Alexander Krasnoshchyokov

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In the 1920s

Alexander Mikhailovich Krasnoshchyokov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Миха́йлович Краснощёков, real name – Avraam Moiseevich Krasnoshchyok, Russian: Абра́м Моисе́евич Краснощёк, in USA known as Stroller Tobinson; October 10, 1880 - November 26, 1937) was a Soviet politician and the first Chairman of the Government (Head of the state) of the Far Eastern Republic. In most western works of reference his name is spelt 'Krasnoschekov' or 'Krasnoschekoff'.

Early life[edit]

Born at Chernobyl, he was of Jewish origin and when a young student in Kiev joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1897. He was arrested in 1898 and briefly imprisoned, before being exiled to Nikolaievsk where he met Leon Trotsky. After his release he returned to the Ukraine where he joined Martov in political agitation and organised a workers association in Ekaterinoslav. He was again arrested and imprisoned in 1901. On his release he found himself under constant police surveillance and went to Berlin to avoid exile in Siberia. After these two arrests Alexander Krasnoshchyokov left the Russian Empire for the USA in 1903. He joined the Socialist Labor Party of America and worked as an agitator for the American Federation of Labor. Later he started studying at the University of Chicago at the Law School. In 1912 Alexander Krasnoshchyokov graduated from the University and started to work as lawyer. He defended striking workers in the 'Bread and Roses Strike' of 1913.[1] After the February Revolution, he decided to return to Russia, travelling by ship from Vancouver via Japan, where he was interviewed by agents of the Provisional Government.

Return to Russia[edit]

In August 1917 he returned to Russia by ship to Vladivostok with his wife and two children. There he became the secretary of the Domestic Servants Union and acted as the union representative on the existing Vladivostok Soviet. He then joined the city council of Nikolsk-Ussurisk despite his known Bolshevik affiliation, and within two weeks had set up a rival Soviet which elected him its President. He was at a workers convention in Vladivostok October 28, 1917 when news of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd reached the city. The convention broke up having failed to agree on whether to recognise the new government, as members of the old Zemstvos opposed the Bolshevik coup and rule by soviets. Krasnoshchyokov returned to Nikolsk to organise a new conference of soviets which met at Khabarovsk December 11, 1917 to press for rule by soviets throughout the Maritime Province, while a rival conference organised by the Zemstvos opened a day earlier. Failing to agree once more, the Soviet dispersed their rival and set up a Coalition Government in the Amur valley at Khabarovsk in January 1918 called the Far Eastern Council of Peoples Commissars, leaving a minority of members to Zemstvo nominees. Krasnoshchyokov was elected President but the Blagoveschensk Zemstvo refused to join and was expelled. A new soviet was chosen which then voted to join the Amur government in February 1918, but Vladivostok and the Maritime Province still held out. In March 1918 Chinese forces crossed the Amur from Aigun to protect its nationals in Blagoveschensk, where they joined a (White) 'City Guard' force of about 5,000 and 2,000 Cossacks. The Soviet was surrounded at Government House protected only by remnants of the old Alexander Kerensky troops and Krasnoshchyokov was promptly imprisoned when he came to intercede. However the Khabarovsk soviet sent more soldiers and 15,000 peasants came to his aid, which enabled the 'Red' forces to retake the city a week later. Krasnoshchyokov was freed and with difficulty managed to restore order among the peasants who were now intent on looting the city after the Whites had fled along with the city bankers and merchants across the river into Chinese territory. In April 1918 the local soviet dissolved the Vladivostok Zemstvo and city council and declared itself the local government, and in May 1918 recognised the Amur government headed by Krasnoshchyokov. Thus the whole of the Russian Far East was now unified under one government, although this was not to last for very long.

Russian Civil War[edit]

Krasnoshchyokov had managed at first to maintain cordial relations with the forces of the Czech legion that were awaiting evacuation to Europe in the area, but the local soviet in Vladiviostok was overthrown by a Czech coup 28 June 1918, and Allied intervention soon followed in August 1918 with the landing of Japanese, British and American troops. These proved too strong for the Red forces, who retreated to Khabarovsk after hard battles near Dukhovoe and Kraevska on 24 August 1918. In September 1918 Krasnoshchyokov disbanded the army in favour of partisan warfare and left his family in the care of the American consul at Khabarovsk to return to the USA. He then went to Blagoveschensk before fleeing into the hills along the river Zeya where he spent three months evading capture by the Japanese. Under an assumed identity he became a merchant at Nerchinsk and travelled throughout Siberia with anti-Kolchak propaganda.[2]

