In Soviet times, being buried within the Kremlin wall was considered to be one of the highest honors. Several American citizens, including John Reed and Charles Ruthenberg, are buried there. I'll explain why this week. Moving on, I'll also highlight some of the most notable volcanoes in Russia and sketch out the life of Alexandra Kollontai.
John Reed, the author of "Ten Days That Shook the World," is buried in the Kremlin wall. Are there any other Americans whose remains are there as well? John Kraft, Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A.
Let me first say that John Reed was a Harvard graduate and was born into the family of a rich concessionaire. When revolutionary soldiers stormed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1917, he was with them as a correspondent.
He also witnessed the arrest of the Provisional Government. In 1918, he went back to the United States and was one of the founders of the American Communist Party. Lenin said about his book on the Revolution: "Here is a book I should like to see published in millions of copies and translated into all foreign languages."
Another American whose ashes, following the instructions in his will, are entombed in the Kremlin wall is Charles Ruthenberg. He was also a founder and leader of the American Communist Party. The ashes of a third American, Bill Haywood, who formed the Industrial Workers of the World known as the Wobblies are there, too. Some of his ashes are in the Kremlin wall and some are in Chicago.
Joe, where were you and what were you doing when the news came of the capitulation of Nazi Germany? Marty Sanches, Rio-Rancho, New Mexico, U.S.A.
I was at home at the time, and when the capitulation was announced, I just said to my mother, "Thank God, it's all over at last!" It was hard to believe it was over. The announcement was made on Russian radio by a man I knew very well; our studios were opposite each other. I also remember visiting my aunt when Stalin died. She said, "The god is no more."
Are there any volcanoes in Russia? Pankaj Hajra, Burdwan, India.
We have many volcanos on the Kuril Islands and in Kamchatka, that huge peninsula that juts out into the Pacific. Of those, 60 are active. The tallest is Mt. Klyuchevskaya, which is about 5,000 meters high. If you count from ground level, it is the largest volcano in the world. The rumble of the eruptions can be heard for hundreds of kilometers. Pillars of gas rise to a height of about 8,000 meters. The flames from the red-hot lava can be seen at night.
A few words about Alexandra Kollontai, please. Did she die of natural causes? William Kerr, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Alexandra Kollontai was the first woman ambassador in the world. A film and a play have been made about her life. She served as ambassador to Mexico, Norway and Sweden. She was a member of the opposition to Lenin. I read that they did not want her in the U.S.S.R. and sent her to Mexico.
No doubt, Alexandra Kollontai was an outstanding personality in the Bolshevik Party and the October Revolution. Incidentally, she was the daughter of a Tsarist general. She stood for free love and worked for the emancipation of women. She wrote that a sexual act under Communism, a society that was our final goal, would be as natural as drinking a glass of water. She believed the family would die out under Communism.
Stalin got word that she had become an agent of foreign intelligence who cooperated with the Vichy regime in France during the occupation. He learned this from his agents in Germany. Kollontai was also a member of the "Workers' Opposition," a movement against Stalin. Later, in 1945, Soviet intelligence got access to the archives of the French Home Ministry. One document showed she was an agent of Sweden and was recruited in 1941 by a French agent, the Count de Flerie, who worked in the French mission in Stockholm.
The documents were authentic. She did her work voluntarily and was not paid for it. Her superiors in intelligence thought very highly of her. The count also worked for Germany. Alexandra Kollontai died in 1952, a year before Stalin. The last years of her life in the U.S.S.R. were very lonely, as she was fenced off from society. Why Stalin did not arrest her when millions of innocent people served time in prison camps is anybody's guess.
(E-mail Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.)