Moscow Trials


In 1928 came the trial of the engineers of the Shakhty mining area in the Donetz Basin. There’s no need to go into the details of the trial. These engineers had never lost touch with their former chiefs, the directors and large shareholders of the Donetz mines, who had fled abroad during the revolution. It was natural that those former Russian captains of industry should have many connections with influential circles in their countries of asylum, particularly France and England. From these former owners the engineers received instructions in regard to sabotage, and especially requests to flood certain mines to preserve them for the former owners. That these things had been done was fully confirmed at the trial; other charges remained unproved. But the trial showed clearly that part of an important group of educated Russians, the engineers, were absolutely opposed to the Soviet regime.
This was not the first and not the last such trial in this period of Russian history. Two years later came the case against the illegal Industrial Party. It showed plainly the lines along which the thoughts of the leading technical experts in Russia were running. The chief defendant in that case was a professor Ramzin, a prominent engineer who had played an important part during the First World War as an organizer of the heating industries and also as leader of the bourgeois Democratic Party. Later, with a number of leading engineers, he had entered the Soviet service. These engineers, with Ramzin at their head, were firmly convinced of the disastrousness of Stalin’s policy. In order to ward off chaos and to form a government, they had founded the illegal Industrial Party. Their ideology was that of the Technocrats, who hold that in our day the state should be ruled and administered by trained technicians–a sort of dictatorship of the engineers…. Ramzin had formed a secret Cabinet of engineers for the future, in which he was to be Prime Minister. They wanted to arrest the coming catastrophe. Rykov, Stalin’s more moderate opponent, who had already been removed from the Office of Prime Minister, was to become Prime Minister again after the fall of Stalin, but to yield the office to Ramzin after a period of transition. What was fatal for Ramzin and his colleagues was that they all considered it essential to enter into relations with persons abroad. His Industrial Party actually tried to get in touch with the British and French Governments, but only came into contact with the intelligence services of those countries, which showed great caution. These contacts, however, led to the discovery of the plot.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 173

In a…trial in Moscow in April 1933, engineers “of the old school” were accused of espionage and sabotage on behalf of Great Britain. This “Metro-Vickers” trial was the latest in a series of open proceedings against engineers and technicians of the old regime that included the Shakhty trial of 1928, and the trial of the Industrial Party in 1930…. Several of the defendants were released on bail before the trial. No death sentences were handed out, and two of the defendants received no punishment at all.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 110

The trial of the Metro-Vickers engineers and their Russian colleagues in January 1933 revealed (though only in some of the defendants) not only cases of mild bribery and the systematic collection of information coming within the legal definition of espionage, but also a negligence that was hardly to be distinguished from sabotage, which was visited by the court with sentences of discriminating moderation. There promptly followed a renewed campaign of incitement by the emigres of Prague and Paris, with which was apparently connected the illegal and secret entry into the USSR, across its western land frontier during 1934, of more than 100 emissaries, bearing arms (and some of them bombs), nearly all of whom were, without publicity, promptly arrested, and held for interrogation. It will be recalled that it was during this period that Hitler was proclaiming his intention of annexing the Ukraine, and of securing forced concessions of much-needed minerals from the Urals–a threat which, it might be argued, implied that he was aware of there being allies within the USSR who would help him to overcome Stalin’s government, just as he later became aware of confederates in Spain among the army officers bent on overthrowing the Republic Government, and installing a Fascist regime in alliance with the Fascist Powers.
In December 1934 the head Bolshevik official in Leningrad ( Kirov) was assassinated by a dismissed employee, who may have acted independently out of personal revenge, but who was discovered to have secret connections with conspiratorial circles of ever-widening range. The Government reaction to this murder was to hurry on the trial, condemnation, and summary execution of the hundred or more persons above referred to, who were undoubtedly guilty of illegal entry and inexcusably bearing arms and bombs, although it was apparently not proved that they had any connection with Kirov’s assassination or the conspiracies associated therewith.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 926

The Shakhty trial case was the first signal. The Shakhty case showed that the Party organizations and the trade unions lacked revolutionary vigilance. It showed that our business managers were disgracefully backward in regard to technique, that some of the old engineers and technicians, who work without being controlled, slide more easily towards the path of wrecking activities, especially as they were constantly besieged by “offers” from our enemies abroad….
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 123

The first major political trial to have the effect of seriously aggravating the internal political situation in the Soviet Union was the so-called Shakhty case. The defendants were engineers and technicians in the coal industry of the Donetz basin. They were accused of “wrecking,” deliberately causing explosions in the mines, and maintaining criminal ties with the former mine owners, as well as less serious crimes, such as buying unnecessary imported equipment, violating safety procedures and labor laws, incorrectly laying out new mines, and so on.
At the trial some of the defendants confessed their guilt, but many denied it or confessed to only some of the charges. The court acquitted four of the 53 defendants, gave suspended sentences to four, and prison terms of one to three years to 10. Most of the defendants were given four to 10 years. Eleven were condemned to be shot, and five of them were executed in July 1928. The other six were granted clemency by the All-Union Central Executive Committee.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 258

From November 25 to December 7, 1930, a new political trial was held in Moscow, this time an open one. A group of prominent technical specialists were accused of wrecking and counter-revolutionary activities as members of an alleged Industrial Party….
Their alleged gains were to organize wrecking, diversionary actions, sabotage, and espionage and to prepare for the intervention of the Western powers and the overthrow of the Soviet government.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 263

At a trial the defendants confessed their guilt and willingly gave the most improbable detailed testimony about their wrecking and spying, their connections with foreign embassies in Moscow, even with Poincare, the president of France. A wave of meetings swept the country, with the speakers demanding that the leaders of the Industrial Party be shot. The court obligingly sentenced most of them to death, but a decree of the Central Executive Committee granted clemency, reducing the sentences to various terms of imprisonment. [The president of France denied any involvement and] It is significant that the complete text of Poincare’s declaration was published in Pravda and entered in the court record. Evidently this was done to show the court’s objectivity…. The bulk of Soviet citizens regarded Poincare’s declaration as proof of a real plot.
In March 1931, a few months after the trial of the Industrial Party, another open political trial was held in Moscow, that of an alleged Union Bureau of the Central Committee of the Menshevik Party.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 264

The “Union Bureau” was accused of wrecking, especially in the drafting of plans for economic development. If the indictment is to be believed, the accused systematically lowered all the draft plans, trying thereby to slow down the development of Soviet industry and agriculture. The Mensheviks were also supposed to have formed a secret block with the Industrial Party and the Toiling Peasant Party to prepare for armed intervention from without and insurrection from within. Each contracting party was assigned a certain function: the Industrial Party was to conduct preliminary negotiations with representatives of the countries that were supposed to inspire or take part in armed intervention, to organize flying brigades of engineers for diversionary and terrorist actions, and to arrange for military conspiracies with certain individuals in the high command of the Red Army; the Toiling Peasant Party was to organize peasant revolts, supply the rebels with weapons and munitions, and create disturbances in Red Army units; and the Union Bureau was to prepare a citizens’ guard in the cities, which could seize government institutions and provide the initial support for a new counter-revolutionary government.
At the trial all the defendants [of the Union Bureau] confessed, giving highly detailed accounts of their wrecking activities. As prosecutor, Krylenko tried at one session to demonstrate the objectivity of the court by reading a special declaration from the emigre leaders of the Menshevik Party. They [the emigre leaders] categorically denied any connection between the Menshevik Party and the defendants, who had quit the party in the early twenties or had never belonged to it at all…. In any case, none of the accused had ever been in touch with the emissaries of the Menshevik Party. After this declaration had been read, the accused, at the suggestion of the presiding judge, refuted it and reaffirmed their guilt. A few days later the court sentenced all 14 defendants to terms of imprisonment ranging from 5 to 10 years.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 265-266

The subsequent fate of these people [scholars in the humanities] worked out in different ways. Many of them were freed after a few years and went on to brilliant scholarly careers; such was the case for Tarle, Lorkh, Vinogradov, and Talanov. In the ’40s and ’50s they headed the most important scientific institutions in the Soviet Union, enjoyed great respect, and were awarded the highest honors.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 288

Eleven death sentences were announced [in the Shakhty case], of which six were commuted because of the prisoners’ co-operation. [Conquests distorts]
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 154


Two days after the completion of the Industrial Party trial, Professor Ramzin and the other four defendants who had been sentenced to death petitioned the Soviet Supreme Court for a reprieve. The court granted the petition and commuted the sentences of death to sentences of ten years imprisonment on the grounds that Ramzin and his colleagues had been the tools of the real conspirators who were outside the Soviet Union. In the years following the trial, Professor Ramzin, who was granted every opportunity by the Soviet authorities for new scientific work, became completely won over to the Soviet way of life and began making valuable contributions to the industrial program of the USSR. On July 7, 1943, Professor Ramzin was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Joseph Stalin Prize of 30 thousand dollars for the invention of a simplified turbo generator, said to be better than any other in the world. Under a decree issued by the Kremlin, the turbo generator bares the inventors name.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 170

The internal detente remained in force for the deserving. Even some former anti-Bolsheviks found themselves among them. A governmental decree amnestied Ramzin and eight fellow convicts in the Industrial Party trial for their successful work on boiler design while in prison. Along with the decree was printed a letter of thanks for clemency in which Ramzin and three others took note of the “solicitude for man” that the NKVD had shown during their five-year imprisonment by providing all conditions for continued scientific work.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 322

Stalin was capable of gratitude. The main defendant, Ramzin, was sentenced to death by shooting, but this was commuted to imprisonment. The same Ramzin whose name had been anathema to the country at large was shortly released, and eventually became director of the very same Technological Institute, and a winner of the country’s highest award, the Stalin Prize. Several other of the “inveterate wreckers” would be numbered among Stalin’s pet scientists.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 251


It is true that, after the arrests had been made public, Mr. Barnes, the Moscow correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune, wrote to Stalin at the Kremlin asking for an assurance that American citizens in Russia were in no danger of molestation or of arbitrary arrest…. Stalin wrote to the ecstatic Mr. Barnes, who showed me the original as one of his most precious documentary possessions, the following letter:
Dear Mr. Barnes,
There is not the slightest ground for your fears about the security of American citizens here.
The USSR is one of the few countries in which the display of hate or unfriendliness towards foreigners, as foreigners, is prohibited by law. There has been no case, nor can there be one, of anyone becoming the object of persecution because of his nationality.
This is especially true in the case of the foreign specialists in the USSR , including Americans, whose work, in my opinion, is worthy of appreciation.
As for the few Englishman, the employees of the Metropolitan-Vickers Co., they are being prosecuted, not as Englishmen, but as persons who, according to the affirmation of the investigating authorities, have violated the law of the USSR …. J. Stalin.
One statement in Stalin’s letter I can amplify and endorse from personal experience. Not merely is “the display of hate or unfriendliness towards foreigners, as foreigners” prohibited by law; but foreigners are treated with the utmost kindness and goodwill. One of the most frequent questions asked me on my return to England was whether during the trial or afterwards I had been molested because of my nationality, or threatened or treated with harshness and discourtesy. My answer is that I never once met with a sullen look or an insulting or unkind word. In Moscow no such passions were aroused as in London , where the sudden display of frenzied emotion startled the whole world. Even at the height of the trial, when feeling against Mr. Thornton in particular was strong and strongly expressed–inside and outside the Court, and the street, in the hotel, in tramcars and in official quarters–there was not the slightest change in this friendly attitude…. My experience was that of other Englishmen in Moscow who compared notes with me and were as surprised as I was that we were called upon to suffer no reprisals even in the mildest form.
The “law” as to foreigners is in fact faithfully observed. I know of no country in the world in which individual foreigners, to whatever nationality they may belong, can be so assured of being treated with affability and good manners.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Vic. Gollancz, 1933, p. 63-65


In connection with these “systematic breakdowns” proceedings were instituted against the Russian engineer Gussev, chief of the Zlatoust Electric Power Station. Gussev, whose personality at the trial deeply interested me, seems to have given himself away as promptly as he gave away the English installation engineer MacDonald.
From this standpoint the indictment, both in form and substance, should be an inspiration to the earnest student of the records of police transactions. In the completeness of its presentation, in the dovetailing one into another of all the parts of the case, in the intelligent detailed exactitude with which most of the accused persons incriminate themselves and give away others, in the skill with which at just the right moment one prisoner is confronted with the testimony or person of another prisoner and so induced to confess and corroborate, it is something of a masterpiece. There is not a police organization in the world which would not regard the final result with admiring envy as an almost perfect artistic achievement or would not be glad to discover the secret of the GPU’s technique and in practice imitate the method….
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 75


