Alexander Schottmann (Alexander Shotman)

Alexander Schottmann

Alexander Schottmann was born on 6th September 1880. He worked in St Petersburg and joined the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) in 1899. In 1903 he attended the Second Congress of the SDLP held in London. (1) According to Helen Rappaport he was one of only three workers to attend the Congress. (2)

At the Congress there was a dispute between Lenin and Julius Martov over the future of the SDLP. Alexander Potresov later argued: "At first it seemed to us that we were a group of comrades: that not just ideas united us, but also friendship and complete mutual trust... But the quiet friendship and calm that had reigned in our ranks had disappeared quickly. The person responsible for this change was Lenin. As time went on, his despotic character became more and more evident. He could not bear any opinion different from his own." (3)

Alexander Schottmann compared the impact that Lenin and Martov had on him: "Martov resembled a poor Russian intellectual. His face was pale, he had sunken cheeks; his scant beard was untidy. His glasses barely remained on his nose. His suit hung on him as on a clothes hanger. Manuscripts and pamphlets protruded from all his pockets. He was stooped, one of his shoulders was higher than the other. He had a stutter. His outward appearance was far from attractive. But as soon as he began a fervent speech all these outer faults seemed to vanish, and what remained was his colossal knowledge, his sharp mind, and his fanatical devotion to the cause of the working-class."

Schottmann was also impressed with Lenin in his disagreements with George Plekhanov. "I remember very vividly that immediately after his first address I was won over to his side, so simple, clear, and convincing was his manner of speaking... When Plekhanov spoke, I enjoyed the beauty of his speech, the remarkable incisiveness of his words. But when Lenin arose in opposition, I was always on Lenin's side. Why? I cannot explain it to myself. But so it was, and not only with me, but with my comrades." (4)

Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Leon Trotsky commented that "the split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events." (5)

Although Martov won the vote 28-23 on the paragraph defining Party membership, with the support of Plekhanov, Lenin won on almost every other important issue. His greatest victory was over the issue of the size of the Iskra editorial board to three, himself, Plekhanov and Martov. This meant the elimination of Pavel Axelrod, Alexander Potresov and Vera Zasulich - all of whom were "Martov supporters in the growing ideological war between Lenin and Martov". (6)

Alexander Schottmann - Bolshevik

As Lenin won most of the votes, his group became known as the Bolsheviks (after bolshinstvo, the Russian word for majority), whereas Martov's group were dubbed Mensheviks (after menshinstvo, meaning minority). Those who became Bolsheviks included Alexander Schottmann, Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Vatslav Vorovsky, Yan Berzin and Gregory Ordzhonikidze.

Leon Trotsky supported Julius Martov. So also did Pavel Axelrod, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Vera Zasulich, Alexander Potresov, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan. Trotsky argued in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930): "How did I come to be with the 'softs' at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulich and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable. Before the congress there were various shades of opinion on the editorial board, but no sharp differences. I stood farthest from Plekhanov, who, after the first really trivial encounters, had taken an intense dislike to me. Lenin's attitude towards me was unexceptionally kind. But now it was he who, in my eyes, was attacking the editorial board, a body which was, in my opinion, a single unit, and which bore the exciting name of Iskra. The idea of a split within the board seemed nothing short of sacrilegious to me." (7)

Lenin also spent a great deal of time finding ways of raising money for the party. He secured large donations from Maxim Gorky and Savva Morozov, the Moscow millionaire textile manufacturer. Leonid Krassin, a leading Bolshevik, approached Morozov and explained Lenin's virtues as a radical political leader. He commented: "I know all about that; I agree; Lenin is a man of vision. How much does he want?" Krassin replied: "As much as possible". Morozov arranged to give 1,000 rubles a month?" (8) Alexander Schottmann became the Bolshevik representative in Finland. (9)

