What traitor did Lenin kill?

Background current

After the Bolshevik seizure of power on September 5, 1918, Leninist People's Commissars ordered the "Red Terror" through camp detention and shootings. It was the beginning of a hitherto unprecedented wave of systematic violence against those who think differently.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on August 28, 1918 as a speaker at the "First All-Russian Congress" (& copy picture-alliance)

Moscow on August 30, 1918. The Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, alias "Lenin", had just left an arms factory when two bullets hit him in the chest and shoulder. But Lenin survived the attack. The Social Revolutionary Fanny Kaplan was arrested as an alleged assassin. She was carrying a revolver from which no shot had been fired. During an interrogation by the "CheKa" secret police, she admitted the act, because Lenin was a "traitor", he had "distorted the idea of ​​socialism". Four days later, she was executed without trial in the Alexander Garden of the Kremlin.

Also on August 30, 1918, the head of the CheKa, Moissei Urizki, was killed in an assassination attempt in St. Petersburg, then known as Petrograd.

Russia was at this time in a civil war: Troops of the White Army, which was composed of many groups, and also insurgent socialists fought the communist Bolsheviks' absolute claim to rule. At the same time, Germany had occupied large parts of western Russia from February 18, 1918 as part of "Operation Faustschlag" and promoted independence efforts in countries such as Poland and the Ukraine. Mismanagement in the parts of the country still under Bolshevik control also led to dissatisfaction and hunger among workers and peasants.

The "Red Terror": Shootings and Concentration Camps

The Bolsheviks felt that they were in danger from all sides. Now they are using the August 30 attacks as a pretext for an arbitrary violent offensive. First of all, the "All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the Soviets" (VCIK) passed a resolution stating:

"... the workers and peasants will respond to the white terror of the enemies of the workers 'and peasants' power with a red mass terror against the bourgeoisie and their agents." Based on this resolution, a "Resolution of the Council of People's Commissars on Red Terror" was passed on September 5, 1918. This marked the beginning of a hitherto unprecedented wave of violence against all dissenting forces. Camp detention and the death penalty, usually shooting, became standard punitive measures.

Literally it was decreed:

"After listening to the report of the Chairman of the Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution, the Council of People's Commissars agreed that (...) it is immediately necessary to ensure the security of the hinterland by means of terror; (...) that it is necessary to free the Soviet republic from class enemies, which is why they are to be isolated in concentration camps. All persons who are related to White Guard organizations, conspiracies and insurrections are to be shot. "[1]

"Iron dictatorship of the working people"

Terror by marauding supporters from all camps had existed long before the decision of the Council of People's Commissars was announced. Political murders, mass excesses and rape had already occurred since the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917. In the course of the October Revolution, however, the death penalty was abolished as a legal punishment.

Under Lenin, ruthless treatment of political opponents became legitimate again. On April 23, 1918, he gave a speech in the Moscow Soviet in which he proclaimed an "iron dictatorship of the working people". The "most difficult and hardest time in the life of our revolution" has begun. So far the Soviet power has shown "insufficient determination in the fight against the counterrevolution". By this time the Bolsheviks had gotten on the defensive in the civil war.

One of the first prominent victims of the newly flared up terror was naval officer Alexei Shchastny, arrested in May 1918. After the advance of German army units on Tallinn, the latter had organized the "ice march" of the Baltic fleet to Kronstadt. Through the concentrated use of icebreakers, almost all ships of the former Tsarist Baltic Sea fleet could be brought under the control of the Bolsheviks. This made the officer popular among the population. A short time later he fell out with the then People's Commissar for War, Leon Trotsky. Shchastny was accused of driving a rift between the navy and the Soviet government and thus pursuing counter-revolutionary aspirations. He was shot on July 22, 1918.

At the beginning of August 1918, weeks before the assassination attempt on Lenin, the Soviet leader ordered "large-scale house searches" for the city of Nizhny Novgorod, where he feared an uprising. "For possession of weapons: shootings. Mass evacuation of Mensheviks and unreliable persons," Lenin described the sentence on August 9 in a letter to the Soviet chairman in Nizhny Novgorod. Almost at the same time, the first concentration camps for imprisoning alleged opponents were set up near the city in Arzamas and Murom.

Torture and brutal murders by the CheKa

After the decision of September 5, 1918, the terror system got. The CheKa State Security played a special role. The secret police had already been established in December 1917. Its leader was the Polish-Russian professional revolutionary Felix Dzerzhinsky until 1922.

Under the direction of Dzerzhinsky, the CheKa carried out mass arrests and arbitrary shootings. Their torture methods were particularly cruel: in the worst historically documented cases, people were skinned alive, impaled or stoned.

The CheKa could target anyone and not just supposed "insurgents" or "counterrevolutionaries": all those who were not willing to support Lenin's new policy were tortured and murdered: clericals and aristocrats, large farmers (they were here for the first time Called "kulaks") and supporters of other socialist currents, intellectuals and the "ordinary" citizens starving because of the war economy.

For the first four years of the "October regime" (1918-1922), historians estimate 280,000 fatalities. Only with the brief introduction of the "New Economic Policy" in March 1921 did this phase of the "Red Terror" calm down, albeit only temporarily.

"Counter-revolutionary traitors to the fatherland" - Lenin's "Paragraph 58"

The violent repression of the civilian population through terrorist measures in the Soviet Union, which was founded in 1922, later became a key characteristic of the totalitarian dictatorship of Josef Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1953. Terror was arbitrarily carried out under him. As one of the foundations, Lenin had already formulated a draft for Section 58 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Republic in May 1922. This provided for the death penalty for political crimes such as "treason".

The corresponding law came into force in 1927. In 1934, Paragraph 58 was tightened: According to this, people could be executed as "counter-revolutionaries" because of the accusation of "treason" which had been rather vague until then, and family members of deserting soldiers could be sentenced to forced labor.

The "Red Terror" initiated under Lenin and the Paragraph 58 drafted by him thus became an important prerequisite for the Stalinist purges.

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