Leon Trotsky

Behind the Kremlin Walls


Source: New International [New York], Vol.5 No.3, March 1939, pp.70-74.
Translated: New International.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2004. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

EVEN FOR THOSE who are well acquainted with the protagonists and the situation, the latest events in the Kremlin are somewhat startling. I have felt this particularly clearly since the: news came that Yenukidze, old permanent secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, has been shot. Not that Yenukidze was a prominent figure. The statements in some of the papers asserting that he should be counted a “friend of Lenin” and a “member of the closed circle which ruled Russia” are inexact. Lenin had good relations with Yenukidze, but not better than with dozens of other people. Yenukidze was a second-class political figure, without personal ambitions, with a constant disposition to adapt himself to the situation; that is precisely why he seemed a candidate least indicated for execution. The calumnies of the Soviet press against Yenukidze began in a completely unexpected manner shortly after the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial. He was accused of immorality and of being in connection with the enemies of the people. What does the connection with “enemies of the people” mean? It is very likely that Yenukidze, a good-hearted man, attempted to come to the aid of the families of executed Bolsheviks. The “immorality” signifies an inclination for personal comfort, too high standard of living, women, etc. It is likely that there is a bit of truth in this. Nevertheless, things have gone far in the Kremlin, very far, if they have come to shooting Yenukidze. That is why it seems to me that the simple recital of the life of this man will enable a foreign reader to better understand what is happening behind the ramparts of the Kremlin.

Abel Yenukidze was a Georgian from Tiflis, like Stalin. The Biblical Abel was younger than Cain. Yenukidze on the contrary was older than Stalin by two years. At the time of his execution he was about sixty years of age. From his youth Yenukidze adhered to the Bolsheviks, a fraction of the sole social democratic party. In the Caucasus in the first years of the century a remarkable clandestine printshop was established which played not a slight role in the preparation for the first revolution (1905). In the operation of this printshop the brothers Yenukidze, “Red” Abel, and “Blacky” Simon, took an active part. The printshop was financed by Leonid Krassin, who was to become a remarkable Soviet administrator and diplomat. In those years the young talented engineer, not without cooperation of the young writer, Maxim Gorki, knew how to obtain money for the revolution from liberal millionaires of the type of Savva Morosov. From then on Krassin kept up friendly relations with Yenukidze: they called each other by their nicknames. It was from the lips of Krassin that I heard the Biblical name, “Abel,” for the first time.

In the hard period between the first and the second revolution, Yenukidze, like the majority of the so called “Old Bolsheviks,” wandered away from the party. I don’t know if it was for a long time. Krassin succeeded in becoming a prominent industrial businessman during these years. Yenukidze did not amass capital. At the beginning of the war he was sent into deportation, from whence in 1916 he was called into military service with the men forty years of age. The revolution brought him back to Petersburg. I met him for the first time in the summer of 1917 in the soldiers’ section of the Petersburg Soviet. The revolution aroused many old Bolsheviks, but they had a perplexed and unfriendly attitude toward Lenin’s program of taking power. Yenukidze was not an exception, but he behaved more cautiously and more expectantly than the others. He was not an orator, yet he knew the Russian language well and in case of necessity he could give a discourse with less of an accent than the majority of the Georgians, including Stalin. Personally, Yenukidze produced a very agreeable impression because of the mildness of his character, the absence of personal pretensions, his tact. To this we must add an extreme bashfulness; at the slightest occasion Abel’s freckle covered face became intensely red.

What did Yenukidze do in the days of the October insurrection? I don’t know. It is possible that he waited. In any case he was not on the other side of the barricades like Messrs. Troyanovsky, Maisky, Suritz – now ambassadors – and hundreds of other dignitaries. After the establishment of the Soviet régime, Yenukidze immediately entered into the Prsidium of the Central Executive Committee and became its secretary. It is very probable that this was done on the initiative of the first president of the Central Executive Committee, Sverdlov, who in spite of his youth understood people and knew how to put everybody in the right place. Sverdlov himself attempted to give to the Presidium a political importance, and friction even arose because of this between him and the Council of People’s Commissars, and particularly between him and the Political Bureau. After the death of Sverdlov in the beginning of 1919, a new president was elected – on my initiative, M.I. Kalinin, who has maintained himself in this post – the merit is not slight! – up until today. Yenukidze continued during all this time to remain as secretary.

