IBDP IAs and EEs on Lenin's Testament

Lenin's Testament

2022 IBDP Extended Essay

Word Count: 3938


 Lenin’s Testament

 Was the “Addition to Letter to Congress” from January 4th 1923 a Fabrication?



‘Lenin’s Testament’ is a vital political document for the development of Russian politics in the 20th century, as it reflects the will of the establisher of communist rule in Russia and was thus ultimately intended to influence the rule of all Lenin’s successors.  The document, outlining Lenin’s discussions on political matters including the possible candidates for the position as his successor, is claimed to have been dictated by Lenin to his secretaries between December 1922 and early January 1923 as a “Letter to Congress”. The significance of the document, especially the addition to it from January 4th which describes Stalin to be “too rude” for a position of leadership[1], has transformed since the letter was first read to the congress in secrecy in May of 1924. It was used as a critical argument in Khruschev’s ‘secret speech’ as a reason for denouncing Stalin with his terrorizing approaches in 1956[2], along with first being made available to the public through a publication in the “Communist” magazine later that year. Furthermore, according to academic Yuriy Pivovarov, the testament hasd a “destructive” effect as it put major tensions between all discussed members of the Politburo, thus allowing Stalin to come to power[3]. Despite its powerful spectrum of effects, Lenin’s authorship of the document remains under debate[4] most importantly due to the unclarity of its origin, which has been highlighted through works of Valentin Sakharov after the opening of the Russian archives. The document’s history of surfacing and concealment throughout Soviet history, paired with the inconsistency in its published contents and a lack of an original manuscript created doubts about Lenin’s authorship of the text. Therefore, the questioning of the origin of the document leads to the question Was the “Addition to Letter To Congress” created on January 4th 1923 a Fabrication? The document has undoubtedly impacted the development of history, and its questioned origin therefore puts under question the rationality and accuracy of decisions and arguments made with its help in the past. This in turn offers the possibility for discussion of many alternative outcomes of historical events with not only Soviet, but transnational and global importance, possibly having left the world to be very different to what we know it as today[5]. An evaluation of the legitimacy of Lenin’s authorship of the ‘political testament’ would allow for an advanced understanding of its impacts and implications, as well as bring forward the importance of evaluating every source of information to be able to avoid errors or misinformation on any level of importance. To conduct such evaluation of the document, the physical state of the testament as it exists today as well as Lenin’s health condition at the end of 1922 and start of 1923 were investigated in thorough detail. Secondary sources such as accounts of historians such as Valentin Sakharov, who suggests that Lenin did not (and possibly could not[6]) dictate the document currently referred to as his testament, as well as works of Trotsky as a close eyewitness of Lenin’s life were studied for the purpose of the investigation. Primary sources such as a personal interview with historiographer Alexander Smoljanski, the copies of handwritten and typed parts of the testament, microfilm copies of secretary diaries and Lenin’s arithmetic practice books obtained from the Russian National Archive of Socio-Political History in Moscow during my personal visit were used for a personal investigation and analysis. During the process I extensively made use of my knowledge of the Russian language, especially when looking at primary sources from the archives, to best avoid a change of meaning and bias due to misinterpretation and translation. The scope of this investigation was limited only to determining whether the document was forged, without investigating the possibilities for who was behind a potential forgery and why. However, further investigation into these factors would allow for a broader understanding of the implications of the document and how they have transformed throughout time.

 Accepted origin put under question 

The surfacing of Lenin’s testament dates back to long before its use in Khrushchev’s destalinization campaign of 1956, even though the mere existence of the document was contradictory to the nature of the Communist Party during the period of Stalin’s rule. However, despite this and attempts at suppression of the document, prohibiting its publication until 1956, its origin was not publicly questioned by members of the Central Committee, and Lenin’s authorship of the text was not put under question. It was Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, who first referred to the document as ‘the will of Lenin’ upon handing it over to Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev with the request for it to be read at the next party congress[7].  Even Stalin himself, despite having shown reluctance in both cases[8] suggesting that the text did deeply affect him, agreed to present the testament first in 1924 to the Council of Elders and later in 1926 to a wider audience at the Plenum of the Central Committee[9]. Therefore, not even the figure arguably the most negatively affected by the document questioned or claimed to have questioned its authenticity, regardless of having grounds to do so. Moreover, even up to this day historians such as Montefiore take the orthodox perspective of Lenin having dictated the document as truth[10]. However, the opening of the Russian archives after the fall of the Soviet Union allowed for investigation of sources which were not priory available to the public – such as for example the existing copy of Lenin’s testament. Upon examining the state in which the testament can be seen today, along with relating documents, it has become evident, as proposed by Valentin Sakharov, that the origin of the document cannot be proven to be Lenin, thus putting this long-accepted perspective under question.

 Controversy about contents and origin of the document 

The document now referred to as the ‘testament’, now stored in the Russian National Archives of Socio-Political History (RNASPH) on the Bolshaya Dmitrovka street in Moscow consists of a series of handwritten and typed out texts. In the same archive are stored microfilms of detailed journals of Lenin’s secretaries. The contents of these two sources however highlight the unclear origin of the testament by not only calling attention to the lack of proof for Lenin’s authorship of the testament[11], but also further providing evidence suggesting that the document is a forgery[12].

  Limited mention in the Journal of Secretaries of Lenin 

After the death of Lenin, the Communist Party propagated the view that the “Letter to Congress” undoubtedly was created by Lenin, thus suggesting him being the origin of the text. However, the contents of the journal entries of Lenin’s secretaries from the timeframe of the alleged dictation of the document create a controversy, suggesting the inference that the document was forged. While the diaries narrate and outline the dictation of the first two parts of the “Letter to Congress”, entries for the dates between December 29th and January 5th during which the controversial “addition to the Letter to Congress” was presumably dictated are missing. The common assumption that the secretaries did not adhere to their duties due to a New Year’s break would in this case not explain the missing entries, as Lenin’s secretaries had a rotation-based schedule established specifically so that there was not a time when no secretary was on call[13]. Moreover, on days where nothing of value was to be recorded, the secretaries specifically constituted that “Vladimir Ilyich did not call in”[14], instead of leaving the allocated space for the entry completely blank as it is done for the investigated time period[15]. Even though within the transcriptions of the diaries from volume 45 of “Lenin’s Full Collection of Works” this is not the only occasion where dates were skipped[16], an analysis of the microfilm of the original document in the RNASPH makes these dates stand out even further. On the contrary to other ‘gaps’ between the entries, such as that between the 24th and 29th December 1922 where the journal progresses from one to the next without any space in between, the days between 29th December and 5th January were marked with guiding lines and enough space for large entries, yet left blank[17]. This difference in approach to “skipped” days suggests at the possibility of the accounts to have been left blank on purpose, with the intention to be filled later. The overlap of this unique occurrence with the time of the presumed creation date of the last part of the testament supports Yuri Buranov’s claim that the recording and later storage of the dictated documents were mediated by none other than Stalin[18], to whom Lenin’s secretaries have admitted in handing the works over to[19]. In this case the blank pages of the diaries are thus explained with the secretaries’ wait for further instructions to conceal the destruction of the original text, which was ordered by Stalin[20], and any possible other alterations to it. This is crucial to answering the question of the investigation, as this narrative therefore suggests that despite Lenin having dictated a’ testament’, the version published and accepted as the ‘original’ today is a forgery edited in accordance with Stalin’s orders.

 Inconsistencies in Contents and Creation of Copies 

Up until the publication of yet another edited “Collection of Lenin’s Works” in 1964, not even the contents of the document were kept consistent, which suggests at the document being subject to editing and moderation not by Lenin, which ultimately poses the document as a fabrication. While Trotsky’s accounts on the matter must be regarded with caution due to the bias created by his personal involvement in the party and direct evaluation of him in in said ‘testament’, he himself highlights the differences between texts of the testament that were read out to the members of the Congress on the 24th May 1924 and what was later publicly published. The negative accent on Trotsky’s political activity prior to joining the Bolsheviks in the published copies of the document are disputed by Trotsky with claims that the document read out to Congress did not include such a striking accent[21], suggesting that the Communist Party has allowed itself to edit the text already after Lenin’s passing. Due to the absence of notes and transcriptions being allowed during the reading out of the testament[22] and thus relying only on memory, specific wording as recalled by Trotsky and any other members should also not be regarded as concrete. However the multiple changes made to the wording of this section of the document already within the published “Lenin’s Collection of Works” supports Trotsky’s claim that the document has been edited after its creation. Members of the Communist Party, such as Lenin’s secretaries Volodicheva and Fotiveta, to whom the constituent parts of the “Letter to Congress” were dictated, do not deny the existence of five copies of the ‘original’ text[23], which could possibly be regarded as the reason for the differences in the published versions. However, as recalled by Volodicheva herself, the five copies she created were absolutely identical, full texts[24], thus not leaving room for possible interpretation of wording which would explain the differences in the published versions. However, the only copy of the document known to exist today, is one not produced by Volodicheva as one of the five original copies which suggests that the other copies, claimed to be of the ‘original’ text, were destroyed. The presence of Alliluyeva’s handwriting handwriting on the copy[25], who could not herself have been present with Lenin at the time of dictation as she was not the secretary on call[26], argues that the only existing copy of the text today was one that Volodicheva recalls to have been created after Stalin’s order to burn the original brought to him for review[27]. Given that the copies created by Volodicheva not having been found, it is impossible to check the validity of the existing copy, thus supporting the claim that that the text could have been altered after Lenin’s dictation. 

