Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 






The World Wars and Interwar Period 

1914-1945


 


The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


 



Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937

 

 

 


The Soviet Union
 


1917-1939
 

 

see also:
Socialist Realism

 

The Russian czar was deposed in 1917, even before the end of World War I. The radical left-wing Bolsheviks emerged victorious out of the dispute between the democratic transitional government and the revolutionary Soviet Council of Soldiers' and Workers' Deputies. They came to power in the October Revolution in 1917 under the leadership of Lenin, ended the war, suppressed counterrevolutionary uprisings in a civil war, and constituted the first Communist-ruled state in the world: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). After Lenin's death in 1924, the Soviet Union became an increasingly centralized personal dictatorship under Stalin in the 1930s. Stalin oversaw a massive industrialization program and forcibly collectivized agriculture, while millions fell victim to the regime's repression.

 


The Bolshevik Victory
 

A civil war broke out after the October Revolution as western governments armed the counterrevolutionary "White Army." By 1922 the Red Army had emerged victorious.

 

As the liberal provisional government under the new prime minister.

8
Aleksandr Kerensky, continued the war and did not give in to the demands for social improvement, the conflict between the Soviets and the government became increasingly critical in the second half of 1917.


8 Aleksandr Kerensky (on car) at a parade, 1917

Lenin and the Bolsheviks once again planned an armed uprising against the government after September 1917.

The 9 October Revolution finally erupted on November 7, 1917.


9 Bolshevik (1920), by Kustodiev Boris.


11 Leon Trotsky led the Bolshevik Red Guard in occupying the most important points in St. Petersburg and 12 stormed the Winter Palace, the seat of the provisional government.

Kerensky's government was arrested, and 6 Lenin formed the Council of People's Commissars, the first Soviet government.


11 Leon Trotsky, 1917; 12 Storming of the Winter Palace, 1917 by Nikolai Kochergin; 6 Vladimir Lenin leader of the Bolsheviks



Lenin and Trotsky in
Diego Rivera's Man, Controller of the Universe mural


The Bolsheviks ended the war against the Central Powers with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 5,1918. The  harsh terms dictated by Germany were accepted by Lenin, as Russia was in turmoil. Large property owners and industry owners were expropriated without compensation, banks were nationalized, opposition parties were banned, and the democratic parliament was abolished. The newly founded security agency, the Cheka, was meant to secure the exclusive authority of the Bolsheviks.

The first phase of the revolutionary reformation of Russia ended with the move of the Soviet government to the 13 Kremlin in Moscow in March 1918.


13 Bolshevik forces marching on Red Square, Moscow

But the government was still by no means secure.

A counterrevolutionary alliance of monarchists, Mensheviks, and nonsocialist powers had formed a 10 "White Army" in 1918 that fought the Bolsheviks' 14 "Red Army" in a bloody, almost three-year-long civil war.


10 "White Army"; 14 "Red Army"

Despite support of the Whites from Russia's World War I allies, the tightly led Red Army finally prevailed at the beginning of 1922. With Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the Reds conquered even states that had declared their independence after the Treaty of Brcst-Litovsk. The Polish-Russiai war of 1920-1921 and the terrible famine in Russia in the winter of 1921—1922 no longer posed serious threats to Bolshevik power. By 1922, the new socialist state had almost reached the same extent as the former Russian empire.

In the same year, the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic united with the Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet Union was the world's first Communist country and was hailed by socialists around the world.

 

 

Leon Trotsky


Leon Trotsky



Russian revolutionary
byname of Lev Davidovich Bronshtein

born Nov. 7 [Oct. 26, Old Style], 1879, Yanovka, Ukraine, Russian Empire
died Aug. 21, 1940, Coyoacán, near Mexico City, Mex.

Main
Communist theorist and agitator, a leader in Russia’s October Revolution in 1917 and later commissar of foreign affairs and of war in the Soviet Union (1917–24). In the struggle for power following Vladimir Ilich Lenin’s death, however, Joseph Stalin emerged as victor, while Trotsky was removed from all positions of power and later exiled (1929). He remained the leader of an anti-Stalinist opposition abroad until his assassination by a Stalinist agent.

Early life, education, and revolutionary career.
Trotsky’s father, David Bronshtein, was a farmer of Russified Jewish background who had settled as a colonist in the steppe region, and his mother, Anna, was of the educated middle class. He had an older brother and sister and two siblings who died in infancy. At the age of eight, he was sent to school in Odessa, where he spent eight years with the family of his mother’s nephew, a liberal intellectual. When he moved to Nikolayev in 1896 to complete his schooling, he was drawn into an underground Socialist circle and introduced to Marxism. After briefly attending the University of Odessa he returned to Nikolayev to help organize the underground South Russian Workers’ Union.

In January 1898, Bronshtein was arrested for revolutionary activity and spent four and a half years in prison and in exile in Siberia (during which time he married his coconspirator Aleksandra Sokolovskaya and fathered two daughters). He escaped in 1902 with a forged passport bearing the name Trotsky, which he adopted as his revolutionary pseudonym. His wife remained behind, and the separation became permanent. Trotsky made his way to London, where he joined the group of Russian Social-Democrats working with Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) on the revolutionary newspaper Iskra (“The Spark”).

At the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, held in Brussels and London in July 1903, Trotsky sided with the Menshevik faction—advocating a democratic approach to Socialism—against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Shortly before this, in Paris, Trotsky had met and married Natalya Sedova, by whom he subsequently had two sons, Lev and Sergey.

Upon the outbreak of revolutionary disturbances in 1905, Trotsky returned to Russia. He became a leading spokesman of the St. Petersburg Soviet (council) of Workers’ Deputies when it organized a revolutionary strike movement and other measures of defiance against the tsarist government. In the aftermath, Trotsky was jailed and brought to trial in 1906. While incarcerated Trotsky wrote one of his major works, “Results and Prospects,” setting forth his theory of permanent revolution.

In 1907, after a second exile to Siberia, Trotsky once again escaped. He settled in Vienna and supported himself as a correspondent in the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. At the outbreak of World War I, Trotsky joined the majority of Russian Social-Democrats who condemned the war and refused to support the war effort of the tsarist regime. He moved to Switzerland and then to Paris. His anti-war stance led to his expulsion from both France and Spain. He reached New York City in January 1917, where he joined the Bolshevik theoretician Nikolay Bukharin in editing the Russian-language paper Novy Mir (“The New World”).


