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Cover Vasily Shulgin (1878-1976): The Grandfather of Russian Nationalism

Vasily Shulgin (1878–1976): The Grandfather of Russian Nationalism

Giovanni Savino

IERES Occasional Papers, no. 8, November 2020 “Transnational History of the Far Right” Series

Cover photo: Photo of Vasily Shulgin in 1976, just before his death, by Igor Palmin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

In 1925 in Leningrad, the journal Byloe published a little book, The Knight of the Black Hundreds, devoted to Vasily Shulgin (1878–1976). This “knight,” herald of a virulent anti-Semitic Russian nationalism and fervent monarchism, was at the time of writing an exiled man, who, just eight years before, had played a critical role in trying to change the course of history: on a cold day in February 1917, Vasily Shulgin went to Pskov to convince the last Romanov tsar, Nicholas II, to abdicate, with the hope—which would ultimately fail—of saving the monarchy from the Revolution.[1] After the October Revolution, Shulgin fled Russia and became deeply involved in the cultural and political life of the White emigration. He first lived in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he wrote Dni (The Days), his book devoted to the events of the February Revolution. Then, he moved to Czechoslovakia, spent less than one year in Berlin and one year in France, and eventually established himself in Yugoslavia in 1924, where he would live till 1945.

In December 1944 he was arrested by the SMERSH, one of the main Soviet counter-intelligence agencies, and taken to Moscow; after two years at Lubyanka, the KGB headquarters, he was sentenced to 25 years of forced labor and jailed at the Vladimir Central Prison. In 1956 he was given amnesty, and his apartment in Vladimir was a place of pilgrimage for Russian nationalists from the moment of amnesty till his death in 1976. Over more than two decades, Shulgin became the living embodiment of tsarist Russia and the White cause in the Soviet Union, passing on the memory of a bygone era to new generations of Russian nationalists. He became one of the main figures of inspiration for the “Russian Party” (the informal structure of Russian nationalists inside Soviet state organs), and met regularly with its luminaries such as the painter Ilya Glazunov and Soviet writer Vladimir Soloukhin. Despite this extraordinary life trajectory, the figure of Shulgin remains quite unknown outside of Russia and still awaits a full, scholarly biography.[2]

A Family Trajectory Shaped by Russian Nationalism

Shulgin was born in 1878 in Kiev, son of the historian Vitalii Shulgin, an active polemist and founder of the leading newspaper Kievlianin. The newspaper opened in 1864 just after the Second Polish Insurrection had been repressed. The initiative taken by local intellectuals and students in discovering a Ukrainian identity distinct from the Russian one was seen by tsarist officials as dangerous propaganda. In this way, Kievlianin became a stronghold of Russian nationalist policies in Ukrainian territories.[3] It aimed to spread and defend Russian identity in an ethnically mixed region. In the first note on the first issue, Vitalii Shulgin stated very clearly that “our land is Russian, Russian, Russian!”[4]

Shulgin’s stepfather was Dmitrii Pikhno, professor of economics and law at Saint Vladimir University in Kiev and one of the most influential men in the Western Borderlands. After the death of Vitalii Shulgin, Pikhno took his place as the head of Kievlianin, continuing to support the course of Ukraine’s Russification. The young Vasily grew up under the influence of Pikhno’s views—the cult of a Russianness to be defended together with autocracy and Orthodoxy, in support of the emergence of a Russian-speaking landlord and bourgeoisie class in Kiev.

Shulgin received his Bachelor in Law diploma from Saint Vladimir University in 1900. The beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 took him out of a provincial, boring life: he enrolled as volunteer, but another great event, the Revolution of 1905, constituted the real turning point for his life and career. The young landlord was not new in politics, as he was already a member of the local noble council in his district in Volhynia: this experience was precious in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution and the creation of the State Duma. The meaning of this legislative act in favor of liberalizing the Russian Empire’s political life was interpreted by loyal monarchists as an attack on centuries-old autocratic principles. As Abraham Ascher observed,

the tsar’s promise to permit the election of a State Duma with legislative and not merely consultative functions was a decisive moment in the revolution. By conceding that he was no longer the sole repository of political power, Nicholas did what he had vowed never to do: he abandoned the principle of autocracy.[5]

On October 18, 1905, Shulgin, then in Kiev, observed the crowds cheering for the manifesto. He remembered being shocked by happy students, workers, and Jewish people. The anti-Semitic motive is recurrent in Shulgin’s various descriptions of the October 1905 events; for example, in Dni, he wrote: “I remembered how, in 1905, after the Manifesto of October 17, the Jews dropped the tsarist crown for the fact that there was no equality in it.”[6] Shulgin never hid his strong anti-Semitic feelings, but he never took part in pogroms.[7] Zaslavskii wrote that

Shulgin is a patriot, a nationalist, a monarchist. His Russian and noble feelings are offended by the “Jewish revolution”. He would like to take revenge, he finds that Jews need to be taught a lesson, and that the Jews themselves caused pogrom and deserved it. He cannot hide his sympathy for pogrom, as a form of popular rebuff to “impudent” Jews … But one thing is a noble struggle, even on the street, even with murders, and another is a general and legalized theft, a joyous robbery motivated by monarchism. And two souls are fighting in the chest of this Black Hundred intellectual. It is good that the people rebelled against the Jews for the monarchy; it is not good that the insurgent people took up the common robbery with enthusiasm.[8]

Shulgin never rejected his anti-Semitism: in 1912, looking at the causes of the 1905 revolutionary movement, he considered the most important of them “the presence in the Russian body of a large number of allogenes (inorodtsy) and especially Jews,” but also added another reason: “our own depravity and corruption.”[9]

The creation of the Duma profoundly transformed Russian political life. Rightist organizations such as the Russian Assembly (Russkoe sobranie)[10] were active before 1905, but they had then a more societal character, working as clubs for nobles, officials, and high-ranking military officers. After the creation of the Duma, they became more engaged against the new political order. For instance, the Kiev Club of Russian Nationalists (Kievskii klub russkikh natsionalistov, KKRN) worked as a coordinating committee for moderate rightists, not just for the region[11] but for the entire Empire, playing a key role in building the All-Russian National Union (Vserossiiskii natsional’nyi soiuz, VNS) between 1908 and 1910.

Shulgin was elected at the Second State Duma in 1907 and for ten years was one of its most famous Russian rightist and nationalist activists. Sergei Piontkovskii, a Bolshevik historian and author of the introduction to the Soviet edition of Shulgin’s Dni in 1925, described him as follows:

Monarchist and nationalist, State Duma member Shulgin was a talented speaker and publicist of the extreme right, defending an irreconcilable aristocratic counter-revolution. In one of his speeches, Shulgin said: “Undoubtedly, large landownership, whatever this is said about, whatever the Kadets and their brothers would fabricate about this, undoubtedly large landed property is the most cultured, the most developed, the most independent and the most capable of public life activity element. Local landowning has always played the role of head of that great number called people.”[12]

The Third Duma, which came out after the June 1907 coup,[13] expressed its support for a conservative and nationalist majority led by Prime Minister Piotr Stolypin. Nationalists met the course taken by the government with enthusiasm, and the Kiev Club of Russian Nationalists actively followed what happened in St. Petersburg. Shulgin, in a meeting in Kiev devoted to the Duma’s works, “pointed out that the main merit of the Third Duma lies in the fact that it stopped the revolution. The Duma majority is united on the grounds of denying everything that the Kadets propose. The Duma majority has great solidarity in national issues.”[14] This solidarity was expressed in various measures aimed at Polish landowning, the Ukrainian national movement, and establishing a stronger and more influential Russian presence in the Western Borderlands. Important moments of nationalism were the abolition of Finnish autonomy, the establishment of zemstva[15] on national criteria, and the creation of the Kholm province, detached from the Polish Vistula region.[16] Shulgin recognized that Stolypin was his ideal type of leader, and that

with the passion inherent to the youth … I defended from the State Duma platform his program, because I considered the path of action he had devised to be the only correct one for saving Russia and its further evolutionary development. Undoubtedly, Stolypin was the most outstanding statesman of the Russian Empire in its last period. This was acknowledged also by his enemies … I approached Piotr Arkadevich and, besides respect, began to feed him warmer feelings.[17]

Stolypin was described by Shulgin as a “generous, Pushkin-style nationalist,”[18] and these feelings remained until the end of his life. The Prime Minister, in return, was backing the rightists in the Duma: Vladimir Kokovtsov, his Minister of Finance, recollected in his memoirs the “black money” (temnye den’gi) that the Premier’s cabinet was distributing to Shulgin’s fellows.[19]

The Great War and the Loss of Confidence in the Tsar

The assassination of Stolypin in 1911 not only left the Russian nationalists without their leader but also had a huge and traumatic effect on the internal balance of the rightist groups. A second turning point appeared to be the Bejlis affair—Menahem Bejlis, a Jewish worker from Kiev, was accused of a ritual murder based on fabricated evidence of the killing of a child—in 1913. The Kievlianin took a harsh position against the story of a ritual murder supported by Black Hundreds and many influential intellectuals around the Kiev Club of Russian Nationalists. Pikhno and Shulgin heavily criticized the activities of the local police and the trial for not being fair, and for the first time in its history, the Kievlianin was confiscated by the police.[20]

This event started a rift in the rightist camp—a crisis which lasted till 1915, when a group of 22 members of the rightist faction at the State Duma, headed by Shulgin and count Vladimir Bobrinskii, broke with the most radical nationalists around the Black Hundreds and organized the group of so-called Progressive Nationalists (Progressivnye natsionalisty).[21] Last but not least, the First World War and the subsequent defeats of the Russian army heavily impacted Shulgin, who enrolled as a volunteer and was wounded at the front.

