Iron Felix

I was in Washington DC this past weekend and visited the International Spy Museum. One portion of the museum was dedicated to the Stalin regime and the 1917 Russian Revolution. A major portion of this exhibit was related to Felix Dzerzhinsky, who was considered the first Soviet spymaster. He established the Cheka, the first Soviet secret police and intelligence organization. Ruthlessly effective, this organization began with 23 employees but within two years, expanded to 37,000. The Cheka became notorious for torture and mass execution of “enemies of the state.” It was very cool to see first hand the artifacts and mindset that carried out the Red Terror. Interestingly enough, Dzerzhinsky died of a heart failure soon after a passionate speech to the Bolshevik Central Committee, but there is some speculation that he died closer to the time of an argument with Joseph Stalin. In this hypothetical, did the intelligence and espionage at his fingertips make “Iron Felix” a powerful threat that needed to be eliminated? It would be interesting to have a more open discussion of this power in class.

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