Vladimir Zenzinov Papers

Vladimir Zenzinov Biography

Vladimir Mikhailovich Zenzinov was born in Moscow, the son of a merchant, in November 1880. Upon finishing the Moscow classical gymnazium in 1899, Zenzinov went to Germany for his higher education and for four-and-a-half years spent time at the universities in Berlin, Halle and Heidelberg, where he studied philosophy, economics, history, and law. His attraction to the ideas of emancipation of the sixties and seventies, which had been evident already in his high-school years, strengthened after his acquaintance with the circles of revolutionary emigres in Switzerland and led to his joining the Socialist-Revolutionary party.
In January 1904 Zenzinov returned to Moscow. On the eve of January 9, 1905 ("Bloody Sunday"), during a wave of arrests, Zenzinov was arrested and after a six-month detainment in Taganaskaya prison he was sentenced to administrative exile in Eastern Siberia for five years. However, the Siberian exile—in view of the absence of any means of transport to the region due to the Russo-Japanese War—was replaced by exile to Northern Russia (Arkhangelsk province), from which Zenzinov escaped on the day he arrived. He succeeded in making his way abroad, and in August 1905 he was already in Geneva, where he learned of the manifesto of October 17. Zenzinov then went to St. Petersburg, and in 1906 he joined the Terrorist Militant Organization of the S.R. party. But Zenzinov did not remain long in this organization and in the spring of 1906, in his role as representative of the Central Committee of the S.R. party, he set off to do peasant labor in the Kiev and Chernigov districts. This work was interrupted with the dispersal of the First State Duma (July 9 1906). Zenzinov hurried to Petersburg where he was arrested in September of the same year and again sentenced to administrative exile for five years in Eastern Siberia. In the summer of 1907, with a group of other prisoners, Zenzinov went to Yakutsk, from where—in the guise of a gold-mine owner—he escaped through the taiga to Okhotsk (a distance of almost 1000 miles); from Okhotsk he escaped to Japan on a Japanese fishing schooner; and from Japan, on a ship sailing through Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo, and the Suez Canal, he made his way back to Europe.
In 1910 Zenzinov was again arrested in Petersburg and after a six-month incarceration in the Peter and Paul fortress was yet again sent for five years to the Yakutsk region—this time to a place from where no escape was possible: 1800 miles north of Yakutsk. The time spent in this region was devoted to ethnographic and ornothological studies, the result of which was the appearance of several books which provided new information of this far-off, poorly known and interesting area: Starinnye liudi u kholodnogo okeana (Moscow, 1914); Ocherki torgovli na severe Yakutskoi oblasti (Moscow, 1916); Russkoe Ust'e (Berlin 1921); The Road to Oblivion (New York, 1931); Chemin de l'Oubli (Paris 1932).
In 1915 Zenzinov returned to Moscow from exile; from January 1917 through January 1918 he lived in Petersburg, where he witnessed, and participated in, the stormy events of those times. He was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly.
In the summer of 1918 Zenzinov moved from Moscow to the Volga region, where at the time anti-Bolshevik forces were gathering and accumulating; he joined the Committee of members of the Constituent Assembly in Samara, which was conducting armed resistance to the Bolsheviks; in September 1918 in Ufa he was elected to the Provisional all-Russian Government (together with N.D. Avksentiev, general V. G. Boldyrev and others—the so-called "Directorate"). In November 1918, after the military coup in Omsk, he was exiled from Siberia by Kolchak, together with his colleagues in the government, to China by. In January 1919 he arrived in Paris (via the United States). From 1919 through 1939 he resided in Paris, Prague, Berlin, and again in Paris, where he took part in a variety of democratic and socialist newspapers and journals ("Volya Rossiya"; "Golos Rossii"; "Dni"; "Novaya Rossiya"; "Sovremennye Zapiski"). In 1929 "Sovremennye Zapiski" issued Zenzinov's book Bezprizornye, which was translated into four foreign languages.
In 1939, at the start of the Second World War, Zenzinov left Paris for Finland, where he collected material about the state of the Soviet Union, the result of which was a book published in New York in 1945 under the title Vstrecha s Rossiyei).
From 1940 until his death on October 20 1953 Zenzinov lived in New York, where he published shortly before his death his memoirs, Perezhitoe. Other books include Iz zhizni revoliutsionera (Paris, 1919); Nena (Berlin, 1925); and Zheleznyi skrezhet. Iz amerikanskikh vpechatlenii (Paris, 1926).