Stalin. Works. How We Do It

Sergei Rychenkov

Part I. “Smolensky, Rold, Milts..."

So far, the I. B. Khlebnikov Workers’ University has released the first eight volumes of Stalin: Works, which is conceived to be the most comprehensive collection of Stalin’s texts available to date; it is not, of course, intended to be a complete collection (as some erroneously perceive it), because a huge array of documents is concentrated in archival collections that are closed to researchers (Archives of the President, Foreign Policy Archives, Archives of the FSB), while even the former Archives of the Party (RGASPI) is not in any hurry to declassify a whole number of Files. The first significant period of life and activities by I. V Stalin, which culminates in October 1917, has been reflected in the first six volumes. Another volume (7th), which contains the documents from October 1917 to March 1918, was put into computer make-up in January 2016 and published in July of the same year. Now, Volume 8 (April to June 1918) has been released.

The first two years of publishing have been completed, which have allowed the team that works on the project to develop certain methods and techniques related to the preparation of the volumes. The circle of professionals involved in the project is growing. Adoption of techniques verified by practice will ensure the necessary quality and the maximum reduction of time. Still, the thirty-five to forty volumes that are expected to come out are a specific long-term work, the results of which should meet the expectations of readers and lead to the qualitative expansion of the publicly available resources on the history of the USSR as a whole, as well as the role and significance of I. V Stalin, one of the major actors in the period of the struggle for Soviet power, its formation, socialist construction in the Soviet Union, and even beyond.

For a long time, we have had a desire to tell our readers about how and under what conditions the preparation of publications is going on: we are sure that the better and deeper understanding of Stalin’s texts could be enabled by stories about this seemingly unobtrusive but important and interesting work.

In the process of studying the archival materials and including them into the volumes, the university staff members often face research issues. Successful solution of these tasks, which seem to be secondary, in their wholeness suggests that this multi-volume edition should be talked about in terms of scientific (with clear signs of being academic) publication rather than simple mass production of published archival texts. We are talking about what is called “scientific apparatus”, and one of its most labour-intensive and information-abundant elements is the Index of Names.

What’s in My Name for You1…”

A variety of persons are mentioned in Stalin’s texts, in the explanatory notes and the comments made on them, in texts placed to the Annexe by the compilers, and in I. V. Stalin’s biographical chronicle presented in each volume within a given chronological period. The purpose of the Index of Names is to provide the reader with a brief background information on each of these persons. Depending on a volume, the number of such individuals varies from 150 to 300 or more. Since the preparation of texts is far ahead of the actual publication (now, the centre of gravity of research falls on year 1919, which corresponds to the volumes 10-12), more than half a million personal records are already included in the work to this date.

The construction of the Index of Names is based upon the following principle. If any political figure is mentioned in a volume, his or her last, first and patronymic names appear at the beginning (in case of foreign origin of names, one is also represented in national alphabet) with all their possible variations, as well as nicknames, underground aliases, etc., followed by year and place of birth (or several versions of this information, if the issue is unclear) (for Russia, that includes province, county, city/ village, etc.), year and place of death (with an indication of the circumstances of death, if known), and short description. For example:

Babushkin Ivan (bn. 1873, Ledenskoe of Vologda Province – dd. 1906, city of Mysovsk of the Trans-Baikal region, shot without trial at the station of Mysovaya by the punitive expedition of General Meller-Zakomelsky) – a professional revolutionary, member of the RSDLP.

Damanskaya Avgusta Filippovna (Aresny Merig) (bn. 1877, Popeliukha of Podolsk Province – dd. 1959, Cormeilles-en-Parisis, France) – writer, translator, literary critic.

Latsis Martyn Ivanovich (Martinsh Yanovich) (real Sudrabs Yan Fridrikhovich) (Sudrabs Janis) (bn. 1888, Ragaine, Livonia Province – dd. 1938, sentenced to the supreme penalty by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR on charges of anti-Soviet activity, and shot) – Soviet statesman and party leader.

