Lev Kamenev, a Specialist of Aleksandr Herzen’s Work: An Intellectual Between Two Shores

The name of the Bolshevik Lev Kamenev has never been associated with that of Aleksandr Herzen. However, since the pre-revolutionary period, Kamenev had shown a deep interest in Herzen’s work. After the Revolution, and particularly in the 1930s when he was director of the Academia Press and of two academic institutes of literature, Kamenev edited numerous texts by Herzen and started up an ambitious programme of studies dedicated to Herzen. Nevertheless, after his death sentence in 1936, a great part of his work disappeared in special archives inaccessible to researchers until his posthumous rehabilitation in 1988. These archives are now accessible to them. Their disappearance prevented Herzen specialists from having access to his work and impeded the re-editon of The Bell by Herzen, one of Kamenev’s most ambitious projects. Kamenev’s arrest delayed for several decades the re-edition of The Bell and made it more difficult for future researchers to have access to his works. Meanwhile, some of Kamenev’s ideas, in particular concerning the “architecture” of My Past and Thoughts, which remained, for a long time, mysterious to Herzen’s editors, were very innovative and interesting. Kamenev’s death also put an end to the discussions over Herzen’s legacy. Kamenev, who was one of the most active promoters of Lenin’s interpretation of Herzen, remained a man stamped with pre-revolutionary non-Marxist cultural and intellectual traditions that were not concealed by him, as would be the case later, particularly after the Second World War when the Marxist interpretation of Herzen was definitively imposed.

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