Feliks Dzerzhinskii

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dzerzhinskii, Feliks Edmundovich


(in Polish, F. E. Dzierzynski). Born Aug. 30 (Sept. 11), 1877, on the Dzerzhinovo estate, in what is now Stolbtsy Raion, Minsk Oblast; died July 20, 1926, in Moscow. Soviet state and party leader; prominent member of the Polish and Russian revolutionary movement.

Dzerzhinskii was the son of a nobleman who owned a small estate. In 1895 he joined a Lithuanian social democratic organization in Vilno, aligning himself with its left wing; he left secondary school in 1896 and became a professional revolutionary. Conducting revolutionary work in Kaunas (Kovno) in 1897, he published the Polish-language underground newspaper The Kovno Worker. In July 1897 he was arrested and in August 1898 exiled for three years to Viatka Province. After escaping in August 1899 he helped to restore the Warsaw social democratic organization, which had been smashed by the police. In January 1900 he was once more arrested and in January 1902 deported for five years to Viliuisk, but was left in Verkholensk for reasons of health. He escaped again in June 1902 and returned to Warsaw. The Fourth Congress of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPL), which was held in Berlin in July 1903, elected Dzerzhinskii a member of the chief board of the SDKPL.

Prominent in the revolution of 1905-07, Dzerzhinskii led the immense May Day demonstration in Warsaw in 1905 as a member of the chief board of the SDKPL and was a member of the Warsaw military-revolutionary organization of the RSDLP. In July 1905 he was arrested at the Warsaw Party Conference and incarcerated in the Warsaw citadel. He was released during an amnesty in October. Dzerzhinskii met V. I. Lenin for the first time as a delegate to the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP (1906), where he was included on the editorial board of the central organ of the RSDLP as a representative of the SDKPL. Conducting party work in St. Petersburg and Warsaw in 1906, Dzerzhinskii attended the Second (First All-Russian) Conference of the RSDLP. Arrested in December 1906, he was elected in absentia a member of the Central Committee of the Party by the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP in 1907. Released from prison on bail in May 1907, he was again arrested in April 1908 and in August 1909 exiled for life to Siberia. He escaped in late 1909 and went to Berlin. In January 1910 the party sent him for treatment to Capri. After returning to Krakow in March 1910, Dzherzhinskii was prominent in the party organizations of Warsaw, Czestochowa, and the Dabrowa district from 1910 to 1912. In 1911 he attended the Paris Conference called by Lenin of members of the Central Committee of the RSDLP residing abroad. Arrested again in September 1912, he was incarcerated in the Warsaw citadel and sentenced to three years at hard labor in April 1914, serving his term in the Orel Central Prison. In 1916 he was sentenced to another six years at hard labor.

After the February Revolution released Dzerzhinskii from Butyrka Prison in Moscow, he immediately took up active party work. He was a delegate to the First Moscow City Party Conference in April 1917, to the Seventh (April) Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), and to the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (B), which elected him a member of the party Central Committee. He was elected to the Military Revolutionary Party Center for the Leadership of the Armed Uprising by the expanded session of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (B), held on Oct. 16 (29), 1917, and to the Military Revolutionary Committee by the Petrograd Soviet. Dzerzhinskii was one of the organizers of the October armed uprising and in charge of communications between the Smol’nyi Institute and rebel detachments. The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, to which Dzerzhinskii was a delegate, elected him a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) and a member of its Presidium. On Dec. 7 (20), 1917, Dzerzhinskii was appointed chairman of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (VChK) upon Lenin’s proposal. At this post he did an enormous job discovering and smashing anti-Soviet conspiracies and revolts. During the discussion of the Brest Peace of 1918 he adopted the erroneous position of the “left Communists.”

During the Civil War, Dzerzhinskii carried out several very important assignments for the party Central Committee and the Soviet government. On May 29, 1920, after Poland’s attack on Soviet Russia, he was appointed chief of the rear echelon of the Southwestern Front. He was a member of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Poland in Biafystok in the summer of 1920. On Jan. 27, 1921, Dzerzhinskii was appointed chairman of the VTsIK commission for improving the life of children, which was responsible for saving millions of homeless children from hunger and epidemics. On Apr. 14, 1921, he was appointed people’s commissar of transportation and communications, while retaining the posts of chairman of the VChK and people’s commissar of internal affairs. Appointed chairman of the Supreme Council of the National Economy (VSNKh) of the USSR on Feb. 2, 1924, he retained the post of chairman of the United State Political Administration of the Sovnarkom (Council of the People’s Commissars) of the USSR. Delegate to the Eighth and Tenth through Fourteenth Party Congresses, Dzerzhinskii was elected a member of the Central Committee at the Seventh through Fourteenth Congresses, a candidate member of the Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) in April 1920, and a candidate member of the Politburo of the party Central Committee in June 1924. He was also a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. Dzerzhinskii died after a joint plenary session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the ACP (Bolshevik), where he made a passionate speech defending the general line of the party against the Trotskyites. He was buried on Red Square at the Kremlin wall.


Izbr. proizv., 2nd ed., vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1967.
Dnevnik zakliuchennogo. Pis’ma. [Moscow] 1966.


Sofinov, P. G. Strannitsy iz zhizni F. E. Dzerzhinskogo. Moscow, 1956.
Rytsar’ revoliutsii. Vospominaniia sovremennikov o F. E. Dzerzhinskom. Moscow, 1967.
Tishkov, A. V. Pervyi chekist. [F. E. Dzerzhinskii.] Moscow, 1968.
Zubov, N. F. E. Dzerzhinskii: Biogrqfiia, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The idea that Stalin singlehandedly created the Lenin cult has also been criticized by scholars who analyze the roles of Lev Krasin, Feliks Dzerzhinskii, and Anatolii Lunacharskii in the rise of this cult.
For instance, in the spirit of the old-fashioned history of the "struggle for power," obsessed with the question of personal power, the book describes the authors' disproportionately long conspiracy theory about the poisoning and arrest of Lenin by Iosif Stalin and Feliks Dzerzhinskii (2:394-486).
In the Politburo it was Feliks Dzerzhinskii who was least pleased by the austerity-dictated cuts to the budget of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy (VSNKh, Vesenkha), the organization responsible for the country's industrial development, which he chaired at the time.