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  • Metadata

    • Document type
      Review (monograph)
      Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas / jgo.e-reviews
      Author (Review)
      • Rentola, Kimmo
      Language (Review)
      Language (Monograph)
      Editor (Monograph)
      • Hedeler, Wladislaw
      • Vatlin, Alexander
      Die Weltpartei aus Moskau
      Gründungskongress der Kommunistischen Internationale 1919. Protokoll und neue Dokumente
      Year of publication
      Place of publication
      Number of pages
      XCVII, 441
      Subject classification
      Political History
      Time classification
      20th century → 1900 - 1919
      Regional classification
      Europe → Eastern Europe → Russia, World
      Subject headings
      Geschichte 1919
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Wladislaw Hedeler / Alexander Vatlin (eds.): Die Weltpartei aus Moskau. Gründungskongress der Kommunistischen Internationale 1919. Protokoll und neue Dokumente (reviewed by Kimmo Rentola)

Die Weltpartei aus Moskau. Der Gründungskongress der Kommunistischen Internationale 1919. Protokoll und neue Dokumente. Hrsg. von Wladislaw Hedeler und Alexander Vatlin. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2008. XCVII, 441 S., 112 Abb. ISBN: 978-3-05-004495-8.


The Communist International was founded in a hastily convened congress in Moscow in March 1919. Although the basic facts have been known for a long time, this documentary publication now produces so detailed and comprehensive a picture of the congress that it is difficult to imagine how this could have been better made. Even technically the edition is of high quality.

Of the 47 documents, it seems that only ten have never before been published, but many of the published ones have been hard to obtain. And the ten new ones are of first-rate importance, in particular those concerning the invitations. The Bolsheviks planned for a bigger and more representative congress than the event turned out to be. In the conditions and logistics prevailing in early 1919, and taking into account that it was only ten weeks from the idea to the gathering, it was no wonder that many wanted western participants failed to show up.

If we search delegates who arrived for the congress from abroad and represented a real political group, the number seems to boil down to five countries: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden. The sixth is a border case, Rutgers representing both the Netherlands and the United States, and the seventh, Rudas from Hungary, reached Moscow only late. Other foreign delegates lived in Russia, some as recent emigrants or prisoners of war, others from their birth. A great majority of delegates came from Russia and former parts of the Russian Empire. Of course, this narrow basis did not mean that the congress could not have had a much wider appeal.

The facts about the delegates emerge from their biographies (pp. 329‒383), carefully compiled by the editors. This is a further demonstration of the fact that in high-class documentary publications the notes and commentaries are often as valuable as the documents, if not more. In addition to biographies, the editors offer a delightfully thorough, 100-page introduction, where archival findings are compared with previous knowledge.

Biographical information is collected primarily from the Comintern cadres department personal files, on the basis of which the careers of many lesser known figures take shape. However, the cadres files often contain only sketchy information of the previous phases in the lives of the cadres before they filled their first questionnaire. As for the founding congress, where many participants were newcomers, it would be important to know more about their background.

Another defect is that even for editors representing the two main languages of the Comintern, it is impossible to master all peculiarities of small nations and language groups. Mistakes are unavoidable, as can be noticed about the second-largest delegation (five), the Finns. Kullervo Manner did not receive sentence on 9 February 1935; he was arrested on 2 July and condemned in November, not to death but to 10 years, which was in effect the same thing. According to the Komi KGB archives, the date of his death was 15 January 1939 (not 1936). In Jukka Rahja’s biography it is said that he died in 1920 as a victim “eines Attentats”, which is correct, but the Comintern cadres officials have avoided to mention that it were party members who opened fire in a meeting. Most biographies of the delegates are accompanied by photographs, which is fine, but Jukka’s brother Eino lacks one. However, if you look at a photograph in the introduction (p. lvi), you see that the anonymous Red Army commander is Eino Rahja, the best picture of him I have ever seen.

This laudable book is necessary for everybody interested in the history of communism. Since the Comintern as an effective organization was really founded only at the 2nd and even the 3rd congress, it is highly desirable that the authors could continue their work on the same high level.

Kimmo Rentola, Turku

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