Stefan T. Possony :
               Lenin :  The Compulsive Revolutionary


The war did not come as a surprise to the Central Powers.  They had, however, incorrectly estimated the number and strength of their opponents :  they had expected a less burdensome war.  Hence the Central Powers decided to engage in subversion and “revolutionizing.”  This by no means constituted a departure from precedent, especially in Russia :  Karl von Clausewitz, pondering the lesson of Napoleon’s war with Russia in 1812, had maintained that Russia could not be conquered, but “only subdued by its own weaknesses and by the effects of internal dissension.”(1)

The decision to revolutionize is reflected by August 5, 1914, in several telegrams sent by the German military and in the traffic of the German Foreign Office, as well as the Austrian government.  The first definitive German statement on revolutionizing appeared on July 29, when the Emperor rejected the request of a general who wished to leave Turkey :  “He must stay and also fan the war and the revolution against England” (“Krieg and Aufstand schüren”).  On August 8, 1914, Wilhelm wrote in the margin of an ambassadorial report from Vienna that the revolutionizing of Poland and the Ukraine should be financed on a larger scale.  However, the revolutionizing operations predated the war by several months, notably in the Ukraine and in the Caucasus.(2)

The operations which had been conducted in countries like Russia for many years were not a prelude to revolutionizing :  due to the war, the German operatives were compelled to leave, many of their agents were mobilized, and revolutionaries went underground or moved to other countries.  The psychological climate had changed :  a far more serious and radical operation had become necessary.  For all practical purposes, the Germans had to make a fresh start.

They began by trying to locate revolutionaries, from whom they requested information from persons they considered knowledgeable.  Contacts included bishops, rabbis, professors, Nobel Prize laureates, politicians, foreign diplomats, former agents, prisoners of war, deserters, and many classifiable as “swindlers, impostors, and fools.”  Schemes were hatched and discarded, gullible German agents were exploited by crooks, policies were continually altered and failures were more frequent than were successes.

The risings and revolutions that did occur were not “created” by the German Foreign Office, the “AA” or Wilhelmstrasse, as it was also called.  Revolution is too complex a phenomenon to be caused entirely and specifically by human design—no matter how carefully organized.  All the AA could do was to put at the revolutionaries’ disposal money, legitimation papers, publication facilities, travel arrangements, communications and occasional information, weapons, and strategic decisions.  But it did all this, becoming as a result the most important revolutionary agency of its time, substantially more significant than any of the “professional” revolutionary organizations.  The stark fact is that the German Foreign Office was using many of these organizations for its own purposes.

The German and Austrian diplomats were not alone in their endeavors :  the military occasionally participated, especially when requiring intelligence or contemplating sabotage.  Individual politicians, using government funds, operated to some extent independently.  Industrial concerns supported revolutionaries, assisted the AA, contributed funds (e.g., for the purchase of newspapers).  Socialists, aristocrats, professors and artists were using their “international connections,” sometimes in conjunction with the Foreign Office and at other times for their own purposes.  The Wilhelmstrasse attempted coordination of the maze of activity, but often the revolutionizers were working at cross-purposes.

The German diplomats, experts in revolution, did not select any one revolutionary to overthrow the government of his country.  They assumed unpredictability and so supported many revolutionary persons and movements, betting, as it were, on all the horses in the race.  They did not put these revolutionaries on their payroll, win them over to the cause of the German Emperor, dictate what they should or should not write, or issue orders guiding specific actions.  The Germans used well instructed agents to influence decisions and events, but they left the revolutionaries to their own ideologies, tactics, and devices.  Only rarely were direct contacts made ;  seldom were the revolutionaries cognizant of the source of the unexpected assistance.  Many revolutionaries were willing to accept any help offered, on the grounds that they were upholding their own convictions and were actually using the Germans for their own ends.  The Germans recognized this attitude, and to strengthen their political warfare capabilities, stimulated sentiments of this nature.

On the other hand, Germans were careful to select intermediaries or liaison agents who were realistic and cynical, willing to ally themselves with the Germans for the attainment of common objectives, and who had sufficient political ambition to carry out their assignments with the required zest.

Revolutionizing functions were not restricted to the fomenting of social revolution.  In fact, the Germans, at first reluctant to foster socialism and anarchy, showed far greater interest in supporting national liberation movements.  Eventually social and national revolutionizing were equally supported.  Many cross-connections existed between the two efforts.

Revolutionizing entailed, however, more than lending support to the revolutionaries :  it also required the infiltration and paralysis of the hostile government and military high command.  A revolutionizing effort could succeed only if the “ruling class,” while under attack, became psychologically defeatist.(3)  (This was—during World War I—the condition of the tsarist regime but was not true of France and Italy.)  The operations which the Germans undertook to weaken the tsarist regime were complex ;  the actual operations have been obscured by many legends.  But massive German infiltration, espionage, and policy sabotage occurred, partly facilitated by the corrupting presence of many German Balts at the Russian court and in the bureaucracy, and partly by attempts to produce a separate peace with Germany.  German connections with Russian financiers and banks, as well as the Tsarina’s addiction to occultism and other mystical charlatanry, made possible many seemingly incredible operations.(4)

Between subversion above and revolutionizing from below, cross-connections arose from time to time.  General Bonch-Bruyevich was close to leading generals who, in 1917, were instrumental in engineering the abdication of the Tsar.  Certainly influenced by his Bolshevik brother, he contributed much to the poor military planning.(5)  Some of the spies who operated around the Minister of War (who himself may have been maneuvered by the Germans) later participated in revolutionizing and, in a concealed fashion, in the German operation with Lenin.  At one time, the person in the Russian legation at Bern supervising the activities of revolutionaries was in contact with the Germans.  The Russian Minister of the Interior and one or two of his assistants heading the Okhrana were intent upon establishing a separate peace ;  they manipulated revolutionaries accordingly.  And there were many similar cross-connections.

Other tactics were utilized :  an immense peace propaganda at the front ;  bribery of Russian commanders to induce them to surrender fortifications (Kovno, for example);  attempts, on the part of Russia’s allies—especially Britain—to keep Russia in the war, so that urgent reforms which would perhaps remove the Tsar and Tsarina by a palace revolution could be instituted ;  popular dissatisfaction with poor government and poorer economic conditions ;  the impact of the war and of numerous defeats ;  and the massive dislocation of population, especially the removal of a large portion of the Jewish population from the border areas (to which they had been, more or less, restricted by law) to the interior of Russia.  The efforts of the German Foreign Office must be seen in the perspective of this complex situation.

