1946 and 1947 were years of intense class struggle, and struggle against Fascist and Feudal remnants. Certain representatives of the Horthy administration had been allowed into the People’s Front, because they had turned against Germany at the very end. However, they were reactionaries and militarists. All kinds of reactionaries also tried to join the Smallholders Party. A struggle began to oust them from power. These reactionary elements had opposed the creation of the Republic, and the land-reform.
Right-wing historian Norman Stone writes that: “In March 1946 Voroshilov [as a representative of the Allied Commission] arrested two [Smallholder] deputies who had opposed the proclamation of a republic…” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 393)
In the eyes of the Allied Commission, these types of monarchist politicians could not be tolerated. There were some “pure monarchists” in Hungary, mainly among the clericals and nobility who wanted the Hapsburg monarchy to be restored, but most opponents of the Republic were Horthyite fascists.
The reactionaries also campaigned for land to be returned to the feudal estates and large land-owners. It was easy for the workers, peasants and democratic intelligentsia to unite against such a blatantly reactionary stance:
“On 7 March [1946-MLT] the Left Bloc [Communist Party, Social-Democrat Party, the National Peasant Party and trade-unions-MLT] held a mass meeting in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square. This was one of the biggest mass demonstrations since the liberation. Hundreds of thousands shouted the slogan: “Out with the enemies of the people from the coalition!” A sweeping majority of the proletariat living in the capital marched to Heroes’ Square, where they were joined by large masses of all the progressive strata of the population; all in all over 300,000 working people participated at the demonstration.” (Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, p. 110)
“The resolution adopted at the mass meeting stated that the parties defending democracy “are confronting the gathering of the reactionary forces with the power of the organized working masses and are ready fully to eliminate any right-wing actions”. In response to the attacks against the land reform, the statement declared: “Not an inch of land is to be returned!” It demanded that the Smallholders Party exclude reactionary elements from its ranks. At the same time, it welcomed the “manifesto of the progressive democrats of the Smallholders Party and welcomed the friendly hand offered in the joint struggle”.
The next day, the representatives of the Left Bloc submitted their demands to the leadership of the Smallholders Party… Four days later, the Smallholders Party executive issued a statement declaring that it accepted the demands and it would exclude twenty right-wing parliamentary representatives from the membership of the party.” (Nemes, p. 111)
Or in the words of right-wing historian Norman Stone:
“Communists…set up a left-wing bloc, with the Social Democrats, the trade unions and the National Peasants’ Party, which with street demonstrations early in 1946, demanded the expulsion of… twenty Smallholder deputies as reactionaries. The Smallholder government might have resisted, but the party was not united [the Smallholder left sided with the left Bloc-MLT]” (Stone, pp. 393-394)
Stone gives the impression that he wishes the Smallholders had really stood their ground, and given uncompromising support to these Horthyite reactionary elements, which is a testament to how anti-communist he is.
Other demonstrations were also organized:
“In the demonstrations against the “speculators and stockjobbers,”… organized by the way under the insignia of the Leftist Bloc… there were easily 100,000 persons, if not more.” (Miklos Molnar, A short history of the Hungarian Communist Party, p. 111)
“the number of marchers arriving at communist gathering places was usually two to three times as large as at the gathering places of the SZDP.” (Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)
“In many places, the MKP organized the SZDP, in some places even the FKGP, not to mention the Peasant Party.” (Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)
The communists did this in order to support the Popular Front of the 4 parties. This is a good indication of the fact, which has also been pointed out by many others, that the communists were clearly the leading political force in the country.
There were also violent attacks by fascists and reactionary elements, who were still very numerous in the country:
“At Kunmadaras, a former chief instructor in the fascist para-military youth organization provoked,
with anti-semitic demagogy, a mass affray on 21 May, during which two people, a Communist and a Social Democrat, were killed and 18 people were injured. A few days later at Karcag, a fatal clash with the police was touched off, when a clerical leader of the Catholic young men’s association and a leading member of the local Smallholders Party youth group organized a fascist demonstration in support of a war criminal, against the democratic order. In the middle of June, the Smallholders Party chief notary and the chairman of the local Smallholders Party branch, organized a demonstration against the workers’ parties in Nyirtura, and a member of the Hungarian Communist Party was stabbed.
A few days later, on the main boulevard of Budapest, fascist assassins ambushed two Soviet officers killing them together with a girl, a young worker who happened to pass by; several passers-by were wounded. On 31 July, on the eve of the introduction of the stable forint— fascist elements organized an anti-semitic demonstration at Miskolc, taking advantage of the just anger of the people against speculators. Led by provocators, a crowd of people invaded the police building and dragged out two local mill-owners, who had been arrested for black-marketeering, and lynched one of them. Because a group of the lynchers was arrested, another fascist demonstration occurred the next day, when an officer of the democratic police was killed…” (Nemes, p. 118-119)
Fascist and anti-semitic attitudes were still so widespread in 1946 that it was possible to incite lynchings and mass killings of Jews, other minorities and leftists. Most fascists and reactionaries were not physically eliminated, because Hungary had switched sides in the war. The Hungarian army was not destroyed, and many members of the Horthy administration were allowed to remain in the state machine at least temporarily.
Western right-wing historian Norman Stone mentions some of the same Fascist attacks:
“…the background being the enormous inflation and black-marketeering, there were pogroms. Peasants in Ózd and, more ominously, workers in Miskolc rioted and lynched. In Kunmadaras on 20 May 1946 a riot broke out against the People’s Judges and a Communist leader; two Jews were killed and fifteen wounded…” (Stone, p. 388)
“The police and the people’s courts dealt with the murderers and provocators. They discovered and suppressed a number of fascist conspiracies. The Minister of the Interior in July disbanded the Catholic young men’s associations, the Boy Scouts, the Emericana student organization and several other right-wing associations because of their anti-democratic activities and their assistance to the fascist conspirators.” (Nemes, p. 119)
Stone might deny the fascist or far-right nature of these crimes, and try to justify them. But considering he admits that the murderers wanted to lynch communists, social-democrats and jews, it seems impossible not to conclude that they were fascists. Undoubtledly the Hungarian authorities acted completely correctly when they suppressed these fascists, racists, reactionary murderers and their accomplices.
REACTIONARY CRIMINALS INSIDE THE SMALLHOLDER PARTY
The Arrest of Bela Kovacs
The Smallholder general secretary Bela Kovacs was arrested due to his participation in a Fascist secret society:
“Bela Kovacs, the smallholder secretary general… was… arrested… but not before the party leadership had agreed to his questioning by the police… Kovacs was accused of complicity in a plot to overthrow the Hungarian People’s Republic, a plot allegedly prepared by the Hungarian Unity, a secret society dating from prewar years… The Hungarian Unity had at one time had an enormous… influence… Its membership comprised “racially pure” Hungarians… The Hungarian Unity had a political committee of seven members who, by virtue of their social background and record of service to the [Horthyite fascist-MLT] Hungarian state, were barred from holding public office [by the Allied Commission after liberation-MLT]. Kovacs… was… by temperament a fiery uncompromising opponent of Communism, ideally suited for liaison between the Smallholder Party and the Hungarian Unity. With due regard to his political post, he was a “silent” (eight) member of the Unity’s political committee of seven.” (Zinner, Revolution in Hungary, pp. 42-43)
Perhaps anti-communists would argue that Kovacs was not really a reactionary or a fascist, and was simply arrested for no reason. However, even the anti-communist historian Zinner very diplomatically admits that:
“If his participation in the political committee was a crime, he was guilty beyond doubt…” (pp. 42-43)
Undoubtledly it was considered a crime for a major government politician to belong to a completely fascist organization. More importantly, Kovacs as a government politician was acting as a “liaison” as Zinner says, so that Fascists who the Allied Commission had banned from the government, could still influence the government,from the inside, and have their own man, Kovacs, inside the government.
Zinner goes on to say that: “Kovacs… served to implicate other Smallholder leaders. A direct result was the flight of Ferenc Nagy, the Smallholder premier.” (Zinner, pp. 42-43)
“Kovacs… implicated… the Prime Minister [Ferenc Nagy]… He resigned on June 2 and has since remained in exile.” (Kertesz, S. D., The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary 1944-1947, pp. 44-45)
This brings us to the case of Ferenc Nagy.
Ferenc Nagy escapes to the West
“Late in 1946, a conspiracy involving a number of leading members of the Smallholders’ Party was discovered. The Prime Minister, Ferenc Nagy, leader of the party was abroad and refused to return. He was replaced as party leader and Prime Minister by Lajos Dinnyes, an agriculturist with a long record in the Smallholders’ Party.” (Burchett, People’s Democracies)
It is often implied that Ferenc Nagy was simply targeted by the communists so as to sabotage the Smallholders, but this accusation doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Warriner wrote that plots of this type were frequently used by reactionaries in Hungary: “Nagy and two other leaders of the Smallholders Party, Kovacs and Varga, were said to be involved… For the Hungarian reaction, plots were just political routine…” (p. 29) Even Zinner admits that Kovacs was guilty, and he implicated Ferenc Nagy, who then escaped the country.
“the two leftist parties were drawn even closer by the [discovery of the rightist] conspiracy and thus presented an inexorably united front… According to Jozsef Revai, editor of the Communist daily, Szabad Nep secretly intercepted messages clearly proved that the conspiracy aimed at working hand-in-hand with anti-Democratic organizations outside Hungary.” (Gyorgy, Governments of Danubian Europe, pp. 120-121)
Historians Argentieri and Lorenzo write: “The Hungarian Unity trial was not a fabrication. This anti-communist group was organized during the German occupation, but its members remained connected.” (quoted in Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)
“British envoy Gascoigne claimed that “there are at least a hundred reactionary organizations currently in Hungary”.” (Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért)
Though these few reactionaries and conspirators were ousted, the Smallholders were not robbed of the Prime Minister position or their position in the government, instead they were allowed to keep those positions. However, this was a substantial defeat to the reactionaries and fascists, who felt that the Smallholders Party was no longer suitable for them:
“Various right-wing groups detached themselves from the party… The representative of the democratic wing tried to halt the full disintegration of the Smallholders Party through more definite co-operation with the Left Bloc. A new leadership, headed by Istvan Dobi, took over the party.” (Nemes, p. 151)
Before Bela Kovacs was interrogated the Smallholder Party was asked for permission, and they gave it. Later they also did not challenge the notion that Kovacs had been a secret fascist conspirator, who had only been using the Smallholder Party for his own nefarious purposes.
Liutenant-General Sviridov, chairman of the Allied Control Commission in Hungary wrote in his letter to Brigadier-General George H. Weems, head of the United States Mission on the Allied Control Commission on March 8, 1947:
“Even the Independent Smallholders Party itself recognizes the fact of the conspiracy against the Constitution and of the danger this implies for the young democracy of Hungary.” (quoted in Documents on the hostile activity of the United States Government against the Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 40)
Why specifically did the Fascists and reactionaries try to join the Smallholder Party? And why were there so many of them? The answers are quite simple. The Smallholders were the most right-wing of the large government parties. They also had no clear ideology, or target audience. Sure, most of their followers were petit-bourgeois, but in those conditions the capitalists, the clergy and fascists also gave their support to the Smallholders – who else could they support? The Communists? The Social-Democrats? The National Peasant Party which represented the rural poor? Of course not. It only left the Smallholders.
“In 1944 the entire state machine, the Army, the Church, the richer peasants, most of the middle class, as well as the real upper class of magnates and capitalists supported the Horthy regime; they now (after the war) supported the Smallholders.” (Warriner, p. 28)
Why was it so easy for Fascists to do this, and why were there so many? Because Hungary had previously been a Fascist country, but had switched sides. The Hungarian government was purged, and democratized, but countless bureaucrats from the Horthy days still remained in the state apparatus and the army. The ones who were ousted, also tried to come back, and why wouldn’t they? The right-wing politicians in the state apparatus also wanted to let more right-wingers join.
“The right wing of the coalition was very active in the struggle for administrative positions and managed to clear a number of fascists for such positions. The former administrative officials soon started to infiltrate the Smallholders Party and in many places the reactionaries who had become “Smallholders Party members” supplied certificates for each other in the defascization committees. The democratic forces ousted part of the reactionaries from public positions, but many retained their places or smuggled themselves back.” (Nemes, p. 69)
Anti-communist historian Zinner also confirms this, he says:
“On one extreme in the Smallholder Party were fellow travellers… who… helped to influence party policy in favor of the Communists. At the other extreme were those who constituted a link with the horthy regime…” (Zinner, p. 47)
There was a constant struggle in the government coalition between reactionaries and leftists, and in the society as a whole. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, and protested against the reactionaries inside the Smallholders:
“400,000 of them, veterans, women’s organisations, trade unions etc. in a main square… The Smallholder party’s left wing… forced the executive to accept a Communist-influenced programme” (Stone, pp. 394-395)
What was this ‘communist influenced programme’ that Stone mentions? It was opposed by the Smallholder right, but supported by the Smallholder left. It was the program of nationalization, and the Three Year Plan of Reconstruction.
Economist Warriner writes:
“Then, in the spring of 1947, came the Communist and Socialist proposal to nationalise the five big banks. This was crucial, because the Big Three, the Credit Bank, the Commercial Bank and the Discount Bank, together controlled seventy per cent of the industry of the country. If this measure
were carried through, it would mean the liquidation of the former ruling class.” (Warriner, p. 29)
Another anti-communist historian David Pryce-Jones admits that a significant element supported the Smallholders party only because they saw it as the strongest opponent against the communists. This is logical since the Smallholders were the most right-wing party in Hungary allowed by the Allied Commission, the others had been full-on fascists or Nazi collaborators and were thus banned, though of course the Smallholders also had collaborated with Horthy’s fascism to an extent.
Reactionary elements flooded into the Smallholders party in 1945-47, but many Smallholders were democrats and wanted to work with anti-fascists and communists. They helped to expel many of the worst reactionaries from the Smallholders.
According to Pryce-Jones, the Smallholders split in two between “those who had supported them as a bulwark against the Communists” (p. 25) and those who wanted to collaborate with the Communists and leftists. Historian Kovrig Bennet corraborates this by saying “[The Smallholder party] attracted a wide range of noncommunist support which led to a lack of… common resolve: some of its members… sympathized more-or-less covertly with the communists.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p.66)
The liberal count Mihail Karolyi wrote:
“The Smallholders were thus gradually being ground between those [right-wingers] who had given [Ferenc] Nagy their support… and… [left-wing] crypto-Communists”
(Memoirs of Michael Karolyi, p. 324)
Karolyi also said about the Smallholders’ Party that: “reactionary elements… had infiltrated into it.” (p. 324)
Anti-communists Aczel and Meray also admitted that:
“there was some truth in it that the Smallholders Party offered a haven and support to the fascists, to the reactionaries, and to the large capitalistic forces still existing in the country.” (Aczel & Meray, The Revolt Of The Mind, p. 42)
“Due to pressure from rank and file members and after reactionary party leaders were exposed as participants of a plot against the Republic, the democratic elements gained the upper hand [in the Smallholders Party] and ousted the traitors.” (SKP vuosikirja IV, s. 227)
“Ferenc Nagy, the leader of the Smallholders Party an obscure but socially ambitious politician, became the mouthpiece of the bank-shareholders… “ (Warriner, p. 29)
Warriner’s opinion agrees completely with the testiomony of Ferenc Nagy’s secretary Ferenc Kapocs, who said that the Smallholders under Ferenc Nagy’s leadership were basically American puppets, funded with American money, and they were promising that if the Popular Front government was overthrown America could setup military bases in Hungary and get access to raw materials there, such as Hungarian oil:
“From May to June 1945, the Independent Smallholders Party started to build up its illegal home and foreign political echelon… they started to send suitable persons abroad and build up contacts with West-European foreigners in Hungary, in the first place Anglo-Saxons, and with contact-men living in the United states and Britain. This happened on the one hand for the reason that the Party should receive political support and on the other hand that foreign circles should be able to support the elections financially.
Ferenc Nagy… tried to play the concessions into the hands of America, as he said, he was thinking of oil and aerodromes, — and generally to make Hungary a South-East European economic and political base for America.” (quoted in Documents on the hostile activity of the United States Government against the Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 51)
However, this all had to be done secretly. Ferenc Nagy knew that violently overthrowing the Popular Front was very difficult since Soviet troops were still in the country. His plan was that it should be done immediately after Hungary signs the peace treaty with the Allies and United Nations and the Soviet troops leave. Kapocs said:
“Ferenc Nagy also added that an open stand on America’s side could only be taken after the ratification.” (Ibid.) i.e. after the ratification of the peace treaty. A lot of tactical maneuvering was taking place around the negotiations for the peace treaty, as you can see.
The Right-wing leaders in the Smallholder Party actually didn’t want new elections to be held, and tried to delay them as much as possible, because they calculated that Smallholders still had a very good position in the government but after the elections they probably would not, because they were sure to lose support in the election. So instead they made contacts with American espionage services, fascist secret societies etc. and hoped the peace treaty would be ratified before new elections. They could then try to overthrow the People’s Front.
Hungarian communist theoretician Jozsef Revai said at an international communist meeting:
“Hungarian reaction, supported by American imperialism, was in general opposed to new elections… The very fact that we were able to hold the elections defeated the plans of reaction. Even at the time of the election campaign the Americans tried to get the Smallholders’ Party as well as the Social-Democrats to boycott the elections. Our plan was to carry out the elections and thus strengthen the Party, to win a majority of Left democratic parties and thus secure the predominance of the Left parties in Parliament and in the government.“ (J. Revai, The activities of the C.C. of the Hungarian Communist Party, Informative report delivered at the conference of representatives of several Communist Parties, held at the end of September, 1947, in Poland, published in For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy!, No. 3, December 15, 1947)
It was no wonder that the popularity of the Smallholders was quickly disappearing. Historian Andrew Gyorgy, despite being an anti-communist, gives a very illustrative characterization of the situation:
“…the Smallholders’ party of Hungary… seldom engaged in the defense of the depressed elements of their peasantry. On the contrary, by their lack of interest and political opportunism they gradually weakened the foundations of the class they were supposed to protect. They were composed of extreme conservatives who upheld primarily the interests of a wealthier kulak group. This category was particularly well represented in Rumania and Hungary, where the so-called peasant parties were organized and managed by typical townsmen… Collaborationist, fascist elements have actually taken refuge in the peasant parties… Consequently, the peasant parties were faced with the unpleasant situation of offering asylum to politically undesirable groups while misrepresenting the interests of their own class. Slowly the nature of these postwar movements changed and the political coloring altered until their ranks are filled not only by peasants but, more than even before the war, by the urban bourgeoisie, the bureaucracy, and people of an extreme rightist, nationalist background.” (Governments Of Danubian Europe, pp. 48-49)
The Right-Wing smallholder leader Ferenc Nagy was the Secretary of the Hungarian fascist diet during WWII as Nagy writes in his memoirs (p. 33), which he wrote after escaping to the USA.
Ferenc Nagy’s autobiography “is anti-Semitic… and anti-Communist and anti-Soviet to an hysterical and fanatical degree.” (Aptheker, The Truth About Hungary, p. 75)
Ferenc Nagy writes in his memoirs that he and his collaborators had “clandestine meetings with Western representatives” and says that restoration of capitalism in Hungary is only possible through American invasion (Ferenc Nagy, Struggle behind the iron curtain, p. 455)
He says that after capitalism is restored the common people must be removed from political life. He writes: “The misled masses must be de-politicalized. In the new world order, the masses must have no opportunity or occasion to go astray politically” (pp. 459-60).
Stone, Hungary: A Short History
Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962
Miklos Molnar, A short history of the Hungarian Communist Party
Árpád Pünkösti, Rákosi a hatalomért
Paul E. Zinner, Revolution in Hungary
S. D. Kertesz, The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary 1944-1947
W. Burchett, People’s Democracies
A. Gyorgy, Governments of Danubian Europe
Documents on the hostile activity of the United States Government against the Hungarian People’s Republic
Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe
Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic
Memoirs of Michael Karolyi: Faith without Illusion
Aczel & Meray, The Revolt of the Mind
SKP vuosikirja IV
J. Revai, The activities of the C.C. of the Hungarian Communist Party, published in ”For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy!”, No. 3, December 15, 1947)
“Nothing would be easier and more obvious than to imagine that upon Lenin’s death his successors— with Stalin in the lead— quickly gathered in a back room and immediately understood the utility of preserving, displaying, and worshiping his body. A top-down manufactured cult of Lenin would then provide a substitute religion for the peasants, complete with the sainted founder’s relics, to replace the Russian Orthodoxy they were trying to destroy. It would enhance the legitimacy of Lenin’s successors and of the regime in general by tracing that regime’s descent from a founder, who was rapidly and intentionally becoming a mythical progenitor on whose pyramid the successor acolytes would stand to demonstrate their lineage… This idea, which is not uncommon in the scholarly literature, assumes that the Bolsheviks had a plan… Here it seems that there was no plan, no major role for Stalin but rather a series of contradictory, ad hoc, and contested proposals reflecting input both from below and above. Lenin’s successors stumbled and bumbled for a long time about what to do with his body.
First of all, it seems that Stalin had little if anything to do with the decision to permanently display Lenin. He was not on the Lenin Funeral Commission, chaired by Feliks Dzerzhinskii, where such decisions were made, and his associate Kliment Voroshilov, who was a member, bitterly opposed the idea. Stalin was a member of the Politburo, which, as it turned out, approved all the recommendations of the commission, but he seems to have played no active role in the decision. According to rumors that surfaced decades later (in the 1960s), Stalin had been the initiator of the idea to mummify Lenin even before Lenin died, having supposedly suggested it at an informal meeting of Politburo members in 1923, at which time Trotsky vehemently opposed the idea. This story is quite improbable on its face. The idea that such a careful political tactician as Stalin would openly talk about disposing of Ilich’s body while the latter was still alive, and in the presence of his arch-rival Trotsky, borders on the ridiculous. The senior leaders would consider it unpardonably crude to have such a discussion while their dear Lenin lived, and Stalin would certainly not have handed Trotsky such a faux pas on a platter…
The decision to preserve and display Lenin’s body was taken incrementally over a period of years, and it was not until 1929– 30 that his resting place was finalized in the stone mausoleum. At first, on 24 January 1924, Lenin was put in the Kremlin’s Hall of Columns for viewing by the public. Professor Abrikosov embalmed the body in customary fashion so it would last the three days until the funeral and burial. Nobody contemplated a longer viewing. Two days later, the huge crowds obliged the Politburo to order moving the display to Red Square near the Kremlin wall. Architect A. V. Shchusev was quickly conscripted to design and build a temporary structure there which was thrown together by 27 January. The crowds kept coming, and soon Shchusev was charged with designing a larger structure that was completed some weeks later. But it was not made to last. It was a wooden structure called the “temporary mausoleum.”
Meanwhile, during the extended viewing period… Lenin’s body began to decay. The Dzerzhinskii Commission was consequently faced with making a longer-term decision about the body. In February, commission member and engineer Leonid Krasin claimed that he could preserve the body through freezing, and on the seventh the commission authorized him to buy expensive German machinery for that purpose. By 14 March, the body continued to deteriorate and although Krasin continued to defend the freezing idea, the commission brought in Professors Zbarskii and Vorob’ev with a new chemical procedure for long-term preservation. It was not until 26 July that the commission made the final decision to embalm and display Lenin forever, based on Zbarskii and Vorob’ev’s procedure…
[About] whether or not even to have an open casket, there was sharp debate… Voroshilov took sharp issue with N. I. Muralov’s suggestion to display the body. According to Voroshilov, “We must not resort to canonization. That would be SR-like…” …Would Lenin have approved? Probably not, Dzerzhinskii admitted, because he was a person of exceptional modesty. But he’s not here; we have only one Lenin who is not here to judge, and the question is what to do with his body. He brushed aside deep questions, noting that everybody loved Lenin. Pictures of him were treasured; everyone wanted to see him. Lenin was a truly special person. “He is so dear to us that if we can preserve the body and see it, then why not do it?” “If science can really preserve the body for a long time, then why not do it?” “If it is impossible, then we won’t do it.”… the Dzerzhinskii group won the day… It was rather an incremental process.
Voroshilov, as we saw above, was afraid of the hypocrisy and person-worship… Other Bolsheviks, like Dzerzhinskii… thought that Lenin was such a special case as to not provoke such reflections…
As with preserving the body, the resistance to traditional monuments was strong… In October-November 1924, senior Bolsheviks Lunacharskii and Krasin made the case for monuments. “The question of monuments should be seen from the point of view of the demands of the revolutionary people.” The proletariat, they argued, has a solid sense of history and connection to the past. Proletarian monuments, unlike bourgeois ones, are not mere idols or signposts. Proletarian monuments are “sources of strength taken from the revolutionary masses. . . . A revolutionary monument is an active thing; it is a centralizer and transformer of social strength. . . . Revolutionary society does great deeds and therefore has a need to immortalize itself.” “Lenin’s tomb has already become a magnetic center for the masses, who visit it and whose literal voices of millions of people show that it answers a profound need of the masses.” … “We are an organic unified class doing great things and therefore naturally monumental.”… they concluded “We are not anarchists. We have great and brilliant leaders. So we conclude that monuments and monumentalism are completely natural in our revolutionary life.” Voroshilov, who resisted displaying the body, thought monuments were fine to maintain memory. After all, he had been to London to see Marx’s grave…
[When Lenin died] Thousands of unsolicited condolence letters and telegrams spontaneously poured in. The very decision to move Lenin’s body from the Hall of Columns to Red Square had to do with crowd control and was the result of thousands of requests from the public, especially from those unable to reach Moscow in time to see the body during the viewing period originally planned. The decision to build the second, “temporary” wooden and then the third permanent stone mausoleum had similar causes: the people kept coming, more than a hundred thousand in the first six weeks, despite bitter cold… proposals poured in from the provinces to build local monuments to Lenin and to name all kinds of things for him. Without permission, in Cheboksarai they build an exact replica of the mausoleum to be used as a bookselling kiosk. This caused much consternation in Moscow. Sailing in the wake of popular action, the regime quickly understood that they needed to get control of this process, and arrogated to themselves the right to approve or disapprove such requests; nothing could be built without their approval. Subsequently much of the work of the Dzerzhinskii Commission consisted of approving (but mostly disapproving) these proposals, which included everything from a proposal for an electrified mausoleum, complete with lightning bolts, to renaming the calendar months because as one letter-writer said, “Lenin was savior of the world more than Jesus.” (Arch Getty, Practicing Stalinism, pp. 69-77)
WWII caused massive destruction in Hungary, mostly because the German fascists stole everything they could and took it to Germany, and what little they couldn’t steal they blew up, burnt and destroyed.
“The siege of Budapest lasted fifty-one days before the Russians captured the city. Hardly a house was intact and thousands of soldiers and civilians had been killed” (Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution, p. 17)
“The Germans, departing, had taken 214,000 tons of goods, including machinery and food, by barge or railway (32,000 waggons) or lorry (8,000 loads); 70,000 dwellings had been destroyed, and a quarter of the inhabitants were homeless… a gold train had taken away the valuables stolen, mainly from Jewish families. (The property stolen from Jewish families and others, and the gold reserve of the National Bank, ended up in mining shafts in Austria.) The Holy Crown of King Saint Stephen I and the crown jewels were also transported west…” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, pp. 363-364)
“Half of the industrial plant, the railways, the bridges, the livestock, had gone.” (Stone, p. 365)
“Budapest was a city of rubble, burned tanks and rotting corpses… every bridge over the Danube destroyed by the Nazis. Of 35,500 apartment houses, 29,987 had been destroyed or badly damaged… Bands of starving children roamed in the streets, wailing for bread and their parents. Of the city’s fine bus service, 16 buses were left, the Germans had driven off in the rest. Gas, water supply, and electricity services were disrupted… all telegraph and telephone poles had been cut down by the Germans, railway lines had been cut through at regular intervals by special sabotage machines. Every road leading into Budapest had been mined, every bridge over thirty feet long destroyed.” (Burchett, People’s democracies)
“1,200 locomotives and over 40,000 railway wagons were driven off to Germany… there was no food in the country… livestock had been reduced from 8.6 millions to 3.2 millions. Budapest in early 1945 was a hopeless city of rubble, stench and starvation.” (Burchett)
“[M]ost of the agricultural machinery, tractors and combines had been destroyed or shipped back to Germany, eighty per cent. of the draught cattle had been killed” (Burchett)
“the German invaders and the Arrow Cross agencies endeavoured to take away everything they could lay their hands on… wherever this was not prevented by the resistance of the Hungarian people or the advance of the Soviet troops…” (Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, pp. 31-32)
“three-quarters of the pool of railway trucks, two-thirds of the operable locomotives and most of the motor vehicles. The value of the goods taken to the West amounted to about 2,000 million dollars. The retreating fascists had made 40 per cent of the rail network unusable and demolished thousands of railway and load bridges.” (Nemes, p. 83)
I’ve cited a lot of numbers here, but the level of destruction is almost impossible to comprehend. More then half a millions Hungarian jews had been killed in the holocaust, and hundreds of thousands of others had lost their lives at the hands of the fascists. Two-thirds of trains, almost all cars and buses and the vast majority of livestock had been destroyed in Hungary, while practically all homes in Budapest had been destroyed, electricity and railnetworks had been clipped into little pieces by sabotage machines, all major roads had been mined and practically every bridge had been cut. Half of industry had been stolen or destroyed, all the national bank’s gold reserves had been stolen. The fascists had left the country destroyed and starving.
“The Red Army tried to preserve Budapest and especially its citizens as much as possible, heavy artillery and bomber plains didn’t bomb the city.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, p. 122)
Despite their own problems, the USSR was able to send food aid to Hungary, for example:
“At the end of March, the Soviet Union sent 1,500 wagons of cereals, 300 wagons of meat and 200 wagons of sugar to Hungary as loan.” (Nemes, p. 60)
“After liberation the Red Army was first to deliver food supplies and medical aid to Hungarians, saving the citizens of Budapest from starvation and epidemic.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, pp. 122-123)
LIBERATION. END OF THE WAR. DEBRECEN PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT.
While the fighting was still going on, a provisional anti-fascist government was set up in Debrecen. This anti-fascist government, was a coalition of the Communist Party, Social-democratic Party, The National Peasant Party, the Smallholder Party, as well as trade-unions and other democratic forces. National Committees of trade-unionists, communists, partisan fighters and others also spontaneously emerged in liberated areas. These united to the Debrecen government and became the foundation of a new democratic state.
“Tanks and field-guns stood blackened where they had been hit and the bodies of soldiers lay unburied in the winter, but politics were beginning. In villages, towns, districts, and counties occupied by the Russians, ‘national committees’ sprang up, run by representatives of left-wing movements or trade unions. A National Council on these lines was installed in Debrecen on 21 December 1944…” (Pryce-Jones, p. 19)
“…230 delegates assembled, a third of them Communists, from villages and townships liberated by the Red Army, and they elected a new government from all the anti-Fascist parties. Its programme included land reform and confiscation for war criminals…” (Stone, p. 361)
“For the first time after 25 years underground, the Communist Parly began to freely operate and it was the first to begin the work of reconstruction and the creation of a new power.” (Nemes, p. 33)
“The great cause of national reconstruction and joining in the war against the nazis required the creation of a new central power, a new Hungarian state. A clear-cut programme had to be drawn up to rally the national forces and rebuild the country. The Communist Party issued such a programme for a democratic national rebirth published on 30 November 1944 in the Debrecen newspaper Neplap.
This document stated:
“Our country is experiencing the most disastrous catastrophe in its history. The leaders of Hungary, hiring themselves out to the Germans, plunged Hungary into the Hitlerite imperialist war… They aligned themselves with the German fascists, because with such help they intended to subjugate the neighbouring peoples and ruthlessly suppress the Hungarian people within the country and keep them in slavery. The country is suffering under the fatal consequences of this criminal policy. Despite this, the Communist Party proclaims that there will be a Hungarian rebirth!”” (Nemes, pp. 34-35)
“In April the provisional government moved to Budapest… The Communist Party line for the moment was that Hungary was experiencing a [bourgeois democratic] revolution… and that all [democratic] elements should therefore co-operate. ‘Unite All Forces for Reconstruction’, was the slogan coined by Matyas Rakosi, First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party. As a proof of goodwill, Communists helped to rebuild churches. They also activated the other political parties permitted by the Allied Control Commission.” (Pryce-Jones, pp. 20-21)
Zinner also points out “The apparent concern of the Communists with national welfare and the zeal with which they led the reconstruction of war-damaged installations, including churches…”
(Revolution in Hungary, p. 50)
“The provisional government undertook to conclude an armistice with the Allies, to pay the reparations, to wage war against Germany, to repeal anti-Semitic and antidemocratic laws, to guarantee democratic rights and to institute universal and secret suffrage, to disband right-wing political movements and punish war criminals, and to effect a land reform.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 64)
“The leader of the Hungarian Communist Party, Mátyás Rákosi, stepped onto the tribune. He was welcomed with immense enthusiasm. “Long live Rákosi! Long live Rákosi!” resounded from the crowd… “Freedom!” Comrade Rákosi began his speech and hundreds of thousands roared back from every corner of the square: “Freedom!”” (Apor, The invisible shining, p. 58)
By April 4th the whole territory of Hungary had been liberated from the Nazis. (Ignotus, Hungary, p. 152)
“Hungary received aid from the Soviet Union for restoring the economic life and production e.g. to replace the horses stolen by the Germans, new horses and cars were brought for transporting food supplies. The Soviet Union aided the development of the Hungarian national economy and living standard of the citizens by reducing war reparations by 50%.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, pp. 122-123)
The most important political action of the provisional government was land-reform. It was undeniable, that the Hungarian peasants had suffered horribly under the rule of the Hapsburg monarchy and then under Horthy.
“In Hungary, peasants… were… more then the rest, oppressed and exploited.” (Ignotus, p. 171)
“…the greatest problem of modern Hungary: the vast inequality of landholding. It was a largely peasant country, and the peasants often farmed with primitive methods.” (Stone, p. 50)
“…smallholders only amounted to about one-third of the rural population; the rest were either totally landless or ‘dwarf-holders’: compelled, that is, to sell their labour on a market where manpower was cheaper than anything else.” (Ignotus, p. 172)
“before the war some 400,000 Hungarians possessed so little land that they had to sell their labor power as agrarian serfs in order to keep from starvation, and another 400,000 had no land at all.” (Behind the curtain, p. 181)
Historian Elizabeth Wiskemann wrote “In Hungary the distribution of land remained… the most unjust in central Europe” (in R. R. Betts, ed., Central and South East Europe, London, 1950, p. 98)
“Among East European countries, Hungary was the worst instance of the system of giant landed estates and their complement, a vast agricultural proletariat, living below subsistence level. This state of affairs was preserved unimpaired up to 1945.” (Ilonya Polanyi, World Affairs, a magazine published by the London Institute of World Affairs April, 1949, p. 134.)
Before WWII “it was calculated that… In Hungary 24%… of the rural population belonged to the category [of unemployed or under employed].” (Nevalainen, marxilaisen taloustieteen oppikirja osa 2, p. 67)
“In March [the Debrecen government] carried through a land reform. This was long overdue, in a country where almost half the arable land had belonged to one percent of the landowners. Four and a half million acres were now distributed among 660,00 peasants… Tremendous posters everywhere claimed this reform as an achievement of the Communist Party.” (Pryce-Jones, p. 19)
“Committees dominated by Communists and the National Peasants’ Party people carried out the redistribution… and within three months 8 million acres had been taken over, some for state farms but the greater part (5 million acres) given to 500,000 new owners… The Catholic Church lost 90 percent of its lands…” (Stone, pp. 370-371)
“[The second largest landowners in Hungary] The Eszterhazys between them owned 750,000 acres of which the senior member of the family, Prince Paul Eszterhazy, owned 300,000. They owned 15 castles in Hungary, several more in Austria and Bavaria… There was only one larger landowner in Hungary and that was the Roman Catholic Church.” (Burchett)
The Peasants had lived in misery, while the richest 1% had owned half the land in the whole country. The land had primarily belonged to the clergy and the nobility, who now lost most of the power they had held century after century. They had literally lived like kings, standing over the peasants. The Land-reform was necessary, to destroy feudal social relations, to free the peasants from the total power of the church and the noble families. Although land-reform was only the first step, it immediately produced favorable results. Economist Warriner writes:
“The land reform has brought a complete social and economic transformation in the countryside… In 1947, I visited again the same villages that I had known in 1936, where land had now been distributed.
The most noticeable change then was better food: the new peasants were eating wheat and rye bread regularly, instead of maize, and drinking coffee with sugar, unknown before… Peasants who had been
estate labourers before, and had now become owners of the standard 12 acre holding, said that in a bad year their real income was twice what it had been before, and with a good harvest would be three or four times as high. Their money income was large enough to buy boots for the whole family. Two years later, in 1949, the dominant impression in the villages was the good supply of consumer goods; ‘Nepboltok’— ‘People’s Shops’— had been started, with a wide range of textiles, shoes, aluminium saucepans, china.” (Warriner, p. 134)
Journalist Wilfred G. Burchett interviewed one of the noble families after the land-reform. The nobility had lost their massive land holdings, and their numerous castles, mansions and private parks:
“[Countess Eszterhazy] shuddered when I asked what had happened to the properties at Tata. “It’s too dreadful to speak about.” she said. “The castle has been turned into a lunatic asylum, the beautiful old Hunting Lodge has become a Communist Youth Hostel, the English Park was turned into a training ground for the Olympic team, because they said the atmosphere and climate was like that of England and would help the team that was going to England for the Olympic Games. The parks are all thrown open, anyone can wander through them,” and her china-blue eyes filled with tears.” (Burchett)
“I made a tour of some of the Eszterhazy castles to see for myself what was going on. Tata is a beautiful village, about ten miles off the main road between Budapest and Vienna. Sure enough the main castle had become a hospital for the insane, the Hunting Lodge – was full of gay young people, including a group of Canadians who had been working on one of the volunteer youth brigade projects. It was Sunday, in mid-summer, the two magnificent parks were crowded with villagers and peasants, reclining in the shade of massive oak and elm trees. More peasants and some workers from the nearby Tata coal mines (Eszterhazy property before they were nationalised), were splashing away in a fine swimming pool that had formerly been a private preserve of the Eszterhazys.” (Burchett)
“[L]ives [of the Tata peasants] are still hard, they still work from dawn to dark and have little enough at the end of the month to buy clothes or other necessities with. They are still plagued by priests who tell them it’s sinful to have taken the land of their masters, and that God and the Americans will punish them for it.
“My boy’s at the university,” said one brown old peasant, squatting on the ground in the English park at Tata. “He’s learning to be an engineer. D’ye think I could ever have managed that in the old days? If I’d saved up everything and could sell a pig or two, I couldn’t even keep him at school after he was twelve. Now they even pay him for learning. He’s at one of the People’s Colleges and they pay him enough that he sends me and the missus a bit on the side.”
