Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him - Donald Rayfield (2005)


Abbreviations for archives: GASPI = Russian State Archive of Social-Political History; GARF = State Archive of the Russian Federation. The numbers given refer (in order) to the fond, the opis, the delo, and the page(s).

ONE • The Long Road to Power

1. Quoted in Stanislav Kuniaev and Sergei Kuniaev, Rasterzannye teni, 1995, 82. Vasiliev was released in 1932 despite these verses being in his dossier. He was shot on August 13, 1937.

2. The Osetians are an Iranian people settled in the central Caucasus. Osetians were until recently integrated with their Georgian neighbors; Stalin’s possibly Osetic blood is no more significant to Georgian or Russian history than Henry Tudor’s Welshness is to English history.

3. N. Tlashadze, GASPI 8, 2:1, 48, 20.

4. GASPI 71, 1, 275, 23.

5. GASPI 558, 11, 721, 68.

6. GASPI 558, 11, 722, 51.

7. See Iakob Gogebashvili, Rcheuli tkhzulebani, 1990, vol. 2, 80–98.

8. Bezbozhnik, December 21, 1939, quoted in E. S. Gromov, Stalin, 1998, 38.

9. Pasha subsequently married and had a child. Her husband, her child, and her mother all died in the mid-1930s and, shortly before her husband’s aunt wrote to Stalin to find her, she herself vanished, no doubt arrested, from the streets of Moscow. See B. S. Ilizarov, Tainaia zhizn’ Stalina, 2002, 284–6.

10. K. Gamsakhurdia, Davit Aghmashenebeli, Tbilisi: 1942, 465.

11. Roman Brackman asserts that Stalin chose the name Koba after his natural father, Prince Koba Egnatashvili.

12. See Ilizarov, 2002, 411–53 for a full analysis of Stalin’s reading of Dostoevsky.

13. Stalin took steps to set up an institute of experimental medicine under a certain Professor Bogomoltsev, who promised an elixir of life. When Bogomoltsev himself died aged only sixty-five, Stalin laughed bitterly.

14. GASPI 558, 3, 406.

15. Most of Russia’s Esperantists were later shot as cosmopolitans and spies.

16. Stalin appears also to have had a reading knowledge of French. On May 4, 1923, he circulated Fridtjof Nansen’s protest (in French) on the impending execution of Patriarch Tikhon to the Politburo, and only Tomsky marked the document, “Did not read, for unfortunately I have not studied French.” (Politburoi tserkov’, 1997, 1, 302–03).

17. Pravda, December 21, 1994. Underneath Stalin appended in blue pencil: “Alas, what do we see, what do we see?”

18. Cartoons attributed by Ilizarov in Tainaia zhizn’ Stalina, 2002, to Stalin, such as a doodle of the finance minister Briukhanov hanging by his genitals, do not tally with the geometric, abstract nature of his doodling.

19. Grigol Eliava died in 1925, but his son, the bacteriologist Gogi Eliava, was arrested by Beria and shot in 1937.

20. Archive documentation neither supports nor fully refutes this suspicion. Much archival material quoted here was first published by Aleksandr Ostrovsky in his monograph, Kto stoial za spinoi Stalina, St. Petersburg, 2002.

21. Zaria Vostoka, December 23, 1925.

22. In 1944, living enviably uneventfully as a housewife, Polina wrote her memoirs, and was made to surrender these and all her gifts from Stalin to the party archives. GASPI 558, 4, 647.

23. Petrovsky’s claim to fame is that he was the only member of this Central Committee Stalin allowed to survive the terror of the 1930s.

24. This dossier is not available; it may be in the Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation.

25. Ozolinņš published his memoir in 1933 when, as director of the Latvian Bank, he was negotiating a trade agreement with the USSR; his critique of Stalin was therefore tactful. He was nevertheless shot on Stalin’s orders in 1941. For a Russian translation of Ozolinņš’s memoir and Boris Ravdin’s article on it, see Daugava,Riga, 2002, 4, 126–42.

26. The Bolsheviks had a fashion for “hard” pseudonyms: apart from Stalin (steel) there was Kamenev (stone) and Molotov (hammer), not to mention Fiodor Raskol’nikov who named himself after Dostoevsky’s axe-murderer.

27. Kibirov was posted to Turukhansk as a punishment for misdemeanors in the Caucasus, which explains why he sided with Stalin against the gendarme.

28. This son, Aleksandr, was subsequently adopted by a peasant, Davydov, to whom Lidia was later married off. Aleksandr Davydov became a major in the Red Army and died in 1987.

29. GASPI 558, 1, 54, 1–3.

30. Bednyi means “the poor”; his real surname was more appropriate, Pridvorov (of the court). He was probably the illegitimate son of one of the Tsar’s cousins.

31. GASPI 558, 11, 701.

32. GASPI 558, 11, 721, 126.

33. Obshchaia gazeta, St. Petersburg, No. 9, March 1–7, 2001, 15.

34. The fate of Shapiro, arguably the bravest man in Stalin’s entourage, is unknown.

35. Chuev, 100 razgovorov, as cited by D. V. Koliosov, I. V. Stalin, 2000, 200–01.

TWO • Stalin, image, and the Cheka

1. Even in Polish, despite his talent for graphic writing, image was an outsider: he spoke both Polish and Russian with a Lithuanian accent. GASPI 76, 4, 139: circular of October 29, 1920, when Leon Skrzeņdzienko, a schoolmate of image’s, reported seeing him in disguise on the streets of Warsaw. The Red Army was approaching Białystok with a group of proposed ministers for a Soviet Polish republic including image. The “dyktator czrezvyczajki” is described as tall, thin, bald, about forty-five.

2. Feliks imageListy do siostry Aldony, 1951, 155–6.

3. P. Filevskii, Ocherki iz proshlogo Taganrogskoi gimnazii, Taganrog: 1906.

4. She died in 1966 at the age of ninety-six.

5. It is typical of Feliks’s punctiliousness that after Stanisław’s murder he confiscated the family estate and assets for the Soviet government, sending Aldona just a few trinkets.

6. See Lev Korneshov, “Liubimaia zhenshchina Dzerzhinskogo,” Rossiiskaia gazeta, February 17, 1994, 7.

7. She later became the protector of another romantic killer and died curator of the Lermontov museum in Piatigorsk.

8. Rosół was released in 1901 “just skin and bones” and died in Kaunas in 1902, his last words, image claimed, being, “Long live the Polish Social Democrat Workers’ Union.”

9. See Zofia Dzierimageyimageska, Lata wielkich bojów, Warsaw: 1969.

10. Ironically this prison would be death row for Stalin’s political enemies—including the leader of the social revolutionaries, Mariia Spiridonova, and his own brother-in-law Aliosha Svanidze—whose executions he put off until August 1941 when Beria had all 150 shot.

11. Lenin’s secretary Fotieva recounted an episode in which Lenin asked image how many counterrevolutionaries he had under arrest. image passed him a slip of paper with the figure of 1,500. Lenin returned the paper, marking it with a cross to show that he had read it. image, Fotieva claims, interpreted the cross as a death sentence and had all 1,500 shot.

12. A plane crash in 1925 that killed Atarbekov and two other chekisty was greeted by many as divine vengeance even though the young and ambitious Georgian chekist Lavrenti Beria was suspected of sabotage.

13. Bruce-Lockhart found image much more intimidating: “his eyes deeply sunk, they blazed with a steady fire of fanaticism. They never twitched. His eyelids seemed to be paralyzed.” For Bruce-Lockhart Stalin, who took part with image in these first Anglo-Soviet soundings, was beneath notice: “a strongly-built man with a sallow face, black mustache, heavy eyebrows and black hair worn en brosse . . . He did not seem of sufficient importance to include in my gallery of Bolshevik portraits.”

14. Peterss never relented. In Russia Maisie became, against her father’s wishes, a pupil of Isadora Duncan. In 1938 Peterss, like almost every adult Latvian in the party and the Cheka, was arrested as a fascist spy, tortured, and shot. His son became an NKVD informer. May Freeman died during the Second World War; Maisie, often hungry, found work at the British embassy, but despite contacting the British foreign minister, Ernest Bevin, and an affair with a military attaché, was arrested in 1949 by the KGB and sentenced to ten years in the camps for spying. She died in 1971, still hoping for an exit visa. See Valentin Shteinberg, “Svecha na vetru,” Zemlia (Riga) January 5–February 2, 1993.