1 On some of the uses of this technique by Bismarck, see Gustav Adolph Rein, Die Revolution in der Politik Bismarcks (Göttingen :  Musterschmidt, 1957), especially Chapters IV and V.

2 By June, or possibly as late as July, the Austrians spent 300,000 kronen to smuggle weapons into the Ukraine and were trying, amateurishly and unsuccessfully, to provoke a mutiny on the Black Sea fleet.  In addition, there are indications, mentioned before, that the Austrians—and the Germans—had their hands in the strikes which occurred shortly before the outbreak of war.

3 The term “defeatism” was coined by Grigory Alexinsky, Bolshevik member of the second Duma and subsequently a firm opponent of Lenin.

4 Some of the salient events are described by W.K. Korostowetz, Lenin im Hause der Väter (Berlin :  Kulturpolitik, 1928), esp. Chapters VII and VIII ;  and Mikhail D. Bonch-Bruyevich, Petrograd, Erinnerungen eines Generals (Berlin :  Verlag des Ministeriums für nationale Verteidigung, 1959), Ch. 5-9. Korostowetz was an official of the Petrograd Foreign Office and specialized in communications intelligence.  He was related to many high-ranking officials and aristocrats, and his information is, on the whole, dependable.  General Bonch-Bruyevich, brother of Lenin’s comrade, had many counter-intelligence assignments.  A liberal during the war, he later joined the Bolsheviks and became something like the premier soldier of the Red army.  The information by the two authors is largely corroborative.

5 Nicholas N. Golovine, The Russian Campaign of 1914 (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Command and General Staff School Press, 1938), p. 40.

Lenin :  The Compulsive Revolutionary

Contacts with Austria

A few weeks before the outbreak of the war, there was created under Austrian auspices at Lvov, a Bund for the Liberation of the Ukraine.  The purpose of this organization was to create a united front among the many revolutionary groups, and to stimulate an independence movement inside the Ukraine or, in case of an Austrian invasion or victory, to promote the installation of a suitable regime.  It was not difficult, through salaries and other inducements, to organize enough Ukrainians, but the Austrian armies were halted.  When Lvov fell temporarily to the Russians, the Bund decamped for Vienna.  For a variety of reasons, including corruption among the revolutionaries and nationalistic conflicts in Vienna, the Bund was criticized within the Austrian Foreign Office, and it was removed to Constantinople.  Turkey still was neutral, and it was hoped that it could be used as a base for revolutionary action against the Ukraine and the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

These expectations were not fulfilled, but the move to Constantinople brought the Bund under the influence of Parvus, who had been residing there since 1910 and was now a wealthy businessman.  During the Balkan wars he had specialized in grain purchases (and probably commodity and stock speculation), possibly had acted as a broker in arranging for oil concessions in Mesopotamia, and had given economic advice to the Turkish planners of railroad networks.  It appears that he had worked together with the German embassy in various subterranean operations and shortly after the beginning of the war had assisted them in their efforts to purchase newspapers in the Balkans.  Parvus wrote a short brochure for the Bund and suggested that the Bund publish a booklet by Martov.  He also, rather foolishly, delivered public speeches and thus within a few weeks alerted the Okhrana to his activities.  But he offered professional advice to the amateurish Bund, using these services as a means of establishing for himself effective relations with Germany (from where he had been expelled).  The Bund soon fell into eclipse, though for years it remained the object of derision for the “defencists” among the Russian revolutionaries.  Its significance was that it represented the true initiating activity of the revolution.

As we have seen, Lenin arrived in Switzerland carrying only enough money for living expenses.  He soon complained about the lack of funds required for organized activities.  Yet suddenly, on November 1, 1914, he published the magazine Sotsial Demokrat and transmitted money for party purposes to Scandinavia.  After the first issue of 500 copies, there was a lapse of five weeks, following which three issues of 1500 copies each were published within a week of each other ;  another hiatus of five weeks then occurred.  Thus, money came in irregularly, but sufficient sums were procured to resume political activity and establish a party organ.

On November 14, Lenin, according to Krupskaya, communicated the information “that the paper had been delivered at a point near the frontier and would soon be forwarded on.”(1)  However, the accomplishment of such a feat would have certainly bordered on the miraculous :  not only had enemy territory to be crossed in transporting the paper from Switzerland to the Russian frontier, but the long distance—not including detours—which was involved between the two points would make well nigh impossible the knowledge of their arrival within two weeks after dispatching the packages.  (It required that much time for the Lenins themselves to proceed from Cracow to the Swiss border !)  It is further difficult to believe that such a feat of transportation could have been accomplished under the aegis of an organization which had been badly splintered by the war.

Fortunately, the solution is found in an account which the Ukrainian Bund on December 14, 1914, submitted to the Austrian Foreign Office.  The Bund report stated that of its total expenses of 220,000 kronen for the period from September to December of 1914, 30,000 kronen were used for “support to other revolutionary organizations.”  Under this heading, it was disclosed that the Social Democrats who joined the Bund did so on condition that their party would receive a subvention in order to enlist the cooperation of those who remained outside the organization.  “The Bund has supported the majority fraction of Russian Social Democrats with money and assistance for communications with Russia.  The leader of this fraction, Lenin, is not opposed to Ukrainian demands.”  This sentence was preceded by the disclosure that the Bund was cooperating with Parvus, supporting his work.(2)

The report indicated that support had been extended to Georgian Social Democrats and that it had been decided to aid in the publication of an organ of Ukrainian Social Democrats in Constantinople or Switzerland.

The contribution to the Georgians presumably was small ;  the group of “Ukrainian Social Democrats” was a bit mythological.  Whether or not Lenin’s paper was, in fact, the contemplated “organ of Ukrainian Social Democrats,” the report, under this rubric, mentions money only once in connection with Lenin.  The implication is that Lenin received the largest portion of this particular budget item :  an amount not exceeding 5,700 dollars.  In addition, the Bund paid for the transportation to Russia of two of his party members under another budget heading.

