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What was the first printed material owned and kept in Kamchatka?

What was the first printed material owned and kept in Kamchatka?

Kamchatka today has cultural projects like universities and museums, but in the early Russian period it was considered a pretty desolate place. Among other deficiencies, there was very little for the few literate residents to read. They could acquire manuscripts, and priests or monks could have had printed Bibles, but early on, getting a book would have been tough. Wintering ships with their own libraries most likely sailed away with them. Excluding Bibles, what was the first printed material owned and kept in Kamchatka?


My assumption about ships' libraries may have been in error. Chamisso, in "A voyage around the world… ", wrote about his trip on the Rurik, on which in 1816 he found in Petropavlovsk not just books, but several volumes useful for his expedition. According to Chamisso, these books had been accumulating in Kamchatka "since the time of Bering" (early 1740s). Governor Rikord let him take with him several of them, on the condition that he return them to the Academy of Sciences, which he claims to have done.

I have no reason to doubt this report so I consider it the best answer available at present.


Icon of the Mother of God “The Word was made Flesh”

The hue and cry over the Amur Albazinsk fortress became an object of enmity for the Chinese emperor and his generals, who then already dreamed of expanding their influence over all of Russian Siberia.

On the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, on March 24, 1652, the first military clash of the Russians with the Chinese occurred at the Amur. Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos the pagans were scattered and fled to their own territory. This victory seemed like a portent for the Russians. But the struggle had only just begun. Many sons of Holy Russia died in the struggle for the Amur, and for the triumph of Orthodoxy in the Far East.

In June of 1658 an Albazin military detachment, 270 Cossacks under the leadership of Onuphrius Stepanov, fell into an ambush and in a heroic fight they were completely annihilated by the Chinese.

The enemy burned Albazin, overran Russian lands, and carried off the local population into China. They wanted to turn the fertile cultivated area back into wilderness.

During these difficult years the Most Holy Theotokos showed signs of Her mercy to the land of Amur. In 1665, when Russians returned and rebuilt Albazin, together with a priest there came to the Amur the Elder Hermogenes from the Kirensk Holy Trinity monastery. He carried with him a wonderworking icon of the Mother of God &ldquothe Word made Flesh&rdquo, called the Albazinsk Icon since that time. In 1671 the holy Elder built a small monastery on the boundary mark of the Brusyan Stone (one and a half kilometers from Albazin near the Amur), where the holy icon was later kept.

Albazin was built up. At two churches in the city, the Ascension of the Lord and Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Albazin priests offered the Bloodless Sacrifice. Not far from the city (along the Amur) another monastery was built, the Spassky. The fertile soil produced bread for Eastern Siberia. The local populace adapted itself to Russian Orthodox culture, peacefully entering into the multi-national Russian state, and found Russian protection from the plundering raids of Chinese feudal war-lords.

At Moscow they did not forget the needs of the far-away Amur frontier. They strengthened military defenses and improved regional government. In 1682 the Albazin Military-Provincial Government was formed. They concerned themselves about the spiritual nourishment of the Amur region peoples. A local Council of the Russian Church in 1681 adopted a resolution to send &ldquoarchimandrites, igumens, or priests, both learned and good, to enlighten unbelievers with the law of Christ.&rdquo The Daurian and Tungusian peoples as a whole accepted Holy Baptism. Of great significance was the conversion of the Daurian prince Hantimur (renamed Peter) and his eldest son Katana (renamed Paul) to Orthodoxy.

The servants of the Chinese emperor planned for a new attack. After several unsuccessful forays, on July 10, 1685, they marched against Albazin with an army of 15,000 and encircled the fortress. In it were 450 Russian soldiers and three cannon. The first assault was repulsed. The Chinese then from all sides piled up firewood and kindling against the wooden walls of the fortress and set it on fire. Further resistance proved impossible. With its military standards and holy things, among which was the wonderworking Albazin Icon, the soldiers abandoned the fortress.

The Mother of God did not withhold Her intercession from Her chosen city. Scouts soon reported that the Chinese suddenly began to withdraw from Albazin, ignoring the Chinese emperor&rsquos command to destroy the crops in the Russian fields. The miraculous intervention of the Heavenly Protectress not only drove the enemy from Russian territories, but also preserved the grain which sustained the city for the winter months. On August 20, 1685 Russians were in Albazin again.

A year went by, and the fortress was again besieged by Chinese. There began a five-month defense of Albazin, which occupies a most honored place in Russian military history. Three times, in July, in September, and in October, the forces of the Chinese emperor made an assault on the wooden fortifications. A hail of fiery arrows and red-hot cannon balls fell on the town. Neither the city nor its defenders could be seen in the smoke and fire. And all three times, the Mother of God defended the inhabitants of Albazin from their fierce enemy.

Until December 1686, when the Chinese lifted the siege of Albazin, of the city&rsquos 826 defenders only 150 men remained alive.

These forces were inadequate to continue the war against the Chinese emperor. In August 1690 the last of the Cossacks departed from Albazin under the leadership of Basil Smirenikov. Neither the fortress, nor its holy things, fell into the hands of the enemy. The fortifications were razed and leveled by the Cossacks, and the Albazin Icon of the Mother of God was taken to Sretensk, a city on the river Shilka, which flows into the Amur.

But even after the destruction of Albazin, God destined its inhabitants to do another service for the good of the Church. By divine Providence the end of the military campaign contributed to the increase of the influence of the grace of Orthodoxy among the peoples of the Far East. During the years of war, a company of about a hundred Russian cossacks and peasants from Albazin and its environs were taken captive and sent to Peking.

The Chinese emperor even gave orders to give one of the Buddhist temples in the Chinese capital for an Orthodox church dedicated to Sophia, the Wisdom of God. In 1695 Metropolitan Ignatius of Tobolsk sent an antimension, chrism, service books, and church vessels to the Sophia church. In a letter to the captive priest Maximus, &ldquothe Preacher of the Holy Gospel to the Chinese Empire,&rdquo Metropolitan Ignatius wrote: &ldquoBe not troubled, nor troubled in soul for yourself and the captives with you, for who is able to oppose the will of God? Your captivity is not without purpose for the Chinese people, so that you may reveal to them the light of Christ&rsquos Orthodox Faith.&rdquo

The preaching of the Gospel in the Chinese Empire soon bore fruit and resulted in the first baptisms of Chinese. The Russian Church zealously looked after the new flock. In 1715 the Metropolitan of Tobolsk, Saint Philotheus &ldquothe Apostle to Siberia&rdquo (+ May 31, 1727), wrote a letter to the Peking clergy and the faithful living under the Peking Spiritual Mission, who continued with the Christian work of enlightening pagans.

The years went by, and the new epoch brought the Russian deliverance of the Amur. On August 1, 1850, the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-Giving Cross, Captain G. I. Nevelsky raised up the Russian Andreev flag at the mouth of the Amur River and founded the city of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur. Through the efforts of the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, N. N. Muraviev-Amursky (+ 1881), and Saint Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka (March 31), and through the spiritual nourishment which obtained in the Amur and coastal regions, in several years the left bank of the Amur was built up with Russian cities, villages and Cossack settlements.

Each year brought important advances in the development of the liberated territory, its Christian enlightenment and welfare. In the year 1857 on the bank of the Amur fifteen way-stations and settlements were established (the Albazin on the site of the old fortress and the Innokentiev, named in honor of Saint Innocent). In a single year, 1858, there were more than thirty settlements, among which were three cities: Khabarovsk, Blagoveschensk and Sophiisk.

On May 9, 1858, on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, N. N. Muraviev-Amursky and Archbishop Innocent of Kamchatka arrived in the Cossack post at Ust&rsquo-Zeisk. Saint Innocent was there to dedicate a temple in honor of the Annunciation of the Mother of God (Blagoveschenie, in Slavonic), the first building in the new city. Because of the name of the temple, the city was also called Blagoveschensk, in memory of the first victory over the Chinese on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1652, and in memory of the Annunciation church at Irkutsk, in which Saint Innocent began his own priestly service. It was also a sign that &ldquofrom that place proceeded the blessed news of the reintegration of the Amur region territory under Russian sovereignty.&rdquo New settlers on the way to the Amur, journeying through Sretensk, fervently offered up their prayers to the Holy Protectress of the Amur region before her Wonderworking Albazin Icon. Their prayers were heard: the Aigunsk (1858) and Peking (1860) treaties decisively secured the left bank of the Amur and coastal regions for Russia.

In 1868 the Bishop of Kamchatka, Benjamin Blagonravov, the successor to Saint Innocent, transferred the holy icon from Sretensk to Blagoveschensk, thereby returning the famous holy icon to the Amur territory. In 1885, a new period began in the veneration of the Albazin Icon of the Mother of God and is associated with the name of the Kamchatka bishop Gurias, who established an annual commemoration on March 9 and a weekly Akathist.

In the summer of 1900, during the &ldquoBoxer Rebellion&rdquo in China, the waves of insurrection reached all the way to the Russian border. Chinese troops suddenly appeared on the banks of the Amur before Blagoveschensk. For nineteen days the enemy stood before the undefended city, raining artillery fire down upon it, and menacing the Russian bank with invasion.

The shallows of the Amur afforded passage to the adversary. In the Annunciation church services were celebrated continuously, and Akathists were read before the Wonderworking Albazin Icon. The Protection of the Mother of God was again extended over the city, just as it had been in earlier times. Not daring to cross the Amur, the enemy departed from Blagoveschensk. According to the accounts of the Chinese themselves, they often saw a Radiant Woman over the bank of the Amur, inspiring them with fear and rendering their missiles ineffective.

For more than 300 years the Wonderworking Albazin Icon of the Mother of God watched over the Amur frontier of Russia. Orthodox people venerate it not only as Protectress of Russian soldiers, but also as a Patroness of mothers. Believers pray for mothers before the icon during their pregnancy and during childbirth, &ldquoso that the Mother of God might bestow the gift of abundant health from the Albazin Icon&rsquos inexhaustible well-spring of holiness.&rdquo

This icon depicts Christ as a child standing in a mandorla before His Mother&rsquos breast.


2. Johannes Gutenberg didn’t make any money off the Bibles.

Johannes Gutenberg has been called the most influential figure of the last millennium, yet he stands as one of the great question marks of history. Scholars don’t know when he was born, whether he married or had children, where he is buried or even what he looked like. Almost all the information about Gutenberg comes from legal and financial papers, and these indicate that the printing of his Bibles was a particularly tumultuous affair. According to one 1455 document, Gutenberg’s business partner Johann Fust sued him for the return of a large sum of money loaned to help in the production of his Bibles. Gutenberg lost the lawsuit, and the final ruling stipulated that he had to turn his printing equipment and half the completed Bibles over to Fust, who went on to peddle them along with one of Gutenberg’s former assistants, Peter Schoeffer. Gutenberg was driven into financial ruin. He later started a second print shop, but it’s unlikely that he ever turned a profit off his most famous work.


7c. The Trial of John Peter Zenger


John Peter Zenger became a symbol for the freedom of the press in the young American colonies. Seen above is a printing of the trial proceedings.

No democracy has existed in the modern world without the existence of a free press . Newspapers and pamphlets allow for the exchange of ideas and for the voicing of dissent. When a corrupt government holds power, the press becomes a critical weapon. It organizes opposition and can help revolutionary ideas spread. The trial of John Peter Zenger , a New York printer, was an important step toward this most precious freedom for American colonists.

John Peter Zenger was a German immigrant who printed a publication called The New York Weekly Journal . This publication harshly pointed out the actions of the corrupt royal governor, William S. Cosby . It accused the government of rigging elections and allowing the French enemy to explore New York harbor. It accused the governor of an assortment of crimes and basically labeled him an idiot. Although Zenger merely printed the articles, he was hauled into jail. The authors were anonymous, and Zenger would not name them.

In 1733, Zenger was accused of libel , a legal term whose meaning is quite different for us today than it was for him. In his day it was libel when you published information that was opposed to the government. Truth or falsity were irrelevant. He never denied printing the pieces. The judge therefore felt that the verdict was never in question. Something very surprising happened, however.

The first jury was packed with individuals on Cosby's payroll. Throughout this process, Zenger's wife Anna kept the presses rolling. Her reports resulted in replacing Cosby's jury with a true jury of Zenger's peers.

When the trial began and Zenger's new attorney began his defense, a stir fluttered through the courtroom. The most famous lawyer in the colonies, Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia, stepped up to defend Zenger. Hamilton admitted that Zenger printed the charges and demanded the prosecution to prove them false. In a stirring appeal to the jury, Hamilton pleaded for his new client's release. "It is not the cause of one poor printer," he claimed, "but the cause of liberty." The judge ordered the jury to convict Zenger if they believed he printed the stories. But the jury returned in less than ten minutes with a verdict of not guilty.

Cheers filled the courtroom and soon spread throughout the countryside. Zenger and Hamilton were hailed as heroes. Another building block of liberty was in place. Although true freedom of the press was not known until the passage of the First Amendment , newspaper publishers felt freer to print their honest views. As the American Revolution approached, this freedom would become ever more vital.


A Brief History of Porn on the Internet

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

“Almighty God, Lord of all life, we praise You for the advancements in computerized communications that we enjoy in our time. Sadly, however, there are those who are littering this information superhighway with obscene, indecent, and destructive pornography.”

It was June 14, 1995, inside the Senate chamber in Washington, D.C., and Jim Exon, a 74-year-old Democrat from Nebraska with silver hair and glasses, had begun his address to his colleagues with a prayer written for this occasion by the Senate chaplin. He was there to urge his fellow senators to pass his and Indiana senator Dan Coats’ amendment to the Communications Decency Act, or CDA, which would extend the existing indecency and anti-obscenity laws to the “interactive computer services” of the burgeoning internet age. “Now, guide the senators,” Exon continued his prayer, “when they consider ways of controlling the pollution of computer communications and how to preserve one of our greatest resources: The minds of our children and the future and moral strength of our Nation. Amen.”

As the stone-faced senators watched, Exon held up a blue binder that, he warned, was filled with the sort of “perverted pornography” that was “just a few clicks away” online. “I cannot and would not show these pictures to the Senate, I would not want our cameras to pick them up,” he said, but “I hope that all of my colleagues, if they are interested, will come by my desk and take a look at this disgusting material.”

One by one, they flipped through the pages of “grotesque stuff,” as Coats put it, that innovation fostered. He cited figures—albeit dubious—from a study that found more than 450,000 pornographic images online that had been accessed approximately 6.4 million times the previous year. The main source had been the free newsgroups—alt.sex, alt.bestiality—and so on, that remained a Wild West of flesh and filth. “With old Internet technology, retrieving and viewing any graphic image on a PC at home could be laborious,” Coats explained, forebodingly. “New Internet technology, like browsers for the Web, makes all this easier.”

As urgent as the situation seemed to the senators, however, such concerns over pornography and emerging technology were far from new. John Tierney, a fellow at Columbia University who studied the cultural impact of technology, traced what he called the “erotic technological impulse” back at least 27,000 years—among the first clay-fired figures uncovered from that time were women with large breasts and behinds. “Sometimes the erotic has been a force driving technological innovation,” Tierney wrote in The New York Times in 1994, “virtually always, from Stone Age sculpture to computer bulletin boards, it has been one of the first uses for a new medium.”

Excerpted from The Players Ball: A Genius,a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet’s Rise, by David Kushner. Buy on Amazon.

Such depictions emerged, predictably, with every new technological advent. With cave art, there came sketches of reclining female nudes on walls of the La Magdelaine caves from 15,000 BC. When Sumerians discovered how to write cuneiform on clay tablets, they filled them with sonnets to vulvas. Among the early books printed on a Gutenberg press was a 16th-century collection of sex positions based on the sonnets of the man considered the first pornographer, Aretino—a book banned by the pope. Each new medium followed a similar pattern of innovation, porn, and outrage. One of the first films shown commercially was The Kiss in 1900, distributed by Thomas Edison, which depicted 18 seconds of a couple nuzzling.

“The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting,” one critic wrote, while Edison celebrated how the film “brings down the house every time.” The first erotic film, a striptease called Le Coucher de la Mariée, released in 1896, was also heating up audiences.

By the late 1950s, the advent of 8-mm film put the power of porn in anyone’s hands—and launched the modern porn industry. When videocassette recorders entered homes 20 years later, more than 75 percent of the tapes sold were porn. It became widely accepted that Sony’s decision to ban porn from its competing Betamax format doomed it to oblivion. More recently, the breaking apart of the Bell phone system in 1984 spawned the explosion in 900 phone-sex numbers. And so it was no surprise that the dawn of the internet was giving rise to the same kind of innovation, demand, and outrage that had been going on for eons.

The furor over internet pornography had started with the publication of a study, “Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway,” in The Georgetown Law Journal. The authoritative-sounding study, written by a Carnegie Mellon undergraduate, Marty Rimm, claimed to be “a Survey of 917,410 Images, Description, Short Stories and Animations Downloaded 8.5 Million Times by Consumers in Over 2000 Cities in Forty Countries, Provinces and Territories.” Rimm asserted that 80 percent of images on newsgroups, the primary repository of pictures online, were porn.

That shocking figure caught the attention of Time magazine, which published a cover story on July 3, 1995, just in time for holiday readers, announcing the soon-to-be-released findings. The cover photo showed a young boy at a computer keyboard, bathed in blue light, eyes wide, mouth opened in horror. “CYBERPORN,” the cover line screamed, “a new study shows how pervasive and wild it really is. Can we protect our kids—and free speech?” As the writer put it in the piece, “If you think things are crazy now, though, wait until the politicians get hold of a report coming out this week.”

He was right. Despite the outcry of civil libertarians and skeptics (“Rimm’s implication that he might be able to determine ‘the percentage of all images available on the Usenet that are pornographic on any given day’ was sheer fantasy,” as Mike Godwin wrote on HotWired), Rimm’s study became the basis of the Communications Decency Act proposal. And, as Exon put it during the Senate gathering, their responsibility was clear. Despite objections over the restrictions on free speech, the CDA would target the burgeoning purveyors of porn online, who would now face up to two years in prison for posting obscene material that could be accessed by anyone under age 18. When the vote was taken, the answer was overwhelming: The Senate, and later the House, approved the CDA.

