A Soviet ambassador against Stalin


Otkrytoe pismo Stalinu

[An Open Letter to Stalin]

Publication: [Soviet Union, 1960s-70s].

RASKOLNIKOV, Fedor, Otkrytoe pismo Stalinu

Samizdat copy of a sharp criticism of Stalin’s regim. Rare and dangerous in the USSR.

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Rare samizdat of this famous contemporary denunciation of Stalin’s regime.

Raskolnikov was a devoted Communist since 1910, an aide of Lenin and participant in the October Revolution, then a Soviet ambassador in Estonia, Denmark and Bulgaria. Under Stalin however, in April 1938, he was called to Moscow from his post in Bulgaria: worrying that he might be a next victim of the purges, he left the train and instead went to France with his family. On 17 July 1939, his Soviet citizenship was revoked and he was claimed to be a “nevozvrashchenets” – a “non-returnee” outlawed in the Soviet Union for having “deserted his post, defected to the camp of enemies of the people and refused to return to the USSR”; this meant that he had to be shot 24 hours after his identity was certified in case he turned up in the USSR.

Shortly after his departure, Raskolnikov wrote letters to Stalin, which remained without answer, and published in Paris a letter of protest, “How I was made an enemy of the people” (Poslednie izvestiia, 1939, 26 July), demanding for a public review of his case. He finally wrote his “Open Letter” on 17 August 1939 and sent it to various magazines, but very quickly died on September 12 in Nice, in still unclear circumstances. The former head of the Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, decided to publish the letter in his Parisian magazine, Novaia Rossiia, on October 1st.

The “Open letter” strongly criticises Stalin’s decisions, accusing him of imprisoning and killing notable officers, prominent authors, poets and scientists and – the most painful point for Raskolnikov – of betraying Lenin’s ideas. Raskolnikov shares his pity towards the ordinary Soviet people who, in his opinion, were shamelessly abused and abandoned without the original communist ideal.

“In the early 1960s, Raskolnikov became the first and apparently the only famous non-returnee to be cleared of all charges. The letter did not make its way into print and entered public life through samizdats that was emerging at the time. Only in 1987, after its publication in “Ogonek” (#26), it was read by millions of readers” (Zubarev, our translation).

This samizdat copy seems to date from that time of destalinisation; it comes from a 1970s Novosibirsk academic collection.


Zubarev D. and G. Kuzovkin. “Bolshevik vne zakona. Kak Fedor Raskolnikov pisal Stalinu”, Ogonek, 16.09.2019.

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Physical Description

Eight loose typewritten leaves of A4 format.


In excellent condition, just very minor handling creases and fraying at edges.

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