Leon Trotsky addresses Red Army soldiers in Moscow in 1918


Leadership in the Revolution of 1917.
Trotsky hailed the outbreak of revolution in Russia in February (March, N.S.) as the opening of the permanent revolution he had predicted. He reached Petrograd in mid-May and assumed the leadership of a left-wing Menshevik faction. Following the abortive July Days uprising, Trotsky was arrested in the crackdown on the Bolshevik leadership carried out by Aleksandr Kerensky’s liberal government. In August, while still in jail, Trotsky was formally admitted to the Bolshevik Party and was also elected to membership on the Bolshevik Central Committee. He was released from prison in September and shortly afterward was elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

When fighting was precipitated by an ineffectual government raid early on November 6 (October 24, O.S.), Trotsky took a leading role in directing countermeasures for the soviet, while reassuring the public that his Military Revolutionary Committee meant only to defend the Congress of Soviets. Governmental authority crumbled quickly, and Petrograd was largely in Bolshevik hands by the time Lenin reappeared from the underground on November 7 to take direct charge of the Revolution and present the Congress of Soviets with an accomplished fact when it convened next day.

Trotsky continued to function as the military leader of the Revolution when Kerensky vainly attempted to retake Petrograd with loyal troops. He organized and supervised the forces that broke Kerensky’s efforts at the Battle of Pulkovo on November 13. Immediately afterward, he joined Lenin in defeating proposals for a coalition government including Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries.


Trotsky with troops at the Polish front, 1919



Role in Soviet government.
As foreign commissar, Trotsky’s first charge was to implement the Bolsheviks’ program of peace by calling for immediate armistice negotiations among the warring powers. Germany and its allies responded, and in mid-December peace talks were begun at Brest-Litovsk, though Trotsky continued vainly to invite support from the Allied governments. In January 1918, Trotsky entered into the peace negotiations personally and shocked his adversaries by turning the talks into a propaganda forum. He then recessed the talks and returned to Petrograd to argue against acceptance of Germany’s annexationist terms, even though Lenin had meanwhile decided to pay the German price for peace and thus buy time for the Soviet state. Between Lenin’s position and Bukharin’s outright call for revolutionary war, Trotsky proposed the formula “no war, no peace.” When the Germans resumed their offensive in mid-February, the Bolshevik Central Committee was compelled to make a decision; Trotsky and his followers abstained from the vote, and Lenin’s acceptance of the German terms was endorsed.

Following the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Trotsky resigned as foreign commissar, turning the office over to Georgy Chicherin, and was immediately made commissar of war, theretofore a committee responsibility. As war commissar, Trotsky faced the formidable task of building a new Red Army out of the shambles of the old Russian Army and preparing to defend the Communist government against the imminent threats of civil war and foreign intervention. Trotsky chose to concentrate on developing a small but disciplined and professionally competent force. His abandonment of the revolutionary ideal of democratization and guerrilla tactics prompted much criticism of his methods among other Communists. He was particularly criticized for recruiting former tsarist officers (“military specialists”) and putting them to work under the supervision of Communist military commissars. Trotsky’s military policies were resisted unsuccessfully by a coalition of ultraleft purists and rival party leaders, notably Stalin, with whom Trotsky had an acrimonious clash over the defense of the city of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, now Volgograd). Trotsky’s approach was, however, vindicated by the success of the Red Army in turning back attacks by the anti-Communist White armies in 1918 and 1919.

With the triumph of the Communist forces and the end of the Russian Civil War in 1920, Trotsky, retaining his office as commissar of war, turned his attention to the economic reconstruction of Russia. He first proposed a relaxation of the stringent centralization of War Communism to allow market forces to operate. Rejected in this, he endeavoured to apply military discipline to the economy, using soldiers as labour armies and attempting to militarize the administration of the transportation system.

During the Civil War and War Communism phase of the Soviet regime, Trotsky was clearly established as the number-two man next to Lenin. He was one of the initial five members of the Politburo when that top Communist Party policy-making body was created in 1919. In intellectual power and administrative effectiveness, he was Lenin’s superior and did not hesitate to disagree with him but he lacked facility in political manipulation to win party decisions. Trotsky took a prominent part in the launching of the Comintern in 1919 and wrote its initial manifesto.

In the winter of 1920–21 widespread dissension broke out over the policies of War Communism, not only among the populace but among the party leadership as well. The point at issue in the controversy was the future role of the trade unions. The utopian left wing wanted the unions to administer industry; Lenin and the cautious wing wanted the unions confined to supervising working conditions; Trotsky and his supporters tried to reconcile radicalism and pragmatism by visualizing administration through unions representing the central state authority.

The crisis came to a head in March 1921, with agitation for democracy within the party on the one hand and armed defiance represented by the naval garrison at Kronshtadt on the other. At this point Trotsky sided with Lenin, commanding the forces that suppressed the Kronshtadt Rebellion and backing the suppression of open factional activity in the party. Trotsky accepted Lenin’s retreat from ideal communism in favour of the New Economic Policy, including his conventional view of the trade unions. This degree of accord, however, did not prevent Trotsky from losing a substantial degree of political influence at the 10th Party Congress in March 1921.


Leon Trotsky inspects the Red Army in 1921


The struggle for the succession.
When Lenin was stricken with his first cerebral hemorrhage in May 1922, the question of eventual succession to the leadership of Russia became urgent. Trotsky, owing to his record and his charismatic qualities, was the obvious candidate in the eyes of the party rank and file, but jealousy among his colleagues on the Politburo prompted them to combine against him. As an alternative, the Politburo supported the informal leadership of the troika composed of Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev, and Stalin.

In the winter of 1922–23 Lenin recovered partially and turned to Trotsky for assistance in correcting the errors of the troika, particularly in foreign trade policy, the handling of the national minorities, and reform of the bureaucracy. In December 1922, warning in his then secret “Testament” of the danger of a split between Trotsky and Stalin, Lenin characterized Trotsky as a man of “exceptional abilities” but “too far-reaching self-confidence and a disposition to be too much attracted by the purely administrative side of affairs.” Just before he was silenced by a final stroke in March 1923, Lenin invited Trotsky to open an attack on Stalin, but Trotsky chose to bide his time, possibly contemplating an alliance against Zinovyev. Stalin moved rapidly to consolidate his hold on the Central Committee at the 12th Party Congress in April 1923.