By summer, however, the basis of the law had been resoundingly discredited. Rimm’s paper, savaged by critics, was found to have been published without peer review—feeding conspiracy theories that it was all the machinations of anti-porn activists. The New York Times dismissed the study as “a rip-snorter,” filled with “misleading analysis, ambiguous definitions and unsupported conclusions.” Attacked by internet trolls, Rimm went into hiding. But his work, and the senators,’ was done.

On February 8, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act into law. “Today,” he said, “with the stroke of a pen, our laws will catch up with the future.” For Exon and the others, it couldn’t have come soon enough. “If nothing is done now,” as he had urged his colleagues during the hearing, “the pornographers may become the primary beneficiary of the information revolution.”

One day in Boca Raton, Florida, in May 1996, Jordan Levinson, the owner of AIS Marketing, a startup that brokered ads for adult websites, received a call from a man who wanted to benefit from the burgeoning underworld of the information revolution: Stephen Cohen.


Franchising and Feudalism

Franchising was used in England and Europe where the Crown-owned lands and other properties and granted land rights to powerful individuals including within the church. In exchange for these land grants, the noblemen and church officials were required to protect the territory by establishing armies and were free to set tolls and establish and collect taxes, a portion of which was paid to the Crown.

As it was an agrarian society, control over the land gave enormous power and was the foundation for the feudal system where nobles paid royalties to the Crown for the rights to own and work the land, as well as other professional and commercial activities. In turn, the nobles divided the land among local farmers or vassals, who paid for that right usually as a portion of the crops they grew or the animals they hunted. This system of governmental control existed in England until it was outlawed at the Council of Trent in 1562.


George H.W. Bush Pardoned Iran-Contra Planners 

WATCH: What Was the Iran-Contra Affair?

One of the darkest stains on the two-term Republican administration of Ronald Reagan was the Iran-Contra Affair, a secretive plot to sell weapons to Iran and use the proceeds to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Reagan himself claimed no knowledge of the illegal scheme, but several members of his administration, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, were ultimately indicted and in some cases convicted of perjury and withholding evidence.

George H.W. Bush was Reagan’s vice president and also claimed ignorance of the Iran-Contra plot. After winning the presidency in 1988, Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992. And on December 24, 1992, a lame-duck Bush pardoned six of the indicted or convicted Iran-Contra planners, none of whom saw a day in prison for their crimes.


Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky

Joseph Stalin, was born in Gori, Georgia on 21st December, 1879 . His mother, Ekaterina Djugashvilli, was married at the age of 14 and Joseph was her fourth child to be born in less than four years. The first three died and as Joseph was prone to bad health, his mother feared on several occasions that he would also die. Understandably, given this background, Joseph's mother was very protective towards him as a child. (1)

Joseph's father , Vissarion Djugashvilli, was a bootmaker and his mother took in washing. He was an extremely violent man who savagely beat both his son and wife. As a child, Joseph experienced the poverty that most peasants had to endure in Russia at the end of the 19th century. (2)

Soso, as he was called throughout his childhood, contacted smallpox at the age of seven. It was usually a fatal disease and for a time it looked as if he would die. Against the odds he recovered but his face remained scarred for the rest of his life and other children cruelly called him "pocky". (3)

Joseph's mother was deeply religious and in 1888 she managed to obtain him a place at the local church school. Despite his health problems, he made good progress at school. However, his first language was Georgian and although he eventually learnt Russian, whenever possible, he would speak and write in his native language and never lost his distinct Georgian accent. His father died in 1890. Bertram D. Wolfe has argued "his mother, devoutly religious and with no one to devote herself to but her sole surviving child, determined to prepare him for the priesthood." (4)

Early years of Joseph Stalin

Stalin left school in 1894 and his academic brilliance won him a free scholarship to the Tiflis Theological Seminary. He hated the routine of the seminary. "In the early morning when they longed to lie in, they had to rise for prayers. Then, a hurried light breakfast followed by long hours in the classroom, more prayers, a meager dinner, a brief walk around the city, and it was time for the seminary to close. By ten in the evening, when the city was just coming to life, the seminarists had said their prayers they were on their way to bed." One of his fellow students wrote: "We felt like prisoners, forced to spend our young lives in this place although innocent." (5)

Stalin told Emil Ludwig that he hated his time in the Tiflis Theological Seminary. "The basis of all their methods is spying, prying, peering into people's souls, to subject them to petty torment. What is the good in that? In protest against the humiliating regime and the jesuitical methods that prevailed in the seminary, I was ready to become, and eventually did become, a revolutionary, a believer in Marxism." (6)

While studying at the seminary he joined a secret organization called Messame Dassy (the Third Group). Members were supporters of Georgian independence from Russia. Some were also socialist revolutionaries and it was through the people he met in this organization that Stalin first came into contact with the ideas of Karl Marx. Stalin later wrote: "I became a Marxist because of my social group (my father was a worker in a shoe factory and my mother was also a working woman), but also because of the harsh intolerance and Jesuitical discipline that crushed me so mercilessly at the Seminary. The atmosphere in which I lived was saturated with hatred against Tsarist oppression." (7)

In May, 1899, Joseph Stalin left the Tiflis Theological Seminary. Several reasons were given for this action including disrespect for those in authority and reading forbidden books. According to the seminary conduct book he was expelled "as politically unreliable".Stalin was later to claim that the real reason was that he had been trying to convert his fellow students to Marxism. (8)

Stalin's mother provided a different version of events: "I wanted only one thing, that he should become a priest. He was not expelled. I brought him home on account of his health. When he entered the seminary he was fifteen and as strong as a lad could be. But overwork up to the age of nineteen pulled him down, and the doctors told me that he might develop tuberculosis. So I took him away from school. He did not want to leave. But I took him away. He was my only son." (9)

Soon after leaving the seminary he began reading Iskra (the Spark), the newspaper of the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP). It was the first underground Marxist paper to be distributed in Russia. It was printed in several European cities and then smuggled into Russia by a network of SDLP agents. The editorial board included Alexander Potresov, George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Julius Martov. (10)

For several months after leaving the seminary Stalin was unemployed. He eventually found work by giving private lessons to middle class children. Later, he worked as a clerk at the Tiflis Observatory. He also began writing articles for the socialist Georgian newspaper, Brdzola Khma Vladimir . Some of these were translations of articles written by Lenin. During this period he adopted the alias "Koba" (Koba was a Georgian folk hero who fought for Georgian peasants against oppressive landlords). (11)

Joseph Iremashvili, one of his Georgian comrades pointed out: "Koba became a divinity for Soso. He wanted to become another Koba, a fighter and a hero as renowned as Koba himself. His face shone with pride and joy when we called him Koba. Soso preserved that name for many years, and it became his first pseudonym when he began to write for the revolutionary newspapers." (12) He also used the name Stalin (Man of Steel) and this eventually became the name he used when he published articles in the revolutionary press. (13)

In 1901 Stalin joined the Social Democratic Labour Party and whereas most of the leaders were living in exile, he stayed in Russia where he helped to organize industrial resistance to Tsarism. On 18th April, 1902, Stalin was arrested after coordinating a strike at the large Rothschild plant at Batum and after spending 18 months in prison, Stalin was deported to Siberia. (14)

Grigol Uratadze, a fellow prisoner, later described Stalin's appearance and behaviour in prison: "He was scruffy and his pockmarked face made him not particularly neat in appearance. He had a creeping way of walking, taking short steps. when we were let outside for exercise and all of us in our particular groups made for this or that corner of the prison yard, Stalin stayed by himself and walked backwards and forwards with his short aces, and if anyone tried speaking to him, he would open his mouth into that cold smile of his and perhaps say a few words. we lived together in Kutaisi Prison for more than half a year and not once did I see him get agitated, lose control, get angry, shout, swear - or in short - reveal himself in any other aspect than complete calmness." (15)

Early years of Leon Trotsky

Lev Davidovich Bronstein (he assumed the name Leon Trotsky in 1902) was born in Yanovka, Russia, on 7th November, 1879. His parents were Jewish and owned a farm in the Ukraine. He later recalled: "My father and mother lived out their hard-working lives with some friction, but very happily on the whole. Of the eight children born of this marriage, four survived. I was the fifth in order of birth. Four died in infancy, of diphtheria and of scarlet fever, deaths almost as unnoticed as was the life of those who survived. The land, the cattle, the poultry, the mill, took all my parents' time there was none left for us. We lived in a little mud house. The straw roof harboured countless sparrows' nests under the eaves. The walls on the outside were seamed with deep cracks which were a breeding place for adders. The low ceilings leaked during a heavy rain, especially in the hall, and pots and basins would be placed on the dirt floor to catch the water. The rooms were small, the windows dim the floors in the two rooms and the nursery were of clay and bred fleas." (16)

David Bronstein made a success of his 250 acre farm. He cultivated wheat for the thriving export markets in the region. He also raised cattle, sheep and pigs. He also kept horses for ploughing and travelling. As Bronstein grew in wealth he replaced the original hut with a house of brick, and he had the garden, including a croquet lawn, set out in a grand fashion. He also built his own mill so that he could grind his own wheat and cut out payments to middle men. He also rented out several thousand acres from local landlords. (17)

Leon Trotsky was very close to his younger sister, Olga Kamenev: "We usually sat in the dining-room in the evening until we fell asleep. Sometimes a chance word of one of the elders would waken some special reminiscence in us. Then I would wink at my little sister, she would give a low giggle, and the grown-ups would look absent-mindedly at her. I would wink again, and she would try to stifle her laughter under the oilcloth and would hit her head against the table. This would infect me and sometimes my older sister too, who, with thirteen-year-old dignity, vacillated between the grown-ups and the children. If our laughter became too uncontrollable, I was obliged to slip under the table and crawl among the feet of the grown-ups, and, stepping on the cat's tail, rush out into the next room, which was the nursery. Once back in the dining-room, it all would begin over again. My fingers would grow so weak from laughing that I could not hold a glass. My head, my lips, my hands, my feet, every inch of me would be shaking with laughter." (18)

Bertram D. Wolfe has attempted to explain the Bronstein's success: "Like their neighbours, they lived lives that were scarcely distinguishable from those around them, unless by the fact that they were not so given to drink as most, worked harder, were more foresighted, drove better bargains with the grain merchants, were able to make a go of it during the prolonged crisis of the eighties, when the competition of American, Canadian and Argentine wheat ruined so many farmers of the steppes." (19)

When Trotsky was eight years old his father sent him to Odessa to be educated. He stayed at the home of his mother's nephew, Moissei Spentzer. He was a journalist who had been in trouble with the authorities for his liberal views. His wife, was the headmistress of a secular school for Jewish girls. Trotsky was taught to speak Russian (up until this time he used the Ukrainian language). In the evenings the Spentzers would read aloud the work of Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Charles Dickens. Many years later the American writer, Max Eastman, described the Spentzers as "kindly, quiet, poised, intelligent". (20)

At first the Spentzers were unable to find a school for Trotsky. The Russian government had just passed a law to make it difficult for Jews to obtain a good education. Schools could only have up to 5 per cent of Jewish students. He finally found a place at a school where he received instruction in science, mathematics and modern languages. It was not long before he was top of his class. He also produced a school magazine, nearly all written by himself. This got him into trouble as the Minister of Education had banned all school magazines. (21)

In 1895 he attended a school in Nikolayev where he was first introduced to the ideas of Karl Marx. Trotsky became friends with Grigori Sokolnikov and in 1897 formed the underground South Russian Workers' Union. Trotsky later recalled: "I drafted our constitution along Social-Democratic lines. The mill authorities tried to offset our influence through speakers of their own. We would answer them the next day with new proclamations. This duel of words aroused not only the workers but a great many of the citizens as well. The whole town was alive with talk about revolutionaries who were flooding the mills with their handbills. Our names were on every tongue." (22)

Trotsky met Alexandra Sokolovskaya in 1889. She had previously been involved in revolutionary activity in the Ukraine and had read several books written by Marx, including The Communist Manifesto. At first he rejected the ideas of Marx because of its "grinding economic determinism" and at first claimed Alexandra was an "obdurate" Marxist. They constantly argued about politics but the "sexual chemistry was explosive". Although he resisted, he eventually became a Marxist like his girlfriend. (23)

The couple married in 1899. Trotsky recalled in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930) that "Alexandra. held one of the most important positions in the South Russian Workers' Union. Her utter loyalty to socialism and her complete lack of any personal ambition gave her an unquestioned moral authority. The work that we were doing bound us closely together, and so, to avoid being separated, we had been married in the transfer prison in Moscow." (24)

Trotsky later explained "we firmly resolved not to hide in case of wholesale arrests, but to let ourselves be taken." He did this so that the police could not say to the workers: "Your leaders have deserted you." Trotsky and his wife were arrested and sent to Siberia after being arrested for revolutionary activity. Alexandra had two daughters, Zinaida Volkova (1901) and Nina Nevelson (1902). Trotsky managed to escape in the summer of 1902. His wife and children followed later. (25)

Left Opposition

In October 1923, Yuri Piatakov drafted a statement that was published under the name Platform of the 46 which criticized the economic policies of the party leadership and accused it of stifling the inner-party debate. It echoed the call made by Leon Trotsky, a week earlier, calling for a sharp change of direction by the party. The statement was also signed by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Andrey Bubnov, Ivan Smirnov, Lazar Kaganovich, Ivar Smilga, Victor Serge, Evgenia Bosh and thirty-eight other leading Bolsheviks.

"The extreme seriousness of the position compels us (in the interests of our Party, in the interests of the working class) to state openly that a continuation of the policy of the majority of the Politburo threatens grievous disasters for the whole Party. The economic and financial crisis beginning at the end of July of the present year, with all the political, including internal Party, consequences resulting from it, has inexorably revealed the inadequacy of the leadership of the Party, both in the economic domain, and especially in the domain of internal Party, relations."

The document then went on to complain about the lack of debate in the Communist Party: "Similarly in the domain of internal party relations we see the same incorrect leadership paralyzing and breaking up the Party this appears particularly clearly in the period of crisis through which we are passing. We explain this not by the political incapacity of the present leaders of the Party on the contrary, however much we differ from them in our estimate of the position and in the choice of means to alter it, we assume that the present leaders could not in any conditions fail to be appointed by the Party to the out-standing posts in the workers&rsquo dictatorship. We explain it by the fact that beneath the external form of official unity we have in practice a one-sided recruitment of individuals, and a direction of affairs which is one-sided and adapted to the views and sympathies of a narrow circle. As the result of a Party leadership distorted by such narrow considerations, the Party is to a considerable extent ceasing to be that living independent collectivity which sensitively seizes living reality because it is bound to this reality with a thousand threads." (26)

Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has argued: "Among the signatories were: Piatakov, one of the two ablest leaders of the young generation mentioned in Lenin's testament, Preobrazhensky and Serebriakov, former secretaries of the Central Committee, Antonov-Ovseenko, the military leader of the October revolution, Srnirnov, Osinsky, Bubnov, Sapronov, Muralov, Drobnis, and others, distinguished leaders in the civil war, men of brain and character. Some of them had led previous oppositions against Lenin and Trotsky, expressing the malaise that made itself felt in the party as its leadership began to sacrifice first principles to expediency. Fundamentally, they were now voicing that same malaise which was growing in proportion to the party's continued departure from some of its first principles. It is not certain whether Trotsky directly instigated their demonstration." Lenin commented that Piatakov might be "very able but not to be relied upon in a serious political matter". (27)

Two months later, Leon Trotsky published an open letter where he called for more debate in the Communist Party concerning the way the country was being governed. He argued that members should exercise its right to criticism "without fear and without favour" and the first people to be removed from party positions are "those who at the first voice of criticism, of objection, of protest, are inclined to demand one's party ticket for the purpose of repression". Trotsky went on to suggest that anyone who "dares to terrorize the party" should be expelled. (28)

Stalin objected to the idea of democracy in the Communist Party. "I shall say but this, there will plainly not be any developed democracy, any full democracy." At this time "it would be impossible and it would make no sense to adopt it" even within the narrow limits of the party. Democracy could only be introduced when the Soviet Union enjoyed "economic prosperity, military security, and a civilized membership." Stalin added that though the party was not democratic, it was wrong to claim it was bureaucratic. (29)

Gregory Zinoviev was furious with Trotsky for making these comments and proposed that he should be immediately arrested. Stalin, aware of Trotsky's immense popularity, opposed the move as being too dangerous. He encouraged Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev to attack Trotsky whereas he wanted to give the impression that he was the most moderate, sensible, and conciliatory of the triumvirs. Kamenev asked him about the question of gaining a majority in the party, Stalin replied: "Do you know what I think about this? I believe that who votes how in the party is unimportant. What is extremely important is who counts the votes and how they are recorded." (30)

In April 1924 Joseph Stalin published Foundations of Leninism. In the introduction he argued: "Leninism grew up and took shape under the conditions of imperialism, when the contradictions of capitalism had reached an extreme point, when the proletarian revolution had become an immediate practical question, when the old period of preparation of the working class for revolution had arrived at and passed into a new period, that of direct assault on capitalism. The significance of the imperialist war which broke out ten years ago lies, among other things, in the fact that it gathered all these contradictions into a single knot and threw them on to the scales, thereby accelerating and facilitating the revolutionary battles of the proletariat. In other words, imperialism was instrumental not only in making the revolution a practical inevitability, but also in creating favourable conditions for a direct assault on the citadels of capitalism. Such was the international situation which gave birth to Leninism." (31)

According to his personal secretary Boris Bazhanov, Stalin had the facility to evesdrop on the conversations of dozens of the most influential communist leaders. Before meetings of the Politburo Stalin would neet with his supporters. This included Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Lazar Kaganovich, Vyacheslav Molotov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, Sergy Kirov and Kliment Voroshilov. As Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), has pointed out: "He demanded efficiency as well as loyalty from the gang members. He also selected them for their individual qualities. He created an ambience of conspiracy, companionship and crude masculine humour. In return for their services he looked after their interests." (32)

Joseph Stalin with Svetlana, his daughter with his second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva.

