Lenin’s Jewish roots put on display in Russian museum

Exhibition reveals letter written by Lenin’s sister claiming maternal grandfather was Ukrainian Jew; Stalin told sister to keep letter quiet.

24 May 2020

THE JERUSALEM POST — Documents apparently confirming rumors that Vladimir Lenin had Jewish ancestors can now be seen at Russia’s State History Museum, AP reported on Monday.

Among the newly released documents on display at the museum is a letter written by Lenin’s sister, Anna Ulyanova, claiming that their maternal grandfather was a Jew from the Ukraine who converted to Christianity to escape persecution in the Pale of Settlement and have access to higher education, the report said.

“He came from a poor Jewish family and was, according to his baptismal certificate, the son of Moses Blank, a native of [the western Ukrainian city of] Zhitomir,” Ulyanova wrote in 1932 in a letter cited by AP.

In the letter written to Josef Stalin, who replaced Lenin after his death in 1924, Ulyanova wrote, “Vladimir Ilych had always thought of Jews highly. I am very sorry that the fact of our origin – which I had suspected before – was not known during his lifetime.” […]

3 Comments on Lenin’s Jewish roots put on display in Russian museum

  1. Gee, why wouldn’t ‘Lenin’, the founder & user of ‘disinformation’ (that got us to where we are today), not want his contemporaries to know of his jewishness?

    • AFTER WW1
      The Bolsheviks were just one of numerous Soviets and the way ahead was very much by way of the ballot box, which Lenin did everything to subvert. He packed the various committees, threw out legitimate results when they didn’t go his way, and threatened people with death if they voted against him.

      Lenin’s health began to fail in 1921. In August 1921, he wrote to M. Gorky,

      “I am so tired that I am incapable of the slightest work.”1

      Undoubtedly, the political and personal failures of the past year (the
      defeat in Poland, the failure of War Communism, and the death of his former lover Inessa Armand 2 ), as well as Lenin’s efforts to solve the regime’s economic, political, cultural, and other problems single-handedly, contributed to his health crisis.

      On May 25, 1922, Lenin had his first stroke, which paralyzed his right arm and right leg. He initially lost the ability to speak. But his condition gradually improved, and he participated in several congresses and meetings in October-November 1922, although his control over his mental processes was uneven. Sometimes he did not fully understand what he was reading when he read aloud from a prepared text.

      The old Bolshevik and Politburo member L. B. Kamenev told Lenin’s doctors that Lenin had once read the same page of a speech twice without realizing it,3 Lenin suffered another significant stroke in mid-December 1922. It was not as serious as the first, however, and he soon tried to work again. Nevertheless, his colleagues, led by Stalin and others including Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as local leaders, decided to remove him from power and concentrate power in their own hands as quickly as possible.

      1’M. Gorky, Days with Lenin (London: International Publishers, 1932), 52.
      2 Although the Bolsheviks were officially and publicly puritanical, many of them had lovers, and this was tolerated in the inner circle, especially when the lovers were communists, too. Inessa Armand (1874-1920) was the daughter of a French actor who married a Russian. Armand met Lenin in 1910 and became his follower and then his mistress. After 1917, she worked for the Communist International. She died of cholera.
      3Beryl Williams, Lenin (London: Longman, 2000), 190.

      Stalin had been appointed general secretary of the party spring of 1922. His position at first seemed organizational rather than political. Yet Stalin was also a member of the Politburo, and this dual position gave him great authority. During the first months of his secretariat, he began to gain control over the local bureaucracies of republics, regions, and great cities. Although he shared power with Kamenev and Zinoviev, he held the chief position. After Lenin’s serious second stroke, Stalin arranged the decision of the Central Committee on December 18, 1922, “to make comrade Stalin personally responsible for the isolation of Vladimir Il’ich with regard to both his personal relations with officials and his correspondence.”4
      4/zvestiia TsRK KPSS (1989, 12), 191.

      Letter to Stalin for Politburo of RCP(B) CC
      June 15, 1922
      After Lenin’s first stroke, Stalin tried to isolate him. When Lenin refused treatment by German doctors, Stalin overruled him on political grounds.
      In the middle of June 1922, Lenin and Stalin exchanged letters, beginning with one in which Lenin begged his one-time protégé to free him from the German doctors. Perhaps the Germans irritated Lenin by recognizing his powerlessness, or perhaps he was simply suspicious of their intentions.

      June 15, 1922
      To Stalin for the Politburo
      I beg you most humbly to liberate me from Klemperer.5 [His] extreme concern and caution can drive a person out of his mind and cause trouble.
      If there is no other way, I agree to send him on a scientific assignment.
      I strongly urge you to rid me of Foerster. I am more than extremely
      satisfied with my doctors Kramer and Kozhevnikov. Russian cannot stand German meticulousness, and Foerster and Klemperer have already participated enough in the consultation. Lenin

      15 June
      I certify the authenticity. M. Ulianova6

      5G. Klemperer was a German doctor and professor who, along with Professor 0. Ferster, treated Lenin after his first stroke.
      6 M. I. Ulianova (1878-1937) was Lenin’s younger sister.

      Yuri Buranov, Lenin’s Will: Falsified and Forbidden. From the Secret Archives of the Former Soviet Union (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1994), 214-16.
      Richard Pipes, ed., The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1996), 165.