Gussev, admitting everything, gives away MacDonald. MacDonald gives himself away and gives away Thornton . Thornton , admitting less, yet gives away himself and his colleagues. Monkhouse apparently gives away something; Cushny very little, Nordwall not much. The remaining eleven Russians follow eagerly Gussev’s example, making full and voluminous confessions, telling all they claim to know and of course giving away in turn one or more of the six Englishmen….
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 76


When the evidence so far obtained was put before him by the officers of the GPU, Gussev admitted at once that he was guilty of organizing a group of wreckers at Zlatoust and added that for causing the breakdowns he received money from MacDonald. He testified also that from 1922, during the whole period of his duties at Zlatoust , he was “sharply hostile” to the Soviet Government and mixed in hostile circles.
As he grew more intimate with MacDonald, Gussev became more and more frank with him, openly expressed his anti-Soviet views, and told him about his service in the White campaign against the Red Army.
At one meeting in MacDonald’s flat, MacDonald (said Gussev) “openly proposed to me that I should engage in collecting information about the work at Zlatoust . It was clear that he meant espionage work. When he spoke to me again two or three days later I consented because of my striving to be more active in my anti-Soviet hostility.”
…Having done so well with Gussev the interrogators turned their attention to MacDonald, who, “after the concrete facts of his crime had been presented to him admitted in the very first examination on March 12 the correctness of Gussev’s evidence and corroborated it at a confrontation on March 13.”
… Just before his departure for Zlatoust he was asked specifically by Thornton to “collect for him information about the production of military supplies there and about the state of the power supply….”
…MacDonald “corroborated” Gussev as to the character and scope of his espionage activities.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Vic. Gollancz, 1933, p. 77-79


The indictment then passes on to what the prosecution regarded as “the main content of Gussev’s counter-revolutionary activity”–the organization of the breakdowns at Zlatoust and the delay of work on the extension of the electric power station “for the purpose of undermining the industry and the military power of the USSR .”
Gussev made frequent admissions on these matters. He received, he said, from MacDonald two tasks: (1) to reduce the output of shells and cold weapons at the mechanical works and (2) to reduce the output of high-quality steel at the metallurgical works. He was helped in this work by Sokolov, who said he agreed in the first place as “a school chum of Gussev’s and knowing that Gussev was on good terms with MacDonald.”
MacDonald, completing this agreeable picture of deliberate sabotage, once more admitted “the correctness of the evidence,” and supplemented with further information of his own.
The industrious and enterprising Gussev then told his examiners how he had drawn up a plan which he had submitted to MacDonald, who accepted it, and with what zeal he carried out the following wrecking acts:
(1) Put out of action five or six times the 1400 horsepower motor which serves to drive the large shaping rolling mill.
(2) Froze L. M. Z. boiler No. 8.
(3) Put out of action the coal conveyor by, among other means, throwing small metal objects into the cylindrical gear drive.
(4) Delayed the installation of U. M. T. boiler No. 11 by sending working parts to the scrap melting furnace on the pretense that they were scrap.
The damage to the rolling mill motor put the shell shop itself out of action for six weeks.
As to this effective piece of sabotage, MacDonald said:
“I told Gussev that for the purpose of a struggle with the Soviet power one must use also such means as the organization of breakages in the works and especially in their most important points. I requested him, considering it to be a very important undertaking in order to stop the production, to organize a breakage of the above-mentioned motor, being aware that it will lead to most definite effective consequences. Gussev first hesitated but afterwards agreed to it.”
The next point to be considered was what was to be done in the event of war.
Thus Gussev: MacDonald discussed with me the measures to be taken to put the equipment of the station out of order in the event of war. He told me and gave me direct instructions to cause breakdowns on the declaration of war in the most important sections of the station, namely in the boiler house and the coal conveyor. By this means I was to strive to keep the station constantly at a level considerably below that which was provided for in the mobilization plan. In this way, had I succeeded in maintaining the level at about 6000 kW instead of 12,000 nominal kW, provided for in the mobilization plan, that would have meant the disruption of the work of munitions supply in wartime.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 80


Of course, people spoke with caution, for the most part only of what they had seen and heard. Nevertheless, I did on three or four occasions hear open and direct criticism of the government. One of the most outspoken in this respect was a young student from among the specialists. He declared that he had been imprisoned “on account of a counter-revolutionary organization in the electrical industry.” The public trial of this case took place, if I remember correctly, in Moscow in the spring of 1933. Apart from the Russian accused there were also some English engineers on trial, who were freed after being sentenced, and extradited at the request of the British government. [The Metro-Vickers trial, 12-19 April, 1933].
This young fellow’s story struck me not only because of its outspokenness against the government, but also, and particularly because of his detailed account of the “counter-revolutionary organization.” According to him the affair was far more serious than had been made public by the Court proceedings. The government, he thought, did not want too many revelations, and deliberately conducted it as a wreckers’ case, whereas it was in fact a real conspiracy. He asserted that the organization had a complete plan to plunge the whole of Moscow into darkness at a moment’ s notice and to blow up the Kremlin and other strategically important points in the town by means of some mysterious rays. The blowing up of the Kremlin would result in the overthrow of the government and its replacement by one composed of specialist-technicians.
“Only by means of modern technique and only with the aid of technicians and specialists can the communists be overthrown,” the young fellow declared, repeating one of the clichEs fairly widespread in Soviet circles.
The conspiracy had apparently been exposed quite accidentally. One of the chief engineers of the “Electric Combinat” in Moscow , a leader of the plot, while taking some papers from the safe in his office, had inadvertently dropped a map of Moscow with the points to be blown up marked on it in front of the nose of a communist who happened to be there. According to the student, he himself was a close relative of one of the principal accused, but had contrived to escape immediately after the first arrests had taken place. With false papers he had managed to get taken on at a ship-building yard on the Baikal, and thought that having traveled so far he was no longer in danger. However, after six months he had been traced and arrested.
“When arresting me the GPU addressed me by my real name. I realized then that further denial was senseless and I admitted everything. I was threatened with shooting of course, but on account of my youth I got off with 10 years in a concentration camp.”
The whole tale sounded fantastic, incredible, pure conceit and boasting–if not worse. I mention it only because this was the sole case where an accused assured me that the accusation of wrecking was not a frame-up but the truth. It goes without saying that I cannot vouch that this young man had really been accused of the things of which he told me. One thing, however, was undoubtedly true. He came from the technical-intelligentsia circles of Moscow , and yet he did not look like a son of the old-style bourgeois-intelligentsia.
Ciliga, Ante, The Russian Enigma. London : Ink Links, 1979, p. 344-345


Thus MacDonald: The respective declaration of Mr. Gussev coincides with my instructions.
And like an echo then comes the corroborative voice of the faithful Sokolov.
Gussev next informed his accusers that he received at various times from MacDonald sums of money amounting to between 2000 and 3000 rubles.
“Yes,” said MacDonald, “I gave money to Gussev for his spying work and breakages in accordance with my commissions. The total sum I handed over to him was about 2000 or 3000 rubles.”
“In June 1932,” says Sokolov, “Gussev in his office gave me 1000 rubles; and in handing it to me said, ‘Here is a bonus from MacDonald.’ “I consider,” continues Sokolov, “that I received this sum principally for putting the 1400 horsepower motor out of order.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 82


The depositions of Gussev and MacDonald as to the complicity of Thornton “in the activities of the counter-revolutionary group” and their references to Thornton as the source of the payments for counter-revolutionary acts led to his arrest.
He was examined, and when confronted with his two accusers, Gussev and MacDonald, he is alleged to have to the following effect:
(1) In those places where MacDonald was engaged in installation work “MacDonald did indeed engage in collecting information for Thornton and on his instructions.”
(2) Thornton first enlisted MacDonald for espionage activity in May-June 1930 in Losino-Ostrovskaya.
(3) Thornton did indeed receive information from MacDonald concerning the Zlatoust and Zuevka districts.
(4) Thornton admitted also that he knew that Gussev “was the person whom MacDonald had brought in to collect information about the work of the Zlatoust electric power station on his ( Thornton ‘s) instructions.”
Thornton also corroborated the evidence of MacDonald that the latter had received from him a sum of money to pay “these people” who had given espionage information.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 82


This scene of action now passes to Chelyabinsk , at which station, according to the investigators, the counter-revolutionary group was acting under Vitvitsky (one of the accused Russians) who were also connected with MacDonald, Gussev, and Thornton.
… Thornton promised that the information, which should be conveyed to MacDonald at Zlatoust through Gussev, would be well paid for; and as a reward for his “wrecking acts” Vitvitsky said he received repeated bribes amounting altogether to 6900 rubles. The money was usually handed to him by Gussev when he gave the latter the letters with the information asked for.
According to Vitvitsky, the “wrecking” chiefly employed at Chelyabinsk was to slow down the development of the station by various subtle means which he enumerated and which included, among other things, the concentration of attention on objects that had nothing to do with the station and failing to take adequate measures when anything went wrong. Like the group at Zlatoust , the wreckers at Chelyabinsk “also had a program of action drawn up in the event of war.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 84


Now for the electric power station at Zuevka. There MacDonald comes again into action. The “chief wrecker” at Zuevka was Kotlyarevsky, who, on being charged, admitted that he carried out the work in conjunction with MacDonald with whom he became on very friendly terms “which MacDonald tried to maintain all the time.”
Kotlyarevsky insisted that he did no more than conceal defects in the equipment. But the examiners refute such attempts “to belittle his wrecking work” by quoting a statement made on April 3 by MacDonald in which he said “In June or July 1932 there was organized a breakdown of the third generator. This breakdown took place as a result of leaving a bolt in the air gap of the generator. It was done under my instructions by Fomichev or Kotlyarevsky.”
From Zuevka the melancholy and monotonous tale is transferred to Ivanov, at which station, in addition to various breakdowns and accidents recorded by the Expert Committee, a number of cases of direct damage to equipment are set out in detail in the indictment.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 85


Here the Russian villain of the peace is Lobanov, the anti-Sovietist son of a factory owner, who was “in league with” Nordwall, another Metro-Vickers employee.
According to Lobanov, Nordwall urged that the damage should be carried out systematically, so as to interrupt the supply of electric current to industry, and that “attention should be paid to the damage of equipment from Metro-Vickers, and that if such equipment, on which the period of guarantee had not expired, were damaged, it should be done in such a way that the responsibility could not be thrown on the company.”
Lobanov, after enumerating in detail his acts of wreckage, says he received as his reward 5000 rubles. Nordwall first gave him 3000 rubles, “wrapped in a newspaper,” and promised a larger reward if the work was more energetically carried on. Of this sum Lobanov gave 1000 rubles to Lebedev and 800 to Ugrumov.
Zivert, a foreman at the station, declared that he was drawn into the same business by Thornton whom he met first at the Gorky station in 1925.
He was, he said, “won over by Thornton ‘s promise to reward him.” In the course of ten months “there were 15 accidents to the oil pipes”; and for this and other work Zivert received from Thornton a further 300 rubles.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 86


Breakdowns at the 0rekhevo Thermo-Power station were caused deliberately by the engineers Sukhoruchkin, Krasheninnikov and Zorin, “acting in collusion with the employees of Metro-Vickers.” Sukhoruchkin, “on his own admission,” established a connection with Thornton as early as 1927, systematically supplying him with economic information. From the middle of 1929, in addition to this, he “kept quiet about the number of defects in the equipment supplied by the firm,” and in 1931 “passed on to direct acts of diversion in accordance with the instructions given me by Thornton personally.”
Sukhoruchkin also made the remarkable statement that, in February 1930, when they were examining the switch gear together, not only did they discuss a number of acts of “diversion” they intended to carry out on a larger scale in case of war, but Thornton actually demonstrated to him in technical and exact detail “how easy it would be” to wreck the switch house. And in subsequent conversations Thornton explained other methods.
Sukhoruchkin said he received from Thornton 2000 rubles, and 350 rubles in Torgsin checks.
Krasheninnikov said Oleinik gave him 500 rubles on Thornton ‘s behalf for concealing defects in the equipment. Zorin, chief engineer of the steam turbine group, was given 1000 rubles by Thornton for the same kind of work; and was “prudently warned” by Thornton “of the criminal work of Sukhoruchkin and Krasheninnikov so that he would not expose their “wrecking.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 87


