LEV BORISOVICH KAMENEV (born ROZENFELD; 18 July 1883 – 25 August
1936) was a
Bolshevik revolutionary and a prominent Soviet politician
. He was one of the seven members of the first Politburo, founded in
1917 to manage the
Bolshevik Revolution: Lenin , Zinoviev , Kamenev,
Trotsky , Stalin , Sokolnikov and Bubnov .
Kamenev was the brother-in-law of
Leon Trotsky . He served briefly as
the equivalent of the first head of state of Soviet Russia in 1917,
and from 1923-24 as acting Premier in the last year of Vladimir Lenin
Joseph Stalin viewed him as a source of discontent and a
source of opposition to his own leadership. After Kamenev fell out of
favour, Stalin had him executed on 25 August 1936, aged 53, after a
brief show trial during the period of the
Great Purges .
* 1 Early life and career
* 2 Opposition to Trotsky
* 3 Break with Stalin (1925)
* 4 Opposition to Stalin (1926–1927)
* 5 Submission to Stalin and execution
* 6 Fate of the family
* 7 Literature
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Kamenev was born in
Moscow , the son of a Jewish railway worker and a
Russian Orthodox mother. His father used the wealth he earned in the
building of the
Batumi railway to pay for a good education for
Lev. He went to the boys' Gymnasium in
Tiflis , Georgia (now
Moscow University .
Kamenev became politically active during university and was arrested
in 1902, ending his formal education. From that point on, he worked as
a professional revolutionary, and was active in the capital St.
Tiflis . He adopted the surname Kamenev during
this period. In the early 1900s, he married Olga Bronstein , a fellow
Marxist (and younger sister of
Leon Trotsky , who had also adopted a
different surname). The couple had two sons together.
Kamenev joined the Communists in 1901. He took a brief trip abroad
in 1902, meeting Russian social democratic leaders living in exile,
Vladimir Lenin , whose adherent and close associate he
became. He also visited Paris and met the Iskra group who published
the newspaper. After attending the 3rd Congress of the Russian Social
Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in London in March 1905, Kamenev
returned to Russia to participate in the
Russian Revolution of 1905
Russian Revolution of 1905 in
St. Petersburg in October–December.
He went back to London to attend the 5th RSDLP Party Congress , where
he was elected to the party's Central Committee and the Bolshevik
Center, in May 1907, but was arrested upon his return to Russia. After
Kamenev was released from prison in 1908, he and his family went
abroad later in the year to help Lenin edit the
Proletariy . After Lenin's split with another senior
Alexander Bogdanov , in mid-1908, Kamenev and
Grigory Zinoviev became
Lenin's main assistants abroad. They helped him expel Bogdanov and his
Otzovist (Recallist) followers from the
Bolshevik faction of the RSDLP
In January 1910, Leninists, followers of Bogdanov, and various
Menshevik factions held a meeting of the party's Central Committee in
Paris and tried to re-unite the party. Kamenev and Zinoviev were
dubious about the idea, but were willing to give it a try under
pressure from "conciliator"
Victor Nogin . Lenin was
adamantly opposed to re-unification, but was outvoted within the
Bolshevik leadership. The meeting reached a tentative agreement. As
one of its provisions, Trotsky's Vienna-based
Pravda was designated as
a party-financed 'central organ'. Kamenev, Trotsky's brother-in-law,
was added to Pravda's editorial board as a representative of the
Bolsheviks in this process. The unification attempts failed in August
1910, when Kamenev resigned from the board amid mutual recriminations.
After the failure of the reunification attempt, Kamenev continued
working for Proletariy and taught at the
Bolshevik party school at
Longjumeau near Paris. It had been founded as a Leninist alternative
to Bogdanov's party school based in
Capri . In January 1912, Kamenev
helped Lenin and Zinoviev to convince the Prague Conference of
Bolshevik delegates to split from the
Mensheviks and Otzovists.
