Russian Revolution memoirs

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Robert Friedman

Vladimir Marinich recently published his grandparents’ memoirs about their experiences before and during the Russian Revolution of 1917 — from dodging bullets, to providing security for the infamous Rasputin. Marinich spent 10 years translating the first-person accounts by both his maternal grandfather and grandmother.
Photo by Christopher Myers

While Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly playing down the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Ellicott City resident Vladimir Marinich is marking the occasion with the publication of his grandparents’ memoirs of that historic event. 

Marinich, who is 80 and a retired Howard Community College history professor, has spent the last 10 years translating the memoirs of his maternal grandfather, Konstantin Ivanovich Globachev, who had led the czar’s political police in the then-capital of St. Petersburg, and his grandmother, Sofia Nikolaevna Globachev, who dodged many bullets during those tumultuous days in 1917 Russia.

Globachev’s typewritten memoirs, written in 1922, were passed on to his son, Nicholas, who donated one copy to Columbia University and gave a second copy to Marinich. His grandmother wrote her own memoirs in 1949 as a legacy for her two grandchildren, Vladimir and his older brother, Oleg. 

“These memoirs are of eye-witnesses to the Russian Revolution, a husband and wife who lived through its turmoil and tragedy,” said Marinich.

Two perspectives on turbulence

The dual memoirs make up The Truth of the Russian Revolution: The Memoirs of the Tsar’s Chief of Security and His Wife, 364 pages of prose and photos, as well as some commentary and biographical information added by Marinich. The book was published recently by the State University of New York (SUNY) Press.

Marinich wants it known that he relied a great deal on his wife, Barbara Livieratos, for finishing the translation of the memoirs. “She proofread, made changes several times around, and spurred me on when I thought about quitting,” he said.  

“My grandfather’s memoirs are written in political terms,” said Marinich, who taught at HCC for 43 years and was a member of the original faculty of the college when it was founded in 1970. In contrast, “My grandmother’s memories are from the perspective of a wife and mother,” he said.

Among other things, granddad Globachev, a major general in the Okhrana (the czar’s secret police), provided security for the infamous Rasputin — the heavy drinker, heavy womanizer, heavy debaucher and mystical adviser who had tremendous influence over Czar Nicholas II, his family and his court.

Marinich noted that his grandfather recalled in his memoirs that one early morning after Rasputin “got absolutely drunk,” he had to bail the czar’s mystical sage out of jail.

The Globachevs fled Russia after the second upheaval of the year put the Bolsheviks in power. The first revolution, which occurred in February 1917, overthrew the czar, while the October 1917 Revolution brought about Communist rule, starting with Lenin’s, then Stalin’s, leadership.

Fleeing to America

First, Marinich’s grandparents went to Istanbul — then known as Constantinople — where they wrote their remembrances. 

In 1923, the couple decided “their best chance for having a [normal] life was coming, as refugees, to America,” said Marinich. After a 1930-1934 stay in Paris, where Globachev led an underground intelligence group planning the overthrow of the Moscow government, the Globachevs moved to New York and settled there.

Marinich’s grandfather became a commercial artist. He died in 1941, at the age of 71. His grandmother — who kept house, cooked for the extended family in the Russian-speaking household, made sure that Marinich and his brother had milk and cookies every day after school, and gave the first generation of American brothers one hour of daily Russian lessons — died in 1950 at 75.

“I don’t remember my grandfather,” said Marinich. “He died when I was 5. But I do remember my grandmother, whom my grandfather called ‘a saint and a loving woman.’”

Marinich’s parents, Georgi Miloshevich and Lydia Konstantinova, fled St. Petersburg after the February 1917 events, when the czar abdicated and the Russian Duma temporarily took control of the country.

Miloshevich had been a captain in the czar’s cavalry, and joined in the unsuccessful attempt of the czar’s supporters, known as White Russians, to defeat the Red Russians (Bolshevik socialists), led by Lenin.

Konstantinova was a teenager when her family fled from St. Petersburg to Kiev to Constantinople and finally to the United States in the early 1920s. Her father, who had been a general in the czar’s army, would have been a marked man had he remained.

Remembering the revolution

How did Marinich’s grandparents view “the truth” of the Russian Revolution, as the title of his book puts it?

Among other things, his grandfather, who was part of the everyday political scene in pre-revolutionary Russia, saw the February 1917 upheaval as more of the government’s collapse due to incompetence — especially in the Duma, the Russian parliament — than an outright overthrow, Marinich said.

“When my grandfather wrote his memoirs in 1922, he noted that there was a lot of turmoil leading up to the February event, and he gave as a significant cause the fact that Russia was losing [World War I],” he said.

On the other hand, the October 1917 Revolution was, according to Globachev — and most other Russian historians, including Marinich — something else.

“My grandfather knew that the Bolsheviks got a fair amount of the population on their side. They promised peace, land and bread. My grandfather gave grudging credit to the Bolsheviks for their plan, which reached the peasantry,” Marinich said. “But he was very critical of the members of the Russian intelligentsia who supported the revolution.

“In the first years of the Communist government, from 1921 to 1926, Lenin actually tried to promote those [peaceful] goals. Many people — not only in Russia, but throughout the world — had hope that the Revolution could produce good results. Then Stalin took over, and it was worse than any time in the past.”

Marinich noted that among the revolutionaries who knew of his grandfather was Leon Trotsky, who referred to the police chief as “the respected General Globachev.”

Marinich said that he learned much about his grandfather not only through the memoirs, but also on visits to the state archives in Moscow between 2002 and 2004.

“I read his reports. As things started to get nasty in 1917, he wrote about the unhappiness of the people, and [noted] that it was not political but economic, and if nothing is done to improve the economy, it would turn political.” 

Russia today

Recent news stories note that Putin and the Kremlin intend to sit out the centenary celebration of the Russian Revolution, even though it transformed the country and the world, and brought about an ideological confrontation with the U.S. and most of the West that still resonates.

The official reason for almost ignoring the event, according to an article in The New York Times, is that Russia “remains too divided over the consequences of that fateful year.”

However, said the article, “The more likely explanation...is that President Vladimir V. Putin loathes the very idea of revolution, not to mention the thought of Russians dancing in the streets to celebrate the overthrow of any ruler.”

Marinich was asked what he thought about Putin. “Not much” was his answer.

And what about the supposed close relationship between the Russian leader and President Trump?

“They’re like Abbott and Costello.”

Who is straight man Abbott and who is comic Costello?

“You decide,” Marinich said.