If you walked by a set of curtains made from one of these fabrics, you might not pick up on a communist star or the CCCP acronym. Many of the designs below are thematic of classical Russian art; you see lush color, dense scapes and even the odd Orientalist trope (note the pattern with the camels).
Anything more than a quick glance however, might reveal romantic depictions of farmers and factory workers, often rendered in the angular, geometric lines of Soviet Constructivism. Even more explicit are the references to Soviet ambitions of modernization. We see tractors, cars, airplanes, trains and smoke stacks—all the promise of an industrialized workers state.
“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.” That common platitude seems entirely apropos today, on the 92nd anniversary of the attempted assassination of Communist Russian leader Vladimir Lenin by young Fanya Yefimovna “Fanni” Kaplan.
The Ukranian-born Kaplan was born in 1890 to a Jewish family and joined the Socialist Revolutionaries (or Esers) early on in life. At 16, she was busted for her involvement in a terrorist bomb plot and sent to one of Tsar Nicolas II’s Siberian prison for 11 years. Kaplan’s brutal tenure there was cut short after the February Revolution led by Lenin.
But her disillusionment with the leader came hard and fast, as Lenin’s Bolsheviks sought and succeeded to dissolve the elected Constituent Assembly, a key instrument of democracy during the revolution. Lenin’s move in 1917 to put all power in the hands of the workers councils—or Soviets—convinced Kaplan to take matters into her own hands.
As portrayed in the clip below from Mikhail Romm’s 1939 propaganda film Lenin in 1918, Kaplan got three or so shots off after the leader spoke at a Moscow factory. Lenin, who was 48 years old at the time, was hit in the shoulder and jaw—he survived, but the injuries were thought to contribute to his death by stroke 6 years later.
Fanny was shot dead five days after the attempt at age 28, and within a few hours the Red Terror—a four-year program of mass arrest and execution of counterrevolutionary enemies of the state—had begun.
Thirty-eight years ago today, on June 14 1972, West German police raided the house of Fritz Rodewald, a teacher who’d been habitually sheltering German-based U.S. Armed Forces deserters in his Langenhagen home. This time, they were after the two young German strangers who’d appealed to him for accommodations. The cops had already apprehended armed and wanted Red Army Faction terrorist Gerhard Mueller at a public phone, and Rodewald had tipped them off that Mueller’s comrade Ulrike Meinhof was inside.
It had been a busy couple of years for Ulrike the activist/journalist. She’d left her job at the leftist magazine konkret and—sometime soon after the interview below—entered the realm of armed revolutionary struggle in what was then one of the richest democracies on earth. This clip must have been recorded just before she helped break out RAF leader Andreas Baader from his detention in a research institute in May 1970. Twenty-four months of bank robberies and bombings later, she was in prison, where she would be found hanged under dubious circumstances. Later it was speculated that a 1962 operation to remove a brain tumor might have played a tragic part in her violent fate. Regardless, along with Patty “Tania” Hearst, Meinhof had become one of the most well-known female terrorists of the century.
Following the interview is part one of the BBC’s documentary on the RAF, Baader-Meinhof - In Love With Terror.