Vatslav Vorovsky

Vatslav Vorovsky

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Vatslav Vorovsky, the son of an engineer, was born in Moscow on 27th October, 1871. He attended the University of Moscow where he became a socialist. Vorovsky was arrested in 1895 and sentenced to three years' exile in the city of Orlov.

In 1902 Vorovsky moved to Europe and spent time in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. He joined the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP). At a meeting in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Lenin and Julius Martov, two of SDLP's leaders. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Martov based his ideas on the socialist parties that existed in other European countries such as the British Labour Party. Lenin argued that the situation was different in Russia as it was illegal to form socialist political parties under the Tsar's autocratic government. At the end of the debate Martov won the vote 28-23. Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks.

Vorovsky joined the Bolsheviks. Other members included Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze and Alexander Bogdanov. The SDLP journal, Iskra remained under the control of the Mensheviks so Lenin established a Bolshevik newspaper, Vperyod (Forward) and appointed Vorovsky as editor.

After the failure of the 1905 Revolution he moved to Odessa in the Ukraine, where he was a leading underground Bolshevik. In 1912 Vorovsky was arrested again but he managed to escape and went to live in Stockholm where he found work. The journalist Arthur Ransome described Vorovsky as being "well-educated, amiable and cosmopolitan".

On 26th February, 1917, Nicholas II ordered the Duma to close down. Members refused and they continued to meet and discuss what they should do. Michael Rodzianko, President of the Duma, sent a telegram to the Tsar suggesting that he appoint a new government led by someone who had the confidence of the people. When the Tsar did not reply, the Duma nominated a Provisional Government headed by Prince George Lvov. One of his first decisions was to give permission for political exiles to return to Russia.

The Bolsheviks set up their headquarters in the Smolny Institute. The former girls' convent school also housed the Petrograd Soviet. Under pressure from the nobility and industrialists, Alexander Kerensky was persuaded to take decisive action. On 22nd October he ordered the arrest of the Military Revolutionary Committee. The next day he closed down the Bolshevik newspapers and cut off the telephones to the Smolny Institute.

Leon Trotsky now urged the overthrow of the Provisional Government. Lenin agreed and on the evening of 24th October, 1917, orders were given for the Bolsheviks began to occupy the railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The following day the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace. Inside was most of the country's Cabinet, although Kerensky had managed to escape from the city.

The Winter Palace was defended by Cossacks, some junior army officers and the Woman's Battalion. At 9 p.m. the Aurora and the Peter and Paul Fortress began to open fire on the palace. Little damage was done but the action persuaded most of those defending the building to surrender. The Red Guards, led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, now entered the Winter Palace and arrested the Cabinet ministers.

On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education), Alexandra Kollontai (Social Welfare), Felix Dzerzhinsky (Internal Affairs), Joseph Stalin (Nationalities), Peter Stuchka (Justice) and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (War).

Vorovsky was appointed as head of the Bolshevik legation in Stockholm. He was interviewed by the journalist Arthur Ransome. The article appeared in the Daily News on 19th December, 1917. Vorovsky reminded Ransome: "You have lived in Russia long enough to know that Russia is not a condition to carry on a war. Russia must make peace. It is for the Allies to choose whether that peace is to be a separate or a general peace." Vorovsky pointed out that the Bolshevik government's quarrel was not with the English working class, but only with the British government, which clung so obstinately to the destruction of Germany. Vorovsky warned that "continual sabotage on the part of the bourgeoisie may exasperate the mass of the people to such an extent as to carry them beyond the control of their leaders."

Vorovsky was the representative of the Russian Communist Party to the Executive Committee of the Comintern. In July 1920, Vorovsky was involved in diplomatic negotiations with Poland. The following year he became the Soviet representative to Italy where he attempted to negotiate a trade agreement between the two countries.

In 1923 Vorovsky served as Soviet representative to the Lausanne Conference. He received threats from a right-wing group. On 9th May he sent a report to Moscow: "As to whether the police are taking any measures for our safety, we have no idea. At any rate, it is not apparent on the surface. It is only too evident that behind these hooligan boys there is some conscious directing hand — possibly foreign. The Swiss Government, well aware of what is going on - for the papers are full of it - must bear responsibility for our safety. The behaviour of the Swiss Government is a shameful violation of the guarantees given at the beginning of the conference, and any attack on us in this particularly well-organised country is only possible with the knowledge and permission of the authorities. On them is the responsibility."

Vatslav Vorovsky was assassinated by Maurice Conradi while having a meal in the restaurant of his hotel on 10th May, 1923. Arkadi Vaksberg, the author of Toxic Politics (2011) has pointed out: "Vorovsky was dining in the restaurant at the Cecile Hotel with Arens and an official from the Soviet Embassy in Rome, Dilvilkovsky... With one shot to the head, Conradi killed Vorovsky, and with two more, in an attempt to eliminate witnesses, he slightly wounded Arens and Dilvilkovsky. before giving himself up to the police... He passed himself off as an officer in the White Guards, avenging Bolshevik savagery, and people swallowed this uncorroborated version of events. The court acquitted Conradi."

You have lived in Russia long enough to know that Russia is not a condition to carry on a war. Vorovsky warned that "continual sabotage on the part of the bourgeoisie may exasperate the mass of the people to such an extent as to carry them beyond the control of their leaders.

Vorovsky was dining in the restaurant at the Cecile Hotel with Arens and an official from the Soviet Embassy in Rome, Dilvilkovsky... The court acquitted Conradi.

Vatslav Vorovski

Vatslav Vatslavovitš Vorovski (27. lokakuuta (J: 15. lokakuuta) 1871 Moskova, Venäjän keisarikunta – 10. toukokuuta 1923 Lausanne, Sveitsi) [1] [2] oli venäläinen vallankumouksellinen bolševikki ja yksi Neuvosto-Venäjän ensimmäisistä diplomaateista. Hänet salamurhattiin vuonna 1923 Lausannen konferenssin yhteydessä.

Yläluokkaiseen insinööriperheeseen syntynyt Vorovski opiskeli nuoruudessaan Moskovan yliopistossa ja Moskovan teknillisessä valtionyliopistossa. Hänestä tuli jo opiskeluaikanaan sosialistinen aktivisti ja hän toimi vuodesta 1894 Moskovan työväenliitto -nimisessä varhaisessa sosialistisessa järjestössä. Vuonna 1897 hänet pidätettiin poliittisen toimintansa vuoksi ja vuonna 1899 hänet määrättiin kolmeksi vuodeksi sisäiseen karkotukseen Orloviin. Vuodesta 1902 hän asui maanpaossa Länsi-Euroopassa ja liittyi Venäjän sosiaalidemokraattiseen työväenpuolueeseen, jonka jakautuessa hänestä tuli bolševikkisiiven kannattaja. [2] [1] Vorovski kirjoitti bolševikkien Vperjod-, Iskra- ja Pravda-lehtiin muun muassa marxismin teoriaa käsitelleitä artikkeleita. Vorovski palasi Venäjälle vuoden 1905 vallankumoksen aikana ja oli mukana sekä julkisessa että maanalaisessa poliittisessa toiminnassa. [2] Myöhemmin hän johti bolševikkien maanalaista organisaatiota Odessassa. Hänet vangittiin vuonna 1912, mutta hän onnistui pakenemaan Ruotsiin ja asettui asumaan Tukholmaan. [1] Vuoden 1917 helmikuun vallankumouksen jälkeen hänet nimettiin bolševikkien keskuskomitean ulkomaantoimiston johtajaksi hänen jäädessään edelleen Tukholmaan. [2]

Lokakuun vallankumouksen jälkeen Vorovskista tehtiin Neuvosto-Venäjän virallinen Ruotsin-lähettiläs. [1] Hän hoiti samalla suhteita myös Tanskaan ja Norjaan. Asemapaikan merkitystä lisäsi se, että Neuvosto-Venäjällä ei ollut vielä diplomaattisuhteita kovinkaan monen valtion kanssa. Palattuaan kotimaahan keväällä 1919 Vorovski oli jonkin aikaa valtion kustannusyhtymä Gosizdatin johdossa. [2] Hän myös edusti Venäjän kommunistista puoletta Kommunistisen internationaalin toimeenpanevassa komiteassa. Vuodesta 1921 hän oli lähettiläänä Roomassa. [1]

Vorovski edusti Neuvosto-Venäjää useissa rauhanneuvotteluissa ja kansainvälisissä konferensseissa. Hän osallistui 1920 Tarton rauhanneuvotteluihin Viron kanssa ja 1922 Genovan konferenssiin sekä myötävaikutti vuoden 1922 Rapallon sopimuksen syntyyn Neuvosto-Venäjän ja Saksan välille. Elokuussa 1918 Suomen kanssa käydyissä tuloksettomissa Berliinin rauhanneuvotteluissa Vorovski johti Neuvosto-Venäjän valtuuskuntaa. [2] Hänen viimeisekseen jäi vuoden 1923 Lausannen konferenssi. Äärioikeistolainen valkoinen emigrantti Maurice Conradi salamurhasi Vorovskin Lausannessa 10. toukokuuta 1923 ampumalla häntä hotelli Cecilen ravintolassa, jossa hän oli syömässä. Vorovskin mukaan Sveitsin viranomaiset eivät olleet tosissaan yrittäneet suojella häntä, vaikka hän oli ilmoittanut saaneensa tappouhkauksia. Vaikka murhalla oli useita silminnäkijöitä, sveitsiläinen oikeus vapautti myöhemmin Conradin. [1] Suomalaissyntyisen valkoisen kenraalin Georg Elfvengrenin on väitetty olleen myös yksi Vorovskin murhan taustavoimista. [3]

Assassination in Switzerland: The Murder of Vatslav Vorovsky

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Lenin and Geneva: story of an unknown love

Perhaps not everyone knows that the father of the Russian revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known as Lenin, lived in Geneva for several years. It is precisely in Geneva that, together with other comrades, he laid the theoretical foundations for the communist revolution taking place in 1917. If you, like me, are curious and passionate about Lenin’s story, take some time and go through my notes.

Where everything started

At the start of the 20th century, Geneva and particularly Rue de Carouge was a nest of Russian revolutionaries and refugees. All political forces opposed to the tzarist regime were represented and housed in the Carouge-Bastions-Jonction triangle. While Rue de Carouge (called "Karoujka" by Russian students) was occupied by the Bolsheviks, Rue Caroline was the stronghold of the enemy brothers Mensheviks (i.e. the minorities, more prone to discuss) and of the anarchists (i.e. who were for the hard way and bombs).

Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov arrived for the first time in Geneva in May 1895, when only 25 years old, to meet the philosopher Georges Plekhanov, a Marxist theorist long admired by Lenin.

That was the first of many other visits until in 1917 he took a train with diplomatic immunity from Zurich, accompanied by his wife and a group of faithful comrades, to cross Germany and start the revolution in the land of the Tsars.

In August 1900, after three years of deportation to Siberia, Lenin is again in Geneva to work on the publication of the underground Russian newspaper “Iskra” (i.e. The Spark, the below picture shows the first print).

The Iskra was the first Russian-language Marxist newspaper. Several thousand copies were printed in Rue de la Coulouvrenière and distributed all across Europe.

BBut it was from 1903 to 1916 that Lenin conceived the October Revolution from the neutral Geneva, setting up the plan to overthrow the Tzar and take over the power in 1917. His regular visits to the University Public Library, now called “Geneva Library”, and to the Reading Society witness his work as a diligent reader and writer in two emblematic places of the international Geneva.

Member of the Societe de Lecture (The Reading Society) and the Geneva Library

The Reading Society was an important study place often frequented by Lenin in Geneva. He used to sit in the Sphere room, where at that time a big globe was installed, and read books, dictionaries and a wide selection of daily newspapers from different countries written in French, English, German and Italian. Lenin had access to the press to keep himself updated with the events happening in Europe. According to witnesses from the time, he used to prepare in the Sphere room his speeches, walking nonstop for hours between the shelves of the library and loudly repeating the main sentences.

The Reading Society still keeps a list of Lenin's readings: many books by Maupassant that he read in French, works by Nietzsche in German, books on military art, works on the history of the Paris Commune, and, more astonishingly, The Life of Jesus by Ernest Renan. Lenin underlined in that book the sentence reporting the wish of Jesus to destroy wealth and power, but without taking it. He wrote on the side: like modern socialism.

The application (see below picture) of Lenin to the Reading Society was sponsored by two people already members: Paul Birukoff, Tolstoy's friend, and the engineer Armand Dussaux. He first applied unsuccessfully at the end of 1904, to finally be accepted in 1908.

He forged his intellectual culture in the libraries of Geneva. His spouse Nadejda Krupskaya reported in her memories the Lenin's attachment to the Reading Society and the Geneva Library, taking the organization and order of the Swiss libraries as a model for the future Russian revolution.

The Reading Society was a popular place frequented not only by Lenin, but also by Henri Dunant, the Red Cross founder, by the writers Albert Cohen and Nicolas Bouvier and by the anarchist Élisée Reclus. More recently Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a major figure of May 68, gave a conference in this place.

Lenin and Geneva: story of a secret love

The presence in Geneva of the father of the Russian revolution is little advertised by the Geneva elites, and we can understand why! But whether we like it or not, Lenin is part of the modern history of Europe and Geneva.

Although Lenin's relationship with Geneva was controversial, he always returned to Geneva whenever he could. If he did not necessarily like Geneva, the city was his ideal place to write and study in relative safety, after his clandestine journeys. Besides, Switzerland at that time was extremely cheap (i.e. he used to pay 12 CHF per month for his rent), way more than London or Paris.

The evenings were often hard to fill for Lenin. He and Krupskaya felt the need to escape from the cold, cheerless room' they had rented, and to be among people. They usually went to the cinema or theatre, but generally left in the middle of the show to 'wander about the streets or around the lake'.

After the failure of the revolution of 1905, he ended up considering Geneva his tomb, like a course. He suffered from having to live far from his Russia. “Sadly, the devil takes me again here, in this damned Geneva” he said when he returned to Switzerland after the events of 1905.

In 1914, in a letter to his sister, Lenin compared his life in Paris and to that in Geneva: "Often we remembered the time in Geneva where we could work better, where the Library was more accessible, and life less annoying and demanding. Of all the cities I have been in, I would choose London or Geneva. Geneva is comfortable especially for its general culture and for its extraordinary services”

Where the Bolshevik Party was born

Building 2 in Rue de Candolle was home to the historical Landolt cafe, scene of many discussions and events. The Bolsheviks were meeting there every night and discuss long time in front of their beers, talking about the events in Russia and dreaming about their revolution. Its position between the University and the Library, and not far from Rue de Carouge, says a lot about that place and the Geneva universe of the young Russians at the time.