15. See Viktor Fradkin, Delo Kol’tsova, Moscow: 2002, 46.

16. Maimagertinņš Laimagecis, Chrezvychainaia komissiia po bor’be s Kontr-revoliutsiei, Moscow: Gosiz, 1921.

17. Maimagertinņš Laimagecis, “image i Cheka” in F. Dzierimagezynimageski, 1931.

18. The first attempt to look the ugly facts in the face without reverting to Russophile anti-Semitism was in the second volume of Solzhenitsyn’s Dvesti let vmeste (Russians and the Jews: Two Hundred Years Together), Moscow: 2003. Inevitably, the facts feed anti-Semitic propaganda, but ignoring them is to do anti-Semites an even greater service.

19. In 1924 image wrote of Zionism to his deputies Menzhinsky and Iagoda: “We must assimilate only the most insignificant % of Jews, that’s enough. The others must be Zionists. . . . Let’s meet the Zionists halfway and try to give jobs not to them but to those who consider the USSR, not Palestine, their homeland.” But in 1918 Zionists had their funds and archive confiscated; “right-wing” Zionists were arrested in 1920. The Politburo gave Stalin on May 6, 1920, the task of negotiating with Semion Dimanshtein, the Bolshevik commissar for Jewish affairs, to make Jews conform to Soviet nationalities policies.

20. His receipt is printed in V. I. Lenin, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenii, vol. 51, Moscow, 1975.

21. Krest’ianskoe dvizhenie v Povolzh’e, Moscow, 2002, 707.

22. Ibid., 462.

23. Valerii Shambarov, Gosudarstvo i revoliutsii, 2001, 17.

24. Chekisty often took a reciprocal interest in the writing of poetry: when the Armenian poet Ovanes Tumanian died in 1923, a critique of his “creative and social worth” was published in Erevan under the pseudonym Martuni by Aleksandr Miasnikiants, who had, on behalf of the party and the Cheka, just slaughtered Tumanian’s closest friends.

25. There is an almost plausible theory that Lenin’s shooting was an attempted coup d’etat by Sverdlov. Trotsky was at the front at Kazan, Stalin at Tsaritsyn, Zinoviev and image in Petrograd. Sverdlov took over the reins of power, gave the order for Kaplan to be killed without a confession, let alone trial, and did all he could to dissuade Lenin from resuming work until late October. Hitherto healthy, Sverdlov died, apparently of flu, the following March, and his post (chairman of the Executive Committee) was given to Stalin and Lenin’s puppet, Mikhail Kalinin.

Moscow’s first crematorium was opened shortly afterward in the Donskoi monastery. Muscovites objected to firewood being used to burn the dead when the living were freezing for lack of fuel. The Cheka’s victims had priority.

26. See Shambarov, 2001, 132. Bokii, after further killings in Turkestan, ran a commune at Kuchino, where his guests and underlings mixed with naked prostitutes and Bokii’s daughters during orgies and mock executions.

27. See A. G. Latyshev, Rassekrechennyi Lenin, 1996, 57.

28. Dmitrii Volkogonov, Trotskii I, 1999, 295.

29. This was too liberal for Aleksandr Beloborodov, who had signed the order for the killing of the Tsar and his family and was now plenipotentiary for suppressing Cossack uprisings: “those who are captured are not to be tried: they are to suffer mass reprisals.” See Bol’shevistskoe rukovodstvo: perepiska 1912–1927, Moscow, 1996, 95.

30. Kedrov is unique among arrested chekists in that a trial actually acquitted him, in 1941. Beria had him shot nevertheless.

31. Only in Siberia—through migration, deportation, and isolation from fighting— did the population grow.

32. Zofia Dzierimageyimageska in her memoirs insists that Feliks loved children and that they were drawn to him. image sent his own son Jasiek to a summer camp run by the Cheka.

33. In February 1920 image acquired an even more devoted colleague, his secretary Vladimir (Veniamin) Gerson, who fussed over his health to the day he died. Gerson was later shot by Beria.

34. Bol’shevistskoe rukovodstvo, 53.

35. Ibid., 156.

36. Izvestiia TsK KPSS, 1989, 11, 174.

37. Feliks image, 1951, 155–6.

38. The irony is that Piłsudski grew up on an estate neighboring image’s.

39. Bol’shevistskoe rukovodstvo, 156.

40. Latyshev, 1996, 282.

41. GASPI 558, 11, 816, 71, March 7, 1923.

42. Orjonikidze’s fiery temperament, his drinking and womanizing, and his readiness to use his fists had annoyed Lenin before.

43. Kamenev had a dacha at Zubalovo. In autumn 1922, once he had constructed a branch line and gotten a neighboring collective farm to provide food, Stalin persuaded Lenin to stay there too.

44. His first break for three years, from suppressing “bandits” and anarchists in the Ukraine, was a course of hydrotherapy in summer 1921 in Kharkov at Lenin’s insistence.

45. Lakoba archive, now in Hoover Institute.

46. Ibid.

47. V. I. Lenin, Neizvestnye dokumenty, 2000, 439.

48. When, in March 1922, Kamenev’s and Stalin’s mental states worried Lenin and image was told to find them a dacha for restful weekends, Stalin voted the proposal down.

49. GASPI 558, 11, 816, 75.

50. GASPI 558, 11, 816, 177.

51. See V. Iu. Cherniaev (ed.), Piterskie rabochie i “diktatura proletariata”—Oktiabr’ 1917–29, 2000, 193.

52. A. Ia. Livshin et al. (eds.) Pis’ma vo vlast’ 1917–1927, 1998, 463–8.

53. Lenin, 2000, 487.

54. Bol’shevistskoe rukovodstvo, 277.

55. Ibid., 278.

56. Ibid., 311.

57. GASPI 76, 3, 231, 2. Only in despair did image confess to Kamenev that the only way to revive the rural economy would be to restore the dispossessed landowners.

58. GASPI 76, 3, 237, 21. Telegram from Belenky to Gerson, November 7, 1922.

59. GASPI 76, 4, 30, 8.

60. GASPI 482, 1, 46, 9. Quoted by Nekrasov, 1995, 62.

THREE • The Exquisite Inquisitor

1. A typed copy of Menzhinsky’s dissertation is in OR 384, 25, 60.

2. His son, Rudolf, was killed in the First World War. Not until the late 1920s did Menzhinsky, then a sick man, remarry. His second wife was Alla Semionovna, by whom he had a son, another Rudolf (who died in 1951), in 1927.

3. Menzhinsky’s unpublished prose was lost in Paris; some lies in the FSB archives.

4. Menzhinsky, like image, visited Gorky on Capri and, like Iagoda, forged a lifelong link with him.

5. Blok had asthma, scurvy, and paranoia; Sologub’s wife was going mad and doctors in Germany or Finland were their last hope.

6. Under arrest the previous year, Blok had told a fellow writer that the Bolsheviks “will kill us all and everything else.”

7. Agranov, not yet thirty, was a frustrated poet. He eventually became a boon companion of Mayakovsky and mixed with Pilniak and Mandelstam. In 1921 he could break into intellectual circles only with a revolver.

8. See Zven’ia I, 1991, 470.

9. It also decreed death for any deportee who returned without permission.

10. G. Latyshev, Rassekrechennyi Lenin, Moscow: 1996, 202.

11. GASPI 2, 2, 1338. See Latyshev, 1996, 263–4.

12. Latyshev, 1996, 216–17.

13. See M. V. Zelenov, Apparat CK RKP (b) VKP (b): Tsenzura i istoricheskaia nauka v 1920-e gody, Nizhni Novgorod, 2000.

14. Surta became a neuropathologist and rose to become commissar for health in Belorussia. He was shot in 1937.

15. A. Krivova, Vlast’ i tserkov’ v 1922–1925 gg., Moscow: 1997, 128.

16. N. Pokrovskii and S. G. Petrov, Politburo i tserkov’ 1922–1925 gg., Moscow, 1997, I, 9.

17. Ibid., I, 141–2.

18. Ibid., I, 232–8.

19. The Bashkir cavalry fought against the Bolsheviks. On February 17, 1920, Lenin and image ordered all Bashkir leaders to be arrested and the rebellion in the area to be “liquidated with the harshest measures.” (Politburo session, GASPI 17, 3, 62, 1).

20. Zinoviev was called Grisha, not always affectionately and not only by Stalin. He reminded his colleagues of Grigori Rasputin and Grisha Otrepiev, the seventeenth-century pretender who claimed to be a son of Ivan the Terrible.

21. GASPI 558, 11, 753.

22. The GPU’s statistics are mendacious: in the Solovetsky islands concentration camps alone some 700 prisoners were shot in 1923.

