This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”
Over this entire period another phenomena was taking place, the distortion of a legitimate anti-cosmopolitanism campaign into an illegitimate anti-Semitic campaign. An increasing number of articles in the press accused persons of “Cosmopolitanism,” but:
“More and more the attacks take an anti-Jewish character, as most of the attacked bear distinctly Jewish names, often given in brackets next to their Russified names. From November 1948 onward, the Soviet authorities start a deliberate campaign to liquidate what is left of Jewish culture. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee is dissolved, its members arrested. Jewish literature is removed from bookshops and libraries, and the last two Jewish schools are closed. Jewish theatres, choirs and drama groups, amateur as well as professional, are dissolved. Hundreds of Jewish authors, artists, actors and journalists are arrested. During the same period, Jews are systematically dismissed from leading positions in many sectors of society, from the administration, the army, the press, the universities and the legal system. Twenty-five of the leading Jewish writers arrested in 1948 are secretly executed in Lubianka prison in August 1952. The anti-Jewish campaign culminates in the arrest, announced on January 13, 1953, of a group of ‘Saboteurs-Doctors’ accused of being paid agents of Jewish-Zionists organizations and of planning to poison Soviet leaders. Fears spread in the Jewish community that these arrests and the show trial that is bound to follow serve as a pretext for the deportation of Jews to Siberia. But on March 5, 1953, Stalin unexpectedly dies. The ‘Doctor”s Plot’ was exposed as a fraud, the accused are released, and deportation plans, already discussed in the Politburo, are dropped.”
Web site Beyond The Pale; Op Cit:
The class struggle in the USSR was culminating in a frenzied atmosphere, where one strand that was being used by the revisionists was a mounting awareness of an anti-Semitic campaign. This melded the closing of the JAFC into the new plot – the so called “Doctor’s Plot”:
“On 12 August 1952, a group of former JAFC members, convicted by the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court, were put before a firing squad. Many other people of Jewish nationality – 110 in all -were arrested in connection with the JAG case on charges of ‘espionage’ and “anti-Soviet Jewish nationalist activity.” At the time of the trial of the JAG members, preparation of the Doctors’ Plot reached its final stage.”
Iakov Etinger; “The Doctors’ Plot,” Ibid; p. 104.
The Doctor’s Plot was according to the Khruschevite revisionists, entirely the fabrication of Stalin, and they claim credit as the ones who exonerated the Doctors named:
“Stalin… issued orders to arrest a group of eminent Soviet medical specialists.. When we examined this “case” after Stalin’s death, we found it to be fabricated from beginning to end.”
N.S.Khruschev: Secret Speech to 20th party Congress; CPSU, In: “The anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism: A Selection of Documents”; New York; 1956; p.64.
However it is known that Stalin was dubious about the whole notion of the “Doctors’ Plot.”
When he was first informed his reaction was characteristically blunt.
When Stalin first heard about the alleged “Doctors’s Plot” he dismissed it.
It should also be noted that Stalin’s death was certainly not caused by inappropriate medical attention – but in sharp contrast – by the very deliberate lack or withholding of medical attention. (See Bland’s chronology of events in “Death Of Stalin”; Ibid.)
In 1948, an allegation was made by a Dr Lydia Timashuk, described as a “rank-and-file” doctor, against medical experts. She alleged there had been:
“intentional distortions in medical conclusions made by major medical experts who served as consultants in the hospital. She exposed their criminal designs and thus opened the eyes of security bodies to the existence of the infamous conspiracy.”
Rapoport Y: “Doctors’s Plot: Stalin’s Last Crime”: London; 1991; p.77.
Although Khrushchev alleged that Stalin was behind “this ignominious case,” (Khrushchev secret speech op cit; p. 65) other commentators tell us that:
“Stalin had strong doubts about Timashuk’s allegations.”
Grey I: “Stalin: Man of History”; London; 1979; p.461.
And Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva wrote:
“My father’s housekeeper told me not long ago that my father was extremely distressed at the turn events took… She was waiting on table as usual, when my father remarked that he did not believe the doctors were ‘dishonest’ and that the only evidence against them, after all were the ‘reports’ of Dr. Timashuk.”
Alliyeuva S; ibid; p.215.
Again it is only Khrushchev or Sudoplatov, who can confirm that Stalin supposedly “changed his mind” after a full investigation. (Khrushchev N: “Khrushchev Remembers”; London; 1971; p.283).
