In 1924, Russian writer Sergei Melgunov published a detailed account of violence and torture during the Bolshevik Red Terror. In this grim extract, he outlines some of the extreme torture methods employed by CHEKA agents (here referred to as “Excommers”). It should be acknowledged that Melgunov was a liberal-socialist who was bitterly opposed to the Bolshevik regime. His research was thorough, however, and cites many verified documentary sources and anecdotal accounts:
“Physical and mental torture is carried out. This is how they torture in Ekaterinodar: they stretch a victim on the basement floor. Two burly Excommers pull the victim by the head and shoulders, stretching the neck, while the third one slams a blunt object, usually a butt of a handgun, into the neck. The neck bloats, blood flows from nose and mouth. The victim suffers immensely…
Dombrovsky, a teacher, whose only fault was that during a search they found a suitcase with officer clothes left behind by a family member passing through the town, was tortured in a solitary cell. Dombrovsky confessed of that but the Excommers had a tip that she was hiding gold jewellery received from a relative, some general. That was enough to subject her to torture.
Firstly she was raped and abused… Then she was tortured in order to extract information of where she was hiding gold. First, they carved her naked body with knives, then crushed the fingertips with pliers. Suffering and bleeding, the victim pointed at some place in a barn on Medvedev Street where she lived. She was executed at 9 PM and an hour later the Excommers searched that addressed and supposedly found a golden wristband and several rings.
An iron glove is used for torture in Kavkazskaya village. It is a massive chunk of steel, worn around the right hand and studded with small nails. Besides pain from the mass of iron, the victim suffers immensely from the shallow wounds left by the nails, that quickly inflame. ion Efremovich Lelyavin was subjected to that torture, among others, while the Excommers questioned where he was hiding gold and paper money of the monarchy.
A headband is used for torture in Armavir. It is simply a leather strip, connected with a screw and nut. The band is wrapped around the head and the nut is tightened, squeezing the head and causing immense physical pain.
The chair of Pyatigorsk CHEKA operations Richman flogs the questioned with rubber whips, giving 10-20 lashes. He was the one who sentenced some sisters of charity [nuns] to 15 whips for providing medical care to wounded Cossacks…
A number of witnesses testified to the savage beating of Admiral Myazgovski in 1919. [There is] printed testimony of a commoner from Lugansk of how he was tortured [by] drenching in ice-cold water, pulling the fingernails with pliers, inserting needles, carving with a razor, etc…
In Simferopol, the CHEKA used a novel method of torture: administering enemas with crushed glass and setting burning candles under the genitals. They used to sit the [victim] onto a hot frying pan and used iron rods, rubber hoses with a metal tip, twisted arms, fractured bones…”