The problem sometimes arises about Lenin’s knowledge of the source of payment—a question that assumes naive innocence on the part of one of the most professional of revolutionaries.  The Bund report which asserted that Lenin was not hostile to “Ukrainian demands” added for proof of Lenin’s attitude a speech which the Bund had reported in its paper.(3)  In Zurich, Lenin indeed had given a speech in support of Ukrainian independence ;  it was reported by almost the entire Social Democratic press, including its two main organs, the Vienna Arbeiter-Zeitung and the Berlin Vorwärts (November 10, 1914).  The Hamburger Echo (of the same day) juxtaposed the Lenin story with a report on a speech which Parvus made in Sofia, in which he stated that victory of tsarism would constitute a crushing blow to the revolution, whereas the defeat of tsarism would expedite the transformation to democracy.  Krupskaya disregards the Zurich speech, mentioning merely that Trotsky objected when Lenin termed Kautsky a traitor.(4)

The Ukrainian Social Democrat Yurkevich, uncovering the secret ties between the Bund and the Austrian government, thought it his duty to warn the revolutionaries.  Yurkevich was a capable Marxist scholar with whom Lenin had been friendly for quite some time.  He was nonplussed when Lenin berated him about his disclosures.  After Lenin committed the tactical error of angrily telling Yurkevich that this information should not have been published, the two men severed their ties.(5)

The Austrians now were having trouble with their own Ukrainians (called “Ruthenians”) who were eager to attain independence.  Vienna prepared to discontinue relations with the Bund.  Two German revolutionizers investigated and by the middle of February, 1915, reported that henceforth the emphasis should be placed on the overall Russian revolution :  the Bund had functioned to find the “bridge” which the revolutionizers had so long sought.  In other words, the Bund put the Germans in touch with the real revolutionaries.

Between February 20 and March 3, 1915, Lenin assembled the leading Bolsheviks residing in Switzerland for a conference in Berne.  The well-represented Okhrana reported extensively on the meeting.(6)  Among the topics discussed were defeatist agitation among troops and the distribution of revolutionary literature to prisoners of war.(7)  The latter task had been vigorously advocated by the Ukrainian Bund which had allocated during 1914 about 9,000 Austrian kronen for this purpose and had requested permission from the German government to begin this work in camps under German jurisdiction.  In Berne, the Bolsheviks expressed their eagerness to produce literature for these prisoners.

The conference opposed pacifism, advocated revolutionary war, denied the possibility of a “so-called democratic peace without revolutions,” and proclaimed that the people of every country should engage in revolutionary propaganda as a preliminary to civil war and the overthrow of government.  Russia’s victory would produce worldwide reaction ;  hence, under all circumstances, Russia’s defeat would represent the lesser evil.  The Okhrana reported that, according to information revealed at the conference, 200 copies of Sotsial Demokrat were brought into Russia via Norway ;  and Paris might be the distribution point of 600 to 700 copies in the future.  The implication is that the bulk of the tirage was shipped via Sweden, Finland, and Rumania.

The conference was dominated by the proposal to publish a “popular organ” abroad to be sent through Norway into Russia ;  simultaneously, an illegal paper was to be issued inside the country.  This proposal presumably originated with Lenin and was an adaptation to wartime conditions of the Iskra and Pravda credos.  Complaints ensued about the lack of good writers, but the material means were available, for both the newspaper plan and for the publication of brochures.  The money source was Yekaterina F. Rozmirovich-Maish, a participant in the conference.  She was the sister-in-law of Alexander A. Troyanovsky, a former artillery officer and future ambassador to the United States.  Shotman says in his report that, while in Vienna, he lodged with the Troyanovskys.(8)  Another visitor was Arshak G. Surabov, a Bolshevik from the Caucasus (from Tiflis, according to the Okhrana, from Batumi, according to Shotman).  He had participated in the Second Congress and was a member of the second Duma.  Surabov then lived in Constantinople and was a friend of Parvus ;  subsequently Surabov was a close assistant of Parvus in the latter’s war operations, though finally they allegedly separated.  Parvus was in 1915 a strong proponent of establishing a newspaper.  The presumption is that Troyanovsky’s sister-in-law, an insignificant party worker, was elected on the basis of personal contacts of long standing, to be the ostensible donor of money which was sent by way of Parvus.

This is just one interpretation.  Other Ukrainian Bolsheviks who could have handled the financial liaison included a man named Bensya, and more likely, Marian Melenevsky, whose party name was Bassok.  Lenin met Bassok in January, 1915, and Bassok presumably offered financial aid.(9)  In an “Answer to Bassok,” written on January 12, Lenin claimed that they were not traveling on the same road, but, strangely, this note was not published until 1924.  Bassok remained with the party, became a Soviet official, and was eventually purged by Stalin :  when an attempt is made to construe an alibi, there usually is something to conceal.

The newspaper plan was not pursued.  After rumors had been rampant for some time, on February 20, 1915, Alexinsky gave a public speech at Zurich, in which he disclosed detailed and damaging (though somewhat exaggerated) information about the Bund, Parvus, and the German-Austrian influence on Russian revolutionaries.  Lenin was told the Bund story by “Tria” (V.D. Mgeladze), the Georgian socialist who was in full possession of evidence on the case—but who was not a Bolshevik.  Consequently, Lenin could not rely upon him.  On the contrary, he assumed that if he were to continue working with the Bund despite Tria’s warning, he would be very vulnerable.  Security had been breeched :  it was clearly advisable not to risk the exposure which the publication of a newspaper could entail.

Another feature of this Bolshevik conference merits attention.  Maxim Litvinov, who had been a weapons smuggler during the 1905 revolution, was a participant who represented the Bolsheviks of London.  Litvinov was living in London with another revolutionary, Nikolai Klyachko, who, ironically, worked as a technician at Vickers-Armstrong, Britain’s foremost gun manufacturer.  The Okhrana repeatedly reported at later dates that Litvinov possessed expert knowledge of weapons, obtained a great deal of information from Klyatchko, made many bicycle trips to British military camps, and reported the data to Lenin who, in turn, transmitted the intelligence to the Germans.  The Okhrana may or may not have informed British authorities ;  in any event, no action was taken against Litvinov.  There exists a document in the German file that indicates that Lenin made intelligence available, but it contains no suggestion of British data being involved.(10)  Interestingly enough, Litvinov on March 8, 1906, received at Dresden a German passport in the name of “Gustav Graf.”  The implication of this Okhrana information is that the passport issued was genuine ;  a direct tie with German intelligence is clearly a possibility.  But, for the period of 1915-1916, the Okhrana file contains no precise information beyond the observations of Litvinov’s behavior.(11)

Years before the war, the Spanish anarchist Miguel Almereyda (subsequently accused of treasonable activities with the Germans) commented to a friend who was excited about the ethical ideas of Leo Tolstoi :  “Forget about Russian novels . . . . The revolution needs money.”(12)  Lenin, of course, agreed entirely with this opinion.