After the schism, the Progressive Nationalists’ faction at the Duma found itself in coalition with the Kadets, yesterday’s enemies. A paradoxical alliance, it represented a response to the logic of war mobilization and the wave of patriotism which moved the Constitutional Democratic party to the right. On July 26, 1914, the Kadets declared full support for the government in the war effort, and the liberal newspaper Rech claimed the engagement of the intelligentsia in defending the honor and dignity of Russia.[22] But Ivan Goremykin, Prime Minister in 1914–1916, had no sympathy for the Duma as a legislative and operative body. The rout of the Russian army in summer 1915 also had an effect on the Goremykin cabinet’s legitimacy. Shulgin declared on this occasion that “for this defeat the government had to pay. But what with? With the only currency which was acceptable in payment—it had to settle its debt by the concession of power, however superficially, however temporarily.”[23]

In this way, the schism in the rightist camp was unavoidable, because, as Shulgin, Bobrinskii, and Anatolii Savenko wrote in their declaration to the presidium of the moderate right faction, “currently, in the defense of the country, we do not make any difference between them (the Kadets: GS) and ourselves, and believe that only one big alliance of all interventionist (neporazhenskie) currents is the path to the victory.”[24] The two core aims expressed in the Program of the Progressive Bloc were:

1. The formation of a united government composed of individuals who enjoy the confidence of the country and have agreed with the legislative institutions on the implementation of a definite program at the earliest possible time.

2. Decisive changes in the methods of administration employed, which have so far been based on the distrust of public initiative.[25]

The Program also proposed to end persecution on political or religious grounds, to eliminate all restrictions on members of minority ethnic groups (including Jewish people), and to immediately draft a bill on Polish autonomy—but these last points were not warmly welcomed by Shulgin and Bobrinskii and were not implemented.

The crisis of the tsarist regime was intimately connected with the evolution of the First World War on the Eastern front. Spymania permeated the society, and in April 1915 Colonel Sergei Miasoedov was court-martialed and executed after a massive press scandal.[26] Anti-German (and anti-Jewish) hysteria mounted in the Western Borderlands and in the Empire’s main cities, with examples including the infamous anti-German Moscow Riots of May 1915. Accounts of a pro-German faction at the court, supposedly led by Empress Alexandra and the monk Grigorii Rasputin, increased tensions and distrust. The appointment of Boris Stürmer as prime minister was met with disappointment by Shulgin, who saw him as proof of separate peace plans with Germany. Pavel Miliukov’s speech “Stupidity or treason?” on November 1 (14), 1916, was a spark for public opinion: “the most notorious address in the history of the Duma”[27] had a large impact, and despite attempts to refrain from publicizing the Kadet leader’s words, the speech was debated everywhere in Petrograd.[28] Miliukov expressed the mood of the Progressive bloc and the opinion of the public, saying:

Today we see and understand that with this Government we cannot legislate, any more than we can, with the Government, lead Russia to victory. (…) Formerly, we tried to prove that it was impossible to start a fight against all the vital forces of the nation, that it was impossible to carry on warfare within the country when there was war at the front, that it was necessary to utilize the popular enthusiasm for the achievement of national tasks, and that otherwise there could be only killing oppression, which would merely increase the very peril they were trying to avert by such oppression.[29]

Shulgin and the Progressive Nationalists supported Miliukov’s line while remaining convinced monarchists. Vladimir Bobrinskii even stated, “A monarchist minister must say: I am responsible for everything. The tsar is always right, but if anyone is to blame, then I am guilty. (…) A monarch needs loyal people, but he does not need serfs. This must be remembered by monarchists.”[30] But the rift between these monarchists and Nicholas II was unavoidable, and the February Revolution only exacerbated it.

The Year 1917, a Turning Point

Joshua Sanborn describes the atmosphere of New Year’s Day 1917, when “the talk was of regime change. Soldiers at the front eagerly read newspapers describing the political crisis in the capital, citing phrases from Duma deputies and latching on to rumors of peace with special attention.”[31] This mood was going from the top to the bottom of the Russian society, and Shulgin recollected the intelligentsia’s charges against the government and the autocracy:

You are killing us … You are losing the war … Your ministers—or dulls, or traitors … The country does not believe you … The army does not believe you … let us go … We’ll try …[32]

In the same vein, Shulgin described the attempt of the Progressive Bloc to organize a coup, with the goal being to impede the revolution, but, as he stated, nobody took action.[33] Yet History with a capital letter reserved another role for Shulgin: a critic but loyal subject of Nicholas II advising the tsar to abdicate. In Dni, Shulgin explained why he went to Pskov, where the Emperor was located at that time:

I perfectly understood why I was going. I felt that the abdication would happen inevitably, and I felt that it was impossible to put the Tsar face to face with Chkheidze … Abdication must be given to the hands of monarchists and for the sake of save the monarchy.

In addition, there was another consideration. I knew that the officers would be killed precisely because they were monarchists, for wanting to fulfill their oath to the reigning emperor to the end. This, of course, refers to the best officers. The worst will adapt. And for these best, it was necessary that the sovereign himself freed them from the oath, from the obligation to obey him. He (the Tsar) only one could save the real officers who were needed more than ever. I knew that if there was the abdication … there would be no revolution. The monarch will renounce the throne at his own will, the power will pass to the regent, who will appoint a new government. The State Duma, which obeyed the decree on dissolution and seized power only because the old ministers fled, will give this power to the new government. Legally, there will be no revolution.[34]

But his efforts were useless, and the Revolution happened even with the tsar’s abdication. Shulgin then agreed to become a member of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. He was always first in line to defend Russia’s participation in the war “till the victory” and opposing the Petrograd Soviet and the Socialists. Even if Shulgin had no institutional role in the provisional government, he was the most eminent leader of the rightists at that time. His speech at the Provisional Committee of the State Duma, addressed to the Socialists, became famous: “We prefer to be poor, but poor in our country. If you can save this country, undress us, we will not cry.”[35] Lenin, some days after, answered him: “Do not frighten us, Mr. Shulgin! Even when we are in power, we will not ‘undress’ you, but will provide you with good clothes and good food, on the condition of work, which is quite reasonable and usual for you!”[36]

For Shulgin, another concern was related to the situation in his native Ukraine. In March 1917, the Ukrainian Socialists and Nationalists established the Central Rada as the legislative and revolutionary body of the Ukrainian nation. During the State Conference, convened by Alexander Kerensky after the July crisis on August 12, 1917, Shulgin clearly connected the reinforcement of the provisional government’s power, the necessity of bringing down revolutionary agitations, and the repression of the Ukrainian independence movement:

I want all the power of [the Provisional Government], power, among whom, I do not know whether or not there are persons who almost suspect me of counterrevolution, that this power will be really strong (…) I declare that we (the Malorossy), like 300 years ago, the inhabitants of this region, wish to maintain a strong and unbreakable alliance with Moscow.[37]

After the failure of Lavr Kornilov’s attempted coup against the provisional government, Shulgin moved to Kiev, where he became the head of the Russian National Union in October. But he found himself in a new country: on November 7, the Central Rada proclaimed the Ukrainian People’s Republic, independent from the rest of the Russian Empire.[38]

The Civil War and the Azbuka Organization

Still today, the role of Vasily Shulgin during the Civil War has not been totally reconstructed. There were many coups and adventures in the vicissitudes of the nationalist leader’s life between the abdication of Nicholas II in March 1917 and autumn 1918. In these 18 months Shulgin became the leader of the Russian Electors’ Bloc, took part in the foundation of the White Volunteer Army, was elected to the Constituent Assembly of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, and was arrested by the Bolsheviks. Escaping from Kiev, he fled to Kuban, where he became one of the main figures in Denikin’s government.