23. Bol’shevistskoe rukovodstvo, 297–8.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid., 298.

26. Ibid., 305. Letter to Mekhlis, editor of Pravda, before May 1, 1925.

27. Balitsky’s contribution to Soviet security was marked by Vladimir Putin with a commemorative postage stamp in 2002.

28. GASPI 558, 11, 701, 37.

29. Stalin reported to Rykov: “Grisha was saying, ‘Everything here is getting worse, collapse is inevitable, etc.’ Bukharin gave him an exemplary thrashing. . . . Grisha got a reasonable reception at first, then people began interrupting and booing him. Bukharin was received very well, had an ovation, etc. There were about 2,000 present. I’m told there were about 30–40 on the side of the opposition.” GASPI 558, 11, 131, 73: May 10, 1927.

30. Trotsky’s energies were dissipated by minor posts: one of his jobs was exporting Russian furs to Germany, where the proceeds were used to fund the Berlin Institute for Psychiatry, in which he had an interest.

31. Bol’shevistskoe rukovodstvo, 309–12.

32. GASPI 558, 11, 131, 14 et seq.

33. GASPI 76, 3, 245, 19 & 26.

34. GASPI 2, 2, 380 & 447.

35. When Dzhunkovsky, as head of Moscow’s gendarmerie, denounced Rasputin’s orgies, he was immediately dismissed on the Tsaritsa’s orders.

36. While Menzhinsky was alive, Dzhunkovsky was protected. He was shot in 1937.

37. GASPI 558, 11, 726, 38. Letter to Kamenev, image, Kalinin, August 9, 1924.

38. Leonid Mlechin, KGB: predsedateli organov bezopasnosti, Moscow: 2001, 364. Much of Mlechin’s account relies on Khrushchiov’s uncorroborated memoirs.

39. See Andrew Cook, On His Majesty’s Secret Service—Sidney Reilly, London: 2002.

40. GASPI 558, 11, 71: June 22, 1926.

FOUR • Stalin Solo

1. See Mikhail Reiman, “Dokumenty kanuna stalinshchiny” in Sintaksis 13, Paris, 1985, 132–62.

2. Pis’ma vo vlast’ 1917–1927, Moscow, 1998, 401.

3. Article 107 of the legal code.

4. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni I, 1999, 159.

5. Ibid., 212.

6. V. Kvashonkin et al., Sovetskoe rukovodstvo: perepiska 1928–1941, Moscow: ROSSPÈN, 1999, 78–9.

7. Vadim Rogovin, Vlast’ i oppozitsiia, Moscow: 1993, 45.

8. Bazhanov in his Memoirs says that a Czech communist who specialized in automatic telephone exchanges was instructed by Stalin to install a system giving Stalin access to all calls made in the Kremlin, and that Stalin then told Iagoda to kill the Czech engineer. A special monitoring telephone certainly existed, but there are no records of any missing Czech telephone engineer.

9. Ibid., 48–54.

10. See Rogovin, 1993, 166–7.

11. Chess was for the Soviet Union an avenue for international contacts. Krylenko declared in 1932, “We must once and for all condemn the formula ‘chess for chess’s sake,’ like the formula ‘art for art’s sake.’ We must organize shock-tactics brigades of chess players and immediately start carrying out a five-year plan for chess.”

12. Kak lomali NÈP, Moscow: 2000, I, 412.

13. Pis’ma I. V. Stalina V. M. Molotovu 1925–1936, Moscow, 1995, 178–81.

14. Part of the evidence against Chaianov was a science fiction novel set in 1984, My Brother Aleksei’s Journey to the Land of Peasant Utopia, published in 1920.

15. Rogovin, 1993, 198.

16. Ramzin later received the Stalin Order and all his life referred fondly to the “Boss” despite admitting that he had been framed by the Lubianka.

17. Pis’ma I. V. Stalina V. M. Molotovu 1925–1936 gg., Moscow, 1995, 187–8.

18. Demian Bedny wrote for Stalin’s delectation a satire, “From the History of Russiaby Karamzin to Ramzin.”

19. Diary of S. A. Piontkovsky, quoted in Menshevistskii protsess 1931 goda, Moscow, 1999, 13.

20. Stalin doubtless found Frunze’s death convenient, but it is unproven that he ordered an overdose of anesthetic. image had in 1923 requisitioned all the chloroform he could find; much was unfit for anesthesia and patients died.

21. Chertkov’s letters to image and Stalin: OR 369, 363, 15 & 22; 369, 364, 2.

22. Vlast’ i intelligentsia, Moscow: 1999, 86–101.

23. V. Dmitriev, Sotsiologiia politicheskogo iumora, Moscow, 1998, 63.

24. Stanislav Kuniaev and Sergei Kuniaev, 1995, 230–31.

25. Stalin, however, found Pavlov hard to stomach: on September 26, 1934, on the eve of Pavlov’s eighty-fifth birthday, he reminded Molotov and Kaganovich: “Pavlov is not one of us. . . . He should not be given honors, even if he wanted to have them.”

26. Nicholas II found Platonov “dry and undoubtedly unsympathetic to the cult of Russian heroes.”

27. It is significant that Platonov’s interrogator, Sergei Zhupakhin, a former draftsman and railway engineer, was in 1938 removed from the NKVD and shot for excessive brutality: Zhupakhin had his juniors carry out executions with an ax.

28. Annenkov had given up fighting and become a horse breeder. He was forced to say that he had returned voluntarily to the USSR; he and the general were shot in 1927.

29. Radek never fully renounced Trotsky. When Klim Voroshilov called him Trotsky’s stooge (“tail” in Russian) he replied with an epigram: “O Klim, your head’s an empty space! / Your thoughts are in a mess. / Better to be the Leo’s tail / Than Stalin’s prick.”

30. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni I, Moscow: 1999, 491.

31. A. I. Kokurin and N. V. Petrov (eds.), GULAG 1918–1960, Moscow, 2000, 62.

32. Figures from Iu. A. Poliakov, Naselenie Rossii v XX veke, Moscow: ROSSPÈN, 2000, I, 316.

33. A. G. Tepliakov, Personal i povsednevnost’ novosibirskogo UNKVD v 1936–1946, Minuvshee 21, Moscow/St. Petersburg: 1997, 245–6.

34. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni II, 2000, 103–04.

35. Ibid., 145.

36. A. K. Sokolov (ed.), Golos naroda 1918–1932, Moscow: 1998, 293.

37. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni II, Moscow: 2000, 787.

38. Over 200,000 escaped of which a fifth were recaptured: another 80,000 got away by marrying a “free” local citizen, entering an institute of higher education, or by proving themselves invalids.

39. GASPI 667, 1, 16, 8–9.

40. Stalin i Kaganovich: perepiska 1931–1936 gg., Moscow, 2001, 239.

41. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni III, 2001, 549.

42. Ibid., 577.

43. As for private property, Stalin wanted it protected only when a peasant stole it from a senior Bolshevik. In 1932 an army officer, Ivan Korneev, shot dead a youth he caught stealing apples from his orchard and a military tribunal sentenced Korneev to six years in prison. Stalin insisted Korneev be freed: “he had a right to shoot at hooligans who had broken in at night. It is bad and ugly for the organs of authority to defend hooligans against a decent dedicated officer.” See Stalin i Kaganovich, 2001, 279–81.

44. Not until 1938 did the death rate for deported families drop below the birthrate.

45. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni III, 649.

46. Ibid., 664.

47. Ibid., 774.

48. Even in 1990 the horrors of 1932 and 1933 were deemed unfit for publication: the writer Aleksei Markov, who had lived through the famine as a child, found it impossible to print his verse memoirs. He recalled his father sending him out of the house before blocking the chimney and suffocating the fourteen remaining members of the family; he saw Young Communists striding over emaciated corpses on their way to their special canteen.

49. Tragediia sovetskoi derevni III, 644–5.

50. Ibid., 720.

51. Stalin i Kaganovich, 2001, 277.

52. Ibid., 274.

FIVE • Iagoda’s Rise

1. Gorky’s diary was seized after his death and remains secret. This passage was reported by one of the NKVD officers who took possession of it and is in Gorky’s style. See Vadim Baranov, Gor’kii, bez grima: Taina smerti, 2001.

2. Stalin’s office was issued 6,000 cigarettes a month, while Kaganovich had 500; rations were issued to staff who worked after 11 p.m. See Stalinskoe politburo v 1930-e gody, Moscow: 1995, 28–9.

3. Only one commissariat, foreign affairs, needed a less thuggish face, acceptable to the West. Stalin put up with Georgi Chicherin, a refined polyglot and long-standing friend of Menzhinsky and of decadent poets, an alcoholic and a notorious homosexual (thus perpetuating the traditions of the Tsars’ Foreign Ministry, which was under Baron Lamsdorf called “a male brothel”). As diabetes and multiple sclerosis disabled Chicherin, he handed over to Litvinov, whose English wife and Anglophilia grated on Stalin.

