The book in your hands is an investigation of the conspiracies of the 1930s in the USSR. These conspiracies led directly to the so-called "Ezhovshchina" of 1937-1938, dishonestly called "the Great Terror." They changed forever the history of the Soviet Union and indeed of the world.
We also present an investigation of the historiography of these conspiracies. As we prove, most of what is written about the conspiracies of the 1930s is wrong. Worse: most of it is fraudulent, deliberately dishonest.
An immense number of primary sources about these events still reside in Russian government archives. The vast majority of them are still top-secret. Only a small number have been released, usually to privileged researchers who are complicit in constructing and maintaining a fraudulent account of the events of this period. Some primary documents of especial importance are, it appears, not even available to those researchers who can be trusted to repeat dishonest, anticommunist lies.
Yet no system of censorship or classification is perfect. Two decades after the end of the Soviet Union many primary documents have been published, almost always for reasons that remain a mystery. Enough primary source material has been released that, by carefully gathering and studying it, we can see at least the general contours of what really happened. In some cases we can discern much more. It is clear that the evidence is incompatible with the false, official history.
The Opposition conspiracies of the 1930s are among the most heavily falsified subjects in Soviet history. Mainstream historians, virtually all of them anticommunists, continue to simply deny that these conspiracies existed at all. They are wrong. These conspiracies did exist. The primary source evidence now available confirms the account of these conspiracies in the public Moscow Trials is an accurate one. The essays in this volume examine key events and primary documents concerning these events.
These opposition conspiracies of the 1930s culminated in NKVD investigations and arrests, the three public Moscow Trials of August 1936, January 1937, and March 1938. They were the immediate cause of the explosion of massive repressions of 1937 and 1938 known as the "Ezhovshchina", or "Great Terror." It would be hard to imagine a more important set of historical events.
A number of the essays in this book deal with the activities of Nikolai Bukharin. This is not because we, the authors, have any special interest in Bukharin, but because more primary documentary evidence concerning Bukharin has become public. This can be attributed to the interest in Bukharin shown by Nikita Khrushchev and, a generation later, by Mikhail Gorbachev. And that may be due to the fact that Lenin once called Bukharin the "Party’s favorite." It appears likely that, in insisting that Bukharin was innocent, Khrushchev and Gorbachev were trying to hide behind Lenin’s prestige. In effect, they were saying that Lenin could not have been so mistaken; the man "our Il’ich" called "the Party’s favorite" could not have been guilty of such crimes.
Bukharin is the Moscow Trial defendant who has attracted the most attention, the "poster boy" for the claim – false, as we can now prove – that the Moscow Trials were a frame-up. Bukharin is the Moscow Trial defendant about whom we know the most, and about whom the anticommunist / anti-Stalin "scholars" from the "liberal" Stephen F. Cohen to the overt right-wingers, have focused on the most heavily.
Studying the documents around Bukharin’s case gives us an insight, a "window" into the network of anti-government conspiracies and the Moscow Trials. Documents declassified and published concerning Bukharin and his interactions with other political figures, when put together with other documents released independently, allow us to understand the broad outlines of the opposition conspiracies against the Soviet government and Party leadership.
In one of the present essays we show that Bukharin and the "Rightist" conspirators were linked to Ezhov’s campaign of massive repressions of innocent people. Bukharin had the power to stop the "Ezhovshchina." Yet not only did Bukharin choose not to do so – he explicitly approved of this campaign of repressions.
In another essay we prove, with the aid of a newly-discovered document still top-secret in Russia, that the "rehabilitation" of Bukharin by the Soviet Supreme Court in 1998 was fraudulent. The Procuracy and Supreme Court possessed evidence of Bukharin’s guilt but suppressed it and claimed that it proved his innocence.
A third essay summarizes the documentary evidence against Bukharin. It demonstrates that Bukharin was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. All the available documentary evidence points towards his guilt. Bukharin’s testimony implicated all the other major defendants, including Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevskii and Leon Trotsky. Therefore, evidence of Bukharin’s guilt provides strong evidence inculpating all the others as well.
Part of the mythology of Bukharin’s supposed innocence is the story of his "last plea" to Stalin before his execution in March 1938. This story has met with almost universal acceptance among historians. We show that it is a crude falsification.
[NOTE: The following essay, on Pletnev, was omitted from the book by the publisher, under our protest, because of length.]
Another essay deals with Dr. D.D. Pletnev, one of the minor defendants in the March 1938 "Bukharin" Moscow trial. Once again, we have no special interest in Pletnev. We deal with him only because more primary documents about him have been released. This seems to be due to a special interest in "rehabilitating" Pletnev on the part of some in the Russian medical establishment. As a result of this interest somewhat more evidence concerning Pletnev has been released. A careful study of these documents proves that all the current historical accounts of his case are not only wrong, but deliberately falsified.
We also expose historical falsification by both professional historians and by the Gorbachev-era Soviet regime, falsifications continued under the current Russian government. We do this by a detailed critique of one representative text: the final chapter of Stephen F. Cohen’s biography of Bukharin. We demonstrate, with reference to primary source evidence now available, that virtually every statement Cohen made in that chapter is provably false. Moreover, we prove that Cohen suppressed evidence of Bukharin’s guilt that was available when he wrote.
Mainstream, respectable anticommunist historians have carried out their falsifications by a number of different means.
• In some cases historians have lied about the contents of documents which were still secret at the time. Subsequent publication permits us to see that the documents state something very different.