By fall, alarmed by inroads of the secret police among party members and efforts to weaken his control of the war commissariat, Trotsky decided to strike out against the party leadership. In October he addressed a wide-ranging critique to the Central Committee, stressing especially the violation of democracy in the party and the failure to develop adequate economic planning. Reforms were promised, and Trotsky responded with an open letter detailing the direction they should take. This, however, served only as the signal for a massive propaganda counterattack against Trotsky and his supporters on grounds of factionalism and opportunism. At this critical moment Trotsky fell ill of an undiagnosed fever and could take no personal part in the struggle. Because of Stalin’s organizational controls, the party leadership easily won, and the “New Course” controversy was terminated at the 13th Party Conference in January 1924 (the first substantially stage-managed party assembly) with the condemnation of the Trotskyist opposition as a Menshevik-like, illegal factional deviation. Lenin’s death a week later only confirmed Trotsky’s isolation. Convalescing on the Black Sea coast, Trotsky was deceived about the date of the funeral, failed to return to Moscow, and left the scene to Stalin.

Attacks on Trotsky did not cease. When the 13th Party Congress, in May 1924, repeated the denunciations of his violations of party discipline, Trotsky vainly professed his belief in the omnipotence of the party. The following fall he took a different tack in his essay The Lessons of October 1917, linking the opposition of Zinovyev and Kamenev to the October Revolution with the failure of the Soviet-inspired German Communist uprising in 1923. The party leadership replied with a wave of denunciation, counterposing Trotskyism to Leninism, denigrating Trotsky’s role in the Revolution, and denouncing the theory of permanent revolution as a Menshevik heresy. In January 1925 Trotsky’s was removed from the war commissariat.

Early in 1926, following the split between the Stalin–Bukharin leadership and Zinovyev–Kamenev group and the denunciation of the latter at the 14th Party Congress, Trotsky joined forces with his old adversaries Zinovyev and Kamenev to resume the political offensive. For a year and a half this “United Opposition” grasped at every opportunity to put its criticisms before the party membership, despite the increasingly severe curbs being placed on such discussion. Again they stressed the themes of party democracy and economic planning, condemned the leadership’s concessions to bourgeois elements, and denounced Stalin’s theory of “Socialism in one country” as a pretext for abandoning world revolution.

The response of the leadership was a rising tide of official denunciation, supplemented by an anti-Semitic whispering campaign. In October 1926 Trotsky was expelled from the Politburo and a year later he and Zinovyev were dropped from the Central Committee. After an abortive attempt at a demonstration on the 10th anniversary of the Revolution, the two were expelled from the party.


Trotsky at his arrival in Mexico in 1937


Exile and assassination.
In January 1928, Trotsky and his principal followers were exiled to remote parts of the Soviet Union, Trotsky himself being assigned to Alma-Ata (now Almaty) in Central Asia. In January 1929 Trotsky was banished from the territory of the Soviet Union. He was initially received by the government of Turkey and domiciled on the island of Prinkipo. He plunged into literary activity there and completed his autobiography and his history of the Russian Revolution. In 1933 Trotsky secured permission to move to France. After Hitler’s victory in Germany, Trotsky gave up the hope of reforming the Communist International and called on his followers to establish their own revolutionary parties and form a Fourth International. This movement (whose American branch was the Socialist Workers’ Party) proved to be little more than a shadow organization, although a small founding conference was officially held in France in 1938.
 


Leon Trotsky with Diego Rivera

In 1935 Trotsky was compelled to move to Norway, and in 1936, under Soviet pressure, he was forced to seek asylum in Mexico, where he settled at Coyoacán. He was represented as the principal conspirator, in absentia, in the treason trials of former Communist opposition leaders held in Moscow (1936–38). The evidence of treasonable plotting, however, was later proven to be fictitious.

Trotsky was the object of two assassination attempts, presumably by Stalinist agents. The first, a machine gun attack on his house, failed. The second, by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish Communist who had won the confidence of the Trotsky household, was successful. The Soviet government disclaimed any responsibility, and the ax murderer was sentenced to the maximum 20-year term under Mexican law.


Leon Trotsky with Diego Rivera

Assessment.
Trotsky was undoubtedly the most brilliant intellect brought to prominence by the Russian Revolution, outdistancing Lenin and other theoreticians both in the range of his interests and in the imaginativeness of his perceptions. He was an indefatigable worker, a rousing public speaker, and a decisive administrator. On the other hand, Trotsky was not successful as a leader of men, partly because he allowed his brilliance and arrogance to antagonize the lesser lights in the Communist movement. Perhaps he fatally compromised himself when he became a Bolshevik in 1917, subordinating himself to Lenin’s leaderhip and accepting the methods of dictatorship that he had previously condemned.

Had Trotsky won the struggle to succeed Lenin, the character of the Soviet regime would almost certainly have been substantially different, particularly in foreign policy, cultural policy, and the extent of terroristic repression. Trotsky’s failure, however, seems almost inevitable considering his own qualities and the conditions of authoritarian rule by the Communist Party organization.

Robert V. Daniels
Ed.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 

 


Red Terror



Yakov Sverdlov; Dzerzhinsky; Moisei Uritsky; Bela Kun; Martin Latsis; Yan Karlovich Berzin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Red Terror in Soviet Russia was the campaign of mass arrests and executions conducted by the Bolshevik government. In Soviet historiography, the Red Terror is described as officially announced on September 2, 1918 by Yakov Sverdlov and ended in about October 1918. However many historians, beginning with Sergei Melgunov, apply this term to repressions for the whole period of the Russian Civil War, 1918-1922. The mass repressions were conducted without judicial process by the secret police, the Cheka, together with elements of the Bolshevik military intelligence agency, the GRU.

The term "Red Terror" was originally used to describe the last six weeks of the "Reign of Terror" of the French Revolution, ending on July 28, 1794 (execution of Robespierre), to distinguish it from the subsequent period of the White Terror (historically this period has been known as the Great Terror (French: la Grande Terreur)).

Purpose of the Soviet Red Terror

The Red Terror was claimed to be introduced in reply to White Terror. The stated purpose of this campaign was struggle with counter-revolutionaries considered to be enemies of the people. Many Russian communists openly proclaimed that Red Terror was needed for extermination of entire social groups or former "ruling classes". Lenin planned the terror in advance. In 1908 he had written of "real, nation-wide terror, which reinvigorates the country". Communist leader Grigory Zinoviev seemed to be advocating genocide when he declared in mid-September of 1918:

"To overcome of our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia's population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated."


