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Boris Bazhanov
Born Boris Bazhanov
(1900-01-01)1 January 1900
Mogilev-Podolskiy, Russian Empire
Died 1 January 1983(1983-01-01) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Residence France
Nationality Ukrainian
Other names
  • Boris Bašanov
  • Boris Bajanov
  • Boris Baschanow
Citizenship French
Known for Stalin-Era defector

Boris Georgiyevich Bazhanov (Russian: Борис Георгиевич Бажанов, sometimes spelled Bajanov) (1900–1983) was a secretary of the Soviet Union's Politburo, and personal secretary to Joseph Stalin from August 1923 through 1925.[1][2] After holding several different positions in the Politburo from 1925 to 1928, Bazhanov defected from the Soviet Union, and remains the only assistant of Stalin's secretariat to have done so. Stalin's subsequent attempts to hunt down and kill Bazhanov in France failed. From 1930 on, Bazhanov wrote and published memoirs and books about the secrets behind Stalin's actions, which continued to be published and translated after his death in Paris in 1983.


Early years

Boris Bazhanov was born in 1900 in Mogilev-Podolskiy,[3] Russian Empire (now in Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine). When Bazhanov was 17, the Russian Revolution of 1917 splintered power in Ukraine causing the Ukrainian territory to be fought over by various factions.

Situation in Eastern Europe, March 1919. Western Ukrainian territories are marked in grey; Russian in red; Polish in yellow.

By 1921, when Bazhanov was 21, the territory of modern-day Ukraine was divided between Soviet Ukraine (which would become a constituent republic of the Soviet Union) and Poland, with small regions belonging to Czechoslovakia and Romania.

In 1919, Bazhanov joined the local Communist Party organization and was soon afterward elected district secretary. Quickly rising through local party posts in Ukraine, he went to Moscow to study engineering in November 1920. In 1922 he applied for a technical position with the Central Committee apparatus and was accepted by Ksenofontoff. On August 9, 1923, Bazhanov was named assistant to Stalin based on a decision of the organization bureau that read, "Comrade Bazhanov is named assistant to Joseph Stalin and a secretary of the ."[3]

Stalin's assistant

As Stalin's assistant, Bazhanov became Secretary of the Politburo and was responsible for taking notes of the meetings.[4] On October 26, 1923, Bazhanov took notes at a Central Committee meeting attended by Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leon Trotsky at a time when Lenin was very ill and just three months before his death.[5] During the meeting, Lenin offered to appoint Trotsky as his "heir."[5] According to Bazhanov's notes, Trotsky turned down the job of deputy leader because he was Jewish, reasoning "We should not give our enemies the opportunity to say that our country was being ruled by a Jew. ... It would be far better if there was not a single Jew in the first Soviet revolutionary government."[5] After Lenin's death in January 1924, Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev together governed the party, placing themselves ideologically between Trotsky (on the left wing of the party) and Nikolay Bukharin (on the right). Trotsky eventually was forced into exile in Mexico, where he was assassinated in 1940 by a Stalinist agent.[5] Bazhanov's notes were discovered in early 1990 by Soviet historian Victor Danilov and used in support of an answer to one of the mysteries of the Bolshevik Revolution: why Leon Trotsky refused Vladimir Lenin's offer to appoint him as heir.[5]

During the years 1923 - 1924, Bazhanov attended all the meetings of the Politburo[6][7] and worked in Stalin's secretariat and for the politburo to the end of 1925.[2] In the early 1920s, Bazhanov's role in Stalin's inner circle was smaller than that of the "group of five" composed of Yakov Brezanovsky, Ivan Tovstukha, Amayak Nazaretyan, Georgy Kanner, and Lev Mekhlis.[8] Bazhanov's influence with Stalin increased after Brezanovsky and Nazaretyan left the secretariat.[9] Bazhanov was able to hold on to different positions at the Politburo from 1925 to 1928.[7]

Soviet defector

Dissatisfied with contributing to Communism, Bazhanov crossed the border to Iran to defect from the Soviet Union on January 1, 1928,[1] the same year that the first of Stalin's Five-Year Plans for the National Economy of the Soviet Union was accepted. Bazhanov would be the only assistant of Stalin's secretariat who would turn against the Soviet regime.[10] Bazhanov subsequently was granted asylum in France.[11]

Through his defection, Bazhanov became an enemy of Stalin.[11] Bazhanov was pursued by a manhunt led by Georges Agabekov, who was the chief Soviet spy in the Near East at that time until Agabekov himself defected in France in June 1930.[1] In October 1929, Stalin ordered assassin Yakov Blumkin to travel through Paris to the island of Prinkipo in Istanbul, Turkey to assassinate Trotsky.[11] While in Paris, Blumkin was to assassinate Bazhanov.[11] With the help of his cousin and GPU informer Arkady Maximov, Blumkin staged a car accident.[11] However, the car accident failed to kill Bazhanov.[11] Bazhanov fought in a formation of Russian emigres with the Finnish Army in the defence against the Soviet war to conquer that country.[12]

In the conclusion of the 1978 book The Storm Petrels: The Flight of the First Soviet Defectors,[1] Bazhanov remarked on "the twisted path of Marxism":

"You know, as I do, that our civilization stands on the edge of an abyss... Those who seek to destroy it put forth an ideal. This ideal [of communism] has been proven false by the experience of the last sixty years ... the problem of bringing freedom back to Russia is not insoluble ... the youth of Russia no longer believe in the system, despite the fact that they have known nothing else. If the West [develops its] confidence and unity, [it] can win the battle for our civilization and set humanity on the true path to progress, not the twisted path of Marxism."[13]

Bazhanov published an edition of his memoirs in France in 1980, entitled Memoirs of a Secretary of Stalin's.[2] Bazhanov died in France in January 1983.[1]

Editions of Bazhanov's memoirs

Retracted parts of the first edition

The 1930 edition of Bazhanov's memoir had him becoming an anti-Communist well before he came to Moscow and took up positions with the Central Committee. In later editions, Bazhanov retracted these statements, explaining that in reality he soured on the Communist ideology during 1923–1924, while working at the Central Committee. However, he was bound to protect his closet-dissident friends remaining behind in the USSR, by casting himself as a "lone avenger" figure.

List of editions


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Krasnov, Vladislav (1985). Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List. Hoover Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-8179-8231-0.,M1. Retrieved 6 November 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Medvedev, Roy Aleksandrovich (1989). Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism. Columbia University Press. pp. 89. ISBN 0-231-06350-4.,M1. Retrieved 6 November 2008. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Martens, Ludo (25 August 1995). Another view of Stalin. Progressive Labor Party (United States). Retrieved 6 November 2008. 
  4. Bajanov 2003: 2-3
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Newly Revealed Document May Solve Mystery About Trotsky". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 1, 1990. pp. 9D. Retrieved 6 November 2008. 
  6. Kun 2003: 93
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bajanov 2003: 4-5
  8. Kun 2003: 285-286
  9. Kun 2003: 93, 286
  10. Kun 2003: 296, writing "Bazhanov, the only assistant at Stalin's secretariat who later turned against the Soviet regime, mentions a number of such cases ..."
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Krasnov, Vladislav (2001). The Secret File of Joseph Stalin: A Hidden Life. Routledge. pp. 204–205. ISBN 0-7146-5050-1.,M1. Retrieved 6 November 2008. 
  13. Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1978). The Storm Petrels: The Flight of the First Soviet Defectors. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 234. ISBN 0-15-185223-5. 


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