Lev Karakhan

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Lev Karakhan
Լևոն Միքայելի Կարախանյան
Born(1889-01-20)January 20, 1889
DiedSeptember 20, 1937(1937-09-20) (aged 48)
CitizenshipRussian Empire (1889–1917)
Soviet Union (1917–1937)
Years active1904–1937
Political partyRSDLP (Mensheviks) (1904–1917)
Russian Communist Party (1917–1937)

Lev Mikhailovich Karakhan (Karakhanian) Armenian Լևոն Միքայելի Կարախանյան, Russian Лев Михайлович Карахан; 20 January 1889 – 20 September 1937) was a Russian revolutionary and a Soviet diplomat. A member of the RSDLP from 1904. At first a Menshevik, he joined the Bolsheviks in May 1917.

In October 1917, he was member of the Revolutionary Military Council; then served as secretary of the Soviet delegation at the Brest-Litovsk peace talks together with Leon Trotsky and Adolph Joffe. In 1918-1920 and 1927–1934, he was the Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs. In 1919, he issued a statement concerning relations with China called the Karakhan Manifesto. In 1921, he was the Soviet Ambassador to Poland; in 1923–1926, the Ambassador to China; after 1934, the Ambassador to Turkey.

Karakhan was known for his dandyish appearance; Karl Radek is quoted as having "maliciously described" him as "the Ass of Classical Beauty",[1] while a junior colleague, Alexander Barmine, wrote that "Our young staff gave him unstinted admiration, amazed that humanity could produce such perfection. He had a purity of profile such as is seen, as a rule, only on ancient coins."[2] The British diplomat Robert Bruce Lockhart, who met Karakhan in 1918, described him as:

An Armenian with dark, waving hair and a well-trimmed beard, he was the adonis of the Bolshevik party. His manners were perfect. He was an excellent judge of a cigar. I never saw him in a bad temper, and during the whole period of our contact, and even when I was being denounced as a spy and an assassin by his colleagues, I never heard an unpleasant word from his lips. This is not to imply that he was a saint. He had all the guile and craft of his race. Diplomacy was his proper sphere.[3]

On May 3, 1937 Karakhan was recalled to Moscow and arrested on charges of participating in a "pro-fascist conspiracy" to overthrow the Soviet Government.

On September 20, 1937, he was sentenced to death by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. He was shot on the same day and became a victim of the Great Purge.

Karakhan was posthumously rehabilitated in 1956.

His third wife (in civil marriage), Marina Semyonova, the Soviet ballet dancer, died in 2010.


  1. ^ Haslam, Jonathan (1992). The Soviet Union and the Threat from the East, 1933-41: Volume 3: Moscow. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 12. ISBN 978-0333300510. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  2. ^ Barmine, Alexander (1945). One Who Survived. New York: Putnam. p. 118.
  3. ^ Bruce Lockhart, R.H. (1932). Memoirs of a British Agent. London: Putnam. p. 254.

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