Redemption in the Shadow of the Double:

Esther Menaker’s Psychohistorical Analysis of the Russian Spy Yevno Azef, a Terrorist in the Family

– by Claude Barbre, PhD, Chicago School of Professional Psychology 

Thursday, May 31st, 2018 @9:55 am – 10:45 am    Room 912




Two years before she died in August 2003, pioneer psychotherapist Esther Menaker (one of the first child psychoanalysts from Anna Freud’s training group to practice in New York City) wrote a powerful account about her notorious uncle, the Russian terrorist Yevno Asef. She writes, “In my own life there was a character difficult to understand and even harder to forgive. He turned out to be a member of my family, but a historical character as well” (2001). As Richard Rubenstein says in his biography about Azef (1994), alias Comrade Valentine, he was “the most dangerous man in Russia at the time of the last Czars.” Drawing from Dr. Menaker’s unpublished manuscript, we will examine the story of the double-spy Comrade Valentine through her psychological and psychohistorical analysis of this complicated figure—in particular, a self-psychological study of Azef’s personality in the context of Russian history, and her writings on shame and redemption when confronting the secret of terrorism in her family and life.

Learning Points:


At the end of this educational activity, its participants will be able to:

1) discuss and analyze the nature of trauma, shame, and identification in the example of the Russian Spy Yevno Azef, and understand the origins of terrorism from exploring his legacy;

2) explore and discuss the influence of Azef’s legacy on Dr. Menaker as analyzed by her self-reflection and psychological perspectives.



Barbre, C. (2015). Foreword. In M. O'Loughlin, The ethics of rememberings and the consequences of forgetting. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Crankshow, E. (1976). The shadow of the winter palace: Russia’s drift to revolution (1825-1917).

Foster, R. P. (2003). Considering a Multicultural Perspective for Psychoanalysis. In A. Roland, B. Ulanov, & C. Barbre (Eds.), Creative dissent: Psychoanalysis in evolution (pp. 173-185). Westport, CT, US: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.

Menaker, E.  (1982). Otto Rank : A rediscovered legacy. NY, NY: Columbia University Press.

Menaker, E.  (1996). Separation, will, and creativity: The wisdom of Otto Rank.  C. Barbre (Ed.). Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.

Menaker, E. (1995). The freedom to inquire: Self-psychological perspectives on women’s issues, masochism, and the therapeutic relationship.  C. Barbre (Ed.).  Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.

O’ Loughlin, M. (2015). The ethics of remembering and the consequence of forgetting. Northvale: Roman and Littlefield.

Rubenstein, R. E. (1994). Comrade Valentine: The true story of Azef the spy—the most dangerous man in Russia at the time of the last Czars. New York and London: Harcourt Brace.

Roland, A., Ulanov, B., & Barbre, C. (Eds.).  (2004).  Creative dissent: Psychoanalysis in evolution.  London and New York: Praeger-Greenwood Press.


Bio of the Presenter:

Claude Barbre, M.S., M.Div., PhD, L.P. (claudebarbre@earthlink.net) is Distinguished Full Professor of the Clinical Psychology PsyD Department of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Barbre is Course-Lead Coordinator of the Psychodynamic Orientation at The Chicago School, and teaches in the Child and Adolescent Studies. He has counseled children and families for over 30 years, and served for 12 years as Executive Director of The Harlem Family Institute, a New York City school-based, psychoanalytic training program, working with children and families in high-needs neighborhoods. Author of prize-winning articles, books, and poetry, Dr. Barbre is a five-time recipient of the international Gradiva Award, presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP). He is also the recipient of the 2016-17 Ted Rubenstein Inspired Teaching Award. Dr. Barbre is currently a Board Member and Training Supervisor at The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis (CCP), and is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Chicago IL.


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