As early as 1930 she [Kutuzova] began to notice that something was wrong, when Thornton, Cushny, MacDonald, Monkhouse and others “had secret conversations with Soviet citizens, often locked themselves up in their private office and made secret notes, etc..”
She soon came to the conclusion that they were spying and that they sent information to England . She pressed Thornton to let her know the truth. At first he would only say that, in addition to his work for Metro-Vickers, “he had other tasks of a secret nature.” But at length he told her that he and other English engineers “were collecting secret information of a political and economic nature through the medium of Russian engineers and technicians recruited by them to whom they paid money for this work.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 89


She admitted that she then took part in making these payments; and in the presence of Thornton stated that the expenses for the remuneration of the Russian engineers and technicians who supplied secret information had been recorded by Thornton “not in the office books but in notebooks which he took to England in 1932.”
Questioned about the participation of the British engineers in acts of diversion, Kutuzova asserted that several times she heard Thornton and Monkhouse planning to damage the turbines of the Nizhni, Zuevka, Leningrad and Baku power stations. On the subject of espionage she said she “supposed” that Thornton and the other workers in the firm’s office gave their information to Richards and carried on their espionage under him. She drew this conclusion “from the fact that when Richards came over, secret talks were held with him; and, besides this, Thornton and Monkhouse mentioned the name Richards in their secret conversations.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 90


“Among the other employees of Metro-Vickers who gave bribes, according to the statement of Thornton , there was also the engineer Albert Gregory.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 92


The confessions of the 12 Russians were full and exhaustive; only in one instance did a Russian make a faltering suggestion that he was not guilty on all counts, and his attempt to “belittle” his participation in crime was quickly disposed of by his interrogators.
Of the British citizens, MacDonald made a full, complete and very damaging confession implicating his superiors and immediate colleagues. Thornton , while denying sabotage, made certain admissions, none of them so serious as those in a document which was not published in the indictment but was reserved for the trial. Monkhouse admitted receiving information that “might be interesting to the firm,” the writing off of money given by Thornton to Dolgov, and machinery defects which caused breakdowns in the power stations. Nordwall admitted “anti-Soviet conversations” with Lobanov but denied everything else. Cushny admitted virtually nothing. As for Gregory, there was no indication even that he was questioned.
Apart from the testimony of two employees at Zlatoust as to the nature of the damage done and the instructions given by Gussev, the only independent witnesses were Ryabova, MacDonald’s elderly housekeeper, who conveyed letters from Gussev to MacDonald; Yemelyanov, who said he heard Cushny speak of the necessity of damaging the Red Power Station in order to stop the development of the oilfields; and Dolgov, head of the control department of Electro-Import (and, I strongly suspect, a GPU spy), who received 3000 rubles from Thornton and handed them over at once to the GPU.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 98


Therefore the prisoners’ confessions and accusations against others under arrest provided the core of the case for the prosecution.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 99


Allowing for all reasonable objections that can be directed against the form and character of the indictment I defy any fair-minded person to read it through without acknowledging that the Soviets had produced a prima facie case for public inquiry.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 100


Whatever methods may have been employed on the Soviet citizens, it is only fair to say that even The Times, in an unimpressive and characteristically sour review of what it describes as a “fishing” inquiry, was unable to extract from the returned British engineers any complaint that “direct physical terror was applied to those of the British prisoners who are now free to speak for themselves.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 101

When the British prisoners agreed in court that no torture or other form of pressure had been applied to them, a section of the press declared that if the prisoners were freed from the grip of the OGPU they would tell another story. A few months later, all the prisoners are freed, and can reveal the frightful tortures by which “all human reflexes are destroyed” in order that prisoners may be forced to confess to crimes which they did not commit. Alas for the credulous! The opportunity afforded to these three gentlemen to expose the methods of torture practiced by the OGPU has not been utilized to this day.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 257


His [Judge Ulrich] first business was to recite the names of the prisoners and to obtain from each one of them their age, occupation, and nationality and a formal acknowledgement of the receipt of the indictment. It was then announced that “at the request and choice of the accused” Braude, one of the most celebrated and flamboyant lawyers in Russia , was to defend Thornton ; Smirnov was to act for MacDonald; Kommodov, a very able advocate for Monkhouse; Lidov for Cushny; and Dolmatovsky for Gregory and Nordwall. Four other counsel were engaged for the Russians.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London : Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 115


I have no serious complaint to make against the censors. They did their duty in a reasonable spirit and with an obvious desire not to hamper our work unduly or cause us needless irritations as long as we observed the decencies.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 116


It had been assumed as a matter of course that all the Russian prisoners would plead guilty and all the British prisoners not guilty.
In a dead silence the President turned towards the dock. “Accused Gussev,” he said, “do you plead guilty to the formulated accusations?”

GUSSEV: Yes, I plead guilty.
THE PRESIDENT: Accused Sokolov, do you plead guilty?
SOKOLOV: Yes, I do.
THE PRESIDENT: Accused MacDonald, do you plead guilty?
MACDONALD: Yes, I do you.

The audience gasped in astonishment at this totally unexpected answer.
One heard all the Russians admit their guilt. One heard each of the remaining Englishmen plead not guilty in tones all the sharper and clearer perhaps because of their colleague’s defection.
… And a horde of newspaper men dashed out of the hall to tell the world without a moment’s delay that one of the six innocent British engineers had pleaded guilty to his crime.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 116-117


VYSHINSKY: What exactly do you mean by that? Did you ask Gussev for information on the power supply?
VYSHINSKY: Military information?
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 120


Gussev next passed to a comprehensive account of the way in which he organized and carried out, in conjunction with his assistant Sokolov, the engineering breakdowns in the concern. The purpose, he said, was to stop entirely the production of shells and non-firing weapons at Zlatoust, and he decided that the best means of ensuring this was to put out of commission the 1400 horsepower motor, because the work of the mill depended upon it. He accomplished the end by leaving a small piece of sheet iron in the ventilation intake. He described in detail several other breakdowns, upon which Vyshinsky turned again to MacDonald with the question: “Do you corroborate Gussev’s testimony in this part?”
Gussev said he received altogether about 3000 rubles from MacDonald for his work.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 120


VYSHINSKY (to MacDonald): Do you corroborate Gussev’s testimony in this part or not?
MACDONALD: I gave him money.
VYSHINSKY: How much?
MACDONALD: About 2500 rubles.
VYSHINSKY: Where did you get it?
MACDONALD: From the firm–from the Moscow office.
VYSHINSKY: From whom personally?
MACDONALD: Through chief engineer Thornton.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 121


ROGINSKY: Did you have a talk with Thornton concerning your work as one of their men?
GUSSEV: Yes. On the second occasion this plan [for wrecking activities] was discussed by all three of us–myself, Thornton and McDonald.
GUSSEV: In my office. I was warned by MacDonald that meetings with Thornton outside my office would be unwise.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 122


VYSHINSKY: When in Leningrad did you collect any information?
VYSHINSKY: What information?
MACDONALD: As indicated in my depositions.
VYSHINSKY: You said in them that you engaged in systematic economic espionage. Do you confirm this?
MACDONALD: I confirm it.
VYSHINSKY: Political– do you confirm that?
MACDONALD: I confirm it.
VYSHINSKY: And military?
VYSHINSKY: And where did you get that military information.
MACDONALD: From the “Bolshevik” works near our electric power station.

Airplane motors, MacDonald explained, were tested there; and there were firing ranges at which artillery was tested. And he passed on “whatever there was to hear” to Thornton.
He added, in further replies to questions, that he assumed other engineers of Metro-Vickers, besides Thornton, to be sharing in the intelligence work, including Cushny.
When he went to Zlatoust in 1930 and met Gussev he received from Gussev information “with military data in it” and passed it on to Thornton.


VYSHINSKY: About wrecking equipment, you deposed that you gave Gussev instructions to wreck the 1400 horsepower motor. Do you confirm this, or not?
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 141


And so it went on. Vyshinsky carried him at a canter through his various preliminary self-admissions; and in case after case, one after another, MacDonald verified the statements and so incriminated himself (not to mention Thornton) beyond hope of redemption in a Soviet Court.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 141


VYSHINSKY: I want to refresh your memory. Did you not ask MacDonald to get you information about the manufacture of munitions at the Zlatoust works?
THORNTON: That is an absolute lie.
VYSHINSKY: (to MacDonald): At the examination you deposed that ” Thornton asked me to obtain information about the manufacture of munitions.” Do you confirm this?
MACDONALD: I confirm it.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 144


… The prosecution, however, had no further difficulties with MacDonald, who “confirmed” virtually everything that was put to him. He confirmed the secret nature of the “military information” he received from Gussev. He confirmed the passing of it on to Thornton. He confirmed the request to Gussev to organize a breakage of the motor as part of the organization of works breakages in their most important points “for the purpose of a struggle with the Soviet power.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 146


ROGINSKY: I asked you: Do you confirm your words “I obtained espionage information of a military character about the Putilov works”?
THORNTON: Yes, but this does not apply to the Donald.
ROGINSKY: And from the Mytischy Works?
ROGINSKY: That means that you collected information of a military nature?
THORNTON: This was common gossip.
ROGINSKY: Did you collect this common gossip that had State and military importance?
THORNTON: No, I did not collect it; it came casually.
Turning to Thornton, Roginsky said: “After this you wrote the following: ‘I admit that I am guilty according to the charge presented to me, with the exception of paragraph 4, in which it is stated that I gave instructions to wreck installations.’
“Consequently,” added Roginsky leaning forward and thrusting out his chin, “you pleaded guilty to economic and military espionage?”
THORNTON: In that document–yes.
ROGINSKY: You pleaded guilty to paying money for economic and military espionage?
THORNTON: In that document–yes.
ROGINSKY: You pleaded guilty to giving brides for concealing defects in equipment?
THORNTON: In that document–yes….
ROGINSKY: According to this record, when it was presented to you, you admitted the following: “(1) That being the chief erecting engineer of Metro-Vickers and the USSR I carried out espionage.” Did you say this?
ROGINSKY: Further “(2) That for carrying out the above-mentioned spying activities I drew in certain Russian engineers and technicians whose names I enumerated in previous testimonies.” Is that your deposition?
ROGINSKY: “(3) That financial remuneration was given to the persons recruited by me for carrying on espionage.” Is that your deposition?
ROGINSKY: “That this work I have carried out in conjunction not only with Russian engineers and technicians whom I drew in, but I have carried out and organized it in conjunction with certain employees of Metro-Vickers–MacDonald, Cushny, and others whom I mentioned in the protocol of March 13, 1933.” Is that right?
ROGINSKY: Further: “I plead guilty to the charge that I gave bribes to Russian engineers and technicians for concealing defects and discrepancies in the operation of the plant and equipment which had been supplied by us.” Did you make this deposition?
THORNTON: Yes, I did.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 147-151


VYSHINSKY: And moreover on March 19 when the question was specifically asked as to how he had made his depositions at the preliminary investigation at the OGPU he gave the following reply which I ask leave to read out. The statement was as follows:
“These testimonies were given by me wholly of my own free will without outside influence or pressure. The testimonies were given by me in the English language and were written in my own handwriting. The protocols of interrogations, first in Gussev’s, mine, and each other’s presence and then in Kutuzova’s, mine, and in each other’s presence that were shown to me during this interrogation, and in which I confessed facts about my spying activities and my connections with other persons, I have read. I can make no additional remarks about the records of these protocols. The protocols are taken down directly and are confirmed by my signature. The protocol was read by me and I confirmed its accuracy. 1933 (Signed) Leslie Thornton.”
VYSHINSKY: Do you confirm this?
THORNTON: No, it was written and I signed it.
VYSHINSKY: Do you confirm that you made it voluntarily without being influenced, without any pressure?
VYSHINSKY: Everything that you wrote?
VYSHINSKY: Then you signed it?
THORNTON: Yes, and now the court will examine it.
THE PRESIDENT: But why did you give such information? Was it only to take up everyone’s time, the Court’s and the Public Prosecutor’s? Or did you have some special reason? What you are saying is absurd. You have been making depositions for three weeks so as to deny them now.
THORNTON: I merely–
THE PRESIDENT: Decided to provide work for the Court?
THORNTON: I did it because, as I have said, I was frightened.
THE PRESIDENT: How were you frightened? By whom were you frightened? Where and when were you frightened?
THORNTON: I was not frightened by arrest and by the consequences, but simply this way–
THE PRESIDENT: No, you give a straight reply so that it will be clear and plain to everybody. Who frightened you? When did they frighten you? In what room?
THORNTON: I want to speak through the interpreter.
THE PRESIDENT: When you find it difficult to reply you always resort to the aid of the interpreter; but, very well, you may.
THORNTON: No, I will speak in Russian. I was simply afraid, but of what I do not know myself.
VYSHINSKY: Let me ask you something else. I am interested in the circumstances in which you were questioned in the office of the Public Prosecutor by my assistant, Roginsky, in my presence. Were the facts which are set down here written down exactly as you told, or not?”
THORNTON: As I spoke. Yes, correctly.
VYSHINSKY: Nothing was distorted?
THORNTON: No, you did not change anything.
VYSHINSKY: But perhaps Roginsky did?
VYSHINSKY: Perhaps the OGPU distorted it?
THORNTON: No, I signed it with my own hand….

