Paul Gregory on Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin's Kremlin
Jul 12 2010

Paul Gregory of the University of Houston and a Research Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Nikolai Bukharin's power struggle with Stalin and Bukharin's romance with Anna Larina, who was 26 years younger than Bukharin. Based on Gregory's book, Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin's Kremlin, the conversation explores the career and personal life of Bukharin and how his career and personal life intersected. Bukharin was one of the key founders of the Bolshevik Revolution that led to the creation of the Soviet Union. In the late 1920s, he disagreed with Stalin's policy of collectivization. Stalin ruthlessly pursued him, eventually had him arrested, tried and convicted in the one of the infamous Show Trials, and executed. Anna, his wife, is then sentenced to the Gulag and later exiled. The power and poignancy of the story lies in Bukharin's refusal to believe that his old friend Stalin is out to kill him. Gregory also discusses Bukharin's economic policies and whether Stalin or someone like him was inevitable.

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Explore audio transcript, further reading that will help you delve deeper into this week’s episode, and vigorous conversations in the form of our comments section below.


Katharine Young
Jul 12 2010 at 11:46am

Dear Professor Roberts,

Thanks for this great podcast.
It is so important for these kind of history to be retold over and over to ensure that no absolute power are granted to a few.
Looking forward to the next podcast in this topic.
Thanks again for your great selection.
Katharine Young

Ben Atlas
Jul 12 2010 at 4:40pm

Fantastic podcast, horrible Hollywood title.

Jul 12 2010 at 5:11pm

Perhaps the most gripping interview I’ve heard, ever. Impossible to make a comment that does justice to the topic, theme, and interviewee (not to slight Russ in the least). Gregory’s matter-of-fact way of just telling the facts, with no gratuitous drama or elaboration, is the best possible way of describing the events and people that are his subject.

ninjay warrior
Jul 14 2010 at 5:07am

Really great interview. The story’s reminiscent of the Cambodian Tragedy with failed socialist ideals and leadership paranoia leading to rolling heads (probably comes to mind b/c I just finished Kamm’s riveting first-hand account). It’s interesting to see a Soviet leader in favor of private farming, and sad too hear of so much human and intellectual capital wasted and destroyed.

I’ve been listening to Econtalk on and off for a couple years and this is the first time I’ve come to the website (I couldn’t figure out how to spell Bukharin…..) which is a shame, I’ll definitely be coming to visit these notes in the future. Thanks for your work and willingness to expend time and energy to make your thoughts and conversations available to the rest of us!

Jul 14 2010 at 12:57pm

Excellent topic. Really reiterates the point of the dangers of absolute power, and ties in with the point from a few weeks ago that the party purists turned out to be the real villains of history.

Coincidentally, happy Bastille Day.

Diaghilev Cowboy
Jul 14 2010 at 9:23pm

I’ve become a bit of a Russ groupie, and this is another example of why I’m hooked.

I finished up this installment on Bastille Day as did a number of others, and it is an interesting day to be thinking about ideals and the way we humans implement them. The true believers saw something wonderful (in their eyes), and yet the disturbing conclusion is that idyllic visions are inevitably distorted in the quest for power. One of the most striking thoughts came at the end when Gregory speculated on the outcome had Stalin died early on: Bukharin likely would have led the country to a multiparty social democracy had he taken over, but Stalin probably would have been succeeded by the second worst person in the fray. Tragic.

It sounds as though Bukharin was an idealist, but also a thoughtful pragmatist with some sense of morality. He was willing to change his mind based on the facts that presented themselves. The power-hungry used ideology more cynically and were correspondingly less flexible.

This tale makes one realize once again how astounding it is that the democracy and freedom we take for granted in the United States (and in a number of other countries) arose at all. And it reminds one how fragile it all is in the face of those who would subordinate all other considerations in a quest for power.

It also demonstrates the beauty of a system that harnesses that desire for power in productive ways. Think Smith. Think Hayek. Think Madison.