Not far from there (Rue de Candolle 6) Georges Plekhanov was living. The building is no longer the same, but the gate of Parc de Bastions is indeed the one that the visitors could see from the windows of his apartment. Lenin was one of them, before his ideas turned him away from his more moderate elder.

This happened at the end of October 1903 during the conference of the party’s Foreign League held in the Landolt cafe. That night the Menshevik, including Plekhanov, launched a strong personal attack on Lenin. Lenin stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him. On 1903 November 16th he announced the split of the Bolsheviks (Lenin) from the Mensheviks (Plekhanov) as well as his resignation from the editorial board of the Iskra and the party council. The split was irrevocable and all attempts to mend it broke on Lenin’s intransigence.

Houses and Addresses of Lenin in Geneva

Lenin changed many apartments while staying in Geneva, notably in 1900, between 1903 and 1905, in 1908, in 1912 and then in 1914. Vésenaz, Carouge, Plainpalais, Sécheron, la Jonction and Corsier are just some places where he lived.

The first known address of Lenin in Geneva was Rue de Carouge 91 and 93. The facades of that building are still the same as in 1903 when the two rooms on the ground floor were occupied by Lenin. The building was literally the European headquarter of the Bolsheviks, which stored the archives and the library of the Bolshevik party (around 4000 books and 120 journals).

The Lepenchinsky canteen was located in that building as well, a place where all revolutionaries always could find cheap food and drinks and discuss around six large tables and a piano. In addition to the circle close to Lenin (i.e. Vatslav Vorovsky, Nikolai Semachko, Anatoly Lounacharski, Grigori Sokolnikov, Grigori Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin), one could meet there the Menshevik leader Julius Martov and more occasionally Leon Trotsky, who spent the fall of 1903 in Geneva.

In April 1903, Lenin moved from one flat to another with his wife Nadejda Krupskaya. First a room in the Pension Morhard at Avenue du Mail 15 (at the corner with the Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers). The landlord's sympathy for Russian revolutionaries was well-known in the community at that time. Despite the years, the building still looks like those days. Vera Velichkina and his husband Vladimir Dmitrievich Bontch-Bruyevich, who will be Lenin's secretary in Moscow after the revolution, were renting a room there too.

Lenin and his wife had their first home in Sécheron. They moved then to Carouge, where they stayed between May and June 1903 in a house which still exists at Rue de la Tannerie 2 bis. This neighborhood corner has kept its suburban character. An inscription on the white facade recalls the passage of Lenin in these places.

In the fall they were back to Pension Morhard to then move again to Onex, in the “Russian Villa” (still standing at Route du Grand-Lancy 154) owned by Paul Birukov, Tolstoy's friend, who was gladly also hosting Paul Plekhanov and many other exiled compatriots. Rue de la Tannerie 2 bis is not the only building in Geneva deemed worthy of bearing the mark of the stay of the founder of the Soviet Union. The facade of Rue des Plantaporrêts 3 recalls that from 1904 to 1905, Lenin lived there.

Lenin left Geneva in 1905 to closely follow the 1905 events from Russia and Finland. He returned to Geneva again in January 1908 to stay in Rue des Deux-Ponts 17 from January to April and then at Rue des Maraîchers 61 until December.


Geneva is known to be a city of refugees, and Lenin was one of them. A relief with Lenin's head imprinted on it, saying GENEVA CITE DE REFUGE was placed on the Molard Tower in 1920.

A mystery remains about the destination of the round wooden table where Lenin sat with other exiles in the Landolt cafe and where his name was allegedly engraved with a knife in capital letters. No one knows what happened to the famous table when the Landolt cafe closed in 1999.

Legend has that Lenin met Benito Mussolini at least twice during his stay in Geneva. The first time was in the Library. In fact, Mussolini's appears in the register of the reading room for several days from March to April 1904, the same period Lenin used to go. The second time was at the Brasserie Handwerk, on the 18th of March 1904, in Avenue du Mail 4. The "Brasserie de l'Univers", as it was called at that time, where the "Bier de l'Avenir" was sold, was the appropriate place to host those who wanted to talk about a universal proletarian revolution. That day, Lenin participated in a large meeting to commemorate the Paris Commune of 1871. Mussolini was among the speakers that evening as well. Perhaps they ended up singing the Commune's hymn together.


Lenin: benefactor of humanity or gravedigger of ideals and masses? Certainly, one of the most important men of the 20th century. The creator, some would say dictator, of a revolution that changed the geopolitics of the world. Write in the comments your opinion


“The Russian and Polish revolutionaries installed in Switzerland during the First World War”, by Jean-François Fayet, in Switzerland and the War of 1914-1918, Geneva, Slatkine, 2015, pp. 387-403.


Post by mjbollinger » 08 Jul 2006, 03:25

Post by Peteris » 08 Jul 2006, 04:51

Thank you to both of you for helping out with this topic. I can see that you both have beena accumulating quite a lot of information.

I've tried to attach here (I hope it worked) the U.S.-made drawing of the locomotive carrier conversion reported in January 1946 PACIFIC MARINE REVIEW. I'm sorry about the end being cut off, but that was the only way I could obtain the photocopy from the original magazine which was not in good condition. I didn't scan the photocopies of the various photos in the magazine article because most of them only show small details of the internal structural modifications, and the one I already mentioned as being the same aerial view, apparently of the Klara Tsetkin, as you alreay posted. If anyone's interested, I can attach them later?

Big Panzer, you're correct about the Lend-Lease diesel locomotive totals. Only, the two which sank during transport were not swept overboard they were on the Liberty ship S.S. Thomas Donaldson which was torpedoed and went down. Another Liberty carrying diesel locomotives, the S.S. Horace Bushnell was also torpedoed in the same convoy, but an unknown Russian tug towed it and beached it before it completely sank. The cargo was salvaged by the Russians, although all American agencies concerned wrote off the ship and the cargo. Marty, this is the first time this is in print anywhere also. I've painstakingly assembled this from scraps of information here and there in the U.S. National Archives, and from surviving crewmembers' interviews. No Americans, of course, took note of the Russian tug's name. I wouldn't have expected them to do so they were busy wondering about their own survival.

I tried to gather information for the last several years on probable Soviet World War II Lend-Lease locomotive carrying ships. Here is my list:

SS Anadir (?)
SS Dalstroi
SS Dneprostroi
SS Felix Dzerzhinsky
SS Kashirstroi
MV Kim
MV Klara Tsetkin
MV Komiles
MV Maxim Gorki
SS Nevastroi
MV Sevzaples
SS Shaturstroi
MV Smolny
MV Sovietskaya Latvia
MV Stari Bolshevik
SS Transbalt (?)
MV Vladimir Mayakovsky
SS Volkhovstroi

It looks like I guessed right on some, not on others. For instance, I've never found any substantiation for the Transbalt having definitely carried locomotives. And you've now added several more.

As for the ice-breakers, that's my mistake in the spelling of "Admiral Makarov." Sorry.

You answered a very important question for me when you told me that the Severny Veter (at least) was repaired at Leningrad. Was this in Badigin's memoir? I haven't read it all yet I hope to do so later tonight.

Post by BIGpanzer » 08 Jul 2006, 13:29

Hello, Marty!
Thanks for the excellent WWII photos of "Dneprostroy" and "Kashirstroy" (DGMP database contains the same as I've found, see below) - I think they should be reequipped for locomotive transportation as such transportation needed in special fixing devices and rails at least.
1. "Dneprostroy"/"Dallas" (was built in USA in 1918 4900 GRT) served in DGMP in 1930-1965, participated in polar convoys (PQ-12, QP-10) during WWII - . f231_1.jpg . f231_3.jpg . f231_2.jpg (note steamers on board! also defensive armament)
2. "Kashirstroy"/"Chebolin" (was built in USA, 1918 4900 GRT) served in DGMP in 1933-1962 - . f343_1.jpg (WWII photo, note defensive armament) . f343_2.jpg (note steamers on board!)

As for "Dal'stroy" steamers "Felix Dzerzhinsky" and "Sovetskaya Latviya" - I still couldn't find any info that they were reequipped in USA for locomotive transportation , but they were used for that purpose very probably (as we know those steamers also transported prisoners to NKVD Far-East labor camps during WWII).

As for the first world's locomotive carriers reequipped according to the forward-looking project of Russian academician A.N. Krylov (also the hold design was developed by German engineer Foerster) in 1921-1922 - some sources mention that those were steamers "Maskinonge" and "Mediprenge". But probably they made a small mistake and in reality those were steamers "Maskinonge" ("Vatslav Vorovsky") and "Neebing" ("Yan Tomp") - I also found such info in A.N. Krylov memoirs
( ) . "Maskinonge" could transport 20 steamers with tenders, "Neebing" (3075 t, 78x12.8x5.5 m) - 11 steamers with tenders. A.N. Krylov analyzed a lot of steamers in Germany, Sweden and UK and adviced Russian government to purchase "Maskinonge" and "Neebing" as ships were optimal for locomotive transportation from Germany and Sweden to Russia. Very probably all two steamers (at least "Neebing" for sure) were reequipped in Hamburg (by "Deutsche Werft") according to Russian specifications and Krylov's plan. Åhe reequipment of "Neebing" was completed in 1922.
"Derutra" means Russian-German transport society.
"Vatslav Vorovsky" ("Mediprenge") was lost 04.1941 ashore of Columbia bar (ran aground and was broken by wind and waves in three parts soon) because of crude navigation mistake (sabotage?) of US bar pilot despite the Soviet captain's disagreement with the ship heading. Investigation of the accident by US/USSR committee found that US bar pilot changed the way back for unknown reason despite the fact that "Vatslav Vorovsky" passed the dangerous bar already.
"Neebing" ("Yan Tomp") was torpedoed by two German torpedo boats S-102 and S-28 30.08.1942 off Sochi during the run Poti-Novorossisk (the ship was escorted by 1 mine-sweeper and 2 patrol boats, 5 men from 42 were lost).

PS. Hi, Peteris! I am going to answer you very soon

Post by Peteris » 08 Jul 2006, 15:46

O.K. Big Panzer! I am in no hurry. This is going to be a busy weekend with other work. I didn't even complete reading Badigin yet.

Thank you to both of you, for the additional information again!


Post by mjbollinger » 08 Jul 2006, 16:05

Thanks for sharing your excellent research. If there is anything I can do to help let me know. I have an English translation of Krylov's article about the shipments in 1921/22 if that is helpful. By the way, technically, the ship's name is KIM, not Kim, as it is an acronym (Коммунистический Интернационал Молодёжи). This is a common mistake in the literature.

BP: Vatslav Vorovskii was formerly Maskinonge and that was a different ship that Mendip Range (note correct spelling) which was built in 1914 by Northumberland and measured 4,495 GRT. Mendip Range was never registered under the Soviet flag. I think it was sold immediately in part because the Soviet's needed cash and as a new ship it would command the best price.

Here is my early draft for this section in the book I am writing (please ignore typos, etc.):

Deutsch-Russische Lager und Transportgesellschaft

The Soviets also worked with their former German adversaries to attract foreign capital into the shipping industry, at the same time exploiting the willingness of U.S. investors examining opportunities with the new Soviet state. On May 13, 1921, a joint Russian-German venture was created with the Hamburg-American Line to operate a modest shipping operation between the Black Sea and Hamburg. Operations expanded in 1922 with capital provided by Hamburg-American’s U.S. partner, E. H. Harriman. By 1924 the Deutsch-Russische Lager und Transportgesellschaft, also known as Derutra GmbH, was a primary shipping agent for the newly established the Amtorg (Американская Торговля or American Trading) organization, thereby allowing for access to U.S. markets and capital at a time when the U.S. was officially still refused to recognize the Soviet Union. All of this took place under the subtle direction of the Soviet intelligence operations. Derutra ended operations in September 1926 when Hamburg-American and Harriman were bought out by their Soviet partners.

One of Derutra’s early roles was to support the importing of large numbers of locmotives to facilitate rebuilding of the Soviet’s transportation systems. Contracts had been let with builders in Sweden and Germany to supply nearly 900 locomotives and tenders. Differences in rail guage made it impractical to transport the locomotives by rail and their bulk and weight made other forms of surface transport impractical. The solution applied in December 1921 was to engage Derutra to charter a series of specialized ships to carry the locomotives to Leningrad. These ships had to have engine rooms mounted in the after part of the ship, an unusual configuration at the time. In the UK, for example, only 200 of 36,000 ships had such a configuration. In any case nine ships were chartered for this mission which was executed successfully.

Three of these specialized ships were acquired by the Soviets following the initial charter operation. The 4,793 GRT cargo ship Maskinonge, built in 1911 in the U.K., was acquired in 1922 and renamed Vatslav Vorovskii. It was under this name that the ship ran aground off the Columbia River Bar after having departed Portland, Oregon in April 1941. The smaller UK-built Neebing, of 1,988 GRT, was acquired around the same time and deployed to the Black Sea as Yan Tomp. It too was a casualty of war, sunk by German motor torpedo boats in the Black Sea in 1942. The third ship Mendip Range (4,495 GRT and built in 1914 by Northumberland) was used only briefly and almost immediately sold. It is not clear if this ship was ever formally transferred to the Soviet registry.

I'm off to Bermuda for a week of vacation so forgive me if I go silent. BP: I still plan to be in Dusseldorf on July 20. By the way, I had an excellent tour of the Blohm & Voss shipyard week before last.


Post by mjbollinger » 08 Jul 2006, 16:39

BP: I think you mistyped. Kashirstroi's former name was Chebaulip. That is, I understand, the name of a Native American tribe of the Pacific Northwest.