1 Krupskaya, p. 295.  By the end of 1915, the Petrograd Bolsheviks had received fifteen issues of Sotsial Demokrat in several hundred copies (Futrell, p. 102).

2 Austrian Archive, Politisches Archiv, Krieg 8b, Karton 903, Ukrainische Aktion, Provisorischer Bericht über die Tätigkeit des Bundes zur Befreiung der Ukraina.

3 This attitude is still reflected, in a strongly attenuated form, in Krupskaya, p. 284.

4  Ibid., p. 290.

5 Stepankowski, unpublished memoirs.

6 Paris to Petrograd, March 15, 1915.  (Document in Hoover Institution)  The dates of the conference are as given by the Okhrana.  See also Tsiavlovsky, op. cit., p. 160ff.

7 In an article in the Paris Nashe Slovo on February 9, 1915, Lenin supported, apparently for the first time, “fraternization” of soldiers at the front.

8 Shotman, op. cit., p. 305.  The time apparently was about August, 1913.

9 When traveling in Austria, Bassok conferred upon himself a patent of nobility and posed as “Ritter von Melenevsky.”

10 This document is printed in a watered-down English translation in Z.A.B. Zeman (ed.), Germany and the Revolution in Russia 1915-1918, Documents from the Archives of the German Foreign Ministry, London, Oxford, 1958, p. 16ff.

11 During the Kerensky regime, S.G. Svatikov investigated the Okhrana’s foreign department.  (See Reciteil de documents secrets tirés des Archives de l’ancien Ministère des affaires étrangères russe (Geneva :  Nouvelle Internationale, 1918).)  Svatikov was a little naive, though he uncovered some interesting information.  Litvinov complained to him about denunciations ;  Svatikov (p. 42) identified Nicholas Selivanov as the informer in this case, suggesting that Selivanov was a German spy.  Svatikov had no proof whatever for this statement and also neglected to note that Selivanov was working at Vickers-Armstrong, as well as for the Okhrana.  According to the German file, K.D. Nabokov of the tsarist embassy felt that Selivanov’s information was dependable.  The aggregation of Russian revolutionaries at Vickers is suspect and hardly accidental.  It should be remembered that the Germans had difficulties in placing espionage agents in Britain.  The use of Russians was a good technique.  Nevertheless, the case against Litvinov remains unproven.  On the possibility of Bolshevik espionage in Russia, see Futrell, p. 107f.

12 Victor Serge, Mémoires d’un Révolutionnaire (Paris :  Club des Editeurs, 1957), p. 28.

Lenin :  The Compulsive Revolutionary

Contacts with Germany

As soon as the war started, German Social Democrats journeyed abroad to convince their brethren in the International that the overthrow of tsarism was the most important challenge facing civilization and progress.  Among this group of travelers was Dr. Karl Lehmann, Parvus’ companion on his trip to Russia during the famine.  Lehmann, whose wife had preceded Krupskaya as the secretary of Iskra, ventured to Austria and Italy ;  presently following his convictions, he was killed as a soldier.  It is not unlikely that he spoke of Lenin to the Wilhelmstrasse or the Prussian minister in Munich ;  certainly he mentioned Lenin to Parvus’ friend, Adolf Müller, Bavaria’s foremost socialist editor and another of the emperor’s socialist missionaries.  Müller traveled west.  Wilhelm Jansson, a trade unionist from Russia’s Baltic provinces and, according to his passport, a Swedish citizen, went to Scandinavia, arguing for the destruction of tsarism and asking for support for the revolutionaries.  On October 9, 1910, the German minister to Stockholm reported that Jansson had told him that the Finnish revolution could be accomplished only through the Social Democrats.  In line with initial thinking at Berlin on independence movements, Jansson had investigated such a possibility for Finland, although he doubted that much progress could be achieved.  On October 13, 1914, another suggestion of Jansson’s was recorded :  the approach should be broadened beyond national revolutions (i.e., independence movements) and should aim at Russia as a whole (i.e., at a social upheaval throughout the tsarist empire).  For this purpose, Jansson proposed that the help of Russian Social Democrats be enlisted—that is, of those who did not support the war effort.(1)

Previously, on July 12, Zilliacus had been contacted by a German officer in regard to the nearing war.  This date is based on allegedly firm recollection ;  the discussion may therefore have been tied to the unrest fomented in St. Petersburg.  Zilliacus is mentioned on August 8 as a person who could be useful in establishing an intelligence service directed at Russia.  Zilliacus, however, was no longer in proper physical condition.  But he probably suggested Lenin as an available veteran of the 1905 venture.  Jodko visited Gisbert von Romberg, the German minister at Berne, to whom he proposed a scheme to help finance a French revolutionary newspaper editor.  Romberg, an accomplished student of politics and undercover activities, hardly missed the opportunity to question Jodko about the revolutionizing of Russia.

But while more and more people were becoming involved, German diplomats were not quite sure whether the revolutionizing was to be taken seriously.  The ambassador at Constantinople, upon inquiring, was told that revolutionizing was to be executed “ruthlessly and mercilessly” (rücksichtslos and schonungslos).  On November 27, 1914, Undersecretary of State Alfred Zimmermann argued, in a lengthy presentation, that revolutionizing was an integral part of German strategy.

Romberg had anticipated Zimmermann’s finding ;  experience had taught him that the Russian revolution was both inevitable and desirable from the German viewpoint.  On October 5, 1912, he informed Berlin that he was starting a systematic search for revolutionaries.