Further, the Index of Names provides main “milestones” of this person’s biography from the beginning of his or her activity to the upper chronological border of this particular volume (facts of arrests and convictions – for revolutionary leaders; positions held in one or another agency – for officials; ranks and command positions – for military personnel; and so on). For members of the State Duma, the fact of being elected to the State Duma from the corresponding convocation, as well as the region represented by the elected member, is recognized. For those elected to the Congress of the Soviets, these are the fact of being elected to a particular congress, the territorial or partisan organization from which the delegate was elected, and the fact of being elected to the Central Executive Committee for the corresponding convocation. For members of the Constituent Assembly, these are the constituency and the organization which nominated him or her for the election. For members of political parties – date of entry and membership in governing bodies of the party; for members of the RSDLP, in addition to this, – the fact of being elected to the party congress with an indication of the local organization, from which he or she was elected, could be recognized:

Gusev Sergey Ivanovich (Drabkin Yakov Davidovich) (bn. 1874, town of Sapozhok, Ryazan Province – dd. 1933, Moscow) – active participant in revolutionary movement, Soviet party and military leader. Member of the St. Petersburg “League of Struggle for the liberation of the working class” (1896). Subjected to numerous arrests and exile for intensive revolutionary activities (1897-1917). Member of the RSDLP (1898). Member of the RSDLP Don Committee (1902-1903). Delegate to the II Party Congress (1903). Member of the “meeting of the 22” in Geneva (1904). Secretary of the RSDLP Petersburg Committee (01-04.1905). Member candidate of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (04-12.1905). Secretary of the Odessa Committee of the RSDLP (05.1905-1906). Member of the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP, creator of the Moscow Railway District Bolshevik organization, delegate to the IV Congress of the RSDLP (from the Moscow org.) (1906). At the party work in St. Petersburg (1909-1917). Secretary of the Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee (10-11.1917). Delegate to the II Congress of Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, member of the second convocation of the Central Executive Committee of Councils (10.1917). Secretary of the Committee of Revolutionary Defence of Petrograd – managing director of the Northern Commune (02-03.1918).

It is clear that the general list of the persons mentioned turns out to be very heterogeneous. In addition to Stalin’s underground work comrades and fellow leaders of the party and the state, it includes his political opponents whom he writes about in his articles or mentions in public speeches or policy guidelines. In addition to those “first plan” figures, there are many characters whose paths once crossed with Stalin’s, perhaps by chance, albeit they had also been destined to play a role in his biography: owners of apartments in places of exile, a variety of Stalin’s addressees (including those who held forwarding addresses – mailboxes for party correspondence), citizens who appealed to him as People’s Commissioner, local authority leaders to whom he forwarded instructions on behalf of the CPC, etc.

A special category is made of the officials of the Department of Police and the “Offices of Security”, the tailers and agents who wrote police correspondence devoted to Joseph Dzhugashvili, the ones who prepared reports, messages and observation diaries on him, which are published in the Appendices to the volumes.

Another separate category is made of the Soviet researchers of history of the revolutionary movement and the Stalinist legacy who worked at the Institute of Marxism in the middle of the last century and did a great job of organizing, translating and justifying his authorship for hundreds and hundreds of leaflets, newspaper articles and letters. Their numerous examinations and dozens of references are included in the scientific commentary and the Appendix.

It is natural that in some cases, it is not always possible to find the appropriate amount of reliable information on such persons, and it may not be so important. Ultimately, it is enough to indicate that the telegraph operators who accepted or sent Stalin’s telegrams were telegraph operators; for the authorized officials of the Chokprod – that they are the authorized ones, and so on. It gets worse when a person appears to have been in contact with Stalin on a business occasion, but the details of it, as well as of the contact person, cannot be found out.

A great variety of reference materials is involved in preparation of these Indices, starting with the specialized thematic card files available at RGASPI and GA Russian Federation, and ending with dozens of biographical reference books and indices of other academic publications. Information on a particular person that is extracted from there is cross-checked as much as possible and presented in a standardized form. And, I must say that the work on the name index starts before other activities as soon as another new text is ready on the table. This time-consuming and very demanding work requires not only perseverance and accuracy, but also considerable amount of time. A document could be yet in a stage when its dates are being refined and re-checked, its difficult-to-read handwritten fragments are being deciphered, its historical context and the need to prepare explanatory notes are being defined, and at this time, the already mentioned known, little known, or even unknown people caught by our vision are already being worked upon. And when the diverse texts that have been proofread, processed, and supplied with the necessary scientific apparatus are finally put together in a new volume as a result of months of work, the Name Index, which accounts for about 10% of the final volume, is basically ready.

And we have to admit that our efforts sometimes turn out to be insufficient to, as they say, “reach out” to each and every personality. Given the size of the entire publication and the resulting speed of preparation, we are sometimes forced, reluctantly, and as an exception, to go on and document the fact that the compilers lack sufficient information on a particular case. It is probable in some cases that deeper studies could have given the required information, but the compilers do not always have the necessary time and cannot delay the issue because of one or two unidentified individuals.