 At first look, a close-up analysis of the copy stored in the archives may seem to suggest that the text was in fact taken directly from Lenin, as is evidently written down from dictation, as revealed in image 1, where the text portrays a correction of wording. The crossed out word, “стать” ([stat’], to become) is not audibly, grammatically nor in terms of meaning similar to the word that was chosen for the final version, “сильно” ([sil’-no], strongly), suggesting that the change was not an accidental grammatical mistake of the writer, but a change in phrasing of the one dictating. This is further supported with the crossed-out word not being grammatically ‘wrong’ if it were written in continuation of the previous phrase and does not contradict the thought that was expressed as a result. However, Alliluyeva’s handwringing suggesting that this copy is not one of the originals produced by Volodicheva, and the correction can be explained by the claims of the text having been altered, which in turn supports the idea of the ‘testament’ being a fabrication.

Lenin's Testament

 Image 1: Handwritten copy of the “Letter To Congress” from 23rd December 1922

Image source: Russian National Archive of Socio-Political History. Photograph by author, 22 Jul. 2021.

 Another aspect of the testament’s current condition which causes one to question its origin is the complete lack of a handwritten copy of the infamous “addition” from January 4th, which denounces Stalin[28]. According to the staff[29] of the archive clarified that the copy was not misplaced or lost, but there are no accounts of it ever being in the archive at all.  While the origin of the other parts of the document can already be doubted due to a lack of evidence that would support that the existing version is similar to the original, the complete lack of a manuscript only further puts the document’s origin into question, as it is not possible to even confirm the writer, as can be done through Alliluyeva’s handwriting. This is crucial to the investigation, as this condition of the document supports Valentin Sakharov’s argument that the true origin of the document cannot be verified, thus not disputing, and with the consideration of the context – pointing, towards the document being a fabrication.

Lenin’s health condition at time of alleged dictation 

The claim of Lenin being the origin of the text is put under question even further with a focus on Lenin himself, rather than the document. Lenin’s physical capabilities due to his health condition at the time are a crucial to consider, as a decline in health was the reason for the document to take on its importance as a ‘final will’ due to Lenin’s passing on January 21st 1924. As highlighted by Sakharov, who partly bases his rejection of Lenin’s authorship on his bad health condition[30], knowledge of the physical state Lenin was in, especially on January 4th 1923, would therefore indicate not if he did dictate the text, but if he at all could do so. An analysis of the progression of Lenin’s illnesses throughout 1922 and early 1923, as well as evidence of their impact on his mental and bodily functions is necessary to establish whether his condition would allow for the creation of the document.

 Eyewitness accounts of Lenin’s health 

Lenin’s medical records remain unavailable to the public due to a personal request of his family until early 2024[31], making it rather difficult to accurately determine the state of his health in late 1922 and early 1923. Nevertheless, one can understand his condition at the time through Trotsky, who offers an insight into Lenin’s health struggle. Despite the notes on the improvement of Lenin’s health by October 1922 which set some paragraphs in a hopeful tone[32], Trotsky explicitly writes that even in November 1922, after resuming work in the Politburo, Lenin was “convalescent”[33]. Trotsky further states specifically when discussing the creation of the testament, that Lenin’s “health was very undermined” at the time of its creation[34]. Therefore, while Trotsky supports the view that Lenin dictated the document himself[35], his own description of Lenin’s condition at the time serves as crucial evidence for putting this into question. After all, Trotsky clearly outlines that Lenin’s condition strongly interfered with his work. The detrimental effect of the May 1922 stroke on Lenin can also be visually witnessed on photographs from summer of 1922, image 2, which would suggest that his condition would only worsen after suffering the stroke of December. The photograph published as ‘evidence’ of his progressive recovery, was according to eyewitnesses at Gorki very carefully staged[36]. The photo conceals the paralysis of his right limbs, which required his body to be ‘set up’ by others into this newspaper-holding position. With the assumption that due to the effects of his second stroke in December Lenin would be more or at least just as ill, the eyewitness accounts of such a strong effect months after the first stroke could be applied to the timeframe of the following December and January, suggesting that at the time Lenin was in fact still very ill.

Lenin at his country home in Gorki in August 1922




Image 2: Lenin at his country home in Gorki in August 1922

Image source: “Lenin at His Country Home in Gorki in August 1922.” Karger. 14 Jun. 2021. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/515657.




 Consequences of the illness on Lenin’s physical and mental ability 

The support for Lenin’s physical and mental incompetence to dictate the testament at in December 1922 and January 1923 is interestingly enough found through the novelist Martin Amis. Amis outlines Lenin’s incompetence in his late months by referring to instances of his inability to perform simple arithmetic exercises[37]. Amis quotes Volgogonov, who, claims Lenin to have “covered a 21-page notebook with childlike scrawls” in May 1922[38], suggesting that Vladimir Illyich has sustained severe brain damage making him incompetent to dictate his ‘testament’ by early 1923 without a miraculous recovery. Nevertheless, having examined the arithmetic practice book Volgogonov and Amis allude to in the archive, this argument appears to be an exaggeration. Firstly, in his argument, Amis conflates two separate instances having happened at least a month apart from each other, between which eyewitnesses like Trotsky write to have seen a “promising improvement” in Lenin’s health[39]. As has been written by M. I. Ulyanova (Lenin’s niece) for the 3rd 1991 Issue of Izvestiya newspaper, Lenin did need 3 hours to calculate 7x12 on May 30th, however, already by the next day he was able to handwrite his full name, having survived the stroke earlier that week (May 26th)[40]. Volkogonov’s account of a disastrous[41] attempt at more arithmetics is also highly dramatized, having investigated the original notebook from the RNASPH[42]. While when closely looking at the handwriting, an apparent ‘rigidness’ can be detected, suggesting that Lenin was not able to write confidently, overall the 21 pages are neat and tidy and do not resemble what Volkogonov describes them to be, as can be seen in image 3, being the messiest page from the notebook. Some footnotes by Krupskaya indicate an occasional “mental block”[43], however not one has lasted for over three minutes, and on average the exercise pages of increasing difficulty were completed by Lenin within four minutes total[44]. Furthermore, Volkogonov’s account of Krupskaya having helped Lenin[45] is also disproved by the notebook itself, and her own comments stating that “all exercises were completed independently”[46]. Furthermore, Leon Trotsky claims to have witnessed an „inspiring recovery” by October of 1922, allowing Lenin to officially return to work at the politburo[47].

Pages from Lenin’s arithmetic practice book

Image 3: Pages from Lenin’s arithmetic practice book

 Image source: Russian National Archive of Socio-Political History. Photograph by author, 22 Jul. 2021.

However, whilst these accounts, considering the exaggeration prevalent in Amis’ and Volgogonov’s works, suggest at the improvement of Lenin’s condition towards the time of the alleged creation of the testament, they should not be regarded as signs of a long-term recovery. That is due to the fact that Lenin suffered yet another stroke on the 16th of December 1922[48], making the possibility of starting to dictate the ‘testament’ a mere 7 days later extremely unlikely. In comparison to the timeline of his previous recovery, which was already considered “miraculous”[49] despite taking over 6 months, Lenin’s condition at the time of the alleged creation of the testament would be likely reflected in his state on May 30th of 1922, when he barely able to perform basic arithmetic calculations[50]. Moreover, Lenin himself described the aftermath of his previous stroke to Trotsky as a time where he had to “relearn” to speak and write[51]. By drawing a parallel to these accounts of the aftermath and recovery from his previous stroke, one can infer that he would not physically be able to dictate such cohesive texts as the constituent parts of the testament[52] at such an early stage of his recovery. Despite being quite limited due to gaps of blank pages, the microfilm copies of diaries of Lenin’s secretaries provide further, insight into his daily life and physical abilities in regard to his condition during the period. The secretaries account for Lenin being mostly inactive for the multiple days following his stroke on December 16th, by recording him cancelling his presentation in front of the Congress and not being present at the meetings of the Central Committee up to January 18th[53], suggesting at his devastating condition. The diaries also reveal that the doctors first only allowed Lenin to read starting the 29th of December[54] which clearly exemplify that he was only at the start of his recovery, despite having already allegedly dictated parts of the testament. An account from the 17th of January also highlights his great trouble speaking and dictating cohesively, as his secretary mentions his tendency to often lose his track of thought and complaints about his memory[55]. This is a crucial observation, as it has taken place a whole two weeks after allegedly finishing the final, most controversial article of the testament denouncing Stalin. The great struggle on the 17th January further puts into question Lenin’s ability to cohesively dictate 2 weeks prior to that, thus supporting that he could not have dictated the testament.


Despite difficulties within the research process, the evidence collected during the investigation strongly suggests that the answer to the question, “Was the “Addition to Letter To Congress” created on January 4th 1923 a Fabrication?”, is affirmative. Firstly, the lack of evidence even for the creation of the “Addition to The Letter to Congress”, exemplified through the complete absence of a handwritten manuscript[56] (and a lack of proof of its existence), as well as a lack of mention of it in the ‘Secretary Journals’, which also happen to be presumably purposefully left blank for the surrounding dates suggests a possible and likely forgery of at least this part of the document. Along with handwriting of a secretary that was not on duty on any of the days when the document as allegedly dictated, the missing entries in the secretary diaries also point towards the contents of the document having been edited and reviewed by Stalin, which would also formally result in the document today known as the testament to be a forgery[57]. Secondly, while the unavailability of Lenin’s medical records to the public only make it possible to infer his condition, eyewitnesses such as Trotsky and his secretaries clearly account for him suffering the aftermath of a stroke at the time of alleged creation of the document. Drawing a parallel to detrimental effects and lengthy recovery from his previous stroke would only suggest that Lenin would not be able to dictate a document of such complexity in the given time frame. He would have been too ill to be capable of doing so, thus suggesting that the text today recognized as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ is a fabrication. The quality and depth of the collected evidence was possibly decreased by a possible bias from having to rely on opinions of 3rd party experts for matters such as handwriting analysis, as well as being limited by time for accessing any further primary sources in the archives due to the rigorous and humbling entrance process as a civilian.  Notwithstanding this, the evidence that was collected clearly suggests that the “Addition To Letter To Congress” was a fabrication and the text of the document did not originate from Lenin.



