Leonid Krasin

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Leonid Krasin
People's Commissar for Foreign Trade
In office
6 July 1923 – 18 November 1925
Succeeded by Alexander Tsiurupa
People's Commissar for Trade and Industry
In office
November 1918 – June 1920
People's Commissar for Transport
In office
March 1919 – December 1920
Personal details
Born (1870-07-15)15 July 1870
Kurgan, Tobolsk Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 24 November 1926(1926-11-24) (aged 56)
London, United Kingdom
Citizenship Soviet
Political party RSDLP, Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Leonid Borisovich Krasin (Russian: Леони́д Бори́сович Кра́син; 15 July [O.S. 3 July] 1870 – 24 November 1926) was a Russian engineer, social entrepreneur and Soviet Bolshevik politician and diplomat.

Early years[edit]

Krasin was born in Kurgan, Tobolsk Governorate in Siberia. His father, Boris Ivanovich Krasin, was the local chief of police. The young Leonid was a star pupil at school and met the American explorer George Kennan when he visited Siberia.[1] Krasin joined the Social Democratic Labor Party during the 1890s. He graduated from Kharkov Technological Institute in 1901.

Political activism[edit]

In the 1903 split into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, Krasin supported the latter, and was elected to the Central Committee the same year.

Arrested towards the end of the 1890s, he was sent to internal exile in Siberia where he worked as a draughtsman on the Trans Siberian Railway. Released from exile in 1900, he moved to Baku where the future Stalin was also active at the same time. While there Krasin used his financial contacts to help establish an illegal printing press which was the main vehicle for Lenin’s newspaper. He left Baku in 1904 to work as the chief engineer of Savva Morozov.

His activities during the 1905 Revolution were primarily in sourcing finance for the revolutionaries, including organizing bank robberies to fund the Bolsheviks' revolutionary activities. Krasin helped organize the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery, a bloody robbery that took place in the middle of Yerevan Square, killing forty and injuring 50.

However, he also enjoyed the excitement of terrorism. His home was the main laboratory from which were manufactured the bombs used to attack Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin.[2]

This quest for excitement caused a break with Lenin. Lenin, who was usually acerbic in such circumstances, remained complimentary towards Krasin, and continued to exhort him to rejoin the Party.[3]

In 1908 he left Russia and in 1909 collaborated with Alexander Bogdanov in the launch of Vpered. Later he withdrew from political activities for many years. He had a successful career as an electrical engineer, becoming a millionaire. After the February Revolution of 1917 he returned and rejoined the Bolsheviks.[4] In the Russian Bolshevik government Krasin was People's Commissar of Foreign Trade from 1920 to 1924.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Krasin met E. F. Wise in Copenhagen in April 1920. Wise was representing the Supreme Economic Council. It was in this capacity that he negotiated and signed the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement of March 1921. In 1924 he was elected to the Communist Party's Central Committee, an office he held until his death. In 1924, he became the first Soviet Ambassador to France. He left a year later for London, where he died.

Role in project of Lenin's tomb[edit]

Krasin, in the tradition of Nikolai Federov, believed in immortalization by scientific means. Shortly after Lenin's death he wrote an article on "The Immortalization of Lenin" and proposed a monument containing Lenin's corpse that would become a center of pilgrimage like Jerusalem or Mecca. Krasin, along with Anatoly Lunacharsky, announced a contest for designs of the permanent monument/mausoleum. Krasin also attempted unsuccessfully to cryogenically preserve Lenin's body.[5]


Krasin thought that science would overcome death. At the funeral of Lev Karpov in 1921, he said:

I am certain that the time will come when science will become all- powerful, that it will be able to recreate a deceased organism. I am certain that the time will come when one will be able to use the elements of a person's life to recreate the physical person. And I am certain that when that time will come, when the liberation of mankind, using all the might of science and technology, the strength and capacity of which we cannot now imagine, will be able to resurrect great historical figures- and I am certain that when that time will come, among the great figures will be our comrade, Lev Iakovlevich.[6]

However this hoped for eventuality had not been achieved by the time of his death from a blood disease. At the time, Krasin was negotiating formal recognition of the Bolshevik government by the United Kingdom and France. The remedies proposed by his old friend, the physician Alexander Bogdanov, could not save him. Krasin's funeral procession three days later included 6,000 mourners, many of them Bolshevik sympathizers; he was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium before being buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow.

His London position was filled by Christian Rakovsky.

Two famous icebreakers (launched in 1917 and 1976) commemorated Krasin's name.

During the Great Purge and until Stalin's death he was largely omitted from the history of the Communist Party and the Soviet government.[7]

His daughter Liubov married French politician and diplomat Gaston Bergery, and divorced in 1928. She married after the war French politician and journalist Emmanuel d'Astier de La Vigerie. His third daughter Tamara Tarasova-Krasina lives in Moscow.



  1. ^ Glenny, Michael (Oct 1970). "Leonid Krasin: The Years before 1917. An Outline". Soviet Studies (Taylor & Francis, Ltd.) 22 (2): 192–221. doi:10.1080/09668137008410749. JSTOR 150054. 
  2. ^ Felshtinsky, Yuri (2003). Preface to Leonid Krasin: Letters to His Wife and Children (in Russian). 
  3. ^ Adam Ulam Stalin: The Man and His Times
  4. ^ 'The Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement, March 1921', M. V. Glenny, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 5, No. 2. (1970), pp. 63-82.
  5. ^ John Gray, The Immortalization Commission, 2011, pp. 161-166.
  6. ^ Tumarkin, Nina (1981). "Religion, Bolshevism, and the Origins of the Lenin Cult". Russian Review 40 (1): 35–46. doi:10.2307/128733. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge, 1971