golos_dobra (golos_dobra) wrote,

The house of Russian government

Yuri Slezkine

The house of government.

Princeton, 2017.


Most prophets of the Real Day were either Christians or socialists. The majority of Christians continued to think of “the Second Coming” as a metaphor for endless postponement, but a growing minority, including a few decadent intellectuals, and the rapidly multiplying Evangelical Protestants, expected the Last Judgement in their lifetimes. This belief was shared by those who associated Babylon with capitalism and looked forward to a violent revolution followed by a reign of social justice.

The two groups had a great deal in common.

One crucial difference was that most preachers of a Christian apocalypse were workers and peasants, while most theorists of a workers’ and peasant’s revolutions were students and “eternal students”. The students were usually the children of clerks, clergymen, teachers, doctors, Jews, and other “proletarians of mental labor” : professional intellectuals as metaphorical Jews (chosen, learned, and alienated) and Jews as honorary intellectuals irrespective of what they did for a living. They all grew up as perennial prodigies, as heirs to a lost scarred mission, as strangers among people they called “the people”. The were, for the most part, hereditary members of the intelligentsia.

The road to belief began with friendship. Sverdlov has Vladimir Lubotsky (later “Zagorsky”, the man after whom the town of Sergiev Posad would be renamed); Kon had Grigory Brilliant (the future people’s commissar of finance, Grigory Sokolnikov). The son of a Kazan merchant, Aleksandr Arosev, remembered finding a friend early on in his Realschule career: “At one point I was told there was a strong boy named Skriabin in Grade 3. Section B...”

Acquaintance led to conversations, conversations to confessions, and confessions to intimacy.

As students moved into higher grades, the circles because ranked and specialized.
The “lower circles” studied basic socialist literature; the “middle” ones organized presentations on particular topics or authors and the “higher ones” sponsored papers on freely chosen subjects and forma debates with invited participants. Different circles, including those from different schools, formed interlocking networks of common reading, conversation, and belief.

All over the empire, schoolchildren, seminarians, college students, and eternal students were in the grips of a “living, vibrant faith”, eager to fight “not only against the swamp, but also against those who are turning toward the swamp”.

In 1909, the twenty-one-year-old Valerian Kuibyshev -graduate of the Siberian Cadet Corps, student of Tomsk University, and member of the Bolshevik Party with the age of sixteen - was arrested for receiving a parcel with illegal books. His father, the military commander of Kainsk, in the Siberian steppe, was promptly summoned to appear before his commanding officer, General Maslennikov.

There were eight children in the Kuibyshev family, and every single one of them was listed by the police as politically unreliable.

Father arrived in Omsk in low spirits and presented himself to General Maslennikov.
As soon as he entered, the general started yelling at him: "You can’t even raise your own children properly, so how are you going to train your soldiers. You should be shot.” Having exhausted himself, General Maslennikov fell silent for a while and the said: “I am having you transferred to Tiumen.”
This was a promotion...
Father was taken aback: “Excuse me, Your Excellency?”
"You are being transferred to Tiumen.” Then, after a short pause: “I have two sons in prison in Kiev myself”.

Socialist proselytizing was different from the Christian kind in two fundamental way. First, it was not universalist. The Christian message was, in theory, for everyone; the socialist one was aimed exclusively at the elect.

The Bolsheviks were particularly forceful on this score.

The second way in which socialist evangelism differed from its Christian counterpart was its intellectualism - the degree to which it was, indeed, a debating society.


Only among Jewish revolutionaries was the number of women comparable to that of men, making Jewish women even more “overrepresented” among revolutionaries that Jewish men. Among worker revolutionaries, there were almost no women. They had the advantage of belonging to the chosen class, but they had no proper conscienceless, no “culture”, no families, and no female companionship other that the awkward and often humiliating contact with Jewish and intelligentsia women.

One place where students and workers came together - to coalesce into a “party” and be free from “the swamp” - was prison.

Arosev was arrested for the first time in 1909, when he was still in school in Kazan. “I liked the prison right away: everything was efficient and serious, as if we were in the capital. There were books, more books, notebooks filled with notes, slices of sausage on the long wooden table, tin teapots, mugs, loud laughter, joking, discussions, and chess games.”

Osinsky and Bukharin cemented their friendship when they lived “in perfect harmony” in the same prison cell. Yakov Sverdlov walked fast, talked loudly, followed the “Mueller system of calisthenics”, slept nor more than five hours a night, and keep his personal “consumption statistics” (ten cigarettes, one prison lunch, one bottle of milk, one pound of white bread, and three cups of tea a day, four to six pounds of sugar a month...) He read German books in the original, worked hard on his French and mathematics, and picked up a tech-yourself-English textbook. According to Sverdlov’s common-law wife and Bolshevik party courage, Klavdia Novgorodtseva, his motto was “ I put books to the test of life, and life to the test of books.”


Андре́й Я́ковлевич Свердло́в (17 апреля 1911 года, г. Нарым — 1969 год, г. Москва) — советский чекист, сотрудник ОГПУ—НКВД СССР—МГБ СССР, полковник госбезопасности, следователь НКВД, заместитель начальника отдела «К» (контрразведка) Главного управления МГБ СССР; писатель, прозаик.

Жена — Нина Николаевна Подвойская (1916—1996), дочь Н. И. Подвойского.
Сын — Яков Андреевич Свердлов (род. 10.11.1957), генеральный директор ООО «Точка зрения».
Дочь — Елена Андреевна Свердлова[5]; её муж — доктор экономических наук, профессор Леонид Владимирович Сабельников (1930—?), заслуженный деятель науки Российской Федерации (сын экономиста В. И. Каца).

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