For many people the major evidence of their guilt was their social status rather than actual deeds. Martin Latsis, chief of the Ukrainian Cheka, explained in newspaper "Red Terror":

"Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror."


History

The campaign of mass repressions was officially initiated as retribution for the assassination of Petrograd Cheka leader Moisei Uritsky, and attempted assassination of Vladimir Lenin by Fanya Kaplan on August 30, 1918. While recovering from his wounds, Lenin instructed: "It is necessary - secretly and urgently to prepare the terror"

Even before the assassinations, Lenin was sending telegrams "to introduce mass terror" in Nizhny Novgorod in response to a suspected civilian uprising there, and "crush" landowners in Penza who protested, sometimes violently, to requisition of their grain by military detachments:

"Comrades!... You must make example of these people. (1) Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instructions in yesterday's telegram."


Five hundred "representatives of overthrown classes" were executed immediately by the Bolshevik communist government after the assassination of Uritsky. The first official announcement of Red Terror, published in Izvestiya, "Appeal to the Working Class" on September 3, 1918 called for the workers to "crush the hydra of counterrevolution with massive terror! ... anyone who dares to spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be arrested immediately and sent to concentration camp". This was followed by the decree "On Red Terror", issued September 5, 1918 by the Cheka. On 15 October, checkist Gleb Bokiy, summing up the officially ended Red Terror, reported that in Petrograd 800 alleged enemies had been shot and another 6,229 imprisoned. Casualties in the first two months were between 10,000 and 15,000 based on lists of summarily executed people published in newspaper "Cheka Weekly" and other official press.

As the civil war progressed, significant numbers of prisoners, suspects and hostages were executed on the basis of their belonging to the "possessing classes" and such numbers are recorded in cities occupied by the Bolsheviks:

In Kharkiv there were between 2,000 and 3,000 executions in February-June 1919, and another 1,000-2,000 when the town was taken again in December of that year; in Rostov-on-Don, approximately 1,000 in January 1920; in Odessa, 2,200 in May-August 1919, then 1,500-3,000 between February 1920 and February 1921; in Kyiv, at least 3,000 in February-August 1919; in Ekaterinodar, at least 3,000 between August 1920 and February 1921; In Armavir, a small town in Kuban, between 2,000 and 3,000 in August-October 1920.
The list could go on and on.

In the Crimea, Bela Kun, with Lenin's approval, had 50,000 White officers shot or hanged after the defeat of general Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel at the end of 1920. They had been promised amnesty if they would surrender, and were then murdered. This is considered one of the largest massacres in the Civil War.

On 16 March 1919, all military detachments of the Cheka were combined in a single body, the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic which numbered 200,000 in 1921. These troops policed labor camps, ran the Gulag system, conducted requisitions of food, put down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red Army, which was plagued by desertions

One of the main organizers of the Red Terror for the Bolshevik government was 2nd Grade Army Commissar Yan Karlovich Berzin (1889-1938), whose real name was Kyuzis Peteris. He took part in the October Revolution and afterwards worked in the central apparatus of the Cheka. During the Red Terror, Berzin initiated the system of taking and shooting hostages to stop desertions and other "acts of disloyalty and sabotage". Chief of a special department of the Latvian Red Army (later the 15th Army), Berzin played a part in the suppression of the Russian sailors' mutiny at Kronstadt in March 1921. He particularly distinguished himself in the course of the pursuit, capture, and killing of captured sailors.

 

Repressions against peasants

The Internal Troops of Cheka and the Red Army practiced the terror tactics of taking and executing numerous hostages, often in connection with desertions of forcefully mobilized peasants. It is believed that more than 3 million deserters escaped from the Red Army in 1919 and 1920. Around 500,000 deserters were arrested in 1919 and close to 800,000 in 1920 by Cheka troops and special divisions created to combat desertions. Thousands of deserters were killed, and their families were often taken hostage. According to Lenin's instructions,

"After the expiration of the seven-day deadline for deserters to turn themselves in, punishment must be increased for these incorrigible traitors to the cause of the people. Families and anyone found to be assisting them in any way whatsoever are to be considered as hostages and treated accordingly."[2]
In September 1918, in only twelve provinces of Russia, 48,735 deserters and 7,325 bandits were arrested, 1,826 were killed and 2,230 were executed. A typical report from a Cheka department stated:

"Yaroslavl Province, 23 June 1919. The uprising of deserters in the Petropavlovskaya volost has been put down. The families of the deserters have been taken as hostages. When we started to shoot one person from each family, the Greens began to come out of the woods and surrender. Thirty-four deserters were shot as an example".
During the suppression of the Tambov Rebellion, estimates suggest that around 100,000 peasant rebels and their families were imprisoned or deported and perhaps 15,000 executed.

This campaign marked the beginning of the Gulag, and some scholars have estimated that 70,000 were imprisoned by September, 1921. Conditions in these camps led to high mortality rates, and there were "repeated massacres." The Cheka at the Kholmogory camp adopted the practice of drowning bound prisoners in the nearby Dvina river. Occasionally, entire prisons were “emptied” of inmates via mass shootings prior to abandoning a town to White forces.



Repressions against Russian industrial workers

On 16 March 1919, Cheka stormed the Putilov factory. More than 900 workers who went to a strike were arrested. More than 200 of them were executed without trial during the next few days. Numerous strikes took place in the spring of 1919 in cities of Tula, Orel, Tver, Ivanovo, and Astrakhan. The starving workers sought to obtain food rations matching those of Red Army soldiers. They also demanded the elimination of privileges for Communists, freedom of press, and free elections. All strikes were mercilessly suppressed by Cheka using arrests and executions.

In the city of Astrakhan, the strikers and Red Army soldiers who joined them were loaded onto barges and then thrown by the hundreds into the Volga with stones around their necks. Between 2,000 and 4,000 were shot or drowned from 12 to 14 of March 1919. In addition, the repression also claimed the lives of some 600 to 1,000 bourgeoisie. Recently published archival documents indicate this was the largest massacre of workers by the Bolsheviks before the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion.

However, strikes continued. Lenin was concerned about the tense situation regarding workers in the Ural region. On 29 January 1920, he sent a telegram to Vladimir Smirnov stating "I am surprised that you are taking the matter so lightly, and are not immediately executing large numbers of strikers for the crime of sabotage."[21] On 6 June 1920, female workers in Tula who refused to work on Sunday were arrested and sent to labor camps. The refusal to work during the weekend was claimed to be a "counter-revolutionary conspiracy formented by Polish spies". The strikes were eventually stopped after a series of arrests, executions, and the taking of hostages.

