361.1121 Nausiainen, Elmer J./2

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

[Extracts]
No. 1613

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of an informal memorandum prepared July 19, 1938,73 for the files of this mission regarding a conversation with Mr. Elmer John Nousiainen, an American citizen possessing dual nationality, who never returned to his home after leaving the Embassy building on July 18, 1938.74 It will be noticed from the memorandum that Mr. Nousiainen stated that numerous arrests have [Page 661]been made among his neighbors at Petrozavodsk by the Soviet authorities75 and that he was afraid that he might also be arrested.

The Embassy received a letter dated August 1, 1938, from Mrs. Norma Nousiainen of Petrozavodsk, the mother of Elmer John Nousiainen, in which it was stated that her son never returned to their home after his departure to visit the Embassy. A letter dated August 3, 1938 was also received from Mrs. Alli Ranta of Petrozavodsk inquiring concerning the whereabouts of her husband who accompanied Mr. Nousiainen on his visit to the Embassy on July 18, 1938.

It is not known definitely what happened to Mr. Nousiainen and Mr. Ranta but it is suspected that they were detained by the Soviet authorities while in Moscow. Several similar disappearances have recently occurred and it is reliably reported that some of these individuals were arrested and detained by the Soviet authorities after their visit to this mission.

A note has been addressed to the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics requesting information concerning the whereabouts of Elmer John Nousiainen.

The Department is familiar with the case of Ivan Dubin, who disappeared after his visit to the Embassy on March 1, 1938. Other former Americans, having business with the Consular Section of the Embassy, who have been reported as having been arrested during the first quarter of 1938 are: Michael Aisenstein (March 9, 1938); Tamara Antonio Aisenstein (March 29, 1938); Sam Bess (March 12, 1938); Sol Drypool (March 15, 1938), and others. There are listed below the names of some of the individuals who have informed this mission that they were stopped and questioned by the Soviet secret police agents during the same period.

[Here follows a list of 11 persons who were stopped and questioned on leaving the Embassy, with dates and brief descriptions of some incidents.]

Mr. Henry H. Webb, the bearer of an American passport, and Mr. Bruno H. Wuori, whose application for an American passport was being considered by the Department at that time, returned to the Embassy after they were stopped and questioned by representatives of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and pointed out their interrogators to members of the Embassy staff as being the two plain clothes individuals whose custom it was to loiter or stand in front of a shop window [Page 662]between the Hotel National and the Embassy building, within approximately forty paces of the entrance to the Consular Section of this mission. Mrs. Marsalka, however, was questioned by a woman who apparently was standing on the other side of the Embassy when she left the building.

The usual tactics or technique of the secret police is to follow the individual when he leaves the Chancery and approach him two or three blocks away to demand the presentation of his documents of identity. If challenged the policeman will present a card which plainly indicates that he is an agent of the Soviet internal police formerly known as the O. G. P. U. If the individual is a Soviet citizen he is sometimes taken to a police station to be questioned, but if he is the bearer of an American passport the police agent merely takes notes of his documents and excuses himself. A uniformed policeman is stationed at the entrance to the Mokhovaya Building76 but he is not known to have interfered with persons calling at the Embassy on official business.

It might be mentioned, however, that the plain clothes men and their automobile, which was usually parked in view of the entrances to the Mokhovaya Building, housing the Embassy and residential quarters of various members of the staff, disappeared from sight during the past two months and fewer molestations by these men have been reported in recent weeks. It might also be mentioned that the “vigilance” afforded the American Embassy in Moscow is believed to be less severe than that accorded the entrances to some of the other missions, particularly the Japanese, German, Polish, Finnish and Latvian.

The number of callers at the Consular Section of the American Embassy in Moscow has declined considerably since January 1, 1938. The Embassy has been informed by many of the visitors that their friends or relatives would also have called at the mission regarding their affairs but they were afraid to do so on account of the possibility of experiencing difficulties with the Soviet authorities. Several persons have stated that they have been warned by the Soviet police not to visit foreign missions, and the Embassy can only conclude that the decline in the number of visitors must be contributed in great part to the attitude of the local authorities.

Respectfully yours,

For the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim:
A. I. Ward

Chief of Consular Section
  1. Not printed.
  2. For the arrest and detention of American citizens by the Soviet Government in contravention of the undertaking of November 16, 1933, see pp. 708 ff.
  3. These arrests were chiefly of foreign-born persons, particularly Finns and Norwegians, who had come in groups to the Karelian Autonomous S.S.R. from the Midwest of the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Considerable recruitment had been done in the United States by the Karelian Technical Aid, an organization which was believed to have operated through the Amtorg Trading Corporation, New York, N. Y.
  4. The Embassy building, at Mokhovaya ulitsa 13/15.