4. It was small comfort that in his childhood a chunk had been torn out by a dog.

5. See the apologia recorded from Molotov’s lips by Feliks Chuev, in Molotov: poluderzhavnyi vlastelin, Moscow, 2002. Chuev rarely put a pointed question to Molotov, who admitted even more rarely his supererogatory brutality.

6. Iagoda registered himself as Jewish, and stressed his name the Polish-Jewish way Iagóda (Jehuda) not the Russian way, which Stalin preferred to tease him with: Iágoda (berry).

7. The facts about Iagoda’s early life are to be found in Mikhail Il’inskii, Narkom Iagoda, 2002.

8. Ibid., 62.

9. Iagoda told Stalin he had refused exit visas to three delegates to the Hague conference in June 1922 because they had counterrevolutionary records.

10. See Robert Urch, The Rabbit King of Russia, London, 1939.

11. See A. N. Pirozhkova and N. N. Iurgeneva, Vospominaniia o Babele, Moscow: 1989, 271, and Minuvshee 10, Moscow, 1992, 70.

12. Il’inskii, 2002, 13–17.

13. It was only mildly embarrassing that the doyen of Soviet realism was living in fascist Italy, for relations between Mussolini and Stalin were amicable.

14. Stalin had no illusions about Gorky’s genius. On the last page of the juvenile poem “The Maiden and Death” Stalin scrawled, “This thing is more powerful than Goethe’s Faust.” In 1951, the editors reproduced this page with Stalin’s inscription in Gorky’s Collected Verse, unaware that Stalin made the remark in drunken mockery. In Stalin’s copy of Collected Verse the facsimile is angrily crossed out in red pencil.

15. In the end, Stalin canceled Gorky’s commission to write his biography. Gorky’s American publisher had advertised it as containing revelations in which Stalin would say what he thought about Lenin and Trotsky.

16. Novyi mir, 1997, 9, 168–92.

17. O. V. Khlevniuk, Politburo, 1996, 98–9.

18. Zinovi Peshkov continued to rebel against his family by joining the French Foreign Legion. By 1927 he was a general attached to the Kuomintang, killing communists in Shanghai, a fact which did not stop his nephew Andrei Sverdlov becoming one of the NKVD’s most brutal interrogators.

19. Il’inskii, 2002, 364.

20. The next canal project Iagoda supervised, the Moscow–Volga canal, was designed by free engineers, and the slaves were backed up by proper materials and machinery.

21. Like the GULAG men and Iagoda who built the canal, those who celebrated it mostly perished as counterrevolutionaries. The book on the canal was three years later to be withdrawn from the market and from libraries. See the facsimile edition of The Stalin White Sea–Baltic Canal, Moscow: 1998.

22. Stalin i Kaganovich, 2001, 224.

23. Two such encounters in autumn 1932 were documented by Korneli Zelinsky. See Voprosy literatury, 1990, 1 and Minuvshee 10, 1992, 88–120.

24. Viktor Shklovsky’s memoir in Benedikt Sarnov, Nash sovetskii novoiaz, Moscow, 2002, 28.

25. See Vadim Baranov, Bezzakonnaia kometa, Moscow: 2001, 164–5.

26. See Minuvshee 10, 1992, 65–88; also G. S. Smith, Dmitri Sviatopolk-Mirsky, Cambridge, 2000.

27. Bulgakov, Gorky told Stalin, was “no kith or kin to me, but a talented writer . . . There is no sense making martyrs for an idea out of [such people]. An enemy must be either annihilated or re-educated. In this case I vote for re-education.” Gorky advised Stalin to meet Bulgakov personally. (Novy mir, 1997, 9, 188–9).

28. Both Gorky and Stalin liked Dostoevsky’s Devils, with its bloodthirsty, paranoiac, and treacherous revolutionaries: in 1935, The Devils came out in a magnificent edition.

29. Stalin i Kaganovich, 2001, 436–7.

30. Vlast’ i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia, Moscow, 1999, 227–8. It is conceivable that OGPU fabricated the document just to see who would fail to report it or even dare to circulate it.

31. Extracts from the Gorky–Iagoda correspondence are to be found in Il’inskii, 2002, 361–82.

32. See Aleksandr Afinogenov’s diary, quoted in Vadim Baranov, Bezzakonnaia kometa, Moscow, 2001, 148.

33. For a full consideration of the evidence that Stalin wanted, and had, Gorky (and other writers) killed, see Vadim Baranov, Gor’kii bez grima: taina smerti, Moscow: Agraf, 2001.

34. The “Gorky of the Balkans,” the Romanian Panait Istrati, unable to stomach show trials, collectivization, or purges, “turned Trotskyist.” In the Soviet Union, Istrati “saw the broken eggs but couldn’t see the omelette.” He died unexpectedly in Bucharest in 1935. Barbusse, apparently in fine health, died in Moscow in August 1935 after his hagiography of Stalin appeared. “That teaches us to be careful,” Rolland wrote to Gorky. Eugène Dabit, a healthy young proletarian accompanying André Gide (and sharing his disquiet) on a tour of the USSR, died, poisoned, at the age of thirty-eight in a Sevastopol hotel in July 1936.

35. Quoted from Roi Medvedev, “Pisateli Evropy na priiome u Stalina,” Moskovskie novosti, 2002, 28, 17.

36. H. G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography, 1934. The interview took place on July 23, 1934.

37. Terentiev was so intrigued by his interrogators’ fantasies that he helped them make the charges even more ludicrous. See Minuvshee 18, Moscow, 1995, 533–608.

38. Kuniaev and Kuniaev, 1995, 82.

39. For a full account, based on surviving records in St. Petersburg, see A. V. Blium, Sovetskaia tsenzura v èpokhu total’nogo terrora 1929–1953, St. Petersburg, 2000.

40. In 1800 Tsar Paul had forbidden naming cats or goats Masha, to prevent lèsemajesté against the Tsaritsa Mariia Fiodorovna.

41. Khlevniuk, 1996, 36.

42. Voennye arkhivy Rossii, 1993, I, 103; Khlevniuk, 1996, 36.

43. A. Afanasiev (ed.) Oni ne molchali, Moscow, 1991, 136.

44. See B. A. Starkov, “Pravo-levye fraktsionery” in A. Afanasiev (ed.) Oni ne molchali, Moscow: 1991, 125–44; also O. V. Khlevniuk, 1993, 21–9.

45. Lominadze, according to Avdeev’s memoir, said the meeting took place just before dawn, and that he was alone with Stalin. See Afanasiev, 1991, 136–7.

46. Afanasiev, 1991, 139.

47. This blew up in OGPU’s face, for it was widely rumored that Riutin’s Platform had been fabricated by Menzhinsky.

48. From there he continued the struggle in letters to his children. Five years later Riutin was required to incriminate himself and his associates as terrorists. He went on hunger strike and attempted suicide, but this time resisted torture. He was shot on January 10, 1937.

49. Two days before, at a Red Square parade, Nadezhda had marched with other students at her academy and joined party leaders on the tribune. She told Nikita Khrushchiov (a fellow student) she was worried that Stalin was standing in the cold with his coat unbuttoned.

50. Iu. G. Murin, Iosif Stalin v ob”iatiiakh sem’i, Moscow, 1993, 29–42.

51. L. Vasil’eva in Kremliovskie zhiony, Moscow: 1995, 170, cites hearsay that Nadezhda was driven to despair when she came to believe that Stalin had slept with her mother and was perhaps her father. See also Eremei Parnov, Skelety v seife, Moscow, 2000, I, 65–104.

52. The matter could be settled by exhuming the body. Dr. Vladimir Rozanov twice operated on famous revolutionaries who died on the operating table: Nogin in 1924, Frunze in 1925. He removed Stalin’s appendix in 1921.

53. Parnov, Skelety v seife I, 2000, 97.

54. Feliks Chuev, Tak govoril Kaganovich, Moscow, 1992, 154.

55. Probably 1932. See A. Kirilina, Neizvestnyi Kirov, St. Petersburg, 2001, 341.

56. Beria and Molotov ensured that Menzhinsky’s widow kept her three-room dacha and received special rations, while his sickly young son, Rudolf, his first wife, Iulia Ivanovna (thought by Beria to be his mother), his surviving sister, and his nephew and niece were all on the NKVD’s payroll. See GARF 9401, 2, 105 and 206; T. Gladkov et al., Menzhinskii, Moscow, 1969, 340–43.

