Translator's note: Anton Antonov-Ovseenko is a Soviet historian whose critical writings on the Stalinist terror are_finally, under glasnost, being published in the USSR. The author himself spent most of 1940–1953 in Stalin's camps and prisons. His father, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, was an outstanding revolutionary who personally led the 1917 Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace. During the bitter factional struggles after Lenin's death in 1924, the elder Antonov-Ovseenko sided with Trotsky for several years before finally capitulating to Stalin's 'general line.'' He briefly served as Soviet Consul-General in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War before being recalled to Moscow, where he was arrested, tried, and executed during the bloody purge of 1937–38.
The essay on Stalin, excerpted here from its 1988 publication in Teatr, employs the theatrical motif to examine three separate issues. The first concerns Stalin's chameleon-like behavior towards all who came into contact with him. He goes on to describe the masterful staging of the Moscow Purge Trials during which virtually all the key actors - the defendants, witnesses, prosecutor, judge, and defense counsel – played out roles preassigned to them by the 'director' (Stalin). Antonov-Ovseenko also discusses the fate of Soviet theater itself during Stalin's twenty-five year reign. The publication of the essay in Teatr attests to that journal's interest in broader historical and culture issues which extend beyond theater.