Skalon's heroic deed
An essay by D. Galkovsky. Translation by RWA.
I wanted to call this essay "The Non-Practicing Doctor”. It is part of a series of biographies of "fiery revolutionaries" and is dedicated to Adolf Abramovich Ioffe. But then I decided to name the text after Ioffe's antagonist, Vladimir Evstafievich Skalon. After all, a Revolution, like any catastrophe, does not only present to the world examples of lowliness, meanness, and dirty tricks, but also exhibits the highest traits of human nature: nobility, love of the Motherland, and self-sacrifice. Such is the peculiarity of the state of exception - it shows who is who.
Adolf Ioffe's finest hour was his appointment as head of the Soviet delegation at Brest-Litovsk. There is a common misconception that the Bolsheviks "overthrew the Provisional Government and made a separate peace with Germany”. In fact, the Bolsheviks themselves were the provisional government, and military action against Germany ceased immediately after the military coup in February 1917. The cannons on the Eastern front fell silent, and "fraternization" began. During the 8 months of Kerensky's rule, there were only two military episodes: the surrender of Galicia and the surrender of Riga. Both operations were, so to speak, of an internal political nature, and were part of the complex maneuvers on the way to a separate peace.
Accordingly, the role of the Germans in these concerted actions belonged not so much to the sphere of military art as to that of military diplomacy. A separate peace in March 1917 was not concluded for one reason only - it is not that easy to surrender to the LOSING SIDE. The situation of Germany at the beginning of 1917 was precarious, no one doubted that Russia would take Berlin, Vienna and Constantinople by the end of autumn. That is why the opposition circles in Russia decided on such an unheard of thing - a revolution in the middle of a world war. This can happen either when things are very bad, as in Germany and Austria-Hungary in late 1918, or very good, as in the victorious Russia of early 1917. For the surrender to, shall we say, "the Germans in February 1945" to be credible, it was necessary to bring the Russian army and the Russian rear into a state of disintegration. This was what the "Provisional Government" had been doing for eight long months. And it would take another two or three months to reach complete collapse, and the situation of the "winners", even with an actual truce on the Eastern Front, was not good. Especially bad was the situation in Austria-Hungary, which was in a state of economic collapse. Hunger riots broke out in the cities, and without the Brest Treaty, that is, without Russian food supplies, the decrepit Habsburg empire would have survived for a month maximum.
That is why the Entente leadership decided to stop playing diplomatic games and hand over power to Lenin. He did everything in a simple way, without intricacies.
At the end of November 1917, a delegation of Lenin's Provisional Government left St. Petersburg (that’s what the northern capital was called after the February putsch, replacing the chauvinistic "Petrograd") for Brest-Litovsk.
The diplomatic mission of what used to be the most powerful state on the planet was headed by an unkempt and badly cut oriental-looking man, with a skewed, asymmetrical face. He did not know how to behave in such a situation, and tried to conceal his fear and shyness with exaggerated impudence. It turned out even worse. His last name was unknown to anyone, and the ethnicity to which he referred ("Karaites") was also very dubious. The Karaites were "discovered" only in the 19th century, and the moment of "ethnogenesis" was accompanied by a scandal and mutual claims of the founding fathers ("I am a Karaite - no, I am a Karaite"). Against this background, the other members of the delegation "with oriental profiles" and "almost comical oriental looks" looked even solid. These were Kamenev-Rosenfeld, Karakhan-Karakhanyan (secretary) and Sokolnikov-Brilliant. However, the author of the quoted caustic characteristics looked even more imposing. It was neither a mouse nor a frog, but an unknown beast in the guise of "Colonel John Gugovich Fokke”. The fact is that the Bolshevik Party was in the stage of formation, there were not enough people, people were poorly disguised and had not learned the unified cover story yet. Therefore, the Bolsheviks in 1917-1918 constantly had their fake moustaches peeled off. People who later went deep behind the scenes had to work at the frontlines. Nevertheless, it is thanks to "John Gugovich" that we have a more or less adequate picture of the Brest-Litovsk farce, seen through the eyes of a conditionally Soviet man. (Soon, as you understand, this gentleman left the territory of the RSFSR.)
Another "man in a spacesuit" who helped the Soviet idiots at Brest-Litovsk sell the Motherland was Colonel Maslovsky-Mstislavsky. This unkillable man from a parallel universe was one of the protagonists of the real, not fictional, February Revolution (that is, the bloody military putsch). This is one of the most unprincipled and bloodthirsty representatives of Russian military freemasonry. He calmly survived all the members of the Soviet delegation (almost all of them were killed), did not emigrate anywhere from the Soviet Union and opened the door to the Kremlin with a kick of his boot. Even in the terrible year of 1937, terror did not touch him. On the contrary, at the beginning of 1938, Maslovsky was appointed the official biographer of Molotov by decision of the Politburo.
