Sunday, March 15, 2015


(1928-1995), Soviet and Russian military and political figure, historian, and philosopher.

Colonel General Volkogonov was born in Chita province, the son of a minor civil servant who was shot in 1937. Without knowledge of his father's true fate, Volkogonov entered military service in 1949 and rose rapidly in rank. As a political officer after 1971, he held various posts within the Soviet Ministry of Defense, eventually becoming deputy chief (1984-1988) of the Main Political Administration.

Although known as an ideological hardliner, Volkogonov's foreign experiences gave rise to grave doubts about the Soviet system. Travels in the Third World taught him that revolutionary leaders sought only cynical advantage from the Soviets. An academic visit to the West convinced him that capitalist societies had produced greater equalities than their supposedly egalitarian socialist counterparts. He was already reading suppressed writers when he learned the truth about his father's death-that he had been executed as an enemy of the people. Hence sprang the desire to expose the truth about Stalin and his times.

Estrangement from the military-political leadership precipitated Volkogonov's transfer to the USSR Institute of Military History. There, while chief from 1988 to 1991, his subordinates' revisionist draft history of the Great Patriotic War, coupled with his growing adherence to democratic ideals and an unorthodox evaluation of the Stalinist legacy, provoked clashes with the Ministry of Defense. Following the Soviet collapse, he served from 1991 to 1995 as security adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, while simultaneously championing democratic causes and chairing several parliamentary commissions as a Duma deputy associated with the Left-Centrist Bloc. Before his turn against Soviet convention, Volkogonov's more significant works, including Marxist-Leninist Teachings about War and the Army (1984) and The Psychology of War (1984) reflected orthodox zeal. However, his subsequent conviction that the Soviet system had been flawed from the beginning permeated his historical works, including a revisionist biography of Stalin, Triumph and Tragedy (1990), and later volumes on Trotsky, Lenin, and other significant early Soviet leaders.

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