Alexander Guchkov was born in Moscow, Russia on 14th October, 1862. He was a major industrialist and in 1907 was elected to the Duma. Guchkov advocated political reform and became leader of the Octobrist Party. Later he became a leading figure in the Constitutional Democratic Party (Cadets).
Guchkov was also a strong critic of the relationship between Alexandra and Gregory Rasputin. In the Duma Guchkov claimed that Rasputin was an "ignoble deciver" and a "dangerous adviser". He also doubted whether Nicholas II would ever accept a constitutional monarchy. Some progressives were suspicious of Guchkov because of his close friendship with Peter Stolypin and other senior government ministers.
Bernard Pares knew Guchkov during this period: "Guchkov, grandson of a serf, son of a merchant and magistrate of Moscow, was a restless spirit always coming into prominence on this or that issue of the moment. Guchkov's chief quality was a daring gallantry; he was at ease with himself and enjoyed stepping forward under fire with a perfect calm whenever there was anything which he wished to challenge; his defect was his restlessness; without actually asking for it, he was instinctively always in the limelight, always trying to do too much. He had the easy organizing ability of a first-rate English politician; he was quietly proud of his democratic origin, and all his actions were inspired by an ardent love for Russia and the Russian people, in whose native conservatism, common sense and loyalty he fully shared."
During the First World War Guchkov became chairman of the Duma Committee on Military and Naval Affairs. After Nicholas II abdicated, George Lvov appointed Guchkov as Minister of War in the Provisional Government. The British ambassador, George Buchanan, informed London that Guchkov was in a difficult position: "Under such conditions it was impossible for Guchkov, as Minister of War, and for Kornilov, as military governor of Petrograd, to accept responsibility for the maintenance of discipline in the army."
Guchkov made vain attempts to stop Bolsheviks propaganda being distributed in the Russian Army. After street demonstrations against him he resigned and was replaced by Alexander Kerensky. According to Buchanan, Guchkov believed that unless he resigned "the army would cease to exist as a fighting force in three weeks' time."
Guchkov fled the country after the October Revolution. Alexander Guchkov lived in Paris where he died on 14th February, 1936.
Guchkov, grandson of a serf, son of a merchant and magistrate of Moscow, was a restless spirit always coming into prominence on this or that issue of the moment. Guchkov's chief quality was a daring gallantry; he was at ease with himself and enjoyed stepping forward under fire with a perfect calm whenever there was anything which he wished to challenge; his defect was his restlessness; without actually asking for it, he was instinctively always in the limelight, always trying to do too much.
He had the easy organizing ability of a first-rate English politician; he was quietly proud of his democratic origin, and all his actions were inspired by an ardent love for Russia and the Russian people, in whose native conservatism, common sense and loyalty he fully shared.
I returned to Petrograd during the third week in September. A new Minister of the Interior had just been appointed, and the choice had fallen on Alexander Protopopov, former vice-president of the Duma. In the course of a few months this man, who was in fact the last Minister of the Interior of the Russian Empire, managed to incur the wrath and hatred of the whole nation.
Soon afterwards the whole story came out. Evidently, Protopopov was suffering from an incurable venereal disease, for which he had been under the care of Dr. Badmayev for many years. It was in Badmayev's house that he met Rasputin, who had had no difficulty in subjugating a man with a disturbed mind, although Protopopov did do his best to conceal his friendship with Rasputin. Rasputin introduced him to the Tsarina, whom he charmed. It was she who subsequently suggested him for the post of Minister of the Interior.
The Government, as Prince Lvov remarked, was "an authority without power", while the Workmen's Council (Soviet) was "a power without authority". Under such conditions it was impossible for Guchkov, as Minister of War, and for Kornilov, as military governor of Petrograd, to accept responsibility for the maintenance of discipline in the army. They both consequently resigned, while the former declared that if things were to continue as they were the army would cease to exist as a fighting force in three weeks' time. Guchkov's resignation precipitated matters, and Lvov, Kerensky and Tershchenko came to the conclusion that, as the Soviet was too powerful a factor to be either suppressed or disregarded, the only way of putting an end to the anomaly of a dual Government was to form a Coalition.
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Rather than creating a substub, here is some basic bio data on another 1917 Russian that ought to have an article. --LA2 13:42, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Alexey Vasilyevich Peshekhonov (Алексей Васильевич Пешехонов), born January 21 (old calendar) or Feburary 2, 1867, died April 3, 1933, Russian economist, publicist, statistician, who was a member of the Russian provisional government (minister of food supplies) for some months in the summer of 1917.
Guchkov did not live until 1993, so why can his memoirs have his authorship? Is this a reprint? Does some editor want the copyright of Guchkovs memoirs who could obviously not have been written after 1936. Maybe it was written from the diaries stolen in Paris in the twenties, but by whom? Is the author a descendent with the same name? This really does need an explanation for those who cannot read Russian.
During my research for my novel 'LA PLEVITSKAYA" I also came to the conclusion that Guchkov has been a lot more important than we previously thought. I agree with Vladi Putin - again. 220.127.116.11 (talk) 01:14, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
" ALEXANDER GUCHKOV (1862-), Russian politician, was born in Moscow in 1862. His father was a factory owner of some means, whose family came from a stock of Old Believers, who had acknowledged the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church while keeping the ancient ritual for which their forefathers had endured persecution since the days of Patriarch Nikon. Guchkov's mother was French. He studied history and humanities at the university of Moscow, and, after having gone through his military training in a grenadier regiment, left for Germany where he read political economy in Berlin under Prof. Schmoller. Academic studies were, however, not suited to his active and adventurous character. He gave them up and started travelling. He rode alone on horseback through Mongolia to western Siberia, and narrowly escaped being slaughtered by a mob. During the Boer War 1899-1902 he volunteered for service against the English and joined Gen. Smuts's commando. He was shot in the leg, picked up by the English, and successfully treated, although he remained slightly lame. He was elected by the Moscow municipal Duma to be a member of the executive (Uprava), and took active part in the self-government of the city. During the Russo-Japanese War he served in the Red Cross and in the Municipal Union for the organization of hospitals he was left to take care of the Russian wounded after the battle of Moukden, and showed much dignity and efficiency in the performance of his arduous duties. When the first Russian revolutionary movement developed in 1905 he took part in the meetings of Zemstvo representatives, but did not join the Cadets, whom he considered to be too doctrinaire and cosmopolitan. Together with D. Shipov, E. Trubetzkoy and N. Lvov, he founded the Octobrist party, in the hope that the Tsar's Government would recognize the necessity of great reforms and work with the moderate Liberals of the Zemstvos while safeguarding the monarchical principle. Stolypin was for some time in sympathy with that programme, and even contemplated the formation of a Ministry strengthened by leaders of public opinion, of whom Guchkov, Count Heyden and N. Lvov would have been prominent members. When this project came to grief, Guchkov continued to support Stolypin. In the third Duma, elected on a restricted franchise, the Octobrists assumed the leading role.
