There were detachments of foreign soldiers fighting for the Bolshevik cause during the Russian Civil War, most notably, Chinese. Apparently Chinese troops served as the personal bodyguards for the Bolshevik leadership, staffed the horrific CheKa prison system, and were always, or almost always, used for executions. The Bolsheviks claimed the Chinese were favored for these roles due to their "efficiency" and because very few spoke Russian, making them impervious to "outside influences" (for example, I imagine, the outside influence of someone pleading for their life).

There are questions about whether the assassination attempt on Lenin in August, 1918, as he left a factory after addressing workers there, actually occurred. I've seen British accounts at the time of the incident that claimed it was a hoax, which was used to trigger the Red Terror.

On the one hand, Lenin did die six years later after a series of strokes that were claimed to be a result of the attempt's near miss. On the other, the alleged perp, a 28-year-old woman named Fanny Kaplan, was immediately executed out of public view (seemingly unlike standard CheKa procedure), and the reprisals--a wave of mass, indiscriminate executions that rolled over the entire country--did indeed signal the start of the Red Terror.

My question is to the ethnic make-up of Lenin's bodyguard contingent that day. If they were non-Russian-speaking ethnic Chinese, wouldn't that support the hoax hypothesis by making a hoax easier to pull off?

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    Most (if not nearly all) ЧК executions were not in public view, unlike executions during the time of the French revolution. Apr 25, 2020 at 20:01
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    Sources to support your assertions would improve your question. At present, I suspect it risks being closed because it "appears to be to promote or discredit a specific idea, theory, cause, group or person". Apr 25, 2020 at 20:22
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    Степан Казимирович Гиль, Павел Дмитриевич Мальков, feel free to investigate their Chinese roots. Apr 25, 2020 at 20:32
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    @CWill For one thing, that the assassination was fake (the evidence does not support that conclusion. For a good overview of the evidence, see for example, The 1918 Attempt on the Life of Lenin: A New Look at the Evidence by Semion Lyandres). Apr 28, 2020 at 11:47
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    @CWill And as I said above, providing sources to support any assertions you make goes a long way towards removing the impression that you are "promoting" an idea. Several of the claims you made appear questionable at best (in addition to the suggested hoax, examples include the role and importance of the Chinese in the Cheka (there were hundreds of Chinese in an organisation that numbered in the hundreds of thousands), or the idea that Cheka usually carried out executions in public (they didn't)), so knowing the source of those claims helps others understand the source of confusion. Apr 28, 2020 at 16:27

1 Answer 1


The theory about Chinese bodyguards of Lenin appears to be bogus. As far as I know, it first surfaced in the 1950s during the period of "great friendship" between the Soviet and Chinese people (only to disappear in 1960s, with deterioration of the relations between the two countries). It again resurfaced few years ago in the form of Sino-Russian made-for-TV documentaries. It is true, however, that there were Chinese regiments fighting on the side of the Red Army during Russian Civil War.

As a general rule, Soviet sources should be treated very cautiously, but here is what I can say on the basis of what is available.

  1. Lenin did not like the idea of bodyguards. His first de-facto bodyguard was his personal driver, Степан Казимирович Гиль, Stepan Gil'. He left a set of memoirs,

Шесть лет с В. И. Лениным. Воспоминания личного шофера Владимира Ильича Ленина.

"6 years with Lenin. Memoirs of Lenin's personal driver." Moscow, 1957.

Most importantly, he was present during Kaplan's assassination attempt in August of 1918; Gil' describes the event in his memoirs. Judging by the description, he was the only Lenin's bodyguard present at the event. Here is his description of Lenin's attitude to his security prior to the assassination attempt:

Жизнь Владимира Ильича по нескольку раз в день подвергалась смертельной опасности. Эта опасность усугублялась еще тем, что Владимир Ильич категорически отказывался от какой бы то ни было охраны. При себе он никогда не носил оружия (если не считать крошечного браунинга, из которого он ни разу не стрелял) и просил меня также не вооружаться. Однажды, увидев у меня на поясе наган в кобуре, он ласково, но достаточно решительно сказал:

— К чему вам эта штука, товарищ Гиль? Уберите-ка ее подальше!

