Christian Rakovsky


An Autobiography


First published in the Russian Encyclopaedia Granat.
Reprinted in Christian Rakovsky, Selected Writings on Opposition in the USSR 1923–30 (editor: Gus Fagan), Allison & Busby, London & New York, 1980.
Copyright © 1980 Allison & Busby and Gus Fagan.
Reproduced here with the kind permission of Gus Fagan.
Transcribed and marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

I was born on 1 August 1873 in the Bulgarian town of Kotel. As early as the first half of the nineteenth century, Kotel had become an important economic and political centre. The family into which I was born belonged to the most prosperous class in town. My father engaged in agriculture and trade, and for the sake of the tatter spent a few weeks in Constantinople every year. He was a member of the so-called “Democratic Party”, was noted for his inquisitiveness, had received a gymnasium schooling and knew Greek. None of this, however, was of any benefit to me in my future development.

It was different with my mother. She came from a family which had played a vital part in the political and cultural history of the Bulgarian people. From it had come Captain Georgy Mamarchev, a former officer in Dibich-Zabalkansky’s Russian army, who had made the first attempt at a concerted rising against the Turkish yoke. The rising was crushed and Mamarchev arrested. He was exiled to Asia Minor, and then to the island of Samos, where he died. He was the uncle of the famous revolutionary figure Savva Rakovsky, who dominated the Bulgarian poitical and cultural scene from 1840 until 1867. While in Rumania in 1841, he had raised a partisan detachment to invade Bulgaria. He was arrested and sentenced to death, but escaped to France. An amnesty gave him the opportunity to return to his native town, but not for long. Soon both father and son were flung into the Constantinople prison. The vengeance of their political opponents was also heaped on the now defenceless family, including my mother who was still then a girl. The family were excommunicated and forbidden all contact with neighbours, so that when there were no matches, at a time when a fire was lit by bringing embers from next door, they had to pay for the political sins of their father and brothers by starving and freezing. Although I reached the age of awareness many years after Savva Rakovsky’s death, the reminiscences of my mother and grandmother were still sufficiently vivid to stir my imagination.

From early childhood I conceived a strong and passionate sympathy for Russia – not merely because the revolutionary activity of my grandfathers and uncles had been mainly connected with Russia, but also because I had witnessed the Russo-Turkish War. I was not more than five then, but the dim vision of Russian soldiers marching through the Balkans became imprinted on my childish memory. Our house was one of the best in town and therefore became the quarters of high-ranking officers. I met General Totleben, the architect of the siege of Plevna. I met and accompanied Prince Vyazemsky, one of the commanders of the Bulgarian militia division, who was later nursed for more than forty days in our house after being wounded. Among the officers there were also people in contact with underground organizations, and there was a legend in our family that they kept saying, “We are liberating you, but who will liberate us?” The war upset our family life as well: our estate was inside Rumania, and we all had to be evacuated to Rumanian Dobruja.

I received my initial education in Kotel, and continued it in Dobruja under my mother’s supervision. I spent the last year of primary school in Varna, and then went to the gymnasium there. It was the period when even the youngest students were passionately interested in politics. I, too, began to take notice of social questions. In 1887 the political ferment at the gymnasium came to a head, aided by discontent with a few teachers. A riot erupted, which it took a company of soldiers to suppress. I was one of those arrested and excluded from all Bulgarian schools. I spent one year in my father’s house in Mangalia, reading indiscriminately everything that came to hand. In 1888 I was given permission to attend a gymnasium again, and I went to Gabrovo, where I entered the fifth form. I spent less than two years here, for before the end of the sixth form I was again excluded from all Bulgarian schools, and this time it was for good.