Victor Abakumov, was placed in charge of the investigation of Dr Timashuk’s allegations. It was in 1950 that the first arrest took place, with that of Dr Yakov Ettinger at the First Ggradeskaya Hospital of Moscow. (Rappoport Op Cit; p. 24).
However in 1951, Victor Abakumov was then himself arrested, on the charge of “lack of vigilance in connection with the “Leningrad Affair”:
“In.. 1951.. Abakumov was arrested.. He was taken to the Lyubanka and put in solitary confinement. Several of his deputies and several dozen state security officers were arrested along with him… The charges brought against Abakumov at that time were that he had not recognised the enemy of the people during his handling of the ‘Leningrad Affair’.. In September 1951 none other than Khrushchev .. Echoed Stalin’s charge that Abakumov and his officers had failed to recognise the enemy of the people in the northern city’s Party apparatus.”
P.Deriabin: “Watchdogs of Terror:Russian bodyguards from Tsars to Commissars”; USA; 1984; p.316-317.
How did the whole matter get started, and who were the players behind it?
As stated above, the accusations were a matter of four years old. They had been put aside as an un-proven allegation. It is speculative, but they might be seen as having been sent by a potentially disgruntled employee.
The allegations were put aside until, the accusation became expedient to serve as a further means of sabotage. In other words to disrupt the faithful Marxist-Leninist ring around Stalin; and to inflame the population with a divisive anti-Semitism.
Dr Lydia Timashuk had been the original complainer, and she received the Order of Lenin for her work, in 1953:
“On 21 January 1953, the newspapers published the Decree of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium awarding Doctor L. F Timashuk the Order of Lenin ‘for assistance rendered to the government in exposing the murderous doctors.'”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; Ibid; p. 115-7
But the letter “warning of the “Doctor’s Plot” itself had been submitted in 1948.
Timashuk had written to Vlasik, of the MGB Security and a key pro-Stalin figure.
Neither Vlasik, Stalin nor those of the MGB responsible for Zhdanov took action.
The letter warned that during the conduct of medical tests on Zhdanov, there had been a deliberate mis-diagnosis. Dr Timashuk was the head of the Electrocardiography laboratory at the Kremlin Hospital. Not only did she allege that Professors Egorov and Vasilenko (of the Kremlin’s Special Medical Department) insist that Dr Timashuk alter a diagnosis of “coronary thrombosis” to “sclerosis and hypertension,” but that they also falsified a diagnosis on a form previously reported by a “physician in charge” – Dr Maiorov:
“It is now known from recently discovered classified KGB and CPSU Central Committee documents that on 29 August 1948, Timashuk, head of the electrocardiography laboratory at the Kremlin Hospital, sent a confidential letter to General N. S. VIasik, chief of MGB security. It was a political denunciation asserting that on 28 August 1948, the head of the Kremlin’s special medical department, Professor P. I. Egorov, summoned her to take an ECG of Politburo Member A. A. Zhdanov. On that same day she and Professor Egorov, Academician Vinogradov and Professor V. Kh. Vasilenko flew from Moscow to Valdai where Zhdanov was at the time. She took his electrocardiogram and diagnosed coronary thrombosis. She immediately told the professors who had come with her about it. But, she went on, Professor Egorov and the physician in charge, Dr. Maiorov, said that the diagnosis was incorrect, that this was not a case of coronary thrombosis but of functional disorders caused by sclerosis and hypertension. They proposed that she, ‘alter’ the diagnosis and write ‘caution’ without mentioning coronary thrombosis as Dr. Karpai had done on the previous electrocardiograms. Further on Timashuk said in her letter to VIasik that on 29 August 1948 Zhdanov had had another acute heart attack and she was summoned from Moscow for the second time. However, on orders from Vinogradov and Egorov the electrocardiogram was not taken on 29 August but postponed until the following day. ‘It was again proposed in a categorical fashion that I alter the diagnosis, and that myocardial infarction should not be mentioned. I notified Comrade A. M. Belov about it.’ Belov was an MGB official responsible for Zhdanov’s safety .. Timashuk pointed out that the consultants and the doctor in charge of the case “clearly underestimated Zhdanov’s grave condition, for they allowed him to get up and take a walk in the park.’ In her opinion ‘in future that could lead to fatal consequences.'”