These two figures, Mikhail Ivanovitch and Abel Safronovitch, incarnated the supreme Soviet institution in the eyes of the population. On the surface the impression was created that Yenukidze held a good part of the power in his hands. But this was an optical illusion. The fundamental legislative and administrative work was done through the Council of People’s Commissars under the leadership of Lenin. The principal questions, the discords, and the conflicts were resolved in the Political Bureau, which from the beginning played the role of a super-government. In the first three years, when all forces were directed toward the Civil War, through the march of events, an enormous power was concentrated in the hands of the military authority. The Presidium of the Central Executive Committee occupied a not very well-defined but in any case not independent place in this system. Yet it would be unjust to deny it any importance. At that time nobody feared to complain, to criticize, to demand. These three important functions: the demands, the criticisms, the complaints were addressed principally to the Central Executive Committee.

During the discussion of the questions in the Political Bureau, Lenin turned more than one time with amicable irony toward Kalinin: “Well, and what does the head of the State say about this subject?” It was not rapidly that Kalinin learned to recognize himself under this exalted pseudonym. Former peasant of Tver and worker of Petersburg, he stuck to his unexpectedly elevated post with sufficient modesty, and in any case, prudence. It was only little by little that the Soviet press built up his name and his authority in the eyes of the country. Indeed, the directing layer or a long time did not take Kalinin seriously, in reality does not take him seriously even now. But the peasant masses were progressively habituated to the idea that “solicitation” must be done through the intermediation of Mikhail Ivanovitch. This, moreover, was, not limited to the peasants. Former Czarist admirals, senators, professors, doctors, lawyers, artists, and not least, actresses were received by the “head of the State.” All had something to request: about the sons and the daughters, the requisitioned houses, the firewood for museums, the surgical instruments, even the securing of cosmetic materials from foreign countries needed for the theater. With the peasants Kalinin found the necessary language without difficulty. Before the bourgeois intelligentsia he was diffident during the first years. It was here that he was particular in need of the aid of Yenukidze, better educated and more worldly wise. In addition Kalinin traveled frequently; therefore at the receptions of the presidency he was replaced by the secretary. They worked together amicably. Both of them by character were opportunistic; the two always searched for the line of least resistance, and they adapted themselves well to each other.

In view of his high functions, Kalinin was placed on the Central Committee of the party and even among the candidates for the Political Bureau. Thanks to the extensiveness of his acquaintances and his conversations he brought to the meetings not a few valuable matter of fact observations. His proposals, it is true, were rarely accepted. But his considerations were heard not without attention and, in one way or another, taken into consideration. Yenukidze never entered into the Central Committee; neither, for example, did Krassin. These “Old Bolsheviks,” who in the period of reaction had broken with the party, were admitted during these years to posts in the Soviets but not in the party. In addition, Yenukidze, as has been said, never had political pretensions. With closed eyes he reposed confidence in the direction of the party. He was profoundly devoted to Lenin, with a nuance of adoration, and – it is necessary to say this in order to comprehend what follows – he was strongly attached to me. In the not numerous cases where Lenin and I differed, Yenukidze suffered profoundly. I can say, in passing, that many were like him.

Without playing a political role, Yenukidze occupied nevertheless an important place, if not in the life of the country, at least in the life of the directing summits. The fact is that in his hands was concentrated the housekeeping of the Central Executive Committee: from the cooperative of the Kremlin, products were delivered only on requisitions signed by Yenukidze. The importance of this fact became apparent to me only later, and moreover through indirect signs. I had passed three years at the front. During this time the new mode of life in the Soviet bureaucracy had commenced to form itself little by little. It is not true that in these years they swam in luxury in the Kremlin, as the White press affirmed. They lived in fact very modestly. However, the differences and the privileges had appeared already and accumulated automatically. Through his function, Yenukidze found himself, so to speak, at the center of these processes. Among many others, Ordjonikidze, who was then the first figure in the Caucasus took care that Yenukidze had in his cooperative the necessary quantity of products from the soil.