VYSHINSKY: It is important to establish the facts. We will try conclusions later. At present it is important for me to confirm from the deposition which you made on March 19 that the facts which are here set down were really told by you, that there was no falsification and no juggling.
THORNTON: That is so.
VYSHINSKY: (speaking with great deliberation and looking Thornton straight in the eyes): The depositions which you made before were given quite freely and voluntarily, without any pressure or coercion. Understand you correctly?
THORNTON: (in a subdued voice, after a long pause): Correctly.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 154-157


… “Among Russian refugees it was then stated that the OGPU resorted to the use of certain potent drugs to compel its victims to make ‘confessions’ that suited the purpose of the Soviet Government.”
…”These drugs, it was explained (so the newspaper narrative proceeds–The Daily Mail), were unknown in the West; but they were prepared by Tibetans in the employ of the OGPU from herbs and were administered in the food of prisoners without their knowledge. The effect of such concoctions was totally to destroy the will power of those being questioned, and to place them entirely in the psychic power of their jailors, ready to assent to any suggestions.”
Of all the witless trash published in the course of the trial, nothing was quite so witless as this maudlin acceptance of the malicious fable of a handful of Russian refugees.
…Since also MacDonald never again departed from his plea of guilty, either the Tibetan drug must have been sufficiently potent to endure for a week or it must have been administered two or three times daily.
Further, if Thornton, during his stay in prison, made serious admissions because he too was a victim of the Tibetan drug, how was it that the same brilliantly successful treatment was not applied to Cushny and Gregory and Nordwall and last of all to Monkhouse himself, the chief representative of his firm in Moscow, whose “confessions” under the influence of this mysterious oriental herb would have been more important than those of all his colleagues combined? I leave the answer to the resourceful ingenuity of the Daily Mail.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 161-162

The defendants in the show trials had certainly not been drugged.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 129


Vyshinsky then picked up from his table a large open document which he held head high for all to see; and, leaving his seat and walking straight to Thornton at the witness stand, presented it to him with a theatrical flourish. “Take it please,” he said, standing face to face with Thornton, “and examine it carefully from beginning to end, and then we will have it read. Is it your deposition?”
Thornton’s nervousness was apparent. He looked at it with evident repugnance, thrust it away from him and replied curtly “Yes.”
VYSHINSKY: In your own hand?
VYSHINSKY: Did you write it?
VYSHINSKY: Now we will have it read in full, if necessary, in English first.
This is what he [Judge Martens] read in the deposition written and signed by Thornton.
“All our spying operations on the USSR territory are directed by the British intelligence Service, through their agent, Richards, who occupies the position of Managing Director of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Export Co. Ltd.
…Spying operations on the USSR territory were directed by myself and Monkhouse, representatives of the above-mentioned British firm, who are contractors, by official agreement, to the Soviet Government, for the supply of turbines and electrical equipment and the furnishing of technical aid agreements. On the instructions of Richards given to me to this end, British personnel were gradually drawn into the spying organization after their arrival on USSR territory and instructed as to the information required. During the whole period of our presence on USSR territory, from the total of British staff employed, 27 men were engaged in spying operations. Of the above, 15 men which included: Monkhouse, Thornton, MacDonald, Nordwall, [and others] were engaged in economic and political spying, also in the investigation of the defense and offense possibilities of the Soviet Union.
The remaining 12 men who included the following: Cushny, Gregory, Richards, [and nine others] were engaged in political and economic spying.
On March 11, 1933, the following men were engaged in spying operations:
Nordwall–economic, political, defense and offense investigation.
Gregory–economic and political.
Thornton–economic, political, defense and offense investigation.
Monkhouse–economic, political, defense and offense investigation.
Cushny–economic and political.
[And others]
Facts above [about?] the spying activities of the above-mentioned men who were under my direction, I shall give in a further protocol.” (Signed) Thornton

Like others in the Court I was dumbfounded. It seemed to me an incredible production. I could well understand why the Soviet authorities had not inserted it in the indictment but had saved it up as the bonne bouche of the trial.
It is not necessary for me to emphasize the serious nature and the full significance of the statement. Not only does Thornton’s confession “present” as spies himself and 26 of his colleagues of the Metro-Vickers staff in Russia and thus expose them to the risk of capital punishment, but it implicates Mr. Richards, a director of the firm, and identifies him and them directly with the British Intelligence Service.
… This was manifestly the trump card the Soviet authorities were able to play in the trial. It created a profound impression in the Court. It created a great impression in all parts of the world to which the text was being dispatched within a few minutes of its recital.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 164-168


Dolgov was the first witness called. He is the manager of the control department of Electro-Import, and he described at once the circumstances in which Thornton early in 1932 gave him the 3000 rubles.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 177


Kotlyarevsky, a burly engineer of sullen manners who was in charge of the turbine department at Zuevka, was the next witness. He described how he and MacDonald got friendly because they were both fond of music and McDonald had a gramophone and very good records; and how, as they became more intimate, MacDonald suggested that he should obtain for him plans of the station building and pay no attention to defects in the equipment, besides giving a false estimate of any breakdowns which might take place with the turbines. At MacDonald’s instance he also wrecked a turbine by leaving a bolt in the air cap of the generator. For the information he supplied to McDonald he received in two sums a thousand rubles. McDonald freely admitted to the Court the accuracy of Kotlyarevsky’s statements.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 179


Lobanov, the next witness, interested me more than any of the other Russian prisoners. I should describe him without hesitation as a deliberate cold-blooded wrecker. For the first time I saw before me in the flesh one of those “miscreants” about whom we have heard so much from the Soviets as traitors conducting actively a concealed war against the Soviet Union.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 179


After hearing his evidence an Englishman who has lived in Moscow for the last 10 years said to me that he had never hitherto fully believed in the existence of saboteurs and wreckers in the sense of the charges established in the famous Ramzin trial. But Lobanov, he added, had convinced him of their actuality and had revealed the type. The same, I think, could be said of Gussev, a fortiori of Sukhoruchkin.
After listening to the evidence of Gussev, Lobanov, Sukhoruchkin and Zorin, I personally am no longer left in any doubt of the reality of the wrecking practices in Russia. One must reject altogether any suggestion that either Lobanov or Sukhoruchkin invented the details of their work in trying to put State property out of commission, or that they were agents-provocateurs. These men are convinced and enthusiastic anti-Sovietists.
Lobanov, a close-shaven, hatchet-faced individual, neatly dressed and wearing pince-nez, gave his evidence with extraordinary cynicism and with a glacial hostility to the Soviet regime which astonished the Court and which clearly was not the outcome of any GPU promptings or persuasions.
Later, in his turn, Sukhoruchkin, also another self-confessed anti-Sovietist, admitted six separate acts of wreckage at the Moscow Power Station, of which he was manager, with as much detachment, as Vyshinsky afterwards observed, as if he were at an academic meeting of professors, describing a number of wonderful scientific achievements.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 181-182


The story behind these 35 executions [on the previous day 35 Russian officials accused of agricultural sabotage had been condemned to death by shooting by the Collegium of the OGPU; 22 to 10 years and 18 to 16 years imprisonment] was told me by a leading Communist and by some well-informed foreigners in Moscow. It is a dramatic tale of almost unbelievable treachery. The central figure was a person named Konar, lately Vice-Commissar for Agriculture in the Soviet Union, who in that capacity had access to the meetings and minutes of the Council of Commissars when his chief was absent on leave or on business. In 1920, Konar had been expelled from the Party on the ground of his responsibility for the failure of the Soviet Government established in Polish Galicia during the Soviet-Polish war. But he managed to persuade Moscow that there had been a confusion of identities; and in the following year he went to live in Moscow with his brother, who also was a prominent member of the Communist Party.
The flat which he and his brother occupied became the center of the “true blue incorruptibles of the Kremlin policy,” and these men were on excellent terms with the highest officers in the State. Suddenly towards the end of last February, it was discovered that Konar was also on excellent terms with persons in the Polish Intelligence Service; and this discovery led to his arrest and the exposure of a long and successful career in espionage and sabotage.
If Konar had been content with his employment as a Polish spy he might have been alive today; but he rose to such distinction in the councils of the Soviet State that he decided to desert his Polish masters and to become a good Soviet citizen, in the belief that he would soon rise to very high office. Unfortunately, when information ceased to pass from him through the usual channels to the Polish Intelligence Service, an emissary was sent to Konar to ask the reason for this scandalous negligence. The angry conversation between Konar and the emissary from abroad was overheard and thus his secret was betrayed.
The GPU made an exhaustive investigation. They found that not only had this man been acting as a spy for 13 years but that with his associates he had struck at the most vital point in the Soviet programme by diminishing the food supplies and driving the peasants to ruin and hostility by deliberate mismanagement and sabotage of the grain collections.
I believe it was established that he had actually gained credit as a zealous administrator by shooting peasants whom he accused of having destroyed grain crops which in fact had been burnt upon his own secret orders.
In his position as Vice-Commissar for Agriculture he had control of hundreds of large tractors in Southern Russia; and one of his most successful methods of sabotage was to arrange for the oil taps of these tractors to be loosened on the night before the machines were to be worked, so that after they had been in service for an hour or two they “seized up” and were rendered useless.
The story goes that he was summoned by the GPU guards, but tried to bluster them away by threatening to ring up the Kremlin at once. When the guards showed him Stalin’s signature on the warrant, he buried his head in his hands and confessed everything.
This is in brief the true, if nightmare, story of an episode which has never appeared in the Press, except sketchily in the New York Times, to justify the executions admitted by the Soviets….
I asked a high Soviet official why his government had not the “nous” to publish a short statement setting forth the facts as soon as the British White Paper appeared. He merely shrugged his shoulders. I suppose the gesture meant that such a statement, even if it had appeared in the British Press, would have found no credence in a capitalist country riding on the crest of an anti-Bolshevik tidal wave.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 183-186


At the witness stand Lobanov was the picture of complete self-possession and answered Vyshinsky’s questions, in fact all questions, with distant calm. He explained to the Court that his anti-Soviet sentiments were due very largely to the capitalist associations of his family.
His father had a flour mill and an oil refinery, and his brother had also rented a a flour mill. After he was appointed manager of the electrical operating department of the Ivanovo Power Station towards the end of 1930, he became acquainted with Nordwall.
“One fine morning,” he said with something very like a yawn, “some time in February 1931, in my office, Nordwall, after a conversation on general topics, approached me with a proposal to carry on acts of wrecking at Ivanovo.
VYSHINSKY: Why did he make that proposal to you?
LOBANOV: He knew perfectly well by anti-Soviet sentiments.
VYSHINSKY: How did they express themselves?
LOBANOV: In utterances of dissatisfaction with the existing order, in all kinds of complaints of hardships in my personal life.

