Felix Dzerzhinsky

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Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (Polish: Feliks Dzierżyński [ˈfɛliks dʑerˈʐɨɲski], Russian: Феликс Эдмундович Дзержинский; 11 September [O.S. 30 August] 1877–July 20, 1926) was a Communist revolutionary, famous as the founder of the Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka, later known by many names during the history of the Soviet Union. The agency became notorious for large-scale actions that since 1948 would qualify as human rights abuses, including torture and mass summary executions, carried out especially during the Red Terror and the Russian Civil War.[1][2]

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Social Democratic leader in Poland

Feliks Dzierżyński was born into a Polish szlachta (noble) family of the Samson coat of arms in the Dziarzhynava estate near Ivyanets and Rakaw in Western Belarus (in present-day Minsk Voblast), then part of the Russian Empire. He attended the Russian gymnasium at Vilnius. As an irony of history, one of the older students at this gymnasium was his future archenemy Józef Piłsudski. Years later, as Marshal of the interwar Polish state, Piłsudski generously recalled that Dzierżyński "distinguished himself as a student with delicacy and modesty. He was rather tall, thin and demure, making the impression of an ascetic with the face of an icon. ... Tormented or not, this is an issue history will clarify; in any case this person did not know how to lie."[3]

Before being able to graduate, Dzierżyński was expelled from the gymnasium for "revolutionary activity". He had joined a Marxist group—the Union of Workers (SDKP) in 1895, and was subsequently one of the founders of Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) in 1899. He spent a large part of his early life in various prisons. In 1897, as a leader of a shoemaker's strike, Dzierżyński was arrested for "criminal agitation among the Kovno workers" and the police files from this time stated that: "Feliks Dzierżyński, considering his views, convictions and personal character, will be very dangerous in the future, capable of any crime."[4]

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