 Amis, Martin. Koba The Dread. London: Hyperion, 2002.

Andreeva, Viktoria. Interview by author. Personal interview. Russian National Archive of Socio-Political History, 22 Jul. 2021.  

Buranov, Yuri. Lenin’s Will: Falsified and Forbidden. Amherst: Prometheus, 1994.

“Document 49: Letter To Congress from 22nd December 1922.” 22 Dec. 1922. Russian National Archive Of Socio-Political History. Photocopy of original document. Received by author 22 Jul. 2021. 

Felshtinsky, Yuri. Lenin And His Comprades: The Bolsheviks Take Over Russia 1917-1924. New York: Enigma Books, 2010.

Fotieva, Lydia. “Journal of Lenin’s Secretaries.” Russian National Archive of Socio-Political history.Photo of original document. Received by author 22 Jul.2021. 

Krushchev, Nikita.  "Speech to 20th Congress of the C.P,S.U.," Marxists Internet Archive, 10 Jan. 2021. https://www.marxists.org/archive/khrushchev/1956/02/24.htm.

Lenin, Vladimir. “Document 1343: Arithmetics Practice Notebook.” Russian National Archive of Sociao-Political History. Original document. Received by author 22 Jul. 2021. 

Lenin, Vladimir. Full Collection of Works Volume 45. Moscow: Press of Political Literature, 1967. 

Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Stalin The Court Of The Red Tsar. London: Pheonix, 2003.

Nighogossian, Norbert. “Lenin’s Stroke.” Karger AG. 14 Jun. 2021. https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/515657.

Pivovarov, Yuri. “Петр I и цена реформ (Peter 1st and cost of reform),” Радио Эхо Москвы (Radio Echo of Moscow), 21 Nov. 2020. , https://echo.msk.ru/programs/diletanti/2743470-echo/. 

Sakharov, Valentin. Political Testament of Lenin. Moscow: Moscow University Press, 2003.

Smoljanski, Alexander. Interview by author. Personal interview. Munich, 29 Aug. 2021.  

Trotsky, Leon. “My Life.” Marxists Internet Archive. 15 Feb. 2021. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/mylife/index.htm.

Trotsky, Leon. The Suppressed Testament of Lenin.  New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1946. 

Ulyanova, Maria. О Владимире Ильиче (About Vladimir Ilyich). Moscow: Izvestiya, 1991.

 Volkogonov, Drmitri. Lenin A New Biography. London: Free Press, 1994.

“Пока врачи молчат, власть их не трогает (While the doctors keep quiet, the authority doesn’t touch them).” Lenta Ru. 28 Feb. 2018. https://lenta.ru/articles/2018/02/28/lenin/.

 FOTNOTES: [1] “Document 49: Letter To Congress from 22nd December 1922,” 22 Dec. 1922, Russian National Archive Of Socio-Political History, photocopy of original document, received by author 22 Jul. 2021. [2] Nikita Krushchev, "Speech to 20th Congress of the C.P,S.U.," Marxists Internet Archive, 10 Jan. 2021. https://www.marxists.org/archive/khrushchev/1956/02/24.htm. [3] Yuri Pivovarov, “Петр I и цена реформ,” Радио Эхо Москвы, 21 Nov. 2020. https://echo.msk.ru/programs/diletanti/2743470-echo/. [4] Valentin Sakharov, Political Testament Of Lenin (Moscow: Moscow University Press, 2003), 3. [5] Alexander Smoljanski, Interview by author, Personal interview, Munich, 29 Aug. 2021. [6] Sakharov, Political Testament of Lenin, 18. [7] Leon Trotsky, The Suppressed Testament of Lenin (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1946), 14. [8] Trotsky, The Suppressed Testament, 40-41. [9] Ibid., 40. [10] Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin The Court Of The Red Tsar (London: Phoenix, 2003), 36-37. [11] Sakharov, Political Testament of Lenin, 12. [12] Yuri Buranov, Lenin’s Will: Falsified and Forbidden (Amherst: Prometheus, 1994), 55. [13] Sakharov, Political Testament of Lenin, 164. [14] Vladimir Lenin, Full Collection of Works Volume 45 (Moscow: Press Of Political Literature, 1967), 475. [15] Lydia Fotieva, “Journal of Lenin’s Secretaries,” Russian National Archive of Socio-Political History, photo of origical document, received by author 22 Jul. 2021. [16] Lenin, Full Collection of Works, 474. [17] Fotieva, “Journal of Lenin’s Secretaries.” [18] Buranov, Lenin’s Will. Falsified and Forbidden, 55-56. [19] Yuri Felshtinskiy, Lenin And His Comrades: The Bolsheviks Take Over Russia 1917-1924 (New York: Enigma Books, 2010), 230-233. [20] Buranov, Lenin’s Will. Falsified and Forbidden, 56. [21] Trotsky, The Suppressed Testament, 12-13. [22] Trotsky, The Suppressed Testament, 14. [23] Felshtinskiy, Lenin And His Comrades, 231. [24] Ibid., 233. [25] Buranov, Lenin’s Will. Falsified and Forbidden, 55. [26] Fotieva, “Journal of Lenin’s Secretaries.” [27] Felshtinskiy, Lenin And His Comrades, 233. [28] “Document 49: Letter To Congress from 22nd December 1922.” [29] Viktoria Andreeva, Interview by author, Personal interview, Russian National Archive of Socio-Political History, 22 Jul. 2021. [30] Sakharov, Political Testament of Lenin, 164. [31] “Пока врачи молчат, власть их не трогает (While the doctors keep quiet, the authority doesn’t touch them),” Lenta Ru, 28 Feb. 2018. https://lenta.ru/articles/2018/02/28/lenin/. [32] Leon Trotsky, “My Life,” Marxists Internet Archive,  15 Feb. 2021. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/mylife/index.htm. [33] Ibid. [34] Ibid. [35] Trotsky, The Suppressed Testament, 7. [36] Norbert Nighogossian, “Lenin’s Stroke,” Karger AG, 14 Jun. 2021.    https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/515657. [37] Martin Amis, Koba The Dread (Lonon: Hyperion, 2002), 26. [38] Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin A New Biograohy (New York: Free Press, 1994), 381. [39] Trotsky, “My Life.” [40] Nighogossian, “Lenin’s Stroke.” [41] Volkogonov, Lenin A New Biograohy, 381. [42] Vladimir Lenin, “Document 1343: Arithmetics Practice Notebook,” Russian National Archive of Sociao-Political History, original document. Received by author 22 Jul. 2021. [43] Lenin, “Document 1343: Arithmetics Practice notebook,” 4. [44] Ibid., 9. [45] Volkogonov, Lenin A New Biograohy, 381. [46] Lenin, “Document 1343: Arithmetics Practice notebook,” 1. [47] Trotsky, “My Life.” [48] Nighogossian, “Lenin’s Stroke.” [49] Trotsky, “My Life.” [50] Maria Ulyanova, О Владимире Ильиче (About Vladimir Ilyich) (Moscow: Izvestiya, 1991), 7. [51] Trotsky, “My Life.” [52] Document 49: Letter To Congress from 22nd December 1922.” [53] Fotieva, “Journal of Lenin’s Secretaries.” [54] Fotieva, “Journal of Lenin’s Secretaries.” [55] Ibid. [56] Document 49: Letter To Congress from 22nd December 1922.” [57] Buranov, Lenin’s Will. Falsified and Forbidden, 55.

IBDP Internal Assessment

  Was Lenin’s Testament Really Directed at Removing Stalin?

A: Plan of Investigation
Was Lenin’s Testament Really Directed at Removing Stalin? In order to answer this question the circumstances of the testament, Lenin’s statements on Stalin within the testament and his views on the other leaders will be analysed. Lenin’s testament will be the main source, whilst works by Trotsky and Stalin will offer insight into the rival’s opinions on the testament. The final primary source will be Lenin’s secretary’s memoires as she offers her opinion on Lenin’s intentions, valuable as many of Lenin’s actions will have gone through her. As well as these primary sources an abundance of secondary sources will be used, largely from historians specialising in Russia writing about the relative importance of the testament on Stalin’s rise to power.

B: Summary of Evidence
Following a second stroke in November 1922 Vladimir Lenin dictated government papers to his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, including his testament, completed in December 1922, adding an addendum in January 1923.[1] Lenin intended the testament to be read at the 12th Party Congress in April 1923, however following a third stroke he was left paralyzed and unable to speak so it was not made available to the party until the Party Congress in May 1924 following his death.
Within the testament Lenin highlighted his worries in regard to the six leading members of the committee, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Pyatakov and Stalin, drawing pen-portraits4 of each followed by appraisal. Trotsky was described as “the outstanding member of the Central Committee” but he displayed “excessive self-assurance” and showed “excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.”3 When commenting on Zinoviev and Kamenev Lenin was criticised their unwillingness to support the October revolution saying it was no “accident”3 but said they should not be personally blamed. This criticism was reinforced by Trotsky saying “Having achieved the revolution, we seem to have concluded that we should never have to repeat it.”[5] Pyatakov and Bukharin were both praised by Lenin as the most promising members of the party at the time however, Pyatakov was criticised for undeviating allegiance to Trotsky[6] along with his commitment to the administrative side of politics. Meanwhile, Bukharin’s views were questioned as Lenin stated; “his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with the great reserve.”3
At the time Stalin was General Secretary of the party, having been chosen by Lenin[7], and he had the power remove and appoint members of the party. Lenin noted that he was not sure Stalin would be able to use his authority with enough caution, with Trotsky stating in his autobiography that Stalin “always seemed a man destined to play second and third fiddle.”[8] Following Stalin’s verbal abuse of Lenin’s wife Lenin added a postscript that called Stalin “too rude” and recommended removal as General Secretary.[9]
This heavy criticism meant that the leaders of the C.C. faced a dilemma, they did not want the testament read to Congress as it would hinder their chances of attaining leadership, however it was dangerous to go against Lenin’s will so soon after his death. Eventually a 30 to 10 vote decided the testament would be communicated confidentially to delegates.[10] Resultantly Stalin was not removed as General Secretary and continued expelling opposition supporters whilst promoting his supporters, culminating in him becoming leader of the Communist Party.

