Revolutionary Silhouettes

Anatoly Lunacharsky's Revolutionary Silhouettes, based on the author's personal recollections, contain valuable information on the leaders of the Russian Revolution of 1917.


I should begin with a warning that these are not biographies, not testimonials, not portraits but merely profiles: it is their virtue and at the same time their limitation that they are entirely based on personal recollections.

In 1919 the publisher Grzhebin, whom I already knew and who had been recommended to me by Maxim Gorky, asked me to start writing my memoirs of the great revolution. I was soon able to deliver him the first – or more precisely the preliminary – volume, in which I attempted to acquaint the readers both with myself, as a point of reference in judging the rather more subjective aspects of my ‘chronicle’, and with the main dramatis personae of the revolution in so far as I knew them and in so far as a knowledge of their characters and the events of their pre-revolutionary lives seemed to me to merit further exposition.

That book, however, was overtaken by a strange fate. At a moment when circumstances precluded me from working on it and when I had become convinced that to write memoirs at a time when not a single event of the revolution had cooled down – we were still living in its very crucible – was simply impossible (Sukhanov’s multi-volume work on the revolution, among others, had already convinced me of this); at a time, as it seemed to me, when any premature description of those events without an adequate study of the documents would be too subjective and little more than essay-writing – it was then that Grzhebin, unknown to me, published the first volume of my proposed memoirs. He is apparently continuing to publish them abroad, entirely without my permission.

I think it essential to state these facts here, in order to avoid any misunderstanding about the nature of that book.

I have now decided to extract from it, in slightly re-edited form, my character-sketches of comrades Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev. I still think that these profiles are quite accurate and fair and that some people may find them useful, in particular young members of the RCP. Or sympathizers outside the framework of the Party.

The chief inadequacy of these profiles is their exclusive reliance on material that predates 1917. I also apologize for the fact that in one or two places I have been obliged en passant to talk about myself.

I have lengthened the essay on comrade Zinoviev.

I have added to these main essays a profile of Martov, also taken from my book The Great Revolution, and my obituaries of Uritsky, Kalinin and Bessalko, and I have rewritten my short memoirs of Volodarsky and Sverdlov since my previous writings on them have been mislaid.

My cursory recollections of G.V. Plekhanov were written at the request of the editor of the journal Under The Banner of Marxism, in which they were first published earlier this year.



Source: Marxist Internet Archive.