We will leave aside the vexed issue of inter-physician agreements at the best of times! Those unfortunate enough to end up in the hands of physicians will know how they frequently disagree! However, to stay with the facts –
the letter was, by the 30th August, with Abakumov – who responded to Stalin in a memorandum:
“On the desk of the State Security Minister V. S. Abakumov.
On that same day he sent a top-secret memorandum to Stalin: To Comrade Stalin, 1. V., I am sending you a statement by Dr. L. F.Timashuk, head of the electrocardiography laboratory, about the condition of Comrade Zhdanov. As is evident from Dr. Timashuk’s statement, she insists that Comrade Zhdanov had a myocardial infarction in the area of the anterior wall of the left ventricle and of the intra ventricular septum. Head of the Kremlin medical department Egorov and Academician Vinogradov suggested that she alter the diagnosis omitting any mention of myocardial infarction.
Enclosed: Statement by Comrade Timashuk and the ECG of Comrade Zhdanov.”
Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7
Since no action was still taken, despite the subsequent death of Zhdanov, Timashuk continued to send more letters – apparently it is true they were at least in some cases, addressed to a known revisionist Kuznetsov. Conceivably it is true then that a revisionist would have delayed the “truth” (if there were any – in Timashuk’s allegations from emerging.
But it was not till 1952, when the case was re-opened. It was re-opened – it is alleged by Professor Iakov Etinger (Younger) – by Stalin himself:
“Zhdanov died on 30 August 1948. After his death Timashuk sent several letters to the Central Committee, setting forth her opinion about Zhdanov’s diagnosis and treatment. At that point the case was shelved. But Stalin returned to it in the summer of 1952, when preparations for the Doctors’ Plot were in full swing.”
Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7
But the re-opening of the case by Stalin would mean that he would have in the interim changed his mind. We have no direct evidence for this.
We have only the assertions from various interested parties like Professor Etinger, and Khruschev, that Stalin now “wanted to launch a case against the Jews.” Other than this incantation, we have not yet heard any concrete evidence that indicates Stalin had changed his mind.
The re-opening of the case has been described by Timashuk herself, in a letter found in the Central Committee Archives.
In her letter she describes being received by Malenkov and being informed of her “service” having been rewarded with the Order of Lenin. But she herself records that she had not believed that the doctors were saboteurs. The inference is that she believed they had been simply “mistaken.” She also describes the revoking of the Order and assurances that she was still considered competent:
“A letter Timashuk sent to the Presidium of the 23rd Congress of the CPSU in 1966 has recently been discovered in the Central Committee archives. It said:
“In the summer of 1952 I was suddenly summoned to investigator Novikov in the MGB investigation department on matters of highest importance and after some time to investigator Eliseev in connection with the case of the late A. A. Zhdanov. I again confirmed everything I had written to A. A. Kuznetsov, in the Central Committee. Six months later, on 20 January 1953, A. N. Postrebyshev (Head of the Central Committee’s Special Sector, Stalin’s personal secretariat) summoned me by phone and I was invited to the Kremlin. There G. M. Malenkov told me that a Council of Ministers meeting and Comrade Stalin personally had just thanked me for my personal courage displayed (that is, four and a half years ago) when I adhered to my professional opinion in the dispute with a prominent professor, and officially commended me and decorated me with the Order of Lenin. I was dumbfounded, for I could not believe that the doctors treating Zhdanov would turn out to be saboteurs. .. On the following day, 21 January 1953, the Order of Lenin was awarded to me and on 4 April 1953, The day the doctors were rehabilitated] the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium repealed the decision on my decoration as erroneous. When I returned the Order of Lenin to the Supreme Soviet, A. F. Gorkin and N.M. Pegov (prominent party and Soviet functionaries) were present. They assured me that the government considered me an honest Soviet doctor and the repeal of the decree on my decoration would not affect my professional prestige or position. I continued working in the Kremlin Hospital as head of the functional diagnosis department. Three years later, in 1956, N. S. Khrushchev sent a secret letter dealing with Stalin’s personality cult to the CPSU Central Committee and mentioned my name there in connection with the Doctor Plots.”
Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7
The work of the previously quoted Iakov Etinger becomes of significant interest, not the least because he was the son of the first imprisoned doctor.
Dr Etinger the elder, was the first implicated doctor in the “Plot,” and he was accused of the murders of Alexsandr Shcherbakov and Andrei Zhdanov.