C: Evaluation of Sources
Lenin’s Testament:
This testament is a primary source and the final document written before Lenin’s death. According to Trotsky’s article in The New International the testament’s purpose was “Lenin’s last advice on how to organize the party leadership.”[11] As it was written close to Lenin’s death he had nothing left to lose, with the necessity of diplomacy no longer hanging over his head, hence revealing critical opinions on the Communist Party and its leading members, with no other document showing his true views regarding shortcomings of the other members of the Party. Perhaps its greatest value though was its presence as a cornerstone of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech in the critique of Stalin. On the other hand, being written after a stroke, it can be argued that Lenin was no longer the man that led revolutions, was instead impaired and in no position to make such warnings about the Party and its important members.[12] The postscript’s timing, in which he called for Stalin’s removal as General Secretary, must also be taken into account as it was added following a heated debate between Stalin and Krupskaya, implying the decision was not thought through and in fact a spontaneous reaction. Nevertheless, this could be seen as a strength, as Lenin finally showed the emotion often lacking due to his diplomatic tendencies. The testament though was extremely vague, offering little other than one-sided criticism; this caused the consequential power struggle and means the testaments weakness is in fact what makes it so important.

Trotsky’s My Life:
Praised by Dmitri Volkogonov as “a work of remarkable self-analysis”,[13] Trotsky’s autobiography My Life was written during his first year in Turkey in 1930 having been exiled by Stalin. The purpose of his autobiography was to tell the story of his life from youth to expulsion, and validate his own beliefs and actions. My Life offers insight into Trotsky’s beliefs and relationships, especially his longing for revolution and need to excuse his non-Bolshevik past through constant reference made to his relationship with Lenin as well as his opinion of the contents of the testament. It also allows us to see why Lenin said what he did of Trotsky, showing his ability through a wonderfully written book, but also his pride and pedantic habits. To understand the limitations of the source Trotsky must be understood, arrogant and self-obsessed, always looking to justify himself. Following Trotsky’s own fight against Stalinism and his exile his autobiography takes every opportunity to criticise his opponent, whilst constantly looking to vindicate his need for revolution. The book offers not a reliable historical writing but a justification of a man totally committed to himself, disguised as a story of revolution and adventure.

D: Analysis
Lenin’s testament was his chance to recommend a successor, be that Stalin, Trotsky or any other member of the party and emphasise the direction in which the C.C. should progress and gives us an insight into his views of the Communist Party upon his death. When the basics of Lenin’s testament is taught at iGCSE level, the message is that Lenin was looking to prevent Stalin’s rise as leader and that had it been published Stalin would inevitably have lost the leadership race.[14] However, Stalin was the first leader mentioned in Lenin’s testament, and Russia historian Ian Grey said “Stalin emerged in the best light”,[15] highlighting that Stalin had not tarnished his party record and the only question of him in the document was whether he had the acumen necessary for a post entailing such power. This was a man who had become closer and closer to Lenin, being elected to the Central Committee, Politburo and role of General Secretary through Lenin and even assisting Lenin in avoiding capture from the Provisional Government,[16] meaning Lenin had little if any reason to remove Stalin and if he did, it was not portrayed in his testament.
On the other hand, Lenin is brutally critical of other leaders; Trotsky’s “excessive self-assurance”[17], seen in Trotsky’s My Life when he says of his work with the peasantry “I shall confine myself to two or three sufficiently outstanding examples”[18], was a far worse quality than the “vulgarity”[19], which was, according to Lenin’s secretary, “supportable in relations among us Communists”.[20] Meanwhile, the reference to Kamenev and Zinoviev lack of support during the revolution was damning, as the revolution represented everything the Bolshevik cause. Pyatkov’s persistent allegiance to Trotsky meant any criticism of Trotsky was bestowed upon him, regardless of promise he had shown. It was similar for Bukharin, despite his potential, had the testament been published having his theoretical view questioned by Lenin would almost certainly have ruled him out of the leadership race. The critique of Stalin’s opposition, especially compared to his own, showed Lenin’s disapproval, and if anything conveyed Stalin was the best candidate for leadership.
Martin McCauley argues that the postscript’s intention was to remove Stalin from the party[21], and Lenin did ask for Stalin to be removed as General Secretary. However, the circumstances suggest that was not Lenin’s true motive. With the postscript being dated just days after a phone confrontation between Stalin and Lenin’s wife it was clear that it was written out of anger, not in the thought through manner that typified Lenin before his stroke. The emotional cause of this not only indicates that the removal of Stalin as General Secretary was not Lenin’s true will, especially as it was not mentioned in the original testament, but also that Lenin’s stroke affected his credibility, and hence that of the document.
Another problem with the recommendation for Stalin to leave his post was that no one was endorsed to succeed him; the lack of replacement implies that Lenin had not held the idea before Krupskaya’s confrontation as over time he would most likely have chosen a back-up. Lenin’s secretary believed Lenin was looking for someone with all Stalin’s qualities just “more tolerant, polite and attentive”.[22] This description matches none of the other leaders discussed in the document, especially not Trotsky, whose intolerance and willingness to criticise other members of the party are seen throughout My Life, especially when discussing his leadership opposition.[23] Meanwhile, had Lenin seen him as a viable replacement he would have told him, especially given how close Trotsky asserts they were.[24] Therefore it supports the notion that Lenin did not want Stalin removed but was angered by his actions and did not see any member as a more credible leader than Stalin.
Stalin said, at the Thirteenth Party Congress, in regards to the testament, that it was “unanimously decided not to publish it.”[25] This questions whether the leaders in competition really believed that the intent of the testament was Stalin’s dismissal and that Stalin would be discredited by it. Despite the criticisms of their abilities, had they truly believed that the testament would have significantly hindered Stalin’s leadership chances then the decision would not have been unanimous. Nevertheless historian Martin McCauley believes that “Trotsky missed a great opportunity to downgrade Stalin”[26] in order to show unity in a time of tension. However, Trotsky had no problem undermining the party’s unity two years later forming an opposition block with Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1926 creating factions within the party.[27] The decision for the testament not to be published is therefore indicative of the leaders’ views on the contents, they did not see the testament as judgement on Stalin but instead a scathing appraisal of the Communist Party’s state.

E: Conclusion
Having assessed the evidence available it is clear Stalin had developed a fairly close relationship with Lenin, certainly one that showed Lenin felt Stalin belonged in the party, and in the original testament Stalin’s reputation was in no way besmirched and Lenin’s statements about him were far more positive than those about the other leading members of the party. The criticism of the other leaders is also firmly in Stalin’s favour as Lenin voiced his disapproval of Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Pyatkov and Bukharin. This judgement, especially in comparison to that of Stalin, is indicative of the high regard in which Stalin was held by Lenin. The postscript, despite its request for the removal of Stalin as General Secretary, can be somewhat disregarded due to the circumstances in which it was written, with Lenin having suffered a stroke and reacting to the argument between Stalin and his wife, with the lack of a suggested replacement portraying the spontaneity of his reaction. Finally, the decision to withhold the testament revealing that the leading members did not feel it would significantly impact on Stalin’s leadership opportunities. This evidence dismisses the simplistic idea taught to so many that Lenin was intent on removing Stalin from his post or his party.

F: Bibliography
Carr, Edward Hallett, The Russian Revolution from Lenin to Stalin (1917-1929), Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2004, p. 61-73.
Eastman, Max, ‘The Testament of Lenin’, Since Lenin Died, Boni and Liveright Publishers, New York, 1925, p. 30.
Fotieva, Souvenirs sur Lénine, Éditions Moscou, Moscow, n.d, p. 173-4.
Gay, Kathlyn, ‘A Country in Chaos’, The Aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, 2009, p. 65-6.
Grey, Ian, Stalin: Man of History, Doubleday and Company, New York, 1979, p. 159-76.
Lenin, Vladimir, Collected Works. Vol. 36, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, p. 594-6.
Lynch, Michael, ‘Stalin's Rise to Power 1924-9’, Bolshevik and Stalinist Russia 1918-56, Hodder Murray, London, 2005, p. 60.
McCauley, Martin, ‘Politics’, Russia Since 1914, Addison Wesley Longman, London, 1998, p. 155-9.
Montefiore, Simon Sebag, Young Stalin, Phoenix, London, 2007, p. 5-11.
Service, Robert, ‘Leninism and its Discontents’, A History of Modern Russia, Penguin Group, London, 2003, p. 152.
Stalin, Joseph, ‘The Trotskyist Opposition Before and Now’, On the Opposition, State Publishing House, Moscow, 1928, p. 865.
Trotsky, Leon, Lessons of October, Imprecorr, Moscow, 1925, p. 1.
Trotsky, Leon, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography, Penguin, London, 1988, p. 398.
Trotsky, Leon, ‘The Testament of Lenin’, The New International, July 1934, p. 6.
Volkogonov, Dmitri Antonovich, Trotsky: the Eternal Revolutionary, Free, New York, 1996, p. 419.
Walsh, Ben, ‘Stalin or Trotsky?’, GCSE Modern World History, 2nd ed, Hodder Murray, London, 2001, p. 126.

