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Yakov M. Sverdlov

 

16 March 1919

100th anniversary of the death of

Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov

 

 

 

"The memory of Comrade Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov will serve not only as a symbol of the revolutionary's devotion to his cause, not only as the model of how to combine a practical, sober mind, practical ability, the closest contact with the masses and ability to guide them, but also a pledge that ever-growing masses of proletarians will march forward to the complete victory of the world communist revolution."

(LENIN)

 

 

Speech In Memory Of Y. M. Sverdlov

At A Special Session Of
The All-Russia Central Executive Committee

March 18, 1919

 

"There are people, leaders of the proletariat, about whom no noise is made in the press—perhaps because they do not like to make a noise about themselves—but who are, nevertheless, the vital sap and genuine leaders of the revolutionary movement. Y. M. Sverdlov was a leader of this type."

(STALIN)

 

House in Nizhny Novgorod,

where Y. M. Sverdlov spent his childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chairman of the Yekaterinburg Committee of the RSDLP

1904

 

 

The room in which classes were held party school in Yekaterinburg in 1905.

 

The cell of the Perm prison, where in 1906 Y. M. Sverdlov was serving a sentence.

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov in the group of prisoners in the Perm prison.

 

Card of the Moscow security department. 1909

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov in the Narym link. 1910

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov in the group of exiled Bolsheviks. Narym. 1910

 

1903

 

Group of Bolsheviks in Turukhansk link. Sit (from left to right): Samoilov, Sergusheva, Badayev, Shagov. Standing: Spandaryan, Stalin, Yakovlev, Petrovsky, Linde, Sverdlov. Sverdlov’s son Andrei is sitting below.

 

1915

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov and K. T. Novgorodtseva (Sverdlov) with their daughter Vera. The end of 1918 - the beginning of 1919

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov returns from the meeting of the V Congress of Soviets. July 1918

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov on the podium during the Day of the Red Officer.

Moscow, Red Square, August 11, 1918

 

 

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov in his office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov in the train when traveling to the front. Autumn 1918

 

 

Sverdlov at the V All-Russian Congress of Soviets

 

Sverdlov, Lenin at the opening of the monument to Karl Marx in 1918

 

 

 

Speech Ya. M. Sverdlov at a rally dedicated to the wires of the fighters to the front, on Red Square. Moscow, 1918

 

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov speaks on the tab of the Palace of workers in Moscow. November 1918

 

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov at the parade of the Universal Education. Moscow, 1918

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov in the group of comrades at the campaign of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.

 

 

 

V.I. Lenin, Ya.M. Sverdlov watching an airplane fly during a demonstration

November 7, 1918

 

Ya. M. Sverdlov with employees in his office. 1918

 

V.I. Lenin and Ya. M.Sverdlov in the presidium of the congress of agricultural communes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement by Ya. M. Sverdlov on consent to run for the Constituent Assembly. 1917

 

 

Sverdlov 1918 signed document

 

"Speech by Ya. M. Sverdlov in the underground apartment." Artist Nikolay Chesnokov

 

 

Speech by Yakov Sverdlov at the II Regional Conference of the RSDLP. Artist L. Tkachenko

 

“The arrest of Yakov Sverdlov and Claudia Novgorodtseva in 1906 in Perm”. Artist German Melentyev

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the design of a constitution of the RSFSR

- Yakov Sverdlov

 

 

 

 

J. V. Stalin

Y. M. Sverdlov

Works, Vol. 6, January-November, 1924, pp. 289-291

 

There are people, leaders of the proletariat, about whom no noise is made in the press—perhaps because they do not like to make a noise about themselves—but who are, nevertheless, the vital sap and genuine leaders of the revolutionary movement. Y. M. Sverdlov was a leader of this type.

An organiser to the marrow of his bones, an organiser by nature, by habit, by revolutionary training, by instinct, an organiser in all his abounding activity—such is the portrait of Y. M. Sverdlov.

What does being a leader and organiser mean under our conditions, when the proletariat is in power? It does not mean choosing assistants, setting up an office and issuing orders through it. Being a leader and organiser, under our conditions, means, firstly, knowledge of the cadres, ability to discern their merits and shortcomings, ability to handle them; and secondly, ability to arrange them in such a way that:

1) each one feels that he is in the right place;

2) each one is able to serve the revolution to the utmost of his ability;

3) this arrangement of cadres results not in hitches, but in harmony, unity and the general progress of the work as a whole;

4) the general trend of the work organised in this way serves as the expression and implementation of the political idea for the sake of which the cadres are assigned to their posts.

Y. M. Sverdlov was precisely that kind of leader and organiser of our Party and of our state.

The period of 1917-18 marked a turning point for the Party and the state. In that period the Party, for the first time, became a ruling force. For the first time in human history a new kind of power came into being, the power of the Soviets, the power of the workers and peasants. To transfer the Party, which hitherto had been underground, to the new lines, to create the organisational foundations of the new proletarian state, to devise the organisational forms of the inter-relations between the Party and the Soviets that would ensure leadership by the Party and normal development for the Soviet—ssuch was the extremely complicated organisational problem that then confronted the Party. Nobody in the Party will dare to deny that Y. M. Sverdlov was one of the first, if not the first, skilfully and painlessly to solve that organisational problem of building the new Russia.

