Yakov Sverdlov

Yakov Sverdlov


thumb|225px|Snow-covered_statue_of_Sverdlov_in_Yekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk.]

Yakov Mikhaylovich Sverdlov (Russian: Я́ков Миха́йлович Свердло́в); known under pseudonyms "Andrei", "Mikhalych", "Max", "Smirnov", "Permyakov" OldStyleDate|3 June|1885|22 May – March 16 1919) was a Bolshevik party leader and an official of the Russian Soviet Republic.

Early life

He was born in Nizhny Novgorod to Jewish parents, his father being an engraver. He joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1902, and then the Bolshevik faction, supporting Vladimir Lenin. He was involved in the 1905 revolution.

After his arrest in June 1906, for most of the time until 1917 he was either imprisoned or exiled. During the period 1914-1916 he was in internal exile in Turukhansk, Siberia along with Joseph Stalin.


After the 1917 February Revolution he returned to Petrograd from exile and was re-elected to the Central Committee. He played an important role in planning the October Revolution. Research in 1990 by the Moscow playwright and historian Edvard Radzinsky uncovered Sverdlov's role in the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Sverdlov ordered their execution on July 16, 1918, which took place in the city of Yekaterinburg. In 1924 this city was renamed Sverdlovsk in his honor.

A close ally of Vladimir Lenin, Sverdlov played an important role in persuading leading Bolsheviks to accept the controversial decisions to close down the Constituent Assembly and the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. It was claimed that Lenin provided the theories and Sverdlov made sure they worked.

He is sometimes referred to as the first head of state of the Soviet Union but this is not correct since the Soviet Union came into existence in 1922, three years after Sverdlov's death. As chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) he was the de facto head of state of the Russian SFSR from shortly after the October Revolution until the time of his death.


Sverdlov died of influenza in Oryol during the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic.

His son Andrei had a long career as an agent for the Soviet security organs (NKVD, OGPU)

In 1991, Boris Yeltsin began reverting pre-Soviet names in Russia, and Sverdlovsk was changed back to Yekaterinburg.

The Imperial Russian Navy destroyer leader "Novik" (commissioned in 1913) was renamed "Yakov Sverdlov" in 1923. The first ship of Sverdlov class cruisers was also named after him.

He is buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, in Moscow.

See also

*Zinovy Peshkov (Zinovy Sverdlov), Yakov's brother

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