When Ordjonikidze was transferred to Moscow, his obligations fell, upon Orekhalachivili, whom everyone considered Stalin’s flunkey. To the Kremlin from the president of the Council of People’s Commissars of Georgia, Budu Mdivani, came wine of Kakhetia. From Abkhasia, Nestor Lakoba sent boxes of mandarins. All three: Orekhalachivili, Mdivani, and Lakoba, are now on the list of the executed. In 1919, I learned by chance that Yenukidze had wine in his warehouse and I proposed its prohibition. “This would be too severe,” Lenin told me, jokingly. I tried to insist: “If the rumor reaches the front that in Kremlin there is feasting I fear bad consequences.” The third one included in this conversation was Stalin. “How then can we Caucasians,” he protested, “get along without wine?” “You see,” rejoined Lenin, “you are not habituated to wine, but this would be an offense to the Georgians.” “Nothing can be done,” I replied, “if here at home the habits have reached such a degree of softening.” I think that this little dialogue, in a tone of badinage, characterizes, despite all, the habits of that time: a bottle of wine was considered a luxury.

In the same year, 1920, perhaps at the beginning of 1921, Kamanev, who was married to my sister, invited me by telephone to come to his house as I was then on one of my short trips to Moscow. I went to his place in the famous “White Corridor.”

One of the old servants of the Kremlin with a particular gesture of deference and familiarity which at once placed me on guard, opened the door to Kamenev’s apartment. At a large table, several dignitaries of the Kremlin were seated with their wives. On the table stood bottles and dainties coming, of course, from Yenukidze’s cooperative. From its appearance all this was at a petty bourgeois level, at most – middle bourgeois. But the general atmosphere of comfort repelled me. Without greeting anyone, I turned back, closed the door and started toward home. The servant this time had a slightly frightened and sober face. Our relations with Kamenev, which were very good in the first period after the insurrection, began to become more distant from that day. In justification for myself, I will say that I was not guided by some ridiculous puritanism but only by an immediate reaction: the affairs of the Civil War possessed me then completely and undividedly.

With the introduction of the so-called “New Economic Policy” (NEP), the habits of the directing layer began to change at a more rapid rhythm. In the bureaucracy itself a process of differentiation began. A minority continued living while in power at a level not any better than in the years of the emigration and paid no attention to this. When Yenukidze proposed some improvements to Lenin in his personal life, Lenin evaded him with the phrase: “No, the old slippers feel better.” From different corners of the country people sent him all sorts of local products, with the Soviet arms still freshly emblazoned. “They have sent some gewgaw,” complained Lenin; “we must forbid it! And why does the head of the State do nothing more than stare?” he asked, severely knitting his brows in the direction of Kalinin. The head of the State had already learned to twist out of the difficulty: “And why then have you gained such popularity?” Finally the “gewgaws” were sent to the children’s hospital or to the museum ... My family did not change its habitual manner of living in the Cavalier’s wing of the Kremlin. Bukharin remained at bottom an old student. Zinoviev lived modestly at Leningrad. Kamenev, in contrast, adapted himself rapidly to the new ways; in him at the side of the revolutionary had always lived a little voluptuary. Lunacharsky, People’s Commissar of Public Education, was even more rapidly caught in the stream. I am not inclined to believe that Stalin greatly changed his conditions of life after October. But at this period he scarcely entered into my field of view. Many others paid little attention to him. Only later when he had gained first place was I told, that by way of distraction, apart from the bottle of wine, he enjoyed cutting a sheep’s throat in his villa and shooting crows through the window. I am not able to ascertain the veracity of this story. In any case, in the arrangements of his personal life, Stalin depended in this period a great deal upon Yenukidze, who treated his fellow countryman not only without “adoration,” but also without sympathy, principally on account of his brutality amid his capriciousness; that is to say, those traits which Lenin had judged it necessary to mention in his “Testament.” – The lower personnel of the Kremlin, who particularly appreciated Yenukidze for his simplicity, affability, and equity, displayed toward Stalin on the contrary an attitude of extreme hostility.