After Khomiakov's resignation in 1910 Guchkov was elected speaker. He attacked with patriotic eloquence the "irresponsible influences " at Court and the shortcomings of the Ministry of War in preparing for the inevitable conflict with Germany. As Stolypin became more and more violent and reactionary, the Octobrists lost their standing ground, and Guchkov eventually resigned the presidentship of the Duma. In the elections to the fourth Duma he failed to secure a seat. He came again into prominence, however, during the World War. He was put in charge of the Red Cross organization on the German front, and it fell to him to search for the corpse of the unfortunate Samsonov. When the campaign of 1915 had disclosed the incredible inefficiency and corruption of the Russian War Office, Guchkov threw his whole energy into the work of refitting the army on the technical side. He was one of the principal workers and leaders of the mixed committees for the defence of the country, formed with the help of the Zemstvos and towns. He was not content with laying the blame at the door of the effete War Office, but deplored the apathetic way in which the Tsar passed the time at headquarters, without any clear political plan, holding on supinely to formalism and routine, yielding to the spasmodic interference of the Empress.
When the March Revolution of 1917 broke out Guchkov was called in to take charge of the Ministry of War. Together with Shulguin, he submitted the Act of Abdication for signature to Nicholas II. He was powerless against the mounting flood of desertion and demoralization in the army, and he was the first of the ministers to resign in despair. In the "emigration" he found himself without proper place and influence. He would have liked to organize a big move against the Bolsheviks from the west, but such a move could not be made while the Entente Powers were resolved to keep Germany out, and while they sympathized with all the new organizations hostile to RussiaEsthonia, Latvia and Poland. Later he took refuge in Paris, where he pleaded for a national reunion of all parties against the Red tyrants. (P. VI.)
Alexander Guchkov: the most "temporary" of the military ministers of Russia
As another of the Duma leaders, and not a minister, Guchkov said about himself as follows:
It was not his own business, by all indications, and took up, when in March 1917 he became the head of the Ministry of War in the Provisional Government of Prince G. Ye. Lvov.
This was the first of the Provisional Governments, then there will be the time of AF Kerensky. The last "temporary", as few people remember, turned out to be the government of the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, that is, the Council of People's Commissars headed by V. I. Ulyanov-Lenin.
The 55-year-old Octobrist and merchant by origin, but not in spirit, Alexander Guchkov, as a former oppositionist, has long agreed in views with the cadet Pavel Milyukov, also “his Majesty’s oppositionist”, who was already almost 60. He easily submitted to the new prime minister - to the legendary zemstvo prince Lvov.
The same Guchkov, who himself headed the Third State Duma, was looking for a post for yet another elderly politician from among "his own" - the chairman of the IV Duma, MV Rodzianko. And he was ready to give all his strength to ensure that there were as few “leftists” as possible in the Provisional Government.
The main thing is that there were no Bolsheviks, since the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the most popular party in the country even then, had to be put up with in one way or another. It must be admitted that the Provisional Government exactly coincided in composition with the very "responsible ministry" that the "February revolutionaries" so dreamed of.
At that time, while Guchkov was minister of war and naval minister, there were not so many events at the front, the main thing is that there were no big defeats. But first of all, Guchkov, who, as you know, together with Shulgin knocked out the abdication from Nicholas II, did everything to ensure that Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich did not return to the post of commander-in-chief.
The tsar's uncle, the head of the Romanov family council, was also in favor of Nicholas II leaving, but for all the Romanovs to leave was too much. Renouncing, the emperor actually forgave Nikolai Nikolayevich for the actual betrayal and, with the last decree, again appointed him Supreme, after two years of governorship in the Caucasus.
The Grand Duke, to whom General N.N. Yudenich, who commanded the Caucasian Front, presented a whole series of victories over the Turks, rode in triumph from Tiflis to Mogilev to headquarters. However, there he was greeted not only by a letter from the new prime minister, either with a wish, or with an order not to take command, but also by obstruction from the civil authorities.
The generals were generally not against it, but politicians like Guchkov, and the local authorities, literally put sticks in their wheels. Nikolai Nikolaevich, still with an impressive appearance and noisy, but not the most decisive, did not resist for a long time and drove off to the Crimea offended.
He, unlike most of the great dukes, was lucky: he will be able to emigrate from the Crimea to France . on the British battleship "Marlborough". Alexander Ivanovich could have been calm - now any commander-in-chief is not a hindrance to him, although the post of Minister of War itself did not imply even a hint of participation in the management of the active army.
Alexander Guchkov (left). Prime Minister Lvov, Minister of War Guchkov (behind) and General Alekseev, Supreme Commander from April 2, 1917.
In the few days that Guchkov was at the head of the military department, he managed to quarrel not only with the majority of the generals, but also with all the leftists - representatives of the Soviets at the front, navy and military factories. The main thing is that he was out of tune with himself.