Russ, thanks for keeping us thinking…

Diaghilev Cowboy

PS: I plan to buy the book.

Trent Whitney
Jul 15 2010 at 10:28am

Another great podcast, and if you could get Christopher Hitchens as a return guest, it would be interesting to hear his take on this book. Hitchens was a devout Trotskyist in the socialist movement for most of his life. I read that he’s currently battling esophegal cancer, so any sort of return guest appearance may not be possible for a long time.

Ralph Buchanan
Jul 15 2010 at 10:36pm

Great podcast – vaguely like Dr. Zhivago at the end.
Solzhenitzyn’s Gulag Archipeligo is also an important record of events in the USSR.

Sometimes change isn’t good, and sometimes once it happens it can’t be taken back.

Alexander Pronozin
Jul 16 2010 at 11:49pm

This podcast is a beautiful digression from economics and is an excellent example of journalism. I hope more such digressions are in the pipeline.

There is a small mistake in the transcript. Bukharin was rehabilitated by Gorbachev in 1988, not in 1958.

[Transcription error fixed. Thanks for pointing that out! –Econlib Ed.]

William H. Eilberg
Jul 17 2010 at 9:08pm

This was a fascinating podcast.

One point that was made was that some (such as Bukharin) believed that if only the “right” people had been in charge, the socialist experiment would have succeeded.

Most regular followers of this podcast probably understand, already, that the above belief is wishful thinking, and that government control can never work well, regardless of who is in power.

I think the above point could have been made more explicitly in the podcast, for the benefit of those who are not regulars here, and who are not students of free-market economics.

Jul 17 2010 at 10:58pm

Great podcast,

I really like the way you find economy in so many aspects of power struggles. I also learn quite a bit of history of rise of communism.

John Kurywchak
Jul 18 2010 at 12:11am

I whole-heartily agree with the others’ comments: enjoyed the show. Early on, and thankfully brought up again at the end, was the idea that Bukharin would have lead to a benevolent USSR with happy rich peasant farmers. It colored the entire podcast; I couldn’t think of anything else.

I could say equally ludicrous things: Russian bears would not eat seals if Bukharin were in charge; with Bukharin any planned economy would be gradual and would lead to greater personal freedom and equality of outcome; his guerrilla war against Germany would have prevented the rise of the Nazis.

Learning about arcane aspects of history is a pleasure and this podcast was no different, but the quiet acceptance that a socialist lapdog would do better than the communist wolves goes beyond the pale. Did anyone bother to read Richter’s Pictures of a Socialistic Future? There were plenty of Bukharins in that prescient tale.

Ray Peters
Jul 18 2010 at 9:34am

I’m interested in this episode of history. A couple books that provided me a glimpse are Nina’s Journey (Nina Markovna) and Cancer Ward (Solzhenitsyn). I’d be interested in other people’s reactions to these books.

Thomas A. Coss
Jul 18 2010 at 6:27pm

Stunning story. Would it not be nice to say with confidence that we as a specie have moved well beyond the behaviors of those days, I’m just not sure.


Vijay Ponnusamy
Jul 18 2010 at 8:35pm


Excellent podcast. Thanks a lot.

– Vijay

Richard W. White
Jul 21 2010 at 9:47am

This story reminded me strongly of Arther Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Is Koestler’s Rubashov based on Bukarin?

I’m going to have to reread DaN and Mr. Gregory’s new book.


Matt Dawson
Jul 22 2010 at 8:54pm

Excellent podcast, truly educational. I intend to buy the book.

What was excellent was how the podcast told a story, a tragedy, only tangentially related to economics at first, until Russ neatly summarized the story’s theme.

John Calabro
Jul 22 2010 at 11:13pm

Dear Russ,

Thanks for doing all these podcasts i really enjoy listening to them & enjoy your point of view on the subject.

I Completely agree with your last point, most of us don’t experience been terrorized by the state but i think it could easily happen one day. Just look how fast the law change durning September 11 2001.