In January 1914, he was sent to
St. Petersburg to direct the work of
Bolshevik version of
Pravda and the
Bolshevik faction of the Duma
. Kamenev was arrested in November and tried, where he distanced
himself from Lenin's anti-war stance. In early 1915 Kamenev was
sentenced to exile in
Siberia ; he survived two years there until
being freed by the successful
February Revolution of 1917.
Before leaving Siberia, Kamenev proposed sending a telegraph thanking
the Tsar's brother Mikhail for refusing the throne. He was so
embarrassed later by his action that he denied ever having sent it.
On 25 March 1917, Kamenev returned from Siberian exile to St.
Petersburg (renamed as
Petrograd in 1914). Kamenev and Central
Joseph Stalin and
Matvei Muranov took control of the
Pravda and moved it to the Right. Kamenev formulated
a policy of conditional support of the newly formed Russian
Provisional Government and a reconciliation with the Mensheviks. After
Lenin's return to Russia on 3 April 1917, Kamenev briefly resisted
April Theses , but soon fell in line and
supported Lenin until September.
Kamenev and Zinoviev had a falling out with Lenin over their
opposition to Soviet seizure of power in October 1917. On 10 October
1917 (Old Style ), Kamenev and Zinoviev were the only two Central
Committee members to vote against an armed revolt. Their publication
of an open letter opposed to the use of force enraged Lenin, who
demanded their expulsion from the party. However, when the
Revolutionary Committee , headed by Adolph
Joffe , and the
Petrograd Soviet , led by Trotsky, staged an uprising,
Kamenev and Zinoviev went along. At the Second All-Russian Congress of
Soviets , Kamenev was elected Congress Chairman and Chairman of the
All-Russian Central Executive Committee . The latter
position was equivalent to the head of state under the Soviet system.
Pallbearers Carrying Lenin's Coffin during his funeral, from
Paveletsky Rail Terminal to the Labor Temple.
Felix Dzerzhinsky at the
Timofei Sapronov behind him and
Lev Kamenev on the left
On November 10, 1917, three days after the Soviet seizure of power
October Revolution , the executive committee of the
national railroad labor union,
Vikzhel , threatened a national strike
Bolsheviks shared power with other socialist parties and
dropped the uprising's leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, from the
government. Zinoviev, Kamenev and their allies in the Bolshevik
Central Committee argued that the
Bolsheviks had no choice but to
start negotiations, since a railroad strike would cripple their
government's ability to fight the forces that were still loyal to the
overthrown Provisional Government. Although Zinoviev and Kamenev
briefly had the support of a Central Committee majority and
negotiations were started, a quick collapse of the anti-Bolshevik
Petrograd aided Lenin and Trotsky to convince the
Central Committee to abandon the negotiating process. In response,
Alexei Rykov ,
Vladimir Milyutin and Victor Nogin
resigned from the Central Committee on 4 November 1917 (Old Style) and
Kamenev resigned from his Central Executive Committee post. The
following day Lenin wrote a proclamation calling Zinoviev and Kamenev
"deserters." He never forgot their behavior, eventually making an
ambiguous reference to their "October episode" in his Testament .
OPPOSITION TO TROTSKY
In 1918, Kamenev became chairman of the
Moscow Soviet, and soon
thereafter Lenin's Deputy Chairman of the Council of People\'s
Commissars (government) and the
Council of Labour and Defence
Council of Labour and Defence . In
March 1919, Kamenev was elected as a full member of the first
Politburo. His personal relationship with his brother-in-law Trotsky,
which was good in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution and during the
Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War , lessened after 1920. For the next 15 years,
Kamenev was a friend and close ally of Grigory Zinoviev, who exceeded
him in ambition. Kamenev and Lenin at Gorki , 1922
During Lenin's illness, Kamenev was appointed as the acting Council
of People's Commissars and Politburo chairman. Together with Zinoviev
Joseph Stalin , he formed a ruling 'triumvirate' (or 'troika') in
the Communist Party , and played a key role in the marginalization of
Trotsky. The triumvirate carefully managed the intra-party debate and
delegate selection process in the fall of 1923 during the run-up to
the XIIIth Party Conference, securing a vast majority of the seats.
