Reports from Moscow to the effect that collectivization of the colonies and farms in the Soviet Union will not be carried out by military force, found full support in the new head of the Russian Trading Corporation in the United States, P. A. Bogdanov, who recently came to New York to take over his new post. The chairman of the board of the Amtorg Trading Corporation declared in an exclusive interview granted the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that, “The collectivization of Soviet farms is not being pushed by knocking the peasants over the head with a stick. The collectivization of farms is carried out in accordance with the economic conditions of various sections. For instance, collective farms cannot at present be introduced in the outlying culturally backward districts. This can be done later when ever the most backward peasants will see the results of collective farms and will then realize the advantages of them.
“The same attitude applies also to the collectivization of the Jewish colonies,” Mr. Bogdanov further stated. “Although the new Jewish colonies were mostly built on the collective principle right at the start, we have to be careful and not rush the collectivization of those Jewish colonists where the majority of the colonists are opposed to that new form.”
Discussing the widespread reports of religious persecution and closing of churches in Soviet Russia, Mr. Bogdanov said:
“All these reports are terribly exaggerated. The Soviet government does not persecute those observing religion, and the stories which were published recently in the American press that 70,000 churches were closed by the Soviet government are ridiculous. There are not that many churches in Russia. Only seven percent of all the churches, synagogues and mosques were converted for other purposes since the revolution. And this is being done only in places where the churches are not being used for religious purposes.”
Mr. Bogdanov expressed great surprise over the agitation against Soviet Russia which now prevails among the Jews in America, whose attitude, he said, is more hostile than that of the non-Jewish Americans.
“They should know how much the Soviet government tries to improve the situation of the Jews in Russia,” Mr. Bogdanov stated. “Surely it cannot be denied that the Jews in Russia are now being treated better than ever before.
“The story about the execution of eighteen rabbis in Minsk, which caused such a great uproar here, proved to be a myth. First, it must be stated that only a few of them were rabbis, and then they not only were not executed, but all except three were released as soon as it was established that they were not engaged in anti-Soviet activities. I want to make it as clear as possible that we don’t persecute in Soviet Russia for religious activities, and if several rabbis were arrested, this was probably done for some reason other than religious. All reports to the contrary which were spread abroad are not true.
“The Jews ought also to remember that the Soviet government was the first and only one that granted the Jews in Russia full political rights, making them equal to all other Soviet citizens, and that our government is the only one which successfully combats anti-Semitism and pogroms in Russia.”
The Soviet representative in American termed as highly exaggerated the reports of the economic plights of the Jews in Russia.
“It may be true,” he said, “that a number of Jewish merchants suffered because of the new economic system in Soviet Russia. But the Jews in America should not forget the great efforts which the Soviet government is making with the aim of improving the economic situation of the Russian declassed Jews.
“Since 1924,” Mr. Bogdanov stated, “the Soviet government turned over for Jewish colonization in Ukraine and Crimea a total of 468,714 hectares (1,157,724 acres) of land. This includes 184,000 hectares in Ukraine and 227,000 hectares in Crimea. Aside from that, 3,900,000 hectares have been alloted in Bira-Bidjan. The Jewish agricultural population in Bira-Bidjan is 1,500 persons, and in other regions 22,209 families. This includes 15,000 families which migrated from other regions. According to the Five-Year Plan, it is expected to transfer to agricultural work 48,000 Jewish families.
“During the current year, the Soviet government expects to spend for Jewish colonization 16,000,000 roubles, and for public organizations 3,000,000 roubles,” Mr. Bogdanov continued. “The expenditures of the government for the colonization of Jews on the land from 1924 to 1930 amounted to 9,500,000 roubles. Aside from that, Russian and foreign public organizations spent 21,000,000 roubles. In this connection it must be taken into account that the government has also given free land and forest resources, has covered 70 percent of the transportation costs, has given certain privileges in regard to taxation, and has permitted imports of equipment duty free.
“Collectivization on the Lenin Fund (area) in the Kherson Region is completed. In other regions, collectives accounted for over 50 percent of the area in 1929. In the Ukrainian Republic there are 154 tractors, 8,125 horses and on Jewish farms, 67 oxen. In Crimea there are 134 tractors, 11,461 horses and 1,611 oxen,” Mr. Bogdanov declared.
The Soviet representative in the United States stated that the Jewish population of Soviet Russia in 1926 was 2,600,000 while in 1929 it mounted to 2,700,000. The social composition of adult Jews is given as follows:
Workers 149,000 183,000
Employees 260,000 286,000
Peasants 88,000 116,000
Handicraft Workers 197,000 247,000
Traders 120,000 59,000
Unemployed 96,000 119,000
Total 910,000 1,010,000
Mr. Bogdanov said that during the current year it may be expected that considerable changes will be effected in the last three categories. The Committee (Comzet) expects to draw 31,000 workers into industry and 12,000 into agriculture during the year. The greater part of the remaining Jews in these groups, particularly in the last two categories will be given aid to transfer themselves into the other categories, through the decision of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union.
Peter A. Bogdanov, who arrived from the Soviet Union recently, has been elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Amtorg Trading Corporation to succeed Saul G. Bron, who has been appointed Soviet trade representative to Great Britain.
Mr. Bogdanov, who was formerly the head of the Soviet Supreme Economic Council (which supervises state industry) was born in 1882 of a family of well-know Moscow merchants, and public men. In 1909 he was graduated from the Moscow Technical Institute as mechanical engineer. For a number of years he was connected with the Moscow Municipal Administration in various engineering capacities. Since 1918 he has been actively engaged in the upbuilding of Soviet industry, first as director of a chemical trust, then as head of the Metal Division of the Supreme Economic Council, later (1921-25) as Chairman of that body and, since 1925, in charge of the economic and administrative activities of the North Caucasus Region.
Mr. Bogdanov was appointed head of the Soviet Supreme Economic Council in 1921, after the introduction of the New Economic Policy, and under his supervision the reorganization of industry from the war basis to its present commercial basis was effected.