Leon Trotsky accused Joseph Stalin of being dictatorial and called for the introduction of more democracy into the party. Zinoviev and Kamenev united behind Stalin and accused Trotsky of creating divisions in the party. Trotsky's main hope of gaining power was for Lenin's last testament to be published. In May, 1924, Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, demanded that the Central Committee announce its contents to the rest of the party. Zinoviev argued strongly against its publication. He finished his speech with the words: "You have all witnessed our harmonious cooperation in the last few months, and, like myself, you will be happy to say that Lenin's fears have proved baseless." The new members of the Central Committee, who had been sponsored by Stalin, guaranteed that the vote went against Lenin's testament being made public. (33)

Trotsky and Stalin clashed over the future strategy of the country. Stalin favoured what he called "socialism in one country" whereas Trotsky still supported the idea of world revolution. He was later to argue: "The utopian hopes of the epoch of military communism came in later for a cruel, and in many respects just, criticism. The theoretical mistake of the ruling party remains inexplicable, however, only if you leave out of account the fact that all calculations at that time were based on the hope of an early victory of the revolution in the West." (34)

Trotsky had argued in 1917 that the Bolshevik Revolution was doomed to failure unless successful revolutions also took place in other countries such as Germany and France. Lenin had agreed with him about this but by 1924 Stalin began talking about the possibility of completing the "building of socialism in a single country". Nikolay Bukharin joined the attacks on Trotsky asserted that Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution" was anti-Leninist. (35)

In January 1925, Stalin was able to arrange for Leon Trotsky to be removed from the government. Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has argued: "He left office without the slightest attempt at rallying in his defence the army he had created and led for seven years. He still regarded the party, no matter how or by whom it was led, as the legitimate spokesman of the working-class. If he were to oppose army to party, so he reasoned, he would have automatically set himself up as the agent for some other class interests, hostile to the working-class. He still remained a member of the Politbureau, but for more than a year he kept aloof from all public controversy." (36)

With the decline of Trotsky, Joseph Stalin felt strong enough to stop sharing power with Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev. Stalin now began to attack Trotsky's belief in the need for world revolution. He argued that the party's main priority should be to defend the communist system that had been developed in the Soviet Union. This put Zinoviev and Kamenev in an awkward position. They had for a long time been strong supporters of Trotsky's theory that if revolution did not spread to other countries, the communist system in the Soviet Union was likely to be overthrown by hostile, capitalist nations. However, they were reluctant to speak out in favour of a man whom they had been in conflict with for so long. (37)

Stalin & the New Economic Policy

Joseph Stalin now formed an alliance with Nikolay Bukharin, Mikhail Tomsky and Alexei Rykov, on the right of the party, who wanted an expansion of the New Economic Policy that had been introduced several years earlier. Farmers were allowed to sell food on the open market and were allowed to employ people to work for them. Those farmers who expanded the size of their farms became known as kulaks. Bukharin believed the NEP offered a framework for the country's more peaceful and evolutionary "transition to socialism" and disregarded traditional party hostility to kulaks. (38)

Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), argued: "Stalin and Bukharin rejected Trotsky and the Left Opposition as doctrinaires who by their actions would bring the USSR to perdition. Zinoviev and Kamenev felt uncomfortable with so drastic a turn towards the market economy. They disliked Stalin's movement to a doctrine that socialism could be built in a single country - and they simmered with resentment at the unceasing accumulation of power by Stalin." (39)

When Stalin was finally convinced that Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev were unwilling to join forces with Leon Trotsky against him, he began to support openly the economic policies of right-wing members of the Politburo. They now realized what Stalin was up to but it took them to summer of 1926 before they could swallow their pride and join with Trotsky against Stalin. Kamenev argued: "We're against creating a theory of the leader were against making anyone into the leader. Were against the Secretariat, by actually combining politics and organisation, standing above the political body&hellip Personally I suggest that our General Secretary is not the kind of figure who can unite the old Bolshevik high command around him. It is precisely because I've often said this personally to comrade Stalin and precisely because I've often said this to a group of Leninist comrades that I repeat it at the Congress: I have come to the conclusion that comrade Stalin is incapable of performing the role of unifier of the Bolshevik high command." (40)

Kamenev and Zinoviev denounced the pro-Kulak policy, arguing that the stronger the big farmers grew the easier it would be for them to withhold food from the urban population and to obtain more and more concessions from the government. Eventually, they might be in a position to overthrow communism and the restoration of capitalism. Before the Russian Revolution there had been 16 million farms in the country. It now had 25 million, some of which were very large and owned by kulaks. They argued that the government, in order to undermine the power of the kulaks, should create large collective farms. (41)

Stalin tried to give the impression he was an advocate of the middle-course. In reality, he was supporting those on the right. In October, 1925, the leaders of the left in the Communist Party submitted to the Central Committee a memorandum in which they asked for a free debate on all controversial issues. This was signed by Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Grigori Sokolnikov, the Commissar of Finance, and Nadezhda Krupskaya, the widow of Lenin. Stalin rejected this idea and continued to have complete control over government policy. (42)

Anastas Mikoyan, Joseph Stalin and Gregory Ordzhonikidze in 1925.

On the advice of Nikolay Bukharin, all restrictions upon the leasing of land, the hiring of labour and the accumulation of capital were removed. Bukharin's theory was that the small farmers only produced enough food to feed themselves. The large farmers, on the other hand, were able to provide a surplus that could be used to feed the factory workers in the towns. To motivate the kulaks to do this, they had to be given incentives, or what Bukharin called "the ability to enrich" themselves. (43) The tax system was changed in order to help kulaks buy out smaller farms. In an article in Pravda, Bukharin wrote: "Enrich yourselves, develop your holdings. And don't worry that they may be taken away from you." (44)

At the 14th Congress of the Communist Party in December, 1925, Zinoviev spoke up for others on the left when he declared: "There exists within the Party a most dangerous right deviation. It lies in the underestimation of the danger from the kulak - the rural capitalist. The kulak, uniting with the urban capitalists, the NEP men, and the bourgeois intelligentsia will devour the Party and the Revolution." (45) However, when the vote was taken, Stalin's policy was accepted by 559 to 65. (46)

In September 1926 Stalin threatened the expulsion of Yuri Piatakov, Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Mikhail Lashevich and Grigori Sokolnikov. On 4th October, these men signed a statement admitting that they were guilty of offences against the statutes of the party and pledged themselves to disband their party within the party. They also disavowed the extremists in their ranks who were led by Alexander Shlyapnikov. However, having admitted their offences against the rules of discipline, they "restated with dignified firmness their political criticisms of Stalin and Bukharin." (47)

Stalin appointed his old friend, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, to the presidency of the Central Control Commission in November 1926, where he was given responsibility for expelling the Left Opposition from the Communist Party. Ordzhonikidze was rewarded by being appointed to the Politburo in 1926. He developed a reputation for having a terrible temper. His daughter said that he "often got so heated that he slapped his comrades but the eruption soon passed." His wife Zina argued "he would give his life for one he loved and shoot the one he hated". However, others said he had great charm and Maria Svanidze described him as "chivalrous". The son of Lavrenty Beria commented that his "kind eyes, grey hair and big moustache, gave him the look of an old Georgian prince". (48)

Stalin gradually expelled his opponents from the Politburo including Trotsky, Zinoviev and Lashevich. He also appointed his allies, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, Lazar Kaganovich, Sergy Kirov, Semen Budenny and Andrei Andreev. "He demanded efficiency as well as lyalty from the gang members. He wanted no one near to him who outranked him intellectually. He selected men with a revolutionary commitment like his own, and he set the style with his ruthless policies. In return for their services he looked after their interests. He was solicitous about their health. He overlooked their foibles so long as their work remained unaffected and the recognised his word as law." (49)

Kaganovich later recalled: In the early years Stalin was a soft individual. Under Lenin and after Lenin. He went through a lot. In the early years after Lenin died, when he came to power, they all attacked Stalin. He endured a lot in the struggle with Trotsky. Then his supposed friends Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky also attacked him. It was difficult to avoid getting cruel." (50)

In the spring of 1927 Trotsky drew up a proposed programme signed by 83 oppositionists. He demanded a more revolutionary foreign policy as well as more rapid industrial growth. He also insisted that a comprehensive campaign of democratisation needed to be undertaken not only in the party but also in the soviets. Trotsky added that the Politburo was ruining everything Lenin had stood for and unless these measures were taken, the original goals of the October Revolution would not be achievable. (51)

Stalin and Bukharin led the counter-attacks through the summer of 1927. At the plenum of the Central Committee in October, Stalin pointed out that Trotsky was originally a Menshevik: "In the period between 1904 and the February 1917 Revolution Trotsky spent the whole time twirling around in the company of the Mensheviks and conducting a campaign against the party of Lenin. Over that period Trotsky sustained a whole series of defeats at the hands of Lenin's party." Stalin added that previously he had rejected calls for the expulsion of people like Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee. "Perhaps, I overdid the kindness and made a mistake." (52)

According to Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996): "The opposition then organized demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad on November 7. These were the last two open demonstrations against the Stalinist regime. The GPU, of course, knew about them in advance but allowed them to take place. In Lenin's Party submitting Party differences to the judgment of the crowd was considered the greatest of crimes. The opposition had signed their own sentence. And Stalin, of course, a brilliant organizer of demonstrations himself, was well prepared. On the morning of November 7 a small crowd, most of them students, moved toward Red Square, carrying banners with opposition slogans: Let us direct our fire to the right - at the kulak and the NEP man, Long live the leaders of the World Revolution, Trotsky and Zinoviev. The procession reached Okhotny Ryad, not far from the Kremlin. Here the criminal appeal to the non-Party masses was to be made, from the balcony of the former Paris hotel. Stalin let them get on with it. Smilga and Preobrazhensky, both members of Lenin's Central Committee, draped a streamer with the slogan Back to Lenin over the balcony." (53)

Stalin argued that there was a danger that the party would split into two opposing factions. If this happened, western countries would take advantage of the situation and invade the Soviet Union. On 14th November 1927, the Central Committee decided to expel Leon Trotsky and Gregory Zinoviev from the party. This decision was ratified by the Fifteenth Party Congress in December. The Congress also announced the removal of another 75 oppositionists, including Lev Kamenev. (54)

The Russian historian, Roy A. Medvedev, has explained in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971): "The opposition's semi-legal and occasionally illegal activities were the main issue at the joint meeting of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission at the end of October, 1927. The Plenum decided that Trotsky and Zinoviev had broken their promise to cease factional activity. They were expelled from the Central Committee, and the forthcoming XVth Congress was directed to review the whole issue of factions and groups." Under pressure from the Central Committee, Kamenev and Zinoviev agreed to sign statements promising not to create conflict in the movement by making speeches attacking official policies. Trotsky refused to sign and was banished to the remote area of Kazhakstan. (55)

One of Trotsky's main supporters, Adolf Joffe, was so disillusioned by these events that he committed suicide. In a letter he wrote to Trotsky before his death, he commented: "I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know, I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of permanent revolution. But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path. One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever. You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell." (56)

Collective Farms

Stalin now decided to turn on the right-wing of the Politburo. He blamed the policies of Nickolai Bukharin for the failure of the 1927 harvest. By this time kulaks made up 40% of the peasants in some regions, but still not enough food was being produced. On 6th January, 1928, Stalin sent out a secret directive threatening to sack local party leaders who failed to apply "tough punishments" to those guilty of "grain hoarding". By the end of the year it was revealed that food production had been two million tons below that needed to feed the population of the Soviet Union. (57)

During that winter Stalin began attacking kulaks for not supplying enough food for industrial workers. He also advocated the setting up of collective farms. The proposal involved small farmers joining forces to form large-scale units. In this way, it was argued, they would be in a position to afford the latest machinery. Stalin believed this policy would lead to increased production. However, the peasants liked farming their own land and were reluctant to form themselves into state collectives. (58)

Stalin was furious that the peasants were putting their own welfare before that of the Soviet Union. Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulaks property. This land was then used to form new collective farms. There were two types of collective farms introduced. The sovkhoz (land was owned by the state and the workers were hired like industrial workers) and the kolkhoz (small farms where the land was rented from the state but with an agreement to deliver a fixed quota of the harvest to the government). He appointed Vyacheslav Molotov to carry out the operation. (59)

In December, 1929, Stalin made a speech at the Communist Party Congress. He attacked the kulaks for not joining the collective farms. "Can we advance our socialised industry at an accelerated rate while we have such an agricultural basis as small-peasant economy, which is incapable of expanded reproduction, and which, in addition, is the predominant force in our national economy? No, we cannot. Can Soviet power and the work of socialist construction rest for any length of time on two different foundations: on the most large-scale and concentrated socialist industry, and the most disunited and backward, small-commodity peasant economy? No, they cannot. Sooner or later this would be bound to end in the complete collapse of the whole national economy. What, then, is the way out? The way out lies in making agriculture large-scale, in making it capable of accumulation, of expanded reproduction, and in thus transforming the agricultural basis of the national economy." (60)

Stalin then went on to define kulaks as "any peasant who does not sell all his grain to the state". Those peasants who were unwilling to join collective farms "must be annihilated as a class". As the historian, Yves Delbars, pointed out: "Of course, to annihilate them as a social class did not mean the physical extinction of the kulaks. But the local authorities had no time to draw the distinction moreover, Stalin had issued stringent orders through the agricultural commission of the central committee. He asked for prompt results, those who failed to produce them would be treated as saboteurs." (61)

Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulak property. This land would then be used to form new collective farms. The kulaks themselves were not allowed to join these collectives as it was feared that they would attempt to undermine the success of the scheme. An estimated five million were deported to Central Asia or to the timber regions of Siberia, where they were used as forced labour. Of these, approximately twenty-five per cent perished by the time they reached their destination. (62) According to the historian, Sally J. Taylor: "Many of those exiled died, either along the way or in the makeshift camps where they were dumped, with inadequate food, clothing, and housing." (63)

Ian Grey, in his book, Stalin: Man of History (1982): "The peasants demonstrated the hatred they felt for the regime and its collectivisation policy by slaughtering their animals. To the peasant his horse, his cow, his few sheep and goats were treasured possessions and a source of food in hard times. In the first months of 1930 alone 14 million head of cattle were killed. Of the 34 million horses in the Soviet Union in 1929, 18 million were killed, further, some 67 per cent of sheep and goats were slaughtered between 1929 and 1933." (64)

Walter Duranty, a journalist working for the New York Times, observed the suffering caused by collectivisation: "At the windows haggard faces, men and women, or a mother holding her child, with hands outstretched for a crust of bread or a cigarette. It was only the end of April but the heat was torrid and the air that came from the narrow windows was foul and stifling for they had been fourteen days en route, not knowing where they were going nor caring much. They were more like caged animals than human beings, not wild beasts but dumb cattle, patient with suffering eyes. Debris and jetsam, victims of the March to Progress." (65)

Riots broke out in several regions and Joseph Stalin, fearing a civil war, and peasants threatening not to plant their spring crop, called a halt to collectivisation. During 1930 this policy led to 2,200 rebellions involving more than 800,000 people. Stalin wrote an article for Pravda attacking officials for being over-zealous in their implementation of collectivisation. "Collective farms," Stalin wrote, "cannot be set up by force. To do so would be stupid and reactionary." (66)

Stalin portrayed himself in the article as the protector of the peasants. Members of the Politburo and local officials were upset that they had been blamed for a policy that had been devised by Stalin. The man who was mainly responsible for the peasants' suffering was now seen as their hero. It was reported that as peasants marched in procession out of their collective farms to return to their own land, they carried large pictures of their saviour, "Comrade Stalin". Within three months of Stalin's article appearing, the numbers of peasants in collective farms dropped from 60 to 25 per cent. It was clear that if Stalin wanted collectivisation, he could not allow freedom of choice. Once again Stalin ordered local officials to start imposing collectivisation. By 1935, 94 per cent of crops were being produced by peasants working on collective farms. The cost to the Soviet people was immense. As Stalin was to admit to Winston Churchill, approximately ten million people died as a result of collectivisation. (67)

Five Year Plan

Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and other left-wing members of the Politburo had always been in favour of the rapid industrialisation of the Soviet Union. Stalin disagreed with this view. He accused them of going against the ideas of Lenin who had declared that it was vitally important to "preserve the alliance between the workers and the peasants." When left-wing members of the Politburo advocated the building of a hydro-electric power station on the River Druiper, Stalin accused them of being 'super industrialisers' and said that it was equivalent to suggesting that a peasant buys a "gramophone instead of a cow." (68)

When Stalin accepted the need for collectivisation he also had to change his mind about industrialisation. His advisers told him that with the modernisation of farming the Soviet Union would require 250,000 tractors. In 1927 they had only 7,000. As well as tractors, there was also a need to develop the oil fields to provide the necessary petrol to drive the machines. Power stations also had to be built to supply the farms with electricity.

