Commuting a death sentence. Andrei Snesaryev was born in 1865. After graduating in mathematics from Moscow University he embarked on a distinguished army career, eventually reaching the rank of Lieutenant-General. An expert on Central Asian affairs he was fluent in no less than fourteen languages. Between 1919 and 1921 he was Chief of the General Staff, and during this period his book on Afghanistan was published, in which he presciently warned Russia not to embark on a war with Afghanistan. It was at this period that he first crossed swords with Stalin, after a difference of opinion on how to proceed with military operations near the city of Tsaritsyn (later renamed Stalingrad). Snesaryev was arrested and declared a traitor, but subsequently reprieved and put in command of the Western Army. His troubles were far from over: he was arrested a second time in 1930 and condemned to death. His wife sent an urgent telegram to Kliment Voroshilov, a close associate of Stalin's and a member of the Politburo, asking him to intervene, and Voroshilov in turn sent a message to Stalin asking for his advice. The present letter constitutes Stalin's reply. Imprisoned on the island of Solovki, Snesaryev was the only officer not executed. He became paralyzed in 1933 and died in 1937.
As General Secretary of the Communist Party Stalin acculmulated unprecedented power and was responsible for the enormous industrialization of the country and the ruthless collectivization of the peasantry. In addition, he conducted the cruelest purges of the Party in which hundreds of thousands of people perished. With an entourage of loyal henchmen like Voroshilov, Stalin's power and control was truly absolute at the the time of of the present letter.
Autograph letters or notes by Stalin are of the greatest rarity, as few ever reached the West. Only the present letter and one other entirely in Stalin's hand are recorded in American Book Prices Current in the last thirty years. The present note to Voroshilov illustrates his method of working without the aid of a secretary or a typewriter.
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