THE BELLS OF THE KREMLIN: An Experience in Communism by Arvo Tuominen

THE BELLS OF THE KREMLIN: An Experience in Communism

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Long-time Finnish Communist Party leader Tuominen (1894-1981) was an original member of the presidium of the Communist International who survived the Stalinist era without selling his soul. His memoir is thus unusual both for its vantage point and its perspective. Tuominen started as a carpenter, like his father, and became editor of a social democratic newspaper. During the Finnish civil war following upon the Russian Revolution, he was with the radicals; and though he rejected calls for the continuation of armed struggle after the left lost, he did agree to head a communist fifth column in the social democratic party. In 1921 he joined Finnish Communist leader Otto Kuusinen in Moscow, only to be dismayed at the first sight of his heroes: Lenin was of modest height and sallow complexion; Bukharin was so unkempt that Tuominen thought him a ""hooligan""; and so on. Back in Finland in 1922, Tuominen was arrested for sympathizing with the Soviets when Finnish troops crossed into Soviet Karelia to quash a provisional independent government (which would have embraced Finnish Karelia too); released in 1926, he became secretary of the Finnish Federation of Trade Unions and subsequently spent five years (1933-38) with Kuusinen in Moscow. What is important about Tuominen's incarceration is that in 1939, when Stalin summoned him from Stockholm (where he was then living) to make him prime minister of Finland, Tuominen realized that the USSR was about to invade Finland, and refused--thus breaking his connection with communism. From a victim of aggression, the USSR had become an aggressor. By then, too, Tuominen had witnessed the brutality of Stalin's forced collectivization, the creation of a new class of commissars, the degradations of the purge trials. He attributes his own survival to timing, Kuusinen's protection, and other chance factors; and he admits that he would probably have accepted the prime-ministership if he had been in Moscow when it was offered, knowing that rejection would mean suicide. So a hero by default, if a hero at all. The memoir ends in 1939, before Tuominen went back to editing social democratic newspapers. Heavy on the Finnish details, but with some dandy Soviet anecdotes too: an unusual addition to the testimonials of the time.

Pub Date: March 21st, 1983
Publisher: Univ. Press of New England