Courtesy Reuters

The Russian Mystery

Behind the Tukhachevsky Plot

THE recent evolution of the Soviet Union has been overwhelming in its surprises. These surprises have recently become so disconcerting that many Russians, Communists and non-Communists alike, as well as many foreign observers accustomed to speak with assurance on all things Russian, are abandoning attempts to find a rational explanation for them, to discover in them an inner logic, a sense of direction. Yet certain definite theories exist about the cataclysmic events which have so perturbed the Communist movement in recent months and so perplexed the most self-satisfied foreign observers. The present article will not attempt to choose between these theories. All it purports to do is furnish the reader with some light on them as a means of distinguishing, even if only vaguely, the various political currents which seem to be operating in Russia as the Soviet régime approaches its twentieth birthday.

The observers who throw up their hands in bewilderment are exemplified in an extreme form by those who say that Stalin is insane. Rumors to this effect have circulated in Moscow since May 1931. But insanity is too simple and neat a way of explaining the acts of a man who controls the life of an immense realm containing a population of 170 millions. History does not allow absolute rulers -- whether sovereigns, dictators, or "leaders" -- to do anything so banal as to lose their reason. This privilege is reserved for private citizens. Loss of reason or weakness of will in a man who commands thousands of subordinate leaders, and through them millions and millions of men, can have reality as a political factor only if it is the supreme expression of some fatal malady in the body politic. Such was the case in Russia of the Tsars. On the eve of the Revolution, the fate of the régime and of Russia itself was in the hands of an hysterical woman, an ignorant sorcerer, and a minister stricken with complete paralysis.

But at the time the Zinoviev-Kamenev

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