“After many talks of this kind,” went on Lobanov, “Nordwall said, ‘if you desire personal well-being, then let us pass from words to deeds.’ That is just the way he said it. He told me it was necessary to hit at trifles so as not to get caught, but that these trifles should be such as to bring about heavy consequences. He pointed out that as a rule it was necessary to hit at the important equipment in order to pump out the foreign currency reserves of the Soviet Union and in this way to undermine its economic strength. It was necessary also, he said, to spread out these acts of diversion, to damage the equipment of Metro-Vickers as well as that of other firms, but that this should be done in such a way as to make it impossible to lay the blame on the firm.”
Asked to define the concrete acts of wrecking which took place, Lobanov said it consisted of putting the motors of 10 grates out of service, disconnecting the house feeders, damaging the bearings of the feed pumps, clogging the bearings, causing short circuits, and burning out the motor of boiler No. 5.
But Lobanov had forgotten one thing. Vyshinsky asked him about the telephone connections.
LOBANOV: Ah! That’s right, we interfered with the telephone connections. So it was.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 186-187


Sukhoruchkin, whom I previously mentioned as a wrecker of the first class, was the central figure at the witness stand when the Court reassembled. He is a man of great ability, of high academic distinctions and up to the time of his arrest was chief of the operating department at the First Moscow Power Station, a very responsible position. All his evidence was more like a scientific lecture than the confessions of a man charged with offenses for which death was the maximum penalty.
Many of the technical descriptions and terms he used were clearly outside Vyshinsky’s fairly comprehensive understanding; but he left no doubt in the minds of anybody as to the extensive nature of the six wrecking acts which he described with so much particularity.
One of his plans for putting out of order a section of the Power Station would have cut off the current, he said, to several important factories and barracks, to all the radio stations, and to the Kremlin itself. He drew up this plan in conjunction with Thornton, who remarked to him in the switch-board-room how easy the switchboard made it for an act of diversion to be carried out.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 193-194


KRASHENINNIKOV: I began to conceal defects in the equipment. It all began from that moment.
VYSHINSKY: And how did it end?
KRASHENINNIKOV: It ended in my finding myself in the dock….
Krasheninnikov said his anti-Soviet feelings were modified somewhat when the Government sent him to a rest home. But he didn’t stop wrecking….

KRASHENINNIKOV: Yes, I realized this. Such activity as mine should be considered as–
VYSHINSKY: Which according to our laws is punished; you know how treason is punished by our law.
KRASHENINNIKOV (in a whisper): Yes, I know.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 195-198


The dismal tale of sabotage was continued by Zorin, senior engineer at Mosenergo and a lecturer and writer on technical engineering questions. His evidence was full of the now familiar talk of wrecking groups, to one of which he belonged.
ROGINSKY: “Who told you about this group?”
ZORIN: Engineer Thornton.
ROGINSKY: When did he tell you?
ZORIN: In November 1932.
ROGINSKY: Where did the talk take place?
ZORIN: In the offices of the firm…. From our previous conversations Thornton had gathered that as an anti-Sovietist I was a person whom it was easy to use and this is what happened in November 1932.
“I was to conceal the defects of the firm and cover-up the actions of the groups he had organized,” stated Zorin.
ROGINSKY: Also to keep contact with the groups he had organized and to be a link between him and them?

Answering Thornton’s counsel, Zorin said money as well as his counter-revolutionary convictions played a part and his activities. But quite apart from Thornton he would have committed acts of wreckage.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 199


ROGINSKY: What wrecking work did you do?
OLEINIK: Concealing defects in the equipment, collecting information, and engineering breakdowns.
ROGINSKY: With whom in the office were you directly connected in this work?
OLEINIK: After Thornton was appointed chief installation engineer, I dealt only with him.
ROGINSKY: And before in 1929?
OLEINIK: With Monkhouse.

Both Monkhouse and Thornton, he said, instructed him to conceal all defects. The only instructions he received from Monkhouse were not to run the tests but to persuade the customers to delay the testing of the turbines, which could not stand the guaranteed steam pressure.

ROGINSKY: But what instructions did you receive from Thornton?
OLEINIK: All kinds of instructions. I had to gather information on the technical conditions of electric power stations, enlargements of stations and works, proposed orders, the sentiments of the masses, and the movement of troops and munitions.
ROGINSKY: You accepted the task?
ROGINSKY: Did you take any steps to carry it out?
OLEINIK: I partly carried it out….
VYSHINSKY: Did Thornton tell you to obtain information on the military work in the factories near Perm when you were sent there, or not?
OLEINIK: He not only gave instructions, but he came there himself.
VYSHINSKY (to Thornton): Were you there?
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 202-204


She [Kutuzova] corroborated briefly what she had said before in the course of her interventions; that she was aware of the bribing of the Russian engineers and technicians for spying purposes. She knew, she said, that this work and the “wrecking activities and acts of diversion” were organized by Monkhouse and Thornton, because she had lived in one house with them for about four years. Her business was to transmit the money.
Though an involuntary accomplice she did not know how to put a stop to these things, because she was tied to Monkhouse and Thornton “organizationally.” “Secondly,” she said, “I had given my word and when I have given my word I keep it.” The money spent on this work was entered by Thornton in special books, which he took away with him to England in December 1932.
Thornton standing up in his seat and looking earnestly at Kutuzova at the witness stand, challenged her to cite details of the wrecking work about which he was alleged to have given instructions.
Kutuzova, looking steadfastly not in the direction of her friend and superior, but at the presiding judge, said, “I cannot give details, but I heard general conversations.”
THORNTON: Perhaps you will tell us which?
KUTUZOVA: I heard you, together with engineer Monkhouse, plan to damage the turbines at the Baku, Nizhny, and Zuevka Power Stations. I remember your explaining to me that if one throws a foreign object into a turbine–a rag, or a piece of wood–the turbine might blow through the roof.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 215-216


ROGINSKY (to Thornton): Was a bolt put into the generator at the Zuevka Power Station, or not?
THORNTON: Yes, but not into the turbine.
ROGINSKY (to Kotlyarevsky): Was it left there deliberately?
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 217


All these questions led up to the Prosecutor’s comment that not on one of these dates, nor when he was subsequently examined for March 14 to April 1, had Thornton annulled his vital record of March 13.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 220


VYSHINSKY: Here at this court when I examined you during the first days of the trial, did you declare that this record was written under pressure? Answer my question.
THORNTON: No, I didn’t.
VYSHINSKY: I put three questions to you: Was pressure brought to bear on you? You answered “No.”
THORNTON: I answered “No.”
VYSHINSKY: I asked you, Were you tortured? You answered “No.”
THORNTON: That is so.
VYSHINSKY: I asked you, Were you subjected to the third-degree? What did you answer?
VYSHINSKY: And now what do you say?
THORNTON: I understood it to mean, was I tortured physically.
VYSHINSKY: Physical or moral torture is torture. I asked you who of the Englishmen in Moscow has taught you not to tell the truth?
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 221


And one must repeat that the evidence of Russians who admitted their guilt and implicated the six Englishmen would have been subjected in an English court to a far more penetrating scrutiny by counsel for the defense.
But when the large body of testimony is examined separately and as a whole; when the allegations and counter-allegations, the denials, the denunciations, the explanations, the full confessions, the partial admissions, and the documents are carefully sifted and looked at in their true relation to one another–I wonder how many people would accept as a final assessment Monkhouse’s statement in Court that the case was a “frame-up,” built solely on the evidence of terrorised prisoners. That was the attitude which the British government,… adopted from the beginning and from which it could not afterwards withdraw without losing face.
Yet, to most of us who were not utterly blinded by national prejudice, the frame-up theory as the trial proceeded looked more and more like a piece of hypocritical nonsense; and the futile attempts of The Times to discredit the hearing of the case by placing the word “trial” daily within inverted commas seemed a piece of childish stupidity that could not deceive for any length of time even the most devoted readers of that impartial organ of national opinion.
I look forward with a certain curiosity to the moment when some future editor of The Times, in making an historical allusion to the trial at Moscow of the Russian engineers and the Metro-Vickers employees, will tacitly acknowledge that it was something more than a theatrical farce by printing the sacred word without its setting of inverted commas.
I have thought it well to publish these numerous extracts of the actual evidence, not only because I think they are extremely interesting in themselves in showing the interplay between the various figures at the trial, but also because they are a corrective to the highly colored and necessarily imperfect accounts which were received in this country at the time of the trial.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 225-226


Though Thornton was severely questioned and had to bear the chief burden of the case, there was no bullying of the witnesses, they were not pressed beyond a reasonable point, and the presiding judge showed them little attentions such as allowing the crippled McDonald to be seated at the witness stand while other persons were being questioned. One should bear in mind these points in reflecting that outside Russia in some sections of the Press the trial scenes were represented as something very much like a lunatic bear-garden.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 227


I recall an illustration at the close of Thornton’s evidence. Thornton, speaking in English, had complained that he was tired and browbeaten, and that, when told that “everything would be all right,” if he confessed, had then signed the document implicating himself and others. Upon that statement Vyshinsky became red in the face with indignation, and working his right arm up and down like a steam hammer and for the first and only time pitching his voice high, demanded to know in a torrent of words why Thornton had failed to use the numerous opportunities available before the trial to challenge a statement written in his own words, signed by his own hand, as he had admitted in Court, without any exercise of methods known as the third-degree.
Thornton, said Vyshinsky did not like the document in which he revealed his network of spies guided by the British Intelligence Service through its agent, Richards, who occupied the position of managing director in Metro-Vickers. He tried to discredit what he had written by talking about “moral pressure.” “But why, Thornton,” asks Vyshinsky with growing intensity of expression, “did you not tell in detail what this moral pressure was? How was that moral pressure brought to bear upon you? You said ‘I was told that if I gave correct information it would be all right.’ I will not hesitate to say the same thing now in this hall, in the hearing of the whole world; it will be better if you give correct information than if you say what is untrue. You said, ‘I was told that if I gave other information I should be useless both to England and in the USSR.'” Then, gazing with a penetrating glance at the unhappy Thornton, who sat with his head resting wearily on his right hand, Vyshinsky delivered himself of the celebrated passage which, with slight verbal variations, has since appeared in every important newspaper in the civilized world.
“Citizen Thornton,” he exclaimed, “you are already useless both here and there, because as a spy you have proved your utter bankruptcy, because 24 hours after your arrest you betrayed your agents and did it because you are a coward and a traitor by nature, so that even your own British spying organization can no longer trust you.
“You have fulfilled your duty neither to our country, because you betrayed your trust, nor to the institution which had confided its secrets to you. You say your deposition of March 13 contains an untruth. Let us suppose it does. But have you considered that when you wrote what you did on March 13 you were playing with the heads of your own comrades?
“Let it remain on your conscience. So far as this country is concerned your only use would be to manure the soil of our Soviet fields.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 233-234


Replying to what he described as Monkhouse’s unsuccessful attempt, at the instigation of others, to “discredit our preliminary investigation” by complaining about long hours of questioning, Vyshinsky argued that the British government could not have it both ways, and that in order to meet the urgently expressed desire of the British Embassy the Soviet authorities had worked at high pressure to speed up the proceedings. Under normal conditions examination of Nordwall and Monkhouse would have taken several weeks. It was in fact accomplished in three days.
No such opportunities awaited the counsel defending the accused Russians. All they could do for those who had admitted their guilt was to plead for mercy and to talk of their remorse and their anxiety to work in the future as true citizens for the glory of the Soviet Union. In the case of Gussev and others it was urged, in mitigation, that they had found it impossible to escape the clutches of “these English gentlemen.”
“Simple trustful old Zivert,” said lawyer Pines, with a tear in his voice too, did not even suspect “that the principal subject he was being taught in the study where Thornton helped him in his technical difficulties was the theory and practice of espionage and wrecking.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Gollancz, 1933, p. 245-246


Lawyer Smirnov, counsel for McDonald, made an earnest appeal for the only Englishman who had pleaded guilty to be given another chance to “go honest.” McDonald, he said, had been led astray by Gussev and was a tool of his bosses and should not be put on the same level as Thornton and Monkhouse.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 247


All the members of the “Collegium of Defense” discharged their duties with much greater zeal and efficiency than I had been led to suppose possible. I had been told that they would not dare to make a serious attempt to tear down the fabric of evidence or even to make a strong show of opposition. It was breathed into my ear that any counsel who, in the enthusiasm of the moment, allowed his zeal to outrun his discretion might soon disappear from the Collegium of Defense and perhaps be arrested on some pretext and shot.
If the whisper had a few grains of truth in it–and I rather think it had no more–then some of the defending counsel, especially Lidov, ran considerable risk. I do not pretend that those acting for the five men who pleaded not guilty gave a first-class exhibition of aggressive court advocacy.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 249


