Skip to main content
main-content
Top

Hint

Swipe to navigate through the articles of this issue

Published in: Society 3/2022

31-05-2022 | Forum Article: Russian Regress: Reading Victor Zaslavsky in a Time of War

A Testimony of the Great Terror Preface to the Italian Edition of Yulia Pyatnitskaya, Diary of a Bolshevik’s Wife

Author: Victor Zaslavsky

Published in: Society | Issue 3/2022

Login to get access
share
SHARE

Abstract

Yulia Piatnitskaya was the wife of Osip Piatnitsky, a leading Bolshevik revolutionary and high ranking member of the Russian Communist Party. In 1937, he took the rare step of protesting mass arrests and executions ordered by Stalin, was stripped of Party membership, arrested, and killed. His wife’s diary, begun after his arrest and detailing her fear of going mad, her suspicion that her husband might have been a ‘foreign agent’, ended with the arrest of her son and her own arrest and deportation to the slave labor camp where she died. Zaslavsky analyzes the document as pointing to the experience of numerous members of a legally defined category of persons subject to arrest: “Family Member of a Traitor to the Motherland.” The exploitation to which these pariahs became subject is described. And the diary is used to suggest the psychology, the extreme mental disorientation, of a Bolshevik generation who suddenly and incomprehensibly felt crushed like “worms” under a “boot” they devotedly served.
Footnotes
1
Chlen sem’i izmennika Rodiny, sufficiently common to be known by the acronym ChSIR in Russian.
 
2
The term Old Bolshevik (staryi Bol’shevik) applies to Communist Party members active before the 1917 Revolution, such as Yulia Pyatnitskaya’s husband, Osip Pyatnitsky (born 1882).
 
3
See Zalkind, A., 1924. Ocherki kul’tury revolyutsionnogo vremeni, Moscow: Rabotnik Prosveshcheniya. Zalkind’s book on the psychology of Communist Party militants came out in the freewheeling 1920s, before Stalin’s consolidation of power. Zalkind, who died in 1936, would have been unlikely to survive the 1937 purges.
 
4
Narodny Kommisariat Vnutrennikh Del (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), the Soviet secret service agency charged with overseeing mass deportations, labor camps, secret interrogations, torture and extra-judicial executions.
 
5
See, for example, the story ‘Lida’ in Shalamov’s Kolyma Stories (Shalamov, 2018: 337–347).
 
Literature
go back to reference Bonner, E. 1992. Mothers and daughters, trans. Antonina W. Bouis. New York: Knopf. Bonner, E. 1992. Mothers and daughters, trans. Antonina W. Bouis. New York: Knopf.
go back to reference Fitzpatrick, S. 1999. Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary life in extraordinary times: Soviet Russia in the 1930's, New York: Oxford University Press. Fitzpatrick, S. 1999. Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary life in extraordinary times: Soviet Russia in the 1930's, New York: Oxford University Press.
go back to reference Grossman, V. 1980. Life and fate, trans. Robert Chandler. New York: Harper & Row. Grossman, V. 1980. Life and fate, trans. Robert Chandler. New York: Harper & Row.
go back to reference Mandelstam, N. 1970. Hope against hope, trans. Max Hayward. New York: Atheneum. Mandelstam, N. 1970. Hope against hope, trans. Max Hayward. New York: Atheneum.
go back to reference Pyatniskaya, Y. 2001. Diario della moglie di un bolsevico, Florence: Liberal libri. Pyatniskaya, Y. 2001. Diario della moglie di un bolsevico, Florence: Liberal libri.
go back to reference Pyatnitskaya, Y. 1987. Dnevnik zheny bol'shevika, Benson, VT: Chalidze Publications. Pyatnitskaya, Y. 1987. Dnevnik zheny bol'shevika, Benson, VT: Chalidze Publications.
go back to reference Shalamov, Varlam. 2018. Kolyma stories, trans. Donald Rayfield. New York: NYRB Classics. Shalamov, Varlam. 2018. Kolyma stories, trans. Donald Rayfield. New York: NYRB Classics.
go back to reference Zalkind, A. 1924. Ocherki kul'tury revolyutsionnogo vremeni, Moscow: Rabotnik Prosveshcheniya. Zalkind, A. 1924. Ocherki kul'tury revolyutsionnogo vremeni, Moscow: Rabotnik Prosveshcheniya.
Metadata
Title
A Testimony of the Great Terror Preface to the Italian Edition of Yulia Pyatnitskaya, Diary of a Bolshevik’s Wife
Author
Victor Zaslavsky
Publication date
31-05-2022
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 3/2022
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-022-00720-0

Other articles of this Issue 3/2022

Society 3/2022 Go to the issue

Forum Article: Russian Regress: Reading Victor Zaslavsky in a Time of War

Oaks and Class Struggle

Forum Article: Russian Regress: Reading Victor Zaslavsky in a Time of War

Russian Regress: Reading Victor Zaslavsky in a Time of War

Forum Article. Russian Regress: Reading Victor Zaslavsky in a Time of War

Censorship in the Soviet Union