SIX • Murdering the Old Guard

1. Compare Bernard Gui, Procedures of the Office of the Inquisition for Trying Heretics, c. 1310, which also dispenses with lawyers, witnesses, and appeals. Stalin and Molotov had in September 1934 authorized Robert Eikhe, the satrap of western Siberia, to set up troikas that sentenced victims to death without formalities, but only for the six weeks of grain procurement.

2. The testimony of some NKVD men including the defector Orlov, Iagoda’s ambiguous remarks at his trial in 1938, Trotsky’s speculations, and Nikita Khrushchiov’s accusations in his destalinization speech in 1956 have persuaded many historians that, on Stalin’s orders, Nikolaev was manipulated by Iagoda’s men into killing Kirov.

3. The best-documented account of Kirov’s murder is Kirilina, 2001.

4. Orjonikidze, as close to Kirov as either was to Stalin but a person who might not have agreed to falsification, was told not to come to Leningrad: Stalin claimed it might be “bad for his heart.” See Rogovin, 1994, 83.

5. The suspicious death of the sole eyewitness to Kirov’s murder has further fueled conspiracy theories, but the condition of the truck and the shocked reactions of the driver and guard are well attested.

6. Stalin i Kaganovich, 2001, 411–12, 425.

7. Ibid., 419.

8. V. V. Sapov (ed.), Makiavelli: pro i contra, St. Petersburg: 2002, 502–06.

9. The only justifiable arrests and trials—apart from Nikolaev’s—were of the NKVD men answerable for Kirov’s safety. Filipp Medved was arrested; on December 7 his deputy and likely successor, Ivan Zaporozhets, was detained, although he had been nursing a broken leg in the Caucasus at the time of the murder and had not worked since summer. Eleven chekisty were convicted of “criminal neglect of duty.” For the time being, they served short spells of imprisonment. Medved and Ivan Zaporozhets were sent to the farthest part of the USSR, Kolyma. Here, the GULAG chief Jan Berzin treated them as colleagues; they were joined by their wives and children and began redeeming themselves by hard work. They were shot only when Berzin fell from grace.

10. Vadim Rogovin, Stalinskii nèonèp, 1994, 89.

11. Enukidze had been a confidant of Stalin’s second wife and the second person, after the nanny, to find her dead body. He got on well enough with Stalin to intercede for petitioners. He was notorious for womanizing and for his aristocratic lifestyle.

12. The diary, with Stalin’s and Iagoda’s annotations, is in GASPI 558, 11, 69. Extracts in B. V. Sokolov, Narkomy strakha, Moscow, 2001, 24–37.

13. When in October 1934 a Soviet sailor jumped ship in Poland, Stalin rounded on Iagoda: “Tell me without delay: have the members of this sailor’s family been arrested . . . If not, then who is responsible for the inertia of the authorities, and has this new criminal been punished?” GASPI 558, 11, 69. The sailor turned out to have no relatives to punish.

14. Akulov, his friends recalled, loved life, nature, music, family, and friends, and was unfitted for judicial killing: He fell seriously ill in 1936. Akulov’s successor, Andrei Vyshinsky, and his former deputy, Grigori Roginsky, both sent their best wishes. A year later, under torture, Akulov confessed he was a Trotskyist. On October 31, 1937, as he was led out to be shot, Akulov turned to Roginsky, now his prosecutor, and said, “You know I’m not guilty.” Roginsky responded with virulent abuse. See A. G. Zviagintsev and Iu. G. Orlov, Raspiatye revoliutsiei: rossiiskiei sovetskie prokurory 1922–1936, Moscow, 1998, 256.

15. See Il’inskii, 2002, 241.

16. Hitler had them arrested, so Stalin detained several German citizens. Molotov and Kaganovich reported to Stalin on October 21, 1933, that “Hitler has personally given an order to allow our journalists . . . to the trial. He expressed his certainty that our journalists will be objective. . . . The person responsible for arresting them will be punished.”

17. Stalin i Kaganovich, 397–8.

18. Mikhail Geller and Aleksandr Nekrich, Utopiia u vlasti, Moscow: 2000, 270.

19. Stalin i Kaganovich, 569–70.

20. Valerii Shambarov, Gosudarstvo i revoliutsii, Moscow: 2001, 301.

21. Fascism was no bar to cooperation. In the 1920s the USSR bought minesweepers from Mussolini to rebuild its navy, which had been shrunk badly when the Whites used the Russian Black Sea fleet to evacuate their soldiers to Istanbul.

22. To avoid publicity, handcuffs and rubber truncheons were bought from Germany via third countries.

23. GASPI 558, 11, 85, 26.

24. Sergei Gorlov, Alians Moskva–Berlin 1920–1933, Moscow, 2001, 315.

25. In 1934, the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs was the only Soviet ministry allowed two differing opinions. While Commissar Litvinov opted for joining France and Britain against Germany, the ambassador to Berlin, Surits, friendly with Hermann Goering’s cousin Herbert, shared Kandelaki’s Germanophilia.

26. Dmitrii Volkogonov, Stalin triumf i tragedia, 1990, I, 209.

27. Despite Krupskaia’s demoralized compliance, Stalin laid into her for encouraging Marinetta Shaginian to write a biography of Lenin revealing that his maternal grandfather was a Jew. The biography was banned.

28. Krupskaia’s death in 1939, immediately after tasting a birthday cake sent from the Kremlin, may not have been of natural causes.

29. In 1951 she submitted her diary pages for 1934, wherever Stalin was mentioned, for Stalin’s approval. See GASPI 558, 11, 750.

30. GASPI 558, 11, 749, 14, February 3, 1935.

31. GASPI 558, 11, 749, 21, October 10, 1936.

32. Arkadii Vaksberg, Valkiriia revoliutsii, Smolensk, 1998, 393.

33. Iurii Druzhnikov, Russkie mify: Donoschik 001 ili Voznesenie Pavlika Morozova, Ekaterinburg: 2001.

34. Kartashov virtually confessed to Druzhnikov in the 1960s.

35. GASPI 558, 11, 727, 38–57.

36. Stalin added his comments to Ezhov’s text, but the treatise was never published.

37. Stalin i Kaganovich, 613–15.

38. Il’inskii, 2002, 236.

39. See V. A. Kovaliov, Raspiatie dukhom, Moscow, 1996, 151.

40. A. Orlov, Tainaia istoriia stalinskikh prestuplenii, 1953, 133.

41. Stalin i Kaganovich, 627.

42. I. Gorelov, Tsugtzvang Mikhaila Tomskogo, 2000, 233–4.

43. L. Mlechin, Ministry inostrannykh del 2001, 128.

44. Pauker had arrested both Kamenev and Zinoviev on Iagoda’s warrant. He ran the NKVD charity The Children’s Friend as well as managing the Dinamo soccer team of which Iagoda was patron. Pauker did not outlive Iagoda; he was shot in August 1937.

45. Told to Sidney Hook; see New Leader, October 10, 1960, 22–3.

46. Stalin i Kaganovich, 665.

47. Voprosy istorii, 1995, 1, 8.

48. Khlevniuk, 1996, 203–04.

49. GASPI 17, 2, 575, 1–143; see also Voprosy istorii Moscow, 1995, 1.

50. Extracts from Iagoda’s statements are to be found in Il’inskii, 2002, 150–54, and Sokolov, 2001, 764–6.

51. Il’inskii, 2002, 404–11.

52. Sokolov, 2001, 76–8.

53. Il’inskii, 2002, 448–9.

SEVEN • The Ezhov Bloodbath

1. But in prerevolution Russia eleven-year-old boys were not employed in major factories, and youths went into the army after their twentieth birthday.

2. An émigré recalled a St. Petersburg concierge’s son called Ezhov who tormented cats and bullied smaller children.

3. One of his sponsors was a certain Shifris; like nearly everyone who had recommended Ezhov, he was shot in 1938.

4. Petrov would be charged in 1935 with “hindering Ezhov from carrying out Leninist-Stalinist policies,” and on May 10, 1938, after appealing to Ezhov for mercy, he was shot. A small Mari town was named Ezhov.

5. Five years later, Ezhov, at Stalin’s behest, took great trouble to have Mayakovsky’s works published in an exemplary edition.

6. Stalin i Kaganovich, 244.

7. Ibid., 432.

8. Ibid., 572.

9. These talks were minuted by Lakoba and the minutes kept in the Lakoba museum in Sukhum, which was destroyed totally by the Georgian “army” in 1992.

10. Lakoba archive: Stalin to Lakoba and Meladze, October 19, 1929.

11. He begged Lakoba to help a GPU man who’d gone too far: “Do what you have to for his rehabilitation, everything he is charged with is rubbish, he would never have done that and he won’t, and if he did do it, it was in the interests of the cause.”

