One Who Survived, the Life Story of a Russian under the Soviets

One Who Survived, the Life Story of a Russian under the Soviets

One Who Survived, the Life Story of a Russian under the Soviets

One Who Survived, the Life Story of a Russian under the Soviets

Excerpt

This book is, in my opinion, the most important that could be written on the socialist experiment in Russia. Barmine is the sole man left in the world who can relate, and dares to, with the authority of theoretic understanding, intimate and diversified experience, unbroken morale, irreproachable integrity, and scientific detachment, the inside story of that experiment from the revolution to the great purge. He is the only man left to weigh in the scales of civilized intelligence the results as seen from the inside and the method as actually applied.

This will seem an extreme statement only to those who do not realize the extent of Stalin's extermination of the elite. There may be some precocious stenographer or confidential secretary, farsighted enough to have kept mum and retired into a cyclone cellar, who will crawl out with a true and significant memoir when the dictatorship passes. It is impossible not to hope for this. But so far as the thing could be accomplished with the help of research experts and the secret police, incorruptible intelligence combined with inside knowledge was exterminated in Soviet Russia, and in all its embassies and legations, with meticulous and ruthless care.

"When I work on my book," Barmine said to me, "I feel as though I were walking in a graveyard. All my friends and life associates have been shot. It seems to be some kind of a mistake that I am alive."

It is partly a mistake--a mistake of the G.P.U. in Athens who thought Barmine could be frightened into a trap, of the G.P.U. in Paris who thought he could be shanghaied with a crude trick. It is also partly pure accident--the accident of his being sent as a young man on important missions into the Western world, where his persistently inquiring mind could get a detached view of what was happening in his own country. It is astonishing that none of the Old Bolsheviks, internationalists though they were, tried to avoid the purge by escaping into a foreign country. With four exceptions--Barmine, Raskolnikov, Reiss, and Krivitsky--none even of those already serving abroad, so far as is known, refused to go back when summoned to almost certain death. Some of them perhaps did refuse and, lacking Barmine's good luck and highhanded manner of walking out, were secretly murdered--as in the end Reiss was, and Raskolnikov, and possibly Krivitsky. But in general the Old Bolsheviks seem to have . . .

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