Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tsarist Secret Police Penetration of Opposition Helps Explain Stalin’s Paranoia and Repression

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 13 – An important source of Stalin’s paranoia and repressive actions lay in his knowledge of the success the tsarist secret police had in penetrating all opposition political parties before 1917. According to the archives, the Okhrana had more than 10,000 paid agents in these parties, including 2,000 in the Bolshevik Party, and 40,000 more who cooperated.

            Part of this network was exposed just after the revolution, Pavel Pryanikov’s Tolkovatel portal says; but many of the records were destroyed by revolutionary crowds and thus at least some were able to escape being punished, as the trials of others showed (

                “This fact must be considered when we talk about the causes of the repressions of the 1920s and 1930s (and even of the 1940s and 1950s),” Tolkovatel says. “Only after October 1917 was exposed the extent of the infiltration of agents among the opposition, including among the Bolsheviks.” 

                In the event, the site continues, “paranoia reached the top of the Bolshevik Party, especially given that … part of the cases on the provocateurs had been destroyed. Each could suspect another of being a secret agent of the Okhrana … Some Bolsheviks suspected that even Stalin had been a secret agent of the gendarmerie,” not to speak of more junior party people.

            “Moreover, many of the provocateurs were double agents, working for the Russian Okhrana and foreign intelligence services” and that not surprisingly gave the OGPU and NKVD the occasion to look for “’spies under the beds.’”

            Tolkovatel quotes extensively from Vladimir Ignatov’s 2014 book about the intelligence service operations of this kind. According to it, “of the 10,000 exposed agents, about 5,000 were Social Revolutionaries,” about the same number among the Bolsheviks, and sizeable numbers in the Bund, Paolei Tsion and Polish left. 

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