Of the land reform, he said, “We could have done with a bit more land. It’s hard to make do without 10 acres, but we live all right. We eat better than we ever did”” (Burchett)
“At the village of Eszterhazy the castle had been turned over to an Agricultural College. On the Sunday I visited it, there was a big Mothers’ Day meeting in progress. In the castle courtyard, seats had been set out in the warm autumn sunshine, and parents were watching a performance by the school children. On other Eszterhazy estates parks had been thrown open to the public, in some cases used as plant research stations, castles used as hospitals, schools, orphanages, youth hostels.” (Burchett)
Rakosi had said “in front of the [horthyist] court in 1926 that “land will only be distributed in Hungary by the Communists!”” (Apor, p. 55) Now his promise became reality!
““Blessed should be the name of he who has granted us land,” a delegation of farmers from Szolnok County told Rákosi in early March…” (Apor, p. 55)
It was essential to begin normal production as soon as possible, to produce necessary goods, electricity, and to repair war damage. Factories destroyed by the war, and looted by the Nazis, had to be restored. Workers organized into Factory Committees, took over the management and control of factories.
“The management of industrial plants was taken over by the factory committees as they were known. For the time being these did not change the legal status of the plant: this remained in private ownership. Since, however, in most cases the owners and the company management had fled the country the factory committees assumed responsibility for the most important tasks linked with the starting of production.“ (Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 103)
“with the setting up of factory committees under Communist leadership workers’ control was realized in practice.” (Nemes, p. 37)
“[Communists and Social-Democrats] jointly pushed through a government decree which was passed in February  for the recognition of the activities and jurisdiction of the factory committees. The factory committees were officially authorized to take control of production as well as the trade activities of the industrial companies, and could play an active role in the regulation of labour relations and the administration of companies. Control by the workers in factories and mines was established as soon as they started to operate, but pressure had to be exerted on the right wing… to give government approval to this practice. The right wing considered this a forced concession. At the same time they emphasized the capitalist ownership of the factories, in order to be able to limit later the jurisdiction of the factory committees to the settlement of labour disputes. However, the factory committees were power positions of the working class which strengthened the government’s influence among the workers and at the same time reduced capitalist exploitation.” (Nemes, p. 65)
The masses had already dealt two serious blows to the landowners and capitalists: the land had been redistributed to the peasants, and workers established themselves in Factory Committees, which already had an important role in managing factories even though they were still privately owned, and they were a position from where the workers could defend their interests against the capitalists. Capitalists no longer had total control over the factories, and if Hungary was to build socialism, transferring factories to socialist ownership could happen smoothly since they were already worker controlled. The workers were already learning to manage the factories themselves, without the capitalists.
“In November 1945 the first completely free election, under secret ballot, ever held in the history of Hungary took place” (Behind the Curtain, p. 177) (There actually were elections with universal secret ballot already during the 1919 Hungarian Communist Revolution, but ignoring that Gunther is correct)
The four largest parties received the following results:
“Smallholders received 57 per cent., Communists and Social Democrats 17 per cent. each, National Peasants 6 per cent. The coalition government or “People’s Front” continued in office.” (Burchett)
It was significant that despite decades of intense anti-communist propaganda, and a prevailing environment of reactionary nationalist and religious ideology, the Communist Party emerged as one of the largest parties. In fact, the Communists had the same amount of votes as the Social-democrats, despite the fact that the Communists had never been able to organize legally before, and had been heavily persecuted. Of course, the Communists had some supporters from their underground years. They also received new support because they were the main organizers of the anti-fascist resistance movement and partisan movement. The Communists were also the main organizers of the land-reform. They had quickly emerged as the leading force in the Factory Committees and as an equal partner with the Social-Democrats in the Trade-Unionions. The Communists were used to underground conditions, and thus their organization was not paralyzed by the Nazi occupation and Arrow-Cross coup de’tat to the same extent as the other parties.
“Despite the persistence of popular stereotypes concerning the Communists, the first few months of 1945 witnessed a remarkable increase in the MKP’s popularity. Membership skyrocketed: the organization had only a few thousand members in January, but by October, Party membership had reached half a million” (Apor, p. 36)
“the party’s main newspaper Szabad Nep, whose chief editor was comrade Revai. The newspaper soon increased from 100,000 to 300,000 copies.” (SKP vuosikirja VI, p. 126)
Some right-wing anti-communists might want to claim that communists simply rigged the elections, or used some kind of election fraud, but this was not the case. Even anti-communist historians like Paul E. Zinner, were forced to admit that:
“…the election was free; it met the highest standards of democracy; it was secret, universal, and direct and everyone could vote according to his conscience… On the basis of the conduct of the election and the reaction of the Communists to its outcome, no one could describe their behavior as anything but impeccable. They obviously did not tamper with the ballot” (Zinner, p. 40)
According to Zinner there were “Liberties seldom, if ever, experienced before (free election by democratic franchise, free press, free speech, an intensive formal parliamentary life)” (p. 37)
“in Hungary… free elections took place” (Kertesz, S. D., The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary 1944-1947)
The big winner of the election, was the Smallholders party, a rather amorphous centrist party without any clear ideology or message. It was logical that the Smallholders could receive a lot of votes, but their popularity was of temporary character, the Smallholder Party appealed to everyone, and at the same time, didn’t fully satisfy anybody. In a country where the vast majority of the population had never been able to vote before, the Smallholder Party seemed like a safe bet. It would’ve been unrealistic for them to suddenly jump to the Communist Party or Social-Democratic Party. Likewise the National Peasant Party was distinctly left-wing, and thus couldn’t appeal to everyone, and also focused primarily on the Peasants, and thus didn’t appeal to the urban population.
The devastation of the war, massive theft of Hungarian property and gold by the Nazis, the terrible shortage of goods and black-marketeering had caused massive inflation.
“In 1945 and 1946 Hungary was in the grip of the greatest inflation in history… People rushed out with their whole week’s salaries to buy a few bus tickets or a loaf of bread.” (Burchett)
In order to make the situation tolerable, workers at factories often received their wages in food and other products directly, and other goods were rationed.
“Most experts were of the view that a stable currency could not be established without a foreign loan.” (Borsányi & Kende, p. 110)
The inflation was so bad, that the Communists suggested a completely new currency:
“On the initiative of the Communists a currency reform was worked out and put into effect on August 1, 1946. One new Forint was valued at 426, followed by twenty-seven zeros of the old pengoes. Overnight Hungary had a stable currency which could buy real goods which now began to appear in the shops. Currency reform won the Communists great prestige…” (Burchett)
Hungary’s gold had been stolen and production had been decimated. There was a shortage of everything and black market prices skyrocketed. But as soon as production got going again, it was possible to solve the inflation since prices remained stable and the currency could actually get consumers what they wanted.
After the currency was stabilized, right-wing anti-communist ‘historians’ changed their narrative. Nowadays they describe the ending of the worst inflation in world history, as nothing special. They do not want to give communists credit for this achievement, and instead suggest that the inflation really could have been easily ended and blame the communists for ending it too slowly. For example, in his book Revolution in Hungary, Zinner says: “once inflation was in progress, the communists refrainted from halting it.” and “Hungary’s currency could have been stabilized long before August 1, 1946”! (p.54)
Even putting an end to the worst inflation in history, is not good enough for anti-communists. They don’t give communists any credit for it. I would like to ask mr. Zinner, if ending the inflation was supposedly so easy, then why did the capitalist opposition parties or the Smallholders Party not do it, and instead claimed that it could only be solved with massive loans from the West?
The communists had emerged as one of the biggest parties in Hungary, and clearly as the most active political force in the country. They had a plan for the reconstruction of the country and solving economic and social problems. They led the creation of the anti-fascist democratic coalition government. They organized workers into factory committees, which began to restore production. The communist party grew into a mass party of hundreds of thousands of members. The communists also carried out land-reform together with the national peasant party, and stabilized the currency. As a result of these and many other successful policies the popularity of the communists would continue to grow rapidly, while the popularity of the right-wing and reformist forces would begin to diminish.
David Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution
Norman Stone, Hungary: A Short History
Wilfred G. Burchett, People’s democracies
Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962
SKP vuosikirja VI
Paul E. Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary
Bennett Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic
Balazs Apor, The invisible shining, p. 58)
Pal Ignotus, Hungary
John Gunther, Behind the curtain
R. R. Betts, ed., Central and South East Europe
Ilonya Polanyi, World Affairs, April, 1949
Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe
Eino Nevalainen, marxilaisen taloustieteen oppikirja osa 2
Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary
Kertesz, S. D., The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary 1944-1947
There’s an anti-communist myth in the west that Lev Vygotsky was the “best soviet psychologist”, but he was suddenly “banned” or “purged” without justification – or something along those lines. In fact, that is not quite true. Vygotsky of course was never “purged”, arrested or even denounced in his life time. He died in 1934 due to natural causes (tuberculosis). He was unsatisfied with his own achievements which were criticized from many sides, and by himself. Despite of that, he was still called a leading Soviet psychologist when he died.
Vygotsky’s most influential ideas regarded an instrumental approach, about how tools, objects and other such stimuli influence the emergence and development of the psyche. That theory might have some real validity to it, but it seems perhaps one-sided. His other important theory was related to child development. That is how he got into the movement known as “pedology” or the study of the psychological development of children. Its not a psychological school but a mix of many disciplines including pedagogy. However, Vygotsky remained unsatisfied with his theory, was re-writing all of it but died before being able to do that to any substantive degree.
At this moment I am not knowledgeable enough to evaluate Vygotsky’s work as a whole, but it should be kept in mind that Soviet psychology was still only taking shape in the 20s and 30s. Actually big changes, debates and re-evaluations or even “revolutions” in Soviet marxist psychology continued to happen even into the 50s (I’m not taking into account whatever changes took place in the revisionist period from 1953 onward).
However, along with reasons for perhaps recognizing merits in Vygotsky, there are many glaring problems in Vygotsky’s system, even to someone who is not an expert on psychology, but knows something about marxism:
A scientific materialist psychological system was being developed at the same time in the USSR by I. P. Pavlov. As far as I’m aware, Vygotsky’s system doesn’t take Pavlov into account to any meaningful degree. In his defence it can be said that Vygotsky’s system is not a complete psychological system, and studied only certain topics, which were different from the subject matter of Pavlov’s research. In my opinion that is not necessarily true, and is not a sufficient excuse. Either way it would demonstrate that Vygotsky’s system could not be the basis of a scientific psychology, but at best a contribution to it.
Vygotsky was in the process of re-thinking his entire system, because together with many others, he was unsatisfied with it. This raises obvious problems.
Vygotsky looked somewhat uncritically to western bourgeois idealist schools of psychology to solve problems with his system. This raises further problems. As a result Vygotsky’s work cannot be readily accepted by scientific marxist psychology but must be very carefully and critically evaluated. Of course many people have attempted to do exactly that.
In 1936 the doctrine of pedology was heavily criticized and eventually marginalized. Perhaps not outright banned, but still a C.C. resolution “on the pedological distortions in the people’s comissariat for education (narkompros)” made it clear that the state schools would no longer use pedological methods on their students. Vygotsky was not attacked, but a field closely related to him was. Thus a significant chunk of his work started to be seen as questionable at best.
Problems in the early Soviet education system: pedology vs pedagogy
So why did the C.C. decide so firmly against those practices? According to a paper by a bourgeois historian, Soviet schools had big problems in handling students. It should be kept in mind that in the Tsarist times the vast majority of the population remained illiterate and poorly educated. This problem was tackled by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s and 30s with massive literacy campaigns and the founding of a universal education system which was free even for the university level. In fact university students received stipends to help cover their living and other expenses. However, big problems remained to be solved, reaching universal literacy was a huge undertaking:
“In early 1937, one-third of sixth graders in a school near Leningrad were not passing their Russian-language course.” (Thomas Ewing, Restoring Teachers to Their Rights, p. 1)
Teachers who had grown up in the Tsarist education system did not handle the situation properly. They blamed students for being “stupid”, “lazy” and “hopeless”. This was the norm in the Tsarist education system. A vivid description of the Tsarist school system is given by N. Pomyalovsky in his book Seminary Sketches.
“Their teacher, Tomsinskaia, told the school director that the failures were due to circumstances beyond her control: children had received inadequate preparation in previous grades, textbooks were in short supply, and pupils had “weak reading habits.” Other teachers in the Krasnosel’skii district offered similar justifications… Velichko asserted that her seventeen failing pupils all suffered from inherited conditions such as “mental retardation,” “underdevelopment,” or “congenital laziness.“” (Ewing, p. 1)
The communists strongly refuted such claims by teachers. Clearly the old teachers themselves needed to be educated how to treat students better:
“According to the regional educational journal, however, these poor results were evidence that teachers were “shirking their responsibility for pupils’ lack of achievement.” While blaming lack of preparation in earlier grades, an article in that journal charged that Tomsinskaia had conveniently “forgotten” that one-half of “failing” pupils had studied with her the previous year and thus she was responsible for promoting them, just as she had “forgotten” to mention that she made little effort to correct mistakes, provide remedial assistance, or encourage independent reading.” (Ewing, p. 1)
The pedologists studied different “defects” in children, gave them different labels and classifications regarding their “defects” and wanted to send them to special schools for “defective students”. This became a big problem because of the sheer amount of children who were declared “defective” and “nearly hopeless” and sent away from normal education. This also gave the conservative, stupid and even reactionary teachers a perfect excuse to always blame students, and merely throw them out. This was deeply damaging:
“Stalingrad pedologists claimed that as many as three thousand pupils enrolled in “normal classes” should be certified as “mentally retarded.” In one extreme case, one-quarter of pupils in a single class were assigned to this category. Moscow pedologists declared that as many as two-thirds of “failing” pupils were in fact “mentally retarded.” (Ewing, p. 6)
Other anti-communist undemocratic attitudes were perpetuated, advocating segregation of “lesser” students from the rest, or casting them out of normal schools:
“Within many schools, “parallel” classes existed, with “strong” pupils separated from “weak” pupils, most of whom were repeating grades… ” In late May 1936, just one month before the repudiation of pedology, a letter published in the newspaper Izvestiia declared that “mentally retarded children” could receive a proper education only in separate schools.” (Ewing, p. 6)
Naturally some students legitimately have severe physical or mental problems, and need special assistance. In some cases special assistance might even mean a separate school which specializes in helping disabled students. However, the goal of communism should be to help integrate disabled people into society as much as possible, make them equal to the maximum degree, and not separate them. It is always better if society can be made more accommodating, rather then separating them to their own space.
It is entirely reactionary to categorically declare these conditions as “hopeless” and even more reactionary, if not outright fascist to declare these students (human beings!) as “hopeless”. Secondly, only people with serious mental disability, physical health concerns etc. might need specialized facilities. In the Soviet case it was clear that vast numbers of students without any such severe disabilities were being labeled “defective” when they would have been entirely capable of studying in the usual school system, if given the necessary help.
The ideas and practices of the pedological “researchers” took on sinister, undemocratic and even racist features:
“Soviet pedologists sought to establish their authority in measuring the mental ability and learning potential of children [and] suggested that even in a “socialist” system, certain categories of children, especially those in rural areas and among “non-Russian” minorities, remained “backward” in their academic achievement.”” (Ewing, p. 10)
Criticism of separation of pedological theory from practice, and lack of its practical usefulness
Marxism teaches that theory must always serve practice, otherwise it is empty.
“Educational policymakers complained that pedologists failed to provide useful knowledge about child development, and a few even called for pedology to be eliminated from teacher training programs. Central Committee member A. Zhdanov criticized pedologists who endlessly studied “difficult” children but made no effort to improve behavior or raise achievement of those pupils conveniently kept “out of the way” in separate schools.” (Ewing, p. 10)
“Pedologists were denounced for “pointless debates” and for “talking endlessly in their own pedological language which no one else can understand.” Most pointedly, critics asserted that pedologists had made no practical contribution to Soviet education: “so-called pedologists have done nothing, are doing nothing, and will never do anything to help the school.” As “observers” rather than “transformers,” pedologists failed to live up to Stalin’s assertion that the people “who make history” are those who not only understand the conditions in which they are living, but also “understand how to change these conditions.”” (Ewing, p. 13)
Criticism of the anti-marxist foundation of pedological theory
The Central Committee had to tackle this problem and restore pedagogy, the science of educating:
“Accusing the Commissariat of Education of yielding control over such functions as assigning pupils, defining regulations, and evaluating achievement, the Central Committee charged that pedologists’ “pseudo-scientific experiments” had called excessive attention to “the most negative influences and pathological perversions” in children, their families, and surrounding environment. Such testing meant that “an ever larger and larger number of children” were assigned to special schools after being categorized as “mentally backward,” “defective,” or “difficult.” In fact, the Central Committee declared, many of these children were perfectly capable of attending normal’naia shkola (normal schools), but once these labels had been affixed, they were considered “hopeless” cases”” (Ewing, p. 11)
“The Central Committee went beyond these complaints about school policies, however, by charging that pedological theory itself was based on “falsely-scientific and anti-Marxist foundations.” In particular, any suggestion that children’s fate was “determined” by “fixed” social or biological factors was condemned as directly contradictory to “socialist development,” which had “successfully re-educated people.” Such claims about environmental and hereditary influences allegedly revealed an “uncritical” borrowing of “bourgeois” theories intended to maintain the dominant positions of “exploiting classes” and “superior races” by perpetuating the “physical and spiritual doom of the working classes and ‘inferior races.”‘ In the concluding section, the Central Committee instructed the Commissariat of Education to achieve “the full restoration of pedagogy as a science and pedagogues as its bearers and guides” by restoring teachers’ responsibility for instruction, returning “the bulk of the children to normal schools,” and eliminating the field of pedology by retraining specialists, withdrawing books, and abolishing courses.” (Ewing, p. 11)
The notion that people from certain nationalities or from bad socio-economic conditions cannot study together with the rest of students, is entirely anti-marxist. The notion that biological or environmental factors cannot be changed or mitigated is completely false. Such claims practically dismantle and eliminate pedagogy, the science of education, by declaring that an educator is totally powerless to do anything about these “hopelessly defective” cases. This is how bourgeois pseudo-science attempts to demolish real science.
Even some cases of sabotage were alleged. Labeling huge amounts of children without serious disabilities as “hopeless” surely sounds like sabotage, and it wouldn’t surprise me if oppositionist or Tsarist teachers didn’t sometimes do it as a form of sabotage:
“Soviet authorities promised that the “unmasking” of “hostile” pedologists would produce “healthier” schools by “rooting out” all “harmful” elements with “counter-revolutionary” intentions.” (Ewing, p. 12)
Correcting the methods of teaching, correcting harmful attitudes, and correcting the role of teachers
“According to Party officials, many “rank and file” teachers had seen special schools as “a means of deliverance” from “undesirable” pupils. Pedologists were thus “very convenient” for “bad teachers” who no longer had to assume “responsibility for teaching underachieving children.” Pedologists even offered teachers a kind of justification for poor results. When a school pedologist “discovered” that less than 10 percent of second graders in a Moscow school were “capable, well developed children,” teachers had an easy excuse for the poor achievement of the entire class…” (Ewing, p. 16-17)
“Yet even as such efforts to evade responsibility were being condemned as “pedological distortions,” some teachers persistently sought to divest themselves of “problem” pupils.” (Ewing, p. 16)
Serbantova is a good example of an undemocratic, elitist and conservative teacher, who has failed at their job and instead blames students:
“Addressing a conference in late 1936, school director P. S. Arshinov described how second grade teacher Serbantova reacted to a pupil with learning difficulties: “For goodness sake, I already have one such ‘incorrigible’ child, and now you have given me another.” On the next day, Serbantova demanded that Arshinov take measures against “this ‘disorganizer,’ this ‘incorrigible one,’ who does not sit still in class, and fidgets all the time.” Noting that the fidgeting resulted from physical illness easily corrected by medical treatment, Arshinov refused this request. Serbantova then incited the parents of other children to make similar demands: “Either remove this boy, or transfer our children to other classes, because he is ruining them.”” (Ewing, p. 16)
The above is a good example of a reactionary, pseudo-scientific bourgeois attitude towards education. Imagine blaming students who are left-handed, have dyslexia or ADHD as “incorrigible” and “stupid”. This in fact was the attitude in many capitalist schools, and still is to some extent today. It is not the attitude of marxism.
Reactionary teachers appealed to the supposed “innate defects” of students. They neglected these students, refused to put in the effort to teach them and help them, and used undemocratic, elitist and outright insulting and dehumanizing labels against these students:
“In a few cases, as in the example of Serbantova, teachers simply refused to teach certain children. Referring to her “incorrigible” pupils, teacher Ur’eva told the school director: “It is either them, or me.” Teachers who commented on the “innate abilities” of children were condemned for accepting pedologists’ “reactionary” views on the so-called “fatal” influence of heredity. A 1938 report claimed that some teachers made decisions two months before final exams that certain pupils would be held back and thus made no effort to prevent their “inevitable” failure. When Leningrad teacher Udal’tsova was asked why she had not graded certain notebooks, she replied: “Oh, those belong to the repeating students, and you can’t expect anything from them.” In Moscow, teacher Durova justified her poor results by claiming that her pupils were “less gifted” than those of a more successful teacher. In direct contravention to the Central Committee decree, many teachers continued to label individual pupils as “lacking intelligence,” “hopeless,” “defective” or “retarded.”” (Ewing, p. 17)
The Communist Party and Communist Teachers took a firm stance against reactionary methods and attitudes. They stated that the vast majority of students must be returned to the normal school system and teachers must give them additional help. It is the job of the teacher to make sure these students learn. These students will no longer be labeled as “defective” and will not be blamed.
Democratic slogans were adopted, such as “the Soviet Union did not have a single “defective child.”” and “There are No Poor Pupils, Only Poor Teachers”. A campaign was launched for 100% successful teaching, so that every student would pass his exams. If a student was having problems, it was the responsibility of the teacher to give them the help they need. This included trying to help their family or trying to solve any factors outside school, which could be causing problems for their education.
“The Stalingrad educational journal offered this unequivocal declaration: “Poor work by the school and poor achievement by the entire class and by individual pupils are the direct result of poor work by the teacher.” Whereas pedologists had asserted that “failure occurs outside the school,” the new policy line proclaimed that “failure occurs only in the school,” at the hands of teachers. [this does not mean to deny factors outside school, such as bad family conditions, but it means the teacher is responsible for addressing those problems too]. Teachers who had been reassured by pedologists that “failure” was the inevitable “fate” of “below average” pupils were now told that “permitting” failure by even one pupil was proof of their adherence to “bourgeois” and “anti-Leninist” theories.” (Ewing, p. 18)
Western anti-communists complain that it is “repressive” to blame teachers for the poor performance of their students. But what is the job of an educator? To educate. Since the teachers were given all the necessary resources, if they just put in the necessary effort they should be able to fulfill their duty. As one communist teacher correctly stated:
“Much has been given to us, but much is also asked of us.” (Ewing, p. 22)
The correct attitude and methods
“Complaining that pedologists had “crippled” children by categorizing them as “defective,” “difficult to educate,” and “disorganizers,” teacher E. Vvedenskaia urged colleagues to recognize that only an “individual approach” could ensure the success of each pupil. In a similar manner, I. Borukhovich declared that eliminating “pedological distortions” and improving schools were attainable ends only if teachers committed themselves to work “thoroughly, thoughtfully, and lovingly” with each child. Reinforcing this shift in expertise, educational authorities promised to pay more attention to “the voice of our best teachers.” With increasing frequency, journals and newspapers published celebratory accounts of how teachers transformed children into high achievers, obedient classmates, and loyal citizens. After M. D. Pronina finished the school year without any failing pupils, her achievement was said to have “disproven” pedology. When K. K. Fediukin transformed the son of a neglectful and drunken father into an excellent pupil, he accomplished a task allegedly declared “impossible” by pedologists.” (Ewing, p. 19)
Communist teachers held the correct humane and democratic attitude towards students, and recognized the necessity to combine theory with practice:
The ideas of one teacher Litvinchuk to correct the situation “consisted of seemingly common-sense approaches. In dealing with “backward” pupils, for example, Litvinchuk called on teachers to provide additional lessons, investigate factors that might impede pupils’ success, and avoid any suggestion that “hopeless” pupils were unable to achieve at “normal” levels. These examples suggest that the “scientific” authority previously claimed by pedologists had been repudiated in favor of teachers who used their “practical” authority to achieve more than these “experts” believed was possible.“ (Ewing, p. 20)
“In a 1939 account, for example, teacher V. P. Laiko described how she brought about the remarkable transformation of a boy named Valia:
For the first three quarters of the year he remained behind in all subjects. I considered him a “hopeless case,” that is, someone who would be held back a year. At the same time, however, I could clearly see that Valia did not have any kind of defects. I decided to work with him in a serious and systematic fashion. I must say that he was a real trouble-maker, as he interrupted lessons, crawled under desks, used improper language, and stole money from his home. The first thing I did was enlist his parents and keep in constant contact with them. I began to have additional lessons with Valia at the end of the day, invited him to my home, gave him interesting books, included him in socialist competition, and began to draw him a little bit away from the street. In the first half of the quarter, I could already see results as Valia began to read at a “satisfactory” level. By the end of the first grade his grades were not all that great, but I decided to promote him to the second grade in order to continue the work that I had begun with him. At the present time Valia is getting an “excellent” grade in reading, a “satisfactory” grade for spelling, and a “good” grade for arithmetic. I think that Valia might become an excellent pupil. If you work in a very painstaking way with children, it is possible to improve their education and raise their level of achievement.” (Ewing, p. 20)
The story of a teacher who emigrated from the USSR verifies how these new improved methods achieved success:
“I obtained my next post at school No. 23 in Kharkov in the fourth grade. This was a school whose children were the toughest I had ever met. Nobody paid attention to the teachers. During class periods the children did everything except listen to what the teacher was saying. The headmaster warned me that this grade was very bad, but he was very surprised when, after one year with me, the children gave up their former habits and became more attentive in their school work.” In these stories, the parallel transformations from a “hopeless case” to “an excellent pupil” and from “the toughest” class to “more attentive” children were presented as defining elements of what it meant to be a teacher.” (Ewing, p. 21)
Vygotsky himself was never the focus of the criticisms. The doctrine of pedology was condemned due to its:
Pseudo-scientific and anti-marxist nature.
Undemocratic, fatalistic (idealist) and heartless attitude.
Counter-revolutionary, harmful consequences which can be compared to sabotage.
Its separation of theory from practice: wasting time on endless fruitless discussions and experiments, while failing to give any useful results to support education.
In fact its elimination and abolishing of pedagogy, its declaration that pedagogy is powerless to help the so-called “defective”.
Lastly, I should mention that the idea of specialized institutes for disabled or other people who needed significant specialist help, was not as such denounced in the USSR. One of the most famous Soviet pedagogues, A. Makarenko, specialized in the 1920s and 1930s in creating self-help communes for street orphans, many of whom had terrible life-management problems and a background in crime.
It was also not prohibited to study the different “natural talents” or differences in people’s talents. One of the leading Soviet psychologists of the Stalin era, B. Teplov, studied what it means for someone to be especially “talented” or “gifted” in some field, such as music or mathematics, and where these “gifts” come from. Marxism does not deny that people are different and have different levels of skills. However, this should not lead to the segregation of people, but to the greatest possible development and thriving of everyone.
Those with special needs in certain areas, should receive additional help, and those with special gifts in certain areas should be given all the opportunities they need. This individual and humane attitude is part of raising a socialist generation, creating the socialist human being. It was exemplified for example in the work of a leading pedagogue in the Stalin era, V. Sukhomlynsky. It was the Soviet Marxist-Leninist method, the method of building Communism.
This article series presents a short history of the founding of the Hungarian People’s Republic: the establishing of a Socialist system in Hungary. We will explore the conditions in Hungary before socialism, and then the events which led to Socialism being victorious. Hungary had many national peculiarities which make this investigation interesting, it is also a notable example of a relatively peaceful socialist transformation. It was still a communist revolution, but a relatively peaceful one. We will explore how that was possible, what the results of the socialist system were, and what challenges it had to face.
HUNGARY IN THE EARLY 1900s
After suffering a crushing defeat in WWI, Hungary had become one of many stagnant little Eastern European fascist dictatorships. The country had lost 2/3 of its territory in the war, was economically under developed, dependent on the West, and still semi-feudal. Hungary was technically still a monarchy, though it had no monarch anymore. The fascist dictator Horthy was serving as a Regent, i.e. a leader in the absence of a king. Hungarian society was ruled by the landed-aristocracy, medieval nobility, clergy and to a lesser extent the rising capitalist class. Most wealth in the country was in the hands of the Catholic church.
As economist Doreen Warriner stated, Hungary, like most Eastern European countries, was already a fascist dictatorship before the Nazis:
“…the outstanding fact about eastern Europe as a whole, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, was that it was Fascist-ruled. The regimes headed by Horthy, Boris, Beck Stojadinovic and Antonescu were not the creation of Nazism on the contrary, they had come to power long before… as a result of the victory of internal reaction in the nineteen-twenties… Western powers… openly aided Horthy in the
Hungarian counter-revolution… The popular parties were crushed out of existence by extremes of oppression in Horthy’s White Terror in 1920… Western powers did not protest… so long as the dictatorships were anti-Soviet, it did not matter if they were also anti-democratic.” (Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe, p. ix)
The ideological climate of Hungary was dominated by nationalism and religion. Anti-semitism was widespread. Catholicism was the largest religion, but there was also a substantial Calvinist and Lutheran minority.
“Up to 1918 the desire for national independence… had been a progressive force. But when national independence had been achieved… [east European] dictatorships exploited the national grievances to build up their own power” (Warriner, p. x)
In the case of Hungary, this was particularly easy because Hungary had suffered so much in WWI and lost so much of its territory. This particular form of nationalist rhetoric was also particularly reactionary, because similar to nazism in Germany, it centered around starting a new war where Hungary could restore itself to the status of a great imperialist power, like it used to be.
“In Hungary is the strongest, the most pervasive nationalisn in all Europe. In the chauvinism sweepstakes the Hungarians beat even the Poles.” (John Gunther, Inside Europe, p. 425)
James D. Evans calls nationalism in Hungary “a veritable obsession” (That Blue Danube, London, 1935, p. 127) and European correspondent for the Overseas News Agency and the New York Post, Leigh White wrote that “the Magyar [Hungarian-MLT] curse is chauvinism … it is simply a dementia” (The Long Balkan Night, p. 15).
Leftist, democratic and communist parties were illegal in Horthyist Fascist Hungary. There was a parliament though, and several parties existed which were used by Horthy to fool the people and maintain a facade of democracy. The social-democratic party was the only legal supposedly “left” party in the country. It was allowed to function in the 20s and early 30s if it agreed to collaborate with Horthy, and not try to organize strikes or resistance.
“The Social Democratic Party… [had] its wings… clipped by a previous formal agreement with [Horthy’s prime minister] Bethlen under which the Social Democrats would abstain from rural politics and undertake to keep the trade-unions out of the political sphere.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 32)
“…Bethlen managed a deal with the socialists in December 1921, by which they… accepted limits on trade union activity…” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 279)
Theoretically the trade-unions existed, but their activity was strictly limited. The Horthy government specifically demanded that the Social-Democrats and trade-unionists not organize in the countryside, because the vast majority of the population were peasants. So, although trade-unions existed, the vast majority of people could not join them, and while technically there was a parliament, the vast majority of people couldn’t vote either.
“…Hungary was… dominated by estate owners, magnates of the Esterhazy-Karolyi class in the Upper House or gentry with middling-sized estates, who occupied most parliamentary seats. This was a gentlemen’s parliament…” (Stone, pp. 145-146)
Wilfred Burchett pointed out that at the best time during Horthy’s rule “in Hungary less than 30 per cent of the population had the right to vote…” (Burchett, People’s Democracies). Norman Stone says the same in his book Hungary: A Short History “The suffrage… widened to 27 percent…” (p. 279)
While some parties were allowed to function under these restrictions, the Communist Party and any genuinely democratic or leftist parties were banned outright. Still, the Communist Party tried to organize underground despite the persecution.
“The traditional political climate in Hungary had been anything but favorable to the Communists… The penalties were so severe, and the skill shown by the Hungarian security police in ferreting out Communist organizers… was so great as to discourage all but the most determined from seeking Communist ties.” (Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary, p. 27)
The Communists were labeled enemies of the fatherland, enemies of god and as jews. The Church controlled the education system, so the limited schooling that people received was virulently nationalistic, chauvinistic and religious. Jews were frequently lynched, treated as second class citizens and excluded from political and academic life, so large numbers of them joined unferground leftist democratic movements including the communist party. Thus the accusation that communists were all jews was very much a self-fulfilling propechy: the communists were part of the few who accepted the jews, and both jews and communists were persecuted by the state. I will discuss this in more detail later.
Warriner describes the situation of Hungary very aptly in the following way:
“With political oppression economic stagnation went hand in hand… Hungary… [was] mainly agricultural, with the bulk of the population on the land as small peasant farmers or landless labourers. Industry developed very slowly. The greater part of industrial and financial capital was owned by foreign interests.“ (Warriner, p. xi)
“…the standard of living, measured in manufactured goods, was very low, and during the ‘thirties was falling. For this widespread poverty the only remedy would have been industrialisation. But to this the obstacles were shortage of capital, and the lack of an internal market due to the poverty of the peasants. Foreign capital did not relieve the shortage, because it was invested only in the raw materials needed by the West… Peasant poverty therefore created a vicious circle, with no way out. It was not a transient thing, which could be expected to disappear with gradual economic advance, for within the existing set-up there could be no such thing as a gradual economic advance. The dictatorship… existed to prevent it, to protect the interests of the foreign investors, and their local capitalists and landowners, who both had vested interests in stagnation. The ruling class was a paralytic network of interests resisting change, topped off by a… dictator, and banked up on nationalism.” (Warriner, pp. xii-xiii)
“What eastern Europe primarily needed was the industrial revolution, and without the shift in the European balance of power resulting from Soviet victory it would never have come. Western Europe, so far as it was interested in eastern Europe at all, was interested in keeping it backward, as a source of cheap food and cheap labour…” (Warriner, pp. xiii-xiv)
ANTI-SEMITISM IN HORTHY’S HUNGARY
“The two social categories branded as ‘destructive’ since the 1919 counter-revolution, namely Jewry and the industrial working class… were treated as outcasts, or at best as second-class citizens, with painful consequences…” (Ignotus, Hungary, pp. 165-166)
“…universities were ruled by right-wing student organizations called fraternal societies… They received semi-official support from the government and were given preference among those applying for state scholarships. The patrons of the fraternal societies, the so-called domini (usually outstanding right-wing public figures) lent them a helping hand after graduation… Neither the semi-official mentors nor the domini objected… when at the beginning of the academic year, the fraternal societies launched noisy and brutal ‘Jew-beatings’… to scare off the Jewish students already admitted in limited numbers to the universities.” (Szász, Volunteers for gallows, p. 32)
Historian Kovrig wrote about Hungarian anti-semitism:
“[A]nti-Semitism remained as a latent and disintegrative force.” (Kovrig, p. 27)
However, as a reactionary Hungarian emigre, Kovrig naturally turns everything upside down. He doesn’t think that jewish workers, peasants and intellectuals were radicalized because they were oppressed second class citizens. Instead he blames anti-semitism on the jews, implying that if only the jews had submitted to oppression and not struggled for rights, then there wouldn’t be anti-semitism against them (p. 26). It is the old self fulfilling prophecy. Jews joined leftist parties because those are only places that welcomed them, and they fought for their rights. The reactionaries then turn around and say ‘the leftists are all jews’ and ‘jews are a bunch of troublemakers and revolutionists’.
Even the British conservative anti-communist historian David Pryce-Jones admits that:
“Jews had often become revolutionaries in the hopes of changing their status in a country of traditional anti-semitism.” (The Hungarian Revolution, p. 36)
“In… Hungary… the virulently racist, anti-Semitic prejudices of the population, fanned and incited by the prewar, semifascist regimes, drove Jewish workers and intellectuals to the communists, the only party that had put up an uncompromising fight against the preparers of the Holocaust.” (Hodos, Show Trials, p. 149)
“The record of Horthy’s Hungary was besmirched by anti-Semitic legislation… [the first Hungarian nazi] law was passed at the end of 1938, limiting Jewish employment…” (Stone, p. 300)
You can tell Stone (who was an adviser for Margaret Thatcher) was being very generous to Horthy. In fact there were anti-jewish laws much earlier then 1938.
“it is undeniable that many citizens of Budapest are fiercely anti-Semitic” (Gunther, Behind the curtain, p. 183)
“The feeble support for the Communist movement in Hungary [in the 20s and 30s] was closely linked to the rise of anti-Semitism in interwar Hungary and the popular perception of the Communist Party as a Jewish organization… a “Jewish conspiracy” in the eyes of many. The Party leadership was very much aware of the persistence of anti-Semitism in Hungarian society” (Apor, The Invisible Shining, p. 36)
HUNGARY JOINS THE AXIS
Hungary joined WWII on the axis side for three main reasons: its close historical and economic ties with Germany, Hungary’s own Fascist system with similar goals to Germany, and because of the Treaty of Trianon. That was the treaty after WWI where Hungary had been reduced to less then 30% of its size. The explicit goal for Hungary in the war, was to try recreate its lost empire. Hungarian forces invaded the USSR together with Germany. Fascism had ramped up in Hungary throughout the 30s but now it reached yet a new level. The Horthy government also participated in the holocaust:
“…familiar features of Nazi terror rule set in… the Yellow Star on Jews and ‘Jewish houses’, while from the provinces practically the whole of Jewry (including Christians of Jewish origin, in some cases even gentiles of ‘mixed blood’) was deported for ‘final solution’… Parliament, purged of [even pseudo] leftist parties and anti-Nazi conservatives… political dissenters, including well-known journalists, capitalists, and trade-unionists as well as politicians proper, were deported en masse.” (Ignotus, p.189)
“Adolf Eichmann arrived on 19 March with a detachment of thirty-two Gestapo ‘specialists’, and [prime minister] Sztojay approved an immediate plan to send 100,000 Jews for ‘labour’ – in fact, to Auschwitz… measures against Jews: the yellow star, prohibitions on buying food in short supply, freezing of bank accounts, closure of shops… By the end of April ghettoisation went ahead, starting with Kassa and going through the rest of the country… then the deportations got going, on 15 May.” (Stone, p. 319)
“Then Eichmann turned his attention to Budapest, where since May 170,000 Jews were concentrated in 1,900 ‘yellow star’ apartment houses, while 120,000 lived illegally in Christian households. On 25 June a curfew was imposed on the ghetto Jews, and they were unable to receive guests; and the deportations were to start on 6 July.” (Stone, p. 321)
However, as the war went on, it became clearer and clearer that the Soviet Union was winning. It became necessary for the Hungarian rulers: the imperialists, clergy, nobility and capitalists to start thinking of options of how to get out of this war, which they were losing.