The minister began with a demonstrative democratization of the army: the abolition of officer titles and permission for soldiers and commanders to participate in meetings, councils, unions and parties, and most importantly - the actual recognition of the notorious Order No. 1. At the same time, Guchkov, however, did not leave the position of a supporter of war until a victorious end .
Realizing that everything he did was a series of dangerous mistakes, Guchkov tried to maintain discipline and began something like a total mobilization of the defense industry. Now, not only the generals, all the ministers turned their backs on Guchkov, and on May 13 (April 30, according to the old style), 1917, he resigned.
Stranger among strangers
And by the summer of 1917, Guchkov, together with Rodzianko, who would never wait for the revival of the Duma in the form of a Constituent Assembly, would become real pacifists. They will create the Liberal-Republican Party, they will condemn German militarism, sitting at the State Conference, in the Pre-Parliament and the Council of the Republic.
Together they will support Kornilov's speech, finally becoming right. Guchkov, like Rodzianko, should not have even dreamed of being elected to the Constituent Assembly, although even far more "right-wing" Cadets went there. It seems that only a few months before and after February 1917, Guchkov managed to really be among “his own people”.
And before that, and even more so after, there were and will be only "strangers" around. He was born in 1862 immediately after the abolition of serfdom in Russia into a well-known Moscow merchant family. Alexander Guchkov was educated as a philologist who graduated from Moscow University.
His military experience was not limited to serving as the volunteer 1st Life Grenadier Yekaterinoslav Regiment, but he was always considered an expert in military affairs. Guchkov will still go east to serve as a junior guard officer of the Chinese-Eastern Railway in Manchuria.
Due to the duel, he was forced to resign and immediately went to Africa, where he fought the British on the side of the Boers. Wounded, Guchkov was taken prisoner, and when he was released with the end of the war, he went to Macedonia to fight against the Turks.
In the Russo-Japanese War, he found himself already as a commissioner of the Red Cross . and was again taken prisoner. The merchant's son, an experienced soldier, returned to Moscow when she was already in full swing with the revolution, participated in zemstvo and city congresses.
It is easy to understand why no one had any doubts when Guchkov was appointed minister of war. But by and large he did not become a merchant, starting with the fact that he became an honorary magistrate in Moscow, where the Guchkovs were respected.
He managed to attend lectures at several European universities at once, but apart from stories they did not concern military affairs. Traveled, including to Tibet. Guchkov emerged from the revolution as one of the founders of the "Union of October 17".
He was a little over 40, and with his life experience, the post of chairman of the Central Committee of the new party was just for Guchkov. He is not only a member of the State Council, he goes to the Duma and even heads it in the third convocation.
Alexander Ivanovich, a man by no means poor, always advocated a constructive dialogue with the tsar and the government, not opposing the dispersal of all three Dumas. The fourth, as you know, died on its own - in February 1917.
Parliamentarian Guchkov criticized everything that was done in the military department, and Nicholas II considered him the most dangerous revolutionary and almost a personal enemy. Perhaps that is why he made renunciation so easily that he did not understand what to expect from Guchkov. He was not afraid of those.
Nobody's among the nobody's
Meanwhile, the future Minister of War of no longer monarchist Russia was a staunch supporter of a constitutional monarchy. He bowed to Stolypin, was for a strong central power and for the cultural autonomy of peoples, up to the independence of Poland, Finland and even, possibly, Ukraine.
During the World War II, the Duma functionary regularly went to the front, entered the Progressive Bloc and participated in the February coup, which grew into a revolution. It was Guchkov, together with the monarchist Vasily Shulgin, who accepted the abdication from the hands of Nicholas II, which many still doubt.
Leaving the post of Minister of War in May 1917, Guchkov headed the Society for the Economic Revival of Russia, returned to parliamentary games, but eventually left the Red Cross for the Volunteer Army.
General Denikin asked him to go to Paris for support for the White Army. Then Guchkov came to Crimea for negotiations with Wrangel, and in the end he simply emigrated - first to Berlin, then to Paris, where he even tried to establish ties with Trotsky, considering him a worthy future dictator of Russia.
The aging politician took over the duties of the chairman of the Russian parliamentary committee in Paris, who never managed to achieve anything real. But Guchkov was also a member of the National Committee, from where the military coup in Bulgaria was initiated.
In the coup, as if according to the tradition of tsarist times, Russian white officers distinguished themselves, but for some reason they left Boris III of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty on the throne. And Boris in the Second World War, albeit under pressure from Germany, made Bulgaria with an openly pro-Russian attitude of the population an enemy of Russia.
One cannot but pay tribute to the retired politician for his participation in helping the starving in Russia, although it had a distinct political background. Alexander Ivanovich immediately correctly assessed what Hitler and his entourage were, and before his death fought to prevent the Nazis from attacking the USSR.
Due to Guchkov's participation in the preparation of a series of conspiracies against the Nazis, the German Fuhrer called him his personal enemy. Just like Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov once did. Anyone could be proud of such enemies, not only the former chairman of the III State Duma of the Russian Empire, Alexander Ivanovich Guchkov.
The death of Guchkov, which happened on February 14, 1936 in Paris, is shrouded in secrets. There is also a version with accusations against the Stalinist agents, although the diagnosis - intestinal cancer, moreover, inoperable, made a year and a half before death, was known to the patient himself.
His funeral at the Père Lachaise cemetery, well known as the burial vault of the executed Communards, brought together the full bloom of Russian emigration. Guchkov bequeathed to transport his ashes "for eternal comfort"To Moscow, but only"when the Bolsheviks fall».
However, there was simply nothing to transport, since during the years of the German occupation of Paris, the urn with the ashes of Hitler's personal enemy mysteriously disappeared right from the columbarium in the Pere Lachaise cemetery.
Party crisis and World War I
In 1912 the Octobrists were defeated in elections to the fourth Duma, losing over 30 seats. Guchkov in particular was defeated in his constituency in Moscow. The remaining Octobrists in Duma split into two fractions. By 1915 many local party branches and the main party newspaper "Voice of Moscow" ceased to exist.
