The memoirs of Mikhail Baitalsky (1903-1978) are the only record of the lives and work of the young revolutionaries in Ukraine who came of age during the Russian Revolution in 1917 and perished for supporting the Left Opposition to Stalin in the 1920s. He tells of his own experiences and those of his closest friends as they developed into revolutionary leaders, a cadre within the Red Army, and worker and youth organizers, whose commitment to the Revolution's ideals finally led to their repression when they protested against the bureaucratic apparatus being developed by the government.
Baitalsky was not only a Marxist, but a Jew. He describes the deep anti-Semitism of the counter-revolutionaries during the civil war in the Ukraine, the liberating atmosphere of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary periods when many Jews were able to play prominent roles, and the later revival of anti-Semitism by Stalin and his bureaucracy.
Arrested three times during the Stalin era, he served two terms in the notorious Vorkuta labor camp. Finally released in 1956, he began writing about his experiences in 1958. The project took twelve years to complete and took the form of nine "notebooks" -- which he called NOTEBOOKS FOR THE GRANDCHILDREN.
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The following obituary about Mikhail Baitalsky appeared in the Russian samizdat journal "Poiski", No. 3 in 1978 in Moscow:
Mikhail Davidovich Baitalsky--journalist, writer, and publisher--died on August 18, 1978 in Moscow at the age of 74.
M.D. Baitalsky was born December 8, 1903 in a village called Chernovo in Odessa Province. He spent his youth in Ukraine--in Odessa, Kharkov, and the Donbass--first in Komsomol work and later at various newspapers. In 1930, he moved to Moscow where he worked for several national and Moscow newspapers (Gudok, Vechernaya, Moskva, Izvestia).
Because he had belonged to the Trotskyist opposition in the 1920s, M.D. Baitalsky was fired from his editorial post after the murder of Kirov and went to work as a fitter in the Lyuberets agricultural machinery factory.
In May 1936 he was arrested, this began his odessy of twenty years in prisons, camps and places of internal exile. During the interval between his two terms in Vorkuta labor camp, Baitalsky fought in the war against fascism and participated in a three-year military campaign that ended just outside Berlin.
Upon his return from imprisonment after his rehabilitation in 1957, he began writing his memoirs in which he tried through the example of his own life to comprehend the fate of a whole generation, a whole country. Work on this book, which had no chance of being published, stretched out for years during which time he developed as a writer-publicist with a heightened sense of justice, most fruitfully expressed precisely in the last 8 to 10 years of his life, both as a representative of the democratic current and as a son of the Jewish people. Already an elderly man, he was able in a mature way but without senile sentimentality to look at issues and ideas of his youth, and understand both history and contemporary times in a remarkable way. His works, written under various pseudonyms, have become widely known in samizdat form and some of them have been published abroad.
The late M.D. Baitalsky may rightly be considered one of the most talented publicists of contemporary, nonconformist, native literature.
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