“At the time, the ruling circles feared that if they supported the nazis to the very end, the power of the Hungarian landlords and capitalists would also be eliminated after the German invaders had been driven out. They not only had to realize that the defeat of Germany was unavoidable, but also had to recognize that their hopes of peace, based on a compromise between the British and Americans on the one hand, and the Germans on the other, were false. The very last moment came when the Horthyite leading circles, who had often been deceived and humiliated by Hitler’s government and the German general staff, could still take the step of assisting Hungary to join the anti-Hitler coalition. The only way to do this was to ask the Soviet Union without delay for an armistice [and switch sides]…” (Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, p. 14)
Germany’s defeat was certain, so it was best to abandon the Axis and surrender. That way, the Horthy government hoped it could save itself. Horthy calculated that he could join the Allies, and not be destroyed by them. However, he hesitated to make an armistice, because he was hoping that he could surrender to the Anglo-American troops, instead of surrendering to the Soviet troops. The rule of the capitalists and Horthy, would be better protected if it were the Western troops that occupied Hungary, and not the Soviets.
“The key idea was to get Hungary into a ‘neutral’ position, fighting Bolshevik Russia, but not the English and Americans it wanted to befriend… the political ruling class was… concerned… with saving its own skin. Its project… included the preservation of… [the] undemocratic system, an attachment to the revisionist vision… and a move over to the Allies but without calling a halt to the war with Russia…” (Molnar, A concise history of Hungary, pp. 287-288)
“When the Red Army began its operations in Hungary, three German and three Hungarian armies were stationed in the area of the Carpathian Ukraine, North Transylvania and in the region east of the Tisza. Two German army groups joined their front to the south… The German general staff had at their disposal bigger military forces in [this] area… than in both the West European and Italian theatres of war. This explains why the Horthy clique hoped that, with German assistance, they could hold back the Red Army until the arrival of the Anglo-American forces, and that was why they hesitated until the last minute to ask for an armistice.” (Nemes, pp. 15-16)
At the same time, the anti-fascists, led mainly by the communists, were organizing themselves to rise up and fight the Nazis:
“The German occupation… created a new situation for the working class movement. The legal working class movement ceased to exist… After a common platform had been hammered out, the Hungarian Front, a united organization of anti-fascist resistance, was formed in May 1944 – The Front comprised communists, social democrats, smallholders, and the National Peasant Party as well as the Dual Cross Alliance, an organization representing the anti-German wing of the ruling class.” (Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 97)
It was possible for Hungary to change sides, and turn their army against the Nazis:
“The combined strength of the Hungarian forces in the theatre of war totaled about 450,000 men. This represented a significant force… The Hungarian general staff had another quarter of a million armed troops in Budapest and other districts available to disarm the German invaders. [The anti-fascist resistance movement] The Hungarian Front was ready to provide all assistance to this end.” (Nemes, p. 16)
However, the Horthyists wanted to avoid a conflict between them and the Germans, wanted to delay the arrival of the Red Army and hoped that the British and American forces would come to Hungary first.
“The new offensive of the Red Army started on 6 October 1944 and the Soviet troops began their campaign to liberate Hungary… the Communist Party urged an immediate cease-fire and castigated those who were hesitating and delaying its conclusion… It appealed to Hungarian soldiers: “Join forces with the Red Army in the struggle against fascist barbarism!”” (Nemes, p. 17)
“On the initiative of the Communist Party, the Hungarian Front issued an appeal to the officers of the army: “Our criminally irresponsible government… is delaying… the only decision which could save our country and our national army from complete destruction. This decision is: an immediate armistice with the Red Army and armed struggle against the German invaders.” …It called upon the officers of the garrisons to supply arms, ammunition and explosives to the workers and peasants and the anti-German intelligentsia, and assist them in their struggle. “There is no time for further hesitation and long preparations. Act now!”” (Nemes, pp. 17-18)
The Communists were adamant that it was necessary to arm the workers to prevent a Nazi coup, as the Nazis would undoubtedly take over the Hungarian government, if they suspected that Hungary might want to switch sides. The Horthy government refused to arm the workers, and was more concerned with trying to split the anti-fascist resistance movement and have communists and leftists removed from it (Nemes, p. 18).
THE NAZIS TAKE OVER: SZALASI’S COUP
On October 15th Horthy announced his cease-fire with the Soviet troops. Immediately, he was arrested by the Nazis and the government was taken over by them:
“Within a few hours he was deposed and taken prisoner by the Germans. In his place ex-Major Szalasi, the leader of the most extreme Nazi Party, the ‘Hungarists’ or ‘Arrow-cross Fascists’, was appointed ‘Leader of the Nation’. All points of strategic importance in the capital, including the vital broadcasting centre, were occupied by the Gestapo and other German formations.” (Ignotus, p.190)
“By the evening all stations and the radio were in German or Arrow Cross hands, and at 5.30 a.m. on 16 October Veesenmayer came to the Castle to take Horthy and the others to Gestapo headquarters… There he abdicated… to give Szalasi authority to form a government.” (Stone, p. 341)
This was a strategic move on Horthy’s part:
“…the Hitlerite general staff were able to make their preparations for the Arrow Cross coup, and they concentrated about three divisions of German forces in the area of Budapest… At noon on 15 October, Horthy announced the cease-fire over the radio, after first informing the Germans of the step he was about to take. He also made this fact known in his proclamation: “I informed the local representative of the German Reich that we were concluding a preliminary cease-fire with our enemies.” The Hungarian Front had not been informed in advance of the announcement of the cease-fire, whereas the Germans had been given prior notice.” (Nemes, pp. 21-22)
The Hungarian military had not been given instructions about what to do in this situation. They had not been given instructions to unite with the Red Army and turn against the Germans. However, the Germans who knew the situation before hand, had ordered the Hungarian Commanders to not obey any instructions without first asking the German command. Horthy was not genuinely switching sides, to unite with the Soviets against the Germans. He was merely making a statement of armistice, thus giving him some credibility in the eyes of the Allies, but in practice not fighting the Germans. The Hungarian army stayed firmly under German control and had not been made ready to fight against Germany.
As a result of Horthy’s sabotage of the anti-fascist resistance, of his refusal to give weapons to the workers, of his opportunist maneuvering, the Arrow-Cross Nazi Coup, which had been prepared well before hand, took place. In order to delay the Red Army, and thus to protect power of the capitalists and nobility, Horthy was willing to unleash the Hungarian Nazi Party, the Arrow-Cross, on the Hungarian people.
“The Germans… persuaded Horthy to withdraw his proclamation and resign as head of state in favour of Ferenc Szalasi, the Arrow Cross leader. On the demand of the Germans, Horthy issued a statement on 16 October that declared his proclamation of the previous day to be null and void, and called on the Hungarian army to continue the war against the Soviet Union… Horthy and his associates pulled out, but they did so leaving the country, without any resistance, in the hands of the German invaders and their Arrow Cross agents.” (Nemes, p. 22)
THE RULE OF THE ARROW-CROSS
The rule of Szalazi was the worst time in Hungarian history. There were daily mass killings and the remaining jews were hunted down, rounded up and put into cattlewagons that would take them to Germany — to their death. As the Nazis’ time was running out, the Arrow-Cross began simply killing all the jews they could find, right then and there, without bothering to try to transport them to Gas Chambers. It was truly senseless, because the war was already almost over. Nazi forces were in full retreat, to escape the advancing Red Army. Only those who were completely blinded by Nazi propaganda, still thought they could turn things around and win the war. It was in these conditions that Szalasi’s Arrow-Cross Party took over, it was the last ditch effort by the most fanatical reactionaries to cling to power, before their total defeat.
“Violent anti-Semitic propaganda issued from the radio, inciting pogroms… When the siege began, the Arrow Cross were still murdering about fifty Jews every night, and in early January three Jewish hospitals were ransacked: 17,000 Jews were killed in this period. Just before the Red Army arrived, the militia had picked up children in the Jewish orphanages in Pest and Buda and were deterred from shooting them only because they themselves now had to flee.” (Stone, p. 345)
“While the German regular army dismantled and transported westward all that was movable in factories and trade-combines, the armed Arrow Cross gangs were roving the streets and knocking up households at will with demands for jewelry, cash, and lives. As winter set in, with ice-floats blocking the Danube, and the people of Budapest shivering in cellars beneath the thunder of Soviet gunfire and Allied air raids, the Hungarian Nazis took their final toll in blood and property, no longer bothering themselves about deportation when railway waggons were not available, but shooting their victims on the spot… The hunt was directed against political dissenters and jews… by the end of the war some two-thirds of Hungary’s Jewish population (practising and converted), including some 40% of those in Budapest, were exterminated. On the whole territory which during the war was supposed to be run by Hungarians, about 600,000 Jews lost their lives. The Nazis left behind a wholly devastated country…” (Ignotus, p.191)
The guns of the Red Army could already be heard, and despite all the lies and propaganda against communism that Hungarians were subjected to, despite the reactionary medieval ideology that they had been submerged in for centuries, people knew that nothing could be as bad as the Arrow-Cross. Even many anti-communist historians agree that Hungarians anxiously waited for the Red Army to liberate them, save them from the Arrow-Cross and finally bring peace again.
“Szalasi’s Arrow Cross government was to have a reign of terror which brought anarchy, destruction and almost civil war to the country. The more outrageous the behavior of the fascists, the more the Red army was looked upon locally as a liberating force. Throughout Hungary, ordinary people came to wait eagerly for the Russians… Few people waited more eagerly then the Jews, for whom this was a desperate life-and death matter.” (Pryce-Jones, p.15)
“For the next weeks, as the Russians closed the ring around Budapest, the Arrow Cross fascists roamed the city in bands looking for Jews or Communists. They shot them on the spot, or sometimes hanged them. Inhabitants became used to hurrying past street-corner murders, and averting their eyes in case they were accused of helping subversives.” (Pryce-Jones, p. 16)
THE HUNGARIAN PARTISAN MOVEMENT
“the Communists were the earliest and most effective fighters against the Nazi invaders and oppressors; it was the Communists, as a rule, who initiated and led military and political action; it was they who were hounded most mercilessly by the Fascists… it was they who imparted discipline and organization to the scattered patriotic forces.” (Gunther, p. 36)
“Directly after the Arrow Cross coup, the Communist Party issued another appeal to the Hungarian people… It again emphasized… all-out national resistance against the German invaders and their Arrow Cross accomplices… it asked every member of Hungarian society: Where do you belong, to the nazi front or the Hungarian Front? Whoever belongs to the Hungarian Front “acts and organizes the national resistance”.” (Nemes, p. 25)
“Before… 15 October… the Communist Party was the only party in Hungary that organized armed resistance. The Budapest action guards… already operated. On 6 October one of these groups, the Marot group, blew up the statue of Gyula Gombos, regarded as a symbol of Hungarian fascism… German motor vehicles and guns were destroyed, railway tracks around Budapest were repeatedly blown up, hand-grenade and sub-machine-gun attacks were launched against German and Arrow Cross headquarters and guards, and communication lines were damaged…. They encouraged resistance and increased the feeling of uncertainty within the Arrow Cross camp and power apparatus, thus speeding up their collapse.” (Nemes, p. 25)
“After 15 October larger Communist partisan groups of from 30 to 80 members were formed in the outlying districts of Budapest. During their activity they contacted the anti-nazi officers of several Hungarian military units and with their help acquired arms… Among the suburban groups the armed activities of the Ujpest and Kobanya-Kispest partisans were significant. They killed nearly one hundred Arrow Cross and SS members.” (Nemes, pp. 25-26)
“The partisan units and the small resistance groups that came from the Soviet Union or were formed at home together caused a total of over 3,000 casualties — dead, wounded and prisoners — to the fascist troops and their auxiliary detachments… Compared to the Soviet, French and Yugoslav partisan struggles, or the uprising in Slovakia, the partisan movement in Hungary was of modest dimensions. Nevertheless, its significance went far beyond its direct military impact, because it encouraged the growth of other forms of national resistance. ” (Nemes, p. 27)
“With the support of the other parties of the Hungarian Front, a broader front emerged early in November, with the formation of a joint body named the Liberation Committee of the Hungarian National Uprising.” (Nemes, p. 29)
“The appeal of the Young Communist League appeared at the end of October announcing the reorganization of the League and its action programme… It designated the main tasks of the League to organize and mobilize armed troops of working-class youth and to increase their participation in the national resistance, together with other youth organizations… Communist students at the Gyorffy College established contact with anti-nazi groups of students at two other colleges and at the Universities of Technology and Economics… these formed a joint organization called the Freedom Front of Hungarian Students, and their anti-nazi propaganda activities were particularly successful.
The Young Communist League also initiated a broad youth coalition that was formed in November under the name of the Freedom Front of Hungarian Youth. It consisted of the Young Communist League, the Freedom front of Hungarian Students and a peasant party youth group… Some representatives of the religious youth organizations also joined the developing anti-nazi youth front. Within the framework of this front was organized the Gorgey battalion consisting of 100 to 120 students and young workers…” (Nemes, pp. 30-31)
There was an attempt to organize a general national uprising, together with partisans and those units of the Hungarian army who wanted to fight the Nazis, but unfortunately the leaders of the uprising were caught by the Gestapo. “They were court-martialled in December and executed by the Arrow Cross forces… they gave their lives for the national liberation.” (Nemes, p. 31)
The Hungarian anti-fascist heroes, led by the Communists and other patriotic forces believed in the approaching victory. They knew that the dark days of Nazi occupation and fascism were coming to an end. The insane terrorism of the Arrow Cross would finally stop. The anti-fascist heroes fought fearlessly to win peace and a new better life for their country.
Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe
John Gunther, Inside Europe
John Gunter, Behind the curtain
Evans, That Blue Danube
White, The Long Balkan Night
Kovrig Bennett, The Hungarian People’s Republic
Norman Stone, Hungary: A Short History
Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary
Paul Ignotus, Hungary
Béla Szász, Volunteers for gallows
David Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution
Hodos, Show Trials
Apor, The Invisible Shining
Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962
Molnar, A concise history of Hungary
György Borsányi and János Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary
Wilfred G. Burchett, Peoples’ Democracies
FEW WORDS ABOUT MY SOURCES:
Almost all my sources are established “respectable” anti-communist/pro-capitalist mainstream historians. The only exception is that I cite 2 books by Hungarian communist historians: one by Nemes and the other by Borsányi & Kende. Burchett is also a journalist with communist sympathies.
The facts I present here can be considered very reliable, because they are confirmed both by pro-communist and anti-communist sources. I chose to cite mostly anti-communist historians, since they obviously have no bias to lie on behalf of communism. This way the information should be acceptable to non-communists.
That said, capitalist historians are dishonest and biased against communism, so I typically don’t recommend any of them. The only non-communist book on this topic I can recommend is “Revolution in Eastern Europe” by Doreen Warriner, it is both objective and well researched, with lots of empirical data. The other non-communist history books are extremely flawed, I had to verify everything I quoted from them from multiple sources and make sure it was true.
Nemes, Borsányi & Kende are not perfect either, they are kadarist revisionists. I agree with the facts I quoted from them, but not necessary with everything they might say.
At the end of this series I will probably discuss the research process and the sources in detail.
There is a widespread but baseless myth that ‘Stalin banned Hamlet’ in the USSR.
Shakespeare researcher Michelle Assay writes about it in “What Did Hamlet (Not) Do to Offend Stalin?” published in Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, 35, 2017.
THE MYTH IS SPREAD EVERYWHERE, EVEN BY ‘RESPECTED’ SCHOLARS
“there is no official documentation that could provide a factual backbone for his so-called Hamlet ban.” (p. 1)
However, anti-communist propagandists have never needed sources or fact:
“Yet it has become received wisdom that Stalin not only hated Hamlet and its hero but accordingly banned any production in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s animus towards Hamlet features in almost every study dealing with Shakespeare and Soviet political/cultural life. The myth of the ban in fact takes various shapes: at best it is nuanced by such modifiers as “tacit” or “virtual”; at its worst the myth takes the form of highly exaggerated claims, which usually disregard the historical facts, including actual productions of Hamlet during Stalin era.” (p. 1)
The myth was spread even in so-called academically ‘respectable’ publications:
“Here are two examples from quite respectable publications: “Theatrical performances of Hamlet were subsequently [to Mikhail Chekhov’s 1924-5 production] banned until after Stalin’s death in 1953”, and “[in the 1940s] the play [Hamlet] had not been produced in the Soviet Union since Nikolai Akimov’s zany version of 1932.”Such statements can quickly be disproved. They disregard not only the provincial productions of Hamlet in the 1940s (for instance two in Belorussia directed by Valeri [also known as Valerian] Bebutov, one in 1941 at the Voronezh State Dramatic Theatre, and one in 1946 at the Iakub Kolas Theatre in Vitebsk) but also Sergei Radlov’s rather wellknown 1938 staging, which due to its great success toured widely beyond Leningrad and Moscow, as far as the Urals, Sochi and Belorussia, to almost unanimously positive reviews… More ideologically motivated are over-exaggerations of the kind found in Solomon Volkov’s widely debated concoction of Shostakovich’s supposed memoirs.” (p. 1)
HOW WAS THE MYTH INVENTED?
Assay suggests that the myth could have originated from Stalin’s statement (real or invented) that during WWII the nation needed an active optimistic hero, and not someone as passive and tragic as Hamlet. But as Assay writes, Hamlet was still performed during this period: “this in itself does not imply the complete absence of Hamlet… from the Soviet stage.” (p. 2)
Assay cites Dimitri Urnov’s article “How did Stalin ban Hamlet?” where Urnov suggests that the myth could have originated from the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet from 1940, which was never completed. But “Urnov, however, goes on to argue – convincingly – that the production of Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theatre was halted not by Stalin but rather by many unfortunate circumstances and much internal tension within the Theatre itself.” (p. 3)
“There was at least one other contributing factor to the longevity of the myth of Hamlet and Stalin: the Hamlet fever that took over Soviet theatres following Stalin’s death” (p. 8)
However, this fever is hard to pinpoint. There had never been a Hamlet ban—Hamlet had simply been continuously produced. So when exactly did the fever begin? It is clear that Hamlet’s popularity increased over time and in the late 60s there was even a film. It seems clear that in the late 40s and early 50s there were other large projects and other topics which received most attention.
IN REALITY SHAKESPEARE AND HAMLET WERE CELEBRATED IN THE USSR
Assay writes that in reality Hamlet and Shakespeare plays were not only performed but:
“Bearing the seal of approval of Marx, Engels and Lenin, Shakespeare was indeed an attractive subject for schools and research institutes and provided “an ideal classic to reach the widest strata of readers and audiences and thus to bridge the gap which had frequently developed between modern art and the people.”” (p. 6)
In the late 40s when the Cold War intensified, the USSR became more and more critical of western capitalist propaganda in the form of culture. About this, Assay writes that Shakespeare was never under attack, only capitalist methods of Shakespeare criticism. Shakespeare’s works were translated and printed:
“During this critical period, it was not Shakespeare but supposed Western-style attitudes towards his scholarship that came under attack, including works of Mikhail Morozov that were deemed to be under Western influence… It was not the subject matter or the mere fact of writing about a foreign author that came under criticism, but Morozov’s [bourgeois] approach to Shakespeare scholarship… Following these attacks, and while politically correct “Soviet Shakespearology” was being supplanted by commentaries by Pushkin and Vissarion Belinski, there were also translations, often reprinted in anthologies.” (p. 7)
WHY THE MYTH WAS CREATED
Assay is a bourgeois scholar writing for a bourgeois publication. They only hint that there were political motives behind creating this myth—this fabrication—without delving any deeper into it.
Of course western academia used every opportunity to invent lies about the USSR, Stalin and Communism, including this totally non-existent ‘Hamlet ban’.
When the Finnish revolution and civil war began on midnight between 26-27 of January 1918, the country had already been in a revolutionary situation for months. The February revolution of 1917 had dismantled the Tsarist police and created a serious power vacuum in the country. A people’s militia had been created to carry out police duties, but the militia was not a typical police force at all and consisted largely of ordinary workers.
The conditions of the working class, poor tenant-farmers and household servants were very bad. They worked anywhere from 10 hours per day, 16 hours per day, or in the case of household servants basically an unlimited amount of hours. Unemployment was also high and famine was a serious danger. One quarter of the population were at an imminent risk of starvation.
The socialists won elections in 1916 but in 1917 the government was disbanded by the Russian Empire. There was also no municipal democracy: in municipal elections people with more property had more votes. The ordinary people lived in terrible conditions and didn’t have many peaceful ways of trying to improve their situation.
When the Tsarist police and other repressive institutions collapsed, the Finnish workers began strongly demanding an 8 hour working day, reasonable wages, food at decent prices and equal suffrage. Household servants began demanding the right to organize, and tenant-farmers began demanding land reform. There were massive demonstrations, protests and strikes.
The rich capitalists, aristocrats and politicians tried to use the police to suppress the people, but the new police – the people’s militia – didn’t always obey the rich. It often sided with the people.
Finland didn’t have its own military so in order to repress the people, the capitalists needed to create a military. That is why the White Guard was created. The White Guard carried out violent and brutal attacks against protestors and striking workers and peasants. To protect themselves, the workers and peasants created their own Red Guards, which were unarmed at first.
In December 1917 the Socialists began a General Strike demanding an 8 hour working day, democracy, end to the repression, food for the starving and other similar demands. This strike caused the Finnish state to completely collapse. Red Guards, who had only a small number of rifles, spontaneously occupied most government buildings and important locations. Power was in the hands of the people.
However, the capitalists and right-wing politicians managed to trick the people. They promised that the socialists could form a government if they just ended the General Strike. The socialists accepted and ended the strike, but it was all a lie. The capitalists and right-wing politicians now refused to allow the socialists to form a government, and they refused to grant any of the people’s demands, although some workplaces were forced to accept an 8 hour work day.
Already for months, the Finnish capitalists, right-wing politicians and aristocrats had been building a secret White Army in the region of Ostrobothnia. They had stockpiled massive amounts of weapons and ammunition which they had received from Germany and Sweden. They had hidden large amounts of food, and created a secret network of White Guard agents, disguised as volunteer fire-departments, forest offices and under other kinds of cover. They had received hundreds of non-commissioned officers from Germany, who were now training White troops in Ostrobothnia.
It was absolutely necessary for the capitalists to have total control inside Finland. The militia was unreliable, and they couldn’t tolerate the existence of the Red Guards. They also couldn’t keep the people from protesting or going on strike. Of course, they categorically refused to grant the people’s justified demands – instead they were going to rely on violent repression.
The situation had become more and more revolutionary, but the December General Strike was a turning point. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia in October, which demonstrated that a workers’ revolution was possible. The December General Strike showed to the Finnish capitalists, exactly how precarious their situation was if the workers decided to rise up and take power. Therefore, the capitalists massively speeded-up their military preparations. They needed to create a strong army, attack the workers, destroy the Red Guard, and install a military dictatorship or a monarchist dictatorship.
THE WHITE ASSAULT: The declaration of war
The war began with an assault by the White Army, North from most of the big population centers. The Whites had previously withdrawn the senate and most capitalist politicians to their new secret capital in Vaasa. This became the seat of the White government.
The Whites began their assault under the pretext of trying to liberate Finland from Russia. This might seem very strange. After all, Finland had already been given independence by the Soviet Russian government, and the Russian police, the Russian governor general and other Russian authority inside Finland had been totally dismantled. So how could they claim they were defending themselves from the Russians?
The fact is, there were still some Russian troops inside Finland. This is because Finland did not have its own military, and the Russian Empire had been worried that Germany might invade Finland. WWI was still going at this point.
The remaining Russian troops inside Finland were not stable fighting units. During the last days of the Russian Tsarist Empire and the Russian Provisional Government, the army had completely collapsed. Soldiers had started to leave their barrackses and go home. The soldiers had supported the February revolution and killed their monarchist officers. In Finland, the capitalists had tried to use Russian troops against demonstrators but the troops didn’t obey. Sometimes the soldiers defended the workers and peasants who were demonstrating. These troops were not in Finland to occupy or oppress the people, in fact, they refused to do so.
British historian Upton says the Russian soldiers: “had neither the will nor the ability to retain control in Finland.” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 272)
“It was quite clear that the presence of the Russians was to be temporary, and that the defense of Petrograd was the sole reason for their remaining.” (Upton, p. 249)
The Whites accused the socialists of wanting the Russians to stay, so they could use them for their own purposes but historian Upton completely debunks this:
“Not the slightest hint had been given that the party wanted the Russians to stay…” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 249)
The Finnish capitalists themselves had often tried to use Russian soldiers against Finnish workers, but socialists never had any intention of doing so. The social-democrats were anyway not in favor of violence, and didn’t speak Russian.
Furthermore, the military had absolutely collapsed, most units were barely held together and the Russian army couldn’t have oppressed Finland even if they had wanted to. On top of that, the Soviet Russian leader V. I. Lenin, had promised that the troops would be gradually withdrawn from Finland. The only thing holding this back was the war. Soviet Russia was intending to stop its participation in WWI and immediately when a peace treaty could be signed between Soviet Russia and Germany, the troops would begin to be withdrawn.
In reality, already for months troops had been returning home even without orders. Lenin also ordered the military to not interfere in Finnish affairs, not that the soldiers would’ve wanted to anyway. Consistently when the Finnish capitalists had asked Russian soldiers to attack demonstrators and thus interfere, the soldiers had refused.
In short, there were Russian troops in Finland, but they were confined to their barrackses and were not in fighting condition. This is why, when the Whites attacked the soldiers, they defeated them easily. The soldiers were not interested in fighting or prepared for it.
“Their Russian opponents were mostly demoralized, isolated… without any obvious cause to fight for, and mostly taken by surprise” (Upton, p. 272)
The Soviet-German peace treaty was signed on March 3, 1918, about a month after the Finnish civil war started. The Whites were in a hurry. If they wanted to pretend that the civil war was a “national war” against Russia, and not a class war against the Red Guards, then they had to attack right away before the Russian troops were pulled out.
“Mannerheim ordered the war to begin with the disarming of Russian soldiers in Southern Ostrobothnia … small number of Russian barracks thinly spread out, were not in any condition for battle, so a surprise attack guaranteed an easy victory and a large amount of weapons and supplies. The intention was that the early success would inspire the whites, boost moral, instill a sense confidence…
The Russian soldiers posed no threat, had been ordered to not get involved in Finnish affairs, and were waiting to be pulled from the country after a peace had been made between Germany and Russia. So why did Mannerheim choose to attack them? To get weapons, boost morale etc. but there was a more important reason:
“The goal of targeting the Russian soldiers was to make the war a seem like a national war against Russians. Mannerheim’s secret order of 25. of January… said to attack the Russian soldiers on 28 [of January]… [source: Erinnerungen, p. 171] Around the same time, though not right away, the working class movement concluded that revolution was unavoidable…” (Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918, p. 148)
In white guard propaganda the war was presented as a “national war” against Russian tyranny. But this was a lie. Soviet Russia had given Finland independence and had agreed with the Finnish government that the remaining Russian troops would be pulled after Russia signs a peace treaty with Germany. The white guards screamed that Russia had no reason to fear a German intervention, although Russia was still at war with Germany. In fact, the whites themselves would arrange a German intervention into Finland.
The real target of the white attack were not the Russian soldiers, that was demonstrated by the war itself. The real target was the Finnish working class.
“There was no need of war to remove the Russian soldiers; they would have removed themselves in a little while.” (Upton, p. 272)
To give some perspective, according to historians such as Paasivirta (Suomi vuonna 1918, p. 206) only 1000-4000 Russians participated in the fighting. The exact number is not known, but it is small, and without question most of these soldiers were only acting in self-defence and trying to retreat to Soviet-Russia. The Soviet Russian government allowed volunteers to help the Finnish reds, but the Soviet government had its own war to fight and was not in a position to send troops. They gave the Finnish reds rifles and bullets, and also significant amounts of food.
The White war effort was not a war of independence, the capitalists themselves had a very mixed relationship with the independence movement (most of them were not committed to it) while the Russian Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists had supported Finnish independence much more strongly.
The White commander Mannerheim himself actually admitted that the real target of the war, were the Reds, who he calls huligans and bandits:
“The peasant army of independent Finland under my command does not wage war against Russia, but has risen to protect freedom and the legal government and to ruthlessly defeat the huligan and bandit forces, that publicly threaten the country’s legal order and property.” (Mannerheim quoted in S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918, p. 56)
“…Mannerheim himself proved that foundational claim of bourgeois propaganda, that supposedly a national liberation war had started in Finland, to be a lie, and admitted the class character of the war…” (Holodkovski, p.166)
The White government also told Sweden, that they were fighting a civil war and not a war with Russia. However, the Whites also wanted to deny that this was a class-war and instead claimed that the Reds were criminals and huligans:
“The Swedish government was told: The struggle which is now in progress in Finland is not a class war… but is a collision between, on the one side a legal social order… and on the other side plain terrorist activity… criminal gangs, which have initiated violence against all human and divine rights…” (Upton, p. 311)
“Mannerheim told the Swedish minister that… “the Reds have begun a rebellion…”” (Upton, p. 311)
Lastly, although the Russian troops did not want to fight, and were told to not interfere in Finnish affairs, and although the actual war was in fact fought between White Guards and Red Guards, and not between Finland and Russia, its worth mentioning that at times Russian soldiers still tried to defend themselves from the Whites. The Whites then tried to use this as proof of Russian aggression. The Whites executed their Russian prisoners and carried out mass killings and massacres against Russians, although reactionary monarchist Russian officers actually worked together with the Whites. Mannerheim himself had been a Czarist officer whose job it was to oppress Finland and other nations in the Russian Empire. Mannerheim did not speak Finnish, and had no ties with the Finnish people and he also had a soldier assistant who only spoke Russian. These were the aristocratic and militarist “independence warriors” who claimed they were not fighting a class war, but a “national war”.
THE WORKERS’ REVOLUTION
The Finnish social-democratic party was controlled by a center-left faction which had not been very keen on revolution. The party had decided by a narrow margin, to not carry out a revolution during the December General Strike. They had agreed to end the strike, in hopes of being able to form a government and carry out peaceful reforms. However now the socialists realized that the whites had secrelty built a massive army, were passing dictatorial laws and were preparing for a war to crush the workers, destroy the Red Guard, and strip the people of all their rights. The socialists saw the whites were being mobilized. The Reds finally began to make hasty preparations, 2 days before the white assault.
The working class itself was very militant, much more militant then the social-democrat politicians. The trade-union and the Red Guard were also quite revolutionary. The party had a very small right-wing faction, which opposed the revolution and immediately went into hiding when the revolution started. This right-wing group led by Väinö Tanner, later collaborated with the whites and the German invaders. The party also had a leftist revolutionary faction, but the biggest group were the center-leftists. The center-left was not keen to start a revolution, but when the civil war was imminent, they realized they needed to act, they needed to defend themselves, and they couldn’t simply abandon the workers to be slaughtered by the Whites. They started a revolution:
“The social-democratic party committee, the central command of the workers’ militia and the central command of the red guard published a declaration on 26. of January that an executive committee has been created as the highest revolutionary authority.” (Esa Koskinen,Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa, s.54)
“The… declaration alerted the masses that the bourgeoisie has begun an armed attack against the working class movement to strip away those democratic rights, which it only recently won in the revolutionary struggle of the general strike” (Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918, p. 98)
“…the Workers’ executive committee gave the worker guards orders to prepare for occupying all government buildings and strategic locations.“ (Holodkovski, p. 175)
“The orders stated that mobilization of the worker guards was to be begun on the 26. of January at midnight and to be completed in three days. Worker guards were to be given special lists of people, who were to be arrested and transported to locations where guards were responsible for their safety and good treatment. After the order to begin the revolution is given, the parliament, the university, regional governments, highest government organs and banks are to be taken over under the supervision of persons appointed as worker guard comissars. The central command had the right to seize for itself those buildings and locations it saw fit as well as transportation and telephone. [Source: “Красный архив” (“Red archive”), 1940, vol. 2 (99), pp. 34, 35]” (Holodkovski, p. 175)
“Bourgeois newspapers were to be closed down.” (Hyvönen, p. 98)
“On the 27. of January the [more moderate] Workers’ guard and [the more militant] Red guard were merged, taking the name the Red guard.
The executive committee considered serious resistance by the white guards a possibility and gave the Red guard central command the following order: the Red guard has, if necessary the right to use armed force against those members of the white guard who attempt armed resistance. Those members of the white guard who surrender without resistance, must be disarmed. Their commanders must be arrested and transported to the militia building… the imprisoned or wounded must not be treated brutally or inhumanely… any weapons and large amounts of food must be confiscated and listed, signed by the owner of the supplies or two wittnesses. [Source: H. Soikkanen, Kansalaissota dokumentteina, II, pp. 34-35]“ (Holodkovski, pp. 175-176)
“Throughout the country corresponding messages were sent to [Red guard] regional commands… At 11 o’clock at night on January 27. Red guard detachments began to occupy locations mentioned in the orders of the previous day in the capital of Finland. A red lantern and red flag appeared in the tower of the workers’ club as a signal that the revolution had begun.” (Holodkovski, p. 176)
“…Helsinki was quickly taken under red control without a fight. By the end of January the most important cities of Southern Finland were under the control of the reds… A declaration of revolution to the people of Finland was published in The Worker on 28. of January, which stated that the working masses have taken state power in their hands. At the same time it encouraged all the working class organizations and [red] guards [and militias] to fulfill their revolutionary duty, everyone according to their ability.” (Koskinen, p. 54)
The following examples are from a Southern municipality:
“The command decided on 4. of February to announce that all weapons and ammunition were to be brought to the Red guard within 24 hours of the announcement… The confiscations happened without incident and e.g. in the manor of Vaanila Nyberg’s flying column was served pancakes and jam. [A local man] testified… that [the Red Guard leader] Nyberg was quiet and polite when conducting the gun search…” (Koskinen p. 62)
“The Red guard of Koikkala-Vaanila carried out gun confiscations with the help of 17 men and 6 horses in the villages of Koikkala, Hongisto, Röylä, Paksalo, Mynterlä, Vaanila and Lehmijärvi.” (Koskinen p. 62)
“The confiscations began on 4. of February. Aleksander Stick said he took part in the confiscations of weapons in at least 25 houses. They took the shotguns and browning rifles, which were taken to the workers’ club… on 5. of February… property owning farmers brought their guns voluntarily. But they were unusable as the owners had left parts of them at their homes.
The telephone centers were taken under control. In Koski-Suittila the watchman at the “phone-central” was to make sure the manager mrs. Åström only allowed calls to the food-authority, the doctor or drugstore. Other calls were not allowed. Elderly men worked as watchmen…
Travel without permit was not allowed. Permits were given by the local command. At [the train] station guards inspected those traveling by railway.” (Koskinen p. 62)
The workers’ executive committee stated in their declaration to the Finnish people:
“The great moment of the Finnish working class revolution has arrived. Today the working people of the country’s capital have bravely defeated the sinister den of oligarchy, that started a dangerous war against its own people… Members of the criminal senate prepared in the capital disgusting plans to have Finns spill the blood of their brother Finns, and a treacherous attack against the organized working class of Finland. In doing this they made themselves guilty in such brazen treason as to request foreign monarchist governments to send murderer troops to slaughter the Finnish people. Thus the entire freedom and life our our nation was in great danger… [the workers must] rise to save themselves and the whole nation from that destruction and misery… The senate has committed countless crimes to steal for itself that state power which belongs to the people. Apparently the main plot was that the senate wished to crush the working class movement with bloodshed, shackle all attempts at democracy and bury the poor people’s hopes for change in the slumber of death.” (“To the working people of Finland”, quoted in Holodkovski, p. 177)
So the revolution began. The Reds were still poorly organized and poorly armed compared to the whites and the whites also managed to steal most of the state’s funds to their new capital. The Reds occupied government buildings and infrastructure, organized control of public transport and created a system where travel was only allowed if one had a permit. This was to prevent spying, smuggling etc. The Reds tried to monitor the telephone centers to prevent spies from listening on calls, and to allow the scarce telephone to be used only for important calls. The Reds spent a lot of time confiscating weapons from local landlords, rich peasants and capitalists. The Reds easily took control (often practically without resistance) in all the southern areas, and in the bigger population centers in other regions of the country too.
The right-wing counter-revolutionary faction of Väinö Tanner split from the social-democrat majority and stayed in hiding throughout the civil war. At the end of the war these traitors collaborated with the Whites and invading Germans. The centrists united with the revolutionary left-wing faction of the social-democrats to support self-defence by workers, and to protect democracy from a capitalist military-monarchist dictatorship which the whites were building.
FIGHTING THE WAR
“In armed struggle the Finnish working class movement was forced to operate in unfamiliar circumstances. It was clearly visible in the formation and arming of the red guards and especially in directing the battles. A newly arising class, such as our working class was, could naturally never compete in the realm of military expertise with the ruling classes, who in that realm held all the experience. Officers are always serving the prevailing system, dependent on it and grown attached to it… The most populous and important region, Southern-Finland, ending up under working class control, made it possible for the reds to aim their attack towards the North, which the whites had chosen as their base area… But in order for the war effort to have been directed correctly, the red leadership would have needed to know the laws of revolutionary war. However, the revolutionary leadership of the red troops did not know them, and this was evident since the very beginning of the war effort.
Initially the reds quite correctly began advancing towards the North, but even so it wasn’t done with as much energy and determination as it could have. For example the Haapamäki—Pieksämäki railroad ended under white control due to the slow start of the red advance. When after stopping at Vilppula, the reds didn’t immediately make serious attempts to breach North, the whites were able to fortify this section of the railway under their control. Poor understanding of the character of a revolutionary war was also demonstrated by the fact that immediate firm actions were not taken to raise the red guards of the North to battle, and after the red guards of the North had suffered defeat, there weren’t serious attempts to organize them into a partisan movement behind white lines.
In preparation for the victory of the Russian October revolution the Bolsheviks always had the clear and determined goal to secure the military victory over their opponent. After the path of armed struggle had been chosen, every party organization prepared for an armed rising… When societal forces are being driven to an armed conflict, all other issues depend on this conflict; all other action must be subordinated to serve the armed effort in such a situation. — In this sense it is justified to criticize the actions of the Finnish social-democratic party. The party was late in preparing for the struggle and thus when the situation arose, couldn’t provide the necessary leadership to the most important struggle, that of the workers’ and tenant-farmers’ red guard. Important administrative actions and fulfilling the goals of the revolution could only lead to results if victory had first been insured in the war effort.
The early portion of the war resulted in the whites capturing Northern-Finland and the reds Southern-Finland. A front emerged accross the country from West to East. From Merikarvia through Ikaalinen, Virrat, Ruovesi, Vilppula, Jämsä, Mäntyharju, Savitaipale and Vuoksenniska all the way to Lake Lagoda. The military initiative shifted to the red guard in late February. In early March a general offensive was being planned, the goal of which was to capture the Haapamäki—Pieksämäki railroad. Clear signs of fatigue began to show among white troops. The peasant troops who had been forcibly conscripted or recruited through lies or bribery, now began to understand the nature of their war against the Finnish workers and tenant-farmers. Furthermore the monarchist agitation of the white officers and bourgeois newspapers helped to expose the real goals of the whites. Most of all, Spring was approaching and peasants were getting restless about neglecting their farms.” (Hyvönen, pp.117-119)
At the beginning of the war, both sides were still recruiting more troops. The Whites began forced conscription in their territory, while the Reds organized volunteers. Both tried to quickly throw forces at the front. The Reds still lacked weapons, but were able to mobilize ten thousand armed troops very quickly. During the course of the war, the size of both armies increased to 80,000 each.