The Conference, held in January 1924 immediately prior to Lenin's
death, denounced Trotsky and "Trotskyism."
In the spring of 1924, while the triumvirate was criticizing the
policies of Trotsky and the
Left Opposition as "anti-Leninist", the
tensions between the volatile Zinoviev and his close ally Kamenev on
one hand, and the cautious Stalin on the other, became more pronounced
and threatened to end their fragile alliance. However, Zinoviev and
Kamenev helped Stalin retain his position as General Secretary of the
Central Committee at the XIIIth Party Congress in May–June 1924
during the first Lenin\'s Testament controversy, ensuring that the
triumvirate gained more political advantage at Trotsky's expense.
In October 1924, Stalin proposed his new theory of Socialism in One
Country in opposition to Trotsky's theory of
Permanent revolution ,
while Trotsky published "
Lessons of October ," an extensive summary
of the events of 1917. In the article, Trotsky described Zinoviev and
Kamenev's opposition to the
Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917,
something that the two would have preferred left unmentioned. This
started a new round of intra-party struggle, with Zinoviev and Kamenev
once again allied with Stalin against Trotsky. They and their
supporters accused Trotsky of various mistakes and worse during the
Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War . Trotsky was ill and unable to respond much to the
criticism, and the triumvirate damaged Trotsky's military reputation
so much that he was forced out of his ministerial post as People\'s
Commissar of Army and Fleet Affairs and Chairman of the Revolutionary
Military Council in January 1925. Zinoviev demanded Trotsky's
expulsion from the Communist Party, but Stalin refused to go along
with this and skillfully played the role of a moderate.
At the XIVth Conference of the Communist Party in April 1925,
Zinoviev and Kamenev found themselves in a minority when their motion
to specify that socialism could only be achieved internationally was
rejected, resulting in the triumvirate of recent years breaking up. At
this time, Stalin was moving more and more into a political alliance
Nikolai Bukharin and the
Right Opposition , with Bukharin having
elaborated on Stalin's
Socialism in One Country
Socialism in One Country policy, giving it a
BREAK WITH STALIN (1925)
With Trotsky mostly on the sidelines through a persistent illness,
the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Stalin triumvirate collapsed in April 1925,
although the political situation was hanging in the balance for the
rest of the year. All sides spent most of 1925 lining up support
behind the scenes for the December Communist Party Congress . Stalin
struck an alliance with
Nikolai Bukharin , a Communist Party
Pravda editor, and the Soviet prime minister Alexei
Rykov . Zinoviev and Kamenev strengthened their alliance with Lenin's
Nadezhda Krupskaya , and also aligned with
Grigori Sokolnikov ,
the People\'s Commissar for Finance and a candidate Politburo member.
Their alliance became known as the New Opposition .
The struggle became more open at the September 1925 meeting of the
Central Committee, and came to a head at the XIVth Party Congress in
December 1925, when Kamenev publicly demanded the removal of Stalin
from the position of the General Secretary. With only the Leningrad
delegation (controlled by Zinoviev) behind them, Zinoviev and Kamenev
found themselves in a tiny minority and were soundly defeated. Trotsky
remained silent during the Congress. Zinoviev was re-elected to the
Politburo, but Kamenev was demoted from a full member to a non-voting
member, and Sokolnikov was dropped altogether. Stalin succeeded in
having more of his allies elected to the Politburo. Bust of
OPPOSITION TO STALIN (1926–1927)
In early 1926, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their supporters gravitated
closer to Trotsky's supporters; with the two groups forming an
alliance, which became known as the
United Opposition . During a new
period of intra-Party fighting between the July 1926 meeting of the
Central Committee and the XVth Party Conference in October 1926, the
United Opposition was defeated and Kamenev lost his Politburo seat at
Kamenev continued to oppose Stalin throughout 1926 and 1927,
resulting in his expulsion from the Central Committee in October 1927.