It was in Gabrovo that my political ideas were moulded and I became a marxist. My mentor was Dabev, one of the veterans of the Bulgarian revolutionary movement. Balabanov, a friend of mine who subsequently died a tragic death in Geneva, joined with me in publishing a clandestine, hectographed newspaper called Zerkalo, in which there was something of everything: Rousseau’s educational ideas, the struggle between rich and poor, the misdeeds of teachers, etc. We also obtained a few illegal publications printed in Geneva and translated into Bulgarian, which we distributed among the peasants. Whilst still in the fifth form, I had stood up in the church at Kotel and preached about the “first Christian church of St James” – in other words about Christian communism. But in general our activities were confined to the gymnasium.

In Autumn 1890 I set off for Geneva to enter the medical faculty. I chose medicine because we imagined that it would enable us to meet the people directly. At that time we only knew of individual influence. We still did not think of activities on a mass scale. It seemed to us that the regime of the Bulgarian dictator, Strambolov, would last for ever.

During the first few months after my arrival in Geneva, I became acquainted with the Russian political émigrés and, in particular, the Russian social democratic circles. A little later, I met Plekhanov, Zasulich and Axelrod, and for many years their influence on me was decisive. I spent three years in Geneva, from 1890 to 1893. Although I enrolled as a student and even took the examinations, I was completely indifferent to medicine. My interests lay outside the university. I quickly became involved in activity among the Russian students, and directed marxist self-education circles with Rosa Luxemburg, who lived for a short while in Geneva.

I did not confine myself, however, to purely Russian concerns. Together with other foreign and Russian comrades, we organised the socialist elements among the Geneva students. We also developed links with socialist students in other countries, particularly Belgium, where the first International Congress of Socialist Students was held in the winter of 1891–2. I did not succeed in attending this congress myself, although I corresponded with the organizers. Yet all the preparatory work for the second congress, which took place in Geneva, devolved in effect upon me. On all the most difficult problems, I consulted Plekhanov. I was also in touch with the Geneva and French labour movements. In Geneva I was close to the Polish and Armenian revolutionary circles as well, but my main preoccupation was with Bulgaria. I translated Deville’s book L’Evolution du Capital, adding a long introduction which contained an analysis of economic relations in Bulgaria. Later, we edited a Bulgarian journal in Geneva, which in name, format and external appearance was a direct imitation of the Russian émigré journal Sotsial-Demokrat. But this was understandable since Plekhanov was also the inspiration behind our journal. I translated a number of his articles directly from the manuscript. When the first marxist journal, Den, was launched in Bulgaria, and the first SD weekly paper Rabotnik was founded, as well as Drugar (Comrade), I became a permanent contributor to them all, but particularly to the latter. Sometimes half an edition would be filled with my articles written under various pseudonyms. In 1893 I was a delegate to the Socialist International Congress in Zurich. This Geneva period in my life strengthened my marxist convictions and my hatred for Russian tsarism.

While still a student in Geneva, I visited Bulgaria more than once to give a series of lectures attacking the tsarist government. In 1897, when I graduated from the university, a book of mine was published in Bulgaria entitled Russiya na Istok (Russia in the East), which for years to come provided ammunition not only for the Bulgarian Socialist Party against Russian tsarism, but also for all so-called russophobe tendencies in the Balkans. I was following Plekhanov’s dictum: “Tsarist Russia must be isolated in its foreign relations”. But the Bulgarian bourgeois press had already drawn attention to me during my first visits to Bulgaria. The russophile papers had waged a campaign against me while I was still a student. In Autumn 1893 I entered the Medical Faculty in Berlin with the aim of acquainting myself more closely with the German labour movement. There I wrote articles on Balkan affairs for Vorwärts. I also joined the clandestine socialist student groups and became particularly close to Wilhelm Liebknecht. Through him, I met the other leaders of German social democracy. He had a great influence on me, and we corresponded until 1900. He was greatly interested in the Balkans, and the Russian, Polish and Romanian revolutionary movements. In Berlin all my political life was centred on the Russian colony. This was the time of the flowering of Russian legal marxism. The Russian colony lived on arguments: about populism and marxism, about the subjectivist school and about dialectical materialism. But I also became involved in more specialized debates (for example against the zionists).

