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Ivan Smirnov (politician)

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Ivan Smirnov

Ivan Nikitich Smirnov (Russian: Ива́н Ники́тич Смирно́в; 1881 – 25 August 1936) was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary, Soviet politician and Communist Party functionary. A prominent member of the Left Opposition, he led a secret Trotskyist opposition group in the Soviet Union during the Stalin period.[1] He was arrested in 1933 and shot during the Great Purge.

Political life

He was born in Gorodishche, Penza Governorate in a peasant family of Russian ethnicity.[2]

In 1899, Smirnov joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and became a Bolshevik. He led Party activity in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vyshniy Volochok, Rostov, Kharkov, and Tomsk. Smirnov was subject to repeated arrests. In 1916, he was called up for army service in a reserve regiment in Tomsk. In 1917, he became a member of the executive committee of the Tomsk Soviet. In August of the same year, Smirnov was one of the organizers and managers of the Bolshevist publishing house "Volna" (Wave) in Moscow. He was a deputy of the Constituent Assembly. During the Russian Civil War, Smirnov was a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Eastern Front (August 1918–April 1919), and the 5th Army (April 1919–May 1920). Smirnov played a pivotal role in defeating the army of Alexander Kolchak during the war, and in the subsequent execution of Kolchak on 7 February 1920.

In 1920–1923, Smirnov was a member of the Executive Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). At the same time, he chaired the Siberian Revolutionary Committee and was a member of the Siberian bureau of the Party. Smirnov is known to have had close ties with the Cheka and administered massacres of the rebellious peasants in Tyumen and the Altai Mountains. He was the one to organize the capture of General Roman Ungern. In 1921–1922, Smirnov was a secretary of the Petrograd Committee and Northwestern Bureau of the Executive Committee of the Party. He was the closest associate of Grigory Zinoviev. Smirnov took part in mass executions and deportations from Petrograd of people of the "exploiter class".

From April 1922 through July 1923, Smirnov was a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy (ВСНХ) of the RSFSR; from September 1922 through May 1923, its deputy chairman. In July 1923, Smirnov was appointed People's Commissar for Soviet Postal Services and Telegraph.

In 1923, Smirnov became an active member of the Trotskyist opposition. In October 1923, Smirnov signed "The Declaration of 46", which attacked by implication the influence of Joseph Stalin as General Secretary of the Party. After Lenin's death in 1924, Smirnov publicly demanded removal of Stalin as General Secretary, but Stalin kept his position.

Members of Trotski's Left Opposition, 1927. Smirnov is the second to the left, seated next to Trotski

In 1927, Smirnov signed the "Declaration of the Eighty-three", another anti-Stalin manifesto. Stalin now moved against him. On 11 November 1927, Smirnov was removed from his Post and Telegraph position. A month later, he was expelled from the Party by the 15th Party Congress. On 31 December 1927, Smirnov was sentenced to three years of internal exile by the OGPU Board.

In October 1929, Smirnov "broke with Trotskyism" and was reinstated in the Party in May 1930. In 1929–1932, he was director of Saratovkombainstroy, the Combine harvester assembly plant in Saratov. In 1932, Smirnov was appointed head of the Department of Erection of New Buildings at the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry.

Then on 14 January 1933, Smirnov was arrested, and a month later again expelled from the Party, accused of forming an "anti-party group" in order to remove Stalin.[3] Historian Pierre Broué showed that by the end of 1932 Smirnov had joined a clandestine bloc which Trotsky characterized as an alliance to fight Stalinist repression.[1]

On 14 April 1933, he was sentenced to five years in labor camps. While still incarcerated, Smirnov was brought as a defendant in the "United Anti-Soviet Trotskyite-Zinovievite Centre" case. He was sentenced to death on 24 August 1936, and executed the next day. Smirnov was rehabilitated in 1988.

It is clear.. that Trotsky did have a clandestine organization inside the USSR in this period and that he maintained communication with it. It is equally clear that a united oppositional bloc was formed in 1932.[...]From the available evidence, it seems that Trotsky envisioned no “terrorist” role for the bloc, although his call for a “new political revolution” to remove “the cadres, the bureaucracy” might well have been so interpreted in Moscow. There is also reason to believe that after the decapitation of the bloc through the removal of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and others the organization comprised mainly lower-level less prominent oppositionists: followers of Zinoviev, with whom Trotsky attempted to maintain direct contact. It is equally probable that the NKVD knew about the bloc. Trotsky’s and Sedov’s staffs were thoroughly infiltrated, and Sedov’s closest collaborator in 1936, Mark Zborowski, is said to have been an NKVD agent. In 1936, the 1932 bloc would be interpreted by the NKVD as a terrorist plot and would form the original pretext for Ezhov’s campaign to destroy the former opposition. Smirnov, Gol’tsman, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky (in absentia) would be the defendants at the 1936 show trial, and the 1932 events would form the evidential basis for their prosecution.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b Pierre Broué (January 1980). "The "Bloc" of the Oppositions against Stalin". Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  2. ^ "Жертвы политического террора в СССР". Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  3. ^ Todd, Allan (2012). The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe 1924–2000. Cambridge University Press. p. 49.
  4. ^ Getty, J. Arch (1986). "Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International". Soviet Studies. 38 (1): 24–35. doi:10.1080/09668138608411620. ISSN 0038-5859. JSTOR 151989.
  5. ^ Getty, John Arch (1987-01-30). Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-33570-6.
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Ivan Smirnov (politician)
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