After the expulsion of Zinoviev and Trotsky from the Communist Party
on 12 November 1927, Kamenev was the United Opposition's chief
spokesman within the Party, representing its position at the XVth
Party Congress in December 1927. Kamenev used the occasion to appeal
for reconciliation among the groups. His speech was interrupted 24
times by his opponents - Bukharin, Ryutin , and Kaganovich , making it
clear that Kamenev's attempts were futile. The Congress declared
United Opposition views incompatible with Communist Party membership;
it expelled Kamenev and dozens of leading Oppositionists from the
Party. This paved the way for mass expulsions in 1928 of rank-and-file
Oppositionists, as well as sending prominent Left Oppositionists into
Kamenev's first marriage, which had begun to disintegrate in 1920, as
a result of his reputed affair with the British sculptress Clare
Sheridan , ended in divorce in 1928 when he left
Olga Kameneva and
married Tatiana Glebova. They had a son together, Vladimir Glebov
SUBMISSION TO STALIN AND EXECUTION
While Trotsky remained firm in his opposition to Stalin after his
expulsion from the Party and subsequent exile, Zinoviev and Kamenev
capitulated almost immediately, and called on their supporters to
follow suit. They wrote open letters acknowledging their mistakes and
were readmitted to the Communist Party after a six-month cooling-off
period. They never regained their Central Committee seats, but they
were given mid-level positions within the Soviet bureaucracy. Kamenev
and, indirectly, Zinoviev, were courted by Bukharin, then at the
beginning of his short and ill-fated struggle with Stalin, in the
summer of 1928. This activity was soon reported to
Joseph Stalin and
used against Bukharin as proof of his factionalism.
Zinoviev and Kamenev remained politically inactive until October
1932, when they were expelled from the Communist Party for failure to
inform on oppositionist party members during the
Ryutin Affair . After
again admitting their alleged errors, they were readmitted in December
1933. They were forced to make self-flagellating speeches at the
XVIIth Party Congress in January 1934, where Stalin paraded his
erstwhile political opponents, showing them to be defeated and
The murder of
Sergei Kirov on 1 December 1934 was a catalyst for what
are called Stalin's
Great Purges , as he initiated wide-sweeping show
trials and executions of opponents.
Grigory Zinoviev , Kamenev and
their closest associates were again expelled from the Communist Party
and were arrested in December 1934.
During this time Kamenev wrote a letter to Stalin, saying:
"At a time when my soul is filled with nothing but love for the party
and its leadership, when, having lived through hesitations and doubts,
I can boldly say that I learned to highly trust the Central
Committee's every step and every decision you, Comrade Stalin, make,"
Kamenev wrote. "I have been arrested for my ties to people that are
strange and disgusting to me."
The men were tried in January 1935 and were forced to admit "moral
complicity" in Kirov's assassination. Zinoviev was sentenced to ten
years in prison and Kamenev to five. Kamenev was charged separately in
early 1935 in connection with the Kremlin Case and, although he
refused to confess, was sentenced to ten years in prison.
In August 1936, after months of careful preparations and rehearsals
in Soviet secret police prisons, Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 others,
Bolsheviks , were put on trial again. This time the charges
including forming a terrorist organization that allegedly killed Kirov
and tried to kill Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet government.
This Trial of the Sixteen (or the trial of the "Trotskyite-Zinovievite
Terrorist Center") was one of the
Moscow Show Trials , and it set the
stage for subsequent show trials. Old
Bolsheviks were forced to
confess increasingly elaborate and monstrous crimes, including
espionage, poisoning, sabotage, and so on. Like other defendants,
Kamenev was found guilty and executed by rifle squad on 25 August
In 1988, during perestroika , Kamenev, Zinoviev and his co-defendants
were formally cleared of all charges by the Soviet government.