The war can be understood in three phases: The formation of the front, the Red General Offensive, and the White General Offensive.
During the first phase, both sides rushed forwards. The Reds tried to advance North as fast as possible, and the Whites tried to run towards the South. Both sides thus tried to get more territory. This was important for controlling strategic locations and resources. It was particularly important to control railways, which played a huge role in the war. There were no tanks, and practically no cars. Resources and reinforcements were transported on rails, and armored trains were used in battle. I will discuss individual battles or series of battles in detail in further videos, but here I will give a brief overview of the war as a whole.
The first battle of the war was waged in Lyly, a village North of the city of Tampere on February 2nd. The frontline can be separated into three parts: the Northern Front, which formed North of Tampere, the Eastern front North of Vyborg, and the center front basically between them. It was convenient for the Whites that while population centers like Oulu, Varkaus and others were all taken over by workers, they were inside the White territory and far away from the Red territory in the South. The Whites could then go from town to town, and eliminate the Reds there.
The Reds were a bit too slow to advance forward and thus gave Whites an unnecessary advantage. The Reds also lacked the necessary military skills and military discipline, to carry out a massive general offensive. As I described in the article about the structure of the Red Guard army, the units were too decentralized to coordinate massive attacks. They could hold their own against the Whites, and defend successfully even though the Whites had superior weaponry and professional officers. But the Reds had a difficult time trying to attack.
However, it was understood that remaining on the defensive mean the death of any revolution, so the Reds correctly understood the importance of taking the initiative and attacking. The second period of the war was the Red General Offensive which lasted from the end of February to the middle of March. Fierce battles were fought during this time, but the Reds did not succeed in destroying the Whites.
However, time was not on the side of the Whites. They didn’t control industrial centers and would eventually run out of resources. Also as spring approached, the soldiers conscripted by the Whites wanted to go work on their farms. This might have been necessary in any case, as the Whites would otherwise start running out of food. The Reds could fight a long war and be completely fine, but the Whites couldn’t. The Whites were thus in a hurry to launch their own general offensive, and it had to succeed, otherwise they were ruined.
The Whites only won the war, because of the following reason: they agreed that Germany should invade Finland in the South and attack the Reds in the rear. In exchange, the Whites would turn Finland into a German protectorate with a German king. Finland would sign a highly exploitative trade agreement with Germany, and Germany would dominate Finland politically and economically.
Because of the German invasion the Reds had to split their forces. There was chaotic fighting in the rear against the rapidly advancing Germans, while also trying to hold the front in the North. The Whites on the other hand were able to concentrate their troops on an attack in the North, against Tampere. This was the most important battle of the war, and had massive casualties on both sides, and caused massive destruction in the city. The victory in Tampere and the German invasion in the South gave the Whites the initiative, and they were able to keep their attack rolling from then on. This lasted through March to the beginning of May.
During the final phase of the battle Mannerheim gave his notorious declaration to the people of Tampere:
“To the citizens and troops of Tampere! Resistance is futile. Raise a white flag and surrender. Enough citizen’s blood has been shed. Unlike the reds we don’t kill our prisoners. Send your representatives with a white flag. MANNERHEIM”
This was a complete lie. After the battle in Tampere the Whites carried out a mass extermination and slaughtered prisoners of war and civilians. This became a trend, and they carried massacres and atrocities after most victories. This is why practically every town in Finland, even smaller ones, have mass graves, and monuments to victims of the Whites. They continued mass killings after the war in the White Terror.
Mannerheim’s lie “we dont kill prisoners unlike the reds” was even more gross, because not only did the whites arrange mass killings of prisoners and civillians all the time, but the reds on the other hand practically never did. The red government never ordered any mass executions. The small amount of white prisoners or capitalist civillians who were killed, were killed by reckless undisciplined elements who disobeyd orders. This happened against the orders of the reds. On the other hand, Mannerheim in his notorious “weapon in hand”-order, instructed to treat all red guard prisoners as traitors, and the punishment for treason is the death sentence. For this reason the White Terror killed more then 30,000 people while the so-called “red terror” killed only around 1000 people. And this remarkably low number includes violence by random criminals and thieves, which was falsely blamed on the reds. The number also includes executions which the reds carried out against criminals and murderers who had infiltrated inside the red guard. Red guard members who committed crimes or violence against civilians were punished, sometimes with death. But for the Whites slaughtering civilians was policy, and those who criticized it were attacked.
As the Whites and Germans advanced, the Reds began moving East to escape to Soviet Russia. There they founded the Communist Party, and made plans to continue the struggle against the White dictatorship.
WHY DID THE REDS LOSE THE WAR?
I will start with the least important reasons, and end with the most important.
The Reds were militarily inexperienced, but this is somewhat unavoidable as the workers and poor peasants necessarily have less officers and career soldiers in their ranks. The ruling classes always foster a reactionary military. This situation was made more difficult because Finland hadn’t had a military since 1901. This meant that only very few members of the population had military training: practically only those who had served in the Tsarist military. Obviously the vast majority of Tsarist officers were far-right reactionaries, such as Mannerheim. Some had gone to Germany as “jägers” to be trained by the German Imperial army, but majority of these were right-wingers and wealthier people too. The police also had some training with weapons, but obviously most police officers were also rightists. This meant that the Reds had an exceptionally serious lack of military training. The situation was more favorable for the Bolsheviks as the October Revolution took place during WWI. The workers and peasants had been conscripted by the Tsar, and had been fighting the war for years and thus were already quite battle hardened and capable soldiers. Still, this difficulty wouldn’t have been insurmountable.
The Reds also had a serious tendency towards indecisiveness, softness, a reformistic and legalistic attitude and style of work. This is because they came from a reformistic background and had been under the influence of the reformist and opportunist 2nd international. The Finnish Reds were not rotted to the core by this opportunism, and in fact they overcame it. However, it caused problems and challenges. I’ve discussed the Reds military difficulties and softness in detail in part 6.
As a consequence of their softness and reformistic attitude, the Reds focused a lot on carrying out the policies which they promised: land reform, job programs, democracy, social welfare etc. but this was premature. They should’ve focused 100% of their efforts towards winnig the war. The Red government represented the highest point of Finnish society, it was truly the most humane, most free, most progressive and enlightened government that this land has ever had. However, it was tragically destroyed because they lost the war. The people’s dream was drowned in blood by the White butchers and their German masters.
The Finnish revolution began in the most difficult circumstances. The Bolsheviks were able to carry out their revolution at an opportune time, and only had to fight the civil war later. The Finnish revolution began as a civil war. This meant that organizing the government, the economy and everything else had to be done during the chaos of war. An exceptionally difficult task. The Reds also had to learn how to fight, how to lead an army, how to build an army, as the war was already raging. The Reds had not learned revolutionary skills before hand, everything had to be learned in the fighting itself. However, they were up to the task. They were learning. The Red Guard became a quite strong and capable fighting force, and if the war had lasted longer, if the Reds had had more time, they would’ve become truly skilled revolutionaries and they would’ve won.
The Finnish Reds were not familiar with Leninism other then superficially. They couldn’t read Russian and did not have a Leninist vanguard party. Their party was of the old social-democrat type, althought it was a leftist social-democrat party, and not a counter-revolutionary one. While the Leninists were conscious revolutionaries, the Finnish Reds were still somewhat groping in the dark. They had a revolutionary heart, but lacked the necessary knowledge and experience.
It is universally acknowledged these days that the revolution should’ve been started during the December 1917 General Strike. The workers were able to take power easily, they surprised the capitalists and the capitalists were not able to respond. It was a devastating mistake to end the strike and return to “normal” life. It gave the capitalists the opportunity to build up their army, make a deal with Germany, and launch the civil war at a time that was suitable for the Whites but unfavorable for the Reds. This is biggest mistake the Finnish Reds made, while their biggest deficiency was their unfamiliarity with Leninism.
However, despite all these difficulties, mistakes and problems, the Reds were becoming more experienced, were moving closer to Leninism and would’ve been able to rectify all the mistakes if not for the German invasion. The Whites needed Germany, and they would not have been able to fight a protracted war. However, the German invasion would probably not have happened if the Reds had taken power in December 1917. The German invasion would also possibly not have happened, if Leon Trotsky had not sabotaged the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. Kuusinen wrote:
“I forgot to mention a third cause of the defeat of our revolution in 1918: this was the well known theatrical gesture made by Comrade Trotsky at the first Peace negotiations with the representatives of the German Government at Brest-Litovsk (January/Februarv). The peace conditions proposed at that time by the German government were much more favourable than those dictated later, both for Soviet Russia and for the Finnish workers’ government. Before Comrade Trotsky left for Brest-Litovsk for the last time (at the end of January), Comrade Lenin told him that he should sign the peace treaty at once…
Had peace come about between Germany and Russia at that time, then it is highly probable that the German government would have sent no troops to Finland. This conclusion of ours is based upon the memoirs of German generals, published after the war.
But on 10th February, Comrade Trotsky refused to accept the conditions of peace offered by the Germans. A valuable month passed before the peace treaty was accepted, and during this time Soviet Russia was obliged to abandon Reval and other cities at our (Finland’s) back to the Germans. And during the same time the German troops struck their blow at us.” (O. W. Kuusinen, “A Misleading Description of the “German October””)
THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT LEADERSHIP IN THE REVOLUTION
Around the time of the revolution, the social-democrat leadership began taking its first steps towards Bolshevization. Leaders such as Kuusinen and Sirola began studying the ideology of Leninism for the first time.
“Those leaders of the Finnish working class movement who later became founders of the Finnish communist party, began to gradually distance themselves from traditional parliamentary tactics and more and more adopt a firm revolutionary stance. This was aided by the experience of Soviet-Russia and becoming more closely familiar with Lenin’s ideas. At the end of 1917 Sirola began with the help of a Finnish-Russian dictionary, to read Lenin’s text “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?”[source: E. Salomaa, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti, p.225]“ (Holodkovski, p. 150)
“On 12. of January he published in “The Worker” his article titled “Will the situation develop to a revolution?” [Kehittyykö tilanne vallankumouseksi?], where he stressed especially those questions which were important for supporters of revolution: pointed out Marx’s words that ending up on the defensive, is the death of an uprising, thought it essential to follow Danton’s slogan “Courage, courage and once more courage”, and explained how important it was for the bolsheviks to win the support of the peasantry. [source: E. Salomaa, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti, pp.226-227]
A strong desire to look into Lenin’s works had also arisen in Kuusinen after he had met Lenin and discussed with him shortly before the October revolution. [Source: U. Vikström, Torpeedo, p. 50] For Kuusinen also, the problem was that he didn’t speak Russian. Kuusinen only began studying Lenin’s book “The State and Revolution”, which is of special importance in taking a correct Marxist stance on the bourgeois state and for understanding the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, during the final period of the Finnish revolutionary government, and therefore this theoretical study couldn’t influence the revolutionary government’s policy.” (Holodkovski, p. 150)
It became evident that a Leninist party of the Bolshevik type was essential for a successful revolution but the Finnish socialists were lagging in behind in this regard, still influenced by the reformist trend of Kautsky and the 2nd international. Both Kuusinen and Sirola would later write their own criticisms of the SDP’s reformism from a Marxist-Leninist perspective. The most well known is “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism” by Kuusinen.
Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918
Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918
Paasivirta, Suomi vuonna 1918
Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa
S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918
Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa
Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918
“Красный архив”, 1940, vol. 2
H. Soikkanen, Kansalaissota dokumentteina
Kuusinen, “A Misleading Description of the “German October”
Salomaa*, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti
*Salomaa was a communist who became a big revisionist eurocommunist especially since the 1960s. The history books he wrote are still mostly good and correct, and had to follow the party line more or less. However, after de-stalinization he used every opportunity to falsely attack Stalin in his books.
Why did Khrushchev attack the “Cult of Personality”?
In 1956 the Soviet revisionist leader Nikita Khrushchev launched his attack on Stalin, the so-called “De-stalinization” and attack against the “Cult of the Individual”:
“It is of paramount importance to re-establish and to strengthen in every way the Leninist principle of collective leadership… The Central Committee… vigorously condemns the cult of the individual as being alien to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism”. (Khrushchev, Report to the Central Committee, 20th Congress of the CPSU).
“…the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person”. (Khrushchev, “The Secret Speech” in The Crimes Of The Stalin Era, Special Report To The 20th Congress Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union, p. 554)
Khrushchev attacked the cult of personality in order: -to hijack the already existing criticism of cult-like behavior.* -to attack his rivals by labeling them “Stalinists” -to rehabilitate Tito -to justify changes to policy and revision of theory
*for instance, according to Hungarian anti-communist historian Balázs Apor, there was already significant criticism of the ‘cult of personality’ before Khrushchev’s rise to power, but this criticism was never targeted against Stalin. (Source: Apor, The Invisible Shining)
Khrushchev’s project was accepted to the degree that it was, because it was legitimate to criticize the personality cult, though Khrushchev himself did it for false reasons.
Stalin Opposed the Cult of Personality
Khrushchev claimed Stalin orchestrated the Cult of Personality. But in reality Stalin always opposed it:
“I must say in all conscience, comrades, that I do not deserve a good half of the flattering things that have been said here about me…” (J. V. Stalin, Reply to the Greetings of the Workers of the Chief Railway Workshops in Tiflis)
“You speak of your devotion to me… I would advise you to discard the ‘principle’ of devotion to persons. It is not the Bolshevik way. Be devoted to the working class, its Party, its state. That is a fine and useful thing. But do not confuse it with devotion to persons, this vain and useless bauble of weak-minded intellectuals.” (J. V. Stalin, Letter to Comrade Shatunovsky, August 1930)
“The times have passed when leaders were regarded as the only makers of history, while the workers and peasants were not taken into account. The destinies of nations and of states are now determined, not only by leaders, but primarily and mainly by the vast masses of the working people. The workers and the peasants, who without fuss and noise are building factories and mills, constructing mines and railways, building collective farms and state farms, creating all the values of life, feeding and clothing the whole worldt hey are the real heroes and the creators of the new life.” (J.V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at the First All-Union Congress of Collective Farm Shock Brigadiers)
“I am absolutely against the publication of ‘Stories of the Childhood of Stalin’. The book abounds with a mass of inexactitudes of fact, of alterations, of exaggerations and off unmerited praise… the important thing resides it the fact that the book has a tendency to engrave on the minds of Soviet children (and people in general) the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes. This is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory. I suggest we burn this book”. (J. V. Stalin, Letter on Publications for Children Directed to the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Youth)
Stalin never accepted being equated with Lenin. He was only a continuer of Lenin’s work, a supporter of Lenin’s program:
“Robins: …throughout Russia I have found the names Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, linked together. Stalin: That, too, is an exaggeration. How can I be compared to Lenin?” (J. V. Stalin, Talk With Colonel Robins, May 13 1933)
”MOLOTOV (. . . stated that he is and will always he a faithful disciple of Stalin.) STALIN (interrupting Molotov): This is nonsense. I have no students at all. We are all students of the great Lenin.” (Unpublished Speech by Stalin at the Plenum of the Central Committee, CPSU October 16, 1952)
Who really promoted the personality Cult?
The Cult of Personality was dishonestly fostered by Stalin’s enemies, by traitors who used it to promote their own careers or used it to hide their anti-Leninist positions. A good example of this was the Trotskyist Radek:
“The first issue of ‘Pravda;’ for 1934 carried a huge two-page article by Radek, heaping orgiastic praise on Stalin. The former Trotskyite, who had led the opposition to Stalin for many years, now called him ‘Lenin’s best pupil, the model of the Leninist Party, bone of its bone, blood of its blood’… He ‘is as far-sighted as Lenin’, and so on and on. This seems to have been the first large article in the press specifically devoted to the adulation of Stalin” (R. Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 148).
On the occasion of the celebration of Stalin’s fiftieth birthday in December 1929, Anastas Mikoyan accompanied his congratulations with the demand “that we, meeting the rightful demand of the masses, begin finally to work on his biography and make it available to the Party and to all working people in our country”. (‘Izvestia’, 21 December 1929, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,;164).
Ten years later, on the occasion of Stalin’s sixtieth birthday in December 1939, Mikoyan was still urging the creation of a “scientific biography” (‘Pravda’, 21 December 1939, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,.; p. 158) of Stalin.
An official biography was finally published in 1948. Khrushchev’s crony Mikoyan had been calling for such a biography for 20 years. But what did Khrushchev say in his ‘secret speech’? Khrushchev claimed that the book was created on Stalin’s instructions:
“One of the most chararacteristic examples of Stalin’s self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his ‘Short Biography’. This book is an example of the most dissolute flattery”. (Khrushchev, “The Secret Speech” in The Crimes Of The Stalin Era, Special Report To The 20th Congress Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union, p. 554)
Grover Furr citing L.V. Maksimenkov points out that Stalin’s only involvement in the writing of his 1948 biography, was that Stalin diminished his own role. (Khrushchev Lied, pp. 117-121)
The right-wing opportunist and anti-Stalin traitor Ezhov was also a major builder of the “cult” around Stalin. Ezhov even demanded that the name of Moscow be changed to “Stalinodar” or “Gift of Stalin”. However, Stalin succeeded in preventing this from taking place:
“Ezhov commanded his subjects to create a project of renaming Moscow to Stalinodar (translated as “Stalin’s gift”)… But Ezhov didn’t take into account that Stalin hated plain flattery. He dismissed the suggestion as “foolish.”… There are accounts that Moscow was subject to another renaming campaign after WWII, (but Stalin refused the suggestion again)” https://www.rbth.com/history/332610-why-bolsheviks-never-renamed-moscow
According to Sarah Davies in The Leader Cult in Communist Dictatorships: Stalin and the Eastern Bloc “On 20 May 1936, Stalinraised an item ‘On renaming towns etc.’ as a result of which the Politburo agreed to ban from 1 June 1936 the renaming of towns, small towns, district centres and railway stations.”(p. 41)
However, the biggest architect of the “cult” was Khrushchev himself:
At the Moscow Party Conference in January 1932, Khrushchev finished his speech by saying:
“The Moscow Bolsheviks, rallied around the Leninist Central Committee as never before, and around the ‘vozhd’ of our Party, Comrade Stalin, are cheerfully and confidently marching toward new victories in the battles for socialism, for world proletarian revolution”. (‘Rabochaya Moskva’, 26 January 1932, cited in: L. Pistrak: ‘The Grand Tactician: Khrushchev’s Rise to Power’; London; 1961; p. 159).
At the 17th Party Conference in January 1934 it was Khrushchev, and Khrushchev alone, who called Stalin “vozhd of genius”. (XVII s’ezd Vsesoiuznoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (B.); p, 145, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid.; p. 160).
In August 1936, during the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial, Khrushchev, in his capacity as Moscow Party Secretary, said:
“Miserable pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all men. . . . our wise ‘vozhd’, Comrade Stalin! Thou, Comrade Stalin, hast raised the great banner of Marxism-Leninism high over the entire world and carried it forward. We assure thee, Comrade Stalin, that the Moscow Bolshevik organisation — the faithful supporter of the Stalinist Central Committee — will increase Stalinist vigilance still more, will extirpate the Trotskyite-Zinovievite remnants, and close the ranks of the Party and non-Party Bolsheviks even more around the Stalinist Central Committee and the great Stalin”. (‘Pravda’, 23 August 1936, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,; p. 162).
At the Eighth All-Union Congress of Soviets in November 1936 it was again Khrushchev who proposed that the new Soviet Constitution, which was before the Congress for approval, should be called the ‘Stalinist Constitution’ because “it was written from beginning to end by Comrade Stalin himself”. (‘Pravda’, 30 November 1936, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid.; p. 161).
“It has to be noted that Vyacheslav Molotov and Andrey Zhdanov did not mention any special role by Stalin in the drafting of the Constitution.” (Bland)
Why did the opportunists promote the Cult?
They did it to hide their own revisionism, to promote their own careers by trying to attach themselves to Stalin. Radek and Ezhov were conspiring against Stalin but they could never have defeated him openly. Radek and Ezhov pretended to be good loyal communists, when in fact they were not.
One might ask, “isn’t it counter-productive to foster this kind of hero-worship of Stalin, if one’s goal is to overthrow him?”. One might think it is counter-productive, yet that’s exactly what Khrushchev did successfully. Khrushchev promoted the cult more then anyone else, and used it to promote himself. But in the end he blamed the cult entirely on Stalin (who never even supported it) and Khrushchev then presented himself as some kind of great ‘democrat’ who fought against the cult!
Stalin knew that the cult was at least partially supported by traitors and opportunists, and he fought against it. He always gave credit to others, to the masses, to the party, and reminded people that the “great-man” theory of history is idealist.
The German writer Lion Feuchtwanger wrote:
“It is manifestly irksome to Stalin to be worshipped as he is, and from time to time he makes fun of it… Of all the men I know who have power, Stalin is the most unpretentious. I spoke frankly to him about the vulgar and excessive cult made of him, and he replied with equal candour… He thinks it is possible even that ‘wreckers’ may be behind it in an attempt to discredit him”. (L. Feuchtwanger, Moscow 1937, pp. 93, 94-95)
The Finnish revisionist Arvo Tuominen wrote about a certain incident at a new years’ party in 1935. At this party Stalin parodied those who tried to suck up to him. He said:
“Comrades! I want to propose a toast to our patriarch, life and sun, liberator of nations, architect of socialism (he rattled off all the appelations applied to him in those days), Josef Vissarionovich Stalin, and I hope this is the first and last speech made to that genius this evening”. (A. Tuominen, Bells of the Kremlin, p. 162).
Definition of “Cult of Personality”
In his attack against the “cult of Stalin” Khrushchev doesn’t treat the issue scientifically or in a marxist way at all. He never properly defines what the “Cult of Personality” even is. Khrushchev was not a theoretician, and did not understand what the role of individuals in history is. For Khrushchev, the “cult” was something vague like people singing songs about Stalin, naming cities after him, carrying pictures of him, and generally voicing their admiration and support for Stalin.
However, there is nothing inherently “cultish” or bad in admiring someone who legitimately has achieved something great. It only becomes a “cult” when the person in question is treated as an infallible god, and when people don’t simply respect his wise opinion, but uncritically accept everything without even thinking with their own brains.
Khrushchev never gave an exact explanation like this. Once again, Stalin had the correct position:
“Decisions of individuals are, always, or nearly always, one-sided decisions… In every collective body, there are people whose opinion must be reckoned with… From the experience of three revolutions we know that out of every 100 decisions taken by individual persons without being tested and corrected collectively, approximately 90 are one-sided…” (J. V. Stalin, An Interview with the German Author Emil Ludwig)
A cult of personality promotes the idealist “great-man” theory of history. Stalin correctly said:
“the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes… is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory.” (J. V. Stalin, Letter on Publications for Children Directed to the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Youth)
The “great-man” theory is a remnant of bourgeois society and bourgeois ideology. To avoid this mistake, many Marxists today totally underestimate and disregard the importance of individuals and leaders. However, individuals and leaders do matter. It is not an irrelevant issue whether Stalin or Trotsky becomes the party leader, it is actually a very important issue.
“Marxism does not deny at all the role played by outstanding individuals or that history is made by people. But great people are worth anything at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their imagination, they will find themselves in the situation of Don Quixote… With us personages of the greatest authority are reduced to nonentities, become mere ciphers, as soon as the masses of the workers lose confidence in them”. (J. V. Stalin, An Interview with the German Author Emil Ludwig)
To become a revolutionary leader, a person must win the support of the masses and correctly understand objective conditions.
Individuals always represent classes and tendencies. Stalin represented the proletarian political line, and thus relied on marxist theory and the support of the workers. Khrushchev represented a bourgeois line, the line which he pursued ended up restoring capitalism. Building socialism – a new superior type of system – requires a scientific theory and class consciousness. It is not easy to overthrow capitalism and the centuries of habits from class society. However, Marxist-Leninist theory provides the necessary answers for this work. In hindsight we can clearly see the erroneous policies and wrong positions introduced by the Khrushchevites, and avoid them in the future.
IT WILL BE UPDATED, RE-STRUCTURED AND IMPROVED OVER TIME.
“Only conscious organisation of social production, in which production and distribution are carried on in a planned way, can lift mankind above the rest of the animal world as regards the social aspect, in the same way that production in general has done this for men in their aspect as species. Historical evolution makes such an organisation daily more indispensable, but also with every day more possible. From it will date a new epoch of history, in which mankind itself, and with mankind all branches of its activity, and especially natural science, will experience an advance that will put everything preceding it in the deepest shade.” (Friedrich Engels, Dialectics of Nature)
M. V. LOMONOSOV (1711-1765) (polymath, universal genius)
Mikhail Lomonosov lived long before the Soviet Union, but deserves mention because he was recognized as the greatest Russian scientist in history. Lomonosov was a universal genius, contributing to practically every field of science: chemistry, biology, physics, minerology, optics, astronomy, as well as history, art and linguistics. He founded modern geology and influenced the formation of the modern Russian written language. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Venus and the conservation of mass in chemical reactions. His work was profoundly materialistic.
In 1940 the Moscow State University (which Lomonosov had founded) was renamed to Lomonosov University.
The great Soviet geologist A. Fersman said about Lomonosov:
“Dozens of books and hundreds of articles were written about Lomonosov; the most prominent investigators, scientists, writers and poets devoted their best pages to the analysis of this giant of Russian thought and it is still impossible to exhaust this subject, because the genius of Mikhail Lomonosov, this Arkhangelsk pomor was so great and profound…
Courage, resolve and daring bordering on stormy fantasy, a thirst to know everything, down to the root of things and to the source of all sources, and a capacity for profound philosophical analysis in combination with a brilliant ability to conduct experiments, without which he could not think of science, were some of Lomonosov’s traits. And whereas seven cities of antiquity debated the honour of keeping Homer’s grave, more than a dozen different sciences and arts arc lighting for the main heritage’ of Lomonosov: physics and chemistry, mineralogy and crystallography, geochemistry and physical chemistry, geology and mining, geography and meteorology, astronomy and astrophysics, regional science and economics, history, literature, philology and engineering. To be sure, Lomonosov was, as Pushkin was wont to say: a “whole university’’ in himself.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 347-348)
K. A. TIMIRYAZEV (1843-1920) (Botanist, Physiologist, Darwinist)
Timiriazev helped bring darwinism to Russia and was a true communist and a true scientist. As someone who deeply understood darwinism, he was among the first to strongly criticize the reactionary malthusian aspects in darwinism.
The great Soviet biologist T. D. Lysenko said: “Eminent biologists, like V. O. Kovalevsky, I. I. Mechnikov, V. M. Sechenov and particularly K. A. Timiryazev, defended and developed Darwinism with all the passion of true scientists.” (The Situation in the Science of Biology,1948)
V. O. KOVALEVSKY (1842-1883) (Paleontologist, Darwinist)
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky carried out important scientific work and translated many works of Darwin into Russian for the first time. His brother Alexander Kovalevsky, an embryologist, was also a significant materialist scientist.
A. O. KOVALEVSKY (1840-1901, embryologist, Darwinist)
Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky was an important materialist scientist.
“Alexander Kovalevsky, the famous embryologist… trained the students to have clear materialist ideas…” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 74)
I. I. MECHNIKOV (1845-1916) (Zoologist, Immunologist, Darwinist)
Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov was also deeply influenced by Darwin’s work and helped propagate it. He received a Nobel prize in physiology in 1908 for his work on immunity.
“Nikolai Umov, the physicist, and Alexander Kovalevsky, the famous embryologist… trained the students to have clear materialist ideas, taught them to seek in the external world for the causes of internal changes, as Sechenov had done when he proved that the external world determines the character of the higher nervous activity of animals and man, as Mechnikov and Pasteur had done when they explained the role of the external world in the origin and spread of diseases.
The higher course students remembered how Mechnikov had once begun one of his lectures with the words:
“There is a disease which causes restriction in man’s field of vision. First he sees everything round him, then what might be called blinkers form round his eyes. Finally he can only distinguish one shining point in front of him.”
Mechnikov said no more for a moment but narrowly watched his audience. Then he concluded:
“If some scientists voluntarily inflict this disease on themselves, by concerning themselves only with their own narrow speciality, their own subject of observation, one can definitely forecast that they will create nothing truly great or truly important for humanity.”” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, pp. 74-75)
MICHURINIST BIOLOGY, MODERN CREATIVE DARWINISM (often called ‘Lysenkoism’)
Before the October Revolution Ivan Michurin lived in economic difficulties which hindered his scientific research. He still created countless new plant varieties and American corporations tried to hire him. However, he did not want to leave his homeland. After the revolution his scientific work began on a bigger scale. He developed a truly materialist concept of heredity and had a deep and creative understanding of Darwin’s discoveries. Afterwards he was attacked by the capitalists, aristocratic scientists and out-of-touch dogmatists.
Michurin (1948) A nice Soviet film about the life and career of I. V. Michurin. Click the CC button for subtitles.
Trofim Lysenko developed many scientific theories and concepts which became highly useful. His early research on vernalization and the theory of phasic development were recognized by the scientific community. Lysenko developed and applied the discoveries of Michurin. He opposed all idealism, dogmatism and separation of theory from practice. For Lysenko, practice was always the criterion of truth.
Lysenko came into conflict with snob-scientists who did not want to focus on real life problems. Lysenko came into conflict with the supporters of mendelian genetics (so-called ‘orthodox genetics’ invented by the Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel). For this reason Lysenko is attacked today. His critics claim that “Lysenko did not believe in genes”. However, this is a falsehood. Lysenko disagreed with the mendelists’ idealist definition of genes. For the mendelists, heredity (genes) were totally separate and isolated from the organism, they could not be influenced or altered by changes to the organism or to its living conditions. The genes were conceptualized as indestructible – even immortal – by mendelists such as August Weismann. Lysenko could not agree with these idealist, metaphysical and mystical notions.
For Lysenko, heredity was a more complicated interaction between the chromosomes and the DNA, the entire organism, and its environment. The heredity of an organism cannot be reduced to isolated genes, and these genes cannot be seen as unchanging. Lysenko produced significant discoveries. He helped reduce effects of plant-disease, contributed significantly to preventing famine during WWII, demonstrated the harmful effects of inbreeding in agriculture, combated social-darwinism and other distortions of darwinism.
Lysenko disagreed with the idea that animals evolve purely individualistically. He said that mutual aid of animals of the same species living in the same group or herd, is just as important (if not more important) then competition. Lysenko’s view was shared by the great Darwinist Timiriazev, but it is considered heretical by western “neo-darwinists”.
Lysenko also disagreed with the notion invented by western mendelist Thomas Morgan, that evolution and heredity are completely random. Lysenko said there must be reasons and laws governing evolution, mainly environmental factors, and heredity must also be influenced by the environment. Lysenko said that if heredity was completely random, we could never breed any plants or animals. His opinion was shared by Michurin who famously said: “We cannot simply wait for favors from nature, we have to wrest them from her”. Michurin meant that agriculturists must use scientific methods to breed new plants, instead of merely waiting for results from the supposedly random processes. For all these reasons Lysenko was attacked by his opponents.
Lysenko strongly opposed using western inbred corn, because it was unsuitable to Soviet conditions, unsustainable and risky. He was proven correct when Khrushchev’s attempt to use western inbred corn in the USSR failed completely. Western farming methods have been shown to be risky, prone to pests without constant use of massive amounts of poisons, and ecologically unsustainable.
Later I will write a full article about Lysenko (with sources) and debunk many of the myths about him.
Land In Bloom by V. Safonov (pdf) (archive) (An excellent and entertaining history of biological sciences from before Darwin to Soviet Science. Recommended reading)
Studitsky particularly studied regeneration and wound-healing. He applied michurinist teachings to his work and demonstrated their validity in practice: he successfully regenerated muscles from minced tissues, and managed to re-grow completely healthy avian bones from small fragments.
Studitsky’s achievements are impressive but they’ve been acknowledged even by modern-day capitalist researchers, for example:
Alexander Oparin was a biochemist who studied the origins of life from non-living matter. In 1924 he presented the hypothesis that life has emerged through the chemical evolution of carbon based molecules in the so-called ‘primordial soup’. Throughout his career Oparin further developed this idea. He showed convincingly how life emerged naturally without the need for any kind of supernatural creator. Oparin refuted both idealist vitalism and mechanistic models, and defended the correctness of dialectical materialism.
G. V. PLATONOV (1918-2006, Michurinist, Philosopher of science)
I. GLUSHCHENKO (biologist)
Doctor of Agriculture Science; Professor; Director, Laboratory of Plant Genetics, Institute of Genetics, USSR Academy of Science, since 1939; member, All Union Lenin Academy, of Agriculture Science, since 1956. Order of Red Banner of Labor; two Stalin Prizes, 1943, 1950. Member of the Communist Party since 1938.
Graduated from the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute in 1929, employee of the Institute of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR since 1935. Received the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1945). In 1949-1952 he headed the Department of Zoology at the K. A. Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in Moscow.
D. A. DOLGUSHIN (biologist)
Agrobiologist and selectionist. Doctor of Agriculture Science since 1936; full member, All-Union Lenin Academy, of Agriculture Science, since 1948. Stalin Prize, 1941; Order of Red Banner of Labor.
“Academician Tsitsin, by crossing wheat with couch grass, produced a new variety of perennial wheat that is impervious to drought. In a conversation he had with Academician Tsitsin, Comrade Stalin said: “Be bolder in your experiments, we will support you.” (A History of the USSR, ed. A. M. Pankratova (1948) vol.3, p. 380)
Botanist Vladimir Leontievich Komarov was awarded numerous awards such as Hero of Socialist Labor (10/13/1944), three orders of Lenin (1939, 1944, 1945) and two first degree Stalin Prizes in 1941 for the work “The doctrine of the species in plants” and in 1942 as part of a team for the work “On the development of the national economy of the Urals in war conditions”.
VASILY DOKUCHAEV (1846-1903, geologist, pioneer of ecology, founder of modern soil science)
V. Dokuchaev was the founder of modern Soil Science. He lived before the Soviet Union, however his work was continued by Soviet scientists. The weakening quality of soil in the Russian Empire and resulting famines inspired Dokuchaev to create modern soil science. He had to struggle against the Tsarist authorities. His work was continued and further developed by Soviet scientists, particularly Vasily R. Williams and T. D. Lysenko.
Dokuchaev discovered the reasons for the weakening of soil fertility. The reasons were related to depletion, climate change and structure of the soil. He began to understand the soil as an interrelated process of chemical, biological and hydrological factors. He advocated the planting of large forest shelter-belts to halt desertification and climate change. This plan started to be implemented in the Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature, but was cancelled by revisionists after Stalin’s death.
During his research of the Russian Chernozem Dokuchaev began to understand the soil as an evolving phenomena with a history. This concept of the evolution of soil was the crucial thing which helped V. I. Vernadsky make his discoveries.
P. A. KOSTYCHEV (1845-1895, one of the founders of soil science)
P. A. Kostychev together with Dokuchaev helped create modern soil science, which was continued by Soviet scientists, particularly Vasily R. Williams and his co-workers.
K. K. GEDROYTS (1872-1932 soil scientist, agrochemist)
Konstantin Kaetanovich Gedroyts (sometimes spelled Gedroitz) is the founder of colloidal soil chemistry.
Graduated from the St. Petersburg Forestry Institute in 1898. Received the title of Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Department of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in 1927. The same year, he was elected president of the International Association of Soil Scientists and awarded the Lenin Prize.
Was elected Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Department of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (soil science , agronomic chemistry) in 1929. Became Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in 1930. He was also a Corresponding Member of the Czechoslovak Agricultural Academy.
“Academician K. Gedroitz, well-known soil scientist, was the first to divine the geochemical nature of the soil. He found in it the particles which retain different metals, especially potassium, and demonstrated that the fertility of the soil in large measure depended on the potassium atoms which are so lightly and so loosely connected with it that each plant cell could absorb these atoms and make use of them for its own life. And it is by absorbing these lightly-bound, seemingly free-hanging, potassium atoms that the plant develops its sprouts.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 147)
VASILY R. WILLIAMS (1863-1939, soil scientist, ecologist)
Well-known Russian scientist, soil researcher, grassland ecologist, agronomist, one of the founders of agricultural soil science. Head of Timiryazev Academy in 1907-1908 and 1922-1925. Williams developed the travopol’e system which protected soil and increased agricultural yields by planting grasses and other protective plants.
He was awarded the Order of Lenin, was elected into the Supreme Soviet, and was a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences
The teaching of Williams was synthesized together with the teachings of I. V. Michurin, into Michurinist agrobiology, Soviet Creative Darwinism.
Nikolai Semyonovich Kurnakov is internationally recognized as the originator of physicochemical analysis. He also was one of the principal founders of the platinum industry in the USSR. A chemical reaction that he pioneered, known as the Kurnakov test, is still used to differentiate cis from trans isomers of divalent platinum and is his best-known contribution to coordination chemistry.
Kurnakov was a colleague of D. I. Mendeleev. He received several prizes for his work, for example, the Mendeleev Prize in 1936, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1939 and the Stalin Prize in 1941. The mineral kurnakovite was named in his honor.
Kurnakovplayed an important role in finding the first potassium deposits in the USSR. The discovery was made while Kurnakov was working in the laboratory on the composition of salt from old Permian salt-works. After Kurnakov found a high potassium content in the salt, Geologist P. I. Preobrazhensky carried out the test borings which confirmed the discovery. He became famous for this potassium deposit, which is the largest in the world.
P. I. PREOBRAZHENSKY (1874-1944, geologist)
Pavel Ivanovich Preobrazhensky is famous as discoverer of the world’s largest deposit of potassium-magnesium salts (Verkhnekamskoe). This discovery was made based on the initial findings of N. S. Kurnakov.
Preobrazhensky worked in the territory controlled by white general Kolchak in 1919-20 and was appointed as minister of public education. As a result he was arrested by the Reds and sentenced to forced labor when Kolchak was defeated. However, Maxim Gorky and V. I. Lenin intervened on his behalf. He was given the opportunity to serve the proletariat through his scientific work. He became professor in 1922 and was the head of the Departments of Geology and Mineralogy of Perm University in 1923-1924. He became Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences in 1935. He made the famous potassium discovery in 1934. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor in 1934 and the Order of the Badge of Honor in 1944.
“Russian explorers tried for many years to find potassium deposits in Russia. Individual conjectures proved fruitless until the persistent work of a whole school of young chemists supervised by Academician N. Kurnakov resulted in the discovery of the world’s largest potassium deposits. The discovery was accidental, but accidents in science are usually the result of long and laborious preparation, while the “accidental discovery” is nearly always merely the last step in the lengthy struggle for the effectuation of a definite idea and a reward for a protracted and persistent search.
This also holds true of the discovery of potassium. Academician Kurnakov had studied the country’s salt-lakes for many decades and his mind persistently searched for the remains of the ancient potassium lakes. While working in the laboratory on the composition of salt from old Permian salt-works Nikolai Kurnakov noticed in some cases a high potassium content.
