Tuttle Stukey on Globachev and Globacheva, 'The Truth of the Russian Revolution: The Memoirs of the Tsar's Chief of Security and His Wife'

Konstantin Ivanovich Globachev, Sofia Nikolaevna Globacheva
Meredith Tuttle Stukey

Konstantin Ivanovich Globachev, Sofia Nikolaevna Globacheva. The Truth of the Russian Revolution: The Memoirs of the Tsar's Chief of Security and His Wife. Translated by Vladimir G. Marinich. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2017. 364 pp. $91.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4384-6463-3.

Reviewed by Meredith Tuttle Stukey (Purdue University) Published on H-War (June, 2020) Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air University)

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=53998

As the final director of the tsarist Secret Police, also known as the Okhrana, Konstantin Ivanovich Globachev provides a fascinating window into the final years of imperial Russia in his newly translated memoirs, The Truth of the Russian Revolution: The Memoirs of the Tsar's Chief of Security and His Wife. The interweaving of the recollections of his wife, Sofia, into the work lends a more balanced perspective of life for an imperial official and his family before and after the Russian Revolution. Written in the 1920s in Constantinople, Globachev’s memoirs are distinctly political and provide a detailed account of the institutional processes within the Russian imperial regime. Yet Sofia’s memoirs enable a personal dimension and the disastrous effects of the Russian Revolution on tsarist officials. Composing her memoirs in the 1940s after Globachev’s death, Sofia wrote openly about her anxieties, her husband’s arrest by the Provisional Government in 1917 and his subsequent release, and their panicked evacuation to Turkey after the Bolshevik Revolution. Later, the Globachev family moved to the United States and their daughter Lydia’s personal recollections are included in this volume along with a few letters. Lydia, born in 1901, lived to the age of ninety-six and her memories constitute one of the “last living witness” accounts of the Russian Revolution (p. xviii).

One of the strengths of this work is the careful explanations of the translation of Russian terms and the rationale behind their usage. The translator, Vladimir G. Marinich, does a nice job of pulling all the material together. Historians Zinaida Ivanova Peregudova of the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) and Jonathan Daly of the University of Illinois at Chicago consulted on the project and contributed the introduction, which helps to situate this work within the historiography.

When considering the significance of this work, it is important to understand that Globachev completed his memoirs within one year, in 1920, and clearly felt that his story was worth telling as he stated that he wanted to leave a record of what occurred in February 1917. His goal was not to write a comprehensive history of the Russian Revolution but to provide material for those who would write “such a history” in the future (p. xxiii). Like so many Russian émigrés, he seemed to blame himself and others for the events that drove him to leave his homeland. Globachev’s memoirs provide direct evidence of revolutionary movements, the moods within Russian society, and the efforts of the Petrograd security forces to quell uprisings in the winter of 1917. Globachev saw the coming danger of the political and social unrest in Petrograd and tried to use his authority to prevent the revolution. Globachev’s introduction is interesting in itself as his viewpoint to the developing revolution was unique and he knew this as he wrote in 1920. He chose to refer to the revolution as a “riot” because he believed that the general population “did not participate in the overthrow” and that for a movement to be termed a “revolution” it must center on an idea. In Globachev’s view, the only discernible idea in the revolution was the “ambition and self-interest” of the opposition in their seizure of power in Russia (p. 1). Globachev argued that the revolution occurred because no government leader emerged to take decisive action and stop the protests and uprisings in February and March 1917. Instead the Duma and the intelligentsia actively agitated the people against the tsar and allowed the uprisings to tear apart the Russian political system. Globachev also blamed the Duma and intelligentsia for their preoccupation with domestic matters and seeming inability to sacrifice and focus on winning the war. In contrast, Globachev saw 1905 as a true revolution, which presented a patriotic and nationally based alternative to an absolute monarchy and meant to improve Russia rather than tear the nation apart.