One after another in a melancholy procession the Russians who had pleaded guilty came from the dock to the witness stand before the judges to ask for merciful consideration and pledge their loyalty in the future to the Soviet state.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 252


He [Monkhouse] admitted that he had been shown consideration in prison.
… Nordwall, in protesting his innocence, expressed appreciation of the fairness with which he had been treated in prison by the OGPU and said he was still a friend of the Soviet Union.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 254


… The remark made to me by an American businessmen, and repeated to me in different forms many times by foreign diplomats and others, was: “Are you surprised that we are all laughing at your Government’s attempt to make us believe that it was a sheer impossibility for Englishmen to play the part of spies in Soviet Russia or elsewhere? We know perfectly well that your Government employs spies wherever it can, as other governments employ them, and that, like other Governments, it must employ them in Russia if it employs them anywhere at all. The Metro-Vickers men may be as blameless as new-born babes; but don’t ask me to pretend that there exists a single foreign firm which does business in Russia without transmitting secret information to its own Government.”
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 257


Over a tumbler of tea a Russian lawyer, who was acting as interpreter for a French newspaper correspondent, explained to me the subsequent judicial procedure as required by Soviet law. While the judges were considering their verdict, he said, they were not allowed even a momentary contact with any other person. No official, shorthand writer, typist, not even a waiter with refreshments, was permitted inside the deliberating chamber; even if their discussions lasted 24 hours they must remain in complete isolation. The judgment must be set down by the President in his own handwriting and signed by himself and at least one of his colleagues. If only one signature was appended, or if there was the smallest infringement of the imposed conditions, the judgment would be invalid
“Would there be a retrial?” I asked in genuine alarm at that ghastly prospect. The Russian lawyer did not seem to know; but the suggestion struck him with so much dismay that he ordered at once three more tumblerfuls of tea.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 257


The mildness of the sentences comes as a genuine surprise to all the spectators; and, judging by their strikingly evident expressions of relief, to the prisoners as well.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 262


… And still they remained in prison, visited now and again by the watchful Mr. Strang, who found that they were in relatively comfortable quarters, looked well and had no complaints to make about the treatment they were receiving.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 265


After the arrests the British public had been induced to believe that the accused men might be “shot without trial,” though, so far as I am aware, there is no instance on record of the shooting in Russia of foreign experts, with or without trial. [Said in early 1933]
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 267


These are the realities. Instead of facing them and considering them for the good of its own people in a spirit of cool common sense, the [British] Government of the day has declared economic war to the knife upon one of its greatest potential customers because a few Englishmen were judged to be spies and “wreckers” in a properly constituted Court of Justice and mildly punished. That action by a British Government was, in my judgment, a masterpiece of iimbecility unparalleled in the political annals of our time.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 287


I went over the various precedents in my mind. The great trials of the Revolution had never ended in executions. The one in which the Socialist Revolutionary Party had been involved in 1922 had produced a conditional death sentence at most, although the accused had made civil war against the State and fired on Lenin. The trial of the Shakhty engineers, accused of sabotage, had, it is true, sent a few men to their deaths, but only when they had been found guilty of espionage. The prisoners in the Ramzin affair [the Industrial Party trial], who had pleaded guilty of plotting with the French General Staff to bring about armed intervention in Russia, had been pardoned and were now reinstated. The Social Democrats who had figured in the next big case, and on similar charges, had gotten off with long terms of imprisonment. The Thornton trial [Metro-Vickers trial] in 1933– a suspicious business (I had been in court at the time)–produced a crop of very mild punishments.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited,1938, p. 315

… In March 1931 a number of ex-Menshevik leaders were publicly tried and sentenced to prison for ‘wrecking’ and being counter-revolutionaries. By mid-1931, however, the degree of non-cooperation and active sabotage by the technical intelligentsia had lessened considerably, and, in response, the state’s attitude was relaxed, insofar as the number of those arrested and tried for such activities decreased after spring 1931, while those convicted now received more lenient sentences.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 226

The standard sentence for most of those arrested for counter-revolutionary activities in the 1936-38 period, however, was 5 to 10 years hard labor.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 242

[At the closed joint meeting of the ECCI party organization and the ECCI Komsomol organization on 28 December 1934]
MAGYAR [Member of the Hungarian Communist Party who supported the New Opposition in 1925]:
Kotelnikov is not quite correct when he says that I returned to the party. I was not expelled from the party; the party was extremely lenient toward me. I received an extremely mild party reprimand for my active participation in the Zinovievite, anti-Soviet, anti-party counterrevolutionary group.”
Chase, William J., Enemies Within the Gates?, translated by Vadim A. Staklo, New Haven: Yale University Press, c2001, p. 64


The idea that only Russians confessed in such circumstances is quite erroneous–the British engineers in the Metro Vickers trial long ago proved that.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 165


The verdict [of the SR and Menshevik trial], announced on August 7, 1922, came as no surprise, since Lenin had broadly hinted at what to expect…. Walter Duranty reported to the New York Times on July 23 that the proceedings had demonstrated the “truth” of the charges, that the condemnation of the majority of the defendants was “certain,” and that “several death sentences will be carried out.” The accused were sentenced under articles 57 through 60 of the Criminal Code. Fourteen were condemned to death, but three who had collaborated with the prosecution received pardons. Defendants who had turned state’s evidence were also pardoned. Those in the first group admitted to nothing: they refused to stand up when the judges entered to announce the verdict, for which they were expelled (in the words of Duranty) “from their own funeral.”
…and although the SRs refused to petition for pardon, the judges announced a stay of execution.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 408


The Shakti trial of wreckers in 1928 was the forerunner of events which soon followed one another in rapid sequence. Who were the wreckers? They were counter-revolutionaries intent on fomenting revolt by creating an impression of “Bolshevik inefficiency” through the derailment of train’s and the blowing up of factories. In 1930 a group of professional engineers known as “The Industrial Party” were put on trial for sabotage of industrial construction. 1931 was noticeable for the Trial of the Mensheviks on charges of counter-revolutionary activity. In 1933 came the famous trial of the Metro — Vickers engineers who had become involved in conspiracies to impede construction.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 162


The assassination of Kirov in early December, 1934 fell like a bomb into this dream of security.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 128

The murder of Kirov at Leningrad in December 1934 was a turning point in Soviet history, if not in the history of Europe and the world.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 21

Kirov had been Stalin’s man from the start, and Stalin had made him party chief in Leningrad to counteract the influence of the opposition leaders….
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 25


Kirov’s assassination by Nikolaev was the first murder of a leading member of the party in Soviet Russia since Uritsky had been killed in 1918.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 162


Prior to this tragic finale [the decision of the Opposition to use terror and sabotage], Stalin and his colleagues displayed no blood thirsty passion to exterminate opponents, but on the contrary, acted with remarkable patience and toleration in an effort to conciliate and reconvert the dissenters.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 198


Kirov, one of Stalin’s closest collaborators, was regarded at the time as his probable successor. After the last of the old Bolsheviks, Rykov and Bukharin, had been thrown overboard by the Politburo, the party leaders decided that steps ought to be taken without delay to make sure that in the event of Stalin’s sudden death there should be no doubt as to who should succeed him. There must not be another struggle for power as after Lenin’s death. The members of the Politburo and the most influential secretaries of provincial party organizations accordingly agreed upon the choice of Kirov.
This assassination [of Kirov] was thus a heavy blow for Stalin and the party leadership…. Nothing had so affected Stalin as this news since the death of his wife….
Stalin was no friend of Yagoda, and did not trust the secret police; and he broke into one of his most fearful outbursts of rage [over the killing of Kirov].
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 284


The responsible leaders of the Leningrad secret police were, of course, dismissed and prosecuted for neglect of their duties; they were sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 286

Finally, several high officers of the Leningrad GPU were charged with “neglect of duty” and sentenced, with surprisingmildness, to two or three years.
Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Outcast. London, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963, p. 279

The trial of the chiefs of the Leningrad section of the People’s Commissariat for Home Affairs took place in even greater secrecy. It was held, however, in a different atmosphere. The charges were more mildly formulated. The accused admitted their guilt, but blamed it on the orders that had been issued by Kirov. The sentences were astonishingly mild, especially when it is recalled how severely mere negligence in the guarding of the persons of our “leaders” is usually punished. Balzevich, who was responsible for the guard service at Smolny, was charged only with “criminal negligence” in the exercise of his official duties, and sentenced to 10 years in a concentration camp. The chiefs of the Leningrad section of the Commissariat for Home Affairs and their deputies received only two or three-year sentences, and were, at the same time, given responsible posts in the administration of the concentration camp to which they were sent. Actually, therefore, the punishment meant nothing more than a reduction in rank.
Nicolaevsky, Boris. Power and the Soviet Elite; “The letter of an Old Bolshevik.” New York: Praeger, 1965, p. 53


Nearly a year passed before it was discovered who had been at the back of the outrage. Slowly the tangle of the conspiracy was unraveled, and it was found that the assassination had been the work of the opposition within the party. Neither Stalin nor the other members of the Politburo had dreamt for a moment of this: the opposition had been regarded as politically dead. Its members had publicly recanted all their earlier views, admitted the error of their activities, sought readmission to the party, and been given subordinate posts.
The trials revealed the political background of the assassination and of a good many other political events. Stalin had had to deal in succession with three groups of opponents– Trotsky’s extremist group, the Left wing opposition led by Zinoviev, and a Right-wing opposition under Bukharin. In the past those three groups had been mutually hostile, but now that they had lost influence they had begun to come together. Before long they had united. During the first five-year plan, when Stalin seemed to be leading Russia to disaster, the three groups set up in great secrecy the so-called Right-Left Block.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 287

Spied on and smelt out as it was this Right-Left coalition was, of course, incapable of any real political work….and under Russian conditions…the conspirators were bound inevitably to come sooner or later to the conclusion that there was only one road to their end: the physical extermination of Stalin and his entourage. If they could not reach Stalin himself, the next best thing seemed to be to get rid first of his intended successor.
Such were broadly the plan and course of this conspiracy. Later there began a military conspiracy. Various marshals, generals, and senior officers, who in the past had been supporters of Trotsky, Bukharin, or Zinoviev, or who later had come to regard Stalin’s policy as dangerous, came together in a fourth group, planning a military rising.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 288


The first victims were Zinoviev and Kamenev. The traces had at last been discovered that led from the assassination to the Zinoviev group.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 289


On December 1, 1934, a young Communist named Nikolayev, politely requested an interview with the Leningrad Party chief. Kirov apparently imagined his subordinate had some personal trouble to discuss and admitted him to his private office. Without a word, Nikolayev produced a revolver and Kirov fell with a bullet between his eyes.
At first the incident was thought to be the work of Czarist plotters, until the secret police began to check back along Nikolayev’s career. From a remarkable diary, in which he had recorded his mental reflections over a period of several years, it became evident that the assassin was one of those young Communist students in whose support Trotsky had so much faith. As a result of the ex-War Commissar’s attacks on the alleged “incompetence of the Old Bolsheviks,” coupled with subtle flattery of the student youth, Nikolayev came to regard himself as a potential leader of the Russian millions, prevented from taking his rightful place by the machinations of the older Party heads….
Early in 1935, Henry Yagoda, chief of the GPU placed full details of the crime before his chief, demonstrating beyond doubt that the general ideas of the Trotskyist Opposition had been the cause of Nikolayev’s deed and also that Zinoviev and Kamenev had actually been aware that some such murder was being planned.
In face of overwhelming evidence, Stalin hesitated no longer. Zinoviev, Kamenev and 95 other responsible leaders of the Opposition were brought from prison or from the subordinate positions they had occupied since their last betrayal, and put on trial on charges of moral responsibility for the murder of Kirov….
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 98

… the assassination of Kirov proved the stupidity of part of the opposition…. Nikolayev had merely carried out the decision of others. Kotolynov, another man who was inculpated, was also merely a subordinate; he had given Nikolayev his instructions, but neither of them was an organizer.
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 242


