February 01, 1999

All's Fair in Party Warfare

In 1933, the poet Osip Mandelshtam described Stalin’s deputies and hangers-on as a “rabble of thin-necked leaders – fawning half-men for him to play with, they whinny, purr or whine as he prates and points a finger.” That this

proved a prophetically accurate description of Stalin’s rule is shown in the many cases where Stalin set one group of his cronies against the other in a battle to the death. A prime example of this is the infamous Leningrad Affair, which came to a head 50 years ago this February.

Interestingly, the substance and events surrounding this allegedly treasonous conspiracy (in which thousands would be sent to the camps) were not made public until Khrushchev’s Secret Speech of 1956, and then only superficially. The real story of this post-war purge has only come to light in the last 10 years.

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