But the most important capacity for Shulgin was his work at the head of the Azbuka organization, a private intelligence agency that had a colossal role in finding information and giving it to the Whites in Southern Russia. The structure of Azbuka was quite unusual because of its private status. As underlined by Russian scholar Viktor Bortnevskii, this was one of the reasons for the organization’s deep rivalry with the “official” services of the Volunteer Army, which were largely financed by the Denikin administration. The other reason was the high effectiveness of Azbuka in different fields apart from intelligence activities, from organizing the recruitment and shipment of officers to the ability to find money for the White cause.

Together with Shulgin, at the origins of the organization were two other member of the State Duma, namely the nationalist journalist Anatolii Savenko (codename Az) and the Kadet Igor Demidov (codename Buki)—a sign of how links forged during the Duma years were hugely impactful in building networks during the Civil War. (Savenko, Demidov, and Shulgin were members of the Progressive Bloc in 1915–1916.)

On September 5, 1918, Vasily Shulgin sent a note on the history of Azbuka to General Abram Dragomirov, then Vice Chief of Denikin at the General Command of the Armed Forces of South Russia. Shulgin dated the beginning of Azbuka’s conspiratorial activities to after the German occupation of Kiev in March 1918, when he closed the newspaper Kievlianin in protest against the new authorities. In his typical clear style, he described the tasks and the activities of Azbuka’s first days:

The main task that was before us was to restore the connection between all those who still fought for the resurrection of Russia and I understood that loyalty to the allies is a necessary condition for this.

For several months the organization, leading intelligence work in Kiev, informed mainly the Allies, Moscow, and the Volunteer Army. After some time, we managed to get in close contact with the French intelligence, who worked in Kiev, with the French representatives who were in Iasi, with the British, who were in Moscow, and through the British with the rest of the allies, with the group close to us Moscow Right Center (and later—the National Center), with some provincial organizations, both in Little Russia and abroad, and finally with the Volunteer Army.[39]

In Shulgin’s view, Ukraine’s independence was backed by Germany and Austria, which reinforced his traditional hostility to the Germanic world. The occupation of Russia’s south-western regions in 1918 by the German army and the creation of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskii’s regime constituted for him obvious evidence of this conspiracy. On July 23, 1918, Shulgin, together with his fellow Anatolii Savchenko, sent to the Kiev administration a refusal to take Ukrainian citizenship, in which he wrote:

There are no doubts, that the building of a quasi-independent Ukrainian state is planned from time by Austria and Germany. A very rich literature quite definitely shows that Austrian and German political thought agreed that the breaking up of Russia would be good for the Central Powers. (…) But because the Entente powers definitely took on their flag (in their program) the restauration of Russia in her previous borders as one of wars’ aims, the existence of the Ukrainian state is in direct and inevitable connection with the outcomes of the war. If the outcome will be on the side of the Entente—there will be no Ukrainian state.[40]

Yet Azbuka’s work was not to develop anti-German and pro-Russian propaganda. It was focused, especially in 1918, on the transfer of White officers, soldiers, and military supplies to fill and support the ranks of the Volunteer Army in Yekaterinodar. For instance, Shulgin reported to General Dragomirov, in a memo dated October 29, 1918, how Lieutenant Colonel Viacheslav Baranov brought forces to Denikin:

…Baranov, having previously agreed with the Don Government, himself entered the Ukrainian service and, picking up a group of loyal officers, began the systematic evacuation of Kiev aviation parks and workshops. At different times, risking not only his position, but also personal security, Colonel Baranov ferried over 70 aircraft to the Don and the Volunteer Army, of which 32 were in the Volunteer Army, and it must be said that only because of the slowness of Colonel Kurtsevich, who with large belatedly sent receivers to Taganrog, the Volunteer Army did not receive another 9 vehicles intended for it. In addition to the 32 vehicles, Colonel Baranov brought into the Volunteer Army 37 workshop cars with bombs, spare parts and other aviation assets, estimated at several tens of millions of rubles.[41]

Shulgin’s support for the Entente had a clear aim: to use French and British resources to promote the cause of a united, indivisible, and monarchist Russia. Contacts with French intelligence started in March 1918, when the captain Emile Henno, operating undercover in Kiev, met Shulgin. In his memoirs entitled 1919-yi god (The Year 1919), Shulgin dedicated the first chapter to the French officer. He described the events of the autumn and winter of 1918, when the German forces evacuated Ukraine, the Ukrainian troops under Simon Petliura advanced, and pro-Bolshevik revolts were organized in the main cities. Shulgin saw in this chaos a chance at establishing a White government in the region, clearly anti-Ukrainian, anti-Bolshevik, and pro-Entente, with the support of France. Shulgin fixed the conversation with the French officer in these words:

Captain Henno has come. He was a middle-aged man, not at all like a Frenchman, and this was understandable, since he was from Alsace, as I later learned.

His face was unusually energetic, but pleasant, and his voice was such that I immediately asked him not to shout like that, because they could hear him on the street. Squeezing my hands he thundered “France will not forget this, France will not dare to forget this.”

And so on. Then, somewhat calmer, he explained that he needed to run away from here (the Germans felt this). He was subordinate to Count Saint-Aulaire,[42] who was at that time in Bucharest. He, Saint-Aulaire, is entrusted to control the East, that is, Russia. Saint-Aulaire is in constant contact with the Tiger (Clémenceau’s nickname). A direct telegram from Bucharest will be sent to Paris. And although he, Henno, will leave, he will try to keep in touch with me, if that is possible.[43]

Who was Henno? Still now, it is unclear whether he was an adventurer, a spy, a representative of the French government, or all these options. In his essay on the Jassy Conference, American historian Robert H. McNeal stated that Henno was a military agent with a diplomatic cover;[44] however, in his memoirs, Shulgin presented the Frenchman as a representative of Paris’ secret service in Kiev,[45] and Anna Procyk in her research on the Volunteer Army in Ukraine confirms this version.[46] After this meeting, Shulgin mentions a meeting with a British representative who left him 20,000 rubles in cash:[47] as the politician affirmed, it was to begin activities and build up a network.[48]

Henno invited Shulgin to take part in the Jassy Conference (November 16–23, 1918), which was tasked with uniting all the anti-Bolshevik forces and building a pro-Entente force. Shulgin came to Jassy but did not take part in the conference sessions because he got sick with the Spanish flu. Being very critical of the Russian representatives at the conference, Shulgin described an important turn for the White cause, which was the declaration by the Entente delegations on a united and indivisible Russia.[49] Henno’s document was very close to the aspirations of Russian nationalists: “The Entente powers declare, through the authorized voice of the French consul in Kiev, that they decided to recuse any attempt to circumvent the restoration of order in Russia as began by the Allies.”[50]

Shulgin considered the Henno declaration to be the beginning of the Entente intervention in Russia, seeing in it three points: (1) a clear offer of military help from the Allies in re-establishing monarchism in Russia; (2) the denial of the independence of Ukraine, which was instead referred to as “Southern Russia”; (3) a threat against Petliura.[51] But Odessa fell to the pro-Soviet troops of Ataman Nikifor Grigoriev on March 24, 1919, and Shulgin had to flee to Yekaterinodar. In a list of Azbuka’s aims, Shulgin pointed to the organization of partisan activities in Ukraine, the fight for a united Russia, and maintaining contacts with the other nationalist-oriented organizations on territories under Bolshevik control. We can see how effective these activities were from a speech given by Shulgin to General Anton Denikin on November 5 (18), 1919:

The main work on evacuating the officers into the army was carried out in the Ukraine, and until February 1919 several thousand officers passed through the Kiev office of Azbuka, were recruited into the Volunteer Army and received travel documents and 250 rubles each one. In February 1919, the evacuation of the officers from Kiev with the help of Azbuka was suspended, and the ranks I left on Soviet territory (Sovdepiia),[52] engaged on my orders in agitation and reconnaissance work, rigorously maintaining courier communication with the Stavka.[53]

How did Azbuka send some thousand officers to the territories under Denikin command, giving them each 250 rubles? Shulgin used his ties with commercial and industrial circles in Kiev and around the former Empire for organizational financing. His contacts with French intelligence services are another possible explanation, but it must be noted that the Allies played different options in the complex scenario of the Russian Civil War.