After six months in Berlin I was arrested, and deported a few days later. I spent the summer term of 1894 at the Medical Faculty in Zurich, in which town P.B. Axelrod was also living, and the winter of 1894–5 in Nancy. I maintained contact with the Bulgarian movement and corresponded with Plekhanov and V.A. Zasulich, the latter living in London.

The last two years of my student career were spent in Montpellier. Besides asociating with Russian and Bulgarian students, I also began to draw closer to the French socialists and to collaborate on the marxist journal La Jeunesse Socialiste, edited in Toulouse by Lagardelle, as well as on the daily organ La Petite République when it passed under the control of Jules Guesde. The debate among Russian students in Montpellier revolved around the same topics as in Berlin. In addition, the zionists here had many followers, against whom I waged an unceasing campaign. I was also a member of a French student circle and spoke at closed workers’ meetings. Even in Nancy I had been kept under observation by the French police and as a result of this I could not, of course, expand my activities.

The end of my student days coincided with events that burst upon the European political scene: the rebellion in Armenia and on the island of Crete. In a series of articles I attempted to draw the attention of the French Socialist Party and the French proletariat to the advisability of interceding on behalf of the Armenians, Cretans and Macedonians. I believed in general that ignorance and a lack of understanding of Eastern questions were one of the defects of the international socialist movement, and I devoted a report to this problem which I presented on behalf of the Bulgarian SD Party at the London International Socialist Congress in 1896. It was subsequently reprinted by Kautsky in Neue Zeit.

When I reached St Petersburg, I discovered that Struve had veered sharply to the right. He bitterly reproached Zasulich for returning to Russia since, if discovered, she might compromise her “friends”. This greatly distressed her, for she had been very attached to him since 1896 when he had stayed for a few weeks in London after the end of the International SD Congress. Things developed to such a pass that while Mikhailovsky, Karpov and Annensky, not to mention our marxists (Tugan-Baranovsky, Veresaev, Bogucharsky, etc.) would meet her in my wife’s flat, Struve for a long time refused to see her.

As for Plekhanov’s plan of contributing to Russkoye Bogatstvo, we discussed it in the Russian circle and rejected it as unsuitable. We thought it would be more advisable for him to write for Zhizn, published by Posse and Gorky.

I myself was extremely happy to be in St Petersburg. I inhaled great gulps of winter air and dreamt of prolonged activity in Russia. With my wife and some comrades (including A.N. Kalmykova and N.A. Struve, who was further to the left than her husband), we drew up plans for propaganda among workers and students. Very soon, however, I was ordered to leave Russia within forty-eight hours. This expulsion upset all my plans. I had no desire to return to the Balkans, for the closer I came to the Russian revolutionary movement, the more my interest in the Balkans decreased. It was suggested that I should go to Revel under police supervision and wait for a boat, which I did, accompanied by my wife. It was there that I completed Contemporary France, which was published under the pseudonym “Insarov” (a name chosen for me by my St Petersburg friends).

Among those who were directly involved in efforts to win an extension of my stay in St Petersburg was N.I. Gurovich, who subsequently proved to be an agent provocateur. Before my departure, he assured me that, thanks to his connections at court (with the brother or the brother-in-law of Baron Friederichs), he was convinced he would be able to arrange my return within a short period of time. He repeated this when he came to Paris in Summer 1900, and his assertions about the possibility of my return became more frequent. Finally, he asked me for money “to bribe the relatives of Baron Friederichs”. Of course, this was no problem and I was soon back in Russia. Before I left, I enrolled as a student at the law faculty in Paris, thinking that, after all that had happened in St Petersburg, I would not be able to remain there long and that I would have to return to France.

In St Petersburg it was like a desert. After the student disorder of spring 1901, a large number of propagandists had been banished from the capital, among them many legal marxists. The only link which remained for me was with the clandestine world, where Lenin’s pamphlet What Is To Be Done? soon became the main topic of discussion.