Once again the schemers saved their skins by shifting the blame to the absent Trotsky and by swearing solemnly to cease all future activity against the government. For the fourth time Stalin accepted their recantation with a magnanimity that must have seemed misplaced to the millions of Russian citizens, who vociferously demanded the execution of the traitors. Smiling secretly, the accused returned to their places of exile to resume the old game of waiting for a more suitable chance to strike. Surely some such opportunity would arise; perhaps the next Nikolayev would succeed in killing the hated general secretary and so prepare their way back to power.
For a further year the scheming continued uninterrupted, but in August 1936 Yagoda announced the completion of his investigation and disclosed full proof of new and even more despicable treason. Even Stalin’s patience was exhausted. Zinoviev and Kamenev were brought from their confinement and confronted with the evidence contained in the GPU dossiers. As usual, the two admitted the charges and threw themselves on Stalin’s mercy, which had saved them on so many previous occasions.
In the interval Stalin had been forced to listen to the arguments of Yagoda, who had none of his Chief’s reverence for the “old associates of Lenin.” To continue to pardon such perjured liars was, in Yagoda eyes, not strength but blind sentimentality and would assuredly lead to more plots and more assassinations of indispensable leaders.
As proof of the real worth of the repeated servilities and confessions, the GPU presented extracts from the celebrated “Letter of the old Bolshevik.” This document, comprising some 200 pages of minute handwriting, was intercepted by the police in transit from its author, an exiled Oppositionist to sympathizers in Moscow. In one remarkable passage the writer deals with the confessions and the promises of future loyalty, in a manner illustrative of the moral and physical degradation to which the enemies of Stalin had descended….
With such materials to his hand, Yagoda convinced Stalin that an example must be made of the wretched Zinoviev and Kamenev as a deterrent to their supporters.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 99


Before the [ Kirov] murder, the Cheka rarely resorted to administrative methods for dealing with people. By administrative methods, I mean arrest and trial. Such methods were used only in cases involving activities of an overtly anti-Soviet character. For example, we had always tried to deal with work stoppages and strikes in Moscow by going to the barracks or factories and explaining to the workers that we had to raise production quotas in order to catch up with our enemies…. If certain individuals refused to adapt themselves to the necessary conditions, they would be openly denounced by the party. But we almost always stopped short of using administrative methods against them.
All that suddenly changed after Kirov’s murder. Redens told me he had received instructions to “purge” Moscow. Moscow unquestionably needed a purgative. It was constipated with many undesirable elements–nonworkers, parasites, and profiteers.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 78


The evidence brought out at the trials seemed almost fantastic–yet all confessed. Zinoviev in his confession frankly stated, “I plead guilty to having been the principal organizer of the murder of Kirov.”
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 29

[July 29th, 1936 secret Central Committee letter concerning the terroristic activity of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist counter-revolutionary bloc]
On the basis of new materials gathered by the NKVD in 1936, it can be considered an established fact that Zinoviev and Kamenev were not only the fomenters of terroristic activity against the leaders of our party and government but also the authors of direct instructions regarding the murder of Kirov as well as preparations for attempts on the lives of other leaders of our party and, first and foremost, on the life of Comrade Stalin….
Similarly, it can be considered an established fact that Zinovievists carried out their terroristic practices in a solid bloc with Trotsky and Trotskyists.
1. During 1936, after the murder of Kirov, a host of terroristic groups made up of Trotskyists and Zinovievists has been exposed by organs of the NKVD in Moscow, Leningrad, Gorky, Minsk, Kiev, Baku, and other cities.
The overwhelming majority of members of these terroristic groups admitted under investigation that they considered the preparation of terroristic acts against the leaders of the party and government to be their fundamental task.
2. The Trotskyist and Zinovievist groups that have been exposed and all of their terroristic activity in the USSR have been led by the Trotskyist and Zinovievist bloc.
The bloc consisting of the Trotskyist group and the Zinovievist-Kamenevist group was formed at the end of 1932 after negotiations carried out among leaders of counter-revolutionary groups. As a result, a united center came into being made up of the Zinoviev camp (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev, Yevdokimov, Kuklin) and the Trotsky camp (Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, and Ter-Vaganian)….
So, for instance, Zinoviev, when interrogated in connection with the exposure of terroristic groups, admitted the following at the investigation conducted on July 23-25, 1936:
“I was indeed a member of the united Trotskyist-Zinovievist center organized in 1932.
“The Trotskyist-Zinovievist center considered as its chief task the murder of leaders of the All-Union Communist Party and, first and foremost, the murder of Stalin and Kirov. The center was connected with Trotsky through its members Smirnov and Mrachkovsky. Direct instructions from Trotsky for the preparation of Stalin’s murder were received by Smirnov.”
3. Kirov was killed in accordance with the decision of the united center of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist bloc.
The entire practical work of organizing the assassination attempt was placed on the shoulders of Bakaev, member of the united center. To assist Bakaev, the center assigned Karev, the notorious Zinovievist working in Leningrad, who was personally closely connected with Zinoviev.
As a result of the decision of the united center, several Trotskyist and Zinovievist terroristic groups were organized in Leningrad, including the Rumyantsev-Katalynov-Nikolaev group, which committed the murder of Kirov.
As for the fact that the murder of Kirov was committed in accordance with the decision of the united Trotskyist-Zinovievist center, this has been attested to at the investigation by the majority of the active members of the terroristic groups, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev, Karev, and others.
Thus, for example, Zinoviev testified as follows at the investigation:
“I also confess that Bakaev and Karev, members of the organization, were entrusted by me, in the name of the united center, with the organization of terroristic acts against Stalin in Moscow and Kirov in Leningrad. These instructions by me were given in the fall of 1932.”
(Zinoviev. Minutes of the interrogation of July 23-25, 1936)
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 251-252

4. The united center of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist counter-revolutionary bloc considered as its fundamental and primary task the murder of Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Kirov, Ordzhonikidze, Zhdanov, Kosior, and Postyshev. [Zinoviev did not say this]
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 252

His [Zinoviev] confession was complete, involving him not only in the Zinovievite terrorist groups, but also with M. Lurye, allegedly sent by Trotsky. He invoked Tomsky’s name unambiguously, and also named Smilga, the veteran member of Lenin’s Central Committee who had led the Baltic Fleet in the seizure of power. He asserted that he was in constant communication with Smirnov, adding:
“… In this situation I had meetings with Smirnov who has accused me here of frequently telling untruths. Yes, I often told untruths. I started doing that from the moment I began fighting the Bolshevik Party. Insofar as Smirnov took the road of fighting the Party, he too is telling untruths. But it seems, the difference between him and myself is that I have decided firmly and irrevocably to tell at this last moment the truth, whereas he, it seems, has adopted a different decision.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 96

For example, Zinoviev, who was examined in connection with the unmasked terrorist groupings, admitted the following during the July 23-25, 1936 interrogation:
“I definitely was a member of the united Trotskyite-Zinovievite center organized in 1932.
‘The Trotskyite-Zinovievite center set as its principal task the killing of the communist party leaders, primarily comrades Stalin and Kirov. Center members, Smirnov and Mrachkovsky, served as the connection with Trotsky who gave direct instructions to Smirnov to prepare to kill Stalin.’ (Zinoviev, Record of Interrogation, July 23-25, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 170

3. Kirov was murdered by a decision of the united center of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc. All the practical work of organizing the assassination was in the hands of united center member, Bakaev. To assist Bakaev, the center picked out the prominent Zinovievite, Karev, who was working in Leningrad and had close personal connections with Zinoviev.
As a result of the decision of the united center, several Trotskyite and Zinovievite terrorist groups were organized in Leningrad, including the Rumyantzev-Katalynov-Nikolayev group which carried out the killing of Kirov.
In the investigation the majority of the active participants in the terrorist groups, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakayev, Karev, and others, testified that Kirov was killed by a decision of the united Trotskyite-Zinoviev center.
For example, Zinoviev testified as follows under examination:
“I also admit to have entrusted the organization’s members, Bakayev and Karev, in the name of the united center, with the organization of terrorist acts against Stalin in Moscow and Kirov in Leningrad.
I assigned this mission in Ilinsk in the autumn of 1932.”
(Zinoviev, Record of Interrogation, July 23-25, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 172


…Beginning in the 1980s other Western and Soviet historians also questioned the Stalin complicity theory [in the Kirov murder], the origins of the story, and Stalin’s motive and opportunity, as well as investigating the circumstances surrounding the event. They noted that the sources for the theory derived originally from memoirists, mostly Cold War-era Soviet defectors, whose information was second- and thirdhand and who were in all cases far removed from the event. These writers had generated a huge and sensational literature that largely repeated and echoed itself while providing few verifiable facts, and which sometimes seemed primarily designed to enhance the status and importance of the author. Later historians noted that despite at least two official Soviet investigations and the high-level political advantages of accusing Stalin in the Khrushchev years, even the most anti-Stalin Soviet administrations had never accused Stalin of the crime,…
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 143

…In fact, Kirov seems to have been a staunch Stalinist….
The question of Leningrad police complicity also seems murky. Recent evidence discounts the alleged connections between them and the assassin. One implicated NKVD official was not even in the city during the months he was supposed to have groomed the assassin. It is true that many Leningrad police officials and party leaders were executed in the terror after the assassination, but so were hundreds of thousands of others. There is no compelling reason to believe that they were killed “to cover the tracks” of the Kirov assassination, as Khrushchev put it. Moreover, they were left alive and free to talk for three years following the crime. Some historians have found it unlikely that Stalin would have used these agents to arrange the killing and then given them so much opportunity to betray the plot.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 144

Yagoda (through whom Stalin presumably worked to kill Kirov) was produced in open court and in front of the world press before his execution in 1938. Knowing that he was to be shot in any event, he could have brought Stalin’s entire house of cards down with a single remark about the Kirov killing. Again, such a risk would appear to be unacceptable for a complicit Stalin.
The Stalinists seemed unprepared for the assassination and panicked by it.

Khrushchov hinted that Stalin had Kirov killed. There are some who still believe that story. The seeds of suspicion were planted. A commission was set up in 1956. Some 12 persons, from various backgrounds, looked through a welter of documents but found nothing incriminating Stalin. But these results have never been published…. The commission concluded that Stalin was not implicated in Kirov’s assassination. Khrushchev refused to have the findings published since they didn’t serve his purpose.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 353

As to Khrushchev’s charges, there are no documents implicating Stalin or NKVD personnel in Kirov’s murder.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 53

There is no evidence that Stalin ordered the murder of Kirov to eliminate him as a rival center of power;…
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 55

I’ll tell you later how shattered he was by the death of both my mother and Kirov. Maybe he never trusted people very much, but after their deaths he stopped trusting them at all.
Alliluyeva, Svetlana. Twenty Letters to a Friend. New York: Harper & Row, 1967, p. 77

Kirov spent his last summer, that of 1934, with us as in previous years. Then, in December, Nikolayev shot him. Wouldn’t it be more logical to link his killing with the name of Beria than with that of my father, as is done by transparent hints today?
I’ll never believe my father was involved in this particular death. Kirov was closer to him than the Svanidzes, the Redensest, his other relatives, or most of his other colleagues. Kirov was close to my father and my father needed him. I remember when we got the awful news that Kirov was dead, and how shaken everybody was.
Alliluyeva, Svetlana. Twenty Letters to a Friend. New York: Harper & Row, 1967, p. 139

Whether or not Yagoda was then trying to sow seeds of suspicion in Stalin’s mind, the fact remains that Stalin was deeply affected by Kirov’s death.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 212

An extensive review of the evidence carried out in 1990 at the behest of Gorbachev’s advisor Yakovlev does not implicate Stalin [in the murder of Kirov]. Another explanation for Stalin’s assault on party cadres was the rumor that the party faithful at the 17th Party Congress in 1934 had not voted overwhelmingly to elect Stalin to the party’s central committee. The documents provided here show this not to be the case,…
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 4

The question of who planned the murder of Kirov and why he was killed has remained one of the great mysteries of Soviet history. Stalin ordered an immediate investigation and traveled to Leningrad to direct the interrogations personally…. [Some] gossip on the street in Leningrad linked Stalin with the killing…. Nonetheless, Stalin’s guilt has never been proven, although the case has been revisited at the highest levels of the Soviet leadership several times since the death of Stalin. Khrushchev, in his secret speech to the 20th Party Congress in 1956, alleged that Stalin was responsible for Kirov’s murder, and several commissions were appointed to sift the evidence in the following years. Their conclusion was that there was no conspiracy, that Nikolayev, a disgruntled and unstable party member, had acted alone:. Another Central Committee commission was appointed under Gorbachev to investigate the affair, again, the direct hand of Stalin was not found,…
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 69