Dr Etinger was a competent physician who had often been consulted by and on behalf of leading party and Comintern officials. His degrees and competency were never questioned. What was questioned was his motives, and whether he used his knowledge to deliberately mis-treat and kill prominent patients:
“On 13 January 1953, all leading Soviet newspapers carried the notorious TASS communique entitled ‘The Arrest of a Group of Saboteur Doctors’ which accused a number of Jewish doctors of plotting to murder leading Soviet figures using harmful methods of medical treatment. These doctors had allegedly caused the death of Central Committee Secretaries Aleksandr Shcherbakov and Andrei Zhdanov. The provocation was part of a far-reaching plan to link the JAG case with the doctors ‘crimes.’ This was alluded to in the following phrase from the TASS statement:
‘Vovsi (one of the accused physicians) told the investigation that he had gotten orders to kill leading cadres in the USSR from the US-based Joint (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) via a Moscow doctor, one Shimeliovich, and the prominent Jewish bourgeois-nationalist Mikhoels.”‘
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7
Etinger the Younger’s interpretation of events was that there was a link between the “Anti-Zionist Plot,” and the current plot – designed to provoke suspicions of the Jews:
“The investigation committee wanted Shimeliovich, who had been a member of the JAG Presidium and had already been shot, and Professor Vovsi, Mikhoels’s cousin, to play the role of the connecting link between the JAG and the arrested Jewish doctors In other words, the upcoming trial was meant to ‘demonstrate’ that the JAG were the ideologues of a ramified and deeply entrenched ‘Jewish plot’ that was to be carried out by Jewish ‘doctor killers.'”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 104-105.
In fact it was Riumin who had provoked further investigations into the case.
It was this same Riumin who was anxious to implicate Abakumov as having been “negligent” in his prior investigations.
Riumin also claimed that Abakumov was trying to obstruct the renewed investigation of Riumin.
Riumin’s actions included personal letters to Stalin.
From a point in June of 1951, Abakumov was first expelled from the party, and then in July he was arrested. These details have been written about by a writer in the former USSR named Kirill Stoliarov:
“Kirill Stoliarov summed up the results of his painstaking and profound study of the materials in the case of State Security Minister Abakumov in his book ‘Golgofa’ (Calvary). He writes there:
‘Riumin investigated the Ia. G. Etinger case. He claimed that Abakumov, first, did not permit him to interrogate Etinger as a participant in the heinous murder of A. Shcherbakov.. and, secondly, ordered Etinger… transferred from the inner prison (of the Lubianka) to the Lefortovo Prison, where he suddenly died and thus priceless information on an extensive terrorist plot was buried. This calls for some explanation. In June 1951 (Abakumov) was expelled from the party, relieved from his post on 4 July and arrested on 12 July. A large group of high-ranking State Security Ministry officials were also arrested. All of them were detained on the strength of the information submitted to the party Central Committee.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 104-105.
Thus Riumin wrote to Stalin that Abakumov was “glossing over” the Etinger affair:
“M. D. Riumin informed the Central Committee that his superiors were ‘glossing over’ the terrorist plans of Etinger and ‘enemy agents’ spearheaded against Politburo members and Stalin personally; they deliberately neglected to record Etinger’s interrogations which made it possible adroitly to conceal from Stalin, mistakes ‘in the struggle against the schemes of international imperialism.'”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 104-105.
Etinger attributes the subsequent arrest of Abakumov to the actions of Stalin. It is unknown however whether this was so, or whether there was little choice in this circumstance but to bide time and order a full enquiry.
In any case Riumin did obtain his goals: both the arrest of Abakumov and the control over the Etinger case:
“Sending such a letter to Stalin was doubtless a risky undertaking. The chances that it would reach him were very slim.
‘But the miracle did occur,’ Stoliarov writes, ‘and in defiance of common sense and chance. .. Stalin got the signal and after carefully thinking the matter over ordered that Abakumov be arrested.’ The Abakumov case was investigated by K. Mokichev, First Deputy Prosecutor-General. Stoliarov notes that Mokichev began the interrogations ‘with facts’ cited by Riumin, namely, that the terrorist aims of the Jewish nationalist Etinger were being ‘glossed over.'”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 107-8.
Abakumov’s testimony showed that he did in fact conduct an investigation and had come to the conclusion that the whole matter was NOT a question of physician sabotage.
