1st NKGB Directorate (Foreign Intelligence).[24] It is unclear why Dolbin escorted the American mission; possibly, the NKGB was afraid of potential Japanese spies or saboteurs. He spoke Japanese, but not English, and the Americans, apparently, did not recognize that he was an intelligence officer.[25] Soon after accompanying Wallace, in August 1944, Dolbin visited Washington as a member the Soviet delegation to the Dumbarton-Oaks Conference.[26]

As for Cheremisenov, Wallace also mentioned that “in traveling through Siberia we were accompanied by ‘old soldiers’ with blue tops on their caps. . .They are members of the Nkvd. . . I became very fond of their leader, Major Mikhail Cheremisenov, who had also been with the [Wendell] Wilkie party.”[27] Unfortunately, there is not enough information in Wallace’s description to identify “Major Cheremisenov,” especially since the name could be a pseudonym.

From Velkal, on the same day of their arrival, the Americans and their Soviet escort flew on a Soviet plane to Seimchan, the center of another region of Dalstroi. In Seimchan “an official banquet of welcome was arranged for us. The master of ceremonies was a Georgian, Sergei Arsenevich Goglidze, an intimate friend of Marshal Stalin. He is a president of the Executive Committee of Khabarovsk Territory, under which this Far Eastern area is governed, and he had flown up 1,500 miles from the Amur River region to greet us.”[28] According to Wallace, “Goglidze is a very fine man, very efficient, gentle, and understanding with people.”[29]

Sergei Goglidze headed the NKGB Directorate of the Khabarovsk Territory and was NKGB Plenipotentiary of the Far East; in other words, he was the highest level NKGB representative in the eastern part of Siberia that included Dalstroi.[30] On May 9, 1944 Goglidze had received a cable from NKGB Commissar Vsevolod Merkulov informing him of Wallace’s visit.[31] Goglidze met the Americans with a group of NKGB heads of NKGB Directorates in the Khabarovsk Territory.[32] Possibly, these officers were those whom Wallace mentioned as “a few unidentified associates of the major.”

Goglidze was a close associate of NKVD Commissar Beria, not Stalin. He was among a group of NKVD men whom Beria brought to Moscow in 1938, when Stalin transferred him from Georgia to Moscow. It is important to mention that during the Great Terror, from 1936-38, this “understanding” man, as Wallace called him, headed the NKVD of Georgia, which mercilessly tortured prisoners.[33] Then, until 1941, Goglidze headed the Leningrad NKVD Directorate, where he signed false charges against such prisoners as Academician Nikolai Vavilov, the famous geneticist, and Lev Gumilev, the future outstanding geographer and historian and the son of Russian poetess Anna Akhmatova.

From Seimchan, the Americans and the Soviet group flew to Magadan, the capital of Dalstroi, and on May 24 Wallace “met Ivan Feodorovich Nikishov, a Russian, director of Dalstroi. . . On display in his office were samples of the ore-bearing rocks in this region; gold, lead, coal, tin, molybdenum, and radioactive rare elements are among its mineral resources. Nikishov waxed enthusiastic, and Goglidze commented jestingly: ‘He runs everything around here. With Dalstroi’s resources at his command, he’s a millionaire.’”[34] Nikishov wore civilian clothes all the time with Wallace and the Americans did not know he was a State Security Commissar of the 3rd Rank (the equivalent of a Lieutenant General in the army).

Dalstroi was the main producer of gold and tin in the Soviet Union and used the labor of approximately 40,000 prisoners in 1944. Thomas Sgovio, an American prisoner who was in Dalstroi at the time of American mission’s visit, recalled: “General Nikishov, short, stocky, and extremely vulgar, was the Chief of Dalstroi at the time. There was no one higher than he—and everyone feared his ugly temper. . . No wonder the z/k [prisoners] called him Tsar Nikishov!”[35]

Another former prisoner recalled: “In Kolyma, Nikishov showed his bad temper not only toward prisoners, but also toward free employees without taking into consideration their positions: he deprived them of vacations, the right to leave Magadan, and even put them in the kartser [punishment facility]. If someone . . .  reminded him that he was a free employee, Nikishov responded: ‘Only my wife and myself are free employees in the Kolyma region, everyone else is a prisoner or an individual under investigation.’”[36]

Apparently, like Goglidze, Nikishov was ordered to be ready for the American guests in advance and had time to organize “Potemkin villages.” Sgovio wrote:

The watch-towers standing at the corners of the Magadan camps were removed. The z/k’s [prisoners] were kept inside for three days (the length of the visit). Movies were shown to the inmates. Only a few—those whose services were absolutely necessary—were sent to work. And they were warned of a speedy trial and execution for one false move or word.

When the Vice-President strolled on the Magadan streets and saw shops filled with products and merchandise, he must have said to himself, “What an abundance!” Mr.  Wallace was unaware that the goods had been carted from the warehouses especially for his visit—and that after his departure the shelves would be bare again.[37]

Another witness, then a boy in Magadan, also vividly recalled Wallace’s visit:

I was a student at the Magadan School no. 1. Our family—my mother, elder brother, and I—came to Kolyma in 1935 and lived there after my father was arrested.

The stir in the city was incredible! The most unusual thing was that suddenly the windows of shops were full of Soviet foodstuffs. God knows where this stuff came from because since 1942, everybody in Kolyma ate white bread made of the Canadian flour and bought (only with ration cards) American food—canned meat, sausage meat, lard covered with a layer of dust and pickled peeled tomatoes in rusty cans picked up in 1908. . . And one more detail: suddenly officers of the Magadan Garrison started wearing parade military jackets, caps, and good high boots.

Of course, we knew that the American [Wallace] would visit our school. After Mr. Wallace, accompanied by . . . Nikishov and the manager of the Kolymsnab [Supply] Trust, Major General Korsakov, entered the school, they bumped into, supposedly by accident, our physics teacher, who knew English brilliantly. When the American asked him a question through a translator, he answered the American in his native language. He added that he knows also French and that many teachers in our school knew two-three languages. Then . . . the German language teacher showed up, and the guest talked to him in English. The guest had no way to know that the German teacher was a polyglot-professor  from Leningrad, who had been sentenced and then was forced to live here without the right to leave!

Then everybody moved to the neighboring store, where on this day everything was sold without ration cards! Sir Henry dropped into the luxury items department which previously did not exist at all, and bought a bottle of perfume. At the same time the Magadan inhabitants were buying stuff without cards like crazy.

While the [American] delegation was crossing the city park, suddenly an emaciated calf jumped out of nowhere and barred the way. The director of the park was immediately fired.[38]

On May 29, 1944 Nikishov reported to Beria in a cable Wallace’s stay in Magadan:

May 29, 1944                                                                       Top Secret

From May 24 to 26 inclusive of this year [1944], Vice-President of the USA  [Henry] WALLACE[39], together with three companions and four officers visited the city of Magadan. 

In the city he examined the port, the vehicle repair plant, a 10-year [students from 7 years to 16 years old] school, a canteen, a fur storage, the Soviet pig farm [svinosovkhoz] 23 kilometers outside of the city, and the House of Culture.

On the evening of May 25 of this year, [he] attended a concert in Magadan.

In Low Seimchan, [he] examined the settlement of the South Mining Industrial Directorate, as well as examined a school, a canteen, a children’s boarding house, a Party Cabinet [partkabinet] and watched the movie “Two Soldiers” in the club.

In the Western  Mining Industrial Directorate, [he] examined the Susuman Soviet farm, a section of the Frunze placer mine, and inspected a gold ore processing machine [prompribor] at the “Komsomolets” placer mine. Free employees are working in both mines. At the Frunze placer mine Wallace talked to the workers.

Dalstroi NKVD Nikishov.[40]

In Magadan, Wallace was impressed by the repair plant: “Magadan’s biggest industry, the motor-vehicle repair and assembly plant . . . services a fleet of 1,800 trucks, for the most part Russian-made. The plant has a complete set of machine tools, and is able to make on the spot many spare parts such as we might order from Detroit.”[41] The Vice-President did not realize that the plant was built and operated mostly by prisoners. Wallace was also impressed by the farm that grew vegetables: “In the zone of permafrost at Kolyma, there is farming under glass to raise fresh foods for the miners. Among other things raised are tomatoes, pollinated by imported bees. This enterprise is operated by the Dalstroi.“[42] Wallace continued: “There are hundreds of hotbeds and greenhouses producing tomatoes and cucumbers. Cucumbers seemed to take place in the Russian diet that lettuce does in the American diet.”[43] The truth is that female prisoners worked at the vegetable farm and the vegetables they grew were destined for the NKVD elite, and not for miners, especially not prisoner miners.[44]   

Wallace and his companion Lattimore were also impressed by the pig farm.[45] Lattimore wrote: “We found pigs being successfully bred not far below the Arctic Circle, they were Yorkshire White and were crossed with Ukrainian and Siberian strains to make them hardier, but the climate was so severe that they had to spend most of their lives indoors in immaculately clean piggeries.”[46] And here is what, according to Lipper’s description, was really going on:

[Mr. Wallace] probably did not realize that he had sowed confusion among the prettily dressed swineherd girls at the model farm on the twenty-third kilometer from Magadan by asking them a harmless question about the pigs. These girls were not swine herders at all; they were a group of good-looking office girls who had been ordered to play a part especially for Mr. Wallace’s visit. They took the place of prisoners who actually did take care of the swine. However, the interpreter saved the situation and the visit went off smoothly.[47]

As is clear from the cable, Wallace went from Magadan to the placer gold mines in Susuman, which Wallace called Bereliakh (should be Berelekh; the town of Susuman was built on the Berelekh River shore), controlled by the Western Mining Industrial Directorate located in Susuman, and then back to Seimchan. In the above-cited cable Nikishov wrote that in Susuman Wallace “examined the Susuman Soviet farm, a section of the Frunze placer mine, and inspected a gold ore processing machine [pompribor] at the ‘Komsomolets’ placer mine.” In his memoirs, Wallace described the gold miners in Susuman:

We were flown north along the Kolyma Road to Bereliakh [Susuman], where we saw two placer gold mines. The enterprise displayed here was impressive. Development was much more energetic than at Fairbanks, although conditions were more difficult at Bereliakh. Gold, coal, and lead mining are the explanation of nearly everything in the Kolyma region, where there are now about 300,000 persons in the community. More than 1,000 mines are in operation, it was said. . .