I redoubled my collaboration on the “thick” Russian journals, which continued until 1904, mainly under the pen names of “Insarov” and “Grigoriev”. But this still could not satisfy my longing for real activity, and after the misfortune of my wife’s death I returned to Paris in 1902, where I began to sit law examinations with the intention of settling there, adopting French citizenship, and taking a militant part in the revolutionary movement.

It was at this time that I practised medicine freely for the only time in my life. I was a doctor for six months in the village of Beaulieu in the department of the Loire. I formed political as well as professional ties with the peasantry, particularly after an official banquet where I made a speech which greatly displeased the senators and deputies present. It was suggested that I should stay in Beaulieu, but the death of my father in summer 1903 forced me to return home. From that moment, I reverted to work with the Balkan parties, especially the Rumanian labour movement.

During the winter of 1903–4 I returned to Paris, and I was there when the Russo-Japanese war broke out. I was one of the speakers at a huge meeting attended by representatives of all the revolutionary parties. My speech earned the reproaches of the chairman, my mentor Plekhanov, for its defeatist spirit. He had come to Paris before the declaration of war to give a paper, and as he was then expelled from the country, we had to prevail upon Clémenceau to intervene and obtain a temporary entry visa. I remember how, on the day following the meeting, Plekhanov, Jules Guesde and I were lunching together, and Plekhanov complained of my defeatism. Jules Guesde sententiously replied: “Social democracy can never be anti-national.” Many a time after this Plekhanov reminded me of this phrase. Three months later I returned to Rumania, and then to Bulgaria, where the split between the tesnyaki (those wanting a tight party structure) and the shirokiye (who wanted a looser structure) was an accomplished fact. I sided firmly with the tesnyaki.

In the same year I attended the International Socialist Congress in Amsterdam, where I had mandates from the Serbian as well as the Bulgarian SD Parties. I was actively involved in the deliberations of the commission on tactics. Whilst I was in Amsterdam, I was invited by the Russian delegation to address a workers’ meeting about the assassination of Plehve.

I returned once more to Rumania, where the events of 9 January 1905 roused the working class. We founded the weekly newspaper România Muncitoare (;The Workers’ Rumania), which gave birth to a political organization with the same name. Unlike the dissolved Rumanian SD Party, which had mainly consisted of intellectuals and members of the petty bourgeoisie, we paid the greatest attention to the formation of trade unions so as to provide a proletarian base for the so Party. It was an extremely opportune moment. The working class readily responded to the call of România Muncitoare. The strike movement grew to such an extent that even the Bucharest police asked us for help in organizing their strike. More and more trade unions came into being. Both capitalists and the government were taken completely by surprise, and the first strikes were ended quickly and successfully. But the employers retreated only the better to prepare a counter-attack.

The years 1905 and 1906 were marked by acute class conflict in Rumania. The press of all shades of opinion saw me as the inspiration for this movement, and by concentrating their campaign against me, a foreigner by birth, supposed that they could discredit the whole labour movement. Two events infuriated the Rumanian government and ruling classes even more: the arrival in Constanza of the battleship Potemkin, and the peasant rebellion of Spring 1907. The government suspected a hidden motive behind the appearance of the Potemkin and my help in organizing its sailors – that of using the latter to provoke a revolution in Rumania and thereby further the revolution in Russia. We, however, set ourselves the more modest goal of politically educating the Potemkin’s crew. Between the ship’s arrival and the peasant rebellion, there occurred another event which put the government even more on its guard. A ship loaded with arms from Varna (dispatched by Litvinov, as I later learnt), and bound for Batum, ran aground on the Rumanian coast and was seized by the authorities. I had a meeting with the crew, among whom was the Bolshevik delegate Kamo. I learnt from him that it was a case of treachery, as the captain himself had turned the ship towards the shore. But whatever the reason, this extremely valuable cargo of at least fifty thousand rifles, formally destined for the Macedonian revolutionary organization in Turkey, was now in the hands of the Rumanian government. The press began to claim that it had really been intended for a rising in Dobruja and pointed a finger in my direction.