In August 1913, Schottmann attended a Bolshevik Central Committee meeting in Galicia. There were twenty-two Bolsheviks present, including Lenin, Roman Malinovsky, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. Lenin pushed through his resolution to split the Social Democratic Labour Party delegation in the Duma and Malinovsky was charged with the task of establishing a separate Bolshevik caucus. David Shub claims that five of these men, including Malinovsky, later proved to be Okhrana agents. (10)

Lenin's Bodyguard

When Lenin returned to Russia on 3rd April, 1917, he announced what became known as the April Theses. As he left the railway station Lenin was lifted on to one of the armoured cars specially provided for the occasions. The atmosphere was electric and enthusiastic. Feodosiya Drabkina, who had been an active revolutionary for many years, was in the crowd and later remarked: "Just think, in the course of only a few days Russia had made the transition from the most brutal and cruel arbitrary rule to the freest country in the world." (11)

In his speech Lenin attacked Bolsheviks for supporting the Provisional Government. Instead, he argued, revolutionaries should be telling the people of Russia that they should take over the control of the country. In his speech, Lenin urged the peasants to take the land from the rich landlords and the industrial workers to seize the factories. Lenin accused those Bolsheviks who were still supporting the government of Prince Georgi Lvov of betraying socialism and suggested that they should leave the party. Lenin ended his speech by telling the assembled crowd that they must "fight for the social revolution, fight to the end, till the complete victory of the proletariat". (12)

Some of the revolutionaries in the crowd rejected Lenin's ideas. Alexander Bogdanov called out that his speech was the "delusion of a lunatic." Joseph Goldenberg, a former of the Bolshevik Central Committee, denounced the views expressed by Lenin: "Everything we have just heard is a complete repudiation of the entire Social Democratic doctrine, of the whole theory of scientific Marxism. We have just heard a clear and unequivocal declaration for anarchism. Its herald, the heir of Bakunin, is Lenin. Lenin the Marxist, Lenin the leader of our fighting Social Democratic Party, is no more. A new Lenin is born, Lenin the anarchist." (13)

Lenin speaking to a crowd in Petrograd in October, 1917.
Lenin speaking to a crowd in Petrograd in 1917.

In the summer of 1917 the Bolshevik Central Committee decided it was too dangerous for Lenin to remain in Petrograd. Gregory Ordzhonikidze gave Alexander Schottmann the job of guarding Lenin's life and of arranging his journey to Finland. Lenin, who shaved off his moustache and beard, and put on a wig. A photograph was taken in the disguise and was pasted on their false paper. Lenin later wrote that "Schottmann is an old Party comrade, whom I know quite well. He deserves absolute trust." (14)

Schottmann and Lenin spent a lot of time discussing the forming of a Bolshevik government. Schottmann argued that the Bolsheviks lacked the experts to run the machinery of state. Lenin disagreed: "Any worker can learn to run a ministerial office in a few days. No special ability is needed; the technical part of the work can be handled by the functionaries whom we shall compel to work for us." (15)

Lenin explained his proposed tactics: "The basic thing was to enact the decrees that could convince the Russian people that the power was theirs. As soon as they felt that, they would support the new regime. His first act would be to end the war, thereby winning the support of the front-weary army. The lands of the Tsar, the aristocracy, and the church would be confiscated and turned over to the peasants. The factories and plants would be taken from the capitalists and given to the workers. Who would then remain to oppose the Bolsheviks." (16)

Russian Revolution

After the failed Kornilov Revolt it was considered safe for Lenin to return to Petrograd. On 24th October, 1917, Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Central Committee: "The situation is utterly critical. It is clearer than clear that now, already, putting off the insurrection is equivalent to its death. With all my strength I wish to convince my comrades that now everything is hanging by a hair, that on the agenda now are questions that are decided not by conferences, not by congresses (not even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by populations, by the mass, by the struggle of armed masses… No matter what may happen, this very evening, this very night, the government must be arrested, the junior officers guarding them must be disarmed, and so on… History will not forgive revolutionaries for delay, when they can win today (and probably will win today), but risk losing a great deal tomorrow, risk losing everything." (17)