However, the most colorful member of the first delegation was undoubtedly Comrade Kameristaya-Bitsenko. In 1905 she assassinated the Russian Minister of War Sakharov on the instructions of British intelligence, and up to 1917 served her sentence in a penal colony. But compared to Ioffe, the Shahid Kameristaya can be considered a sophisticated diplomat. The thing is that Adolf Abramovich was... insane.
Ioffe's father was a Crimean millionaire who sought to give his son a decent education. However, due to mental deficiencies, Ioffe was able to finish high school only by the age of 20. It is believed that by education the revolutionary Ioffe was a doctor. At first glance, this is indeed true. For a time Adolf Abramovich even worked as a hospital director. But all this, to use Lenin's famous phrase, is "formally correct, but in essence a mockery”. After graduating from high school, Ioffe plunged headlong into revolutionary activities (cafes, prostitutes, cocaine, safe houses, spies, and the likes). In the fall of 1903 Ioffe enters the medical faculty of the University of Berlin, but does not attend classes regularly and leaves for Russia the following year. At the end of 1905 he appears again in Germany, but has no time to study, in 1906 he is expelled from Germany for subversive activities against a neighboring state (i.e. Russia). Ioffe leaves for Zurich, where he enters the local university, but not at the medical faculty, but at the faculty of law. Soon after that he left for Russia (as a member of Al-Qaeda at the beginning of the last century, he hung around in the revolutionary underground for several years, like in an ice-hole, constantly moving from one country to another) and, finally, in 1908 he got to Vienna, where he got the diploma of a doctor.
But this diploma is fake. In fact, at this time Ioffe becomes a PATIENT of the famous Viennese psychiatrist Alfred Adler, a disciple of Freud. The method of psychoanalysis is based on the cooperation of the investigator, pardon me, the patient with a fellow investigator... excuse me, a doctor. He does not consider himself sick, but together with the doctor "copes”, "studies his inner world". Actually, they are colleagues. Such a "colleague" of the famous psychoanalyst was Ioffe. The story had its tragicomic sequel. When Ioffe was convicted in 1913 as an emissary of an international terrorist organization that was preparing a revolt in the Russian Empire's navy, he was exiled to Siberia, where he was forcibly appointed director of the hospital at the Slyudyanka mines under war conditions as a doctor. The appointment caused frank horror in Ioffe, who had never held a stethoscope in his hands before. Fortunately, the February coup (whose main driving force was the sailors' uprising) soon took place, and Ioffe became a full member of the ruling stratum of the former great state.
However, let us return to the composition of the Brest negotiators. In addition to the main actors, the delegation had a disguise. In 1917, the Bolsheviks had not yet learned how to portray the workers themselves, so the "workers" came separately. The delegation included a representative from the sailors, a representative from the soldiers and a representative from the workers. As was normal for extras, they had forgettable names, faces and biographies. For example, the "worker's” name was "Pavel Andreevich Obukhov," and Comrade Obukhov worked at the Obukhov Factory. But they looked moderately natural: disheveled appearance, sunflower seeds, crumpled pants. "John Gugovich" looked at the "delegation" and lowered the light filter on his helmet: he called it “a zoo” in his memoirs.
However, there was a mishap. At the St. Petersburg railway station, before the train departed, the "Oriental Profiles" came to their senses: "Comrades, where is the famous Russian mujik? There is no peasant in the delegation!" They began an urgent, five-minute search for a “mujik à la naturel”. And they found him right away - there's plenty of those in Russia. At the station hung around some bearded individual in a coat with a bag. The person (a certain Stashkov) was immediately poured a glass of vodka and put in a train car - to sign a peace treaty with the Germans. As it turned out later, this was a big mistake.
Every detail here is valuable to the story, so I will quote Fokke verbatim:
Peasant Stashkov did not speak to Prince Leopold sitting next to him, but he did negotiate diplomatically with the orderly who served him. The stout old man had his own "program" in relation to the wine served at the table, to which Stashkov gave increased honor at dinner. He never refused, but carefully inquired of his neighbors:
- Which one is stronger? Red, white - we don't care, as long as it’s healthy.
The program of the "representative of the peasantry" was satisfied as best they could - both in quality and quantity. By the end of the dinner Stashkov, despite his usually pale appearance, was justifying his reputation as a 'red' delegate with a pouting, complacent face.