However, Stalin suddenly changed policy and made it clear he would use his control over the country to modernize the economy. The first Five Year Plan that was introduced in 1928, concentrated on the development of iron and steel, machine-tools, electric power and transport. Stalin set the workers high targets. He demanded a 111% increase in coal production, 200% increase in iron production and 335% increase in electric power. He justified these demands by claiming that if rapid industrialization did not take place, the Soviet Union would not be able to defend itself against an invasion from capitalist countries in the west. (69)

"We are the Realisation of the Plan (1933)

The first Five-Year Plan did not get off to a successful start in all sectors. For example, the production of pig iron and steel increased by only 600,000 to 800,000 tons in 1929, barely surpassing the 1913-14 level. Only 3,300 tractors were produced in 1929. The output of food processing and light industry rose slowly, but in the crucial area of transportation, the railways worked especially poorly. "In June, 1930, Stalin announced sharp increases in the goals - for pig iron, from 10 million to 17 million tons by the last year of the plan for tractors, from 55,000 to 170,000 for other agricultural machinery and trucks, an increase of more than 100 per cent." (70)

Every factory had large display boards erected that showed the output of workers. Those that failed to reach the required targets were publicity criticized and humiliated. Some workers could not cope with this pressure and absenteeism increased. This led to even more repressive measures being introduced. Records were kept of workers' lateness, absenteeism and bad workmanship. If the worker's record was poor, he was accused of trying to sabotage the Five Year Plan and if found guilty could be shot or sent to work as forced labour on the Baltic Sea Canal or the Siberian Railway. (71)

One of the most controversial aspects of the Five Year Plan was Stalin's decision to move away from the principle of equal pay. Under the rule of Lenin, for example, the leaders of the Bolshevik Party could not receive more than the wages of a skilled labourer. With the modernization of industry, Stalin argued that it was necessary to pay higher wages to certain workers in order to encourage increased output. His left-wing opponents claimed that this inequality was a betrayal of socialism and would create a new class system in the Soviet Union. Stalin had his way and during the 1930s, the gap between the wages of the labourers and the skilled workers increased. (72)

According to Bertram D. Wolfe, during this period Russia had the most highly concentrated industrial working class in Europe. "In Germany at the turn of the century, only fourteen per cent of the factories had a force of more than five hundred men in Russia the corresponding figure was thirty-four per cent. Only eight per cent of all German workers worked in factories employing over a thousand working men each. Twenty-four per cent, nearly a quarter, of all Russian industrial workers worked in factories of that size. These giant enterprises forced the new working class into close association. There arose an insatiable hunger for organization, which the huge state machine sought in vain to direct or hold in check." (73)

Joseph Stalin now had a problem of workers wanting to increase their wages. He had a particular problem with unskilled workers who felt they were not being adequately rewarded. Stalin insisted on the need for a highly differentiated scale of material rewards for labour, designed to encourage skill and efficiency and "throughout the thirties, the differentiation of wages and salaries was pushed to extremes, incompatible with the spirit, if not the letter, of Marxism." (74)

Stalin gave instructions that concentration camps should not just be for social rehabilitation of prisoners but also for what they could contribute to the gross domestic product. This included using forced labour for the mining of gold and timber hewing. Stalin ordered Vladimir Menzhinski, the chief of the OGPU, to create a permanent organisational framework that would allow for prisoners to contribute to the success of the Five Year Plan. People sent to these camps included members of outlawed political parties, nationalists and priests. (75)

Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), has pointed out: "During the First Five Year Plan the USSR underwent drastic change. Ahead lay campaigns to spread collective farms and eliminate kulaks, clerics and private traders. The political system would become harsher. Violence would be pervasive. The Russian Communist Party, OGPU and People's Commissariat would consolidate their power. Remnants of former parties would be eradicated&hellip The Gulag, which was the network of labour camps subject to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), would be expanded and would become an indispensable sector of the Soviet economy&hellip A great influx of people from the villages would take place as factories and mines sought to fill their labour forces. Literacy schemes would be given huge state funding&hellip Enthusiasm for the demise of political, social and cultural compromise would be cultivated. Marxism-Leninism would be intensively propagated. The change would be the work of Stalin and his associates in the Kremlin. Theirs would be the credit and theirs the blame." (76)

Eugene Lyons was an American journalist who was fairly sympathetic to the Soviet government. On 22nd November, 1930, Stalin selected him to be the first western journalist to be granted an interview. Lyons claimed that: "One cannot live in the shadow of Stalin's legend without coming under its spell. My pulse, I am sure, was high. No sooner, however, had I stepped across the threshold than diffidence and nervousness fell away. Stalin met me at the door and shook hands, smiling. There was a certain shyness in his smile and the handshake was not perfunctory. He was remarkably unlike the scowling, self-important dictator of popular imagination. His every gesture was a rebuke to the thousand little bureaucrats who had inflicted their puny greatness upon me in these Russian years. At such close range, there was not a trace of the Napoleonic quality one sees in his self-conscious camera or oil portraits. The shaggy mustache, framing a sensual mouth and a smile nearly as full of teeth as Teddy Roosevelt's, gave his swarthy face a friendly, almost benignant look." (77)

Walter Duranty was furious when he heard that Stalin had granted Lyons this interview. He protested to the Soviet Press office that as the longest-serving Western correspondent in the country it was unfair not to give him an interview as well. A week after the interview Duranty was also granted an interview. Stalin told him that after the Russian Revolution the capitalist countries could have crushed the Bolsheviks: "But they waited too long. It is now too late." Stalin commented that the United States had no choice but to watch "socialism grow". Duranty argued that unlike Leon Trotsky Stalin was not gifted with any great intelligence, but "he had nevertheless outmaneuvered this brilliant member of the intelligentsia". He added: "Stalin has created a great Frankenstein monster, of which. he has become an integral part, made of comparatively insignificant and mediocre individuals, but whose mass desires, aims, and appetites have an enormous and irresistible power. I hope it is not true, and I devoutly hope so, but it haunts me unpleasantly. And perhaps haunts Stalin." (78)

Some people complained that the Soviet Union was being industrialized too fast. Isaac Deutscher quoted Stalin as saying: "No comrades. the pace must not be slackened! On the contrary, we must quicken it as much as is within our powers and possibilities. To slacken the pace would mean to lag behind and those who lag behind are beaten. The history of old Russia. was that she was ceaselessly beaten for her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol Khans, she was beaten by Turkish Beys, she was beaten by Swedish feudal lords, she was beaten by Polish-Lithuanian Pans, she was beaten by Anglo-French capitalists, she was beaten by Japanese barons, she was beaten by all - for her backwardness. We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. we must make good this lag in years. Either we do it or they crush us." (79)

In 1932 Walter Duranty won the Pultzer Prize for his reporting of the Five Year Plan. In his acceptance speech he argued: "I went to the Baltic states viciously anti-Bolshevik. From the French standpoint the Bolsheviks had betrayed the allies to Germany, repudiated the debts, nationalized women and were enemies of the human race. I discovered that the Bolsheviks were sincere enthusiasts, trying to regenerate a people that had been shockingly misgoverned, and I decided to try to give them their fair break. I still believe they are doing the best for the Russian masses and I believe in Bolshevism - for Russia - but more and more I am convinced it is unsuitable for the United States and Western Europe. It won't spread westward unless a new war wrecks the established system." (80)

Some people argued that Duranty had been involved in a cover-up concerning the impact of the economic changes that were taking place in the Soviet Union. An official at the British Embassy reported: "A record of over-staffing, overplanning and complete incompetence at the centre of human misery, starvation, death and disease among the peasantry. the only creatures who have any life at all in the districts visited are boars, pigs and other swine. Men, women, and children, horses and other workers are left to die in order that the Five Year Plan shall at least succeed on paper." (81)

Martemyan Ryutin criticises Joseph Stalin

Martemyan Ryutin worked for the Central Committee and was greatly disturbed by the failures in collectivization and industrialization. In 1930 he organized an opposition group in Moscow that included supporters of Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and Nickolai Bukharin. "The Ryutin group was essentially conspirational in nature. Its main goal was to remove Stalin and to change Party policies in the direction of greater democratization, greater consideration for the interests of workers and peasants, and an end to repression within the Party." (82)

In the summer of 1932 he wrote a 200 page analysis of Stalin's policies and dictatorial tactics, Stalin and the Crisis of the Proletarian Dictatorship . Ryutin argued: "The party and the dictatorship of the proletariat have been led into an unknown blind alley by Stalin and his retinue and are now living through a mortally dangerous crisis. With the help of deception and slander, with the help of unbelievable pressures and terror, Stalin in the last five years has sifted out and removed from the leadership all the best, genuinely Bolshevik party cadres, has established in the VKP(b) and in the whole country his personal dictatorship, has broken with Leninism, has embarked on a path of the most ungovernable adventurism and wild personal arbitrariness."

Ryutin then went onto making a very personal attack on Stalin: "To place the name of Stalin alongside the names of Marx, Engels and Lenin means to mock at Marx, Engels and Lenin. It means to mock at the proletariat. It means to lose all shame, to overstep all hounds of baseness. To place the name of Lenin alongside the name of Stalin is like placing Mt. Elbrus alongside a heap of dung. To place the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin alongside the works of Stalin is like placing the music of such great composers as Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner and others alongside the music of a street organ grinder. Lenin was a leader but not a dictator. Stalin, on the contrary, is a dictator but not a leader."

Ryutin did not only blame Stalin for the problems facing the Soviet Union: "The entire top leadership of the Party leadership, beginning with Stalin and ending with the secretaries of the provincial committees are, on the whole, fully aware that they are breaking with Leninism, that they are perpetrating violence against both the Party and non-Party masses, that they are killing the cause of socialism. However, they have become so tangled up, have brought about such a situation, have reached such a dead-end, such a vicious circle, that they themselves are incapable of breaking out of it. The mistakes of Stalin and his clique have turned into crimes. In the struggle to destroy Stalin's dictatorship, we must in the main rely not on the old leaders but on new forces. These forces exist, these forces will quickly grow. New leaders will inevitably arise, new organizers of the masses, new authorities. A struggle gives birth to leaders and heroes. We must begin to take action." (83)

General Yan Berzin obtained a copy and called a meeting of his most trusted staff to discuss and denounce the work. Walter Krivitsky remembers Berzen reading excerpts of the manifesto in which Ryutin called "the great agent provocateur, the destroyer of the Party" and "the gravedigger of the revolution and of Russia." It has been argued: "This manifesto of the Union of Marxist-Leninists was a multifaceted, direct, and trenchant critique of virtually all of Stalin's policies, his methods of rule, and his personality. The Ryutin Platform, drafted in March, was discussed and rewritten over the next few months. At an underground meeting of Ryutin's group in a village in the Moscow suburbs on 21 August 1932, the document was finalized by an editorial committee of the Union. At a subsequent meeting, the leaders decided to circulate the platform secretly from hand to hand and by mail. Numerous copies were made and circulated in Moscow, Kharkov, and other cities. It is not clear how widely the Ryutin Platform was spread, nor do we know how many party members actually read it or even heard of it. The evidence we do have, however, suggests that the Stalin regime reacted to it in fear and panic." (84)

Joseph Stalin interpreted Ryutin's manifesto as a call for his assassination. When the issue was discussed at the Politburo, Stalin demanded that the critics should be arrested and executed. Stalin also attacked those who were calling for the readmission of Leon Trotsky to the party. The Leningrad Party chief, Sergy Kirov, who up to this time had been a staunch Stalinist, argued against this policy. Kirov also gained support from Stalin's old friend, Gregory Ordzhonikidze. When the vote was taken, the majority of the Politburo supported Kirov against Stalin. It is claimed that Stalin never forgave Kirov and Ordzhonikidze for this betrayal. (85)

On 22nd September, 1932, Martemyan Ryutin was arrested and held for investigation. During the investigation Ryutin admitted that he had been opposed to Stalin's policies since 1928. On 27th September, Ryutin and his supporters were expelled from the Communist Party. Ryutin was also found guilty of being an "enemy of the people" and was sentenced to a 10 years in prison. Soon afterwards Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev were expelled from the party for failing to report the existence of Ryutin's report. Ryutin and his two sons, Vassily and Vissarion were later both executed. (86)

Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's wife, became critical of Stalin's approach to politics. She pleaded with him to release friends who had been arrested as supporters of Leon Trotsky. She also objected to his policy of collectivization that had caused so many problems for the peasants. On 9th November, 1932, at a social gathering with several members of the Politburo. "Nadezhda spoke her mind about the famine and discontent in the country and about the moral ravages which the Terror had wrought on the party. Stalin's nerves were already strained to the utmost. In the presence of his friends he burst out against his wife in a flood of vulgar abuse." That night she committed suicide. (87)

Nadezhda's maid, Alexandra Korchagina, told other members of staff she believed Stalin had killed her. As a result, she was sentenced to three years's corrective labour on the White Sea - Baltic Canal. Stalin was deeply shaken by his wife's death. At first he blamed himself, he told Vyacheslav Molotov, that he had been "a bad husband". Later he became more hostile to her and claimed that "she did a very bad thing: she made a cripple out of me." (88)

It is claimed that at first people were worried he might kill himself. Seeking companionship he asked close political associates such as Sergy Kirov, Anastas Mikoyan, Alexander Svanidze and Lazar Kaganovich. This caused problems for Mikoyan, who had difficulty persuading his wife he really was spending his nights with Stalin. According to Kaganovich, he was never the same man again. He turned it on himself and hardened his attitude to people in general. He drank and ate more, sometimes sitting at the table for three or four hours after putting in a full day in his office." (89)

The Great Famine

The journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, discovered the existence of widespread famine in the Soviet Union in 1933. He knew that his reports would be censored and so he sent them out of the country in the British diplomatic bag. On 25th March 1933, the Manchester Guardian published Muggeridge's report: "I mean starving in its absolute sense not undernourished as, for example, most Oriental peasants. and some unemployed workers in Europe, but having had for weeks next to nothing to eat." Muggeridge quoted one peasant as saying: "We have nothing. They have taken everything away." Muggeridge supported this view: "It was true. The famine is an organized one." He went to Kuban where he saw well-fed troops being used to coerce peasant starving to death. Muggeridge argued it was "a military occupation worse, active war" against the peasants. (90)

Muggeridge travelled to Rostov-on-Don and found further examples of mass starvation. He claimed that many of the peasants had bodies swollen from hunger, and there was an "all-pervading sight and smell of death." When he asked why they did not have enough to eat, the inevitable answer came that the food had been taken by the government. Muggeridge reported on 28th March: "To say that there is a famine in some of the most fertile parts of Russia is to say much less than the truth there is not only famine but - in the case of the North Caucasus at least - a state of war, a military occupation." (91)

On 31st March, 1933, The Evening Standard carried a report by Gareth Jones: "The main result of the Five Year Plan has been the tragic ruin of Russian agriculture. This ruin I saw in its grim reality. I tramped through a number of villages in the snow of March. I saw children with swollen bellies. I slept in peasants&rsquo huts, sometimes nine of us in one room. I talked to every peasant I met, and the general conclusion I draw is that the present state of Russian agriculture is already catastrophic but that in a year&rsquos time its condition will have worsened tenfold. The Five-Year Plan has built many fine factories. But it is bread that makes factory wheels go round, and the Five-Year Plan has destroyed the bread-supplier of Russia." (92)

Eugene Lyons, the Moscow correspondent of the United Press International pointed out in in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "On emerging from Russia, Jones made a statement which, startling though it sounded, was little more than a summary of what the correspondents and foreign diplomats had told him. To protect us, and perhaps with some idea of heightening the authenticity of his reports, he emphasized his Ukrainian foray rather than our conversation as the chief source of his information. In any case, we all received urgent queries from our home offices on the subject. But the inquiries coincided with preparations under way for the trial of the British engineers. The need to remain on friendly terms with the censors at least for the duration of the trial was for all of us a compelling professional necessity." (93)

Eugene Lyons and his friend Walter Duranty, who were both very sympathetic to Stalin, decided to try and undermine these reports by Jones. Lyons told Bassow Whitman, the author of The Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to Glasnost (1988) "We admitted enough to soothe our consciences, but in roundabout phrases that damned Jones a liar. The filthy business having been disposed of, someone ordered vodka." Lyons justified his actions by claiming that the Soviet authorities would have made life difficult as newsmen in Moscow. (94)

Duranty published an article in the New York Times on 31st March 1933, where he argued that there was a conspiracy in the agricultural sector by "wreckers" and "spoilers" had "made a mess of Soviet food production". However, he did admit that the Soviet government had made some harsh decisions: "To put it brutally - you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the Bolshevik leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive toward socialism as any General during the World War who ordered a costly attack in order to show his superiors that he and his division possessed the proper soldierly spirit. In fact, the Bolsheviki are more indifferent because they are animated by fanatical conviction."

