Review: Roman Malinovsky: A Life Without A Cause, by Ralph Carter Elwood

The name of Roman Malinovsky is little remembered today, but this was not the case a bit more than a century ago. Malinovsky was one of the most important figures in the Bolshevik Party in the years running up to the first world war. He was, in fact, the most senior Bolshevik in Russia itself while Lenin was in exile. Malinovsky was the head of the Russian Bureau of the party, its representative to the Second International, and — most important — the leader of its faction in the State Duma. In 1914, Malinovsky suddenly resigned his Duma post and fled the country, with no explanation. The Mensheviks declared that had been a paid agent of the tsarist police, the Okhrana. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, called those charges “slander”. Lenin personally led the inquiry which exonerated Malinovsky. But it turned out that the Mensheviks were right: Malinovsky was possibly the most senior agent of the Okhrana among the Bolsheviks (though arguably he had a rival). When he returned to Russia in 1917, assuming that Lenin would continue to protect him, he was tried by a revolutionary court and executed. Ralph Carter Elwood, who passed away last year, wrote this short book more than 40 years ago and it remains an outstanding example of how to tell a complex and fascinating story. Highly recommended.

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