1917 Ordered as WAR ARTIST (Shipping Controller)
1917 Requisitioned by USSB
1918 Launched TACOMA (USSB)
1918 Completed CHEBAULIP (USSB) 07.18
1918 USS CHEBAULIP SP-3141 (NOTS-USA) 11.07.18
1919 CHEBAULIP (USSB) 07.05.19
195- Converted to passenger use after WWII
1962 Deleted from DGMP roster 11.62

Post by BIGpanzer » 08 Jul 2006, 19:44

Hi, Marty! Very shortly as I am very busy at the moment. Thanks a lot for your info about Russian-German trading relations in the beg.1920s - I hope you can successfully promote your future book here in the forum As for me I will buy it for sure

As for cargo steamer "Kashirstroy" (built in USA in 1918 by Todd Dry Dock, 4907 GRT) - sorry for misprint. That is because DGMP database mentions her US name as "×åáîëèí" ("Chebolin"), I thought that it sounds strange but had no time to check my English sources Of course, the name was "Chebaulip".
DGMP database also mentions that "Kashirstroy" served in DGMP since 1933 (according to your info - since 1935), but the ship made navigations under Soviet flag in 1933 for sure (belonged to AKO fleet in 1933?)
According to my sources "Kashirstroy" transported military cargos for Republican Spain during the Spanish civil war (navigation through Indian and Atlantic oceans).
"Kashirstroy" transported different equipment and workers to Soviet Far-Eastern ports before WWII (for example, the ship transported equipment of the heat power plant for the new port Sovetskaya Gavan' from Novorossisk in 1936). The ship rescued crew of the cargo steamer "Ilmen", which was torpedoed by US submarine 17.02.1943 in Pacific by mistake.

The ship could transported 440 passengers on tweendeck - it was decided to reequip several cargo ships ("Kashirstroy", "Kapitan Smirnov", "Petr Chaikovsky", "Nogin", etc.) into passenger ships in 1946, when passenger department of DGMP was established. The reequipment was performed by Vladivostok and Dal'ny ship-repair yards.


Post by mjbollinger » 08 Jul 2006, 21:18

Part of the discrepency is simply a technical matter of the names of the shipping companies. The Far East State Sea Shipping Company was not formed until 1935. Before that Kashirstroi served in the Far East Office of the Soviet Trading Fleet (STF-DGK). I assumed that was the case since 1930. The DGMP database suggests it served in some other capacity from 1930 to 1932. I am not sure. I don't think the ship was in AKO. I do know it carried Gulag prisoners in 1932 but the Dal'stroi fleet was not formed until 1935.

I think it may be a mistake in the DGMP web site.

Kashirstroi in Spanish Civil War

Post by mjbollinger » 08 Jul 2006, 21:24

Thanks for the information on Kashirstroi's passenger conversion.

Soviet merchant ship operations in the Spanish Civil War is a complex topic. I just finished writing that section of the book. There were three levels of involvement:

1. "Igrek" missions operated by the NKVD to bring arms and munitions into Spain. Only 11 Soviet merchant ships participated in these, mostly in the first few months. Most of these shipments were made in Spanish ships.

2. Other support missions to bring general aid (fuel, supplies). Kashirstroi may have been involved in these. I have to check my notes.

3. Diversionary operations, which involved large numbers of merchant ships. These were designed to distract Nationalist forces from the real Igrek missions. I'm pretty sure Kashirstroi was involved in this.

Thanks for the comments about the book. I'm just now starting to finish the first part, through June 21, 1941. It is 210 pages. If all goes well, I'll have a complete draft in about one year.

Post by BIGpanzer » 09 Jul 2006, 01:18

That was only supposition of some authors as they thought that ship should transport at least dozen of locomotives and the loss of two of them meant their loss during stormy weather only because torpedoing of the ship caused loss of all locomotives on board.
But "Thomas Donaldson" could transport only 2 locomotives in addition to other Lend-Lease cargos (tanks and ammunition, see below).
I found a mention that Russian scientists from hydrographic ship "Vizir" (North Navy) found sunken "Thomas Donaldson" (the ship was torpedoed by German submarine U-955 in Barents Sea during convoy navigation 03.1945) in 2005 with the help of under-water camera and side-scan sonar. The ship lies at depth of 60 m (1 km from Kildin Island, the crew tried to run the ship aground, probably) in excellent condition (also Lend-Lease tanks and ammunition chests are around), two holes from two torpedo explosives were clearly visible. Also unknown British corvette and German submarine U-307 were found near "Thomas Donaldson".

Another "Liberty"-class ship ("Horace Bushnell") from the same convoy (JW-65?) also transported locomotives, the ship was torpedoed by U-313 six hours before "Thomas Donaldson" was torpedoed by U-955. Many US sources mention that "Horace Bushnell" sank indeed, but in reality it was rescued by Soviet ships (I also don't know the name of that sea tug you've mentioned). Heavily damaged "Horace Bushnell" was successfully beached by Soviet tug and 04.1945 Soviet transports "Dikson" and "Yamal" (escorted by 3 destroyers, 8 patrol boats, 4 torpedo boats and 2 flying boats "Catalina") took the cargos from "Horace Bushnell".

Dear Peteris, I don't know is your list of locomotive carries absolutely correct or not. But I believe that ships couldn't just take locomotives on board and transport them (if we are talking about the transportation of whole locomotives not in parts). Such transportation needs in serviceable for that purpose ships, they should be reequipped in special way (steel frames, rails, fixing devices) as it is very dangerous to transport such heavy cargos in stormy weather. So such reequipment should be documented. I couldn't find such info for several ships from your list yet.
Also it seems quite strange for me that cargo-passenger ships (for example, Soviet-built "Anadyr" or "Smolny") were used for locomotives transportation, I need to check this info. As for "KIM" (Soviet-built large universal cargo diesel ship) - this seems to be possible, of course.

As for repair of US-built icebreaker "Severny veter" - I found this info not in Badigin's memoirs (whe wrote about "Klara Tsetkin" mainly, but mention the specifications of "Wind"-class icebreakers and his opinion about them) but in another Russian Internet source, need to find it again to provide you with the exact link.

Post by BIGpanzer » 10 Jul 2006, 00:53

1. "Igrek" missions operated by the NKVD to bring arms and munitions into Spain. Only 11 Soviet merchant ships participated in these, mostly in the first few months. Most of these shipments were made in Spanish ships.

2. Other support missions to bring general aid (fuel, supplies). Kashirstroi may have been involved in these. I have to check my notes.

3. Diversionary operations, which involved large numbers of merchant ships. These were designed to distract Nationalist forces from the real Igrek missions. I'm pretty sure Kashirstroi was involved in this.

I have some notes and additional info concerning the sea transportation of military aid from USSR to Republican Spain. That was so called "Operation X" in Soviet army documents. It should be noted that those missions operated not by NKVD but by Central Intelligence Office of the Red Army (which had nothing common with NKVD, the same as the differences between SS and Abwehr). USSR sent to Spain several hundreds of volunteers (pilots and tankmen), army engineers, different armaments (see below) and spare parts for them, trucks, fuel, searchlights, radio stations, binoculars, also supplies and medicaments.

"Igrek" ("Y") was the designation for the Soviet transport ships in those missions. Each transport had its designation as Y-number. "Operation X" was planned very successfully by Central Intelligence Office and quite many Soviet transports came to Spanish ports under Spanish ship names. Soviet transport ships could bring ammunition and supplies to republican Spain in quite hard conditions: long distance and naval blockade. That experience was taken into consideration in 1962 when USSR sent army troops to Cuba (operation "Anadyr"). Each "Y" ship had the official wrong port of designation (Vladivostok, mainly) for security, also loading of cargos in Soviet ports was performed by man-of-wars' men not by civil laders. Aslo each "Y" ship had special line of march and the ship should change flag, name, ship documents and even silhouette near the Greek islands, sometimes crewmembers wore British sun-helmets or looked like tourists on board. Every line of march was differ from others. At first Soviet ships made the following runs: Soviet Black Sea ports (Odessa, Sevastopol, Feodosia, Kerch) - Dardanelles - Sea of Marmara - Mediterranean Sea (near Africa coast far away from usual ship lines of march, Algeria-Spanish Cartagena), when the sea blockade increased Soviet government decided to sent ships from Leningrad and Murmansk in the north to Le Havre or Cherbourg (cargos were transported along the French railroads then) - but that was more complicated because of stormy weather in Barents and North Seas, also Republican Spain had only a few ships in the north.

Since 09.1937 when Phalangists sank several Republican ships, all "Y" ships had the armament on board (usually 6-8 MGs and depth charges, but sometimes several 76mm and 45mm guns even). Republican navy was informed about "Y" navigations via Soviet navy attach so Republican destroyers met transport ships quite often.

The first Spanish ship came to Cartagena from USSR 04.10.1936, the first Soviet ship was cargo diesel ship "Komsomol" (we've discussed that ship a lot here) - came to Cartagena 12.10.1936 with guns, trucks and tanks on board (50 T-26). USSR sent 17 transports to Spain in September-November 1936 (10 of them were Soviet), all ships successfully reached the ports of destination.
30 runs to Spain were organized by Department "X" of Central Intelligence Office 09.1936-05.1937: 24 - from Black Sea ports to Cartagena, 2 - from Leningrad to French ports, 3 - from foreign ports.

Between 06.1936-12.1937 48 British ships and 9 French ships were sank in Spanish waters, Soviet losses were minimal (3 ships were sank in neutral waters and 3 captured - all were under Soviet flag and without military aid on board, so Soviet government officially protested against those incidents).
1. Diesel ship "Komsomol", 7558 t (transported supply for Spain and manganese ore for Belgium) was sank 14.12.1936 by artillery fire from Nationalist Spanish heavy cruiser "Canarias" near Algeria. All crewmembers were captured and freed only in 8 months of hard custody.
2. Diesel ship "Timiryazev", 3226 t (transported construction materials for Spain) was torpedoed 30.08.1937 by Nationalist Spanish destroyer near Algeria. Algerian ship rescued the life-boat with crewmembers.
3. Steamer "Blagoev", 3100 t (transported coal tar for Spain) was sank 01.09.1937 by Nationalist Spanish submarine in Aegean Sea. Crewmembers on life-boat could reach Sarakino Island and buried one sailor there.

All "Y" ships could successfully reach Spanish ports with military aid because of excellent planning of operations, only one ship was heavily damaged by aviation but ran aground and was unloaded also.
66 "Y" ships were sent to Spain (52 in 1936-1937, 13 in 1938, 1 in 1939): they transported 648 aircraft (fighters I-15, I-16, light bombers R-Z and medium bombers SB), 347 tanks (light tanks T-26), 120 armored cars (light FAI and medium BA-3 and BA-6), 1186 guns (24% of them were old British, German and Japanese guns of WWI period), 340 mortars, 20486 MGs, 497813 rifles, 862 milliones cartridges, 3.4 milliones shells, 110000 air bombs, 4 torpedo boats G-5, 16 torpedoes, 400 depth charges, 16 light naval guns with 7010 shells, 15 warship radio stations, 3 direction finders.
Also 7 additional French ships (with 15 torpedo boats, 40 commander tanks, 134 aircraft, 359 guns, 1350 t of explosives - that was planned to send, I don't know exactly were all of those cargos were sent or not) were sent from Murmansk to French ports, but only a few amount of that military aid could be transported to Spain by railroad, the major part was sent back or destroyed after the defeat of Republicans.

It should be noted that Republican government paid for the Soviet military and other aid by bank gold (3/4 of the gold reserve of Spanish national bank was evacuated to Soviet Odessa by transport ships - 510 t of gold or 536 milliones US dollars), that amount was not enough to pay for all Soviet expenditures for Spanish civil war, so USSR supplied a credits to Republican government - 70 milliones US dollars in March 1938 and 100 milliones US dollars in December 1938.
All military aid (including armament and volunteers) were operated by People's Commissariat of Defense (Central Intelligence Office), but all bank operations were operated by People's Commissariat of International Trade.
The cost of all Soviet cargos - military, supply, medicaments, etc. (without transportation cost) for Spain was 202.4 milliones US dollars (37.9 in 1936, 118.7 in 1937, 44.3 in 1938, 1.5 in 1939)

1. इतिहास

जहाज शुरू किया गया था 1959 में बनाया गया है, और हाथ से अधिक करने के लिए मरमंस्क शिपिंग कंपनी आईएपी → एमएमपी मरमंस्क में 22 दिसंबर 1959. Vatslav vorovskii करने के लिए निकली वर्ग के मालवाहक जहाजों मिखाइल Kalinin, परियोजना 101, जर्मन पदनाम Seefa 340 । Seefahrgastschiff फर Passagiere 340 यात्री जहाज करने के लिए 340 यात्रियों निर्मित 1958 से 1964 के लिए बन गया है और सबसे बड़े पैमाने पर परियोजना के बीच समुद्री आदेश में सोवियत संघ के शामिल है, जो वाक्लाव Vorovsky और 18 "बहनों", कोर्ट-जुड़वां । "Vatslav Vorovsky" बन गया दुनिया का पहला पोत बनाने के लिए एक 5 सितम्बर 1966 ट्रांस-आर्कटिक परिभ्रमण मार्ग पर मरमंस्क - हेस द्वीप - डिक्सन - Dudinka - नोरिल्स्क - Vaygach द्वीप - Solovetsky द्वीप समूह - पोर्ट Arkhangel ' sk - Murmansk. कई बार जहाज बनाया था उड़ानों में क्यूबा.

1973 में, "Vatslav Vorovsky" आधुनिकीकरण खाते में विशिष्टता के साथ काम आर्कटिक में, अद्यतन इंटीरियर, का विस्तार केबिन के कारण बंद की सैर डेक. जबकि ज्यादातर के केबिन सुसज्जित है sabakami शॉवर और शौचालय के साथ. की कीमत पर सीटों में सैलून की कुर्सी थी, एक वृद्धि के बैठने की क्षमता अप करने के लिए 411 सीटें हैं ।

1984 से 1988 के लिए जहाज द्वारा संचालित किया गया था Minneftegazstroy और बाद में decommissioning योजना बनाई गई थी को बदलने के लिए यह एक होटल है, लेकिन में बिताए समय के लिए स्र्कती, जहाज के नीचे जला दिया गया था और कई बार में वर्तमान में है, Vyborg बे, पर चट्टानों के पास के द्वीप माल्य्य ziminskiy में, जल भराव состоянии60°39'00" N अक्षांश. 28°37'33" W. D.

निर्विवाद कप्तान के वाक्लाव Vorovsky 25 साल के लिए, 1960 से 1985 को किया गया था, मिखाइल Vansovich Kask. जहाज के कप्तान में अंतिम यात्रा में थे जी सेमेनोव कप्तान-डब व्याचेस्लाव Kislyakov.


Tidlige år

Vatslav Vorovsky blev født 27. oktober 1871 i Moskva, søn af en etnisk polsk, men russificeret adel og ingeniør. Efter afslutningen af gymnasiet tilmeldte Vorovsky sig til universitetet i Moskva , hvor han blev udsat for ideerne om politisk radikalisme.

