Rakovsky, Khristian

Rakovsky, Khristian [Раковський, Християн; Rakovs'kyj, Xrystyian], b 1 August 1873 in Gradets, Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire), d 11 September 1941 near Orel, RSFSR. Political activist and Soviet Ukrainian state figure. Active in the pre-1914 Bulgarian and Romanian socialist movements, Rakovsky opposed participation in the First World War and served on the Central Bureau of the antiwar Revolutionary Balkan Social Democratic Labor Federation (est 1915). In 1918 he joined the Bolshevik party and served as chairman of the Supreme Autonomous Collegium established in Odesa to suppress counterrevolution in Ukraine and Romania. He was also a member of the Central Executive Committee of Soviets of the Romanian Front, Black Sea Fleet, and Odesa Military District (RUMChEROD) and participated in Soviet diplomatic delegations to Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky’s government and to Germany. From January 1919 until July 1923, with interruptions, he headed the Soviet Ukrainian government. He opposed Ukrainian ‘particularism’ in the name of internationalism, and went so far as to question the existence of a distinct Ukrainian nationality. By the end of 1921, however, he had changed his views; he insisted on greater sensitivity with regard to the Ukrainian national question and also sought to expand the political and economic autonomy of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. At the 12th congress of the Russian Communist party in April 1923, he sharply criticized Joseph Stalin’s position on the national question. After being removed from the Ukrainian leadership he served as USSR ambassador to Britain (1923–5) and France (1925–7). Having been expelled from France for revolutionary activity, he returned to Ukraine in the fall of 1927 and spent a month organizing the Left Opposition there. In December 1927, at the 15th congress of the Russian Communist party, he was expelled from the party, and a month later he was exiled to Astrakhan. From 1929 he was the recognized leader of the Left Opposition within the USSR. In February 1934 he submitted to party discipline and was allowed to return to Moscow, where he directed the scientific research institutes of the Commissariat of Health. In the fall of 1937 he was arrested as a spy, and in March 1938 he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. He was shot in a Soviet prison.

Conte, F. Un révolutionnaire-diplomate: Christian Rakovski, l'Union soviétique, et l'Europe (1922–1941) (Paris 1978)
Rakovsky, C. Selected Writings on Opposition in the USSR, 1923–30, ed G. Fagan (London 1980)
Conte, F. Christian Rakovski (1873–1941): A Political Biography (Boulder, Colo 1989)

John-Paul Himka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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