Sam’s 1918 Arrest in Historical Context

When World War I began in 1914, Russia, France and the United Kingdom were aligned as the Entente Powers, but by 1916 the Russian government was beginning to falter. The political pressures in Russia came to a head during the 1917 Russian Revolution which resulted in the Bolshevik  (Communist) Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, gaining power in November of that year and an armistice with Germany signed  later on in December. Australia was, not surprisingly, nervous. Russians were now feared and considered a Communist threat to Australia.

Earlier in 1916, when World War I was in its third year, Australia had enacted its own ‘Homeland Security’ laws known as the War Precautions Regulations. These proscriptions, similar to the United States own USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, gave the Australian government the power to create new laws about anything that affected the war effort. An outcome of this act was the ability of the government to quickly change the rules regarding alien registration. By late 1917 when the Bolshevik (Communist) Party came to power in Russia, the government Australia perceived a threat from all Russians living on its soil: perhaps many were Communists, who knew? Sam Banarsky soon found himself caught in the middle of this historic time, since, although he seems to have registered as a alien in 1916, he failed to do so after that time. The result was that Sam, as  citizen of Russia  with the potential risk of being a Communist, was arrested on May 2, 1918.



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