With the outbreak of World War I, Guchkov was put in charge of the Red Cross organization on the German front, and it fell to him to search for the corpse of the unfortunate Samsonov. [ 1 ] Guchkov became the head of Military-Industrial Committee, an organization created by industrial magnates in order to supply the army. In 1915 Guchkov was among the founders of Progressive Bloc, which demanded for establishing ministerial responsibility before the Duma. Nicholas II constantly refused to satisfy this demand. Later Guchkov reported that members of the Progressive Bloc would consider coup d'etat, but did not undertake any action.
When the February Revolution of 1917 broke out, Guchkov was called in to take charge of the Ministry of War. [ 1 ] Shortly after the Petrograd riots in February 1917, Guchkov, along with Vasily Shulgin, came to the army headquarters near Pskov to persuade the Tsar to abdicate. On 2 March 1917 Nicholas II abdicated.
Guchkov has become something of a cult figure in recent years: his reputation in Russia has grown after a documentary on the main state channel, which included an interview with then-President Vladimir Putin. In the documentary, Putin revealed that Guchkov had been one of his childhood heroes for the way in which he tried to bring democracy to the country.
- ^ a b c d e f g
- ^ Orland Figes (1996), "A People's Tragedy", p. 61.
- ^ O. Figes (1996), p. 247.
- ^ , p. 193The Mad MonkIliodor,
- ^ B. Moynahan (1997) Rasputin. The saint who sinned, p. 169-170.
- ^ J.T. Fuhrmann (2013) The Untold Story, p. 91.
- ^ O. Figes (1996), p. 279.
- ^ Peeling, Siobhan. "War Industry Committees". International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Freie Universität Berlin . Retrieved 14 August 2015 .
- ^ O. Figes (1996), p. 283.
- ^ Raymond Pearson (1964) The Russian moderates and the crisis of Tsarism 1914–1917, p. 128.
- ^ O. Figes (1996), p. 344.
Things are so sickening that I don’t even feel like talking. Only my work saves me—it saves me because as it organizes my life, it exhausts me, and since it exhausts me, it organizes my life. Lyuba and work—I see nothing else nowadays. See more
They questioned Guchkov for the third day straight. It is difficult to seem more morose than he is and to speak more morosely than he does. At least I swim. Tomorrow, I hope, after one more hearing, I will be able to get away for a while and swim.
Source: Beketova M. A. Vospominaniya ob Alexander Blok, Moscow, 1990.
A whole world of ideas and belief systems separates us, the non-socialists, from people “on the other coast.” It is not so much private and class-based interests that divide us, but a different understanding of the structure of human society and of the tasks of government.
Source: Senin A.S., Aleksandr Ivanovich Guchkov, 1996.
Guchkov left, Kerensky became the new war minister. With this appointment a new step was made towards the destruction of the army, to please the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
Source: Dzhunkovskiy V, Vospominaniya (1915&ndash1917), Moscow, 2015, V. 3.
I left power because there simply wasn’t any the disease lies in the strange separation between power and responsibility. There are some who have complete power, but without a shadow of responsibility, while those who are in visible positions of power carry full responsibility, but without a shadow of actual power… See more
The state cannot be managed based on the foundation of an ongoing rally, and even less so can be done by the army based on collective leadership. After all, it is we who not only overthrew the holders of power, but overthrew and abolished the very idea of power we destroyed the necessary foundations on which all power is built.
Source: The bourgeoisie and landowners in 1917. Transcripts of private meetings of members of the State Duma, Moscow, 1932.
Instead of Guchkov stands Kerensky himself. He is much more like it. One hand freed from behind his back. Now he can raise his voice.
Source: Hippius Z. N., Sin'aya kniga. Peterburgskiy dnevnik 1914-1918, Belgrad, 1929
Milyukov is resigning. His place has been taken by Tereschenko, and Kerensky has replaced Guchkova as War Minister. The ministry has been expanded by the addition of two socialists. A new current to the sea of senselessness and madness in which we are drowning.
Source: Naryshkina E.A., Moi vospominaniya. Pod vlastyu trekh tsarey, Moscow, 2014.
It was a nice warm day. During the morning I took a nice long walk. At 12 o'clock I gave Alexis a geography lesson. During the day we worked again in our vegetable garden. Even though the sun was scorching, we continued working successfully, I read until dinner time to myself and in the evening I read aloud. Yesterday we learned of the resignation of General Kornilov as Commander-in-Chief of the Petrograd Military District and this evening about the dismissal of Guchkov, See more
All of this happened because of the irresponsible interference in the direction of military power by the Soviet workers' deputation, which is very far to the left.
What has providence prepared for poor Russia? Well, It will be as God wills it.
Source: Kent de Price, 'Diary of Nicholas II, 1917-1918, an annotated translation', The University of Montana, 1966
Milyukov and Shingaryev went to the front. While they were gone, a Provisional Government meeting was unexpectedly called late one evening in Prince Lvov's apartment. Kerensky and Tereshchenko took it upon themselves to sharply attack the point about the Straits and Milyukov’s entire role in the Provisional Government. I was the only one to stand up for him. See more
The rest were silent or criticized Miliukov, his policy, and the question of the Straits was given no support. It was suggested that we should remove Miliukov. True, he heads a large social group. You can’t just throw him out. It was said that Milyukov could be given the Ministry of Education, but everyone supported the decision to remove him from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I saw that the Provisional Government was descending into demagoguery, and I finally concluded that the only way out was to finally break the great compromise and go to battle, even with harsh measures. I then returned home and wrote Lvov a letter.
I wrote him that I couldn’t take any further part, nor could I share responsibility for the country’s disintegration, what is now happening and doesn’t meet any opposition in the Provisional Government. I asked to be considered relieved from my post. Then, in order to prevent any attempts to convince me otherwise, or make any impossible attempts on their part, I sent this letter to Lvov and a copy to the editors of the New Times with a request to print.