Politisk karriere

Vorovsky blev aktiv i den socialistiske bevægelse i 1895. Han blev arresteret af det tsaristiske hemmelige politi kort derefter og idømt tre års eksil i byen Orlov . Efter løsladelsen vedtog Vorovsky et nyt underjordisk pseudonym , "P. Orlovsky", som en hyldest til denne oplevelse. I løbet af sin underjordiske karriere brugte Vorovsky også pseudonymerne "Y. Adamovich", "M. Schwarz", "Josephine" og "Felix Alexandrovich."

Vorovsky emigrerede til Europa i 1902 og tilbragte tid i Italien, Tyskland og Schweiz. I 1903 tilknyttede han sig den bolsjevikiske fraktion fra det russiske socialdemokratiske arbejderparti og blev redaktør for det officielle organ for partiet, Vperyod (fremad) i 1905.

Under den russiske revolution i 1905 vendte Vorovsky tilbage til Rusland og arbejdede aktivt som revolutionær i Skt. Petersborg . Efter nederlaget for opstanden i 1905 flyttede han til Odessa i Kherson Governorate , hvor han var en førende underjordisk bolsjevik fra 1907 til 1912.

I 1912 blev Vorovsky arresteret igen, denne gang for at blive deporteret til Europa.

Vorovsky vendte tilbage til Rusland i 1915 og landede i Petrograd - det nye navn Skt. Petersborg - men han blev snart sendt til Stockholm af et forretningsfirma.

Han var den første direktør for Gosizdat , State Publishing House, fra grundlæggelsen i 1919 indtil 1921.

Diplomatisk karriere

Efter sejren i den bolsjevikiske revolution i november 1917 blev Vorovsky udnævnt til den sovjetiske regerings diplomatiske repræsentant til Skandinavien og var fortsat baseret i Stockholm. I Stockholm var Vorovsky kontaktpunktet mellem den nye bolsjevikiske regering og repræsentanter for den tyske regering, der blev introduceret af Alexander Parvus til medlemmer af Tysklands socialdemokratiske parti inklusive Philipp Scheidemann i november og december 1917.

I december 1918 trak Sverige, der reagerede på pres fra de allieredes magter, der havde til hensigt at indføre en ubrydelig blokade, officiel anerkendelse af Vorovsky som repræsentant for Sovjet-Rusland. Denne handling fra den svenske regerings side tvang Vorovskijs tilbagevenden til Rusland den følgende måned. Denne handling truffet mod Vorovsky fulgte de handlinger, som Storbritannien havde truffet for at udvise Maxim Litvinov i september 1918 og Tysklands handling for at udvise Adolph Joffe i november samme år.

I marts 1919 fungerede Vorovsky som medlem af den sovjetiske delegation til den grundlæggende kongres for den kommunistiske international . Han blev udnævnt som repræsentant for det russiske kommunistparti til Kominterns eksekutivkomité . Han fungerede også som en af ​​organisationens sekretærer sammen med Angelica Balabanova . Grigorii Zinoviev blev udnyttet som organisationens præsident.

I juli 1920 genoptog Vorovsky arbejdet som en sovjetisk diplomat og deltog i diplomatiske forhandlinger med Polen .

Fra 1921 til 1923 var Vorovsky den sovjetiske repræsentant til Italien . I denne egenskab var han involveret i forsøg på forhandling af en handelsaftale mellem de to lande med en foreløbig pagt underskrevet i december 1921. Denne succes viste sig imidlertid at vare kortvarig, da forhandlingerne om at forlænge den seks måneders traktat mislykkedes i maj 1922 .

Vorovsky var medlem af den sovjetiske delegation til Genova-konferencen i 1922 , en gruppe ledet af den sovjetiske udenrigsminister Georgii Chicherin .

Død og arv

Vorovskys sidste diplomatiske mission kom i foråret 1923, da han tjente som sovjetisk repræsentant til Lausanne-konferencen i 1923. Ledsaget af to diplomatiske attachéer ankom Vorovsky til Lausanne fra Rom den 27. april i håb om at tvinge konferencens officielle deltagere til at anerkende sovjet. interesser i det tyrkiske Sortehavsstræde .

Den 9. maj sendte Vorovsky sin endelige rapport til Moskva, idet han bemærkede, at tre dage tidligere havde en gruppe højreorienterede unge optrådt på hans hotel og søgt et møde. Vorovsky skrev:

"Jeg nægtede at modtage dem, og kammerat Ahrens, der gik ud til dem for at finde ud af, hvad det drejede sig om, bortskaffede dem med det samme og fortalte dem, at de skulle stille sådanne sager for deres regering. Nu går de omkring i byen erklærer, at de vil tvinge os til at forlade Schweiz med magt og så videre.

"Om, hvorvidt politiet træffer foranstaltninger for vores sikkerhed, har vi ingen idé om. Under alle omstændigheder er det ikke tydeligt på overfladen. Det er alt for tydeligt, at bag disse hooligan-drenge er der en bevidst styrende hånd - muligvis udenlandsk Den schweiziske regering, der er klar over, hvad der foregår - for papirerne er fulde af det - skal bære ansvaret for vores sikkerhed. Den schweiziske regerings opførsel er en skammelig overtrædelse af de garantier, der blev givet i begyndelsen af ​​konferencen, og ethvert angreb på os i dette særligt velorganiserede land er kun muligt med myndighedernes viden og tilladelse. På dem er ansvaret. "

Om aftenen den 10. maj 1923 sad Vorovsky ved et spisebord i restauranten på sit hotel sammen med sine kolleger, da gruppen blev kontaktet af en person, som de ikke kendte. Den ukendte figur, en russisk hvid emigrant ved navn Maurice Conradi , trak en pistol og skød Vorovsky ihjel og sårede sine to ledsagere, Ahrens og Divilkovsky, i angrebet. Conradi blev forsvaret af advokaten Théodore Aubert og senere frikendt af den schweiziske domstol i epilogen om, hvad der ville blive kendt som Conradi-affæren . Senere blev det påstået, at mordet faktisk blev beordret af Joseph Stalin .

Vatslav Vorovsky var 51 år gammel på tidspunktet for hans død.

I 1990 lancerede den russiske kystvagt et Menzhinskiy-klasse (projekt 11351 - NATO Krivak III-klasse) skib opkaldt efter Vorovskiy (Воровский 160) .


Each of the early Comintern gatherings unfolded in a surprising way, but the founding congress was unique in its unpredictability. After an initial decision to postpone forming the new movement, the delegates changed course abruptly during the third day of debate and launched the Communist International.

This decision is the outstanding event in the 1919 congress, whose entire proceedings and related documents are available in a fully annotated edition from Pathfinder.

As of the projected opening day of the congress in Moscow, March 1, only two delegates had managed to break through the imperialist blockade against the Soviet republic and reach the site of deliberations. Both these delegates held that it was too soon to launch the new International, and one – Hugo Eberlein from Germany – was categorical in his opposition.

A preliminary gathering that day gave way to these objections, resolving that “the conference will not formally be the founding congress of the Third International” (Founding the Communist International 63 [2012] 39 [1987]).[2] The new plan was limited to adopting a platform, electing an administrative bureau, and issuing a call for affiliation.

But the opening session on March 2 did none of this. After brief remarks by Lenin and adoption of rules of procedure, the conference heard national reports. Lenin chaired, as he did throughout the event. Only a few dozen delegates were present.

National reports

Nowhere else in Comintern congresses do we find extensive time dedicated explicitly to informational reports on this kind. Certainly, delegates did sometimes use their speaking time to this purpose, but such interventions usually did little to advance the debate. Yet, at the March 1919 gathering, the third of the proceedings was dedicated to such national reports.

Perhaps the reports served as a way for delegates, who had never met before, to take each other’s measure and approach a common assessment of the world situation. Perhaps the reports served to fill time until more delegates had arrived.

Did the congress really needed to hear two descriptions of the workers’ movement in Switzerland, which lagged behind the vanguard of European struggle? Perhaps so, given that Fritz Platten and Leonie Kascher represented divergent strategical visions, whose differences cropped up repeatedly in subsequent years. Reports on France and the United States were based on experiences now at least two years in the past, before the delegates’ departure for Russia, but they were nonetheless cogent and insightful.

Many delegates submitted written reports, which fill 51 pages of Founding the Communist International.

Moshe Freylikh wrote an impressively detailed history of the workers’ movement in East Galicia, a majority-Ukrainian region with large Jewish and Polish populations, formerly Austrian and now claimed by Poland. In the 1920s, the region became a major focus of the foreign policy of Soviet Ukraine. (377-86 273-79)

Gaziz Yamylov provided a sweeping overview of the Communist movement’s rapid growth among the colonized and traditionally Muslim peoples of tsarist Russia. In a recent two-month period, he said, the Central Bureau of Communist Organizations of the Peoples of the East had distributed no less than two million pieces of literature in nine Asian languages. Whatever the precise press runs, the foundations were clearly being laid for the massive Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East held the following year. (395-7 286-88)

The many unfamiliar references in these reports demanded extensive endnotes, which make up 130 pages of the completed book. During their compilation, my editorial colleagues kidded that I was attempting to compile an encyclopedia.

Convinced of the event’s historic character, the Russian Communist Party sent many of its most authoritative leaders: Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Grigorii Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin, and the main congress organizer – Georgii Chicherin, Commissar of Foreign Affairs. All spoke in the first two sessions Trotsky and Zinoviev offered searching portrayals of challenges Communists faced in the Red Army and in Soviet civilian life.

A central premise

Lenin’s brief opening remarks laid out the gathering’s main theme:

The world revolution is beginning and growing in intensity everywhere…. All that is needed is to find the practical form to enable the proletariat to establish its rule [“dictatorship of the proletariat”]. Such a form is the soviet system…. The mass of workers now understands it thanks to Soviet power in Russia, thanks to the Spartacus League in Germany, and to similar organizations in other countries, such as, for example, the shop-stewards committees in Britain. (71-2 47-8)

Zinoviev went so far, two months later, as to predict that within a year all Europe would be Communist. (39 23)

A more sombre picture, however, was drawn by the German delegate Hugo Eberlein, who appears as “Albert” in the congress record. The workers’ and soldiers’ councils set up during the German November revolution had created a Social Democratic-led government, he reported, which moved quickly to restore bourgeois authority and crush the councils. Eberlein continued:

The whole country was divided into two camps: on one side stood the representatives of capital, who fought for the [bourgeois-dominated] national assembly, and on the other stood the Spartacus League demanding the [workers’] council system and the dictatorship of the proletariat. All struggles were waged around this axis, and you all know how they went. (79-80 53)

In Founding the Communist International, a lengthy editor’s footnote at this point fills in specifics not well known to present-day readers. Soon after taking office, the SPD-led government set up rightist armed contingents, the Freikorps, which for two months had been raging across Germany, crushing in succession the strongholds of workers’ councils. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were among the first of countless victims. Reinforced by this fascist-like terror, the SPD and bourgeois parties won a decisive majority in the new parliament and formed a pro-capitalist government. (451-2 326-7)

Eberlein saw Germany’s economic collapse as the best assurance that workers could regain the initiative, “fighting for the world revolution shoulder to shoulder with workers everywhere.” (88 59)

Delegates’ impressions

The delegates’ meeting place, the Mitrofan’evsky Hall in the Kremlin, gave evidence both of former tsarist grandeur and civil-war austerity. “Wonderful imperial carpets covered the floor,” recalls French delegate Jacques Sadoul. “It was cold, very cold, in the hall. The carpets strove, though in vain to make up for the heaters that blew terrible gusts of frigid air at the delegates….”

“Moscow lacks fuel. The congress delegates shiver. Moscow has been on meager rations the last two years. International comrades do not always eat their fill.” Delegates notice, Sadoul adds, that “the fare of the people’s commissars is not different than that – so lamentably frugal – served in other Soviet eateries.”

Russian delegate Vatslav Vorovsky compared the modest gathering with the imposing Second International congresses of old: “Instead of the theoreticians, hoary with age … here, with a few exceptions, were gathered new people, whose names were still little known and whose young faces did not yet carry the marks of recognized leadership.”

As for the mood of the occasion, Sadoul noted “Lenin’s never-ending and resonant laughter, which makes his shoulders shake and his belly quiver … Trotsky’s piercing irony the sublime Bukharin’s mischievous jocularity Chicherin’s mocking humour…. The boisterous gaiety of the beer drinkers – Platten, Eberlein, Gruber – and Rakovsky’s subtle wit, more Parisian than Romanian.”

The British journalist Arthur Ransome remarked that “business was conducted and speeches were made in all languages, though where possible German was used…. This was unlucky for me …. Fineberg spoke in English, Rakovsky in French, Sadoul also. [Mikola] Skrypnik… refused to talk German and said he would speak in either Ukrainian or Russian, and to most people’s relief chose the latter. Lenin sat quietly listening, speaking when necessary in almost every European language with astonishing ease.” (35-36 20-21)

A platform for the new International

The foundational document proposed as a basis for recruitment to the new International, an eight-page “Platform” drafted by Bukharin, was presented toward the end of the second day of sessions. Although Bukharin’s reputation among Marxists has grown over time, thanks in large part to Stephen Cohen’s biography,[3] few of his writings are available in English Bukharin’s speech on the platform is a useful exception. The platform resolution itself and other Congress decisions are available in Marxists Internet Archive.

Seeking to generalize from the Russian revolution in 1917, the platform defines the basis of workers’ power:

The conquest of political power does not mean merely a change of personnel in the ministries. Instead, it means destroying the enemy’s state apparatus seizing real power disarming the bourgeoisie, the counterrevolutionary officers, and the White Guards.

The resulting “dictatorship of the proletariat” is “a provisional institution”:

As the bourgeoisie’s resistance is broken, and it is expropriated and gradually transformed into a part of the work force, the proletarian dictatorship wanes, the state withers away, and with it, social classes themselves.

The “road to victory” requires a break with the “centre” – the wavering forces that “flirt with … sworn enemies.” On the other hand, a bloc is needed with forces that, “although not previously part of the Socialist party, now for the most part support the proletarian dictatorship in the form of council power.” Revolutionary syndicalists are cited as an example, but more importantly, the Platform also pledges to “support to exploited colonial peoples in their struggles against imperialism.” (335-45 241-48)

A bumpy road to global solidarity

Immediately following Bukharin’s report, the Dutch delegate Sebald Justinus Rutgers called attention to wording in the draft platform that seriously undercut its commitment of support to colonized peoples. The text stated that capitalist rulers “are strangling the proletarian revolution in Europe with their war machines and with brutalized, barbaric colonial troops.”

This offensive wording was based on a concern shared by many workers. The French army was threatening to attack workers in struggle in Soviet Russia, France, and French-occupied Germany with Black troops levied in Africa, troops with whom the workers shared neither language, nor culture, nor political traditions. Denunciations of this capitalist tactic often played on racist stereotypes.

