Tskaltubo’s abandoned Spas, Springs and Sanatoria



Tskaltubo’s abandoned Spas, Springs and Sanatoria


For reasons that can only be guessed at you can’t look at a British newspaper, go to the BBC website or by looking for information about the Georgian town of Tskaltubo without coming cross articles, pictures or videos about the ruined health spa buildings (which were hugely popular in Soviet times and even after the so-called ‘collapse of Communism’) in the town.

It’s not that these buildings have been in the condition they are found today for a short period of time. They fell into disrepair when relations turned sour between Georgia and Russia over the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which led to open warfare in August 2008. The fighting war only lasted 5 days but the consequences have been around for much longer.

One of those consequences which has had a direct impact on the town of Tskaltubo was the use of the former spa resorts and hotels as homes for some of the thousands of refugees.

I don’t know exactly in what state these buildings, some of them huge and which had been the holiday home for hundreds in their heyday, were in the summer of 2008 but a refugee crisis that could have been handled with some sort of compassion seems to have been left totally to individual initiative and lacking any semblance of organisation.

By that I mean to imply that those who arrived first took what was useful to themselves and there was no communal approach to make the fullest – and most efficient – use of the structures of the former hotels.

Under the ideology of the Soviet Union (when it could still have been considered a Socialist state) the emphasis in such establishments would have been placed on the communal areas. This would have meant that the lower floors (including basements) would have been devoted to dining and concert rooms, general meeting areas and facilities for leisure activities (such as cinemas and theatres) and extensive kitchens to cater for so many people in a relatively short space of time.

It would have been on the upper floors where the bedrooms would have been found – but they were likely not all to have had en suite facilities (this was an invention even the likes of Britain took some time to adopt) and certainly no means of cooking.

Yet these were the spaces the refugees rushed to and which they then adapted to cater for the individualistic lifestyle they were attempting to establish. No doubt, in the process, any useful materials would have been looted from the communal areas below making them virtually useless at any time in the immediate future.

By all accounts there were many more refugees from the conflict in Tskaltubo than there are now but I visited at least seven of the old resort sanatoria which still had a substantial population in the autumn of 2019.

What dismayed me (but which the cretinous film crews and semi-professional photographers that have been swarming all over the place in recent times) was the very degradation and filth that characterises the communal areas. Some of this decay can be witnessed in the slide show a the end of this post. There could have been many more examples but I started to become both angry and depressed at recording such wanton vandalism and thoughtlessness that had made the living conditions of so many people so much worse.

I had the ‘opportunity’ of only visiting one person’s home – that of an old Abkhazian woman who tried to sell over-priced booze and cakes to any foreigner, like myself, who pointed a camera in the direction of the buildings. She was in the sanatorium I have called ‘It’s my business’ as I haven’t been able to discover its proper name and that was the phrase she used all the time during the few minutes I was in her ‘home’. I was given to believe that there are women like her in some of the other refugee occupied hotels.

It was truly sad to see how the fine entrance halls, staircases, dining and concert rooms – with decorated and vaulted ceilings – and the general communal areas had been allowed to arrive at such a state of filth and decay. Nothing that was considered communal was of consideration at all. This also meant there was no lighting in the entrances and stair wells meaning torches were a necessity once it got dark. Such a situation would do nothing in creating a feeling of safety and security

Wooden parquet flooring had been torn up, presumably to be burnt for cooking and/or heating. Anything of use on these lower floors – such as floorboards – had also been torn up leaving the surface below to degrade and in the process creating holes into the cellar. And the general lack of concern for an area that was ‘not their’s’ meant rubbish started to accumulate – and here I not just talking about historic rubbish but contemporary plastic drinks bottles. I suppose once the collective decision to live in shit has been accepted any more shit is neither here or there.

Broken water pipes and dangerous electrical wiring was everywhere and added to the build up of inflammable rubbish creating a haven for disease and vermin as well as storing up problems for the future.

The refugees from the 2008 war could have lived in relative luxury. They chose not to but to live in dirt and degradation.

But the Western European pricks with their expensive cameras and drones to provide an overall view of these once magnificent buildings don’t see anything other than an opportunity to demonstrate their cultural superiority.

But there’s also a political aspect of this highlighting of these sad ruins. Such a situation is always described with reference to the Soviet past implying that it was the Socialist system that was in some way responsible for the consequences of the present.

It is conveniently forgotten that even the Revisionist Soviet Union ceased to exist 30 years ago (and it hadn’t been a socialist country for more than 40 years before that), that in the years since the so-called ‘fall of Communism’ the ‘superior’ economic system of capitalism has singularly failed (as it could but not do) to resolve the ‘problems’ that existed under Socialism.

Even though the present Russian leadership and all its robbing hangers-on would have ended their days in a Siberian gulag at the time of Socialism they are considered to be tainted with the ‘evil’ of Communism. Any attack on Russia (as indeed is any attack on the now capitalist China – witness the way matters are being twisted over the management of the present (2020) coronavirus crisis when if it had broken out in the capitalist west free market economic forces would have prevented any effective measures to contain the outbreak – can anyone believe that any British government would put London in lock down?) has nothing to do with what policies they are pursuing at the present time but a propaganda effort to make sure that they get punished for being the first country that had the effrontery to challenge the capitalist system and establish a workers and peasants socialist republic.

And the targets for this denigration of any idea of establishing revolutionary socialism are the very people whose only long term guarantee of freedom from exploitation and oppression is the making of such a revolution – that is the workers and peasants of the world.

At the same time it has to be recognised that there are some very strange examples of how those people who had been brought up in a socialist system react to the environment around them when those systems (for various reasons) have collapsed.

Present day Albania is a prime example where the people seemed to have accepted the destruction of the very economic basis of their country for nothing in return. There’s a definable correlation between the vast migration of Albanians from their country to elsewhere in the world to the existence of an almost limitless number of abandoned and looted factories in the country. Added to that the division of the land into small plots virtually killed off a national agriculture.

But it isn’t just in the post-Communist countries that we see people destroying the vestiges of a past social system and reverting to a more basic economy. When the Roman Empire retreated from Britain in the 4th century the remaining Britons were incapable of taking any lessons from the invaders and reverted to a life style similar to what they had followed more than 400 years before. Lessons in hygiene and sanitation which the Romans had developed (of course only for a few) were forgotten and diseases related to such poor or non-existent sanitation were to kill millions in the subsequent centuries – cholera doing its worse well into the 19th century in Europe.

A look at some of the buildings, both those being now used as refugee accommodation and those that were visiting Soviet workers would visit to take ‘advantage’ of the curing radon infused waters and mud.

Sanatorium Aia



This is one of the newer buildings that make up the whole complex of Tskaltubo, i.e., constructed in the 1960s or 70s when demand for places at the spa town continued to rise.

As is the case in all the buildings the gardens and approaches immediately surrounding Aia hasn’t been cared for in years. The ground floor which housed the communal areas and dining rooms had been stripped of anything decorative and all you are left with is the bare concrete floors. Where it was coming from I don’t know but there was a lot of standing water. This water would have come from inside the building suggesting that the pipes (fresh water or sewage) are not in the condition they should be. I would also have thought a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the summer.

Aia also demonstrates something which is common in all the buildings, some of the finest dating back to the 1940s (or earlier), and that is the efforts to grab more living and storage space from the limited amount available. Many of the balconies had been blocked in with various scraps of wood or metal thus grabbing a few more square metres for the inhabitants.

Aia is basically a shanty town in the air.

Another common addition was the satellite dishes. I haven’t seen a great deal of Georgian television but I would be surprised if they are served up anything more edifying than the mind-numbing generic productions that dominate most country’s TV output.

As I was walking around this building the woman who directed me to the decoration in the old dining room also suggested that I go to the first floor where there was a woman who would sell the chacha and cake. Each building, it seems, has one.

The Tile Mosaics

Aia - Grape Harvest

Aia – Grape Harvest

I don’t know why but I was expecting more internal decoration in the hotels than was the reality. Previous to my visit to Aia I seen the facade of Spring No. 6 – which has the bas relief depicting a visit of Joseph Stalin to the town. Many of the older buildings do have the lavish use of marble, parquet flooring, chandeliers and a general feeling of opulence but there was no real presence of the Socialist Realist art that I was expecting. Apart from at Aia – where there are two examples.

The first is in the area that would have been the dining room where one wall is covered with colourful tiles depicting the whole of the wine growing process. In the centre, and by far the largest characters, are two young Georgian woman reminiscent of the statue of Mother Georgia in the hills above Tbilisi. There is some damage, some of it which looks deliberate, but considering the circumstances in which the mosaic has to cope it is in a surprisingly good shape. There’s no protection from the elements, the damp conditions can’t help and it can get cold in Tskaltubo in the winter.

There’s another tile mosaic high up on the wall that would have looked down on the hotel’s garden. This depicts musicians and dancers in traditional Georgia dress. Unfortunately, this has not fared as well as the one in the dining room, many tiles have fallen away and it also shows signs of serious staining and water damage.

Sanatorium Imereti



This was one of the grand creations of the early days of Tskaltubo as a spa resort. Built slightly up the hill from the main park which was the location of the bath houses Imereti is a neo-classical structure – not the utilitarian of the later Aia.

To approach the main entrance the visitor had to go up a sweeping, double set of steps to arrive at an imposing facade. Once in the building the entrance hall has marble classical columns which direct the visitor to a wide and high staircase that would lead to the bedroom floors.

At one end there is a rotunda that housed a concert room with a vaulted ceiling and an internal circle of narrow columns, breaking up the space.

It would have been an impressive sight to a visiting Soviet worker. Now it’s a ruin in which no one should live – not even the cow that was feeding when I visited.

At the back of the building was a square where visitors would have congregated on warm summer evenings but now some of the space has been used as small vegetable gardens and the communal clothes washing area.

Sanatorium ‘It’s my business’

'It's my business' Spa Hotel

‘It’s my business’ Spa Hotel

Try as I might I haven’t (yet) discovered the true name of this building – hence the nickname based on the phrase used by the Abkhazian woman I met on my visit.

This is another of the really large and impressive early buildings. (Although I haven’t seen any dates for the construction of all the spa buildings a large commemorative urn that sits on a table in the main entrance to Spring No. 6 has pictures of many of the spas in Tskaltubo in full operation. The urn is dated 1961. The later Revisionist leaders of the Soviet Union went for utilitarianism rather than style.)

This takes its influence from early Italianate buildings, with large blocks of stone being used at the lower level and the square column topped towers that rise up on either side of the main entrance.

Apart from the ‘standard’ large communal rooms there are internal patios (with now derelict fountains) at the back together with roof gardens. Now all filthy with mould and overgrown with weeds.

It’s a long time since the lift in the main entrance was used and various side rooms are being used as plastic rubbish bins.

One interesting external decoration is the bas relief (I assume metal) high up on the east wall of the building, looking down on the terracotta mosaic of telephone workers.

Sanatorium Medea

Medea Sanatorium

Medea Sanatorium

This is one of the most impressive of the sanatorium which takes its architectural influence from the classical period. In a sense the area of the main entrance is purely decorative and serves little function. It’s more the impression the visitor got (and still gets – even though now in disrepair) when approaching the building.

The stone clad circular entrance has an external stair on either side which leads to a first floor colonnaded area. This is open on all sides and serves, really, no practical purpose. From here there is access to the main building but everything appears somewhat mundane after the initial reaction provided by the approach from the road. If this area does have any practical use it’s as a viewing platform of the area of the park and the hills around Tskaltubo.

As in some of the other hotels there are also patios and roof areas where visitors in the past would have enjoyed the summer warmth.

The not so interesting accommodation which is off to the left of the main decorative entrance is yet another that is being occupied by refugees. I can only imagine that the conditions on the lower floors are the same as in the places already mentioned. After a while it gets draining and depressing going into the different buildings to witness the same level of decay. It becomes even more depressing when you know that these are peoples’ homes and that some have been there for years and it seems an intrusion to constantly make a record of the squalor which surrounds them.

(I perhaps haven’t mentioned that there are a number of the old hotels which are completely empty of any refugees – or any other occupants with problems in finding a proper home – which are like blots on the landscape of the town. There is supposed to be an intention to develop some of these buildings but some are so huge and the clientele numbers will never reach anything like what was achieved during Soviet times that so many of these plans will remain pipe dreams.)

In front of Medea’s accommodation block there’s a small, circular fountain which is surprisingly deep considering there would have been many children in the area. Obviously this fountain is nothing more than a dirty, waterless hole now and the statues (of a young girl on an ‘island’ in the centre and four young, naked boys kneeling on the rim) are in reasonable, if not perfect, condition.

Sanatorium North-west

North-west Sanatorium

North-west Sanatorium

This is another building whose true name I have been unable to discover. It sits just outside the main park, in the north-west, beside the road that goes around the park. This one was, in fact, the first one I visited and it didn’t look that bad from a short distance, much of the building being shielded by the mature pine trees that separate the building from the road.

Once close up the same signs of decay mentioned before emerge. Like many of these hotels the entrances are impressive this one having a stone balustraded stairway on both sides of a small (now totally ruined) fountain, reached by a few flights of steps from the road.

The two storied building to the right of the entrance would have been the communal area and is a total ruin, to the extent that all the windows have been removed. On top there’s an open yet covered roof patio, again providing an outside area to enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Where there are people living they have followed the same practices as already mentioned. All of these buildings are architecturally unique but they have been reduced to the lowest common denominator by the addition of the makeshift additions and adaptations as well as the ubiquitous satellite dishes.

Sanatorium Iveria

Sanatorium Iveria

Sanatorium Iveria

This is the sanatorium which is located furthest from the main park and the area of the baths but in many ways is one of the most attractive. There are not that many pictures of this building in the slide show as after I had squeezed my way through the corrugated sheets supposedly preventing access I didn’t have much enthusiasm to explore more.

I assume that this building would have been used to house refugees in the past but there is no one living there now. Added to that all the doors and windows have been removed so this might have been a tactic used by the local/national authorities to prevent the re-colonisation of these buildings when the previous inhabitants had either been rehoused somewhere more appropriate of had found an alternative themselves.

Unique in its design it has hexagonal stairwells at various points along the facade which are surmounted by small columned, hexagonal towers. The main entrance door is very distinctive in that it is under a very tall columned loggia, which extends two floors in height.

The ground floor entrance and the beginning of the main staircase is also in a better condition than many, much of the blue paint of the walls remaining as well as the plaster work on the ceiling being in a good condition. Probably why it has appeared in most articles about these sad buildings.

Spas, Springs and Baths

As well as the hotels a number of the spas, that are predominantly located in the central park, have also fallen into disrepair. These are in a different category to the hotels and resorts that were used to house refugees after the Russian-Georgian conflict. Tensions between the two countries increased, the spas and bath-houses that were built to cater to thousands were receiving fewer and fewer visits and after the war there was no where for them to stay.

Present day visitors can still take the water (and mud) treatments in Springs No. 1, No 3 and No 6. Numbers 1 and 3 are relatively modest buildings where Spring No. 6 is a much larger and grander structure. It is also the Spa that contains the extremely luxurious spa that Stalin used on his visits to the town.

Spring No. 4

Spring No. 4

Spring No. 4

There’s not a great deal that can be said about Spring No 4. It’s a one level, square building, probably built in the 1950s but today (of all the buildings from the glory days of the Soviet Union) it is the most difficult to enter and it is protected by substantial locked gates. Whether it is hiding some particular gem I have yet to discover. It can be found at the northern end of the park, close to the Palace of Sport.

Spring No. 5

Spring No. 5

Spring No. 5

Spring No. 5 is a little bit more decorative that No. 4 – probably indicating it was built some years earlier.

As I type this I start to think that probably the change in the architectural styles indicate the the simpler, concrete structures, of both the hotels and the spas, were part of Khrushchev’s attack on the Socialist developments that were achieved under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. The magnificent Metro stations that were in major cities such as Moscow and Leningrad also started to become more mundane and ‘normal’. This change in approach started very soon after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (of 1956) where Khrushchev – in a secret speech – denounced the great Marxist-Leninist leader of the party and implicitly all that had been achieved in the years since 1917.

The words Khrushchev and culture didn’t, and still don’t, really belong in the same sentence. He had no concept that what was produced for the workers and peasants should have been as good, well constructed and attractive as – or even better – than that produced for the wealthy. But he was a mere manager and started the thinking in the Soviet Union that was to soon lead it to revert to being a bastion of capitalism – even when under the name of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.

It’s the largest of the abandoned springs and is second only to number 6 in size. The impressive loggia over the front, principle entrance is its main attraction but the large, individual tile faced baths which shoot off from the main corridor indicate it was a centre for water treatment.

Spring No. 8

Spring No. 8

Spring No. 8

Spring No. 8 is another interesting construction. Probably from the late 1950s it’s a low, one level, circular building which doesn’t seem to have a special entrance. In the middle of the concrete ceiling there would have been a large glass dome (long gone), both bringing in natural light and the heat when the sun was shining.

The very layout and decoration of this building indicates to me that it was designed for children. They could play in the warm waters, supervised, whilst their parents might have been having treatment for whatever their medical ailment might have been.

Tskaltubo's Springs and Sanatoria

Tskaltubo’s Springs and Sanatoria




Click on image to download a much larger pdf version



Key to Map

  • 1 Sanatorium Iveria
  • 2 Sanatorium Shakhtar
  • 3 Sanatorium Imereti
  • 4 Sanatorium ‘It’s my business’
  • 5 Sanatorium Metallurgist
  • 6 Sanatorium North- west
  • 7 Spring No. 4
  • 8 Spring No. 5
  • 9 Sanatorium Savane
  • 10 Spring No. 8
  • 11 Sanatorium Medea
  • 12 Sanatorium Aia
  • 13 Sanatorium Sakartvelo


Enver Hoxha returns to Tepelene

Enver Hoxha with the people of Tepelene

Enver Hoxha with the people of Tepelene

More on Albania

Enver Hoxha returns to Tepelene

although he probably never left, just ‘hiding’ for a while.

Almost thirty five years after his death and thirty years since the reaction was able to gain control in Albania it is very difficult to come across public images of Enver Hoxha, the leader of the country for just over forty years. In the 1990s the reactionaries needed to personalise any difficulties in the country and someone who had been dead for five years was an ideal candidate – even to the extent that Comrade Hoxha was considered responsible for events that had happened after his death. So he had to disappear from view.

This was not something new and peculiar to Enver Hoxha or Albania. Joseph Stalin was held personally responsible for anything considered untoward whilst leader of the Soviet Union. How a single person can be held personally responsible for everything that happens in a country that covered one sixth of the Earth’s land mass is something I have never understood. At the same time this ‘superman’ with God-like qualities is denigrated by Trotskyite neo-fascists as being an ignorant Georgian peasant.

Some of the ignoramuses who state things would have developed differently in the Soviet Union if Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had not died (partially as a result of the part of an assassins bullet still being lodged in his brain) prematurely in 1924 just don’t understand either the man or the Marxist-Leninist ideology. Such people who indulge in these ‘what if’ scenarios are often superficial in their approach and especially in the case of Lenin display a total ignorance of what a strong leader he was and how he knew – long before Chairman Mao put it in poetic language – that ‘a revolution is not a dinner party’. Hard acts and decisions are needed to reverse centuries of exploitation and oppression and the stultifying effect this has on the thinking of those on the receiving end of such treatment, i.e., the vast majority of the world’s population.

But it is always easy to blame an individual and even more so when they are not around to defend themselves. It’s also useful for reactionaries (and here I’m talking about both the ‘capitalist roaders’ – to use another term from Chairman Mao – who might have hidden themselves within the Party structure just waiting for a chance to show their true colours and the reactionaries who had hidden themselves in some hole just waiting for the chance to get their revenge on a system that had deprived them of their wealth and power – the latter group always having assistance and support from those countries of the so-called ‘capitalist west’) to personalise matters as that means there’s no real discussion about ideology, either the past or the future.

Successive governments in Albania – when the country wasn’t at its own throat in an almost open civil war or depriving a huge number of relatively poor people of whatever savings they might have had due to criminal pyramid/ponzi schemes – have displayed an unbelievable propensity for corruption. And to divert attention away from their criminal activities of the past and present (and they hope for the future) they heap all manner of calumnies upon the leader, and ruling Party, of the past.

But after thirty or more years blaming everything on persons who are either dead or out of any position to determine events starts to wear thin.

The first Socialist state (which was established in Russia in 1917 and which became known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – USSR) was established in a world where the overwhelming majority of the population had been oppressed and exploited by various social systems for thousands of years. Changing the relationships of the people to the means of production was a difficult enough task but to change ideas was even more so. Yet within a matter of months, in the new Soviet state, those peasants who might have taken advantage of the chaos that accompanied the Civil War were pointed at and highlighted as ‘Communists exploiting the situation’. (Here I’m referring to photographic images with captions such as ‘Communists selling human flesh’ during the worse days of the Civil War – if not caused by certainly sponsored by the previously warring parties of the 1914-1919 War.)

The stupidity of such an assertion – that those who had never encountered Socialist ideas before and more than likely were illiterate would become clear thinking and committed Communists in a matter of days – shouldn’t really need to be refuted. However, the world is full of stupid people who will lap up such dross as a hungry dog eats its own vomit.

But when those Socialist societies tragically collapse (due to a mixture of both internal and external contradictions) and the world is ‘opened up’ to the population of those countries to enjoy the ‘benefits of capitalism’ they find that all that was promised on the other side of the rainbow is not quite what they expected, in fact it was all a con.

There was a price to pay for all those promises and when it was paid the wherewithal to achieve the capitalist dream was denied to huge sectors of the population. From being members of a Socialist society where they were the owners of all they became mere cogs in the capitalist machine where a privileged few were in real control and only a mere handful could ‘raise themselves from their menial position’ and get to have a real feed at the trough. But the more the few stuffed themselves the less there was for the majority.

In Albania, apart from taking out their frustration on statues of Enver Hoxha, especially in Tirana and Gjirokaster, the population (probably egged on by foreign supported neo-fascist forces) decided to destroy virtually all the means of production. This resulted in factories being looted of anything of any value and in every town and city, now 30 years later, there are still the empty shells of these one time thriving factories.

When I first went to Albania in 2011 I couldn’t really understand this. I couldn’t, and still can’t, get my head around why, if people for whatever reason don’t like a social system they then destroy the places where they used to work. If they thought the Party of Labour of Albania wasn’t allowing them the full rights to control their factories why didn’t they take them over and run them themselves? If they were tired of having the responsibility of making decisions and having to think for themselves why didn’t they just turn the factories over to those who would be quite happy to exploit the workers ‘in the good old fashioned capitalist manner’. Then at least they would have work.

One argument given to me as some sort of excuse for such actions was that the machinery was old and needed replacement. That might well have been the case due to the country’s forced isolation but that doesn’t mean the solution is to loot everything and leave a useless shell. That doesn’t make sense in any society. This was especially so as in the 1980s workers in Britain were occupying factories when the owners wanted to close them down. Why this great divide between the intentions and activities of the workers in the two different countries?

In Albania they just destroyed the means of production and then realised there was nothing for them to do but leave the country in order to be able to keep their families alive. So in the 1990s vast numbers of workers went to various neighbouring countries but mainly (at least initially) to Italy and Greece. And this continues to this day – although the crisis that followed the capitalist disaster of 2008 has had an effect on that once reasonably easy form of making a living.

But thirty years on capitalism has not turned Albania into a thriving country – as was ‘promised’. But then capitalism never has, doesn’t now and never will provide for the vast majority of the population. Even in the countries of the so-called ‘prosperous industrialised world’ we see vast differentials in the incomes of their populations and the next capitalist crisis is always around the corner – each one more severe than the last.

So a generation after the ‘fall of Communism’ (six generations if you are a Scottish nationalist) some people are starting to think that perhaps they threw out the baby with the bath water in the 1990s.

This is not just a recent revelation. In my travels in Albania since 2011 I have met a number of people who bemoan what they allowed to happen. Yes, they were isolated (I would argue that was not Albania’s fault but the hostility of the capitalist and revisionist world which was annoyed that such a small country held on to its principled stand in the face of such fierce and overwhelming opposition) and yes, perhaps they didn’t have all the consumer goods that seemed to be falling from heaven in the capitalist countries.

But they did have a functioning and effective health system free for all, they did have an equally free education system, there were guaranteed jobs – which came with apprenticeships and training – they had a society that was functioning and where the majority of the family would be in the country, they did have enough to eat (although toward the end of the 1980s the chaos that was being whipped up by reactionary elements meant that supply routes were continually being disrupted).

This has been a long introduction to a post which announces that Enver Hoxha is now starting to appear in (still a few) public locations in the country. The damaged large, white, marble bust that appeared behind the National Art Gallery a couple of years ago has now been unwrapped – even if the sculpture does have a broken nose. And the general area is now easily accessible to visitors (after years of me having to time my approach when the security guard was otherwise engaged) and the area is generally clean. That doesn’t mean that the ‘well-informed’ local guides don’t spout the same anti-Socialist, anti-Communist, anti-Hoxha line but visitors can appreciate some of the culture of the Socialist era.

And in 2020 the picture at the head of this post was visible to any visitors to the Tepelene (in the south of the country) historical museum.

Right at the back of the museum, attached to the room that commemorates the struggle of the Albanian people in the War of National Liberation against the Italian fascists and then the German Nazis, is a small room (I am almost certain in its original condition, i.e., pre 1990) which contains this picture of Enver Hoxha during a visit to the town of Tepelene. As well as the painting there are boards pinned to the wall that celebrate the achievements of the Albanian people in various fields such as industry, agriculture, health, education and social well being.

The painting bears the name of Aljosha Billbilli and is dated 1985 which indicates it could have been commissioned following Comrade Enver’s death in April of that year. It shows the leader of the Party looking down across the Vjosa River with the mountain range that separates Gjirokaster and Permet in the background.

Across the river can be seen terraces which had been constructed in the Socialist period, now no longer in use as individual, small holder farming (which is what exists in the vast majority of the country) doesn’t allow for the labour power to maintain such collective systems. Terraces also need irrigation which is another collective enterprise.

As is often the case in Albanian Socialist paintings there is a representation of the different ethnic backgrounds of the people of the area. This is shown primarily through their dress but also by their physical characteristics. Being a small country Albania presents a huge variety of ethnic types.

It’s not possible to exactly place the location of the picture but there’s a lapidar alongside the road that skirts the town of Tepelene which offers a very similar aspect to the one in the painting.

So if you are in the vicinity of Tepelene (and most visitors to the country will be as Gjirokaster, one of the most visited towns is a mere 30 minutes or so down the road) then call in to the Tepelene Museum, just up a few steps up the hill on the left where the road, on entering the town, widens on the approach from Gjirokaster or Permet.

Unfortunately opening times of the museum can be slightly erratic but it should be open during the early part of the day from Monday to Friday.

Tepelene Historical Museum - Pickaxe and Rifle

Tepelene Historical Museum – Pickaxe and Rifle

One other aspect of the museum building which is quite unique is the symbol of the Party of Labour of Albania on the facade, just above the main entrance.

This is a metal image of a Pickaxe and Rifle (which can also be seen on the top of the building which used to be the Party’s headquarters in Peshkopia). The idea here is that Socialism will be built by the labour of the workers but the new social system needs to be prepared to use arms in order to defend what has already been gained. Capitalism never rests when it sees that it’s control of various parts of the world has been, is and will be challenged and a strong and determined response is crucial for the survival of the Socialist system. Joseph Stalin and Enver Hoxha were very clar and united on this matter.

That’s why, to repeat what I’ve already stated above, ‘a revolution is not a dinner party’ and once down the road of the construction of Socialism there are certain steps that need to be taken if the attainment of Communism is to be achieved.

More on Albania

The so-called ‘Lenin Testament’

VI Lenin and JV Stalin in Gorki, 1922

VI Lenin and JV Stalin in Gorki, 1922

The so-called ‘Lenin Testament’

‘Left Side of the Road’ Introduction

The basis of the article below was first used as a presentation made by Bill Bland (then of the Communist League (UK)) to the Stalin Society in London in 1991. It was later published, the same year, as a pamphlet.

It’s quite a long document as Bland has used extensive quotes from the published works of VI Lenin and JV Stalin as well as various biographies and commentaries that have been written about the individuals concerned and the whole crazy idea that a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party could even countenance the idea that the leadership of the movement can be bequeathed to or by anyone. (Where digital versions of the works quoted are known to be available a link has been added in the text.)

Although the presentation provides a full and detailed analysis of the issue it really shouldn’t have been necessary. The Communist Party established in Russia under the leadership of Comrade Lenin was a ‘party of a new type’, a party which existed for the benefit of the workers and peasants and which, in order to be effective, had to work in a new manner. It wasn’t a club of a privileged few, it had to be a dynamic force, constantly reviewing its work to be able to effectively deal with ever changing circumstances.

Before any Socialist Revolution, in any country and at any time, the participants are contaminated by the old ideas of capitalism. Many hundreds of thousands of Communists in those countries where the proletarian revolution has been successful (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – now all tragically lost to the Socialist cause) were able, and capable, of rejecting the poison of their capitalist past and fight for the Socialist future.

Others, and in the context of this document the Trotskyites, were so steeped in capitalist thought that they were incapable of thinking in a new way. When they lost the political argument they attempted to get their own way by nefarious means. If they were children playing football in the street they would have walked away with their ball if a decision was made against them. Fortunately they failed in their endeavours – although modern day Trotskyites (and revisionists) continue to do everything they can to undermine revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Parties.

The text of this document has been made available by comrades of Marxism-Leninism Currents Today to whom we offer our thanks.

A pdf version of what is reproduced below is available here.

‘Lenin’s Testament – (1922-1923)

By W. B. Bland for the Communist League (UK)

The Charge

That in 1922 Lenin Advised the Russian Communist Party to Remove Stalin from the Top Post of General Secretary.

‘In December 1922 in a letter to the Party Congress Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin – Ed.) wrote . . a political document of tremendous importance, known in the Party history as Lenin’s Testament. Vladimir Ilyich said; ‘I propose that the comrades consider the method by which Stalin would be removed from this position (of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). ‘ N.S. Khrushchev, Secret Speech to 20th Congress CPSU, in Russian Institute, Columbia University (Ed.), ‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism; A Selection of Documents’, New York, 1956, p6, 7.


Khrushchev’s charge – as above – is inaccurate in only one detail. Lenin did not write the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’, it was in fact dictated by Lenin to one of his secretaries, Lidya Fotieva*. However its authenticity has never been challenged. The passage concerned in Lenin’s letter reads;

‘Stalin is too rude, and this defect becomes intolerable in a Secretary General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to the Congress’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p596.

However, there are some puzzling features about Lenin’s action in dictating this and some other passages in the letter.

Lenin’s Assessment of Stalin

One puzzling feature about the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ is that throughout Lenin’s political life until late 1922, his assessment of Stalin was extremely high.

For example, as long ago as February 1913 Lenin was describing Stalin, in a letter to the writer Maksim Gorky*, as ‘a marvellous Georgian’;

‘We have a marvellous Georgian who has sat down to write a big article for ‘Prosveshcheniye’, for which he has collected all the Austrian and other materials’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Maksim Gorky’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p84.

A little later, in December 1913 Lenin was characterising Stalin as the Party’s leading Marxist analyst of the national question;

‘The situation and the fundamentals of a national programme for Social-Democracy have recently been dealt with in Marxist theoretical literature (the most prominent place being taken by Stalin’s article)’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The National Programme of the RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 19, Moscow, 1963, p539.

And as late as March 1922, at the 11th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, Lenin was defending Stalin against criticism from Yevgeny Preobrazhensky* over the fact that Stalin held the posts of both People’s Commissar of Nationalities and People’s Commissar of State Control;

‘The ‘Turkestan, Caucasian and other questions . . are all political questions! They have to be settled. These are questions that have engaged the attention of European states for hundreds of years. . We are settling them; and we need a man to whom the representatives of any of these nations can go and discuss their difficulties in all detail. Where can we find such a man? I don’t think Comrade Preobrazhensky could suggest any better candidate than Comrade Stalin… The same thing applies to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is a vast business; but to be able to handle investigations we must have at the head of it a man who enjoys high prestige, otherwise we shall become submerged in and overwhelmed by petty intrigue’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The National Programme of the RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 19, Moscow, 1963, p539.

Indeed, it was on Lenin’s proposal that in April 1922, after the Congress, the Central Committee elected Stalin to the highest post in the Party – that of General Secretary;

‘On Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the Central Committee, on April 3 1922, elected Stalin . . . General Secretary of the Central Committee’. G. F. Aleksandrov et al (Eds.); ‘Joseph Stalin, A Short Biography’, Moscow, 1949, p75.

‘After the congress, the Central Committee, on Lenin’s proposal, elected Stalin . . as General Secretary of the Central Committee’. Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, ‘Lenin’, London, 1943, p183

‘A new Central Committee.. voted to establish the post of General Secretary to run the Secretariat and named Stalin to this office. It is highly probable that Lenin initiated this decision’. R. H. McNeal, ‘Stalin; Man and Ruler’ (hereafter listed as ‘R. H. McNeal, 1988’), Basingstoke, 1988, p67.

‘It is.. fanciful for some Soviet historians, official and unofficial, to suggest that Stalin was not Lenin’s personal choice for the post of General Secretary of the Central Committee to which he was elevated in April 1922’. A. B. Ulam, ‘Stalin; The Man and his Era’, London, 1989, p205.

‘The obvious and indeed the only man with the knowledge, efficiency and authority for this key post (of General Secretary – Ed.) was Stalin. There can be no doubt that Lenin supported the nomination, which he probably initiated’. I. Grey, ‘Stalin; Man of History’, London, 1979, p159.

Clearly, something occurred in late 1922 to cause Lenin radically to alter the opinion of Stalin he had held until that date.

Lenin’s Assessment of Trotsky

There is a similar puzzling feature about references to Trotsky in the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’. In it Lenin says;

‘Comrade Trotsky . . is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present CC’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to the Congress’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p595.

It is, indeed, an important feature of Trotskyist mythology that during the period of Lenin’s leadership of the Russian Communist Party Trotsky’s relations with Lenin and the Party were relations of ‘mutual confidence’, and that Trotsky’s conflict with the Party only began following Stalin’s accession to the Party leadership. This picture, however, is quite false. In brief the following major policy disagreements and violent differences between Lenin and Trotsky are traced by dates.

In 1903;

At the 2nd Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in July-August. 1903, Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer, Isaac Deutscher*, records that;

‘Trotsky was one of Lenin’s most vocal opponents. He charged Lenin with the attempt to build up a closed organisation of conspiracy not a party of the working class.. . . Lenin . . mildly and persuasively appealed to Trotsky. All was in vain. Trotsky was stiffening in hostility’. I. Deutscher, ‘Prophet Armed; Trotsky; 1879-1921’ (hereafter ‘I. Deutscher,1989 1’), Oxford, 1989, p80-81.

Shortly after the Congress, Trotsky wrote the ‘Report of the Siberian Delegation’ (of which he was a member). In this report he charged that Lenin ‘resembles Maximilian Robespierre’*, although only as;

‘a vulgar farce resembles historic tragedy’’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Vtoroi Syezd RSDRP (Otchet Sibirskoi Delegatsy)’, Geneva, 1903, p33.

Deutscher comments;

‘Once he had made up his mind against Lenin, he did not mince his words. He attacked with all his intensity of feeling and with all the sweep to his invective’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Vtoroi Syezd RSDRP (Otchet Sibirskoi Delegatsy)’, Geneva, 1903, p33.

In 1904;

In August 1904 Trotsky published his pamphlet ‘Our Political Tasks’, in which he strongly attacked as ‘Jacobinism’** Lenin’s concept that a disciplined party was essential to lead the working people to carry through a socialist revolution and supported the idea of a ‘workers’ party’ modelled on the lines of the social-democratic parties of Western Europe;

‘Lenin’s methods lead to this; the party organisation at first substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organisation; and finally a single ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the Central Committee. …. Is it so difficult to see that any serious group . . when it is confronted by the dilemma whether it should, from a sense of discipline, silently efface itself, or, regardless of discipline struggle for survival – will undoubtedly choose the latter course . and say; perish that ‘discipline’ which suppresses the vital interests of the movement. This evil-minded and morally repugnant suspicion of Lenin, this shallow caricature of the tragic intolerance of Jacobinism. . must be liquidated at the present time at all costs, otherwise the party is threatened by complete political, moral and theoretical decay’. L. D. Trotsky, ‘Nos Taches Politiques’, Paris, 1970, p192.

Trotsky’s biographer Deutscher comments on this book;

‘Hardly any Menshevik* writer attacked Lenin with so much personal venom. ‘Hideous’, ‘dissolute’, ‘demagogical’, ‘slovenly attorney’, ‘malicious and morally repulsive’, these were the epithets which Trotsky threw at the man who had so recently held out to him the hand of fellowship, who had brought him to Western Europe, who had promoted him’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p93.

However, Lenin was equally scathing about Trotsky. In October 1904 Lenin wrote;

‘A new pamphlet by Trotsky came out recently. . . The pamphlet is a pack of brazen lies’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Yelena Stasova and Others’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 43, Moscow, 1969, p129.

In 1909;

By August 1909 Lenin was writing;

‘Trotsky behaves like a despicable careerist and factionalist. He pays lip-service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Grigory Zinoviev’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 34, Moscow, 1966, p399-400.

In 1910;

In March-June 1910 Lenin was writing;

‘Trotsky expressed the full spirit of the worst kind of conciliation, ‘conciliation’ in inverted commas . . . which actually renders the most faithful service to the liquidators** and Otzovists**. . This position of . . Trotsky is wrong’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Notes of a Publicist’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 16, Moscow, 1963, p211, 251.

In December 1910, Lenin was no kinder to Trotsky, whose resolution said Lenin;

‘Expresses the very aim of the ‘Golos’** group – to destroy the central bodies . . . and with them the Party as an organisation’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The State of Affairs in the Party’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1968, p23.

‘Trotsky’s call for ‘friendly’ collaboration by the Party with the ‘Gobs’ and ‘Vpered’** is disgusting hypocrisy and phrase-mongering. Trotsky groups all the enemies of Marxism. .. Trotsky unites all to whom ideological decay is dear, all who are not concerned with the defence of Marxism. struggle against the splitting tactics and the unprincipled adventurism of Trotsky!’ V.I. Lenin, ‘To Russian Collegium of the CC of RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1963, p20, 21, 22.

And at the end of 1910 Lenin was speaking of;

‘The resonant but empty phrases of which our Trotsky is a master…Trotsky distorts Bolshevism, because he has never been able to form any definite views on the role of the proletariat in the Russian bourgeois revolution. That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is obvious to all. Trotsky . . .represents only his own personal vacillations and nothing more. In 1903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases.

One day Trotsky plagiarises from the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; the next day he plagiarises that of another, and therefore declares himself to be standing above both factions. I am obliged to declare that Trotsky represents only his own faction and enjoys a certain amount of confidence exclusively among the Otzovists and the liquidators.’ V.I. Lenin, ‘Historical Meaning of Inner-Party Struggle in Russia’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 16, p375, 380, 389, 391.

In 1911;

In January 1911 Lenin was referring to Trotsky as;

‘Judas Trotsky’. V. I . Lenin, ‘Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1968, p45.

In September 1911 Lenin declared;

‘The ‘Trotskyites . . .’ are more pernicious than any liquidator. The Trotsky’s deceive the workers’. V.I. Lenin, ‘From the Camp of Stolypin Labour Party’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1968, p243.

In October 1911;

‘Trotsky expressed conciliationism ** more consistently than anyone else. He was probably the only one who attempted to give the trend a theoretical foundation. Ever since the spring of 1910 Trotsky has been deceiving the workers in a most unprincipled and shameless manner by assuring them that the obstacles to unity were principally (if not wholly) of an organisational nature.

The only difference between Trotsky and the conciliators in Paris is that the latter regard Trotsky as a factionalist and themselves as non-factional, whereas Trotsky holds the opposite view. .Trotsky provides us with an abundance of instances of scheming to establish unprincipled ‘unity”. V.I. Lenin, ‘The New Faction of Conciliators, or the Virtuous’, ‘Works’, Volume 17, 1968, p258, 260, 264, 270.

And in December 1911;

‘It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue because Trotsky holds no views whatever. . In his case the thing to do is to expose him as a diplomat of the smallest calibre’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Trotsky’s Diplomacy and a Certain Party Platform’, ‘Works’, Volume 17, 1968, p362.

In 1912;

The Prague conference in January 1912 proclaimed the Bolsheviks alone to be the Party. In his paper ‘Pravda’**;

‘Trotsky denounced Lenin’s venture with much sound and fury. His anger rose to highest pitch in April, when the Bolsheviks began to publish in Petersburg a daily called ‘Pravda’. . He thundered against the ‘theft’ and ‘usurpation’ . . committed by . . ‘the circle which lives and thrives only through chaos and confusion’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p198-99.

Lenin wrote in July 1912 to the editor of the paper;

‘I advise you to reply to Trotsky through the post; ‘To Trotsky’. (Vienna). We shall not reply to disruptive and slanderous letters. Trotsky’s dirty campaign against ‘Pravda’ is one mass of lies and slander’. V.I. Lenin, Letter to the Editor of ‘Pravda’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p41.

In August 1912 Trotsky’s group got together with the Mensheviks, Jewish Bund** and others to form an anti-Bolshevik coalition known as the ‘August Bloc’. Trotsky’s biographer Deutscher comments;

‘Trotsky was that bloc’s chief mouthpiece, indefatigable at castigating Lenin’s ‘disruptive work’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p200.

In November 1912 Lenin was writing;

‘Look at the platform of the liquidators. Its liquidationist essence is artfully concealed by Trotsky’s revolutionary phrases’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Platform of the Reformists and the Platform of Revolutionary Social-Democrats’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18, Moscow, 1968, p380.

In 1914;

Between February and May 1914 Lenin wrote;

‘Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism.. At the present moment he is in the company of the Bundists and the liquidators’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20, Moscow, 1964, p447-48.

In May, 1914;

‘Trotsky is fond of high-sounding and empty phrases. We were right in calling Trotsky a representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’. Trotsky. . possesses no ideological and political definiteness. Under cover of ‘non-factionalism’ Trotsky is championing the interest of a group abroad which particularly lacks definite principles and has no basis in the working-class movement in Russia. There is much glitter and sound in Trotsky’s phrases, but they are meaningless. Joking is the only way of retorting mildly to Trotsky’s insufferable phrase-mongering. Trotsky is very fond of using with the learned air of the expert pompous and high-sounding phrases, to explain historical phenomena in a way that is flattering to Trotsky. .

Trotsky is trying to disrupt the movement and cause a split…

Trotsky avoids facts and concrete references .. because they relentlessly refute all his angry outcries and pompous phrases.

At the end of 1903 Trotsky was an ardent Menshevik. . . In 1904’s he deserted the Mensheviks and occupied a vacillating position, now proclaiming his absurdly Left ‘permanent revolution’ theory. In the period of disintegration. . he again went to the right, and in August 1912 he entered into a bloc with the liquidators. He has now deserted them again, although in substance he reiterates their shoddy ideas’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Disruption of Unity under Cover of Outcries for Unity’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20, Moscow, 1964, p329, 331, 332, 333-334, 345, 346-7.

In 1915;

In July 1915 Lenin was declaring;

‘Trotsky… as always entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists** in principle, but agrees as always, entirely disagrees with the social-in principle, but agrees with them’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The State of Affairs in Russian Social-Democracy’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p284.

In the same month he was referring to;

‘high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism. The phrase-banding Trotsky has completely lost his bearings on a simple issue’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 15, Moscow, 1964, p275

And Lenin was denouncing Trotsky’s support for the ‘neither-victory-nor-defeat’ slogan.

‘Whoever is in favour of the slogan of ‘neither victory nor defeat’ is consciously or unconsciously a chauvinist; he is an enemy to proletarian policy… a partisan of the existing governments, of the present ruling classes. Those who stand for the ‘neither-victory-nor-defeat’ slogan are in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, for they do not believe in the possibility of international revolutionary action by the working class against their own governments’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p278, 279, 280.

Between July and August 1915 we find Lenin saying that;

‘Phrase-lovers . . like Trotsky defend – in opposition to us – the peace slogan’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The ‘Peace’ Slogan Appraised’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p288.

and Lenin was asserting that;

‘In Russia, Trotsky. . . defends unity with the opportunist and chauvinist ‘Nashe Zarya’** group’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Socialism and War’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 29, Moscow, 1964, p312.

In November 1915 Lenin was saying;

‘Trotsky . . is repeating his ‘original’ 1905 theory and refuses to give some thought to the reason why, in the course of ten years, life has been by-passing this splendid theory. From the Bolsheviks Trotsky’s original theory has borrowed their call for a decisive proletarian revolutionary struggle and the conquest of political power by the proletariat, while from the Mensheviks it has borrowed ‘repudiation of the peasantry’s role. .Trotsky is, in fact, helping the liberal-labour politicians in Russia who by ‘repudiation’ of the role of the peasantry understand a refusal to raise up the peasants’.V.I. Lenin, ‘On the Two Lines in the Revolution’, in ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p419, 420.

In 1916;

In March 1916 Lenin wrote to Henriette Roland-Holst*;

‘What are our differences with Trotsky? . In brief – he is a Kautskyite** V.I. Lenin, Letter to Henriette Roland-Holst, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 43, Moscow 1969, p515-16.

and in the same month was declaring;

‘Trotsky . . is body and soul for self-determination, but in his case it is an empty phrase’.V.I. Lenin, ‘The Peace Programme’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 22, Moscow, 1964, p167.

In June 1916 Lenin declared;

‘No matter what the subjective ‘good’ intentions of Trotsky and Martov* may be, their evasiveness objectively supports Russian social-imperialism’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 22, Moscow, 1964, p360

In 1917;

In February 1917 Lenin was writing respectively to Aleksandra Kollontai* and Inessa Armand*;

‘What a swine this Trotsky is – Left phrases and a bloc with the Right . !!. He ought to be exposed’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Aleksandra Kollontai’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p285.

‘Trotsky arrived, and this scoundrel at once ganged up with the Right wing of ‘Novy Mir’**. . . That’s Trotsky for you!! Always true to himself ‘ twists, swindles, poses as a Left, helps the Right’. V.I Lenin, ‘Letter to Inessa Armand’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p288.

In April 1917 Lenin reported to the Petrograd City Conference of the RSDLP;

‘Trotskyism; ‘No Tsar but a workers’ government’. This is wrong’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Concluding Remarks, Debate on the Present Situation, Petrograd City Conference of RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’ Volume 24, Moscow, 1966, p150.

In May 1917 the Bolsheviks met the ‘Inter-Borough Organisation’, of which Trotsky was a member, to consider the possibility of a merger. At the meeting Trotsky declared;

‘I cannot call myself a Bolshevik. We cannot be asked to recognise Bolshevism. The old factional name is undesirable’ L.D. Trotsky, Speech at the Mezhraiontsji** Conference, Institute of Marxism-Leninism, ‘Against Trotskyism; Struggle of Lenin & CPSU against Trotskyism; Collection of Documents’, Moscow, 1972, p122.

On 15 December 1917, the new revolutionary government of Soviet Russia signed an armistice with Germany, and on 22 December negotiations for a peace treaty began at Brest-Litovsk. The plan of Trotsky, who led the Russia Soviet delegation, was as follows;

‘We interrupt the war and do not sign the peace – we demobilise the army’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p175.

Lenin was strongly opposed to Trotsky’s plan;

‘Lenin opposed . . . my plan discreetly and calmly’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Lenin’, New York, 1925, p135.

And so;

‘Trotsky made a private arrangement with Lenin. . . What would happen, Lenin anxiously asked, if they (the Germans – Ed.) chose to resume hostilities? Lenin was rightly convinced that this was bound to happen. Trotsky treated this danger lightly. but he agreed to sign the peace if Lenin’s fears proved justified’. I.Deutscher, 1989 (1), p375.

On 9 February Trotsky announced to the peace conference that;

‘While Russia was desisting from signing a formal Peace Treaty, it declared the state of war ended with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria simultaneously, giving orders for the complete demobilisation of Russian forces on all fronts’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p375.

Trotsky’s delegation then walked out of the peace conference and returned to Petrograd.

On 15 February 1918, as Lenin had foreseen, Germany resumed military operations against Soviet Russia. On 18 February 1918, the Central Committee instructed its delegation to sign a peace treaty immediately. On 23 February 1918 the German government presented new peace terms, significantly harsher than the earlier ones. The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was formally signed on 23 March 1918.

Lenin commented at the 7th Congress of the RCP in March 1918;

‘That I predicted, has come to pass; instead of the Brest peace we have a much more humiliating peace, and the blame for this rests upon those who refused to accept the former peace’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Political Report of the Central Committee, Extraordinary 7th Congress of the RCP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27, Moscow, 1965, p102.

As the Foreword to ‘Against Trotskyism’, issued by the Soviet revisionists in power in 1972, correctly expresses it;

‘On the question of the Brest Peace Treaty, Trotsky maintained an anti-Leninist stand, criminally exposing the newly emerged Soviet Republic to mortal danger. As head of the Soviet delegation to the peace talks, he ignored the instructions of the Party Central Committee and the Soviet Government. At a crucial moment of the talks he declared that the Soviet Republic was unilaterally withdrawing from the war, announced that the Russian Army was being demobilised, and left Brest-Litovsk.

The German Army mounted an offensive and occupied considerable territory. As a result, much harsher peace terms were put forward by the German Government’. V.I. Lenin, Political Report of the Central Committee, Extraordinary 7th Congress of the RCP, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27, Moscow, 1965, p102.

And ‘The ‘Great Soviet Encyclopedia’, issued by the Soviet revisionists 1974, comments similarly;

‘No less adventuristic and demagogic was the position of L. D.Trotsky (People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR at the time) who proposed to declare the war terminated and to demobilise the army but not to sign the treaty. . As Trotsky, the head of the Soviet delegation was leaving for Brest, it was agreed between him and Lenin, the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, that the negotiations were to be prolonged by all possible means until the presentation of an ultimatum, after which the peace treaty should be signed immediately. On January 28 Trotsky presented the adventuristic declaration that Soviet Russia would terminate the war and demobilise its army but not sign the peace. Trotsky refused further negotiations, and the Soviet delegation left Brest-Litovsk’. Great Soviet Encyclopedia’, Volume 4, New York, 1974, p66, 67.

In 1920;

In December 1920 Lenin wrote;

‘I have had to enumerate my ‘differences’ with Comrade Trotsky because, with such a broad theme as ‘The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions’, he has, I am quite sure, made a number of mistakes bearing on the very essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Trade Unions, the Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 32, Moscow, 1965, p22.

In 1921;

In January 1921 Lenin severely criticised Trotsky for dereliction of Party duty and factionalism;

‘The Central Committee sets up a trade union commission and elects Comrade Trotsky to it. Trotsky refuses to work on the commission, magnifying by this step alone his original mistake, which subsequently leads to factionalism, becomes magnified and later leads to factionalism”. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Party Crisis’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 32, Moscow, 1965, p45.

and in the same month, Lenin criticised him for his proposal to ‘militarise’ the trade unions;

‘Comrade Trotsky’s theses have landed him in a mess. That part of them which is correct is not new, and what is more, turns against him. That which is new is all wrong. .Comrade Trotsky’s political mistakes distract our party’s attention from economic tasks. .All his theses, his entire pamphlet, are so wrong’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Once Again on the Trade Unions, the Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 32, Moscow, 1965, p74, 85, 90.

Even as late as in 1922;

There were serious differences between Lenin and Trotsky. Trotsky’s biographer Deutscher describes a further rift between Lenin and Trotsky in 1922 over Trotsky’s refusal to accept the post of Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars;

‘In April 1922 an incident occurred which did much to cloud relations between Lenin and Trotsky. On 11 April . . . categorically and somewhat haughtily Trotsky declined to fill this office. The refusal and the manner in which it was made annoyed Lenin. Throughout the summer of 1922 . . the dissension between Lenin and Trotsky persisted. On 11 September . . Trotsky once again refused the post. . On 14 September the Politburo met and Stalin put before it a resolution which was highly damaging to Trotsky; it censured him in effect for dereliction of duty’.. The circumstances of the case indicated that Lenin must have prompted Stalin to frame this resolution or that Stalin at least had his consent for it’. I.Deutscher, ‘The Prophet Unarmed, Trotsky, 1921-1929 (hereafter listed as ‘I. Deutscher, 1989 (2)), Oxford, 1989, p35, 65-66.

Clearly, something occurred in late 1922 to cause Lenin radically to alter the opinion of Trotsky he had held until that date.

The ‘Georgian Deviation’

In July 1921 Stalin, speaking to the Tiflis Organisation of the Communist Party of Georgia, referred to the rise of nationalism in Transcaucasia;

‘Nationalism Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijanian – has shockingly increased in the Transcaucasian republics during the past few years and is an obstacle to joint effort. Evidently, the three years of existence of nationalist governments in Georgia (Mensheviks), in Azerbaijan (Mussavatists**) and in Armenia (Dashnaks**) have left their mark’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Immediate Tasks of Communism in Georgia & Transcaucasia’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, 1953, p97

For this reason. Lenin proposed that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia should, as a temporary measure, be united in a Federation. On 28 November 1921 Lenin wrote to Stalin stating that;

‘A federation of the Transcaucasian republics is absolutely correct in principle, and should be implemented without fail’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Memo to J. V. Stalin, 28 November 1921’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 33, Moscow, 1973, p127.

‘This unification (in the Transcaucasian Federation – Ed.) was proposed by Lenin’. Great Soviet Encyclopedia’, Volume 9, New York, 1975, p495.

On 29 November 1921;

‘That proposal . . . was adopted by the Political Bureau unanimously’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to Discussion on CC’s Organizational Report, 12th Congress RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, 1953, p234.

And it was confirmed by three subsequent decisions of the Central Committee;

‘The Central Committee has on three occasions affirmed the necessity of preserving the Transcaucasian Federation’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Works’, Volume 5, 1953, p257.

As a result;

‘The Transcaucasian Federation – the Federative Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of Transcaucasia – was founded on March 12, 1922.. . . In December 1922, the Federative Union was transformed into the Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Republic. The Transcaucasian Federation existed until 1936. In conformity with the Constitution of the USSR adopted in 1936, the Armenian, Azerbaijanian and Georgian Soviet Socialist Republics entered the USSR as Union Republics’. J. V. Stalin; ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p421.

