Anna Larina

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Anna Larina
Born 27 January 1914
Died 24 February 1996(1996-02-24) (aged 82)
Resting place
Troyekurovskoye Cemetery, Moscow
Nationality Russian
Spouse(s) Nikolai Bukharin

Anna Larina (27 January 1914 – 24 February 1996) was the second wife of the Bolshevik leader Nikolai Bukharin and spent many years trying to rehabilitate her husband after he was executed in 1938. She was the author of a memoir entitled This I Cannot Forget.


Born in 1914, Anna Larina grew up amongst professional revolutionaries who stood at the head of the new Soviet Union. As a young girl, she came to know Bukharin, who was 26 years her senior, and she constantly wrote girlish love notes to him. She married Bukharin in 1934 and had a son, Yuri. Anna was separated from her son when he was about one year old, then the NKVD came and arrested her. In 1937, there were accusations against Bukharin for spying, attempting to dismember the Soviet Union, organising kulak uprisings, plotting to murder Joseph Stalin and attempting mysterious acts towards Vladimir Lenin in the past. Bukharin never understood why he was being slandered but was mentally and psychologically prepared for death.[1]

Before they were separated, Bukharin instructed his wife to memorise his final testament (knowing that it would be suppressed by Stalin) in which he implored future generations of communist leaders to exonerate him. Not daring to write it down, she later recalled, she used to lull herself to sleep in prison by repeating her husband's words silently to herself "like a prayer." It was not published in full until 1988. Anna was first sent into exile and then arrested on 5 September 1938 and taken to Astrakhan.

“In December 1938, I was returning to an ‘investigative prison’ in Moscow following a year and a half of arrests and imprisonments. First came exile Astrakhan, then arrest and imprisonment there; next, I was sent to a camp in Tomsk for family members of so-called enemies of the people; on the way, I was held in transit cells in Saratov and Sverdlovsk; after several months in Tomsk, I was arrested a second time and sent to an isolation prison in Novosibirsk; from Novosibirsk, I was transferred to a prison near Kemerovo, where after three months I was taken out and put on the train for Moscow.”[2]

In her memoir, Larina mainly writes of her first years in the Gulag, though she was there for twenty. For much of this time, because of her status as the wife of Bukharin, she was kept under close surveillance and was not allowed out to perform labor. Instead, much of her time was spent dealing with the grinding boredom of doing nothing. “By this time, I was an experienced zek (prisoner), having already been detained in many prisons: Astrakhan, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, Novosibirsk. I had become accustomed to an isolated existence without books, paper, or pencil, unable to do anything but string together rhymes and memorize them by endless repetition, read from memory the verses of my favorite poets.”

Anna Larina learned of the death of her husband, Bukharin, from a fellow prisoner who had no idea who she was. They communicated by tapping on the walls of their cells. “’The bastards murdered Bukharin,’ I heard again, and my doubts faded away. Every single letter of his sentence, like a metal weight, banged into my brain. Although it would be best to cut off the conversation, since I still feared this might be provocation, the temptation was too great. I had a passionate desire to find out as much as I could. During the following days, I grew attached to this condemned man who knew the true story of the trials and loved Nikolai Bartunek still. In the evenings, listening to his distinct tapping on the wall, I could not reconcile the firm even tap of his hand with the death sentence. When I heard his last words I was deeply shaken.”

Twenty years of her life were spent in prison, exile and labour camps. In a labour camp, she met her second husband. He was arrested numerous times because of his relationship with Anna. With her second husband, she had two children: Mikhail and Nadia.

Larina was released from the Gulag system in 1959 after Stalin’s death, ill with tuberculosis, after having spent almost twenty years of her life there. She did not see her son for 18 years. She devoted the rest of her life to clearing her husband’s name writing long, detailed letters to Nikita Khrushchev and his successors demanding Bukharin's reinstatement in the pantheon of revolutionary heroes. He was finally “rehabilitated” and cleared of all charges in 1988 – fifty years after his death. In 1988, she gave a speech at a conference commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Bukharin’s birth given by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Communist Party Central Committee.

She died in Moscow and was buried in Troyekurovskoye Cemetery.


  1. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (26 February 1996). "Anna Larina, 82, the Widow Of Bukharin, Dies in Moscow". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Anna Larina". Retrieved 6 June 2013.