My wife, who administered the museums and the historic monuments of the country for ten years, remembers two episodes in which Yenukidze and Stalin manifested very characteristic traits. In the Kremlin, as well as in Moscow and throughout the country, an incessant struggle was carried on for lodgings. Stalin wanted to change his, which were very noisy, for some more peaceful. The agent of the Cheka, Belenki, recommended some reception rooms in the Palace of the Kremlin. My wife opposed this: the Palace was preserved as a museum. Lenin wrote a long letter of remonstrance to my wife: we can take the furniture of the “museum” away from several of the rooms of the Palace; we can take particular measures for protecting the place, Stalin needs an apartment in which he can sleep tranquilly; in his present apartment we should place youths who can sleep even under the bombardment of cannon, etc. But the guardian of the museums would not yield to his arguments. Yenukidze placed himself at her side. Lenin named a commission for verification. The commission recognized that the Palace was not convenient for living. Finally, the affable and accommodating Serebriakov gave Stalin his apartment. Stalin shot him seventeen years later.

We lived in the Kremlin jammed together in an extremely crowded manner. The majority worked outside the walls of the Kremlin. Meetings ended at all hours of the day and of the night, and the rocket of automobiles kept us from sleeping. Finally, through the intermediation of the Prsidium of the Central Executive Committee, that is to say, Yenukidze, a rule was established: after eleven o’clock in the evening automobiles must stop under the arches where the living apartments began; from there Messrs. the dignitaries must advance on foot. The rule was announced under everyone’s personal signature. But one automobile continued to disturb the peace. Awakened at three o’clock one morning, I waited at the window for the return of the automobile and questioned the chauffeur. “Don’t you know the rule?” “I know, comrade Trotsky,” responded the chauffeur, “but what could I do? When we came to the arches comrade Stalin ordered: ‘Drive on’.” The intervention of Yenukidze was necessary to compel Stalin to respect the sleep of others. Stalin, we think, did not pardon his fellow countryman this petty affront.

A very abrupt change in the conditions of life of the bureaucracy appeared after the last illness of Lenin and the commencement of the campaign against “Trotskyism.” In all large-scale political struggles one can, in the final score, discover the question of the beefsteak. To the perspective of “permanent revolution” the bureaucracy opposed the perspective of personal well-being and comfort. Inside and outside the ramparts of the Kremlin a series of secret banquets were held. Their political aim was to rally the ranks of the “Old Guard” against me. It was during this epoch (1924) that Stalin, Dzerzhinsky, and Kamenev chatted intimately around a bottle of wine in a villa at Zubalov. To the question as to what each liked best in life, Stalin, slightly exhilarated, responded with unaccustomed frankness: “To choose your victim, to prepare everything, to revenge yourself pitilessly, and then to go to sleep.” This conversation was repeated more than once by Kamenev, after he had broken with Stalin. Kamenev awaited the worst from his old ally, but despite all he did not foresee the terrible vengeance Stalin had reserved for him after long preparation. As to whether Stalin slept well the night after the assassination of Kamenev, Zinoviev, and others, I do not know.

The arrangements of the banquets of the “Old Guard” reposed in great part upon Yenukidze. They no longer limited themselves to the modest wine of Kakhetia. It was during this period that, properly speaking, the “immorality” began which was imputed as a crime to Yenukidze thirteen years later. Abel himself was perhaps never invited to the intimate banquets where the knots of the plot were tied and reinforced. In truth he himself did not strive toward them, although generally speaking, he did not shrink from attending banquets. The struggle which was opened against me went against his grain, and he displayed it in all the ways he could.