Romberg found a remarkable scout.  He was Alexander Eduard Kesküla, a thirty-two year old Estonian whose father seems to have been of German origin.  Kesküla was rather tall and had blue eyes and bright blond hair.  Born in Dorpat, he was raised as a Lutheran.  Kesküla had been the object of about a dozen search warrants ;  in 1905 he had been an active revolutionary ;  captured, he benefited from the Tsar’s amnesty.  Through 1906 and 1907, he served as a member of the executive committee of Northern Livland as well as in the municipal administration of Dorpat ;  he was also associated with the Bolshevik combat organization, the expropriation outfit.(2)  He may have met Lenin at that time.  After his arrest he succeeded in escaping.  Apparently he continued his studies at the University of Zurich and (during 1912) at Leipzig ;  it is possible that he first met Lenin at the latter city.  In 1913 he became interested in Estonian nationalism and shifted sharply to the right.  Whether he abandoned socialism altogether is uncertain, but he undoubtedly desired a Greater Estonian state, a Baltic alliance between Estonia, Finland, and Sweden, the expulsion of Russia from the Baltic Sea, and the dissolution of the tsarist empire.  A facile linguist, Kesküla was well educated.  He possessed a true political mind and, despite his Estonian proclivities, impressed his German interlocutors with his authentic hatred of the Russian government and his usefulness as a political agent.

Kesküla first appeared in the German legation some time before September 12.  It is likely that he and Romberg discussed the various revolutionary groups as much as they could with the available facts ;  at a later time the two men, as we know from handwritten notes,(3) surveyed the situation frequently.  Thus it is possible to surmise that the compatibility of their thought patterns brought them together.  It was readily apparent that further information was needed.  By October 1, Romberg had asked Kesküla to undertake a reconnaissance trip ;  Kesküla was on his way to Sweden.  A communication of October 22 indicates that Kesküla still favored national revolutions, but it is also evident that the social revolution had been discussed and that Kesküla was evaluating its feasibility.

Lenin’s name appears in the German file for the first time on November 30, 1914 ;  earlier references have, at least, not been found.  This was an incidental remark :  the Duma deputies recently arrested in Russia are of Mr. Lenin’s suasion.  By itself, this arrest was not too important but Kesküla suggested contemptuously that the seizure might be useful to inflate the significance of the event.  He said, in essence, that this is the type of thing with which Baron Romberg could toy.  But, if insisted upon, it was possible to strengthen the Bolsheviks.

What Kesküla did not know was that on November 27, 1914, at Copenhagen, the German Minister Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, another specialist in Russian affairs, reported on a committee run by I.S. Sazonov that supported defeatist propaganda and urged preparations for an armed uprising.  Sazonov, a Bolshevik, probably was the recipient of Lenin’s productions in Switzerland.  He apparently was in possession of funds, for his committee employed a secretary, Mrs. Rubinstein, who stood in favor with the Germans.  Presumably this committee was the first Bolshevik group to receive German support.

On December 7, 1914—the time sequence is suggestive—an agent sent by a prominent unnamed Russian revolutionary asked Romberg a pertinent question :  Should internal unrest compel the Russian government to enter into peace negotiations, would Germany betray the revolutionaries or protect them ?  Romberg gave a reassuring answer.

On his return trip, Kesküla talked with the German Secretary of State ;  no record has been found of the conversation.  He proceeded via Switzerland to Austria to consult persons associated with the Bund.  On February 24, Romberg reported that Kesküla had established contacts with revolutionaries ;  a cautious pessimism, however, was still dominant.

At this time, a well-placed Swedish observer whom the Germans had sent to Russia returned, expressing great optimism.  His message about the social revolution was of special importance :  he had discussed the problem with Count Witte (who was to die shortly afterwards, perhaps with the aid of the Okhrana).  Apparently, at this point, there also was received a note (unsigned and undated) written by a revolutionary strategist who maintained that it would be necessary to foment both the national movements and the “internal revolution.”  The author advanced several proposals :  contact with the Finns and Letts should be undertaken, large-scale strikes should be financed, and Lenin should be reached.(4)  The contact with Lenin was soon to be established.

In the meantime, the Bolshevik conference was being held, through February and March.  It was attended not only by the Okhrana but also by spies of Parvus and Kesküla, both of whom transmitted their intelligence to the Germans.  But on one key problem the reports do not entirely agree :  the Okhrana related that the Bolsheviks intended to unify the extreme left elements of all belligerent countries, and were anticipating a German mutiny to be organized by Liebknecht and his followers.  If Lenin wished to aid Liebknecht, this news was surely welcomed by Petrograd.  The German legation at Berne received no such information.  The unrealistic belief that the revolution was to be instigated everywhere often appeared in Bolshevik arguments ;  it represented one of the very reasons why Kesküla had been so skeptical about Lenin and his policies :  for if the revolution in Germany preceded Russia’s, the autocracy would emerge victorious.

The Okhrana also reported that the Bolsheviks wanted to unify the various revolutionary elements operating in Russia.  Parvus had received the same information ;  he noted that heretofore Lenin had been opposed to unification.  But Kesküla found that Lenin had now adopted the new policy of working for the defeat of Russia as the lesser evil under current conditions.  This policy may not have been “new”;  it had been declared earlier.  But Kesküla and Parvus, independently, concluded that Lenin had finally decided to persue this policy actively.

Kesküla stated that he believed the new line would greatly impress Russia, where Lenin and his group still enjoyed a sturdy reputation, and he made an attempt to meet with Lenin.  On March 25, Kesküla reported that he was going to see Lenin ;  an undated note of the same period indicated he would see him “tonight.”  However, on March 26, there followed a conference of female revolutionaries, largely organized by Inessa who, since Lenin had arrived at Berne, was undertaking most of the organizational work.  (She had been elected Bolshevik representative to the International Bureau of Women Workers.  Her children, who had joined her in Italy in 1914, had been sent back to Russia.)  Lenin was steering this conference from a café across the street and talked with the delegates after the sessions.  Hence he would have been unavailable before March 29.  But he saw Kesküla shortly afterwards, either by the end of March or early in April, 1915.(5)

Kesküla, still alive in 1961, claimed that he saw Lenin only once, late in September or early in October, 1914 ;  yet he admitted that he kept no notes or diary.(6)  Since he left on or about October 1, he could have met Lenin only in September ;  but Lenin had just arrived on September 5.  It is conceivable, however, that he saw Lenin briefly to obtain addresses in Stockholm, but his reports do not indicate that he engaged in a serious discussion with him.  If indeed he talked with Lenin only once (which is doubtful(7)), then internal evidence of the German documents makes it clear that the conversation took place in the spring of 1915, after Kesküla had already infiltrated the Bolshevik organization of Stockholm.