Footnotes:  [1] Carr, p. 61-3. [2] Gay, p. 65-6. [3] Lenin, p. 594-6. [4] Service, p. 152. [5] Trotsky, Lessons of October, p. 1. [6] Eastman, p. 30. [7] Grey, p. 159. [8] Trotsky, My Life, p. 398. [9] Lenin, p. 594-6 [10] Carr, p. 71-3.  [11] Trotsky, The New International, p. 6. [12] Eastman, p. 30. [13] Volkogonov, p. 419. [14] Walsh, p. 126. [15] Grey, p. 176. [16] Montefiore, p. 5-11. [17] Lenin, p. 594-6. [18] Trotsky, My Life, p. 343. [19] Trotsky, My Life, p. 397. [20] Fotieva, p. 173-4. [21] McCauley, p. 155. [22] Lenin, p. 594-6. [23] Trotsky, My Life, p. 395-408 [24] Trotsky, My Life, p. 363-9. [25] Stalin, p. 865. [26] McCauley, p. 159. [27] Lynch, p. 60.
IBDP Internal Assessment
Session: May 2019 
Word Count: 2,200
Source Analysis
In order to answer the research question; To what extent did Lenin wish Stalin to be his successor. I will be utilizing two main sources: Lenin’s Testament to gain insight into the general overview into what traits the members, especially Stalin, were that of a leader’s. The second source I will be utilizing is Christopher Read’s “Lenin” that provides different perspectives as to what Lenin desired in the next leader of the party.
- Lenin’s Testament, 25th December 1922 & 4th January 1923
Created in 1922 and surfaced in 1923, however entries were added throughout until 1924, it was supposedly written by Lenin; leader of the Bolshevik Party. The origin of this document is essential while studying his succession because it originates from a high ranking member of the politburo with ultimate authority. However, questions are raised as to the reliability of the source since in those last years of his life Lenin had lost his motor skills1. Additionally, the document was to provide the politburo with a plan of action after Lenin’s passing2, providing historians studying the succession of Lenin with how Lenin supposedly felt about members of the Politburo, how much they contributed and the atmosphere on an everyday basis. However, it must be taken into consideration that the purpose of the document, does not provide the outcome, whether Lenin’s wishes were met after his death. Furthermore, the content of the document, disregarding the possibility that Lenin himself did not write the testament3, there still lies the chance that his beliefs were represented in the document, therefore the information provided and inferred can be crucial to this investigation. Nevertheless, one must look at the fact that the testament could be compromised by Lenin’s bias, and that occasionally political interest were not in mind and spoke solely from emotions.
- Biography of “Lenin” published 2005 by Christopher Read, professor of Modern European History at the University of Warwick.
Read, has years of experience on Soviet history indicating that the sources and information in his book are reliable and insightful. The work was published when the archives had been open for 14 years indicating that he had access to official government documents. However, the document is solely based on Lenin, a small portion of the ending chapter is dedicated to his succession, suggesting that there is a limited amount of evidence supporting his view on the succession. Moreover, the purpose is “ [not] to justify him, but to understand... the emphasis is on what Lenin himself said and did rather than what others said about him”4. The value of this source is that you gain an understanding as to the reasons for decisions Lenin made throughout his life, (through an “academically credible biography”5) and for example, the revolution and civil war from Lenin’s perspective. On the other hand, only Lenin’s perspective and what affected him throughout his lifetime is presented, not much dedicated to other perspectives, thus is limiting when studying events in Russian history from various perspectives.
The book contains the life of Lenin and offers different perspectives in regard to the successor of the party. Read briefly argues that Lenin was leaning towards instating Stalin as leader of the party after his death however, it was only a brief mention towards the possibility thus, insinuating placing him as the successor.

On January 21st 1924, Vladimir Lenin passed after a series of strokes leaving him physically and mentally impaired. During his struggles Lenin dictated a series of entries regarding the Central Committee (C.C) known as the ‘letter to congress’ which shortly thereafter became his testament. The Testament, provides insight into Lenin’s thoughts throughout the early 1920s including his criticism of C.C members: Stalin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and Pyatakov, thus a variety of historians utilise this source to construct their arguments on the succession of Lenin; supporting the idea that Lenin did not want Stalin to succeed him. It is also often used in order to justify how Stalin succeeded Lenin, which has become the standard use adopted by schools of thought today; academically such as by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) who utilise the testament to explore Stalin’s rise to power6. This investigation will be exploring the standard view of Lenin’s succession, however, will also consider the evidence indicating that Lenin supported Stalin’s consolidation of power.
The testament gives a critical analysis of the personalities in the C.C, Stalin is mentioned first within the entries as some might say in the best light.7 Compared to the other critiques, Stalin’s was a mere critique of his intellectual sharpness. However, on January 4th 1923, Lenin entered a new entry which described Stalin as ‘too rude’ and ‘intolerable’ along with the suggestion to ‘find a way to remove Stalin’ and ‘replace him’ from the position of General Secretary8, although this entry is unreliable as it was dictated soon after an incident that took place between Stalin and Lenin’s wife and was dictated out of anger of the moment.
Additionally, considering the fact that he played a major role in the party taking on responsibilities no one else desired to take over, illustrated initiative and leadership qualities, something Lenin admired as he leaned towards the ‘doers’ rather than the ‘thinkers’9. Trotsky himself, admits such claims that Lenin “undoubtedly valued highly certain traits of Stalin”10, Pipes supports such argument stating that “Stalin suited Lenin’s needs”11, justifying why Lenin gave Stalin the position of General secretary. Promoting Stalin was a sign of Lenin wanting Stalin to take over the party, as the promotion allowed Stalin to have control over every decision made12 or the information shared. Moreover, on account of Lenin’s sister Krupskaya, Stalin paid him “friendly visits” for entertainment during his stay at Groki due to his illness. During the early 20s Lenin confided in Stalin quite a lot, he even asked Stalin to give him cyanide to put an end to his misery, a fact in which Maria Ulianova “saw proof of Lenin’s special confidence in Stalin”13. Furthermore, in Krupskaya’s account “Lenin had sided with Stalin against Trotsky” as evidence that Lenin leaned towards Stalin, however this could be justified that Lenin feared the backlash they would receive from the unions if they were to execute Trotsky’s suggestion to ban all trade unions.14 Nevertheless, such collaboration results in the idea that at some point Lenin did think of Stalin as his heir.15 Lastly, the testament was handed from Krupskaya, Lenin’s sister, to Zinoviev, however, does not surface until later on, which Figes argues is an indication of evidence supporting Stalin becoming the next leader of the Party was being hidden or manipulated. Leading one to assume that the testament in ways supported Stalin taking over. 16
On the other hand, this collaboration amongst Lenin and Stalin did not last long, due to, as Read defines it “serious differences”17 caused by the ‘Georgian affair’ which created a distance, as Lenin believed minorities must be treated “with the upmost tact” as they were the foundation of Russia, yet Stalin believed it was the “Great Russian Population”18 resulting in the siding of Lenin with Trotsky against Stalin.19 Trotsky confirmed this stating “I have said before that Lenin, from his deathbed, was preparing a blow at Stalin”20. Moreover, Nikita Khrushchev highlights in his Secret Speech in the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, after Stalin’s death, the idea that Stalin was never the designated successor of the party as, he was “[properly] characterized, pointing out that it was necessary to consider the question of transferring Stalin from the position of General Secretary [...]”in addition to Stalin’s inability to pursue ‘Leninism’ stating that “Lenin’s anxiety was justified” 21.The purpose of Trotsky and Khrushchev can be questioned, as Trotsky’s work was written in exile from Stalin and its bias as a memoir, moreover, Khrushchev’s speech was given during his initiation of desalinisation therefore their intentions come into question. However, Lenin did express concern of Stalin having “unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and [was] not sure whether [Stalin would] always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution”22, referring to his criticism in the early entries of the testament, and does not refer to his position as General Secretary. Pipes utilises this to claim that Lenin was ignorant of the “importance of Stalin’s promotion” 23 to G.S and was more concerned on maintaining the party together to run it under a collective leadership following his death, as he deemed it not possible for Russia to be run my one man.24 Lastly, the testament was kept secret for years after Lenin’s death, in fact, the C.C had deemed it ‘un-Leninlike’25 therefore, chose not to give it importance. Moreover, the actual copy of the testament was burned by order of Stalin, and retyped by Lenin’s assistant after being told to keep it a secret26, which leads one to question why Stalin would have wanted it destroyed if it supported him consolidating power?
That being said, the authenticity of the testament has come under question, as under many accounts it was stated that there is no evidence that Lenin had dictated all of it. Furthermore Kotkin claims it only became Lenin’s ‘testament’ after its circulation by the Trotskyites27, questioning whether it had been manipulated, as well as how Figes claims there could have been manipulation while Zinoviev was in hold of it28.