The Kolyma gold miners are big, husky young men, who came out to the Far East from European Russia. I spoke with some of them. They were keen about winning the war.[48]

A photo on page 4 of Wallace’s book demonstrates a group of healthy miners, obviously not prisoners, whom Wallace shakes hands with. A caption under the photo says: “A hesitant handshake with the Russian miners at the Kolyma gold fields of Dalstroi.” Another photo on page 3 shows one of the placer mines, and a caption under it describes how the mining works: “Placer gold mine in Kolyma field where gold is dug up and piled in winter, washed in the summer.”

Wallace could speak to some extent to the miners since he had been studying Russian for two years. Goglidze asked Moscow if he should allow Wallace contact with the locals. Molotov answered: “There are no objections from our [Politburo?] side against Wallace’s public speeches in the locations he will want to give. . . Take the [necessary] measures for providing the proper composition of the audience and for Wallace’s speeches to being given in a proper way.”[49]

Evidently, the meetings with miners were properly staged, and Nikishov reported to Moscow: “Free employees are working in both mines.” Sgovio gives more details in his memoirs:

Of course, there were no z/k there [in the gold fields]. Komsomols [members of the Young Communists Organization] were hastily organized to appear as gold-miners. Clothing and rubber boots were given them for the occasion. The top officials even lent the Komsomols their precious wrist-watches. And after Mr. Wallace left, the clothing, boots, and wrist watches were taken away.[50]

Sgovio knew that area well; he worked there in the Chai-Uriinsk Valley with its 11 labor camps that prisoners called “the Valley of Death.” This name was well justified. Doctor Nina Savoeva, who intentionally volunteered to work in Dalstroi as a free contractor to help prisoners, recalled being at the medical post in that valley: “Almost every day corpses of those who had died in mines of hypothermia were brought to the morgue. Frost-bite was on a mass scale. Every day a small wash-basin was full of frost-bitten fingers and toes that we chopped off.”[51]

Later Nikishov additionally described the events at the Frunze placer mine: “After we had watched the removal of gold from the gold processing ore machine, [Wallace asked:] ‘How much gold is produced per day in the Dalstroi?’ I answered that 3-4 kilograms [are taken] from this machine.” According to the memoirs of former prisoners, gold had not been taken from this machine for two days, and, therefore Wallace saw a three-day take from the machine.

The washed gold was flown out from Dalstroi to the “Materik” [continent], as the rest of the Soviet Union was called in Dalstroi because it could only be reached by sea or air.[52] Twice a week an American-built “Douglas” or Soviet IL-14 took off for Novosibirsk or Khabarovsk with the priceless cargo of 75 boxes containing 25 kilograms of gold per each, guarded by a NKVD officer and four border guard soldiers with machine guns. It was so cold during the flights that usually the crew of military pilots drank diluted alcohol during the whole flight, relying on autopilot to fly the plane.

The observant Wallace noticed the American boots that “the miners” wore:  “We were surprised to find the Kolyma gold miners wearing United States rubber boots, because our lend-lease policy had always denied anything requested for gold mining anywhere in the world, including Soviet Russia. ‘They were bought for cash in the early days of the war,’ Nikishov explained.”[53] Obviously, Wallace bought Nikishov’s lies and did not say anything when he saw American equipment received through the lend-lease program used everywhere in Dalstroi. Wallace wrote about Magadan: “Many lend-lease goods were stored at this port in extensive warehouses, including some Studebaker trucks, under tarpaulins. ‘They will be used on the Kolyma Road,’ said Nikishov. This all-weather 350-mile highway runs north from the port over the mountains to Bereliakh [Berelekh].”[54] These trucks must have been part of the 450 trucks, 40 tractors, and 20 excavators Dalstroi was expecting to receive through lend-lease in 1944 alone.[55] But Nikishov did not say that the Dalstroi highway was built by prisoners and it was used mainly for moving prisoners to distant labor camps in trucks.

Later Sgovio asked a rhetorical question: “Looking back, I often wonder . . . what it would be like [in Dalstroi]—were it not for American Lend-Lease products and equipment . . . Everything around us was American—products, machinery, tools, Studebaker trucks, steam shovels, Diamond bull-dozers, ammonal in fancy wax paper covering, detonators, etc.”[56] Sgovio added that there were rumors among inhabitants of Dalstroi were that “the Americans visited Dalstroi to see for themselves how Lend-Lease products and supplies were being administered.”[57]

Apparently Moscow wanted more information than was provided in Nikishov’s first telegram. Possibly, Goglidze sent more detailed reports and the Soviet leaders wanted to know more about Wallace’s conversations and behavior.[58] In any case, on June 3, Nikishov sent an additional report to Beria, which the latter forwarded to Stalin and Molotov (a complete English translation of this report is given below). The main part of the new cable was about Wallace’s questions regarding gold production, gold mining and the number of workers involved—all top secret issues that Nikishov could not disclose, especially taking into consideration that the gold was mined primarily by prisoners. However, recently published data based on the materials of the former Dalstroi NKVD archive in Magadan and GA RF in Moscow have some answers.  These figures are important because they differ widely from the extremely large previously published numbers which were based on the memoirs of former prisoners.[59]

Nikishov wrote: “A few times [Wallace] asked me how many people are working in the Dalstroi.” Documents in the GA RF indicate that from 1932 to 1956, the time of Dalstroi’s existence, 876,043 prisoners were brought to Dalstroi.[60] Of them, 546,972 were released after the end of their terms; 127,792 prisoners died (approximately 50,000 of them were political prisoners) and 7,877 prisoners escaped. Almost all of the escapees were caught and killed. About 10,000 were executed, mostly in 1937-38. The rest were transferred to labor camps in other regions of the Gulag Archipelago, when Dalstroi was moved from the Interior Affairs Ministry (MVD) to the Ministry of non-ferrous metals in December 1953. As everywhere in the Gulag, the peak of prisoner deaths was at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, in late 1941 and 1942; in Dalstroi, 16,276 prisoners died during 1942.[61]

The number of prisoners and figures for the total Dalstroi population from 1940-44 are given in Table 1. In the mid-1941, a group of prisoners was shipped to Dalstroi from Vladivostok, and the next group did not arrive until mid-1944.[62] About 100,000 prisoners were released during that period, but only 13,000—mostly invalids—were allowed to leave Dalstroi. The rest were forced to stay and continue to work as supposedly free employees. On June 1, 1944, just before the Americans arrived, there were 167,686 workers in Dalstroi; of them, 73,672 were prisoners and 94,014 were free employees.[63]

Table 1. Population of Dalstroi, Sevvostlag and the Number of Workers Involved in Gold Mining in Dalstroi[64]


Workers and/or prisoners

Total number in Dalstroi

(prisoners and free employees)

Prisoners in Sevvostlag (used mostly in Dalstroi)

Engaged in Gold Mining



Free employees































In 1944, 38,700 prisoners and 33,300 free employees worked in gold mining in Dalstroi (Table 1).[65] However, these figures are misleading because at that time almost all free employees in the gold mining industry of Dalstroi were released prisoners who were not allowed to leave Dalstroi.

As for gold, Nikishov reported:  “Stubbornly, over two days, in various versions [Wallace] asked me the same question: “How much  gold is mined in Dalstroi?” As is now known, in 1944 the 37 placer gold mines and 3 standard mines of Dalstroi produced 70.5 tons of gold (Table 2). This amount was a little bit higher than in 1943 and much lower than in 1941 and 1942 (the highest amount, 80 tons, was produced in 1940). Nikishov lied when he told Wallace that in 1944 Dalstroi produced “7-8 percent more [gold] than in 1942.” The decrease in gold production was the main reason why Nikishov was eventually fired in 1948.

Table 2. Number of Gold Placer Mines, Standard Mines and Gold Production in Dalstroi, 1941-1944[66]


Placer Mines, number

Standard Mines, number

Gold, tons





















In April 1944, not long before the arrival of the Americans, new working hours were introduced for the gold extracting period of the year (during the winter-spring period the gold-containing deposits were mined).[67] The 9-hour working day of free employees was changed to a 10-hour working day, and the 10-hour working day of prisoners was changed to an 11-hour day, and from May on, all workers were required to work 7 days a week instead of 6. The time spent transporting prisoners to and from camps was not included in these hours, and therefore the working day for prisoners was about 14 hours.

