Lakha Nevri, Chechnya, Russian Empire
|Died||April 24, 1997
|Occupation||Historian, Political scientist|
|Subject||Chechen society, Soviet history|
Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov (Chechen: Автoрхан КIант Iабдурахьман ) (c. 1908/10 - April 24, 1997) was an acclaimed historian who worked primarily in the fields of Soviet history and History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Avtorkhanov's date of birth is unknown. According to his memoirs he was born between 1908 and 1910 in the small Chechen village of Lakha-Nevri, which was destroyed by Soviet troops during the deportation of the Chechen and Ingush population in 1943. He was given the last name of Avtorkhanov in 1923 when he was registered for an orphanage.
The young Avtorkhanov enthusiastically joined the Communist Party in 1927 and served as a high-ranking party functionary. He later wrote:
This was my authority, my party, my apparatus. The social philosophy of Marxism — the creation of a classless social life with economic abundance; the spiritual philosophy of Marxism — the reign of unlimited creative freedom in science, art and literature without any censorship; the legal philosophy of Marxism — the liquidation of the use of violence by man against man and the gradual dying away of the apparatus of that violence: such were our ideals. When I came to the party apparatus, it still professed those ideals. I was ready to serve them loyally and faithfully, regardless of all the inevitable costs and failures of that great experiment.
On the night of August 11, 1937, virtually all intellectual, religious, spiritual, and other Chechen and Ingush leaders, as well as many ordinary Chechens and Ingush, were arrested — in all, 13,000 men and women, or 3% of the population of the Chechen-Ingush region. Most of them were executed afterwards.
Then virtually all Communist Party and State leaders of the region were arrested at the session of the Chechen-Ingush obkom (oblast committee) on October 10. Avtorkhanov was invited to that session as a member of the Chechen-Ingush establishment; he was arrested and groundlessly accused of preparing an armed uprising, espionage, counterrevolutionary propaganda, etc. Some of those accusations carried the death penalty.
He was in jail under investigation for four years while interrogators tortured him to make him confess his fabricated "crimes". Once he was brought out for execution and stood among the others before the firing squad, but at the last second was pushed out from the row by one of the executioners. According his own words, when he found himself alive, he vowed to fight Soviet power for the rest of his life. Finally, in 1942, the Supreme Court found him not guilty and he was released.
The NKVD assigned him to infiltrate the anti-Soviet Chechen movement in which his school friend Khasan Israilov was a leader, but Avtorkhanov joined the uprising instead, and crossed the front line to propose to the Nazis an alliance with the Chechen Resistance against the Soviets. The Nazis rejected the proposal, and Avtorkhanov began to work for Nazi propaganda, writing articles for various newspapers published in Russian by and for emigrants and defectors as well as works on the Caucasus.
A few months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Avtorkhanov was granted honorary citizenship by the Chechen-Ingush ASSR. At the time of the First Chechen War he maintained a correspondence with the Chechen president Dzokhar Dudayev. He also urged peace negotiations on Russian President Boris Yeltsin. He died shortly after the end of the war, in 1997.
Research and publications
After the war ended, in 1948 Avtorkhanov began working for the US Army Russian Institute in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Eventually he became a professor, the dean of political science department, and the chairman of the Academy Board. He lectured in the Institute until his retirement in 1979.
Avtorkhanov was a co-founder of the Institute for the Study of the USSR in Munich and participated in the creation of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in 1951. He wrote numerous books and articles on the history and core issues of Communism. Notably the book named "Murder of Chechen-Ingush nation" (in Russian: "Убийство чечено-ингушского народа") which is extremely popular among Chechens and Ingush even today. Ironically, there were occasions when he had to hide his authorship not only from the Soviets but from the American government. Thus in the early 1970s he, being an American Army employee, was prohibited from publishing his anti-Soviet works because of U.S. policy at that time, so he published using pseudonyms, some of which still remain unknown.
Avtorkhanov's book Staline au pouvoir (The Reign of Stalin), published in French in 1951, described Joseph Stalin's reign of terror. His book Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party is regarded as a primary source for the political background of Stalin's rise to power. He was one of the first authors to claim, in his 1976 book on Stalin's death, that Stalin had been murdered by Lavrentiy Beria and other Soviet top leaders.
It is not true that the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is a superpower (...) An absolute power thinks, acts and dictates for all of us. The name of the power—NKVD—MVD—MGB. The Stalin regime is based not on Soviets, Party ideals, the power of the Political Bureau, Stalin’s personality, but the organization and the technique of the Soviet political police where Stalin plays the role of the first policeman.
To tell that NKVD is a state secret police—means to tell nothing to the point. Intelligence Service is also a secret police, but in the eyes of the Britons its existence is as natural as the Health Ministry. To tell that NKVD is a body of mass inquisition also means to tell nothing to the point, because Gestapo also was a mass inquisition, although its chief Himmler—would not have fit a sergeant of the State Security Service. To tell that NKVD is «a state in the state» means to belittle the importance of NKVD, because the question allows two forces: a normal state and a supernormal NKVD: whereas the force is the universal Chekism. A state Chekism, a party Chekism, a collective Chekism, an individual Chekism. Chekism in ideology, Chekism in practice. Chekism from top to bottom. Chekism from the almighty Stalin to a paltry.
We worshiped false gods and they deceived us.... Neither our fathers nor we ourselves, in the intoxication of the Proletarian Revolution and behind the smokescreen of its social demagogy, were able to see its brutish core.
(Russian Wikipedia has a more complete list.)
- К основным вопросам истории Чечни: к десятилетию Советской Чечни [Fundamental Issues of the History of Chechnya] (Grozny, 1930)
- Alexandre Ouralov (pseud.), Staline au pouvoir (Paris: Les Iles D'Or, 1951); tr. Alexander Uralov, The Reign of Stalin (London: Bodley Head, 1953)
- Технология власти (München: ЦОПЭ, 1959); tr. Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party: A Study in the Technology of Power (New York: Praeger, 1959); 2nd ed. Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1976; 3rd ed. 1983
- The Communist Party Apparatus (Chicago: H. Regnery, 1966)
- Загадка смерти Сталина: заговор Берия [The Mystery of Stalin's Death: Beria's Plot] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1976); 5th ed. 1986
- Сила и бессилие Брежнева [The Power and Powerlessness of Brezhnev] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1979); 2nd ed. 1980
- Мемуары [Memoirs] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1983)
- От Андропова к Горбачеву: Дела и дни [From Andropov to Gorbachev] (Paris: YMCA-Press, 1986)
- Ленин в судьбах России: Размышления историка [Lenin in the Destiny of Russia] (Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Prometheus-Verlag, 1990)
- (coauthor) The North Caucasus Barrier: The Russian Advance Towards the Muslim World (New York: St Martin, 1992)
- A. Avtorkhanov. Memuary [Memoirs] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1983), p. 5.
- A. Avtorkhanov. Memuary [Memoirs] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1983), p. 160
- A. Avtorkhanov. Tekhnologiya vlasti [The Technology of Power] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1983), back cover
- A. Avtorkhanov. Memuary [Memoirs] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1983), pp. 611ff.
- Technology of Power
- A. Avtorkhanov. Memuary [Memoirs] (Frankfurt/Main: Possev-Verlag, 1983), p. 755.
- "Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party" online text (Russian)
- Interview with Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov (Russian)
- Biographical Entry (Russian)