NY Times Book Review
The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archivesby Richard Pipes (Editor), V. I. Lenin, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick (Translator), David Brandenberger (Editor), I. A. Buranov (Editor)
Lenin the man, the revolutionary, and world leader has remained an enigma, part myth arising from the tumult of the Russian Revolution and part image carefully controlled for nearly seventy years by the leaders of the Soviet Union and their sympathizers abroad. The Unknown Lenin, containing long concealed documents from the Soviet archives, helps correct the myth and revise the image. Lenin emerges here as a ruthless, manipulative leader who used terror, subversion and persecution to achieve his goals.
NY Times Book Review
As Pipes (Russian History/Harvard; Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, 1994, etc.) notes, much of this material, consisting of messages within the Soviet bureaucracy, tends to be elliptical and refers to events and people without much significance today. Although Pipes explains the material and identifies the protagonists, it is inevitably a little like looking for small nuggets of gold among the pebbles. Nonetheless, the starkest revelationsno longer unexpected, but stark in their brutalityconcern Lenin's repeated acts of cruelty. "Hang (hang without fail, so the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers," he instructs the comrades in charge at Penza, underlining the words "no fewer than one hundred" three times. "It is necessary secretlyand urgentlyto prepare the terror," he orders the secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Perhaps most surprising is that this treatment is extended also to Jews: "Treat the Jews and urban inhabitants in the Ukraine with an iron rod," he orders. Similarly, he instructs his followers to carry out the confiscation of church valuables "with the most savage and merciless energy"; orders strikers arrested and hundreds of people deported; gives orders to subvert a treaty that he has just signed; and dismisses his experts as "shit." Other minor revelations include proof that Lenin's mother enrolled herself and her children in the nobility of Simbirsk, so that Lenin, to the embarrassment of the Soviet authorities, was actually a hereditary noble; that in his personal relations with his subordinates he could be highly solicitous (insisting that Stalin take three-day weekends); that he had a low opinion of Trotsky's military abilities ("nothing but bad nerves," he sniffs after reading one of Trotsky's telegrams); and that he wrote even to his mistress, Inessa Armand, as if he were reporting to the Central Committee.
Not engrossing, but highly enlightening.
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