Another of Azbuka’s tasks was the analysis and collection of open Soviet sources. The organization had ties everywhere, not just inside the ranks of the Red Army and Soviet local administrations. In a letter to Vasily Stepanov, Azbuka representative to Denikin, Shulgin mentioned the possibility of reorganizing the group’s office in Yekaterinodar thanks to Colonel Alexei von Lampe, who could hire some members at his service.[54] Azbuka attempted to secure funds from the Denikin administration for all of 1919. In a correspondence between Shulgin and General Aleksandr Lukomskii, head of the Special Council under Denikin, the former asked to include the Azbuka members in the active ranks of the Volunteer Army, with the aim being to give official support (and an assignment with monetary compensation) to its agents.[55] Lukomskii refused this proposal, stating that Denikin too expressed a negative opinion of it.[56]

In an undated memo, probably written at the beginning of summer 1919, Shulgin set out a scheme indicating how Azbuka worked and which funds were needed for the intelligence activities to go on. The organization was divided in three branches: the first one, Kiev, as place of uncountable relevance for the future of a unified Russia, needed 50,000 rubles; the second branch, including the cities of Kharkov, Voronezh, and Saratov, at the frontline in the war between Reds and Whites, needed 75,000 rubles; the third branch, for cities like Odessa, Kishinev, Lvov, Kholm, and Warsaw, requested 30,000 rubles. A further sum of 15,000 rubles was demanded for technical purposes and 68,000 to pay couriers, for a total of 238,000 rubles.[57]

Shulgin contacted Admiral Alexander Kolchak with a letter dated June 21, 1918, in which he recalled their last meeting before the Admiral’s trip to the United States. In his letter, Shulgin claimed to have 25,000 people under his command, and he said he and his men were ready to join Kolchak’s army in Siberia. However, as written in the letter, “we would like to fight in your ranks, together with you against the Germans and the Bolsheviks, but under openly monarchist flag.”[58] Ideological principles were not Shulgin’s only conditions: he was also hoping for some funding. He summarized his requests: “if you could and would, in other words if you have money for this deal and in which amount. We have no money,”[59] asking for a total of 12 million rubles.[60] There is no trace of Kolchak’s answer to Shulgin, and the arrangement did not come to fruition.

But proof of Azbuka’s resources can be found in the diaries of Alexei von Lampe, member of the organization under the code name “Liudi.”[61] In a note dated July 1919, it is recorded that von Lampe met with Shulgin, becoming a contributor to two of Shulgin’s newspapers, Velikaia Rossiia and Nedelimaia Rossiia, with a fee respectively of 2,300 and 2,400 rubles, very high amounts for that time (a normal salary was around 600 rubles).[62] From September to December 1918, von Lampe was also in charge of redacting the newspaper Rossiia.[63] Later, von Lampe became the head of the Special Department of Azbuka under the cover of the Rossiia publishing house.[64]

In Emigration: Attraction to Fascism and Operation Trust

After leaving Crimea, Shulgin did not stop playing a role in the White movement. Apart from being a key figure as ideologist and organizer, Shulgin left a son, Veniamin, as an officer in the White Army, and Veniamin disappeared without news during the last battles in Crimea. Devastated by this loss, Shulgin tried to find his son and organized various attempts to go back to the Soviet Union, one of which was intimately connected with the famous operation Trust (Trest) organized by the GPU (the Soviet state police, predecessor of the KGB) in the 1920s. Shulgin met Trust’s key figure, Alexander Iakushev,[65] a former official from the Ministry of Communications who was recruited by the GPU to build a fake organization, the Monarchist Union of Central Russia, aimed at infiltrating the White émigrés.[66] Iakushev, presenting himself as Fiodorov, was there seeking assistance from Wrangel supporters. He invited those who wanted to see and meet members of the monarchist underground in the Soviet Union to contact him.[67]

Shulgin’s trip did not receive the official blessing of the RОVS leadership. Nikolai Chebyshev, head of Wrangel’s civil office, tried to persuade him against the trip: Chebyshev, as well as Wrangel, saw in Trust a GPU provocation.[68] But apart from looking for his son, Shulgin still believed in Iakovlev’s claim of the existence of an anti-Bolshevik faction inside the Red Army advocating for a “Bonapartist revolt” for the rebirth of Russia.[69] As he recollected in the first chapter of Tri stolitsy (The Three Capitals):

Of course, the main reason for my desire to enter Russia was the desire to find my son. But the truth is that in itself this trip was of the highest interest to me. I was far from being satisfied with newspaper information about what is happening in Soviet Russia. I wanted to “put my fingers in wounds.” On many grounds it seemed to me that the situation is not quite as it is written about. The very thought that the hundred million Russian people “disappeared from the map of the earth” seemed to me monstrous. In a word, there is nothing to explain. Every emigrant understands the burning interest of each of us to what’s beyond the line. If, however, to add to this the strongest personal motive and opportunities that do not often fall, then a combination of three forces resulted, which determined my decision.[70]

Shulgin crossed the Polish-Soviet border on December 23, 1925, and came back on February 6, 1926, without difficulties.[71] He returned enthusiastic about what he saw in Kiev, Moscow, and Leningrad, and the news about his trip went all across the émigré realm, from the Whites to Kerensky’s entourage. A few months later, Shulgin published stories from his trip in Lampe’s series Beloe delo, also publishing some excerpts in Petr Struve’s journal Vozrozhdenie. The positive reception of Shulgin’s stories was not unanimous. Some readers of Vozrozhdenie did not like the typical feuilleton style of Shulgin.[72] Other denounced his participation in a GPU operation.[73]

Shulgin’s recollection of his trip highlights his ideological evolution in the 1920s and his fascination with the young Italian fascism. In Tri stolitsy, he reaffirmed his anti-Semitism, stating that the Soviet Union was under “Jewish hegemony,” and this was one of the reasons which would cause the system to fall.[74] The admiration for fascism was explicated in the book’s epilogue, in which Shulgin recalled one of his dreams:

I’m a Russian fascist. I consider Stolypin to be the founder of Russian fascism. (Movement.) True, the late prime minister, who was killed here in Kiev, himself did not suspect that he was a fascist. But nevertheless he was the forerunner of Mussolini.

Fascism, like communism, has its own tactical methods and its own ideological tasks. In regard to the tactics, communism and fascism are two siblings. (Motion.)[75]

After the negative media exposure of the Trust operation, Shulgin retired from active work for a few years. But in the early 1930s he returned to political life. Living in Ljubljana, he began to conduct classes on public speaking: he began with the youth from the National Union of the New Generation (Natsional’nyi Soiuz Novogo Pokoleniia, NSNP) and the future National Alliance of Solidarists (Natsional’no trudovoi soiuz, NTS).[76] Then, having moved to Belgrade, he became a member of the local NSNP Assistance Committee, continued to train the union youth, and was a regular contributor for the NSNP newspaper Za Rossiiu. Gradually, his influence in the organization grew. In 1936, he also became a permanent member of the Sofia newspaper Golos Rossii, which was published by Ivan L. Solonevich, a reactionary émigré thinker who was able to flee the Soviet Union in 1934.