According to Nikishov Wallace stated: “I hope that after the war Dalstroi will be developed even more, and this will strengthen the friendship between the USA and Soviet Union.” In his book, the Vice-President commented on his conversation with Nikishov about gold:  “Ivan Nikishov had tremendous faith in the future of gold and thought Soviet Russia must have lots of it. The major powers—the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R., and Great Britain—by supporting the gold standard as the foundation for world currency, have stimulated gold production everywhere, down in South Africa, up in Alaska, and in Siberia.”[68]

Culture in Magadan was also interesting to Wallace. Nikishov reported to Moscow:

“On the evening of [May] 25, in the city of Magadan WALLACE and his companions and four officers, in the presence of Com.[rade] GOGLIDZE . . . visited the Magadan House of Culture, [where they] examined an exhibition of fine arts and inventions. [Wallace] wrote in the visitor book: ‘This is an outstanding expression of a strong people who were the pioneers of this region. Henry WALLACE.’ . . .

After examining the fine arts exhibition, WALLACE liked two paintings [in fact, these were embroideries], [and] he wanted to buy them. After consulting with Com.[rade] GOGLIDZE, we decided to give them to him as a gift. WALLACE took the paintings with gratitude.”

Wallace also described the exhibition and embroideries:

The wife of Nikishov, a plump woman of about forty,. . . we first met in Magadan at an extraordinary exhibit of embroideries, copies of famous Russian landscapes. The landscapes were made by a group of local women who gathered regularly during the severe winter to study needlework, an art in which Russian peasants have long excelled. As we walked along, Ivan [Nikishov] stopped before two of the paintings I admired very much. The work was in colored threads. He took them down and handed them to me as a gift. These two wall pictures now convey to visitors at my home in Washington rich impressions of the beauty in Russia’s rural landscape.

“Who did them?” I asked Ivan Nikishov. . .

We learned from the exhibit director who that sewing woman was. She was “one of the art teachers,” Ivan’s wife.[69]

In fact, Nikisov’s wife, Lieutenant Aleksandra Gridasova was not “an art teacher,” but an NKVD officer. From 1943 to 1948 she headed the Magadan Camp (Maglag)—the central labor camp of the Sevvostlag camp system. In 1939, the 24-year-old Gridasova came to Dalstroi and started to work in the camp administration. After meeting her, Nikishov fell in love. He sent away his first wife and children and married Gridasova. A former Dalstroi prisoner, Varlam Shalamov, described Gridasova: “A romantic Komsomol [Communist Youth] member who soon turned into a wild animal. She sent [prisoners] to exile, organized new cases [against prisoners], gave new terms, and became the center of intrigues comparable to the despicable tricks of criminals in labor camps.”[70] The opinion of Elinor Lipper was not better: “A primitive, crude, avaricious creature, . . . she functioned as a harsh commander of the Magadan women’s camp.”[71] There was an expression among Sevvostlag prisoners: “What a lieutenant general [Nikishov] cannot do, a lieutenant [Gridasova] will do.”[72] In other words, sometimes Gridasova had more power over prisoners’ lives than her husband.

There was a handicraft section within Maglag where women-prisoners made embroideries and other items. It was headed by a highly educated artist (who was also a linguist), Vera Shukhaeva, the wife of the prisoner Vasilii Shukhaev, a renowned painter.[73] In 1921, the Shukhaev couple moved to Paris, where Vasilii opened his own studio and became well-known painter, and Vera became a dress designer and also opened a studio. In 1935, the couple returned to Moscow, and in 1938, both were arrested and sentenced to eight years in labor camp. They were sent separately to Dalstroi, where they met again in 1939. This was a bureaucratic mistake, because, according to NKVD rules, it was strictly forbidden to send a convicted husband and wife to the same region where they could potentially meet. From 1939 until 1947, Shukhaev worked as a painter and decorator at the Magadan theater (until 1945, as prisoner, then as an employee without the right to leave Dalstroi).[74]

One of the workers who made embroideries was Ida Ziskina, a singer who also was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment; later she married Leonid Varpakhovsky, a former Moscow theater director who directed the theater in Magadan with a troop of actors-prisoners.[75] Another embroiderer, the wife of a White Russian General, was very skillful in making embroidery copies of paintings of the late nineteenth century Russian painter Viktor Vasnetsov, who painted in the romantic Russian folklorist style.[76] The NKVD Dalstroi officials liked her embroideries very much and, of course, received them for free. There were also imprisoned women from the west Ukraine (the area taken by the Soviet Union in 1939), and even imprisoned nuns.[77]

According to an archival photo of one of the two embroideries that Nikishov presented to Wallace, it was a typical production of the Maglag handicraft section—a copy of a nineteenth century painting by Isaak Levitan.[78] However, a caption under the photo says: “Russian landscape painting in embroidery, done with colored threads by Mrs. Ivan Nikishov of Magadan, northeast Siberia. Gift painting, one of two, now in [Wallace’s] Washington home.” Therefore, Wallace really believed that Gridasova had created this embroidery.

In December 1945, NKVD Commissar Beria received an anonymous report from some official of Dalstroi denouncing Gridasova and Nikishov. The author focused attention mainly on the sex escapades of Gridasova:

Former Dalstroi worker M. KRAINII . . . was fired because he lived with GRIDASOVA. She asked him to make her pregnant in order to bind NIKISHOV more tightly to her [i.e., pretending that it is his baby]. On board the lend-lease ships that arrive from America, NIKISHOV and GRIDASOVA organize heavy drinking parties, after which they are [not able to walk and are] pulled into cars in front of the eyes of all port workers.

GRIDASOVA organized a bordello in the apartment of Party member MARKOVA. She used to go there with her lovers and gave a key to other persons.[79]

But the most interesting is a note that concerns Wallace’s visit and art items:

Before WALACE’s [sic] arrival in Magadan many valuable handicraft articles for apartments and paintings were made. Later GRIDASOVA took home all this stuff. During each trip to Moscow GRIDASOVA takes with her half of a plane of valuable items: embroideries, paintings, items made of ivory and so on. All these items are made in handicraft shops. . . GRIDASOVA is not ashamed to say that she needs to give gifts everywhere.[80]

The Magadan theater with its prisoner actors was the main object of Gridasova’s patronage.  This theater, known as the Maxim Gorky Musical-Dramatic Theater, was created in September 1941 on Nikishov’s order from the previous theater and entertainment groups that existed in Dalstroi. Nikishov wrote that on the evening of May 25, 1944 the Americans were very impressed by the performance in this theater: “Everybody attended a concert. WALLACE was pleased with the performance.  WALLACE’s companions and officers who accompanied him were especially impressed by the concert.”

The Vice President noted in his book:

An evening entertainment by local talent concluded our two-day stay at Magadan—a ballet by the Poltava Troupe, evacuated to this place from the Ukraine, and music by a strictly local professional orchestra. The wind-up was a concert by a nonprofessional Red Army choir of service men stationed in the town. I don’t think I have ever seen anything better put on by the talent of a single city.[81]

It’s true that in 1943 a troupe of the Ukrainian theater, at first evacuated in 1941 to the town of Molotov (currently, Perm), was brought to Magadan.[82] But the Magadan ballet star Nina Gamilton, a former Bolshoi Theater ballerina in Moscow, was a prisoner. Another dancer, Irina Mukhina, was also a prisoner and also trained in Moscow. The “strictly local professional orchestra” consisted of musician-prisoners. The conductor, Konan Novogrudsky, a professional cellist of Jewish-German background, was also a prisoner.[83] There was almost no Red Army servicemen in Magadan and the choir that Wallace praised consisted of prisoners. Thomas Sgovio recalled:

I knew a certain z/k [prisoner], Mojhai in Ust-Nera, a member of the prisoner Cult[ural]-Brigade. Before his arrest he had been an opera-singer in Leningrad. During Mr. Wallace’s visit, Mojhai was a prisoner-performer in the Magadan Gorky Theatre. Here is his story, as he told me:

“They organized a choir in a hurry. All the soloists had to sing in a choir. . . We rehearsed all night. Before we sang our opening number, we had to salute the visitors with, OKAY—AMERICA—SOVIET UNION! .. . in English. . . Each of us had to sign an oath. . . and a warning . . . to comport ourselves as Soviet patriots in the presence of the visitors. . . There were two singers who knew English. . . they were shipped out. . . After the performance they [guards] loaded us into trucks —and back to camp.”[84]

Owen Lattimore was so impressed by Nikishov and Gridasova’s supposed understanding of art, that he wrote: “Both [Nikishov] and his wife have a trained and sensitive interest in art and music.”[85] It is hard to say how Lattimore could state that Nikishov, who had attended only a four-year village school, was trained in arts. Here is the former prisoner actress Ida Varpakhovskaya’s description of Nikishov’s understanding of painting:

Portraits of the leader [Stalin] were painted [by imprisoned painters] for each [Soviet] holiday. . . [Vasilii Shukhaev, a painter] made a copy of the half-length portrait by, possibly, [Aleksandr] Gerasimov [an official painter of Stalin’s time]. Nikishov, the master of the province, who personally approved the work, was outraged: “How did you dare to paint Iosif Vissasrionovich with a dirty color?” 

