“Vladimir Lenin, devoted to you.” Rare and banned books from the Soviet times were brought to Ulyanovsk

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From April 12 in the Exhibition Hall of the House-Museum VI Lenin opened the exhibition “Pages of the history of socialist thought. A Rare Socialist Book: From Russian Populists to Stalin’s Parade Albums “, dedicated to the 152nd anniversary of the birth of VI Lenin and the 100th anniversary of the formation of the USSR. The exposition is antique books by collector Anatoly Dmitriev.

He once lived in Ulyanovsk, was an active party activist and headed the Ulyanovsk Komsomolets newspaper, and later moved to Moscow. Now the son of Anatoly Petrovich, Alexander, is replenishing the collection of books. The library exhibition became a kind of gift to the people of Ulyanovsk from Anatoly Petrovich Dmitriev to Lenin’s April days and May holidays.

The owner of the books, collector Anatoly Dmitriev, told Narodnaya Gazeta about the uniqueness of the exposition.

– First of all, the uniqueness of the exhibition is that many of the exhibits for various reasons have survived in single copies. These are books of “enemies of the people” that were withdrawn from public circulation and destroyed, or pre-revolutionary illegal literature or gift editions of the first years of Soviet rule, which were originally published in limited editions. Such books and brochures are usually in special repositories and are not on display to the general public. I exhibit my books under glass – some copies are so fragile that they fall apart when touched.

– Maybe you will name the oldest edition presented at the exhibition?

– “Historical Letters” by Peter Lavrovich Lavrov were published in 100 copies in St. Petersburg in 1870 under the pseudonym “Mirtov”. The book was written in exile in the city of Totma, where Colonel, philosopher and historian Lavrov agreed to meet and correspond with Nikolai Chernyshevsky. A few months after the publication of the Historical Letters, Lavrov, the greatest ideologue of populism, escaped exile. By the end of the year, he settled in Paris, where he began associating with various socialist groups and became acquainted with Marx and Engels. Moreover, he advises Karl Marx on the “Russian question.”

– The modern market of antiques puts forward certain requirements to rare editions. How valuable are Alexander Potresov’s books? And what does the author have to do with Vladimir Ilyich?

– Alexander Nikolaevich Potresov – from the group of three so-called “young” exiles, who in 1900 were released from exile: Lenin – from Shushensky, Potresov – from Vyatka, Martov – from Starukhani. This triumvirate of the “young” meets in exile with a group of “old men” – Georgy Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich and Pavel Axelrod – and begins to develop a plan to create a future Marxist newspaper, called “Spark”. It is Alexander Nikolayevich who is the character of probably Lenin’s most unusual article, which is uncharacteristic of Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich wrote quite dryly in most cases, but he has the brightest work “How did Iskra almost go out?”. A brilliant article in which Lenin literally complains about Georgy Valentinovich Plekhanov and constantly repeats the phrase “this is a bad man.” The word “bad” is repeated five times. It is interesting that Vladimir Ilyich addresses Alexander Nikolayevich Potresov with bitter words of disappointment in Plekhanov, with whom they walk around Lake Geneva, get angry at Georgy Valentinovich, gnash their teeth, but can do nothing. It is very interesting to read. Unfortunately, at the second congress of the RSDLP Potresov and Lenin quarreled. It is known that Vladimir Ilyich, having lost a political ally, immediately broke with him all sorts of relations, including personal, so with Potresov, they became the worst enemies. And Alexander Nikolayevich is the founder of what later became known as “right Menshevism”, although he still remained a Social Democrat. The exhibition presents two of his works: “Studies on the Russian Revolution” (1906) and “Social Democratic Movement in Russia”. The second book was published after Lenin’s death. The Politburo allowed Potresov to leave the country in exchange for providing Lenin’s Institute with Lenin’s letters from Alexander Nikolayevich. Through the director of the Marx-Engels Institute, David Ryazanov, permission was obtained to publish some of Potresov’s documents in the USSR. This is how this unique publication appeared, the collection was co-edited by the famous Menshevik Boris Nikolayevsky, who in a few years will take part of Marx’s archive out of storage a few hours before the storming of the Social Democratic Party’s office by Hitler’s stormtroopers.

– Georgy Plekhanov’s books are presented at the exhibition. Krupskaya wrote that Lenin had a passion for Plekhanov… But why did misunderstandings arise between them as well?

– Georgy Valentinovich, of course, is a correspondent of Marx, the one who introduced many Marxist terms into circulation, because Marxism of Plekhanov’s time is German-speaking. Most Marxist terms do not exist in Russian. And Plekhanov is important because he compiled the first Marxist vocabulary dictionary. Without Plekhanov, we would not be able to operate with these terms. Plekhanov was not the first to translate the Communist Manifesto, but he had one of the best translations.

It is clear that Plekhanov was Lenin’s teacher, but their paths diverged politically in 1903 at the Second Congress of the RSDLP. After that, Plekhanov and Lenin began to exchange obscene letters, where Vladimir Ilyich wrote not “devoted to you,” but “Vladimir Lenin, devoted to you.” This once again shows how sensitive Lenin was. Plekhanov began publishing a factional pamphlet, The Social Democrat’s Diary. She is at the exhibition.

“From Geneva?”

– Yes, he lived in Geneva, on Candol Street. Actually, this issue came to us from Kandol Street.

– Alexander, 1922 is significant for the creation of the Soviet Union. Are there any publications of that period at the exhibition?

– There are several books. For Ulyanovsk, I think the author of one of them will be interesting. This is Volodarsky. He has no name, he is V. Volodarsky. In fact, his real name is Moses Holstein. Ulyanovsk has a huge district and a plant named after him, although Volodarsky has never been here. And a logical question: who is Volodarsky after all? And this is the head of the propaganda department of Petrograd. He is a very important character for Lenin, because Volodarsky is an absolutely devoted, knowledgeable man. We must understand that this was a time of mass events, rallies. Russia in its mass could not read newspapers, more than 80% of the population was illiterate, so the only way to convey information was through interpreters who will tell the essence of the problem to the masses. In this sense, Volodarsky was an ideal character. He is a man of small stature with horn-rimmed spectacles, but he had, like Jacob Sverdlov, a thunderous voice who could subdue the crowd, tame it, and retell complex things in a language understood by ordinary people. Volodarsky was shot dead in 1918. A brochure with his speeches is presented at the exhibition. It was published in 1922.

The year 1922 is also significant for the creation of the post of Secretary General. Lenin understood that he was in a bad state. In April of the 22nd year, he had his first stroke. Vladimir Ilyich loses his ability to work for a while. He sees political games beginning. Yes, as long as Lenin was in power, he controlled everything. It was impossible to challenge him. But people saw that he was weakening, and so Lenin resigned as secretary general. Joseph Stalin was appointed to it.

PS Alexander Dmitriev promised to bring to Ulyanovsk another part of the collection, which will include brochures on discussions about autonomy, that is, how the USSR was created. I hope we will find out at the end of the year who will have the debate with whom and whose victory it ended, when we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Soviet Union.


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