RAKOVSKY'S ROUMANIAN CAREER
Rakovsky, the Soviet diplomat, has been so closely connected with recent Russian-Roumanian relations that it is worth while to sketch his life somewhat in detail, particularly as it throws light on the recent history of Socialism in Roumania. Christian (as he now calls himself; in Bulgarian he was christened Krustyu, Cristo = cross) Stantchoff Rakovsky was born Aug. 1 (0. S.), 1873, in the village of Gradetz, near Kotel, high up in the Balkan Mountains in Southern Bulgaria. He had a remarkable uncle, George Sava Rakovsky, whose influence on his youthful ambitions was very great. Sava Rakovsky, after studying in Athens, settled down as a merchant in Constantinople; but he was a born revolutionary, and devoted his life to freeing the Balkan Peninsula from the Turks; when the Serb revolt of 1866-7 broke out, he formed a Bulgarian legion to help them; he became the first Bulgarian journalist of distinction, wrote a famous poem, the "Gorsky Putnik" (Mountain Traveler), and even composed philological treatises.
Christian's early education took place in Bulgaria, in spite of his parents' removal in 1880 to Gherencic, not far from Constantza, in the Roumanian Dobrudja; he was finally expelled from the Gobrova Gymnasium in 1890 for Socialist propaganda. He continued his studies at Geneva, where he also began his career as a Socialist editor, bringing out several numbers of a Bulgarian quarterly, the "Social-Democrat" ; then he studied in Berlin (being expelled from Prussia in 1894), Zurich, Nancy and Montpellier, where he took his degree in medicine in 1897 with a thesis on the causes of crime and degeneracy, later translated into Russian and Bulgarian. He also translated into Bulgarian Gabriel Deville's "Evolution of Capital," worked on various Bulgarian newspapers and was correspondent for the Berlin "Vorwarts." In 1898, he published at Varna a study on "Russia in the Orient," in which he took occasion to criticize Russia for the seizure of Bessarabia; on Sept. 15 he became regimental doctor for the 9th Roumanian Cavalry at Constantza, but continued his writing, bringing out brochures on the Dreyfus affair, against spiritualism and on "La France Contemporaine" (published at St. Petersburg).
In 1900, Rakovsky went into Russia, but was expelled within a fortnight; he succeeded however in returning in 1901, his wife being a Russian; and he plunged at once into Russian literary and political work, publishing children's stories as well as socialistic articles, and helping to establish "Iscra," the organ of the Russian Social Democratic Party; in 1907, he was formally thanked at the Stuttgart Congress by the members of the Russian Social Democratic Delegation for his services to the cause of the Russian Revolution and of the proletariat against Czarism. Among the signers we find the names of Plekhanoff, Martoff and Trotzky. Meanwhile he had gone to Paris in 1902 to study law, writing for the "Mouvement Socialiste" and the "Revue Socialiste"; he applied for French naturalization, but the French Government declined to grant it. In 1904 his father's death brought him back to the Dobrudja, where he had inherited property valued at some $40,000. In the summer of 1904 and 1905 he lectured in Bulgaria on socialism; but in 1905 he settled down to the practice of the law in Constantza.
Roumanian Socialism was in a bad way at that time. Many of its leaders had gone into the Liberal Party, and its journal-" Romania Muncitoare" (Working Roumania)-had died of inanition. Its most remarkable man was Constantine Dobrogeanu-Gherea, a Russian Jew, originally named Solomon Solomonovitch Katz, whose life has been a veritable Odyssey; he even traveled once with an American passport, under the name of Robert Jenckes; I have last heard of him as in the Council of the Moldavian Soviet Republic. Rakovsky revived "Romania Muncitoare" on March 5, 1905. Accused of being a Bulgarian rather than Roumanian in sentiments, he writes in the issue of April 10, 1905, that he recognizes 4 6 no country but the common country of the international proletariat"; and in his first public address, on May 1, he excuses his faulty use of Roumanian by appealing to his audience's knowledge of that "international social democratic language." Accused next of lack of patriotism, he writes on May 22nd that if patriotism means "race prejudice, international and civil war, political tyranny and plutocratic domination," he is not a patriot. When the peasant uprising of March 1907 broke out, he appealed to the soldiers to shoot in the air; and as he later published an article in the Paris "Humanite" accusing the Roumanian Army of atrocities in repressing this revolt, the government decided to discipline him, since he was a Lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps. They issued a decree of expulsion, which found Rakovsky at the Stuttgart Congress; he contested it, claiming that he was a Roumanian citizen, since his father had been domiciled in the Dobrudja April 11, 1877, and had therefore acquired Roumanian citizenship through the Treaty of Berlin, with the passage of that territory to Roumania. This claim. however was denied by the High Court of Cassation (Appeals), which ruled that his father was not a Roumanian citizen, having first settled permanently in the Dobrudja in 1880, and noted that Rakovsky himself had used a Bulgarian passport in entering Roumania on two occasions, and had put himself down as Bulgarian when he studied in Berlin.