Stalin reminded the 12th Congress of the RCP in April 1923 why the formation of the Transcaucasian Federation had been considered essential;

‘In a place like Transcaucasia . . it is impossible to dispense with a special organ of national peace. As you know, Transcaucasia is a country where there were Tatar-Armenian massacres while still under the tsar, and war under the Mussavatists, Dashnaks and Mensheviks. To put a stop to that strife an organ of national peace was needed, i.e., a supreme authority. . . And so . . . a federation of republics, and a year after that.. a Union of Republics was formed’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to Discussion on CC’s Organizational Report, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, p232

‘From very early times Transcaucasia has been an arena of massacre and strife and, under the Mensheviks and Dashnaks, it was an arena of war. That is why the Central Committee has on three occasions affirmed the necessity of preserving the Transcaucasian Federation as an organ of national peace. . The point is that the bonds of the Transcaucasian Federation deprive Georgia of that somewhat privileged position which she could assume by virtue of her geographical position. . Georgia has her own port – Batum – through which goods must flow from the West; Georgia has a railway junction like Tiflis, which the Armenians cannot avoid, nor can Azerbaijan avoid it. . If Georgia were a separate republic, if she were not part of the Transcaucasian Federation, she could present something in the nature of a little ultimatum both to Armenia, which cannot do without Tiflis, and to Azerbaijan, which cannot do without Batum.

There is yet another reason. Tiflis is the capital of Georgia, but the Georgians there are not more than 30% of the population, the Armenians not less than 35%, and then come all the other nationalities. . If Georgia were a separate republic, the population could be reshifted somewhat.. . Was not a well-known decree adopted in Georgia to reshift the population so as to reduce the number of Armenians in Tiflis from year to year, making them fewer than the Georgians, and thus convert Tiflis into a real Georgian capital?’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Report on National Factors in Party and State Affairs, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p256, 257, 258-59.

However, both before and after its formation, the existence of the Transcaucasian Federation was opposed by a group of Georgian nationalists within the Communist Party of Georgia, headed by Polikarp (‘Budu’) Mdivani and Filipp Makharadze* and known as the ‘Georgian Deviators’;

‘The struggle which the group of Georgian Communists headed by Mdivani is waging against the Central Committee’s directive concerning federation dates back to that time (the end of 1921 – Ed.)’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to the Discussion on the Central Committee’s Organisational Report, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p234.

‘The national-deviationist opposition in the ranks of the Communist Party of Georgia arose and took shape in 1921. During the entire period of 1921-24 the Georgian national-deviationists carried on a fierce struggle against the Leninist and Stalinist national policy of our Party’. L. P. Beria, ‘On the History of Bolshevik Organisations in Transcaucasia’, London, 1939, p167.

Later, many of the ‘Georgian deviators’ joined the Trotskyist opposition;

‘In 1924 a considerable number of the national-deviationists joined what was then the Trotskyite anti-Party opposition’. L. P. Beria, ibid., p167.

Stalin pointed out to the 12th Congress that fear of Great Russian chauvinism was obviously not the cause of the ‘Georgian Deviation’, since the ‘Georgian Deviators’ supported the entry of Georgia into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as an independent state;

‘There has been and still is a group of Georgian Communists who do not object to Georgia uniting with the Union of Republics, but who do object to this union being effected through the Transcaucasian Federation. These statements indicate that on the national question the attitude towards the Russians is of secondary importance in Georgia, for these comrades, the deviators (that is what they are called), have no objection to Georgia joining the Union directly; that is, they do not fear Great-Russian chauvinism, believing that its roots have been cut in one way or another or at any rate, that it is not of decisive importance’. J. V. Stalin, ‘Report on National Factors in Party and State Affairs, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p257.

He assessed the cause of the ‘Georgian deviation’ as the desire of the Georgian nationalists not to lose the geographical advantages which an independent Georgia would possess, advantages of which they wished to take advantage;

‘It is these geographical advantages that the Georgian deviators do not lose.. that are causing our deviators to oppose federation. They want to leave the federation, and this will create legal opportunities for independently performing certain operations which will result in the advantageous position enjoyed by the Georgians being fully utilised against Azerbaijan and Armenia. And all this would create a privileged position for the Georgians in Transcaucasia. Therein lies the whole danger. The Georgian deviators . . . are pushing us on to the path of granting them certain privileges at the expense of the Armenian and Azerbaijanian Republics. But that is a path we cannot take, for it means certain death to . . Soviet power in the Caucasus’. J. V. Stalin, ‘Report on National Factors in Party and State Affairs, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p258, 261.

The ‘Georgian Deviators’, while dominating the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, formed only a small minority within the Communist Party of Georgia as a whole;

‘The Mdivani group has no influence in its own Georgian Communist Party. . The Party has held two congresses; the first congress was held at the beginning of 1922, and the second was held at the beginning of 1923. At both congresses the Mdivani group, and its idea of rejecting federation, was emphatically opposed by its own Party. At the first congress, I think, out of a total of 122 votes he obtained somewhere about 18; and at the second congress, out of a total of 144 votes he obtained about 20’. J. V. Stalin, ‘Reply to the Discussion on the Central Committee’s Organisational Report, 12th Congress of PCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p234-35.

Nevertheless, even after the Transcaucasian Federation had been formed against the objections of the ‘Georgian Deviators’, the latter did all they could to sabotage the functioning of the federation;

‘Mdivani and his supporters, constituting a majority on the Georgian Communist Party Central Committee, virtually slowed down the economic and political union of the Transcaucasian Republics and were intent, in essence, on keeping Georgia isolated’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p750.

‘The Mdivani group, now joined by Makharadze and his followers, protested the infringement on Georgian sovereignty and did everything in its power to prevent implementation of the federal union’s directives’. P. G. Suny, ‘The Making of the Georgian Nation’, London, 1989, p215.

‘The Georgians sabotaged as best they could the measures taken to bring about the economic integration of the three republics. They installed military guards on the frontiers of the Georgian republic, demanded residence permits, etc.’ M. Lewin, ‘Lenin’s Last Struggle’, London, 1969, p45.

At the 12th Congress of the RCP in April 1923 Grigory (‘Sergo’) Ordzhonikidze*, First Secretary of the Transcaucasian Territorial Party Committee’;

‘accused the ‘deviationists’, Mdivani and Makharadze, of a series of improper activities – refusing to take down customs barriers, selling a Soviet ship to foreigners, negotiating with the Ottoman Bank, and closing the frontiers of Georgia to hungry refugees from the North Caucasus and the Volga region… More important, he condemned the Georgian government’s failure to implement a radical land reform and eliminate once and for all the noble landlords’. R. G. Suny, op. cit., p218.

The policy of maintaining the Transcaucasian Federation was continued as preparations were made to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On 6 October 1922 the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party decided;

‘To have Transcaucasia enter the union as one unit’. R. G. Suny, op. cit., p216.


‘the Georgian leadership in Tiflis insisted on Georgia’s separate entry.. . From Tiflis the Georgian leaders wired Moscow in protest and heatedly criticised the authoritarianism of the Transcaucasian Territory Party Committee’.R. G. Suny, op. cit., p216.

‘The Georgians. . protested to Moscow, demanding the disbandment of the projected federation. To this request Stalin replied on October 16 in the name of the Central Committee, stating that it was unanimously rejected’. R. Pipes, ‘The Formation of the Soviet Union’, Cambridge (USA), 1964, p274

A group of the ‘Georgian Deviators’, headed by Kate Tsintsadze* and Sergey Kavtaradze* then telegraphed a protest, making a strong attack on Ordzhonikidze, directly to Lenin, who rebuked them sharply and defended Ordzhonikidze in a telegram of reply dated 21 October 1922;

‘I am surprised at the indecent tone of the direct wire message sent by Tsintsadze and others. . . I was sure that all the diffferences had been ironed out by the CC Plenum resolutions with my indirect participation and with the direct participation of Midivani. That is why I resolutely condemn the abuse against Ordzhonikidze and insist that your conflict should be referred in a decent and loyal tone for settlement by the RCP CC Secretariat’. V.I. Lenin, Telegram to K.M. Tsintsadze and S. I. Kavtarddze, 21 October 1922, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45,

On receiving Lenin’s rebuke, the bloc of ‘Georgian Deviators’, who formed nine of the eleven members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, resigned in protest;

‘Faced with Lenin’s fury and isolated from the central leaders, the Georgian Central Committee took an unprecedented step; on October 22 they resigned en masse. Ordzhonikidze quickly appointed a new Central Committee of people who agreed with the positions taken up in Moscow, but the Mdivani-Makharadze stepped up their protests’. R. C. Suny, op. cit., p216.

On 25 November the Politburo of the Central Committee decided to send a commission to Georgia, headed by People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs Feliks Dzerzhinsky*;

‘To examine urgently the statements by members of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party who had resigned, and to work out measures to establish tranquillity in the Georgian Communist Party’. Note to; V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, l970, p656-57.

Dzerzhinsky reported the findings of his commission to Lenin on 12 December 1922, including the fact that;

‘The commission had decided to recall to Moscow the leaders of the former Georgian Central Committee, who were held responsible for everything’. M. Lewin, op. cit., p68.

Then, at the very end of December 1922, Lenin, who had initiated the concept of the Transcaucasian Federation, who had denounced the ‘Georgian Deviators’ and defended Ordzhonikidze against their attacks, suddenly reversed his position on these questions. In the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ he dictated to his secretary Maria Volodicheva on 30 December 1922, he implied that the charges of ‘Georgian nationalism’ levelled against the ‘Georgian deviators’ were ‘imaginary’ (and the product of ‘Great Russian chauvinism on the part of Dzerzhinsky’;

‘Comrade Dzerzhinsky, who went to the Caucasus to investigate the ‘crime’ of those ‘nationalist-socialists’, distinguished himself there by his truly Russian frame of mind (it is common knowledge that people of other nationalities who have become Russified overdo this Russian frame of mind)’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Question of ‘Nationalities, or ‘Autonomisation”, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p606.

However, Lenin placed the main blame for this ‘erroneous policy of Great Russian chauvinism’ on Stalin. He declared that it was necessary;

‘To defend the non-Russian from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant… I think that Stalin’s . . spite against the notorious ‘nationalist-socialism’ played a fatal role here. In politics spite generally plays the basest of roles’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Question of Nationalities, or ‘Autonomisation”, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p606.

On the following day, 31 December 1922, Lenin dictated a postscript on the same lines, referring to Stalin as;

‘The Georgian who. . casually flings about accusations of ‘nationalist-socialist’, whereas he himself is a real and true nationalist-socialist’ and even a vulgar Great-Russian bully)…The political responsibility for all this truly Great-Russian nationalist campaign must, of course, be laid on Stalin and Dzerzhinsky’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Question of Nationalities, or ‘Autononisation”, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p606

By March 1923 Lenin was dictating a letter to Trotsky asking him to defend the case of the ‘Georgian Deviators’ in the Central Committee;

‘It is my earnest request that you should undertake the defence of the Georgian case in the Party CC. The case is now under ‘persecution’ by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, and I cannot rely on their impartiality. Quite the contrary, I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake this defence’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to L. D. Trotsky, 5 March 1923’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p607

Trotsky declined to intervene in the affair;

‘On the plea of ill health’. Note to.  V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works,’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p757.

