David Petrovsky

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David Petrovsky (Lipetz)
Petrovsky in 1917 as part of the Jewish Socialist Federation, seated second from left
Born David Lipetz
(1886-09-24)September 24, 1886
Berdychiv, Russian Empire
Died September 10, 1937(1937-09-10) (aged 50)
Moscow, USSR
Cause of death Execution
Citizenship Russian;
Education Doctor of Economics
Alma mater Free University of Brussels
Spouse(s) Rose Cohen
Children Alexey

David Petrovsky (Lipetz) (also known as Max Goldfarb, Bennett, Humboldt, Brown, born September 24, 1886, in Berdychiv, Russian Empire — September 10, 1937, Moscow, USSR) — a member of the Central Committee of the Jewish Socialist Federation of America, a member of the Socialist Party of America, the editor of the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, journalist, political and economic scientist, a member of the Central Committee of the General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia (Bund) until 1919, the statesman of the Soviet Union.

Throughout his life Petrovsky (Lipetz) used the following names: Goldfarb, Bennett, Humboldt, Brown. Each of these names corresponds to a specific period of his life and work.


Early life[edit]

David Lipetz was born in 1886 in Berdychiv in a family of a wealthy textile merchant Efraim Lipetz. He studied in a Jewish school and at home with private tutors where he finished the Russian classical gymnasium (school) course. He was the chairman of the literary and theatrical society of Berdychiv. He soon became interested in revolutionary activities, and in 1902 he joined the General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia (Bund). In 1903 he moved to Paris and enrolled in the Russian Higher School of Social Sciences[1], where he became acquainted with many of the revolutionaries.[2]

In the beginning of the 1905 Russian revolution he returned to Russia. He worked among workers of Dvinsk, Bialystok, Gomel, was one of the leaders of the strike at Libava-Romny railroad. At the 7-th Congress of the Bund, where he first used the pseudonym Max Goldfarb, he was elected a candidate for the Central Committee. At the end of 1906 he was arrested by police and spent three months in prison. After that he left Russia - first to England where he participated at the London 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, and then to Brussels, where in 1912 he graduated from the Free University of Brussels with a Ph.D in Economic Sciences (his supervisor was Emile Vandervelde - the future Minister of State of Belgium).[3]

Along with his studies he lectured (as a member of the Bund) in the cities of Belgium and France. Back in Russia he was actively engaged in party work. At the end of 1912, he was arrested in Odessa and sentenced to exile to Siberia which was then replaced with exile from Russia.

Work in the US[edit]

By agreement between the Central Committee of the Bund and the Jewish Socialist Federation (JSF) of the Socialist Party of America, in 1913 David Lipetz came to New York City to conduct work among the Jewish workers and to raise funds for the Bund. In America Lipetz worked and published as Max Goldfarb, and under this name he was elected to the Central Committee of the JSF. He was sent on a national speaking tour under the auspices of the JSF in early 1914. During the tour he addressed more than 15,000 in about 40 engagements according to the report of JSF Secretary Jacob Salutsky.[4]

In addition to his role as a functionary of the JSF, Goldfarb worked as labor editor of Abraham Cahan's Yiddish-language daily, Forverts (The Forward).[5]

Petrovsky (Max Goldfarb) in 1917 at the Stockholm International Socialist Congress, first from left

In the summer 1917 after the bourgeois-democratic February revolution in Russia, he returned to Russia with a passport in the name of David Lipetz, on the way he stopped in Stockholm at the International Socialist Congress.[6][7]

After the February revolution 1917 in Russia[edit]

Upon arrival, he was actively involved in the political life of Russia and the Ukraine: ran for Russian Constituent Assembly election in 1917, wrote political articles in Bund magazines, was elected the mayor of the city of Berdichev and chairman of the Jewish community of Berdichev - the city with the largest Jewish population in Ukraine and Russian Empire. In January 1919, David Lipetz survived the pogrom of haidamaks (from the "kuren of death" passing through Berdichev). As a mayor of the city at that time he also managed to prevent a planned multi-day pogrom in Berdichev that saved thousands of lives. He was bitterly disappointed in the policy of the Ukrainian National Government, that encouraged Jewish pogroms[8].

