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Surits, Iakov Zakharovich

(1882–1952), Soviet diplomat. Born in Dvinsk (Lat., Daugavpils), Iakov Surits became involved in revolutionary activities as early as 1899. A Bundist in 1902 and 1903, he was a Menshevik from 1903 to 1914 and an Internationalist from 1914 to 1917. Repeatedly arrested, he spent 1907 to 1910 in Siberian exile. He then emigrated abroad and studied philosophy at Berlin University. A member of the Bolshevik Party from 1917, in 1918 and 1919 he was a deputy plenipotentiary of the Bolshevik regime in Denmark and, for a short time, a member of the State Control Collegium, a body that controlled the activities of the Soviet state apparatus.

Surits was drafted into the army in 1919; however, the Central Committee overturned the decision of the draft board, and he was sent as representative plenipotentiary to Afghanistan, where he was instrumental in the finalization of the Russian–Afghan Treaty of 1921. His task was to maintain diplomatic relations “with the peoples of independent Afghanistan, with the independent tribes of Baluchistan, Khiva, and Bukhara, and with the peoples of India, Kashmir, and Tibet who are striving for their independence” (Volodarsky, 1994).

In 1922 and 1923, Surits was plenipotentiary and commercial representative in Norway, and plenipotentiary in Turkey from 1923 to 1934. In this latter capacity he prepared and signed, on behalf of the Soviet regime, the 1925 treaty with Turkey pledging the two countries to nonaggression and friendly relations. In 1934, he conducted negotiations to establish diplomatic ties with Bulgaria. From 1934 to 1937, Surits was plenipotentiary in Germany, and from 1937 to 1940 he served in the same role in France. He was also a member of the Soviet delegation to the League of Nations from 1937 to 1939.

From 1940 until 1945, Surits worked at the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. From 1945 to 1947, he was Soviet minister in Brazil. After retiring in 1948, he worked as a reviewer for the State Publishing House of Foreign Literature. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his contribution to Soviet diplomacy.

Suggested Reading

Ilya Ehrenburg, Memoirs: 1921–1944, trans. Tatiana Shebunina (Cleveland and New York, 1964); Mikhail Volodarsky, The Soviet Union and Its Southern Neighbours: Iran and Afghanistan, 1917–1933 (Ilford, Eng., and Portland, Ore., 1994).



Translated from Russian by Chaim Chernikov