On the following day, Lenin dictated a letter to the leading ‘Georgian deviators’, giving them his whole-hearted support to their case and offering to assist it with notes and a speech;

‘I am following your case with all my heart. I am indignant over Ordzhonikidze’s rudeness and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. I am preparing for you notes and a speech’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to P. G. Mdivani, F. Y. Makharadze and Others, 6 March 1923’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p608.

In conclusion it may be added that Trotsky’s efforts in 1923 to persuade the Central Committee to adopt the line of the ‘Georgian deviators’ and abolish the Transcaucasian Federation were heavily defeated;

‘Trotsky’s motion in the Politburo on March 26 to recall Ordzhomikidze, decentralise the Transcaucasian Federation and recognise that the minority in the Communist Party of Georgia had not been ‘deviationists’, failed by six to one’. R.G.Suny, op. cit., p218.

Clearly, something occurred in late 1922 to cause Lenin radically to alter the opinion on Transcaucasia he had held until that date. And this was the same time at which something occurred to cause him radically to alter the opinions he had held of Stalin and Trotsky until that date.

Lenin’s Illness

Lenin fell seriously ill in 1921;

‘Lenin fell seriously ill towards the end of 1921 and was forced to rest for several weeks’. M.Lewin, op. cit., p33.

‘On 23 April 1922 Lenin underwent surgery to remove one of the bullets fired at him in an assassination attempt by the Socialist Revolutionary Fanya Kaplan on 30 August 1918.’ Note to; V.I. Lenin; ‘Collected Works’, Volume 33, Moscow, 1966, p527.

Then, on 26 May 1922;

‘Catastrophe struck; his right hand and leg became paralysed and his speech was impaired, sometimes completely so. . his convalescence was slow and tedious. . . He never fully regained his health. The return to public life was not to last long’. M. Lewin, op. cit., p33, 34.

and on 16 December, Lenin suffered;

‘Two dangerous strokes’. M. Lewin, ibid., pxxii.

and furthermore;

‘On December 23 he . . . suffered another attack of his illness… He realised next morning that once again a part of his body, his right hand and leg, was paralysed’. M. Lewin, op. cit., p73.

On 10 March 1923;

‘A new stroke paralyses half of Lenin’s body and deprives him of his capacity to speak. Lenin’s political activity is finished’. M. Lewin, op. cit., pxxiv.

Lenin died on 21 January 1924. The doctors who performed the autopsy on Lenin on 22 January found that;

‘The basic disease of the deceased was disseminated vascular arteriosclerosis based on premature wearing out of the vessels. The narrowing of the lumen of the cerebral arteries and the disturbances of the cerebral blood supply brought about focal softening of the brain tissue which can account for all symptoms of the disease (paralysis, disturbance of speech)’. R. Payne, ‘Report on the Pathological-Anatomical Examination of the Body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’, ‘The Life and Death of Lenin’, London, 1967, p632.

The controversial document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ was dictated between 23 and 31 December 1922, with a supplement dated 4 January 1923, after Lenin had already suffered four severe strokes which had adversely affected his brain function. Thus Lenin’s radical changes of opinion on Stalin, on Trotsky and on Transcaucasia are partly explicable by psycho-pathologica1 factors.

The Role of Krupskaya

However, the puzzles of Lenin’s remarkable changes of opinion up on Stalin, on Trotsky and on Transcaucasia are not explicable on psycho-pathological grounds alone. The political role of Krupskaya must be examined to unravel the puzzle further. Although on 18 December 1922 a Plenum of the Central Committee, had;

‘Made Stalin personally responsible for the observance of the regime prescribed for Lenin by the doctors,’ R.H. McNeal (1988), p73.

Nevertheless, Stalin was prevented from seeing Lenin;

‘Though virtually Lenin’s legal guardian, Stalin never saw his charge in person’, R.H. McNeal (1988), p73.

In fact after 13 December, Stalin never saw Lenin alive at all;

‘The last time Stalin saw Lenin alive.. was 13 December’, R.H. McNeal (1988), p73.

This was supposedly for strict medical rules, since;

‘Strict rules were established, and it was agreed that no visitors should be allowed.. Except for the doctors immediate family, he was permitted to see only his secretaries. .. He was to be isolated almost as completely as a prisoner in the Peter Paul fortress’. R. Payne, op. cit., p555.

In these conditions of isolation, an extremely important role was played by Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya*. Her biographer Robert McNeal* speaks of Krupskaya’s;

‘Long personal antipathy to Stalin’. R.H. McNeal, ‘Bride of the Revolution; Krupskaya and Lenin (hereafter referred to as ‘R. H. McNeal (1973)’, London, 1973, p254.

After Lenin’s death in 1924, Krupskaya participated in the Opposition. McNeal speaks of her;

‘Readiness to lean towards the opposition. Krupskaya . . . really stood with the opposition. It date on her entry into this status. Krupskaya was in reality coming round to . . signing a manifesto of protest against official policy. This document was the work of Zinoviev*. … Kamenev*, Krupskaya and Sokolnikov* (the Commissar of Finance) jointly signed a ‘platform’ attacking the leadership. . . It was circulated among members of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission.The 14th Party Congress (in December 1925) was the pinnacle of Krupskaya’s career in the opposition. It was left to her to begin the opposition’s critique. Krupskaya remained in the opposition . . until October 1926. She signed the major political manifesto that the Trotsky-Zinoviev opposition produced in this period, the ‘Declaration of the Thirteen’ … along with another protest against Soviet policy in the English General Strike of 1926’. R.H. McNeal (1973), ibid., p250, 251. 252, 253, 256.

‘Krupskaya stood firmly behind Zinoviev and Kamenev.. . She was now eager to testify in favour of Zinoviev’s interpretation of Leninism and against socialism in one country’. I.Deutscher (1989, 2), p247.

At the 15th Conference of the CPSU in November 1926, Stalin hinted that Krupskaya had broken with the opposition;

‘Is it not a fact that Comrade Krupskaya, for instance, is leaving the opposition bloc? (Stormy applause)’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to the Discussion on the Report on ‘The Social Democratic Deviation in our Party”, ‘Works’, Volume 8, Moscow, 1954, p371.

But not until six months later, in May 1927, did Krupskaya herself confirm this;

‘On May 20 1927, ‘Pravda’ carried a short, undated note from Krupskaya to the editor. In it she gave the Party and the public at large the first confirmation that she had left the opposition. . . There was no word of repentance on any specific issue’. R. H. McNeal (1973), p261-62.


‘She even explained her membership of the opposition as if it had been quite correct’. R.H. McNeal (1973), p262-63.

Robert Payne* – a biographer of Lenin who is violently antagonistic to Stalin – admits that Krupskaya took advantage of her role during Lenin’s illness to feed selected items of ‘information’ to him;

‘Krupskaya . showed not the slightest intention of carrying out the orders of the doctors and the Politburo; and so small scraps of information were fed to Lenin. . . While he lay ill, she was his ears and eyes, his sole powerful contact with the outside world’. R.Payne, op. cit., p555-56.

These selected items of ‘information’ were naturally hostile to Stalin, and favourable to Trotsky and to the ‘Georgian deviators’ and Krupskaya’s biographer agrees that Stalin was justified in suspecting her of having influenced Lenin’s attitude towards him in 1923-24;

‘She (Krupskaya – Ed.) may have influenced Lenin’s attitude toward Stalin, intentionally or otherwise. . Stalin is justified in suspecting that she had, as he later intimated’. R.H. McNeal (1973), p223.

while Payne is even more frank;

‘Krupskaya did what she had to do; she waged war against Stalin’. R.Payne, op. cit., p563.

On 22 December Stalin rebuked Krupskaya on the telephone for her role in feeding selective items of ‘information’ to Lenin and threatened to bring the matter before the Central Control Commission of the CPSU. On the following day she wrote to a letter of complaint to Lev Kamenev* on Stalin’s ‘rudeness’;

‘Stalin subjected me to a storm of the coarsest abuse yesterday about a brief note that Lenin dictated to me. . I know better than all the doctors what can and what cannot be said to Ilyich, for I know what disturbs him and what doesn’t. And in any case I know better than Stalin. I have no doubt as to the unanimous decision of the Control Cormission with which Stalin takes it upon himself to threaten me, but I have neither the time nor the energy to lose in such a stupid farce’. N. K. Krupskaya, ‘Letter to Lev Kamenev, 23 December 1922’, M. Lewin, op.cit., p152-53.

When this incident came to Lenin’s knowledge, on 5 March 1923 he wrote to Stalin saying;

‘You have been so rude as to summon my wife to the telephone and use bad language. . . . Wbat has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well. I ask you, therefore, to think it over whether you are prepared to . . make your apologies, or whether you prefer that relations between us should be broken off’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to J. V. Stalin, 5 March 1923’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p607-08.

Lenin’s sister, Maria Ullyanova*, wrote to the Presidium of the 1926 Joint Plenum of the CC and CCC, stating that;

‘Stalin offered to apologise’. Note to; V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p75

The Subsequent History of the ‘Testament’

On 18 May 1924 Krupskaya sent the ‘Testament’ to Lev Kamenev, who passed it on to Stalin, as General Secretary. On 19 May Stalin passed the documents to the steering committee for the next (13th) Congress, which was due to begin on 23 May 1924.

By a vote of 30-10, the steering conmittee resolved not to publish the document, but to read it to a closed session of delegates;

‘With explanations that Lenin had been ill’. R.H. McNeal (1988), p110.

‘As regards publishing the ‘will’, the congress decided not to publish it, since it was addressed to the congress and was not intended for publication’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech to Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’, Volume 10, Moscow, 1954, p181.

First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, in his secret speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU(B) in February 1956, confirmed that Lenin’s ‘Testament’;

‘Was made known to the delegates at the 13th Party Congress who discussed the question of transferring Stalin from the position of Secretary General’. N.S. Khrushchev, op. cit., p7.

At the Congress itself, in view of the criticism of him made in ‘Lenin’s Testament’, Stalin offered his resignation as General Secretary;

‘This question. was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev*, obliged Stalin to remain at his post. What could I do? Desert my post? That is not in my nature. I have never deserted any post, and I have no right to do so. . When the Party imposes an obligation upon ne, I must obey.’ J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech to Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’,Volume 10, Moscow, 1954, p181.

Krushchev confirms that;

‘The delegates (to the 13th Party Congress – Ed.) declared themselves in favour of retaining Stalin in this post’. N.S. Krushchev, op. cit., p7.

At the first meeting of the Central Committee elected at the 13th Congress of the Party, and again a year later, Stalin offered his resignation, and each time it was rejected;

‘At the very first plenum of the Central Committee after the 13th Congress, I asked the plenum to release me from my duties as General Secretary.. A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was again obliged to remain at my post. What else could I do?’ J.V. Stalin, ‘Works’,Volume 10, Moscow, 1954, p181

In 1925 the Trotskyist Max Eastman* published the book ‘Since Lenin Died’ which included excerpts from ‘Lenin’s Testament. As Stalin said in October 1927;

‘There is a certain Eastman, a former American Communist who was later expelled from the Party. This gentleman, who mixed with the Trotskyists in Moscow, picked up some rumours and gossip about Lenin’s ‘will’, went abroad and published a book entitled ‘Since Lenin Died’, in which he did his best to blacken the Party, the Central Committee and the Soviet regime, and the gist of which was that the Central Committee of our Party was ‘concealing’ Lenin’s ‘will’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech to Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’, Volume 10, 1954, p178-79.