Duranty then went on to criticize Gareth Jones. He admitted that there had been "serious food shortages" but Jones was wrong to suggest that the Soviet Union was enduring a famine: "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition, especially in the Ukraine, North Caucasus, and Lower Volga." He then went on to claim that Jones description of famine in the Soviet Union was an example of "wishful thinking". (95)

Eugene Lyons has argued: "Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes - but throw him down we did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation. Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials." (96)

Gareth Jones wrote to the New York Times complaining about Duranty's article in the newspaper. He pointed out that he was not guilty of "the strange suggestion that I was forecasting the doom of the Soviet regime, a forecast I have never ventured". Jones argued that he had visited over twenty villages where he had seen incredible suffering. He accused journalists such as Duranty and Lyons of being turned "into masters of euphemism and understatement". Jones said that they had given "famine" the polite name of "food shortage" and "starving to death" is softened to read as "wide-spread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition". (97)

Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has argued that Lyon's record on the famine was appalling: "He had been among the earliest to hear of it, suggested at first by the investigations of his own secretary and confirmed later by the findings of Barnes and Stoneman. But Lyons declined to go into the famine-stricken area. The zealous Lyons fulminated about moral and ethical issues, but he had shown little inclination himself to interrupt what was an unusually successful social life in Moscow." (98)

Arthur Koestler lived in the winter of 1932-33 in Kharkiv in the Ukraine. When he visited the countryside he saw starving young children that looked like "embryos out of alcohol bottles." Traveling through the countryside by rail was "like running the gauntlet the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage-windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs, swollen, pointed bellies." Later the Soviet authorities began to require that the shades of all windows be pulled down on trains traveling through the famine areas. To Koestler, it was most unreal to see the local newspapers full of reports of industrial progress and successful shock workers, but "not one word about the local famine, epidemics, the dying out of whole ' villages. The enormous land was covered with a blanket of silence." (99)

Victor Kravchenko was a soviet official who witnessed these events: "People dying in solitude by slow degrees, dying hideously, without the excuse of sacrifice for a cause. They had been trapped and left to starve, each in his home, by a political decision made in a far-off capital around conference and banquet tables. There was not even the consolation of inevitability to relieve the horror. Everywhere were found men and women lying prone, their faces and bellies bloated, their eyes utterly expressionless." (100)

Walter Duranty and Eugene Lyons were not the only journalists in the Soviet Union who attacked Gareth Jones for his account of the famine. Louis Fischer questioned Jones estimate of a million dead: "Who counted them? How could anyone march through a country and count a million people? Of course people are hungry there - desperately hungry. Russia is turning over from agriculture to industrialism. It's like a man going into business on small capital." (101)

William Henry Chamberlin was eventually allowed into Kuban that autumn. Chamberlain argued in the Christian Science Monitor: "The whole North Caucasus is now engaged in the task of getting in the richest harvest of years, and shows few outward signs of recent poor crops." (102) However, Chamberlain told officials at the British Embassy that he estimated that two million had died in Kazakhstan, a half a million in the North Caucasus, and two million in the Ukraine. Historians have estimated that as many as seven million people died during this period. Journalists based in Moscow were willing to accept the word of the Soviet authorities for their information. Walter Duranty even told his friend, Hubert Knickerbocker, that the reported famine "is mostly bunk". (103)

On 16th May 1934, Joseph Stalin called for the Central Committee of the Communist Party to take action in controlling the teaching of history in the Soviet Union. As David R. Egan pointed out in Joseph Stalin (2007), this action "eventually led to the rewriting of Russian history and a new phase in Soviet historiography". This resulted in "the standardization of history textbooks and the difficulties faced by authors in their efforts to write new textbooks to the satisfaction of the special commission established by the party's Central Committee to oversee the textbook project." (104)

Stalin oversaw the production of appropriate historical texts. It was very important for Stalin that the Russian people were proud of their past. This included praise of life under the Tsars. "The Russian tsars did many bad things. But there's one good thing they did: they created an immense state from here to Kamchatka. We've been bequeathed this state. And for the first time we, the Bolsheviks, have rendered this state not in the interests of the great landowners and the capitalists but rather to the advantage of workers and of all the peoples that consitute this state." (105)

Sergey Kirov

After the death of his wife, Joseph Stalin became very close to Sergey Kirov. The two men went on holiday together and many felt that he was being groomed for the future leadership of the party by Stalin. This appeared to give him more confidence and at meetings of the Politburo he sometimes questioned Stalin's decisions. In September, 1932, when Martemyan Ryutin was arrested for calling for the re-admission of Leon Trotsky to the Communist Party, Stalin demanded his execution. Kirov argued against the death penalty being used. When the vote was taken, the majority of the Politburo supported Kirov against Stalin. (106)

Kirov was now seen as the leader of the liberal faction in the Politburo, a group that included Mikhail Kalinin, Kliment Voroshilov and Janis Rudzutak, that pleaded with Stalin for leniency towards those who disagreed with him. He argued that people should be released from prison who had opposed the government's policy on collective farms and industrialization. Kirov, who was the leader of Communist Party in Leningrad, did his best to restrain the political police in his own domain. Rudzutak, the vice-premier and the leader of the trade unions, exercised his influence in the same direction. (107)

Stalin began to worry about the growing popularity of Kirov with the members of the Communist Party. As Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "In sharp contrast to Stalin, Kirov was a much younger man and an eloquent speaker, who was able to sway his listeners above all, he possessed a charismatic personality. Unlike Stalin who was a Georgian, Kirov was also an ethnic Russian, which stood in his favour." (108)

At the 17th Party Congress in 1934, when Sergey Kirov stepped up to the podium he was greeted by spontaneous applause that equalled that which was required to be given to Stalin. In his speech he put forward a policy of reconciliation. He argued that people should be released from prison who had opposed the government's policy on collective farms and industrialization. (109)

The last duty of a Congress was to elect the Central Committee. Usually this was a formality. The delegates were given the ballot, a list of names prepared by Stalin. The voters crossed out names they opposed and voted for the names left unmarked. Although the results were never published but according to some sources, Kirov received one or two negatives Stalin received over 200. All the candidates were automatically elected but this was another blow to Stalin's self-esteem. (110)

As usual, that summer Kirov and Stalin went on holiday together. Stalin, who treated Kirov like a son, used this opportunity to try to persuade him to remain loyal to his leadership. Stalin asked him to leave Leningrad to join him in Moscow. Stalin wanted Kirov in a place where he could keep a close eye on him. When Kirov refused, Stalin knew he had lost control over his protégé. Kirov had several advantages over Stalin, "his closeness to the masses, his tremendous energy, his oratorical talent". Whereas, Stalin "nasty, suspicious, cruel, and power-hungry, Stalin could not abide brilliant and independent people around him." (111)

According to Alexander Orlov, who had been told this by Genrikh Yagoda, Stalin decided that Kirov had to die. Yagoda assigned the task to Vania Zaporozhets, one of his trusted lieutenants in the NKVD. He selected a young man, Leonid Nikolayev, as a possible candidate. Nikolayev had recently been expelled from the Communist Party and had vowed his revenge by claiming that he intended to assassinate a leading government figure. Zaporozhets met Nikolayev and when he discovered he was of low intelligence and appeared to be a person who could be easily manipulated, he decided that he was the ideal candidate as assassin. (112)

Assassination of Sergy Kirov

Zaporozhets provided him with a pistol and gave him instructions to kill Kirov in the Smolny Institute in Leningrad. However, soon after entering the building he was arrested. Zaporozhets had to use his influence to get him released. On 1st December, 1934, Nikolayev, got past the guards and was able to shoot Kirov dead. Nikolayev was immediately arrested and after being tortured by Genrikh Yagoda he signed a statement saying that Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev had been the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Kirov. (113)

On his arrest, Zinoviev wrote to Stalin: "I tell you, Comrade Stalin, honesty, that from the time of my return from Kustanai by order of the Central Committee, I have not taken a single step, spoken a single word, written a single line, or had a single thought which I need conceal from the Party, the Central Committee, and you personally. I have had only one thought - how to earn the trust of the Central Committee and you personally, how to achieve my aim of being employed by you in the work there is to be done. I swear by all a Bolshevik holds sacred, I swear by Lenin's memory. I implore you to believe my word of honor." (114)

Victor Kravchenko has pointed out: "Hundreds of suspects in Leningrad were rounded up and shot summarily, without trial. Hundreds of others, dragged from prison cells where they had been confined for years, were executed in a gesture of official vengeance against the Party's enemies. The first accounts of Kirov's death said that the assassin had acted as a tool of dastardly foreigners - Estonian, Polish, German and finally British. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking Nikolayev with present and past followers of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other dissident old Bolsheviks." (115)

According to Alexander Orlov, who was Chief of the Economic Department for Foreign Trade who worked closely with Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD): "Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin's former comrades. Stalin came to the conclusion that, if he could prove that Zinoviev and Kamenev and other leaders of the opposition had shed the blood of Kirov." (116)

Maurice Latey, the author of Tyranny: A Study in the Abuse of Power (1969), has put forward the theory that Stalin had learnt something from Adolf Hitler, who the previous year, had used the case of the half-witted arsonist Marinus van der Lubbe had been found guilty of setting fire to the Reichstag and therefore gave him the pretext for destroying the opposition. "It may have been engineered by Stalin himself in order to kill two birds with one stone - to get rid of Kirov and to give an excuse for the great purges that were to follow." (117)

Leonid Nikolayev and his fourteen co-defendants were executed after their trial but Zinoviev and Kamenev refused to confess. Y. S. Agranov, the deputy commissar of the secret police, reported to Stalin he was not able to prove that they had been directly involved in the assassination. Therefore in January 1935 they were tried and convicted only for "moral complicity" in the crime. "That is, their opposition had created a climate in which others were incited to violence." Zinoviev was sentenced to ten years hard labour, Kamenev to five. (118)

Stalin now had a new provision enacted into law on 8th April 1935 which would enable him to exert additional leverage over his enemies. The new law decreed that children of the age of twelve and over who were found guilty of crimes would be subjected to the same punishment as adults, up to and including the death penalty. This provision provided NKVD with the means by which they could coerce a confession from a political dissident simply by claiming that false charges would be brought against their children. Soon afterwards, Stalin began ordering the arrests of "tens of thousands of suspect Bolsheviks". (119)

Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov (August, 1936)

On 20th November, 1935, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev were charged with espionage on behalf of hostile foreign powers. Early in 1936, about forty of the KGB's top operatives were summoned to Moscow for a conference. They were advised that a conspiracy against Stalin and the Government had been uncovered and that it would be left to them to secure confessions. Over 300 political prisoners were ruthlessly interrogated and subjected to inordinate pressure in order to gain information against Zinoviev and Kamenev that could be used in court against the defendants. One member of the interrogating team, claimed: "Give me long enough and I will have them confessing that they are the King of England". However, according to Alexander Orlov only one of those men tortured was willing to give evidence against Zinoviev and Kamenev. (120)

In July 1936 Yezhov told Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev that their children would be charged with being part of the conspiracy and would face execution if found guilty. The two men now agreed to co-operate at the trial if Joseph Stalin promised to spare their lives. At a meeting with Stalin, Kamenev told him that they would agree to co-operate on the condition that none of the old-line Bolsheviks who were considered the opposition and charged at the new trial would be executed, that their families would not be persecuted, and that in the future none of the former members of the opposition would be subjected to the death penalty. Stalin replied: "That goes without saying!" (121)

The last known photograph of Lev Kamenev (1936)

The trial opened on 19th August 1936. Also charged was Ivan Smirnov, Konon Berman-Yurin, Vagarshak Ter-Vaganyan and twelve other defendants. It is claimed that five of these men were actually NKVD plants, whose confessional testimony was expected to solidify the state's case. The presiding judge was Vasily Ulrikh, a member of the secret police. The prosecutor was Andrei Vyshinsky, who was to become well-known during the Show Trials over the next few years. The foreign press were allowed to attend the trial and were shocked to hear that Zinoviev, Kamenev and the other defendants, were part of a terrorist organisation, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, were attempting to overthrow the communist government of the Soviet Union. It was claimed that Trotsky was under the influence of Adolf Hitler and that he eventually planned to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Soviet people. (122)

Yuri Piatakov accepted the post of chief witness "with all my heart." Max Shachtman pointed out that it was important to consider those who did not testify: "Of the hundreds and perhaps thousands arrested for the purposes of the trial, it is significant that only a small handful were found who could be prevailed upon to make the 'confessions' that fell in so neatly with every charge of the prosecution. Every single one of them (the GPU provocateurs excepted) was a capitulator, who had once, twice and three times in the past signed whatever statement was dictated to him by Stalin. (123)

On 20th August, 1936, Lev Kamenev was cross-examined and admitted that he had worked with those on the right of the party, including Nikolai Bulganin and Maihail Tomsky, to undermine Stalin: "I personally conducted negotiations with the so-called 'Leftist' group of Lominadre and Shatsky. In this group I found enemies of the Party leadership quite prepared to resort to the most determined measures of struggle against it. At the same time, I myself and Zinoviev maintained constant contact with the former 'Workers' Opposition' group of Shlyapnikov and Medvedyev. In 1932, 1933 and 1934 I personally maintained relations with Tomsky and Bukharin and sounded their political sentiments. They sympathized with us. having set ourselves the monstrously criminal aim of disorganizing the government of the land of socialism, we resorted to methods of struggle which in our opinion suited this aim and which are as low and as vile as the aim which we set before ourselves." (124)

He was followed by Gregory Zinoviev who also made a full confession. He claimed that he worked closely with members of the Workers' Opposition, such as Alexander Shlyapnikov: "We were convinced that the leadership must be superseded at all costs, that it must be superseded by us, along with Trotsky. I spoke a great deal with Smirnov about choosing people for terroristic activities and also designated the persons against whom the weapon of terrorism was to be directed. The name of Stalin was mentioned in the first place, followed by those of Kirov, Voroshilov and other leaders of the Party and the government. For the purpose of executing these plans, a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist centre was formed, the leading part in which was played by myself - Zinoviev,and by Smirnov on behalf of the Trotskyites." (125)

On the final date of the trial the defendants made further statements. Ivan Smirnov said: "I communicated Trotsky's instructions on terrorism to the bloc to which I belonged as a member of the centre. The bloc accepted these instructions and began to act. There is no other path for our country but the one it is now treading, and there is not, nor can there be, any other leadership than that which history has given us. Trotsky, who sends direction and instructions on terrorism, and regards our state as a fascist state, is an enemy he is on the other side of the barricade he must be fought." (126)

The last known photograph of Gregory Zinoviev (1936)

Gregory Zinoviev confessed to being involved in the assassination of Sergy Kirov: "I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov's assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us Stalin warned as scores of times but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky. We took the place of the terrorism of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. My defective Bolshevism became transformed into anti-Bolshevism, and through Trotskyism I arrived at fascism. Trotskyism is a variety of fascism, and Zinovievism is a variety of Trotskyism." (127)

Lev Kamenev added: "I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party's - Stalin's policy - was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow. Stalin's leadership we were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power." Kamenev's final words in the trial concerned the plight of his children: "I should like to say a few words to my children. I have two children, one is an army pilot, the other a Young Pioneer. Whatever my sentence may be, I consider it just. Together with the people, follow where Stalin leads." This was a reference to the promise that Stalin made about his sons." (128)

On 24th August, 1936, Vasily Ulrikh entered the courtroom and began reading the long and dull summation leading up to the verdict. Ulrikh announced that all sixteen defendants were sentenced to death by shooting. Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "Those in attendance fully expected the customary addendum which was used in political trials that stipulated that the sentence was commuted by reason of a defendant's contribution to the Revolution. These words never came, and it was apparent that the death sentence was final when Ulrikh placed the summation on his desk and left the court-room." (129)

The following day Soviet newspapers carried the announcement that all sixteen defendants had been put to death. This included the NKVD agents who had provided false confessions. Joseph Stalin could not afford for any witnesses to the conspiracy to remain alive. Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996), has pointed out that Stalin did not even keep his promise to Kamenev that his wife, Olga Kamenev, and their two sons, would be saved. All three of them were either shot or died in a prison camp. (130)

Most journalists covering the trial were convinced that the confessions were statements of truth. The Observer wrote: "It is futile to think the trial was staged and the charges trumped up. The government's case against the defendants (Zinoviev and Kamenev) is genuine." (131) The New Statesman agreed: "It is their (Zinoviev and Kamenev) confession and decision to demand the death sentence for themselves that constitutes the mystery. If they had a hope of acquittal, why confess? If they were guilty of trying to murder Stalin and knew they would be shot in any case, why cringe and crawl instead of defiantly justifying their plot on revolutionary grounds? We would be glad to hear the explanation." (132)

The New Republic pointed out: "Some commentators, writing at a long distance from the scene, profess doubt that the executed men (Zinoviev and Kamenev) were guilty. It is suggested that they may have participated in a piece of stage play for the sake of friends or members of their families, held by the Soviet government as hostages and to be set free in exchange for this sacrifice. We see no reason to accept any of these laboured hypotheses, or to take the trial in other than its face value. Foreign correspondents present at the trial pointed out that the stories of these sixteen defendants, covering a series of complicated happenings over nearly five years, corroborated each other to an extent that would be quite impossible if they were not substantially true. The defendants gave no evidence of having been coached, parroting confessions painfully memorized in advance, or of being under any sort of duress." (133)

Walter Duranty, the New York Times correspondent based in Moscow, also accepted the idea that the executed men were also involved with Adolf Hitler in trying to bring down the Soviet government. "A widespread plot against the Kremlin was discovered, whose ramifications included not merely former oppositionists but agents of the Nazi Gestapo." When supporters of the men executed raised doubts about the conspiracy, Duranty commented that "it was unthinkable that Stalin and Voroshilov. could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming." (134)

Piatakov, Radek and Sokolnikov (January, 1937)

In January, 1937, Yuri Piatakov, Karl Radek, Grigori Sokolnikov, and fifteen other leading members of the Communist Party were put on trial. They were accused of working with Leon Trotsky in an attempt to overthrow the Soviet government with the objective of restoring capitalism. Robin Page Arnot, a leading figure in the British Communist Party, wrote: "A second Moscow trial, held in January 1937, revealed the wider ramifications of the conspiracy. This was the trial of the Parallel Centre, headed by Piatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov. The volume of evidence brought forward at this trial was sufficient to convince the most sceptical that these men, in conjunction with Trotsky and with the Fascist Powers, had carried through a series of abominable crimes involving loss of life and wreckage on a very considerable scale." (135)

Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "After they saw that Piatakov was ready to collaborate in any way required, they gave him a more complicated role. In the 1937 trials he joined the defendants, those whom he had meant to blacken. He was arrested, but was at first recalcitrant. Ordzhonikidze in person urged him to accept the role assigned to him in exchange for his life. No one was so well qualified as Piatakov to destroy Trotsky, his former god and now the Party's worst enemy, in the eyes of the country and the whole world. He finally agreed I to do it as a matter of 'the highest expediency,' and began rehearsals with the interrogators." (136)

One of the journalists covering the trial, Lion Feuchtwanger, commented: "Those who faced the court could not possibly be thought of as tormented and desperate beings. In appearance the accused were well-groomed and well-dressed men with relaxed and unconstrained manners. They drank tea, and there were newspapers sticking out of their pockets. Altogether, it looked more like a debate. conducted in conversational tones by educated people. The impression created was that the accused, the prosecutor, and the judges were all inspired by the same single - I almost said sporting - objective, to explain all that had happened with the maximum precision. If a theatrical producer had been called on to stage such a trial he would probably have needed several rehearsals to achieve that sort of teamwork among the accused." (137)