The ideologists and agents of the bourgeoisie are fond of repeating threadbare assertions that the Bolsheviks are unable to build, that they are only able to destroy. Y. M. Sverdlov, all his activities, are a living refutation of these falsehoods. Y. M. Sverdlov and his work in our Party were not the result of chance. The Party that produced a great builder like Y. M. Sverdlov can boldly say that it can build the new as well as it can destroy the old.

I do not by any means claim that I am fully acquainted with all the organisers and builders of our Party, but I must say that of all the outstanding organisers I am acquainted with, I know only two, of whom, next to Lenin, our Party can and should be proud: I. F. Dubrovinsky, who died in exile in Turukbansk, and Y. M. Sverdlov, who worked himself to death in building the Party and the state.

 

 

 

Sverdlov

Biographical Scetch

 

 

Biography of Yakov Sverdlov

(1885–1919)

written by Klavdiya Sverdlova,

his wife and companion.

 

 

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia: Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov (party pseudonym — Andrey, Max, and others) [22.5 (3.6). 1885, Nizhny Novgorod, now Gorky - 16/3/1919, Moscow], activist of the Communist Party and the Soviet state. Member of the Communist Party since 1901. Born in the family of an artisan-engraver. From 1900 he worked as an apprentice in a pharmacy; he led propaganda among the workers of Kanavin and Sormov. In 1901 he was arrested for participating in a demonstration against the expulsion of M. Gorky from Nizhny Novgorod. Professional revolutionary; He worked in Nizhny Novgorod, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Kazan, etc. In 1902-03, he was repeatedly arrested, imprisoned, expelled; in 1904, by decision of the Northern Committee of the RSDLP, it moved to an illegal position. In 1905, the Central Committee of the RSDLP was sent to strengthen the Ural Party organization; in December 1905, he headed the committee of the RSDLP in Yekaterinburg (from 1924 in honor of S. - Sverdlovsk). In January 1906, he worked on the restoration of the Perm party organization, defeated by the police. In February 1906, he headed the 2nd Ural Regional Party Conference in Yekaterinburg, elected a member of the regional committee of the RSDLP. In June 1906 he was arrested, in 1907 he was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment. In November 1909 the Central Committee of the RSDLP was sent to reinstate the Moscow party organization; arrested in December, exiled to Narym Territory in 1910, fled in July. As authorized by the Central Committee of the RSDLP, he worked for the Petersburg Party organization; participated in the preparation of the newspaper "Zvezda". In November 1910 he was arrested, in 1911 he was again deported to Narym. He was the initiator of the creation of the Central Bureau for the management of party work among the exiles of the region. After the 6th (Prague) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (1912), he was co-opted in absentia to the Central Committee and entered into the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee of the RSDLP. In December 1912 fled from exile; in Petersburg, he was one of the leaders of the Pravda newspaper and the Bolshevik faction of the 4th State Duma. In 1913, he was arrested and deported to the Turukhansk region, where he continued his revolutionary activities. After the February Revolution of 1917, he came to Petrograd; in April, the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) was sent to the Urals, and headed the Ural Regional Party Conference in Yekaterinburg. Delegate of the 7th (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (b), elected member of the Central Committee; after the conference he was elected secretary of the Central Committee, delegated to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Supervised by the Organizational Bureau for the convocation of the 6th Congress of the RSDLP (b), at which he was elected a member of the Central Committee. After the congress, S. headed the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (B), participated in the leadership of the Military Organization under the Central Committee, established contacts with local party organizations, maintaining constant communication with VI. Lenin, who was in the underground. S. was chairman at the meetings of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) on October 10 (23) and on October 16 (29), 1917, which decided on an armed uprising; elected a member of the Military Revolutionary Center to lead the uprising. Delegate of the 2nd All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the head of the Bolshevik faction of the Congress.
On November 8 (21), 1917, at the suggestion of Lenin, he was elected chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, continuing to remain secretary of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b). There was a chairman of the commission drafting the first Constitution of the RSFSR. At the 7th Party Congress he was again elected a member of the Central Committee of the RCP (B.). In 1918 he was the initiator of the creation of a school of agitators and instructors at the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (converted into the Y.M. Sverdlov Communist University since July 1919). Participated in the preparation of the 1st Congress of the Comintern; in January - February 1919 - in the work of the first congresses of the Soviets of Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus; in March 1919 - in the work of the 3rd Congress of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine and the 3rd All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets.
Describing the activities of S. to consolidate Soviet power in the center and in the field, to create a new apparatus of the Soviet state, Lenin said: “The work that he did alone in the field of organization, choice of people, their appointment to responsible posts in all various specialties, - this work will now be done by us only if each of the major industries that Comrade Sverdlov was solely in charge of, you put forward whole groups of people who, following in his footsteps, would be able to get closer to what one person was doing ”( EMA. cit. op., 5th ed., T.38, p.79). S. buried in Red Square near the Kremlin wall.

