David P. Boder Interviews Dimitri Odinets; October 4, 1946; Paris, France



David Boder was well-acquainted with Professor Dimitri Odinets since he was one of Boder's instructors at the Psychoneurological Institute in pre-World War I St. Petersburg. Following the February 1917 revolution which toppled the government of the Tsar Nicholas II, Odinets was appointed Minister on All Russian Affairs by the new Provisional government. He was sent to Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, to combat right-wing Ukrainian nationalist separatism. One can infer from his interview that Professor Odinets was part of the liberal nationalist Russian intelligentsia.

The communist Bolsheviks—headed by Vladimir Lenin—toppled the Provisional government in October 1917. Soon thereafter, a horribly bitter civil broke out between the communists and their opponents, which lasted until the communist victory in 1921. During this time, Odinets was in the turbulent Ukraine as communist and anti-communist forces clashed in a bloody struggle.

Odinets made a perilous escape to Romania in 1921 and eventually settled in Paris, where he helped found the Russian People's University and the Franco-Russian Institute. For a time, he was chairman of the Russian Pedagogical Society in France. When interviewed by Boder, Professor Odinets was working as general secretary of the Russian Academic Union of France and editor of the paper The Soviet Patriot, as well as chairman of the board of the Turgenov library. At the time of the interview on October 4, 1946, Professor Odinets still had hopes of returning to the Soviet Union. This aspiration indicated that his Russian patriotism—which had undoubtedly been strengthened by the Soviet victory in World War II, the "Great Patriotic War," and longing for his homeland—had overridden his antipathy to communism.

The bulk of Boder's interview focuses on Professor Odinets's experiences in Paris under German occupation. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he was interned by the Nazis due to his Russian origins and failure to cooperate with them. After spending ten months in an interment camp at Compiègne-Royallieu, he was released. He clearly pointed out the differences between German treatment of Jews and non-Jews in the camp, with the former suffering to a greater extent. Upon his release, Professor Odinets supported himself by giving Russian lessons and became engaged in underground work, helping to publish the paper which became The Soviet Patriot.

Professor Odinets states that while there were some in the Russian colony in Paris who did collaborate with the Germans, most did not, he among them. His testimony in the interview shows him to be courageous and principled individual.

—Elliot Lefkovitz