“This is not dirt, it is a shade.  Here is light from the side,” [said Shukhaev].

“What is a shade?” [screamed Nikishov]. . .

Vasilii Ivanovich was sent from a barrack directly to a kartser [punishment facility]. [Leonid] Wegener [another professional painter-prisoner] was also sent to the kartser. [At the time] he was painting another portrait of Stalin.

Shukhaev asked him: “Why were you punished?”

“I don’t know,” —Wegener said.—“Possibly, to keep you company.”[86]

As for the level of Gridasova’s sophistication, it is enough to mention that, as Varpakhovskaya recalled, “one day [Gridasova] sent an order to L.V.[Leonid Viktorovoch Varpakhovsky, Ida’s husband and the theater director in Magadan] to include a ‘stanza of Doreadot’ in the concert program.”[87] Gridasova meant the “Toreador Song” from Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”

Wallace describes another art discussion with his Russian hosts:

[A] remarkable dinner party [Nikishov] had given us when we first arrived [in Seimchan]. On the wall of the dining room, facing the banquet table, there was a huge framed portrait of Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill, seated together as they were photographed at Teheran. The painting had been done by a local artist, who copied the scene from a  news photo released after the close of that historic Big Three conference in 1943. The artist, we were told, had been in a quandary about how to paint Roosevelt’s footwear, first showing him wearing brown boots. In his final effort, he had given Roosevelt a sturdy pair of black Amerikanski  shoes, an item of dress highly prized in Russia.[88]

In a photo of Wallace with the painting, the painting appears to be quite professional.[89] Of course, the painter was a prisoner—most probably Shukhaev, the famous portraitist, or Wegenerov or Isaak Sherman (who studied painting in Paris).[90] In 2007, Shukhaev’s portrait of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlov was sold in London at a Christie’s auction for $1,806,352.[91]

The Americans were also impressed by the propaganda materials they saw. Lattimore wrote: “In the factories also we found among the numerous war slogans, posters, and cartoons, many of which cordially named the United States and Great Britain as allies. Within twenty-four hours of the landings in Normandy, factories were carrying banners and long scrolls announcing the Second Front.”[92] He even included a photo of one of the hand-made propaganda posters in his article. Again, Wallace and his fellow-travelers did not understand that all these works were painted by imprisoned artists and certainly were not aware that one of them was the American Thomas Sgovio.

Wallace described some general impressions during the second stay in Seimchan: “We looked over the town of Seimchan. . . The infants in the town’s nursery were like toddlers everywhere. In the Party Cabinet, or headquarters, the atmosphere was emphatically Soviet; on the walls were portraits of Lenin, Stalin, and other Soviet leaders. [93] We got a touch of the real Russian fighting spirit watching a film about the siege of Leningrad.”[94] No doubt the Americans did not grasp the importance of this iconic film, which was like the “Casablanca” of Russia—a story of friendship of two soldiers, one a Jewish worker from Odessa and another a Russian smith from a town in the Ural Mountains—in trenches near Leningrad during the Siege of Leningrad. The movie was made in 1943 and two songs from the movie, “The Dark Night” and “Boats full of mullets Kostya used to bring to Odessa,” became legendary and are still popular in Russia. 

Were Wallace, Lattimore and the other Americans aware that they were in part of the GULAG? From Nikishov’s second cable it looks like they were to a certain extent: “In my opinion, WALLACE and his fellow-travelers were interested in . . . seeing a prisoner camp, but since they did not see a camp anywhere, or even a single prisoner, they were disappointed in this question.”

There was a strange incident in Magadan, when Wallace managed to leave all his entourage and rushed to a hill “which looked as if it would afford a fine view of the town and harbor, was barred by the . . . wicket fence, in which a few palings were in need of repair. . . Scrambling through the fence, I began climbing the fairly steep hillside. Then I heard shouting behind me. . . John Hazard [an American translator] was gesturing and calling me to turn back. Besides him was the ever-present Major Cheremisenov. . . Hazard to this day maintains that the major was calling: ‘. . . Dinner is ready.’ But I feel sure he was saying: ‘Come down, at once.’”[95] It is unclear if Wallace felt that he had entered the territory of one of the labor camps.

According to Robert Newman, the author of the book Owen Lattimoreand the “Loss” of China, in 1982 Lattimore told him that Hazard knew about the camps: “During the McCarthy years Lattimore asked Hazard if there had been any prison stockades visible near Magadan. Hazard replied: ‘Oh, yes, there were plenty of those, and when I asked the Russians what they were, they replied perfectly frankly that they were the stockades of prison camps.’”[96] It remains a mystery why Hazard, supposedly, did not say anything to Wallace and Lattimore and how they did not see what Hazard saw.

In 1987, forty-three years after the trip, 78-year-old Hazard published a revised and expanded version of his own memoirs, where he gives a confusing picture of what he witnessed in Magadan. At the time, Wallace was dead for 22 years (he died in 1965), while Lattimore died two years later, in 1989. Hazard writes:

The [Wallace] party was taken to the gold fields, where Lend-Lease shovels were evident. The huge Bucyrus Erie machines were not supposed to be put to work on gold, but there they were, within the barbed wire enclosures of the prison camps. Lined up beside them were men who were portrayed as prisoners, dressed in their blue jeans.[97]

The phrase “beside them were men who were portrayed as prisoners, dressed in their blue jeans” is very unclear. Does he mean that these men he saw were playing the part of prisoners? Nikishov had clear orders from Moscow to conceal the existence of prisoners, and, as already mentioned, he reported to Moscow: “WALLACE and his fellow-travelers were interested in . . . seeing a prisoner camp, but since they did not see a camp anywhere, or even a single prisoner, they were disappointed.” In any case, Hazard does not claim in the book that Wallace knew about prisoners. The fact that the Wallace group asked to see a prisoner camp indicates that they had at least some suspicious they were located in this area, but clearly the point was not pressed.

In addition, Hazard’s statement that the men were dressed in “blue jeans” cannot be true, since denim was not known in the Soviet Union until the 1980s. Hazard’s description reminds one more of American chain-gang prisoners, than Soviet miners. At any rate, on the above-mentioned photos of Wallace with miners, taken in Dalstroi in 1944, the workers do not wear blue jeans.

Hazard’s next sentences, in which he weirdly switches to referring to himself in the third person, are even more misleading:

During the intermission [in the Magadan theater], the [American] group paraded around the foyer in typical Soviet style, finding themselves among well-dressed women and officers. Hazard asked the commander how they happened to have so many of the intelligentsia at such a remote place. His reply was simply, “We ought to have some very good people, for these are exiles from Leningrad.” There was no effort to conceal the fact that Magadan was a place of exile beyond any possibility of escape through the forest of Siberia. Exiles were not only the poor fellows condemned to work in the gold fields, or on the docks, but the intelligentsia who had their usual jobs as office staff, teachers, musicians, artists, shop clerks, being free to move about but limited to the confines of the city.[98]

This paragraph illustrates Hazard’s misunderstanding of what an “exile” in the Soviet Union was at that time. Most probably, the commander (Nikishov?) wanted Hazard to believe these people were “exiles” (ssyl’nye) in the Czarist sense. As was well known then, for instance, from official biographies of the Bolshevik leaders, in Czarizt Russia courts and governors commonly sent revolutionaries out of big cities to provincial places or even to distant locations in Siberia.

According to the Russian Criminal Code of Stalin’s time, the word “exiles” refer to the relatives of traitors of the Motherland. If a person was charged with treason, tried and executed, his closest relatives were arrested, tried and convicted to imprisonment in a labor camp or to exile, mostly to distant parts of Siberia.[99] The law particularly mentioned that the exiles should be sent “to remote locales of Siberia for 5 years” but Dalstroi was not considered part of Siberia. “Spetsposelentsy“ or “special settlers”—the victims of mass deportations organized following Politburo decisions that covered a particular social group of people such as the “kulaks,” or a whole nation like the Chechens during WWII, were also not sent to Dalstroi.

However, in 1948, four years after Wallace’s trip, all former political prisoners—the survivors of labor camps and prisons—no matter of where they lived, were arrested again and a new type of “exiles” came into being.[100] Only then did Dalstroi became one of three regions (as well as Krasnoyarsk Krai and Kazakhstan)—where these newly convicted former political prisoners were sent. Although not living in a camp, they were not allowed to leave their assigned area or take any “ideological” work, such as teaching. Therefore, the “exiles” the commander referred to were not exiles but political prisoners, either living in camps or living in on their own after their official release without the right to leave Dalstroi.

On May 27, 1944 the American guests left Dalstroi. Nikishov reported to Moscow in his second cable: “On the morning of [May] 27, at the airdrome of Low Seichan, before the departure by plane for Yakutsk, while saying goodbye, W-ce [Wallace] shook my hand and thanked me for everything I had shown him in Dalstroi.”

