Albert Rhys Williams

Portrait of Albert Rhys Williams

Born: Greenwich, Ohio - 28 September 1883
Died: Ossining, New York - 27 February 1962

Unlike his more famous contemporary John Reed, Albert Rhys Williams managed to combine fervent support for the Soviet Union and close contact with its leaders with a long and prosperous life.

The son of a Congregationalist pastor from England, Albert Rhys Williams studied at Marietta College in Ohio, then the Hartford Theological Seminary and finally on a fellowship to the University of Cambridge and the University of Marburg, where he met members of the British Labour Party and other socialists. From that point on, Williams was very active in labor and social issues. He worked on the presidential campaign of socialist candidate Eugene Debbs in 1908, and began to build a career as a journalist. Supporting strikers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912, he met John Reed for the first time.

Like Reed, Williams was in Petrograd in 1917, as correspondent for The New York Evening Post. He was in attendance at the storming of the Winter Palace. He staid in Russia until May 1918, attending the First, Second and Third Congresses of Soviets, meeting Vladimir Lenin several times, organizing an international brigade to fight with the Bolsheviks in the Civil War, and travelling to Vladivostok to cover foreign intervention in the Revolution.

Back in America, he published leaflets explaining and extolling the Bolshevik Revolution, and promoted them throughout the country. He published the first biography of Lenin in the USA in 1919, and continued to travel in the Soviet Union throughout the 1920s, publishing his most famous work, The Russian Land , in 1929. He had seemingly no awareness of the political persecutions being carried out in the Soviet Union, and remained to the end of his life an ardent supporter of the country. He made his final journey there in 1959, on the invitation of the Soviet government, and died in 1962.

Works: Soviet Russia and Siberia (1919), Soviet Russia (1919), Lenin: The Man and His Work (1919), Through the Russian Revolution (1921), The Russian Land (1927), The Soviets (1937), The Russians: The Land, the People, and Why They Fight (1943)

Connected with: John Reed