On a visit to one of the salt-works he observed a small piece of brown-red mineral which reminded him of the red potassium salts, the carnallites of the German deposits. True, the personnel of the salt-works were not sure where this piece had come from and whether it had not been from the collection of the salts they had received from Germany. But Academician Kurnakov took the piece, put it in his pocket and went to Leningrad.
Upon analysis he found much to everybody’s surprise that the piece was potassium chloride. The first strike was made, but that was not enough; it was still necessary to prove that this piece of potassium had come from the entrails of the Solikamsk earth and that there were large deposits there. A hole had to be bored, some salt extracted under the difficult conditions of the twenties and its composition studied.
P. Preobrazhensky, one of the most prominent geologists of the Geological Committee, undertook to do the work. He pointed out the necessity of boring deep holes, and soon these holes reached thick layers of potassium salts, thus opening a new era in the history of potassium over the entire surface of the earth… A small piece of brown-red salt noticed by the keen eye of a scientist in the laboratory of the works thus led to the solution of one of the greatest problems, the problem of potassium. The country was now in a position not only fully to provide the fields with fertilizer and to increase their yield, but also to create a new potassium industry and to produce the most diverse potassium salts so indispensable to chemical production.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 150-153)
V. I. VERNADSKY (1863-1945, mineralogist, founder of geochemistry, biogeochemistry and radiogeology)
Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, one of the founders of geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and radiogeology. He invented the concept of the ecological biosphere (though he wasn’t the first to coin the word itself). He is most noted for his 1926 book The Biosphere and was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1943.
The founders of geochemistry were Russian and Soviet scientists and the field of geochemistry was largely founded in the USSR. All the greatest discoveries of geochemistry were made by Soviet scientists.
“Geochemistry is still a young science and it has come to the fore mainly owing to the work of Soviet scientists.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 18)
“Soviet geochemistry has made such headway that it has quite deservedly won the most honourable place in world geochemical science. The basis for the Russian school of geochemistry was laid at Moscow University by academicians V. Vernadskv and A. Fersman” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 357)
However, A. Fersman notes in his book also the significance of American scientist F. Clarke (1847-1931) and the Norwegian scientists J. Vogt (1858-1932) and V. Moritz Goldschmidt for the birth of geochemistry. (Ibid. p. 357)
Important Russian and Soviet geologist. President of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1917–1936. In 1947 (on the centenary of his birth) the Academy of Sciences of the USSR created the Karpinsky Gold Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions in the field of geology.
F. N. CHERNYSHOV (1856-1914, Geologist, Paleontologist)
Great geologist Feodosy Nikolayevich Chernyshov studied under Karpinsky. The Leningrad Central Geological Research Museum was named “The Chernyshov Museum” in his honor.
P. A. KROPOTKIN (1842-1921, Geographer, Zoologist)
Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a zoologist and geographer of aristocratic background. He turned his back on the aristocracy and influenced by utopian socialism became a revolutionary.
Kropotkin’s politics: Kropotkin advocated anarcho-communism. Kropotkin never overcame his aristocratic individualism and utopianism which are evident in all his work and writing. However, he wrote effective (albeit utopian) critiques of capitalism and tsarism. After the February Revolution Kropotkin got entangled in opportunism and was supportive of the Mensheviks and Kerensky’s provisional government. After the Great October Socialist Revolution Kropotkin was in contacts with various menshevik, monarchist, capitalist and other reactionary anti-communist elements conspiring against the Soviet government, but he never entered into an active fight against the Bolsheviks. This is characteristic of Kropotkin’s softness, wavering wishy-washy utopianism, indecisiveness. Kropotkin was confused and wavered, hung out with reactionary elements. He did not want to betray the revolution but also did not understand it.
Kropotkin as a scientist: Kropotkin sympathized with darwinism but fought strongly against malthusian ideas and social-darwinism. He was correct to do this, but did not do it from a firmly materialist, sufficiently scientific standpoint, but from a standpoint unfortunately influenced by his overall utopianism.
All the progressive scientists were seeing the reactionary stagnant nature of tsarism, and so did Kropotkin. Kropotkin made some significant discoveries in geology:
“This hypothesis of drifting, i.e., floating, ice persisted in science until the sixties or seventies of last century when some scientists, including Kropotkin, Russian geographer and revolutionary, advanced the hypothesis of continental glaciation. At first this hypothesis appeared monstrous because it was hard to conceive that all of Europe, down to London and Berlin, had formerly been covered with ice. But gradually such facts as moraines, outwash plains, eskers, crag and tails, and roches moutonnees, which the hypothesis of drifting could not explain, compelled everybody to accept the hypothesis of glaciation.
Subsequent detailed observations all over Europe and North America fully confirmed it and from a hypothesis it became a theory. But for a long time yet, almost up to the time of the October Socialist Revolution, while recognizing the glaciation of all of Europe and North America, scientists denied glaciation of the north of Asia (Siberia), believing that its climate was too continental for it, i.e., poor in atmospheric precipitations. But already 70 years ago the same Kropotkin discovered signs of glaciation in several places in Siberia and assumed that the north of Asia had also gone through an ice age. Only the observations accumulated little by little forced everybody to recognize that Siberia, too, had been under an ice sheet.” (V. Obruchev, Fundamentals Of Geology, p. 161)
F. Y. LEVINSON-LESSING (1861-1939, Geologist)
Feodor Yulievich Levinson-Lessing graduated from the physico-mathematical faculty of the University of St. Petersburg in 1883, was placed in charge of the geological collection in 1886, and was appointed privat-docent at St. Petersburg University in 1889. In 1892 he became professor, and the next year dean, of the physico-mathematical faculty of Yuryev University. Aside from his work on petrography he published also essays in other branches of geology, the result of scientific journeys throughout Russia. He was influenced by V. Dokuchaev.
B. B. GOLITSYN (physicist, one of the founders of seismology)
Boris Borisovich Golitsyn was a prominent Russian physicist who invented the first electromagnetic seismograph in 1906. He was one of the founders of modern Seismology. In 1911 he was chosen to be the president of the International Seismology Association. Despite his aristocratic background (he was a part of the small-gentry, member of one of the noble families with the most members) he was held in high regard in the USSR due to his extraordinary scientific discoveries.
“The studies of earthquake waves registered by sensitive instruments, called seismographs, clearly show that there are shells of different composition in the interior of the earth. The very sensitive instruments invented by B. Golitsyn, Soviet academician, has made it possible to detect not only the waves that travel the shortest route but also those which run around the entire globe and those that are reflected from the borders of layers of the earth of different densities, for example, from the core of the earth.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 275-276)
Y. V. SAMOILOV (1870-1925, mineralogist, geochemist, lithologist)
Yakov Vladimirovich Samoilov was a well-known Russian and Soviet minerologist. He studied under V. Vernadsky.
I. M. GUBKIN (1871-1939, Geologist)
Ivan Mikhailovich Gubkin was appointed to lead a government commission tasked to study the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly. The commission proved the relation between the anomaly and the nearby iron ore deposits. Gubkin joined the Communist Party in 1921. He was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1929, and served as its vice-president from 1936 to 1939. Gubkin’s book “The Study of Oil” (1932) developed theory on the origins of oil and the conditions necessary for the formation of oil deposits, and laid out the principles of oil geology. He led the studies of the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly from 1920 to 1925, which eventual led to the discovery of huge iron deposits. Gubkin was the editor of the journal Problems of Soviet Geology. During the first and second Five-Year Plans, he was chairman of the “Production Committee” of the Academy of Sciences (1930–1936). In 1936 he became Vice President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
He was awarded the Lenin Prize (1931), Order of Lenin (1937), Order of the Red Banner (1939).
A. D. ARKHANGELSKY (1879-1940, Geologist)
Andrey Dmitriyevich Arkhangelsky was a professor at Moscow State University, corresponding Member of the Division of Physical-Mathematical Sciences since 1925, and Academician of the Division of Physical-Mathematical Sciences since 1929. He won the Lenin Prize in 1928.
A. F. FERSMAN (1883-1945, Geologist)
Alexander Evgenʹevich Fersman. Prominent Soviet Russian mineralogist, and together with his teacher V. Vernadsky founded modern geochemistry in the USSR. He was a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1919–1945).
He was awarded the Lenin Prize (1929), Stalin Prize (1942), Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London (1943), and Order of the Red Banner of Labour. His name was given to the Fersman Mineralogical Museum, the minerals fersmite and fersmanite, a crater on the Moon, the research vessel RV Geolog Fersman, and streets in multiple Russian cities, including Moscow, Monchegorsk, and Apatity. Since 1946, the Soviet, and then Russian Academy of Sciences was giving the Fersman Award for outstanding research in geochemistry and mineralogy.
Mikhail Mikhailovich Prigorovsky headed the coal section of the Main Geological Directorate under the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council. He conducted research and presented scientific papers, for example at the 17th International Geological Congress in Moscow in July 1937.
D. S. BELYANKIN (1876-1953, Geologist)
Dmitry Stepanovich Belyankin was director of the Institute of Geological Sciences (1945-1947), director of the Mineralogical Museum (1947-1952) and the Kola Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1948-1952). Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1943), member of the London Geological Society (1946). He was the author of hundreds of scientific papers and collaborated with F. Y. Levinson-Lessing.
Belyankin received two Orders of Lenin (1945 and 1946), the Wollaston Medal (1946), the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1951) and the A. P. Karpinsky gold medal (1949).
V. A. OBRUCHEV (1863-1956, Geologist)
Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev was Professor of the Tomsk Engineering Institute (1919–1921), Professor of the Taurida University in Simferopol (1918–1919), Professor of the Moscow Mining Academy (1921–1929); Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1929); Chairman of the Committee on Permafrost Studies (since 1930); Director of the Institute of Permafrost Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (since 1939); Secretary of the Department of Geological and Geographical Sciences of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1942–1946); Honorary president of the Soviet Geographical Society (since 1948).
He was awarded The Przhevalsky Prize, Two Chikhachov Prizes from the French Academy of Sciences (1898 and 1925), The Constantine Medal of the Russian Geographical Society (1900), The first ever Karpinsky Gold Medal (1947), The Lenin Prize (1926), Two Stalin Prizes (1941, 1950), Five Orders of Lenin Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and numerous medals. Hero of Socialist Labor (1945).
He discovered many new minerals, wrote numerous books on science and also entertaining science-fiction.
Dmitry Ivanovich Shcherbakov was a Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences (1936), Professor (1946), Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1953). He was a long time friend and colleague of A. Fersman.
Dmitry Mendeleev lived before the Soviet Union, but in Soviet times he was lifted to legendary status and was recognized as the greatest Russian chemist of all time. Truly it wouldn’t be far-fetched to call Mendeleev the greatest chemist in world history. He is most well known for formulating the Periodic Law in chemistry, and creating the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, which is still used everywhere.
His discoveries gave additional proof of the correctness of the materialist conception and gave a shattering blow to metaphysics, as they demonstrated the unity of the material world. There are no absolutely separate, isolated and different elements, but all chemical elements consist of the same basic matter particles, only organized in different ways. Mendeleev’s discoveries provide strong proof of the law of transformation of quantity into quality, as adding or subtracting a given amount of atomic particles will give rise a to qualitatively different chemical element.
“Mendeleyev proved that various gaps occur in the series of related elements arranged according to atomic weights indicating that here new elements remain to be discovered. He described in advance the general chemical properties of one of these unknown elements, which he termed eka-aluminium, because it follows after aluminium in the series beginning with the latter, and he predicted its approximate specific and atomic weight as well as its atomic volume. A few years later, Lecoq de Boisbaudran actually discovered this element, and Mendeleyev’s predictions fitted with only very slight discrepancies. Eka-aluminium was realised in gallium… By means of the – unconscious – application of Hegel’s law of the transformation of quantity into quality, Mendeleyev achieved a scientific feat which it is not too bold to put on a par with that of Leverrier in calculating the orbit of the still unknown planet Neptune.” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)
Despite being the greatest in his field Mendeleev was never elected to the Academy of Sciences in the Russian Empire, because the scientific establishment was dominated by elitist reactionaries. His merit was not sufficiently recognized by the Tsarist government. The Nobel Committee for Chemistry also refused Mendeleev’s nomination for several years in a row, because it was controlled by reactionaries who fought against Mendeleev’s discoveries. As a result he was never awarded the Nobel prize.
In the USSR the “D. I. Mendeleev Moscow Institute of Chemical Technology”, which had previously been named after Tsar Alexander II was renamed in Mendeleev’s honor.
Butlerov’s work was continued by V. V. Markovnikov (1838-1904) and Soviet chemists used their work as a basis.
Important Soviet chemists include Alexander Nesmeyanov (chemist), Nikolay Dimitrievich Zelinsky (chemist), Alexander Vinogradov (geochemist).
L. A. CHUGAEV (1873-1922, chemist, bioghemist)
Lev Aleksandrovich Chugaev was a prominent early Soviet chemist. He was awarded a posthumous Lenin Prize in 1927
V. G. KHLOPIN (1890-1950, radiochemist)
Vitaly Grigorievich Khlopin was an academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1939), Hero of Socialist Labour (1949), and director of the Radium Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1939-1950). One of the founders of Soviet radiochemistry and radium industry and one of the founders of the Radium Institute and leading participants in the atomic project, founder of the school of Soviet radiochemists.
I. Y. BASHILOV (1892-1953, chemical technologist, metallurgist)
Ivan Yakovlevich Bashilov was sentenced to five years in prison for counter-revolutionary activities in 1938 but after serving his term he became a distinguished scientist. He was awarded the Order of the Badge of Honor (1945), medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.” (1946), Stalin Prize of the second degree (1948) for the development and implementation of new methods of purification of valuable metals (together with N. D. Kuzhel and others).
N. D. KUZHEL (1906-1979, metallurgical engineer)
Nikolai Dmitrievich Kuzhel. After graduating from the Moscow Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold, he completed postgraduate studies at metallurgical plants in Norway. After returning to the USSR, he worked as the head of the Pilot Plant at the Mednogorsk Copper and Sulfur Combine, then at the Severonikel plant in Monchegorsk, and since 1941 at the Norilsk Combine. From May 1945 to 1955 – head of the Krasnoyarsk non-ferrous metal plant. He proposed a pyrometallurgical method for enrichment of raw materials with a low content of precious metals. During this period, the first platinum ingots were obtained, and the extraction of ruthenium began; mastered the method of melting palladium in a vacuum induction furnace and organized its production in ingots; a section for electric arc furnaces and a fractional electrolysis shop were created; the method of electrochemical production of rhodium was introduced.
He was awarded the Stalin Prize of the second degree (1948) for the development and implementation of new methods for the purification of valuable metals (together with I. Y. Bashilov and others)
A. I. Kitaigorodsky (physicist) Grigory Aleksandrovich Gamburtsev (geophysicist, seismologist)
P. N. LEBEDEV (1866-1912, physicist)
Pyotr Lebedev is one of the greatest Russian physicists of all time and was highly valued in the USSR, where his work was continued. Among his discoveries is that was the first to measure the pressure of light on solid bodies, and his discoveries related to inertia of energy preceded similar discoveries of Einstein. In 1934 the major physics research institution “Lebedev Physical Institute” was named after him.
N. A. UMOV (1846-1915, physicist, mathematician)
Nikolay Alekseevich Umov was a materialist researcher who made great discoveries such as the Umov-Poynting vector and Umov effect. He was a collaborator of P. N. Lebedev.
“Nikolai Umov, the physicist… trained the students to have clear materialist ideas…” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 74)
S. I. VAVILOV (physicist)
Sergey Vavilov was a leading Soviet physicist and founder of the Soviet school of physical optics. In 1934 together with Pavel Cherenkov he discovered the Vavilov-Cherenkov effect for which Cherenkov also received a Nobel prize.
Sergey Vavilov was a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1932, Head of the Lebedev Institute of Physics (since 1934), a chief editor of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, a member of the Supreme Soviet from 1946 and a recipient of four Stalin Prizes (1943, 1946, 1951, 1952). He wrote on the lives and works of great thinkers, such as Lucretius, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Mikhail Lomonosov, Michael Faraday, and Pyotr Lebedev, among others.
He is not to be confused with his brother N. I. Vavilov, a eugenicist pseudo-scientist who was sentenced to prison for sabotage.
Y. I. FRENKEL (1894-1952, physicist)
Yakov Frenkel made very significant discoveries in condensed matter physics, superconductivity and kinetic theory of liquids.
Corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929), doctor of physical and mathematical sciences (1934) Stalin prize first degree for the monograph «Kinetic Theory of Liquids» (1947)
Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa was a significant Soviet physicist, particularly in the field of low-temperature physics. He was an old school bourgeois scientist from the tsarist era who was occasionally criticized for ideological mistakes and not understanding politics. However, he was given every assistance in his scientific work, made scientific contributions and served his country and was appreciated as a result.
He was given the following awards: Hero of Socialist Labour (1945) Stalin Prize, 1 degree (1941) Stalin Prize, 1 degree (1943) Order of Lenin (1943) Order of Lenin (1944) Order of Lenin (1945) Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1954) He was also given a Nobel Prize in Physics (1978) and various medals.
P. A. CHERENKOV (physicist)
Pavel Cherenkov was a Nobel prize winning Soviet physicist. Out of his collaborators Ilya Mikhailovich Frank and Igor Tamm also received a Nobel prize. Cherenkov received a Stalin prize in 1946 and 1952.
I. M FRANK (nuclear physicist)
Ilya Mikhailovich Frank received a Nobel prize together with P. A. Cherenkov and Igor Tamm. He received a Stalin prize in 1946 and 1953. He led research into nuclear power. The USSR became the first country to create a nuclear power plant in 1954.
I. Y. TAMM (nuclear physicist)
Igor Tamm received a Nobel prize together with P. A. Cherenkov and Ilya Frank. He received a Stalin prize in 1954. Tamm was a leading researcher in the Soviet nuclear bomb project.
A. A. MAKSIMOV (philosopher of science, physicist, mathematician)
Corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1943). Member of the CPSU since 1918.
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Maksimov graduated from the physics and mathematics department of the University of Kazan in 1916. In 1922 he began to teach philosophy. Since 1929 he has been a professor at the Institute of the Red Professors, Moscow State University, and the Communist Academy. From 1944 to 1949, Maksimov was a member of the philosophy department at Moscow State University. His major work has focused on problems of the history of science and philosophical issues of the natural sciences. Maksimov edited translations of the works of G. Hegel, E. Haeckel, R. Mayer, and M. Faraday. He has been awarded the Order of Lenin, two other orders, and various medals.
D. D. IVANENKO (nuclear physicist)
Dmitri Ivanenko was awarded the Stalin prize in 1950 for his work.
A. A. SOKOLOV (nuclear physicist)
A. A. Sokolov was awarded the Stalin prize in 1950 for his work.
I. V. KURCHATOV (1903-1960, physicist)
Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov is known as the “father of Soviet nuclear bomb”. In the late 1950s, Kurchatov advocated against nuclear weapons tests. The first atomic reactor in Europe (1946) and the first nuclear power plant in the world (1954) were created under his leadership. He became a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1943.
He was given following awards: Three times Hero of Socialist Labor (1949, 1951, 1954) Five Orders of Lenin Two Orders of the Red Banner Medals: “For Victory over Germany”, “For the defense of Sevastopol” Stalin Prizes (1942, 1949, 1951, 1954) The Lenin Prize (1957)
G. N. FLYOROV (1913-1990, nuclear physicist)
Georgy Nikolayevich Flyorov was a Soviet nuclear physicist who is known for his discovery of spontaneous fission and his contribution towards the physics of thermal reactions. He is also known for his letter directed to Joseph Stalin, during WWII urging the development of the Soviet Atomic Bomb.
“In 1939 it was discovered that when uranium, the heaviest chemical element, was acted upon by neutrons of low energy, the atoms of uranium suffered a new, formerly unknown, type of disintegration in which the nucleus of the atom split up into two approximately equal halves. These halves are themselves unstable varieties of the atomic nuclei of familiar chemical elements found in the middle of Mendeleyev’s Periodic fable. One year later, in 1940, K. Petrzhak and G. Flerov, young Soviet physicists, discovered that this new type of disintegration or new type of radioactivity of uranium, also occurred in nature, but that it was encountered much more rarely than the usual disintegration of uranium.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 78
Flyorov was awarded the following awards: Hero of Socialist Labour (1949) Order of Lenin (1949), Stalin Prize, twice (1946, 1949), Honorary Citizen of Dubna. The element flerovium (atomic number 114) is named after him
K. A. PETRZHAK (1907-1998, nuclear physicist)
Konstantin Antonovich Petrzhak was a Soviet physicist who together with G. Flerov discovered spontaneous fission. Petrzhak also contributed to the Soviet atomic bomb.
He was awarded the Stalin prize 2nd degree (jointly with Georgy Flyorov for discovery of spontaneous fission) in 1946, Council of Ministers Prize in 1950, Stalin Prize (for work on soviet atomic project) in 1953 and Order of the Red Banner of Labour (for work on soviet atomic project) in 1953.
N. S. AKULOV (physicist)
Akulov Nikolai Sergeevich. A Stalin prize winning specialist in ferromagnetism.
A. S. POPOV (1859-1906, physicists, electrical engineer, inventor)
Alexander Stepanovich Popov lived in pre-revolutionary Russia, where his work received no support from the government. However, his work was continued to great effect by Soviet scientists. Popov is known as one of the inventors of a radio-telephone device, independently and contemporaneously with the Italian G. Marconi. In the USSR May 7 was made a holiday “Communications Workers’ Day” or colloquially ‘Radio Day’ in Popov’s honor.
American western-centric and anti-communist propaganda ridiculed the notion that a Russian could have invented the radio transmitter or telephone. However, the first functional electromagnetic telegraph was also invented by Russian Pavel Schilling.
A. A. PETROVSKY (1873-1942, radio engineer, physicist)
Alexey Alekseevich Petrovsky was a Soviet scientist in the field of radio engineering, geophysics, electrophysical methods of geological exploration. He was one of the founders of Soviet radio engineering, together with his student I. G. Freiman. Petrovsky was the student and colleague of inventor A. S. Popov. Petrovsky developed the theory and methodology of electrical prospecting. State Councillor, the first professor of radio engineering and the author of the first theoretical guide to radio engineering in Russia. Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR.
Petrovsky was a military officer in the Russian Empire. After the October Revolution Petrovsky moved to a teaching position in the United Naval Forces Classes (1918-1922), and also lectured at the Institute of Higher Commercial Knowledge (until 1930). In 1919 he headed the Petrograd (later Leningrad) branch of the Russian Society of Radio Engineers. In the summer of 1921, he took part in the experimental work that had begun in the Baltic Sea on the organization of radio communication between coastal stations and submarines in a submerged position.
On the initiative of Petrovsky and engineer I. G. Freiman, in November 1922, the first radio amateur circle in the USSR was organized in Petrograd, and in 1923 a radio section was organized at the Electrotechnical Institute.
From 1923 to 1925, he taught electrical engineering at the Higher Military Electrotechnical School of the Commanders of the Workers ‘and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA) and the Military Engineering Academy. In April 1925, on the pages of the monthly magazine “Friend of Radio” Petrovsky, wrote an article on the 30th anniversary of the invention of the radio by A. Popov, and expressed the prophetic words: “May 7 will turn into a real holiday for radio operators!” Since 1945, the Radio Day holiday has been celebrated annually.
In 1924-1930 he was the head of a department at the Institute of Applied Geophysics ( Institute of Applied Geophysics named after Professor V. I. Bauman). He was engaged in the development of electrical methods for the exploration of mineral deposits. In 1928-1938 he taught at the Leningrad Mining Institute , and in 1934 he became the first head of the new department of geophysical methods of exploration, which trained geophysical engineers.
In 1932 he was appointed deputy director of the Geophysical Institute of the Ural branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences (UFAN). In 1935 he defended his thesis for the degree of Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and was awarded the title of professor.
In the position of deputy director, and then head of department in UFAN, he continued to work until 1942. In 1941 he was awarded the title ” Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR”. Over the entire period of his activity, he wrote more than 200 scientific papers on radio engineering, telecommunications, electrical prospecting for minerals and the history of radio.
A. A. CHERNYSHEV (1882-1940, electrical engineer, scientist)
Alexander Alekseevich Chernyshev was a soviet scientist, one of the inventors of the radar. He became a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1929 and full member in 1932. He was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1930.
I. G. FREIMAN (1890-1929, radio engineer and scientist)
Imant Georgievich Freiman together with A. A. Petrovsky was one of the founders of Soviet radio engineering and builder of powerful radio stations. He introduced the terms “radio engineering” and ” radio broadcasting ” into circulation. He designed and built a radio transmitter for the world’s first radio probe, was the first chairman of the communications and observation section of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Red Naval Forces. Freiman was a teacher, dean of the electro-physics faculty, head and professor of the country’s first radio engineering department at the Electrotechnical Institute and head of the radio communication department of the Naval Academy in Petrograd.
In 1918 he took an active part in the creation of the “Russian Society of Radio Engineers” (RORI) in Petrograd, thanks to which the Nizhny Novgorod radio laboratory was formed and a special magazine “Telephony and Telegraphy without Wires” began to be published. In March 1919 he joined the Workers ‘and Peasants’ Red Army. In May 1919, he was appointed as a radio receiver in the Mine Department of the Main Directorate of Shipbuilding, and in October 1921 he became a senior radio receiver. At the same time he worked on a thesis on the topic: “On the laws of the similarity of radio networks” and taught a course in radio engineering at ETI, was elected secretary of the publishing committee of the institute.
In 1919 he filed an application for the invention of a device for multiple telephony using cathode electron-beam switches, which subsequently outstripped the practical development of multichannel communication. In 1921 he defended his master’s thesis and was approved as a professor at ETI. In the same year he founded the first electrovacuum laborary together with professor of physics M. M. Glagolev. In 1922-1925 he worked as the dean of the electrophysical faculty of ETI. From 1922 to 1929 he was a member of the Radio Technical Council of the Trust of Low Current Plants and the Central Radio Laboratory, scientific consultant of the Scientific Test Station of the People’s Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs (in 1922-1928).
In September 1921, he made a report at the first All-Russian Congress of Amateurs of World Studies, in which he proposed to develop radio amateurism on a national scale. On the initiative of A. A. Petrovsky and Freiman, in November 1922, the first radio amateur circle was organized in Petrograd, and in 1923 a radio section was organized at ETI. Handbooks for radio amateurs were published under the editorship of Freiman.
In 1922, he became the organizer of the Department of Radio Communication at the Naval Academy and until 1929 was its head, at the same time during these years he taught a course in radio engineering at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Military Engineering Academy , continued lecturing at the Second Polytechnic Institute. In the summer of 1923, he organized an internship for his students in Sevastopol. During the practice, the students of the Naval Academy, among others N. P. Suvorov and A. N. Grinenko-Ivanov established underwater communications on the submarines of the Black Sea Fleet.
He was appointed the first chairman of the communications and observation section of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Naval Forces of the Red Army in 1924-1927. He was the initiator and leader of the development of the first radio equipment of the fleet “Blockade-I”, on the basis of which the next two generations of naval radio systems were later created.
In 1924 he became the chairman of the publishing committee of ETI, in the same year his fundamental work “Course of radio engineering” was published (again in 1928), in a review of this book, the future academician Professor A. A. Chernyshev wrote: that this book was the world’s first textbook of radio engineering as an engineering science”. From 1925 to 1926 he worked as deputy director of ETI for educational work.
In 1928 I. Freiman developed and created a radio transmitter for the world’s first radio probe, which was launched after the death of a radio engineer.
N. A. TELESHOV (1828-1895, aviation engineer)
Nikolai Afanasievich Teleshov was a Russian engineer and designer of one of the first Jet Aircraft in the world. He was another pre-revolutionary inventor held in high regard in the USSR.
K. TSIOLKOVSKY (physicist, aeronautics and rocketry theorist)
Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) is the grandfather of Soviet rocketry and aeronautics and one of the inventors of rocketry and the airplane. He began his work during the Tsarist regime but continued it with government support in the Soviet Union.
“The capitalist system was the grave of popular talent. In those times only a few individuals climbed to any height in art and science… Another genius was the grandfather of Russian aviation, K. Tsiolkovsky. He designed an airplane thirteen years before the first airplane rose into the sky. He invented the metal dirigible airship several years before the first dirigible was built in Germany. But in tsarist Russia the value of these inventions was not appreciated. Only in the Land of Soviets were Tsiolkovsky’s discoveries put to use.” (A Short History of the USSR, ed. A. V. Shestakov, p. 242)
His work was the inspiration for the leaders of the Soviet space program Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko.
“Haven’t Jules Verne’s fantasies, which still fascinate us, been transformed into reality of today ! We find an even greater scope of fantastic thought in our remarkable Russian scientist K. Tsiolkovsky and though only some thirty years have elapsed since his daring predictions, much of what he wrote then has already come true. We must, therefore, never fear scientific fantasy nor take it as something already existing; we must fight for it because fantasy is one of the methods of scientific work. It was not without reason that Lenin said that fantasy was a quality of the. highest value” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 386)
Soviet astronomy defended the theory of cosmic evolution, that planets, stars and galaxies were not supernaturally created in their current form but evolved from other forms and such evolution is still going on. Soviet astronomy defended the position that life is not unique to planet Earth but instead any planet with suitable conditions can produce life, and the Earth is not the only such planet. Important Soviet astronomers include:
Victor Ambartsumyan (astrophysicist) Vasiliy Grigorievich Fesenkov (astrophysicist) Georgi Shain (astronomer) Boris Kukarkin (astronomer) Gavriil Adrianovich Tikhov (astrobiologist, “the father of astrobotany”) Norair Sisakyan (biochemist, one of the founders of astrobiology)
OTTO SCHMIDT (1891-1956, mathematician, astronomer, geophysicist, polar explorer)
Otto Schmidt was a Soviet scientist and polar explorer. Information about his polar expeditions and career is in the section “EXPLORERS” while this section only deals with astronomy.
The first scientific hypothesis about the origin of our galaxy was created by Kant and Laplace. Later bourgeois scientists attempted to develop this hypothesis. Schmidt and other Soviet scientists pointed out the errors of these bourgeois scientists and made important developments to the hypothesis. However, Schmidt’s theories still contain a number of shortcomings which were criticized at the Soviet First Conference On Cosmogony. Schmidt contributed greatly to a scientific theory of cosmogony.
“The first scientific cosmogonic hypothesis based on facts established by science was proposed in the eighteenth century by Kant and Laplace. These scientists believed the Sun and all the planets revolving around it to have formed by condensation of one primary incandescent nebula which rotated even before the origin of the Sun…
The Kant-Laplace hypothesis was long thought appropriately to explain the formation of the Earth, but the rapid development of astronomy, geophysics and geology in the nineteenth century made it possible to reveal several errors in this hypothesis, and new explanations appeared. For example, the scientist Chamberlain thought that the little Earth, formed in the manner proposed by Kant and Laplace, gradually grew larger by the addition of meteorites… Jeans believed the Solar System to have formed as a result of the passage of another star very close to the Sun… For a number of years this hypothesis was thought very adequate, but was then disproved because the passage of one star so close to another that it may cause the supposed ejections of material is a very rare phenomenon and unlikely to explain the formation of the planets revolving around the Sun. Several serious errors were discovered in this hypothesis chiefly by Soviet scientists.
More than 10 years ago Academician O. Schmidt put forward a new hypothesis of the formation of our Earth and the other planets revolving around the Sun. He assumed that moving in the Galaxy through the dust and gases which form the interstellar matter the Sun attracted part of them and came out surrounded by a cloud of this substance. According to the law of gravity this cloud revolved around the Sun, the particles composing the cloud moving in it in all directions, colliding with each other, sometimes breaking up, but more frequently uniting, the smaller particles joining the larger ones; the planets were thus gradually formed in the cloud. The part of the cloud closer to the Sun was heated more intensely, and the nearest planets Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars are therefore small and consist of dense matter, rock and metal, and little gaseous remains, whereas Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the more distant planets, are of enormous size and consist of gaseous and volatile substances. The bodies that failed to join the solid inner planets form comets and asteroids.
Schmidt originally thought that the meteorites forming part of the primary cloud had played an important part in the making of the planets; later he relinquished this idea and believed the gas-dust mass to have been the initial material for the creation of the planets.
Schmidt’s hypothesis successfully explains a great deal in the formation of the planets, but it is not devoid of serious short-comings, as was pointed out at the very first conference on problems of cosmogony. The hypothesis considers the formation of the planets of the Solar System, but leaves out the Sun; it offers a good explanation of the origin of the terrestrial type planets, but the large planets with their physical properties do not fit into it. Schmidt did not study the evolution of the Sun or the problem of the origin and evolution of the stars and did not utilize the rich material of modern astrophysics. All this shows that Schmidt’s hypothesis is as yet unable to explain the formation of all the heavenly bodies and is inadequate in its present form.
Most of the Soviet scientists studying problems of astronomy and geophysics believe that the Earth and the other planets of the Solar System were formed not of substance brought from without, but of the gaseous or gas-dust matter existing within the limits of this system.
Schmidt’s and several other hypotheses assume that the Earth and other planets of this type formed of the gas-dust substance were originally cold. Subsequently, the substance was divided according to its specific gravity by means of gravitational differentiation and the globe was stratified into geospheres of different densities as a result of the rise of the lighter particles to the outer shells of the Earth…
The discovery of deep-focus earthquakes originating at a depth of more than 600 kilometres has persuaded some geologists that the outer shell of the Earth consists of solid substance to a depth of at least 800 kilometres. This structure of the earth’s crust conforms to the assumption of the origin of a “cold” Earth from cosmic dust better than to the hypothesis of a fiery-liquid Earth.
According to Schmidt’s hypothesis the originally “cold” Earth had in its composition radioactive elements which by disintegrating served as the source of energy, and the Earth gradually melted, only the outer shell of the Earth — the crust — remaining hard. On the other hand, as A. Vinogradov points out, if we take the meteorites to be fragments of planets (this is now believed firmly established) we must also admit that these planets went through the stage of complete melting. Thus, the Earth, whose internal geospheres have, according to modern assumptions, a structure analogous to that of different types of meteorites, must, as a whole, have gone through the stages of a molten body in which the processes of liquid differentiation, liquation and stratification occurred. In Vinogradov’s opinion the Earth began to cool from the inside and long retained a molten shell.
If we summarize the discussions of Schmidt’s hypothesis at the First Cosmogonic Conference we shall see that the problem of the origin of the Earth and planets, the problem of whether the energy produced by the decay of radioactive elements is alone enough to heat and melt the globe, and the problems of the further differentiation of the Earth’s substances and the process of the Earth’s cooling have as yet been inadequately elaborated and that astronomers, geophysicists and geologists have come to no agreement.” (V. Obruchev, Fundamentals Of Geology, pp. 259-262)
P. F. SHAJN (1894-1956, Astronomer)
Pelageya Fedorovna Shajn, was a Russian astronomer in the Soviet Union, and the first woman credited with the discovery of a minor planet, at the Simeiz Observatory in 1928. Pelageya also discovered numerous variable stars and co-discovered the periodic, Jupiter-family comet 61P/Shajn–Schaldach.
In 1948 she discovered a new minor planet and named it Otto Schmidt after the famous Soviet geologist and explorer.
N. I. LOBACHEVSKY (1792-1856, geometer)
Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is the main inventor of hyperbolic non-euclidian geometry, which is also called Lobachevskian geometry. The Lobachevsky Prize was created in 1927 by the USSR Academy of Sciences.
P. L. CHEBYSHEV (1821-1894, mathematician)
Pafnuty Lvovich Chebyshev is often called the founding father of Russian mathematics. He was held in high regard in the USSR.
I. V. VINOGRADOV (1891-1983, mathematician)
“Our Soviet mathematician, Academician Vinogradov, found a brilliant solution for Goldbach’s problem, on which the greatest mathematicians all over the world had been working for nearly 200 years.” (A History of the USSR, ed. A. M. Pankratova (1948) vol. 3, p. 380)
Vinogradov developed the so-called ‘Vinogradov method’ in mathematics. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941.
V. A. STEKLOV (1864-1926, physicist, mathematician)
Vladimir Andreevich Steklov. Prominent early Soviet mathematician.
D. A. GRAVE (1863-1939, mathematician)
Dmitry Aleksandrovich Grave was an important Soviet mathematician, elected to the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 1919 and to the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1929.
PHYSIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY
A. P. WALTHER (1817-1889, physiologist) and V. A. BASOV (1812-1879, physiologist)
“In briefly touching upon the development of physiology in Russia, we have to state that among the important achievements of science in the first half of the 19th century were the investigations carried out by Walther and Basov. In 1842, Walther (1817-1889), a pupil of N. Pirogov, showed that a cross-cut of the “sympathetic nerve threads admixed to the sciatic nerve of a frog” (i.e., of the sympathetic nerve fibres) caused a dilation of the vessels of the web. In the same year Basov (1812-1879) elaborated a method of penetrating the stomach of an absolutely healthy animal by applying a stomach fistula and, for the first time in the history of physiology, demonstrated the feasibility of a protracted, chronic experiment. However, Walther and Basov did not appreciate the importance of their discoveries and did not develop them. Claude Bernard was the man who elaborated the theory of innervation of blood vessels. But it was Pavlov who turned the method of investigating physiological processes in normal, healthy animals into an instrument which revolutionized the entire development of physiology.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, p. 20)
I. M. SECHENOV (1829-1905) (Physiologist, Pioneer of psychology, Darwinist)
Ivan Mikhaylovich Sechenov propagated Darwinism and applied it in his work on physiology. Ivan Pavlov referred to him as the “Father of Russian physiology and scientific psychology”.
I. P. Pavlov wrote: “Sechenov’s teaching of the reflexes of the brain is, in my opinion, a sublime achievement of Russian science. The application of the reflex principle to explain the activity of the higher nervous centres is a proof that causality can be applied to the study of the highest forms of organic nature. For this reason the name of Sechenov will forever remain dear to the Russian scientific world.” (Quoted in p. XXV Selected Works of Sechenov)
“particularly, the discovery by Sechenov in 1862 of the phenomena of inhibition in the central nervous system, gave rise to the study of the factors which determine the nature of inhibition and its role in reflex activity.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, p. 20)
“The works of Sechenov marked a new stage in Russian physiology. Sechenov was born in 1829 in the former Simbirsk Gubernia. In 1850, after a short period of service in the army as an officer in the engineering corps, he entered the medical faculty of Moscow University. There, under the guidance of Glebov and Orlovsky, he learned the principles of experimental and theoretical physiology. Not only the medical faculty, but the university as a whole, with its intense activity, together with Granovsky’s lectures on history and the ideological atmosphere created by the philosophical works of the revolutionary-democrat A. Herzen, played an outstanding role in forming Sechenov’s world outlook. His materialistic views, which underlay all his creative work, took shape already in his student days at the university.
In 1856, after his graduation, Sechenov went abroad on a scientific mission. There he worked in the laboratories of Ludwig, Helmholtz and Claude Bernard. Upon his return to Russia, he headed the chair of physiology of the Medico-Surgical Academy (later renamed the Military Medical Academy) in Petersburg.
