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A recent Economist article claims:

As Nikolai Bukharin, a close Lenin ally, was told during his own trial, his job was “to confess and repent, not to argue”.

I've searched without success for a primary source for this. It doesn't appear in any translations of his trial that I could find (although I was only able to find very dodgy translations).

Is this a thing that was really said and, if so, where?

  • The nearest that I could find is in the transcript of the Morning Session March 7 of Bukharin's trial where Vyshinsky says "There is no point in making a pious face, accused Bukharin. Better admit what exists.". The problem may be in the translation from the original Russian to English vernacular. – sempaiscuba Jan 17 '18 at 2:49
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The article you cite seems to mainly discuss a book, “The House of Government” by Yuri Slezkine. The quote you are looking for is from this book, page 736. There is a footnote, #47, which is an ibid to note 46. 46 says AMDNN, "Poloz" file, "Lichnoe delo No. 90365."

  • There is also a list of abbreviations on p 995. AMDNN = Arkhiv Muzeiia "Dom na naberezhnoi" (Archive of the "House on the Embankment" Museum) – sempaiscuba Jan 17 '18 at 4:22
  • I'm marking this as the answer because the Stack Exchange UI requires me to pick one or the other, and this one more directly answers "where did the quote come from and is it real?" @DanilaSmirnov's answer is also very helpful and well-researched, and I wish I could mark them both. – Crashworks Jan 18 '18 at 19:45
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Not quite. Indeed, in transcript of interrogation of Bukharin there is a phrase "There is no point in making a pious face, accused Bukharin. Better admit what exists" (pretty accurate translation from Russian), addressed to the accused, but context matters. This is not the first day of the trial, and previous day begins with Bukharin pleading guilty to several charges, including participation in secret organisation designed to overthrow Soviet government and partition USSR. At the end of the transcript from the March 6th, the following exchange appears (translation mine, sorry for any possible inaccuracies):

Vyshinsky: Then how did you came so easily to participation in a bloc involved in espionage work?

Bukharin: I know nothing about any espionage work.

Vyshinsky: And what did the bloc do?

Bukharin: We had here two statement about espionage - Sharangovich's and Ivanov's, two provocateurs.

Vyshinsky: Accused Bukharin, do you consider Rykov a provocateur?

Bukharin: No, I don't.

In the beginning of the next day, Alexei Rykov was called to testify, and from then on the interrogation is basically both accused trying to dodge questions about spywork, and prosecutor trying to catch them on technicalities. At one point, under pressure from interrogator, Rykov says that both he and Bukharin were involved in Polish espionage:

VYSHINSKY: The next paragraph of Rykov's reply, page 120, reads as follows: "Chervyakov developed exceptionally intensive work in Byelorussia in his relations with the Poles. He was connected with them in his illegal activities. He drew all the practical conclusions from these instructions of ours." Do you confirm this, Rykov?

Rykov: Of course.

VYSHINSKY: Consequently, Chervyakov and the people connected with you maintained systematic connections with the Poles?

Rykov: Yes.

VYSHINSKY: They were executing your instructions?

Rykov: Yes.

VYSHINSKY: Isn't this an espionage connection?

Rykov: No.

VYSHINSKY: What kind of connection is it?

Rykov: There was an espionage connection there, too.

VYSHINSKY: But was there an espionage connection maintained by a part of your organization with the Poles on your instructions?

Rykov: Of course.

VYSHINSKY: Espionage?

Rykov: Of course.

VYSHINSKY: Bukharin included?

Rykov: Of course.

VYSHINSKY: Were you and Bukharin connected?

Rykov: Absolutely.

VYSHINSKY: So you were spies?

Rykov: (No reply.)

VYSHINSKY: And the organizers of espionage?

Rykov: I am in no way better than a spy.

VYSHINSKY: You organized espionage, so you, were spies.

Rykov: It may be said, yes.

VYSHINSKY: It may be said, spies. I am asking, did you organize connections with the Polish intelligence service and the respcctive spy circles? Do you plead guilty to espionage?

Rykov: If it is a question of organization, then in this case, of course, I plead guilty.

After that, Bukharin again denies his involvement, and gets that phrase in response.

Sources:

Сталин И.В. Cочинения, Т. 16, М.: Издательство “Писатель”, 1997. С. 327–353 (Приложение XVI) (Interrogation of accused Bukharin, sessions on 6-7 March, Russian version)

Moscow Trials. The Case of Bukharin. Interrogation of accused Bukharin - Morning Session March 7 (thanks to sempaiscuba for finding this one), and Moscow Trials. The Case of Bukharin. Interrogation of accused Bukharin - Evening Session March 5. Source: “The Case of the Anti-Soviet Block of Rights and Trotskyites”, Red Star Press, 1973, page 369-439, 767-779; First published in English: “The Case of the Anti-Soviet Block of Rights and Trotskyites”, People’s Commisariat of Justice of the U.S.S.R., 1938; Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2001;

  • I'm marking justCal's as the answer because the Stack Exchange UI requires me to pick one or the other, and justCal's more directly answers "where did the quote come from and is it real?" This answer is also very helpful and well-researched, and I wish I could mark them both. – Crashworks Jan 18 '18 at 19:46
  • @Crashworks that's okay, as the questioner, you are free to choose whatever answer you want =) – Danila Smirnov Jan 19 '18 at 1:29

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