To conclude, having analysed the information it is clear that Stalin had become a threat to the other members of the C.C and he had established himself a very important role in the party which allowed him to reach for leadership. Moreover, in the testament, Stalin, compared to his comrades was described in a better light, which was an advantage. In addition, when he was criticised about his personality it can be argued that it was circumstantial and the reasons seemed more a personal vendetta rather than Lenin’s professional opinion.
Yes. Lenin could have been oblivious to the amount of power he handed Stalin with the G.S promotion or he knew Stalin had leadership qualities which would allow the party to maintain organised and together; something Lenin prioritised, after all Trotsky, Stalin’s greatest opposition, admitted that Lenin valued certain traits of Stalin.
Throughout this investigation I have become more aware of the discipline of history and how it has evolved. Firstly, I was intrigued having found Stephen Kotkin’s argument which questioned the authenticity of a document that has been used for years by historians and academic institutions to justify a historical event. In this case Lenin’s testament, Kotkin questioned its content and origin not to mention its entire existence which allowed me to enter a new perspective, but also makes me question how many other documents we use now to justify such events that might in a couple of years come under question or be interpreted in a much different light. Furthermore, having come across historians writing books on the Soviet Union, regarding testament, they all mention such an event and many have similar views to it, which made me question why? Are there no further perspectives? As it is easy to consider one view of Lenin’s intentions for a Paper 1 question, however I realised how byzantine the structure of Soviet government really is which made me think that often historians are discouraged from meticulously discussing such topics, especially about cultures so foreign to their understanding.
Lastly, many doing this topic would have chosen Trotsky’s autobiographies such as “My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography” which I come to mention in my investigation as it possesses value and insight. However, having been written under exile and Trotsky himself being Stalin’s greatest rival at the time, although would provide personal insight into the situation, bias is an issue and if the claims made are to paint himself in a good light. Thus, my second main source is Christopher Read’s biography on Lenin, it provides a well-supported, detailed argument on Lenin’s last days which can be justified. Additionally, the sources I gathered failed to utilize Trotsky as a main source to support their arguments, due to its unreliability. This made me question whether documents or works that originate from a figure which plays a core role in a historical event should ever become its justification.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Lenin's Testament.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. Easton Press, 2002.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 Aug. 2013, www.britannica.com/topic/Lenins Testament.
Revolution From Above : Orlando Figes, Figes, Orlando. A People's Tragedy: the Russian Revolution 1891-1924. The Bodley Head,
  Figes , Orlando. “Lenin's Testament.”www.orlandofiges.info/section8_LeninTrotskyandStalin/LeninsTestament.php.2017.
Power Stephen Kotkin Discusses Stalin’s Consolidation of
 Hoover Institution, director. YouTube, YouTube, 13 Oct. 2015,
 Khrushchev Secret Speech 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Kotkin, Stephen. Paradoxes of Power 1878-1928. Penguin Press, 2014.
L Trotsky, On the supposed testament of Lenin. 31st December 1932. Trotsky’s opinion of Stalin in the years 1922-23.
Lenin’s Testament, 25th December 1922 & 4th January 1923
Moorehead, Alan. The Russian Revolution. Harper, 1958
Read, Christopher. Lenin: a Revolutionary Life. Routledge, 2005.  
Trotsky, Leon. My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. Pathfinder, 1970.
Tucker, Robert C. Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929; a Study in History and Personality. Norton, 1973.
  The Leadership Struggle after Lenin's Death.”, 26 May


Extended Essay




To what extent can it be said that Lenin’s Testament was aimed at ‘removing’ Stalin?


Word Count: 3988


Citation Style: Chicago (CMOS 17)





February 25th, 1956. Within the Grand Kremlin Palace, the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is afoot – a closed session – held by none other than Soviet statesman Nikita Khrushchev. Sitting upon his rostrum, a prepared report aptly titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”. On this day in history, the once idyllic image of their national hero, Josef Stalin, would be tarnished and relegated to a portrait of infamy and tyranny, shaking the Soviet Union to its very core. 

As one journalist who bore witness to these events writes, “it can well be argued that the 'Secret Speech' was the century's most momentous, planting the seed that eventually caused the demise of the USSR,”  strongly emphasizing the grave and perennial nature of public outcry which subsequently swept the nation. However, the cornerstone to Khrushchev’s speech – the crux which tore down the public perception of Stalin – ultimately lay upon a document of considerable controversy, Lenin’s so-called ‘Testament’. In the winter of 1922, Lenin is assumed to have dictated a ‘Letter to the Congress’ to his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, a letter which a plethora of bourgeois authors have since referred to as his ‘Final Testament’ for the Communist Party. The document manifests Lenin’s concerns for the stability of the Central Committee, and most notably, provides personal judgement of each individual member of the Politburo. The nature of controversy which encompasses these writings lies largely in Lenin’s description of the antagonism between Party members Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, an antagonism which in his own words, “[makes] up the greater part of the danger of a split” . However, it is Lenin’s sharp, unforgiving criticism of his eventual successor which would spark an era of convolution and historical doubt for years to come. Despite the fascinating implications which arise through the study of his Testament, Kotkin argues the evidence in support of the validity of the source to be insubstantial, stating that “the purported dictation had not been registered in the documents journal in Lenin’s secretariat […] no shorthand or stenographic originals [could] be found in the archives,” and that “Lenin had not initialed the typescript, not even with his un-paralyzed left hand” . 

For the larger portion of a century, this supposed Testament has become a significant topic of historical debate, the most prominent of contentions lying in whether this document was truly aimed at ridding the Communist Party of Stalin. There is, as can be established from the works of notable historians Stephen Kotkin and Ludo Martens, much to criticize in Lenin’s last published writings. As the latter asserts, “[the] text is remarkably incomprehensible [and] clearly dictated by a sick and diminished man,”  further drawing the credibility of the documents presented to the Politburo into question. And still, this claim has yet to prove itself ubiquitous in the realm of historiography. In fact, past-paper mark-schemes from the IBO published in 2005  suggest the orthodox view on the matter to be one which can in many ways be seen as the continuation of Trotskyist manipulation of the source, obtusely labelling the document as a manifesto (despite Kotkin arguing it to be anything but that) as well as utterly disregarding the stance which contends that Lenin had not actually called for the expulsion of Stalin from the Party as a valid response to the question. The presence of such bias existing within such a popular educational system calls upon the urgent need for revision in the context of the topic – a re-examination of the Testament’s purpose, legitimacy, and significance. Hence, this essay shall challenge the orthodox Trotskyist view of Lenin’s Testament, upholding that the purpose of such had never been to remove Stalin from the Communist Party. 

In advocating this stance, three of the most prevalent perspectives regarding Lenin’s Testament will be evaluated. Firstly, the concordant view that Stalin’s position within the Party was never directly jeopardized, as Lenin had simply intended to demote Stalin from General Secretaryship shall be thoroughly investigated, mainly with reference to the work of renowned British historian Robert Service. The former’s access to Soviet archives which had been opened to the West for a brief period in 1991 certainly contributes to his credibility as a source, however, it should be noted that the validity of these archives has often been disputed. Such is affirmed by Robert Conquest himself, who writes that “real facts, real statistics, disappeared into the realm of fantasy. History, including the history of the Communist Party, or rather especially the history of the Communist Party, was rewritten” . This shall be followed by a segment concerning the Trotskyist counterargument, which assumes Lenin’s ulterior motive to have been the expulsion of his eventual successor. Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky clearly portrays this pro-Trotskyist sentiment, though one must acknowledge the historian’s bias against Stalin, a bias so strongly held that it would eventually get him expelled from the Polish Communist Party in 1932. Consequently, Deutscher’s work suffers greatly from its appeal to individualism, the Carlyle-esque notion that Trotsky was centerpiece to Russian history, most evident in his accounts on the Russian Revolution where Trotsky’s professed role has been criticized for being wrought with hyperbole. Lastly, Stephen Kotkin’s recent and controversial work, claiming the Testament itself to have been a forgery, will be debated. Reference will be made to the first installment of Kotkin’s ongoing biographical trilogy on Stalin which – despite criticism for portraying an unduly right-wing, reactionary attitude towards Stalinism – has been praised for the depth of its research, as is evident in its astounding 50-page bibliography.

Lenin, Stalin, and General Secretaryship 

In the Spring of 1922, Stalin was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party. This position bestowed upon him enormous administrative power: control of liaison with the secret police, military, embassies abroad (foreign policy), access to cypher codes, and the responsibility to communicate information to local party organizations . Alongside the looming threat of Stalin’s considerable influence within and without of the Party, one’s attention is drawn to the dismal developments in the personal relationship held between Lenin and Stalin towards the end of the former’s life. If one is to deem Russian historian Dmitri Volkogonov a trustworthy source despite his largely narrative and therefore, often unsubstantiated approach to writing, then it is to be understood that “Lenin [met] Stalin fairly often, and after the seizure of power and especially during the civil war he became one of Lenin’s closest comrades-in-arms. In all, Lenin sent him some 180 telegrams, letters, notes, and similar documents,”  thereby indicating a strongly amicable relationship. Thus, one has to consider the emotional and subjective judgements and reactions which must have transpired as they came to butt heads, as well as the implications such would have on our understanding of the Testament. Renowned historian Simon Montefiore, who is known to go beyond the archival materials by interviewing a plethora of the contemporaries’ relatives and descendants to grant unique insight to his work, largely attributes the end of this good-natured relationship to their fierce disagreements with regards to the Georgian Affair. Stalin and Grigol Ordzhonikidze’s hardline Bolshevik and violent approach to the Sovietization of Georgia and the ousting of its Menshevik government in 1922 was heavily criticized by Lenin for acting against the principles set out in Leninist ideology, stating in one of the letters attached to his Testament that “nothing holds up the development and strengthening of proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice [referring to the Georgian Affair]” . Furthermore, Montefiore argues that the chaotic treatment of Georgia made clear to Lenin Stalin’s inadequacies in handling his quasi-omnipotence as General Secretary, “which he demonstrated […] when he and Sergo [Ordzhonikidze] annexed Georgia, which had seceded from the Empire, and then imposed their will on the independent-minded Georgian Party,” adding that “Lenin was disgusted but his stroke in December 1922 prevented him from moving against Stalin” . 