Jeff Burrow
Jul 23 2010 at 3:54pm

Dr Roberts,

A truly wonderful podcast. Perhaps my favourite since your chat with Dr Leamer on econometrics.

Everyday I wander through the library, find a place to sit down and start pounding out more words on my thesis. Most days I go past the cabinets and cases that hold the microfiche at our library. I have always wondered, really, what people get out of all that.

This podcast was a wonderful example of how many stories, and originally reporting that exist in those documents.

I was so close to deleting this podcast without listening:)

Thank you.

Comments are closed.


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Podcast Episode Highlights
0:36Intro. [Recording date: July 6, 2010.] Book is story of somewhat obscure figure of history, turns out to be rather fascinating person: Nikolai Bukharin, relationship with Stalin, and Bukharin's wife, Anna Larina. Who was Nikolai Bukharin, fairly forgotten now? Youngest of the Bolshevik founders. Not an obscure figure, acquainted with his work for over 45 years. He was perhaps the only trained economist among the Bolshevik founders. He studied economics during his exile in Germany and attended lectures of the great Austrians, including Böhm-Bawerk. Bukharin is a popular figure in socialist circles because many claim that had he won this power struggle, the Soviet Union would have been quite different: humane form of socialism would have emerged and the world today would be different. Talking about pre-revolution: what period? He went into exile around 1911; he returned after he got word of the February Revolution by way of Asia--in 1917 or so. Trotsky returned by way of Europe, arrested and arrived rather late. Bukharin's choice to return via Asia proved to be a good one because he arrived back in Moscow with only back in minor delays. It was during that exile that he studied economics at German universities; he became an intimate of Lenin. He and Lenin had an interesting and contentious relationship. Even as a young man Bukharin was an independent thinker and Lenin didn't welcome that, and controlled the purse strings. Led to a number of conflicts between Lenin and Bukharin even during the exile. Once the Revolution occurs and Lenin is the leader of the new Soviet government, Lenin's in charge. What's Bukharin's role at that point? Lenin immediately put him in charge of Pravda, because Bukharin was, next to Lenin, the best educated of the Bolsheviks. He was a good writer; he wrote the textbook for this new socialist state, called the ABC of Communism. The draft of that was almost destroyed because even though Bukharin was not sent to the front, as were other Bolshevik leaders--during the Civil war--Bukharin was subject to a bombing attempt on his life which killed a number of people and almost destroyed the one copy of this manuscript.
5:11Pravda was set up by Lenin: Pravda was the newspaper of the Soviet Union, official newspaper of the Communist Party. Izvestiya was the official newspaper of the government. Bukharin also later was the Editor of that. After he was fired from Pravda, Stalin brought him back for a period of thaw--in 1934. Was he the first editor of Pravda? Believe it was first published in Europe as an emigré newspaper, but Bukharin was the first editor after the Revolution. More influential than the editor of the New York Times. He was the official voice of the party, in charge of propaganda. Lenin's second decree was the Red Terror Decree, which set the then-secret police called the Cheka against opponents of the regime. Bukharin was put in charge of expelling intellectuals, which was an unusual role for someone who was the intellectual of the Bolshevik government, but Bukharin was in charge of expelling the great writers, scientists. [Nikolai] Kondratiev fell in that group; was scheduled for deportation but somehow managed to get internal exile, which was one of the punishments. That cost Kondratiev his life. He was the economist who spurred the study of cycles on the economy. He was executed in 1937. Stalin disliked him. Kondratiev headed the Business Cycle Institute, which published independent data on the economy. He also favored private agriculture. Clearly he was on Stalin's enemy's list. The Red Terror Decree that Lenin instituted was what year roughly? Early months of 1918. Who made up that list of who was going to be deported? Lenin himself. Why? Didn't want to have any opposition whatsoever. His first targets were socialist parties with which he had been allied only a few months earlier. He didn't go after the worst bourgeoisie parties--he went after the socialist parties. He didn't want to have any competition.
