History Archive

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Looking Ahead to a Russian Centennial

25.03.2016 Posted in History, Writing 2 Comments

Those who have been following my blog know that  my biography of Angelica Balabanoff The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel will be published at the end of April by McFarland Publishers. To mark this pulication I decided to devote my blog to Angelica, her friends, passtime and recipes. I hope you liked my previous articles within the series “Red Rebels” about her friends Raya Dunaevskaya, Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni and others, about Angelica writing poems in five languages and the recipe of the only meal she could make – an omelet. No doubt an important event in Angelica’s live was the October Revoltuion of 1917. The first part of her life has been devoted to organising this event, while during the second part of her life she became dissilutioned with it and devoted the rest of her life to fighting it and what was going on in her country. In about 18 months Russia will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the October 1917 Revolution. It will certainly be an occasion  to arouse controversy and emotion. The Revolution was one of the defining moments of the 20th Century. It brought the establishment of a Communist regime, millions lost their lives or fled their homes to go and live overseas.  It is not yet certain how Russia’s contemporary leaders will mark the centennial. During the Cold War, the Soviet government ensured that its revolutionary victory was celebrated as a most important holiday supported by the media and the entire population. Today in Russia many […]

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The Forgotten History of Red Rebels – Mollie Steimer

26.06.2015 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

I hope you liked my previous articles within the series “Red Rebels” about Raya Dunaevskaya, Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni and others. Here is a story of another exceptional woman, Mollie Steimer. As with the previous heroines, I came across Mollie while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Due to the lack of space I was unable to write about her in my book. I would not say that Mollie is my heroine. I do not share her ideas. She was an ardent anarchist and some people suffered because of her believes. Nonethelss, her life was most impressive. She stood for her ideas until the end. No matter how hard it could get and no matter where or how she lived. She ended up “creating” her own extraordinary fate, making it a rare and unusual event which so many of us try to do and so few of us achieve. Mollie Steimer (1897 – 1980) was born as Marthe Alperine in the Ukraine. Mollie moved to the US at the age of 15, becoming an anarchist and free-speech campaigner. After aggressive anarchist behavior directed against the US policy in Russia and their support of the Tsarist army during the Bolshevik Revolution she was first imprisoned and then deported back to her native land, arriving in Moscow on Dec 15, 1923. She quickly met a fellow anarchist Senya Fleshin (by then separated with Louise Berger I […]

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Angelica’s pass time – Montreux – Chateau de Chillon

3.07.2015 Posted in History, Writing 1 Comment

Those who have been following my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. To celebrate the book launch, for the time being I will dedicate my blog to various themes about Angelica and amongst others her favorite pass time (see previous article Angelica’s pass time – Drinking Tea with Jam (varenije)). Angelica was a natural born rebel. Born into a well-off family, since the age of 5 she rebelled against her family and decided to devote her life to helping the unprivileged. However, at first, during her childhood and adolescence she had no other choice than follow her family. Such as travel to luxurious resorts including regular autumn trips in Montreux (Switzerland). The family usually settled in an upscale hotel with a picturesque view of the azure Lake Geneva, cruising boats and Swiss Alps. On the program – walks along the scenic Riviera-style streets with cypresses, palms and flower beds full of lilies and dahlias and shopping. Angelica was unable to stroll idly for days at a time. So she enrolled into a language school for girls. Classes took most of the day which helped her to avoid long lunches on the terrasses of fine restaurants and shopping tours. Among the few escapades she agreed to was visiting the Chateau de Chillon, a medieval castle near the shores of Lake Geneva, made famous by Lord Byron’s poem The Prisoner of […]

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The Forgotten History of Red Rebels – Lidia Dan

17.07.2015 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

I hope you liked my previous articles within the series about the “Red Rebels” about Raya Dunaevskaya, Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni and others. Here is a story of a wonderful woman, whose name is completely forgotten today, Lidia Dan. As with the previous heroines, I came across Lidia Dan, while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Due to the lack of space I was unable to write about her in the book. Born in 1878 in Odessa, she was a sister of the leader of the Mensheviks, (who stood against Lenin and the Bolsheviks), Julius Martov, and the wife of a Menshevik Fyodor Dan. All her life she dreamt about a better future for her country first by supporting Lenin starting from the 1900s, a later when she was expelled from Russia in 1922 together with her brother and husband by fighting against him and the Bolsheviks. Though totally unknown compared to other female revolutionaries, she lived a brave and courageous life. She left behind very sweet, naïve and nonetheless most interesting memoires (in Russian, to read click here) about her early years when she lived together with Lenin, her family and other revolutionaries in Switzerland describing their daily routine, how they worked, what they ate, and what they did intheir free time. After leaving Russia she never got used to life in a foreign country leading a lonely and impoverished existence. […]

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The Forgotten History of Red Rebels – Hugo Eberlein