 

Atrocities of the Red Terror

At these times, there were numerous reports that Cheka interrogators employed tortures of "scarcely believable barbarity." At Odessa the Cheka tied White officers to planks and slowly fed them into furnaces or tanks of boiling water; In Kharkov, scalpings and hand-flayings were commonplace: the skin was peeled off victims' hands to produce "gloves"; The Voronezh Cheka rolled naked people around in barrels studded internally with nails; victims were crucified or stoned to death at Ekaterinoslav; the Cheka at Kremenchug impaled members of the clergy and buried alive rebelling peasants; in Orel, water was poured on naked prisoners bound in the winter streets until they became living ice statues. "In Kiev, cages of rats were fixed to prisoners' bodies and heated until the rats gnawed their way into the victims' intestines."

Executions took place in prison cellars or courtyards, or occasionally on the outskirts of town, during the Red Terror and Russian civil war. After the condemned were stripped of their clothing and other belongings, which were shared among the Cheka executioners, they were either machine-gunned in batches or dispatched individually with a revolver. Those killed in prison were usually shot in the back of the neck as they entered the execution cellar, which became littered with corpses and soaked with blood. Victims killed outside the town were conveyed by lorry, bound and gagged, to their place of execution, where they sometimes were made to dig their own graves.

According to Edvard Radzinsky, "it became a common practice to take a husband hostage and wait for his wife to come and purchase his life with her body". The Pyatigorsk Cheka organized a "day of Red Terror" to execute 300 people in one day. They ordered local Communist Party organizations to draw up execution lists. According to one of the chekists, "this rather unsatisfactory method led to a great deal of private settling of old scores... In Kislovodsk, for lack of a better idea, it was decided to kill people who were in the hospital".

Members of the clergy were subjected to particularly brutal abuse. According to documents cited by the late Alexander Yakovlev, then head of the Presidential Committee for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, priests, monks and nuns were crucified, thrown into cauldrons of boiling tar, scalped, strangled, given Communion with melted lead and drowned in holes in the ice. An estimated 3,000 were put to death in 1918 alone.

 

Interpretations by historians

Some historians believe that Red Terror was necessary for Bolsheviks to stay in power because they had no popular support. Bolsheviks received less than one quarter of the vote in elections for the Constituent Assembly held soon after the October Revolution. Massive strikes by Russian workers were "mercilessly" suppressed during the Red Terror.

Robert Conquest concluded that "unprecedented terror must seem necessary to ideologically motivated attempts to transform society massively and speedily, against its natural possibilities."

Richard Pipes said that despotism and violence were the intrinsic properties of every Communist regime in the world. He also argued that Communist terror follows from Marxism teaching that considers human lives as expendable material for construction of the brighter future society. He cited Marx who once wrote that "The present generation resembles the Jews whom Moses led through the wilderness. It must not only conquer a new world, it must also perish in order to make a room for the people who are fit for a new world".

Orlando Figes states that the Red Terror was implicit in the regime from the beginning. He notes that Kamenev and his supporters warned that the Bolsheviks would have no other recourse than to rule by terror after the seizure of power in October and Lenin's rejection of democracy. The Bolsheviks had to increasingly turn to terror to silence opposition and subjugate a society they could not control through other means.

Edvard Radzinsky noted that Joseph Stalin himself wrote a nota bene "Terror is the quickest way to new society" beside the following passage in a book by Marx: "There is only one way to shorten and ease the convulsions of the old society and the bloody birth pangs of the new - revolutionary terror".

Marxist Karl Kautsky recognized that the Red Terror represented a variety of terrorism, because it was indiscriminate, intended to frighten the civilian population, and included taking and executing hostages. He said:

"Among the phenomena for which Bolshevism has been responsible, Terrorism, which begins with the abolition of every form of freedom of the Press, and ends in a system of wholesale execution, is certainly the most striking and the most repellent of all".



Historical significance of the Red Terror

Red Terror was significant as the first of numerous Communist terror campaigns which followed in Russia and many other countries. It also unleashed Russian Civil War according to historian Richard Pipes . Menshevik Julius Martov wrote about Red Terror:

"The beast has licked hot human blood. The man-killing machine is brought into motion... But blood breeds blood... We witness the growth of the bitterness of the civil war, the growing bestiality of men engaged in it."

The term Red Terror came to refer to other campaigns of violence carried out by communist or communist-affiliated groups. Often, such acts were carried out in response to (and/or followed by) similar measures taken by the anti-communist side in the conflict.
 

Examples of the usage of the term "Red Terrors" include :

Red Terror (Hungary) The executions of 590 people accused of involvement in the counterrevolutionary coup against the Hungarian Soviet Republic on June 24, 1919.

The Red Terror in Hungary (Hungarian: vörösterror) was a series of atrocities aimed at crushing political rivals during the four-month regime of Hungarian Soviet Republic. It was so named because of its similarity to the Red Terror in Soviet Russia in both purpose and effect. It was soon to be followed by the so-called "White Terror" against communists.

In March 1919, a clique of Communists, in collusion with Social Democrats, took control of the Hungarian government, after president Mihály Károlyi stepped aside. Soon after, the communists, led by Béla Kun, staged a coup and seized absolute power, proclaiming the establishment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

Committed ideologues within the party, such as Georg Lukács and Tibor Szamuely, argued for the necessity of "revolutionary terror." With their support, József Cserny organized a detachment of some 200 agents known as "Lenin Boys" (Lenin-fiúk), who sought out and crushed "counter-revolutionary" activities in the Hungarian countryside. Similar groups operated within Budapest.

Within two months of taking power, the Communist leadership tried to restore Hungary to its pre-World War I boundaries, first by recapture parts of present-day Slovakia, and when that invasion dissolved, turning their troops against the offensive Romanian army to recapture Transylvania. These unsuccessful recapture adventures, as well as a string of failed domestic reforms, dampened popular support for the Communists, and on June 24 the Social Democrats attempted to regain control of the government. This attempted coup failed, and in its wake the Communist leadership carried out a string of terror reprisals to quash opposition and eliminate the strongest opponents to their regime. "Requisition patrols" looted homes. The paramilitary groups arrested putative or real enemies. Numerous atrocities, executions and crimes have been recorded.