In the mid-1930s, the question of the possibility of cooperation with the Nazis began to be discussed in the broad circles of Russian emigration. Shulgin’s attitude toward Hitler was initially ambiguous. The German state, according to him, limited the individual (unlike England or France), but in spite of this, it also sought “to the welfare of the population, increasing its material wealth, enriching its spiritual culture.”[77] If there was a choice between Stalin’s and Hitler’s socialism (and Hitler’s regime was perceived by Shulgin as socialist), then he would no doubt choose the latter. Shulgin was particularly impressed by the 1934 referendum, in which the Nazis merged the role of Chancellor and President:

Hitler (…) appealed to the proletariat, to the working masses, to the peasants and workers. He turned to the question posed extremely acutely. After all, Hitler made himself both the head of the government and the president of the Republic, that is, both Comrade Stalin and Comrade Kalinin—at once! And in this double role he put the question to the people: “Do I love you?” And received an answer, similar to which history did not yet know. Thirty-eight million proletarian, workers, workers’ and peasants’ votes cried: “Yes, love, love, love!”[78]

This admiration was sometimes tainted with criticisms: for example, when Shulgin described Mein Kampf as “imbued with three hatreds: hatred for the French, hatred for the Jews, hatred for the Slavs.”But he noted that Hitler turned from an embittered prisoner into a ruler of the state, whose power was unlimited and rested “on millions of beating hearts at unison.”[79] Nazism, for Shulgin, was a kind of new, stronger, nationalism, one which could overthrow Bolshevism and eradicate the old struggles between European nationalists; in his words, “the hostility of the nationalists among themselves, their squabbling and struggle is nothing but the self-destruction of precisely that human breed that is terrible to communism.”[80] In a 1934 article, published by the NSNP newspaper Za Rossiiu as an open letter to Stalin, Shulgin expressed the necessity for the Whites that Germany and France be in peace:

if Germany understands what is its future, it will happen what dreamed Wrangel: Germany reconciled with France. And so will happen what Trotsky meant when he called Hitler “super-Wrangel”. On that day, there will be another amazing transformation: you, Comrade Stalin, will pretend to be a Russian nationalist! Together with Voroshilov, and perhaps even Trotsky, you will shout: “not an inch of the Russian land!” but uneasy this masquerade will seem to anyone convincing.[81]

These attempts at building a common front Europe-wide of nationalist forces against Bolshevism were not new in Shulgin’s thinking. He had already written an article for Russkaia gazeta called “Fascists of all countries, unite!” already in 1924. The article announced some ideas which would later be common to many European Nazi collaborationists:

We, the Fascists of all countries, should be merciless only in relation to our common enemy—Revolutionary Socialism, otherwise called Communism. In relation to each other, we must develop a maximum of friendliness and foresight. Therefore, defending their states as such, saving their nations as the greatest achievements of culture, guarding in every possible way these magnificent “buildings of mankind,” under the roof of which for a long time, our old and ever-young world can only develop—we at the same time should not only inflame national conflicts in the name of false patriotism, but, on the contrary, extinguish these sparks with joint efforts, bearing in mind that the fire they are fraught with is always beneficial only to those who have set themselves the goal of burning the world…[82]

While being interrogated at the Lubyanka in 1946 about the SMERSH—an umbrella organization for three independent counter-intelligence agencies in the Red Army—Shulgin declared:

I must frankly tell the investigation that in the struggle against the Soviet Union I had placed my hopes on Hitler’s Germany. In 1934 I wrote an anti-Soviet manuscript entitled The Orion Belt. In that manuscript I asserted that if Hitlerite Germany was sincere in its intentions to liquidate Communism, it should direct its aspirations to the east, expressed in the notorious “Drang nach Osten” formula, to the benefit of Russian Emigration and, having overthrown Soviet power, preserve Russia as an independent and capitalist state, including Ukraine. For such a service, Germany could have, as I wrote, an unlimited quantity of Russian bread, the right to resettle the surplus German population to Russia and build in Russia its factories and plants. In my manuscript The Orion Belt, I called on these terms to conclude an alliance between Russia, Germany, and Japan.[83]

Shulgin did not deny that he intended to get in touch with the ruling circles of Hitler’s Germany during the 1930s:

With this purpose in 1936, using the trip to Germany of the General Secretary of the NTSNP Georgievskii, I handed him a note with a summary of my manuscript and asked to have it sent to the leaders of fascist Germany. However, as Georgievskii later informed me, he did not have access to the highest German government circles and could not convey my note.[84]

In addition, through A. I. Ksiunin, Chairman of the Union of Russian Writers and Journalists in Yugoslavia, Shulgin sent his manuscript to Paris to the former War Minister of the Provisional Government, A.I. Guchkov, but he received no reply.

Somewhat earlier, in 1935, I introduced the manuscript The Orion Belt to the editor of the anti-Soviet journal Russkii Kolokol who had come from Berlin, professor Ilyin. The latter, having read The Orion Belt, said that, in his opinion, I offered too little to the Germans, and therefore they will not go to negotiate with me.[85]

When Nazi Germany annexed Austria, some circles of Russian émigrés discussed whether Hitler would take a next step, detaching Ukraine from the Soviet Union. In connection with these rumors, Shulgin decided to propose a reshaping of Ukraine as a new Russian state in which a nationalist, pro-White, and anti-Soviet regime could develop.[86] The rhetoric used by Shulgin was as follows:

Under the leadership of St. Michael, the patron of southern Russia, to snatch Kiev from the embrace of Moscow, where St. George is defeated, and the Serpent reigns, cannot be our ultimate goal; because our last aspiration:

Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer!

We would like to be in alliance with the West, who once again showed himself to be not rotten but enlightened, to turn the oriental head of Genghis Khan of our days, who took the mask of Stalin.[87]

But the idea of building a Russian state, evidently pro-Nazi, on Ukrainian territory was not Berlin’s priority. Yet Shulgin’s views offer a glimpse into how White ideologists were steered by Nazi influence and the hope for a new force able to destroy Communism and reestablish old Russia. During the war, Shulgin did not engage directly with the Nazis on the Eastern Front, unlike some émigré circles, but neither did he side with the Soviet Union and the Allies, as did Miliukov and Kerensky. However, his second son Dmitrii, an active member of NTS, joined General Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army. As other emigrants recollected:

(Dmitrii Shulgin) entered the ROA with the aim of organizing clandestine cells of the NTS in the territories seized by the Germans to fight Soviet power; with this organizational activity he was engaged in Smolensk in his free time from teaching the German language to local students.[88]

From Prison to Glory: The Grandfather of the Russian Party, 1945–1976

Vasily Shulgin was arrested in December 1944 in Yugoslavia and taken to Moscow in January 1945. After more than two years, on July 12, 1947, he was sentenced to 25 years and conducted to the Vladimir Central Prison, where he spent nine years, till 1956, when he was granted amnesty in the wake of de-Stalinization. During his time in prison, Shulgin wrote memoirs, drew, and reflected on the past. His sketches are now displayed sat the Suzdal Monastery of Saint Euthymius, a former penal colony.

After being released, Shulgin was relocated to a hospice in Gorokhovets, 157 km from Vladimir, but he was soon placed in Vladimir itself, where he obtained a one-room apartment in 1960. In autumn 1958, still in the Vladimir hospice, he wrote a small book in which he recollected his thoughts and reflections about the Soviet experiment, Opyt Lenina (Lenin’s Experiment). As Mikhail Ayvazian wrote in the reprint of the pamphlet for the journal Nash Sovremennik in 1997, “Many writers, despite the difficulties and danger at the time of communicating with him, found a way to meet with the most mysterious and unusual in Russia, a legendary man.”[89] This was indeed the beginning of a new stage in Shulgin’s life, a stage wherein he became a kind of oracle for a new generation of Russian nationalists in the Soviet Union.

Olga Matich, his granddaughter, advances in her memoirs the hypothesis that Shulgin read Lenin for the first time in prison.[90] In Opyt Lenina, he attempted to read the Soviet experience as a continuum of Russian statehood, sometimes in a paradoxical way. He described in this way the role of the Orthodox faith in the Soviet Union:

Atheism of the Russian people is faith, pure faith. And so this atheism bears in itself the signs of faith: intolerance towards other faiths, the need to root them out, mock them. It comes from the deep conviction that only she, the newfound faith, is true. Therefore, I want to lie before it in the dust and, if necessary, die for it.[91]

The debate around Shulgin’s Opyt Lenina is still a heated one. Was Shulgin converted to Marxism-Leninism? Was he a traitor to the White cause or under pressure by the KGB? In reality, Shulgin never changed his views and ideas, being till the end of his life a committed monarchist. In 1973 he sent a telegram to Yurii Andropov, at that time Chief of the KGB, with a request to celebrate a memorial service on July 17 for the Tsar Nicholas II and his family. He did not receive an answer, but a day later, two operatives went to Shulgin, telling him to celebrate the service at home.[92]

In 1960–1961, Shulgin also published the Letters to Russian Emigrants (Pis’ma russkim emigrantam), which were addressed to the New York émigré newspaper Russkii golos, one of the most important voices of Russian emigration. The publication of Shulgin’s letters had resonance, as he declared that the emigration was mistaken about Soviet power:

It seems impossible for me to stay on the old rails. I must admit that our train has gone astray, because we called for the overthrow of Soviet power. It is not necessary to overthrow the Soviet government. It is one of the foundations of the world. And that’s it. When you look into the face of the danger that threatens humanity, all questions, except war and peace, seem small. Everyone who wants peace is a friend. All who want war are enemies. So I feel.[93]

To write these two long letters (respectively, 38 and 48 pages), Shulgin was authorized by the Soviet authorities to tour Russia and Ukraine, and he described how he was impressed by the greatness of the Soviet system. Shulgin was genuinely impressed by what he saw, in particular by factories and the housing program, but he later said that “they fooled”[94] him. In one of the letters, Shulgin tried to explain why segments of the Russian emigration sympathized with Hitler: “I try to explain all this to myself by the fact that in the person of Hitler they saw a strong opponent of the Soviet government—and nothing more.”[95] But in the second letter, he attacked those Whites who collaborated with the Third Reich during Operation Barbarossa, quoting at length figures like Vladimir Romanov, metropolite Anastasii, and others who called for war against Communism.

