And Now My Soul Is Hardened (Online version)
We will focus primarily on youths who spent all, or at least most, of their time in the street. Our gaze thus takes in juveniles who drifted out of families, as well as the more obvious millions orphaned, discarded, or otherwise separated involuntarily from parents. Those who remained at home will not be included, regardless of the abuse or neglect they may have experienced there. Soviet administrators responsible for raising indigent children inclined toward a similar sense of their mission’s scope, for even the narrowest definition of the besprizornye yielded more candidates than state institutions could absorb. The time when other youths, living with parents in unsatisfactory settings, could be lodged in children’s homes together with the nation’s orphans—a goal often avowed immediately following the Revolution—quickly receded far over the horizon.
Thus defined, the besprizornye represented first and foremost a stubborn challenge remaining to confront the Bolsheviks after their victory in the Civil War. The dismaying presence of countless young beggars and thieves underscored how deeply war and famine plague a society long after guns fall silent and crops return to fields. Even a wealthier and more experienced government than the one newly ensconced in Moscow would have been hard pressed to overcome rapidly the adversity bequeathed by nearly a decade of catastrophes. Later in the 1920s, though the street children’s ranks diminished considerably, factors such as rural poverty and the unraveling of traditional families spawned additional urchins at a rate that frustrated the government’s attempts to rid the country of their misfortune. As a result, in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s estimation, any description of Soviet urban life in this period remains incomplete without attention to abandoned juveniles, so common were they in train stations, markets, and other public places.
Read, And Now My Soul Is Hardened (Online version)
From Stalin and his lover aged 13
The story was too shocking to believe. But now that Stalin was dead, his successor Nikita Khrushchev decided he had to investigate the astonishing rumour about the monster's sexual depravity.
It was claimed that when he was in his 30s and before he became leader, Stalin had raped or seduced, even fathered a child with, a girl who was just 13 years old - and had been indicted for the under-age seduction by the police.
The tale had long been dismissed as just another piece of Western anti-Stalin propaganda[...] It had first surfaced soon after he took over from Lenin as Soviet dictator in 1924, appearing in the "scurrilous" tabloids and emigre journals in the West that were banned in the newly-formed Soviet Union.[...]during his reign of terror the rumour had all but disappeared - no one dared breathe a critical word about the tyrant in those years.
But on his death in 1953 it had resurfaced. And now Khrushchev, having heard the story of the under-age girl, had commissioned his KGB boss General Ivan Serov to investigate in great secrecy.
As Stalin's biographer, I had heard the story but it seemed so outrageous as to be incredible: like most historians, I simply believed that it was mere propaganda.
It did not sound like the Stalin we knew: he was married twice but usually he was portrayed, somewhat like Hitler, as a freakish inhuman monster, so unnaturally obsessed with power that he was uninterested in sex.
Yet more than 80 years on from when the rumours first appeared, I found myself examining a most extraordinary document among Stalin's papers in the so-called Presidential archives in Moscow, while researching for my new book on the young Stalin.
Marked top secret and signed by the KGB boss Serov, it was addressed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and the Politburo.
It was dated 1956 - three years after Stalin's death - and spelt out the results of General Serov's investigation.
Serov reported back to Khrushchev that, amazingly, the entire story of Stalin's affair with a 13-year-old was true. Khrushchev showed it to the Politburo (including Stalin's long-serving henchman Molotov), who all signed it and then filed it in the deepest recesses of the archives where it has remained until now.
I was also able to find in the archives the memoirs of the girl herself, who was called Lidia. She wrote them during Stalin's reign, which is why they make no mention of any sex or the children she had by Stalin - that would have been suicidal.
Using all these and other archive documents, I constructed an astonishing picture of an unknown Stalin - one that painted him as a promiscuous and faithless serial seducer and libertine.
The picture was confirmed by the reminiscences of villagers who lived in the isolated hamlet that was the 13-year-old girl's home in Siberia.
This, then, is the true story of the under-age affair - the most shocking of many conducted during Stalin's mysterious life in the run-up to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
In March 1914 Josef Stalin - a Georgian cobbler's son known to friends as Soso and comrades as Koba - was sentenced for his revolutionary activities by the Tsar to exile close to the Arctic Circle in a tiny hamlet named Kureika.
The place was a freezing hellhole, an isolated twilight world cut off from humanity in winter by the daylong darkness.
In Kureika, only the reindeer, snowfoxes and Tungus indigenous tribesmen could really function in deep midwinter. Everyone wore reindeer fur.
The hamlet contained 67 villagers - 38 men and 29 women - all packed into just eight ramshackle izbas or wooden peasant shacks.
Among them were seven orphans from the same family - the Pereprygins - of whom the youngest was 13-year-old Lidia.
She immediately noticed Stalin, not just because of his good looks but also because he was hopelessly underdressed with only a light coat.
Before long, he was sporting the full local outfit - from boots to hat - of reindeer fur, all of it provided by Lidia Pereprygina.
Stalin in those days was slim, attractive, charming, an accomplished poet and educated in the priesthood, but also a pitiless Marxist terrorist and brutal gangster boss - a Red Godfather who had funded Lenin's Bolsheviks with a series of audaciously bloody acts of bank robbery, piracy and racketeering.
Lidia was a schoolgirl orphan living on the remote frontier where girls matured early.
Some time in the early summer of 1914, the 35-year-old Stalin embarked on an affair with Lidia.
While not admitting to anything explicit in her memoirs, we catch a glimpse in them of Stalin and Lidia together staggering from drinking bout to drinking bout, because she writes of their drunken dancing and singsongs: "In his spare time, Stalin like to go to evening dances - he could be very jolly too. He loved to sing and dance."
These memoirs of Stalin's 13-year-old mistress - recorded 20 years later at the height of his dictatorship, while she remained a Siberian housewife - were clearly constrained.