As Kesküla told the story in the mid-1920’s when his memory still was intact, Lenin greeted Kesküla, “Well, I hear you are now working as a German agent.”  Kesküla replied :  “If it pleases you to interpret things in this fashion, go right ahead.”  Lenin :  “The Germans may take Riga.  The Germans may take Tiflis.”  Kesküla :  “And Ingermanland ?”  Lenin :  “Ingermanland ?  What do you mean ?  The area to the north or west of Petersburg ?”  Kesküla :  “Ingermanland is Petersburg itself.”  Lenin fell into silence and changed the subject.

This story was related by Kesküla to a friend.(8)  He also boasted that he was the person who drew the Germans’ attention to Lenin.  The story is consistent with both Lenin’s and Kesküla’s ways of thinking, as they can be determined from the record.(9)

Although the two men agreed on several points, there were a number of disagreements.  Lenin clearly was reluctant to enter into firm commitments.  To judge from Kesküla’s reports, Lenin was still not eager to initiate aggressive action.  Apparently, too, there existed widespread feelings of defeatism and—at the same time—opposition to full concentration on the initial stages of the Russian revolution.

Years after the event, Kesküla asserted that following this meeting his communications with Lenin were transmitted through Arthur Siefeld, another Estonian Bolshevik, who was a friend of Lenin.(10)  This assertion is compatible with the evidence in the German file.  Kesküla also claimed that the Germans were not aware of Siefeld’s activities.  This is not so, for Siefeld’s name appears in a note taken during discussions between Romberg and Kesküla, probably in the presence of Schuberth, the political officer.(11)  Whatever the arrangement, Kesküla’s reports and German correspondence about his activities suggest that contacts were very close and that Lenin was not quite as naively uninformed as Kesküla tried to hint in his later years.

Kesküla maintained that he gave Siefeld money to enter on Bolshevik collection lists, in installments of a few francs.  Almost certainly, this is misleading information, for, though the Germans did contribute money in this manner, a few francs would not have been of any great importance, while larger donations would have made Siefeld suspect.12  Kesküla received substantial sums to maintain the contact with Lenin;(13) there is no suggestion that he pocketed the money.  If Siefeld actually “donated” only a few francs, the question arises of how Kesküla distributed the rest of the money.

Lenin did not at first receive German money.  If he did not experience a sorrier financial state, it was probably because, in that period, the money which was held in escrow by the German socialists was transmitted to him.  It would not be unlike Lenin to demand payment of this money which he felt belonged to the Bolsheviks as a token of earnest of the groups which wished to do business with him.

In May, Lenin met Parvus-Helphand, who was mobilizing Russian revolutionaries for the Germans.  Parvus had been received by the German Secretary of State and had long discussions with Dr. Kurt Riezler, the political warfare adviser to the German Chancellor.  To these men, Parvus, the ambitious graduate of 1905, had submitted a grandiose plan for revolutionizing Russia.  The scheme contained impractical features, but the impressed Germans gave Parvus one million marks and later another 500,000 marks to be pumped into Russia.(14)

The conversation between Lenin and Parvus (which was later confirmed by Parvus in one of his brochures) occurred when Parvus accosted Lenin in a restaurant at Berne.  Lenin was there eating with Siefeld.  Parvus asked Lenin to talk and the two men departed for Lenin’s home.  Lenin later told Siefeld that upon hearing Parvus’ proposals he sent him away.  Yet the fact remains that after this conversation Lenin announced plans to move to Scandinavia.(14a)  This project did not materialize and a German confidential report of August 1915 disclosed that Parvus would support Lenin only after the tension had been smoothed out.  Thus, Lenin’s explanation to Siefeld is suspect.  It seems rather that Parvus refused to support Lenin’s personal efforts.  Indeed, there is enough evidence to show that before March, 1917, Parvus financed and used Bolshevik operators without consulting Lenin.  The German aid to Lenin came mostly via Kesküla.

Lenin did not wish to associate himself with Parvus, partly because Lenin considered him a competitor, and partly because he feared leaks of information.  On his part, Parvus was interested primarily in obtaining access to the Bolsheviks and arranged employment for some of Lenin’s men.

Hanecki, authorized by Lenin to go to Copenhagen, traveled through Paris (where he talked too much) and presumably through London.  It is remarkable that, in the middle of a war, this Polish revolutionary was able to move freely in enemy countries.  Though years earlier he may have had a Russian passport,(15) he must have been traveling on false papers, probably provided by Schober.  Was Hanecki sent with the mission of reporting intelligence to Vienna ?

In Copenhagen, Hanecki became Parvus’ assistant.(16)  On July 6, five million marks were budgeted by the German Foreign Office for revolutionary propaganda.  Three days later, Parvus for the first time met Rantzau, and discussed the feasibility of revolutionizing Russia.  The talk resumed on August 9 and resulted in the establishment by Parvus of a rather complicated enterprise.  It consisted of a front research organization, ostensibly to study the social effects of war, but whose real purpose was to create a cadre for the penetration of Russia.  Parvus did indeed recruit some outstanding intellects who were destined to leave their mark on the Russian revolution—A.G. Zurabov, V.D. Perazich, V.G. Groman (later a specialist in economic planning and victim of the purge of the Mensheviks in 1931), G.I. Chudnovsky, and M.S. Uritsky.  (He almost got N.I. Bukharin, next to Lenin the outstanding Bolshevik theoretician, but Lenin, who did not want to compromise on ideological matters and may have feared Bukharin’s naivete with respect to subversive operations, persuaded him to stay away from the Parvus institute.)  This “intellectual” outfit was tied to a business firm which traded coal with Denmark and was designed to engage in smuggling to and from Russia.(17)  When the Germans found it difficult to secure enough rubles, Parvus determined a method of retaining earned rubles within Russia for intelligence, subversion, and insurgency.  In 1915 Russia imported from Germany products worth about twenty-four million rubles ;  in 1916, goods valued at 9 million rubles were imported.  Included were such commodities as copper and salvarsan.  There was also some trade from Scandinavia to Russia.  A significant part of these transactions went through Parvus’ hands, directly or indirectly ;  naturally, not all of the money was left within Russia.(18)  Hanecki devoted most of his time to a smuggling operation which he did not advertise on the “affiches”:  he smuggled, on a fairly large scale, rubber articles, mostly contraceptives, into Russia.  In addition, his firm handled drugs, syringes, thermometers, stockings, pencils and haircutters.(19)  As the Austrians reported on the arrangement, Parvus dealt with the Germans, Hanecki with the Russians ;  the liaison between Hanecki and Lenin was accomplished through an unidentified “German-Jewish Swiss national.”(20)