Service not only supports Montefiore’s statements, but emphasizes the importance of Stalin and Krupskaya’s quarrels in expediting the deterioration of his relationship with Lenin. By virtue of the major stroke suffered by their leader, the Central Committee officialized the seclusion of Lenin from any work-related matters in light of his recovery. Nevertheless, Stalin soon discovered Krupskaya’s involvement in handling correspondence between Lenin and Trotsky, violating the terms explicitly set out by the Party, and acted upon this matter by unleashing a flurry of verbal abuse over a phone call, condemning her disloyalty to the Party’s orders. To this, Service writes that “Krupskaya [subsequently] blurted out to Lenin how Stalin had behaved towards her. Lenin was infuriated. Although he himself often swore, he drew the line at the verbal abuse of women. Stalin’s comportment offended him, and on the 5th of March 1923 he dictated a sharp letter,”  demonstrating the profound impact Stalin’s mistreatment of Krupskaya had upon Lenin’s perception of the quondam General Secretary. It is at this stage that Service notes the Lenin-Stalin relationship to have collapsed into irreparable ruin. Despite Lenin’s frustration with Stalin’s handling of the Georgian Affair, as well as his anger towards the Georgian upon personal grounds, Service boldly claims that there is no reason to believe that Lenin would have wanted to oust Stalin from the Communist Party. The historian refers directly to the Testament, which explicitly states Lenin’s “[suggestion] that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post [General Secretaryship] and appoint another man in his stead,”  asserting that any argument claiming Lenin’s desire to have been to completely rid Stalin from the Party belongs to a web of overextrapolation and speculation. In Service’s own words, “Lenin’s meaning pierced its way through his shaky syntax: he wanted to remove Stalin from the General Secretaryship. His scheme was limited in scope. He was not proposing Stalin’s removal from the central party leadership, still less from the party as a whole” . However, come the 10th of March, a mere 5 days after dictating his sharp, cautionary response to Stalin , Lenin had become a “helpless cripple”  forced to reside in his Gorki mansion as the threat to Stalin’s grasp to power slowly subsided.

The Trotskyist Myth 

Upon Lenin’s passing on the 21st of January 1924, Krupskaya followed through with her husband’s instructions, handing the ‘Testament’ over to the Central Committee. Although this document was to be read out at the 13th Party Congress, the degrading nature of commentary towards each and every member of the Politburo deterred the Central Committee from consummating any such action, finding it in their best interest to suppress the document. Instead, as Service writes, “the Testament should be read out only to the heads of the provincial delegations [… and though] Stalin sat pale as chalk as the Testament was revealed to the restricted audience […] the sting was extracted from Stalin’s political flesh [… and] thus was lost the best opportunity to terminate Stalin’s further rise to power,”  emphasizing how damaging such would have been to Stalin on a public, political front. Though the threat had seemingly run its course for the affected members of the Politburo, the following year brought with it the re-emergence of the Testament through the published works of US Trotskyist, Max Eastman. Perhaps the most influential individual with regards to the dissemination of the Trotskyist Myth, Eastman published a copy of Lenin’s ‘will’ alongside detailed accounts of the Stalin-Trotsky power struggle in his book Since Lenin Died. Whilst these publications did little to thwart Stalin’s already solidified grasp on the throne, they would form the basis for a large part of Trotskyist criticism of Stalinist rule. With reference to Chapter 3 of Eastman’s book, one observes how language of the Testament is manipulated in order to shed Trotsky in a better light, juxtaposing Lenin’s crude remarks of Stalin to the relatively milder criticism of Trotsky- the rightful heir to Lenin’s mantle: “Lenin knew the weight of every word he was writing. He knew what Bonaparte fable he was explaining away, when he said that Trotsky’s fault was only a ‘too great self-confidence,’ and that Trotsky was a ‘devoted revolutionist.’ And the word which I have translated ‘outstanding’ is the one which Lenin habitually used to mean simply, and without emotion, the ablest and the greatest” . Additionally, Eastman would blame the Central Committee for their collective suppression of Lenin’s will, a prospect which Stalin, as argued by Conquest, “demanded not merely that Trotsky repudiate […] but that he deny the very existence of” . In response to the controversial publications, Trotsky wrote that “Eastman asserts in several places that the Central Committee has ‘concealed’ from the party a large number of documents of extraordinary importance, written by Lenin during the last period of his life. This is pure slander against the Central Committee of our party. Eastman’s words convey the impression that Lenin wrote these letters […] This is not at all in accordance with the facts” . Trotsky would go on to disapprove of the documents’ label as a supposed ‘Testament’, bluntly stating that insofar as a testament was concerned, none had been left by Comrade Lenin. This is peculiarly contradicted when Trotsky writes in December 1932 – almost five years after having been exiled – that “Stalin not only remains a Party-member, contrary to Lenin’s wish, but has been given unheard-of powers by the apparatus” , where the expression ‘contrary to Lenin’s wish’ is emphasized to imply that Trotsky himself was of the conviction that the Testament’s purpose had indeed been to expel Stalin from the authoritative body entirely. Naturally, one must deliberate the likelihood that this contradictory sentiment arose as an emotional response to his deportation.

Isaac Deutscher, considered to be amongst the twentieth century’s most prominent pro-Trotsky historians, certainly holds such a view. Deutscher asserts that “the Central Committee even dictated the terms of the denial,” before boldly claiming that “this was particularly galling for Trotsky [… as] he had now to come forward as a witness bearing false testimony against himself and for Stalin” . The use of the term ‘false testimony’ in this case is insinuative of the notion that Trotsky genuinely believed the aim of the Testament to have been to derail Stalin from eventual and hypothetical succession – a notion which is brought up in detail in Deutscher’s work. However, the historian’s plethora of laudatory remarks on Trotsky begs the question of his own reliability. Additionally, Deutscher’s harsh criticism of Stalin, evident in his predisposed opinion that “Lenin’s colossal tomb appeared to be only the pedestal for his successor” , certainly inhibits his impartiality, thus limiting the value of the source. Considering that the historian’s arguments were predominantly substantiated by referring to Lenin’s anger towards Stalin following the latter’s purported mistreatment of Krupskaya in the days leading up to the document’s dictation, prompts one to impugn the suitability of emotion as an element to understanding history. This, in concomitance with the fact that Deutscher’s works were published in the late 50s – far before Soviet archives were made available to the West – challenges the veracity of his accounts. Retrospectively, it is perhaps indicative of the inaccuracy of left-leaning orthodox accounts, that post-archival publications from revisionist, and subsequently, post-revisionist schools of historiography have strayed far from perpetuating the Trotskyist narrative.

The Kotkin Consideration 

It is none other than Stephen Kotkin who, in his seminal and largely controversial book Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, widely popularized the notion of forgery in the publication of Lenin’s so-called Testament. Heavily influenced by the work of Russian scholar Valentin Sakharov and his critical dissection of the Testament which outlines the fundamental unreliability of the source, Kotkin takes the thesis further, bluntly contending that “[its] authenticity has never been proven [… and that] unless persuasive documentary evidence comes forward corroborating Lenin’s generation of [the] diction, we must treat his authorship with caution” . The historian makes specific reference to an abundance of primary source documents to support his audacious arguments, much like Sakharov, using the Daily Diary of Secretaries, collections of doctor’s notes, and evidenced correspondence mostly involving Stalin’s disputes with Lenin’s wife Krupskaya. However, a crucial distinction lies in Sakharov’s tentative criticism of the documents as opposed to Kotkin’s decisive claims which have received their fair share of backlash. He has been accused of playing a “thoroughly dishonest game with the reader” in disregarding any document or testimony that does not fit his narrative by dismissing it as a forgery; “any incident that violates his narrative, he claims never occurred,”  which quite clearly implies that one should take the historian’s claims with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, Kotkin’s provocative post-revisionist views are unquestionably valuable to the study of the political turmoil in 1920s Russia, as the hypothetical implications of elements of unreliability regarding Lenin’s Testament would drastically alter the way in which we perceive the importance and even the purpose of the document. 

Kotkin boldly proclaims Krupskaya to have been the most influential force in the fabrication of her husband’s ‘testament’, veiling the devious purpose of “denying the Georgian [Stalin] the status of Lenin’s sole successor” . As Kotkin himself expresses in one of his lectures, bizarre discrepancies lie in Krupskaya’s delivery of her husband’s last written work to the members of the Politburo. The historian explains that Krupskaya handed two documents to Zinoviev in 1923, first in May, then in June. The former, as claimed by Krupskaya, was taken down from Lenin’s dictation on the 23rd of December 1922 and entailed a letter  in which the 6 members of the Politburo received a share of criticism, yet it should be noted that “Trotsky comes out better than the others” . Though Kotkin already professes his doubts on the legitimacy of this particular document, his main concerns lie in the circumstances of Krupskaya’s delivery of the infamous June document, commonly referred to as the ‘post-script’  to Lenin’s Letter to the Congress (i.e. his Testament). Here, Lenin evidently attacks Stalin on personal grounds, declaring that “Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General,”  offering even more damning criticism against him than in the letter dictated in December. However, one must call attention to Krupskaya’s allegation that this document was dictated to her as early as the 4th of January 1923, meaning that, by the time she had provided Zinoviev with the first letter, she would have already been in possession of the second, begging the question of why Krupskaya hadn’t handed both of the documents concurrently. Following this logic, Kotkin claims the source to have been a forgery, most likely connived by Krupskaya herself, seeing that the first letter ultimately proved inconsequential in either bolstering Trotsky up against his political opposition or in deflating Stalin’s power and influence in the party .