 

 

Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov (1885-1918) - Soviet figure, Bolshevik. He led the Bolshevik organizations of the Urals. In 1917, he was a member of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee and the Military Revolutionary Center to lead the uprising. November 8, 1917 elected Chairman of the Central Executive Committee.

Jacob Sverdlov was the "brain of the party," he turned thousands of names in his mind, he knew all the Bolshevik cadres as a memory. When Sverdlov died, he had to radically restructure the work of the highest party organs. Before that, he alone performed it. The internal organs of the Central Committee — the organizing bureau, the political bureau, and the secretariat — were created and filled with authoritative content. After the death of Sverdlov, the importance of hardware work increased and the one who was involved in "technical" issues - the secretary of the Central Committee - began to play a special role.

Jacob Sverdlov, born and raised in a Jewish family practicing Judaism, was involved in the murder of the last Russian emperor. The initiative to unleash the so-called "Red Terror" is associated with his name.

 

Official certificate for a member of the Central Committee:

Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov (May 22 (03.06) .1885–16.03.1919),
Party member since 1901, member of the Central Committee since 1912 (co-opted), member of the Organizing Bureau of the Central Committee since January 16, 1919, headed the Secretariat of the Central Committee from 06 (19) .08.17.
Born in Nizhny Novgorod. Jew.
In 1900 he graduated from the 5 classes of the gymnasium.
On November 8 (21), 1917, representative The All-Russian Central Executive Committee, simultaneously in February-March 1918, the representative of Petrograd Revolutionary Defense Committee, from April 1918, the representative of Commission for drafting the first Constitution of the RSFSR.
Buried on Red Square in Moscow

 

.

 

Member of the Constituent Assembly

Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov (May 23, 1885, Nizhny Novgorod — 03/16/1919, Moscow). Simbirsk district. Number 10 - the Bolsheviks.

Petrograd. From burghers. Gymnasium is not finished. In the RSDLP from 1901. He was exiled to the Arkhangelsk province, Narym (in 1912 he fled), the Turukhansk region. Since 1912 member of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, the editor of Pravda. In 1917 a member of the Ural Regional Committee of the RSDLP (b). Delegate of the I and II All-Russian Congresses of the Councils of the RSD. Since May, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b). The session opened on January 5. Chairman of the Central Executive Committee.

 

Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov (1885-1919) - Soviet state and party leader, member of the RSDLP since 1901, leader of the Russian Social Democratic movement. Conducted revolutionary work in Nizhny Novgorod, Kostroma, Kazan, Moscow and St. Petersburg, worked in the editorial board of Pravda, spent 12 years in prisons and exile, in February 1917 led the Ural party organization, was one of the organizers of the October Revolution, from November 1917 - 1918

 

 

 

Yakov Sverdlov was a Bolshevik party leader and chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.

Sverdlov was born in Nizhny Novgorod as Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov to Jewish parents Mikhail Izrailevich Sverdlov and Elizaveta Solomonova. His father was a politically active engraver who eventually went into forgery, and arms storage and dealing partially to support his family. The Sverdlov family had six children: two daughters (Sophia and Sara) and four sons (Zinovy, Yakov, Veniamin, and Lev). After his wife's death in 1900, Mikhail converted his family to the Russian Orthodox Church, married Maria Aleksandrovna Kormiltsev, and had two more sons, Herman and Alexander. Yakov's eldest brother Zinovy was adopted by Maxim Gorky, who was a frequent guest at the house. Yakov Sverdlov joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1902, and then the Bolshevik faction, supporting Vladimir Lenin. He was involved in the 1905 revolution.

After four years of high school, he became a prominent underground activist and speaker in Nizhny Novgorod. For most of the time from his arrest in June 1906 until 1917 he was either imprisoned or exiled. During the period 1914–1916 he was in internal exile in Turukhansk, Siberia, along with Joseph Stalin.

After the 1917 February Revolution he returned to Petrograd from exile and was re-elected to the Central Committee. He played an important role in planning the October Revolution.

A close ally of Lenin, Sverdlov played an important role in the controversial decisions to close down the Constituent Assembly and to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It was claimed that Lenin provided the theories and Sverdlov made sure they worked. Later their relationship suffered as Lenin appeared to be too theoretical for practical Sverdlov.

He is sometimes referred to as the first head of state of the Soviet Union but this is not correct since the Soviet Union came into existence in 1922, three years after Sverdlov's death. However, as chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) he was the de jure head of state of the Russian SFSR from shortly after the October Revolution until the time of his death.

