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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bukharin's Letter from the Grave

"I am afraid for you, and for our friends, but most of all, I am afraid for you. You - are the closest person in the world to me, and the most dear".

These tender words were written by the Bolshevik revolutionary Nikolai Bukharin to his wife on Jan. 15, 1938, as he lay in prison, awaiting the court verdict that he knew would condemn him to death.

The letter took over half a century to arrive. Bukharin's wife, Anna Larina, now 78, finally received it a few days ago as she lay in bed in a Moscow hospital.

"It is difficult to express how I feel after reading Nikolai Ivanovich's letter, 54 years after it was written. What to the reader is only history, to me suddenly became the present day. In a flash I was transported back to the bloody land of the Great Terror", she wrote in Izvestia on Tuesday.

The newspaper, of which Bukharin was once editor, published the text of Bukharin's letter on its front page.

Bukharin's son, Yury, told The Moscow Times that his mother had found out about the letter in the summer, but that it was released only now.

Nikolai Bukharin, a colleague of Lenin in the early days after the 1917 revolution, is regarded by many historians as the man who might have guided the Soviet Union onto a different, less brutal path toward communism. But Stalin dispensed with his brilliant and eloquent Politburo opponent in the "show trial" of March 1938 that came to symbolize the era of mass repression.

By the end of the 1920s, Bukharin, one of the Communist Party's leading intellectuals, had become too bitter and powerful a critic of Stalin's plans for immediate collectivization and industrialization, arguing that they would lead to an agricultural and social disaster.

Bukharin and his allies in the Politburo, who favored a more moderate pace of change were pushed out, as Stalin consolidated his personal power.

During the next few years, most of the Bolsheviks who had led the party since the 1917 revolution - including

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Rykov-were exiled or executed.

All were labelled "enemies of the people" by the Soviet government, a curse that remained in official parlance, encyclopedias and history books even after lesser victims of the Terror had been rehabilitated in the 1950s.

So controversial was Bukharin's image that continued attempts by Anna Anna Larina to have her dead husband officially rehabilitated failed repeatedly until 1988, in the headiest days of Gorbachev's glasnost.

This happened only after another letter from Bukharin to his wife, known as the "Letter to the Future Members of the Central Committee", was released in 1987, attracting great ' interest from reformers within the Communist Party, who saw Bukharin's legacy as a blueprint for governing along less dogmatic economic lines.

The letter published in Izvestia on Tuesday, however, contains less of Bukharin the political visionary than it does of "Kolka", the husband and father. He asks "his dear, kind Anushka", to "prepare everyone at home. Help them". He warns his beloved that "a very difficult trial awaits you", and tells her that she must be "Like rock, like a statue".

Anna Larina's husband pleas with her to be "brave and calm", "whatever horrible things I am reported to have said, or whatever things they have said to me".

Bukharin cooperated with the trial, Larina says, because "on the eve of the onset of fascism he did not want to compromise the Soviet Union". He bore the fabricated court proceedings with dignity, and never incriminated any of his fellow party members - unlike many of his terrified comrades.

Despite his betrayal by the government he had fought so hard to bring to power, Bukharin on the eve of his death reaffirms his faith in the country. "Remember", he tells his wife, "that the great accomplishment of the Soviet Union lives, and that this is the most important thing, for personal trials are merely temporary and miserable in comparison".

Despite his seeming dismissal of his own fate, Bukharin expresses repeated concern for his family. "Kiss Yurik for me. I am glad, that he cannot read. I worry, too, for our daughter . . . How madly, how deeply I love you".