Born Oct. 14 (26), 1862, in Moscow Province died 1936, in Paris. Major Russian capitalist. Founder and leader of the Octobrist party. Born into a family of Moscow merchants.
On Nov. 10, 1905, with other leaders of the minority of the zemstvo and city congresses (Count P. A. Geiden and D. N. Shipov), Guchkov published a proclamation about the organization of the Union of October 17 (the Octobrists). Guchkov hailed the suppression of the armed uprisings of December 1905 and approved the introduction of military field courts. In December 1906 he founded the newspaper Golos Moskvy. He was elected a representative from trade and industry to the State Council in May 1907. In November of that year he was elected to the Third State Duma he was its president from March 1910 to March 1911. During World War I, from 1915 to 1917, he was chairman of the Central War Industries Committee and a member of the Special Council for Defense. He also took part in the Progressive Bloc. After the February Revolution of 1917, Guchkov was minister of war and navy in the first composition of the Provisional Government (Mar. 2 , 1917). In August 1917 he was one of the organizers of Kornilovism. After the victory of the October Revolution of 1917, he struggled against Soviet power. Guchkov emigrated to Berlin in 1918.
Alexander Guchkov - History
The Liberals were split up into two groups, the Octoberists and the Kadets.
Their ideologies were similar but had differences. The Octoberists beleived that the Russian Monarchy should maintain their ruling over Russia. However would sometimes express their critcism over the monarchy's rule. The Kadets believed that Russia should be ran democraticly.
The main leaders of the liberals were split, the leaders of the Octoberists were Alexander Guchkov and Mikhail Rodzianko, Alexander Guchkov was a successful industrialist, he became prominent figure in the duma (the russian parliament), he went into exile after the 1917 revolution . Mikhail Rodzianko was a prosperous landowner, by 1917 he had dispaired from the Kaiser but he fled to Russia after the 1917 revolution. Later when the Liberals became known as the Kadets there was only one leader, his name was Paul Milyukov, he was a proffessor in history, he struggled to unite the progressive forces in Russia, but came eventually to accept that tsardom was beyond his reach.
A hundred years after the Bolsheviks swept to power, historians and contemporaries still struggle to understand the prominent role played by Jews.
The “Russians” were an eclectic group, including 10 women and two children. Their names would have been known in left-wing and revolutionary circles of the time, so some traveled under aliases. On board was Karl Radek from Lvov in what is now Ukraine, and Grigory Zinoviev and his wife, Zlata, also from Ukraine. There was the half-Armenian Georgii Safarov and his wife as well as Marxist activist Sarah “Olga” Ravich. Grigory Useivich from Ukraine was accompanied by his wife Elena Kon, the daughter of a Russian woman named Khasia Grinberg. The vivacious French feminist Inessa Armand sang and cracked jokes with Radek, Ravich and Safarov. Eventually their shouting angered the leader of the group, who poked his head into their berth and scolded them. The leader was Vladimir Lenin, and he was taking his small group by sealed train for a weeklong journey that would end at Finland Station in St. Petersburg. Half a year later Lenin and some of his cohorts would be running a new state, the Russian Soviet Republic.
Some observers saw Lenin and his band as a motley group of Jewish revolutionaries. Alexander Guchkov, the Russian minister of war in the Russian Provisional Government after Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in March 1917, told the British military attaché General Alfred Knox that “the extreme element consists of Jews and imbeciles.” Lenin’s train had included 19 members of his Bolshevik party, several of his allies among the Mensheviks and six Jewish members of the Jewish Labor Bund. Almost half the passengers on the train were Jewish.
Yet history has largely forgotten them. Catherine Merridale’s recent Lenin on the Train doesn’t delve into the preponderance of Jews. A recent article in The New Yorker about “Lenin and the Russian Spark,” chronicling 100 years since the journey, entirely discounts the Jewish aspect of the revolutionaries.
The reason for this is complicated and tied up with notions of antisemitism as well as attempt by the revolutionaries themselves to whitewash their ethnic and religious differences. Even though Lenin often praised Jews in his circle, his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya’s own Reminiscences of Lenin (1933) sought to remove these touchy subjects in line with Soviet policy.
A hundred years after the Russian Revolution, there is nostalgia and renewed interest in those figures who led it and the tragedies it unleashed. The 2016 Spanish film The Chosen follows Ramon Mercader, the assassin of Leon Trotsky, and this year’s British film The Death of Stalin turns that event into something of a comedy. In Russia, a new series looks at Leon Trotsky. Producer Konstantin Ernst told the Guardian, “I think he [Trotsky] combines everything, good and evil, injustice and bravery. He’s the archetypal 20th-century revolutionary. But people shouldn’t think that if Trotsky had won and not Stalin, things would have been better, because they wouldn’t have been.”
The question of “what might have been” is uniquely tied to Trotsky because he often symbolized the anti-Stalinist, the wild revolutionary with global impulses and intellectual imagination, as opposed to the doer and statist Stalin with his murderous purges. Part of that motif is tied up in Trotsky’s Jewishness and the larger number of Jewish revolutionaries, activists and followers who were attracted to Communism in the late 19th century.
The role of Jews in the Russian Revolution, and by extension Communism writ large, has always been a sensitive subject because antisemitic voices often painted Soviet Communism as a Jewish plot, or “Jewish Bolshevism.” When Alexander Solzhenitsyn began work on a book called 200 Years Together, he was criticized for what touching this taboo issue. His own comments to the press didn’t help the matter, claiming two-thirds of the Cheka (secret police) in Ukraine were Jewish.
“I will always differentiate between layers of Jews. One layer rushed headfirst to the revolution. Another, to the contrary, was trying to stand back. The Jewish subject for a long time was considered prohibited.” Unsurprisingly, his book has been posted in PDF form on antisemitic websites.
On October 16, the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow hosted an exhibition called “Freedom for All? The History of One People in the Years of Revolution.” With exhibitions and first-person accounts, it focused on Jewish luminaries of the era, such as Trotsky, Julius Martov, Marc Chagall, Vera Inber, Simon Dubnov and Vasily Shulgin.
