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  1. Hi Michael,

    Interesting site/content. A 1952/3 book caught my eye: https://michaelharrison.org.uk/2018/08/jv-stalin-biographies-reminiscences-and-appraisals/

    I became skeptical and did a search. According to the only Amazon review of the Budu Svanidze book, it “was exposed as a forgery shortly after it came out by historian Boris Souvarine (Bulletin de l’Association d’Etudes et d’Informations Politiques Internationales, May 1953, Nos. 88 and 89.)” I acquired the articles and confirmed they do indeed refer to this book as a forgery – along with several others. I could send them along with my translations if you’d like.

    • It’s a long time since I read ‘My Uncle Joseph Stalin’ but my memory was that it was quite benign. How Joe came out of it I can’t remember exactly but I don’t think the book tried to make out that Stalin was a perfect husband and partner – the only reason why I could think of of it being a ‘forgery’.

      At the same time I would think that anything written by Souvarine has to be considered suspect – especially when it comes to the topic of Joseph Stalin. Souvarine was a Trotskyite and like all Trotskyites spent much of his time from the mid 1920s attacking the Soviet Union and its leadership.

      By all means send the article you mentioned (with translation) if you have them to hand. It would be interesting to read Souvarine’s ‘proof’ that the publication was a ‘forgery’, by whom and for what reason it was ‘forged’ and what political gain there was in such an elaborate task over a book that is hardly well known. I’ve never come across any reference to it so if it was concocted then the aim was a failure.

      • Two sample points that can be checked independently of BEIPI on the “Svanidze” book (“forgery” = not Stalin’s nephew): [1] Stalin’s second wife didn’t overdose but instead shot herself by the morning of 8 Nov 1932 due to a migraine episode that started Nov 6 and was made worse by attending the Nov 7 anniversary parade; [2] Rosa (Rachel) Kaganovich could not have been an option to be Stalin’s third wife because she died in 1926.

        [1] Artem Sergeev, Stalin’s adopted son, comments on Nadezhda’s migraines: translate.yandex.com/translate?url=hrono.ru/biograf/bio_a/alliluevans.php&lang=ru-en – “…Nadezhda Sergeevna had constant, very powerful, completely unbearable headaches. She often held her head in her hands and cried out: ‘My head! My head!’” “Svanidze” may have known this: “‘I have a headache,’ Nadia said stiffly. ‘Please excuse me.’” (p. 59) “Svanidze” says: “One night she took an overdose, with fatal effect.” (p. 98)

        [2] Kaganovich family comments on ‘Wolf of the Kremlin’ (1987): revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv1n2/kaganfam.htm – “LMK’s [Lazar Kaganovich’s] only sister, by mistake named in the book as Rosa (her name was Rachel), died in 1926…” Therefore the statement in “Svanidze’s” book that “Molotov, Kaganovitch, Mikoyan, Beria […] now that Stalin was once more a widower […] took the liberty of selecting a wife for him—Rosa Kaganovitch, the beautiful sister of Lazar Kaganovitch” (p. 99) is false.

        “Waverly Root” (“Svanidze” again?) in the preface: “If Molotov is to be one of the future rulers of Russia also, it is not unimportant to know that he is a bad loser, or that he dislikes to take responsibility in critical situations.” Fake Stalin quote: “Everyone complains of Molotov’s stiffness, his inability to show the slightest flexibility. It’s true, you know. Sometimes he is really unbearable.” Fake Mikeladze quote: “…we’ll arrange for you to come again when you have that memorandum to prove that Molotov has become anti-Marxist.” Even without BEIPI or the sources above it’s not impossible to see “Svanidze” only pretended to be favorable to the Soviet leadership while in substance making them appear ridiculous.

        • I’m not really sure where this discussion is going and neither could I couldn’t really understand the points made by the BEIPI analysis.

          If the Trotskyites want to make out it is a forgery then it’s to use that against the Soviet Union. But then it would have to have been produced in the Soviet Union. However, the simple mistakes which you point out would seem to suggest it wasn’t produced by someone who knew all the facts.

          Then who do you suggest created this ‘forgery’ and for what purpose? And is it really important? It is a rather obscure book and I can’t remember exactly where or when I came across my copy.