Lenin insisted that the Bolsheviks should take action before the elections for the Constituent Assembly. "The international situation is such that we must make a start. The indifference of the masses may be explained by the fact that they are tired of words and resolutions. The majority is with us now. Politically things are quite ripe for the change of power. The agrarian disorders point to the same thing. It is clear that heroic measures will be necessary to stop this movement, if it can be stopped at all. The political situation therefore makes our plan timely. We must now begin thinking of the technical side of the undertaking. That is the main thing now. But most of us, like the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, are still inclined to regard the systematic preparation for an armed uprising as a sin. To wait for the Constituent Assembly, which will surely be against us, is nonsensical because that will only make our task more difficult."

Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev opposed this strategy. They argued that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the majority of people in Russia or of the international proletariat and should wait for the elections of the proposed Constituent Assembly "where we will be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme." (18)

Lenin thought the details of an uprising would be simple. "We can launch a sudden attack from three points, from Petrograd, from Moscow, from the Baltic Fleet... We have thousands of armed workers and soldiers in Petrograd who can seize at once the Winter Palace, the General Staff building, the telephone exchange and all the largest printing establishments... The troops will not advance against the government of peace... Kerensky will be compelled to surrender." When it was clear that the Bolshevik Central Committee did not accept Lenin's point of view he issued a political ultimatum: "I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee, which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the party and at the party congress."

Leon Trotsky supported Lenin's view and urged the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On the evening of 24th October, orders were given for the Bolsheviks to occupy the railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The Smolny Institute became the headquarters of the revolution and was transformed into a fortress. Trotsky reported that the "chief of the machine-gun company came to tell me that his men were all on the side of the Bolsheviks". (19)

The Bolsheviks set up their headquarters in the Smolny Institute. The former girls' convent school also housed the Petrograd Soviet. Under pressure from the nobility and industrialists, Alexander Kerensky was persuaded to take decisive action. On 22nd October he ordered the arrest of the Bolshevik Military Revolutionary Committee. The next day he closed down the Bolshevik newspapers and cut off the telephones to the Smolny Institute.

Stepan Ilich Dudnik, Lenin and Stalin hear the opening guns of the cruiser Aurora (c. 1930)
Stepan Ilich Dudnik, Lenin and Stalin hear the opening guns of the cruiser Aurora (c. 1930)

The following day the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace. Inside was most of the country's Cabinet, although Kerensky had managed to escape from the city. The palace was defended by Cossacks, some junior army officers and the Woman's Battalion. At 9 p.m. The Aurora and the Peter and Paul Fortress began to open fire on the palace. Little damage was done but the action persuaded most of those defending the building to surrender. The Red Guards, led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, now entered the Winter Palace. (20)

Bessie Beatty, an American journalist, entered the Winter Palace with the Red Guards: "At the head of the winding staircase groups of frightened women were gathered, searching the marble lobby below with troubled eyes. Nobody seemed to know what had happened. The Battalion of Death had walked out in the night, without firing so much as a single shot. Each floor was crowded with soldiers and Red Guards, who went from room to room, searching for arms, and arresting officers suspected of anti-Bolshevik sympathies. The landings were guarded by sentries, and the lobby was swarming with men in faded uniforms. Two husky, bearded peasant soldiers were stationed behind the counter, and one in the cashier's office kept watch over the safe. Two machine-guns poked their ominous muzzles through the entryway." (21)

Louise Bryant, another journalist commented that there were about 200 women soldiers in the palace and they were "disarmed and told to go home and put on female attire". She added: "Every one leaving the palace was searched, no matter on what side he was. There were priceless treasures all about and it was a great temptation to pick up souvenirs. I have always been glad that I was present that night because so many stories have come out about the looting. It was so natural that there should have been looting and so commendable that there was none." (22)