Yenukidze lived in the same Cavaliers’ wing as we. An old bachelor, he occupied a little apartment, where in former times some second class functionary had his lodging. We met frequently in the corridor. He passed, weighed down, aging, guilty faced. My wife, me, our boys he greeted with a redoubled affability in contrast to the others. But politically Yenukidze followed the line of least resistance. He aligned himself with Kalinin. And the “head of the State” began to comprehend that the strength was now not in the masses, but in the bureaucracy and that the bureaucracy was against the “permanent revolution,” for the banquets, for the “happy life,” for Stalin. Kalinin himself by this time had succeeded in becoming another man. Not that he greatly completed his knowledge or deepened his political conceptions; but he had acquired the routine of the “statesman,” elaborated the particular style of an astute simpleton; he had ceased to lose countenance before the professors, the artists, and above all, the actresses. Little knowing of the behind the scenes life in the Kremlin, I learned of Kalinin’s new manner of life with great delay and, moreover, from a source completely unexpected. In one of the humorous Soviet revues, there appeared in 1925, as I remember it, a cartoon displaying difficult to believe (!) the head of the State in a very compromising situation. The resemblance left place for no doubt. Besides, in the text, very risqué in style, Kalinin was named by the initials, “M.I.” I could not believe my eyes. “What is this?” I asked several people close to me, among them Serebriakov. “That is Stalin giving a last warning to Kalinin.” “But for what reason?” “Surely not because he wishes to oversee his morality. It must be something in which Kalinin is offering opposition.” In reality, Kalinin, who knew recent events too well did not wish for a long time to recognize Stalin as chief. In other words, he feared tying his future to him. “This horse,” he said in a closed circle, “will some day drag our coach into the ditch.” It was only little by little, murmuring and resisting, that he turned himself against me, then against Zinoviev, and finally with yet more resistance against Rykov, Bukharin, and Tomsky, with whom he had been tied in the closest way through his moderate tendencies. Yenukidze followed the same evolution behind Kalinin, only more in the shadow, and certainly with more profound internal torments.

Because of his whole character, Yenukidze could not escape being found in the camp of Thermidor. But he was not a careerist and still less a scoundrel. It was difficult for him to detach himself from old traditions and yet more difficult to turn against the people whom he had been accustomed to respect. In critical moments, Yenukidze not only did not manifest any aggressive enthusiasm, but on the contrary, he complained, grumbled, resisted. Stalin knew this too well and more than one time gave Yenukidze warnings. I knew this, so to speak, first hand. Although ten years ago the system of denunciation had already poisoned not only political life but also personal relations, still many cases of reciprocal confidence were yet maintained. Yenukidze was a friend of Serebriakov, in his time a prominent militant of the Left Opposition, and quite often opened up his heart to him. “And what more does he (Stalin) want?” complained Yenukidze. “I do all that he demands of me, but that is not enough for him. Into the bargain he wants me to take him for a genius.” It is possible that Stalin had already placed Yenukidze on the list of those upon whom he should revenge himself. But since the list proved to be very long, Abel had to wait many years for his turn.

In the spring of 1925 my wife and I lived in the Caucasus at Sukhum, under the protection of Nestor Lakoba, widely known head of the republic of Abkhasia. He was (of all we must say: was) a very short man, moreover, almost deaf. Despite the special sound amplifier which he carried in his pocket, it was not easy to speak with him. But Nestor knew his Abkhasia and Abkhasia knew Nestor, hero of the Civil War, man of great courage, of great firmness, and of great practical sense. Mikhail Lakoba, younger brother of Nestor, was Home Minister of the small republic and at the same time my faithful bodyguard daring my stay at Abkhasia. Mikhail was (also: was) a young Abkhasian, modest and jovial, one of those in whom there is no artifice. I never engaged in political conversations with the brothers. Only once did Nestor say to me: “I do not see in him anything of note: neither intelligence, nor talent.” I understood that he spoke of Stalin, but I did not pursue the conversation.

