Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lenin makes short work of dissenters in 1922

On page 180 Radzinski writes, “An operation which shocked the Russian intelligentsia at large was carried out at this time. An operation devised by Lenin. In the last days of 1922 a steamship from Russia put into the port of Stettin in Poland. There was no one waiting to welcome the new arrivals. They found a few horse-drawn wagons, loaded their luggage onto them, and walked behind in the roadway, husbands and wives arm in arm. ‘They’ were the fine flower and pride of Russian philosophy and social thought, all those who had shaped Russia’s social awareness in the early years of the twentieth century: Lossky, Berdyaev, Frank, Kizevetter, Prince Trubetskoy, Ilyin . . . 160 of them, eminent professors, philosophers, poets, and writers, the whole intellectual potential of Russia cast out at a stroke.

Pravda published an article about the expulsion under the headline ‘First Warning.’ It was just that. Throughout 1922, while he was implementing the New Economic Policy, Lenin was also systematically purging the country of dissidents. With the General Secretary, faithful Koba [Stalin’s nickname at the time], at his side. In a dispatch to Koba, he said, ‘With reference to the expulsion of Mensheviks, Kadets etc. from Russia . . . several hundred such gentlemen should be mercilessly expelled. Let us make Russia clean for a long time to come.’ A special commission attached to the Politburo worked tirelessly. List after list of expellees was drawn up. And Koba’s rough handiwork can be seen in the systematic and unwavering implementation of Lenin’s scheme.

“Leaving Russia was a grotesque tragedy for these people.

“’We thought we should be returning in a year’s time. . . . That was all we lived for,’ wrote the daughter of the eminent agricultural scientist Professor A. Ugrimov. In Prague in the seventies I met a very old woman, the daughter of the eminent historian Professor Kizevetter. She had lived with her suitcase ready, packed, since 1922. She was still waiting.

“Lenin’s illness interrupted the gigantic purge which was getting under way. But the General Secretary had mastered its slogan: ‘Let us make Russia clean for a long time to come.’”


Radzinski tells us that the GPU was given the power of summary execution. The bomb throwing sailors and the fire-brand Bolsheviks, even though they helped bring Lenin and Stalin to power, were no longer to be tolerated. Lenin was bent upon cleaning up the party and wasn’t afraid to clean up his own house first, but the intellectuals, those people who tended to think for themselves, were not far behind. The intellectuals were not shot but sent into exile. And in 1922 they were not sent to Siberia but to Poland. Radzinski describes Professor Kizevetter’s daughter who kept her bags packed for her return to Russia, even after 50 years, But perhaps some of the other intellectuals found a way to fit in and perhaps had somewhat normal lives.

Given human nature, I suspect some of those Russian émigrés had some critical things to say about Lenin and Stalin, and if so, I wonder if what they said had any effect on the decision to banish dissidents to Siberia instead of Poland.

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