Vatslav Vorovsky

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Vatslav Vorovsky

Vatslav Vatslavovich Vorovsky (Russian: Ва́цлав Ва́цлавович Воро́вский; Polish: Wacław Worowski) (1871 - 1923) was a Marxist revolutionary, literary critic, and Soviet Russian diplomat. One of the first Soviet diplomats, Vorovsky is best remembered as the victim of a May 1923 political assassination in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he was the official representative of the Soviet government to the Conference of Lausanne.


Early years

Vatslav Vorovsky was born October 27, 1871 (n.s.) in Moscow, the son of an ethnic Polish engineer.[1] Following the completion of secondary school, Vorovsky enrolled at the University of Moscow, where he was exposed to the ideas of political radicalism.[1]

Political career

Vorovsky became active in the socialist movement in 1895.[1] He was arrested by the Tsarist secret police shortly thereafter and sentenced to three years' exile in the city of Orlov.[1] Upon his release, Vorovsky adopted a new underground pseudonym, "P. Orlovsky," as a tribute to this experience.[1] During the course of his underground career, Vorovsky also used the pseudonyms "Y. Adamovich," "M. Schwarz," "Josephine," and "Felix Alexandrovich."[1]

Vorovsky emigrated to Europe in 1902, spending time in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.[1] In 1903 he affiliated himself with the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, becoming an editor of the official organ of the party, Vperyod (Forward), in 1905.[1]

During the Russian Revolution of 1905, Vorovsky returned to Russia, working actively as a revolutionary in St. Petersburg.[1] Following the defeat of the 1905 uprising he moved to Odessa in the Ukraine, where he was a leading underground Bolshevik from 1907 to 1912.[1]

In 1912, Vorovsky was arrested again, this time to be deported to Europe.[1]

Vorovsky returned to Russia in 1915, landing in Petrograd — the new name of St. Petersburg — but he was soon sent to Stockholm by a business firm.[1]

He was the first director of Gosizdat, the State Publishing House, from its foundation in 1919 until 1921.[2]

Diplomatic career

Following the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, Vorovsky was named the Soviet government's diplomatic representative to Scandinavia, remaining based in Stockholm.[1] In Stockholm, Vorovsky was the point of contact between the new Bolshevik government and representatives of the government of Germany, being introduced by Alexander Parvus to such luminaries of the German Social-Democratic Party as Philipp Scheidemann during November and December 1917.[3]

In December 1918, Sweden, responding to pressure on the part of the Allied powers who were intent upon imposing an unbreakable blockade, withdrew official recognition of Vorovsky as the representative of Soviet Russia.[4] This action on the part of the Swedish government forced Vorovsky's return to Russia the following month.[5] This action taken against Vorovsky followed the precedent followed by Great Britain in expelling Maxim Litvinov in September 1918 and that of Germany in expelling Adolph Joffe in November of that same year.[6]

In March 1919, Vorovsky served as a member of the Soviet delegation to the Founding Congress of the Communist International.[1] He was named the representative of the Russian Communist Party to the Executive Committee of the Comintern.[1] He also served as one of the secretaries of the organization, along with Angelica Balabanova.[7] Grigorii Zinoviev was tapped as president of the organization.[7]

In July 1920, Vorovsky resumed work as a Soviet diplomat, participating in diplomatic negotiations with Poland.[1]

From 1921 to 1923, Vorovsky was the Soviet representative to Italy.[1] In that capacity he was involved in attempts at negotiation of a trade agreement between the two countries, with a preliminary pact signed in December 1921.[8] This success proved short-lived, however, as negotiations to extend the six-month treaty failed in May 1922.[8]

Vorovsky was a member of the Soviet delegation to the 1922 Genoa Conference, a group headed by Soviet Foreign Minister Georgii Chicherin.

Death and legacy

Vorovsky's final diplomatic mission came in the spring of 1923, when he served as Soviet representative to the Lausanne conference of 1923.[1] Accompanied by two diplomatic attachés, Vorovsky arrived in Lausanne from Rome on April 27, hoping to force the conference's official participants to recognize Soviet interests in the Turkish Black Sea Straits.[9]

On May 9, Vorovsky dispatched his final report to Moscow, noting that three days earlier a group of right wing youths had appeared at his hotel and sought a meeting. Vorovsky wrote:

"I refused to receive them, and Comrade Ahrens, who went out to them to find out what it was all about, disposed of them at once, telling them that they should put such matters before their Government. Now they are going about the town declaring that they will compel us to leave Switzerland by force, and so on.

"As to whether the police are taking any measures for our safety, we have no idea. At any rate, it is not apparent on the surface. It is only too evident that behind these hooligan boys there is some conscious directing hand — possibly foreign. The Swiss Government, well aware of what is going on — for the papers are full of it — must bear responsibility for our safety. The behaviour of the Swiss Government is a shameful violation of the guarantees given at the beginning of the conference, and any attack on us in this particularly well-organised country is only possible with the knowledge and permission of the authorities. On them is the responsibility."[10]

On the evening of May 10, 1923, Vorovsky was seated at a dining table in the restaurant of his hotel with his colleagues when the group was approached by an individual they did not know. The unknown figure, a Russian White émigré named Maurice Conradi, pulled a gun and shot Vorovsky to death, wounding his two companions, Ahrens and Dilvilkovsky, in the attack.[9] Conradi was defended by the advocate Théodore Aubert and later acquitted by the Swiss court in the epilogue of what would be known as the Conradi affair. It was later alleged that the murder was actually ordered by Stalin [11]

Vatslav Vorovsky was 51 years old at the time of his death.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 Branko Lazitch with Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; pp. 498-499.
  2. "Gosizdat". The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1971). The Gale group. Retrieved 26 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. E.H. Carr, A History of Soviet Russia: The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923: Volume 3. London: Macmillan, 1953; pg. 23.
  4. Louis Fischer, The Soviets in World Affairs: A History of the Relations between the Soviet Union and the Rest of the World, 1917-1929. Second Edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951; vol. 1, pg. 248.
  5. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 3, pg. 114, fn. 1.
  6. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 3, pp. 113-114.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 3, pg. 121.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Carole Fink, The Genoa Conference: European Diplomacy, 1921-1922. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984; pg. 282.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Fischer, The Soviets in World Affairs, vol. 1, pg. 409.
  10. "The Murder of Vorovsky," first published in Izvestiia, (Moscow) May 15, 1923; reprinted in Russian Information and Review (London), vol. 2, no. 35 (June 9, 1923), pg. 547.
  11. Vaksberg, Toxic Politics: The Secret History of the Kremlin's Poison Laboratory pp. 23,24.


  • Советъ против партии (The Council against the Party). Geneva: Bonch-Bruevich and Lenin Publishing House of Social-Democratic Party Literature, November 1904. —Reissued by Partizdat, 1933.
  • Литературно-критические статьи (Literary-Critical Articles). Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1948.

Further reading

  • N.F. Piiashev, Воровский (Vorovsky). Moscow: Molodaia gvardia, 1959.