The significance of Parvus’ dealings with the Germans really was not that he placed them in communication with Lenin.  Parvus became the adviser of the Germans on overall strategy directed towards Russia.  Much of his advice was funnelled through Brockdorff-Rantzau, an advocate of revolutionizing and later Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the Soviet Union, who transmitted ideas to Parvus and periodically arranged for him to talk to the policymakers in Berlin.  Parvus’ schemes often evoked ridicule.  He once, however, proposed the forgery of ruble bank notes.  (This idea was used, sans recherche de la paternité by the Nazis in World War II.)  The relevance of the information Parvus procured through his organization, his profound knowledge of Russian and revolutionary affairs, and the clarity of his objectives, had a great impact upon the course of the war.  Of equal importance was the fact that through his “commercial” operations he built up assets in the amounts and, above all, in the currencies that were required for Germany’s political warfare.

Kesküla and Parvus probably did not provide the only German contacts with Lenin.  There existed a third, as yet unidentified, channel between Lenin and the German Foreign Office, probably Karl Moor.  Another “friend” of Lenin, Dr. Kornblum was reported by the Austrians to have great influence and to display good judgment ;  Kornblum did report on Lenin to Busso von Bismarck, the military attaché.  There were Bagocki and Shklovsky, and Buchholz who ran a chemical laboratory which paid Zinovyev a salary for his skill in “political chemistry.”  All of these individuals dealt with the Germans for some periods of time.

Karl Radek, a friend and compatriot of Hanecki, had for years been an editor in Germany, and now worked on the Berner Tagwacht, a very much socialist paper.  Radek had numerous connections in Germany(21) and, though he did not agree with Lenin on many points, he maintained close contact with him, and, later joined him in the venture of the sealed train.  The German legation often used his paper to “leak” information and to provide documentation harmful to Germany’s enemies.  There were also a dozen or so people who knew Lenin or Zinovyev and who were affiliated with newspapers and universities or who simply met in cafés frequented by revolutionaries and writers.  The military authorities also were involved.  German military intelligence had placed well-selected agents everywhere.22  Some of them were on military furlough, including Bismarck’s preferred intermediary, Dr. Walter Nasse.

As suggested by General Moltke, the military had established prisoner-of-war indoctrination programs (which in 1916 led to a protest by Petrograd).  There is evidence from the Okhrana that this operation was gradually following more radical and Bolshevik lines, with Malinovsky playing a significant role.(23)  This operation influenced events far more than is generally recognized.  A recent Soviet publication has shown the extent to which Lenin and Krupskaya were involved.(24)  Lenin’s efforts extended to fourteen camps in Germany and seven camps in Austria.  He knew the number of prisoners in each camp and was well informed on camp conditions.  Packages were sent, literature was distributed (mostly during 1916), and contacts were maintained, especially through Krupskaya, with forty-six prisoners and three libraries and study circles.  In one instance, Lenin sent money for book purchases.  A total of 119 letters were dispatched, including five to Malinovsky at the camp of Alt-Grabow.

The military, always searching for saboteurs and spies, also went bodily after the revolutionaries.  Unfortunately, the military files were destroyed and details are missing.  It is reported that the military wanted Lenin to go to Russia to organize a sabotage program.(25)  They reiterated this request, which Lenin continued to reject as nonsense, several times through a “V-Mann” (Vertrauensmann or “man of confidence”).  Major Bismarck, nephew of the “Iron Chancellor,” concluded that Lenin was a coward.  Lenin, however, did procure a sabotage expert who came from Russia to Stockholm :  the old highwayman Lbov, whom Lenin had cheated.  Lbov was supposed to blow up bridges over the Volga ;  this time it was Lbov—not Lenin—who was dishonest.(26)

The Germans occasionally checked to ascertain whether political funds were reaching their destination.  Reportedly, there occurred some embezzlements of Bismarck’s funds destined for the Bolsheviks ;  but details are no longer traceable.  German purchasing agencies held “black funds” to sustain revolutionaries.  Some of these men were employed commercially ;  others made money through speculation and black-marketeering.

The Austrians were busy, too, especially in Berne and Geneva.  The historiographical difficulty is not in identifying “liaison agents” between the Germans and the Bolsheviks, but rather in distinguishing the busybodies and story-tellers from those who, in possession of relevant contacts, accomplished their aim.  There is no doubt, however, that the “defeatist” Russian revolutionaries—especially those in Switzerland—were heavily infiltrated by German and Austrian influences ;  this penetration is true of the Social Revolutionaries, the internationalist Mensheviks, as well as the Bolsheviks.  Few were political prostitutes ;  many were marionettes—and practically all of these alleged idealists were manipulable.  However, history has been kind to them :  but for a different sequence of events, they all would have earned the reputation which, in World War II, Vidkun Quisling gained for himself and the tribe of “Quislings.”

1 Okhrana documents indicate that Janssen was a member of the Latvian Bolshevik sub-party and in 1907 was accused by his comrades of treason.  Another accusation was that upon being arrested in 1897, Jansson informed the police of the names of fellow socialist conspirators and provided details on printing plants and distribution points during the period 1893-1897.  A report on his confession written by the police on December 17, 1897, was transmitted to Burtsev on May 29, 1913.  Copied from Burtsev’s document by a police agent, the new copy was sent to the police at St. Petersburg.  In January, 1914, the Latvians, in Janssen’s presence, discussed his case and it would seem that he purged himself of the accusation (Paris to Police Department, January 20, 1914).  Lenin participated in this congress.  How Jansson managed to disprove documentary evidence is not apparent.  Why did the police put Burtsev on Jansson’s track ?  This action suggests that in 1913, Jansson, working from Germany, was creating trouble inside Russia.  However, there probably were two Janssens.  The Jansson who was accused of treason went by the alias Braum and is now described in Soviet publications as a founder of the Latvian Social Democratic party during the period 1907-1914.  The loyalty proceedings against this Jansson were not mentioned in Istoricheskii Arkhiv (1959), No. 4, p. 38, where it is alleged that Jansson became a Bolshevik at the beginning of the war.  According to Tsiavlovsky, (p. 175), Jansson, who had lived for a while in Germany under the name of Vyacheslavov, attempted to journey from Britain to attend the Kienthal conference but was unable to obtain the necessary visas.  According to Istoricheskii Arkhiv, be died in March 1917 on the way from England to Russia, when his ship was torpedoed.  Braun-Jansson’s first names were Jans-Jan Eristovich.  The chances are that the two Janssons were close relatives and cooperated with each other.