9:05From the early days of the Revolution, Bukharin is a very important figure; at the level of Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, Zinoviev. Lenin dies in 1924, strokes which incapacitated him for about two years. There is a power struggle that is going to ensue that ultimately Stalin becomes? The title didn't change; it was simply understood that this was the most important position. Stalin became, think in 1921 or 1922, the General Secretary, and from that point on, the General Secretary was the top position. Sounds like a relatively minor position. But Stalin makes sure that is not the case. How does Stalin begin to consolidate power throughout the 1920s; how does Bukharin get on Stalin's bad side? Bukharin thought he an Stalin were good friends, and in book point out that they spent a rather uneasy summer together, families together; during that summer they began to quarrel over policy. They were allies in 1925 and 1926 because it was thought that the most likely successor to Lenin would be Trotsky. Bukharin disagreed with Trotsky's economic and political policies. Stalin had not revealed his true position at that point. Major decisions were still being made by majority vote of the Politburo, which was around the 9-person committee that ran the party. Stalin needed Bukharin's votes because Bukharin commanded a bloc of votes, 4 or 5 votes; Trotsky commanded the bloc of 3 or 4 votes. Stalin and Bukharin got together in a bloc to expel Trotsky and to expel Trotsky's two major allies from the Politburo and the Central Committee, which was the larger body; and ultimately from the party, which for Trotsky meant exile, so Trotsky never returned to the Soviet Union. First sent to Alma Ata, then Turkey, then eventually ended up in Mexico where he was assassinated by an agent of Stalin. Zinoviev and Kamenev were exiled internally to a remote city, for a couple of years. Then they were reinstated; and Kamenev is a big part of Bukharin's story. In the early days of the struggle for power, Stalin and Bukharin are allies; they push out a couple of people who are hostile and replace them with toadies. That was Stalin's strength, because as General Secretary he filled all Politburo positions. He had his cronies waiting in the wings. Molotov was elevated, etc.
14:12In the late 1920s, Bukharin and Stalin spar over the collectivization of the farms, over the Kulak policy and the Ukraine. Most interesting part of the book for economists and political scientists; points out the clear relationship between violence and non-market allocation. Stalin did not like the peasantry--Marx had already warned against the peasantry. He thought the peasantry should give what he called "tribute" to the city. Bukharin and Stalin sparred over this term "tribute." The way to get this tribute would be to the prices of agricultural products very low, because in Marx you finance industrialization through some kind of surplus. So they were always considering from where the surplus was to come. Stalin said the surplus was from agriculture; the peasant must pay for industrialization and we'll make them pay by setting the price very low. Stalin and his cronies went about establishing a monopoly of grain purchases. Any economist will tell you that if you set the price low--and it was set even below the cost of production--no one is going to sell. Therefore, when the prices were set low, peasants stopped selling. Stalin would declare a grain collection crisis--political action of the peasants aimed against Bolshevik power. It wasn't economic, not just responding to incentives--it was anti-Soviet activity. His only choice, therefore, was to send the militia, secret police, party volunteers in the countryside and take grain by force. Confiscation. This is where he and Bukharin parted company. Bukharin in the early years belonged to a group calling themselves left-Communists, even more extreme than Trotsky; but then Bukharin had an epiphany at some point, which was the result of observing the success of the new agricultural policy which was based on private agriculture and private trade, that you are going to destroy agriculture and social cohesion if you place this burden on agriculture. So Bukharin argued that we have to have a private agriculture; have to let the market set prices; in this way we can avoid force in the countryside. So, this is what they were arguing about--in the Politburo, in the Central Committee. Learned from reading the transcripts of these meetings was they all understood what the game was about. At one point, thought they just didn't understand basic economics. Now I see they understood very well that you have a choice between voluntary exchange through markets and the application of force. That is what clearly split the two.