As was already mentioned, Shulgin’s son Dmitrii enrolled as a volunteer in Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army. In his memoirs dictated to the genealogist Rostislav Krasiukov at the end of the 1960s, Shulgin explained that Dmitrii worked during the war for the Germans in Poland as a railway engineer.[96] During the Nazi occupation, he organized a local NTS cell in Smolensk.[97] During his years as a Russian language teacher at Georgetown University and then in Philadelphia, Dmitrii never left politics, actively taking part in NTS life and collaborating with the CIA in the anti-Soviet struggle. He even delivered propaganda for NTS to the students: for instance, on the blackboard, he wrote the acronym NTS as “Nesiom tiranam smert! Nesem trudiashchimsia svobodu!” (We are bringing death to the tyrants! We are bringing to the workers freedom!).[98] Being a committed anticommunist, Shulgin Jr. took part in Voice of America, a program airing to the Soviet troops in Cuba, and after the end of the Soviet Union he travelled to Moscow and met with local NTS members.[99]

In 1968, Vasily Shulgin was ready to rejoin his son in the United States, exchanging with him a lengthy correspondence, but suddenly the KGB began blocking their letters, and the project collapsed.[100] However, Vasily’s years in Vladimir were not marked by loneliness. Since the early 1960s, a pilgrimage of young people interested in tsarist Russia began taking shape for Vladimir, enabling him to meet with a living embodiment of the White past. The collective of young anticommunists and Russian nationalists was grouped around two rising stars, the painter Ilya Glazunov and the writer Vladimir Soloukhin, who were leading the movement.[101] After a trip to his native village of Soloukhin, located near Vladimir, Glazunov met Shulgin at the Vladimir railway station.

We knew that the exile V. V. Shulgin lives in Vladimir, and then we waited for him at the exit. Soon he appeared with a woman whose face reminded me at once of the boyar to Morozov on Surikov’s sketch. Being shy to approach him, Volodya and I “sent” Nina. She met the Shulgin family and brought them to us. “I’m surprised and flattered,” Vasily Vitalevich said, shaking hands with us. “The fact that I was recognized by an artist and a writer, not a politician, is twice pleasant.”[102]

Glazunov expressed to Shulgin his admiration,[103] marking the start of a long friendship which lasted till the death of the latter in 1976. Shulgin was often a guest at Glazunov’s house in Moscow, where they discussed the glory of tsarist Russia. Shulgin’s anti-Semitism had a great influence on Glazunov’s Judaeophobic views.[104] If Glazunov was a faithful, loyal, and committed pupil of Shulgin’s, another key figure of Russian nationalism, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was colder in his judgment. Solzhenitsyn visited Shulgin with the aim of collecting materials for his Red Wheel cycle in 1972, and he recollects the meeting in this way in The Gulag Archipelago:

As a nine-year-old boy I had read the small dark-blue books of V. V. Shulgin[105] with more interest than I had read Jules Verne. At that time they were sold openly in our bookstalls. His was a voice from a world that had disappeared with such finality that not even the most extravagant fantasy could have projected that invisible point in the soundless corridors of the Big Lubyanka where his steps would intersect my own before twenty years had passed. True, I would not meet the man himself until another twenty years had gone by.[106]

Nikolay Konshin, an actor who in younger days was Shulgin’s neighbor and for some years factotum, mentioned how, after Solzhenitsyn’s visit, the writer managed to collect 12 notebooks dictated by Shulgin.[107] But there are no traces of these notebooks. Poet Nikolay Braun worked, too, as Shulgin’s literary secretary for two years before being arrested by the KGB for anti-Soviet propaganda and organizing terrorist acts (he was accused of planning the bombing of Lenin Mausoleum and the assassination of Leonid Brezhnev). Based on several recollections, it seems Shulgin hosted from two to ten visitors every week. Rostislav G. Krasiukov, in his introduction to Shulgin’s Teni, kotorie prokhodiat (The Shadows that Pass), wrote:

It cannot be said that at that time V.V. Shulgin had no attention. There were always a lot of people around him. Some maintained long-term friendly relations with him, regularly visiting him and inviting him to visit him. Others satisfied their curiosity with one visit to “Grandfather,” as many called him. And with everyone he was evenly friendly and friendly.[108]

In 1964 Shulgin portrayed himself in the movie “Pered sudom istorii” (Facing the Judgment of History), a historical fresco of the first half of the twentieth century in Russia. The movie was shown at the end of November 1965 in Moscow and Leningrad, but it was removed after three days: Shulgin was too vivid, interesting, and smart, and the film had the unexpected effect of validating his judgment against the Soviet Union. This event accentuated his prestige, making him one of the living icons of the “Russian Party,” the informal group of Russian nationalists inside the state and Communist Party structures.


The long life of Vasily Shulgin intersected with almost all the most significant events of twentieth-century Russian history, and Shulgin emerged for the most part as a vivid nationalist leader. His role in some events—such as Nicholas II’s abdication or the establishment of Azbuka—was central for shaping the fate of Russia. Shulgin’s work in the émigré circles had two tracks: one as a political, publicist, and polemist figure, and the other one in forming and teaching the young Russian émigré generation in NSNP. The latter aspect still today represents a part of Shulgin’s activities quite neglected in scholarly research, with a pioneering paper by the Russian scholar Anton Chemakin being the only extant literature.[109] After his release from Vladimir Central Prison, the former member of tsarist Duma became an icon for the new generation of Russian nationalists, who sought him out to learn how life was in the tsarist Empire. Shulgin represented to them the unbroken thread of Russian national identity, and when he died in 1976, the gravestone was crafted by Ilya Glazunov. His political heritage remains major still today, as Shulgin is the central figure through which the flag of the White cause was passed from the founding fathers to the late Soviet generations.  

[1] D. O. Zaslavskii, Rytsar Chernoi sotni V.V. Shul’gin (Leningrad: Byloe, 1925).

[2] A biography by Sviatoslav Rybas, active in Glazunov’s circle (he was the president of the initiative group for rebuilding the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow) and former vice-publisher of the nationalist journal Molodaia gvardiia, is quite apologetic (S. Rybas, Vasily Shul’gin: sud’ba russkogo natsionalista, Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2014). A work published by Dmitry Babkov, Gosudarstvennye i natsional’nye problemy v mirovozzrenii V.V. Shul’gina v 1917–1939 godakh (Moscow: Rosspen, 2012), is devoted to an analysis of Shul’gin’s views on the nation, the state, and the “Jewish question” from 1917 to 1939. Aleksandr Puchenkov wrote extensively on Shul’gin’s role in 1918–1920 as Denikin’s advisor in his book Natsional’naia politika generala Denikina vesna 1918–vesna 1920 g. (Moscow: Rosspen, 2012). A collection of Shul’gin’s correspondence with Vasily Maklakov in 1919–1939 was also published: О. Budnitskii, ed., Spor o Rossii: V. A. Maklakov – V. V. Shul’gin, perepiska 1919–1939 gg., Moscow: Rosspen, 2012).

[3] Zaslavskii points out that “Kiev was even more a Polish than a Russian city. So the University of Saint Vladimir and the Kievlianin became ones of the first strongholds of the Russian official culture, conservative and patriotic.” D. Zaslavskii, Rytsar, 5.

[4] See Kievlianin, July 1 (14), 1864.

[5] A. Ascher, The Revolution of 1905: Russia in Disarray (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 231.

[6] V. V. Shul’gin, Dni (1920), republished in Sovremennik, 1989, 281.

[7] At the same time, we can find letters and articles in Kievlianin, in which the authors consider Jews to be guilty for the pogroms and the Revolution. See for example Kievlianin, no. 311, November 9 (22), 1905.

[8] D. Zaslavskii, Rytsar, 14.

