A. K. Voronskij's Political Evolution

Frederick S. Choate, University of California, Davis

Aleksandr Konstantinovich Voronskij (1884-1937) was editor of the influential Soviet literary journal, Red Virgin Soil, from 1921-1927. In his major study of the journal, Robert Maguire notes that, while "Voronskii was purged ostensibly for being a Trotskiite," ... apart from signing the 1923 "Platform of the Forty-six," ... "we have no other evidence that Voronskij took a direct hand in inner-party politics on Trotskii's side" (Maguire 1968).

Maguire's book is still an unsurpassed study of Voronskij's literary career, but newly available archival material from the former Soviet Union makes it possible to give a fuller and more precise assessment of Voronskij's political evolution. Not only did Voronskij sign the famous "Declaration of the 83/84," in 1927, but he traveled to Ivanovo with Sergej Zorin to distribute copies of the Joint Opposition's Platform, an act for which he was expelled for the first time from the Communist Party. Voronskij helped direct a Trotskist "Red Cross" for exiled and imprisoned oppositionists, and wrote the introduction to at least one major oppositional document.

Exiled to Lipeck in 1929, Voronskij signed a letter in the fall of 1929, indicating that he was withdrawing from the Opposition. He applied to be reinstated into the Party, and was granted membership in 1930. Voronskij remained in the Party until expelled for a second time in 1935, shortly after the Kirov assassination. He was finally arrested on February 1, 1937, and shot after a twenty-minute trial on August 13, 1937.

During the months of his confinement in 1937, Voronskij was interrogated several times by the NKVD. Records of the interrogations exist in the former KGB archives (now the FSB), and present several problems of interpretation. One document in particular, "My Trotskyist Activity through 1932," raises questions about possible participation in illegal underground activity after being readmitted to the Party. Testimony of several other prisoners compounds the problems of interpretation. To what degree can material given during NKVD interrogations be believed, and how does the evidence from these investigations alter our understanding of Voronskij's political views in the 1930's?

This paper presents excerpts from the unpublished archival material, addresses many of the questions raised in Maguire's earlier work, and corrects some of the patent falsifications of official Soviet literary history.