Washington, June 21 (RFE/RL) - John Reed, the controversial American journalist who participated in the Bolshevik revolution and is now buried in the Kremlin Wall, may get a monument of his own in his native state of Oregon.
Reed, also an author and poet, wrote several books including, "Ten
Days That Shook the World," his personal account of the Bolshevik
revolution. The introduction to the book was written by Lenin.
Reed was born in Portland in 1887 to a wealthy family. His mother's family owned the Portland Gas Company. His father became a U.S. Marshall, a sort of federally appointed police officer with
jurisdiction in an assigned district.
During his youth, Reed attended the prestigious and expensive
Portland Academy and then later, Harvard University. After
graduation, he moved to Greenwich Village in New York, where he
joined groups involved in radical politics. Here he said he felt his
first pangs of guilt at having led such a privileged life.
"My happiness," he wrote later, "was built on the misery of other
He then moved to Mexico where he covered Mexican political events.
In 1917, Reed traveled to Russia with his wife, journalist Louise
Bryant, to cover the revolution. Their open admiration of Lenin and
the Bolsheviks caused the couple to be openly vilified in America.
Reed died of typhus in Moscow in 1920 and was buried in the Kremlin
Wall. He was 33 years old.
The movement to erect a hometown monument to Reed started in 1987
when a group of Portland's art and literature lovers decided to
celebrate the 100th anniversary of Reed's birthday.
"We got very excited because here was a man who was in print in many languages, who was born right in our own city and lived many exciting years here before he went off to Harvard and Mexico and then Russia," David Milholland, of the Oregon Cultural Historical Commission told RFE/RL. "After this event we decided that we should do something more, that he should be memorialized here because he was a significant product of our city."
But Milholland admitted the task of raising money for such a
controversial figure is not easy. He said the group has raised about
5,000 dollars so far for the monument, but that the goal is 75,000 -
"We want to do something big," he said. "Something that captures a
piece of this complex man, John Reed."
The Commission has already been given permission from the Portland
City Park Department to create a memorial to John Reed at a large
park at the top of a hill overlooking the city. Milholland said the
Commission is already accepting designs for the monument and is
especially interested in proposals from Russian and Mexican artists
because "Reed spent considerable time in both countries and really
felt a bond with the people."
The place and location for a monument has also been approved by
Reed's family. In early June, John Reed, the nephew and namesake of
his famous uncle, visited Portland to inspect the site.
"It's a beautiful site," Reed told RFE/RL. "It overlooks the city
of Portland and I think Uncle Jack would like it."
When asked whether the family would eventually like John Reed's
remains to be removed from the Kremlin Wall and returned to the
United States, Reed replied emphatically: "Uncle Jack had a deep and
sincere attachment to Russia and the Russian people. I am sure that
it was his wish, and that of his late wife, to be buried in a
suitable place there."
Reed added that he had been discussing this matter at great length
with U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Thomas Pickering, when the family
heard of a movement, allegedly coming from the mayor's office in
Moscow, to disinter Reed's remains from the Kremlin Wall and bury him
in the state cemetery Novodevichie as part of a plan to rid the
Kremlin of old Bolshevik heroes. Reed said they sent letters to
Pickering as well to President Boris Yelstin's office, informing them
of the family's wishes.
"We said that if Uncle Jack's remains are to be disinterred from the Kremlin Wall where he is now buried, we would like them sent home to Portland for burial at the family plot in Riverview Cemetery," Reed
said. "But if not, we are very happy to have them remain where they
Milholland is hopeful that the visit of Reed's nephew to Portland
will re-energize the fundraising effort for the monument.
"We want to provide a fuller vision of John Reed than just a
revolutionary figure," he said. "He was also a journalist, involved
with playwright Eugene O'Neill in creating a theater movement, and
was a fine poet. He was much more than just a revolutionary."