During the next almost four weeks the Wallace group visited about 20 other Soviet cites—from Yakutsk to Alma-Ata—by air, car, train, and river boat. Goglidze and Dolbin continued to escort the Americans until the Americans left Alma-Ata for China and Mongolia. Wallace and his companions never realized that other high-level NKVD/NKGB functionaries played the Nikishov role during these portions of the  trip. In his book Wallace mentioned one of them as “the president in Novo-Sibirsk . . . a Russian, L. A. Malinin,” who represented “the Novo-Sibirsk oblast Executive Committee.”[101] In fact, from May 1943 to October 1944, Leonid Malinin, a professional security services man like Goglidze, headed the Regional NKGB Directorate of the Novosibirsk District.[102]

Another NKVD man, Amayak Kobulov, who was introduced as “Vice-President of the Uzbek Soviet Republic,” escorted the Americans from Semipalatinsk to Alma-Ata.[103] In reality Kobulov was one of Beria’s close associates whom Beria brought with him to Moscow in 1938, and from July 1941 to January 1945, Kobulov was NKVD Commissar of the Uzbek Republic.[104] W. Averell Harriman, US Ambassador to the Soviet Union who came to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to meet with Wallace, was also misinformed regarding Kobulov’s NKVD position and reported to Washington: “One of the Vice Presidents is a Georgian.”[105]

In the middle of the trip, on June 17, 1944, Wallace sent a letter to Stalin through Harriman who was returning to Moscow. Wallace enthusiastically praised the Soviet government and made an unrealistic prediction about the future:

The policy of the Government of the USSR which has made . . . progress and . . . achievements possible is clear evidence of the most outstanding and gifted political leadership. . .

May our two great nations working in close harmony make their contribution to the cause of the prosperity of the whole world by the same abundant production in peacetime as was achieved by them during the war.[106]

The letter was published in the press ten days later, on June 27.

As in Dalstroi, while flying over and then travelling through the Karaganda area, the Americans seemed not to be aware of the labor camps in that area. All industry and agriculture was developed and maintained in this huge area of Kazakhstan by prisoners and people sent to exile. In 1944, the Karaganda group of camps (Karlag) included 16 agricultural sections, industrial factories, the Balkhash branch with its copper mines and smelting plant and the Karaganda Separate Camp, among other camps.[107] Prisoners worked in all of these. On January 1, 1944 the population of Karlag was 50,080 prisoners, and of them, 20,572 were women. These large camps should have been clearly visible from the air.

However, Wallace did make note of the American equipment in use in this area. In the Fyodor Open-Pit Coal Mine in Karaganda Wallace and his companions saw an American excavator: “It was a Bucyrus Erie electrical shovel, one of three at work here, and had been shipped in under lend-lease from the United States.”[108] In Balkhash, where 3,500 prisoners worked at the Copper Producing Plant, Wallace also saw American equipment: “We saw in operation at the mine electric shovels, and also lend-lease core drills.”[109] It is hard to understand how someone who was so observant about equipment could have been so unobservant about the human conditions in these areas.

The lack of awareness continued in the city of Komsomolsk on the Amur River in Khabarovsk Territory. Wallace, Lattimore, and Hazard all accepted the Soviet story that this city with its huge metallurgic plant was built in the 1930s by enthusiastic young Komsomol volunteers. This is still a myth promoted by the current Russian officials. In fact, the city and its industry, as well as all railroads in that vast area were built by prisoners of the enormous Nizhne-Amursk Correction-Labor Camp (Nizhamurlag).[110] In 1944, when the Americans visited the city, there were 33,746 prisoners in Nizhamurlag.  As in Dalstroi, there were rumors about Wallace’s visit among prisoners in Komsomolsk.[111]

On July 4, the Wallace group left Ulan-Bator, the capital of Mongolia, on an American plane and made a stop in Chita, on Soviet territory. Again Goglidze greeted the Americans there. Wallace recalled: “I had a long talk with Sergei Goglidze. He was curious about the Chinese situation.”[112] No doubt Goglidze reported this conversation to Moscow in detail.

The next day, while flying over the area of Seimchan, Wallace “sent a radio message through the clouds to Ivan Nikishov, Dalstroi’s director, who had been waiting to say good-by at Seimchan.”[113] Nikishov immediately sent his last cable about Wallace to Beria in Moscow:

July 5, 1944                                                                       Top Secret

On July 5 of this year at 19 p.m. WALLACE, while flying over Low Seimchan, sent me the following cable from the plane: “Magadan, to Nikishov. Accept my warmest regards! I regret that I cannot be in Low Seimchan. Wallace.”[114]

As with the two previous telegrams from Nikishov, Beria forwarded this one to Stalin and Molotov.

The above-mentioned anonymous letter about Nikishov and Gridasova’s inappropriate behavior arrived in Moscow in December 1945, and in January 1946, the Central Committee of the Party sent a special commission to Dalstroi to check the facts mentioned in the report. On March 4, 1946 Politburo member Georgii Malenkov received the commission’s conclusions: “It was established that [Nikishov] is under the great influence of his wife who compromises him by her behavior. The events described in the anonymous letter, in fact, mostly took place.”[115] There were also conclusions regarding Gridasova: “[Her] influence [on Nikishov] is so extensive that even Nikishov’s deputies complain that they can work at their positions only as long as her attitude to them is favorable. . . Gridasova is extremely unstable in moral terms and her behavior compromises C.[omrade] Nikishov as head of Dalstroi. It would be expedient to point out to C.[omrade]Nikishov the defects [in his work] and especially the improper behavior of his wife.”  On December 24, 1948, Nikishov was dismissed.

The rest of their lives Nikishov and Gridasova lived in Moscow. The former “Tzar” used to play dominos with the other pensioners, while the “Tzarina” worked as a laundress and often borrowed money from her former Kolyma acquaintances.[116]

Goglidze and Kobulov were more unfortunate. Goglidze was arrested in July 1953, after Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 and Beria’s arrest in June 1953. He was tried together with Beria and some other Beria men, and on December 23, 1953, they were sentenced to death and executed. Like Beria, Amayak Kobulov was arrested in June 1953, sentenced to death and executed on February 26, 1955.

In 1952, Wallace publically admitted that in 1944 the Soviet officials completely deceived him: “I had not the slightest idea when I visited Magadan that this . . . was also the center for administering the labor of both criminals and those suspected of political disloyalty. . . I can see after reading accounts by former slave laborers who escaped from Siberia that I was altogether too much impressed by the show put on by high Russian officials.”[117] Lattimore never made a similar statement and stubbornly refused to accept that Nikishov was a tyrant.[118]

In 2004, David Douglas Wallace, grandson of Henry Wallace, visited Magadan and other towns of the Kolyma region. He told journalist about Magadan: “I liked the city and the people I met there. . .  I liked the way they are overcoming the trauma of their past. The people I came to know in Magadan were all very kind and hospitable.”[119]


Dr. Vadim Birstein, a biologist and historian, is the author of over 150 research papers and several history and science books. His first history book, The Perversion of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2001), details the control of Soviet science by the KGB. His second history book, SMESRSH, Stalin's Secret Service: Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII was published in London in January, 2012. SMERSH, an almost unknown, but very important Soviet secret service, and its immediate predecessors, exercised an absolute and brutal control over the Red Army, employing huge numbers of secret informers and arresting hundreds of thousands of servicemen and officers. At the same time, SMERSH carried out a largely successful counterintelligence operation against German and Japanese intelligence, and played a crucial role in the Sovietization of Eastern Europe, the Nuremberg trial and the search for Hitler's body.                


Source: State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), Fond R-9401, Opis 2, Delo 65, List 191-193.

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C.[omrade] Stalin                                                                         Top Secret

C.[omrade] Molotov                                                                       Copy No. 3

June 6, 1944

No. 536/b [Beria]

TELEGRAM No. 16022

June 6, 1944

From M A G A D A N

                                To: PEOPLE’s COMMISSAR of INTERNAL AFFAIRS Comrade BERIA

In addition to my cable on WALLACE’s visit to the city of Magadan and industrial cites of the Dalstroi, I report to you: During the whole period of three days and nights of his visit, WALLACE was interested mostly in the following questions [issues]:

1. During our first meeting [he] asked me if I consider it expedient to have a railroad in the territories of Chukotka and Kolyma or if it’s better to use aviation. I answered that if the demand for cargo transportation and movement of people is high, aviation is not enough, and the main role will have to be carried out by railroad transportation or by trucks. It is expedient to use aviation over long distances, when it is not necessary to build a [highway] road. 

2. A few times [he] asked me how many people are working in Dalstroi.

3. [He asked me] if I consider it is necessary to mine gold during the war and if the gold will be [available] after the war. I answered that if this question applies to the gold mining in Dalstroi, that in Dalstroi the gold mining is not the primary work. The main activities in Dalstroi are: building of airdromes and roads, geological reconnaissance, fishing, operation of the Kolyma River transportation, and running the Nagaev Trade Port. The Dalstroi receives orders on gold mining from the government [in Moscow], and if the government  gives an order to mine gold, therefore, gold is needed. As for [the question] if there is a necessity for gold after the war, I think that gold will keep its importance and role for a long time and there is a need for it during the war,  as well after the war not only in the USSR, but also in all countries.  

4. Stubbornly, over two days, in various versions [Wallace] asked me the same question: “How much gold is mined in Dalsroi?” For the first time the question was posed at the Kolyma [River] in the Frunze placer mine after we had watched the removal of gold from the gold processing ore machine. [The question was:] “How much gold is produced per day in Dalstroi?” I answered that 3-4 kilograms [are taken] from this machine. After the trip to the Chai-Uriinsk Valley [he] asked me a question: “How many gold ore processing machines are there in Dalstroi?” I answered: “There are 50-60 machines in this valley.” The next question was: “How much gold was produced by Dalstroi in 1943?” I answered: “Since the chemical gold refining is not carried out in the Dalstroi but it is done at the refining plant in Moscow, I don’t have these data.” After this the next question followed: “So, but approximately how much?” I answered to this: “7-8 percent more than in 1942.” There were no other questions.