Dubnov, born in 1860 in what is now Belarus, was an enthusiastic Jewish activist. A professor of Jewish history in St. Petersburg (then called Petrograd), he supported Jewish self-defense units and literature and thought the revolution would bring equality. However, he left in dismay in 1922, eventually settling Riga, Latvia. He was murdered by the Nazis in 1941. Before his death he reflected on Jews like Trotsky who joined the Revolution.
“They appear under Russian pseudonyms because they are ashamed of their Jewish origins. It would be better to say that their Jewish names are pseudonyms they are not rooted in our people.”
Winston Churchill agreed. In a piece in the Illustrated Sunday Herald in 1920, he broadly stereotyped Jews as either “international” communists, loyal nationalists or Zionists. He called it the “struggle for the soul of the Jewish people” and claimed the Jewish role in the Russian Revolution “probably outweighs [the role] of all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews.”
Churchill claimed that the driving power came from Jewish leaders, who eclipsed their counterparts. He named names: Maxim Litvinoff, Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Radek, Leonid Krassin. He called this tendency “astonishing” and accused Jews of playing “the prominent, if not indeed the principal part in the system of terrorism” that had then become known as “red terror” or the suppression of those in the Soviet Union who deviated from the communist line.
One of those whom Churchill singled out for opprobrium was Bela Kun, the Hungarian Jew who briefly played the leading role in Hungary when it was a Soviet republic in 1919. Kun fled when Hungary was invaded by Romania, fleeing to the Soviet Union where he was put in charge of the Revolutionary Committee in Crimea along with Rosalia Zemlyachka. Their regime there was responsible for murdering around 60,000 people. Kun was arrested during Stalin’s purges, accused of promoting “Trotskyism” and executed in 1938. His life was symbolic of so many others: a young revolutionary whose idealism was colored by the murderous methods of Communism and who ended up a victim of the very regime he sought to create, like so many Jewish revolutionaries, accused of being counter-revolutionaries.
HOW DID it all go so wrong? To look for some answers, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research held a conference on Jews in and after the Russian Revolution earlier this month in New York City. In the introduction to the conference they note the paradoxical role of Jews and their fate during the revolution.
“The Russian Revolution liberated the largest Jewish community in the world. It also opened the floodgates for the greatest massacre of Jews before the Second World War amid the civil war and its aftermath in 1918 to 1921.” However, Jews also “entered into nearly every sphere of Russian life while, in time, much of the singular richness of Jewish cultural life in Russia was flattened, eventually obliterated.”
The roughly three million Jews of the Soviet Union at the time of the revolution constituted the largest Jewish community in the world, but they were only around 2% of the USSR’s population. They were concentrated in the Pale of Settlement (a western region of Imperial Russia) and in Ukraine and Belarussia, where they were 5% to 10% of the population, whereas in Russia itself the 1926 census found only 600,000 Jews.
As a group in the vastness of the USSR, they were one of the largest minorities, alongside Georgians, Armenians, Turks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgiz, Tartars, Moldovians, Poles and Germans. None of these other groups played such a central role in the revolution, although members of many of them rose to senior levels. Stalin was a Georgian. Felix Dzerzhinsky, who established the Soviet secret police, was a Polish aristocrat.
Given the Soviet Union’s complexity and predilection for numerous layers of bureaucracy it is a difficult to quantify the number of Jews throughout senior leadership positions during and just after the revolution of 1917. Half of the top contenders in the Central Committee of the Communist Party to take power after Lenin’s health declined in 1922 – Lev Kamenev, Trotsky and Zinoviev – were Jewish. Yakov Sverdlov, the chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee from November 1917 to his death in 1919, was Jewish. Born in 1885, he had joined the Russian Social Democratic Party in 1902 and became a member of the Bolshevik faction with Lenin early on. Like others of his generation he took part in the 1905 revolution. His father converted to Russian Orthodoxy.
The large number of Jews in leading parts of the party was not lost on those non-Jews around them. V.M. Molotov, the powerful foreign minister of the Soviet Union under Stalin, made many remarks about Jews to Felix Chuev in a series of conversations between 1969 to 1986 that became the basis for the 1991 book Molotov Remembers. He recalled that as Lenin lay dying “at the time Jews occupied many leading positions, though they made up only a small percentage of the country’s population.” Of Zinoviev, he recalled, “He didn’t even look like a Jew.”
Antisemitism was an issue within the party. Molotov recalled in 1912 when he was at the Russian newspaper Pravda, “We received a letter from [Nikolay] Krestinsky. He wrote that Lenin was an antisemite.” This was because Lenin had opposed the Mensheviks, a separate communist faction.
“Almost all the Mensheviks were Jews. Even among the Bolsheviks, among the leaders there were many Jews. Generally, Jews are the most oppositional nation. But they were inclined to support the Mensheviks.”
Molotov also claimed that many of the men around Stalin had Jewish wives.
“There is an explanation. Oppositionist and revolutionary elements formed a higher percentage among Jews than among Russians. Insulted, injured and oppressed, they were more versatile. They penetrated everywhere, so to speak.” He claimed that Jews were more “active” than average Russians.
“Biding their time, they sniff around, stir things up, but are always prepared.” Molotov also acknowledged Zionism’s pull on Jews. “The Jews had long struggled for their own state under a Zionist flag. We, of course, were against Zionism. But to refuse a people the right to statehood would mean oppressing them.”
The fork in the road of history that led some Jews in the Russian Empire to embrace Zionism and many others to embrace various leftist revolutionary movements that eventually led to the Soviet Union was reached in the 19th century. Beginning in 1827, the Russian Empire sought to modernize its army through a universal draft. Jews had to serve 25 years and their own communities had to choose approximately four conscripts for every 1,000 members of the community (1,500 to 3,000 a year), according to the YIVO Encyclopedia.
Although non-Jews served the same amount of time, Jews were recruited at age 12 and not 18 like others, which led to their “Russification.”