12. In 1937 Beria shot Mikhail Lakoba dead in Sukhum NKVD headquarters.

13. There is ironic justice in Lakoba’s fate. In 1822 his ancestor Urus Lakoba had poisoned at dinner a Georgian vassal, the hereditary prince of Abkhazia.

14. Trilisser was moved to the Comintern and given the surname Moskvin.

15. See N. V. Petrov and K. V. Skorkin, Kto rukovodil NKVD 1934–1941, Moscow: 1999, 492–500.

16. Stalin’s authorization of torture was at this point given by encrypted telegram; in 1939 it was stated openly, as a measure to be used against “enemies who refuse to disarm.”

17. See A. G. Tepliakov, “Personal i povsednevnost” novosibirskogo NKVD . . .” in Minuvshee, Moscow/St. Petersburg, 1997, 240–95.

18. A. A. Papchinskii and M. A. Tumshis, Shchit, raskolotyi mechom: NKVD protiv VChK, Moscow, 2001, 188.

19. These figures omit people rounded up and shot in outlying regions without notifying the center.

20. A. Ia. Razumov (ed.) Leningradskii martirolog, vols. 1–4 (more to appear), St. Petersburg, 1995–9.

21. Butovskii poligon 1937–1938 gg., Moscow, 1999, III, 344.

22. Il’inskii, 2002, 256–7.

23. Ibid., 258.

24. Bukharin’s letters to Stalin are in GASPI 558, 11, 710, 3–184. See also Bukharin’s letters in Istoricheskii arkhiv, 1999, 1, 48–78.

25. The proceedings are summarized in V. Rogovin, 1937, Moscow, 1996, 201–11.

26. The 1,000 pages of political history, fiction, and poetry, as well as desperate letters to Stalin, that Bukharin composed in prison all ended up in Stalin’s personal archive.

27. See N. I. Bukharin, Tiuremnye tetradi, Moscow, 1994; Istochnik, Moscow, 1993, 1, 23–5; V. Rogovin, Partiia rasstreliannykh, Moscow, 1997, 40–42.

28. Romain Rolland tried once more. In August 1937 he begged Stalin to spare Aleksandr Arosev, formerly Soviet ambassador to Lithuania and one of Molotov’s closest friends. Arosev was shot a few months later.

29. Enukidze was notorious as a womanizer with a penchant, like Stalin, for pubescent girls; as an old friend of Stalin, he knew far too much to be trusted with a public appearance.

30. GASPI 558, 3, 231, 302.

31. Orjonikidze’s brother was arrested on capital charges and his widow, Zinaida, spent many years in psychiatric wards; her only influential friend was image’s widow. She insisted that the NKVD had killed her husband. Officially, he died of a heart attack and towns and railways were named after him; Stalin would not, however, let statues be put up to him.

32. Voroshilov had a collection of silk embroidery given to him by the wives of his commanders. The collection was destroyed along with all Voroshilov’s possessions in 1953, when his grandson set fire to a Christmas tree and the Voroshilov dacha burned down.

33. This theory was not touched on when Red Army commanders were interrogated in 1937. In 1945 German officers, questioned by Soviet intelligence, said that they had recruited nobody but one NKVD disinformation officer.

34. Budionny proved his loyalty in summer 1937 by taking his second wife, the opera contralto Olga Mikhailova, in his own car to imprisonment in the Lubianka; she had refused to bear him children and was friendly to foreigners. Budionny then married his housekeeper. When after Tukhachevsky’s execution arrests continued, Voroshilov is said to have calmed Budionny’s nerves by saying that Stalin was liquidating “only the clever marshals.”

35. Feldman’s interrogator, Zinovi Ushakov, was not normally so humane; he was shot a year later.

36. On the contradictory behavior of Voroshilov, see Vadim Rogovin, 1997, 160–69.

37. Kaminsky was doomed after a clash with Stalin, which began with Kaminsky’s remark “If we go like this we’ll shoot the whole party!” to which Stalin retorted, “You wouldn’t by chance be friends of these enemies? . . . Well, then, you’re birds of a feather.”

38. Vladimir Osipovich Piatnitskii, Zagovor protiv Stalina, Moscow: 1998.

39. Vlast’ i intelligentsia, 1999, 317.

40. Ibid., 348.

41. Ibid., 365–7.

42. Vitali Shentalinskii, Raby svobody, Moscow: 1995, 242–3.

43. Vlast’ i intelligentsia, 365–7.

44. See Iurii Murin, Pisatel’ i vozhd’, Moscow: 1997 for the Sholokhov–Stalin correspondence.

45. See Marc Jansen and Nikita Petrov, Stalin’s Loyal Executioner: Ezhov, Hoover, 2002.

46. For Russian diaries of the 1930s see Véronique Garros, Natalia Korenevskaya, and Thomas Lahusen, Intimacy and Terror, New York: 1995.

47. See B. I. Ilizarov, 2002, 284–6.

48. Stalin had Trotsky’s other son, Sergei, killed in the USSR. Both Trotsky’s daughters had died, one of suicide, the other of tuberculosis.

49. In 1956 Rodos was the last KGB man shot on Khrushchiov’s orders for excessive cruelty.

50. Aleksei Polianskii, Ezhov, Moscow, 2001, 304–05.

EIGHT • The Rise of Lavrenti Beria

1. The Berias’ first son died in infancy of smallpox and their daughter, Tamara, or Eteri, became deaf-mute after measles. There was no contact with two children from Marta’s previous marriage. A cousin, Gerasime Beria, was to be an intelligence officer in the Soviet army which invaded Georgia in 1921.

2. The dossiers (some thirty volumes) of Beria’s 1953 interrogation are locked in FSB archives. An unsuccessful attempt to steal them was made in 2003.

3. Anastas Mikoyan probably knew the truth, but he was the only Baku commissar to escape the bullets fired by Azeri nationalist police on British orders in 1918 that killed the other twenty-six, and Baku was a sore point for him. Beria’s ally Mir-Jafar Bagirov led the Azeri party, and had likewise worked for the Musavat and therefore kept quiet.

4. At some point Beria also learned French. In the 1930s he impressed Svetlana Allilueva’s teacher, Mlle. Lavranche, with his fluency (and his manners).

5. A. Antonov-Ovseenko, Beria, 1999, 31.

6. In 1932 Beria had Kaganovich halve grain requisitions from Georgia and divert trucks and buses from Moscow’s depots to Tbilisi.

7. Beria got his closest aide, Bogdan Kobulov, to beat Mamia Orakhelashvili to death.

8. V. F. Nekrasov (ed.) Beria: konets kar’ery, Moscow, 1991, 354.

9. Lakoba archive, Hoover Institute.

10. Lakoba archive.

11. Minuvshee 7, Moscow, 1992, 472.

12. GASPI 558, 11, 722, 63.

13. Khanjian’s body was wrapped in a bloodstained carpet and delivered to his hotel in the trunk of Beria’s car. He was reported to have committed suicide.

14. Robakidze later won notoriety with his essays “Adolf Hitler, Seen by a Foreign Poet” and “Mussolini: Visions on Capri.”

15. Galaktion, despite his Baudelairean poetics, was declared persona grata by Beria in 1935. He kept his distance from other poets and Russian sympathizers and feigned alcoholism. His notebooks include lines declaring himself “too tired to go near the writers’ palace / Where Beria’s wolves growl.” Galaktion’s wife was exiled to northern Russia and murdered in 1944. The very popular Grishashvili, now more bibliophile than poet, was indiscreet enough, even in 1937, to mock Lenin in verse.

16. For a full account, see D. Rayfield, “The Death of Paolo Iashvili,” Slavonic & East European Review 68, London: October 1990, 631–64. For Georgian Union of Writers sessions see fond 8, opis 1, file 2 in the Georgian Central State Archive for Literature and Art. In 1991 Zviad Gamsakhurdia had some files destroyed.

17. The defiant Geronti Kikodze survived.

18. Under his real name, Janjghava, too difficult for Russians to articulate, he had supervised the draining of Georgia’s marshes.

19. Kirill Stoliarov, Igry v pravosudie, Moscow, 2000, 289–90.

20. Shvartsman’s sexual proclivities appealed to Beria. Shvartsman liked to make love with a female colleague in an office where they could hear tortured prisoners screaming. For details of Ezhov’s hangmen whom Beria kept, see Arkadii Vaksberg, Neraskrytye tainy, Moscow, 1993, 107–54.

21. Its theme song “Fragrant flower of the prairie, Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria” never got past rehearsal.