The tribunals carried out 590 executions, some of which for "crimes against the revolution", but the numbers includes also common criminals and regular offenders; other sources have placed the number of dead between 370 and 587.

The Hungarian Soviet Republic fell in the first week of August 1919, when Romanian forces deployed to fend off the Hungarian invasion pushed all the way into Budapest. Kun escaped into Russia; Szamuely fled to Austria but was caught and killed there. József Cserny was arrested and tried in November 1919; the Hungarian Bar Association refused to defend him at trial, so a lawyer was appointed by the court. He was executed in December.

As was common in the political unrest of the 20th century, the Red Terror was answered by a wave of counter-reprisals once the Communist leadership fled. These attacks on leftists, remaining revolutionaries and Jews are known as the "White Terror."


Red Terror (Spain) during the Spanish Civil War.
Red Terror (Ethiopia) during Mengistu Haile Mariam's rule.
In China, Mao Zedong wrote:

"Red terror ought to be our reply to these counter-revolutionaries. We must, especially in the war zones and in the border areas, deal immediately, swiftly with every kind of counter-revolutionary activity."

The Nandigram violence in Nandigram, West Bengal in November 2007 was called "Red Terror" by critics of the actions by the local administration alluding at the Communist Party of India ruling in West Bengal. The situation was described as one of "Red Terror" by media.

 

Cheka

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

The sword-and-shield emblem of the Cheka-KGB.
The Cheka (×Ê - ÷ðåçâû÷à́éíàÿ êîìè́ññèÿ Chrezvychaynaya Komissiya, Extraordinary Commission Russian pronunciation: ) was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by an aristocrat turned communist Felix Dzerzhinsky. After 1922, the Cheka underwent a series of reorganizations.

From its founding, the Cheka was an important military and security arm of the Bolshevik communist government. In 1921 the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic (a branch of the Cheka) numbered 200,000. These troops policed labor camps, ran the Gulag system, conducted requisitions of food, liquidated political opponents (on both the right and the left), put down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red Army, which was plagued by desertions.


Name
The name of the agency was originally The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Russian: Âñåðîññèéñêàÿ ÷ðåçâû÷àéíàÿ êîìèññèÿ ïî áîðüáå ñ êîíòððåâîëþöèåé è ñàáîòàæåì; Vserossijskaya Chrezvychajnaya Komissiya), but was often shortened to Cheka or VCheka. In 1918 its name was changed, becoming All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption.

A member of Cheka was called a chekist. Chekists of the years after the October Revolution wore leather jackets creating a fashion followed by Western communists; they are pictured in several films in this apparel. Despite changes over time, Soviet secret policemen were often referred to as "Chekists" throughout the Soviet period. In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn recalls that zeks in the labor camps used "old Chekist" as "a mark of special esteem" for particularly experienced camp administrators. The term is still found in use in Russia today (for example, President Vladimir Putin has been referred to in the Russian media as a "chekist" due to his career in the KGB.

History
The Cheka was created in December 1917, over a month after the October Revolution and the formation of the Bolshevik government. Its immediate precursor was the Extraordinary Commission to Fight Counter-revolution, established on December 7 [O.S. November 21] 1917, by the Milrevkom (the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet) on the proposal of Dzerzhinsky. Its members were the Bolsheviks Mykola Skrypnyk, Flerovski, Galkin, Valentin Trifonov and presided by George Blagonravov.

The Cheka was established on December 20 [O.S. December 7] 1917, by a decision of the Sovnarkom. It was subordinated to the Sovnarkom and its functions were, "to liquidate counter-revolution and sabotage, to hand over counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs to the revolutionary tribunals, and to apply such measures of repression as 'confiscation, deprivation of ration cards, publication of lists of enemies of the people etc.'". The original members of the VCheka were Peters, Ksenofontov, Averin, Ordzhonikidze, Peterson, Evseev, and Trifonov[8], but the next day Averin, Ordzhonikidze, and Trifonov were replaced by Fomin, Shchukin, Ilyin, and Chernov. A circular published on December 28 [O.S. December 15] 1917, gave the address of VCheka's first headquarters as "Petrograd, Gorokhovaya 2, 4th floor".

Originally, the members of the Cheka were exclusively Bolshevik; however, in January 1918, left SRs also joined the organization The Left SRs were expelled or arrested later in 1918 following an attempted assassination against Lenin.

In 1922, the Cheka was transformed into the State Political Administration or GPU, a section of the NKVD of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).

Operations
Suppression of political opposition
At the direction of Lenin, the Cheka performed mass arrests, imprisonments, and executions of "enemies of the people". In this, the Cheka said that they targeted "class enemies" such as the bourgeoisie, and members of the clergy; the first organized mass repression began against the libertarian Socialists of Petrograd in April 1918. Over the next few months 800 were arrested and shot without trial.

However, within a month the Cheka had extended its repression to all political opponents of the communist government, including anarchists and others on the left. On May 1, 1918, a pitched battle took place in Moscow between the anarchists and the police. ( P.Avrich. G Maximoff) In response, the Cheka orchestrated a massive retaliatory campaign of repression, executions, and arrests against all opponents of the Bolshevik government that came to be known as Red Terror. The Red Terror, implemented by Dzerzhinsky on September 5, 1918, was vividly described by the Red Army journal Krasnaya Gazeta:

Without mercy, without sparing, we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds. Let them be thousands, let them drown themselves in their own blood. For the blood of Lenin and Uritsky … let there be floods of blood of the bourgeoisie – more blood, as much as possible…

In an attack on twenty-six anarchist political centres, forty anarchists were killed by Cheka forces, and 500 arrested and jailed. At the direction of Lenin and Trotsky, the Cheka and Red Army state security forces (later renamed the OGPU), shot, arrested, imprisoned, and executed thousands of persons, regardless of whether or not they had actually planned rebellion against the communist government. Most of the survivors were later deported to Siberian labor camps.

An early Bolshevik Victor Serge described in his book Memoirs of a Revolutionary:

Since the first massacres of Red prisoners by the Whites, the murders of Volodarsky and Uritsky and the attempt against Lenin (in the summer of 1918), the custom of arresting and, often, executing hostages had become generalized and legal. Already the Cheka, which made mass arrests of suspects, was tending to settle their fate independently, under formal control of the Party, but in reality without anybody's knowledge.

