Amusing Tale is Told of Bolshevik Legal Intricacies
Soviet Government Comedy
Amusing Tale is Told of Bolshevik Legal Intricacies
TO FIND a husband, to divorce him on the same day, and a few hours later to marry a beggar from the street would form the plot of a comic opera which would outrange in improbabilities'anything which W. S. Gilbert ever offered the public. Yet these are the facts of an actual incident as related by the London daily in the life of a most respectable Russian lady:-
“Her husband, a well-known merchant in Petrograd, had been mobilised by the Reds in 1919 and sent against Denikin. After many adventures he escaped and by gradual stages reached this country. Meanwhile his wife and his family had continued to remain in Petrograd, where they endured great hardships. Only a few months ago was the husband enabled to get into touch with his wife and to send her some money through a friendly Bolshevik courier. The main object was to get the family out of the clutches of the Commissars. The lady, a very energetic person, discovered very soon that to obtain an official permission to leave was quite impossible. As regards an escape over the frontier, asso many other poor people have done, she did not want to take this great risk because of her three small children. At last a friend sent her to one of the mysterious middlemen who simply swarm around all Soviet institutions.
“This important person carefully went through the facts of the case and gave his judgment in one sentence: ‘Quite easy, but you should be a foreigner.’ The lady explained that her husband was a Russian, and that, therefore......but she was inter-
rupted: ‘What does that matter? You can divorce your husband, can’t you?’ The lady, well acquainted with the amenities of Bolshevik divorce, replied in the affirmative, but added that this would not make her a foreign subject. ‘That need not trouble you,’ she was told, ‘we’ll soon find you a suitable husband—that is if you can pay the price.’
“So, in the most matter-of-fact way, the bargain was clinched and the miracle-worker began operations. The first difficulty to be got over was the absence of thq husband. According to Bolshevik law, instantaneous divorce is granted only when both parties are present in court. The miracle-worker 'immediately produced an obliging friend who, for a consideration, was quite ready to play the part of the real husband. But in Soviet Russia a passport is more important than its owner himself. The problem of providing the spurious ‘husband’ with the necessary proofs of his identity was most elegantly solved by the miracle-worker, and this without having recourse to such vulgar means as forgery.
It was most artistically done. The ‘husband’ addressed a paper to the committee of the house where his wife lived and where he had but just arrived; he asked for a bath certificate. This was duly entered in the visitors’ book of the public baths he next went to. There his clothes suddenly disappeared, and the poor victim received from the management a new certificate confirming the fact. In a nude condition he was brought back home, where the house committee, on the strength of the bath certificate, delivered to him a new paper. With this the ‘husband’ went to the local police station, where he deposited a complaint against persons unknown, and in exchange for the house committee’s certificate received a new document in proof of the fact that he had applied for a new passport. After this all was easy. Husband and wife went to the Revolutionary Tribunal, where in five minutes the whole business was 'settled. There was, though, a moment of tension when the ‘husband’ could not remember his name, and had to be audibly prompted by the miracle-worker hovering in the background.
“Meanwhile the miracle-worker had prepared a new ‘husband’ for the divorced lady. This was a regular inhabitant of the worst slums whose name happened to have an outlandish sound. By a wise manipulation of certificates he was transformed into a Lettish citizen, to whom the lady was duly married by the same judge who had just pronounced her divorce. But all was not yet in order. The three children, according tolaw, retained their father’s name and nationality; the lady could leave with her Latvian husband, but the children had to remain in Russia. The miracleworker made light of this new difficulty. The next morning he brought the whole company again before the obliging judge to whom the lady, previously instructed, made the following speech: ‘Here are my three children, whose real father I only married yesterday. I appeal to the justice of the Soviet law to repair the injustice of the Tsar’s régime.’ Two most imposing witnesses conjured up by the miracle-worker immediately stepped forward and affirmed that the lady had stated the truth. The judge made an impassioned speech about the merits of Communism, and declared that the Latvian ‘husband’ was the legitimate father of the lady’s children. After this there were no more obstacles to the family’s departure from the land of the Free Russians. The miracle-worker’s fee was 5,000,000 roubles—quite cheap considering the rate of exchange. Needless to say that the Latvian ‘husband’ did not leave his cherished Petrograd slum at all.”
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