Piatakov and twelve of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to death. Karl Radek and Grigori Sokolnikov were sentenced to ten years. Feuchtwanger commented that Radek "gave the condemned men a guilty smile, as though embarrassed by his luck." Maria Svanidze, who was later herself to be purged by Joseph Stalin wrote in her diary: "They arrested Radek and others whom I knew, people I used to talk to, and always trusted. But what transpired surpassed all my expectations of human baseness. It was all there, terrorism, intervention, the Gestapo, theft, sabotage, subversion. All out of careerism, greed, and the love of pleasure, the desire to have mistresses, to travel abroad, together with some sort of nebulous prospect of seizing power by a palace revolution. Where was their elementary feeling of patriotism, of love for their motherland? These moral freaks deserved their fate. My soul is ablaze with anger and hatred. Their execution will not satisfy me. I should like to torture them, break them on the wheel, burn them alive for all the vile things they have done." (138)

Purge of the Soviet Army

It is claimed that Reinhard Heydrich developed a plan to damage the Red Army. In January 1937, a Soviet journalist heard stories that senior members of the German Army were having secret talks with General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. This idea was reinforced by a diplomat from the Soviet embassy in Paris who sent a telegram to Moscow saying he had learned of plans "by German circles to promote a coup de'etat in the Soviet Union" using "persons from the command staff of the Red Army." (139)

According to Robert Conquest, the author of The Great Terror (1990), the story had been created by Nikolai Skoblin, a NKVD agent who had appeared to be one of the leaders of the Russian opposition based in Paris. "Skoblin had long worked as a double agent with both the Soviet and the German secret agencies, and there seems no doubt that he was one of the links by which information was passed between the SD and the NKVD. According to one version. the Soviet High Command and Tukhachevsky in particular were engaged in a conspiracy with the German General Staff. Although this was understood in SD circles as an NKVD plant, Heydrich determined to use it, in the first place, against the German High Command, with whom his organization was in intense rivalry." (140)

Major V. Dapishev of the Soviet General Staff has claimed that the plot "originated with Stalin" as he wanted to purge the leadership of the armed forces. Roy A. Medvedev, has argued in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) that he is convinced that Heydrich arranged the forgery of the documents. However, he points out: "It would be a mistake to think that these false accusations were the main cause of the destruction of the best cadres. They were only a pretext. The real causes of the mass repression go much deeper. Any serious investigation would have exposed the Nazi forgery against Tukhachevsky, but Stalin did not order an expert investigation. It would have been even easier to establish the falseness of many other materials produced by the NKVD, but neither Stalin nor his closest aides checked or wanted to check the authenticity of these materials." (141)

On 11th June, 1937, Tukhachevsky and seven other Soviet generals appeared in court on the charges of treason for having conspired with Germany. All were executed. "Following the Tukhachevsky trial, the wave of executions of the officer corps of the military was like a wind blowing over a huge field of wheat no one escaped. Any officer, no matter how remotely connected to Tukhachevsky and the seven deposed generals in the past or present, was rounded up and executed. In turn, the military subordinates of the newly executed commanders became the next group of candidates for elimination and so on, like a never-ending web of destruction. Even the top echelon of Soviet marshals and generals, who had signed the verdict for the actually non-existent trial of Tukhachevsky and the other generals, disappeared one by one, never to be heard of again. By the end of the reign of terror, the officer corps of the Soviet Army had been decimated beyond recognition." (142)

Bukharin, Rykov and Yagoda (March, 1938)

The next show trials took place in March, 1938, and involved twenty-one leading members of the party. This included Nickolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Krestinsky and Christian Rakovsky. Another leading figure in the government, Maihail Tomsky, committed suicide before the trial. They were all charged with attempting to assassinate Joseph Stalin and the other members of the Politburo, "to restore capitalism, to wreck the country's military and economic power, and to poison or kill in any other way masses of Russian workers." (143)

Raphael R. Abramovitch, the author of The Soviet Revolution: 1917-1939 (1962) pointed out that at his trial: "Bukharin, who still had a little fight left in him, was extinguished by the concerted efforts of the public prosecutor, the presiding judge, GPU agents and former friends. Even a strong and proud man like Bukharin was unable to escape the traps set for him. The trial took its usual course, except that one session had to be hastily adjourned when Krestinsky refused to follow the script. At the next session, he was compliant." (144) However, he did write to Stalin and ask: "Koba, why is my death necessary for you." (145)

They were all found guilty and were either executed or died in labour camps. Isaac Deutscher has pointed out: "Among the men in the dock at these trials were all the members of Lenin's Politbureau, except Stalin himself and Trotsky, who, however, though absent, was the chief defendant. Among them, moreover, were one ex-premier, several vice-premiers, two ex-chiefs of the Communist International, the chief of the trade unions, the chief of the General Staff, the chief political Commissar of the Army, the Supreme Commanders of all important military districts, nearly all Soviet ambassadors in Europe and Asia, and last but not least, the two chiefs of the political police: Yagoda and Yezhov." (146)

Walter Duranty always underestimated the number killed during the Great Purge. As Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has pointed out: "As for the number of resulting casualties from the Great Purge, Duranty's estimates, which encompassed the years from 1936 to 1939, fell considerably short of other sources, a fact he himself admitted. Whereas the number of Party members arrested is usually put at just above one million, Duranty's own estimate was half this figure, and he neglected to mention that of those exiled into the forced labor camps of the GULAG, only a small percentage ever regained their freedom, as few as 50,000 by some estimates. As to those actually executed, reliable sources range from some 600,000 to one million, while Duranty maintained that only about 30,000 to 40,000 had been killed." (147)


The Amazing History of our ‘Woke’ CIA—Part II

“China & Russia are laughing their asses off watching CIA go full woke. 'Cisgender.' 'Intersectional.' It's like the Babylon Bee is handling CIA's commercials. If you think about it, wokeness is the kind of twisted PSYOP a spy agency would invent to destroy a country from the inside out," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.

About China and Russia’s current intelligence agents laughing at the CIA’s Babylon-Bee-like imbecilities we can guess. But about Russia and Cuba’s we can actually watch, and perhaps laugh ourselves, to keep from crying. To wit:

Nikolai Leonev was the KGB’s top agent in Latin America during the 1950s and '60s. He was Raul Castro’s KGB handler starting in 1954, and must have busted a gut listening to how our crackerjack CIA officers in Cuba during the late 1950s sang Raul, Fidel, and Che Guevara’s praises as utterly untainted by any communist connections and thus quite worthy of U.S. help both moral and material. (We discussed the matter last week.)

In June 1958, upon careful instructions from his KGB handler Nikolai Leonov, communist terrorist Raul Castro dutifully kidnapped 47 American hostages from the U.S. owned Moa Nickel plant and the Guantanamo military base in Oriente. The KGB-mentored plan was to blackmail the U.S. government into further pulling the rug out from under Batista (the “U.S.-backed dictator” who was already suffering from a U.S. arms embargo since April 1958), further help the Soviet assets (the Castro rebels), and thus ease the way for the Sovietization of Cuba.

And it worked flawlessly--like an utter charm!

As soon as he got word, CIA officer in the area Robert Wiecha scurried to meet with a snickering Raul and his fellow KGB assets, whereupon they worked out a splendid little deal: the U.S. further pressured Batista to scale back his (already feeble) efforts against the rebels, and the hostages were returned. … But I mentioned watching them laugh didn’t I?

So yes. Check out Raul Castro and his KGB-handler Nikolai Leonov yukking it up during a meeting in Havana a few years ago.

Granted, we can’t be sure of the exact reminisces that provoked the yukking. Perhaps they involved how Raul’s future wife Vilma—a hard-line communist of long standing at the time—was the authority on liberal democracy gratefully accepted and believed by CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick on his special visit from Langley headquarters to Oriente Cuba in 1957.

The Kirkpatrick-Espin meeting (arranged by big wheels of the Bacardi corp.) was a venue to once and for all convince the CIA that those crackpot rumors by some knuckle-dragging, deplorable Cubans were vicious and unfounded McCarthyite smears.

In fact, Vilma assured this executive officer of the world’s most lavishly-funded intelligence agency employing a shining roster of ultra-educated Ivy-League-vintage “analysts” and “experts” – in fact, she stressed to the free world’s guardians against communism, that her bosom compadres in liberation (Fidel, Raul, and Che Guevara) were the furthest thing from communists that the CIA could possibly imagine.

Yes, amigos: In 1957 the CIA sent its Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick (Princeton 1938) to Oriente Cuba to determine if Castro’s Julio 26 movement had any Commie connections, as claimed by many “Cuban “deplorables” of the time.

Well, the U.S. State Department and CIA’s officials on the ground in Cuba (obviously the most knowledgeable, right?) lined up a meeting between Kirkpatrick and some of the main bankrollers of Castro’s terrorist group the Julio 26 Movement. Chief among these bankrollers were members of the ultra-wealthy Bacardi Corp.

So Kirkpatrick was hosted by a Bacardi executive’s very daughter Vilma Espin, a prominent member of Castro’s terrorist group—and a closet communist, as well known among Cuban “deplorables.” This elegant and cultured Bryn Mawr and MIT attendee spoke flawless English and seemed to fit seamlessly into most CIA officers’ cultural and social set, (unlike many of the Castro movement’s opponents: those often crude, un-lettered, even mulatto Batistianos with whom typically Ivy league-educated, Eastern Establishment CIA people found little in common). In brief these anti-Castro people were typical “deplorables.”

Wait a minute, some amigos ask?! The Bacardi corporation helped bankroll Castro and Che Guevara’s rebel movement? But how can that be?

Oh, I know, I know, your professors, Hollywood, the Fake News Media, and Castro’s multifarious agents-of-influence (but I repeat myself) all told you that it was Cuba’s blue-blooded and filthy-rich who opposed Castro, and the poor workers who backed him.

Well, let’s look around our own country. Is it the “bluebloods” and “filthy-rich” who back Trump? Is it “the working class” who backs Biden/Harris/BLM, etc. You get the picture.

Now, let’s fast work a few decades. Here’s a description of a “conference” hosted by Fidel Castro in Havana in 2001 (i.e. a yukkfest for a gloating Castro to rub the faces of his (guilt-ridden if not actually masochistic) American guests in their pathetic botches:

"Fidel Castro (a mass-murdering Soviet asset and terrorist whose lifelong obsession was the destruction of the U.S.) sat across from Sam Halpern and Robert Reynolds (former CIA officers who were purportedly tasked with overthrowing him) . the atmosphere was jovial, respectful. Castro remarked at one point that (the 2001 conference in Havana) was more than respectful, it was friendly. At a final banquet, Castro used the word “family” to describe the conference participants and the frank, intimate exchanges.”

Any more questions why Fidel Castro died peacefully in bed at 90?

“Aaaw come on, Humberto!” some amigos counter. “But what about those 50 gazillion CIA assassination plans against Castro we’re always reading and hearing about?” Thought you’d never ask.

“So far as I have been able to determine,” revealed E. Howard Hunt, who, during the early 1960s served as head of the political division of the CIA’s Cuba Project, “no COHERENT plan was ever developed within the CIA to assassinate Castro, though it was the heart’s desire of many exile groups.”

Interestingly, Hunt stressed that killing Castro was his own recommendation. But he couldn’t get any serious takers within the agency.

Now let’s head over to the famous Church Committee hearings in the mid '70s when all these (so-called) assassination attempts were first “revealed.” Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), by the way, was a notorious pinko just panting to smear anti-communists. Yet here’s among the items his (highly-embarrassed) Committee (grudgingly) discovered and reported:

“In August 1975, Fidel Castro gave Senator George McGovern a list of twenty-four alleged attempts to assassinate him in which Castro claimed the CIA had been involved… The Committee has found NO EVIDENCE that the CIA was involved in the attempts on Castro’s life enumerated in the allegations that Castro gave to Senator McGovern.”

“Coherent” is probably the key word by Hunt. All those “assassination plans” the Fake News Media transcribes and parrots from Castro’s disinformation officers (both in Cuba and in the U.S.) were probably mostly brainstorming speculations by half-drunken officials. A few might have gotten half-heartedly somewhat off the ground.

Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-American CIA man who played a key role in capturing Che Guevara, also noticed the “incoherence” of these assassination plans. “While we were training for the Bay of Pigs me and a friend volunteered to kill Castro,” Rodriguez recalled to your humble servant. “We were given a rifle with a telescopic sight and we attempted to infiltrate Cuba… after the third attempt, we returned and they (CIA handlers) told us that the plan had been changed, had been canceled, so they took the rifle away.”

And in case Donald Trump Jr. is reading this: no Donald, outrageous as it may seem, as an American it greatly embarrasses me to assure you that this link and pictures did not issue from the Babylon Bee.


The (almost) Russian-American Telegraph

As Lincoln lay dying from an assassin’s bullet across the street from Ford’s Theatre through the grim night of April 14, 1865, frequent bulletins on his sinking condition clicked between the major American cities along the country’s spreading web of Morse telegraph wires. News of his death in the morning spread from city to city within minutes. Yet eleven days passed before the tragic tidings reached Great Britain and Europe when the steamship Nova Scotian from New York docked in England on April 26.

Successful construction of the American transcontinental telegraph across the Great Plains and the western mountains in 1861 had put New York within a few minutes’ message time of San Francisco, three thousand miles away, though transmission was less than perfect. Raiding Indians cut the line, herds of buffalo trying to scratch their itchy backs knocked down the poles, heavy storms disrupted the tenuous flow of electricity. Despite these annoying interruptions, at the end of the Civil War most of the United States was tied together with almost instantaneous dot-and-dash communication. Americans could exchange news with the rest of the world, however, only as rapidly as a ship could sail.

This unsatisfactory situation challenged the expansionist-minded, profit-eager northern financial community. After the burden of war was lifted, the victorious North was in a mood for fresh peacetime ventures. And with the techniques of the Morse telegraph well tested by nearly two decades of domestic development, the desire for fast electrical communication to the capitals of Europe was compelling.

Out of this drive for international communications, and a belief in the telegraph as a magic producer of fast messages and fat profits, came a bizarre adventure, a scheme to build a telegraph line linking the United States to Russia and the rest of Europe. Its sponsors conceived of it as a romantic story of scientific ingenuity and human daring. What resulted was a frustrating two-year mission into the far reaches of the Arctic in temperatures that sometimes fell to 60° below zero, with nearly a thousand men scattered in the wilds of Siberia, Alaska, and British Columbia trying to build the telegraph while a fleet of sailing vessels and steamships plied the far North Pacific in support.

The most obvious way to connect the United States and Europe by wire was to lay a cable under the Atlantic Ocean. Cyrus W. Field had failed for the fourth time to complete this feat in the summer of 1865, and his persistent dream was widely discounted as impractical. Laying a cable under two thousand miles of restless ocean, then maintaining an adequate flow of electricity through it for the transmission of telegraphic messages, plus the problems of raising it to the surface for repairs, seemed beyond the capability of Field and his associates.

But the world is round. Instead of an Atlantic cable, could a surface telegraph line be built from the United States across the Bering Strait to Russia and there connect with circuits around Europe? A persuasive promoter, Perry McDonough Collins, was convinced it could be done. Collins had been United States consular agent at Nikolaevsk, Siberia, at the mouth of the Amur River on the Sea of Okhotsk. After a trip through northern Asia in 1857 and conversations at the Russian court in St. Petersburg, he returned to the United States full of enthusiasm for the concept. Once the transcontinental telegraph line was completed to San Francisco, he stepped up his efforts to win support. With the confidence of an armchair general who casually brushes aside problems of logistics and geography, Collins painted an intriguing picture as he peddled his scheme to Congress and to New York financiers. He pointed out that only a thirty-nine-mile water barrier, the Bering Strait, interrupted the backdoor route from New York to Paris. The rest was open land. Hadn’t American telegraph builders already shown they could overcome obstacles of plains, mountains, and desert in building the line to San Francisco?

Collins proposed that the intercontinental telegraph line be connected to the American line at San Francisco. It would be built up the Pacific coast to British Columbia and from there northward across Russian America (now Alaska) to the Bering Strait. An underwater cable would be laid to the Asian shore of the strait. The line then would run through northeastern Siberia to the mouth of the Amur River. At this point it would join the seven-thousand-mile line the czarist government was building from St. Petersburg. Automatic “repeating instruments”—that is, relay stations—would be established every three to five hundred miles so messages could be sent across the huge unpopulated areas on both continents without need of human touch.

At first the idea sounded grandiose beyond reason. Collins’ attempt to win support in Congress early in 1861 failed with the outbreak of the Civil War that body had far more urgent things on its mind. But Collins was nothing if not persistent, and he turned to the most obvious private source for support, the Western Union Telegraph Company.

By then Western Union was reaping abundant rewards from construction and operation of its transcontinental line, which had been built in less time and at less cost than anticipated, assisted by a federal subsidy. Visions of even greater profits dangled before the eyes of Hiram Sibley, the Western Union president, and his associates. Collins asserted that with a side extension of the line from Siberia to China half of the world’s population would be tributary to the Russian-American line. The company saw the possibility of controlling the worldwide flow of telegraph messages, a prospect hard to ignore.

Western Union endorsed the idea, the normal caution of its board of directors overwhelmed by Sibley’s enthusiasm. At one point he wrote Collins: “The work is no more difficult than we have already accomplished over the Rocky Mountains and plains to California and, in my opinion, the whole thing is entirely practicable, and that, too, in much less time and with much less expense than is generally supposed by those most hopeful. No work costing so little money was ever accomplished by man that will be so important in its results.”

The scope of the project that Sibley, Collins, and their associates approached with such nonchalance would have given pause to men less wrapped up in their own visions. The obvious possibility that the need for the line’s existence would be destroyed if Field completed his Atlantic cable did not deter them. A path must be opened for the telegraph line through forests, over mountains, across many stretches of Siberian steppes where no trees grew to provide poles, through thousands of miles of almost unexplored and unpopulated wilderness. All supplies except poles must be hauled from the United States, many of them by ship from the East Coast. Poles must be cut, hauled from afar and erected, wire strung, relay stations constructed. In fact, the promoters knew almost nothing about the terrain to which they were committing millions of dollars.