A number of sources claim that Sverdlov played a leading role in the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

An official version is that Sverdlov died of influenza in Oryol during the 1918 flu pandemic, while returning to Moscow from Kharkiv during one of his political trips and got a flu during one of his outdoor speeches. He is buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, in Moscow. Another version is that he died of tuberculosis. Historian Arkadi Waksberg claimed that there were reliable rumours that Sverdlov was beaten to death by workers in Oryol, due to his Jewish origins, and that the incident was covered up to prevent an anti-semitic outburst. Another speculation is that he was eliminated due to his involvement in an attempt to assassinate Lenin.

In 1924, Yekaterinburg was renamed Sverdlovsk in his honor. In 1991, Sverdlovsk was changed back to Yekaterinburg.

His son Andrei had a long career as an officer for the Soviet security organs (NKVD, OGPU). His niece Ida married NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda.

 

Sverdlov, Yakov Mikhaylovich (1885-1919)

Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets and secretary of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party in 1919. Author of the Soviet Constitution. First president of the Russian Soviet Republic. Sverdlov died of typhus on March 16, 1919.

Born in Nizhny Novogrod on May 22, 1885, Sverdlov was the son of a Jewish engraver. By the age of 17, Sverdlov joined the R.S.D.L.P., joining the Bolshevik Party after the split in the following year. Working out of the Urals (primarily in the city of Yekaterinburg), Sverdlov was a leading organiser of the Bolshevik party; arrested several times, sent to prison and Siberian exile. Lunacharsky wrote:

"I knew that he was a tireless fighter for social democracy, for Bolshevism, knew that he was constantly being sent to prison and into exile, whence he always escaped: whenever they caught him and put him behind bars he would escape again. At once, no matter where fate might take him, he would start organizing Bolshevik committees or cells."

By 1912, Sverdlov was elected into the Central Committee of the party. Released from exile in 1917 by the general amnesty granted by the Provisional Government, Sverdlov returned to Petrograd and became the Secretary of the party. Among all party members, Svedlov's organisational capabilities were outstanding, and his mind remarkable; Lunacharsky wrote: "His memory contained something like a biographical dictionary of communism."

Sverdlov played a major role in organising and planning the October Revolution of 1917. Sverdlov was elected chairman of the CEC, replacing Kamenev in January 1918. By 1918, Sverdlov wrote the Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R.. A year later, catching a cold after giving a speech, Sverdlov continued to work, refusing to stop for sickness. The sickness, however, did not subside; in 1919 Sverdlov died of typhus. By 1924, the city of Yekaterinburg, where Sverdlov had accomplished so much work in, was renamed Sverdlovsk in his honor.

"When he managed to eat and sleep I do not know. He was on duty night and day. Whereas Lenin and a few others provided the intellectual guidance for the revolution, between them and the masses – the Party, the Soviet government apparatus and ultimately all Russia – like a spindle on which it all revolved, like a wire transmitting it all, stood Sverdlov."

 

In 1924 Yekaterinburg was renamed Sverdlovsk in his honor. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin began reverting pre-Soviet names in Russia, and Sverdlovsk was changed back to Yekaterinburg.

 

Anatoly Lunacharsky

REVOLUTIONARY SILHOUETTES

Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov


I first met Yakov Mikhailovich immediately after my return to Russia. Before that I only knew of him from hearsay. I knew that he was a tireless fighter for social democracy, for Bolshevism, knew that he was constantly being sent to prison and into exile, whence he always escaped: whenever they caught him and put him behind bars he would escape again. At once, no matter where fate might take him, he would start organizing Bolshevik committees or cells. Sverdlov in those days was the archetypal Bolshevik underground worker. In that career he acquired two remarkable characteristics which can, I think, be learned nowhere but in an underground movement. The first was an absolutely encyclopaedic knowledge of the entire Party. He appeared to have made a complete study of every one of the tens of thousands of people who made up the Party. His memory contained something like a biographical dictionary of communism.

In every aspect of character which had a bearing on their fitness as revolutionaries Sverdlov could judge people with extraordinary accuracy and finesse. In this he was a real psychologist. He never forgot anything, he knew men’s virtues and their achievements, noticed every lapse, every inadequacy. This was the first skill that Sverdlov brought with him from underground Party work. The second was his undoubted organizing ability.

Naturally I cannot say how well Sverdlov would have shown up as an organizer of the day-to-day business of economics and politics once the revolution had turned to the gradual, prosaic realization of our ideals, but as a clandestine operator, in the intensive though limited work of a revolutionary organizer, he was magnificent. This experience clearly equipped Sverdlov well to be the author of our constitution, to make of him an impressive chairman of the CEC, combining with this the leadership of the Party secretariat.

Until the July days Sverdlov formed part of the Bolshevik ‘general staff’, guiding events alongside Lenin, Zinoviev and Stalin. With the July days he was pushed into the limelight. This is not the place to expatiate on the causes or the significance of the July demonstrations of the Petrograd and Kronstadt proletariat. But it is a fact that their technical organization, once it had proved impossible to stop the demonstrations, was largely the work of Sverdlov. It was he who reviewed the gigantic parade of tens of thousands of armed men as they tramped past Kshesinskaya’s balcony [1], those who gave the marching detachments their fighting slogans.