In 1862, Sechenov discovered the phenomenon of inhibition in the central-nervous system, and in 1863, he published his brilliant work Reflexes of the Brain, in which he gave a consistently materialistic interpretation of mental phenomena. This book made him a political suspect in the eyes of the tsarist government, and only the fear of attracting still greater attention to this work compelled the government of Alexander II to give up the idea of taking legal action against Sechenov. Subsequently, Sechenov worked at the Odessa, Petersburg and Moscow universities. He died in Moscow on November 15, 1905.
Sechenov has gone down in the history of science as a great scientist and thinker; he was the first to subject the most intricate domain of nature—the phenomena of consciousness—to a natural-scientific analysis.
Sechenov had many pupils, some of whom became prominent scientists. For example, N. Spiro discovered the so-called reciprocal inhibition in antagonistic centres (the fame of the English researcher Sherrington is due to a large extent to his thorough elaboration of this problem). V. Pashutin (1845-1901), another of Sechenov’s pupils, founded the Russian school of pathology (pathological physiology) and, jointly with A. Likhachov, was the first to work out precise methods of directly measuring the total heat produced in the human organism. The outstanding pharmacologist N. Kravkov was also a pupil of Sechenov, as was the prominent physiologist B. Verigo, who investigated the peculiarities of the action of a.continuous current on the tissues and showed that the taking up and release of oxygen by haemoglobin play an important role in the carriage of carbon dioxide by the blood.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, pp. 21-22)
M. SHATERNIKOV (1870-1939, Physiologist)
Mikhail Nikolaevich Shaternikov was a significant physiologist. He worked in Sechenov’s laboratory. Sechenov was awarded the title of Honored Scientist of the RSFSR in 1935.
“Sechenov’s associates included M. Shaternikov (1870-1939), who studied general metabolism, and A. Samoilov (1867-1930), the prominent investigator of electrical phenomena in living tissues who first advanced the hypothesis of a chemical mechanism governing the transmission of excitation from the nerve to the skeletal muscle and from one neuron to another in the central nervous system.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, pp. 21-22)
N. Y. WEDENSKY (1852-1922, physiologist)
Nikolai Yevgenyevich Wedensky (1852-1922) was one of Sechenov’s pupils at Petersburg University; after Sechenov and Pavlov, he must with all justification be ranked among the leading Russian physiologists. In his remarkable experimental researches, Wedensky, who had participated in the revolutionary movement in his youth, advanced the important concept — of the inner unity of the externally opposite phenomena of excitation and inhibition. A. Ukhtomsky (1876-1942) carried on Wedensky’s researches and profoundly developed his ideas.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, pp. 21-22)
“Among the physiologists who worked in Petersburg beginning with the sixties and seventies of the 19th century were I. Cyon who, together with K. Ludwig, proved the existence in the aortic arch of specialized sensitive formations—receptors stimulated by the rise of arterial blood pressure, F. Ovsyannikov (1827-1906) to whom science owes the study of the vasomotor centre and of a number of researches into the fine structure of the nervous system, and I. Tarkhanov (1846-1908), who is known for his discovery of the skin galvanic reflex.
A prominent place in the development of Russian physiology belongs to Kazan University, where N. Kovalevsky (1842-1891) and his successor, N. Mislavsky (1854-1929) used to work. Kovalevsky discovered that arterial blood pressure rises as a result of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the organism. Mislavsky ascertained the exact location of the respiratory centre in the medulla oblongata and jointly with V. Bekhterev established that the stimulation of the cerebral cortex influences respiration and blood circulation.
Important physiological investigations relating to various branches of physiology were made by Professor V. Danilevsky of Kharkov (1852-1939), V. Chagovets of Kiev, and A. Kulyabko of Tomsk.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, p. 22)
IVAN PAVLOV (physiologist, psychologist)
I. Pavlov was one of the founders of modern psychology, focusing particularly on classical conditioning. His study of physiology was also further developed for disease prevention and other medical purposes by Soviet scientists, for example Alexander Speransky (pathologist), Nikolay Nikolayevich Anichkov (pathologist) and Anatoliy Ivanov-Smolensky (Psychiatrist, pathophysiologist).
S. V. KRAVKOV (1893-1951, Founder of Physiologist and Psychologist of Optics)
Sergei Vasilievich Kravkov was a Soviet psychologist and psychophysiologist, Doctor of Biological Sciences (1935), Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences (1946), Honored Scientist RSFSR (1947).
B. M. TEPLOV (psychologist) Psychology [textbook] (1953)
D. S. SAMOILOVICH (1744-1805, physician, epidemiologist)
Danilo Samoilovich Samoilovich was a Russian military physician and the founder of Russian epidemiology. He made ground-breaking discoveries during his work to contain epidemics of the bubonic plague. He was held in very high regard in the USSR, considered a great scientist and a hero of his people.
During the 1771 Moscow plague outbreak he was helped by famous pediatrician Pyotr Ivanovich Pogoretsky and Kasyan Osipovich Yagelsky in fighting the plague.
“From 1761 to 1770, Samoilovich was a student and physician’s assistant at the St. Petersburg Admiralty Hospital. In 1771 he was a staff physician at the military hospital in Moscow. He received his doctor of medicine degree in 1784. From that year Samoilovich participated in the struggle against plague, and in 1793 he became physician in charge of quarantines in southern Russia. From 1800 he was an inspector for the Black Sea Medical Board. He generalized the experience gained in the struggle to control plague, which he regarded as a special nosologic form. Samoilovich was the first Russian scientist to give a clinical description of plague, and he came to the conclusion that after recovering from the disease, the patient was no longer susceptible to it. He demonstrated the contagiousness of the disease and substantiated the necessity for anti-plague inoculations. Samoilovich developed a congruous system of antiepidemic measures, including reporting each incidence of the disease, isolating the patient, carrying out disinfection, involving the populace in the control of epidemics, and setting up quarantines. Samoilovich was a member of 12 foreign academies of science.” (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979))
Samoilovich was a pioneer ahead of his time. The tsarist regime did not value his work sufficiently and his work had to be rediscovered by other pioneers: “the work on anti-plague inoculations that Danilo Samoilovich had begun, had been discontinued when he died, and was forgotten.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 24)
“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Samoilovich.
P. I. POGORETSKY (1734-1780, pediatrician)
Pyotr Ivanovich Pogoretsky, comrade of D. S. Samoilovich, was one of the founders of pediatrics in Russia. He graduated from the University of Leiden (Kingdom of Holland), became Doctor of Medicine in (1765). He wrote the first Russian manual on childhood diseases, published in Latin in 1768.
N. I. PIROGOV (1810-1881, surgeon)
Nikolay Ivanovich Pirogov was a Russian scientist, medical doctor, pedagogue, public figure, and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1847), one of the most widely recognized Russian physicians. He was held in high regard in the USSR. He is considered to be the founder of field surgery, he was the first surgeon to use anaesthesia in a field operation (1847) and one of the first surgeons in Europe to use ether as an anaesthetic. He is credited with invention of various kinds of surgical operations and developing his own technique of using plaster casts to treat fractured bones.
“Pirogov” (1947) a Soviet film about the life of the great surgeon.
G. N. MINKH (1836-1896, pathologist)
Grigory Nikolaevich Minkh carried out important research related to the bubonic plague and other contagious diseases. He did not receive support from the tsarist government and his work was not adequately respected. However he served his people, made an important contribution to science, and was correctly appreciated in the USSR.
“When Grigory Minkh had collected a host of irrefutable facts throwing light on the laws of the spread of epidemics, he prepared for the press a serious work on plague, a handbook scientifically correct and passionately human for all those who would continue his work Unfortunately he was unable to publish his book; he had insufficient money to cover the cost of printing. But after his death, his family stinted themselves for many long years, denying themselves every comfort in order to buy paper and pay for the work of the compositors. Finally they achieved their goal and the brilliant scientist’s book made its appearance and rendered a great service.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 30)
“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the life and work of Minkh.
V. K. VYSOKOVICH (1854-1912, pathologist, bacteriologist, epidemiologist)
Vladimir Konstantinovich Vysokovich was an important epidemiologist, co-worker of I. I. Mechnikov and N. F. Gamaleya.
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Vysokovich.
V. I. RAZUMOVSKY (1857-1935, surgeon, doctor of medicine)
Vasily Ivanovich Razumovsky was a surgeon and scientist, author of about 150 scientific papers. He was awarded the Title of Hero of Labor (1923 ) and Honored Scientist of the RSFSR (1934).
VLADIMIR KHAVKIN (1860-1930, bacteriologist, epidemiologist)
Vladimir Aaronovich Khavkin developed the first effective vaccines against cholera and plague. He studied under E. Mechnikov.
“Upon graduation from Novorossiia University in Odessa in 1884, Khavkin worked at the Odessa Zoological Museum. In 1888 he became assistant professor at the University of Geneva; he held a similar position at the Pasteur Institute in Paris from 1889 to 1893. From 1893 to 1915 he worked in India, serving as a bacteriologist for the government from 1893 to 1904. Khavkin helped organize the Plague Research Laboratory in Bombay, and served as its director from 1896 to 1904. The laboratory, which was reorganized and renamed the Haffkine Institute in 1925, became a center for the study of bubonic plague and cholera in Southeast Asia.
Khavkin’s principal works dealt with cholera and plague. He revealed the infectious nature of cholera and was the first to develop effective vaccines against cholera (1892) and plague (1896). He tested the vaccines on himself to prove their safety. Khavkin was directly involved in the vaccination of the Indian population during the cholera epidemic of 1893–95 and the plague epidemic of 1896–1902. On the 60th anniversary of Khavkin’s anti-plague laboratory, the Indian president R. Prasad remarked that “we in India are greatly indebted to Doctor Khavkin. He helped India rid itself of its principal epidemics—plague and cholera.” (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979))
“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Khavkin.
I. A. DEMINSKY (1864-1912 medical doctor, epidemiologist)
Ippolit Aleksandrovich Deminsky was a brave pioneering bacteriologist. He specialized in combating plague. He traveled to epidemic zones, treated people and researched plague spreading animals. Deminsky supported D. K. Zabolotny’s theory that between outbreaks plague survived among animals. Deminsky came to conflict with the tsarist government, because the government refused to spend adequate funds on medical care and prevention of epidemics. In those years plague was mainly combated and researched by self-sacrificing heroes such as Deminsky, who received no significant support from the government and risked their own lives to help mankind. Deminsky died as a result of contracting pneumonic plague during his work. This was largely because the tsarist government neglected to provide anti-plague medical workers with protective equipment in sufficient quantities and in a timely manner.
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Deminsky.
E. M. KRASILNIKOVA
Elena Merkuryevna Krasilnikova was a co-worker of I. A. Deminsky.
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Krasilnikova.
V. I. TURCHINOVICH-VYZHNIKEVICH (1865-1904, veterinary scientist, bacteriologist)
Vladislav Ivanovich Turchinovich-Vyzhnikevich was a brave pioneering bacteriologist who specialized in combating plague. He died after having contracted pneumatic plague during his research.
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Turchinovich-Vyzhnikevich.
D. K. ZABOLOTNY (1866-1929, bacteriologist, epidemiologist)
Daniil Kirillovich Zabolotny was an important early Soviet epidemiologist. In 1920, he created the world’s first department of epidemiology in Odessa. He became Academician of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1922), Academician of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences (1928), Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1929) and was the President of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1928-1929).
He led expeditions to Asia to fight plague there, to discover its sources, how it reproduced and survived outside human hosts. In 1922 he discovered the zoonoses of the plague, i.e. he discovered that it was transmitted by and survived in various wild animal species, and only occasionally passed to humans, causing an outbreak.
“Zabolotny and other scientists after him put forward the supposition that steppe rodents are the carriers of plague from one epidemic to another. If only the officials in the government offices of the Russian Empire and other countries had listened to a brilliant Russian scientist, subsequent epidemics might have been averted and large numbers of lives saved. But the work had to be done almost single-handed.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 67)
“Sometime in the future when communism is victorious over the whole world, scientists will strive to achieve what is at present a dream: they will study and destroy all the centres of dangerous microbes to be found on our planet. This will not come about all at once. Gradually one disease after another, together with the natural disease-carriers, will vanish for all time even from the memory of mankind. Daniel Zabolotny was one of the initiators of this splendid trend in science. Almost nothing was known of the paths along which plague was spread, before Zabolotny made his investigations.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 56)
He also saw the terrible results of colonialist imperialism and condemned it in his notes:
“Famine is the most terrible scourge affecting this vast country. The English have inundated India with cotton fabrics and in Dacca, the ancient centre of Indian weaving, only 20,000 remain of the original 150,000 inhabitants; the rest either died of famine or fled. In 1741 five million people, being one-third of the population, died of famine in the single Indian province of Bengal. In 1874 there was famine in Bombay, Madras and Hyderabad. Between 1874 and the middle of the nineties more than 20 million Indians died of famine.” (quoted in A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 35)
A socialist student studying with him at the Novorossiya University in Odessa named Makar Saulyak “supplied Zabolotny with thick volumes of Sovremennik [Magazine founded by Pushkin, where Chernyshevsky often published articles] for 1856 and other years, books by Belinsky and Pisarev and research papers by Darwin and Chernyshevsky…” (Ibid., p. 69) These gradually introduced Zabolotny to democratic revolutionary and socialist thinkers, and to materialist philosophy. There were also materialist teachers at the university, who struggled against clericalism and for democracy.
“Only a short time previously Sechenov and Mechnikov had been lecturing there. The university still cherished the traditions of the great Russian natural scientists. Nikolai Umov, the physicist, and Alexander Kovalevsky, the famous embryologist, read lectures there. These professors trained the students to have clear materialist ideas, taught them to seek in the external world for the causes of internal changes, as Sechenov had done when he proved that the external world determines the character of the higher nervous activity of animals and man, as Mechnikov and Pasteur had done when they explained the role of the external world in the origin and spread of diseases.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, pp. 74-75)
Darwin’s theories also became a very important factor in Zabolotny’s life-work. Zabolotny was expelled from the university for revolutionary activities and imprisoned. However, in prison his health became worse and the authorities were afraid his death would cause disturbances, so they released him. After his release “friends of Mechnikov, Bardakh and Gamaleya gave Zabolotny a friendly welcome to the Mechnikov laboratory.” (Ibid. p. 78) where he carried out research. Later he embarked on his many expeditions.
Western reactionary scientists opposed Zabolotny and denied his theory that the plague survives among animals and is transmitted from animals to humans. Instead they insisted that plague is only spread by contact with infected persons or their belongings. Zabolotny also came into fierce conflict with supporters of Malthus who considered epidemics a necessary population control mechanism.
“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Zabolotny.
N. F. GAMALEYA (1859-1949, bacteriologist)
Nikolay Fyodorovich Gamaleya was a pioneer of microbiology and vaccine research, one of the greatest Soviet microbiologists.
After graduating from Odessa’s Novorossiysky University in 1880 and the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy in 1883 he traveled to France in 1886 to work in Louis Pasteur‘s laboratory (Pasteur is the main developer of the germ theory of disease). Gamaleya defended Pasteur’s research against reactionary dogmatists in the scientific community. Pasteur’s opponents sabotaged and delayed his research, ordering him not to treat rabies patients until further tests had been done. Pasteur’s opponents falsely claimed his rabies vaccines were dangerous and caused disease. Gamaleya knew that any delays were lethal and patients were dying all the time, as rabies was considered incurable and practically always fatal. He proved that Pasteur’s opponents were sabotaging vaccine tests intentionally by a campaign of lies and due to their incompetent unhygienic methods. He tested the vaccine on himself and showed it to be safe.
After his return to Russia he joined I. I. Mechnikov in organizing an Odessa bacteriological station for rabies vaccination studies and research on combating cattle plague and cholera, diagnosing sputum for tuberculosis, and preparing anthrax vaccines. He improved upon the work of Pasteur. The Odessa Bacteriological Institute became Russia’s first-ever bacteriological observation station. Despite lack of resources the scientists were able to succeed in figuring out the conditions under which the rabies vaccination was most effective. Gamaleya’s proposal for using killed bacilli in anti-cholera vaccines was later successfully applied on a wide scale as well. Similar stations were soon founded in Kiev (1886), Yekaterinoslav (1897), and Chernigov (1897).
After defending his dissertation in 1892, Gamaleya served as director of the Odessa Bacteriological Institute in 1896-1908. Researching anthrax in 1898, Gamaleya was the discoverer of the bacteria-destroying antibodies known as bacteriolysins.
Gamaleya initiated a public health campaign of exterminating rats to fight the plague in Odessa and southern Russia and pointed to the louse as the carrier of typhus. In 1910-1913, Gamaleya edited the journal Hygiene and Sanitation.
Gamaleya organized the supply and distribution of smallpox vaccines for the Red Army and made strides toward the eventual eradication of smallpox in the USSR.
The author of more than 300 academic publications on bacteriology, Gamaleya was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. He also served as head of the All-Union Society of Microbiologists, Epidemiologists and Infectionists.
Gamaleya received two Lenin Orders, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, the Stalin Prize in 1943 and other awards.
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Gamaleya.
K. I. SKRYABIN (1879-1972, Helminthologist)
Konstantin Ivanovich Skryabin. Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1939, academician of USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, Hero of Socialist Labor (1958), winner of Stalin Prize and Lenin Prize. He was a founder of the helminthology school, and an author of landmark books on helminths in Soviet Union. He was a Head of the Department of the Moscow Veterinary Institute (1920-1925) and (1933-1941), and at the same time Head of Helminthology Division of the Central Tropical Institute (1921-1941).
V. A. DOGIEL (1882-1955, zoologist, parasitologist, protozoologist)
Valentin Alexandrovich Dogiel (sometimes “Dogel”). Professor at the St. Petersburg (Later Leningrad State University) since 1913, and head of the Leningrad Laboratory of Protozoology at the Zoological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1944. In 1923 he founded the Laboratory of Parasitology at the Fisheries Research Institute VNIORKh in Leningrad.
Dogiel contributed significantly in the field of taxonomy of parasites and protozoa in general. He also worked on more general questions of comparative anatomy and zoology. He was appointed a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1939, and a foreign member of the Linnean Society of London in 1944. He was a co-worker of Y. N. Pavlovsky.
He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor in 1945 and the Order of Lenin in 1953.
Y. N. PAVLOVSKY (1884-1965, zoologist, entomologist, parasitologist)
Yevgeny Nikanorovich Pavlovsky was an important parasitologist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1939), the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR (1944), honorary member of the Tajik Academy of Sciences (1951), and a lieutenant-general of the Red Army Medical Service in World War II.
In 1908, Yevgeny Pavlovsky graduated from the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. He became a professor at his alma mater in 1921. In 1933–1944, he worked at the All-union Institute of Experimental Medicine in Leningrad and simultaneously at the Tajik branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1937–1951). Yevgeny Pavlovsky held the post of the director of the Zoology Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1942–1962. In 1946, he was appointed head of the Department of Parasitology & Medical Zoology at the Institute of Epidemiology & Microbiology of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences. He was the president of the Soviet Geographical Society in 1952–1964. Under Pavlovsky’s direction, they organized numerous complex expeditions to the Central Asia, Transcaucasus, Crimea, Russian Far East and other regions of the Soviet Union to study endemic parasitic and transmissible diseases (tick-borne relapsing fever, tick-borne encephalitis, Pappataci fever, leishmaniasis etc.).
Yevgeny Pavlovsky introduced the concept of natural nidality of human diseases, defined by the idea that microscale disease foci are determined by the entire ecosystem. This concept laid the foundation for the elaboration of a number of preventive measures and promoted the development of the environmental trend in parasitology (together with the works of parasitologist Valentin Dogiel). Yevgeny Pavlovsky researched host organism as a habitat for parasites (parasitocenosis), numerous matters of regional and landscape parasitology, life cycles of a number of parasites, pathogenesis of helminth infection. Pavlovsky and his fellow scientists researched the fauna of flying blood-sucking insects (gnat) and methods of controlling them and venomous animals and characteristics of their venom.
Pavlovsky’s principal works are dedicated to the matters of parasitology. He authored several textbooks and manuals on parasitology. Pavlovsky was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th convocations. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941 and 1950) and the Mechnikov Gold Medal of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1949), and gold medal of the Soviet Geographical Society (1954). Yevgeny Pavlovsky was awarded five Orders of Lenin, four other orders, and numerous medals.
“If the causative organisms of the disease passed only from one human being to another, then having killed the last person in their path in a particular locality, the microbes themselves should then cease to exist. But for millions of years bacteria had been adapting themselves to the changing environmental conditions. The microbes of many most dangerous diseases make the complicated journey not in space, not from one country to another, but on one and the same restricted territory, passing from one species of animal to another. This path of infection, when the virus does not go beyond the bounds of wild nature, can be called its “minor cycle.”
People who have penetrated the depths of the Far Eastern taiga suffered from taiga encephalitis—an inflammation of the brain which is dangerous to life Years of heroic labour were spent before Yevgeny Pavlovsky and other Soviet scientists deciphered the “minor cycle” of the movement of encephalitis, discovered its natural haunts and proved that the tick which lives in the taiga introduces the virus of this disease into the blood when it bites a human being. The infection existed before, but it would now be visible and would pass along the “major cycle” which includes mankind.
During the years of the first five-year plan, when building began on the desert shores of Vakhsh in Central Asia, doctors observed the appearance of a serious disease which was a special variety of Leishmaniasis. Soviet scientists succeeded in establishing that the jackal is one of the links in the movement in nature of the Leishmania.
In this way scientists are investigating the limits of the spread of one or other microbe. In taiga, forests, steppes, deserts, mountains, swamps, wherever human beings live or will live, this work Is in progress. Scientists are discovering the invisible, well-concealed haunts of the enemy, They are laying bare the repositories, the reservoirs of the disease-creating microbe in order to protect mankind from it…
Soviet doctors are abolishing malaria by draining swamps and using aeroplanes to spray chemical substances on malaria-infested localities and so destroy mosquitoes. In all the main centres of malaria throughout the entire territory of our country, this exhausting disease, which afflicted millions of people, is almost entirely wiped out. As they master the depths of the taiga, scientists are destroying the haunts of the tick which carries the virus of taiga encephalitis. They find and destroy the natural bases, the secret natural haunts of the microbes which are the sources of infection.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, pp. 55-56)
“Evgeny Nikanorovich Pavlovsky elaborated his theory that diseases have their natural centres” (A. Sharov, Ibid. p. 196)
M. A. LEBEDEVA (1894–1957)
Maria Alekseyevna Lebedeva was a brave pioneering bacteriologist and revolutionary. She specialized in combating plague, and was a co-worker of D. K. Zabolotny.
She was imprisoned for revolutionary activity by the tsarist regime. She continued her scientific work after serving her sentence.
“Geneva, the taiga, revolutionary work, prison, work in an epidemic—this was the perfectly straight road taken by a woman who lived to bring the future nearer.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 124)
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Lebedeva.
M. P. POKROVSKAYA (1901-1980, bacteriologist)
Magdalena Petrovna Pokrovskaya. She is known as the creator of the world’s first effective anti-plague vaccine (1934). In reality, an earlier vaccine had already been created by Soviet scientist Vladimir Khavkin. However, Pokrovskaya’s vaccine was far superior.
In 1934-1952 she worked at the Stavropol anti-plague station, headed the laboratory of microbiology. With the reorganization of the station into the Scientific Research Anti-Plague Institute of the Caucasus and Transcaucasia in 1952-1953, she held the position of Deputy Director for Research.
The anti-plague vaccine she developed used a living strain of plague bacteria which had been bred to be non-dangerous (avirulent). As a result it was able to provide particularly strong immunizing effect. The earlier vaccine developed by Khavkin had used dead plague bacteria. In order to accelerate the vaccine program, Pokrovskaya tested the vaccine on herself. She took this step because she was convinced the vaccine was effective, and because she was afraid Fascist Japan and Nazi Germany were going to invade the USSR and could have developed plague based bacteriological weapons. It turns out she was correct, as Japanese “Unit 731” really had developed such weapons.
Pokrovskaya was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, the Order of the Red Star, and the medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War.”
Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Pokrovskaya.
A. L. BERLIN (1903-1939, microbiologist)
Abram Lvovich Berlin was a Soviet microbiologist.
N. N. ZHUKOV-VEREZHNIKOV (1908-1981, microbiologist, immunologist)
Nikolai Nikolaevich Zhukov-Verezhnikov. Academician of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. He was a strong advocate of Michurin biology.
Graduated from the Medical Faculty of the 2nd Moscow University (1930). In 1932-1948 he worked in various research institutions in Saratov and Rostov-on-Don. In 1948 he organized and headed the laboratory of experimental immunobiology at the Institute of Experimental Biology of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. From 1948-1950 he was director of the institute. Academician of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences since 1948 and its vice president in 1949-1953.
In 1949, he acted as the Chief Forensic Medical Expert at the Khabarovsk trial of Japanese war criminals. In 1952 he became Deputy Minister of the USSR Ministry of Health.
Scientific papers -He researched plague and cholera and proposed methods of preventing these diseases. -In 1944 he created a new live anti-plague vaccine (“ZhV”). -Developed a method for treating pneumonic plague. Previously it was considered fatal in practically all cases. -He put forward the theory of species-forming variability of bacteria. -Developed the principle of obtaining vaccines against influenza.
“Zhukov-Yerezhnikov and Khvorostukhina together created a new live vaccine “ZhV,” which possessed a wonderful power of producing immunity” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 228)
Zhukov-Yerezhnikov was awarded the Stalin Prize of the second degree (1950), the Honored Scientist of the RSFSR award, two Orders of Lenin, Order of the October Revolution, two Orders of the Red Banner of Labor and various medals.
“Soviet scientists Yoff and Tiflov made a close study of the fleas which live as parasites on steppe rodents, and they have explained the importance of certain species of fleas in the spread of plague.
Tumansky and Polyak were the first to prove that it was possible for plague microbes to be preserved for a long time in the organism of fleas, during the period separating one outbreak of epizootic disease from another…
Stupnitsky, Tinker and many others completed the chain of investigations. It appeared that the microbes fully preserve their strength; they, together with the blood of the plague-stricken suslik, could only have entered the belly of the insect when the summer epizootic disease was at its height and long before the rodents’ winter hibernation.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 206)
N. M. PRZHEVALSKY (1839-1888, geographer, explorer of Central and East Asia)
Nikolay Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky was a Russian geographer and renowned explorer of Central and East Asia. He traveled through regions then unknown to the West and discovered many previously unknown species. His contribution to science and his people was recognized in the USSR.
Nicholas Miklukho-Maklai (sometimes “Miklouho-Maclay”) was a legendary traveler and explorer who became famous as one of the earliest scientists to settle among and study indigenous people of New Guinea who had never seen a European.
He was a brave fighter for democracy and freedom. He sought to defend indigenous people from colonial exploitation. During his research he became convinced that racism was not scientific:
THE OSOAVIKHIM-1 MISSION (FEDOSENKO, USYSKIN, VASENKO)
“The ideas that the higher layers of the atmosphere… are inaccessible have also… receded into the past: Fedoseyenko, Vasenko and Usyskin, Soviet stratonauts, have made the first successful attempts at mastering the altitudes at the peril of their lives.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 267-268)
Osoaviakhim-1 was a ground-breaking mission to launch a manned stratospheric balloon. The balloon reached the altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet) successfully and began to descend. The flight lasted 7 hours. However, as the balloon descended to 12,000 meters, it experienced loss of buoyancy and crashed as a result, killing the crew.
The crew consisted of the following persons:
Pavel Fedorovich Fedoseenko (1898-1934) military pilot, aeronaut, commander of the crew. Was previously awarded the Order of the Red Banner and other honors. Ilya Davydovich Usyskin (1910-1934) physicist. Andrei Bogdanovich Vasenko (1899-1934) aerological engineer and designer.
All three crew members were posthumously awarded the Order of Lenin. Postage stamps were issued in their honor and their ashes were buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. They have become immortalized as fearless heroes of science.
IVAN PAPANIN (1894-1986, Polar explorer)
Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin was a Soviet polar explorer, scientist, Counter Admiral, and twice Hero of the Soviet Union, who was awarded nine Orders of Lenin.
In 1931 he took part in the expedition of the icebreaker Malygin to Franz Josef Land. In 1932-1933 he was the head of a polar expedition on Tikhaya Bay on Franz Josef Land. In 1934-1935 he was in command of a polar station on Cape Chelyuskin. In 1937-1938 he was in charge of the famous expedition North Pole-1. Four researchers, Ivan Papanin, Ernst Krenkel, Yevgeny Fyodorov and Petr Shirshov, landed on the drifting ice-floes in an airplane flown by Mikhail Vodopyanov. For 234 days, Papanin’s team carried out a wide range of scientific observations in the near-polar zone, until taken back by the two icebreakers Murman and Taimyr. It was the first expedition of its kind in the world. All members of the expedition received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, which was extremely rare before World War II. In 1939-1946 Papanin was the successor to Otto Schmidt as head of the Glavsevmorput’ (Glavniy Severniy Morskoy Put’) – an establishment that oversaw all commercial operations on the Northern Sea Route. In 1940 he received a second Hero of the Soviet Union title for organizing the expedition that saved the icebreaker Sedov. During World War II he was the representative of the State Defence Committee (Gosudarstvennij Komitet Oborony) responsible for all transportation by the Northern Sea Route. In 1941-1952 he was a member of the Central Revision Commission of the Communist Party. In 1948-1951 he was the deputy director of Institute for Oceanology of the USSR Academy of Sciences and from 1951 the Head of the Academy’s Department of Maritime Expeditions.
OTTO SCHMIDT (1891-1956, mathematician, astronomer, geophysicist, polar explorer)
Otto Yulyevich Shmidt was a Soviet scientist, Hero of the USSR (27 June 1937), and member of the Communist Party. He made important contributions especially to geology, but also to mathematics and astronomy. However, he is probably most famous for his leadership of the Polar Expedition North Pole-1.
He worked at Narkompros (People’s Commissariat for Education), the State Scientific Board at the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, and the Communist Academy. He was Chair of the Foreign Literature Committee from October 1921. He was also employed as the director of the State Publishing House (Gosizdat) from 1921 to 1924, and chief editor of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia from 1924 to 1941. From 1923 he was a professor at the Second Moscow State University and later at the Moscow State University, and from 1930 to 1932, Schmidt was the head of the Arctic Institute.
From 1932 to 1939, he was appointed head of Glavsevmorput’ (Glavnoe upravlenie Severnogo Morskogo Puti) – an establishment that oversaw all commercial operations on the Northern Sea Route. From 1939 to 1942, Schmidt became a vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, where he organized the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics (he was its director until 1949). Otto Schmidt was a founder of the Moscow Algebra School, which he directed for many years.
In the mid-1940s, Schmidt suggested a new cosmogonical hypothesis on the formation of the Earth and other planets of the Solar System, which he continued to develop together with a group of Soviet scientists until his death.
Schmidt was an explorer of the Arctic. In 1929 and 1930, he led expeditions on the steam icebreaker Georgy Sedov, establishing the first scientific research station on the Franz Josef Land, exploring the northwestern parts of the Kara Sea and western coasts of Severnaya Zemlya, and discovering a few islands. In 1932, Schmidt’s expedition on the steam icebreaker Sibiryakov with Captain Vladimir Voronin made a non-stop voyage from Arkhangelsk to the Pacific Ocean without wintering for the first time in history. From 1933 to 1934, Schmidt led the voyage of the steamship Cheliuskin, also with Captain Vladimir Voronin, along the Northern Sea Route. In 1937, he supervised an airborne expedition that established a drift-ice station “North Pole-1”. In 1938, he was in charge of evacuating its personnel from the ice.
Otto Schmidt was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR and a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the first convocation (1938-1946).
M. B. MITIN (1901-1987, philosopher, philosopher of science)
Mitin was a michurinist philosopher. He studied philosophy at the Institute of Red Professors in 1925-1929, became a member of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in 1919. From 1944 to 1950 he served on the editorial board of the journal Bolshevik. In 1939 he was elected to the Central Committee and as the director of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPSU Central Committee.
Mitin spearheaded the campaign against Deborin’s menshevizing idealism in the 1930s and consistently defended and developed Dialectical Materialism throughout his career.
V. Venikov – Simulation of electrical systems. V. Dogel – In the world of protozoa. V. Orekhovich – Conversion of proteins into organisms L. Masevich – The origin of Stars… M. Nikolskaya – Insects against insects. N. I. Nikitin – Lumber Chemistry. A. Fedorov – In the new China by the paths of Michurin. L. Solsviev – Increasing the fat content of milk.
Development of I.P. Pavlov’s ideas:
P. Frolov – Hygiene of mental labor…
Science and production:
V. A. Kolesov – 10 norms per shift!
Science and technology news:
S. Samoilov – Gas generator diesel locomotive V. Zheleznov – Ftivazid P. Kholopov – Catalog of Professor Kharadze I. V. Yakushkin, M. Edelstein – Pre-harvest beet feeding
G. Ushakov – On untouched land
Criticism and bibliography:
N. Shcherbinovsky – Creators of soil science
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF REACTIONARY SCIENCE:
August Weismann (1834-1914) was a reactionary biologist who invented the so-called “germ-plasm theory”. According to this reactionary theory, heredity is only contained in small particles called the germ-plasm. According to Weismann, the germ-plasm is indestructible, unchangeable and totally separate from the rest of the organism. By this he meant that the heredity of the organism cannot be influenced in any way by its living conditions. The organism inherits the eternal germ-plasm from its parent, and passes it to its own offspring. The living body is only a temporary vessel for the immortal germ-plasm. The germ-plasm basically reincarnates into different bodies. The germ-plasm can never change, it can only grow and divide. Weismann explained hereditary change by claiming that elements of the germ-plasm mix during sexual procreation, although they can never truly change and new heredity can never be added. The existing hereditary elements have existed since the beginning of time. By this Weismann practically denied the possibility of evolution and development from lower to higher organisms. Through fallacious experiments Weismann focused on trying to debunk the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which he failed to do.
The idealist-mystical notion of the eternal germ-plasm which is isolated from the body of the organism is known as weismannism.
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was an Austrian augustinian monk. Mendel is considered the founder of modern reactionary bourgeois genetics. Living at a monastery he carried out a number of experiments with peas. He developed the idea that heredity consists of “hereditary factors” (now called ‘genes’). He held similar views to weismannism and believed hereditary factors are not influenced by material conditions. Mendel was interested in mathematics, and his main focus was trying to impose statistical laws on biology. He believed that hereditary traits mix during sexual procreation according to mathematical ratios (most famous is his 3:1 ratio). Mendel also developed a number of other views, now often called “Mendel’s laws” such as the idea that traits are passed down separately from each other and that there is no relation between one hereditary trait and another, that there is no blending of hereditary traits etc. It is now recognized that these are not laws, and apply only to a limited extent and only in certain cases.
Mendel’s ratios only apply to certain plants, and as T. D. Lysenko said, they are only a statistical reality, an average, but not something which applies to every individual organism. The phenomena of dominance discovered by Mendel is a real fact but Mendel understood it metaphysically as something absolute. In reality traits can be dominant or recessive depending on the circumstance, and dominance can change.
Mendel’s discoveries did not have any scientific importance during his life and he was ignored, although he was able to present his findings to scientific bodies. He rejected his own findings in his second paper, because he realized his findings only applied to peas (to the degree that they apply at all) and he wasn’t able to replicate them. Mendel’s follower R. A. Fischer also concluded that Mendel had fabricated the data in the paper which showed all his “discoveries”.
Mendel is usually associated with the theory of the “gene” although Mendel didn’t use the term himself. The theory that heredity is contained only in small particles called “genes” which are located in chromosomes, which are mixed during sexual procreation is called mendelism. Mendelism is idealist because it does not recognize heredity as a property of the entire organism in relation its environment, because it sees the genes as something isolated from the rest of the organism and impervious to change and impervious to effects of the material conditions.
According to the chromosome theory of reactionary biologists Sutton and Boveri, the genes, and thus all heredity, are located only in the chromosomes. Soviet science debunked this long ago, and even modern bourgeois science admits that this is not true. The chromosome theory still remains a core principle of mendelism. However, after the theory was debunked and after DNA was discovered, mendelism has begun claiming that genes consist of DNA, and are located where ever DNA exists. This only demonstrates that while DNA actually exists, genes are not real physical things, but merely a theoretical concept.
Mendelism originally opposed Darwinian evolution. Leading mendelists such as Wilhelm Johannsen (1857-1927) denied Darwinian evolution because it was incompatible with mendelism. Darwin also advocated the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, while mendelism denies it. Modern mendelism upholds the so-called “modern synthesis” which attempts to combine darwinism with mendelism. They achieved this by distorting darwinism into neo-darwinism. The term “modern synthesis” was coined by reactionary imperialist geneticist Julian Huxley.
Mendelists quickly adopted the pseudo-science known as “eugenics”, which is closely associated with racism and fascism. Developers of the “modern synthesis” Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky and their supporters were leaders of the eugenics movement. Eugenics or “population hygiene” is the idea that “inferior people” such as the poor, the disabled or the non-whites, should be killed, aborted, sterilized etc. and thus removed from the “gene pool”. Eugenics is the continuation of “race science”, sterilization of natives and other similar colonialist and fascist policies.
Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945) carried out mutation experiments with fruit-flies. His work was important for creating the neo-darwinian view of evolution, which is incompatible with the teaching of Darwin but is compatible with mendelism. In the view of Morgan, evolution happens because of mutations which are purely random. He fallaciously claimed there were no governing principles or biological laws behind mutations, because he could not discover any. His theory denies the possibility of discovering the laws behind evolution and also denies the possibility of guiding development of organisms. His theory proclaims man’s powerlessness before nature, and promised absolutely no practical utility.
Morgan also admitted that his mutation experiments using radiation, were not able to produce any beneficial mutations, but only harmful mutations. As a result he questioned whether evolution towards more advanced organisms was possible.
The notion that evolution is entirely random and its laws are unknowable is called morganism. It provides mendelism-weismannism with a way to excuse any changes caused by material conditions and any inherited acquired characteristics, as nothing but “random mutations”. Morganism is unfalsifiable and thus unscientific even by bourgeois standards.
Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow (1821-1902) was a physician who invented the doctrine that life can exist only in the form of cells, and that cells can only emerge from other cells. Virchow did not invent the cell-theory, but instead he distorted it. Virchow’s theory is unscientific because it makes it necessary to believe the first cell somehow emerged complete and fully formed. That would be a miracle which presupposes divine creation.
Soviet scientists Olga Lepeshinskaya, Alexander Oparin and their collaborators demonstrated that life began with forms much simpler than a fully formed cell. Even modern bourgeois science doubts Virchowism and it is widely understood that life began with self-replicating proteins. However, Virchowism is still the mainstream consensus among the bourgeois academia.
As a reactionary idealist Virchow denied the materialist theory of Darwinian evolution and called Darwin an ignoramus. He also did not accept the materialist germ-theory of disease developed by Louis Pasteur.