In some cases, works such as these help to fill gaps in the historical record, especially when Russian archival sources are unavailable or lost, and this makes the memoir more valuable to scholars. Globachev’s memoirs provide vital information about the organization of the staff of the Petrograd Security Bureau (PSB) and their functions, especially since few documents of the PSB survived past 1917. Historians do not know why many documents did not survive, but it is possible that employees destroyed the Petrograd files due to their sensitive nature or the PSB may have been burned down in either the February Revolution or October Revolution. Due to the destruction of these files, including PSB surveillance reports and logs, historians debate the activities of the PSB, including high-profile cases, such as that of Grigorii Rasputin. While historians debate Rasputin’s personality and the amount of government surveillance over him, Globachev makes clear that Rasputin behaved correctly around the imperial family, even while he behaved debaucherously outside their presence. Globachev correctly argued that the tsarina trusted Rasputin due to the frail health of her son and her faith in Rasputin to heal him. Globachev clearly knew much of Rasputin’s activities, as he was responsible for Rasputin’s security and for surveilling his actions. While some surveillance logs on Rasputin from 1906 to 1916 have survived in the Russian State archives, some consider them to be forged, because they are typed copies rather than the handwritten originals, and some historians argue that Rasputin was not surveilled at all. Yet Globachev made clear that Rasputin was surveilled by the PSB, and this is echoed by other political investigative officials of the era. Globachev indicated that typed copies of the surveillance logs were sent to the Deputy Interior Minister, S. P. Beletskii, on a regular basis and thus the typed logs in the archives stand as evidence of this process.

It is important to briefly highlight some of the key topics within the chapters, as the Globachevs discussed many subjects pertaining to imperial Russian society, culture, and politics. The early chapters discuss the beginnings of the Globachev family, including their time in Poland when Globachev was assigned there for his position in the Ministry of the Interior in 1904. Globachev was reassigned to Nizhnii Novgorod and Sevastopol and the Globachev family was there during the Romanov family’s visit for the 1913 Romanov tercentenary tour. In 1915, they moved to Petrograd, as Globachev was named head of the Okhrana in Petrograd, and subsequent chapters discuss society in Petrograd, the Okhrana, the central war industry committee, Alexander Kerensky, the Miasoedov Affair in 1915, Rasputin, court ministers, political unrest, the revolution, and Globachev’s arrest by the Provisional Government. Further chapters detail Globachev’s imprisonment and Sofia’s efforts to have him released, showing her strong character and her determination to free her husband. Globachev was eventually released due to Sofia’s instance that he had not committed any crime, but the family still had to flee across Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and the wave of assassinations that followed. One of the strengths of this work is the inclusion of Sofia’s memoirs alongside those of her husband. Sofia’s memoirs not only complement Globachev’s memoirs but also provide an unusually balanced and gendered perspective to the history of this era.

Both Globachev’s and Sofia’s accounts vividly portray the fear of former tsarist officials and others in the White movement as they tried to evade mass arrests and eventually fled to Russia’s southern border with Ukraine. Globachev escaped only by lying to the Soviet deputy at the border, saying that he needed to inquire at the Ukrainian border crossing booth and then return for his luggage. But he had no luggage and no intention of returning. In his words, “once again, having no luggage saved me” (p. 183). Upon reaching Ukraine, Globachev and Sofia described the influx of refugees from Russia and the evacuation of Odessa by the French. During the Civil War, the Globachevs moved throughout southern Russia. Eventually, they settled in Turkey but their constant movement shows how fraught and unpredictable the Russian Civil War actually became and how refugees survived from one week to the next.

This work is well compiled, as both a moving read for a general audience and a nicely organized reference for researchers. The editor includes several appendices, such as a timeline of events, a bibliography, and a glossary of key terms and names, and these are a nice addition for researchers. Some of the chapters also have a short introductory paragraph, with a list of subject headings, and this is helpful for scholars. Overall, it is a fine addition to any library and a profitable read for scholars of Russian history and anyone interested in the decline of tsarist Russia.

Citation: Meredith Tuttle Stukey. Review of Globachev, Konstantin Ivanovich; Globacheva, Sofia Nikolaevna, The Truth of the Russian Revolution: The Memoirs of the Tsar's Chief of Security and His Wife. H-War, H-Net Reviews. June, 2020. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53998

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.