Alexander Svanidze

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Alexander Semyonovich "Alyosha" Svanidze (Georgian: ალექსანდრე სვანიძე, Alek’sandre Svanidze; Russian: Александр Семёнович Сванидзе, Aleksandr Semyonovich Svanidze) (1886 – August 20, 1941) was a Georgian Old Bolshevik and historian. He was a personal friend of Joseph Stalin and a brother of Stalin’s first wife Kato. Nevertheless, Stalin had him arrested during a purge in 1937. He was shot in prison in 1941.

Born of a petty noble family in a small village of Baji in western Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire, Svanidze was educated at Tiflis and later at Jena where he learned German and English and engaged in historical research of ancient civilizations. He joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1901 and worked in the Bolshevik underground until being forced to leave independent Georgia in 1919. He worked for the Russian foreign office in the years 1920-1921 and then served as a People's Commissar for Finances of the Georgian SSR and Transcaucasian SFSR in the years 1921-1922. In 1924, he was appointed a Soviet trade envoy to Germany and, upon his return to the Soviet Union, became Deputy Chairman of the Soviet State Bank in 1935. At the same time, Svanidze continued his scholarship; he founded the Journal of Ancient History, studied the Alarodian languages, and translated into Russian the medieval Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli.[1]

At the height of the Great Purge, Stalin ordered Svanidze’s arrest in 1937. He refused defiantly to confess to being a German spy in return for his life as the NKVD demanded. "Such aristocratic pride," Stalin is quoted to have said. Svanidze, his wife Maria (née Korona; 1889-1942) — a singer for the Tbilisi Opera House and his sister Mariko were executed in 1941 as the Germans advanced.[2][3]


  1. (Russian) Сванидзе, Александр Семенович. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  2. Montefiore, Simon Sebag (2007), Young Stalin, pp. 311-2. McArthur & Company, ISBN 978-1-55278-646-8.
  3. Rieber, Alfred J. Stalin, Man of the Borderlands. The American Historical Review. December 2001, vol. 106, no. 5.