Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Uncle, the Bolshevik - Purged in 1937?

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the anti-communism will be running rampant to degrade one of the crucial events in the 20th century. You might get the impression that Russia was better off under the Czar or that China was in better shape pre-Mao vs the totally dismembered nation over the 100 years before Mao (I did study modern Chinese history) - or that Cuba under the gangster Batista dictatorship was better off before Castro. Honest examinations of these nations would give some balance to the march of history.

Personally, some memories are floating around my head as I feel a special connection to the Russian Revolution due to my mom's older brother having left home to join the people who made the Revolution - probably many years before the revolution itself.

I was a history major and also collected 24 credit towards an MA in history so I studied the Revolution -- mostly from an anti- point of view but also from a balanced point of view --- there are always nuanced ways of looking at things. But my uncle was often on my mind

My mother came from a small village - Cernicke* - near Pinsk in Belarus.

* Correction - - I didn't have this correct - thanks to Jonathan Halabi for doing some research and finding this info: Sernyky, Rivnens'ka oblast, Ukraine, 34052 -- which he says is just over the border from Pinsk in what is now Poland. I remember my mom used some Polish words but mostly the family used Yiddish, which I was fairly fluent in as a little kid since my grandma only spoke that - she died when I was 10 and I quickly lost the language.

She came to this country in 1920 at the age of 15. Her older sister had come here in 1912. They brought the younger sister and their parents over in the 1920s. There were 7 sisters, some of whom did not survive the holocaust - and one brother -- the eldest. My mother barely knew him since he had left home to join in the revolutionary activities though I'm not sure when -- my mom's dad was orthodox and I can imagine some conflict.

He changed his name and then disappeared from family history. One of my mom's sisters went east when the Nazis came and lived in Russia until the 1960s before she moved to Israel. Her children - my cousins - still live there. But there was no news about my uncle.
Other than one snippet -- someone connected to the family claimed to have seen him in 1936/7 and said he was running the library system or maybe in charge of a library in Moscow and said he pretty much was a dead man due to the purges of the old Bolsheviks by Stalin.

The family had a wonderful photo of him in some kind of uniform - tall and very good looking and when my dad died 5 years ago I took all the photos and stored them in the basement. Then came Sandy and I lost them all. I so wish I had that photo as I would love to track down who he was.

When I became a leftist in the 70s family members used to say I took after him.

There are a couple of interesting pieces worth reading.

A long one on Stalin - volume 2 of his bio was just published -- a more balanced view trying to put Stalin in the overall context of the Revolution vis a vis Lenin and Trotsky.

This article in Tuesday's NY Times, definitely not nuanced, caught my eye and reminded me of my uncle was could have been one of the old Bolsheviks purged in the 1937-8 Stalin purges.
An estimated 750,000 people were executed during the height of the Great Terror, in 1937 and 1938, but the victims number in the millions when the labor camps, forced collectivization, famine and other horrors are taken into account. Confronting the harrowing legacy of government repression, especially the labor camps, has long been a contentious issue. Those who want a full vetting of the crimes of the past argue that the future will be hobbled without a thorough reckoning. Opponents call the subject too divisive and say it is best forgotten. They include, in particular, members of the Communist Party and a growing number of people who consider the bloody purges under Stalin a necessary if harsh means needed to modernize the country.

Critics Scoff as Kremlin Erects Monument to the Repressed


  1. You should move to North Korea

    1. Anonymous 4:07am
      Clearly you need to broaden your horizons to become less American backward and ignorant, yes ignorant.

  2. Stalinism lives with Kim Jong Un.

  3. The Russians aren't officially commemorating the Revolution. They want to put the nightmare that killed tens of millions of people behind them.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.