18:46The Kulaks--5 to 7 million or so--what's the best estimate of the people who died? Hard to say; this is where our statistics are weakest. The official numbers are several million; several million deportees, high rates of mortality among the deportees. There weren't many executions during this period. Jail was the punishment of choice, 1930, 1931. Most of the victims were victims of starvation during the deportation. They were sent into remote areas of Siberia and Kazakhstan with no means of support. Also, in the area of the grain belt itself there was no food to eat. Looking step by step. First came collectivization and de-Kulakization--the deportation of all your good farmers. This created chaos in agriculture--bad harvests, and bad weather. Debate amongst scholars as to whether it was bad weather or mistakes or deliberate. Didn't they have 70 years of "bad weather" between 1917 and 1987? This was particularly bad; large numbers of deaths; between 5-10 million people died. A lot of debate, deliberate or not; Stalin wasn't particularly fond of Ukraine, which was where most of the deaths occurred. My own reading is that Stalin understood that if you lost that many people, you could actually lose Ukraine, so at one point he said, This is dangerous; We can't lose Ukraine. He tried a little bit to make matters better, but much too late. Also denied those in famine reasons the natural equilibration, which is to leave. So, road blocks were set up; you couldn't get on a train; they caught you and sent you back and you died. Terrible; there was a lot of cannibalism. Bukharin, who had already lost the political struggle, in 1930-31, traveled through Ukraine and saw he had no stomach for this. He came back and told Anna's father--his wife's father--who was his best friend, If this is what the Revolution brings, we should have had no Revolution. He'd seen starving children. Point about the old Bolsheviks: one of the prized traits that Stalin and his associates valued was being tough--not having any sympathy, having a strong stomach. Bukharin did not have this strong stomach. One of his fellow Politburo members said, "I fear Bukharin--he's a soft person." Says a lot about succession struggle; Bukharin and his allies fought this battle as soft people. Midgets going against giants. Hayek's point about power struggles. "Who rises to the top?" Hayek asks, in Road to Serfdom. Great case study: softhearted people who play by the rules simply can't win in power struggles in such a system. No mystery why Stalin won and they lost. A lot of amazing stories in the book. Short book, entertaining and informative. One: A bunch of Bolsheviks are sitting around talking about what would be the perfect day, heaven. Reading a book, drinking, chasing women. Stalin says: Revenge. Signal they were playing with an intense guy. Not only says revenge, but better the longer you wait for it; if you wait a long time, you enjoy it much more. Set things in motion, very patient, happy to wait 4, 5, 6 years to get his revenge. Would never kill someone quickly. Embarrass, disgrace, give chance to redeem himself; and then the axe would fall; then, we need to investigate a little more; need you for a show trial. His opponents, like Bukharin, always felt like maybe it would turn out right. Bukharin to the very end harbored hope that they were one time good friends.
25:58So, Bukharin is an intellectual antagonist in his mind; surprise over debate not going the way it would in a faculty lounge. Burdened. Gets tangled up in the show trials and becomes the centerpiece of one of them. Three stages. First stage, political/economics struggle. That struggle was lost by early 1929. You can see the loss in the Central Committee Plenum of April 1928. Stalin has by this time tricked Bukharin because he has goaded him into a terrible mistake: Bukharin realizes he is losing the political struggle and in a very unwise move meet privately with Kamenev, Trotsky's former ally, in an apartment which has listening devices, so Stalin knew. Bukharin used this as an opportunity to vent; revealed there were deep splits over policy, all of which had been concealed from the general party by Statements of Unity. They would go into these battles, take diametrically opposed positions; we need to form compromise positions. Bukharin would form one side; say, Molotov the other. Of course, Molotov simply following Stalin's orders. Ends with a Unity Statements, so the Central Committee could be told the Politburo was united. Stalin embarking on radical policies, like collectivization, forced industrialization; knew he couldn't do so if people thought it was only Stalin. Molotov, expelled from the party. Bukharin met with him, vented; cardinal sin, could