In Abakumov’s words “In the course of the interrogation it had become clear to me that all of this had nothing to do with terrorism, absolutely nothing:
“Stoliarov goes on to say: This is what Abakumov testified about Etinger:
Question: Why did you delay Etinger’s arrest and subsequently forbid interrogating him about terrorism, telling Riumin that Etinger would get him ‘bogged down?’
Answer: The leadership of the Second Directorate reported to me that Etinger was hostile. I told them to prepare a memorandum for the Central Committee. The memorandum cited facts proving that Etinger was a dirty swine. (Abakumov was referring to the anti-Stalin views Professor Etinger expressed when speaking to his son, which constituted a counter-revolutionary crime punishable under Art. 58-10 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. Father and son were having a private conversation, which was tape-recorded – K. Stoliarov).
That was in the first half of 1950, I do not remember in which month. However, at that juncture we had no orders to arrest him. After the order from the higher authorities came, I had him brought to me because I knew that he was an active Jewish nationalist and vehemently anti-Soviet.
“You better tell the whole truth, without beating about the bush,” I said to Etinger.
In reply to my questions he promptly answered that there were no grounds for his arrest and the truth was that Jews were being suppressed in this country. When I pressed further, he said he was an honest man, he was treating high-ranking people and mentioned my deputy, Selivanovskii, and then Shcherbakov. At this moment I said he would have to describe what exactly he had done to cause his death. He began speaking in great detail about Shcherhakov’s serious condition and said he had been doomed. In the course of the interrogation it had become clear to me that all of this had nothing to do with terrorism, absolutely nothing. Later it was reported to me that nothing new or interesting had been gotten out of Etinger.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 108-109.
Etinger then summarises that Abakumov had concluded that Etinger was not a “criminal” but was merely a Jewish nationalist:
“According to declassified documents of the CPSU Central Committee and the KGB, after another regular interrogation of Etinger in December 1950, Abakumov ‘came to the conclusion’ that there were no facts pointing to ‘criminal medical treatment.’ On 28-29 January 1951, Abakumov issued instructions ‘to discontinue working with Etinger,’ that is, to stop trying to make him confess to ‘criminal treatment’ and only stick to the charges of anti-Soviet activity and Jewish nationalism.”
The excerpts from the interrogation corroborate the view that Abakumov did not try to deny – that even physical beating – had failed to produce any evidence that the physician Etinger had been a criminal. But let us return to the verbatim records of Abakumov’s interrogation.
“Question: Are you aware that Etinger was transferred to the Lefortovo prison and that conditions there were new to him?
Answer: This is not correct. The inner [Lubianka] and Lefortovo prisons do not differ from one another.
Question: Did you issue orders that Etinger be kept in special conditions, jeopardizing his health?
Answer: What do you mean by special?
Question: Harder than for the other inmates. Etinger was placed in a damp and cold cell.
Answer: There is nothing extraordinary about that because he was the enemy. We are allowed to beat the inmates – I and my first deputy Ogol’tsov were repeatedly reminded at the RGPtb) Central Committee that whenever necessary our chektsty should not be afraid to use physical force against spies and other people who had committed crimes against the state. An inmate is an inmate, and prison is prison. There are no such things as warm and cold cells there. There was talk about a stone floor, but as far as I know all cells have stone floors. I told the investigating officer that we must get the truth from the inmate and I may have said that I did not want him to get us bogged down.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109.
It is known that Abakumov wrote to Stalin, protesting his loyalty and that it was at that point, that Stalin had asked to see the records of testimonies for himself:
“From the ‘Matrosskaia tishina’ Prison, Abakumov wrote a letter to Stalin, trying to prove that he was innocent and infinitely loyal to him. The letter said:
‘Riumin’s statement about my alleged hint to Etinger that he should refuse to testify regarding terrorism (the reference is to charges of causing Shcherbakov”s death) is all wrong. There was nothing of the kind and could never be. Had we had any concrete facts to act upon we would have skinned him alive in order not to miss a case like that.’
Abakumov’s letter reached Stalin and he kept it. Three weeks later, the following note came to the USSR Prosecutor”s Office:
‘Comrade Mokichev, at 3 a.m. there was a phone call from Malenkov. He has gotten instructions to send the records of Abakumov’s interrogation to Comrade Stalin tomorrow. The note was dated 19 August 1951, 3:10 a.m. and signed by S. Ignat’ev, the new Minister of State Security.'”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109-110.
But it was precisely this step that needed to be somehow either blocked – or check-mated – by the revisionists.