Rakovsky then had to stay outside of Roumania for some time; but he kept writing for the "Romania Muncitoare," and in July 1909 he published at Paris a pamphlet on "Les Persecutions Politiques en Roumanie." A few months later he tried to enter Roumania with a French passport; and in February 1911 he succeeded, appearing unexpectedly in Bucharest, and writing to the Public Prosecutor: "I can give you the assurance, concurred in by my friends and political associates, deeply respectful, like myself, toward law and order, that our one wish is that, in peace and tranquility, my case may find its proper solution under the law." The government allowed him a brief stay, and he even ran for Parliament Feb. 20, 1911, in Galatz, receiving 329 out of 4094 votes; at a special election in April in Mehedintzi, he was given 27 votes. Reexpelled from Roumania, he founded the daily Socialist paper "Napred" in Sofia, in which he fought for a Balkan Federation; but in January 1912 his efforts were finally crowned with success, and he returned to Roumania. One of his first public acts was to take part in the ceremony of mourning, on May 16th, for the centennial of the Russian seizure of Bessarabia, and to protest, in the name of the proletariat, against the continuance of Czaristic government there; he even predicted the liberation of Bessarabia by the Russian Revolution. When the Balkan Wars began, Rakovsky conducted a vigorous pacifist campaign-at first international, then directed specifically against Roumanian acquisition of Bulgarian territory. Called to task by the government, he wrote in the "Romania Muncitoare" of Feb. 3, 1913: "If it were a question of defending Roumanian territory, in its present form, against no matter who, we Socialists would be the first to go to war. Indeed, we can state with assurance that if there had been a Socialist Party in Roumania in 1879, it would not have remained impassive before the annexation of Bessarabia, as the governmental parties did, and if it could not have prevented this crime by its protests and efforts, it would have sowed hopes for the future in the spirits of the Bessarabian Roumanians." On Oct. 31, 1913, his newspaper printed this appeal to the new recruits:" You are given a weapon with which to shoot men. Take this weapon. Those are our weapons, they are paid for with our sweat, they have often been pointed at our hearts. Every soldier ought to realize that if he is perforce a defender of a deceitful country, he is through his labor a defender of the class to which he belongs, the world of the deluded and those deprived of their rights, who will some day wage a bitter war on the most merciless enemy the working classes can have-the governing, possessing class. For that war, and for that alone, we must make every preparation, and learn every stratagem."
But this propaganda made little headway; in April and May, the "Romania Muncitoare" issued desperate cries for help, its subscription list having shrunk to 2000; and Rakovsky, in spite of constant campaigning for the Roumanian Parliament, received fewer and fewer votes. With the World War, his pacifistic efforts redoubled; he changed his paper's name to "Jos Rasboiul" (Down with War), and then to "Lupta Zilnica" (The Daily Struggle). It is interesting to note the anti-Russian tone of his articles; in the Russian Social Democratic daily "Golos" (Voice) of Paris, in January 1915 (reproduced in "Lupta Zilnica" of Jan. 22) : "Our French comrades assure us that the Allies, including Russia, are fighting for the principle of nationality. We who live in Eastern Europe, in immediate propinquity to the Muscovite Empire, ask liberty to doubt that .... We admit the imperialistic policy of Austria in the Balkans, but who can deny that a similar danger exists from Russia toward Roumania and Bulgaria, who lie on her pathway toward the Straits?" He protested against Italy's entrance into the war, but had not a word to say when Bulgaria attacked Serbia. In Jan. 1916, he got only 109 votes at Covurlui, less than half of what he had received in the elections of 1911, 1912 and (two) 1914.
When Roumania entered the war, Rakovsky was put under strict surveillance, from which he was released in May 1917 by revolting Russian soldiers in Jassy; and his long experience and great talents brought him rapid advancement under the Bolshevists. On Sept. 5 he started a paper in Odessa, with the motto "Peace without annexations or indemnities"; later in the winter he became Governor of Odessa, and promptly took advantage of his position to get even with the Roumanian bourgeois refugees in that city. He confiscated the Roumanian government deposits in Odessa and a large share of all private deposits, imprisoned all Roumanians of importance, and released them only under high cash bonds. In view of his recent polemic against Roumania on the subject of Bessarabia, summarized in his vivacious and entertaining pamphlet "Roumanie et Bessarabie" (Paris, Librairie du Travail, 1925), it is amusing to turn to his "Russie en Orient" (Varna, 1898) and read his violent attacks upon Russia for her occupation of Roumanian Bessarabia.Next Chapter Previous Chapter
Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents