The Curious Case of Julian K Shchutskii [Юлиан K Шуцкий] (1897-1938)

Julian K Shchutskii (1897-1938)

Translator’s Note: Julian Shchutskii was a Soviet intellectual who could have changed the world for the Socialist Cause if only he had taken a different direction in his life. Despite never visiting China, he had mastered the Chinese language and the Chinese thought-process whilst training in both the Czarist and Soviet education systems – a very rare achievement for a non-Chinese person (even one who lives immersed in Chinese culture). His scholarship is first-class as is to be expected of a Soviet academic. He was an expert on Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, and yet he maintained a subtle ‘anti-China’ attitude that refused to recognise the validity of Chinese academia even at a time when the USSR was assisting the building of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Why was this? His attitude appears to be in-line with the anti-China Japanese propaganda that was relevant throughout the 1920s and 1930s. He was held in NKVD custody for six months before being found ‘guilty’ and immediately shot on February 18th, 1938. Why was there this delay? Whatever the case, my main objective is to expose a classic piece of US Cold War Disinformation which is so stupid and wayward of the actual facts that one is left wondering why anyone ever fell for it! ACW (3.10.2020) 

Book of Change – JK Shchutskii

In 1914, a young Julian Shchutskii visited Germany, France and Switzerland. Julian Shchutskii was 20 years old when the October Revolution swept through Russia!  He was born in Sverdlovsk into a family of a forestry scientist. His mother was a teacher of music, French and German, who encouraged him to always seek beyond the educational barriers (and limited opportunities) associated with rural life. In 1917, Julian Shchutskii left the Polytechnic Institute (of Petrograd or ‘later ‘Leningrad’) after specialising in Economics, and entered the Practical Orientalist Academy. After this, he transferred to the University from where he successfully graduated from the sinological faculty of General Studies in 1922. He had studied the spoken and written Chinese language (and Chinese literature) under Prof. VM Alekserev to such a high degree of attainment, that he was retained between 1922-1923 in the Scientific Research Institute. Czarist Russia participated in WWI as an ally of the British from 1914-1917 fighting Imperial Germany, during which time millions of Russian men were conscripted into a Russian army that suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties! Indeed, the Bolshevik Revolution ‘saved’ Julian Shchutskii from being conscripted into the military, and because of his obvious academic talent, the ‘new’ Revolutionary Russian State did not conscript him into the Red Army. He was allowed to pursue his studies in Petrograd fully supported and financed by the State. Between 1918-1921, Imperial Germany (and seven of her allies), and Great Britain (and thirteen of her allies including the United States) invaded Revolutionary Russia with the aim of killing Lenin and destroying the accomplishment of the Russian Revolution. Ironically, British and German troops fought side by side with a common anti-Socialist objective between March, 1918 and the defeat of Imperial Germany in November 1918 within Revolutionary Russia – whilst British and German troops continued to oppose and kill one another in the mud of France and Belgium. This Western (imperialist and capitalist) interference was finally defeated as a cogent force in 1922, with the ‘Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ (USSR) being founded in late December, 1922.  

Although millions of Russians suffered and died due to these terrible events, Julian Shchutskii sailed through these upheavals quite literally unscathed. In 1922, Julian Shchutskii developed an interest in the philosophy of Chinese Daoism. As Lenin was very ill and nearing his death in 1924, a special qualifying commission promoted Julian Shchutskii to the post of Assistant Professor. He taught very popular sinological courses at what eventually become the Leningrad Insititute of History, Philosophy, and Linguistics. In the same year he started to teach at the Leningrad Institute of Modern Oriental Languages (later the Leningrad Oriental Institute), where he specialised in teaching courses on the history of Chinese philosophy, as well as the Chinese and Japanese languages. For the first time in Russian history, Julian Shchutskii introduced courses on Cantonese and Vietnamese (publishing a textbook on the latter in 1933). Whilst employed at the Asiatic Museum of the Academy of Sciences since 1920, he systematically worked his way up from the lowest level of Work Researcher III to that of Curator – and then Research Specialist under the Soviet Socialist System. In 1928, Julian Shschutskii was sent to Japan on a research mission to gather important (historical) Chinese and Japanese language texts for use in the USSR by the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He spent four and a half months in Japan living in Osaka – at a Buddhist temple. It is during this time that it is thought that he was contacted by the Imperial Japanese Intelligence Agency that offered him a deal to ‘spy’ for the Japanese government in the USSR (as he could fluently speak, read and write the Japanese language). At this time, Trotsky was under arrest for Crimes Against the Soviet State in Russia, and was awaiting ‘Exile’ from the USSR – a sentence that would be carried-out in 1929. Even at this early stage of his dubious career, his anti-Soviet antics were beginning to attract attention in the different corners of the world, and there is some evidence that Julian Shchutskii was naively drawn into the machinations of an underground Anarchist group hiding-out in Leningrad. Although Anarchists could not be ideologically trusted to any great extent, (as many were just as likely to support the right-wing and the left-wing in the pursuance of their political goals), nevertheless, Kropotkin – the great Anarchist intellectual – had expressed his support for the Bolshevik Revolution.  