Rutgers declared that no one familiar with the brutality of Dutch and other colonialist armies would accuse soldiers recruited from the oppressed populations of “barbarism.” He proposed a substitute wording accusing the capitalist rulers of punishing Russian and German workers “with the same ruthlessness with which they proceeded against the colonial peoples.” (186-8 131-3) However, no correction was made in the final text.

An extensive footnote in Founding the Communist International summarizes the issues at stake. (475-7 342-44) Workers did in fact succeed in finding common ground with French army troops levied in Africa. These troops proved in fact to be quite prone to resistance and munity, including when deployed in Soviet Russia. The Comintern adopted a strong statement in 1921 calling on its members to rally soldiers from the colonies to the joint struggle against colonialism, and this was done to good effect. Imperialist governments soon abandoned plans to use colonial troops against European workers.

The Manifesto of the Founding Congress included a commitment to colonial freedom: “Colonial slaves of Africa and Asia: the hour of proletarian dictatorship in Europe will also be the hour of your liberation.” The Founding volume includes yet another lengthy footnote pointing out that this sentence fell short of subsequent Comintern declarations of support to colonial subjects as agents of their own liberation and essential contributors to the worldwide socialist struggle. (500-1 358-9)

Context is vital here: Congress delegates thought it likely that workers’ victory in Europe would be consummated within months – before the revolt in the colonies had time to mature. Despite its misjudgment on this point, the Manifesto was widely understood as a pledge of active support to colonial freedom fighters, as Claude McKay, a delegate of the African Blood Brothers, reported to the 1922 Comintern congress.[4] This confidence was confirmed by Comintern actions and decisions at its Second and Baku congresses in 1920.

Indeed, at a time when most critics of colonialism still spoke only of its reform, the Soviet republic and the Comintern were the first influential forces on a global scale to commit themselves unequivocally to colonial freedom.

‘International of the deed’

Following an eloquent survey of the global class struggle, the Manifesto concluded with a call to action, saying in part:

If the First International foresaw the road that lay ahead and indicated its direction if the Second International assembled and organized millions of proletarians then the Third International is the International of open mass action, the International of revolutionary realization, the International of the deed.

Socialist criticism has sufficiently denounced the bourgeois world order. The task of the international Communist Party is to overthrow this system and construct n its place the socialist order. (323 231)

Bourgeois democracy vs. workers’ rule

Lenin’s report and resolution on bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat was to become the sole document of the Founding Congress widely known among subsequent Communist generations. In part, this was because writings of all other early Comintern leaders, and Comintern documents in general, were placed under ban once Joseph Stalin gained ascendancy in the 1930s, leaving the Complete Works of Lenin as the only readily available source.

Lenin’s central thought was that the soviet system achieves a much higher level of democracy for workers and peasants than that found in parliamentary capitalist states. “The substance of Soviet government,” Lenin said, “is that the permanent and only foundation of state power, the entire machinery of state, is the mass-scale organization of the classes oppressed by capitalism…. It is the people … that are now drawn into constant and unfailing, moreover, decisive participation in the democratic administration of the state.” (See Lenin’s Theses and Report.)

The resulting brief resolution, moved by Lenin, called for explaining the superiority of the soviet system, extending the soviets’ scope, and building a stable Communist majority within them.

A change of course

Toward the end of the third day of debate, Fritz Platten of Switzerland took the floor to read a motion to reopen the question of immediately launching the new International. The resolution was signed by Christian Rakovsky (Balkan Federation), Karl Steinhardt (Austria), Otto Grimlund (Sweden), and Endre Rudniánszky (Hungary).

We do not know exactly what brought about this change of course. Certainly, one factor was that, as Eberlein stated in opening the third session, “the remaining delegates have now arrived,” including all nine who were expected from abroad. Moreover, some of the latecomers from abroad argued strongly against delay in founding the International.

Among the latecomers was Karl Steinhardt (Gruber), a central leader of the newly formed Austrian Communist Party. At the end of the previous session he had told delegates:

We arrived here an hour ago after a seventeen-day trip of incredible difficulties…. We traveled the whole way like hobos, on coal cars, locomotives, couplings, in cattle cars, on foot through the lines of Ukrainian and Polish robber bands … always driven by the single burning desire: we must get to Moscow and nothing will stop us from getting there! (191-9 134-9)

The enthusiasm that greeted Steinhardt’s speech was heightened as delegates learned of the message he brought: his party favoured immediate formation of the International. Perhaps his arrival tipped the scales on this issue.

The surprise resolution stated that immediate foundation was “all the more necessary” in the light of the attempt of a February 3-10 conference in Bern, Switzerland, to revive “the old opportunist International…. A sharp break is therefore required between the revolutionary proletariat and the social traitors.”

Discussion on this proposal was opened by Eberlein, who reiterated the German party’s view that it was too soon to launch the International. He denied that the Social Democrats’ Bern conference was a relevant consideration. In his view, there were three barriers to launching the International:

  • The call for the Moscow meeting had not proposed launching as an option.
  • The prospective member groups had in most cases not considered such a proposal.
  • The Communist movement across Europe was in an extremely early state of formation.

In response, Zinoviev stressed that the resolution was supported by new arrivals (Rakovsky, Grimlund, and Steinhardt) and that the existence of workers’ rule in a large country (Russia) provided a sufficient basis to proceed. “If we hesitate, we lose all credibility,” Zinoviev stated.

After nine further speeches, the delegates voted unanimously, against a single abstention by the German delegation (Eberlein), to found the new International. Eberlein then pledged to work on his return to win the German party to affiliate, which it did in short order.

Further resolutions and statements

During the final two days of debate, Trotsky presented the proposed Manifesto of the Communist International, the most immediately influential document of the congress.[5]

Three other resolutions were presented and adopted on questions of a primarily conjunctural character:

    . Presented by Platten and Zinoviev. . Presented by Valerian Obolensky (N. Osinski). . Presented by Yrjó Sirola.

In addition, the Congress heard three brief statements of special political importance:

  • A declaration and a resolution on the Zimmerwald Association, an international movement of anti-war socialists formed in 1915. The many Zimmerwald leaders present in Moscow dissolved the movement and transferred its papers to the Communist International.[6]
  • A message from Socialist groups in Japan, the only direct input to the congress from outside Europe and Soviet Asia. In it, the Japanese comrades protested their government’s armed intervention into Soviet Russia.
  • A short resolution “On the Need to Draw Women Workers into the Struggle for Socialism.” The statement, drafted and submitted by Alexandra Kollontai, was adopted it was the only specific reference during the congress to the role of women in the revolutionary.

The last item of business was an organizational report by Platten, which proposed Moscow as the provisional centre of the new International. Leadership was entrusted to an Executive Committee made up of one representative from the party in each of the “most important countries” it was to choose a five-member Bureau. Anticipating some delay before full-time delegates from abroad could arrive in Moscow, the resolution authorized the host party – the Russian Communists – to carry out executive functions on an interim basis.

A moment of optimism

Founding the Communist International includes four long-available assessments of the event by Lenin along with less familiar appraisals by Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Kollontai.

The best-known of Lenin’s commentaries was written six weeks after the congress, at a moment when workers’ governments based on councils existed in Hungary and Bavaria. It was a highpoint of optimism regarding the prospects of the new International. Lenin’s article, “The Third International and Its Place in History,” states:

The Third International has gathered the fruits of the work of the Second International, discarded its opportunist, social-chauvinist, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois dross, and has begun to implement the dictatorship of the proletariat….

The movement of the proletariat for the overthrow of the yoke of capital now rests on an unprecedentedly firm base in the shape of several Soviet republics, which are implementing the dictatorship of the proletariat and are the embodiment of victory over capitalism on an international scale….

A new era in world history has begun.

But the Bavarian and Hungarian soviet regimes did not long survive. During the year following the congress, Europe’s capitalist rulers recovered their confidence and restabilized their rule, at least temporarily, west of the Soviet frontier.

Meanwhile, the Comintern focused its efforts on a task not even mentioned at its founding conference: drawing together its supporters in each country in mass combat-ready Communist parties. During the next 18 months, the new International won the affiliation of a mass Communist youth movement and of mass workers’ parties in several European countries and , while taking initial steps to launch the Communist movement in oppressed and colonized nations of Asia and Africa.

As capitalism restabilized, the task of revolutionary party-building came to the fore, and in this respect the Comintern’s progress fulfilled the optimism of its founders.


[1]. Acknowledgements in Founding the Communist International list 70 collaborators around the world who provided translation or research assistance. Aside from myself, the main translators were Bob Cantrick and Robert Dees (German) and Sonja Franeta (Russian). Dees also did research for the book’s annotation. Bruce Marcus and Mike Taber took charge of copy-editing. Steve Clark provided editorial advice and, together with Mary-Alice Waters and Jack Barnes, reviewed the introduction.

[2]. Founding the Communist International, first published in 1987, is now available in an upgraded 2012 second printing with identical text but improved page design and new page numbering. In the present article, references are given to both printings, with the 2012 printing’s page number coming first.

[3]. Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography 1888-1938, New York: Oxford, 1973.

[4]. Riddell, ed., Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress, Chicago: Haymarket, 2012, pp 808-9.

[5]. Regarding Trotsky’s authorship of the Manifesto, see note 16 to “The Founding of the Communist International, Part 1”

[6]. The Zimmerwald International Socialist Committee was established by a conference of anti-war socialists in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, in September 1915. It held international conferences thereafter. The left wing of the Zimmerwald movement (Zimmerwald Left) was a direct precursor of the Comintern. For documents of the Zimmerwald movement, see Riddell, ed., Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International: Documents 1907-16 the Preparatory Years, New York: Pathfinder, 1984.


The massive steel door swung open and I was ushered into a large lobby, from which a similar reinforced door led to the Communist holy of holies, Lenin's archives. The former Central Committee building on Staraya Square in central Moscow is a vast grey edifice the size of an entire city block. Along its endless corridors are the identical wood-panelled offices where the Party hierarchs once sat, dozens of meeting rooms of all sizes, a great reading room lined with catalogs and indexes to the Party's meticulously preserved records. And deep in its basement, reminiscent of a nuclear bomb-shelter, on special shelves in special metal boxes, I was shown all the written traces to be found of the man still regarded by some as a genius, by others as the scourge of the century.

Despite the fact that there have been five editions of his collected works in Russian (the fourth of which was translated into many foreign languages), these are Lenin's unpublished documents, numbering 3724 in all. Another 3000 or so were merely signed by him. Why were they hidden away? Could it be that his halo would have been tarnished by publishing, for instance, his instructions in November 1922 to punish Latvia and Estonia for supporting the Whites by such means as &lsquocatching them out&rsquo with more and more evidence, by penetrating their borders &lsquoin hot pursuit&rsquo and &lsquothen hanging 100-1000 of their officials and rich folk―&rsquo? 1 Perhaps such documents were concealed because there was no one left who could explain them. As the Anarchist veteran Prince Kropotkin wrote to Lenin in December 1920, when the Bolsheviks had seized a large group of hostages whom they would &lsquodestroy mercilessly&rsquo (in the words of Pravda) should an attempt be made on the life of any of the Soviet leaders: &lsquoIs there none among you to remind his comrades and to persuade them that such measures are a return to the worst times of the Middle Ages and the religious wars, and that they are not worthy of people who have undertaken to create the future society?&rsquo 2 Lenin read the letter and marked it &lsquoFor the archives.&rsquo

Of course, our view of Lenin has changed not only because we have found there is more than the stories that inspired us for decades. We began to doubt his infallibility above all because the &lsquocause&rsquo, which he launched and for which millions paid with their lives, has suffered a major historical defeat. It is hard to write this. As a former Stalinist who has made the painful transition to a total rejection of Bolshevik totalitarianism, I confess that Leninism was the last bastion to fall in my mind. As I saw more and more closed Soviet archives, as well as the large Western collections at Harvard University and the Hoover Institution in California, Lenin's profile altered in my estimation: gradually the creator and prophet was edged out by the Russian Jacobin. I realised that none of us knew Lenin he had always stood before us in the death-mask of the earthly god he had never been.

After my books on Stalin and Trotsky, 3 I set about the final part of the trilogy with the aim of rethinking Lenin. He had always been multi-faceted, but after his death his image was channelled into the single dimension of a saint, and the more we saw him as such, the more we distanced ourselves from the historical Lenin who was still, I think, the greatest revolutionary of the century.

The intellectual diet of Leninism was as compulsory for every Soviet citizen as the Koran is for an observing Muslim. On 1 January 1990 in the Soviet Union there were more than 653 million copies of Lenin's writings in 125 languages&mdashperhaps the only area of abundance achieved by Communist effort. Thus were millions of people educated in Soviet dogmatics, and we are still not fully aware how impoverished and absurd our idol-worship will look to the twenty-first century.

To write about Lenin is above all to express one's view of Leninism. In 1926, two years after Lenin's death, Stalin produced a collection called The Foundations of Leninism. Leninism, we were told, came down to making possible the revolutionary destruction of the old world and the creation on its ruins of a new and radiant civilization. How? By what means? By means of unlimited dictatorship. It was here that the original sin of Marxism in its Leninist version was committed&mdashnot that Marx, to give him his due, was much taken with the idea of dictatorship. Lenin, however, regarded it as Marxism's chief contribution on the question of the state. In fact, according to him, the dictatorship of the proletariat constituted the basic content of the socialist revolution. His assertion that &lsquoonly by struggle and war&rsquo can the &lsquogreat questions of humanity&rsquo be resolved gave priority to the destructive tendency. 4

Thus armed, Lenin and his successors assumed that in the name of the happiness of future generations, everything was permitted and moral: the export of revolution, civil war, unbridled violence, social experimentation. The vitality and, let it not be denied, the appeal of much of Leninism derived from the perpetual human longing for the perfect and just world. The Russian revolutionaries, including Lenin, rightly exposed the age-old evils of human existence, the exploitation, inequality, lack of freedom. But having acquired the opportunity to abolish these evils, the Leninists established a new, barely disguised form of exploitation to be carried out by the state. Instead of social and ethnic inequality came bureaucratic inequality in place of class unfreedom came total unfreedom. The Leninist version of Marxism was made flesh in this vast country, becoming something like a secular religion in the process.