[9] V. Shul’gin, “Lozhnyi put’,” Kievlianin, no. 35, February 4, 1912, quoted in S. Sankova, Russkaia partiia v Rossii: Obrazovanie i deiatel’nost’ Vserossiiskogo natsional’nogo soiuza (1908–1917) (Orel, 2006), 45.

[10] On January 15, 1945, during his interrogation by SMERSH, Shul’gin answered to some questions about his political affilations in 1905–1907. From the answers, it emerges that Shul’gin was a member of the Union of Saint Michael Archangel and of the Russian Assembly. See Protokol doprosa V. V. Shul’gina. 15 ianvaria 1945 g. TsA FSB Rossii. D. R-48956 l.19-65, republished in V. G. Makarov, A. V. Repnikov, V. V. Kristoforov, eds., Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina. Materialy sledstvennogo dela i dela zakliuchennogo (Moscow: Russkii put, 2010), 151–152.

[11] Shul’gin was a member of the Kiev Club from the very beginning, and his stepfather Dmitrii Pikhno was an honorary member. In Zaslavskii’s words, Kiev had “become the cradle of Stolypin’s nationalism” and from there were “the main cadres of the party that faithfully served Stolypin before his fall.” Zaslavskii, Rytsar, 25.

[12] S. Piontkovskii, “Zapiski Shul’gina,” in V. V. Shul’gin, Dni (Leningrad: Priboi, 1925), 3.

[13] On June 3, 1907, the Second Duma was dissolved. The reason was an alleged insurrection attempt planned by Social Democrat members of the Duma based on dubious evidence. In the manifesto dissolving the Duma, Nicholas II went into considerable detail to explain his action: “To Our regret, a significant portion of the members of the second Duma did not justify Our expectations. Many of those sent by the people to work [for them] did not go with a pure heart, with a desire to strengthen Russia and to improve its system, but [went rather] with an explicit intention to increase unrest and to promote the disintegration of the state.” The new Duma, according to the Tsar (and Stolypin), “must be Russian in spirit,” and the electoral law for the Third Duma reduced the size of the assembly, cutting the representatives in non-Russian regions and cities to prevent the election of Liberals, Socialists, and local Nationalists. A. Ascher, The Revolution of 1905, 352–355.

[14] Sbornik kluba russkikh natsionalistov – Vypusk pervyi (Kiev: Tip. T-va I. N. Kushnerev i ko, 1909), 10.

[15] The zemstvo was an organ of rural self-government, established in 1864 during the period of Alexander II’s Great Reforms. In 1914, there were zemstvo functioning in 43 governatorates of European Russia. Many liberal elites were actively involved in zemstvo activities, and their activism became the base for the formation of the Kadet and Octobrist parties. See T. Emmons and W. S. Vucinich, eds., The Zemstvo in Russia: An Experiment in Local Self-Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

[16] A. Polunov, Russia in the Nineteenth Century: Autocracy, Reform, and Social Change, 1814–1914 (New York and London: M. E. Shape, 2005), 235. For information about the reactions to these projects from the Kadets and the Ukrainian members of the State Duma, see G. Cigliano, Identità nazionali e periferie imperiali (Firenze: Editpress, 2013), 70 and 79.

[17] V. V. Shul’gin, Poslenii ochevidets. Memuary (Moscow: Оlma-Press, 2002), 74. Quoted also by A. Repnikov, “Besstrashie: Piotr Stolypin glazami Vasilia Shul’gina,” Rodina, no. 2 (2012): 29–31.

[18] Quoted in A. A. Ivanov, Vyzov natsionalizma. Lozung ‘Rossiia dlia russkikh’ v dorevoliutsionnoo obshchestvennoi mysli (Saint Petersburg: Vladimir Dal’, 2016), 83.

[19] V. V. Kokovtsov, Iz moego proshlogo. Vospominaniia 1903–1919 gg. (Moscow: Nauka, 1992, vol. 1), 413–416.

[20] Shul’gin was sentenced in January 1914 to three months, but the beginning of the war and the intervention of Nicholas II nullified the sentence. For more, see Makarov, Repnikov, and Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 20–22.

[21] R. Edelman, Gentry Politics on the Eve of the Russian Revolution. The Nationalist Party 1907–1917 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1980), 228–229.

[22] E. Lohr, Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The campaign against Enemy Aliens during World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 13.

[23] Shul’gin, Dni, 125.

[24] Quoted in D. A. Kotsiubinskii, Russkiy natsionalizm v nachale XX stoletiia (Moscow: Rosspen, 2001), 71.

[25] J. Sanborn, Imperial Apocalypse, The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 103.

[26] Lohr, Nationalizing the Russian Empire, 21.

[27] M. Kirschke-Stockdale, Pavel Miliukov and the Quest for a Liberal Russia (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996, 234.

[28] B. I. Kolonitskii, “Tragicheskaia erotika”: obrazy imperial’noi sem’i v gody Pervoi mirovoi voiny (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010), 291.

[29] The speech was published in F. A. Golder, ed., Documents of Russian History, 1914–1917 (Gloucester, MA: Smith, 1964), 154-166. 

[30] Quoted by Sankova, Russkaia partiia v Rossii, 289.

[31] Sanborn, Imperial Apocalypse, 188.

[32] Shul’gin, Dni, 125.

[33] Shul’gin, Dni, 157.

[34] Shul’gin, Dni, 234.

[35] Quoted in D. Zhukov, Zhizn i knigi V. V. Shul’gina (Moscow, 1989).

[36] V. I. Lenin, “Na zubok novorozhdennomu… ‘novomu’ pravitel’stvu,” Pravda no. 50, May 19 (6) 1917, in V. I. Lenin, Pol’noe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 32 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1962), 34.

[37] Gosudarstvennoye soveshchanie – stenograficheskii otchet (Moscow, Leningrad, 1930), 107, 109, 111.

[38] O. V. Budnitskii, V. A. Maklakov i V. V. Shul’gin, 13.

[39] “Dokladnaia zapiska V. V. Shul’gina ot 5 sentiabria 1918 g.,” in Р.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 25, Hoover Iпstitution оп War, Revolution апd Реасе, Staпford Uпiversity, republished in V. G. Bortnevskii, “K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka” (iz kollektsii P. N. Vrangelia Arkhiva Guverovskogo instituta),” Russkoe proshloe. Istoriko-dokumental’nyi almanakh, 1993, 163.

[40] “Zapiska ob otkaze V. V. Shul’gina ot ukrainskogo poddanstva,” Ukrainskoi narod, Rostov-na-Donu, 1918, 3–8; republished in V. V. Shul’gin, Rossiia, Ukraina, Evropa: izbrannye raboty (Moscow: Posev, 2015), 177–178. I have also consulted several copies in the Shul’gin file at the State Archive of Russian Federation such as GARF f.R446 op.1 d.41 “Zaiavlenie V.V. Shul’gina Kievskomu gubernskomu staroste ob otkaze priniat’ ukrainskoe poddanstvo, v vidu nedopustimosti sushchestvovaniia samostoiatel’noi Ukrainskoi derzhavy s istoricheskoi tochki zreniia,” July 1918.

[41] “Dokladnaia zapiska V.V. Shul’gina A.M. Dragomirovu,” in P.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 11, in Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka,” 186. Shul’gin presented Baranov as colonel, but he was promoted to the new rank on December 25, 1918, after this letter.

[42] Charles de Saint-Aulaire was the French ambassador to Romania in 1916–1918.

[43] V. V. Shul’gin, Teni, kotorye prokhodiat (Sankt-Peterburg: Nestor Istoriia, 2012), 190.

[44] R. McNeal, “The Conference of Jassy: An Early Fiasco of the Anti-Bolshevik movement,” in J. Shelton Curtiss, ed., Essays in Russian and Soviet History in Honor of Geroid Tanquary Robinson (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1963), 222.

[45] Shul’gin, Teni, 190.

[46] A. Procyk, Russian Nationalism and Ukraine: The Nationality Policy of the Volunteer Army during the Civil War (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1995), 84.

[47] It seems the Englishman was John Picton Bagge, a British diplomat with connections to the Secret Service Bureau. R. Service, Spies and Commissars: Bolshevik Russia and the West (London: MacMillan, 2011), 576 (he mentions Bagge as commercial secretary in Оdessa) and 690.

[48] Shul’gin, Teni, 191.

[49] V. V. Shul’gin, 1919 god (Moscow: Kuchkovo Pole, 2018), vol. 1, 77.

[50] Shul’gin, 1919 god, vol. 1, 78–79.

[51] Shul’gin, 1919 god, vol. 1, 78–79.