The development of this animal went on a crescendo and reached its climax on the day of departure. Deciding to have one last drink for the week ahead, the worker not only drank all the liquor at the table, but also demanded a "nightcap" to his room. The obliging German lieutenant Mueller, who knew Russian very well, satisfied "Herr Stashkov's" requests in full:
In the room allotted to him, the 'representative of the Russian Revolutionary peasantry' was provided with such a thorough 'nightcap' that he quickly lost his upright position. A liter bottle of punch managed to knock even him down.
They sign the prepared five copies of the agreement, but one of the "delegates" is missing. He's not a big deal... And so the first of the treaties was left without the staple of the one who "represented" the one hundred million-plus of the Russian peasantry.
It was worse when the time came for the departure of the delegation, for which the return express train had already been served. Stashkov was pushed aside, and he was on his haunches. He "plenipotentiarily" overturned, following a bottle of Mueller's punch, all the basic principles of "peace without annexations and contributions". Took from the Germans the a bottle of tributes and decided to annex his room in the citadel for his permanent residence.
- Home? I don't want to go home. I'm fine here. I'm not going anywhere!
The German officers, holding back laughter, try to give a decent appearance to Stashkov's departure from the "struggle for peace":
- Is Mr. Delegate sick? Ah, what a pity! But we will arrange it now. An ambulance will be called at once.
The comrades refuse the ambulance, and the shaken position of the "working peasantry" is restored by all measures, from cold water to the strictest instructions to "party discipline."
Finally, he was persuaded and put on a stretcher brought by German medics. Stashkov left safely with the others...
During negotiations and lunches, Prince Leopold and General Hoffman sat at the table with these animals and looked at them. Some were looking at the "worker," some were looking at Bitsenko. On the one hand, it was fun, of course, but on the other hand, on the horizon appeared some Difficulty. With whom did the Germans sign a treaty? WHERE ARE THE RUSSIANS?
I will not describe the heart-breaking scenes of the negotiations themselves. Suffice it to say that the first thing the Soviet delegation did was get into a railroad accident, Kamenev said he was going to try the Germans by a revolutionary court, and the official interpreter of the Soviet delegation turned out to be a stutterer. Further on with all the stops. Right up to the Germans arranging for the "Oriental Profiles" to visit an expensive brothel, a lively trade in alarm clocks and bras, and Trotsky begging for German marks for his son.
(The poor German did not understand at first and blushed to the roots of his hair: Marks? I thought the Intelligence guys already paid him. What does he want from me, I am a combat officer. It'd be a loss of honor.
And Trotsky, seeing his interlocutor's confusion, subserviently clarified:
- Herr Officer, you have misunderstood, I don’t mean THOSE marks, I mean postage stamps, for my son. My son collects them.
The officer laughed at this gypsy naivety. A package was brought back from Berlin, Trotsky's son later bragged in front of his classmates about his father's gift.)
Let me tell you about Skalon. The delegation had a staff of military advisers which, in addition to Fokke, included several other officers. Rear Admiral Altfater was the formal foreman of the military advisers, but he was a British Intelligence agent and actually a Bolshevik, organically using the Bolshevik phraseology: "Comrades, Red Petersburg is in danger!".
(A year later, however, he would not endure the mean role and, shaken by the Schastny tragedy, would die at 35 years from a broken heart. Although... You know...) In reality, the leader of the group of several Russian officers from captain to colonel was the quartermaster-general of the Headquarters, Major-General Skalon. He came to the negotiations later, in the second phase, and almost immediately shot himself. On the first day. "Hello - Guten Tag." Half an hour of negotiations for decorum, then Skalon calmly walks out to bring a topographical map, and a shot is fired in front of the mirror. The bullet pierced his skull through and through, but, coincidentally, Skalon remained alive for some time. Lieutenant Mueller, who until recently had been laughing at the drunken Russian clown Stashkov, was the first to arrive after the shot. Fokke, remembering that Ioffe was a "doctor," rushed to him for help:
- Adolf Abramovich! The general is bleeding. Your help is urgently needed. Do something.
The charlatan turned grey with horror:
- What help can I give you?
- But you are a doctor, a doctor! Help!
A minute change of facial expressions, and finally Ioffe finds the image of a bored intellectual:
- Well, my dear fellow, how shall I put it to you? I am indeed a doctor. But at the moment, I am not practicing.
Fokke gave up. Skalon soon died in the arms of a German doctor. Before his suicide, the general left a small note where he said a touching goodbye to his wife and daughter and that he wanted to die because he could no longer live.
