Propaganda Trains

Iakov Okunev, A New Way for Culture Propaganda. 1919


Producing newspapers was one thing, but to get them to readers in the provinces and behind enemy lines in the Civil War was another. Of the Bolsheviks most brilliant strategies was to devote rail stock to “agitational trains” (agitpoezda), which carried orators, journalists, a printing press, and copies of the central newspapers, visiting villages and distributing Bolshevik reading to citizens otherwise cut off from the central media.

Lenin’s train–that is what the peasants and workers call the train; it now carries the name of Lenin and recently returned to Moscow after a trip around the western part of the Soviet Republic.

This train consists of 15 cars, decorated with paintings in bright colors, with forceful and unmistakably revolutionary inscriptions. It contains a moving picture apparatus and screen, a bookshop, and a branch of the telegraph bureau, which posted the latest news at every station and sent out bulletins with the latest telegrams. On this train were representatives of almost all of the People’s Commissariats, and a staff of agitators.

The train has been in constant service for about two months. It has traveled through the governments of Pskov and Vitebsk, Lettonia, White Russia, Lithuania, and has extended its trips to Kharkov. It has made 25 long stops and covered 3590 versts. Everywhere it passed, tens of thousands of leaflets and revolutionary pamphlets were handed out, socialist and revolutionary literature distributed, with books of all kinds, meetings arranged, lectures held, while propaganda instructed and animated the masses. The Commissariat representatives who accompanied the train visited the soviet institutions and informed themselves as to the work of the local organizations, offering suggestions and aid. Around this special train, workers and peasants assembled and “flying meetings” took place. The speeches were made from the roofs of the cars, and revolutionary leaflets and pamphlets were scattered from the bookshop like snowflakes.

During its trip the train circulated books, papers, and pamphlets worth more than a half-million roubles, distributed free more than 150,000 proclamations and leaflets, posted more than 15,000 posters, and supplied 556 organizations with various publications. About 90,000 workers, peasants, and soldiers from the Red Army attended the lectures, meetings, and conferences; about sixty lectures were organized on all sorts of burning questions.

The local organization was informed by telegraph of the arrival of the train, and met it at the station. Sometimes the reception was very ceremonious. At Ryezhitsa, where the train arrived at night, workers and soldiers of the Red Army met it with banners, music, and torches. At the little station of Malinovka, the peasants from the adjoining villages had gathered, and their selected speaker made an address, concerning the train which carried the light of the class-conscious revolution to all comers of Russia.

It is impossible to give in a short article an account of all the work which this train accomplished on its two months’ trip. Besides its agitation and the circulation of papers and pamphlets, the members of the Communist party who accompanied the train brought about improvements in the local organizations, listening to wishes and complaints of the residents and investigating the latter.

At the present time, five more trains of this kind are being organized, also boats for a similar purpose on the Volga and its tributaries, and motor trucks which will make it possible to reach places where neither railroads nor waterways are available. Agitators will penetrate the most hidden nooks of Soviet Russia, there to sow the hold fire of Revolution, to spread leaflets and pamphlets, and to waken the great masses of the peasants and the poor. Within a short time a train called “The October Revolution” will be sent to middle Russia and the regions around the Don.

Two other trains, “Communist” and “Red Army,” are almost ready to be sent out on their errand. The whole of Soviet Russia will soon be covered with a living net of similar trains and boats. Thanks to them, the center will come in contact with the farthest regions of the republic. It can listen to their wishes and answer their questions.

Source: Soviet Russia. Vol. II, No. 7 (February 14, 1920), p. 154.

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