In February 1907 the peasant rebellion broke out. It was directed at first against Jewish tenants in northern Moldavia and was prompted by the antisemitic outbursts of Rumanian liberals and nationalists. After plundering the Jews’ farmsteads, however, the peasants turned on the Rumanian tenants and then the landlords. The position became critical. The whole country, that is all the villages, was engulfed in the flames of the rising. Its second action was to take rapid reprisals against the labour movement, which had kept the town authorities on constant alert on the eve of the peasant rising. So as to render the movement harmless, a whole series of measures were taken in the towns: searches, confiscation of socialist newspapers, closure of trade union premises, and the arrest of workers’ leaders. I was the first to be detained. This was soon followed by the blatantly illegal act of deportation. For the next five years, the class struggle of the Rumanian workers raged around the question of my return, which they had set as a practical objective. From exile I continued to participate in the leadership of the. Rumanian labour movement and to write for party and trade-union organs, in addition to producing pamphlets and the SD journal Viitorul Social. I also prepared two books: one in Rumanian, From the Kingdom of Arbitrariness and Cowardice, and one in French, La Roumanie des boyars. The first was intended for the Rumanian workers, the second for the information of socialist parties and public opinion abroad, but both dealt with the persecution of Rumanian workers and peasants.

I returned secretly to Rumania in 1909. I was arrested and deported without a trial. I resisted and a free-for-all ensued until I could be bundled into the carriage. At the border, the Hungarian authorities refused to admit me, and I was shuttled backwards and forwards like a parcel between the two countries until finally, after diplomatic negotiations between the Rumanian and Austro-Hungarian governments, I was allowed into Hungary. Both my comrades and I had been counting on a series of prosecutions against me which they could use for agitation in the workers’ organizations. Even earlier, in March or April 1908, the Rumanian government had brought two charges against me in my absence. In doing so (and in order to justify my deportation, since there was no law in Rumania which empowered the government to deport its own citizens), it resorted to unbelievable legal chicanery, and did not even shrink from fabricating evidence against me. We struggled to have my case tried while I was in the country, but the government preferred to let me go free abroad, rather than hold me in prison and try me, thus providing a weapon which could be turned against it and the bourgeoisie.

Although the fact of my arrest had been withheld, it nevertheless found its way into the papers, whereupon the government categorically denied it. The Rumanian working class, which knew from experience that the government was capable of all sorts of illegality, saw its attempt to conceal my arrest and my non-admittance into Hungary as an indication of its criminal intentions towards me. Their indignation grew until on 19 October 1909, after a remark by Bratianu reported in the newspapers that he would “rather destroy me than let me back into Rumania”, they organized a street demonstration which ended in a bloody battle with the police. Apart from the dozens of injured, roughly thirty workers were arrested, among them the leaders of trade-union and political labour movements, who were beaten up in the Bucharest police cellars the same night. All these outrages provoked protests not only inside Rumania – in working-class areas both large and small, and in the bourgeois-democratic press – but also abroad. The conflict between the government and the workers became more acute. There was an unsuccessful attempt on Bratianu’s life, in which it transpired that even the police were implicated. This attempt was the signal for new repressions against the workers and for emergency laws banning strikes and suspending the right of association. The government could no longer remain in office and it departed, cursed by the workers, to be replaced by a Conservative government headed by Karp.

In February 1910 I secretly re-entered Rumania. This time I managed to reach the capital and, after contacting the comrades, I gave myself up to the judicial authorities. Yet again the government preferred to pack me off abroad rather than open wide the gates of prison. Since I was barred from entering Hungary, it twice tried to hustle me across the Bulgarian border and failed. The way was still open for them to deport me to Russia, but they could not resort to this, and only the sea was left. I was put aboard a steamship, armed with a Rumanian passport, and sent off to Constantinople. Here too, however, I was arrested after a few days by the Young Turk authorities on the demand of the Rumanian police, but the intervention of Turkish socialist deputies released me from prison. I arrived in Sofia and organized the daily socialist newspaper Napred, the main task of which was opposition to the bellicose Bulgarian nationalism which was inciting war in the Balkans. Of course, I became a target for all Bulgarian nationalists.