22. Bulgakov had written to Stalin asking for Erdman to be forgiven. Erdman was, however, aghast at his new job: “Would you expect to have a Gestapo song and dance ensemble?” he exclaimed. Erdman’s plays had to wait until the 1990s to be performed, but Beria saved him physically.

23. This story was filmed by Evgeni Tsymbal in Zashchitnik Sedov (1986).

24. See A. G. Zviagintsev and Iu. G. Orlov, Prigovorionnye vremenem: rossiiskie i sovetskie prokurory 1937–1953, Moscow, 2001, 118–24.

25. Roginsky’s legal and personal talents were best shown in his own defense. He resisted two years of interrogation by feigning madness and insisting on better prison conditions. Although he was moved to Sukhanovka, where Ezhov was broken, Roginsky confessed only to lesser crimes and delayed his trial until after war began. He forced the judges to spend not twenty minutes but two hours trying him. He escaped execution but died in the camps. See Zviagintsev and Orlov, 2001, 190–94.

26. See Voenno-istoricheskii arkhiv, 1997, 107–14.

27. The details of these murders emerged in the interrogation of Beria’s subordinates in 1953. See Stoliarov, 2000, 240–48. Kulik himself was shot in 1950.

28. Koltsov’s brother Boris Efimov was Pravda’s cartoonist and compensated for his conformist ideology with grotesque draftmanship.

29. Stalin sent Babel and Pasternak, both mute with shock, to the congress’s last session.

30. Vladimir Stavsky, general secretary of the writers’ union, was a hated apparatchik; Fadeev’s sanction carried more weight with the intelligentsia.

31. Antonov-Ovseenko, 1999, 251.

32. Eisenstein’s tireless enemy Boris Shumiatsky, head of Soviet cinematography, once refused to drink a toast to Stalin; born in Buriat-Mongolia, he was shot as a Japanese agent. Eisenstein then became a favorite of Stalin’s.

33. Vlast’ i intelligentsiia, 1999, 456.

34. Text cited from GARF in Izvestiia, June 5, 2002, “Nauka” section, II.

35. In the early 1970s, Lysenko was interviewed by young Soviet geneticists. He suddenly screamed three times, “I didn’t kill Vavilov!” In the 1990s the KGB pensioner Aleksandr Khvat proudly told television cameras that he had done his duty by torturing Vavilov.

36. In 1950 it was Stalin himself, not Beria, or even Soviet linguists, who demolished Marrism.

37. Even the few hundred Eskimos on the Soviet side of the Bering Strait were now forbidden from canoeing across to visit their cousins in Alaska.

38. In northern Korea the Japanese deported Koreans as potential Soviet spies.

39. For this and other detailed reminiscences of the deportations, see Svetlana Alieva (ed.) Tak èto bylo, 3 vols., Moscow, 1993.

40. Certain categories, including 8,000 prostitutes, were sent to Kazakhstan.

41. These are the best attested figures, based on the NKVD’s own unashamed documentation. Other estimates, extrapolated from lists of missing persons or from later censuses, are very much higher. See Pavel Polian, Ne po svoei vole, Moscow, 2001, 98–102.

42. The fullest collection of primary materials is in Polish: Katynimage. Dokumenty zbrodni, 4 vols., Warsaw: 1998. The most important original Russian documents are in Katynimage: plenniki neob”iavlennoi voiny, Moscow, 1999 and Katynimage: mart 1940 g.—sentiabr’ 2000 g., Moscow, 2001.

43. It was ironic that Polish officers of the 1920 campaign were rewarded with land-holdings in the newly acquired eastern provinces, which ensured that they would be captured by the Soviets in 1939.

44. This was convenient when the crime was later blamed on the Nazis, but Blokhin brought Walther revolvers simply because they did not jam in continuous use.

45. Andrei Artizov and Oleg Naumov (eds.) Vlast’ i khudozhestvennaia intelligentsia, 1999, 445–6.

46. Naum Eitingon’s brother Max dealt with Trotsky and made a fortune out of the Soviet fur trade, then managed by Trotsky. Max Eitingon spent his money subsidizing the Berlin Institute for Psychiatry, another of Trotsky’s hobbies. See Aleksandr Ètkind, Èros nevozmozhnogo, St. Petersburg, 1993, 269–310.

47. Siqueiros escaped to Chile, helped by the poet Pablo Neruda; years later Siqueiros apologized for his crime. Grigulevich had Sheldon Harte shot dead.

48. The promise was broken in 1951: Eitingon and other Jewish MVD officers were arrested.

49. Artizov and Naumov, 1999, 451.

NINE • Hangmen at War

1. Sorge, under cover as a German businessman in Tokyo, was providing the German ambassador, as well as the NKVD, with information on Japanese intentions, and the NKVD with information on German intentions. His assurances that the Japanese would not attack the Soviet Union in the east were believed; his warnings that Hitler would attack in the west were disregarded.

2. Two months before the invasion, Golikov stopped assuring Stalin of the Germans’ peaceful intentions: he noted troop movements toward the border, but desisted from comments that might irritate Stalin.

3. Merkulov often blundered: when the Americans retrieved from the Finns a half-burned book of Soviet codes, he failed to change the ciphers, and as a result, from 1944 all traffic between the NKVD and Soviet missions in the United States was intercepted. Merkulov also failed to assassinate General Vlasov when the latter organized a small army out of millions of Soviet POWs to fight alongside the Germans. By 1946 Merkulov had outlived his usefulness and Stalin attacked him for not pursuing Trotskyists during the war. Merciful or forgetful, Stalin allowed Merkulov life and liberty; he stayed in the Central Committee of the party and became responsible for Soviet property abroad.

4. If he was born in 1908, then he was a child when he joined image’s special purpose units. His decrepit health at the end of his life, discounting the effects of torture, also suggests he was much older.

5. See Iakov Aizenshtat, Zapiski sekretaria voennogo tribunala, London: 1991.

6. Zemliachka, until her death in 1947, and her sister were among the very few persons whom Mekhlis could call friends.

7. In the skirmishes with the Japanese at Khasan, where Bliukher distinguished himself, Mekhlis countermanded Bliukher’s orders. Bliukher said of Mekhlis and Ezhov’s deputy Frinovsky, “Sharks have come to gobble me up; I don’t know if they’ll eat me or I them—the latter is unlikely.”

8. Iu. Rubtsov, Alter ègo Stalina, Moscow, 1999, 226.

9. Ibid., 262.

10. See V. K. Abarinov, Katynskii labirint, Moscow: 1991.

11. The story is widespread but undocumented. The fullest documentation on this deportation is to be found in N. Bugai, «Ikh nado deportirovat’», Moscow: 1992, 36–83; statistics are collated in Pavel Polian, Ne po svoei vole, Moscow: 2001, 102–10.

12. When the moment came, the military would denounce Beria for nearly losing them the Caucasus, but in November 1952, when Stalin, paranoiacally jealous, disliked public praise of Beria, General Ivan Maslennikov stuck his neck out by printing in Military Thinking a tribute to Beria’s leadership on the Caucasian front. Maslennikov had helped Beria tame the military in 1939, instituted the dreaded blocking squads behind the front line, and had commanded an army in the Caucasus.

13. See Alieva, 1993, vol. 2, 42.

14. Gvishiani escaped punishment when Beria’s men were arrested as he was the son-in-law of Aleksei Kosygin, future co-ruler with Brezhnev.

15. The German Foreign Ministry was sympathetic to the lobbying of the Turkish ambassador, Nuri Pasha, to establish an autonomous republic of Caucasian peoples and a free Tatar state in the Crimea, but the Germans nevertheless exterminated large numbers of Crimean Tatars, burning villages they suspected of sheltering partisans and sending thousands as forced labor to Germany. See Bugai, 1992, 151.

16. The most convincing demographic statistics are to be found in V. B. Zhiromskaia, Naselenie Rossii v XX veke, Moscow, 2001, vol. 2. They are nevertheless conservative, as they are based on extant documentation. It is likely that actual deaths were higher, but few demographers allow more than 10 percent for undocumented mortality.

17. In early 1942, 3,000 died of starvation every day in Leningrad; the NKVD killed another twenty or so daily for such crimes as wishing aloud for the Germans to enter the city and finish the siege. See Nikita Lomagin, Neizvestnaia blokada, Moscow: Olma, 2002.

18. Of a total of 3,486,206 prisoners taken by the Soviets on the western front, 2,388,443 were Germans; the other large contingents were Hungarians (half a million), Romanians and Austrians (each over 150,000). Statistics and information come from Stefan Karner, Arkhipelag GUPVI, Moscow/Vienna: 2002 (Russian version of 1995 German edition).

