- Felix Dzerzhinsky
Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (Polish: Feliks Edmundowicz Dzierżyński, Russian: Феликс Эдмундович Дзержинский, Belarusian: Фелікс Эдмундавіч Дзяржынскі; OldStyleDate|11 September|1877|30 August–
July 20, 1926) was a Polish Communistrevolutionary, famous as the founder of the Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka, later known by many names during the history of the Soviet Union. The agency became notorious for large-scale human rights abuses, including tortureand mass summary executions, carried out during the Red Terrorand the Russian Civil War. [Robert Gellately. "Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe." Knopf, 2007. ISBN 1400040051 pp. 46-48] [George Leggett, "The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police." Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0198228627 pp. 197-201]
Dzerzhinsky was born into a Polish
szlachtafamily of the Samson coat of armsin the Dziarzhynava estate near Ivianetsand Rakauin Western Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. He was expelled from school in Vilniusfor "revolutionary activity". He joined a Marxist group—the Lithuanian Social Democratic Partyin 1895, and was one of the founders of Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuaniain 1900. He spent the major part of his early life in various prisons. He was arrested for his revolutionary activities in 1897 and 1900, sent to Siberia, and escaped both times. He then went to Berlin, before returning to participate in the failed 1905 revolution, after which he was again jailed, this time by the Okhrana. After being released in 1912, he was quickly rearrested for revolutionary activity and jailed in Moscow.
In March, 1917, he was released (although
Pravdausually asserts that he escaped, and indeed the facts are uncertain), along with many others, from the jail he had been imprisoned in since 1912 . His first act was to join the BolshevikParty. His honest and incorruptible character, combined with his complete devotion to the cause, gained him swift recognition and the nickname "Iron Felix".
Leader of Cheka
Leninregarded Dzerzhinsky as a revolutionary hero, and appointed him to organize a force to combat internal political threats. On December 20, 1917, the Council of People's Commissarsofficially established the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage - usually called the Cheka(based on the Russian acronym ВЧК). The Cheka received a large amount of resources, and became known for ruthlessly pursuing any perceived counterrevolutionary elements. As the Russian Civil Warexpanded, Dzerzhinsky also began organising internal security troops to enforce the Cheka's authority. Lenin gave the organization tremendous powers to combat the opposition.
Tens of thousands of political opponents were shot without trial in the basements of prisons and public places throughout Russia [
Orlando Figes. "A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891 — 1924." Penguin Books, 1997 ISBN 0198228627 p. 647] — and not only opponents. People who happened to be intellectuals, capitalists and priests were shot simply for who they were. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/24613.stm The Road to Revolution] BBC, November 7, 1997] Dzerzhinsky himself boasted that: "“ [The Red Terrorinvolves] the terrorization, arrests and extermination of enemies of the revolution on the basis of their class affiliation or of their pre-revolutionary roles.”" [George Leggett, "The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police." Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0198228627 p. 114]
At the end of the Civil War in 1922 , the Cheka was changed into the GPU (State Political Directorate), a section of the
NKVD, but this did not diminish Dzerzhinsky's power: from 1921-24, he was Minister of the Interior, head of the Cheka/GPU/OGPU, Minister for Communications, and head of the Vesenkha(Supreme Council of National Economy).
Dzerzhinsky died of a heart attack on
July 20 1926in Moscow, immediately after a two-hour long speech to the Bolshevik Central Committee in which, visibly quite ill, he violently denounced the United Oppositionled by Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev[ Isaac Deutscher. "The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921 — 1929." Oxford University Press, 1959, ISBN 1859844464 p. 279] . His name and image were widely used throughout the KGB and the Soviet Union— and her satellite states: there were six towns named after him. The town Kojdanava, which is not very far from the estate, was renamed to Dzyarzhynsk. There is also a city of Dzerzhinskand three cities called Dzerzhinskiy in Russiaand two cities in Ukrainecalled Dzerzhinsk. The Dzerzhinskiy Tractor Works in Stalingradwere named in his honour and became a scene of bitter fighting during the Second World War. There is a museum dedicated to him in his birth place in Belarus.
Iron Felix also refers to his 15-ton bronze monument which once dominated the
Lubyanka Squarein Moscow, near the KGBheadquarters. It was erected in 1958 by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetichand was a Moscow landmark in Soviet times. Symbolically, the Memorial to the Victims of the Gulag (a simple stone from Solovki) was erected beside the Iron Felix and the latter was removed in August, 1991, after the failed coup of conservative members of government. The memorial to Dzerzhinsky was toppled by a cheering crowd with the help of a crane. The event symbolized the end of repression. A mock-up of the removal of Dzerzhinsky's statue can be found in the entrance hall of the International Spy Museumin Washington, D.C.
In 2002, Moscow mayor
Yuriy Luzhkovproposed returning the statue to its plinth, but the plan was dropped after opposition from liberals and the Kremlin. The statue remained in the graveyard of fallen Soviet memorials at the Central House of Artists, although a smaller bust of Dzerzhinsky in the courtyard of the Moscow police headquarters at Petrovka 38 was restored in November, 2005 (this bust had been removed by the police officers on 22 August 1991).
His monument in "Dzerzhinsky Square" (pl. Plac Dzierżyńskiego), in the center of
Warsaw, was hated by the population of the Polish capital as a symbol of Soviet oppression and was toppled in 1989, as soon as the PZPRstarted losing power. The name of the square was soon changed to its pre- Second World Warname, "Bank Square" (pl. Plac Bankowy).
In 2006, a new statue of Iron Felix was unveiled in the Belarusian capital
Minskon 26 March. The Belarusian KGB chief was present at the ceremony and said that the Belarusian KGB should follow the example of Dzerzhinsky in its activities.
*In 1924 , Dzerzhinsky organized a mechanical
calculatormanufacturing operation. The most successful pinwheel calculatormodel was named the "Felix". This sturdy model was in service until the 1970s, and was known in folklore as "Iron Felix".
*There was a popular Soviet
camera, FED. The first models were made after Leica. Initially it was produced by a working commune for homeless children named after F.E.Dzierzhynski under the management of the famous Soviet pedagogue, Anton Makarenko. Later the production was expanded to a factory (also named after F.E.Dzierzhynski) in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
*Dzerzhinsky is attributed a saying that "a member of the Cheka should have a cool head, a hot heart and clean hands".
Felix Dzerzhinsky Watch Regimentwas an elite motorized infantry regiment of the Ministry of State Security in East Germany.
*According to professor
Donald Rayfield, there is only one documented instance in which Dzerzhinsky personally shot dead another human being. [ Donald Rayfield. " Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him." Random House, 2004. ISBN 0375506322 p. 57] The source for this information is White emigreand civil war participant Roman Gul(Гуль, Роман Борисович), who in turn reports a story told by left SRAlexandrovich, who held the post of deputy-chairman of the Cheka (thus Dzerzhinsky's right-hand man) up until the failed Left SR uprisingagainst the Bolsheviks. [Гуль, Роман. 1974. Дзержинский (Начало террора). Нью-Йорк. Стр. 65] According to Alexandrovich's testimony, once in 1918 a completely drunken Chekist sailor entered Dzerzhinsky's office. Dzerzhinsky tried to reprove him, but the sailor suddenly started to swear at him, mentioning all of his relatives. Dzerzhinsky then reportedly "shook with malice", pulled out his gun and shot the sailor dead. However, that immediately caused him to have a convulsive fit.
* [http://www.dotpoint.com/xnumber/pic_felix.htm Picture of the Felix calculator]
* [http://www.rus-camera.com/history.php?page=fed_factory_history_1 FED history]
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