Finally, at the hotel of the airport in Seimchan, during a conversation with me and Com.[rade] GOGLIDZE, in the presence of his fellow-travelers and our comrades, [Wallace] said the following: “We heard about Dalsroi in America and knew that it is a big trust. Here, after having visited the territory of the trust Dalstroi, we made certain of this and we need to state that there are no trusts in America that involve so many various types of work and I think that Dalstroi will give more gold to the state than any other enterprise of your country.” I and Com.[rade] GOGLIDZE did not answer to this [statement].

The next question, that, in my opinion, WALLACE and his fellow-travelers were interested in, was seeing a prisoner camp, but since they did not see a camp anywhere, or even a single prisoner, they were disappointed in this question.

In the morning of [May] 27, at the airdrome of Low Seichan, before the departure by plane for Yakutsk, while saying goodbye, W-ce [Wallace] shook my hand and thanked me for everything I had shown him in Dalstroi. [He said he] liked everything he had seen, as well as [he] thanked me for the warm welcome of himself and his fellow-travelers. He repeated again that “we in America know of Dalstroi, we heard a lot about it, but what I’ve seen personally exceeds all our concepts about Dalstroi.”

To this I answered that in the Soviet Union such a big and powerful industrial organization as Dalstroi is not the only one.

To this WALLACE said the following: “I hope that after the war Dalstroi will be developed even more, and this will strengthen the friendship between the USA and Soviet Union.”

On the evening of [May] 25, in the city of Magadan WALLACE and his companions and four officers, in the presence of Com.[rade] GOGLIDZE, a representative of NKID [Soviet Foreign Affairs Commissariat],  head of the Special Airway General [Il’ya] SEMENOV, [and] Colonel [Il’ya] MAZURUK [a Soviet pilot] visited the Magadan House of Culture, [where they] examined an exhibition of fine arts and inventions. [Wallace] wrote in the visitor book: “This is an outstanding expression of a strong people who were the pioneers of this region. Henry WALLACE.”

After examining the House of Culture, everybody attended a concert. WALLACE was pleased with the performance.  WALLACE’s companions and officers who accompanied him were especially impressed by the concert.

While examining the fine arts exhibition, WALLACE liked two paintings, [and] he wanted to buy them. After consulting with Com.[rade] GOGLIDZE, we decided to give them to him as a gift. WALLACE took the paintings with gratitude.

There were no other additional special occasions during WALLACE’s visit to Magadan and the Dalstroi industrial sites.

No. 3525

June 3 [1944]                                                                                                                     N i k i s h o v

Correct: [a handwritten signature]


[1] Steve Neal, Dark Horse: A Biography of Wendell Willkie (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1989), 244-59.

[2]Na prieme u Stalina. Tetradi (zhurnaly) zapisei lits, prinyatykh I. V. Stalinym (1924-1953 gg.). Spravochnik [Stalin’s Appointments: Registers (Journals) of Visitors of I. V. Stalin’s Office, 1924-1953. Reference Book], ed. by A. V. Korotkov, A. D. Chernov, and A. A. Chernobaev (Moscow: Novyi khronograf, 2008), 385 (in Russian). This meeting with Stalin and the dinner given for Willkie are described in the memoirs by Stalin’s translator Valentin Berezhkov— V. M. Berezhkov, Stranitsy diplomaticheskoi istorii [Pages of Diplomatic History] (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 1987), 138-9 (in Russian).

[3] Barbara W. Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945 (New York: Grove Press, 1985), 465. 

[4] D. M. Ladd to J. Edgar Hoover, May 12, 1944. Henry A. Wallace FBI File, Part 1 of 2, A Wallace

[5] A cable of K. A. Umansky to the USSR Foreign Affairs Commissariat, dated August 19, 1941. Document no. 94 in Dokumenty vneshnei politiki. 22 iyunya 1941—1 yanvarya 1942 [Documents of Foreign Policy: June 22, 1941—January 1, 1942] (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2000), 242-4 (in Russian).

[6] A letter of A. A. Gromyko to the USSR Foreign Affairs Commissar, V. M. Molotov, dated July 14, 1944. Document no. 244 in Sovetsko-amerikanskie otnosheniya. 1939-1945 [Soviet-American Relationships: 1939-1945] (Moscow: Materik, 2004), 539-55 (in Russian).

[7] A letter of A. A. Gromyko to V. M. Molotov, dated July 24, 1944. Document no. 246 in ibid., 559-61.

[8] Henry A. Wallace with the collaboration of Andrew J. Steiger, Soviet Asia Mission (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock Publishers, 1946), 33-34; p. 657 in Owen Lattimore, “New Road to Asia,” The National Geographic Magazine, 86, no. 6 (1944): 641-76.

[9] Elinor Lipper, 11 Years in Soviet Prison Camps (Chicago: Regnery Publishing, Inc.. 1951), 111-6, 266-9.

[10] For more on George Zoltan Bien, in Joe Holley, “George Bien, Gulag survivor,” Washington Post, June 20, 2005,

[11] Thomas Sgovio, Dear America! Why I Turned Against Communism (Kenmore, NY: Partners’ Press, Inc., 1979), 143. Sgovio (1916-1997), son of an Italian-American communist, moved to Moscow in 1935 where his father lived at the time. The father was arrested in 1937 and the family tried to return to the US. In 1938, the NKVD arrested Thomas after he visited the American Embassy in Moscow. He was sentenced by the NKVD Special Board (OSO) to 5 years in the labor camp as a “SOE” (“especially dangerous element”). Released from the Kolyma camps in 1946, he was arrested again in 1948 and sent to exile in the Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia. Released in 1954, the family (his father had already died) managed to move to Italy in 1960, and, finally, in 1964, the Sgovios returned to the US. According to Sgovio, at least two more American prisoners were in Dalstroi during Wallace’s visit: an engineer named Eisenstein and John Ass, the son of a Finnish-American communist who had moved to the Soviet Union (pp. 137, 161-2, 232, 239).  In addition, two Americans, Alex Shopyk and Marvin M., died in Dalstroi during the war (p. 195).

[12] “Pavel Galitsky. Svidetel’stvo o rozhdenii syna [Pavel Galitsky: My son’s birth certificate],” Novaya Gazeta. Pravda Gulaga, February 27, 2012 (in Russian),

[13] I. F. Nikishov (1894-1958) joined the OGPU, NKVD’s predecessor, in 1925 and until 1937 served mainly in Azerbaijan. From 1937-38, he was head of the Border Guards and NKVD Troops of the Leningrad NKVD Directorate, and from 1938-39, head of the NKVD Directorate of the Khabarovsk Territory, then head of the NKVD Main Directorate for Construction in the Far East. Finally, from 1939-48, he served as NKVD Plenipotentiary at Dalstroi. From 1939-45, he was State Security Commissar of the 3rd Rank, promoted to Lieutenant General in 1945. He was dismissed in December 1948. Biography in N. V. Petrov and K. V. Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD 1934-1941. Spravochnik [Those Who Administrated the NKVD, 1934-1941: Reference Book] (Moscow: Zven’ya, 1999), 317-8 (in Russian).

[14]Arkhiv noveishei istorii Rossii. Tom I. “Osobaya Papka” I. V. Stalina. Iz materialov Sekretariata NKVD-MVD SSSR 1944-1953 gg. Katalog dokumentov [Archive of the Recent History of Russia. Vol. 1. “The Special Folder” of I. V. Stalin: From the Materials of the USSR NKVD/MVD Secretariat, 1944-1953. Catalogue of Documents], ed. by V. A. Kozlov and S. V. Mironenko (Moscow: Blagovest, 1994), 30, 31, and 36 (in Russian).

[15] Politburo decision P68/32 on October 10, 1931. Politburo TsK RKP(b)-VKP(b). Povestki dnya zasedanii [Politburo TsK RKP(b)-VKP(b). Agendas of Meetings]. Tom 2. 1930-1939. Katalog [Catalogue], edited by G. M. Adibekov (Moscow: Rosspen, 2001), 229 (in Russian). The OGPU (NKVD’s predecessor) Chairman Genrikh Yagoda was put in charge of Dalstroi.

[16] See a detailed description of the history and structure of Dalstroi in A. I. Kokurin and Yu. N. Morukov, Stalinskie stroiki GULAGa 1930-1953 [Stalin’s Construction Sites of the GULAG] (Moscow: Materik, 2005), 368-419 (in Russian). 

[17] Sergei Sigachev, “Severo-Vostochnyii ITL [North-Eastern Labor Camp],” pp. 382-5 in Sistema ispravitel’no-trudovykh lagerei v SSSR 1938-1960. Spravochnik [The System of Correction-Labor Camps in the USSR, 1923-1960: Reference Book] (Moscow: Zven’ya, 1998), ed. By M. B. Smirnov (in Russian).

[18] In 1953 there were 145,700 prisoners and 17,821 guards in Sevvostlag. See “Severo-vostochnyi ispravitel’no-trudovoi lager’ (Sevvostlag) (K 80-letiyu organizatsii) [North-Eastern Correction-Labor Camp (Sevvostlag) (To the 80th-anniversary of Its organization)]” (in Russian),

[19] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 31.