be expelled from the party. Chatting with someone could lead to a death sentence. That was Stalin's rule--you could not have private meetings, because private meetings mean there is a faction being formed, and we have a unified party line in which there can be no factions. Bukharin knew what he was doing, but he was in a rage and made this mistake. That meeting was the basis for a death sentence. He and the Trotskyites plotting against Stalin--that was the testimony. A couple of minor encounters between Bukharin and Kamenev afterwards. After that, he avoided any contact with anyone against Stalin; but good behavior couldn't save him. Political struggle lost by 1929. Then, phase where Bukharin decided if he behaved himself, withdrew from political life, he would be safe. It was this phase where his romance with Anna, who was 26 years younger, began. Lull in 1934 after collectivization completed. Stalin declared victory, appointed Bukharin editor of Izvestiya. Things were going to turn out fine. Stage 3 begins Dec. 1, 1934, with the assassination of Kirov, the Leningrad party boss. We will never know if Stalin had him assassinated or if the assassin was a jealous husband. Kirov, in the Congress of Victors, received more votes for reappointment to the Central Committee than Stalin; would not have sat well with Stalin. After assassination, Stalin had his plan in place in minutes; went to Leningrad, interviews assassin; guard had auto accident hours later. Stalin immediately announced you could find the murderers of Kirov among the Trotskyites; ordered the NKVD (secret police) leader to, if they resisted, beat their faces in. With the execution of Kirov, begins third phase, struggle for physical survival. Up until that time, there was a ban on execution of top level Bolsheviks. Ban broken in first Moscow show trial of August 1936, which imposed death sentences.
35:15Bukharin at this point scared, ends up twisting in the wind for two years, put on trial for planning the murder of Stalin--trumped up charge, but many people testified it was true. Generated by torture by the NKVD. Up against a ruthless man. Many people beside him put in these trials confessed; corroborated the false testimony, out of fear, loyalty to the Revolution. Many interpreted Bukharin's own confession as his last act of such loyalty; book argues otherwise. Stalin edited it. What Bukharin really said at his trial was not what the world got to see. Microfilm at Hoover Institute has the transcripts. This was a system that wrote everything down, unlike the Nazis. So, all of the interrogations were transcribed. Often will see the resistance; things shut down a little bit; transcript begins again and then the transcript begins again. Suspicion is they've been beaten, told their wife or son is going to be shot. Purportedly Kamenev confessed because he was told his son would live. But his son was executed. Two sons were executed; one was a teenager. Only two of the major figures who confessed were not given death sentences, and they both testified against Bukharin. But their sentence was something like 10 years in the Gulag, where both fell victim to assassination.
39:07Love story part of this book. Bukharin naive, shocked at lies being told about him. Poignant part where two people about to be executed; he has the right to confront them, hurrying back from somewhere in the east, plane delayed a couple of hours; and Stalin kills them. Couldn't wait a couple of hours? Stalin, while patient, was not so patient when it served his purposes. Mad dash back from Uzbekistan; Stalin had conveniently given him a vacation. Bukharin also an Alpinist, so he disappeared into the wilds and only by chance that he resurfaced because his traveling companion fell ill; resurfaced on the day the death sentences were made. On that day he realized he was not going to survive. Anna, his young wife, then 22 with infant son, also read in the paper; went into deep shock. Something like August 21, 1936, that they realized they had little chance of surviving. The love story quite amazing; interwoven with political and physical challenges. He has two previous wives; third wife is Anna Larina, who he meets when she is 4 and he is 30. Her father was his best friend, watches girl grow up. When she turns 16, some sort of romantic relationship. Marry when she is 20. Uncertain, at age of about 19; father on his deathbed; father advises her that ten years with Bukharin is more interesting than a lifetime with any other man. Unfortunately she doesn't get 10 years; gets three. Bukharin arrested, tried, executed. What happens to her? What happens to all the other wives: declared a member of the family of a traitor to the motherland (ChSIR). First sent into