In the meantime, the academic work of Julian Shschutskii continued unaffected by whatever was going on behind the scenes. Having been exiled to the West in 1929, Trotsky was attracting a tremendous amount of support from fascists, Zionists, capitalists and anti-Socialists of all kinds. Trotsky’s brand of ‘anti-Socialism’ masquerading as ‘Socialism’ was well-funded and for a time well-organised, as it built supply lines deep into the USSR and recruited those Russians dissatisfied with the dramatic improvements. The US in the 1930s increased its anti-Soviet activity with Will Durant visiting the USSR in 1933 and claiming ordinary Russians had told him that life was terrible – these fictional stories were disseminated throughout the Western press without question – despite the fact Durant could not read, write or talk Russian. This was the year that the US opened full diplomatic relations with the USSR – sending Harpo Marx as a ‘friendship ambassador’. In 1935, Julian Shchutskii was promoted to ‘full’ Professor by the Special Commission of the Central Research Committee of the Union. In 1937, Julian Shchutskii defended his Doctoral Dissertation. Everything was apparently going well and then disaster struck. 

The founder of modern fascism – Benito Mussolini – came to power in Italy in 1921 and was immediately supported by the Vatican. In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, and he too was supported by the Catholic Church. Supported by many of the Western democracies (as well as the fascist States) the fascist General Franco had prevailed in 1939 Spain. Imperial Japan had been fascist for decades by the time it began its military action during 1931 in Mainland China, etc. In 1938, Trotsky founded his so-called ‘Fourth International’ with the number one objective of over-throwing the Soviet State! To this end he called upon all his followers (such as George Orwell in the UK), to join forces with International Fascism (and the Catholic Church) to ‘attack’ the USSR from without – and for Soviet Citizens living in the USSR to carry-out sabotage and terrorist attacks on key Soviet targets – both material and living! The capitalist and fascist world community appeared united in its anti-Soviet antipathy, with an unfolding plan that suggested a simultaneous and coordinated attack upon the USSR from both the West (led by Nazi Germany) and East (led by Imperial Japan). As prelude to this enormous task of world cooperation, the Japanese Imperial Army attacked the Soviet Union along the Manchurian-Korean Border in 1938 – a set of battles that saw the Soviet Red Army destroy some of the best military units the Japanese had to offer. Again, in 1939, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked the USSR along the Manchurian-Mongolian Border with exactly the same result. Brave Japanese soldiers were killed in their thousands with no gain in land taken or resources secured, etc. These two defeats led to the Japanese government abandoning an invasion of the USSR from the East – an invasion of a foreign land that granted the Japanese very little in material return. The Japanese government instead turned their attention toward the US and the British in Asia as more pragmatic targets. Prior to Hitler’s 1941 (genocidal) invasion of the USSR, the Soviet Red Army went to war with fascist Finland between 1939-1940. The capitalist and fascist West was building a substantial military and financial presence in Finland as a possible springboard for the Western attack upon the USSR.  

This is the historical background to the life (and death) of Julian Shchutskii. His book entitled as ‘Researches on the I Ching’ was written between 1928 (the year of his travel to Japan), and 1935 (the year he was made ‘Professor’). It was not published until 1960 – during the Khrushchev-era of revisionism and reform – and not published in English translation until 1979. The 1980 English edition published in the UK contains an ’Introduction’ by Gerald W Swanson – described as formerly Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Vermont which is full of US Disinformation and Cold War anti-intellectualism. As usual, any evidence that ‘denies’ or ‘proves’ the US anti-Soviet lies ‘wrong’ is treated with what can only be described as a ‘psychotic’ disdain! Russian defectors to the US, in order to receive a free house, a well-paid job and a large sum of American taxpayer’s money, had to ‘invent’ all kinds of anti-Soviet lies, or read such lies from a CIA-provided script. No ‘objective’ proof was either needed or sought to verify the efficacy of these lies – the fact that a Russian had said it was considered proof enough. For instance, Swanson quotes someone referred to as ‘Dr Nicholas Poppe’ – supposedly a ‘best friend’ of Julian Shchutskii and the ‘best man’ at his wedding in 1928 no less! This fictional character fabricates the usual anti-Soviet myths and blames all the ills in the world upon Joseph Stalin. In 1928, Joseph Stalin established an academic centre for the study of Buddhist philosophy and culture (as he knew that Marx and Engels had a high opinion of Early Buddhist dialectics). In 1936, Joseph Stalin personally over-saw the inauguration of the Soviet Constitution that not only guaranteed religious freedom and freedom of thought (already present since 1917), but which even today is considered one of the greatest documents of human freedom ever developed by any regime, anywhere in the world. Joseph Stalin would also become a staunch ally of the democratic West and lead the Red Army in its defence of the Soviet Union against the Nazi German invasion which would eventually cost the lives of around 40 million Soviet men, women and children. 