Nikolai Konstantinovich Koltsov was a reactionary scientist, supporter of mendelism in the USSR. Koltsov supported the fascist pseudo-science of eugenics and was active in the Russian Eugenic Society until it was closed down. Koltsov was arrested and held under arrest in 1920-1921 because of his involvement in the anti-Bolshevik Tactical Center which united reactionary intellectuals to overthrow the government.
I. I. SCHMALHAUSEN (1884-1963)
Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen was a leading reactionary mendelist geneticist in the USSR. He advocated neo-darwinism and helped the eugenicists J. Huxley and T. Dobzhansky develop the so-called neo-darwinian “modern synthesis”. His work was translated into english by Dobzhansky. Schmalhausen was removed from his position in the Institute of Evolutionary Morphology and Department of Darwinism of Moscow University in 1948 because of his reactionary views. After the death of Stalin Schmalhausen was a leading figure in the anti-michurinist movement.
N. I. VAVILOV (1887-1943)
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was a prominent reactionary mendelist geneticist in the USSR. He supported eugenicist pseudo-science and was connected to international eugenicists such as Hermann Joseph Muller. He was also connected to the Right-Opposition. N. I. Vavilov was sentenced to prison in 1940 for sabotage in agriculture and espionage on behalf of Britain. He died in a Leningrad prison in 1943 due to hardships of WWII. His brother was the successful physicist and communist S. I. Vavilov.
P. M. ZHUKOVSKY (1888-1975)
Pyotr Mikhailovich Zhukovsky was a reactionary mendelist geneticist. He was a follower of N. I. Vavilov and involved in the anti-michurinist movement after the death of Stalin.
N. P. DUBININ (1907-1998)
Nikolai Petrovich Dubinin was a leading reactionary mendelist geneticist in the USSR. After the death of Stalin he was a leader of the anti-michurinist movement. During the revisionist period he was promoted and became the head of the Laboratory of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1956.
NIKOLAY TIMOFEEV-RESSOVSKY (1900-1981)
A Soviet mendelist who defected to Germany and worked for the Third Reich. After the defeat of Nazism in 1945 he returned to the USSR and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was supported by other mendelists and continued to promote reactionary views after his release.
Other significant reactionary mendelists in the USSR were M. M. ZAVADOVSKY (1891-1957) and A. R. ZHEBRAK (1901-1965).
L. A. ORBELI (1882-1958) received harsh criticism for distorting Pavlov’s theories in support of reactionary mendelism.
P. K. ANOKHIN (1882-1958) attempted to replace Pavlov’s theories with reactionary mechanistic cybernetic theories.
“Cybernetics: a reactionary pseudoscience that appeared in the U.S.A. after World War II and also spread through other capitalist countries. Cybernetics clearly reflects one of the basic features of the bourgeois worldview—its inhumanity, striving to transform workers into an extension of the machine, into a tool of production, and an instrument of war. At the same time, for cybernetics an imperialistic utopia is characteristic—replacing living, thinking man, fighting for his interests, by a machine, both in industry and in war. The instigators of a new world war use cybernetics in their dirty, practical affairs.” (“Cybernetics” in the Short Philosophical Dictionary, 1954)
A. I. BERG (1893-1979, electrical engineer, saboteur, revisionist)
Axel Ivanovich Berg was a Soviet physicist and electrical engineer who at one time held certain responsible positions. He was an Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1946 and member of the CPSU since 1944.
Berg was arrested in 1937 for sabotage and held in custody for 3 years. He was released in 1940 due to insufficient evidence. In the revisionist period he was one of the founders of cybernetics in the USSR.
E. KOLMAN (1892-1979)
Cybernetics was promoted in the USSR by Ernest Kolman who Benjamin Peters in his article “Normalizing Soviet Cybernetics” characterizes as “a failed mathematician” (p. 159).
Kolman was described as a “true stalinist” but in reality he was only a careerist. His commitment to marxism had always been self-serving and disingenuous. He was hardly someone defending the integrity of marxism from bourgeois pseudoscience and “had spent time in a Stalinist labor camp after World War II for straying from the party line in his interpretation of Marxism.” (p. 160).
Later Kolman defected to Sweden where he openly rejected Leninism entirely and strongly criticized Marx and Engels.
P. A. MOLCHANOV (1893-1941, meteorologist, traitor)
Pavel Alexandrovich Molchanov was a Soviet meteorologist who held certain responsible posts such as the head of the Department of Air Navigation at the Leningrad Institute of Civil Air Fleet Engineers, until he was arrested for treason in 1941 and shot.
L. D. LANDAU (1908-1968, physicist)
Lev Davidovich Landau was a soviet physicist and quantum physicist. He held important positions and made contributions to science. However, he also made numerous idealistic mistakes in science and philosophy of science. From 1937 until 1962, Landau was allowed to be the head of the Theoretical Division at the Institute for Physical Problems.
He was held in prison for interrogation in 1938-1939 because he spread counter-revolutionary leaflets which equated Marxism and Nazism.
A. D. SAKHAROV (1921-1989)
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a physicist and counter-revolutionary from the USSR. He was involved in nuclear physics. The USSR was the most advanced country in that field. Since he worked under a team led by brilliant physicists such as Igor Tamm and Igor Kurchatov who won the Stalin Prize for their achivements, Sakharov was also awarded one in 1953. He kept his reactionary views secret while working on nuclear physics and succeeded in leeching off the success of his colleagues. Secretly and later publically Sakharov supported capitalism and imperialism, and after Stalin’s death began campaigning against progressive sciences such as michurinism. He was later stripped of all his awards.
When he was carrying out scientific work he was not given any awards by the West and generally his work was entirely overshadowed by his more capable colleagues, but later he was given a Nobel Prize for being an anti-Soviet dissident.
This article contains some basic information about Socialist Realism and politically progressive art in Hungary. I will try to update this as I research more.
FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
The most famous pre-revolutionary music composer was Franz Liszt (1811-1886) who represents perhaps the peak of bourgeois-revolutionary music in Hungary. Liszt was a romantic composer who contributed significantly to the development of music through his masterful piano playing, through his compositions and by helping other composers. He contributed significantly to music criticism through his articles and books (most famous being his book about the life and work of Chopin). Liszt was sympathetic to revolutionary ideas, was deeply concerned about the life of the ordinary working people, and supported the democratic and national liberation movements. He tried to create a Hungarian national style in classical music. As his inspiration in this venture he used the verbunkos, a style of dance music used in military recruitments in Hungary.
At the time Hungary was an Austrian protectorate and culturally dominated by the Germanic world. However, after the failed 1848 revolution by Lajos Kossuth, the reactionary Hapsburg rulers of Hungary were forced to make compromises. They gave Hungary somewhat more cultural autonomy and Liszt was able to start a Musical Academy in Hungary in 1875 with his colleague Ferenc Erkel as its director.
FERENC ERKEL (1810-1893)
Ferenc Erkel was another important composer of the pre-revolutionary era. He is the founder of Hungarian national opera, the first Hungarian composer to write operatic music. His most successful work was the patriotic opera Hunyadi László (1844) and another highly respected work is Bánk bán (1861). He also composed the opera Dózsa György (1867) about the famous peasant revolution of 1514.
The Ferenc Erkel Prize for great composers was created in the Hungarian People’s Republic in 1952.
Like Liszt, Erkel was largely influenced by Western styles but tried to create a Hungarian kind of music and tried to make art music something which ordinary people can also enjoy. The greatest composer of the Hungarian People’s Republic, Zoltan Kodaly said that Erkel “chose the path that made it possible to bring music closer to the people, and the people closer to music. In composing the music for a whole series of folk plays he used genuine folk music. It is a pity that he did not go further, but the gap between folk song and opera seemed to him too big to make any decisive attempt at bridging it. Yet until this has been done, there can be no hope of establishing real contact between the ordinary people and the higher forms of music.” (quoted in László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 149)
BELA BARTOK (1881-1945)
An important composer of the early 20th century was Béla Bartók (1881-1945), whose work (such as his symphonic poem “Kossuth” about the 1848 revolution) was progressive and supported national liberation. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919) Bartók was a member of the Musical Directorate. After the revolution was crushed he toured abroad and considered emigration. “Everything is being ruined here”, he wrote in an autobiographical work. He finally had to escape the country after Hungary joined WWII on the side of the Nazis. He went to the USA, where he died in poverty.
Right from the beginning Bartók had been inspired by Liszt to create a Hungarian national music. However, after serious research into Hungarian folk music he realized that although the verbunkos are genuinely Hungarian, they are not really folk music. After conducting serious research among the masses he began using and popularizing folk musical motifs collected from the peasants of Hungary and neighboring countries. He began his long collaboration with Zoltan Kodaly, who also collected and studied folk music and had a similar goal of creating a national Hungarian music.
Due to periods of marginalization, isolation from the people, and foreign emigration (which he deeply regretted), part of Bartók’s work suffered from negative bourgeois influences. He lived during the period when capitalism entered its imperialist stage, and the bourgeois system suffered a serious decline in quality of art which has continued ever since. Bartók’s early goal had been to unite the folk music of the masses with elements from contemporary academic music. He had to eventually abandon this project as impossible, and was disturbed by the deepening crisis of bourgeois music.
Bartók’s idea of uniting mass music with classical music had been absolutely correct. However, he didn’t realize that what the contemporary academia considered ‘classical music’ was really decadent imperialist music, which was decaying more and more, and abandoning all principles of art, and all principles of classical music. Bartók understood this only instinctively. In reality Bartók had stumbled upon the core problem of musical art. It was necessary to combine the music of the people (the folk) with classical music, but bourgeois music had abandoned this goal and started to decline further and further. The only solution was to go forward to Socialist Realist music.
Bartók was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century with great artistic achievements. Though Bartók was not a communist he was an ardent anti-fascist and often worked with communists, for example with the writer Béla Balázs. Bartók was a patriot who defended Hungarian independence, and an internationalist. A telling example of Bartók’s internationalism is that he collected thousands of folk songs originally in Hungary, but eventually expanded his research to Slovak, Romanian, Ukrainian, Turkish and other folk songs, even using them in his compositions. A deep and critical Marxist analysis of Bartók’s work was written by Chao Feng (Bartók and Chinese Music Culture).
Despite his great genius and his great achievements, some of Bartók’s works suffered from decadent bourgeois formalism. Some works such as “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” is written based on mathematical patterns, and sounds like random dissonant notes. It sounds like it could’ve been written by a computer without ears. It was written in the style called “Serialism” which was fashionable in bourgeois circles at the time, and which reached its peak in atonality. (Atonality means music which doesn’t have a key. It sounds extremely unnatural, unsettling and irritating.)
Some other works such as “The Miraculous Mandarin” are vulgar, without artistic merit and exhibit the same values as typical capitalist consumerism, the main protagonists are villains, prostitutes, thieves and murderers. It also sounds blatantly ugly.
Along with formalistic ugliness the most typical problem in Bartók’s work is pessimism. His works all depict someone who is deeply alienated in capitalist society and often isolated from the masses. Even good works by Bartók such as “the Concerto for Orchestra” suffer from this.
Bartók’s great achivements
Despite the faults, Bartók wrote some very good works which were frequently performed and played on the radio. Favorites included songs for singing such as “Enchanting Song”, “Don’t Leave Me!” and “Pillow Dance”; selections from the Ten Easy Pieces for Piano (particularly “Evening with the Széklers and “Bear Dance”). The Sonatina and the Romanian Folk Dances were also very popular and played many times a week on the radio. Bartók’s late works (particularly the Violin Concerto, the Divertimento, the Concerto for Orchestra, the Third Piano Concerto, and the Sonata for Solo Violin) were also played very often.
Additional information, criticism and analysis about individual works as well as a full list of Bartók’s works that were considered artistically valuable and not formalistic is attached as appendix 1 at the end of the article (even formalistic works continued to be played sometimes. There wasn’t necessarily a complete “ban” against them).
Communists took art seriously and wanted to make sure Bartók’s best work was being displayed. A newspaper editorial from 1950 states:
“The purpose of these programs is to make known Bartók’s true face, his true art, for the working class. We introduce Bartók, the fierce scholar of the Hungarian folk song, Bartók, the progressive artist, the great composer. This week the Radio’s listeners will find practically every outstanding work of his on the program, and through lectures, popular explanations, and introductions these works will find their way to the hearts of the listeners.” (quoted in Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Music divided, p. 56)
The Western imperialists’ reaction to Béla Bartók
The capitalist west carried out a two-fold strategy regarding Bartók. On the one hand, they tried to claim Bartók for themselves. They claimed that the majority of Bartók’s work, all the folk-inspired pieces, and other beautiful and artistic pieces were worthless. In the opinion of the western imperialists only the ugly formalistic and dissonant works, as well as to a lesser extent the escapist and mystical influenced works had any merit. They tried to propagate Bartók’s worst pieces and attacked Communists for not performing them or liking them. They tried to appropriate Bartók, without ever mentioning that when Bartók was alive he never received any support from the West. They let him die of illness in poverty and misery.
Great Hungarian composer Ferenc Szabó wrote:
“Even if we do not agree with certain details of the Bartókian worldview, Bartók belongs to us organically and cannot be separated from us. This is why the English-speaking students of Goebbels trumpet to the world that the Hungarian People’s Republic has denied Bartók, and that in his home—in Hungary—today it is forbidden to perform Bartók’s works. This statement is just as false as their claiming Bartók as their own, equating Bartók with themselves and their filthy worldview. The Hungarian People’s Republic sincerely, rightfully, and with decided openness has always acknowledged Bartók as its own. One of the loveliest streets in Budapest is named after him. One of the most important musical institutions that leads and comprises the spontaneous musical activity of the Hungarian workers carries Bartók’s name. . . . We, the composers of the Hungarian People’s Republic, down to the last man, claim him as our own.” (“Bartók Does Not Compromise” quoted in Music divided, p. 64)
While propping up fascists in Greece, South Korea and Spain and supporting fascists all over the world, Western commentators hypocritically attacked all democratic folk-music and folk-inspired music as fascistic. They also claimed that all melodic classical music inherently seemed “stalinist” and thus should be persecuted. These theories were promoted by fake leftists on the payroll of the CIA such as Theodor Adorno and “the Frankfurt School”, and American Trotskyists of the Partisan Review including Clement Greenberg, Dwight Macdonald and Kurt List. They were also funded through the CIA front organization “Congress for Cultural Freedom”. This was a crusade by the imperialists to destroy beauty in art and to destroy Socialist Realism.
The second half of the imperialists’ strategy regarding Bartók was to minimize his relevance for contemporary composers. Because he wrote folk-influenced and beautiful music Bartók was seen as suspiciously similar to Socialist Realism. Historian Danielle Fosler-Lussier writes:
“Bartok’s music largely fell out of the teaching repertory for composition students at two important European centers of innovation, in Messiaen’s courses in Paris and at Darmstadt. The thinkers who subscribed to modernism as an ethical imperative were also among Europe’s most influential teachers—Leibowitz, Adorno, Scherchen, and Messiaen—and their prominence surely hastened Bartok’s departure from the curriculum and influenced the musical preferences of the next generation of composers. The turn away from Bartok as a model was not merely a shift in taste; it reflected new views of history and of musical style that were shaped directly or indirectly by the political pressures of the early cold war years. For some, such as Scherchen and Stuckenschmidt, the new view was heavily influenced by perceptions… of the threat of socialist realism. For others, such as Stockhausen, the new view seems to have been encouraged by Adorno’s philosophical criticism of musical style but applied in an abstract way to the history of style… (Music divided, p. 48)
When reactionary composers left Hungary and moved to the USA, they were not allowed to show any love for Bartók, or for anything Hungarian:
“Apprehension about the influence of Bartok and the quasi-political connotations his music had acquired lingered for years. The composer Gyorgy Ligeti, who left Hungary for the West late in 1956, exemplified this long-lasting anxiety about Bartok in a particularly poignant way… for Ligeti, as for the other figures [of his ilk], the question of Bartok’s influence was uncomfortably entangled with the [so-called] political backwardness [i.e. socialism] of Eastern Europe; for Ligeti, these were also fraught questions about his personal history and about where he belonged… Ligeti… explicitly avoided addressing the question of Bartok’s influence or even acknowledging the existence of his own works before his emigration… in 1970 he still felt the need to suppress these elements of his personal history, to draw a veil over everything that connected him to his Hungarian past.” (Music divided, pp. 49-50)
BELA REINITZ (1878-1943)
According to Finnish marxist music critic Ilpo Saunio among the first to discover the importance of Bartók was communist composer Béla Reinitz. According to Saunio Reinitz himself was “one of the most important proletarian composers of the early 20s” (Saunio, Sisko, veli, kuulet kummat soitot, p. 101). In 1919 Reinitz worked together with Bartók and was the kommissar for music and theatre affairs in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. He was forced to escape Hungary after the fall of the Soviet Republic. In emigration he composed various works, including communist songs (such as the hilarious satire “Der Revoluzzer” and the anti-war “Der müde Soldat”). After returning to Hungary he composed works based on the great revolutionary poets Sándor Petőfi, Endre Ady and Attila József.
ZOLTAN KODALY (1882-1967)
The greatest composer of the Hungarian People’s Republic was Zoltán Kodály. He was a long time collaborator of Béla Bartók both as a composer and researcher. He devoted his life to composing music, musical education, and researching folk music. He made great achivements in all three fields. His music, which is greatly influenced by folk music, is characterized by an optimistic, clear, democratic-humanist spirit.
The Communist composer Bela Reinitz had said: “In the future, Kodaly will be numbered amongst the most illustrious Hungarians. His name will be added to the list of distinguished men who have upheld the culture of our country” (quoted in László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 19). Reinitz’s prediction turned out exactly correct.
Kodaly’s life goal was to unite the music of the masses, the folk music, with art music. With Bartok he traveled the countryside of Hungary and neighboring countries collecting folk melodies.
In the Hungarian Soviet Republic
In 1918-19 Kodaly worked in the Musical Directorate of the Hungarian Soviet Republic under Reinitz:
“The administration of music was put in the hands of Bela Reinitz, who assumed executive authority from the time of the bourgeois Revolution in October 1918; and who, in the discharge of his duties, called upon Kodaly, Bartok and Dobhnanyi for their expert advice, appointing them as his musical Directory. At its meeting on 14th February, 1919, the Council of Ministers reorganized the Academy as the National Academy of Music of Hungary… Kodaly was appointed to the newly created post of Deputy Director. Kodaly accepted the post at the instance of Reinitz. But he was also motivated… partly because he saw it as a long-awaited opportunity of realizing one of his cherished plans, the creation of a sound system of solfeggio instruction, hitherto badly neglected… The fate of the Hungarian Republic of Councils was sealed by foreign intervention; and at the beginning of August 1919, the dictatorship of the proletariat was overthrown. With the restoration of capitalism, Kodaly’s initiative at the Academy was completely crushed. A witch-hunt was started against anyone who had held office under the Hungarian Republic of Councils, and it became a time for paying off old scores. Reinitz had to flee the country.” (László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 22)
Among other things Kodaly was accused of allowing Red Army soldiers to be recruited at the Music Academy and instructing Academy staff to orchestrate the Internationale (László Eősze, p. 23).
On 3rd February Bartok who also participated in the Music Directorate of the Soviet Republic, wrote to the authorities to defend Kodaly. (László Eősze, p. 24)
Kodaly was accused of anti-patriotism but he defended himself and was shown to be the true patriot, a true servant of the people, while his Horthyist fascist accusers were fake-patriots, simple bourgeois nationalists, nothing but servants of rich capitalists and foreign corporations. Kodaly said:
“Let him who has done more for Hungary than I… come forward to lecture me. All the work I have accomplished has been done without any financial aid from the State, but with an expenditure of my own money that might almost be called prodigal. And, incidentally, (these efforts) are of a kind that cannot be paid for in money. And from where have I obtained the energy for all this? Doubtless from that ‘anti-patriotic disposition’ of which people are so anxious to find me guilty. I have never meddled in everyday politics. But, figuratively speaking, every bar of music, every folk tune I have recorded, has been a political act. In my opinion, that is true patriotic policy: a policy of actual deeds, not of mere phrase-mongering. And it is for this I am being persecuted.” (László Eősze, p. 24)
Kodaly never apologized for working in the Music Directorate of the Soviet Republic and defended all his comrades, including the Communist Reinitz:
“As to the men with whom I had the pleasure of serving on that body, any Hungarian musician, I should have thought, would have been flattered to share the company of men like Dohnanyi and Bartok.” And, defending Reinitz, then in voluntary exile, he said: “Our relations were founded on mutual respect. I learned to know him as a fanatic for truth and a man of character from whom I cannot withhold my respect.” (László Eősze, p. 25)
Kodaly was removed from the post of Deputy Director and put on forced leave of absence from the Academy, but since all the best academics defended him, he could not be dismissed entirely.
In 1926 Kodaly composed his famous opera Hary Janos, which he stated, represents the truly Hungarian optimism. This great opera achieved popularity.
Horthyist fascist critics attacked the opera, and in particular attacked it for using folk melodies: “it smells of the ethnographical museum. . . the musical score, consisting as it does of motifs artificially transplanted from folk song, has very little chance of lasting success.” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 32)
The Hungarian fascists actually were not patriotic, they did not love their own people but despised them. The fascists were bourgeois nationalists, fake patriots. Actually their policy had always been to enslave Hungary to Austria, Germany, and other Western imperialist powers. The fascists did not support Hungarian culture but romanticized capitalist Germanic music and Germanic culture, which at that point had already been fully taken over by stagnating elements and had begun to decline.
Kodaly as a real patriot and democrat, servant of his people, said:
“We refuse to be a musical colony any longer. We are not content to continue aping a foreign musical culture. We have our own musical message, and the world is beginning to listen to it attentively. It is not we who have invented Hungarian music. It has existed for a thousand years. We only wish to preserve and foster this ancient treasure; and, if sometimes the opportunity should be granted us, to add to it.” (László Eősze, pp. 30-31)
Kodaly then focused on developing Hungarian choral music, because at the time it did not exist. All choir works up to that point had always been sung in foreign languages, such as Latin or German. The attacks of the decadent fascists against Kodaly continued. The reactionary clerical newspaper Magyar Kultura wrote:
“Kodaly in particular, but also in many respects Bartok, is essentially a destructive spirit” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 38)
Things became more and more difficult with the rise of Italian and German fascism:
Kodaly expressed his protest against Fascism in his greatest work The Peacock Roared or The Peacock Variations with lyrics by Endre Ady. The choral singing version of it was banned outright, and a number of instrumental performances were also prohibited by the Fascists (László Eősze, p. 92)
“Both [Kodaly] and Bartok were amongst the first to protest against legislation in favour of racial discrimination; and already in 1938 [Kodaly] had joined a number of progressive artists and scientists who signed a declaration, addressed to the Hungarian people and Parliament, advocating equal rights for all citizens. This courageous stand was regarded with considerable suspicion by the authorities… and it even led to several performances of The Peacock being banned by the police on account of its revolutionary words and stirring music.” (László Eősze, p. 39)
The Hungarian Fascists were completely out of touch with the people and with Hungarian culture. They did not even recognize Hungarian peasant melodies as Hungarian:
“Kodaly and Bartok were attacked on the grounds that the folk songs they collected were not Hungarian but Slovakian and Rumanian… Bartok and Kodaly were accused of promoting alien interests, and therefore of opposing official policy.” (László Eősze, p. 170)
Already in 1945 Kodaly was chosen to head the newly formed Arts Council, elected unanimously to the Academy of Sciences, and elected as a representative to the parliament. He was also chosen to lead the Board of Directors of the Academy of Music and became the president of the Musicians’ Union. (László Eősze, p. 42)
In July 1945 to a lecture at the Hungarian-Soviet Friendship society Kodaly said:
“The idea that the common people also have a contribution to make in the field of culture was expressed for the first time during the intellectual ferment that preceded the French Revolution… It is a source of great encouragement that to-day, for the first time, the common people of Hungary are entering this field, not only as consumers, but also as producers. What we have to learn from the Soviet Union is, first and foremost, to appreciate art and the artist as they deserve.” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 42)
After returning from a concert tour in the USSR where his Hary Janos had been performed by the Leningrad philharmonic with him conducting Kodaly told a meeting of the Music Academy:
“The way the Soviet State provides for its scientists and artists, removing every obstacle from their path, should he an example to any country which regards the promotion of culture as being one of the functions of Government. And all that the Soviet State demands in return is that its scientists and artists should dedicate themselves to their work. This is another respect in which the model she offers deserves to be copied.” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 43)
“And in an interview with Die Brücke, the journal of the Austrian-Soviet Cultural Society, he praised the exemplary organization of musical training in the Soviet Union.” (László Eősze, p. 43)
In 1947 when Kodaly was 65 years old, his birthday was again celebrated by lovers of music, but for the first time there were official state honors and state celebrations. Kodaly had achieved the respect he deserved:
“In addition to receiving the freedom of his native town, Kecskemet, he was invested with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Republic by the Minister of Education; and on 15th March, 1948, he was one of the first of his countrymen to he awarded the newly instituted Kossuth Prize, “for signal services in the fields of science and the arts.” (László Eősze, p. 43)
On the same evening his new opera, Czinka Panna, with a libretto written by Bela Balazs, got its first performance by the Budapest Opera Company. The text by Balazs was criticized for historical inaccuracy, but the critics’ only complaint about the music was that “there was too little of it; and indeed there are parts of it—notably the Minuetto Serio and the Rakoczi March—that brilliantly evoke the spirit of the anti-Habsburg war of independence in the 18th century.” (László Eősze, p. 43)
In 1951 Kodaly succeeded in introducing his methods into musical education institutions and in 1952 he was awarded his second Kossuth Prize, the First Division of the Order of the Hungarian People’s Republic, and the title of “Eminent Artist.” (László Eősze, p. 45)
Kodály well understood the importance of folk music and agreed with the Soviets about it:
“in 1946, he [Zoltan Kodaly] had publicly praised the Russian tradition of basing works of art music on folk music: “The Russian composers came closer to their people because they lived among them, spoke in their language. For their melodies they discovered the outstanding, original forms of polyphony that preserve the characteristics of the melody. In their own creations they maintained the atmosphere of folk music, even as they also elevated its forms almost exponentially.”” (Music divided, p. 97)
After Zhdanov’s well-known criticism of formalism in 1948 Kodály wrote:
“Zhdanov’s warnings are nothing new to us. For thirty years I’ve said the same thing. By this I do not mean to say that we are ahead of them… They have already gotten over a national classicism that we have just come to. On the other hand, there was such here too (at the same time as theirs: Liszt, Erkel), only they did not succeed in such a close connection with the people as Rimsky and his fellows. We had to make up for that… In any case there are many common problems, and we can learn a lot from each other.” (Music divided, p. 97)
Kodály fully agreed with Zhdanov’s statement that “Internationalism in art does not spring from the depletion and impoverishment of national art; on the contrary, internationalism grows where national culture flourishes… Only a people that has a highly developed musical culture of its own can appreciate the musical riches of other nations.” (Zhdanov, On Literature, Music and Philosophy)
“The question that faces us is, whether we can best hold our own in world music by sacrificing our individual characteristics or by emphasizing them? Some think that it is by the former method that we shall become the best citizens of the musical world. My own view, on the contrary, is that the more intensively we study and cultivate our own music, the more we shall be able to contribute to world music.” (Kodaly quoted in László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 78)
Criticism of Kodály’s “peasant romanticism”
Kodály was correct in highly valuing folk music, but he supported folk music too one-sidedly and uncritically. Classical music inspired by folk music alone is not enough. Kodály sometimes implied that if one only used folk elements then that is all that was required, and even more erroneously that even a formalistic piece would be elevated to the status of real art, if it utilized folk motifs.
In May 1950 in New Music Review (Új zenei szemle) “Miklós Csillag published a harsh critique of Kodály that included a cautionary comment about the interpretation of folk music influences in art music [the interpretation that using folk elements is all that is required]. He wrote:
“The young people of Hungarian music regarded Zoltán Kodály with great expectations. They expected that he would stand before them and show the direction for the founding of a new Hungarian music worthy of our revitalized nation. They waited for him to step forward, all the more so because they believed that his musical work of the past justified this hope. Kodály, however, still owes the people’s democracy this positive leadership. Our composers lacked direction, and thus it is understandable that when they brought with them formalist trends not only from the environment, but also from our musical education of past decades, they ran into a dead end both in general content and in the formal sense as well. Many were of the opinion that the working out of folk themes would avert the formalist dangers from the outset. However, the problem is that with us, the folk theme most often went through the mill of the kind of formal and harmonic processes that made it wholly inappropriate and unenjoyable for our working masses.”” (Music divided, p. 104)
The great Communist theoretician of art József Révai said:
“The folk song cannot, it is impossible that it could, reflect the new richness of feeling, the richness of feeling that belongs to the person who is building socialism. Does this mean that we turn our backs on the folk song? It is not even worth debating about it. Now we are the ones who say that Hungarian poetry cannot go further on the path of Ady or even of Attila József, because neither is sufficiently part of the folk. One can go further on the path of Petofi—naturally with new content. Now I ask you, apply this to Bartók. My opinion is that we can continue better on Kodály’s path than on Bartók’s. . . . [But] if we state that we cannot go further on Bartók’s path, this does not mean that we deny Bartók.”
Almost immediately after his statement that Kodály’s path was preferable to Bartók’s, Révai proceeded to criticize Kodály’s person and his politics in no uncertain terms, even while continuing to praise his music. “I maintain what I said, that I had not heard a work as valuable as the Peacock [Variations] in our ‘socialist music literature,’ and Háry János too is an entirely outstanding opera. Unconditionally we must work with Kodály—here there is no disagreement at all. But to believe that Kodály can be a leader ([aside:]Comrade Szabó), that he should stand at the forefront of our new music, I feel there must be a certain lack of confidence with regard to our own strength and a misunderstanding of the relationship between us and Kodály.” Révai went on to describe how Kodály had tried to save choruses that were affiliated with Catholic religious organizations (“cover organizations for the political reactionaries”) and to state that Kodály was a sentimental populist who wanted to hold back the development of Hungarian music. His rhetoric became irate; he concluded by remarking that he could say much more, but he did not wish to “blacken Kodály’s name.”
Révai’s assertion… that Kodály’s style was the one that should be followed was moderated by the repeated statements that the folk song could not be used as it was (as in, for instance, Kodály’s opera Háry János), but must be fundamentally changed to express the new content… The party thus notified composers that even though in general Kodály’s path was better than Bartók’s, it was by no means the perfect model.” (Music divided, pp. 112-114)
Kodály received extremely high praise from Révai, who stated that his opera “Háry János” is outstanding and that the “Peacock Variations” is the best music of socialist Hungary. Révai also stated that the path of Kodály was superior to Bartók. Why is that? Kodály’s work was consistently more melodic, simply beautiful while artistically deep, more popular and democratic in style, not obscure, bizarre and dissonant, and not pessimistic.
But Kodály also received some harsh criticism. He was not a Communist and did not understand Communism or the proletariat. He had petit-bourgeois tendencies: he shielded conservatives and reactionaries because they were his friends, he looked at things in a petit-bourgeois way, in a supposedly “neutral way” and not from the point of view of the proletariat. Such an “objectivist” or “neutral” petit-bourgeois outlook always only shields the outlook of the capitalists.
Musically Kodály was already becoming outdated. His was the music of the utopian peasant democrat. The music was not urban enough, not proletarian enough, and relied too heavily on copying what was old instead of developing something truly new. Kodály’s music was the best music of the past and of today, but what was required was a music of the future.
SOCIALIST REALIST MUSIC
It was necessary that as a Socialist society was being built, a new Socialist music was created. Socialist Realist music needed to master classical music, folk music, and develop something truly new and superior from the best old sources.
The most influential Socialist Realist composer in the Hungarian People’s Republic was Ferenc Szabó. He had studied and worked with Kodály. Szabó’s work is of excellent quality, but he lost influence after de-stalinization and the rise of revisionism.
Szabó wrote symphonic works and other instrumental works, but achieved even greater success with choral works and mass songs, including film music. He won the Kossuth Prize for the film score for Ludas Matyi (1950). His score for Föltámadott a tenger (1953) is also excellent.
Another skilled composer of Socialist Realism was Endre Szervánszky. His song “Honved kantata” (“Homeguard cantata”) is well known and highly respected. Szervánszky was awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1951.
“Szervánszky was given the silver award for his orchestral Rhapsody and for the Home Guard and Patriotism cantatas, and Szabó received the gold award for Song Singing and for the music to the 1950 film Ludas Mátyi. These works continued to be played often on the radio as well as in live performances for several years.” (Music divided, p. 114)
Detailed analysis and criticism of the works of Szabó and Szervánsky is at the end of the article as appendix 2.
ENDRE SZEKELY AND ANDRAS MIHALY: MUSICAL SABOTEURS
The creation of a Socialist Realist musical life was hampered by the sabotage activity of a reactionary composer Endre Székely inside the Hungarian Working Peoples’ Party and Union of Composers. Székely was strongly criticized in a 1950 document found in the archives of the Party’s Agitation and Propaganda Division:
“”Whereas in the other branches of the arts serious progress is shown . . . our musical culture demonstrates nonetheless a constant and rapid regression. The leadership, or one might say “rule,” is held in the hands of a narrow little clique, which in directing our musical politics keeps in its sights not the goals of our party or the interests of the working people, but rather the individual interests of the clique’s members. Many signs point to the fact that here we are speaking not merely of the careerism of individuals, but rather of enemy influence, intentional troublemaking, and sabotage.”
…the typescript announced that Endre Székely was the leader of the clique accused of obstructing Hungarians’ progress toward socialist realist music… The author of the typescript indicted Székely as a brutal dictator who controlled nearly every facet of musical life and who hindered every socialist development. He also accused Székely of “political crimes”: the corruption of Hungarians through the appropriation of politically tainted melodies (including the tunes of fascist marches and Zionist songs); the placement of “enemy elements in important functions”; the intentional alienation of Kodály; and the programming of “reactionary” (sacred) choral music by composers such as Handel, Lassus, and Viadana.” (Music divided, p. 121)
Already in the past “Ferenc Szabó had lodged complaints about him [Székely] to the Ministry of Education and to the party’s Division of Agitation and Propaganda.” (Music divided, p. 121)
Opportunist composer András Mihály was Székely’s main accomplice. Mihály was strongly criticized for his conservatism, nationalism and anti-Soviet bias. Both Mihály and Székely were bureaucratic despots who suppressed other composers and suppressed democracy. Due to their reactionary nationalism they tried to repress true communist composers like Szabó and attacked them as “Soviet composers”.
A memorandum to Révai stated:
“In the area of musical life András Mihály and Endre Székely cannot hold leading functions. From this it follows that they must resign from membership in the board of the association. We further recommend that Mihály resign his membership in the Music Academy’s board of directors, that Székely resign from the membership of the Opera’s board of directors, and that likewise both of them resign from their offices in the Association of Hungarian Librettists, Composers and Music Publishers. Only Székely must resign from the editorial committee of the New Music Review; Mihály may continue to fulfill that function. Székely’s resignation from the position as the director of the Radio Chorus may be considered if we can find an appropriate replacement.” (Quoted in Music divided, p. 136)
A meeting was then held under Révai’s leadership where Mihály and Székely had the chance to defend themselves. Székely failed to say anything adequate while Mihály gave a self-criticism. However, this self-criticism was not severe or thorough enough, and his later career showed it was entirely dishonest. Mihály continued a covert struggle against the Party and socialism for years afterwards.
In the realm of popular music and musical entertainment in the Hungarian People’s Republic, Folk Ensembles were created, such as the Honvéd military Ensemble, the Radio Folk Ensemble, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and Rajkó Ensemble, Gypsy Orchestra of the League of Young Communists.
Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849) was a legendary patriotic poet and revolutionary. He was a key leader in the 1848 revolution and is the National Poet of Hungary.
The most important pre-revolutionary Hungarian poet of the 20th century was Endre Ady (1877-1919) who wrote democratic, patriotic and anti-imperialist poetry. The best analysis of Ady’s work was done by the marxist theoretician Joszef Revai. I have added links to collections of Ady’s poems in English at the end of the article.
In the introduction of Poems of Endre Ady by Anton N. Nyerges, the author claims that Ady fits poorly into the “communist mold”. This is simply an ignorant statement. Ady of course was not a socialist realist, he actually came from the symbolist tradition. However, there is nothing of the usual reactionary character of much of symbolism in Ady. Ady opposed the non-political attitude and pessimism of symbolism. In Ady’s work there is nothing similar to the poet Akhmatova, who was strongly criticized by Zhdanov. There is sadness, but no apathetic pessimism, there are themes of love and emotion, but nothing anti-political, there are themes of ancient mythology, but nothing about wanting to return to the past.
Ady began from the symbolist tradition and wrote much about mortality and death. He used symbolist techniques and religious imagery, but he developed a unique Hungarian and democratic set of symbols. The class struggle deeply resonated with him and he started also writing about it and demanding revolution. The first imperialist world war shocked him deeply, and as a committed democrat and internationalist he focused a lot of his artistic attention to oppose the war. In his last works the horror of the war is the main theme, and this is generally regarded as the peak of his career.
In his poems there can be found an anti-imperialist, internationalist and socialist revolutionary program:
In the book Blood and Gold the entire cycle “Money, Our Lord” is a critique of capitalist society, albeit perhaps obscure. Ady writes:
“By gloomy banks of Babylon I sit… My father, Mammon, hear these fawning prayers trembling from your little servant’s lips …I sit enslaved …Mammon, soothe my sorrowing chasteness and say that it was you who willed my fate. Hum that my lot is good, my rags no curse.”
In the book On Elijah’s Chariot in the poem “Song of the Magyar Jacobin” Ady perfectly characterizes the situation. Hungary is asleep, the masses are asleep. But only when the masses awaken to revolution they can build a better life for themselves:
“poor anaesthetized Hungary. Do you exist? — and we?… When will we fuze a thousand mycelian desires into one enormous will? How long will they be rulers and we the sheepish millions?… all belongs to us tomorrow in this land of the sombre disinherited if we will and if we dare.”
He also emphasizes internationalism, and says all the different nationalities must work together against their common oppressors:
“for magyar, slav and roman sorrows are issue of a single sorrows… When shall we coalesce and out in one voice we the rabble and homeless the magyars and non-magyars?”
The poem “The Star of Stars” from the same book is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read:
“Never will the red star fall — sun, moon, and Venus streak from sight, but the red star lords in the eastern sky. …dawn can emerge with one star alone.
Red star, shine refulgent and rule. Since first men looked toward the sky, the red star has kept their hope alive.”
In “The Grandson of Dozsa” (Dozsa was the leader of the Hungarian peasant uprising of 1514) Ady identifies himself with the revolutionaries and threatens the nobility:
“I am grandson of George Dosza… If the people come, ho magnates, whither from marauding castle litters shall you flee?”
In “The Message of the Mirage” Ady warns the bourgeoisie too:
“Ye, good burghers… Tomorrow may be too late to change, To correct old sins, the ancient charge. Gentlemen, there may be dire trouble some dawn If you be awakened by a red mirage.”