exile; then sentenced to the Gulag for 10 years; then moved from camp to camp, camps for wives to traitors to the motherland. Her father an influential member of the Bolsheviks, father friend to Lenin; followed this power struggle. She tried to comfort him. Romance begins in the Crimea. She's a very beautiful woman, not unnoticed by Stalin. May explain why she actually lived--notion that Stalin perhaps in love with her as well. At one point when she is in the Gulag she is called by to Moscow by Beria, who is now the head of the NKVD, who hopes she can incriminate the Foreign Minister. Meets with Beria, who by the way was a child molester and liked young girls. Beria tells her: If the Master wanted you dead, you'd be dead. Bukharin hoped to be allowed to take poison instead of being shot. She had to remain another ten years in Siberia; not allowed to leave the immediate area. She has two children, still alive. She lost Bukharin's biological infant son. He had been put in an NKVD orphanage; also a reeducation program. She was able to contact son Yuri when she was 21 and she's 42; haven't seen each other all those years. Purpose of his visit was the meet his mother and to find out who his father was; mother had been reluctant to tell him because it was dangerous. Now told him his father had been Bukharin.
49:34Thereafter, Anna returned to Moscow, period of exile over; she and Yuri worked for Bukharin's rehabilitation. On the eve of Bukharin's arrest, he had her memorize his political testament to be delivered at some later point to a future generation of party leaders. She began her days in the Gulag repeating it; never wrote it down. It was his opinion that this experiment went wrong simply because the wrong people got into power. New generation of leaders would put things right; dying wish was he would be reinstated as a member of the party because he had been expelled; process of rehabilitation. Anna had hope under Kruschev; but Kruschev replaced by Brezhnev and long period where no one was paying any attention to her. Finally Gorbachev. In early years, he was looking for some alternative system; only one he thought existed was the one that Bukharin had proposed. Bukharin had the answers. Ideal time for her to get this rehabilitation. Gorbachev had him rehabilitated in 1988. Fifty years after his death.
52:15Not the last chapter. Last chapter is four years later, one of the great postal stories of all times. Bukharin on his deathbed in 1938 writes a letter to his wife; she gets it delivered in 1992. What does he say? Two things. Second thing remarkable, one reason he is called the last Bolshevik--true believer. Quote: Begins "Dear sweet Annika...." Endure calmly, prepare the family, fear for you. Don't feel malice about anything. The great cause of the USSR lives on. Personal fates transitory and wretched. Jan. 15, 1938. Saying goodbye, but saying don't lose faith. Could have been a more humane revolution. Is it imaginable? Economists and historians have difficulty dealing with this issue. Historians like to look at unique events; economists like to look at models and regularities. To some extent, the historians are right--if Stalin had had heart disease, things might have been different. Bukharin could have formed a coalition. If Bukharin had prevailed--think unlikely--what would have happened might have been a quick move to a social democracy, multi-party systems. Unlikely. Most likely, the next worst person would have been standing by. They are the ones with the ammunition in these power struggles.
56:45What's next for you? This book, 166 pages. How many hours reading the microfilm? Been working in the Soviet archives about a decade. First work really on economics; went to terror and repression. Wrote Terror by Quota on Stalin's repression. Then decided if you really want to understand how this system worked, you had to look at it at a personal level. Next story I'd like to tell will also not be a story of economics, but describes what it was like to live through this. The victims of Stalin's terror were not party officials, but ordinary people. Ceased publishing figures in 1934--all workers and peasants. Could not understand why they had been selected. Looking for 8-10 stories; trying to get good memoirs of survivors. Easy to forget. Russ: Remember taking a taxi to the airport, opened car door; car coming by was clipped a tiny piece of the door. It was a police car; started screaming at the taxi driver. My fault, not taxi driver's fault; but I was afraid. The tax driver was very afraid. He had a gun and I didn't. In America, pretty lucky. Most of us don't have much experience being terrorized by the state. Unimaginable episode in human history, important to remember it.