19. The NKVD allowed senior German officers better rations and freedom from work. In March 1943 General von Paulus even ordered winter shoes, socks, a sweater, and a new suitcase from the German military attaché in Ankara, the bill to be sent to his wife in Berlin. Ibid., 74.

20. The memoirs of Pavel Sudoplatov (Spetsoperatsii: Lubianka i Kreml’ 1930–1950 gody, Moscow, 1997, 432–49) are mendacious, but his account of Wallenberg’s fate is not contradicted by other evidence.

21. One can be sure that if a writer said anything dissident it would be reported, less sure that it would be reported accurately. See Vlast’ i intelligentsia 487–99 and 522–33.

TEN • The Gratification of Cruelty

1. Iu. G. Murin, Iosif Stalin v ob”iatiiakh sem’i, Moscow, 1993, 95.

2. Politburo CK VKP(b) i sovet ministrov SSSR 1945–1953, Moscow: 2002, 195–200.

3. Ibid., 25–6.

4. Ibid., 205–06.

5. Malenkov had reason to fear worse; he knew that he had been named in Ezhov’s confessions. In 1954 Malenkov got hold of Ezhov’s statements and destroyed them.

6. The exception was the deputy minister of geology Academician Iosif Grigoriev, who was beaten to death in 1949 by Beria’s henchman Shvartsman. See Arkadii Vaksberg, Neraskrytye tainy, Moscow, 1993, 112.

7. In 1947, however, the Politburo forbade the publication of The Journal of Physics in the USSR in Western languages on the grounds that this “makes the work of foreign intelligence much easier.”

8. For reports of these proceedings see Artizov and Naumov (eds.) Moscow, 1999, 549–603.

9. But Chaplin’s antifascist film The Great Dictator remained banned in the USSR.

10. Eisenstein and Cherkasov reconstructed this conversation from memory. See Artizov and Naumov (eds.) 612–19.

11. Aleksei Kuznetsov had temporarily taken over the government of Leningrad when Zhdanov’s nerve broke. He rallied the city’s population, taking his twelve-year-old son everywhere and sleeping in dugouts, not bunkers.

12. B. Kostyrchenko, Tainaia politika Stalina, Moscow: 2001, 229. This is the authoritative work on Stalin and the Jews: for a vivid account of the fate of the Jewish Antifascist Committee, see also Vaksberg, 1993, 222–302.

13. Kostyrchenko, 2001, 234.

14. Ibid., 514.

15. Vaksberg, 1993, 261–5.

16. Grigulevich became ambassador to the Vatican and wrote a history of the Spanish Inquisition.

17. Stalin was intrigued by group sex, to judge by his marginal comments on polygamy in Engels’s book on the origin of the family.

18. Once again, Ogoltsov evaded the hot ministerial seat, but he became Ignatiev and Riumin’s loyal assistant. 19. For an account of Abakumov’s fate, see K. A. Stoliarov, Palachi i zhertvy, Moscow, 1997, 11–148.

20. This device, a denunciation from an obscure underling, had last been used by Stalin to unseat Ezhov on a similar accusation of inadequate zeal. Viktor Zhuravliov, a major from Ivanovo, was credited in November 1938 with unmasking Ezhov to the Politburo. Mediocrities like Zhuravliov and Riumin would not have risked, unprompted, such suicidal initiatives. Zhuravliov’s fate (he died mysteriously, at age forty-two, in December 1946) should have given Riumin pause for thought. Sukhanov got his comeuppance in 1956, when it was discovered that he had stolen 100,000 rubles from Beria’s safe on the date of his arrest. See K. A. Stoliarov, Igry v pravosudie, Moscow, 2000, 284–6.

21. Timewatch, BBC2, August 9, 2002. Kremlin doctors such as Vinogradov were so overloaded with duties as professors and editors, in addition to having to take care of caseloads of party leaders, many of whom were in bad health, that they were unfit to treat patients. Unlike Lenin and image, Stalin and Beria would not consult foreign doctors.

22. Vinogradov knew the dangers. In 1938 he was summoned by Ezhov as an expert to damn his colleague Dr. Pletniov. Ezhov warned him: “Bear in mind that every third person is my agent and tells me everything. I advise you to talk less.”

23. Leonid Mlechin, KGB: predsedateli organov bezopasnosti, Moscow, 2001, 364. Mlechin’s account relies on Khrushchiov’s uncorroborated memoirs. When Ignatiev died in 1983, Pravda’s obituary praised his “modesty and sensitive attitude to people.”

24. Kostyrchenko, 2001, 649.

25. The letter was never printed. The text is in Vaksberg, 1993, 295–6.

26. Ibid., 276–80.

27. “Politburo TsK” in Sovet ministrov 1945–1953, Moscow, 2002, 349–54.

28. Not that Georgians were a favored nation. Fewer survived interrogation in prison, and fewer males survived the war in Georgia than in other republics.

29. Ibid., 358–9.

30. See GARF 9401, 2, 99, 386. Vyshinsky dribbled while listening to his telephone and in September 1945 it stopped working. Beria immediately sent two colonels, a captain, and a major, who diagnosed moisture in the microphone and replaced it. This was reported in detail to Stalin.

31. T. V. Volokitina et al. (eds.) Moskva i vostochnaia Evropa 1949–53, Moscow, 2002, 518.

32. Fifteen years later, when his victims were rehabilitated, Rákosi insisted that the torture had been justified.

33. Mlechin, 2001, 562.

34. Kaganovich had had a hand in his brother’s suicide in 1941: his telephone call warned Mikhail he was to be arrested.

35. Stoliarov, 2000, 212–13.

36. Mlechin, 2001, 386.

37. Pavel Sudoplatov (see Spetsoperatsii, Moscow, 1997, 547) claims that Beria proposed an amnesty for political prisoners too, but that this was rejected by the Presidium.

38. See A. I. Kokurin and N. V. Petrov (eds.) GULAG 1918–1960, Moscow, 2000, 367–72. In February 1954 Khrushchiov and Malenkov handed the GULAG and prisons back to the MVD.

39. Beria was annoyed when the Lithuanian minister for internal affairs then sent his report to Moscow in Lithuanian.

40. In May 1953 Beria found that Malenkov had copied for his own speech at the nineteenth party congress a paragraph from a speech by a Tsarist minister of the interior. Beria ignored this damning evidence against Malenkov, but the fact that he knew was brought to Malenkov’s attention, a reason for the end of their alliance. See Sudoplatov, 1997, 554–5.

41. V. P. Naumov and Iu. Sigachiov, Lavrenti Beriia 1953, Moscow, 1999, 69–70.

42. The first publication of the unedited shorthand transcript is in Naumov and Sigachiov, 1999, 87–218.

43. The investigation dossier in the FSB archives is inaccessible, at least until 2040, when the last woman on whom Beria forced himself will have died. This account is based on the glimpses that previous researchers have had and from accounts by the investigators. See V. F. Nekrasov (ed.) Beria: konets kar’ery, 1991, 300–415.

44. Moskalenko suppressed evidence linking Beria’s actions to Stalin’s, notably the soundings in 1941–2 through the Bulgarian ambassador for peace with the Germans.

45. On May 29, 2000, the Russian supreme court reprieved three of the executed men, Dekanozov, Meshik, and Vlodzimirsky, and substituted twenty-five-year prison sentences so that their heirs could recover confiscated property. See Izvestiia, May 30, 2000, 1.

46. Naumov and Sigachiov, 1999, 380.

47. Imre Nagy, the prime minister of Hungary during the 1956 uprising, who was treacherously hanged on June 16, 1958, on Khrushchiov’s orders, might be counted as the last of Beria’s men to be executed.

48. The fate of Beria’s men is recounted in Vaksberg, 1995, 112–54.

49. O. Volin, “S Berievtsami vo Vladimirskoi tiur’me” in Minuvshee 7, Moscow, 1992, 357–72. Chichiko Pachulia, Beria’s head of the NKVD in Abkhazia, was released in 1970. He lived in Tbilisi and died suddenly outside his house while taking to the KGB a denunciation of his daughter and grandson for listening to Voice of America. See F. Blagoveshchenskii, “V gostiakh u P. A. Sharii” in Minuvshee7, 472.

50. K. A. Stoliarov, 2000: 98–100. In 1994 Abakumov and his co-defendants had their crimes reclassified as not treasonable. The death sentences were not quashed but his heirs, forty years later, could recover his confiscated property.

51. Ibid., 217–18.

52. One exception is the unofficial teachers’ handbook of documents on political repression and resistance to totalitarianism, produced by the Sakharov Center in Moscow: Kniga dlia uchitelia. Istoriia politicheskikh repressii i soprotivleniia nesvobode v SSSR, Moscow, Mosgorarkhiv, 2002.