Court cleans record on 33 disgraced Bolsheviks


MOSCOW -- The Supreme Court Monday rehabilitated 33 disgraced Bolsheviks, including Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev who shared power with Joseph Stalin but were executed during the 'Great Terror' show trials of the 1930s, Izvestia newspaper said.

It was the second major rehabilitation this year of once forgotten early communists, most of whom met death under Stalin's dictatorship. In February, 20 Bolsheviks including Nikolai Bukharin, who openly opposed Stalin's forced collectivization policies, were also given clean slates by the court.


The latest rehabilitations of onetime key communist leaders who fell out with Stalin follows a government decision to cancel this year's final history examinations for millions of elementary and high school students because official textbooks have given a distorted and overly favorable view of the past, especially of the Stalin era.

In a story on the subject last week Izvestia said textbooks were full of 'lies' by praising the Stalin period as democratic. New books are to be introduced in September and exams resumed in 1989.

Izvestia said the Supreme Court finally cleared Zinoviev and Kamenev, who along with Stalin ruled the Soviet Union as a triumvirate after the death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in 1924, long after their guilt as 'agents of imperialism' were dismissed by most historians and the Soviet people themselves.


Zinoviev and Kamenev along with 14 other prominent Bolsheviks were found guilty in 1936 in the first of three major show trials of involvement in the assassination of Leningrad Communist Party leader Serge Kirov, two years earlier.

The Supreme Court at its Monday session also cleared Karl Radek and Yuri Pyatakov, two prominent Bolsheviks sentenced along with 15 others in 1937 for anti-Soviet activities and spying for Nazi Germany.

Izvestia said the Supreme Court decision cleared not only Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek and Pyatakov but 'everyone involved in their trials'.

None of the four are mentioned in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia despite their prominent roles in the 1917 Revolution, and their memories have been purged from history books.

'There was a meeting of the plenum of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union today, June 13. It reversed the conviction and sentencing on these cases and rehabiliated everyone in their trials,' Izvestia said.

'Now it is clear that they are not enemies, that they are not guilty before the law, the state or the people,' Izvestia said.

Stalin used Kirov's murder as an excuse to launch his 'Great Terror,' as Soviet historians refer to the purges and wipe out potential power rivals. In three show trials between 1936 and 1938 no less than 54 Bolsheviks, most of them closely associated with Lenin, were sentenced to death and labor camps.


Soviet historians through the popular press have recently said it was Stalin who ordered Kirov's murder because he was becoming too dangerous a rival.

Izvestia said those rehabilitated Monday may indeed have strayed from Leninist principles, forming an opposition that threatened Stalin's rule. But the newspaper said those with different opinions should have been heard, not executed.

'Why was the struggle against the policy of Stalin considered anti-party? It seemed that if you had another opinion then you are a heretic and should be burned at the stake,' Izvestia said.

The newspaper also ran brief biographies of Zinoviev and Kamenev and praised their contributions to the Soviet state.

The two men shared power with Stalin immediately after Lenin's death before being eased out by the dictator who finally turned on them. Kamenev had been a personal favorite of Lenin's and was given control of his personal archives by the first Soviet leader before he died.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has ordered a rewrite of the history of the Stalin era and set up a commission to review and recommend the rehabilitation of Stalin purge victims.

The commission approved the rehabilitations of Bukharin and 19 others in February saying their trials had been 'falsified'


Gorbachev has also launched a de-Stalinization campaign aimed at wiping out his bureaucratic legacy such as heavily centralized planning and authority. He is trying to introduce more personal initiative and decision-making, something the Stalin style of government discouraged.

The latest round of rehabilitations leaves Leon Trotsky, Lenin's onetime rival, as the most famous early Communist whose past is still clouded. Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico in 1940.

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