For example, in a letter written in Krakow on November 10, 1912 to Elena Vladimirovna Khoroshavina, Stalin makes a postscript: “Pass this paper to Smolensky and fraternity. Your Vasiliev.” (Stalin. Works. Vol. 5, p. 105.). Analysis of all the party aliases known at the time, as well as of potential Stalin’s recipients, unfortunately, did not allow to figure out who could be identified as “Smolensky”. The Indices had to provide a depressing “Smolensky – unidentified personality.” In course of the search, however, Alexander Trishin (a responsible member of the editorial team who works directly with the issue’s database of personalities) has forwarded a bold and handsome version that we decided to reflect in a footnote to the document:

Note. Attempts to find out who stands behind the nickname of “Smolensky” have failed. Perhaps, Stalin had in mind the teaching staff and the Bolshevik workers of the famous Smolenskaya (Kornilovskaya) Evening/Sunday School as to “Smolensky and fraternity”. At different times, N.K. Krupskaya, A.M. Kalmykov, L.N. Knipovich, sisters Z.P. and S.P. Nevzorova, E.A. Karavaeva and others taught and propagandized at this school. VI. Lenin also visited there to meet Nadezhda Konstantinovna. Smolenskaya School produced such revolutionary workers as I.V. Babushkin, P. S. Gribakin, brothers A.I. and F.I. Bodrov and others.

While in exile in Turukhansk, on May 20, 1914 Stalin wrote to G.E. Zinoviev (in fact, to the party centre abroad). The letter by the underground activist mentions many party comrades whose names, of course, are hidden behind aliases: these include VI. Lenin (Frey), N.N. Jordaniya (Kostrov), and N.K. Krupskaya (“N.”). At the very end of the letter (again at the end!), the following phrase appears: “Shaking your hand firmly. Where is Rold. I am now in good health.” (Stalin. Works. Vol. 6. p. 22). We will not bore the reader with the list of resources on the pre-revolutionary party history that we have delved into in search of the mysterious Rold. At some point, Vladlen Terentevich Loginov, a leading specialist on Lenin, drew our attention to the publication of notes by Nadezhda Krupskaya, the Secretary of “Iskra”, who was responsible for the party’s secret addresses and passwords during many years (Address Book of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (1912-1914).: Notebook by N.K. Krupskaya with the Russian addresses: Documents of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union // 1959. Historical archives. 1959. No. 1). In fact, they represent an encyclopaedia of the party aliases that have been deciphered by Soviet researchers almost entirely. Moreover, the “wanted” Rold apparently was not an “ordinary” comrade: a member of the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee inquired about him from Zinoviev. Needless to say, nothing like that exists in the records by Krupskaya. Generally speaking, no trace of this mysterious character could be found within three years of persistent searches. A thought even came: what if Koba was just teasing the police perusers with a fictional character: let them run around and search... As a result, another disappointing record comes out: “Rold – party alias; identity not established.”

After the February Revolution, Stalin left Achinsk, the place where he was in exile together with other Social Democrats, and returned to St. Petersburg to immediately get involved in the revolutionary struggle. On May 10 (23) 1917, he participated in a meeting of the St. Petersburg Committee of the party, which discussed the tactics for the upcoming municipal elections. The detailed record of the debate captures its speakers either by name and patronymic (“comrade Sergey” – S.Y. Bagdatyev, “comrade Gleb Ivanovich” – G.Y. Bokiy) or by last name (“Kharitonov”, “Zalutsky”, “Podvoisky”), or by the title of the organization represented (“the comrade from the Moscovsky district”, ”the comrade from the Latyshsky district”). And only three of them are noted by party aliases: “Uncle” – .M.J. Latsis, a certain “Milts” and “R.Sh.” (Stalin. Works Vol. 6. P. 137). Needless to say that our search for the mysterious Milts and R.Sh. ended up just as was the case with the notorious Rold. The best that we could assume (and here again, A. Trishin’s resourcefulness has manifested itself) is that “Milts” comes as an abbreviation of the same Martyn Ivanovich LaTSis’s surname, name and patronymic...

Nevertheless, all these examples represent only a few exceptions. And anyone who takes a volume of “Stalin, Works” into one’s hands will be able to discover: at the end of the book, he will find succinct and accurate references for the hundreds and hundreds of persons referred to in the volume, with a complete listing of all the pages in which they appear. Enjoy your reading!


1. Citation from a Russian poem.

Subsequent to this being written more volumes of the Works of Stalin have beenpublished. Some of the materials of Stalin on the national question in relation tothe October revolution were translated and published in the previous issue of Revolutionary Democracy.

Click here to return to the April 2018 index.