That spring the regular session of the Central Executive Committee did not sit at Moscow, but at Tiflis in the country of Stalin and of Yenukidze. Confused rumors of the struggle between Stalin and the two other members of the triumvirate were bruited about. From Tiflis an airplane left unexpectedly with a member of the Central Executive Committee, Miasnikov, the assistant head of the GPU, Mogulevsky, and a third passenger, in order to see me at Sukhum. In the ranks of the bureaucracy the possibility of an alliance between Stalin and Trotsky was strongly whispered. In fact, in preparing himself for the break up of the triumvirate, Stalin wished only to frighten Zinoviev and Kamenev, who fell easily into panic. However, from a careless cigarette or from some other cause, the diplomatic airplane burst into flames in the air and the three passengers perished with the pilot. A day or two later another airplane came from Tiflis bringing two members of the Central Executive Committee to Sukhum, my friends, the Soviet Ambassador to France, Rakovsky, and the People’s Commissar of the Postal Service, Smirnov. The Opposition at this time already suffered from persecution. “Who gave you the airplane at Tiflis?” I asked with astonishment. “Yenukidze!” “How dared he do that?” “Apparently not without the authorities knowing about it.” My guests told me that Yenukidze was radiant, expecting a prompt compromise with the Opposition. However, neither Rakovsky nor Smirnov came on a political mission. Stalin, without tying himself in any way, was attempting only to spread illusions among the “Trotskyists,” and panic among the Zinovievists. However, Yenukidze, with Nestor Lakoba, hoped sincerely for a change of course and they raised their heads. Stalin never pardoned them. Smirnov was shot during the Zinoviev trial. Nestor Lakoba was shot without trial, evidently in view of his refusal to confess “open heartedly”. Mikhail Lakoba was shot on the verdict of a tribunal before which he had given fantastic accusing depositions against his brother already executed. What has happened to Rakovsky since his arrest is something that still remains unknown.

In order to tie Yenukidze more strongly, Stalin introduced him into the Central Control Commission which was named to keep an eye on the party morale. Did Stalin foresee that Yenukidze himself would be accused of breaking this morale? Such contradictions in any case have never stopped him. It is sufficient to say that the old Bolshevik, Rudzutak, arrested upon the same accusations, was during the course of a number of years president of the Central Control Commission, that is to say, something like a high priest over the morals of the party and the Soviets.

Through the system of communicating channels, I knew in the last years of my Soviet life that Stalin had a particular archive, in which he collected documents, circumstantial evidence, libelous rumors against all the high Soviet functionaries without exception. In 1929 at the moment of open rupture with the members of the right wing in the Political Bureau (Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky), Stalin succeeded in maintaining Kalinin and Voroshilov at his side only through the threat of defamatory revelations. That is, at least, what my friends wrote to me in Constantinople.

In November, 1927, the Central Control Commission, with the participation of numerous representatives of the Control Commissions in Moscow, examined the question of the exclusion of Zinoviev, of Kamenev and of me from the party.

The verdict was determined in advance. At the Presidium sat Yenukidze. We did not spare our judges. The members of the Commission were ill at ease under the accusations. Poor Abel was overcome. Then into the scene entered Sakharov, one of the most hardened Stalinists, true gangster type, ready to do all the sordid work. Sakharov’s speech was filled with vulgar insults. I demanded that he be stopped. But the members of the Presidium who knew too well who dictated that speech, dared not do anything. I declared that I would have nothing to do with such an assembly and quit the room. After some time Zinoviev and Kamenev, whom some members of the Commission had tried to detain, joined me. A few minutes later in my apartment Yenukidze telephoned, begging me to return to the session. “How do you suffer the scum in the supreme institution of the party?” “Lev Davidovitch,” Abel implored me, “what importance has Sakharov?” “More importance than you, in any case,” I replied, “since he accomplishes what is ordered of him, and you, you wail.” Yenukidze stammered something indistinct, through which one could see that he hoped for a miracle. But I did not hope for a miracle. “You will not even dare to censure Sakharov?” Yenukidze became silent. “Will you not within five minutes vote for my exclusion?” A heavy sigh came as answer. It was my last discussion with Abel. Some weeks later I was already in deportation – in Central Asia, a year later in emigration in Turkey. Yenukidze continued to remain secretary of the Central Executive Committee. It must be confessed that I began to forget Yenukidze. But Stalin remembered him.

Yenukidze was removed several months after the assassination of Kirov, soon after the first Zinoviev-Kamenev trial when prison terms of “only” ten and five years respectively were meted out to them as allegedly ’morally” responsible for the terrorist act. There can be no doubt about the fact that Yenukidze, together with dozens of other Bolsheviks, tried to protest against the unfolding slaughter of Lenin’s Old Guard. What form did the protest take? Oh, far from a plot. Yenukidze argued with Kalinin, telephoned members of the Politburo, perhaps even Stalin himself. That was sufficient. As the secretary of the Central Executive Committee, Yenukidze was completely intolerable at the moment when Stalin placed his stake on the gigantic judicial frame up.