[20] See Il’ya Sergeevich Semyonov (1904-1971) (in Russian),

[21] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 118.

[22] Biography of D. M. Chuvakhin (1903-1997) in Diplomaticheskii slovar’ [Diplomatic Dictionary], ed. by P. P. Sevostianova and S. L. Tikhvinsky, Vol. 3 (Moscow: Nauka, 1986), 579-80 (in Russian). 

[23] Biography of G. G. Dolbin (1914-1984) in Klim Degtyarev and Aleksandr Kolpakidi, Vnetshnyaya razvedka SSSR [Foreign Intelligaence of the USSR] (Moscow: Eksmo, 2009), 426-7 (in Russian).

[24] On April 19, 1943, the Internal Affairs Commissariat or NKVD was divided into the State Security Commissariat or NKGB that included two important directorates, foreign intelligence and counterintelligence (and some others), and the NKVD, which consisted mostly of directorates that managed slave labor: GULAG, Dalstroi, GULZhDS (Main Directorate of Labor Camps for Railroad Construction), etc. V. N. Merkulov was appointed NKGB Commissar, L.P. Beria continued to be NKVD Commissar. Details in Vadim J. Birstein, SMERSH, Stalin’s Secret Weapon: Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII (London: Biteback/Dialogue, 2012), 178-80.

[25] Despite the fact that Dolbin did not know English, later, from 1946-48 he was a rezident in Washington. One wonders how effective an agent he was because after a year in Washington he could only read newspaper articles with a dictionary. See Aleksandr Vassiliev, in Vladimir Abarinov, “Delo zhizni senatora McCarthy [Life Affair of Senator McCarthy],” Radio Svoboda, February 9, 2010 (in Russian),

[26] Berezhkov, Stranitsy diplomaticheskoi istorii, 437.

[27] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 84.

[28] Ibid., 32.

[29] Ibid., 82.

[30] Biography of S. A. Goglidze (1901-1953) in Petrov and Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD 1934-1941, 148-9.

[31] V. N. Merkulov (1895-1953) was NKGB Commissar from April 1943 to May 1946. Like Goglidze, Merkulov was a close associate of Beria, whom Beria brought to Moscow in 1938. He was sentenced to death and executed on December 23, 1953 along with Beria. See biography of Merkulov in Petrov and Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD, 296-7.

[32] Vladimir Nechiporok, “Na kontsessii proiskhodit pochti neprikrytaya bor’ba dvukh razvedok" [Almost an open fight is going on at the concession], Pogranichnik Severo-Vostoka, no. 44, November 3, 2010 (in Russian), http://www.svrpu.psv/4064/170.shtml. The article mentions A. G. Kozhevnikov (1901-1975), head of the NKGB Directorate of the Kamchatka Province; his biography see in: N. V. Petrov, Kto rukovodil organomi Gosbezopasnosti 1941-1954. Spravochnik [Those Who Managed the State Security Organs, 1941-1954: Reference-Book] (Moscow: Zveni’ya, 2010), 469-70 (in Russian). Others directorates were the Amur Province NKGB Directorate (I. M. Veselov, head), Low-Amur Province NKGB Directorate (Ya. A. Shapovalov, head), and the Sakhalin Province NKGB Directorate (V. Z. Portnoi, head) (Ibid., 90 and 96-97). It is unknown if these three heads came with Goglidze.

[33] See details about interrogations in the NKVD in Tbilisi (Georgia) during the Great Terror in S. O. Gazaryan, “Eto ne dolzhno povtorit’sya: Dokumental’naya povest’ [This must not be repeated: A documentary story],” Literaturnaya Armenia, no. 6 (1988) : 2-53; no. 7 (1988): 2-49; no. 9 (1988); 2-41 (in Russian),

[34] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 33.

[35] Sgovio, Dear America!, 250.

[36] Ivan Pavlov, Poteryannye pokoleniya. Chast’ 2 [Lost Generations. Part 2] (in Russian),

[37] Sgovio, Dear America!, 250.

[38] Kanif Khakimov, “Potemkinsjie derevni stroili i v Magadane" [Potemkin’s villages were built also in Magadan], Trud, no. 078, May 4, 2005 (in Russian).

[39] In the documents of Soviet secret services last names were usually written in capital letters.

[40] GA RF. Fond R-9401. Opis’ 2. Delo 65. List 166, published as Document no. 123 in Kokurin and Morukov, Stalinskie stroiki GULAGa, 464. However, the publication does not give the original addressee and no. of the cable.

[41] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 34.

[42] Ibid., 94.

[43] Ibid., 222.

[44] See the memoirs by German communist Trude Richter for a description of the camp for women-prisoners who worked at the farm in that area cited in A. Kozlov, “Kolymskaya odisseya nemetskoi kommunistki" [The Kolyma  “Odyssey” of a German woman-communist] (in Russian),

[45] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 222.

[46] Lattimore, “New Road to Asia,” 646.

[47] Lipper, 11 Years, 268.

[48] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 34-35.

[49] Cited in Nechiporyuk, “Na kontsessii.”

[50] Sgovio, Dear America!, 251.

[51] Nina Savoeva, Ya vybrala Kolymu [Kolyma Was My Choice] (Magadan: MAOBTI, 1996), 14 (in Russian),

[52] An interview with former State Security Lieutenant Yurii Gallat, head of a section in the Dalstroi Operational NKVD Department (in Russian) in 1945,

[53] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 35-36.

[54] Ibid., 34.

[55] Kokurin and Morukov, “Dobycha zolota na Kolyme,” 380.

[56] Sgovio, Dear America!, 244.

[57] Ibid., 250.

[58] In the above-cited article “Na kontsessii” Nechiporyuk mentioned that he based his article on NKGB reports and orders from Moscow, copies of which are, apparently, kept in the local archive of the North-Eastern Border Guards FSB Directorate in the city of Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka.  

[59] According to archival medical reports, during the 27 years of the existence of the GULAG system (1930-57), a total of approximately 1,738,000 prisoners died in labor camps and prisons. Nikita Petrov, Istoriya imperii GULAG [History of the GULAG Empire]. Chapter 13 (in Russian),

[60] Cited in Aleksandr Kozlov, “Dalstroi. V period ‘massovogo bezumiya’" [Dalstroi: During the period of ‘mass madness’], 2009 (in Russian),

[61] Petrov, Istoriya imperii GULAG. Chapter 13.

[62] On the ships that transported prisoners see Martin J. Bollinger, Stalin's Slave Ships: Kolyma, the Gulag Fleet, and the Role of the West (New York: Praeger, 2003).

[63] Aleksandr Kozlov, “Dalstroi i ego orden. Nagrada tresta i ego rabotnikov" [Dalstroi and its decoration: The award of the trust and its workers], 2007 (in Russian),

[64] Data from V. G. Zelyak, Pyat’ metallov Dalstroya: Istoriya gornodobyvayushchei promyshlennosti Severo-Vostoka Rossii v 30-50-kh godakh XX v. [Five Metals of Dalstroi: History of Mining Industry of the North-East of Russia in the 1930s-50s] (Magadan: Kordis, 2004) (in Russian),; For the number of prisoners in Sevvostlag see Sergei Sigachev, “Severo-Vostochnyii ITL” [North-Eastern Labor Camp], pp. 382-5 in Sistema ispravitel’no-trudovykh lagerei v SSSR 1938-1960. Spravochnik[The System of Correction-Labor Camps in the USSR, 1923-1960: Reference Book] (Moscow: Zven’ya, 1998), ed. By M. B. Smirnov (in Russian).

[65] In total, on July 1, 1944, there were 780,625 prisoners in all labor camps and prisons of the USSR. Nikita Petrov, Istoriya imperii GULAG [History of the GULAG Empire]. Chapter 11 (in Russian),

[66] Data from V. G. Zelyak, “Gornodobyvayushchaya promyshlennost’ Dalstroya v 1932-1941 gg.: Dinamika razvitiya zolotodobych v 1932-1940 gg.” [Dalstroi mining industry from 1932-1941: Dynamics of the gold mining development of from 1932-1940] (in Russian),; V. G. Zelyak, “Zoloto  dlya pobedy: Gornodobyvayushchaya promyshlennost’ Dalstroya v gody voiny” [Gold for the Victory: Dalstroi mining industry in the years of the Great Patriotic War], Rossiya i ATR, no. 2 (2010): 56-62 (in Russian). The author used materials at the State Archive of the Magadan Region.

[67] From V. G. Zelyak, “Zoloto  dlya pobedy: Gornodobyvayushchaya promyshlennost’ Dalstroya v gody voiny" [Gold for the Victory: Dalstroi mining industry in the years of the Great Patriotic War], Rossiya i ATR, no. 2 (2010): 56-62 (in Russian).

[68] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 35.

[69] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 127-8.

[70] Varlam Shalamov, “Ivan Fyodorovich,” in Kolymskie rasskazy [Kolyma Tales] (Moscow: Khudozestvennaya literatura, 1998) (in Russian), This tale was not translated into English.

[71] Lipper, 11 years, 111.