The Party endeavoured to head it with incorruptible men like the former convict Dzerzhinsky, a sincere idealist, ruthless but chivalrous, with the emaciated profile of an Inquisitor: tall forehead, bony nose, untidy goatee, and an expression of weariness and austerity. But the Party had few men of this stamp and many Chekas.

I believe that the formation of the Chekas was one of the gravest and most impermissible errors that the Bolshevik leaders committed in 1918 when plots, blockades, and interventions made them lose their heads. All evidence indicates that revolutionary tribunals, functioning in the light of day and admitting the right of defence, would have attained the same efficiency with far less abuse and depravity. Was it necessary to revert to the procedures of the Inquisition?"

The Cheka was also used against the armed anarchist Black Army of Nestor Makhno in Ukraine. After the Black Army had served its purpose in aiding the Red Army to stop the Whites under Denikin, the Soviet communist government decided it must eliminate the anarchist forces. In May 1919, two Cheka agents sent to assassinate Makhno were caught and executed.

Many victims of Cheka repression were 'bourgeois hostages' rounded up and held in readiness for summary execution in reprisal for any alleged counter-revolutionary act. Lenin's dictum that it is better to arrest 100 innocent people than to risk one enemy going free ensured that wholesale, indiscriminate arrests bacame an integral part of the system.

Persecution of deserters
It is believed that more than 3 million deserters escaped from Red Army in 1919 and 1920. Around 500,000 deserters were arrested in 1919 and close to 800,000 in 1920 by troops of the dreaded 'Special Punitive Department' of the Cheka created to punish desertions. This force was used to forcefully repatriate deserters back into the Red Army, taking and shooting hostages to force compliance or to set an example. Throughout the course of the civil war, several thousand deserters were shot - a number comparable to that of belligerents during World War I.

In September 1918, according to The Black Book of Communism in only twelve provinces of Russia, 48,735 deserters and 7,325 "bandits" were arrested, 1,826 were killed and 2,230 were executed. The exact identity of these individuals is confused by the fact that the Soviet Bolshevik government used the term 'bandit' to cover ordinary criminals as well as armed and unarmed political opponents, such as the anarchists.

The Cheka later played a major role in the putting down the Kronstadt Rebellion by Soviet sailors in 1921.

Number of victims
Estimates on Cheka executions vary widely. The lowest figures are provided by Dzerzhinsky’s lieutenant Martyn Latsis, limited to RSFSR over the period 1918–1920:

For the period 1918-July 1919, covering only twenty provinces of central Russia:
1918: 6,300; 1919 (up to July): 2,089; Total: 8,389
For the whole period 1918-19:
1918: 6,185; 1919: 3,456; Total: 9,641
For the whole period 1918-20:
January-June 1918: 22; July-December 1918: more than 6,000; 1918-20: 12,733
Experts generally agree these semi-official figures are vastly understated. W. H. Chamberlin, for example, claims “it is simply impossible to believe that the Cheka only put to death 12,733 people in all of Russia up to the end of the civil war.” He provides the "reasonable and probably moderate" estimate of 50,000, while others provide estimates ranging up to 500,000. Several scholars put the number of executions at about 250,000. One difficulty is that the Cheka sometimes recorded the deaths of executed anarchists and other political dissidents as criminals, 'armed bandits', or 'armed gangsters'. Some believe it is possible more people were murdered by the Cheka than died in battle.

Lenin himself seemed unfazed by the killings. On 12 January 1920, while addressing trade union leaders, he said:

"We did not hesitate to shoot thousands of people, and we shall not hesitate, and we shall save the country."

On 14 May 1921, the Politburo, chaired by Lenin, passed a motion "broadening the rights of the [Cheka] in relation to the use of the [death penalty]."

Atrocities
The Cheka is reported to have practiced torture. Victims were reportedly skinned alive, scalped, "crowned" with barbed wire, impaled, crucified, hanged, stoned to death, tied to planks and pushed slowly into furnaces or tanks of boiling water, and rolled around naked in internally nail-studded barrels. Chekists reportedly poured water on naked prisoners in the winter-bound streets until they became living ice statues. Others reportedly beheaded their victims by twisting their necks until their heads could be torn off. The Chinese Cheka detachments stationed in Kiev reportedly would attach an iron tube to the torso of a bound victim and insert a rat into the other end which was then closed off with wire netting. The tube was then held over a flame until the rat began gnawing through the victim's guts in an effort to escape. Anton Denikin's investigation discovered corpses whose lungs, throats, and mouths had been packed with earth.[24][25][26]

Women and children were also victims of Cheka terror. Women would sometimes be tortured and raped before being shot. Children between the ages of 8 and 16 were imprisoned and occasionally executed.

As a result of this relentless violence more than a few Chekists ended up with psychopathic disorders, which Nikolai Bukharin said were "an occupational hazard of the Chekist profession." Many hardened themselves to the executions by heavy drinking and drug use. Some developed a gangster-like slang for the verb to kill in an attempt to distance themselves from the killings, such as 'shooting partridges', of 'sealing' a victim, or giving him a natsokal (onomatopoeia of the trigger action).

In popular culture
The Cheka were popular staples in Soviet film and literature. This was partly due to a romanticization of the organisation in the post-Stalin period, and also because they provided a useful action/detection template. Films featuring the Cheka include Osterns Miles of Fire, Nikita Mikhalkov's At Home among Strangers, the miniseries The Adjutant of His Excellency, and also Dead Season starring Donatas Banionis and the 1992 Soviet Union film Chekist.

In Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, the detention and torture centers operated by the Communists were named checas after the Soviet organization.
 

 


Russian poet Nikolai Gumilev was executed on 24th August, 1921.

 

 

Nikolay Gumilyov



Nikolai Gumilev

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Nikolai Gumilev during his senior years in gymnasium Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov (Russian: Íèêîëà́é Ñòåïà́íîâè÷ Ãóìèë¸â, April 15 NS 1886 - August 1921) was an influential Russian poet who founded the acmeism movement.

Early life and poems
Nikolai was born in Kronstadt, into the family of Stepan Yakovlevich Gumilev (1836—1920), a naval physician, and Anna Ivanovna L'vova (1854—1942). His childhood nickname was Montigomo the Hawk's Claw. He studied at the gymnasium of Tsarskoe Selo, where the Symbolist poet Innokenty Annensky was his teacher. Later, Gumilev admitted that it was Annensky's influence that turned his mind to writing poetry.