In the meantime, a change in my favour was about to take place in Rumania. The main enemy of the labour movement was the Liberal Party, which represented not only landlords and tenant capital, but also most industrial capital. After a few concessions to the peasants, which brought a little calm to the villages, the conservatives decided that for the time being they need not fear fresh outbursts from the peasantry and that the labour movement could be of use to them in their struggle with the liberals. Whatever the reasons, after my second return and second deportation, the conservatives declared that they were ready to allow a review of my case. The decree on my exile was rescinded and a special court restored my political rights. This was in April 1912.

We were not fated to enjoy for long the period of “peaceful” party organization. In autumn 1912 the First Balkan War broke out, and not a year had passed after its conclusion before the omens of worldwide conflict could be read by all. From August 1914 until August 1916, when Rumania entered the war, its SD Party had to sustain a very hard struggle. We had to defend the country’s neutrality against two pro-war parties – the russophiles and the germanophiles. The argument was not confined to unprecedentedly bitter polemics in the press, at meetings and street demonstrations. It occasionally assumed more tragic proportions. In 1916 a massacre of workers took place at Galatzi, in which eight people were killed. I was arrested and accused of organizing an “insurrection” against the authorities. This provoked an outburst of indignation among the workers. A general strike was declared in Bucharest, which threatened to spread to the whole country. The government was obviously afraid of sparking off disorders on the eve of war and freed me, as well as the other arrested comrades.

During the period 1914-16, my activities were not limited to a struggle with the Rumanian bourgeoisie and landowners. As a member of the Rumanian Central Committee, I did everything in my power to build up contacts with those parties, groups and individual comrades abroad who remained faithful to the precepts of the International.

In April 1915 I was invited by the Italian Socialist Party to an international anti-war meeting in Milan. On the way home, I broke my journey in Switzerland to meet Lenin and the Swiss workers’ party. Even before this, I had been in contact with Trotsky who was then editing Nashe Slovo in Paris, and for which I also wrote. These discussions and meetings ended in the summoning of the Zimmerwald Conference.

During the preceding summer, a conference had met in Bucharest of all the Balkan socialist parties with a platform based on explicitly internationalist and class principles. Consequently the party of the Bulgarian Social Democratic opportunists (the shirokiye) was excluded from the conference. A “Revolutionary Balkan Social Democratic Labour Federation” was formed, comprising the Rumanian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Greek parties. A Central Bureau was elected, and I became its secretary. Thus even before the Zimmerwald Conference, the Balkan parties had indicated their implacable hostility to imperialism.

I participated in the Berne Conference of Zimmerwald delegates in spring 1916, where I spoke with Lenin at an international workers’ meeting. But I did not have an opportunity of attending the Kienthal Conference, since Rumania’s borders had been closed in readiness for war. Hostilities commenced in August 1916, and within one month I was under arrest.

The Rumanian government dragged me with it when it retreated from Bucharest to Iassy, where I was freed by Russian troops on 1 May 1917. The first town which I visited after my release was Odessa. Here I began my struggle against the war and “defencism”, and I continued this campaign after arriving in Petrograd. Although I had not yet joined the Bolshevik Party and I disagreed with them on some points, I was threatened with deportation if I continued my activities.