2 At this time, his party name was “Kivi” (stone).  He used the name “Stein” in his correspondence with the Germans.

3 Most of these notes were found in the file of the German legation at Berne ;  many of them are in the handwriting of Romberg.

4 This document could be a memorandum of Kesküla’s conversation with Secretary Jagow.  But Kesküla would not have overlooked the Estonians in favor of the Letts and there is no sign that he was pushing Lenin’s “candidacy.”  The emphasis on Finns and Letts, however, discloses great knowledge of the Bolshevik organization.  Jansson may have been the author, but the style does not quite fit.  I mentioned before that some Foreign Office operators were experienced in these matters.  Count Pourtalès himself was continuously consulted about the revolutionizing activities.  Prof. George Katkov believes the paper was written by Parvus while still in Turkey.

5 For some details on this conference, see Krupskaya, pp. 301ff.

6 Michael Futrell, “Alexander Kesküla,” St. Anthony’s Paper No. 12, Soviet Affairs No. 3 (London :  Chatto & Windus, 1962), pp. 23-52.  Kesküla died during July, 1963, in Spain.

7 There is enough evidence to indicate that by 1961 Kesküla either misremembered things or did not want to disclose the whole truth.

8 The source is a Swiss university professor who was interviewed by the writer and, earlier, by one of his assistants.  The professor recounted the story even before the name of Kesküla became known.

9 In a public speech during the fall of 1914 at Geneva, Lenin said that it would be good if the Germans were to take Warsaw and Tiflis.  (M. Filia, “Iz davnikh vstrech,” O Lenine, Sbornik Vospominanii, Moscow, 1927, p. 70.)  Kesküla made his point on Ingermanland and Petersburg to A.V. Neklyudov, Russian Minister to Sweden.  See his En Suède pendant la guerre mondiale (Paris :  Perrin, 1926), p. 295.

10 Futrell, Northern Underground, p. 146f.  On Siefeld himself, see ibid., p. 149.

11 The writer has a microfilm copy of this document.

12 Actually, any substantial donation by a penniless party member would have aroused doubts.

13 Kesküla, it says in a German document of May 8, 1916, has “maintained his extremely useful contact with Lenin” and must “therefore continue to be provided with the necessary means in the future” (Zeman, p. 17).  Kesküla was then living with his pretty Swiss wife (and servants) in an elegant villa in North Stockholm where he was giving “lavish parties” (Futrell, p. 122).

14 Zeman, pp. 1-5.

14a Futrell, p. 172f.  Parvus probably knew next to nothing about Kesküla, but Kesküla was informed of Parvus’s activities and sought to undercut that “uncommonly fat and paunchy gentleman” who despite “very expressive intelligent eyes” looked “like a tightly stuffed sack with a quivering belly,” as Siefeld described Parvus.  Lenin’s report to Siefeld hardly was designed to disclose the content of the conversation but rather to conceal it.

15 He originated from the Russian part of Poland.

16 On Hanecki’s biography, and his attempt to postdate the time of his arrival in Skandinavia to 1916, see Futrell, p. 168f.

17 The Okhrana, already on July 22 and 30, reported that Parvus had rented an office for 1,100 crowns and had leased a private apartment in a wealthy suburb.  “Il est homme de moyens.”  He has with him a “dame de compagnie allemande,” Marie Schillinger, twenty-two, from Munich, and a Danish “gouvernante” (probably they meant she was a “bonne”).  They stated he started a big library and the institute on war, a “compagnie de commerce et d’exportation,” and a publicity outfit, “colonizes d’affiches de Copenhague,” with Jacob Fürstenberg (Hanecki) as director.  (Fürstenberg, they said, was born on March 15, 1879, in Warsaw).  In addition to all this, Parvus was doing literary work.  The reports indicated Parvus’ political objectives—overthrow of the Tsar and a more liberal constitution—and added it could not be proven he received money from the Germans.  Otherwise, this was fairly sound reporting.

18 Parvus prided himself upon earning money by making scarce commodities available ;  by the end of the war he had amassed a fortune of thirty million Swiss francs (about six million dollars).

19 Futrell, p. 183ff.  Contraceptives which apparently were fabricated in Denmark from rubber which the British had allowed to pass through the blockade also were sold to Germany.  The salvarsan was procured in Chicago (p. 187).  Much of the trade with Russia went via the Russian Red Cross (p. 171f.).  The contraceptive trade may have been initiated by a Russian importer, the Bolshevik S.M. Sachs-Gladnev, or been suggested by Eduard Fuchs, well-known socialist historian of sex mores.

20 This person is unidentified, but if Moor’s mother was Jewish, which seems likely, the description would apply to him.  The Austrian document of November, 1917, was published by Helga Grebing in Politische Studien, Munich, 1957, p. 232ff.

21 Schub, pp. 136f. and 406.

22 On Nasse and Moor, see Gustav Mayer, Erinnerungen (Zurich :  Europa Verlag, 1949).  Mayer was a historian of German socialism and the biographer of Engels.  He had entrée to socialists of all lines and transmitted somewhat naive information to the German Foreign Office.

23 See also Ruth Fischer, Stalin und der deutsche Kommunismus (Frankfurt :  Frankfurter Hefte, no year), p. 35f.

24 Istoricheskii Arkhiv (1961), No. 5, pp. 101-107.

25 Interview with a former member of the German legation at Berne.

26 There was cheating but the identity of the cheater is not certain.  The Germans thought they dealt with Lbov, and presumably Lenin had promised him.  According to other information, he was hung.  The man who wanted the Bolsheviks to pay their debt may have been Sasha Lbovets.  Lenin probably did not know the difference, and Lbovets may have been the dishonest saboteur.  There is a possibility that this affair was connected with the counter-intelligence activities of Lenin II (Dolin).