For some strange reason, when the order was issued for the arrest of Lenin and Zinoviev and when Trotsky, myself and many more Bolsheviks and Left SRs were put in prison, Sverdlov was not arrested – although the bourgeois Press had directly indicated his leading role in what they called the ‘uprising’. At all events this made Sverdlov the effective leader of the Party at that fateful moment, the man who braced its spirit despite the defeats that it had suffered.

Yakov Mikhailovich was raised once more to the crest of history during the convening of the Constituent Assembly. He was appointed its chairman until the election of a presidium.

More than once in these ‘profiles’ I have had occasion to mention one trait which I have always admired in the leading revolutionaries – their calm, their absolute self-control at moments when to all appearances their nerves should be overstrained, when it seemed impossible to preserve an equilibrium. In Sverdlov, however, this characteristic was not only evident to a most impressive degree, but it seemed to be absolutely natural. I have always thought that both Sverdlov’s whole career and his slightly African looks proclaimed an unusually temperamental man. Although there was of course a great deal of inner fire within him, outwardly the man was quite icy. Whenever he was on the rostrum he invariably spoke in a quiet voice, he walked softly, all his gestures were slow as if he were always tacitly saying to those round him: ‘Gently, don’t hurry; this calls for self-control.’

If Moisei Solomonovich Uritsky, the commissar of the Constituent Assembly, surprised people by his calm during the days of sharp conflict between the Soviet government and the supporters of the Assembly, he appeared positively feverish by comparison with Sverdlov, outwardly so phlegmatic and inwardly so boundlessly confident.

The great majority of Communist and SR delegates were agog that day and the whole Tauride Palace was buzzing like an angry swarm: the SRs had been spreading rumours that the Bolsheviks were plotting to smash the right wing and centre of the Constituent Assembly, whilst rumours were circulating among the Bolsheviks that the SRs had resolved on desperate measures and that besides an armed demonstration – which as we know from the trial [of April 1922] was actually in preparation but which never came off – they were going to put up armed resistance to the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly and might attempt in full view of the world and with ‘the heroism typical of that party’ to assassinate some of the ‘usurpers who had brought shame on the revolution’ by their ‘seizure of the government benches by naked force!’

In fact neither the Bolsheviks nor the SRs perpetrated any such excesses and were not even contemplating them. The only difference in the behaviour of the two parties lay in the fact that the Bolsheviks had no need to resort to arms. It was enough for the sailor Zheleznyak [2] to shout, ‘Stop chattering and go home!’ The SRs in general exhibited great ‘loyalty’, which some of them later bitterly regretted as a clear sign of the cowardice which finally undermined the party’s prestige for those who still cherished some illusions about it.

It was in this nervous atmosphere when everybody had taken their seats and when the tension had reached its highest point, that the Right and the Centre were roused to demand the opening of the session. Meanwhile Sverdlov had vanished. Where was he? Some delegates began to grow uneasy. An old graybeard, chosen no doubt because he looked like the oldest member present, was already thundering from the rostrum and stretching out his arm towards the bell. The SRs decided to open the session on their own initiative, using one of the proposed elders of the Assembly. But at this moment, without haste and without quickening his step, the figure of Sverdlov emerged as though he had sprung through the floor. With his customary measured gait he advanced to the rostrum, literally disregarding the venerable SR, removed him, rang the bell and in a voice devoid of the least trace of tension he loudly and with icy calm declared the first session of the Constituent Assembly open.

I mention the details of this scene because psychologically it set the tone for the whole subsequent course of the session. From that moment onward the Left displayed absolute self-control.

The Centre, still seething, seemed to wince and shrivel under this cold douche from Sverdlov. In that chilling tone they felt at once the full steadfastness and decisiveness of the revolutionary government.

I shall not dwell on particular reminiscences of my meetings with Sverdlov nor on my work with him during the first years of the revolution, but I shall merely summarize them.

If the revolution threw up a large number of tireless workers who appeared to exceed the limits of human capacity, then Sverdlov must be placed in the front rank of such men. When he managed to eat and sleep I do not know. He was on duty night and day. Whereas Lenin and a few others provided the intellectual guidance for the revolution, between them and the masses – the Party, the Soviet government apparatus and ultimately all Russia – like a spindle on which it all revolved, like a wire transmitting it all, stood Sverdlov.

At the time, probably instinctively, he adopted a costume which visibly expressed his whole inner personality. He took to wearing leather from head to foot. Firstly he adopted it because it was convenient (he never had time to take it off for long) and secondly he established it, even then, as the commissar’s working dress. But that black suit, which shone like the coat of a well-groomed labrador, lent an even greater sense of stature, gravity and solidity to Sverdlov’s small, unemphatic figure.

The man was like a diamond, chosen for its absolute hardness to be the axis of some delicate, perpetually revolving piece of mechanism.

