Vladimir Smirnov (politician)

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Vladimir Mikhailovich Smirnov (Russian: Влади́мир Миха́йлович Смирно́в; 1887 – 26 May 1937) was a Russian Communist and member of the Bolshevik Party, where he advocated a militant and doctrinally pure line.

Smirnov, who was closely associated with Nikolai Bukharin, was a political commissar in the Red army and represented the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party and was the main spokesman of the Military opposition. He was a member of the editorial board of Kommunist, the organ of the Petrograd Committee of the party. Years before the October Revolution he pushed for a more militant party tactics, much to the annoyance of Lenin. He became the finances director of the governing body of the Moscow oblast, Sovnarkom, which executed wide powers and had high ambitions of local rule, although it was abolished already in June, 1918. His attempts at forming similar bodies where short-lived.[1]

Smirnov served in the governing bureau of the Supreme Economic Council, set up in December 1917. His Left fraction initially dominated the Council and Lenin had to take their position into recognition.[2]

Speech at the 8th Party Congress, 1919[edit]

At the 8th Party Congress of the Russian Communist Party, Smirnov appeared as a delegate from the 5th army. On 20 March 1919, Smirnov gave a speech to the Congress on the use of former Tsarist Officers (termed 'Specialists' within the party) and political commissars in the Red Army. Responding to accusations from Grigory Sokolnikov that he opposed the use of officers, which by this point had become a key plank of Bolshevik military strategy, he denied favouring the use of Partisan militia in the Russian Civil War. He did, however, warn of the inadequate political mechanisms that the Soviet authority had at its disposal to control these officers. Arguing for the repeal of Decree on Revolutionary Military Councils, he said to the Congress

...The role of the political commissars is limited to the functions of supervision... Now that we have the political commissars with sufficient combat experience and able not to intervene when not needed, we must give them broader rights, a larger part in the direction of the armies.

Smirnov regarded the commissars as an integral check on the potential disloyalty of the old officers. This preference for so-called 'politicisation' of the Red Army was shared by the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party in opposition, but largely rejected by Leon Trotsky, the People's Commissar of Army and Navy Affairs, who by 1919 exercised full control over the military.

Opposition, prison and death[edit]

In 1923 he belonged to those who signed The Declaration of 46. In 1926 Smirnov, together with Timofei Sapronov formed the "Group of 15", which joined the United Opposition headed by Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. They were expelled from the Communist Party at the 15th Party Congress in December 1927 along with the rest of the United Opposition. Later, on 31 December 1927 he was arrested and sentenced to expulsion from Moscow to the Ural region for 3 years. On 29 January 1930, he was sentenced again, for 3 years in prison. On 10 November 1932, the term was extended with 2 years. And on 4 November 1934, he was sent for 3 years in Siberia. After the assassination of Kirov, in March 1935, Smirnov was arrested again and by a special decision of NKVD from 22 May 1935, was re-imprisoned for 3 years. In early 1937, while serving in the Suzdal special prison, Smirnov sent letters to the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs Yezhov and the USSR Prosecutor Vyshinsky, protesting against his detention. On April 20 the same year, he was transferred to Moscow and, on 26 May 1937, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court USSR under the chairmanship of V. Ulrich sentenced him to death for participating in a counterrevolutionary terrorist organization. Smirnov was shot on the same day, becoming a victim of the Great Purge.

On 16 November 1960, Smirnov was partially rehabilitated but not was fully rehabilitated until 1990.


  1. ^ Timothy J. Colton: Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis pp. 68, 102f.
  2. ^ The decline of the Russian Revolution and the cult of the Party Revolutionary Perspectives March 1, 2003-03-01, quoting R.V. Daniels: The Conscience of the Revolution. Simon and Schuster 1960, p. 84.