Sunday, 28 October 2012

Averbakh 22: The Sports Committee and the Chess Section.

Inevitably, the same family names crop up over and over again. This can lead to confusion. On page 144 Averbakh informs his readers that Serov was the Chairman of the All-Union Chess Section. The grandmaster's words are: Serov, a Communist Party official. He is discussed further on pages 152-3. This was Alexey Kapitonovich Serov (1918 – 93), a former assistant to Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party and de facto ruler of the Soviet Union until his ousting in 1964. This shift in power could have made Serov seem vulnerable, even four years later. This bureaucrat should not be confused with the mass murderer Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov (a Chekhist general notorious for his roles in the Ukraine famine and post-war deportation from Checheno-Ingushetia) or the artist Vladimir Serov.

The English text on page 153 should have included a note as to what was meant by People's Control Committee. The People's Control Committee's, a successor to Rabkrin (The People's Commissariat of Workers' and Peasants' Inspection), function was to root out bureaucracy and red tape in all Soviet institutions. Its first head was Stalin and it was useful as a tool for him when seeking to obtain absolute power in the 1920s.

The one name of a leader of the chess section that has defeated me is Postnikov. I did find one article; however, its author stated that Beria ran the Soviet Union in Stalin's twilight years, an interpretation of history I do not subscribe to. For what it's worth, he called Postnikov an old Stalinist, which could well be true, but I'd prefer a higher standard of proof. None of my books, apart from Averbakh's, revealed anything. I spent hours trawling the Internet (I tried various permutations of Постников спорта Дмитрий Васильевич шахмат) in this futile search. As stated in previous blog entries, this result is unsurprising.

Far easier to provide an account of is Yuri D. Mashin (1932 – 2006). Note that there is a spelling error on page 51, not Mishin, Mashin. Mashin took over the Sports Committee in 1962. I do wonder whether that had anything to do with Averbakh being preferred to lead the Soviet delegation for the Curaçao 1962 Candidates tournament. Mashin's tenure as chairman of the Sports Committee lasted until 1968. As one can see from his birth year, he took over this comparatively senior position at a fairly young age. On the Internet is a speech given by him in Moscow at the fifty-ninth session of the Olympic Committee. It is available here. A brief Russian language obituary is available here. It can also be found here.

Mashin's predecessor Nikolay Nikolayevich Romanov (1913-1999) is also mentioned in the book. This Russian language article doesn't add much to Averbakh's account. According to this article he liked to smoke nearly three packets of cigarettes a day before giving up on doctor's orders. A brief, Russian language, notice, together with a photo of his grave is available on this page.

Mashin's successor Sergey Pavlovich Pavlov (1929 – 1993) followed the tradition of being a former head of the Komsomol. A Russian language article can be found here. A brief English language account is given here.

Of Sports Committee head Apollonov, Averbakh wrote: Strangely enough, Apollonov loved chess and was a good player, about first category strength. In other words, no one would have been taken aback if Apollonov had known nothing of the game. Arkady Apollonov (1907-1978) was one of those NKVD operatives who was involved in the deportation of the Chechens on Stalin's orders in the mid-1940s. There is a Russian language chronology of his life available here. Note that he was awarded a medal for his treatment of the Chechens (a crime against humanity. One reason this operation went smoothly {sic, not a few died en route} is that many women, children and old people were forcibly removed. The menfolk were in the Red Army fighting the Nazis.) and other groups. That page mentions his involvement in fighting against the OUN (the Organisation of Ukrainian nationalists) at the fag end of WWII, that conflict lasted into the 1950s. From what I can recall reading, Apollonov lacked the vile reputation of Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov, that could be ignorance on my part.

1 comment:

Bernard Cafferty said...

I once saw Dmitriy Vasil’yevich Postnikov in the flesh, at the hotel housing players and foreign spectators (Stewart Reuben and I) in Belgrade for the 1970 USSR versus the Rest of the World match. His name came up and I asked Karaklajic what his first two names were. He looked at me, smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said “He’s just Postnikov” as if he were a typical grey Soviet functionary whom one did not associate with normal human relations!

He appears also on various photos. I entered Дмитрий Постников шахматный чиновник (chess official Dimitry Postnikov) in Google and got several hits. One was a death notice for A Lilienthal, which quotes a longer (and possibly rather less accurate) version of his life story than appears in the two Russian books of 1969 and 1989 (available at ). He comments that Postnikov led the Soviet team to London for the first post-war over the board match. One of the accompanying people never attended the match and only re-appeared at the end of the week’s visit.

Lilienthal assumes the chap took the opportunity to peel off and indulge in his true task – spying.