Tsar Alexander II abolished this system and allowed Jews to move out of the Pale of Settlement into Russian cities, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“As a result of these policies, many Jews became more involved in the cultural and intellectual life of Russia,” notes the Center for Israel Education in Atlanta. After Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, a wave of hundreds of pogroms swept the country.
New restrictions were imposed, limiting where Jews could live and work. This helped cause a vast migration of Jews abroad, including 2.3 million who left for the New World between 1881 and 1930.
When Theodor Herzl visited the Russian Empire in 1903, he met Count Witte, the minister of finance. According to Leonard Schapiro, who authored The Role of the Jews in the Russian Revolutionary Movement in 1961, Herzl found that “50% of the membership of the revolutionary parties was Jewish.” Herzl asked Witte why.
“I think it’s the fault of our government. The Jews are too oppressed.” Schapiro argues that Jews moved into revolutionary circles as they gained access to intellectual circles. Ironically then, the more Jews gained wealth and freedom in the empire, the more they also awakened to their predicament and joined the slow gurgling rebellion against the ancient regime.
Distinct choices emerged among Jews. Many, like former Israel prime minister Golda Meir’s family, went to the New World. Around 40,000 decided to move directly to the Land of Israel, becoming the leading members of what became known as the First Aliya. Among those were men like Joseph Trumpeldor, who was born in Pyatigorsk, Russia, in 1880 and moved to Ottoman Palestine in 1911 after serving in the Russian army. Isaac Leib Goldberg, the founder of the Hovevei Zion movement in 1882, was born in Poland in 1860 but grew up under the Russian Empire, and played and influential role in Zionist circles, co-founding Haaretz in 1919.
Immigrant Jews founded the Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel in 1890, which helped settle Rehovot and Hadera. Often called the “Odessa Committee,” this group had over 4,000 members. Similarly, the Bilu group founded in Kharkov sent its members to found Gedera in Palestine.
Jews embraced self-defense in reaction to the pogroms as well. The writer Leon Pinsker from Odessa was emblematic of that awakening, turning from embracing assimilation to realizing that Jews would always suffer antisemitism as the proverbial outsiders.
Pinsker’s friend Meir Dizengoff, a veteran of the Russian army, was the first mayor of Tel Aviv. Among the founders of the first self-defense organization in Palestine, called Hashomer, were Alexander Zaid from Siberia and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi from Poltava in Ukraine.
Of those millions who chose to stay under the empire, many fought for Jewish rights in Russia. Maxim Vinaver, a resident of St. Petersburg from 1906 to 1917, was born in 1862 in Warsaw. A lawyer, he founded the Party of Popular Freedom (Constitutional Democratic Party-Kadets) and was chairman of the League for the Attainment of Equal Rights for the Jewish People in Russia (Folksgrupe). Described as a “tall, imposing, cultured man” by the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, he was elected to the first State Duma created in the wake of the 1905 revolution. He arrived alongside 12 other Jewish deputies out of 478. Two of these Jews were Shmaryahu Levin and Leon Bramson, who had the support of the Jewish Labor Bund. Levin went on to support the creation of the Technion in Israel, and Bramson helped found ORT. Another Jew elected was Nissan Katznelson, a friend of Herzl.
Vinaver came to lead the group of Jews in the Duma and pressed for equality of minorities in the empire. “We Jews represent one of the nationalities which have suffered more, yet never once have we spoken only about ourselves. For we consider it to be inappropriate to speak just of this and not of civil equality for all,” he said in a speech.
Vinaver created and chaired a cornucopia of Jewish groups, including the Jewish National Group, the Jewish Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and Jewish Historical-Ethnographic Society. In contrast to Jews who gravitated toward more radical communist groups, or toward Zionism, Vinaver represented those who sought equality in the empire in a milieu that was proudly Jewish.
Trotsky’s 1930 autobiography My Life sought to downplay his Jewishness. Lessons at school on the Jewish people “were never taken seriously by the boys,” he writes in discussing his Jewish classmates. Although he admits the discriminatory atmosphere of the 1880s and he lost a year of schooling due to anti-Jewish quotas, he writes, “In my mental equipment, nationality never occupied an independent place, as it was felt but little in everyday life.”
Furthermore, he argues that although “national in-equality probably was one of the underlying causes of my dissatisfaction with the existing order, it was lost among all the other phases of social injustice. It never played a leading part, not even a recognized one in the lists of my grievances.”
Of particular interest, Trotsky never mentions the word “Jew” after his fifth chapter dealing with his early education up to the year 1891. Despite being surrounded by Jews, he buries this ethnic and religious issue entirely.
How could he skip over the Jewish context when it was all around him? Stepan Mikoyan, born in 1922, a test pilot and son of prominent Stalin-era politician Anastas Mikoyan, wrote an autobiography in 1999. In it, he calls Stalin a “militant antisemite.” Molotov, however, insisted that Stalin was “not an antisemite… he appreciated many qualities in the Jewish people: capacity for hard work, group solidarity and political activeness.”
However, being from a non-Russian minority, Stalin always seemed suspicious of this other minority group. When he was commissar of nationalities from 1917 to 1924, he was called upon to investigate a “mess,” according to Molotov. He didn’t appoint a single Jew to the committee and Lenin wondered why. Trotsky’s aversion to seeing himself in a Jewish context likely derived from the early disputes in 1904 when the revolutionaries had to decide whether Jews would be included as a distinct group in the organization.
FOR THE Jewish revolutionaries, the years from 1904 to the revolution were spent in a fever of activity. In 1904, a dispute at the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party between Julius Martov and Lenin led to the creation of Lenin’s Bolsheviks and Martov’s Mensheviks.