          If it was created for some ‘ill intent’ then what was it? As it doesn’t seem to have been very successful – especially in the great scheme of things when Uncle Joe has been accused of everything apart from causing the present climate emergency.

          • This was written just prior to Khrushchev’s slander of “Uncle Joe” and it’s true the book was soon overshadowed. One of the points made in BEIPI is that this series of publications, including those by “Svanidze”, occurred with unusual (or even impossible) speed, so the implication is that the book was authored by international imperialism. The purpose would have been to create confusion and dissatisfaction abroad with the Soviet leadership, potentially for people to quit their parties. And from the description in “The Wolf of the Kremlin” (1987): “The true story of Stalin’s third wife, Rosa, who was Lazar’s sister.” This was decades later so was this sort of narrative really unsuccessful? As to where this is going, the whole point of reading history is to learn, isn’t it? And if it’s disinformation, to alert people. I’ve given my contact info if more needs to be said. I don’t want to spam this page.

            • I don’t disagree with anything you say. Your memory/knowledge of some of the facts is better than mine and I also agree it’s good to point out these situations in the past to remind people what the enemies to socialism are prepared to do. We only have to look at the ‘Zinoviev Letter’ to realise that the idea of ‘fake news’ is not something invented in the last few years. There’s a book, which I have but have yet to scan, called ‘The Great Conspiracy against Russia’. That documents just such incidents to cause confusion amongst those who might have been sympathetic to the aims of the Soviet Union. I’ll see if I can get it scanned and posted on the Soviet Union page on this blog in the next few weeks.

    • “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again”

  2. Dear Mr. Harrison. I enjoy this blog very, very much. Thank you for your time and effort to enthuse us with your tales.

    I wanted to know if you would give me permission to use the photo of Mao addressing the Chinese people on the 1st October, 1949, for my own blog -website

    I am currently in China and a filmmaker, however, it is not easy to get the permission and entails going to the central archives in Beijing.

    I would give full credit to you for this usage…With thanks…

    Jeanne

    • Hello Jeanne, you’re more than welcome to use that picture on my blog. If you are in China (or even when back home) I don’t see why you should have problems about using pictures from the Mao era. China did not sign the Berne Convention – which deals with copyright – until 1979 so material published before that date shouldn’t be covered by any such regulations.

  3. Thank you for all of the great information about Albania. I am wondering if you have any information about the history or Plazhi Gjeneralit?

    Thank you

    • I’d never even heard about Plazhi Gjeneralit before this post – not really a beach person, more interested in the hills. Let me know if it’s worth going there.

  4. Mister Harrison,thank You very much for Your answer.
    Have a nice day!
    With kind regards and warm greetings from Ukraine.
    Tamara

  5. Good after noon dear mister Michael Harrison!
    Thank You very much for the Blog and for interesting and usefull information You share with people.With interest and gratfulness I’ve read Your blog articles about Your trips to Albania from Corfu.I am planing a trip from Corfu to Albania this year and then I have a dream to travel through Albania to Montenegro.
    If You have any information about how to get from Saranda to Tirana and furter to Montenegro,could You be so kind to share it.I haven’t been been in Albania so far that’s why I am a bit stressed about how to reach Tirana?is there any railway connection Saranda -Tirana how much does it cost to get from Saranda to Tirana etc.
    Might be You have Your own experience in such trips?
    I would be very grateful if You share any information concerning my questions.
    WIth kind regards and warm greetings from Ukraine.
    Tamara.

    • Hello Tamara, As far as I know the information about the boat from Corfu to Saranda is still true and up to date.
      There are plenty of buses from Saranda to Tirana. The last info I have is that the cost is 1500 lek (1Euro + 137 lek). There is one bus that goes from Saranda to Tirana via the coastal route and Vlora. That leaves at 05.30 (so an early start). It’s a very beautiful and interesting route as you go over a high pass. The journey is 10 to 12 hours long. I can’t remember exactly.
      The other buses go via Gjirokastra. They leave Saranda at 05.00, 06.30, 08.30. 09.30, 10.30, 14.00 and 22.00. That journey takes about 8 hours.
      I’ve never travelled from Tirana to other countries in the Balkans so have no personal experience but have met a lot of people who have done so and they say that’s there’s no problem in getting an international bus from the centre of Tirana. Your hostel’hotel will be able to help, I’m sure (I never found the Tourist Information Office in Tirana very helpful). Have a good trip.
      Michael

  6. Dear Michael Harrison,

    With pleasure I have been reading your posts on Albania since you started to write them, especially those concerning socialist realist monuments, which as you may know by now, is also one of my personal interests. I saw that you asked on the punctum books website for the release date of the Lapidari book, which indeed should be in the coming days. However, I can imagine that you would like to have a look already, so I would be happy to send you the links to the online PDF versions if you send me an email.

