International Campaign for Real History

Jewish Chronicle

London, April 21, 1995



Jewish roots of a revolutionary



Lenin: Life and Legacy
Dmitri Volkogonov
(Edited and translated by Harold Shukman)
HarperCollins, £25

THIS IS the third part of a trilogy, having been preceded by biographies of Stalin and Trotsky.

The author, a former orthodox Communist and three-star general in the Soviet Army, had gradually developed non-conformist views until, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, he became a Russian MP of liberal views.

All three biographies reflect not only General Volkogonov's increasingly critical assessment of the Soviet past but also his privileged access to secret archives.

Here Volkogonov was able to come up with the fact that the founder of the Soviet state was the great-grandson of Moishe Itskovich Blank and the grandson of Srul Moishevich Blank. At his baptism, Blank changed his name and patro-nymic to Aleksandr Dmitrievich.

Born in Zhitomir, in the Ukraine, he graduated as a doctor and retired from the prestigious post of hospital medical inspector of the state arms factory in Zlatoust in the Urals.

"In 1847," writes Volkogonov of Aleksandr Dmitrievich, "having attained the civil service rank of state councillor, he retired and registered himself as a member of the nobility of Kazan... there he bought the estate of Kokushkino." Until 1861 he owned serfs.

Lenin's Jewish origin on his mater-nal grandfather's side became, after his death, a matter of controversy between Lenin's sisters and Stalin.

In a letter to Stalin, Anna, Lenin's elder sister, wrote: "It is probably no secret for you that the research on our grandfather shows that he came from a poor Jewish family, that he was, as his baptismal certificate says, the son of a 'Zhitomir burgher, Moishe Blank' and this fact could serve in combating anti-Semitism."

Furthermore, she claimed, that Lenin's Jewish origins were "further confirmation of the exceptional abilities of the Semitic tribe... Lenin always valued the Jews highly." Stalin replied: "Not one word about it."

Lenin did indeed praise Jews in somewhat excessive terms, just as he was excessive in his denigration of Russians. Referring probably to himself, he told the writer, Maxim Gorky, that "the clever Russian is almost always a Jew or has Jewish blood in him." He also contrasted Jews' steadfastness as revolutionaries to that of the Russians. 

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