Otherwise, Stalin would have been in a position to both free Abakumov, un-ravel the Doctor’s Plot as a fraud, and in the process further reveal the hidden revisionist plots.
The check-mate came in the form of a highly convenient “confession,” but one that was “made” to another trusted revisionist.
The latter was necessary, so that there could be no more possible re-appraisals, until the revisionist coup was carried through.
It was ensured that there would be no opportunity to attempt any further cross-examination of Etinger – for Etinger was now conveniently dead.
At this juncture the short term aim of the revisionists was to be put in charge of the investigation of Abakumov; and to roll out the “Doctors Case.”
The “confession” of Etinger was achieved at this very juncture. This also automatically implicated Stalin”s own personal physician Vinogradov – since the two must have been working in tandem, if one was a criminal:
“At that time Riumin was doing his best to be put in charge of investigating the Abakumov case. According to Stoliarov, Riumin succeeded in getting what he wanted when Col. M. Likhachev, former deputy head of the USSR State Security Ministry investigating high priority cases, arrested shortly after Abakumov, obediently confirmed that before his death Professor Etinger had confessed to causing Shcherhakov’s death. It was a stroke of unbelievably good luck opening vast prospects to Riumin:
the late Etinger had been just a consultant, while Professor Vinogradov, Stalin’s personal physician of long standing, had been treating Shcherbakov.
Etinger could not have worked to kill Shcherbakov without Vinogradov’s consent. Hence, it had been a joint operation.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109-110.
Riumin succeeded in taking over the investigation of Abakumov:
“On 22 February 1952 State Security bodies were put in charge of the investigation of the case of Abakumov and his subordinates and the suspects were transferred from the ‘Matrosskaia tishina’ Prison to Lefortovo. As noted above, by that time Professor Etinger was already dead.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 110.
The question then as to whether Abamumov, was a genuine Marxist-Leninist or not, seems to be answered in the affirmative.
It seems quite clear that the revisionists needed him out of the way.
In that light we believe that he had taken the correct Marxist-Leninist route.
We will come to Beria’s view of him later.
But it is interesting, that the very same revisionist who was so virulently against Abakumov – Riumin – had been especially hostile to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee:
“In 1951, Riumin had written a report on the hostile intentions of S. A. Lozovskii, I.S. Fefer, L. S. Shtern, B. A. Shimeliovich – 14 people in all. The report said that ‘the evidence has established that during their visit to America in 1943, former JAFC leaders Mikhoels and Fefer were given an assignment by Jewish reactionaries to get the Crimea settled by Jews and have an independent republic established there to be used by the Americans as a bridgehead against the USSR at an opportune moment.’ In late 1951 Colonel Riumin was appointed Deputy Minister of State Security and was made responsible for the ministry’s investigation.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109-110.
Etinger’s son, notes that the timing of the “Doctors’ Plot,” was coincident with various similar events throughout the countries developing towards socialism in Eastern Europe:
“The main participants in the Doctors’ Plot were arrested in November 1952. Simultaneously the anti-Semitic drive in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe was being stepped up. The trial of the ‘anti-government conspirators’ took place in Czechoslovakia in late November 1952. The crusade against ‘Jewish bourgeois nationalism’ was gaining momentum and an unprecedented anti-Jewish purge was being prepared throughout the socialist camp with the main developments unfolding in Moscow. In December; subsequent to the CPSU Central Committee Presidium decree of 4 December 1952 ‘On the Situation in the Ministry of State Security and on Subversive Activities in Medical Treatment,’ the Central Committee issued instructions to party organizations concerning organs of the MGB. N. A. Bulganin, then a member of the Presidium, told me that the instructions contained a passage about ‘established facts regarding subversive activities in medicine’ and the comments to the instructions stressed the ‘key role’ of Jewish professors “closely linked with international Zionism and American intelligence.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 113.
The announcement of the Plot was associated with an attempt to light up an anti-Semitic campaign, by linking it with the use of terms such as “fifth column,” and by publishing lists of names that were apparently of Jewish origin:
“The preparatory phase in the Doctor’s Plot was completed by late 1952. On 13 January 1953, the TASS statement announced the arrest of ‘saboteur doctors.’ On the same day Pravda carried a front-page editorial under the heading ‘Despicable Spies and Murderers Disguised as Professors of Medicine’… the article said:
‘US tycoons and their British ‘junior partners’ know that it is impossible to impose their domination on other nations by peaceful means. Their frenzied preparations for a new world war include planting spies in the Soviet rear and the People’s Democracies in an attempt to succeed where the Hitlerites failed: to create their subversive ‘fifth column’ in the USSR. In other words, a clear hint was being made, that the ‘Jewish bourgeois nationalists’ were this ‘fifth column.’ Unbridled anti-Semitic propaganda was unleashed in the country. The press was rife with Jewish names.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 114.