During the Kornilov days, I was hidden by the Bolshevik organization at the Sestroretsk cartridge factory, and from there made my way to Kronstadt. When Kornilov had been defeated, I decided to go to Stockholm, where a conference of the Zimmerwald left was due to meet. I was still there when the October revolution broke out. In December I was in Petrograd, and at the beginning of January I left for the south as an organizer and Commissar for the Sovnarkom of the RSFSR, escorted by a detachment of sailors led by Zheleznyakov. I spent a certain time in Sebastopol and after organizing an expedition to the Danube to fight against the Rumanians who had already occupied Bessarabia, I accompanied it as far as Odessa. Here a Supreme Autonomous Collegium was set up for the struggle against counter-revolution in Rumania and the Ukraine, and as its Chairman and a member of Rumcherod (the Central Executive Council of Rumanian Soviets), I remained in Odessa until the town was captured by the Germans. Thence I went to Nikolaev, the Crimea, Ekaterinoslav (where I attended the second Congress of Ukrainian Soviets), Poltava and Kharkov. After my arrival in Moscow, where I spent no more than a month, I departed for Kursk with a delegation which was to hold peace talks with the Central Ukrainian Rada. There we learnt of Skoropadsky’s coup d’état. We concluded a ceasefire with the Germans, who were continuing their offensive, and then the Skoropadsky government proposed that we should go to Kiev. Here the task of our delegation was to explain to the workers and peasant masses the true policy of the Soviet government, contrasting it with the policies of Skoropadsky, the Central Rada, and the other agents of German imperialism and the Russian landlords. In September, I was sent on an emergency mission to Germany to continue negotiations with the German government about a peace treaty with the Ukraine.

From there, I was due to go to Vienna, where a republic already existed, and whilst in Berlin I received the agreement of the Austrian government, whose Foreign Minister at that time was the leader of Austrian social democracy, Victor Adler. But the German authorities refused to allow this. Indeed, I was soon expelled from Germany with Joffe (our Ambassador), Bukharin and other comrades. We were still on our way to the border under German escort when, at Borisov, we received news of the German revolution.

Shortly afterwards, the TSIK included me in the delegation which was to attend the first Congress of German Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies – the other members being Markhlevski, Bukharin, Joffe, Radek and Ignatov. We were detained, however, by the German military authorities in Kovno and after a few days’ “imprisonment” sent back to Minsk. After a short stay there, and also in Gomel, where German control was tottering, I arrived in Moscow. I was summoned from there by the Ukrainian CC to become President of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine. The third All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets was convened in March 1918 and there I was elected Chairman of the Ukrainian Sovnarkom. I held this post until mid-September at first in Kharkov, then in Kiev and, after the evacuation of Kiev, in Chernigov.

In mid-September I went to Moscow and, while retaining my chairmanship, I was also put in charge of the Political Directorate of the RVS of the Republic. I directed this institution until January during the dark days of the thrusts by Denikin, Kolchak and Yudenich.

When Kharkov was liberated from the Whites, I was soon designated Chairman of the Sovnarkom of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and member of the RVS of what was then the South-Western Front. Here we had gained the advantage against Denikin and were now conducting the war with the Poles. Subsequently, this area was renamed the Southern Front and its RVS was led by the late M.V. Frunze, whose colleague I remained. I held the chairmanship of the Ukrainian Sovnarkom simultaneously with the chairmanship of other bodies: the Extraordinary Commission for the Struggle against Banditry, the Emergency Sanitary Commission, the Special Commission for Fuel and Food, and the Ukrainian Economic Council. I remained continuously in the Ukraine until July 1923, with the exception of the period when I accompanied Chicherin, Litvinov and others to the Genoa Conference.

In July 1923 I was named Plenipotentiary in England, where I conducted negotiations for the recognition of the Soviet Union by the British government. Later I headed the Soviet delegation which concluded the well-known agreements with MacDonald, only to see them repudiated by the new Conservative government.

From London I directed talks with Herriot, and then with Herriot and de Monzie, which led to the recognition of the Soviet Union by the French government. Since the end of October 1925 I have been Ambassador in Paris.

Since 1918 I have been a member of the TSIK, at first of the RSFSR and then of the USSR, and I was a Presidium member until 1925. Since 1919 I have also had a seat on the CC of the RKP. Until 1924 I was a member of the following Ukrainian bodies: the TSIK, the CC and the Politbureau.

Last updated on 7 February 2017