The man was like ice; the man was like a diamond. His moral nature, too, had a similar quality that was crystalline, cold and spiky. He was transparently free of personal ambition or any form of personal calculation to such a degree that he was somehow faceless. Nor had he any ideas. He had orthodox ideas about everything, but he was only a reflection of the general will, of general Party directives. He never originated anything but merely transmitted what he received from the Central Committee, sometimes from Lenin personally. He transmitted them, of course, clearly and well, adapting them to each concrete situation. When he spoke in public his speeches always bore an official stamp, like leading articles in an official gazette. Everything was carefully thought out; he said what was needed and no more. No sentimentality. No intellectual fireworks. In a given place such and such a statement had to be recorded: it was spoken, noted, ratified and now, he could imply, you may discuss it, make history and so on – the official framework has been laid down.

I cannot say for certain whether our diamond Sverdlov was broken by an excess of work; that is always hard to determine. I think that his doctors underestimated the strain under which a revolutionary lives. I have often heard them say: ‘Of course overstrain played a large part in his case, but the root cause of his illness lay elsewhere and would have revealed itself even under the most favourable circumstances, though perhaps somewhat later.’ I think they are wrong. I believe that the disease latent in his organism and the external dangers which always surrounded him combined to do him fatal harm only in conjunction with overstrain: this factor was consequently the dominant cause of the catastrophe. Sverdlov caught a cold after one of his speeches in the provinces, but because he refused to give in to it, he actually broke under the weight of the superhuman tasks that he had set himself. For this reason, although unlike some revolutionaries he did not die on the field of battle, we are right to see him as a man who gave his life to the cause he served.

His best epitaph was Lenin’s: “Such men are indispensable. To replace him we need a whole squad of others.”

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NOTES

1. Headquarters of the Bolshevik Party in Petrograd, named after the ballerina Kshesinskaya who once inhabited it.

2. A soldier who commanded the guards of Tauride Palace (where the Constituent Assembly convened). After the Assembly refused to recognise the Soviet government, by Lenin’s order Zheleznyak called it to disband.

 

 

 

 

 

LENIN ON SVERDLOV

 

In Memory of
Comrade Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov
Chairman of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee

All those who have worked day after day with Comrade Sverdlov, now realise full well that it was his exceptional organising talent which ensured for us that of which we have been so proud, and justly proud.

He made it possible for us to carry on united, efficient, organised activities worthy of the organised proletarian masses, without which we could not have achieved success, and which answered fully the requirements of the proletarian revolution.

The memory of Comrade Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov will serve not only as a symbol of the revolutionary's devotion to his cause, not only as the model of how to combine a practical, sober mind, practical ability, the closest contact with the masses and ability to guide them, but also a pledge that ever-growing masses of proletarians will march forward to the complete victory of the world communist revolution.

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Speech In Memory Of Y. M. Sverdlov

At A Special Session Of
The All-Russia Central Executive Committee

March 18, 1919

Lenin, Volume 29, pages 89-94

Comrades,

today, when the workers of all countries are honouring the memory of the heroic rise and tragic end of the Paris Commune we have to inter the remains of Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov. In the course of our revolution, and in its victories, Comrade Sverdlov succeeded in expressing more fully and integrally than anybody else the chief and most important features of the proletarian revolution, and this, even more than his boundless devotion to the cause of the revolution, made him significant as a leader of the proletarian revolution.

Comrades, people who judge by what they see on the surface, the numerous enemies of our revolution, and those who to this day vacillate between the revolution and its opponents, consider the most striking feature of our revolution to be the determined and relentlessly firm way it has dealt with the exploiters and the enemies of the working people. There is no doubt that without this, without revolutionary violence, the proletariat could not have triumphed. Nor can there be any doubt that revolutionary violence was a necessary and legitimate weapon of the revolution only at definite stages of its development, only under definite and special conditions, and that a far more profound and permanent feature of this revolution and condition of its victory was, and remains, the organisation of the proletarian masses, the organisation of the working people. And it is this organisation of millions of working people that constitutes the best stimulant for the revolution, its deepest source of victory. And it is this feature of the proletarian revolution which, in the course of the struggle, brought to the fore those leaders who best expressed that specific feature of our revolution that was never seen in revolutions before, namely, the organisation of the masses. This feature of the proletarian revolution also brought to the fore Yakov Sverdlov, a man who was first and foremost an organiser.

Comrades, we Russian revolutionaries, particularly in the stern days of the prolonged, sometimes painful and excessively long period of preparation for the revolution, suffered because of the gulf between theory, principle and programme and our practical work. We suffered most of all from a too deep engrossment in theory divorced from direct action.

The history of the Russian revolutionary movement over a period of many decades contains a list of martyrs who were devoted to the revolutionary cause, but who had no opportunity to put their revolutionary ideals into practice. In this respect, the proletarian revolution, for the first time, provided these formerly isolated heroes of the revolutionary struggle with real ground, a real basis, a real environment, a real audience, and a real proletarian army in which they could display their talents. And in this respect, the most outstanding leaders are those who, as practical, efficient organisers, have succeeded in winning for themselves an exceptionally prominent place such as Yakov Sverdlov won for himself and rightly occupied.