      From Letter to the Congress:
      Continuation of the Notes
      December 24, 1922
      Once Stalin had gained the Central Committee’s approval to control Lenin’s access to family, friends, and party officials, he quickly put the former leader under de facto house arrest. At an unofficial meeting on December 24, Stalin, Bukharin, and Kamenev agreed to keep Lenin completely isolated from political activities. They agreed to “allow” Lenin to dictate “notes,” but only for the record and not for circulation. Lenin struck back at Stalin and other leaders in his “Letter to the Congress,” known as his “political testament.” All members of the Thirteenth Party Congress in 1924 heard the letter read to them in separate groups. The Congress then agreed to suppress the letter, and under Stalin mention of it often led to arrest or even execution. It first appeared publicly in a shortened version designed to soften its impact soon after Stalin’s death in the 1950s and was published in the fifth edition of Lenin’s collected works. The Russian historian Yuri Buranov restored the original. The following text and notes from December 1922 and early January 1923 are from Buranov’s book, which was not published in Russia until the 1990s. Trotsky passed Lenin’s “Letter to the Congress” to his American follower Max Eastman, but before Eastman could publish it, Trotsky submitted to party discipline and denied its existence. Eastman published the complete text anyway in the New York Times on October 18, 1926.
      In the letter, Lenin proposed avoiding a party split by increasing the size of the Central Committee. He also suggested expanding the chief administrative bodies of the party, perhaps with an eye to returning to power.
      Curiously, and possibly with his own return to governing in mind, Lenin denigrated almost all the well-known leaders of the party and state. He even attacked lurii L. Pyatakov, who had no apparent interest in succeeding him and was only a candidate member of the Central Committee.
      Such proposals reveal how little Lenin understood the severity of his illness and the intentions of his opponents.

      “By stability of the Central Committee, of which I spoke above, I mean measures against a split, as far as such measures can at all be taken ….
      Our Party relies on two classes and therefore its instability would be possible and its downfall inevitable if there were no agreement between those two classes. In that event this or that measure, and generally all talk about the stability of our CC, would be futile. No measures
      of any kind could prevent a split in such a case. But I hope that this is too remote a future and too improbable an event to talk about. I have in mind stability as a guarantee against a split in the immediate future, and I intend to deal here with a few ideas concerning personal qualities.
      I think that from this standpoint the prime factors in the question of
      stability are such members of the CC as Stalin and Trotsky. I think relations between them make up the greater part of the danger of a split, which could be avoided; and this purpose, in my opinion, would be served, among other things, by increasing the number of CC members
      to 50 or 100.
      Comrade Stalin, having become General Secretary, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the CC on the question of the People’s Commissariat for Communications7 has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present CC, but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.
      These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present CC can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly.
      I shall not give any further appraisals of the personal qualities of other members of the CC. I shall just recall that the October episode with Zinoviev and Kamenev was, of course, no accident,8 but neither can the blame for it be laid upon them personally, any more than non-Bolshevism
      can upon Trotsky.9
      Speaking of the young CC members, I wish to say a few words about Bukharin and Pyatakov.10 They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the youngest ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party; he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and, I think, never fully understood it).
      December 25. As for Pyatakov, he is unquestionably a man of outstanding will and outstanding ability, but shows too much zeal for administrating and the administrative side of the work to be relied upon in a serious political matter.
      Both of these remarks, of course, are made only for the present, on the assumption that both these outstanding and devoted Party workers fail to find an occasion to enhance their knowledge and amend their one-sidedness.

      December 25, 1922
      Taken down by M. V.

      Addition to the Letter of December 24, 1922

      Stalin is too rude, and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealings among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a General Secretary. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail.
      But I think that from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the
      relationship between Stalin and Trotsky it is not a detail, or it is a detail
      that can assume decisive importance. Lenin

      Taken down by L. E

      7Lenin had in mind several declarations by Trotsky in 1920 in which the latter planned to place railroads and other communications under the Red Army-to militarize them.

      8″October episode” refers to the fact that Kamenev and Zinoviev opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power by force in the October Revolution.

      9″Until the summer of 1917, Trotsky staked out a centrist position between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. He joined the Bolsheviks only after returning to Russia in May 1917. At the Sixth Congress of the Bolsheviks (July-August 1917), he became a member of the party and was elected to the CC.

      10G. L. Pyatakov (1890-1937) was the chairman of the central board of the coal industry in the Donets Basin from 1920.

      Letter to I. V. Stalin
      March 5, 1923
      A final conflict between Lenin and Stalin arose after Stalin was rude to Lenin’s wife, Krupskaia. After she complained, Lenin sent Stalin the following hostile letter. Almost immediately after sending this letter, Lenin suffered another damaging stroke that effectively ended his conscious life.
      The fact that Lenin did not send Trotsky, until now a trusted lieutenant, a copy of this letter raises questions about Lenin’s loyalties and last thoughts. Although they had disagreed about many issues in the past, Trotsky had become Lenin’s loyal follower. Perhaps Lenin’s decision to keep this letter from Trotsky reveals a lasting mistrust.

      Copy to Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev
      Dear Comrade Stalin:
      Top secret
      You have been so rude to summon my wife to the telephone and use bad language. Although she had told you that she was prepared to forget this, the fact nevertheless became known through her to Zinoviev and Kamenev. I have no intention of forgetting so easily what has been done against me, and it goes without saying that what has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well. I ask you, therefore, to think it over whether you are prepared to withdraw what you have said and to make your apologies, or whether you prefer that relations between us should be broken off.
      Respectfully yours,

      Lenin’s Last Thoughts
      Did Lenin, during his last months, begin reconsidering the policies he had set in place? Did he have second thoughts about employing terror and compulsion to build socialism? From late December 1922 until his incapacitating stroke on March 6 or 7, 1923, Lenin wrote commentaries and proposals on government policy despite his isolation by Stalin and Stalin’s supporters. Yet Lenin’s last articles lack his usual coherent argumentation and summations, suggesting that his illness may have affected his acuity.

      V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 45 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), 607-8.

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