The line would run some thousand miles up the Pacific coast from San Francisco across the border to New Westminster, British Columbia from there twelve hundred miles up the Fraser River Valley and Caribou Trail to Russian America nine hundred miles across unknown territory to the Bering Strait under the strait by cable and then eighteen hundred miles across the Siberian steppes to the mouth of the Amur—in all approximately five thousand miles of construction, much of it under ferocious conditions of weather and terrain.

During the years of promotional work for the scheme by Collins the project was known as the Collins Overland Telegraph Company. That changed when Western Union took over the project in March, 1864. For his ideas, promotional work, and contacts with all the governments involved in providing the necessary official approvals, Western Union agreed to give Collins one tenth of the stock in the project, free from assessment or call the right to subscribe one tenth more on an open basis and a hundred thousand dollars in cash to pay for his services and expenses during the years he had been beating the drums.

Russia promised to complete her trans-Siberian telegraph to the mouth of the Amur in order to hook up with the American project, gave the American company the right to construct its line through Siberia and through Russian America, and promised the company a 40 per cent rebate on tolls from international messages passing over the government wire. In June, 1864, Congress passed an act granting Collins and his associates the right to construct a line from any point on the Pacific telegraph north to the British Columbia border over unappropriated public lands, to take timber and stone for construction, to build stations, and to receive forty public acres for each fifteen miles of telegraph line constructed. United States troops were to secure the line “from injury by savages or other evil-disposed persons.” However, an effort by Collins’ friends in Congress to guarantee the telegraph company fifty thousand dollars a year for ten years after completion of the line was defeated. From the Legislative Council of British Columbia Collins obtained permission to build the line through the territory without restrictions or subsidies.

The Western Union directors decided to finance the venture separately from the parent company. They created the Western Union Extension Company with Sibley as president and authorized sale of a hundred thousand shares at a hundred dollars par value, a total of ten million dollars. Stockholders and the directors themselves took a majority of the stock, and Collins received his stipulated share. A 5 per cent assessment, or five dollars, was declared against each share for operating purposes, with the idea that a total of not more than 20 per cent in assessments would be charged to complete the line. As a reflection of confidence in the wisdom and financial wizardry of Western Union, the entire ten-million-dollar stock issue was quickly sold.

Few people outside the Western Union management, and not many within it, questioned the assumption upon which the Russian-American telegraph scheme was based: that the Atlantic cable could not succeed.

Surveying and constructing the Russian-American line required a hard-nosed boss, an organizer who knew the telegraph business and could ramrod operations that would be scattered over thousands of miles. In August, 1864, the company selected for the assignment as chief engineer Colonel Charles S. Bulkley, former superintendent of military telegraphs in the Department of the Gulf.

As a northern officer, with the Civil War still in progress, Bulkley naturally tended to visualize his telegraph force in military terms and organized it along those lines. All leaders of the expedition were given military titles, and as one of the men wrote in a letter to his home:

We all wear a uniform of dark blue, according to army regulations, with appropriate buttons and shoulder-straps of our own. The Director-in-Chief’s strap is a silver globe in the centre, on a dark blue velvet ground, with silver flashes of lightning darting toward either end. … The Colonel thinks best that the party be handsomely uniformed to sustain among the Russians the dignity of the United States and of the Collins Overland Telegraph.

Bulkley sailed from New York to San Francisco in December, 1864, to organize his force and fit it for operations in the field. His goal was to get exploration of the route started in the spring of 1865. Time was important because the agreement with the Russians called for having the line working within five years, in 1868. Bulkley was accompanied by George Kennan, who though only nineteen years old was an experienced telegrapher in Cincinnati. Kennan—who was later to become an expert on Russia and the uncle of George F. Kennan, ambassador to Russia in the mid-twentieth century—had convinced the company that his knowledge of Morse dot-and-dash transmission, and of the mysterious rites of keeping power flowing from the batteries into the telegraph lines, qualified him for the expedition.

Once established in headquarters in the Customs House, Bulkley circulated word around San Francisco that he was recruiting men. Response was great. Soldiers discharged from the northern army, men from the goldfields looking for fresh adventure, and hangers-on around the port clamored for the jobs. Few of them were the skilled engineers Bulkley needed, but from the motley assemblage he chose a crew.

He planned operations in two phases. First, breaking the route into segments, he would send an exploring party into each with instructions to travel the land and locate a path for the line. In the second phase construction parties and materials would be carried by ship to the bases established by the exploring parties. Actual building of the line in British Columbia was to be well started by the end of 1865. To move the parties around the foggy reaches of the North Pacific Ocean he assembled a fleet of seven company ships, assisted by a United States Navy vessel promised to him by Congress in its 1864 telegraph act. Indeed, the project did resemble a combined land-sea military operation.

As a preliminary to the work on foreign soil the California State Telegraph Company, controlled by Western Union, undertook completion of a telegraph line from San Francisco up the Pacific coast and across the Canadian border into British Columbia, at New Westminster. It had already completed its line to Portland and was pushing it toward Seattle when Western Union bought the company in 1864.

The work was a sample of what lay ahead: roads had to be cleared through forests and across mountains, poles cut and placed, and supplies hauled by horse and mule from the nearest settlements, of which northern California, Oregon, and Washington had few. A major delay occurred when the cable that was to carry a branch from the mainland line under water to Vancouver Island was lost at sea while being brought around Cape Horn. Another cable had to be shipped from the East.

The line across the border was completed in 1865, shortly before the departure of Bulkley’s exploring party for the northern wilderness. The first message to click over it into the Canadian terminus at New Westminster announced the death of Lincoln.

Bulkley’s expeditions started from San Francisco during late spring and summer. One, a party of four led by Serge Abaza, a Russian who was known as the Major, sailed aboard the creaky Russian trading vessel Olga on July 1 for Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Accompanying Abaza were Kennan, James A. Mahood, a California civil engineer, and R. J. Bush, just returned from three years’ military service in the Carolinas. Their mission was to explore the proposed route from the mouth of the Amur River in Siberia northeast toward the Bering Strait. Eventually they were to link up with a far-northern Siberian party to be put ashore at the mouth of the Anadyr River, southwest of Bering Strait. This party’s mission was to strike inland and to the southwest across the steppes until it made contact with Abaza’s group. Between them they would explore the entire projected eighteen-hundred-mile route from the Bering Strait to the junction with the Russian line from St. Petersburg at the Amur.

Across on the North American side of the Pacific Ocean, Bulkley’s plan was to base a party in northern Russian America at Fort St. Michaels. Its assignments were to explore up the coast of Norton Sound to the Bering Strait and to ascend the Kvichpak River aboard the thirty-five-foot steamboat Lizzie Horner as far into the interior as possible, then to go by reindeer or dog sledge through the mountains and make contact with the party striking north through British Columbia. Only after the expedition was well under way did the Americans discover to their surprise that the Kvichpak was the same stream as the Yukon River, an indication of how little the telegraph builders knew about the country into which they were plunging so hopefully. This party, under Robert Kennicott, was deposited on the shores of Norton Sound in September, with little time to explore before the winter freeze.

A fourth party, assigned to land near the mouth of the Fraser River in southern British Columbia and build the line north to a junction with the Russian America party, had potentially the easiest mission of all and, as events developed, proved the most productive. Its members sailed from San Francisco on May 17, 1865, under Major H. L. Pope, and upon arrival at New Westminster they set vigorously to work. Although British Columbia was virtually unexplored beyond a few border settlements, gold miners had pushed up the Fraser Valley and cut a trail along which the telegraph crew could start. Cutting and setting poles at the rate of six miles a day, the crews of Americans, Chinese, and Indians—in all about 250 men—laid the line up the east bank of the Fraser River through rocky gorges. At places the poles had to be set in holes blasted in the rock.

Late in 1865 the line reached Quesnel, 450 miles up the Fraser. There the builders struck to the northwest. The main crew wintered at Bulkley House, named for Colonel Bulkley, at the northern end of Tacla Lake while exploring parties pushed ahead on sledges. Early the next spring construction was resumed, headed toward Yukon Territory. Tons of material and wires were hauled up the line on the backs of 150 pack animals. Crews slashed a swath from forty to sixty feet wide through the forests, hoping to prevent falling trees from snapping the wire.

Far as they were into the northern forests, the British Columbia party had a link to civilization. Commercial telegraph service had been started from Quesnel south. Messages were telegraphed to the construction camp as it moved north week by week. By the end of July, 1866, the line was strung to the Naas River, about four hundred miles northwest of Quesnel, in territory known previously only to fur-hunting parties. Nearly four hundred more miles lay ahead before the party would, in theory, join the segment being built across Russian America.

Seven weeks out of San Francisco, after fumbling through the North Pacific fog, the brig Olga arrived at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula on August 19, with the fourman party, led by Abaza, that was to undertake the Siberian explorations. Abaza and Kennan debarked at Petropavlovsk to make their way northward through Kamchatka while Mahood and Bush continued across the Sea of Okhotsk aboard the Olga to Nikolaevsk at the mouth of the Amur. Before parting Kennan accompanied Mahood and Bush for a short while as the Olga stood out to sea. Recalling that moment but a few years later in his book Tent Life in Siberia , Kennan wrote:

As we began to feel the fresh morning land-breeze, and to draw out slowly from under the cliffs of the west coast, I drank a farewell glass of wine to the success of the “Amoor River Exploring Party,” shook hands with the Captain … and bade good-bye to the mates and men. As I went over the side, the second mate seemed overcome with emotion at the thought of the perils which I was about to encounter in that heathen country, and cried out in funny, broken English, “Oh, Mr. Kinney! (he couldn’t say Kennan) who’s a g’un to cook for ye, and ye can’t get no potatusses?” as if the absence of a cook and the lack of potatoes were the summing up of all earthly privations. I assured him cheerfully that we could cook for ourselves and eat roots: but he shook his head mournfully, as if he saw in prophetic vision the state of misery to which Siberian roots and our own cooking must inevitably reduce us. Bush told me afterward that on the voyage to the Amoor he frequently observed the second mate in deep and melancholy revery, and upon approaching him and asking him what he was thinking about, he answered, with a mournful shake of the head and an indescribable emphasis: “Poor Mr. Kinney! Poor Mr. Kinney!” …

Travelling in pairs, and at times singly, Abaza and Kennan set out with native drivers to explore the proposed route from the junction with the Russian line northward along the eastern shore of the Sea of Okhotsk and onto the Siberian steppes. Somewhere up there, according to the plan, they were to make contact with the party to be landed at the mouth of the Anadyr River, a short distance southwest of the Bering Strait.

The two men started up the Kamchatka Peninsula on September 4 by horse, native boat, and, as the fine fall weather turned into Siberian winter, by dog sledge. Abaza had added James Dodd, an American fur trader living in Petropavlovsk, to the party because of his ability to speak Russian. Their destination was Gizhiga, at the head of the Sea of Okhotsk. Situated near the midpoint of the planned Siberian telegraph route, Gizhiga was chosen as operational headquarters. Despite promises from St. Petersburg and Washington nobody in this remote corner of the czarist empire had received word about the telegraph project. This was not surprising, since the local Russian governor at Gizhiga hadn’t had mail from St. Petersburg in eleven months. Few foreigners, or even Russians, had visited this wilderness, except in whaling ships and trading vessels that called occasionally in summer around the Sea of Okhotsk. Inland the natives existed by fishing and tending reindeer herds. The concept of a telegraph was far beyond their comprehension.

Arriving in the Kamchatkan settlement of Milkova, Kennan and his companions were amazed to find themselves treated by the natives with so much deference as to be embarrassing. The halter of Kennan’s horse was seized by an “excited native” while three others “with reverently bared heads fell in on each side, and I was led away in triumph to some unknown destination!” His companions were greeted similarly, and as Kennan wrote, “The inexpressible absurdity of our appearance … reminded me faintly of a Roman triumph. …” He continued:

The excitement increased rather than diminished as we entered the village. Our motley escort gesticulated, ran to and fro, and shouted unintelligible orders in the most frantic manner heads appeared and disappeared with startling kaleidoscopic abruptness at the windows of the houses, and three hundred dogs contributed to the general confusion by breaking out into an infernal canine peace jubilee which fairly made the air quiver with sound. …

Kennan and his party were ushered into a large one-story log house to meet the starosta , or chief of the village, who appeared “bowing with the impressive persistency of a Chinese mandarin.”

It appears that the courier who had been sent from Petropavlovski to apprise the natives throughout the peninsula of our coming, had carried a letter from the Russian Governor giving the names and occupations of the members of our party, and that mine had been put down as “Yagor Kennan, Telegraphist and Operator .” It so happened that the Starosta of Milkova possessed the rare accomplishment of knowing how to read Russian writing, and the letter had been handed over to him to be communicated to the inhabitants of the village. He had puzzled over the unknown word “telegraphist” until his mind was in a hopeless state of bewilderment, but had not been able to give even the wildest conjecture as to its probable meaning. “ Operator ,” however, had a more familiar sound it was not spelled exactly in the way to which he had been accustomed, but it was evidently intended for “Imperator,” the Emperor!—and with his heart throbbing with the excitement of this startling discovery and his hair standing on end from the arduous nature of his exegetical labors, he rushed furiously out to spread the news that the Czar of all the Russias was on a visit to Kamtchatka and would pass through Milkova in the course of three days! The excitement which this alarming announcement created can better be imagined than described. The all-absorbing topic of conversation was, how could Milkova best show its loyalty and admiration for the Head of the Imperial Family, the Right Arm of the Holy Greek Church, and the Mighty Monarch of seventy millions of devoted souls? …

The Major [Abaza] explained to the Starosta our real rank and occupation, but it did not seem to make any difference whatever in the cordial hospitality of our reception. We were treated to the very best which the village afforded, and stared at with a curiosity which showed that travellers through Milkova had hitherto been few and far between. …

Dark, brooding, bone-chilling Siberian winter had set in fully when the Abaza party first saw the red steeple of the Russian church at Gizhiga, after three months on the trail from Petropavlovsk. No word had been received from the American party that was to have been landed at the Anadyr River mouth. Abaza decided to send Kennan and Dodd by dog sledge to Anadyrsk, a native village situated 250 miles up the Anadyr from the ocean. Downstream from Anadyrsk no permanent habitation existed in the windswept, treeless steppes at the edge of the Arctic Circle. Wandering Chukchis with their herds of reindeer were the only human life in the huge desolate area.

Leaving Gizhiga, the two men plunged northward into the deep snows of the steppes. Tremendous clouds of snow a hundred feet high swirled across the open spaces, and the temperature dropped to 60° below zero. Despite these extreme conditions the winter months were the only time when travel was possible on the steppes. In the summer, when the snow disappeared, a deep, spongy matting of moss covered the ground so heavily that the legs of animals and men sank far into it. Swarms of mosquitoes rose in clouds from the damp vegetation. Walking was virtually impossible beyond a few steps. Travel stopped, to be resumed when the early snows of October made a path for the dog sleds again.

At night on the steppes the travellers survived by following the techniques employed by their native drivers. Three dog sledges were drawn up like three sides of a square about ten feet across. The dogs curled in balls in the snow, breathing small clouds of steam. The drivers shovelled snow out of the square and scattered twigs on the frozen ground. On these they spread shaggy bearskins, on which the men placed their fur sleeping bags. Pulling masses of a tundra vine from the snow, they piled the material high at the open end of the square and set it afire. The travellers were wrapped in layers of fur, including masks. Warmed by the tea they brewed, the party settled into their bivouac for a few hours of sleep while the drifting snow piled up around their barricade and ice coated their beards and almost froze their eyes shut. Awakened one night because his feet were cold, Kennan was struck by the winter night’s “strange, wild appearance”:

High over head, in a sky which was almost black, sparkled the bright constellations of Orion and the Pleiades—the celestial clocks which marked the long, weary hours between sunrise and sunset. The blue mysterious streamers of the Aurora trembled in the north, now shooting up in clear bright lines to the zenith, then waving back and forth in great majestic curves over the silent camp. … The silence was profound, oppressive. Nothing but the pulsating of the blood in my ears, and the heavy breathing of the sleeping men at my feet, broke the universal lull. Suddenly there rose upon the still night air a long, faint, wailing cry like that of a human being in the last extremity of suffering. Gradually it swelled and deepened until it seemed to fill the whole atmosphere with its volume of mournful sound, dying away at last into a low, despairing moan. It was the signal-howl of a Siberian dog but so wild and unearthly did it seem in the stillness of the arctic midnight, that it sent the startled blood bounding through my veins to my very finger-ends. In a moment the mournful cry was taken up by another dog, upon a higher key—two or three more joined in, then ten, twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, until the whole pack of a hundred dogs howled one infernal chorus together, making the air fairly tremble with sound, as if from the heavy bass of a great organ. For fully a minute heaven and earth seemed to be filled with yelling, shrieking fiends. … Suddenly the Aurora shone out with increased brilliancy, and its waving swords swept back and forth in great semicircles across the dark starry sky, and lighted up the snowy steppe with transitory flashes of colored radiance, as if the gates of heaven were opening and closing upon the dazzling brightness of the celestial city. …

A party of natives from the north, whom Kennan and Dodd met on the trail, told of reports from bands of Chukchis that Americans had appeared earlier in the winter at the mouth of the Anadyr. The news had been passed from mouth to mouth. Little was known about the party except that it apparently had dug in for the winter. At this point in their exploration five hundred desolate miles separated Kennan and Dodd from the Anadyr party, whose condition struck them as potentially dangerous.

From the start it was recognized that landing an exploring party at the Anadyr as winter approached constituted a risky undertaking, the most dangerous aspect of the entire project. The Russian consul in San Francisco had written Colonel Bulkley urging him not to do it. Bulkley pressed ahead nevertheless, and the schooner Milton Badger had put ashore a party led by C. L. Macrae at the river’s mouth in early fall, weeks later than planned.

