To Defeat Him by Quoting Lenin and Facts: Practices of the Political Cult in Discussions of the 1920s




political cult; discussion; Bolshevik party; political practices; Leninism; Leningrad party organisation


This article analyses practices related to the cult of Lenin in the confines of the Leningrad party organisation of the RCP(b) and its influence on innerparty discussions and political disagreements. The author aims to examine how appeal to the cult and Leninism helped shape the position of the Leningrad Bolsheviks led by G. E. Zinoviev. To achieve this goal, the author refers to a variety of sources, i. e. the works of the leaders of the Leningrad party organisation, such pamphlets by G. I. Safarov and G. E. Evdokimov, minutes of district party conferences, etc. The sources listed above suggest that the terms “testament,” “heritage,” and “task” used in party discourse symbolise a set of actions and principles, following and being faithful to which allowed party members to comply with the correct political line. For representatives of the Leningrad opposition, this meant relying on the poor and middle strata of the village. The category of practice mentioned in the title of this article means that attention was paid not so much to the function of quotations or clichéd phrases but rather to what party groups implied when quoting Lenin’s statements. The term “cult”, which historiography usually employs to describe the veneration of V. I. Lenin as the leader of the party, does not reflect the entirety of this process or take into account its productive component, namely, the fact that, because of its heterogeneity, Leninism allowed members of the Communist Party to pay attention to diverse aspects of Lenin’s heritage. In the course of the polemic surrounding issues facing the party (politics in the countryside, the possibility of building socialism in a single country, etc.), the Leningrad Bolsheviks turned to Leninism as a range of ideas legitimising their political position and as a tool for identifying the Bolsheviks who, in contrast to the Leningraders, “deviated” from the correct political line.

Author Biography

Timofey Rakov

Senior Lecturer, Tyumen State University.

23, Lenin Str., 625003, Tyumen, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-2726-7939


Althusser, L. (2011). Ideologiia i ideologicheskie apparaty gosudarstva (zametki dlya issledovaniya) [Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Study Notes)]. In Neprikosnovennyi zapas. No. 3. pp. 14–58. Bogushevskii, V. (1925). O derevenskom kulake ili o roli traditsii v terminologii [About the Village Kulak or Considering the Role of Tradition in Terminology]. In Bol’shevik. No. 9–10, pp. 59–64.

Bukharin, N. I. (1926). K itogam XIV s’’ezda VKP(b) [On the Results of the 14th Congress of All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)]. Leningrad, Priboi. 62 p.

Cohen, S. (1988). Bukharin. Politicheskaya biografiya. 1888–1938 [Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888–1938]. Moscow, Progress. 574 p.

Dva goda raboty po zavetam Lenina. Opyt leningradskikh rabochikh v dele pomoshchi kul’turnomu i khozyaistvennomu razvitiyu derevni c 7 risunkami. Sbornik statei i materialov [Two Years of Work According to Lenin’s Precepts. Experience of Leningrad Workers in Assisting the Cultural and Economic Development of the Village with 7 Pictures. A Collection of Articles and Materials]. (1925). Leningrad, Priboi. 160 p.

Ennker, B. (2004). Struggling for Stalin’s Soul: The Leader Cult and the Balance of Social Power in Stalin’s Inner Circle. In Plamper, J., Keller, H. (Eds.). Personality Cults in Stalinism. Göttingen, V&R Unipress, pp. 161–195.

Ennker, B. (2011). Formirovanie kul’ta Lenina v Sovetskom Soyuze [Forming the Cult of Lenin in the Soviet Union]. Moscow, ROSSPEN, Fond “Prezidentskii tsentr B. N. El’tsina”. 438 p.

Evdokimov, G. E. (1925). Kak partiya i sovetskaya vlast’ vypolnyayut zavety tov. Lenina [How the Party and Soviet Power Carry out the Precepts of Comrade Lenin]. Leningrad, Priboi. 30 p.

Halfin, I. (2007). Intimate Enemies: Demonizing the Bolshevik Opposition, 1918–1928. Pittsburgh, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press. 416 p.

Larin, Yu. (1925). Sovetskaya derevnya [The Soviet Village]. Moscow, Ekonomicheskaya zhizn’. 384 p.

Leningrad litsom k derevne. Stenograficheskii otchet Pervoi Leningradskoi gubernskoi konferentsii rabochikh obshchestv smychki goroda s derevnei [Leningrad Facing the Village. Stenographic Report of the First Leningrad Regional Conference of the Workers’ Societies of the Union of the City and the Village]. (1925). Leningrad, Priboi. 123 p.

Lih, L. (2008). Zinoviev: Populist Leninist. In The NEP Era: Soviet Russia, 1921–1928. Vol. 2, pp. 1–23.

Plamper, J. (2012). The Stalin Cult: A Study in the Alchemy of Power. N. Haven, L., Yale Univ. Press. 310 p.

Rakov, T. N. (2018). Politicheskoe nastroenie leningradskikh kommunistov v 1925 g. (cherez prizmu zapisok na raionnykh partiinykh konferentsiyakh) [Zapiski from District Party Conferences as a Reflection of the Political Moods of Leningrad Communists in 1925]. In Vestnik Permskogo universiteta. Istoriya. No. 1, pp. 165–172. DOI 10.17072/2219-3111-2018-1-165-171.

Rolf, M. (2004). The Leader’s Many Bodies: Leader Cults and Mass Festivals in Voronezh, Novosibirsk, and Kemerovo in the 1930’s. In Plamper, J., Keller, H. (Eds.). Personality Cults in Stalinism. Göttingen, V&R Unipress, pp. 197–206

Safarov, G. I. (1925). K voprosu o nashei stabilizatsii. (Beglye zametki) [To the Question of Our Stabilisation. (Short Reports)]. Leningrad, Priboi. 39 p.

Spasskii, Yu. (1925). Na perelome. (Iz derevenskoi literatury) [On the Turning Point. (From Rural Literature)]. In Pechat’ i revolyutsiya. No. 5–6, pp. 305–312.

TsGAIPD [Central State Archive of Historical and Political Documents]. Stock 2. List 1. Dos. 142, 143; Stock 3. List 1. Dos. 62; Stock 6. List 1. Dos. 189.

Tumarkin, N. (1983). Lenin Lives! The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia. Cambridge, Mass, L., Harvard Univ. Press. 315 p.

Velikanova, O. (1996). Making of an Idol: On Uses of Lenin. Göttingen, Muster-Schmidt. 179 p.

Vikhrov, V. M. (2011). Kommunisticheskii lider G. E. Zinov‘ev vo glave Petrograda – Leningrada (konets 1917 g. – nachalo 1926 g.) [Communist Leader G. E. Zinoviev at the Head of Petrograd – Leningrad (Late 1917 – Early 1926]. Dis. … kand. ist. nauk. St Petersburg, S. n. 227 p.

Zinov’ev, G. E. (1925a). Leninizm. Vvedenie v izuchenie leninizma [Leninism. An Introduction to the Study of Leninism]. Leningrad, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo. 400 p.

Zinov’ev, G. E. (1925b). Na smert’ Lenina [On the Death of Lenin]. Leningrad, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo. 60 p.



How to Cite

Rakov, T. (2020). To Defeat Him by Quoting Lenin and Facts: Practices of the Political Cult in Discussions of the 1920s. Quaestio Rossica, 8(2), 488–502.



Problema voluminis