In April 1919 David Lipetz moved to Kiev. He started working in the Red Army, and first became a lecturing instructor in the Red Army. At the end of 1919 David Lipetz joined the Bolsheviks. From the book of D.Petrovsky "Military schools during the revolution (1917-1924)": "I was appointed the head of Speakers bureau in the General Directorate of military educational institutions (GUVUZ)[9] in fall of 1919. Since the end of 1919 I'm starting to come into contact with the general operational activity of the military schools, first as the head of the political department of GUVUZ (1919 - early 1920), and then as the chief of the General Directorate of military educational institutions, from March 1920 to April 1924."

Petrovsky in 1922 at the Moscow meeting of chief commanders of the Red Army.
Low row (from left to right): 1-st D.P. Oskin, 2-й August Kork, 3-d N.N. Petin, 4-th Alexander Yegorov (soldier), 5-th Mikhail Frunze, 6-th Sergey Kamenev, 7-th Kliment Voroshilov, 8-th Pavel Pavlovich Lebedev, 9-th A.A. Iordanskiy, 10-th Iona Yakir, 11-th David Petrovsky, 12-th Mikhail Tukhachevsky

David Lipetz became David Petrovsky, or just General Petrovsky. He was responsible for all Soviet military education from 1920 till 1924. Military education in the Russian Empire was destroyed by the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War. He had a difficult task of rebuilding it during ongoing civil war and unrest, and preparing a young generation in military academies, colleges and training centers. Some of Petrovsky’s ideas were met with resistance, including his idea for the establishment of Soviet military schools for boys. The time for them came only twenty years later, when the Suvorov Military School and the Nakhimov Naval School were first opened. His point of view on the problems of a single military doctrine caused a sharp negative reaction of Mikhail Frunze.[10] Yet in 1924 Mikhail Frunze expresses gratitude to him for "the fruitful work done over the matter of raising the military power of the Soviet Union."[11]

In 1924 he was sent to work in the Communist International as a Communist International representative in the communist parties of Great Britain, France and United States. Petrovsky came to England under the name of Bennett, and everyone - even the British Communists and his future wife Rose Cohen considered him American - a Yankee from the East Coast of the United States. He managed to avoid the British police for five years - a remarkable feat, which no subsequent Cominter representative ever equalled. His influence on the British Communist party was huge.[12] Western intelligence agencies didn’t manage to declassify him. In France he was known as Humboldt, and he had passports in other names as well. He led the Anglo-American Secretariat and controlled the communist movements in Great Britain, Ireland, US, India, South Africa, Canada, Japan, Korea and Dutch Indonesia. He was concerned about the situation of black people in the US and South Africa. In 1928, Petrovsky was elected and served as a member of the presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International . "God Goldfarb" - called him old friends in US [13]

In 1929 D.Petrovsky was transferred to the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy - a member of the Presidium and the Chief of the General Directorate of higher and secondary technical educational institutions (GLAVVTUZ). His experience in organizing and managing the military education (1920-1924) after the revolution in 1917 in Russia was very useful.[14] One of his new tasks was to prepare 435,000 engineers and technicians in 5 years (1930-1935) during the USSR industrialization period, while their number in 1929 was 66,000.[15]

His old party comrades didn't believe that he would succeed with higher and secondary technical educational institutions in the USSR, because as a former Bundist he wouldn’t dare to hire former Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionary Party members, the former right-wing and the Trotskyists (see:Trotskyism), as he could safely hire and appoint only those who knew how to vote according to party lines but not necessarily work.

But he once again proved them wrong. One of the strategies he used in early 1930s was opening smaller branch institutes on the basis of large multi-faculty educational institutions. For example, on the basis of the Moscow Mining Academy - Moscow Mining Institute (Moscow State Mining University): Geological Prospecting Institute (Russian State Geological Prospecting University), Moscow Oil Institute (Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas), Institute of Steel (National University of Science and Technology MISiS), Institute of Nonferrous Metals and Gold. On the basis of Bauman Moscow State Technical University - Moscow Aviation Institute, Moscow Power Engineering Institute, Moscow University of Civil Engineering, and other institutions in the USSR.[16] From 1930 to 1940, the number of higher and secondary technical colleges and institutions in the USSR grew by 4 times and exceeded 150.[17]

Arrest and execution[edit]

David Petrovsky (a prison photo), 1937

In March, 1937 he was arrested (as the head of the General Directorate of educational institutions in the Ministry (People's Commissariat) of Soviet Heavy Industry and was accused for "counterrevolutionary" activity, and shot on September 10, 1937. In August 1937 his London-born wife Rose Cohen, a former Comintern courier, was arrested as an alleged British spy, and on November 28, 1937 she was also shot (rehabilitated in the USSR in 1956). Rose Cohen was the head of the Department and the editor in the "Moscow Daily News" (The Moscow News) newspaper. Their seven-year-old son Alexey Petrovsky was placed in an orphanage with the label "son of the enemies of the people."

