Staunton, February 22 – As Lenin anticipated, historians would evaluate him on the basis of documents; and if there were no documents about his and Bolshevik leaders’ most obvious crimes such as the murder of the Imperial Family, there would always be found those who would insist that he and they played no role in such actions, Vladimir Voronov says.
In a Novaya gazeta commentary, the historian says that “Lenin established the tradition of the authorities there to hide the documented traces of their crimes,” either relying on oral directives without any written orders at all or destroying the latter so that they could deny what they had done (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/02/22/84038-arhisekretno-shifrom).
Voronov provides numerous examples of this and suggests that “Comrade Lenin, being the real initiator and organizer of the most important political actions, had the habit of not taking on himself directly responsibility for these decisions or signing the most offensive directives.” He his behind “the will of the people” or the collective leadership.
“Being both a politician and an egocentric individual who had long sought the heights of power, popularity and glory,” Voronov continues, “Lenin understood perfectly what the Judgement of History was, and knew the history of all the European revolutions, especially the French, with its mass terror” and how documents affected the reputations of those involved.
Lenin had no plans to avoid terror, just the reverse, but he did want to ensure that he personally wouldn’t be blamed later. And his inclination to do so had only been intensified by the world of the Russian revolutionary emigres in which he had lived so long, the Novaya gazeta commentator says.
The Bolshevik leader was thus ready to “destroy inconvenient facts and documents (and people too!) and did so routinely setting a precedent for his successors down to the present who have always preferred to hide their roles in crimes by avoiding the creation of documents that could implicate them.
Lenin’s success in this regard was perhaps greatest in the way in which he avoided any responsibility in the minds of many for the murder of the Imperial Family. Other comrades like Yakov Sverdlov were less careful, and so many came to believe that he or some local official was to blame. In fact, Lenin was at the center of decision making on this crime.
Voronov points to the research Edvard Radzinsky conducted for his biography of Lenin in which the writer showed the lengths to which Lenin was prepared to go to keep any link between him and this horrific action from being documented for posterity, an effort that not only worked for a long time but is a model for Russian leaders to this day.