Boris Savinkov and Cognitive Bias

Boris Savinkov lived a short and eventful life. He was born in 1879 and was the son of a judge. He studied law in St. Petersburg but was kicked out for his extracurricular activities (agitation).

The dude was into it. He started as a socialist, but he became disillusioned with that and moved to terrorism. In the 1905 revolution, he was involved in at least two assassinations. He was arrested and condemned to death but escaped and fled to Europe.

The war came and he volunteered to fight for France. Then came 1917 and Savinkov made his way back to Russia where he joined the Kerensky provisional government as Deputy War Minister. It was said that during this period, he was ruthless in putting down mutinies within the military.  Here he is

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Then came the Kornilov affair. As head of the military, Kornilov attempted a putsch against Kerensky. In order to defeat Kornilov, Kerensky armed the bolsheviks. Bad idea. And Savinkov understood that this was stupid. He had supported Kornilov and was expelled from the party and government for it.

In October, the Bolsheviks now armed, came to power. Savinkov decided to keep on fighting and for a few years was involved in various military campaigns to try to defeat them. They all failed and eventually he fled Russia again to the west.

You get the idea. The guy had seen it all. So here is the question. In 1924, the bolshevik intelligence folks came up with a plan to deal with people like Savinkov. They formed an organization called the “trust”, which purposed to be anti-.Soviet. And trust representatives were sent out to try to lure back prominent enemies of the revolution to help them overthrow the bolsheviks. Savinkov was duped. He went back, was arrested, tried, and imprisoned. He either jumped out of a window or was pushed.  My guess is that he was pushed once his usefulness was exhausted.

My question — how could a man like Savinkov who had no illusions about who the bolsheviks were and what they were capable of, could have been fooled? No one knows. Except, it is likely that he fervently wanted to believe what they told him.


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