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- By Sean — 11 years ago
I’m currently writing a chapter about expulsions in the Komsomol. The section I’m writing at the moment concerns denunciations. I thought I would share the following denunciation letter from 37 Komsomols from a cell in Chernishevsky school in Nizhny Novgorod in 1926.
To the Komsomol Bureau.
From the Nizhny Novhorod cell from the Chernishevsky School
We ask the Bureau VLKSM to take immediate measures to liquidate hooliganism which is observed in this cell. At night this cell holds drunken parties (this happened in March) of both sexes, after which the guys badger girls with propositions about a ‘sexual encounter.’ The majority of girls agree, but those who don’t are sent packing from the cell. [Members] from the city raikom come to these evenings and assemble an equal number of boys and girls. Many girls are pregnant and as a result live poorly. This group [that is those who wrote this appeal] of Komsomols left this organization and send you an appeal for the rapid cessation of this hooliganism, to shut down the cell and place its main offenders on trial. We state this summarily so that it will reach you.
For this reason we ask that a commission be rapidly sent to investigate this incident.
This appeal was written by a group of 37 Komsomol members.
May 27, 1926
- By Sean — 8 years ago
Just after taking the throne in the spring of 1855, Alexander II convened a meeting of his ministers to assess the state of Russia, and in particular, its participation in the Crimean War. Unlike under previous Tsars, several of the “enlightened bureaucrats” didn’t hold their tongues and provided the newly minted Emperor an honest appraisal of the Empire. Among them was this unnamed Finance Ministry official, who gave the following assessment of the Imperial system:
“Nowhere is there so much and at the same time so little centralization as there is in Russia. On the one hand the ministries have arrogated to themselves the virtually exclusive right to decide all matters, but at the same time there is not the slightest link between the separate ministries. Everyone’s perpetual concern to safeguard himself against having to take legal responsibility necessitates a fearful expenditure of effort, paper, ink, and time, slows down the transaction of business, removes from the provincial and district agencies all the feelings of independence, and teaches them to act surreptitiously if at all. It goes without saying that all this stops short at the people, who have been abandoned to the authorities’ exploitation.”1
I couldn’t help but note the resonance this passage has for Russia today.
1 David Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction of Reform, 1801-1881, Longman, 1992, 209.
- By Sean — 11 years ago
When I was in Russia last October I met a woman named Alexandra in the Komsomol archive. Last year, I wrote about how she was researching “Komsomol capitalism” for an article she was writing for Der Spiegel.
One of the things I didn’t mention was her claim that her father, who turns out to be Lev Besymenski, had been one of the Russian officers to search Hitler’s bunker. Like many Russians, he took souvenirs back with him. But Besymenski didn’t simply grab cutlery and other trinkets. He took something closer to his passion: music. More specifically, 100 shellac specimens from Hitler’s private record collection.
Alexandra claimed that one summer she stumbled upon a collection in their dacha’s attic. The collection consisted of classical and opera music by Russian and Jewish composers. I remember who she expressed disgust at the at Hitler’s hypocrisy at being a fan of those he considered subhuman. I didn’t know what to think of this story at the time (In addition to the Hitler record story, she also said that she was friends with Condoleezza Rice among other things). Frankly, I didn’t know whether to believe her or not. To be polite and for the sake of interesting conversation, I went with it and told her that these records were probably quite valuable. She seemed surprised that anyone would have any interest in these artifacts.
It turns out that Alexandra was telling the truth. Lev Besymenski died in June and Alexandra made the collection available to Der Spiegel for perusal. Here is what they found:
Hitler’s second passion, after architecture, was music. He went to the opera house almost daily during his time in Vienna to listen to the music of Beethoven, Wagner, Liszt or Brahms. But to him, only German music counted. Yet Besymenski’s collection astonishingly contains works by composers the Nazis considered “subhumans,” including Russian composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin and Sergei Rachmaninov. For example, the item with the inventory number “Führerhauptquartier 840” contains a recording by the Electrola company labeled “Bass in Russian with Orchestra and Chorus” — a recording of the aria “The Death of Boris Godunov” by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, sung by Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin.
Another album contains nothing but works by Tchaikovsky with solo performances by star violinist Bronislav Huberman, a Polish Jew. “I feel this is a sheer mockery of the millions of Slavs and Jews who had to die because of the racial ideology of the Nazis,” a stirred-up Alexandra Besymenskaya remarks today.
It just goes to show that you never know who’ll you’ll meet, let along hear, in a Russian archive.