Deputy People's Commissar for Post and Telegraphy

On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education), Alexandra Kollontai (Social Welfare), Victor Nogin (Trade and Industry), Joseph Stalin (Nationalities), Peter Stuchka (Justice), Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (War), Nikolai Krylenko (War Affairs), Nikolai Glebov-Avilov (Posts & Telegraphs), Pavlo Dybenko (Navy Affairs), Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov (Finance), Vladimir Milyutin (Agriculture), Ivan Teodorovich (Food) and Georgy Oppokov (Justice). Alexander Schottmann was given the post of Deputy People's Commissar for Post and Telegraphy (23)

Lenin died of a heart attack on 21st January, 1924. The funeral took place on 27th January, and Alexander Schottmann was chosen as one of the pallbearers. Stalin gave a speech which ended with the words: "Leaving us, comrade Lenin left us a legacy of fidelity to the principles of the Communist International. We swear to you, comrade Lenin, that we will not spare our own lives in strengthening and broadening the union of labouring people of the whole world - the Communist International." (24)

Alexander Schottmann lost his post soon after Lenin's death and on 30th September, 1937, he was executed on the orders of Joseph Stalin.

Primary Sources

(1) Alexander Schottmann, Reminiscences of an Old Bolshevik (1932)

Potresov was a broad-shouldered, ruddy-cheeked man; with his neatly trimmed beard, his well cut suit, he looked like a true European. Martov resembled a poor Russian intellectual. His face was pale, he had sunken cheeks; his scant beard was untidy. His glasses barely remained on his nose. His suit hung on him as on a clothes hanger. Manuscripts and pamphlets protruded from all his pockets. He was stooped; one of his shoulders was higher than the other. He had a stutter. His outward appearance was far from attractive. But as soon as he began a fervent speech all these outer faults seemed to vanish, and what remained was his colossal knowledge, his sharp mind, and his fanatical devotion to the cause of the working class. Axelrod captured my heart at once with his loving, fatherly attitude. He joked with us for .hours.... He was very happy when we told him that the pamphlets which he and Plekhanov wrote were avidly read by the workers.

Student Activities

Russian Revolution Simmulation

Bloody Sunday (Answer Commentary)

1905 Russian Revolution (Answer Commentary)

Russia and the First World War (Answer Commentary)

The Life and Death of Rasputin (Answer Commentary)

The Abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (Answer Commentary)

The Provisional Government (Answer Commentary)

The Kornilov Revolt (Answer Commentary)

The Bolsheviks (Answer Commentary)

The Bolshevik Revolution (Answer Commentary)

Classroom Activities by Subject

The Middle Ages

The Normans

The Tudors

The English Civil War

Industrial Revolution

First World War

Russian Revolution

Nazi Germany


(1) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 78

(2) Helen Rappaport, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile (2009) page 79

(3) Alexander Potresov, The Social Democratic Movement in Russia (1928) page 356

(4) Alexander Schottmann, Reminiscences of an Old Bolshevik (1932) page 89

(5) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) pages 166-167

(6) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 81

(7) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 166

(8) Leonid Krassin, Izvestia (19th December, 1926)

(9) Adam B. Ulam, Stalin: The Man and his Era (2007) page 116

(10) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 148

(11) Helen Rappaport, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile (2009) page 279

(12) Lenin, speech (3rd April, 1917)

(13) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 203

(14) Roy A. Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) page 201

(15) Alexander Schottmann, Reminiscences of an Old Bolshevik (1932) page 116

(16) David Shub, Lenin (1948) pages 264-265

(17) Lenin, letter to the members of the Central Committee (24th October, 1917)

(18) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 272

(19) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 333

(20) Harrison E. Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow: Russia's Revolutions 1905-1917 (1977) page 512

(21) Bessie Beatty, The Red Heart of Russia (1919) page 79

(22) Louise Bryant, Six Months in Russia (1918) page 87

(23) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 288

(24) Joseph Stalin, speech (27th January, 1924)