But Yenukidze was still too important a figure, enjoyed too many comradeships and too little resembled a conspirator or a spy (these terms at that time still preserved a shadow of meaning in the Kremlin vocabulary) for him simply to be shot without formality. Stalin decided to act in installments. The CEC of the Transcaucasian Federation – upon the secret order of Stalin – turned to the Kremlin with a petition that Yenukidze be “freed” from the obligations of secretary of the CEC of the USSR in order that it might be possible to elect him as president of the highest Soviet organ of Transcaucasia. This petition was granted at the beginning of March 1935. But Yenukidze had hardly succeeded in arriving in Tiflis before newspapers carried news about his appointment ... as the chief of the Caucasian health resorts. This appointment, bearing the character of mockery – completely in the style of Stalin – boded nothing good. Did Yenukidze actually manage the health resorts for the next two and a half years? Most probably he was simply under the surveillance of the GPU in the Caucasus.

But Yenukidze did not capitulate. The second Zinoviev-Kamenev trial (August 1936), which ended with the execution of all the defendants, embittered old Abel. The rumor that Yenukidze wrote the quasi-apocryphal Letter of an Old Bolshevik, which appeared abroad, is sheer nonsense. No, Yenukidze was incapable of taking such a step. But Abel was indignant, grumbled, perhaps cursed. That was very dangerous. Yenukidze knew too much. It became necessary to act resolutely. Yenukidze was arrested. The original accusation bore an obscure character: a licentious way of living, nepotism and so forth. Stalin worked in installments.

But Yenukidze did not capitulate even then. He refused to make any kind of “confession” which would have allowed him to be included in the list of defendants of the Bukharin-Rykov trial. A defendant without voluntary confessions is not a defendant. Yenukidze was shot without trial – as a “betrayer and enemy of the people”. Lenin who was able to foresee much did not foresee such an end for Abel.

The fate of Yenukidze is the more instructive in that he himself was a man without striking traits, more a type than a personality. He fell victim to his belonging to the Old Bolsheviks. In the life of his generation there had been a heroic period: the clandestine printshops, the skirmishes with the Czarist police, the arrests, the deportations. 1905 was, fundamentally, the highest point in the orbit of the “Old Bolsheviks”, who in their ideas did not go much further than the democratic republic. To the October revolution these people, already worn out by life and fatigue, adapted themselves in their majority, reluctantly. On the other hand with more assurance they began to find places in the Soviet apparatus. After the military victory against the enemies it seemed to them that now they had before them an existence peaceful and without care. But history deceived Abel Yenukidze. The principal difficulties were before him. In order to assure to the millions of big and little functionaries their beefsteak, their bottle of wine, and other good things, a totalitarian régime happened to be necessary. It is doubtful that Yenukidze – not at all a theoretician – deduced that the autocracy of Stalin follows from the thirst of the bureaucracy for comfort. He was simply one of the instruments of Stalin in the consolidation of the new privileged caste. The “immorality” which was imputed to him as a crime, constituted in reality an organic element of the official politics. It was not because of this that Yenukidze perished, but because he could not go to the end. For a long time he suffered, submitted, and adapted himself. But he arrived at a limit where he found himself unable to step beyond. Yenukidze did not plot or prepare terrorist acts. He simply lifted his graying head with dread and despair. He recalled perhaps the old prediction of Kalinin: Stalin will drag us all into the ditch. He probably recalled the warning of Lenin: Stalin is disloyal and abuses power. Yenukidze tried to stop the hand which was levelled at the heads of the Old Bolsheviks. This was sufficient. The chief of the GPU received the order to arrest Yenukidze. But even Henry Yagoda, cynic and careerist, who had prepared the Zinoviev trial, drew back from this mission. Yagoda was then replaced by the unknown Yezhov who was tied by nothing to the past. Without difficulty Yezhov placed under the Mauser all those whom Stalin indicated with the finger. Yenukidze discovered himself to be one of these. With him the old generation of Bolsheviks disappeared from the scene – he, at least, without self-humiliation.


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