His first publication were verses I ran from cities into the forest (Russian: ß â ëåñ áåæàë èç ãîðîäîâ) on September 8, 1902. In 1905 he published his first book of lyrics entitled The Way of Conquistadors. It comprised poems on most exotic subjects imaginable, from Lake Chad giraffes to Caracalla's crocodiles. Although Gumilev was proud of the book, most critics found his technique sloppy; later he would refer to that collection as apprentice's work.

From 1907 and on, Nikolai Gumilyov traveled extensively in Europe, notably in Italy and France. In 1908 his new collection Romantic Flowers appeared. While in Paris, he published the literary magazine Sirius, but only three issues were produced. On returning to Russia, he edited and contributed to the artistic periodical Apollon. At that period, he fell in love with a non-existent woman Cherubina de Gabriak. It turned out that Cherubina de Gabriak was the literary pseudonym for two people, a disabled schoolteacher and Maximilian Voloshin, and on November 22, 1909 he had a duel with Voloshin over the affair.

Like Flaubert and Rimbaud before him, Gumilyov was fascinated with Africa and travelled there almost each year. He hunted lions in Ethiopia and brought to the Saint Petersburg museum of anthropology and ethnography a large collection of African artifacts. His landmark collection The Tent (1921) collected the best of his poems on African themes.

Guild of Poets
In 1910, Gumilyov fell under the spell of the Symbolist poet and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanov and absorbed his views on poetry at the evenings held by Ivanov in his celebrated "Turreted House". His wife Anna Akhmatova accompanied him to Ivanov's parties as well. Gumilyov and Akhmatova married on April 25. On September 18, 1912, their child Lev was born. He would eventually become an influential and controversial historian.

Dissatisfied with the vague mysticism of Russian Symbolism, then prevalent in the Russian poetry, Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky established the so-called Guild of Poets, which was modeled after medieval guilds of Western Europe. They advocated a view that poetry needs craftsmanship just like architecture needs it. Writing a good poem they compared to building a cathedral. To illustrate their ideals, Gumilyov published two collections, The Pearls in 1910 and the Alien Sky in 1912. It was Osip Mandelshtam, however, who produced the movement's most distinctive and durable monument, the collection of poems entitled Stone (1912).

According to the principles of acmeism (as the movement came to be dubbed by art historians), every person, irrespective of his talent, may learn to produce high-quality poems if only he follows the guild's masters, i.e., Gumilev and Gorodetsky. Their own model was Theophile Gauthier, and they borrowed much of their basic tenets from the French Parnasse. Such a program, combined with colourful and exotic subject matter of Gumilyov's poems, attracted to the Guild a large number of adolescents. Several major poets, notably Georgy Ivanov and Vladimir Nabokov, passed the school of Gumilyov, albeit informally.



Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova and their son Lev Gumilev, 1913

War experience
Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova and their son Lev Gumilev, 1913When the World War I started, Gumilyov hastened to Russia and enthusiastically joined a corps of elite cavalry. For his bravery he was invested with two St. George crosses (December 24, 1914 and January 5, 1915). His war poems were assembled in the collection The Quiver (1916). In 1916 he wrote a verse play, Gondla, which was published the following year; set in ninth-century Iceland, torn between its native paganism and Irish Christianity, it is also clearly autobiographical, Gumilyov putting much of himself into the hero Gondla (an Irishman chosen as king but rejected by the jarls, he kills himself to ensure the triumph of Christianity) and basing Gondla's wild bride Lera on Gumilyov's wife Akhmatova. The play was performed in Rostov na Donu in 1920 and, even after the author's execution by the Cheka, in Petrograd in January 1922: "The play, despite its crowd scenes being enacted on a tiny stage, was a major success. Yet when the Petrograd audience called for the author, who was now officially an executed counter-revolutionary traitor, the play was removed from the repertoire and the theatre disbanded." (In February 1934, as they walked along a Moscow street, Osip Mandelstam quoted Gondla's words "I am ready to die" to Akhmatova, and she repeated them in her "Poem without a Hero."

During the Russian Revolution, Gumilyov served in the Russian expedition corps in Paris. Despite advice to the contrary, he rapidly returned to Petrograd. There he published several new collections, Tabernacle and Bonfire, and finally divorced Akhmatova (August 5, 1918), whom he had left for other woman several years prior to that. The following year he married Anna Nikolaevna Engelhardt, a noblewoman and daughter of a well-known historian.
 


Nikolai Gumilev

Later poems and death
"Despite the hard experiences of real travels and battles, he remained, to the end of his life, a schoolboy entranced by the Iliad of childhood - the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He never outgrew the influence of Mayne Reid, Alexandre Dumas, père, Jules Verne, Gustave Aimard and others."  In 1920 Gumilyov co-founded the All-Russia Union of Writers. Gumilyov made no secret of his anti-communist views. He also crossed himself in public and didn't care to hide his contempt for half-literate Bolsheviks.

On August 3, 1921 he was arrested by Cheka on allegation of participation in monarchist conspiracy. Most literary historians agree that it was not a Cheka fabrication, and Gumilyov was a likely conspirator. On August 24 Petrograd Cheka decreed execution of all 61 participants of the Tagantsev Conspiracy, including Nikolai Gumilev. The exact dates and locations of their execution and burial are still unknown.

Gumilyov's direct influence on Russian poetry was short lived. The sentiment is best expressed by Nabokov, who once remarked that Gumilyov is the poet for adolescents, just like Korney Chukovsky is the poet for children. His most durable verse, written in mystical strain, appeared in the collection "The Pillar of Fire" (1921).

Although "banned in the Soviet times, Gumilyov was loved for his adolescent longing for travel and giraffes and hippos, for his dreams of a fifteen-year-old captain" and was "a favorite poet among geologists, archaeologists and paleontologists."] His "The Tram That Lost Its Way" is considered one of the greatest poems of the 20th century.

When Mikhail Sinelnikov was asked to study the archives of the late Mikhail Zenkevich, the last of the Acmeists - his teacher - he "found piles of secreted verse, an unpublished novel, manuscripts which Pasternak brought to the old master to be critiqued, the poems and letters of his friends. According to Sinelnikov, "at the bottom of a wide box lay a copy of Izvestia Petrosovieta with a list of people executed in connection with the Tagantsev case. The type was barely legible, more like wisps of old wool. Some names, those of Zenkevich's acquaintances, were ticked off. Gumilyov's name was underlined in red."
 

 

 

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