Bukharin’s appeals for clemency, March 13 1938

Text from Izvestiia 09.02.92, p.3. I have checked them against the photographic facsimiles from the Volkogonov Archive, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Bukharin wrote two appeals, one much longer than the other. We do not know why this was. Both are translated here. I have added the boldface.

Grover Furr
August 1 2010

To the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet

Appeal of N.I. Bukharin, sentenced to be shot

I ask the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet for clemency. I am deeply guilty before my socialist homeland, and my crimes are beyond measure. I acknowledge all their profundity, and all their shame. If I presume to ask the highest organ of government of the USSR for clemency it is only because I know well that I can use my knowledge and abilities for the benefit of the USSR. My year-long imprisonment has served me as a school in such a way that I have the right to inform the Presidium of my full reorientation. On my knees before my homeland, my party, my people and its government I ask the Presidium for clemency.

Nikolai Bukharin

March 13 1938


To the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR

Appeal of N.I. Bukharin, sentenced to be shot.

I ask the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet for clemency. I consider the sentence of the court to be just punishment for the very serious crimes that I have committed against my socialist homeland, her people, the party, and the government. In my soul there is not a single word of protest. For my crimes I should be shot ten times over. The proletarian court has rendered a verdict which I earned through my criminal activity, and I am prepared to bear the punishment I have earned and to die amidst the just indignation, hatred, and contempt of the great, heroic people of the USSR, whom I have so basely betrayed.

If I permit myself to turn to the highest organ of government of our country, before which I am on my knees, it is only because in the case of clemency I can be useful to the country. I do not say, and would not dare to say, that I could atone for my guilt. The crimes I have committed are so monstrous, so enormous, that I could not atone for that guilt no matter what I did in the rest of my life. But I assure the presidium of the Supreme Soviet, that my more than year-long imprisonment has forced me to change my thinking and my outlook to such a degree that of my criminal past, which I myself regard with indignation and contempt, there remains in my head nothing. Not out of fear of death, on the threshold of which I stand as before a just retribution, do I ask the presidium of the Supreme Soviet for mercy and clemency. If there remains in my soul even a drop of hostility against the party and the government I would not have turned to you with a petition for mercy and clemency. I have disarmed myself from within and have rearmed myself in a new, socialist frame of mind. I have rethought every question, beginning with my theoretical errors, which in my personal case lay at the foundation of, first, my deviations, and then of my more and more frightful crimes. Step by step I have reviewed anew my past life.  The former BUKHARIN has already died, he no longer exists on the face of the earth. If physical life were to be granted to me, it would be spent in benefiting my socialist homeland, no matter in which conditions I had to work: in a solitary prison cell, in a concentration camp, at the North pole, in Kolyma, wherever, in any situation and under any conditions. I retain knowledge and abilities, my whole cerebral machine, whose activity was previously directed in a criminal direction. Now this machine is retooled towards a new frame of mind. I can work in the most varied fields and in any situation. In prison I have written a series of works that give witness of my complete rearming of myself. But I can also work in areas other than the purely scientific. Therefore I presume to call upon you, as upon the highest organ of government, for clemency, and justify that by my ability to work hard and appealing to revolutionary expediency. If I were already unable to work hard, then I would not make this petition and I would expect only the swiftest execution of the death sentence, for then there would be nothing to justify this petition. If I were a disarmed, but useless enemy, no longer able to do hard work, I would be good only in that my death could serve as a lesson to others. But precisely because I can work hard, I have permitted myself to turn to the presidium with a petition for mercy and clemency. The counterrevolution has been crushed and rendered impotent. In heroic march the homeland of socialism is stepping forth into the area of the greatest victorious war in the history of the world. Inside our country, on the basis of the Stalin constitution, a broad socialist democracy is developing. A great creative and prolific life is in bloom. Allow me the possibility, if only through prison bars, to take what part I can in this life. Allow me -- I ask, and beg, you -- to contribute even a little to this life. Allow a new, second BUKHARIN -- let him be PETROV -- have the possibility to grow, this new person will be the complete opposition of the one that has already died. He has already been born -- allow him the possibility of any kind of work. This is what I request of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet. The old within me has died forever and irrevocably. I am glad that the proletarian power has smashed all the criminal business that saw in me its leader and the leader of which I was in reality. I am firmly convinced: the years will past, great historic frontiers will be crossed under the leadership of STALIN and you will not regret the act of charity and mercy which I now ask of you: I will strive with all my strength to prove to you that this gesture of proletarian generosity was justified.

Nikolai Bukharin

Moscow, March 13* 1938

Inner prison of the NKVD

[* Izvestiia printed March 14. The correct date, according to the photocopy in the Volkogonov Archive, is March 13. Volkogonov’s book Lenin also has March 13; see the online version at http://www.imwerden.info/belousenko/books/publicism/volkogonov_lenin_2.htm at page 88. - GF]