Bulkley, on an inspection tour in the steamer George S. Wright , visited Macrae shortly after he landed. Bulkley made a trip thirty miles upriver in a whaleboat just before the winter freeze. Ice was closing in as he sailed back blithely confident that all would be well. In fact, however, the situation with the Macrae party was perilous. It had only casual contacts with wandering natives, no transportation of its own in winter, only the food supplies it brought from the ship, no housing, and only the slightest knowledge of the terrain it faced. It was, indeed, stranded in one of the most remote, forbidding corners of the world.

The five men in the party gathered driftwood from the shores of the Anadyr, combined this with planks brought ashore from the Milton Badger , and hacked out an underground retreat in the partially frozen tundra. All they could do was hole up for the winter. Snow soon buried their rough building until only the top of the stovepipe was visible from outside.

Back in San Francisco, Bulkley wrote a report to the Western Union management, later published in newspapers, giving quite a different picture. To read his optimistic account, everything was in splendid condition. He said the Macrae party was probably already exploring the Anadyr River area and pushing up to Anadyrsk with sledges drawn by reindeer. Where these sledges were to come from he didn’t specify presumably from the natives.

“The most northern regions through which our lines will pass present no serious obstacles, neither in the construction nor successful operation of telegraphs …” he confidently wrote. “It has been argued by some that the terrific gales of high latitude opposed insuperable difficulty in keeping up lines they are not fabulous, yet no more violent than the gales of your temperate zone.”

The truth, however, was something else. Kennan and Dodd found Anadyrsk to be a cluster of cabins along the wooded bank of the upper Anadyr, the last inhabited outpost in northeast Siberia. Downstream toward the Pacific the trees dwindled to shrubs, then all vegetation disappeared and only hundreds of square miles of barren snow were visible, through which the mile-wide river meandered, covered with ice. After a brief rest they determined to go in search of the marooned Macrae party.

The two Americans organized a party of eleven dog sledges loaded with a thirty-day supply of food for dogs and men. Their tiny target was a stovepipe sticking up through the snow somewhere near the river mouth. The natives were vague as to how great the distance was. For ten days and nights the sledges moved down the riverbank. The searchers’ hope grew on the tenth day, when tea brewed with ice taken from the river tasted salty. They knew they had reached tidewater. Presumably the buried hut, and their long-sought compatriots, must be fairly close.

On the eleventh day, nearing the area where the Macrae party was supposedly encamped, they searched for signs of life. The temperature dropped to 50° below zero that night, and no shelter was available they kept pushing ahead. Kennan and Dodd had been travelling nearly twenty-four hours without pause when a native found an overturned whaleboat on the riverbank. About a hundred yards away the rescuers discovered the stovepipe. Exhausted but jubilant, Kennan fell through the snow-covered roof of the dugout entrance and almost into the arms of old friends he had last seen when the Olga sailed from San Francisco.

Only three men were living in the hut, where they had been holed up for five months. In desperation Macrae and another man had gone away with a Chukchi band three weeks earlier, hoping through them to reach a settlement. After three days of rest, refitting, and packing up, the three stranded men and their remaining supplies were loaded on the sledges and hauled to Anadyrsk. Not until six weeks later, in mid-March, did Macrae and his companion reach that settlement with their native companions.

Despite their hardships the Americans continued their explorations during the rest of the winter. By spring, when the thaw set in and travel on the steppes ceased, they had traversed the entire proposed Siberian route. At places they had located wooded areas and hired natives to cut trees for telegraph poles. Abaza had gone by dog sledge four hundred miles inland to Yakutsk and had arranged to hire a thousand natives to help construct the line.

Making the Siberians understand what was to be built proved almost impossible. At one point Kennan hired natives to prepare poles, giving them instructions to cut each pole twenty-one feet long and five inches in diameter at the top. Three months later he returned to find five hundred poles cut, each so huge that a dozen men could not raise it. He asked why the men had not followed his orders. They said they believed he planned to build an elevated road on the tops of the poles and realized that poles so small on top never would be strong enough to support it.

In his grand plan Bulkley anticipated that the summer of 1866 would see major strides in construction of the line on both sides of the Pacific. Ships carrying men to reinforce the exploring parties and hundreds of tons of supplies were scheduled to leave San Francisco in early spring. Poles were to be placed in the ground of Alaska and Siberia, crossbars erected, miles of galvanized iron wire strung. But almost from the start of 1866 things went wrong. The company’s ships to the Sea of Okhotsk were scheduled to arrive in June. The Clara Bell didn’t show up until mid-August and the Palmetto a month later. The latter was barely unloaded before the winter ice closed in. Thus the entire summer was lost for southern Siberian construction.

Even worse befell the ill-starred Anadyr River base. This had been re-established under Bush, with the thought of building the line along the river edge during the summer. A supply ship was due in June. It did not arrive. Food supplies were dwindling, and the party was falling into a dangerous plight. Bush’s men survived on a few fish pulled from the river. Surrounded by an impassable moss swamp, they could not leave the river fringe. Finally, in October, the Golden Gate arrived, but before she could be fully unloaded, she was trapped in the new winter ice and sank. The construction workers and crew members aboard were saved, but little food was. That left a party of forty-seven men stranded on shore facing the long winter. A shortage of fish created famine at Anadyrsk, so no relief supplies could be sent from there. One American died during the winter the others survived on reindeer meat sold to them by the wandering Chukchis and sledgeloads of food from Gizhiga. The only work on telegraph construction this force could accomplish under such difficult circumstances was cutting a few poles upstream near Anadyrsk, accomplished by a party on snowshoes.

Tragedy and delay struck the Alaskan force, too. Its leader, Kennicott, had been in failing health during the winter of 1865–66 and on May 13 was found dead. The little steamer Lizzie Horner , brought to the Yukon on the deck of a supply ship, proved to be a failure and never left Norton Sound. Shoddy construction work with inadequate poles marked the miles of line that were strung along Norton Sound southeast of Bering Strait during the summer.

Then came the blow that destroyed the entire multi-million-dollar dream.

The Great Eastern , laying Field’s cable westward from England across the Atlantic, arrived at Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, on July 27, 1866. The cable was brought ashore successfully and connected to the land telegraph lines. This time it worked. The cable that had been so casually brushed aside by Western Union when it put its dollars into the Russian-American telegraph gamble suddenly was a sensational success. A broken cable of the previous year was located in mid-Atlantic, raised to the surface, spliced, and continued to the American shore. Now there were two working lines.

With messages flashing beneath the ocean from the United States to Europe in minutes, no reason existed any longer for the Russian-American telegraph. Western Union knew it was beaten and set out to close down its project and cut its losses.

Word of the cable’s success reached the construction crew in northern British Columbia quickly, flashing up the wire they had strung. Without official orders to do so they waited two or three days, then abandoned the project and headed south to civilization. Their tools, supplies, and wire remained on the ground for the Indians or trappers to use as they wished. The four hundred miles of line constructed and operating north of Quesnel was left to rot. Nobody cared. All they wanted was to go home. (Years later, visitors to the area found that the Indians had used the wire for nails, fish spears, traps, and even in the construction of a crude suspension bridge.)

The line from Quesnel south continued in commercial operation by Western Union until the British Columbia government purchased it in 1870. Decades later, when the gold rush developed in the Yukon, the Dominion government built a telegraph line to that area along the path that had been cut and abandoned by the Russian-American crew. Failure though it was everywhere else, the Russian-American project contributed substantially to the opening of the interior of British Columbia.

News that the project had been cancelled did not reach the Alaskan party until July of 1867, nearly a year after the success of the Atlantic cable. When it did, men at Unalakleet on Norton Sound hung black cloth on the telegraph poles in mourning. Altogether the crews had built seventy-five miles of line and explored a longdistance up the Yukon, locating what they considered a practical route through to British Columbia. Some of the 135 men brought home by the Clara Bell and Nightingale that summer had been gone from civilization for more than two years.

Far away in Siberia the Americans and their native helpers had no idea that their project had collapsed. Sending a ship to them so late in the summer was impossible the winter ice in the Sea of Okhotsk would prevent her from arriving. So they went briskly ahead, building a line that would never be used. They were more optimistic about their success than ever before, in fact. Arrival of their building supplies at the end of the summer of 1866 had permitted them at last to start construction. Nearly twenty-thousand poles had been cut, and Siberian ponies were distributing them for erection. As they cut poles the men sang:

The first American ship to anchor in the upper reaches of the Sea of Okhotsk in the spring of 1867 was Sea Breeze , a whaler from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her captain was amazed to find a group of Americans in native dress coming aboard (those fine blue and gold uniforms were long forgotten).

“How about the Atlantic cable?” Kennan inquired.

Captain Hamilton replied cheerfully, “Oh, yes, the cable is laid all right.”

With sinking heart Kennan asked, “Does it work?”

“Works like a snatch-tackle. The ’Frisco papers are publishing every morning the London news of the day before.”

Realizing belatedly that his tidings were grim news to his guests, the captain gave them newspapers he had aboard and sent them ashore loaded with bananas, oranges, and potatoes from Hawaii, food the like of which they hadn’t seen in nearly two years.

Kennan and his men rowed ashore, built a fire to roast the potatoes, and searched through the newspapers. In the San Francisco Bulletin they found what they had dreaded. A New York dispatch dated October 15, 1866, stated: “In consequence of the success of the Atlantic cable, all work on the Russian-American telegraph line has been stopped and the enterprise has been abandoned.” For seven months of numbing Siberian winter they had worked pointlessly.

Six more weeks passed before a Western Union ship arrived from the States with official orders for the men to sell what they could and come home. To the very end the Western Union leaders lacked comprehension of what their Siberian party had faced. The natives had little money and even less need for American products.

“We sold glass insulators by the hundred as patent American teacups, and brackets by the thousand as prepared American kindling-wood,” Kennan recalled. “We offered soap and candles as premiums to anybody who would buy our salt pork and dried apples, and taught the natives how to make cooling drinks and hot biscuits, in order to create a demand for our redundant lime-juice and baking-powder.” Natives who bought pickaxes and shovels were given frozen cucumber pickles as a bonus. The thousands of poles and hundreds of miles of wire were abandoned for whatever use the small native population could make of them.

Around on the other side of the world in New York, Western Union’s board of directors had some mopping up to do, too. They were more concerned about rescuing themselves from the financial loss than about the fate of their Siberian crew. In September, 1866, two months after the success of the cable became apparent, they adopted a resolution authorizing holders of Extension stock to exchange it for Western Union bonds before February 1, 1867, at a favorable rate. Meanwhile they talked optimistically in public about prospects for resuming construction of the overland line, despite the Atlantic cable.

Much of the Extension stock, it will be recalled, was held by company directors or by Collins. Naturally nearly all of it was turned in for good solid Western Union bonds—$3,170,292 worth—by the deadline. Thus the directors shifted the burden of the losses from their Russian adventure off themselves and other participants onto the mass of ordinary Western Union stockholders.

On top of that Western Union vice president William Orton wrote to Secretary of State William H. Seward on March 25, 1867, suggesting another scheme. He asked that the United States formally urge Russia to complete the telegraph line across Siberia and the Bering Strait to some point in Russian America, about two thousand miles or more. If Russia would do that, he said, Western Union would resume work in British Columbia to link up with the Russian line. Russia would benefit by having telegraphic communication with her distant North American colony. And Western Union, of course, would have the benefit of the tolls generated.


Additional info:

Physical requirements:

This tour is mostly easy in difficulty and has no extreme or particularly difficult hikes: we focus on getting to best locations for photography accessible by vehicle and during short to medium hikes (3-4 hours max), considering that many people will like to carry their photographic gear (no porters available!).
However, you should be in excellent health (we'll be far from medical facilities much of the time) and possess a reasonably fit condition. You should have no problems to hike over rough, rocky, sandy etc trail-less and uneven terrain with frequent ups and downs for several hours and withstand possibly adverse weather conditions (wind and rain).
The longest hikes are the excursions to the crater of Mutnovsky with an elevation gain of 500 m and the hike up to Gorely (8 km, about 800 m climbing), but both are relatively easy compared to other volcano excursions. Treks on the plateau near the Kyluchevskoy group of volcanoes and Shiveluch are comparably easy and aim to reach the best viewpoints for volcano photography.

Arrival info:

"VD team and our engaging group made everything perfect" (Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

Hi Tom,
We just wanted to thank you and your team again for making our recent volcano adventure in Kamchatka such a fantastic experience. The VD team of Irena, Andre, and Yasmin made sure we were well looked after at all times. Irena kept us well fed and happy no matter what the conditions Yasmin's vast knowledge and seemingly infinite enthusiasm were always inspiring and Andre was the best adventure guide we've ever had! All in all it was just amazing. We were lucky with the weather and the volcanoes, but the VD team and our engaging group made everything perfect. So thanks again! Perhaps we will meet again on a volcano in the future.
Cheers,
(Mike & Leslie, AU about the Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

"a great trip to the far east of Sibiria, Kamtchatka, with loads of volcanoes, bears (and a few mosquitoes)" (Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

‎I recently returned from a great trip to the far east of Sibiria, Kamtchatka, with loads of volcanoes, bears (and a few mosquitoes). Thanks so much to our guides, Irina, Andrey and Yashmin who made this great experience possible!
(Markus Heuer‎, DE about the Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

"thank you for a wonderful trip in Kamchatka. " (Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

Dear Irina,
We want to say thank you for a wonderful trip in Kamchatka, we have enjoyed very much to see such a huge nature, active volcanoes and eruptions and every time you have take care or us . Our food was excellent. Our group was perfect. Next time when we have a chance to visit Kamchatka again, we would like to see more from the country, its history and residents.
Many greetings and all the best wishes to you!
(Christine Reuter and Peter Schöderlein, DE about the Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

"Kamchatka is a spectacular place with the most impressive volcanoes I have seen" (Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

I toured the volcanoes of Kamchatka with Volcano Discovery in August of 2019. Kamchatka is a spectacular place with the most impressive volcanoes I have seen. The area is a true wilderness with little infrastructure and few towns yet we were very comfortable on the tour. Our campsites were well chosen, the meal tent was spacious and comfortable and the food was amazing given the remoteness. Hiking and camping makes for a good appetite but we were always well fed with lots of good food. The Volcano Discovery staff were very friendly, cheerful and committed to ensuring we had a good time and got the most out of our trip. The guides were knowledgeable and the hikes well chosen and explained. I would repeat the trip with Volcano Discovery, it was that good, but there are so many other volcanoes still to see. I have already booked on the Volcano Discovery trekking tour to the Molucca Sea, Sulawesi, Karangetang and Halmahera in May next year.
(Gordon Graham about the Kamchatka expedition in Aug 2019)

"until next time" (Kamchatka expedition in Sep 2019)

"Tom
Thank you for the photos. Some great memories.
Enjoyed all the volcanology tutorials, you were very patient with my endless questions.
Also enjoyed our more wide ranging evening time conversations fuelled by Abkhazian vino and vodka!
Until the next time.
Guy"
(Guy L., UK about the Kamchatka expedition in Sep 2019

"I had a great time" (Jay R., about the Kamchatka tour in Sep 2018)

My second trip of 2018 was again a return visit to a place I had been before. This time it was to the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east of Russia.
.
September is normally a good time to visit Kamchatka. the weather is generally more stable with less rain and less mosquitoes. However, unfortunately this year like everywhere else in the world, the region was experiencing unusual weather patterns. The tail ends of the cyclones bombarding Japan were at times outreaching the peninsula. So on some days, particularly in central Kamchatka, mainly cloud and fog but sometimes rain obscured the views and prevented a proper exploration of the area.
However, there were times when the clouds/fog did clear and we did manage to see the volcanoes. This area is one of the most volcanically active region of the world but when eruptions occur they don't make national news headlines as they don't cause the devastation as in other areas due to the fact they are in remote uninhabited areas. Unfortunately the volcanoes at the times of our visit were relatively quiet apart from some degassing (Klyuchevskaya, Bezymianny, Shiveluch and Karymsky volcanoes) and some small ash eruptions from Karymsky volcano.
However, overall, I had a great time. In the end we did see all the volcanoes on the plan. We had good weather at Karymsky volcano and we were able to do some hikes in the surrounding area.
We visited the geothermal areas on Mutnovsky volcano (crater), Valley of the Geysers and the Uzon caldera which were absolutely fascinating. In particular, the geothermal area in the Uzon caldera against the backdrop of the autumn colours was just spectacular (one of the best I've seen in the world, on par or even better than those in New Zealand and Iceland. can't compare with Yellowstone as I haven't been there as yet).
We also saw 3 brown bears in the wild, one relatively close which was more interested in gorging on autumn berries than in us even though being aware of our presence.
We had a really good group on the trip and the food was excellent. I'm not normally a fan of salmon, but wild caught red salmon was in abundance in the region (caviar, smoked or cooked in different ways) and delicious. Another highlight of the trip was that we had a very interesting lecture from Prof. Ozerov at the institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Petropavlovsk on some of the research being conducted on how eruptions occur.
So the obvious question is 'would I go there a third time?'. The answer of course has to be 'yes'. Although Kamchatka is more developed and has better infrastructure now than in 2000, the area, in particular the central part with a large concentration of active volcanoes, still appears to be very remote and access still difficult (no proper roads . requiring large wheeled 'army'type trucks or helicopters to get there) providing a real sense of adventure which is a great lure for me.
In addition, I would still like to see at least one of the volcanoes in this rather remote setting in full eruption. I can definitely see myself going there again, probably not in the immediate future but perhaps in a few years time. but not 18 years later (lol!).
. "
(Jay R., UK, about the Sep 2018 Kamchatka volcano expedition)
See: Jay's videos from the trip on Flickr!


Watch the video: Έτσι δημιουργήθηκε η Σαντορίνη..Ένα απίστευτο βίντεο! Santorini Volcano History HD (January 2022).