This is the death of a politician and a diplomat. What could Skalon have done? Shoot himself before leaving for Brest-Litovsk? That would have been a private act with no political resonance. Kill Hoffmann or Ioffe during the negotiations? But that would be a violation of the status of an envoy and a loss of honor. To write a suicide letter cursing the Germans and the Bolsheviks? In St. Petersburg they would torture the poor hostages, his wife and daughter, in the Chekists' cellars. No, Skalon calculated and thought it over.
With WHOM did the Germans negotiate the surrender of Russia? Radek, who soon joined the negotiations, was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, convicted in absentia for desertion. If the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria-Hungary, Ottokar Czernin, negotiates with him, then he admits that he is not a deserter. And if a citizen of your country is an official of an enemy state and yet not a defector, then he is... who? WHO IS HE SERVING? AS WHO? Radek did not even know Russian and communicated with his Soviet colleagues with the help of his wife. Ioffe was a sick man with no definite occupation, a patient in an Austrian psychiatric clinic. Karakhan was a speculator in bras and cigarettes. Kamenev danced with prostitutes in a brothel for the German officers (literally). Kameristaya-Bitsenko was a mentally ill whore. The only capable person - a Russian general, a representative of the Stavka - demonstratively shot himself. The Germans could thus conclude peace treaties with Alpha Centauri, the Odessa porters, or, better yet, with themselves. "Diplomatic masturbation”.
Skalon understood all this very well and died consciously. He made it possible for the future White movement to automatically wash away the shame of Brest in victory. "Brest-Litovsk” was not signed by the Russian people, there were no Russians there. The Russians did not betray their allies. If the Entente won, the Russians are entitled to their share of the victory. Like France in 1945. If the Whites had won, now every Russian schoolboy would know Skalon's name, streets and squares would be named after him. After all, this is the classic heroic act: the conscious death of a lone man in the name of the triumph of common justice.
At first they decided to smear Skalon's heroic deed with dirt: "Skalon shot himself during crucial negotiations because of his wife's adultery”. Then his name was simply erased from history. By Western historians, too. Although the Germans did perfectly understand what had happened. Skalon was buried with the highest military honors. Skalon was flesh from the flesh of this army, his family (long ago and completely russified Franco-Swedes) had served Russia faithfully for 200 years. Eternal memory to him.
And Ioffe... I think he dreamt about the dying general at night for the rest of his life. In the end, the "non-practicing doctor" shot himself. Exactly ten years after the start of the Brest negotiations, in November 1927.
Like Skalon, Ioffe left a suicide letter. On ten pages. It is impossible to cite this document in full: there is a "philosophical justification" and a desire to show off for posterity. Everything is as it should be. But the essence of a man is always visible:
Since some time the Kremlin pharmacy, which had always given me medicine according to my prescriptions, was forbidden to do so, and I was actually deprived of the free medication assistance I used to enjoy, and was forced to buy the medicine I needed at my own expense in city pharmacies...
Tonight the Central Committee physician, Comrade Potemkin told my wife that the treatment committee of the Central Committee decided not to send me abroad and to treat me in Russia, because specialists insist on long-term treatment abroad and consider short-term treatment useless. The Central Committee, on the contrary, agrees to give me up to 1000 dollars (up to 2.000 roubles) for my treatment and does not think it possible to give more...
Anglo-American publishing houses have repeatedly offered me up to $20,000 for extracts from my memoirs (with the only requirement that the Brest Talks period should be included); the Politburo knows perfectly well that I am experienced enough both as a journalist and as a diplomat not to print anything that might harm our Party or State, and have repeatedly been the censor both of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and the Main Concession Committee, and as responsible for all Russian works which are published in this country... Without directly violating the decision of the Politburo I do not consider it possible to publish my memoirs abroad, and therefore I see no way to be treated without receiving money from the Central Committee, which clearly for all my 27 years of revolutionary work considers possible to evaluate my life and health in the amount not more than 2,000 rubles...
In my last such illness I had a whole staff at my service, but now I "by rank" am not allowed even a personal secretary; with all the neglect to me, which is observed recently with all my illnesses (now, as it is said, I have 9 days - without any help in fact and even the electric heating pad prescribed to me by Professor Davidenko I cannot achieve yet), I cannot count even on such a trifle as carrying me on a stretcher...
This is all trivial ("$20,000," "they didn’t give me a heating pad"). My point is different. Let's assess Adolf Ioffe's behavior at the understandable (to him) level of the heating pad. After Skalon's suicide letter, the Soviets gave his widow and daughter a pension. And after Ioffe's suicide letter to the disgraced Trotsky, the family of the "diplomat of the Leninist school" was repressed by Stalin. That’s how the mad hypochondriac helped his family.
The essay originally appeared in 2007 in the journal “Russian Life”.
Translation by RWA.