If we survey the life of this leader of the proletarian revolution we see that his wonderful organising talents developed in the course of long struggle. We see that this leader of the proletarian revolution himself cultivated every one of his wonderful gifts as a great revolutionary who had passed through and experienced different epochs in the severest conditions of revolutionary activity. He dedicated himself entirely to the revolution in the very first period of his activities, when still a youth who had barely acquired political consciousness. In that period, at the very beginning of the twentieth century, Comrade Sverdlov stood before us as the most perfect type of professional revolutionary, a man who had entirely given up his family and all the comforts and habits of the old bourgeois society, a man who devoted himself heart and soul to the revolution, and who for many years, even decades, passing from prison to exile and from exile to prison, cultivated those characteristics which steeled revolutionaries for many, many years.

However, this professional revolutionary never, not even for a moment, lost contact with the masses. Although the conditions of tsarism condemned him, like all the revolutionaries of those days, mainly to underground, illegal activities, even then, even in those underground and illegal activities, Sverdlov always marched shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with the advanced workers who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, began to take the place of the earlier generation of revolutionary intellectuals.

It was at this time that scores and hundreds of advanced workers took up activities and acquired that steel-like hardness in the revolutionary struggle which, together with the closest contact with the masses, made it possible to bring about a successful proletarian revolution in Russia. It is precisely this long period of illegal activity that most of all characterises the man who was constantly in the fight, who never lost contact with the masses, who never left Russia, who always worked in conjunction with the best of the workers, and who, in spite of the isolation from general life to which persecution condemned the revolutionary, succeeded in becoming not only a beloved leader of the workers, not only a leader who was most familiar with practical work, but also an organiser of the advanced proletarians. Some people were of the opinion—and this applies mostly to our opponents, or to the waverers—that this complete absorption in illegal activities, this specific feature of the professional revolutionary, cut him off from the masses. But the revolutionary activities of Yakov Sverdlov prove to us how utterly mistaken this opinion was, that, on the contrary, this boundless devotion to the revolutionary cause, which is typical of the lives of people who had seen the inside of many prisons and had been in exile in the remotest regions of Siberia, produced such leaders, the flower of our proletariat. And when this was combined with a knowledge of men and organisational ability, it produced great organisers. The illegal circles, revolutionary underground work, the illegal Party, which nobody personified or expressed so integrally as Yakov Sverdlov—this was the practical school through which he passed, and the only school that could have enabled him to reach the position of the first man in the first socialist Soviet Republic, the position of the first organiser of the broad proletarian masses.

Comrades, all those who, like myself, have had occasion to work with Comrade Sverdlov day after day, had it vividly brought home to them that it was the exceptional organising talent of this man which gave us that which we have been so proud of, so justly proud of, up to now. He made it possible for us to carry on concerted, efficient, really organised activities, activities worthy of the organised proletarian masses, and answering to the requirements of the proletarian revolution—those concerted, organised activities without which we could not have achieved a single success, without which we could not have overcome any one of the innumerable difficulties which we have had to face, and without which we would not have been able to stand up to any one of the severe trials we experienced in the past, and are experiencing at the present time.

In that seething struggle that is revolution, at that special post which every revolutionary occupies, at a time when the work of even a small body of men takes the form of deliberations, of enormous importance is high moral prestige won in the course of the struggle, unquestionable and unchallenged prestige, the roots of which lie, of course not in abstract morals, but in the morals of the revolutionary fighter, the morals of the rank and file of the revolutionary masses.

The fact that for over a year we have been able to bear the incredible burdens that have fallen to the lot of a narrow circle of devoted revolutionaries, the fact that the leading groups could so firmly, quickly, and unanimously decide the most difficult problems, is due entirely to the prominent place among them occupied by such an exceptionally talented organiser as Yakov Sverdlov. He alone managed to acquire an amazing knowledge of the leading men of the proletarian movement, he alone, in the course of the long years of struggle—to which I can refer here only very briefly—succeeded in acquiring the wonderful intuition of the practical worker, the wonderful talent of an organiser, an absolutely unchallenged prestige, thanks to which he was able to take sole charge of some of the largest branches of the work of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee which only a group of ordinary people could cope with. He alone succeeded in winning for himself such a position that on a large number of extremely big and important practical questions of organisation, his mere word was sufficient to secure an unchallenged and final settlement, without conferences, without a formal vote; and everybody felt convinced that the questions had been settled on the basis of such profound practical knowledge and organising intuition that not only hundreds and thousands of advanced workers, but also the masses would accept that settlement as final.

History long ago proved that in the course of the struggle great revolutions bring great men to the forefront and develop talents that had previously seemed impossible. Nobody would have believed that the school of the illegal study circle and underground activities, the school of the small, persecuted Party, the school of Turukhansk prison could produce this organiser who won absolutely unchallenged prestige, the organiser of Soviet power throughout Russia, the man, unique in his knowledge, who organised the work of the Party which created the Soviets and established the Soviet government which is now making its arduous, painful, bloody but triumphant advance to all nations, to all countries throughout the world.

