FELIX DZERZHINSKY: RETURN OF A "HERO"
By Toby Westerman
September 20, 2002
As politicians in Moscow debate the restoration of a large, bronze statute, current U.S. press reports have not relayed the underlying significance of the image, or its continuing importance.
The statue commemorates Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Bolshevik who died in 1926, but whose legacy still inspires both pride and cold terror.
Although not a household name in the United States, Dzerzhinsky and his legacy have a direct impact upon America, as Moscow and Washington draw closer together as "strategic allies," but others perceive a relapse into old Soviet habits.
The popular mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has joined those favoring the restoration of the 14-ton monument, toppled in 1991 by crowds rejoicing over the collapse of Soviet authority. The statue now lies on the ground in a local Moscow park.
Luzhkov recently referred to the statue as a "beautiful architectural and artistic composition," according to a United Press International report.
Answering critics that Dzerzhinsky was a "butcher" who killed millions of his fellow citizens, Luzhkov "downplayed" Dzerzhinsky's role in the deaths that occurred in the early years of the Russian Revolution.
Luzhkov stated that, "We should remember that he solved the problem of homeless children and that he bailed out the railroads in a period of devastation," reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The debate over Dzerzhinsky's monument is part of an on-going rehabilitation of Soviet history. Postage stamps have been issued commemorating heroes of Russian espionage, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation, while the highly respected Italian news daily Corrier della Sera reports that Russian intelligence personnel are using a special calendar which lists former Soviet holidays.
The calendar also depicts a Soviet-era scene outside of Russian intelligence headquarters located on Lubyanka Street, with Dzerzhinsky's statue standing proudly erect.
Dzerzhinsky, on Lenin's orders, set up the first communist intelligence service in 1917, predating the establishment of the Soviet Union, which came into being in December 1922. The communist intelligence service's formal name was the "Extraordinary Commission for the Struggle against Counterrevolution, Espionage, Speculation, and Sabotage" - known by its Russian abbreviation, Checka.
All Russian intelligence officers -- active or retired, including Russian president Vladimir Putin -- still refer to themselves as "Chechists."
While press accounts generally report that Dzerzhinsky founded what later became the Russian intelligence services, and that he had a fearsome reputation, the public is left unaware of the kind of man or type of organization that still retains the admiration of Russia's professional spies.
The following quotes indicating Dzerzhinky's ruthlessness are from The Black Book of Communism, an authoritative anthology on communism and its proponents.
Dzerzhinsky described the organization he sought to - and actually did - establish as "a mechanism that, in a truly revolutionary and suitably Bolshevik fashion, will filter out the counter revolutionaries once and for all!"
The men Dzerzhinsky wanted for the Checka were to be "determined comrades - solid, hard men without pity - who are ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of the revolution."
"Just round up all the most resolute people you can, who understand that there is nothing more effective than a bullet in the head to shut people up. Experience has shown that you only need a small number of people like that the turn a whole situation around," declared Dzerzhinsky.
Dzerzhinsky was, however, more than a simple murderer. He was also a clever counterintelligence director who learned from his Tsarist predecessors, and developed the art of deception far beyond anything previously known.
In order to undermine Russian refugee organizations hostile to the communist regime in Moscow, Dzerzhinsky invented and controlled false counterrevolutionary organizations, staged jail breaks of prominent anti-Communists, and is reported to have bombed Russian police stations.
The goal was to give the impression that counterrevolutionaries were in Russia, and needed support.
Dzerzhinsky's efforts were successful. Not only were important anti-Communist Russians lured back to Russia and to their deaths, but Britain's most renown spy of the era, Sidney Reilly, also fell into the trap, suffering the same deadly fate.
© 2002 Toby Westerman - All Rights Reserved
Toby Westerman is editor/publisher of International News Analysis Today - http"//www.inatoday.com - and its sister print report, International News Analysis. Westerman's sources include a wide variety of foreign language periodicals and short wave radio broadcasts, and he concentrates on topics ignored or suppressed by the dominant media. Westerman's work is independent of the media pundits and conventional wisdom - either from the right or the left.