Soviet playwright revives `nonpersons'. Play features Trotsky and Bukharin, long unmentioned officially

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Two of the most famous Soviet ``nonpersons'' - Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin - have appeared in a new literary work. They receive detailed and fairly sympathetic treatment in ``The Brest Peace,'' a play by Mikhail Shatrov. The play was published yesterday in the April edition of Novy Mir, the main Soviet literary journal. Mr. Shatrov began writing the play in 1962, but only recently received permission to publish it.

Trotsky's name has been an anathema in the Soviet Union since he was expelled by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1929. He was murdered, apparently on Moscow's orders, in 1940 in Mexico City.

Though he was the first Soviet foreign minister and played a key role in creating the Red Army, Trotsky is ignored in modern Soviet reference works. They carry only an article on Trotskyism - denounced as ``a petty bourgeois tendency inimical to Leninism.''

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Bukharin, one of the Communist Party's leading theoreticians, was executed during the Stalinist purges in 1938.

The play is set in the first months after the victory of Vladimir Lenin's October (1917) Revolution. It describes the stormy debates within the communist leadership over the question of reaching a separate peace with the German empire. Lenin held that peace on any terms was necessary to give the revolution a ``breathing space.'' Most of his colleagues disagreed.

Shatrov depicts Lenin in slightly heroic colors, but makes it clear that during the debates he was little more than first among equals. His colleagues denounce him, and many are shown siding at times with Bukharin or Trotsky against him.

Trotsky is portrayed as influential, eloquent, but impulsive. Bukharin is shown to be one of Lenin's closest revolutionary pupils and friends.

The most sinister figure is Stalin. Shatrov portrays him as shallow, suspicious, and envious of the other revolutionary leaders. Shatrov seems to take the debate over Stalinism further than most Soviet ideologists. Official reference works describe Stalin as one of the leaders of the world communist movement, but note that he committed ``theoretical and political mistakes.'' Shatrov implies that Stalin never really understood the fundamentals of Marxism.

``I think that Koba [Stalin] does not understand our position,'' one of Lenin's close collaborators, Yakov Sverdlov,tells Lenin in the play. ``He shares it, votes with us, but doesn't understand.''

Sverdlov hints broadly at the dangers of Stalin's lack of understanding. ``Christianity won over the masses with its preaching of good and justice, but in the hands of the Inquisition, the same ideas were turned into torture and fires.''

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