 Of course, there remains the ambiguity regarding Krupskaya’s motive to have forged such a document. Considering collections of some of her letters, it would seem unlikely for Krupskaya to have sided with Trotsky in this instance, so one might argue that her disposition would most probably have been influenced by her concerns about Stalin, who – in Lenin’s own words – had “unlimited authority concentrated in his hands”  from his position as General Secretary of the Communist Party. Having been married to Lenin for the last 25 years, it is fair to speculate that Krupskaya “believed in her heart [that] she knew Lenin’s wishes,”  and felt that the decision to remove Stalin from General Secretaryship was the best course of action for the Party itself. Although the historian blames Lenin’s wife when setting forth the impossibility of Lenin’s absolute authorship over the Testament – as the deterioration of his physical condition would have necessitated someone, allegedly Krupskaya herself, to preside over the transcription of his dictation – it is pointed out and even supported by Sakharov’s own investigation of the Testament, that the unreliability and inconsistency rooted within the doctor’s notes around the time during which Krupskaya claims Lenin had been dictating the document makes it difficult for one to evaluate the severity of his symptoms at this stage. One does, however, have photographic evidence of Lenin’s debilitation, an infamous picture  taken in 1923 which depicts the great Soviet leader relegated to a wheelchair, bearing a piercing stare which so vividly portrays “the fury of a powerful man rendered impotent […] a mute raging against the dying of the light” . Therefore, Kotkin proposes the equal possibility that “[anyone], knowing Lenin’s thoughts, [could have] rendered some barely audible but genuine words and gestures into this form,”  which, especially considering that this book was published a mere 4 years ago, demonstrates how little evidence there is to emphatically support any claim regarding the origin and even purpose of Lenin’s Testament to this day.



By virtue of rarely knowing the decisive truth to any historical event, historians base their understanding of history on a plethora of assumptions they make. These assumptions are revised over time as they are tested against one another and as new knowledge is developed through access to further sources, gradually eliminating the erroneous perceptions of history in light of new evidence. It is in this fashion that historians are able to converge upon historical truth. As is common in Russian historiography, we are often privy to very little, so we are left to build our own truths through the countless assumptions we draw from the loose ends provided by the lack of solid, factual evidence. Because of the sheer volume of assumptions that can be extrapolated from Russian history, one gets a better understanding of why Russian history is so often revised. As was personally confided to me by the aforementioned historian, Stephen Kotkin, a similar attitude was expressed: “Nothing is easy with historical sources, no matter their origin – that includes state archives from democracies. We need to juxtapose all sources against each other in order to achieve an approximation of the truth. A single source is usually not enough to validate a point or argument, one needs multiple sources and one needs to avoid smoothing over or reconciling their contradictions” . 

Though considering the notion of the Testament’s forgery is nothing short of fascinating, one must acknowledge that even Valentin Sakharov, who initially proposed the idea, doubted its likelihood of being true. The implications of a forged testament would be enough to completely redefine its purpose and significance to the modern historian, ultimately forcing historiography to reconsider the relations between party members and the dynamics of quondam political dynamics within Russia. However, whilst it can be argued that Kotkin came upon this conviction by investigating deeper into the Testament’s legitimacy and context, with access to Russian archives and interviews, it remains a theory that cannot be entirely vindicated by supporting evidence. As such, one should deliberate the more plausible and comprehensible alternative counterclaim to the Trotskyist Myth – that which recognizes Vladimir Ulyanov’s authorship of the Testament to have been genuine but argues that the call for Stalin’s ‘removal’ was in fact merely aimed at discharging Stalin from his position as General Secretary.

Throughout this essay, three predominant, opposing views regarding the Testament’s purpose and its intended implications for the Party’s treatment of Joseph Stalin have been evaluated. However, the glaring limitations attributed to the Trotskyist perspective, as well as the lack of absolutely irrefutable evidence in Kotkin’s conviction of the document’s forgery, consolidate the validity of the view suggesting that the Testament was solely aimed at removing Stalin from a position where “he [had become] the dispenser of favor and fortune” . Contrary to what is expected from the IBO, Lenin’s Testament neither mandated Trotsky’s right to succession, nor did it call for Stalin’s expulsion from the Party. In conclusion, it is believed that the Testament stemmed from a genuine concern regarding Stalin’s General Secretaryship, and that the harsh overtones within the wording of the text were indeed a product of Lenin’s illness and dire circumstances of his personal relationship with Stalin at time in which the document was transcribed.


Conquest, Robert. Reflections on a Ravaged Century. New York: Norton, 2001.

Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. London: Phoenix Press, 2000.

Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1962.

Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky, 1921-1929. London: Verso, 2003.

Eastman, Max. Since Lenin Died. Westport, CT: Hyperion Press, 1973. 

International Baccalaureate Organization. “History Paper 1 Markscheme”. Last revised May 2005. 

Kotkin, Stephen. Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928. New York: Penguin Press, 2014.

 Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Quebec: Université Laval, 1996.

 Marxist Internet Archive. “Last Testament: Letters to the Congress”. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/congress.htm.

 Marxist Internet Archive. “Letter on Eastman’s Book”. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1925/07/lenin.htm.

 Marxist Internet Archive. “On the Suppressed Testament of Lenin”. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/12/lenin.htm.

 Marxist Internet Archive. “The Question of Nationalities or ‘Autonomisation’”. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/autonomy.htm.

 Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

 Pretty, Dave. "Pretty on Figes, 'A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution'." H-Net. February 1998. Accessed December 18, 2018. https://networks.h-net.org/node/10000/reviews/10105/pretty-figes-peoples-tragedy-history-russian-revolution.

 Rettie, John. "The Secret Speech That Changed World History." The Guardian. February 26, 2006. Accessed December 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/26/russia.theobserver.

 Service, Robert. Stalin: A Biography. London: Pan Books, 2010.

 TheFinnishBolshevik. "Stephen Kotkin: Stalin's Rise to Power & Faked "Testament of Lenin"." YouTube. June 22, 2018. Accessed December 17, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXutg47BwEU.

 Trotsky, Leon. My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. Newburyport: Dover Publications, 2012.

 Volkogonov, Dimitri. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Political Leaders Form Lenin to Gorbachev. London: HarperCollins, 1998.

 Williams, Fred. "A Review of Stephen Kotkin's "Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928": Part Four." World Socialist Web Site. June 04, 2015. Accessed December 18, 2018. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/06/04/kot4-j04.html.


Appendix A: Letter from Lenin to Stalin


 “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, 813, To: COMRADE STALIN,” personal communication attributed to V.I. Lenin, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified 2000, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1923/mar/05.htm.


Appendix B: Lenin’s Testament



“Last Testament: Letters to the Congress,” personal communication attributed to V.I. Lenin, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified 1999, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/congress.htm.


Appendix C: Testament Post-Script



“Last Testament: Letters to the Congress,” personal communication attributed to V.I. Lenin, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified 1999, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/congress.htm.


Appendix D: Photograph of Lenin in a Wheelchair


RHP. "Vladimir Lenin’s Piercing Stare While in a Wheelchair, 1923." Digital image. Rare Historical Photos. September 27, 2015. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/vladimir-lenin-last-photo-1923/.



[1] John Rettie, “The secret speech that changed world history,” The Guardian, February 26, 2006, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/26/russia.theobserver. [2] “Last Testament: Letters to the Congress,” personal communication attributed to V.I. Lenin, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified 1999, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/congress.htm. [3] Stephen Kotkin, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (New York: Penguin Press, 2014), 498. [4] Ludo Martens, Another View of Stalin (Quebec: Université Laval, 1996), 23. [5] “History Paper 1 Markscheme,” International Baccalaureate Organization, May 2005. [6] Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), 101. [7] TheFinnishBolshevik, “Stephen Kotkin: Stalin’s Rise to Power & Faked Testament of Lenin,” YouTube video, 19:54, June 22, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXutg47BwEU. [8] Dmitri Volkogonov, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire (London: HarperCollins, 1998), 91. [9] “The Question of Nationalities or ‘Autonomisation’,” personal communication attributed to V.I. Lenin, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified 1999, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/autonomy.htm. [10] Simon Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 35. [11] Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (London: Pan Books, 2010), 211. [12] “Last Testament: Letters to the Congress”. [13] Service, Stalin: A Biography, 209. [14] Appendix A. [15] Service, Stalin: A Biography, 212. [16] Ibid., 223. [17] Max Eastman, Since Lenin Died (Westport, CT: Hyperion Press, 1973), 31. [18] Robert Conquest, Stalin: Breaker of Nations (London: Phoenix Press, 2000), 135. [19] “Letter on Eastman’s Book,” personal communication attributed to Leon Trotsky, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified January 20, 2007, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1925/07/lenin.htm. [20] Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (Newburyport: Dover Publications, 2012), 506. [21] Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky, 1921-1929 (London: Verso, 2003), 170. [22] Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (London: Random House, 1962), 317. [23] Kotkin, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, 473. [24] Fred Williams, “A Review of Stephen Kotkin’s Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928: Part four,” World Socialist Web Site, June 4, 2015, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/06/04/kot4-j04.html. [25] Kotkin, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, 501. [26] Appendix B. [27] TheFinnishBolshevik, “Stephen Kotkin: Stalin’s Rise to Power & Faked Testament of Lenin”. [28] Appendix C. [29] “Last Testament: Letters to the Congress”. [30] TheFinnishBolshevik, “Stephen Kotkin: Stalin’s Rise to Power & Faked Testament of Lenin”. [31] “Last Testament: Letters to the Congress”. [32] Kotkin, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, 501. [33] Appendix D. [34] Dave Pretty, “Pretty on Figes, ‘A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution’,” H-Net, February 1998, https://networks.h-net.org/node/10000/reviews/10105/pretty-figes-peoples-tragedy-history-russian-revolution. [35] Kotkin, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, 501. [36] Personal email correspondence with Stephen Kotkin, October 26, 2018. [37] “On the Suppressed Testament of Lenin,” personal communication attributed to Leon Trotsky, Marxist Internet Archive, last modified April 24, 2007, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/12/lenin.htm.