In the last analysis, the Leninist promise of great progress turned into great backwardness. The founders of the Russian Marxist movement, George Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich and Lev Deich, in their &lsquoOpen Letter to the Petrograd Workers&rsquo of 28 October 1917, wrote prophetically that &lsquothe revolution is the greatest historic disaster, it will provoke a civil war which in the end will force it to retreat far from the conquests of February 1917&rsquo. 5 For that matter, on the eve of the Bolshevik coup of October 1917 other Bolsheviks were not confident of success and were alarmed by Lenin's radicalism, which with maniacal persistence was pushing the masses towards armed uprising against the Provisional Government. At the Central Committee on 16 October 1917, where the issue of the uprising was discussed, Lenin made a note, which reads: &lsquo&ldquoWe dare not win&rdquo, that's the main point of all their speeches.&rsquo 6 A man of enormous will, Lenin succeeded in turning his party in the direction of violence and coercion as a way of dealing with the problems of peace, land and freedom.

Leninism was not restrained by national limits. With the aid of Comintern, established in Moscow in March 1919 and virtually an international section of the Russian Communist Party, he attempted to initiate revolutions wherever the possibility existed, and sometimes where it did not. In July 1920 he cabled Stalin in Kharkov: &lsquoThe situation in Comintern is splendid. Zinoviev, Bukharin and I believe that we ought to encourage revolution in Italy right now. My own opinion is that we need to sovietize Hungary for the purpose, and maybe also Czecho[slovakia] and Romania.&rsquo 7 Emissaries were sent east and west, and on Lenin's orders the Finance Commissariat made available millions of gold roubles &lsquofor the needs of the world revolution&rsquo. 8 Meanwhile Soviet citizens were dying in their hundreds of thousands from famine and disease. For Lenin, the revolution was everything, and it could not be achieved without countless victims.

It is impossible to think of Lenin without contemplating his brain-child, his party. Perhaps the idea of the mighty revolutionary organization is central to Leninism, but his accomplishment was not merely that he created a party with a disciplined organization, but that he was rapidly able to erect it into a state system. The Party soon acquired' a monopoly of power, of thought and of life itself. It became a Leninist order, in whose name its &lsquoleaders&rsquo and their &lsquocomrades-in-arms&rsquo were to rule the country for decades to come. It was an ideal backbone for a totalitarian regime, but as soon as Soviet society began its rapid change in the second half of the 1980s, the Party, like a fish cast onto the bank, began to expire. Its rapid and amazingly painless disintegration after the attempted coup of August 1991 revealed its absolute inability to survive in conditions of an emerging civil society.

If the chief feature of a dictator is unlimited personal power&mdashand Lenin had such power&mdashwe ought to see him as a dictator. Yet he was not. Certainly he regarded dictatorship as a positive virtue contributing to the success of the revolution, and certainly he saw the Bolshevik leaders as &lsquodictators&rsquo in their allocated areas of responsibility: at the 10 July 1919 session of the Politburo, Alexei Rykov was appointed &lsquodictator for military supply&rsquo. 9 Power for Lenin was dictatorship, but he exercised it remotely, through a flexible mechanism of ideological and organizational structures.

Little is known of Lenin's private life. This is not only because of the Marxist postulate of the primacy of the social above the personal, but also because of the desire of the revolutionary hierarchs to keep the personal lives of their leaders secret from the masses. While every detail of the life of a minor functionary was regarded as essential information, the life of a Politburo member and his family was seen as a state secret. Their salaries, numbers of servants and automobiles, as well as the size of their houses and dachas&mdashall such information was untouchable in &lsquospecial files&rsquo. Nobody in Russia ever learnt, for example, what financial support Lenin had received during the years of his voluntary exile in Europe, from 1900 to 1905 and from 1906 to 1917, or who had financed the Party before the revolution, or why Lenin had never worked, in the usual meaning of the word, or how he had travelled through Germany at the height of the war, or whether the Bolsheviks had ever received financial help from Germany, Russia's enemy, before the revolution. On 21 August 1918 Lenin wrote to his emissary in Sweden, Vatslav Vorovsky: &lsquoNo one asked the Germans for help, but there were negotiations on when and how they, the Germans, would carry out their plan to advance &hellip There was a coincidence of interests. We would have been idiots not to have exploited it.&rsquo 10 The new regime's relations with Germany, after the separate peace of Brest-Litovsk of March 1918, were shrouded in secrecy. In February 1921, Lenin received a cipher from the Soviet legation in Berlin reporting on the results of talks with the Germans, in the course of which agreement had been reached on the rehabilitation of the German war industry, contravening the Versailles prohibition. The German firm Blohm and Voss was ready to build submarines, Albatrosswerke aircraft, and Krupp artillery pieces on Soviet soil. Lenin responded: &lsquoð&rdquo&fnof&rsquo I think, yes. Tell them so. Secret.&rsquo 11

Soviet biographies of Lenin are countless and uniformly eulogistic, singing the praises of his genius, his perfection and his greatness. Within a year of the Bolshevik seizure of power, Grigory Zinoviev virtually mapped out the first official biography and set the tone that would become almost statutory, in a speech in which he employed such terms as &lsquothe apostle of Communism&rsquo and &lsquoLeader, by the grace of God&rsquo. 12 The published memoirs of Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, who knew him better than anyone, were different, though they too bear the stamp of the era, &lsquothe midnight of the epoch&rsquo. The exception to the rule is perhaps her memoirs about the last period of his life which, like those of his sister, Maria, were never published.

The five editions of Lenin's collected works vary substantially. The first came out between 1920 and 1926 and numbered twenty volumes. The second and third (which differed only in the quality of their bindings) were published in thirty volumes between 1930 and 1932. The fourth, known as the Stalin Edition and the one translated into foreign languages, including English, came out between 1941 and 1957 in thirty-five volumes. The fifth, described as the Complete Edition and the one to which we refer most often in this book, was published between 1958 and 1965 and benefited to some extent from the somewhat liberal climate of Khrushchev's early years. It ran to fifty-five volumes, while the sixth, which was in preparation when the August 1991 events occurred, was planned to have at least seventy. Lenin is inexhaustible. The most serious Soviet work on him is a twelve-volume &lsquoBiographical Chronicle&rsquo which provides not merely the basic contours of the man-god's life, but also thousands of names and facts. It also contains many cuts, silences and distorted interpretations. The biographies written in the West are immeasurably more useful, although they lack the original source material, especially on the Soviet period.

One of the most interesting published accounts of Lenin was written by Trotsky when Lenin died in 1924. 13 It formed part of the material he collected for many years for a &lsquobig book&rsquo on Lenin. In April 1929, exiled in Constantinople, he wrote to Alexandra Ramm, his translator in Berlin: &lsquoMy book Lenin and His Successors cannot appear earlier than two or three months after my autobiography has come out.&rsquo And three months later he wrote that he was writing another book on &lsquoLenin (a biography, personal portrait, memoirs and correspondence)&rsquo. 14 Five years later Trotsky wrote to his supporter, M. Parizhanin: &lsquoMy work on Lenin has not yet and will not soon move beyond the preparatory stage. I won't be able to send the first chapters for translation before July.&rsquo 15 Lenin dead was no less useful to Trotsky, for personal reasons, than he was to Stalin. Both of them knew more about their patron than anyone else, but the &lsquobig book on Lenin&rsquo, alas, was never completed or published.

Trotsky first met Lenin in 1902, and their relationship went from mutual admiration to deep mutual rejection and back to close alliance. Trotsky could have recalled that, at the time of the 1905 revolution, Lenin in a fit of frustration had called him a balalaika, a poseur, base careerist, rogue, scoundrel, liar, crook, swine, and more. That was Lenin's style, but it did not prevent him from writing in 1917, &lsquoBravo, Comrade Trotsky!&rsquo or from calling him &lsquothe best Bolshevik&rsquo. Trotsky, for his own part, was never short of an insulting epithet to throw back.

Stalin also knew a lot about Lenin, notably from the Soviet rather than the émigré period. The archives show that Stalin received no fewer than 150 personal notes, cables, letters and orders from Lenin. But many of them are fragments of telegram tape, second copies of typescript and other indirect evidence. I have alluded in my book on Stalin to the dubious authenticity of such materials. After becoming supreme dictator, and with the help of his yes-men, Stalin introduced some significant falsifications into the correspondence with Lenin, which had grown rapidly with his appointment to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. After his own authorized biography had appeared, it seems Stalin also planned to bring out a book on Lenin, though he never did. 16

Perhaps it was another leading Bolshevik, Lev Kamenev, who received the most correspondence, 350 letters and memoranda by my reckoning, most of them still unpublished. He was much trusted by Lenin, even on personal matters, for example on Lenin's relationship with his mistress Inessa Armand at the time he and Lenin were sharing an apartment in Poland. Kamenev's knowledge of Lenin is important because he was the first editor, with Lenin's direct participation, of Lenin's collected works (1920-26). Kamenev, however, wrote little, and left nothing to compare in size with the heritage of his constant friend Zinoviev.

Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev and his wife Z.I. Lilina were close family friends of Lenin, and Zinoviev probably received more personal letters from Lenin than any other leader. The new Communist top brass were not modest: once in power, they took up residence in the Kremlin, expropriated palaces and estates, gave cities their names, erected monuments to themselves, surrounded themselves with bodyguards and doctors, and quickly set about publishing their collected works. Zinoviev's best work on Lenin was possibly his introduction to the study of Leninism, in which he exhorted his readers to &lsquostudy Lenin at first-hand! To know Lenin is to know the road to the victory of the world revolution.&rsquo 17 In the early 1930s, when Zinoviev's days were numbered, he wrote several chapters of a book on Lenin, hoping it would save him. Stalin would not so much as look at what his prisoner had written, for he had long ago decided the fate of Zinoviev, and Kamenev too.

Most of Lenin's biographers have understandably concentrated on his social and political rôle, but it is also important to balance that against his strictly human, moral and intellectual qualities, and to do so without forgetting the historical context. The historical Lenin was a child of his time: troubled, cruel, expectant, alarming. History neither accuses nor justifies, it is a means to understand, to discern the patterns that characterize a distant age. We say the word &lsquoLenin&rsquo and we see in our mind's eye a man whose high forehead and large bald patch suggest the embodiment of intellect&mdashas well as the commonplace.

Gleb Krzhizhanovsky, an early associate of Lenin's who held high office in the Soviet government, made an attempt in his book Velikii Lenin to define the essence of Lenin's genius (to which the book was dedicated), but was more successful in describing his subject's exterior appearance. It was, he wrote, simple and modest: &lsquoShort of stature and wearing his usual cloth cap, he could easily have passed unnoticed in any factory district. All one could say of his appearance was that he had a pleasant, swarthy face with a touch of the Asiatic. In a rough country coat he could just as easily have passed in a crowd of Volga peasants.&rsquo Clearly, this description was intended to stress the &lsquofolksiness&rsquo, the &lsquodepth&rsquo, the &lsquolink with the lower orders&rsquo, but Krzhizhanovsky also noticed an important element: Lenin's eyes, the mirror of the human mind. Those eyes, he wrote, &lsquowere unusual, piercing, full of inner strength and energy, dark, dark brown&hellip&rsquo 18 It was a feature noticed by many, especially by the writer A.I. Kuprin in his graphic description, &lsquoInstant Photography&rsquo. Lenin, he wrote, &lsquois short, broad-shouldered and lean. He looks neither repellent, militant nor deep-thinking. He has high cheekbones and slanting eyes &hellip The dome of his forehead is broad and high, though not as exaggerated as it appears in foreshortened photographs &hellip He has traces of hair on his temples, and his beard and moustache still show how much of a fiery redhead he was in his youth. His hands are large and ugly &hellip I couldn't stop looking at his eyes &hellip they are narrow besides which he tends to screw them up, no doubt a habit of concealing short sight, and this, and the rapid glances beneath his eyebrows, gives him an occasional squint and perhaps a look of cunning. But what surprised me most was their colour &hellip Last summer in the Paris zoo, seeing the eyes of a lemur, I said to myself in amazement: at last I've found the colour of Lenin's eyes! The only difference being that the lemur's pupils were bigger and more restless, while Lenin's were no more than pinpricks from which blue sparks seemed to fly.&rsquo 19 The writer Ariadna Tyrkova, who had seen Lenin at close quarters more than once, drew a simpler picture: &lsquoLenin was an evil man. And he had the evil eyes of a wolf.&rsquo 20

A physical detail, while of no decisive significance to Lenin's political portrait, may nevertheless highlight his main characteristic, namely his powerful mind, a mind that was too often not merely pragmatic, flexible and sophisticated, but also malevolent and perfidious. His radical pragmatism explains the actions he took to bring about the defeat of his own country in the First World War in order to get his party into power. His radicalism compelled him to accept the loss of entire national regions of the former tsarist empire, although when complete disintegration was threatened he cast aside his internationalism and started defending that empire, by then transformed into its Soviet form.

It was power, not love of fatherland, that prompted him to save Russia. He had, after all, shown his contempt&mdashto put it mildly&mdashfor Russia and the Russians. Writing in the autumn of 1920 to Jan Berzin, a Central Committee member of Latvian origin, about publishing Communist propaganda, he complained that things were going badly. He advised Berzin to invite two Swiss comrades from Zurich, and to pay them &lsquoarch-generously&rsquo. He went on: &lsquoHand out the work to Russian idiots: send the cuttings here, but not occasional issues (as these idiots have been doing until now).&rsquo 21 Without a blush, he could call his fellow-countrymen idiots who could only be trusted to do the simplest tasks, while left-wingers from Zurich had to be paid &lsquoarch-generously&rsquo. This is only a short note, but a very eloquent one, and similar evidence of Lenin's attitude to Russianness is abundant, though of course well hidden in the archives.

In the middle of 1922 the civil war was over and Russia lay in ruins. It seemed that at last the cruelty would end. Lenin pointed out that &lsquoalthough coercion is not our ideal&rsquo, the Bolsheviks could not live without it, even where ideas, views and the human spirit are concerned. He recommended the death penalty, commuted in mitigating circumstances to deprivation of liberty or deportation abroad, &lsquofor propaganda or agitation or belonging to or aiding organizations supporting that part of the international bourgeoisie that does not recognize the &hellip Communist system&rsquo. 22 This proposal was later incorporated into the infamous Article 58 of the Criminal Code, under which millions constructed and then filled the concentration camps. Lenin is the source of the totalitarian ideology of intolerance. By creating the Cheka, the punitive organ of the dictatorship and his favourite brainchild, Lenin influenced the outlook of the Communists who soon came to believe that the amoral was moral, if it was in the Party's interest. S.I. Gusev, a member of the Party Central Control Commission, addressing the XIV Congress in December 1925, declared: &lsquoLenin once taught us that every member of the Party must be an agent of the Cheka, that is, we must watch and inform &hellip I believe every member of the Party should inform. If we suffer from anything, it is not from denunciation, but from non-denunciation. We might be the best of friends, but once we start to differ in politics, we must not only break off our friendships, we must go further and start informing.&rsquo 23 Leninist doctrine had donned the police agent's cloak.

It is often said that, as he felt death approaching, Lenin was horrified by what he had done and was willing to rethink much. It may be so, but it is impossible to prove. Even had he wanted to change things, which is doubtful, he took his intentions with him to the grave. It is also said that Lenin failed to build &lsquotrue socialism&rsquo, even with the aid of the New Economic Policy. But if one looks closely at his understanding of this &lsquonew policy&rsquo, one can clearly discern old Bolshevik features. NEP, as far as Lenin was concerned, was bridled capitalism, and it could be &lsquoslapped down&rsquo at any time. When reports started coming in about profiteering by traders, the so-called &lsquoNepmen&rsquo, Lenin reacted quickly: &lsquo&hellip we need a number of model trials with the harshest sentences. The Justice Commissariat obviously doesn't understand that the New Economic Policy requires new methods of applying punishment of new harshness.&rsquo 24

Lenin never concealed his belief that the new world could only be built with the aid of physical violence. In March 1922 he wrote to Kamenev. &lsquoIt is the biggest mistake to think that NEP will put an end to the terror. We shall return to the terror, and to economic terror.&rsquo 25 And indeed there was to be enough terror of every kind. After many decades we Russians condemned it, refusing for shame to answer the question of who had started it and who had made it into a sacred object of revolutionary method. I do not doubt that Lenin wanted earthly happiness for the people, at least for those he called &lsquothe proletariat&rsquo. But he regarded it as normal to build this &lsquohappiness&rsquo on blood, coercion and the denial of freedom.

Stalin, Magnified

Putting Simon Sebag Montefiore’s popular work on Stalin into the shade, Stephen Kotkin’s projected three-volume biography will run to well over 3000 pages, all rooted in primary Russian archival sources and a vast array of Russian-language research publications. Birkelund Professor in History at Princeton University, Kotkin is also the author of the highly influential Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization. You read that correctly. The just-published second volume of his Stalin biography is 1154 pages long and covers the period from 1929 to 1941 (collectivisation of agriculture, the Terror, the Nazi–Soviet Pact). The dominant point of view, given largely but not solely via documents flowing in and out of Stalin’s office (the “Little Corner” in the Kremlin), is from his desk: his appointment books, the notes and transcripts of meetings and conversations in there, his speeches, writings, annotations, just about everything that was his or was close to him. This is an interiorised biography, with the ideological motivations and personal complexities seen from inside-out. If being inside Stalin, day in, day out, puts you off, avoid this work.

With so many pages at his disposal, Kotkin can cover the entirety of Stalin’s private and public world, including his powerful influence on art, literature, music and cinema—some of the most interesting sections in this volume are on these subjects. Rather than attempt a comprehensive distillation of the book, which for most of its length is familiarly and compellingly dark, it’s more interesting to focus on surprising and out-of-the-way revelations, and to consider some questions Kotkin leaves up in the air, particularly in relation the Great Terror of 1937-38.

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This mammoth work in many ways complicates our view of Stalin, which is good, because human nature is complex, and he was not demonic. Nothing diminishes the murderous nature of his regime, with which we’re adequately familiar. Stalin admired everything about Ivan the Terrible (in many ways his preferred historical model), vastly outdoing him in terror and death-dealing. Whether a Trotsky, a post-dated Lenin, a Bukharin or a Voroshilov could have held the country together through the Great Patriotic War, overseeing the creation of armies and marshals to crush the myriad divisions of Grossdeutschland and its capital into dust … Conceivably not.

In 1932 Stalin adopted “socialist realism” as the plastic-arts and literary aesthetic of the USSR, an ideological widening, and Kotkin reveals the process. As a prelude, Stalin disbanded the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. This was around the time Maxim Gorky returned permanently from his preferred residence in Fascist Italy. The self-styled “proletarians” were mutually hostile zealots fixated on “the correct line”, excoriating one another for the slightest imagined deviation, and mostly under-achievers (Demyan Bedny was typical). In contrast, many non-party writers, like Mikhail Bulgakov, were publishing brilliant work. So Stalin set up a new Union of Soviet Writers, open to non-party as well as party members, and the other arts were supposed to be organised similarly. Stalin wanted Gorky, denounced by the “proletarians” as “a man without class consciousness”, to head the new union.

This was received as cultural Thermidor. It was certainly the final blow to a Soviet avant-garde. Alexander Fadayev, a chairman of the dissolved body, wrote indignantly to Kaganovich: how could this be? Next day Stalin spent over five hours with Fadayev and other members of the defunct body, plus a couple of cultural apparatchiks and Kaganovich, and two and a half weeks later another half-hour. No, they couldn’t revive the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. Forget that. Focus on the future. What theory to adopt, what method? One attendee, Ivan Gronsky, explained that pre-revolutionary realism had been “progressive” in its own “bourgeois-democratic” period, producing many great works, but now they needed a literature to advance the era of socialist construction, and suggested “proletarian socialist realism” or “communist realism”. Stalin said they needed to unite all cultural figures, not just Communists, and suggested “socialist realism” as a handle: brief, intelligible, inclusive. It was also about modernity. “Stalin forced into being a socialist modernity,” Kotkin writes, “presiding over the creation of a mass-production economy, a Soviet mass culture, an integrated society, and a mass politics without private property”—personal private property aside, of course: your library, furniture, jewellery, camera, hunting gun, motor cycle, motor car or whatever, were your own.

The pre-revolutionary arts of Russia and the West were highly celebrated and safe from Soviet aesthetic theory (except in their critical interpretation)—Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Gogol, Goncharov, the established canon of classical music, ballet, opera, painting (though some works were sold off, including to the National Gallery of Victoria), architecture. For the masses there was the Soviet version of pop culture. Kotkin discovered:

Surveys of radio listeners’ letters showed they wanted fewer symphonies and more humor, information about the outside world, advice on childrearing, medical issues, and other daily life concerns, and entertainment, such as folk music, Gypsy romances, jazz, operettas (not operas), and songs from the latest films.

Germany had Marlene Dietrich, America had Greta Garbo, the USSR had the Garbo-like Lyubov Orlova, her image in hosts of magazines, books, postcards. Non-ideological musical comedies heavily influenced by Hollywood, for instance Grigori Alexsandrov’s smash-hit Jolly Fellows (1934), were encouraged by Stalin and enjoyed box-office success. Most citizens with cable (wired) radios could receive just the two official stations, their content strictly controlled. With money and influence you could get a wireless receiver with a tuner that enabled you to listen to the bourgeois West (keeping the volume down). Even Soviet poster-art had its bourgeois streak: a pretty young woman driving her open roadster through the streets of Moscow, another speeding through the mountains of Soviet Armenia, both tourist-related, mid-1930s.

Some readers may be surprised to discover that most republics of the Soviet Union under Stalin initially “lacked a requirement to study Russian”, and that in the early 1930s “most non-Russian schoolchildren were illiterate in the language”. Before reading Kotkin I had not known that “When the enlightenment commissar of the Russian republic suggested a far-reaching Russification of schooling, Stalin objected, insisting that Russian become only a subject, not the general medium of instruction to the detriment of vernacular languages.” He subsequently accepted and insisted that Russian be a compulsory subject, but it was never, under his regime, the language of instruction in non-Russian republics, or at least not in the areas of those republics where non-Russians predominated. The reason why Russian should be a compulsory subject throughout the USSR was, in Stalin’s words, because “it would be good if all citizens drafted into the army could express themselves in Russian just a little, so that if some division or other was transferred, say an Uzbek one to Samara, it could converse with the populace”.

Stalin, we know, initially resisted the personality cult, including biographies of himself. When the latest History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) referred to him as “the wise leader of all the toilers” he wrote, “An apotheosis of individuals? What happened to Marxism?” The Society of Old Bolsheviks wished to mount an exhibit on his life he rejected this as “strengthening a ‘cult of the personality’, which is harmful and incompatible with the spirit of our party”. Subsequently he acquiesced in the cult. Like Conrad’s assassin Razumov in Under Western Eyes, he accepted that Russia needed “a will strong and one”, ideally an Ivan the Terrible more than a Peter the Great (in Sergei Eisenstein’s film Ivan the Terrible Ivan is Stalin), in order to still or at least direct the vast and swirling snowstorm of chaos that is Mother Russia. But why did it need the Terror?

Like most works on Stalin, this magnum opus never adequately explains the Great Terror of 1937-38 (the NKVD’s own figure for executions over those two years was 681,692, and they weren’t concerned to minimise with collaterals, Kotkin thinks the number might approach 830,000). No explanation is required for the millions starved to death during de-kulakisation and collectivisation, the hundreds of thousands who perished in executions and forced transfers of various ethnic groups—the despot’s goals and ruthlessness explain those. But what explains the Great Terror? Most favoured is the leader’s paranoia: “there must be more enemies”, the assumption that because there were some, there must be millions. Alternatively (or as well), it was a ruse to clean out the Old (-thinking) Bolsheviks and rejuvenate the party and army with young blood. To Stalin, Old Bolsheviks were just “old farts” (his words, though he was one). That people in the leading organs of the party and administration had been Bolsheviks before the October revolution was a serious problem—it meant they were natural-born conspirators. Stalin wished to build the USSR during his period of “socialist construction” with “New Bolsheviks”, young men and women with no pre-revolutionary memory, no first-hand knowledge of Menshevism, Trotskyism, or the historical roots of Left-oppositionism and Right-deviationism—brand-new Soviet men and women.

As for the mass of honest non-Communists, no great problem there (apart from “former people” with haut-bourgeois or noble roots, like the poet Anna Akhmatova: they were prima-facie “class enemies”, many of them closely surveilled). The political types, those within the party, were the real concern. Jokes on the subject abounded. It’s 2.00 a.m. in Moscow, “streets dark with something more than night”, the NKVD at the door, you open up and explain, “Sorry, wrong apartment. The Communists live upstairs—next floor, same number.” Apologising, the officers head on up.

There’s another explanation for the Terror, mentioned in passing by Kotkin and still upheld by some: that much of the contents of the confessions was true, that there was a fifth column, there were networks connecting Bukharinites, Trotskyites, unreconstructed Left-oppositionists and Right-deviationists, the military. Litvinov believed this at the time, Molotov always believed the generality of it, Stalin certainly believed it, Khrushchev later claimed he did not. Gorky was feeding Stalin with assassination fears, his information about plots and plotters coming from the West, including via the apparently well-informed Menshevik émigré paper Socialist Herald.

In Washington in 1943 Ambassador Litvinov was privately asked by Sir Owen Dixon why most of the Russian general staff had been executed in 1937-38. Litvinov replied that it was the liquidation of the fifth column before the predictable war. The problem with accepting that there was a substantial fifth column in the Soviet armed forces in the 1930s is not its inherent unlikeliness—on the contrary, it’s inherently likely, given Stalin’s despotic rule—but the (deliberate? strategic?) absence from the prosecutorial materials of objective evidence. Kotkin commits an obvious error in claiming that the drop in arrests by the NKVD in 1939 “gives the lie to avowals that the terror constituted a campaign to root out a potential fifth column”. It can equally signify that Stalin believed that the fifth column had been substantially rooted out through 1937-38.

Kotkin doesn’t satisfactorily consider, in relation to the Terror, the “socialism in one country” issue. What proportion (roughly) of the CPSU in the 1930s were likely still to have been internationalist in political spirit, vaguely Trotskyist rather than national-Bolshevik? We do know that in the party clean-out of late 1935 only 3 per cent, or 5500 party members, were expelled as “Trotskyites and Zinovievites” (compared with 20 per cent as White Guards or kulaks, 8.5 per cent as “swindlers and scoundrels”, and 1 per cent as “foreign spies”). Whoever and however many they were, one wonders what they thought of their peripatetic and hard-done-by mentor telling them that the future was the United States rather than the Soviet Union. Trotsky said it quite early on, to Fox Movietone News in Copenhagen on December 10, 1932:

The present crisis will mean a new era in history … Europe in general has ceased to be the centre of the world … The present terrific crisis, in spite of its devastating effects on the United States, will change the relation of forces still further, not in favour of Europe, but in favour of the United States and the colonial countries. To see far, it is best to stand on the roof of a skyscraper. The most suitable point for observing the world’s panorama in every respect I consider to be [and here he paused for emphasis], New York.

The original, globalist, neo-con Trot.

Kotkin never properly raises let alone answers the question: Why, through the early-to-mid-1930s, was Trotsky such an abject failure at maintaining or developing his previously extensive networks of sympathisers within the CPSU, the OGPU/NKVD and the Soviet armed forces?—for Kotkin assumes Trotsky directed next-to-no active networks inside the USSR after his exile (with possible minor exceptions, like the informal network around Martemyan Ryutin, editor of the Army paper Red Star). Alternatively, if that assumption is conceivably wrong: What were Trotsky’s networks within those institutions in the early-to-mid-1930s (the confessional Trials “evidence” aside)? Nothing reliable or specific in surviving German sources—Reichswehr, Wehrmacht, SD sources in the Bundesarchiv or at College Park, Maryland? Nothing to be found in any private or public Trotskyite archives? The Menshevik Socialist Herald archives? A dozen other archives? Did he have no networks inside? Creator of the Red Army, reduced to a nothing.

For all Stalin’s preoccupation with this pesky nemesis, not all party rank-and-file saw much difference between Stalin and Trotsky, particularly once forced collectivisation was under way in the countryside. Izvestiya received the following in the spring of 1932, from delegate Fedorintseva of a rural soviet in the Black Earth region:

Although you, comrade Stalin, are a pupil of Lenin, your behaviour is not Leninist. Lenin taught: factories to the workers, land to the peasants, and what do you do? You confiscate not only land but livestock, huts and possessions from the middle and poor peasants. You threw out Trotsky and call him a counterrevolutionary, but you, comrade Stalin, are the real and first Trotskyite, and a pupil not of Lenin but of Trotsky. Why? They taught us in political circle that Trotsky proposed to build socialism with force at the expense of the muzhik.