31.07.2015 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

I hope you liked my previous articles within the series about the “Red Rebels” about Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni, Lidia Dan and others. So far I have been writing about Red women. So here is a story about a man, a German Communist, Hugo Eberlein. As with the previous heros, I came across him, while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Due to the lack of space I was unable to write about him in the book. A good-looking and charismatic Hugo Eberlein was born in 1887 in Germany. A prominent communist and leading German anti-militarist, he supported the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. However only a few years later, he disagreed with Lenin’s politics of the Red Terror and preferred to settle in Germany and devote his time to German Socialists. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Hugo decided that he would be safer in Russia. In 1937, four years after arriving in Moscow, he was sent to GULAG.  He was shot four years later, in 1941, at the beginning of war between Russia and Germany. Bertram Wolfe wrote in his book Strange Communists I Have known, that it has been suggested that Hugo Eberlein was married to a daughter of Lenin and Inessa Armand. (It has never been proved that Lenin and Armand had a child). Wolfe further writes that when Eberlein was send to GULAG in 1937, his wife disappeared. […]

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The Forgotten History of Red Rebels – Alexandra Kollontai

14.08.2015 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

I hope you liked my previous articles within the series about the “Red Rebels” about Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni, Hugo Eberlein and others. I would like to say today a few words about Alexandra Kollontai. As with the previous heros, I came across her, while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Due to the lack of space I was unable to write about her in the book. Angelica and Alexandra have always been good friends. They have met in the early 1900s. They kept in touch for the rest of their lives and remained good friends  even after Angelica left Russia in 1921 disagreeing with Lenin’s politics of the Red Terror and becoming a persona non-grata and dangerous friend particularly for such a high-ranking apparatchik as Alexandra. Compared to many other “Red rebels” the name of the beautiful and liberated Alexandra is well-known. For a woman of her time, Alexandra (born in 1872 in St Petersburg) had a remarkable fate. Known for liberated views on sex and marriage, she divorced her husband; went to study political economics at the University of Zurich (one of the few universities in Europe which accepted women at the end of the 19th century), married for the second time to a man much younger than herself; a few men tried to commit suicide because of her; she was among a few high-ranked Soviet apparatchiks who have never been arrested and […]

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The Forgotten History of Red Rebels – Anna Kuliscioff

29.01.2016 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

I have not published in my blog since last September. The reason for this is that I have lost someone very dear to me,  not to forget the recent dreadful events in Paris. Tyring to cope with my grief I was unable to keep many of my commitments. So here am I, 4 months later starting to write again in my blog. Not only I missed it, but my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel, is due to be published by McFarland Publishers in March. I hope you liked my previous articles within the series about the “Red Rebels” about Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni, Hugo Eberlein and others. I would like to say today a few words about Anna Kuliscioff. Not only Anna was an extraordinary woman but she had her birthday this month on January 9. So Happy Birthday Anna! Anna Kuliscioff played an important role in Angelica’s life. One of the chapters in my book is partially devoted to her. So I could not find a better way to tell about her than by quoting from my book: “A few years Angelica’s senior, Anna Moiseyevna Rosenstein originated from a well-off Ukrainian family in the Crimea. Her adoptive name, Kulisceva, stood for “a woman from a far-off Eastern land.” She was a known beauty. Those who had met her when she was young reminisced about her natural elegance and good looks, her blue eyes, “blond thick, wavy hair and very white skin.” Contrary to […]

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The Baffling Fate of Edda Mussolini

18.09.2015 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

I hope you liked my previous articles with the series “Red Rebels” about Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni, Hugo Eberlein and others. Here is a story of an interesting woman, who was certainly a rebel though not exactly a red rebel, Edda Mussolini, the eldest daughter of the infamous Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. As with the previous heroines, I came across Mollie while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Due to the lack of space I was unable to write about her in my book. For a long time it was thought that Edda was a daughter of Angelica. Edda was born in 1910. When she was born her parents Rachel and Benito were not married. Her birth certificate stated: Mother unknown. As she was born during the time when Mussolini spent quite a bit of time with Angelica many thought that Edda was Angelica’s daughter and Rachele agreed to take care of her. Indeed Edda was a rebellious and interesting woman. She was one of the first women in Italy to drive a car and wear pants. She also openly confessed that her favorite writers were Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. She did not get along with her mother Rachele, a traditional Italian woman who stayed at home and did not enjoy being out in public and in her spirit resembled more Angelica. In January 1944 her husband was executed for dissenting from […]

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Dining with the Lenins

11.09.2015 Posted in History, Writing No Comments

Summer went by so fast that I forgot about time and my blog for a couple of weeks. Those who have been following my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: Life of a Communist Rebel. To celebrate the book launch, for the time being I will dedicate my blog to various themes about Angelica, her life, friends, favorite recipes and her pass time. Angelica’s life was full with interesting and compelling events. Undoubtedly one of the main events was her dinner with Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya. Few people if any have ever dined with the Lenins. In fact Angelica mentioned two such dinners, one of them was described in much detail in her autobiography My Life as a Rebel. The dinner took place in October of 1918, in the suburbs of Moscow, Gorky, where the head of the young Soviet state was recovering after an attempt on his life. Here is what she wrote: “On a little converted balcony,” she described the dinner in her memoirs, “… we ate a bit of bread, a tiny slice of meat, and some cheese – which I had brought from Sweden – and drank a glass of tea with a small piece of sugar.” Pointing at the food, Lenin, as if apologizing in front of Angelica for such abundance, explained that it was sent by the workers from all over Russia who wished him a quick […]