[72] Yevgenii Prygov, Ostrova vospominanii [Islands of Memories]. Gridasova Aleksandra Romanovna (in Russian),

[73] Biographies of V. I. Shukhaev (1887-1973) and V. F. Shukhaeva (1896-1979) at and

[74] In 1947, the Shukhaev couple left Magadan for Tbilisi (Georgia), where Shukhaev became Professor at the Georgian Academy of Art. He died in 1973, and his wife died in 1979.

[75] I. Varpakhovskaya, “Iz vospominanii kolymskoi Traviaty [From the Memoirs of Kolyma’s Traviata]” (in Russian), I. S. Ziskind (Varpakhovskaya (1911-1999), a singer, lived in Harbin and in 1936, along with her family and other members of Harbin’s Russian community, came to the Soviet Union. In 1937,  her husband was arrested, sentenced to death and executed. Ida was also arrested as a family member of a traitor of the Motherland and sentenced to eight years in the labor camp. From 1943, in Dalstroi, she worked at the theater in Magadan. In 1945, she was released. She married Leonid Varpakhovsky in 1947 left Magadan with her husband and daughter in 1953. She lived and worked in Tbilisi (Georgia), and from 1956 on, in Moscow. In 1987 she emigrated to Canada with her daughter and her family, where she died in 1999. See her biography at (in Russian).

[76] Yevgenii Prygov, Ostrova vospominanii [Islands of Memories]. Novaya rabota [New Job] (in Russian),

[77] Lipper, 11 Years, 113.

[78] Photo of the embroidery available online in the Papers of Henry A. Wallace, University of Iowa Libraries,,1879

[79] An anonymous letter addressed to L. P. Beria and Head of the Personnel Department of Communist Party’s Central Committee, dated December 1945 (GA RF. Fond R-9401. Opis’ 1. Delo 4932. List 515-518). Published in Nikita Petrov, “Piry rabovladeltsev na nevol’nich’ikh rudnikak" [Feasts of slave owners at prisoner mining fields], Novaya Gazeta. Pravda Gulaga, November 23, 2011 (in Russian),

[80] Ibid.

[81] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 36.

[82] “Magadanskomu teatru – 70 let" [The 70th anniversary of the Magadan Theater], Vechernii Magadan, October 27, 2011  (in Russian),  

[83] Varpakhovskaya, “Iz Vospominanii.” Before the theater orchestra in Magadan, Novogrudsky directed an orchestra in the subcamp for invalids called “The 23th kilometer” (from Magadan). His job was a full-time conductor, while the other musicians played after their main work. Details of his biography are unknown. See L. L. Khurges. Moskva-Ispaniya-Kolyma. Iz zhizni radista i zeka [Moscow-Spain-Kolyma: From Life of a Radio Operator and Prisoner] (in Russian),

[84] Ibid., 251.

[85] Lattimore, “New Road to Asia,” 657.

[86] Varpakhovskaya, “Iz vospominanii.” L. V. Wegener (1908-1991), a professional painter and theater decorator, was arrested in 1938 and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment in the labor camp. From 1938, in Dalstroi. From 1943 to the end of 1940s, worked as an artist-prisoner in the Magadan theater. Continued this work after the release. In 1955, returned to Moscow and worked in Moscow theaters together with former fellow-prisoner Varpakhovsky. See

[87] Varpakhovskaya, “Iz vospominanii.” L. V. Varpakhovsky (1908-1976) was a successful theater director and playwright. In 1931, he graduated from the literature department of Moscow University. From 1933-35, he worked in the theater of the famous director Vsevolod Meyerhold. In 1935, Varprkhovsly was arrested for the first time and sentenced to exile in Kazakhstan. In 1937, he was sentenced for the second time for “counterrevolutionary agitation” to 10 years in a labor camp; he was sent to Bamlag (Khabarovsk Province), then, in 1940, to Dalstroi. From 1943 on, Varpakhovsky worked as a theater director in Magadan at first as a prisoner, and from 1947 on, as a free employee. In 1947, he was arrested for the third time, but acquitted. On the whole, Varpakhovsky staged 23 plays in Magadan. From 1953-55, he worked in a theater in Tbilisi (Georgia), and from 1956 to 1973,  Varpakhovsky worked in Moscow theaters. In 1995, a Russian theater named after Varpakhovsky opened in Montreal. See his biography at (in Russian). Ida Ziskind-Varpakhovskaya was his second wife, whom he married in 1947 in Magadan; his first wife,  Ada Melikovskaya, a pianist, was arrested and executed in 1938.

[88] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 174-5.

[89]  Papers of Henry A. Wallace, University of Iowa Libraries,,1923

[90] I. Ya. Sherman (1911-1951) was born in Riga (Latvia), and from 1930 to 1932, studied painting in Paris. In 1933, he moved to Moscow, where worked as a painter and decorator. Arrested in 1936, sentenced for espionage and ‘anti-Soviet agitation” to 10 years in the labor camp, sent to Dalstroi. Worked in Magadan in the theater and as a book illustrator, in the publishing house Soviet Kolyma. In 1946, married Marina Okrugina, also a prisoner. Released in 1947 and continued to work at the Magadan theater until death in 1951. His wife died in 2007. See

[91] Vasilii Ivanovich Shukhaev, "Portrait of Madame Pavlova," Sale 7507, Lot 80,

[92] Lattimore, “New Road to Asia,” 657.

[93] See a photo of these headquarters on p. 2 in Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission.

[94] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 32-33.

[96] Lattimore’s letter to R. Newman, dated January 11, 1982. In Robert P. Newman, Owen Lattimore and the “Loss’ of China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992),

[97] John N. Hazard, Recollections of a Pioneering Sovietologist (New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1987), 89.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Article 58-1c (1”v” in Russian) of the Russian Federation Criminal Code stated: “In the event of flight on foot or by aircraft across the border by a servicemen, adult members of his family, if they assisted in any way in the preparation for or commision of the treason or if they even knew about it but failed to report it to the authorities, arte punished by: [1] loss of freedom for a period of from 5 to 10 years with confiscation of all property; [2] the remaining adult members of the traitor’s family residing with him or supported by him at the time the crime is committed will be subject to loss of franchise and exile to remote locales of Siberia for 5 years.” See Apendix 11, p. 542 in Jacques Rossi, The Gulag Handbook: An Encyclopedia Dictionary of Soviet Penitentiary Institutions and Terms Related to the Forced Labor Camps, translated from the Russian by William A. Burhans (New York: Paragon House, 1989). On June 24, 1942, Stalin intensified punishment of the family members of all traitors, military and civilian, in a top secret GKO Oder No. 1926ss; see Birstein, SMERSH, Stalin’s Secret Weapon, 130-1.

[100] Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council, dated February 21, 1948. Document no. 55 in Lubyanka. Stalin i MGB SSSR, mart 1946-mart 1953 [Lubyanka: Stalin and MGB of the USSR, March 1946-March 1953], eds. V. N. Khaustov, V. P, Naumov, and N. S. Plotnikova (Moscow: Materik, 2007), 168 (in Russian).

[101] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 110 and 147.

[102] Biography of L. A. Malinin (1907-1982) in Petrov and Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD, 282-3.

[103] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 108.

[104] Biography of A. Z. Kobulov (1906-1955) in Petrov and Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD, 233-4.

[105] Harriman’s cable to Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, dated June 23, 1944. Document 22442 in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1944. Vol. IV (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1944), 970.

[106] Harriman’s cable to Washington, dated June 27, 1944. Document 2305 in ibid., 972-3.

[107] S. Dil’manov, “Karagandinskii ispravitel’no-trudovoi lager’ NKVD-MVD: Istoricheskii ekskurs" [Karaganda Correction-Labor Camp of the NKVD/MVD: Historical Excursus] (in Russian),; S. Krivenko, “Karagandinskii ITL" (Karlag) (in Russian), pp. 285-6 in Sistema ispravitel’no-tyrudovykh lagerei

[108] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 86.

[109] Ibid., 90.

[110] D. Shkapov, “Nizhne-Amurskii ITL” (in Russian), pp. 332-5 in ibid.

[111] Mentioned by A. A. Grigorov (1904-1989), a former prisoner of one of Nizhamurlag camps. See “Vospominaniya Aleksandra Aleksndrovicha Grigorova" [Memoirs by Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Grigirov] (in Russian), Grigorov’s camp was in charge of building a secret railroad between Komsomolsk and the town of Soviet Harbor on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk (the so-called NKVD Construction Site no. 500), necessary for the future war with Japan. According to Grigorov, all construction equipment and food were received from the US as part of the lend-lease program.

[112] Wallace, Soviet Asia Mission, 172.

[113] Ibid., 174.

[114] GA RF. Fond R-9401. Opis’ 2. Delo 65. List 302. Published as Document no. 125 in Stalinskie stroiki, 466.

[115] Cited in Petrov, “Piry rabovladeltsev.”

[116] Nikolai Dobrotovsky, “Bukval’no zolotoi khrustal" [Literally golden crystal] (in Russian),

[117] Henry A. Wallace, “”Where I was Wrong,” This Week Magazine, September 7, 1952. Cited in John C. Culver and John Hyde, American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), 339.

[118] Owen Lattimore, “Letter to the Editor,” New Statesman, October 11, 1968, p. 461.

[119] Cited in “Former US Vice President grandson ends tour of Russian Far East,” RIANovosti, June 12, 2004,

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Vadim J. Birstein

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