    Our research was to get an overview of all monuments from that period in Albania, and therefore our analyses have been more quantitative than qualitative, and miss the narrative detail with which you describe the monuments in your posts, to my great pleasure. Nevertheless I hope the research will be useful to your own endeavors as well.

    Best regards,

    Vincent

  7. Hi Mike,

    Congratulations on your venture. I enjoyed your many travel pieces very much. I’m intrigued that such an avowed atheist as your good self finds so much to admire in buildings dedicated to myth and superstition. Oh, and by the way, all genres of popular commercial music originated in “the red-neck states of the Confederacy.” And the particular reason why country music is so popular even in St Lucia? Well, I’ll leave it to Steinbeck to explain:

    “And perhaps a man brought out his guitar to the front of his tent.And he sat on a box to play, and everyone in the camp moved slowly in toward him, drawn in toward him. many men can chord a guitar, but perhaps this man was a picker. There you have something – the deep chords beating, beating while the melody runs on the strings like little footsteps. Heavy hard fingers marching on the frets. The man played and the people moved slowly in on him until the circle was closed and tight, and then he sang…and the circle sang softly with him. and he sang, “Why Do You Cut Your Hair, Girls?” And the circle sang….

    And now the group was welded to one thing, one unit, so that in the dark the eyes of the people were inward, and their minds played in other times, and their sadness was like rest, like sleep. He sang the “McAlester Blues” and then, to make up for it to the older people, he sang “Jesus Calls Me to His Side.” The children drowsed with the music and went into the tents to sleep, and the singing came into their dreams.
    And after a while the man with the guitar stood up and yawned. Good night, folks, he said.
    And they murmured, Good night to you.
    And each wished he could pick a guitar, because it is a gracious thing.”

    John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

    All power to your elbow.

    • Dear Mr Harrison,

      I am currently compiling the latest edition of Oxford University’s prestigious and long-standing magazine, Isis. One of the articles is about modern Albanian culture and it would be fantastic to be able to include your photo of one of the collapsed, incomplete buildings in Saranda, found here http://michaelharrison.org.uk/tag/ksamil/. If you were to grant your permission for Isis’ rights to this image we will gladly send you a complimentary copy of the magazine once it has been printed!

      Thank you for your time,
      Kind regards,
      Lucy Byford
      St Catherine’s College, Oxford

  8. Mike,

    Very impressive. Quite an eye opener, with some really interesting pieces on art, film and travel. I liked the article on the Antony Gormley sculpture and I wouldn’t mind getting over there to see it in its naked, steel power.

    This is simply a message to show solidarity and support for your enterprise and to wish you luck with it. I’m sure I’ll meet you in the Fly or another pub anyway where I can offer some further, off the record comment.

    You might want to look at some of my photos from the 80s and otherwise on Flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankdownes/

    See you soon

    Frank

  9. Dear Mr Harrison,

    in October 2013 Berlin-based Christoph-Links-Verlag will publish a book on „The Cult of Personality in the 20th and 21st Centuries”, which I edit together with Thomas Vogel. I would like to introduce you to the publisher’s respective announcement at http://www.christoph-links-verlag.de/index.cfm?inhalt=detail&nav_id=1&titel_id=734.

    I would be glad to publish in this book the photograph I retrieved from the following website:
    http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/236-Hoxhas-Grave-08-11-12.jpg

    Could you, being the author/operator of this website, give me the permission to reprint the respective photograph? Are there any conditions to this permission? It goes without saying that you will be sent a specimen copy as soon as the book will have been published.

    Thank you very much,

    Regards

    Dr. Thomas Kunze
    Editor

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