FATE OF THE FAMILY
After Kamenev's execution, his relatives suffered similar fates.
Kamenev's second son, Yu. L. Kamenev, was executed on 30 January 1938,
at the age of 17. His eldest son, air force officer A.L. Kamenev, was
executed on 15 July 1939, at the age of 33. His first wife, Olga, was
executed on 11 September 1941, in the Medvedev forest outside
Christian Rakovsky ,
Maria Spiridonova , and 160 other
prominent political prisoners. Only his youngest son, Vladimir
Glebov, survived Stalin's prisons and labor camps , living until 1994.
* Blum, Oscar: Russische Köpfe. Mit 9 Porträtswiedergaben.
Schneider, Berlin 1923.
* Ulrich, Jürg: Kamenew: Der gemäßigte Bolschewik. Das kollektive
Denken im Umfeld Lenins. VSA Verlag, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-89965-206-1
* „Unpersonen“: Wer waren sie wirklich? Bucharin, Rykow,
Trotzki, Sinowjew, Kamenew. Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN
* Wolkogonow, Dimitri: Stalin. Triumph und Tragödie. Ein
politisches Porträt. Aus dem Russischen von Vesna Jovanoska, Econ
Verlag Düsseldorf, 1989, 3. Auflage 1996; ISBN 3-430-19847-X .
Isaac Deutscher : Stalin. Eine politische Biographie. 1949, 2.
Auflage 1966, Lizenzausgabe für Bechtermünz Verlag im Weltbild
Verlag, Augsburg 1997, ISBN 3-86047-172-4 .
* ^ Russian : Лев Бори́сович Ка́менев, IPA:
( listen )
* ^ Russian : Ро́зенфельд
* ^ Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin. A New Biography, translated and
edited by Harold Shukman (New York: The Free Press, 1994), p. 185.
* ^ Lindemann, Albert S. Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the
Rise of the Jews.
Cambridge University Press. p. 430. ISBN
* ^ For a summary of Kamenev's revolutionary activities between
1901 and 1917, see Vladimir Lenin's Collected Wêorks, Volume XX,
International Publishers, 1929, ISBN 1-4179-1577-3 p.353
* ^ See Adam Bruno Ulam. Stalin: The Man and His Era, Boston,
Beacon Press, 1973, ISBN 0-8070-7005-X p.112
* ^ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, p. 262
* ^ David Evans and Jane Jenkins, Years of Russia and the USSR
1851-1991, Hodder Murray, 2001, p.221.
* ^ V. I. Lenin, LETTER TO BOLSHEVIK PARTY MEMBERS
* ^ For an account of the discussions within the Bolshevik
leadership in November 1917, see Elizabeth A. Wood. The Baba and the
Comrade: Gender and Politics in
Revolutionary Russia, Indiana
University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-253-21430-0 p. 70
* ^ FROM THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC
LABOUR PARTY (BOLSHEVIKS) by V.I. Lenin, Written on November 5 or 6
(18 or 19), 1917, as published in From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,
4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964 Vol. 26, pp.
* ^ "The Lessons of October" by Leon Trotsky
* ^ Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Soviet State and Society Between
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press ,
1992, p.189-190. ISBN 978-0-521-36987-9
* ^ See Elisabeth Kehoe. The Titled Americans: Three American
Sisters and the English Aristocratic World Into Which They Married,
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004, ISBN 0-87113-924-3 , p.325.
* ^ See Robert Conquest. The Great Terror: A Reassessment, New
York, Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-19-505580-2 and ISBN
0-19-507132-8 (pbk), p. 76.
* ^ A B See Michael Parrish. The Lesser Terror: Soviet State
Security, 1939-1953, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1996, ISBN
0-275-95113-8 p. 69.
* ^ Geert Mak, In Europa, 2009. Episode "1933, Russia"
* Frederick C. Corney (ed.), Trotsky's Challenge: The "Literary
Discussion" of 1924 and the Fight for the
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017.
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