In one of his most beautiful poems, “The Sun of March” Ady writes a communist revolutionary program:
“Sun of the March month, mighty is your power, and yet in aeons you never seared us with a Revolution, a Hungarian March. Like Mastodons we sate in mirrors of ice
…if we fail to trample those who bar our way, all those who hinder a Hungarian March. If there is a God who smites, let him smite those who would keep the smallest bit of old. A curse is on this land, we must destroy all the agglomerations of our past…
We see revolt in every passing hour and look with unspeakably murderous eyes at haughty aristocrats and the newly rich, because within this world that hurries on our future and our life is now at stake. The stench of rank and money stupefies…
The radiant March has ordered everyone to be reviewed and weighed in battle ranks. At last this March may reach sad Hungary
… a miracle of beauty your coming.”
Ady’s anti-war poems have become famous, particularly “Remembrance of a Summer Night” and “Leading the Dead” which depict in a fittingly apocalyptic style the destruction, death and madness that overtook the entire country. Another famous poem is “Greetings to the Victors” where Ady mourns the horrible devastation.
Of course Ady was not a Socialist Realist, and showed the influences of his own time. He was a solitary individual artist, a visionary, and not a stereotypical idealized proletarian poet. But nonetheless, in Hungary he was the best of his time.
The time of true Proletarian Poets was going to follow: the best example of this is Attila József (1905-1937). He joined the Communist Party in 1930 and was persecuted by the fascist government. The life of the great proletarian poet ended tragically, as he had long suffered with mental illness (probably Schizophrenia) and committed suicide in 1937. Particularly in the early 30s József developed Socialist Realism. Some of his later poems show signs of his suicidal mood and mental degradation, dealing with topics of madness and premonitions of his own death. Some of his poems particularly from the period of his worsening mental health, do not stand up to the same high quality as his best works. They suffer from pessimism, mysticism, individualistic subjectivism and general formalism. All the negative qualities and mistakes in his art are explained primarily by the fact that Attila József remained quite isolated from the masses.
It must be noted that Attila József committed some political mistakes (idealistic tendencies), which were caused or made worse by his mental suffering (more about his mistakes in appendix 3 at the end of the article). Despite any mistakes, he was always held in very high regard by the Hungarian Communist government. Attila József was awarded a posthumous Kossuth Prize in 1948. In 1950 the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic created the Attila József Prize which was awarded to Hungarian writers of excellent quality.
The great national liberation revolutionary poet Petőfi, the democrat, internationalist, socialist poet Ady, and the proletarian Attila József, laid the foundations for Socialist Poetry in Hungary. All the other great national poets such as János Arany and Mihály Vörösmarty were also greatly appreciated. However, Petöfi was the greatest because he was the most connected with the masses, learned from them and thus achieved the greatest clarity and expressiveness. Jozsef Revai said:
““It could disturb our progress, had we not related critically to such giants of the Hungarian culture as Béla Bartók, Endre Ady,Gyula Derkovits and also a part of the works of Attila József should be listed here in a manner. Theirs is a great work, eternal treasure of the Hungarian culture. But it is not a coincidence that the Hungarian poetry did not depend on the ways of Endre Ady or Attila József, but in the imaging methods and democratization of the style going back to Sándor Petőfi. These great rebels without exception had the weakness that although they hated the old world and wanted the new one, they were more or less isolated from the revolutionary popular movements of their age, or they did not quite uphold it”” (quoted in “The rule of Sándor Petőfi in the memory policy of hungarians, slovaks and the members of the hungarian minorty group in Slovakia in the last 150 years”, Ivan Halász, Andor Mészáros, Gábor Schweitzer, Károly Vȍrȍsp. 135)
Stressing the superiority of Petőfi, Revai said in another speech “Hungarian poetry cannot go further on the path of Ady or even of Attila József, because neither is sufficiently part of the folk. One can go further on the path of Petőfi—naturally with new content.” (Music divided, p. 113)
That is not to say that others didn’t make contributions, they certainly did, and it had become part of the artistic culture, but Petőfi’s superiority lay exactly in his democratic clear style, which was most suitable for advancement. It needed to be developed further and given a new Socialist content.
Zsigmond Móricz (1879-1942) was Hungary’s greatest fiction author of the 20th century. He wrote Critical Realism. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he worked for several communist newspapers and in the Writers’ Directorate. As a result he was persecuted and blacklisted in Horthy’s Hungary. Móricz’s most famous work is Be faithful unto death, which has been translated into English. It is a semi-autobiographical story about a sweet student boy named Mihaly (or “Misi”) who is struggling with the hardships of life and is falsely accused of theft. It reads a lot like Charles Dickens, and is just as good. I absolutely loved reading it. The book vividly reveals the class realities of semi-feudalist capitalist Hungary.
Relations is a novel about a poor clerk in a small town, who is promoted and discovers how corrupt the town bureaucracy is. The rich bureaucrats have been stealing town funds for decades and are involved in all kinds of scams. This is a very hard-hitting critical realist work.
Gold in the mud is realistic examination of peasant life with incredibly life-like characters. The premise might sound boring, but the book is absolutely gripping. The depiction of the characters small and big joys, life’s monotony and agony of unhappiness are all shown with amazing reality and life. The characters are so vivid and believable that you get very invested in them, you smile at even their brief happiness and cry at their tragedies.
Béla Balázs should be mentioned because he was a well known early Hungarian Communist aesthetic thinker, critic and writer who also worked with Bartok and Kodaly. However, he made serious theoretical mistakes.
An advanced Socialist Realist type of literature was already emerging. Perhaps the best representative of this new art is Béla Illés (1895-1974). Other socialist realist authors include Antal Hidas, Andor Gábor, Sándor Gergely, László Benjámin, Ferenc Juhász, Péter Kuczka, Sándor Rideg and others. The 1948-54 period represented the peak of Socialist Art in Hungary. The rise of revisionism negatively affected the work of authors, either forcing them out of politics or causing them ideological confusion.
PAINTING AND VISUAL ART
Realism and Critical Realism
The foremost painter of pre-revolutionary Hungary was the Realist Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900). He painted many masterpieces, most famously the gritty “The Last Day of a Condemned Man”. Near the end of his career he turned towards more political themes and painted “Strike”, a picture of striking workers.
László Mednyánszky (1852-1919) was from a noble background and influenced by impressionism. However, he became disgusted with the aristocracy and began painting Critical Realist works depicting the suffering of ordinary people. During WWI he painted the misery of prisoners of war.
János Nagy Balogh (1874-1919) came from a proletarian background and painted pictures of workers.
Adolf Fényes (1867-1945) painted many Critical Realist works, most famously “The Life of the Poor Man” series. In the Hungarian Soviet Republic he belonged to the “Artistic Executive Committee”. Because of his jewish origin he was forced into the Budapest Ghetto by the Arrow Cross Fascists which seriously undermined his health. He died from illness in 1945.
In pre-revolutionary Hungary the Nagybánya artist colony (founded in 1896) included many leading painters of the time. Its style began with naturalism (which depicts reality metaphysically, as static and with an over-emphasis on unimportant details) and later developed under the influence of impressionism (which sometimes meant progress but soon lapsed into subjectivism especially with the neo-impressionists or “Neos” of Nagybánya) and more abstract styles. The Nagybánya school included elements of the stagnation of bourgeois art, but also trained future artists. By the 20s the school had stagnated. In 1920 the territory was annexed by Romania and the school was closed by Romanian Fascists in 1937. Nagybanya attempted to create a Hungarian national style, which was correct, but its attempt to do this was misguided. It sought to achieve this by combining elements of naturalism and post-impressionism.
The French cubist, Italian futurist, German expressionist and other foreign trends were influential in Hungarian bourgeois art for a short period in the 1900s but never took root with the people. They merely represented the crisis of bourgeois art internationally and in Hungary. This is also shown by the fact that although many artists dabbled in these styles they also quickly abandoned them as the styles ended in stagnation and crisis.
“The Eight” (approximately 1909-1918)
The “Eight” group also had contradictory tendencies. Their project represented an attempt to solve the problems of contemporary bourgeois art. The attempt ran into a blind alley, but their work had a progressive influence on the next generation of artists. It was the necessary transitionary step for some artists of bourgeois origin. The “Eight” did not have a unified style, but were influenced by a variety of foreign bourgeois trends. Their ideology was petit-bourgeois radicalism and idealist utopianism. Many of their members are not worth mentioning here as they did not contribute to progressive or socialist art.
A significant early member of the group was Károly Kernstok (1873-1940). Inspired by the Critical Realism of those times, one of his earliest paintings is a realistic picture of a socialist agitator. He also created paintings of workers and peasants (such as “The Plum Pickers”) but these were already impressionistic. Afterwards he veered further and further away from reality. This is when “the Eight” group was created. Kernstok supported the Hungarian Soviet Republic and had to flee Hungary to escape the White Terror.
Bertalan Pór studied at Nagybánya, later joining the Eight. In the course of his career he was able to overcome the bourgeois influences of his early period. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he was the head of the painting department of the Art Directorate and designed some of the most iconic posters for the revolution. After the revolution he lived in emigration in the Soviet Union. After his return to Hungary in 1948 he changed his style completely, and began producing works of Socialist Realism.
“The Activists” (approximately 1914-1925)
The artists gathered around the magazines “Tett” (“action”) and “MA” (“today” but also short for “Magyar Aktivizmus”) are known as “the activists” . Their style was similar to the Eight and they shared a similar petit-bourgeois outlook.
A member of the activists worth mentioning, Béla Uitz, became a marxist and joined the Hungarian Communist Party. Like many other members of the group he was initially attracted to the ultra-left Proletkult art movement in the USSR. Together with his comrades he split from the activists and created a communist art magazine Egység (1922-24). During the revolution of 1919 he had created posters for the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Most activists had to escape from Hungary after the revolution was crushed by the Horthyists, many emigrated to the USSR. In the USSR Béla Uitz began developing a realistic style focusing on frescoes. He painted frescoes for the Kirghiz Soviet Republic.
Istvan Desi Huber was influenced by post-impressionism but worked in the Labor Movement and tried to develop a socialist style of art. He died in 1944 during the Nazi occupation.
Gyula Derkovits originally followed the post-Nagybánya style but the content of his work made him a forerunner of the Hungarian Socialist Realists. He was a proletarian, and created pictures of proletarians. He joined the Communist Party in 1918. After the mid 1920s he began to discard the formalistic bourgeois influences of his past more and more. In the late twenties he created the “1514” engravings about the Dózsa peasant revolt and in the 30s his true masterpieces “Generations”, “Along the Railway”, “Weaver” and others. Unfortunately his poverty had undermined his health which led to his early death in 1934.
“The Group of Socialist Artists” (1934)
In 1934 the Socialist Artists’ Group was founded. This group did not have a unified method or style, but tried to create a socialist type of art. Painters and visual artists in the group included: –Endre A. Fenyő (painter who later became famous for Socialist Realism) –Béla Ban (painter who made some Socialist Realist works but was mainly a surrealist) –Béla Fekete Nagy (painter who made some realistic works but was mainly influenced by bourgeois styles) –Andor Sugár (painter who was influenced by Impressionism but made beautiful Socialist Realist works. He died in a German concentration camp) –Károly László Háy (Socialist Realist graphic artist and set-designer) –ErnőBerda (anti-fascist and progressive graphic artist)
Socialist Realist visual artists in the Hungarian People’s Republic besides the above mentioned, include the likes of painter Iván Szilárd the famous Sándor Ék and poster artists István Czeglédi, Tibor Bánhegyi and György Konecsni.
Other established painters also took up the new style. For example, still-life painter Anni Gáspár Felekiné received a second degree Munkácsy Award for socialist realist paintings in 1946 and Jenő Benedek and Bernáth Aurél were awarded the Kossuth Prize for their works.
In pre-revolutionary Hungary sculptor Ö. Fülöp Beck followed the bourgeois Art Nouveau trend but produced some realistic works, mainly his bust of Zsigmond Móricz.
Leftist sculptor György Goldmann was the leader of the Socialist Artists’ Group. He died tragically in a Nazi concentration camp.
The important Socialist Realist sculptor László Mészáros also belonged to the Socialist Artists’ Group. Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl was perhaps the most talented Socialist Realist sculptor in Hungary. Sándor Mikus and Pál Pátzay also produced extremely skillful works.
Hungary became famous for its ceramics. The three most important artists in this field were István Gádor, Géza Gorka and Margit Kovács. They helped develop modern ceramics into an art form. Especially Gádor and Gorka were originally influenced by bourgeois styles, but became more and more interested in folk-art, theart of the people. In 1934 Gádor joined the Socialist Artists’ Group and tried to create a united anti-fascist front of artists. The realistic and folk-inspired tendency of these artists only increased over time, but they still worked under considerable economic difficulties. Only when Hungary became a People’s Democracy their art was given full freedom to blossom.
Film reached a high level in Hungary only during the Socialist government. Before that, there barely was a film industry in the country at all. Cinema going doubled from previous figures during the first Five-Year Plan (1950-54) and many collective farms built their own cinemas. Movies were originally produced in beautiful vibrant color but unfortunately the original film prints were later damaged and color degraded over time. They could be restored to their original beauty but naturally the capitalists don’t want to do that.
Socialist Realist films in Hungary were democratic in character: they depicted the lives, challenges and successes of ordinary people. For example, Civil a pályán is a film about football, one of the favorite past times in Socialist Hungary. These films (while not perfect) are both entertaining and democratic, without losing intellectual, political and artistic quality.
Many films were made about Hungarian history. Instead of advocating chauvinism, national hatred or oppression, these films demonstrated the best progressive traditions in the nation’s history. The motto of Socialist Realism is “socialist in content, national in form”. Each country has their own history of heroic class struggle against oppression and exploitation. The film Föltámadott a tenger depicts the 1848 revolution for democracy and national sovereignty of Lajos Kossuth, Rákóczi hadnagya is about Ferenc Rákóczi’s 1703–11 peasant war against the Hapsburg monarchy’s domination of Hungary.
Other Socialist Realist movies include Első fecskék, Ütközet békében, Tűzkeresztség, Teljes gőzzel, Becsület és dicsőség.
Musical and comedy elements were used to create a positive outlook on life and hope in the future. Films also utilized suspense elements to warn about the dangers which the class enemy still poses in the form of criminal sabotage and foreign intervention.
The most important bourgeois architect in Hungary is Miklós Ybl (1814-1891) who worked in the renaissance style. The Ybl Miklós Award for architects was created in 1953.
In capitalist Hungary, architect Máté Major had belonged to the Socialist Artists’ Group. However, he had received a purely bourgeois education and advocated bourgeois views. His work was completely superseded by the newly arising Socialist Realist architects like Emil Zöldy and Tibor Weiner.
Tibor Weiner had studied and later taught architecture in Hungary. He had been a member of the secret Communist Party of Hungary. Due to persecution he lost his academic position in 1931 and emigrated to the USSR. There he joined a group of socialist designers called “The Red Front”. He designed a vocational school for the silk industry in Baku in 1931 and a college of commerce in Tashkent in 1931-32. He began teaching in the Moscow College of Architecture and was a city planner for the new city of Orsk. After liberation he returned to Hungary.
During socialist construction, talented architects of pre-revolutionary Hungary like Lajos Gádoros, István Janáky, Antal Károlyi, Oszkár Winkler and Gyula Rimanóczy now adopted a Socialist Realist method of work.
The new socialist industrial city of Sztálinváros was built following the principles of Socialist Realism in architecture. This means it was designed to serve the people, following a visual style rooted in the national traditions.
Buildings in Sztálinváros were inspired by largely by Hungarian classicism and decorated by beautiful ornaments. frescoes and mosaics. Particulary Jenő Percz created magnificent mosaic art for the city. Painter Endre Domanovszky designed frescoes. György Szrogh designed the Dózsa Cinema and many nice buildings were designed by István Zilahy. Tibor Weiner was the lead architect and city planner.
Unfortunately this style which represented the peak of Hungarian architecture was entirely abandoned during the revisionist period (the name of the city was also changed to Dunaújváros).
Appendix 1. (On Bartók)
List of Bartók works which were broadcast on the radio since 1950 and considered not formalist:
PIANO WORKS -From Ten Easy Pieces: “Evening with the Széklers” (Este a Székelyeknél), “Bear Dance” (Medvetánc), Slovak Boys’ Dance (Tóth legények tánca), Hungarian Folksong (Gödollei piactéren, listed erroneously as GödWllei vásárterem) -Sonatina -Selections from Romanian Colinda Melodies (Román kolindadallamok) -From Three Burlesques: “A Bit Drunk” (Kicsit ázottan) -From Two Romanian Dances (Két román tánc), no. 1 -From Mikrokosmos: March (Induló), “Jack-in-the-Box” (Paprika Jancsi), Theme and Inversion (Téma és fordítása), Peasant Dance (Dobbantos tánc), plus a group of six unspecified pieces (possibly selected from the collection “Seven Pieces from Mikrokosmos”) -From For Children (Gyermekeknek): Slovak Folk Songs and Dances (Slovák népi dalok és táncok), “Stars” (Csillagok), “Joke” (Tréfa), “Outlaw’s Song” (Betyár nóta), Dance Tune (Táncdal ), “My Dear Daughter” (Kiskece lányom) -From Fourteen Bagatelles: Rubato, two unspecified movements, and possibly “Elle est morte” (listed as Valaki meghalt) -From Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs (Tizenöt magyar parasztdal ): Old Dance Tunes (Régi táncdalok, listed as Régi magyar táncok), nos. 7–15 -From Nine Little Piano Pieces: Air (Dal) -Waltz (which one is unspecified; possibly from Bagatelles, no. 14) -From Two Elegies, no. 2 only -One of the Three Rondos
CHAMBER WORKS -Romanian Folk Dances (Román népi táncok) (arrangement for violin and piano) -Two Romanian Dances (op. 8a) (arrangement for violin and piano) -First String Quartet -Sixth String Quartet -Sonatina (arrangement for violin and piano) -Excerpts from For Children (Gyermekeknek) in two different arrangements for violin and piano -Hungarian Folk Songs (arrangement for violin and piano)
CHORAL WORKS -From Twenty-seven Two- and Three-Part Choruses: “Don’t Leave Me!” (Ne menj el!), “Play Song” (Játék), “Bread Baking” (Cipósütés), “Loafer’s Song” (Resteknek nótája), “Boys’ Teasing Song” (Legénycsúfoló), “Lonely Wandering” (Bolyongás), “Pillow Dance” (Párnás táncdal ) , “Enchanting Song” (Jószágígézo), “Suitor” (LeánykérW ), “Hussar” (Huszárnóta), “Don’t Leave Here!” (Ne hagyj itt!), “Girls’ Teasing Song” (Leánycsúfoló), “Had I Not Seen You” (Ne láttalak volna!), “Jeering” (Csujogató) -Four Slovak Folk Songs, including one performance in a new orchestration by Szervánszky]; also Wedding Song (Lányát úgy adta) as an excerpt -Székely Songs (Székely dalok)
SONGS -Hungarian Folk Songs -From Eight Hungarian Folk Songs (Nyolc magyar népdal ): “Black Is the Earth” (Fekete fod), “My God, My God” (Istenem, Istenem), “Wives, Let Me Be One of Your Company” (Asszonyok, Asszonyok), “If I Climb” (Ha kimegyek) -From Twenty Hungarian Folk Songs: Slow Dance (Székely lassú), Fast Dance (Székely friss), Dialogue Song (Pár-ének), New-Style Songs (Új dalok) -From Village Scenes: Lullaby (Bölcso dal)
ORCHESTRAL WORKS -Violin Concerto -Two Portraits (Két portré) -Two Pictures (Két kép) -Concerto for Orchestra -Dance Suite -Third Piano Concerto -Hungarian Peasant Songs (Magyar parasztdalok) -Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek): complete and, as an excerpt, Melody (Melódia) and Swineherds’ Dance from Ürög (Ürögi kanásztánc)
List of Bartók works which were seriously condemned: (Of course, there are a number of works which were neither condemned nor praised, and many works which were simply not significant or popular enough to be played)
STAGE WORKS -The Miraculous Mandarin
CONCERT WORKS -Piano Concerto no. 1 -Concerto for two pianos, percussion, and orchestra -Piano Concerto no. 2
VOCAL WORKS -5 songs on poems by Endre Ady” (Music divided, p. 54)
About Bartók’s work “Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs for Piano” (1920) “[Music critic] Asztalos… defended the Improvisations on these grounds:
“Let us take the “Improvisations” as an example and compare them to the Six Little Piano Pieces by Schoenberg written around the same time. . . . In the “Improvisations” there are undeniably peculiar harmonic experiments. Bartók is seeking a new path: this is what we are addressing. But in every piece of the “Improvisations” there is the broadly and flexibly developed melodic material of the folk song, in many cases even left in its original purity. In Bartók’s music the human message, the deep and honest human content, seeks the form for its expression, and in the seeking, in the struggle for expression, individual constructive elements come into shocking contradiction with the basic material. At the same time, Schoenberg does not express anything for anybody; he makes inhuman, antisocial music.”
Even though Bartók’s accompaniment remains generally dissonant and achieves no clear harmonic resolution even at the end of the movement, the folk song dominates the texture throughout because it is clearly distinguished from the accompaniment by its tessitura and manner of articulation. Thus, despite the presence of “difficult” features, the folk song provides the listener with a connecting thread to follow.” (Music divided, p. 61)
About Bartók’s work“Out of Doors”
“In “Music of the Night” from Out of Doors, the melodic thread is much more tenuous. Rather than immediately introducing a melody, Bartók sets another layer of sporadic and irregular activity against the pulsating accompaniment, creating the oft-noted evocation of the sounds of the night that became so important a part of his style. Asztalos reported that the evocations of natural sounds in Bartók’s night-music style presented no difficulties in theory, since even Beethoven had engaged in this kind of mimesis. “The trouble begins,” Asztalos explained, when the listener arrives in a mysterious shadow world that is pregnant with complaints and with oppressive, fearsome signs. Here we meet a musical composition of human speech where we do not understand the words, but only the general features, and we feel their grave emotional content. . . . In many ways this world is like the symbolic world of folk poetry or Ady’s symbolism filled with phantoms—expressing the alienation of the spirit that finds no rest in society. This is even more harrowing with Bartók, because here as a consequence of the nature of the musical language itself, the true sound hallucinations become even more shadowy, reality becomes even more ambiguous, more dreadfully featureless: they become a monstrous document of imperialism.” (Music divided, p. 61)
Révai about Bartók’s “The Miraculous Mandarin” and “Bluebeard’s castle”
“In connection with the Bartók ballets, about which there was the big ruckus (to put it plainly) when they accused us of being against Bartók in general, here we turned against Menyhért Lengyel and Béla Balázs, and not primarily against Bartók. But Bartók too was accountable for whom he took up with. The subject of The Miraculous Mandarin is garbage. Bartók wanted to express something great, that love is greater than death, but Menyhért Lengyel cannot express something like that. And therefore we are not in favor of its being performed very often. Bluebeard is a pseudo–folk tale. In this period Bartók was mystical. This is not a folk tale, because if it were nobody would have anything against it. We are in favor of new operas being performed, which afterward must be judged. But even liberalism has a limit.” (Music divided, p. 135)
Appendix 2. (On Szabó and Szervánszky)
Criticism of Szabó’s “Homecoming concerto”
“Soviet composer Zakharov “criticized Szabó’s Homecoming concerto as too “individualistic,” but he said that since Szabó had more recently written better film music, at least he was progressing in the right direction. Szabó did not fare as well in Novikov’s essay about Hungarian music, first published in the main Soviet music journal, Sovetskaya muzyka, and later reprinted in Free Folk. Novikov stated that “Ferenc Szabó is one of the most talented of contemporary Hungarian composers. Unfortunately, he still clings to his less successful work, such as the symphonic poem entitled ‘Homecoming,’ which is a formalist work… The sooner he gives up toying with antiquated modernist ‘relics,’ the greater the contribution he will make to Hungarian musical life.” The reliance on Bartók in Szabó’s work may well have contributed to Novikov’s accusation of formalism… Szabó [realized the problem and] published several articles denouncing it as “pessimistic” and claiming that it reflected “every oppression, horror, and inhumanity of the time of imperialism.” (Music divided, pp. 25-26)
[For context: “Homecoming concerto” is a work inspired by Bartók’s “The Concerto for Orchestra”. This is one of Bartók’s better symphonic works, but suffers somewhat from formalistic tropes and in particular strong pessimism. This is not a bad work at all, and neither is Szabó’s “Homecoming concerto”, but it was flawed and it was known Szabó could do much better in the future. “Homecoming” (1948) was written in an earlier style suited for the broad anti-fascist struggle of 1944-48, it was not written in the style of the future Socialist society, which began to be formulated in Hungary only in 1948-49 and took shape in 1950. As such, “Homecoming” obviously seemed like a relic of an earlier era and would be considered flawed as the bar for the best composers was set higher.]
Analysis of Szervánszky‘s Honvéd kantáta
“Endre Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata (Honvéd kantáta), composed in 1949, and Ferenc Szabó’s Song Singing (Nótaszó), composed in 1950.These were among the first pieces on folk song themes to have been composed entirely after the 1948 resolution on music, and they were lauded at the time of their appearance as the fulfillment of great expectations in the field of socialist music.
Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata, a four-movement work for male chorus and orchestra, is a generic hybrid of sorts. Though choral settings of folk songs were nothing new in the Hungarian tradition, the scale of this work (both in its instrumentation and in its formal conception) indicates that it was intended as an impressive symphonic piece for the larger concert hall rather than as a project a community chorus could successfully undertake. The four movements of the piece are analogous in tempo to the movements of a symphony: the first and last movements are fast and rousing, the second movement is a scherzo, and the third is a slow ballad. Even the accompanimental styles demonstrate a complexity that surpasses the mere presentation of the folk song. In the second movement, for instance, Stravinskian ostinato patterns in the high woodwinds add textural interest without obscuring the presentation of melodies below. The grandiosity of the conception is offset somewhat by the relatively straightforward treatment of the simple melodies on which the work is based. Folk tunes are prominent in the texture and provide the basis for the cantata’s formal organization. The use of the cimbalom, a Hungarian instrument that had been employed since the nineteenth century to evoke national themes in orchestral music, enhances the folksy atmosphere.
The cantata uses soldiers’ songs to present four scenes from military life. The most obvious Hungarian musical topic of this kind is the tradition of military recruiting music, or verbunkos. In the fourth movement of the cantata, for instance, the text exclaims, “Come be soldiers!” and the instrumental interludes sound the “gypsy fiddling” topos typical of the faster style of verbunkos performance. This topos is featured prominently in the first movement as well. The piece also includes a lyrical love song and a dance song with a pastoral interlude. A possible model for the use of the military subject was Soldiers’ Songs, a 1947 work by the Soviet composer Anatoly Novikov, who had served as the Kremlin’s cultural emissary to Hungary… Musically, however, the works bear few similarities.
In three of the four movements of his cantata, Szervánszky uses folk songs as building blocks to create large-scale formal units. For example, the first movement is a rondo (ABACA) in which each episode consists of a contrasting folk tune in a different key. Within each section, the tunes are almost always repeated two, three, or even four times. Between the sections—and therefore between the folk songs themselves—Szervánszky inserts short, modulatory orchestral interludes so that the voice parts never have to modulate; they enter after the arrival of the new key. This technique not only makes the vocal parts easier for the chorus; it also ensures that each folk song presentation remains in the same key throughout, which allows the songs to keep their original shapes despite the harmonization that has been added by the composer. Bartók made a distinction in his typology of folk songs among “oldstyle,” “new-style,” and “mixed-type” songs. Each type distinguished by Bartók is associated with particular patterns of phrase structure: the older songs feature open-ended, nonarchitectonic formal patterns (for example, AAAA, ABAB, or ABCD), whereas the newer songs are often constructed on principles of return found in Western art music (for example, ABBA or AABA)… The songs used in the Home Guard Cantata all fit into either the new-style or the mixed-style categories. Some have architectonic designs suggestive of art-music influence (such as the AABA design of example 6b, which was published by Bartók in 1924), while others have phrase structures reminiscent of the old-style folk song (ABAB, AAAA) but have other stylistic features associated with the newer style, such as the verbunkos topos. This might be interpreted as a turn away from the emphasis on “authentic” models that featured the old-style song as the bearer of Hungarian identity, toward a preference for folk songs that were more likely to be in common use and therefore recognizable to audiences.
The style of Szervánszky’s first and fourth movements is highly evocative of Kodály’s use of the verbunkos style in his own instrumental works, particularly of the Intermezzo from Háry János. Szervánszky’s sequential use of folk songs to build a larger and more genuinely symphonic work also recalls some of Kodály’s most famous pieces: both the opera Háry János, made of many songs strung together, and the Peacock Variations, a set of variations on a single folk song, are constructed on this “chain” model. This technique ensures that the folk tunes remain audible and comprehensible at every moment of the performance, even though they are presented in the context of a longer piece” (Music divided, pp. 99-104)
Analysis of Szabó‘s “Song singing”
“The six-movement work is scored for chamber orchestra and chorus, a considerably smaller and simpler ensemble than that required by Szervánszky’s cantata. In addition, Szabó included in the score a part for a single solo voice to be used if a chorus was not available, thus making the work more accessible to performing groups with limited resources. Although the accompaniments are carefully and artfully constructed, they tend to be simple and repetitive and to remain in the background. This music is much less elaborate than that of Szervánszky’s cantata.
Like Szervánszky’s, Szabó’s piece uses lyrical folk texts; the overriding themes are flirtation and love, and the movements are arranged in such a way that they can be construed as telling the story of a couple from their first meeting to their wedding celebration. The narrative, however, is not made explicit in the work through dialogue, characterization, or other means; this places the piece in the genre of cantata and differentiates it from the Soviet genre of “song opera” as well as from its Hungarian antecedents, such as Kodály’s folk song opera Háry János. Among the Hungarian precursors, it is perhaps most similar to Kodály’s stage work The Spinning Room (Székely fonó), in which the words and music of the plot are derived entirely from folk song texts and melodies; but here, too, Kodály’s work was designed to be acted out on stage, whereas the drama remains implicit in Szabó’s modest cantata.
The folk songs Szabó chose for the work are mostly new-style melodies, again suggesting an emphasis on living tradition. Indeed, the title, Nótaszó, can be understood as a polemical position against the fetishization of peasant music. Nóta is the Hungarian term for a genre of popular art song widespread in Hungary since the nineteenth century… By entitling his piece Nótaszó, conversely, Szabó invited the listener into an experience of “song singing” that might include several different Hungarian song traditions, not only authentic peasant song.
Szabó’s methods of setting folk songs in Song Singing differ somewhat from Szervánszky’s in the Home Guard Cantata. Most prominent, perhaps, is Szabó’s flexible treatment of the preexisting folk melodies: he sometimes altered them by extending phrases to effect transitions or smooth over the boundaries between phrases. The folk melody used in the sixth movement, entitled “Wedding” (Lakodalmas), originally consisted of two four-bar phrases in an antecedent-consequent pattern. In his setting Szabó extends the second phrase through repetition and alteration of motives (and, necessarily, of verbal text), so that the consequent phrase cannot close but ends again on a dominant pedal, over which the orchestra jauntily reiterates the tune. The orchestra’s version, too, remains unfinished; it is not extended but is instead interrupted by a modulation to a new key for another statement of the tune. This extension of the tune’s boundaries by elementary compositional techniques breaks down the four-square shape of the tune and allows it to be used more flexibly in constructing the piece.
Szervánszky had chosen in three of the four movements of the Home Guard Cantata to include several songs as a means of differentiating sections and achieving a large-scale formal scheme. He provided modulatory passages only in the orchestral transitions; he never changed key within the vocal presentation of a particular folk tune. Szabó, on the other hand, used one folk song per movement in Song Singing, and he moved from key to key within the presentation of a single folk song. This procedure sometimes distorts the original profile of a song somewhat in the service of tonal contrast within the movement. The musical comprehensibility of the piece is not impaired in the least, for the art-music element of tonal contrast Szabó provides is usually of the sort a city-bred industrial worker might find familiar from nóta or other popular art music.
One example of this technique occurs in the fifth movement of Song Singing, entitled “Late Evening” (Késo este). This movement sets a variant of the same folk song that Szervánszky used in “Evening’s Rest,” the third movement of the Home Guard Cantata. Rather than setting the version Bartók collected, Szabó chose a variant that provided a good opportunity for tonal contrast: the third, contrasting phrase of Szabó’s tune (unlike that collected by Bartók) rises above the octave compass of the preceding phrases by one note. Szabó’s harmonization of this melody highlights the contrast implicit in his chosen variant of the tune. Taking advantage of the close commonality between the C mixolydian and F major scales, Szabó sets the first two phrases of the melody with harmonies that accentuate F major. Then, in a short orchestral interlude, Szabó effects a modulation that leads to an arrival on a D major triad (sounding as the dominant of G minor) at the beginning of the third phrase. In addition to the sense of “elevation” provided by the modulation, the phrase is also distinguished by a thickening of the texture from the pointillistic accompaniment pattern that had characterized the first two phrases to a much denser treatment with tutti scoring, including divisi string parts moving in parallel motion and a heavy walking bass pattern. This heightened phrase lasts only five measures; by the end of the vocal phrase the transition back to the original tonality has already begun.
By choosing a variant of the tune that reached outside the rigid octave compass, Szabó made it easier to integrate the tune into a musical structure that derives not exclusively from the folk song, but also from departure-and-return principles characteristic of the European concert music tradition. In other words, the composer had taken a small step toward the “synthesis” of the folk song into another tradition… This process of synthesis bespeaks an attitude toward the folk material that emphasizes not its authenticity but its utility. Szabó did not treat the folk song setting as “the mounting of a jewel”; he freely changed the substance of the song to suit the musical need of the moment. Szabó’s synthesis is not thoroughgoing, for the work is organized on the principle of a series of folk songs, and therefore strongly resembles the “chain” model used by Szervánszky. In this respect the construction of Szabó’s piece is even simpler than that of Szervánszky’s, for he does not build larger forms out of the folk songs. Still, in its fusing of folk song with formal characteristics more typical of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century art music, Szabó’s Song Singing can be said to be one step closer to the synthesis end of the spectrum than Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata.
During his visit to Hungary in March 1950, the Soviet composer Vladimir Zakharov had encouraged composers to take just these sorts of liberties with folk song. Zakharov expressed dismay in a lecture to the Hungarian Musicians’ Association that Hungarians were much too focused on the authenticity or purity of their folk song tradition, and not enough on what the folk song could do for socialist culture. Through an interpreter (and hence in the third person) he recounted to the Hungarians:
“Much was said during his visit about the Hungarian folk song. He himself has worked much with various areas of the Russian folk song; he understands the problems of the folk song, and he still must say that he doesn’t understand what the question is here. Many times he heard that Hungarian music, pure [tiszta] Hungarian music was finished one hundred years ago and that what has happened since then is music full of foreign influences, which must be thrown out. In his opinion this debate is unnecessary. . . . It does not matter when the melody came into being, and what influences are present in it, if this melody is needed. The essence is how the composer uses the melody. . . . It is in his opinion totally incorrect to debate about the extent to which the style of a folk song is pure.”
Here Zakharov was addressing in part the choice of folk songs to set: his dismissal of “purity” was a critique of composers’ continued respect for Bartók’s categories of old and new styles, in which the older songs were regarded as the more authentically Hungarian. As we have seen, though, some composers had already set new-style songs before Zakharov’s critique, so it is difficult to ascertain the relevance of his remarks to recent compositional practice. Zakharov’s emphasis on the utility of a given melody, on the other hand, most likely applied to issues of how the folk song is set. Rather than leaving the melodies unchanged, composers were to transform them and fit them with new contexts, as Szabó began to do in Song Singing. Among other purposes, this formal recasting of folk songs would in theory distance them from their original peasant context, thus decreasing the danger of sentimental populism and increasing their relevance to city dwellers.” (Music divided, pp. 105-109)
Criticism of Honvéd kantáta and Song singing
“István Szirmai, the director of Hungarian Radio, criticized Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata and Szabó’s Song Singing for failing to synthesize folk song into art music in a new way. In Szirmai’s words,
“These new works are not of high enough quality. . . . [They are just] a somewhat primitive type of arrangement. Essentially the comrades just took folk songs and tied them into a bouquet, presenting the folk songs again in their purely original form. What aspect of this work can be considered creative work? They orchestrated [the songs] for larger orchestra, they created some kind of connecting music for them. In essence, however, there was no message, they gave them back to the people in the same form in which they received them from the people. That is not much, and it is not what we expect from our composers.”
Although, as we have seen, there are some important differences between Szabó’s and Szervánszky’s treatment of folk songs, Szirmai felt that both reflected too closely the Kodályan “chain” model. From his comment it is evident that, in his view, creative work should still ideally involve some substantial personal achievement on the part of the composer; simplicity of style should not be equated with the accomplishment of a simple task. Szirmai’s comments reflect two distinct objections: the “giving back to the people” of the folk songs “in the same form in which they [were] received,” which raised once again the specter of sentimental populism; and the creative failure of the composers to transform the songs. Révai, undoubtedly the most influential voice in Hungarian cultural politics, agreed with Szirmai in the main about the quality of recent works based on folk songs. Révai did not condemn Szabó’s and Szervánszky’s works outright, but he criticized their simplicity and closeness to the original folk melodies.” (Music divided, pp. 110-111)
Appendix 3. (On Attila József’s Freudist idealist deviation)
Attila József couldn’t explain why the level of class consciousness was so low in Hungary. It seems he expected class consciousness would arise almost automatically, or at least pretty easily among the population of extremely poor workers and peasants. However, in reality (as Lenin explains in What is to be done?) class consciousness can only arise as a result of organization, struggle and study. The Communist Party must organize the people and provide them with understanding – class consciousness never arises automatically. However, because Attila József couldn’t understand this, he looked for answers in Freudism (he had received Freudian psychoanalytical treatment for his mental problems before).
Freudism masquerades as science but is really an idealist doctrine based entirely on speculations about subconscious “urges” and “drives” which cannot be measured or detected. These urges supposedly determine a person’s actions. Reactionary followers of Freud have “explained” fascism and imperialism, not as inevitable results of capitalism, but as merely the result of man’s “subconscious desire for death”. Capitalist crisis has also been “explained” merely as the result of the subconscious drives of the investors, not as the inevitable outcome of capitalism. The answers to all questions are found in metaphysical speculations about the minds of individuals, and not in material reality.
Because Attila József did not understand the cause of the low level of class consciousness in Hungary, he believed that perhaps subconscious drives of the people are hindering their class consciousness.
Books on the topic:
Franz Liszt, artist and man. 1811-1840 vol. 1 & vol. 2 by Lina Ramann (Earliest thorough bourgeois biography of Liszt. Not bad, but sadly it doesn’t cover his whole life)
Modern Hungarian ceramics by Ilona Pataky Brestyánszky (Very informative, but is too soft on bourgeois art and near the end of the book tries to make excuses why sculpture and ceramics was suffering and becoming bourgeois under revisionism)