• In other cases historians have had access only to parts of documents which, in their entirely, remain secret. Yet these same historians have taken trouble to conceal from their readers the fact that they have not actually seen the entire document. When they are subjected to a careful examination, as we do in these pages, the partial disclosures, subterfuges, and examples of proven dishonesty reveal much about what they and government officials wish to keep hidden.
• Bias by omission is probably the most common means of falsification. Historians determined to convince their readers that no conspiracies really existed simply omit evidence that contradicts their conclusions. They rely on the fact that
o few of their readers are familiar with the primary source evidence and so will not know what evidence they have omitted;
o their fellow "mainstream" historians will not expose their deception, since they are motivated by the same propagandistic aims of duping their readers.
• Flagrant misreading of the texts is a common technique of deception by dishonest "mainstream" historians. In a kind of "ventriloquism" the historian claims that the primary source documents say what, in fact, he says that they say, rather than what a careful study of their text reveals that they really mean.
• Incompetence. These "mainstream" anticommunist historians almost never criticize each other’s research but instead praise each other in a kind of krugovaia poruka (= each one vouching for the other, and vice-versa).
Logically, without the benefit of criticism they should become sloppy in their work. So – it might be argued – at least some of their misreadings and omissions may be the result of simple incompetence.
If this were indeed the case we’d expect that some of those misreading would go against their preconceived conclusions.
However, our study shows that this almost never happens. Therefore we can confidently state that the falsifications we have found are the result not of carelessness or incompetence but stem from a deliberate attempt to deceive.
The broader conclusion of our study, therefore, is that none of contemporary anticommunist scholarship on the opposition conspiracies of the 1930s can be trusted. They are all party to a tacit agreement to denigrate, demonize, and falsify Soviet history of the Stalin period.
This itself is nothing new. Anticommunist historiography has always been about propaganda first, truth last. In Russia this trend began with Khrushchev’s falsehoods about Stalin and Beria in his infamous "Secret Speech" to the 20th Party Congress in February, 1956. Thereafter all historians in the USSR had to elaborate the Khrushchev "party line". This could only be done through falsification and misdirection, abetted by the Soviet government’s refusal to release the relevant documents. Khrushchev and his men prevented even Presidium members from seeing the archival evidence.
Anticommunist falsification in the West was greatly helped by the works published during Khrushchev’s period. Robert Conquest, inventor of the term "the Great Terror", was himself a professional propagandist for the British intelligence services. His book relied heavily on Khrushchev’s own lies and those of Khrushchev-era official historians, as well as on virtually any anticommunist or anti-Soviet works that had ever been published, regardless of origin. Conquest was followed by many others. We examine the essentially fraudulent nature of Khrushchev-era historiography in the essay on Stephen F. Cohen’s biography of Bukharin.
Under Gorbachev the level of officially-sponsored Khrushchev-style historical falsifications resumed and, indeed, intensified. When the USSR came to an end this officially-sponsored wave of historical falsification simply continued. It remains by far the dominant school of historiography in Russia today. Outside of Russia it is the only school that is tolerated at all.
It is difficult to find employment as a professional historian in Russia today unless one is an anticommunist and, especially, an anti-Stalinist. But it is simply impossible in the West. There are no Iurii Zhukovs, Artem Martirosians, or Iurii Emel’ianovs in the West. The same is true in former Soviet states like the Baltics and Ukraine, and in the former Soviet satellite countries like Poland.
A special case in point is that of Trotskyist historians who claim to be both communists and Marxists but who, of course, are harshly anti-Stalin. The works of Vadim Rogovin are widely quoted by inveterate anticommunist historians. The adherents of an irrational cult, Trotskyists can and do find employment as professors of Soviet history and publish in academic journals and with academic publishers.
When Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué died a few years ago Bernhard Bayerlein, a ferociously anticommunist and anti-Stalinist, wrote him an appreciative obituary. The Isaac Deutscher Prize went to Trotskyist Kevin Murphy in 2005. Deutscher himself went from being an active Trotskyist to professor at Cambridge University; his most famous work is a dishonest and reverential biography of Trotsky. Hillel Ticktin, one of the world’s leading Trotskyist intellectuals, taught for many years until his retirement at the University of Glasgow. The journal he helped to found, Critique, is an avowedly Trotskyist journal and is published by Taylor & Francis, a major publisher of academic journals in the U.K. Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, is on the "Advisory Board."
It is no exaggeration, but a fact, that the truth about the Opposition conspiracies in the USSR is actively suppressed by the historical establishment both inside and outside Russia. The present book represents an objective investigation into these conspiracies, one that bases itself on the primary evidence now available. It also exposes and repudiates the falsifications about Soviet history that mainstream historiography both inside and outside Russia continues to perpetrate.
Not "Stalinist" but Objective
Because the book is really about the Moscow Trials, the Opposition conspiracies, and historical falsehoods about them, it is also about Stalin. Because in historiography, in the media, and in the popular consciousness too, all the complex matters of the conspiracies of the 1930s are "reduced" to "Stalin", this work will be called "Stalinist."
In reality it is nothing of the sort. It is an attempt to discover the truth about events of great importance for Russian history and for that of the entire world. If, in the minds of those who are capable of objectivity, the results of these studies tend to "rehabilitate" Stalin, they do so only in that they refute falsehoods. The refutation of falsehood and the discovery of the truth is not apologetics, nor is it "Stalinism". It is the duty of any historian – a duty which in the words of Hamlet "is more honor’d in the breach than in the observance."
From those of you, our readers, who are interested in learning the truth, even at the price of having to question your preconceived ideas, we ask your criticism. We take full responsibility for everything in this book. We will be very grateful to all those who inform of us of any errors of documentation and reasoning.