In September 1925, in a statement published in ‘Bolshevik’, Trotsky publicly dissociated himself from Eastman and denied that Lenin’s letter to the Congress constituted any form of ‘testament’, which would have been quite alien to Party practice;

‘In several parts of his book Eastman says that the Central Committee concealed’ from the Party a number of exceptionally important documents written by Lenin in the last period of his life (it is a matter of letters on the national question, the so-called 1will’, and others); there can be no other name for this than slander against the Central Committee of our Party. From what Eastman says it may be inferred that Vladimir Ilyich intended those letters, which bore the character of advice on internal organisation, for the press. In point of fact, that is absolutely untrue. . It goes without saying that all those letters and proposals . . were brought to the knowledge of the delegates at the 12th and 13th Congresses, and always, of course, exercised due influence upon the Party’s decisions; and if not all of those letters were published, it was because the author did not intend them for the press. Vladimir Ilyich did not leave any ‘will’, and the very character of his attitude towards the Party, as well as the character of the Party itself, precluded any possibility of such a ‘will’. What is usually referred to as a ‘will’ in the emigre’ and foreign bourgeois and Menshevik press (in a manner garbled beyond recognition) is one of Vladimir Ilyich’s letters containing advice on organisational matters. The 13th Congress of the Party paid the closest attention to that letter, as to all of the others, and drew from it the conclusions appropriate to the conditions and circumstances of the time. All talk about concealing or violating a ‘will’ is a malicious invention’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Concerning Eastman’s Book ‘Since Lenin Died”, ‘Bolshevik’, 16, 1 September, 1925, p68.

At a Joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the CPSU in October 1927, the opposition raised the question of ‘Lenin’s Testament’. Stalin replied;

‘The oppositionists shouted here – you heard them – that the Central Committee of the Party ‘concealed’ Lenin’s ‘will’. It has been proved and proved again that nobody has concealed anything, that Lenin’s ‘will’ was addressed to the 13th Party Congress, that this ‘will’ was read out at the Congress (Voices; That’s right!), that the congress unanimously decided not to publish it because, among other things, Lenin himself did not want it to be published and did not ask that it should be published’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech at Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’, Volume 10, p173.

At this point Stalin publicly confirmed and commented upon the reference in the ‘Testament’ to his ‘rudeness’ and on Lenin’s proposal that he should be removed as General Secretary;

‘It is said that in that ‘will’ Comrade Lenin suggests to the congress that in view of Stalin’s ‘rudeness’ it should consider the question of putting other comrade in Stalin’s place as General Secretary. That is quite true. Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have not concealed this and do not conceal it now. Perhaps some mildness is needed in the treatment of splitters, but I am a bad hand at that. But rudeness is not and cannot be counted as a defect in Stalin’s political line or position.’ J.V. Stalin, ‘Works’, Volume 10, Moscow, 1927, p180-81, 182.

The 15th Congress of the CPSU in December 1927 decided to publish ‘Testament’ in the Congress Bulletin, so that;

‘After the 15th Congress of 1927 Lenin’s ‘Testament’ became somewhat more widely known among the Party aktiv’. R.A. Medvedev, ‘Let History Judge’, London, 1972, p29.

Finally, after the victory of revisionism in the CPSU following the death of Stalin in 1953, First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev quoted extensively from ‘Lenin’s Testament in his secret speech to the 20th Congress in February 1956, and copies were;

‘Distributed among the delegates’. N. S. Khrushchev, op. cit., p6.

Later, the ‘Testament’ was published in Lenin’s ‘Collected Works’.


The fact that, despite Lenin’s reputation as the world’s leading Marxist, his call, in his ‘Testament’, for the removal of Stalin from the post of General Secretary was rejected by 13th Congress of the CPSU, says much about the circumstances in which the document came to be issued.


Biographical Notes

*ARMAND, Yelizaveta (‘Inessa’) F., French-born Soviet women’s movement worker (1875-1920); head of Women’s Department of CC, RCP (1918-20).

*DEUTSCHER, Isaac, Polish-born British Trotskyist historian and journalist (1907-67); emigrated to Britain (1939).

*DZERZHINSKY, Feliks E., Polish-born Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1877-1926); Chairman, CHEKA, later OGPU (1917-26); Commissar of Communications and Internal Affairs (1921-24); Chairman, Supreme Economic Council (1924-26).

*EASTMAN, Max, American Trotskyist author and poet (1883-1969).

*FOTIEVA, Lidya A., (1881- ), one of Lenin’s secretaries (1918-22).

*’GORKY, Maksim’ (pseudonym of Aleksey I. Peshkov), Soviet Marxist-Leninist writer (1868-1936); President, Soviet Writers’ Union (1934-36); murdered by revisionist conspirators (1936).

*KAMENEV, Lev B., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); USSR Commissar of Trade (1926-27); Minister to Italy (1927); leader of Trotskyist opposition (1926-28); expelled fron CPSU (1927); readmitted (1928); Chairman, Main Concessions Committee (1929); again expelled from Party (1932); again readmitted (1933); expelled from Party for third time (1934); sentenced to imprisonment for terrorism (1935); sentenced to death for treason and executed (1936).

*KAUTSKY, Karl J., German revisionist politician (1854-1938).

*KAVTARADZF, Sergey I., Georgian nationalist politician (1885-1971); Georgian Commisar of Justice (1921-22); Georgian Premier (1922-23); 1st Deputy Procrator, USSR Supreme Court (1924-28); expelled from Party (1927); reinstated (1934); USSR Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (l941-5); Ambassador to Romania (1945-52).

*KOLLONTAY, Aleksandra H., Soviet Marxist-Leninist diplomat (1872-1952); Minister to Norway (1923-26, 1927-30); Minister to Mexico (1926-27); Minister, then Ambassador, to Sweden (1930-45); counsellor, USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1945-52).

*KRUPSKAYA, Nadezhda K., Lenin’s wife (1869-1939).

*McNEIL, Robert H., American historian (1930- ); Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto (1964-69); Professor of History, University of Massachusetts (1969- ).

*MAKHARADZE, Filipp I., Georgian nationalist historian and politician (1868-1941); President, Georgia (1922-41).

*’MARTOV, L. (pseudonym of Yuly 0. Tsederbauw), Russian Menshevik leader and journalist (1873-1923); emigrated to Germany (1920).

*MDIVANI, Polykarp (‘Budu’) C., Georgian nationalist politician (1877-1937); Georgian Commissar of Light Industry and Deputy Premier (1931-36); expelled from Party for Trotskyism (1928); reinstated (1931); again expelled (1936); sentenced to death for treason and executed (1937).

*PAYNE, Robert, British-born American historian (1911-83).

*ORDZHONIKIDZE, Grigory (‘Sergo’) K., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1937); 1st Secretary, Transcaucasian Party Committee (1922-26); Chairman, CPSU Central Control Commission and USSR Commissar of Workers’ and Peasants Inspect-on (1926-30); Chairman, USSR Council of National Economy (1930-32); member, Politburo, CC, CPSU (1930-37); USSR Commissar of Heavy Industry (l932)

*PREOBRAZHENSKY Yevgeny A., Soviet revisionist economist (1886-1937); member, Politburo, Secretary of Central Committee, Commissar of Finance (1921-27) expelled from party (1927); tried for treason; died in prison (1937).

*ROBESPIERRE, Maximilien P-M-I. de, French revolutionary leader (1758-94); leader of Jacobin Club (1791-92); leader of Committee of Public Safety (1793-94); guillotined (1794).

*ROLAND-HOLST, Henriette, Dutch ‘Christian socialist’, later Trotskyist; poet (1869-1952).

*SOKOLNIKOV, Grigory Y., Soviet revisionist lawyer and economist (1888-1939); USSR Commissar of Finance (1921-26); Chairman, Oil Syndicate (1926-28); Ambassador to Britain and USSR Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1929-34); USSR Deputy Commissar of Forestry Industry (1934-36); expelled from Party (1936); admitted to treason at public trial and sentenced to imprisonment (1937); died in prison (1939).

*TSINTSADZE, Kate H., Georgian nationalist politician (1887-1930).

*ULYANOVA, Marya I. (1878-1937); Lenin’s sister.

*ZINOVIEV. Grigory Y., Soviet revisionist politician (l883-l936~; Member, Politburo, CC, CPSU (1925); headed Leningrad opposition (1926); expelled from CPSU (1927); readmitted (1928); again expelled from Party (1932); again readmitted (1933); imprisoned for terrorism (1935); sentenced to death and executed for treason (1936).


**BUND (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia). A Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organisation formed in 1897 which functioned as a centre of Jewish nationalism in the Russian working class movement.

**CONCILIATIONISM A political trend advocating collaboration, and even unitybetween Marxist-Leninists and opponents of Marxism.

**DASHNAKS. Members of the ‘Dashnaktsutyun Party, a nationalist party of the landlords and bourgeoisie in Armenia, formed in the 1890s.

**’GOLOS (The Voice). A Menshevik daily newspaper published in Paris between 1908 and 1911.

**JACOBINISM. The policies of the Jacobin Club, representing the left-wing of the French Revolution.

**KAUTSKYITE. A follower of Kautsky.

**LIQUIDATORS. Followers of ‘Liquidationism’, a reactionary trend within the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1907-10 which advocated the liquidation of the disciplined revolutionary Party of the working class and its replacement by a legal reformist party of the West European social-democratic type.

**MENSHEVIK. Member of the right (social-democratic) minority wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

**MEZHRAIONTSYI. Members of the ‘Mezhraionnaia’ (Inter-borough Organisation), formed in 1913 in St. Petersburg. The organisation joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917.

**MUSSAVATISTS. Members of the ‘Mussavat Party’, a nationalist party of the landlords and bourgeoisie in Azerbaijan, formed in 1912.

**NASHE ZARYA’ (Our Dawn). A monthly magazine published by the Menshevik ‘Liquidators’ in St. Petersburg between between 1910 and 1914, when it was suppressed and replaced by ‘Nashe Delo’ (Our Cause).

**’NOVY MIR’ (New World). A pro-Menshevik newspaper published by Russian emigres in New York in 1911-17.

**OTZOVISTS (Recallers). Supporters within the Bolshevik Party of an opportunist trend which oppposed legal forms of activity and called for the recall of Social-Democratic Party deputies from the State Duma.

**SOCIAL-CHAUVINISM. ‘Chauvinism’ (‘Jingoism’) takes its name from a French jingoistic soldier, Nicolas Chauvin (b. 1815). ‘Social-chauvinism’ is jingoism within the socialist movement.

**VPERED (Forward). An anti-Party group formed outside Russia which opposed the use of legal tactics; it operated from 1909 to 1913.