No other Russian enjoys the solid political and popular backing of Aliexiev Rykov; he is the logical successor to Lenin.
Rykov is one of those "unknown-quantity" men which are in every government and every political party and who are on the "inside" of every government decision, men who silently assume more and more power but remain unknown to the press until some event brings them to the public attention. Rykov, although he has held for several years four of the most important posts in Russia, was never heard of in England or France or America until Lenin's illness brought to everyone's lips the question of who would be the next Premier. Rumor suggested Kaminev and Trotsky and numerous other Commissars. As Rykov himself explained to me, "none of these men could take Lenin's place for the very logical reason that they had held government posts which had nothing to do with the Premiership. It was like expecting one of your Secretaries of War or Navy to take your President's place in case your President died or fell ill." Rykov, happening to be vice-Premier, automatically became acting-Premier. (Under the Soviets this office is called Chairman of the People's Council of Commissars.)
Rykov's background is interesting and worth knowing, since he will be a figure of importance in Russia for a long time to come. He is fortyone years old and, aside from being Premier, he is vice-Chairman of the Council of Labor and Defense, Member of the Presidium of the All Russian Congress of Soviets and Member of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party.
He was born of a peasant family living in the province of V atka. His education was paid for by an elder sister who had married well. Because of revolutionary activities he was sentenced to Siberia and served seven years in solitary confinement. When he told me this, I was so astonished that I asked him to repeat it. It is a trial which would have broken almost any man; yet I think I never met a man with less "nerves" than Rykov has. By his manner and his good humor and his serenity, he resembles Lenin to a startling degree. It is rather amazing that Russia produced two men of the same type during the same period. That is one reason why the government machinery ran along so smoothly after Lenin stepped out.
Rykov has been in such close touch with ·Lenin in the last years that he almost anticipates Lenin's' decisions. He told me that for three years he has been sharing Lenin's work., When the Council of Labor and Defense was formed during the blockade, Lenin headed it and Rykov and Alexander Demietrievitch Tsurupa served with Lenin. They also shared Lenin's work on the Council of People's Commissars; and when Rykov was temporarily elevated to Lenin's office, Tsurupa was elevated to Rykov's. As Lenin grew stronger, after his operation, Rykov went to the country about once a fortnight to consult him on vital matters of state. It is his opinion that Lenin will soon be back in the Kremlin. But if Rykov's prediction does not prove true, Rykov himself will be able to guide, with a steady hand, the shifting fortunes of war-torn and famine-ridden Russia. I do not think he will go down in history as a great figure; he will probably be overlooked by history as has many another such unselfish and solid builder of empire, who worked always in the shadow of a greater man.