Однако револьвер я продолжал носить при себе, хотя тщательно скрывал его от Владимира Ильича. Наган находился у меня под рубашкой за поясом, без кобуры.

The life of Vladimir Ilyich [Lenin] was constantly in a mortal danger. This danger was further aggravated by the fact that Vladimir Ilyich absolutely refused any protection. He never carried any weapons with him (except for a tiny Browning, from which he had never fired) and asked me not to arm myself either. Once, when he saw a gun in a holster on my belt, he affectionately but decisively said:

“Why do you need this thing, Comrade Gil?” Take her away!

However, I continued to carry the revolver with me, although I carefully concealed it from Vladimir Ilyich. The gun was under my shirt and belt, without a holster.

  1. The general security in Lenin's official residence (first, the Smol'ny Palace in St. Petersburg - Petrograd, then in Kremlin, in Moscow) was supervised by Павел Дмитриевич Мальков, Pavel Mal'kov, the "commandant" of Smolny and, then, Kremlin. He also left memoirs:

    Мальков П. Д. Записки коменданта Кремля. — М.: Воениздат, 1987., "Memoirs of the Kremlin Commandant," first published in 1960s.

Neither Gil' nor Mal'kov mention any Chinese bodyguards. However:

  1. Latvian_Riflemen are frequently mentioned as guarding Smol'ny and then Kremlin. See for instance Mal'kov's memoirs and the linked Russian Wikipedia page. (The English-language mirror is much less detailed.)

How well did they speak Russian? I think, it is safe to conjecture that their Russian was accented but pretty good: since Latvia was a part of the Russian Empire for about two centuries (in fact, it was conquered by Russia under Ivan IV in the late 16th century and then changed hands several times). Gil', judging by his patronymics, was of Polish descent, while Mal'kov was likely ethnically Russian. I am sure, one can investigate this much further and maybe find that Mal'kov's ancestors were in fact Tatars or even Mongols, so, possibly, Chinese, since Mongol empire at its peak included much of Russia and China.

Regarding security in Smol'ny and Kremlin: According to Mal'kov's book, until September 1918 it was done by Latvian Riflemen, who in September 1918 were replaced ("according to their own wishes") by cadets of the 1st Machine-gun training school in Moscow. [Personally, I do not believe the explanation; my guess is that this decision was influenced by the assassination attempt and by "Lokhart's plot."]

Edit. Here is a link to a book written by Li Fuqing (available on Amazon):

Diary of a Lenin's Chinese guard Li Fuqing who visited the Soviet Union (Chinese Edition)

Li Fuqing claimed to have served as one of the 70 Chinese soldiers, guarding Lenin's office in Smonl'y and Kremlin in from January 1918 through Spring of 1919. See also here.

  • Where do you come down then? With your edit, do you still believe the theory that Lenin's bodyguards were Chinese is bogus?
    – CWill
    Apr 27, 2020 at 23:19
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    @CWill: Yes, currently I believe this theory is bogus. However, I am ready to change my mind in case somebody who can read Chinese comes about, reads the linked book and finds credible evidence to support the claims. (For instance, photos of documents certifying that, say, "Comrade Fuqing served honorably as a Kremlin guard.") Apr 27, 2020 at 23:22
  • I doubt Gil ever wrote his "memoirs". It sounds like various tales about Lenin which were prolific in literature for schools and kindergartens. Apr 29, 2020 at 11:45
  • @user907860: One can of course doubt many things but in history one needs to work with more than just pure doubt. My personal approach in separating hagiography from fact is similar to the one dealing with the New Testament: Look for statements which do not fit with the ideological narrative. Then one discovers that Gil's memoirs portray plenty of chaos and incompetency in the early Bolshevik's administration. (Just read his description of how Lenin's personal car was stolen by firefighters who were planning to sell it in Finland!) I did my share of digging, you are welcome to do more. Apr 29, 2020 at 20:48
  • I didn't mean your answer is invalid in any way. But statements in the memoirs like "При себе он никогда не носил оружия (если не считать крошечного браунинга" are just ridiculous. Apr 29, 2020 at 21:13

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