We shall never be able to replace this man who had cultivated such an exceptional organising talent, if by replacement we mean finding one man, one comrade, with all these qualities. Nobody who has been close to Yakov Sverdlov and has watched him constantly at work can have any doubt that in this respect he is irreplaceable. The work he performed as an organiser, in choosing men and appointing them to responsible posts in all the various departments, will be performed in future only if we appoint whole groups of men to handle the different major departments that he had sole charge of, and if these men, following in his footsteps, come near to doing what this one man did alone.

But the proletarian revolution is strong precisely because its roots run deep. We know that it promotes new men to take the place of those who devotedly sacrificed their lives in the struggle, they are perhaps less experienced, possess less knowledge, and are at first less trained, but they are men who have broad contacts with the masses and who are capable of promoting from their ranks groups of men to take the place of the departed geniuses, to continue their cause, to continue along the road they pursued and to complete what they had begun. In this respect we are fully convinced that the proletarian revolution in Russia and all over the world will promote group after group of men, numerous sections of the proletariat and of the working peasantry, which will possess that practical knowledge of life, that organising talent, collective if not individual, without which the million-strong army of the proletariat cannot achieve victory.

The memory of Comrade Yakov Sverdlov will serve not only as a permanent symbol of the revolutionary’s devotion to his cause and as the model of how to combine a practical sober mind, practical skill, close contact with the masses and ability to guide them; it is also a pledge that ever-growing numbers of proletarians, guided by these examples, will march forward to the complete victory of the world communist revolution.

 

* * *

Speech Delivered

At The Funeral Of Yakov Sverdlov

March 18, 1919

We have lowered into the grave the remains of a proletarian leader who did more than anybody to organise the working class and to ensure victory. Now that Soviet power is spreading throughout the world and the knowledge is rapidly gaining ground of how the proletariat, organised in Soviets, is struggling to put its ideas into effect, we are burying a representative of the proletariat who set an example of how to fight for these ideas.

Millions of proletarians will repeat our words: “Long live the memory of Comrade Sverdlov. At his graveside we solemnly vow to fight still harder for the overthrow of capital and for the complete emancipation of the working people... .”

 

* * *

 

Lenin V.I., Speech in memory of Ya. M. Sverdlov at an emergency meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on March 18, 1919. Complete. collected cit., vol. 38, pp. 74–79. Ed. 5th

Lenin V.I., Speech at the funeral of Ya. M. Sverdlov on March 18, 1919. Chronicler recording. Full collected cit., vol. 38, p. 80. Ed. 5th

V.I. Lenin, Speech at the opening of the [VIII] congress [RCP (b)] March 18, 1919 Full. collected cit., vol. 38, p. 127.

V.I. Lenin, Report of the Central Committee [at the VIII Congress of the RCP (B.]) March 18, 1919. Complete. collected cit., vol. 38, pp. 142, 146–147.

Lenin V. I, On the candidacy of M. I. Kalinin for the post of Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Speech at the XII meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee March 30, 1919 Complete. collected cit., vol. 38, p. 223.

Lenin V.I., In memory of the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, comrade Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov. Full collected cit., vol. 38, p. 229. Ed. 5th

V.I. Lenin, Speech at a meeting of the memory of Ya. M. Sverdlov, March 16, 1920 A brief newspaper report. Full collected cit., vol. 40, p. 225.

V.I. Lenin, Report of the Central Committee [at the 9th Congress of the RCP (B.]) March 29, 1920. Complete. collected cit., vol. 40, p.

 

 

On March 16, 1919 Lenin visited the seriously ill Sverdlov in the Kremlin

On March 18, Lenin gives a speech commemorating J. M. Sverdlov at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Central Russian Central Executive Committee.

After the meeting, Lenin goes with the funeral procession on the Red Square. He speaks at the grave J. M. Sverdlov.

 

 

 

 

Sverdlov Funaral (1)

 

Sverdlov Funaral (2)

 

 

Funeral Ya. M. Sverdlov (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial plaque

in honor of assigning Y. M. Sverdlov to Ekaterinburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Novgorod monument

 

Opening of the monument to Ya. M. Sverdlov in Gorky. 1957

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tombstone near the Kremlin wall

 

Sverdlov Communist University

The Sverdlov Communist University was a school for Soviet activists in Moscow, founded in 1918 as the Central School for Soviet and Party Work. After the death of the Bolshevik leader Yakov Sverdlov, the institution was named after him. Its founding rector was Vladimir Nevsky.The curriculum was more concerned with the speedy training of party militants rather than in developing any depth of knowledge. Many of the intake had had little formal education however literacy was an entry requirement. However there was a Rabfak attached where prospective entrants could receive some preparatory education. Sverdlov was working on developing these courses at the time of his death. When it opned several week later on 1 June 1919, it was named in his honour.The main reason for the creation of the institution was the delivery of the "Short Courses" which could be completed in 10–14 days. These were concerned with basic training in propaganda work.


 

SVERDLOV - FILM (1940)