Political rehabilitation and family[edit]

After the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Petrovsky's only son filed an appeal to review his case, and on January, 25, 1958 the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court invalidated the September, 10, 1937 ruling against Petrovsky. All charges were dropped and the case was dismissed for lack of corpus delicti. Petrovsky was posthumously rehabilitated as a victim of political repressions.[18]

He married Rose Cohen (1894-1937) a British feminist and suffragist, a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.[19] Petrovsky and Rose Cohen had a son – Alexey D. Petrovsky (1929–2010)[20] - who earned a Ph.D. in geological and mineralogical sciences, and was an academician of Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. Their grandson, Michael A. Petrovsky[21] - holds a doctorate in physics and mathematics. Their great-grandchildren are Maria Petrovskaya and Alexey M. Petrovsky.[22]


David Petrovsky is the author of many publications, including more than ten monographs. The most significant works:

  • Military schools during the revolution (1917-1924), M. 1924.
  • Revolution and counterrevolution in Ukraine, M. 1920.
  • Capitalism and socialism (from Thomas More to Lenin), M. 1920 - the book is stored in the memorial office-library of Lenin in the Moscow Kremlin, Russia.
  • The class struggle in postwar England, M. 1928.


Honorary cadet of the Moscow Higher Military Command School named after the RSFSR Supreme Council


  1. ^ The Russian Higher School of Social Sciences https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Русская_высшая_школа_общественных_наук
  2. ^ Salman Rejsin, Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, Vilna, 1928, Volume 1 (p.p. 485-7)
  3. ^ Official History of the Jewish Labour Bund, Volume II (New York, 1962)
  4. ^ Jacob Salutsky in The Party Builder, March 21, 1914, pg. 1.
  5. ^ Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia. New York: Viking Press, 1957; p. 168
  6. ^ "Dr. M. Goldfarb Will Return to Russia," Advance, 18 May 1917, pp. 1-2.
  7. ^ Stochholm Conference, The Public. 1917, 29 June, p.p.628-629
  8. ^ Archive of Jewish History, Volume 8, p.p. 156-177 (Rosspen, Moscow, 2016)
  9. ^ The General Directorate of military educational institutions: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation - Encyclopedia http://encyclopedia.mil.ru/encyclopedia/dictionary/details_rvsn.htm?id=5376@morfDictionary
  10. ^ Ster Elisavetskiy. General Petrovsky biography, Institute of Jewish Studies, Kyiv, 2002, the International Solomon University, Ukraine
  11. ^ The Order № 565 of April 15, 1924. The Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR M.Frunze, Military Gazette, number 16, 1924, p. 66
  12. ^ Francis Beckett: Rose between thorns, The Guardian, United Kingdom, June, 24, 2004
  13. ^ Archive of Jewish history, Volume 7, (p.p. 225-241)
  14. ^ Labour list of D.Petrovsky, Main Archival Administration of the USSR, Ministry of Internal Affairs, letter number 2284 of 08/04/1958
  15. ^ David Petrovsky “A reconstruction of engineering and technical education” 1930 http://alkruglov.narod.ru/z-petrovsk.pdf
  16. ^ S.I. Zinoviev, V.B. Panov, A.G. Gorshenev.Higher education institutions, Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition, 1969-1978
  17. ^ A.L Arefiev, M.A. Arefiev Engineering and technical education in Russia in figures. 2012 http://www.socioprognoz.ru/files/File/publ/Inkzenerno_technicheckoe.pdf
  18. ^ The Central Archive, Federal Security Service, Russia
  19. ^ Francis Beckett: Stalin’s British victims, United Kingdom, 2004
  20. ^ Francis Beckett: Stalin’s British victims, United Kingdom, 2004, p.184
  21. ^ Francis Beckett: Stalin’s British victims, United Kingdom, 2004, p.184
  22. ^ Francis Beckett: Stalin’s British victims, United Kingdom, 2004, p.185