This was signed and sent off to Izvestiya as late as 1932! Let him put that in his pipe and smoke it. There was plenty of criticism along that line, and Stalin backed off from socialising all livestock (for a while), forced a reversal of the collectivisation of nomads in Mongolia, and increased the size of private plots on collective farms. Many urbanites had their private plots too, where they could grow their own food. The important point is, Mme Fedorintseva would also be correct well into the future: Trotsky agreed with many of Stalin’s harshest policies: collectivisation, the invasion of eastern Poland in September 1939, the war against Finland in 1939-40, the occupation of the Baltic States in 1940.

Plenty of brave people, particularly Communists, were unafraid to criticise Stalin to his close associates and favourites, right through the Terror. The writer and Supreme Soviet delegate Alexei Tolstoy’s archive holds hundreds of critical in-bound letters he kept rather than cowardly destroy—for instance this, from an architect whose brother had been arrested: “Can it really be that you, deputies, are created only in order to shout hurrah for Stalin and to applaud Yezhov?” The author, who signed his letter, asked for it to be passed on to Stalin, adding, “I am not mad. I have a family, a son, work that I love … But right now the feeling of truth is stronger than the fear of ten years in the camps.” A female correspondent, attacking Tolstoy’s story “Grain” for its lies and glorification of Stalin, wrote:

The best people, who are devoted to Lenin’s ideas, honest and unbought, are sitting behind bars, arrested by the thousands, being executed. They cannot bear the grandiose Baseness triumphing throughout the land … And you, an engineer of the human soul, are cowardly turned inside out, and we saw the unseemly inside of a purchasing hack … Fear: that’s the dominant feeling that has seized citizens of the USSR. And you do not see that? … Where is the majestic pathos that in October [1917] moved millions to fight to the death? Overcome by the fetid breath of Stalin and yes-men like you.

It was because of the bravery of thousands of loyal members of the CPSU, and non-Communist citizens, who wrote letters like these and signed numerous petitions, that Stalin was finally forced to rein-in Yezhov and have this dwarfish excuse for a human being shot, blaming him for what were in large part Stalin’s own murderous “errors”, “excesses” and persecution of the loyal. Stalin had hundreds of meetings with Yezhov in the Little Corner, and knew him better than anyone, so he was qualified to judge. “Yezhov was scum,” Stalin told deputy aviation commissar Yakovlev:

A degenerated person. You call him at the commissariat, they say he’s left for the Central Committee. You call the Central Committee, they say he left for a job. You send someone to his residence, it turns out he’s lying in bed, dead drunk. He destroyed many innocents. We shot him for that.

Kotkin, with so much space at his disposal, never gives us the theory of revolutionary terror, probably because he doesn’t know it. Few do. Stalin knew it, though. It has a distinguished history going back to the Elder Brutus, who had his sons executed for state treason in 509 BC—his highest act of revolutionary virtue, and both a sign and seal of the revolution, something to terrify others into republican virtue. His bust presided over the National Assembly and Convention in revolutionary Paris, but it was Maximilien Robespierre who, speaking with immense eloquence before the Convention on February 5, 1794, provided revolutionary terror with its theoretical justification.

By 1953 Stalin had a personal, working library of some 25,000 volumes, many of them extensively annotated by him. They covered numerous fields, especially history. Kotkin has been through that library, through those annotated books. Stalin admired Augustus and the Augustan revolution against the senatorial oligarchy. He systematically studied works on autocratic rule, such as Vatslav Vorovsky’s On the Nature of Absolutism and Mikhail Olminsky’s The State, Bureaucracy, and Absolutism in the History of Russia. The French Revolution for him was not just something past but also present.

Stalin undoubtedly knew Robespierre’s speech to the National Assembly introducing the Terror by name. France was encompassed by enemies in early 1794. The Terror was introduced and the foreign enemies were defeated. No real or potential fifth-columnist with a head still on his shoulders dared put it up to subvert the home-front while the armies were doing their work at the frontiers. Robespierre’s speech provides the pre-facto theorising for what Stalin, encompassed as he saw himself by foreign and domestic enemies, carried out in 1937-38. I seriously doubt Kotkin has read it. Robespierre says the policy must be guided “by an exact theory and by precise rules of conduct”.

This “exact theory” effectively became Stalin’s. Robespierre’s stated goal was the preservation of the republic, its liberties and their basis in public virtue the purpose was:

that every new faction will discover death in the mere thought of crime … We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with them. Now, in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror. If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, amid revolution it is at the same time virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice it is therefore an emanation of virtue. It is less a special principle than a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most pressing needs … Let the despot govern his brutalized subjects by terror he is right to do this, as a despot. Subdue liberty’s enemies by terror, and you will be right, as founders of the Republic.

So goes the theory—Stalin’s adopted theory, it’s safe to say. Soviet “liberty” was that enshrined in the 1936 Constitution, the most democratic in the world to that time (if taken literally).

Unlike Hitler, who was lazy, Stalin worked himself incessantly, only partly slowing down when vacationing in Sochi or wherever. “This ferocious willpower,” Kotkin writes, “emanated from a transcendent sense of personal destiny and of historical necessity … he had authority, not just power.” Stalin received 100 or even 200 documents a day, Kotkin’s research shows:

some of substantial length, and he read many of them, often to the end, scribbling comments or instructions on them. He initiated or approved untold personnel appointments, goaded minions in relentless campaigns, attended myriad congresses and ceremonies bearing the burden of instruction, assiduously followed the public and private statements of cultural figures, edited novels and plays, and pre-screened films. He pored over a voluminous flow of intelligence reports and lengthy interrogation protocols of accused spies, wreckers, counterrevolutionaries, traitors. He wrote and rewrote the texts of decrees, newspaper editorials, and his own speeches, confident in his abilities. Very occasionally he made grammatical mistakes in Russian, his second language, but he wrote accessibly, using rhetorical questions, catchphrases, enumeration. The fools were the ones who took him for a fool.

Kotkin has wonderful examples of the psycho­pathic darkness Stalin could manifest. The best (well-known, and eclipsing anything in Shakespeare’s Richard III) is a scene in the Little Corner, reported by the victim (later executed) to his brother. The victim was Mikhail Koltsov, a journalist just returned from the front in Spain. Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and Yezhov were all there. As Koltsov’s brother explains:

He sincerely, profoundly, fanatically believed in the wisdom of Stalin. How many times, after meeting the Master, my brother would regale me in minute detail about his way of conversing, about his specific observations, phrases, jokes. He liked everything about Stalin.

But after this final meeting, Stalin had mocked him. Standing near Koltsov, Stalin had put his hand on his heart and bowed: “What should one call you in Spanish?—Mig-u-el?” “Mig-el, Comrade Stalin,” Koltsov replied. “Right then, Don Mig-el,” Stalin told him, “we, noble Spaniards, heartily thank you for your interesting report. Goodbye for now, Don Mig-el.” As Koltsov reached the door Stalin called after him: “Have you a pistol, Comrade Koltsov?” “Yes, Comrade Stalin.” “But you aren’t planning to shoot yourself with it?” “Of course not.” “Well, excellent! Excellent! Thank you again, Comrade Koltsov. Goodbye, Don Mig-el.” Stalin had something on him—God knows what.

The following is almost as good, and reminds one of Saddam Hussein. On June 2, 1937, Stalin addressed the USSR’s Main Military Council. The eighty-five members were top army and fleet commanders and heads of military academies, but a third of them had recently been arrested or discharged, leaving fifty-three members listening—and, together with them, 116 non-members, plus Yezhov and other senior NKVD. They had all spent the first day reading interrogation protocols about an imminent home-grown fascist military plot against the government, recently uncovered. Some of these protocols implicated people in the hall. Stalin attended all four days. According to some who were there, he looked over the audience with interest, seeking familiar faces, fixing his gaze on certain individuals. “Comrades,” he told them:

I hope no one doubts now that a military-political plot against Soviet power existed. Such an abundance of testimony by the criminals themselves that, indubitably, here we have a military-political plot against Soviet power, stimulated and financed by German fascists.

No, he told them, Marshal Tukhachevsky had not been arrested because of his noble lineage—didn’t they know that Engels was the son of a factory owner? Or that Lenin was from the nobility? Nor, he said, was anyone being arrested for having long ago voted with Trotsky. Had they not read Tukhachevsky’s testimony?

He passed on our operational plans—our operational plans, the holy of holies—to the German army! He had dealings with representatives of the German Reichswehr. A spy? A spy!

Then he got into interesting detail:

There’s an experienced agent in Germany, in Berlin … Josephine Heinze. Maybe one of you knows her? She’s a beautiful woman. An experienced agent. She recruited [Lev] Karakhan [foreign affairs]. She recruited him with the ways of a woman. She recruited [Avel] Yenukidze. She helped recruit Tukhachevsky. She also had [Janis] Rudzutaks in her hands. This Josephine Heinze is a very experienced agent. She is probably Danish and works for the German Reichswehr. A beautiful woman, who likes to cater to all men’s desires.

I ransacked the internet for a photograph but found nothing. I believe in her, that she did some of that stuff, and I will pay a thousand dollars to anyone who can turn her up—but there has to be a good photograph, and she has to be Josephine Heinze, Reichswehr secret agent, and not just any Josephine Heinze.

Stalin could be extraordinarily kind to the most unlikely of people—even to a priest, if he felt the inclination after all, he had some affinity with priests. Alexander Vasilevsky was a career officer, promoted marshal in 1943, then Chief of the General Staff and, in 1949, Minister of Defence. Much of the credit for defeating Nazi Germany goes to him. In 1939-40 he was deputy chief of the general staff’s operations directorate. He came from an impoverished family, his father was a priest, his mother was the daughter of a priest, and he himself had studied at a seminary. In 1940 he was a guest at a small supper party in Stalin’s Kremlin apartment. Proposing a toast to him, Stalin asked him why it was that, after graduating from the seminary, Vasilevsky had not become a priest. The dictator had obviously read the file on him. Vasilevsky answered that he had never intended to become a priest. Stalin smiled. “I see, I see, you had no such intention. Understandable. But Mikoyan and I did want to become priests, but for some reason they would not take us. Why, I do not understand to this day.”

Stalin then asked Vasilevsky why he was not helping his father financially:

As far as I know, one of your brothers is a physician, another is an agronomist, a third is a military commander-aviator and a well-off person. I think all of you could be helping your parents, and then the old man could long ago have broken with his church. He would not need the church in order to survive.

Vasilevsky had carefully avoided contacts with his father (who was still a priest), and when, recently, he had received a letter from home, he had immediately gone to the party organisation at the general staff to confess. Now, as Vasilevsky recalled it, “Stalin said that I should immediately re-establish contact with my parents and give them systematic assistance and inform the general staff party organisation about the authorisation to do so.”

Although this volume adds little to the historical record of the period between the signing of the Nazi–Soviet Pact of August 1939 and Germany’s invasion of the USSR in June 1941, it does provide an immense amount of detail on the relations between these powers during those twenty-two months. It also offers an explanation for the murder of 21,857 captured or arrested Polish officers, civil servants and intellectuals in the Katyn Forest and elsewhere, including near Smolensk, in March 1940. Stalin approved a troika and a “special procedure” for the purpose on March 5, the authorisation co-signed by Voroshilov, Molotov and Mikoyan. Kotkin thinks that:

Through agents in Britain, the Soviets likely picked up on recent French whisperings to employ exiled Polish forces (“volunteers”) to attack Soviet positions in northern Finland, around Petsamo, a scenario that eventually could have had Polish army officers inside the USSR playing the role that the Czechoslovak Legion had played in 1918—namely, sparking a civil war. But whatever the anxieties, the massacres ultimately flowed from a bottomless well of Soviet–Polish enmity … The Katyn Forest slaughter would prove to be not just another epochal Soviet state crime, but a strategic blunder.

Kotkin does not explain how it was “a strategic blunder”. He ignores the fact that the obvious alternative to shooting those officers, namely keeping them for an indefinite period in a camp or series of camps far to the Soviet east, would equally have prevented any danger of “civil war” they represented—which seems far-fetched in any case. A simpler explanation for their liquidation is that almost all of them would have had an intensely anti-Russian and bourgeois consciousness and, as military officers, would have been men of status and influence. To Stalin, that would have constituted adequate justification.

In discussing the inefficiency of collective and state farms, which had stabilised by 1934 as harvests improved, Kotkin notes that, for the people on them, these vast and increasingly mechanised concerns (in 1940 the USSR had twice as many tractors as the whole of the rest of Europe) represented “a demotion from peasant to labourer … which encouraged dependency and sloth”. It might also be pointed out that even now, in 2017, Russian agriculture is held back by these farms, most of them having chosen to remain collectivised (it would be unkind to think “through dependency and sloth”). Incidentally, kibbutzim in Israel are ideologically related (via two men who pioneered them in Palestine, the Stalinists Yitzhak Tabenkin and Meir Ya’ari). Also incidentally, Japan had a much better policy in Manchukuo, which I never knew about till I read Kotkin: “In Manchukuo, [Japan] had gone on to create a vast autonomous province for ethnic Mongols and fostered preservation of traditional lifestyles, the opposite of Soviet social engineering in its Mongolian satellite”—the first positive thing I’ve ever read about pre-war Japanese colonialism.

In places one could do with more detail than Kotkin already provides. For example, in 1931–33 the White Sea Canal was built by 120,000 forced (Kotkin has “slave”) labourers, with perhaps 12,000 dying in the process, a terrible thing (publicly celebrated by Maxim Gorky and other Stalinist writers). It would be useful to be told approximately what percentage of these labourers were regular gulag criminals (95 per cent? 50 per cent? 5 per cent?), how many were political prisoners, and whether chain-gang convicts in Alabama are “slave labourers” or “forced labourers”. Slavery is a distinct institution all its own, and chain-gang convicts in Alabama are not slaves, though they may as well be slaves, and certainly feel like slaves.

Most of my specific criticisms are equally pedantic. For example, the regime did not annually commemorate “Lenin’s passing” (page 740) but Lenin’s death Stalin’s mind at its worst was not “demonic” (page 378) but pathological, psychopathic, paranoid, criminal, perverse a Soviet worker did not, ever, have “to labour for sixty-two hours [an entire week] to purchase a loaf of bread” (page 544—absurd, as ten seconds’ thought would have shown the author even a Stakhanovite would starve) Liepaja (Libau) and Ventspils (Windau) are not in “Lithuania” (page 664) but in Latvia. The list can be extended.

However, in a volume of 1154 pages there are bound to be errors. When the third volume appears in the next year or two, this trilogy will rightly become the standard biographical work on its subject in English.

Philip Ayres is a biographer whose subjects have included Malcolm Fraser, Ninian Stephen, Douglas Mawson and Owen Dixon. He wrote on Richard Nixon in the September issue

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