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Grigory Sokolnikov

Grigori Sokolnikov
Grigori Sokolnikov (1888-1939)
People's Commissar for Finance of the USSR
In office
6 July 1923 – 16 January 1926
Premier Vladimir Lenin (until 1924)
Alexei Rykov
Preceded by None—post created
Succeeded by Nikolai Bryukhanov
People's Commissar for Finance of the RSFSR
In office
22 November 1922 – 6 July 1923
Premier Vladimir Lenin
Preceded by Nikolay Krestinsky
Succeeded by Myron K. Vladimirov
Personal details
Born (1888-08-15)15 August 1888
Romny, Poltava Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 21 May 1939(1939-05-21) (aged 50)
Verkhneuralsk, Tyumen Oblast, USSR
Political party Bolshevik

Grigori Yakovlovich Sokolnikov (Russian: Григорий Яковлевич Сокольников; 1888–1939) was a Russian old Bolshevik revolutionary, economist, and Soviet politician.


Grigori Sokolnikov was born Girsh Yankelovich Brilliant (Гирш Я́нкелевич Бриллиа́нт) to a railway doctor in Romny on 15 August [O.S. 3 August] 1888. He moved to Moscow as a teenager and joined the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1905. He served time in prison and studied economics whilst at the Sorbonne.

He returned to Russia in April 1917 along with Vladimir Lenin in the 'sealed train', and on arriving in Russia became part of the editorial board of the Bolshevik's central party organ.[1]

After the October Revolution, he held various government positions. He was a member of the delegation for peace negotiations with Germany (he replaced Leon Trotsky as chairman, and signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty in 1918), and alongside Rosalia Zemlyachka became commissar of the Eighth army, using this position to order mass shootings during the Russian Civil War.[2] He was appointed People's Commissar of Finance following the introduction of the New Economic Policy and became a candidate member of the Politburo of the Communist Party in May 1924. According to Boris Bajanov, as minister of finance Sokolnikov proved himself to be a capable administrator, accomplishing every task he was asked to do such as creating the first stable Soviet currency. Bajanov also notes that despite Sokolnikov's past in the Red Army, he was not ruthless in his personality. Privately, Sokolnikov lost faith in the Soviet Union under Stalin and later described the Soviet economy as "state capitalist".[3] He was removed from his position in the Sovnarkom (Council of People's Commissars) and demoted from the Politburo after calling for Joseph Stalin's removal as General Secretary of the Communist Party at the Fourteenth Congress of the Bolsheviks in December 1925. Sokolnikov was appointed instead as vice-chairman of Gosplan, the new economic planning agency (an appointment that carried cruel irony since Sokolnikov himself was a bitter opponent of heavy-handed centralzied planning) and later as head of an oil company. He was the Soviet ambassador to England from 1929-32.

During the Great Purge (1936–38), in 1937 Sokolnikov was arrested and tried at the Trial of Parallel Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Centre and sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. Reportedly, he was killed in a prison by other convicts on May 21, 1939. A post-Stalin investigation during the Khrushchev Thaw revealed that the murder was orchestrated by the NKVD. In 1988, during perestroika, he was rehabilitated along with many other victims of the Great Purge.


  • Soviet Policy in Public Finance, 1917–1928, by Gregory Y. Sokolnikov & Associates; translated by Elena Varneck, edited by Lincoln Hutchinson & Carl C. Plehn. Stanford University Press. 1931.

External links

  • Marxists Internet Archive.
  • Grigorii Yakovlevich Sokolnikov and the development of the Soviet state, 1921–1929
Political offices
Preceded by
Nikolai Krestinsky
People's Commissar for Finance
Succeeded by
Nikolai Bryukhanov

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