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Soviet Historian Defends Bukharin, Victim of Stalin

September 10, 1987|From Reuters

MOSCOW — A Soviet historian Wednesday published a strong defense of Nikolai I. Bukharin, the Bolshevik revolutionary who was executed by Josef Stalin and is a symbol of reform for Communist parties across the world.

Yuri S. Afanasyev, rector of the Moscow State Institute of Historical Archives, said Bukharin, who was shot after a show trial in 1938 and then erased from official histories, was unquestionably not a criminal.

Afanasyev's article in the Moscow News was the most explicit defense of Bukharin to appear in the press since reformist writers, under the Kremlin's drive for openness, began to criticize Stalin's dictatorship.

It was significant because Bukharin was Stalin's leading political opponent in the late 1920s and early 1930s, renowned for his opposition to Stalin's forced collectivization of farms, in which millions were killed, starved or deported to labor camps, and for his sympathy for anti-Stalinist writers such as poet Osip Mandelstam. Since his death, his ideas have inspired reformers who see Stalin's repressions as a grotesque aberration from Communist ideals.

Bukharin never challenged the principle of a one-party state, but he represented a non-Stalinist alternative that provided a foundation for the Eurocommunist movement in Western Europe and the 1968 "Prague Spring" reforms in Czechoslovakia.

Bukharin, whom Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin once called "the favorite of the whole party," was not rehabilitated in the thaw immediately after Stalin's death in 1953.

Many Western specialists think Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's reforms draw inspiration from Bukharin's ideas.

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