Born in 1878 in a dazzlingly rich family in Chernigov, Angelica broke ties with her parents and left for Europe, to become one of the leading female socialists of the European labor movement at the beginning of the 20th century. She was famous in Italy for “discovering” Mussolini, when he was an unknown socialist, and being the first person who “polished and educated” the future Duce. Only 5 feet tall, plum and unattractive, she was rumored to be a lover of Mussolini, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. For a long time, it was thought that Mussolini’s eldest daughter Edda was the daughter of Angelica. Angelica returned to Russia at the beginning of the October Revolution. Highly respected within the European socialist movement, her mere presence in Russia during the Revolution served as real publicity for what was happening in the country.
After being nominated the First Secretary of the Comintern and becoming one of the few women to occupy high-ranking positions within the all-male Bolshevik government, Angelica fled Russia, disagreeing with Lenin’s politics. She was accused by European and American secret services of promoting communist propaganda and by the Soviets of becoming a traitor. A brilliant translator, she spoke six languages. An excellent live speaker, she gathered crowds of men and women, addressing the most daring subjects at the time when women stayed at home. A constant traveler, she lived all her life in small student-like rooms, moving on average every two years, going to places where her presence and work for the cause could help the poor and the oppressed, carrying with her two suite-cases with documents she considered important. Angelica died in Rome at the age of 96.
Biography of Angelica Balabanoff
The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel
McFarland Publishers, March 2016
Quotes about Angelica
Frances Grant – Letter to Angelica Balabanoff:
“It must be a great source of real gratification to you to realize how much you have accomplished in your lifetime. I realize that, to a person like yourself whose objectives are so great, the accomplishment may seem comparatively little but that is only because you sights are set so high. We who see you and can appreciate your achievements, stand in constant admiration. For me, one of the most impressive things about you is the fact that you live your philosophy not merely articulate it.”
Francis Grant. Letter to AB. April 2, 1953. Frances Grant personal papers
Norman Thomas – Letter to Angelica Balabanoff:
“It is the world which is a better place because you have been in it.”
Norman Thomas. Letter to AB. December 19, 1961. NYPL/NT.
Benito Mussolini in a coversation with his personal biographer Yvon de Begnac:
“I repeat, I own Angelica more than she thinks that I own her. Political wisdom, fidelity to the ideas… Her generosity does not know the limits, just as her friendship and her intimacy. If socialism could have a liturgy, religious rites, Saint Angelica of Socialism should be placed at the front of a political empyrean with Marx as a creator of earth and heaven. If I had not met her in Switzerland, I would have remained a small party activist, a Sunday revolutionary.”
“…when I first met Margherita [Sarfatti], she was a member of the “salon set,” also frequented by Angelica Balabanova. Around these two beautiful young women clustered such men as Modigliani, Ricciotto Canudo, the brothers Garibaldi… The one member of the group who differed politically from the others was Angelica. She was, in fact, a personal friend of Lenin and one of the most eminent social revolutionaries in Paris… Mussolini, then an Italian Socialist leader, became Angelica’s lover. Soon he was the puppet of the fiery Angelica, echoing her every word and thought; for a time in fact, Angelica was Mussolini’s brain. Then one day… Mussolini met and fell in love with Margherita, deserted Angelica, and took Margherita as his mistress. Assuming Angelica’s old role, Margherita turned his thinking completely about, nurturing the germ of fascism which had always lain dormant in Il Duce’s mind.”
Rivera, D. My Art Life – An Autobiography (with Gladys March), http://fr.scribd.com/doc/147888915/21613010-Diego-Rivera-My-Art-My-Life.