In May 1919 he was arrested as a spy in Samara but jumped off the train that was taking him to trial at Ufa. He was arrested again soon after this, and this time was sent to Irkutsk in September 1919 where he remained imprisoned until December 28, 1919, when Irkutsk fell under the control of the leftist group (including SRs) which formed the Political Centre. Alexander Krasnoshchyokov was released and headed the Irkutsk Gubkom (regional Bolshevik party committee). With the whole of Siberia in turmoil, he proposed to the Red Army HQ at Tomsk January 18, 1920 the idea of a democratic republic as a buffer state which might be acceptable to the Allied Powers still occupying Eastern Siberia. Vladimir Lenin accepted and supported this plan: Lenin valued Krasnoshchyokov's experience in the USA as he was particularly good at dealing with Americans and had made a favourable impression on the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia. However by the time he returned, local Bolsheviks had overthrown the "Political Centre" of SR's and Mensheviks at Irkutsk, and Krasnoshchyokov was told to locate the capital of this state further east at Verkhne-Udinsk, which had been occupied by Red Partisans under General Eiche on March 7, 1920. It was with great difficulty that Krasnoshchyokov managed to win acceptance from the peasants and partisans for the founding of the Far Eastern Republic, which was declared April 6, 1920, even though he had Lenin's support. Krasnoshchyokov himself drew up the constitution in English, before it was translated into Russian. However opposition to him continued among local Bolsheviks, peasants and partisans who wanted union with Russia. They expected the Red Army to fight their way east, to destroy the remnants of Kolchak's forces (now clustered around Chita under his successor Grigory Semyonov), and to march on to the Pacific and expel the Japanese Army who had taken control of the towns of the Maritime Province (4–5 April 1920).

Krasnoshchokov's speech on the moving of the Government to Chita

He had been a member of the DalBureau of the RKP(b) since March 3, 1920. From April 6, 1920 to August 15, 1921 Alexander Krasnoshchyokov was the first Premier Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (from August 1920 to April 26, 1921) of the newly created Far Eastern Republic. The republic was recognised by the Japanese Army Command May 11, 1920, and by Soviet Russia May 16, 1920. Thanks to his efforts, the Gongota Agreement was signed 15 July 1920 with General Takayanagi of the Japanese Expeditionary Corps. This established a neutral zone between Verkhne-Udinsk and Chita, allowing the Japanese forces - who were under constant pressure from partisans - to withdraw from Transbaikalia without losing face. The Japanese completed this withdrawal (15 October 1920), and Chita was occupied by the partisan NRA 22 October 1920 despite some resistance by the White forces under General Verzbitsky, who then withdrew south to join Semyonov in Manchuria. Krasnoshchyokov met General Eiche at Chita in early November and Chita became the capital of a state as large as Western Europe. The union of the FER with the Maritime province was finalised 10 November 1920. However Krasnoshchyokov's disdain for collective leadership and the continued opposition from local Bolsheviks to his leadership led to continual clashes, and he was recalled from the FER in April 1921, officially to recover from a bout of TB. Nikolay Matveyev succeeded him in office.

Arrest and trial[edit]

In September 1921 Krasnoshchyokov was appointed to the People's Commissariat for Finance (Narkomfin), and made a deputy commissar in December 1921, despite the opposition of many of the existing members. Lenin valued his practical expertise and energy over the Bolshevik bureaucrats who had made a mess of the budget. Typhus forced him to step down in March 1922 to the relief of the other commissars who refused to have him back when he recovered. Instead he was appointed to Presidium of Vesenkha in April 1921 and used this to create a new bank in November 1922 to promote Trade and Industry - Prombank - leaving the state bank with only regulation of money and credit, much to the annoyance of the Narkomfin. In 1922 he was interviewed by the American journalist Anna Louise Strong about the New Economic Policy (NEP) and departure from war communism:

Krasnoschekoff said: "We must say frankly to the people, `Your government cannot feed all and produce goods for all. We shall run the most necessary industries and feed the workers in those industries. The rest of you must feed yourselves in any way you can.' This means we must allow private trade and private workshops; it is well if they succeed enough to feed those people who work in them, since no one else can feed them. Later, as state industries produce a surplus, these will expand and drive out private trade."[3]

The new bank was very successful but when Lenin had his third stroke in March 1923, Krasnoshchyokov lost his only protector and had made many enemies in the ranks of the new stalinist bureaucracy. In October 1923 his arrest was announced by Kuybyshev on charges of corruption. At the time his arrest caused a sensation and his trial was quite widely covered in the west. Alexander Krasnoshchyokov was the first well known communist supported by Lenin to be sacrificed in a public 'showtrial'[citation needed] . The trial was held in Moscow in March 1924 and the main charges were that he had given special privileges to his lover Donna Gruz and his brother Iacov, and had been living a bourgeois lifestyle, something common to most of the party elite. He was found guilty, sacked and expelled from the party and sentenced to six years in prison.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Krasnoshchyokov was held in the Lefortovo prison in Moscow, where he contracted pneumonia in November 1924. He was transferred then to the government hospital near the Kremlin. He was amnestied in January 1925 and sent to Yalta to recover. He returned to Moscow in autumn 1925 to work for the Ministry of Agriculture and devoted his energies to improving the cotton crop in Central Asia. By 1930 he was head of an institute dedicated to development of cotton and other fibre crops. He married Donna Gruz and they had twin girls in 1934. In July 1937 he was arrested, and he was sentenced to death for espionage on 25 November 1937; he was shot the next day. He was rehabilitated posthumously in 1956, three years after Stalin's death.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ H.K. Norton, The Far Eastern Republic, 1923, pp. 170-74.
  2. ^ Norton, pp. 51-54
  3. ^ Anna Louis Strong, The First Time In History, 1925.[page needed]
  4. ^ Robert Argenbright, Marking NEP’s Slippery Path: The Krasnoshchekov Show Trial, Russian Review 61, 2 (2002): 249–75