A Newspaper on Trial

Hearing of the Petrograd Revolutionary Tribunal. April 18, 1918


Original Source: Novaia zhizn’, No. 71, 19 April 1918, p

The Revolutionary Tribunal considered the case of the newspaper Petrogradskoe Ekho, which had been closed and brought before the Tribunal for violating the order of the Extraordinary Commission to Fight Counter-Revolution … prohibiting the publication of news relating to the activities of the Commission not released under the signature of one of the members of the presidium of the Commission …

The incriminatory article of the Petrogradskoe Ekho stated that Zekin, a commissar of the Extraordinary Commission to Fight Counter Revolution … came to search the premises of Balson, a merchant. Unable to find any stock of shoes … he took thirty-seven thousand rubles and several thousand Finnish marks. Balson was arrested and brought to the Commission… . The article further states that Zekin–the Commissar–takes advantage of his position, makes searches, and arrests for personal gain.

Only one witness, a newspaper reporter, appeared at the court. He gave the Tribunal interesting information relating to the activities of the Commissar Zekin, and of the Extraordinary Commission. It transpired that they were looking for stocks of shoes at Balson’s place and that the search warrant stated that Balson’s arrest would depend on the results of the search. Zekin found no stocks of shoes at Balson’s, but took the money and twelve dozen [decks] of playing-cards. Balson was arrested … but on the following day was set free by Uritskii. When Balson came again to recover the confiscated money he was received not by Uritskii but by Zoff …. Zoff inquired from Balson who set him free. Balson replied that Uritskii did that. Zoff then said: “This does not satisfy me, I shall arrest you again for the simple reason that you have money … while my hands are calloused… .” Balson was taken to jail, where he was kept about a week and then released. The thirty-seven thousand rubles he received back, but the Finnish marks and the playing-cards disappeared… .

Uritskii came to the defense of Zekin. He charged Petrogradskoe Ekho with spreading false information about Zekin. While it is true that Zekin was placed under arrest, this was done not for abuses during arrests but because Zekin and two other commissars drank some wine which they confiscated … instead of bringing that wine to the Commission as is the custom.

{The Tribunal dismissed the case.}

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 579-580.

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