Daughter of a prominent Bolshevik intellectual, Anna Larina was twenty years old when she married the forty-five-year-old Bolshevik leader Nikolai Bukharin in 1935. As a little girl delighted by Bukharin’s playfulness and charm, she had looked forward to his visits to her father. By the 1930s Bukharin had completely lost political power to Stalin; he was allowed to hold government posts on condition he not criticize the policies of The Boss, as Stalin’s fearful subordinates called him. Like most former oppositionists, Bukharin was now a broken man politically and perhaps psychologically too—though his adoring young wife did not see this. Now 79 years old, she still does not.
Bukharin had been a major Bolshevik figure during the 1920s, close to Lenin, greatly liked within the party, and respected, even by opponents, as a theoretician. In the late 1920s he led the “Right Communist” faction arguing against Stalin’s forced collectivization of Russian agriculture and favoring a relatively moderate social course that retained much of the NEP (New Economic Policy) inaugurated under Lenin in 1921. Bukharin proved to be ineffectual as a factional leader and was easily routed by the Stalin apparat. In fact, ever since he had sided with Stalin against the Trotskyist “Left Opposition” in 1927, Bukharin’s political—as later his personal—fate had been sealed. He was at the mercy of The Boss, and how much mercy The Boss would show we all know....
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