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A Legendary Bolshevik.

This man of Armenian descent was known as ‘Kamo’, born in Gori, Georgia July 1882, his real name was Semeno Aržakovitš Ter-Petrossian or Simon Ter-Petrosyan (anglicised). He was recruited into the Bolshevik Party by Stalin in 1901 before his tenth birthday whilst the latter was working at Tbilisi Observatory in the Georgian capital. Kamo earned his nickname from Stalin when, while trying to learn Russian, he kept mispronouncing the word komu (“кому” – meaning “to whom”) as “kamo”.

His first activities for the party included the clandestine printing and distribution of illegal literature around Georgia before his first arrest in September 1903, however he escaped the next year.

After his escape he helped to train workers’ combat brigades, although being injured after an armed battle with Cossacks in December 1905 and imprisoned in Metekh castle. Here he was tortured, forced to dig his own grave and twice taken to the foot of the gallows before he escaped once more.

After meeting Lenin in March 1906 he travelled to The Balkans on his orders in an unsuccessful attempt to procure weapons. Once home he took part in many ‘expropriations’ which provided funds to aid Bolshevik activities. Many resulted in faliure including one incident in which he almost lost the sight in his left eye due to a prematurely exploding bomb. Despite this there were successes, the most famous and daring of these being the Erivan Square Robbery of 12 June, 1907 which provided 250,000 Roubles for the Bolshevik’s center.

As a refugee in Berlin he was denounced by a prominent Bolshevik who transpired to be an agent of the Tsarist secret police. Upon discovery of an ‘infernal machine’ by the police in his lodgings he was imprisoned in Alt Moabit jail in September 1907. He pretended to be mad in order to prevent being handed over to the Tsarist authorities, according to Boris Souvarine:

“He carried out the incredible feat of keeping up pretended violent madness for four years, and submitting to the treatment imposed for it. He stamped, shouted, tore his clothes, refused food and struck his keeper. He was shut up naked in an icy cell, but did not yield. Put under observation in the infirmary and subjected to horrible tests, he stood upright for four months, refused food, was forcibly fed at the expense of several broken teeth, tore out his hair, hanged himself, counting on intervention at the last moment, opened blood vessels with a sharpened bit of bone, and lost consciousness in a flood of blood. The doctors gave in, and Kamo was transferred to an asylum where his tortures recommenced. In order to test his pretended insensibility, needles were stuck under his nails and he was touched with red hot irons. He bore his torments stoically. The professors concluded that his malady was real.”

In 1909 he was handed over to the Tsarist police anyway and once again underwent new tests sufficient to drive a sane man mad until he was able to escape in August 1911, after having spent three months sawing through his chains and his window bars. After evading the search for him and having crossed Georgia and reaching the coast he stowed away in the hold of a ship and eventually made it to Paris to meet up with Lenin once again.

Kamo was far from giving up with insurrection, he headed South and was arrested in Constantinople save the intervention of Georgian monks of Notre Dame de Lourdes, arrested in Bulgaria in his continuous search for weapons and helped to escape by Dimitar Blagoev, his penultimate arrest was in Turkey although he was released.

Sent to Russia once more he underwent his final arrest in September 1912 after a particularly audacious attempt at robbery, held once again in the Metekh castle he was four times condemned to death. Unable to escape, he owed his life to a sympathetic judge who prolonged proceedings until the tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty which saw an amnesty commuting death penalty sentences to twenty years hard labour. Kamo had almost been worked to death before he was saved by the February Revolution.

After the October Revolution he would take part in guerilla activities in Menshevik controlled Georgia, attend Moscow’s military academy, work for the Cheka and Georgia’s Foreign Trade Ministry.

Officially Kamo died in a car accident in the Georgian capital on the 14th of July 1922 although some suspect his death was ordered by Stalin.

He is buried in Freedom Square, although his grave is now paved over and unmarked.

Thought that had to be said.


G. Haupt and M. Jean-Jacques, Makers of the Russian Revolution (London: Allen and Unwin, 1974), pp. 138-141

M. Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin (London: Merlin Press, 1985), p.105

D. Shub, ‘Kamo-the Legendary Old Bolshevik of the Caucasus’, Russian Review, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Jul., 1960), pp. 227-247

B. Souvarine, Stalin A Critical Survey of Bolshevism (London: Longman, 1939), pp. 95-103

R. Kuhm, ‘Marxism and bird watching

A. Woods, ‘Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution



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