[52] Sovdepiia is the term used by the White propaganda to describe the Soviet regime, based on “Soviet deputatov,” or Council of Deputies.

[53] “Doklad V.V. Shul’gina ot 5 noiabria 1919 g.,” in P.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 14, in V. G. Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka,165.

[54] “V. V. Shul’gin – V. A. Stepanovu, 6/19 ianvaria 1919,” in Р.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 12, in V. G. Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka,169.

[55] Р.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 8, in V. G. Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka, 175.

[56] P.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 8, in V. G. Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka, 176.

[57] “Ob’iasnitel’naia zapiska k smete Organizatsii Azbuka za Iiun, Iiul i Avgust 1919,” in P.N. Vrangel Collection, b. 33, f. 38, in V. G. Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka,176–178

[58] Shul’gin’s letter to Kolchak, June 21 (August 6) 1918, GA RF f. R5827 op. 1 d. 54. “Pis’mo V.V. Shul’gina Admiralu A.V. Kolchaku ob organizatsii bor’by s Sovetskoi vlast’iu. Kopiya Mashinopis’.” The file is dated May 21, 1918, but it is a mistake, as the letter is dated June 21.

[59] Shul’gin’s letter to Kolchak.

[60] Shul’gin’s letter to Kolchak.

[61] “Svodnyi spisok sotrudnikov organizatsii ‘Azbuka’,” in V. G. Bortnevskii, K istorii osvedomitel’noi organizatsii “Azbuka,” 181–185.

[62] Dnevnik, kniga no. 24 (29). S 1 iiulia (st. st.) po 19 sentiabria 1919 g. i s 3 oktiabria 1919 g. po 18 fevralia (n. st.) 1920 g. GA RF f. R5853 op. 1 d. 1 l. 5.

[63] Protokol doprosa V.V. Shul’gina. 28 oktiabria 1946 g. TsA FSB Rossii D. R-48956 l.179-218, republished in Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 265.

[64] TsA FSB Rossii D. R-48956 l.219-242, republished in Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 283.

[65] In one of the documents of Shul’gin’s arrest, Iakushev is mentioned as an “agent of the German military secret service,” but this is impossible to prove: Iakushev was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to ten years of gulag, where he died. See Makarov, Repnikov, and Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 142.

[66] The organization was built on the basis of a preexisting monarchist underground in Moscow: Iakushev was arrested by the GPU because one of his letters to a White representative in Tallinn was discovered, after which he was offered to be the leader of this pseudo-Monarchist Union. See L. Freishman, Iz istorii zhurnalistiki russkogo zarubezh’ia: V tiskakh provokatsii – operatsiia “Trest” i russkaia zarubezhnaia pechat’ (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2003), 49.

[67] D. Zhukov, “Kliuchi k Trem stolytsam,” in Shul’gin, Tri stolitsy (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1991), 417.

[68] N. Chebyshev, “Trest. Istoriia odnoi legendy,” Vozrozhdenie, August 5, 1935.

[69] See О. Pavlova, Rytsar Beloi idei (general A.A. fon Lampe) (Оrel, 2013), 54.

[70] Shul’gin, Tri stolitsy, 9. He repeated his position in the film “Pered sudom istorii,” as well as in the 1967 Soviet serial “Оperatsiia Trest,” available at

[71] In his first SMERSH interrogation, Shul’gin answered questions about his trip in the USSR in 1925. He referred to Iakushev as an agent of the German military service and said that he received the task from General Evgenii Klimovich, one of the closest officers to Wrangel. The Polish secret service helped Shul’gin cross the Soviet border, as he recollected—but it is now widely known that the GPU prepared a “window” for letting him enter the Soviet Union. Protokol doprosa V. V. Shul’gina. 2 ianvaria 1945 g. TsA FSB Rossii. D. R-48956 l.10-18 republished in Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 147–150.

[72] Freishman, Iz istorii zhurnalistiki russkogo zarubezh’ia, 91.

[73] Chebyshev, “Trest.”

[74] Shul’gin, Tri stolitsy, 291.

[75] Shul’gin, Tri stolitsy, 345

[76] Shul’gin, Tri stolitsy, 436.

[77] V. V. Shul’gin, “Otvet tov. Stalinu, Chto takoe SSSR?” Za Rossiiu, no. 28, 1934.

[78] V. V. Shul’gin, “Plebistsit,” Za Rossiiu, spetsial’nyi vypusk, 1934.

[79] V. V. Shul’gin, “Gitler,” Golos Rossii, no. 2, June 25, 1936.

[80] « V.V. Shul’gin, Natsionalizm takov, kakovy natsionalisty. Otvet M. Iu. Rodionovu,” Golos Rossii, no. 19, October 27, 1936.

[81] Shul’gin, “Otvet tov. Stalinu.”

[82] V. V. Shul’gin, “Fashisty vsekh stran, soediniaites!” Russkaia gazeta, no. 164, November 4, 1924.

[83] Protokol doprosa V. V. Shul’gina. 1 noiabria 1946 g. TsA FSB Rossii. D. R-48956 l.241-242, republished in Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 277.

[84] Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 277.

[85] Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 277–278.

[86] V. V. Shul’gin, Anshluss i my (Belgrade: Izd. Rybinskogo, 1938), 9.

[87] Anshluss i my, 13.

[88] O. Matich, Zapiski russkoi amerikanki: Semeinye khroniki i sluchainye vstrechi (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2017), 247.

[89] V. V. Shul’gin, “Opyt Lenina,” Nash Sovremennik, n. 11, 1997, 138–139.

[90] Matich, Zapiski russkoi amerikanki, 59.

[91] Shul’gin, Opyt Lenina, 146.

[92] N.N. Lisovoi, “Poslednii ochevidets,” in V. V. Shul’gin, Poslednii ochevidets: memuary, ocherki, sny (Moscow: Olma Press, 2002), 10–11.

[93] V. V. Shul’gin, Pis’ma k russkim emigrantam (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo sotsialno-ekonomicheskoi literatury, 1961), 16.

[94] Makarov, Repnikov, Kristoforov, Tiuremnaia odisseia Vasilya Shul’gina, 84.

[95] Shul’gin, Pisma k russkim emigrantam, 12.

[96] Shul’gin, Teni, kotorye prokhodiat, 62.

[97] Matich, Zapiski russkoi amerikanki, 247.

[98] Matich, Zapiski russkoi amerikanki, 258.

[99] Matich, Zapiski russkoi amerikanki, 252–254.

[100] Lisovoy, Poslednii ochevidets, 7.

[101] Glazunov in his memoirs wrote how Soloukhin, then Secretary of the Russian Union of Writers, followed Shul’gin’s views, organized meetings abroad with NTS members, and possessed a ring with Nicholas II’s portrait. I. Glazunov, Rossiia raspiataia (Moscow: AST, 2017), 707.

[102] Glazunov, Rossiia raspiataia, 145.

[103] Soloukhin claimed in 1983 to Olga Matich that he was a Shul’gin’s fellow and once drove him from Vladimir to Moscow, but Matich notes that she did not find evidence of this claim. Matich, Zapiski russkoi amerikanki, 386. Yet it seems quite plausible, because Glazunov often hosted Shul’gin at his Moscow house.

[104] L. E. Kolodnyi, Ilia Glazunov. Liubov’ i nenavist’ (Moscow: Algoritm, 2017), 289.

[105] The “small dark-blue books” were Dni and 1920, published in Soviet Union in the 1920s. Nataliia Solzhenitsyna reaffirmed this version in an interview on February 1, 2017. V. Nordvik, “Nataliia Solzhenitsyna: Ves tekst pronizan boliu,” Rodina, no. 217 (2), 2017,

[106] A. I. Solzhenitsyn, Archipelago Gulag: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 2007), vol. 1, 264–265.

[107] D. Tikhonov, “Nikolai Konshin: ‘Shul’gin byl dlia menia kak rodnoi dedushka’,” Smolenskaia narodnaia gazeta, April 22, 2014,’gin-byl-dlya-menya-kak-rodnoj-dedushka/.

[108] R.G. Krasiukov, “Predislovie,” in Shul’gin, Teni, kotorye prokhodiat, 12.

[109] A. Chemakin, “‘Neonatsionalizm’: Gitlerovskaia Germaniia i vopros o nemetskoi interventsii v rabotakh V.V. Shul’gina 1930-kh,” Voprosy natsionalizma, no. 2 (30), 2017, 99–114. I want to express my gratitude to Chemakin for his precious suggestions.