At about this time a letter was devised that was to be signed by prominent Soviet Jews.
This would call for the deportation of Jews to resettle them in outlying areas.
A “theoretical foundation” was given by the Philosopher Dmitrii Chesnokov of the Party presidium from the 19th Party Congress. This stated that:
“The Jews had proved to be ‘unreceptive to socialism.’ He wrote a book which was .. (widely) circulated.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 118-119.
This letter called for punishment against the accused doctors, and to resettle many Jews. It provoked unrest amongst the intelligentsia. It was promoted by another known revisionist – Mark Borisovich Mitin who had supported the anti-scientific campaign of Trofim Lysenko. (See “Lysenko, Views of Nature, Society”; 1990; available, from Alliance p.285).
Nonetheless despite the evident pressure, some notable figures refused to sign:
“A. N. Iakovlev, former Central Committee Secretary, who at one time,” headed the Politburo commission for rehabilitation and was well acquainted with many major political “cases” of the postwar years, said that the letter was devised and put into circulation by Chesnokov. Iakovlev recalls that another “philosopher,” Mark Mitin, and “historian”, Isak Mints, collected the required signatures of Jewish scientists and cultural figures. We know that several people to whom the trio turned refused to sign – Ilya Erenburg, People”s Artist of the USSR, Mark Reizen, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel-General Ia. G. Kreizer, and composer I. 0. Dunaevskii. Among those who did sign was M. I. Blanter, the author of the famous song “Katiusha”. The full list of those who signed this document is unknown.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 118-119.
The timing of these events is highly significant. As all this de-stabilisation of the USSR state was taking place, Stalin was both ill and most probably – dying. In some way, all commentators are agreed, the “Doctors’ Plot” was a key hinge around which took place, all the events of the last few days and weeks of Stalin’s life were. We here will only cite Etinger:
“On 5 March, if we are to believe the official version of events, Stalin died. It later came to light that in the last days of the dictator”s life, the CPSU leadership was in session around the clock. On that same day, a joint session of the Central Committee Plenum, the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Soviet Presidium was held. The session adopted a resolution on the reorganization of the country’s party and state leadership. A major decision adopted there was the merger of the Ministry of State Security (MGB) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) into a single Ministry of the Interior headed by Beria, who was also appointed first deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 118-119.
It is at this point that again we have to re-discuss whether or not Beria was a Marxist-Leninist? For Etinger states that he began an ‘extremely ingenious game’ and started calling ‘Stalin a tyrant’:
“Having taken over the state security bodies, Beria began an extremely ingenious political game. He began calling Stalin a tyrant and suggested that Central Committee members get acquainted with numerous facts showing his cruelty, abuse of power and political terrorism. The country’s new leadership was extremely worried by the fact that Beria had attained full control of the state security organs and could make use of their archives to suit his own purposes – primarily to expose the entire group of Stalin’s successors as accomplices and perpetrators of the massive repressions in the 1930’s. Therefore, the elimination of Beria was a matter of vital importance for the new Kremlin leaders. With his penchant for adventurism, Beria was increasingly becoming the main contender in the struggle for power.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 119.
However, it emerges that Etinger is using his own personal interviews and friendships with both Bulganin and Khrushchev to substantiate his viewpoint.
This is clearly inadequate!
As stated above, Beria now moved to discredit and stop the fear-mongering and de-stabilisation associated with the alleged “Doctors’ Plot.”
Even so Etinger asserts that Kaganovich attacked Beria”s “sensationalising” of the “Doctor’s Plot” and taking all credit for freeing the doctors:
“Beria used the Doctors’ Plot as his trump card in this struggle for power and demanded that the doctors be immediately released. It is worth recalling Kaganovich’s statement at the July 1953 Central Committee plenum in which he went out of his way to deny that the Doctors’ Plot had any anti-Semitic overtones. He also stressed that Beria used the Doctors’ Plot in order to consolidate his position in the country and to curry favour with world public opinion as the man who denounced the provocation and had the framed victims released. Kaganovich stated: Let us, for example, take the Doctors’ Plot, which some elements have erroneously linked with Jewry as a whole. The party was right in releasing the doctors, but Beria sensationalised it out of all proportion, resorted to his usual method of patting himself on the back and alleging that it was he who had done it and not the Central Committee, that it was he who had set things right and not the government.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 120.
