Nicolai Bukharin

Nikolai Bukharin played an important part in the Russian Revolution. Bukharin was seen as being a member of the Bolshevik Party’s ‘Old Guard’ and such a label led to him being one of the men put on trial during Joseph Stalin’s show trials held in the mid to late 1930’s. Bukharin was to pay with his life for his ‘treasonable activities’.


Nikolai Bukharin was born on September 27th 1888. His parents were primary school teachers and as a result he received a good education as a child. As a young man Bukharin got involved in what was seen as left wing politics. Even though he was not a member of the Bolshevik Party, he played a part in the 1905 Russian Revolution. Bukharin joined the Bolshevik Party in 1906 and within two years he was a member of the Moscow Party Committee. His reputation meant that the Russian police were naturally interested in him because of his beliefs and his perceived activities. Bukharin was arrested in 1909 but released without charge. Between 1909 and 1910 he was arrested on a number of occasions and as a result he decided to leave the country.


While in Switzerland he met Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev.


Bukharin returned to Moscow for the February/March 1917 revolution. He became a member of the Moscow Soviet and edited ‘Spartak’, a Bolshevik journal.


Bukharin had his own beliefs regarding economic policies and revolutionary radicalism. This led to a clash with Lenin whose views differed to Bukharin’s. However, after the success of the October Revolution and the Bolshevik success in the civil war, Lenin was the indisputable leader of the Bolshevik Party. As a result, Bukharin toned down his own personal beliefs and was made a member of the Politburo in 1924.


The death of Lenin in 1924 resulted in the Bolshevik Party having a driving force that centred around three men – the ‘Triumvirate’ of Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev. However, Stalin had no intention of sharing power with either of the two men. For Stalin, their mutual support was both for convenience and temporary. But it allowed all three men to turn their ideological attentions against Bukharin who was seen by many as being the leader of the right wing of the party. They took the opportunity to dismiss from office as many supporters of Bukharin as they could and replace them with their own supporters. Ironically, in his campaign to undermine the positions of Kamenev and Zinoviev, Stalin adopted the agricultural beliefs of Bukharin – that the kulaks (farmers who owned large farms) in return for feeding the industrial cities should be allowed to “enrich themselves”. However, this was for convenience only – such was Stalin’s desire to undermine the positions of Bukharin, Kamenev and Zinoviev. Bukharin called Stalin “an unprincipled intriguer who subordinates everything to his appetite for power”.


In 1929, Bukharin was expelled from the Politburo. Subsequent to this, he became a loyal supporter of Stalin. However, nothing could save Bukharin once the notorious purges began in the mid-1930’s. He was arrested and charged with treason. He was found guilty – after admitting his guilt in court and calling his crimes “monstrous” – and executed on March 15th 1938.


January 2013