Of course, historical accuracy and correct historical context did not matter to Gerald W Swanson. Having accessed the Russian language Soviet Archive (on Yandex), and read a number of contemporary Russian-language historical articles about Julian Shchutskii – I have not encountered anyone named ‘Nicholas Poppe’. Furthermore, I can find no evidence that Julian Shchutskii was married in 1928 as asserted by Swanson. Swanson (and Poppe) would have us believe that Julian Shchutskii was ‘forced’ to study ‘Marxism’ (no one was ‘forced’), when in fact he was a religiously minded ‘idealist’ (suggesting that ‘religion’ was ‘banned’ in the USSR). Many millions of Soviet Citizens adhered to a religion in the USSR, including Christian, Buddhists and Muslims, etc. Being religious or being an atheist had equal legal validity in the USSR and could not be used as grounds to have someone arrested. The exact opposite was true, as it was a criminal offence to prevent a person in the USSR from exercising freedom of thought and freedom of religion. Therefore, Poppe is wrong in his assertion that this was ‘why’ Julian Shchutskii was arrested. Swanson then has Nicholas Poppe bizarrely state that he ‘ran to Finland’ from the USSR in 1937 to escape arrest – and yet Poppe continues to describe details that supposedly happened to Julian Shchutskii (and his colleagues) as if he had witnessed these events first-hand – when in fact they had transpired AFTER he had supposedly left the USSR! Following this fictional arrest, Nicholas Poppe then provides an equally fictional conclusion to this affair. He states that Julian Shchutskii was taken to a gulag and subjected to years of hard-labour ‘until his skull was crushed by a heavy chain’. Again, Swanson has Poppe exercise his bizarre psychic powers and minutely explain an event he was not present at, or had any details of. So much for US anti-intellectualism and Cold War Disinformation.  

All the Russian-language texts that I have accessed (either critical or supportive of the USSR) ALL agree on the fate of Julian Shchutskii. Between 1936-1937 he was an employee of the State Hermitage Museum. Then, during August, 1937, Julian Shchutskii was arrested whilst staying at a cottage in Pitkelovo, on the charge of being a member of an: 

‘Anti-Soviet, anarcho-mystical, terrorist organization named the “Order of the Templars”.’ 

At his second interrogation, on September 3rd, 1937, Julian Shchutskii signed a full ‘confession’ and admitted ‘spying for Japan’. On February 18th, 1938, the Military College of the Supreme Court of the USSR sentenced him to be immediately ‘shot’ on a standard charge of counter-Revolutionary activity. As the Death Penalty only existed for ‘political crimes’ at this time in the USSR – Julian Shchutskii was sentenced to Death. This sentence was eventually carried-out six months after his initial arrest in August, 1937. A number of Soviet-era publications have the date of death wrong – mistakenly stating 1941 or 1946 – for reasons I cannot fathom. Julian Shchutskii – despite the best efforts of US anti-Soviet propaganda – did not end-up in a ‘gulag’ or have his skull ‘crushed by a heavy chain’ as asserted by the double-act of Swanson and Poppe!  Under the revisionist Khrushchev regime – Julian Shchutskii was ‘rehabilitated’ in 1958 – as were thousands of other anti-Soviet criminals.  

Julian Shchutskii was undoubtedly something of a genius whose talents were enhanced rather than repressed by the Soviet System. Despite never visiting China (and having only a ‘limited’ access to ethnic Chinese people), he mastered the spoken and written Chinese language, and developed a sound academic understanding of Chinese philosophy and cultural thinking. His work on the Book of Changes (Yijing) is very interesting and often over-looked by ‘I Ching’ scholarship today. Since 1945, the US has propagated the myth that religion does not exist in China (due to the Communist regime), and that the only option available is to study Japanese attitudes about Chinese religion. This is like studying the English attitudes about the Irish as a means to understand Ireland! The Imperial Japanese killed millions of Chinese men, women and children between 1931-1945 and to this day, Japan – as an ally of the US – refuses to acknowledge or apologise for its War Crimes in China!  Interestingly, (and one of the reasons I believe Julian Shchutskii was ‘guilty’ of spying for the Japanese), Julian Shchutskii pursued a similar policy of interpreting Chinese culture through the discriminative eyes of the Japanese decades before the US adopted this deception as a foreign policy! Furthermore, despite being a recognised ‘expert’ in Chinese language and thought, Julian Shchutskii ‘refused’ to study any Chinese thinker from the last three-hundred years – stating that they were not worth bothering with! This attitude seems suspiciously very similar to the ideology of Imperial Japan which viewed the Chinese people as an ‘inferior’ race!  

English Reference: 

Julian K Shchutskii: Researches on the I Ching, Routledge, (1980) – English Translation by William L MacDonald, Tsuyoshi, Hasegawa and Hellmut Wilhem – Introduction by Gerald R Swanson 

Russian Language References:

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