But undoubtedly it was Beria and his investigations into the events that had led to the pressure for the release of the physicians.
This came after Beria had forced some rather startling revelations into the hands of the Presidium of the Party. We have already discussed this, the murder of Mikhoels and Abakumov’s allegations:
“On 2 April 1953 Beria sent a letter to the party presidium addressed to Malenkov stating:
‘An examination of the materials in the Mikhoels case has revealed that in February 1948, in Minsk, former USSR MGB Deputy Minister Ogol’tsov and former Belorussian MGB Minister Tsanava illegally…. liquidated Mikhoels on orders from USSR MGB Minister Abakumov… In this connection Abakumov .. Gave the evidence… ‘:
‘As far as I can remember in 1948 the head of the Soviet Government I.V.Stalin gave me an urgent assignment – to promptly organise the liquidation of Mikhoels by MGB personnel..'”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 121.
Again we must discuss Abakumov’s testimony. Until further evidence comes to light, we argue that Abakumov was an honest Marxist-Leninist misled into “believing” that an order had come from Stalin. This is the most likely interpretation of the turn of events.
As discussed above, the role of Suslov and Ponomoraev make the murder of Mikhoels a suspiciously pro-Revisionist event.
What was Beria’s attitude to Abakumov?
Again – some might argue here that Beria was not a Marxist-Leninist. But in the light of the other events of his life, we argue that far more evidence is needed to discredit Beria’s Marxist-Leninist credentials. It seems that Beria either could not attempt a “rescue” of Abakumov from jail, or he might have believed that Abakumov was a revisionist or revisionist misled force.
The revisionists who had benefited from Stalin’s death, were anxious about Beria.
Given the revelations, and Beria’s potential for completely un-ravelling the entire revisionist conspiracy, for the moment his insistence upon releasing the doctors was heeded.
It was Beria who ended the episode of the “Doctor’s Plot”
Despite Professor Etinger’s annoyance, it is hardly surprising that in this context, Beria ensured that it was his name – and not that of Khrushchev’s – that would be associated with the ending of the plot and the restoration of order:
“Beria insisted on the immediate release of the arrested physicians. Finally, on 3 April 1953 at 12 noon, the CPSU Presidium adopted a decision to set free 37 doctors and the members of their families being held for investigation in the Lubianka and Lefortovo prisons. The decision was to be published in the central press and broadcast over the radio on 4 April. At this juncture Beria made a brilliant political move. During the night he called the Pravda editorial offices and demanded that the title of the communique on setting the doctors free be altered. The heading now read ‘Communique of the USSR MVD’ instead of ‘Decree of the CPSU Central Committee Presidium.’ Naturally, people reading this communique on the physicians’ rehabilitation got the impression that Beria’s rise to power in the MVD led to his investigation of the Doctors’ Plot and the release of the innocent victims. Beria was scoring points in the struggle for power not only within the country but also abroad, for world public opinion was greatly concerned about the outburst of anti-Semitism in the USSR.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 122.
The immediate consequences of this were that the revisionists Riumin and Ignate’ev were arrested:
“Two days after the publication of the MVD communique, a Pravda article revealed that the doctors’ investigation had been headed by Riumin, who was ‘now under arrest.’ More than 15 months later, from 2-7 July 1954, the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court heard the case of Riumin, who was accused of crimes specified in Articles 5-7 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. It is noteworthy that in the announcement of the USSR Supreme Court there was no mention whatsoever that the Doctors’ Plot had any Jewish aspect.”
Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 119-122.
The revisionists later managed to effect the release of their most important ally Ignat”ev.
They did not exert themselves for Riumin.
Both Riumin and Abakumov were shot.
Of course these temporary set-backs showed the dangers to the revisionists of leaving Beria at the top.
He was swiftly toppled by a plot in which Malenkov and Molotov and Zhukov were persuaded to participate.
These final events – sealing the revisionist victory and successful take over of the socialist state of the USSR – have been best dealt with by Bland in the already referenced booklet: “The Doctors’ Case & The Death Of Stalin”; and the Book “Restoration of Capitalism In The Soviet Union.”