Martov was Jewish, as were many Mensheviks. At the heart of the debate that led to the split in the RSDLP was a dispute over whether the General Jewish Labor Bund (the “Bund”), which had cofounded the RSDLP in 1898, could remain an autonomous group. This was a harbinger of things to come. Eventually those Bund leaders, such as Mikhail Liber, who sought to remain part of the revolution, but distinctly Jewish, would be sent into exile or shot in the 1930s. Martov left Russia in 1920, calling the civil war that erupted after the revolution a “growing bestiality of men.” He died in exile. Some Jewish Bundists remained in the USSR and rose to senior positions. Israel Leplevsky from Brest-Litovsk became minister of internal affairs of Ukraine before being arrested and shot in 1938. David Petrovsky from Berdychiv became an influential economic planner until being arrested and shot in 1937. His wife, Rose Cohen, a founder of the Communist Party of Great Britain, was also shot.
Trotsky’s life before the revolution is more instructive of the networks of Jewish Bolsheviks. Arrested in 1906, he was sent into exile by the tsarist state. He escaped and made his way to Vienna, where he became friends with Adolph Joffe. Joffe came from a family of Jewish Crimean Karaites and became an editor of Pravda. Close friends for the rest of their lives, they opposed the more lenient attitude of their fellow Jews Kamanev and Zinoviev on the Central Committee in 1917, opposing the inclusion of other socialist parties in the government that emerged after the revolution. Trotsky was expelled from the Central Committee in 1927 along with Zinoviev. He went into exile in 1929 and was assassinated on Stalin’s orders in 1940. Joffe committed suicide in 1927 his wife Maria and daughter Nadezhda were arrested and sent to labor camps and were not released until after Stalin’s death in 1953.
Late in life, as many thousands of Jews were being executed in the purges by Stalin, not as Jews but as leading communists, Trotsky penned several thoughts on Jewish issues. He said that in his early days, “I rather leaned toward the prognosis that the Jews of different countries would be assimilated and that the Jewish question would thus disappear.” He argued, “Since 1925 and above all since 1926, antisemitic demagogy – well camouflaged, unattackable – goes hand in hand with symbolic trials.” He accused the USSR of insinuating that Jews were “internationalists” during show trials.
The Central Committee of the USSR is instructive as an indicator of the prominence of Jews in leadership positions. In the Sixth Congress of the Bolshevik Russian Social Democratic Labor Party and its Central Committee elected in August 1917, we find that five of the committee’s 21 members were Jewish. This included Trotsky, Zinoviev, Moisei Uritsky, Sverdlov and Grigori Sokolnikov. Except for Sverdlov, they were all from Ukraine. The next year they were joined by Kamenev and Radek. Jews made up 20% of the central committees until 1921, when there were no Jews on this leading governing body.
The high percentage of Jews in governing circles in these early years matched their percentage in urban environments, politburo member Sergo Ordzhonikidze told the 15th Congress of the party, according to Solzhenitsyn. Most Jews lived in towns and cities due to urbanization and laws that had kept them off the land.
Jewish membership in top circles continued to decline in the 1920s. By the 11th Congress, only Lazar Kaganovich was elected to the Central Committee in 1922 alongside 26 other members. Subsequently few Jews served in these leadership positions. In 1925 there were four Jews out of 63 members. Like the rest of their comrades, almost all of them were killed in the purges. Others elected in 1927 and 1930 were shot as well, including Grigory Kaminsky, who came from a family of blacksmiths in Ukraine. With the exception of Lev Mekhlis and Kaganovich, few senior communist Jews survived the purges.
During the 1936 Moscow Trials, numerous defendants were Jewish. Of one group of 16 high-profile communists at a show trial, besides Kamenev and Zinoviev, names like Yefim Dreitzer, Isak Reingold, Moissei and Nathan Lurye and Konon Berman-Yurin ring out as Jewish. In a twisted irony, some of these Bolsheviks who had played a prominent role executing others, such as NKVD Director Genrikh Yagoda, were themselves executed. Solzhenitsyn estimates that Jews in leading positions went from a high of 50% in some sectors to 6%. Many Jewish officers in the Red Army also suffered in the purges. Millions of Jews would remain in Soviet territories, but they would never again obtain such prominent positions in the USSR.
In a July 1940 letter, Trotsky imagined that future military events in the Middle East “may well transform Palestine into a bloody trap for several hundred thousand Jews.” He was wrong it was the Soviet Union that was a bloody trap for many of those Jews who had seen salvation in communism and thought that by total assimilation and working for a zealous greater good they would succeed.
Instead, many ended up being murdered by the system they helped create.
WITH 100 years of hindsight it is still difficult to understand what attracted so many Jews to communism in the Russian empire. Were their actions infused with Jewishness, a sense of Jewish mission like the tikkun olam and “light unto the nations” values we hear about today, or were their actions strictly pragmatic as a minority group struggling to be part of larger society? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Many Jews made pragmatic economic choices to leave for the New World when facing discrimination and poverty. Others chose to express themselves as Jews first, either through Jewish socialist groups or Zionism. Still others struggled for equality in the empire, so they could remain Jews and be equal. One group sought a radical solution to their and society’s predicament, a communist revolution, and one that would not include other voices such as the Bund or Mensheviks, but solely that of their party. They had no compunction at murdering their coreligionists. They were not more or less ethical than their non-Jewish peers. How can we explain their disproportionate presence in the leadership of the revolution? It would be as if the Druse minority in Israel made up half of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, or Armenians were half of Emmanuel Macron’s government in France.
Perhaps the only way to understand some of it is to recognize that at Nelson Mandela’s 1963 Rivonia trial in South Africa five of the 13 arrested were Jewish, as were around one quarter of the 1960s Freedom Riders in the US. The 20th century was a century of Jewish activism, often for non-Jewish causes and often without an outwardly “Jewish” context. The Freedom Riders didn’t go as a “Jewish voice for African- Americans,” they went as activists for civil rights.
We prize minorities today who act for social justice as minorities, but the 20th century required a more nuanced approach. The situation Jews were born into in the 19th-century Pale of Settlement has no parallel with today’s Jewish experience. But despite economic hardship there was a spark in this community amidst unique circumstances of radical change that impelled it forward to leadership in numerous sectors in Russia and abroad.