On Feb. 17, 1965, we (Klimov, Baturin, Zanaraev, Kuzmin) the undersigned interviewed Comrade Vlasik, the former chief of Stalin’s personal bodyguard. During the interview Comrade Vlasik was very reticent and hesitant to talk….
As Comrade Vlasik described it, Stalin and Kirov had a friendly relationship. When Kirov came to Moscow, he would always go to Stalin’s home and would often send him fresh fish and game from Leningrad. Vlasik also informed us that he personally never knew of anything and hadn’t heard anything from anyone else which would suggest that relations between Stalin and Kirov were anything but friendly….
Comrade Vlasik refused to answer when we asked him whether he knew anything about the circumstances of Kirov’s murder. He was deeply upset by the talk that Kirov’s murder had been arranged by Stalin. As Comrade Vlasik put it, such rumors were completely groundless. Although he considers himself one of Stalin’s victims, having been twice fired from his job and placed under arrest in 1952, he, as a person who was in close contact with Stalin and knew him personally for many years, refuses to entertain the notion that Stalin had anything to do with this crime….
In his recollections of Stalin, Molotov, and Voroshilov’s trip to Leningrad after December 1, 1934, he said that after Stalin received the news about the auto accident and the death of Operations Commissar Borisov, Stalin became visibly upset in Molotov’s presence and expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the secret policemen who were unable to get Borisov to Smolny safely.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 77

Statement by Vlasik
With respect to the questions posed to me, I can provide the following information:
… The relationship between Stalin and Kirov was a friendly one. Whenever Kirov came to Moscow, he would always stay with Stalin in his apartment in the Kremlin or at his dacha and would even go to Sochi for two or three days if Stalin was vacationing there.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 78

It is widely asserted that Stalin conspired in the assassination of Kirov in December 1934. Yet the evidence for Stalin’s complicity is complicated and at least secondhand. In fact, if one traces the assertion that Stalin killed Kirov to its origins, one finds that, before the Cold War, no serious authority argued that Stalin was behind the assassination. The KGB defector Orlov was the first to make such a claim in his dubious 1953 account…and it has since been widely accepted in Western academic and Soviet dissidents circles.
Equally interesting is a list of those who did not believe Stalin organized the crime. Neither Nicolaevsky [in his Letter of an Old Bolshevik in 1936] nor Khrushchev implicated Stalin. Khrushchev only said that there was much that was “mysterious” about the incident. At the height of his power, he could easily have charged Stalin with the crime had he wanted to…. Trotsky, like Tokaev, believed that the assassination was really the work of misguided young oppositionists. Liushkov, an NKVD defector who outranked Orlov and Krivitsky, told his Japanese protectors that Stalin was not involved. Most recently, Adam Ulam noted that Stalin had little to gain from the killing.
…As Khrushchev noted, much in the situation suggested police complicity. Neither his bodyguard nor anyone else was with Kirov at the time–a probable breach of security rules. The bodyguard (Borisov) was killed in an automobile accident before he could be questioned by Stalin and the Politburo, who rushed to Leningrad to conduct the investigation. Finally, it seems that the assassin ( Nikolayev) had been previously detained by the local NKVD and released, even though he carried a revolver and a map of Kirov’s route to work.
Although this evidence may implicate the police, it does not necessarily point to higher involvement by Stalin or others. The NKVD officials in Leningrad who had been responsible for Kirov’s security received light sentences in Siberia at the hands of their fellows on an NKVD board and remained alive for a few years. They would hardly have survived at all if they could have connected others with the crime. Similarly, the head of the NKVD at the time, Yagoda (to whom Stalin allegedly gave instructions to kill Kirov), confessed in open court in 1938 to having killed Kirov at the instigation of the opposition. If Stalin had used Yagoda to assassinate Kirov, it would have been very dangerous to allow him to appear later before the microphones of the world press. Yagoda knew that he would be shot anyway, and it would have been easy for him to let slip that Stalin had put him up to it. Stalin would not have taken the risk of such a damaging assertion’s coming to light.
Many have commented on Stalin’s unusually prompt reaction to the shooting. As noted, he and other Politburo members rushed to Leningrad to oversee the investigation…. The shooting was certainly an extraordinary blow to the Soviet government, and the reactions suggest panic. The killing was perceived as the first shot in a coup against the leadership. Such wartime measures are not really surprising, and it would have seemed incongruous that the leadership had not reacted in such a way….
Other circumstances surrounding the assassination point away from Stalin’s involvement. When the assassin was apprehended seconds after the shooting, he was carrying a diary that incriminated no one and asserted that he was acting alone. If Stalin had organized the assassination to blame the opposition, an incriminating diary would have been priceless written evidence, and, if Nikolayev had not kept one, an appropriate document could certainly have been manufactured. If the assassination had been planned by Stalin or one of his supporters, a diary implicating the opposition would have been preferred. No diary at all would have been better than one exonerating the opposition. Finally, if Stalin had planned these events, he would hardly have allowed this “dead end” diary to be mentioned in the press. It only weakened an accusation against the opposition. Circumstances suggest that Stalin and his partisans were not in control of the situation.
The immediate official response to the assassination was ad hoc and confused, showing few signs of advance planning. In the days after the killing, the government identified Nikolayev variously as a lone assassin, a tool of a White Guard conspiracy, and finally a follower of the Zinoviev-Kamenev oppositions in Moscow and Leningrad. It was not until December 18 that the regime hinted that the Zinoviev opposition might be involved. Five days later, the secret police announced that Zinoviev, Kamenev, and 13 of their associates had, indeed, been arrested on Dec. 16. But “in the absence of sufficient evidence to put them on trial,” they were to be administratively exiled within the USSR. It was not until a month later, on Jan. 16, 1935, that an official announcement said that Zinoviev and Kamenev were to be tried for maintaining a secret oppositionist “center” that had indirectly influenced the assassin to commit the crime. The charges and contradictions in the official characterization of the assassin suggest that no story was ready to hand and that the authorities were reacting to events in a confused way.
It is often thought that Stalin and company planned the crime to have a pretext for crushing the opposition. Yet the aftermath of the crime suggests confusion and mindless, unfocused rage. The repression directly following the assassination was diffuse and spasmodic.
… It seemed that the regime, unprepared for the crime and unclear about who should be punished, lashed out in a violent but ad hoc way at traditional enemies of Soviet power.
… Stalin would not have needed the killing of Kirov to justify this type or level of repression.
… Key leaders of the opposition (such as Pyatakov, Radek, Bukharin, and Rykov) continued to work unmolested until 1936. No mention was made of major opposition conspirators in the press after Jan. 18, 1935, and no campaign followed. The Ezhovshchina, with its spy scare, fear of war, and campaign to unmask traitors, was two years away; and the lull suggests that hard-liners were politically unprepared to use the Kirov assassination. When they finally were able to use the assassination against the opposition, it would be on the basis of “new NKVD materials obtained in 1936.” No one was able to capitalize on the situation in 1934-35 by striking at the opposition while the iron was hot.
Neither the sources, circumstances, nor consequences of the crime suggest Stalin’s complicity. The lack of any evidence of political dispute between Stalin and Kirov, discussed earlier, would appear to refute any motive for Stalin to kill his ally,… Based on the sources, there is no good reason to believe that Stalin connived in Kirov’s assassination, and all one can say with any certainty is that Nikolayev, a rank-and-file dissident, pulled the trigger.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 207-210

Second, Khrushchev’s focus was actually quite limited. Nowhere did he say that Stalin had a hand in Kirov’s assassination…. he never accused Stalin, although it would have been easy to do so…and, although he said that Kirov’s death was used as an excuse for stepping up repression, he did not really explain why the repression resulting from the assassination was delayed until 1937.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 217

The latest attempt to come to grips with the Kirov assassination was the work of Yakovlev’s Politburo Commission, which in 1989 appointed an interagency investigative team consisting of personnel from the USSR Procurator’s Office, the Military Procuracy, the KGB, and various archival administrations. For two years, this team conducted interviews, reviewed thousands of documents, and attempted to check all possible scenarios; their work has added another 15 volumes to the thirty-year-old efforts. Like all of the other research efforts organized by the Politburo Commission to probe aspects of the repression for publication in Izvestia, the team’s charter was to show Stalin’s complicity in the repression. It had little political incentive to let him off the hook; quite the contrary. Nevertheless, members of the working team concluded that “in this affair, no materials objectively support Stalin’s participation or NKVD participation in the organization and carrying out of Kirov’s murder.”
The team concludes that only “one-sided-superficial, unverified facts, rumors and conjectures” support Stalin complicity. With the collapse of Orlov’s always improbable version, much of the folklore of the Kirov murder falls apart.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 46-47

Of course, it may be that Stalin really instigated the murder. But the two main written accounts of his supposed machinations, from which all the other texts derive, have now been shown to be spurious. Their secondhand stories are inconsistent with known facts about the circumstances of the crime. There was always reasonable doubt about Stalin’s participation, and now there is more than before.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 49

But much of the new information seems to support revisionist doubts about older interpretations and their source bases…. It may well be that Stalin killed Kirov as part of a bloody long-term plan. On the other hand, the documents we have today do not prove it and unavoidably provide details that support alternative or revisionist views of events.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 60

But there are many problems with the idea that that he [Stalin] had Kirov killed. Evidence recently released from Russia shows that, contrary to many accounts, the police did not detain Nikolayev three times near Kirov, on each occasion mysteriously releasing him despite the fact that he was carrying a gun. He was stopped only once, and the circumstances were not suspicious. He had not received the gun from a Leningrad NKVD officer, as is typically claimed, but had owned it since 1918 and had registered it legally in 1924 and 1930.
Nikolayev had a diary with him at Smolny, but instead of showing that the party’s enemies helped him in his attack, which would have been logical if Stalin had planned the shooting, it indicated that he had acted alone. Kirov’s bodyguard was not present at the fatal moment because his boss had called to say he would stay at home that day. Kirov went to his office anyway, only to meet Nikolayev by chance. The latter, who had a party card that would automatically admit him to the building, had gone there to ask for a pass to an upcoming conference.
…And an even higher-ranking police defector, Liushkov, who was serving in Leningrad at the time of the murder but fled to Japan in 1938, told his handlers abroad that Stalin had nothing to do with the murder. Moreover, the Gensec would have had to rely on Yagoda, then head of the NKVD, to carry out his plan. Such involvement would have been far from safe, as Yagoda had been a leading figure in the party for some time. He was later arrested and tried in one of the Moscow show processes; it is unlikely that Stalin would have allowed him to testify publicly with such a terrible secret.
Just after the murder, Stalin called in two top officials, Yezhov, a member of the Central Committee, and Kosarev, chief of the Young Communist League (Komsomol). He told them to “look for the killer among the Zinovievites.” Years later Yezhov told the Central Committee that at first relations between himself and Kosarev, on one side, and the secret police, on the other, were poor; the latter did not want to help. Finally Stalin warned Yagoda that “we’ll smash your mug [if you don’t co-operate].”
One day after Kirov’s death, his bodyguard, Borisov, died under mysterious circumstances. Riding in the back of an NKVD truck on his way to see Stalin, Borisov supposedly suffered fatal head injuries in an accident that somehow hurt no one else. Various writers have seen this incident as an indication of Stalin’s desire to cover his tracks further by eliminating another witness. But the Gensec’s personal bodyguard reported that his chief was upset at Borisov’s death and expressed sharp dissatisfaction with the policeman accompanying him.
No evidence has ever emerged to tie Stalin directly to the killing. Generally the materials advanced to support this connection are on the order of Orlov’s: someone who supposedly knew about Stalin’s role told someone else about it, who wrote down the tale years or decades later.
Khrushchev, who had much to gain in the attacks he made on his predecessor in the 1950s and 1960s by tying him to Kirov’s death and who did not hesitate to link him to other murders, never produced clear proof. In early 1991, six years into glasnost, an important Soviet scholar and politician announced that, judging from available archival materials, ” Nikolayev planned and perpetuated the murder alone.” Files on the case “contain no information implicating Stalin and agencies of the NKVD.” Stalin did not know of and had no relation to the organization of the attack on Kirov.”
… But given the problems with the claim that he did [that Stalin murdered Kirov], the simplest answer to the question of who killed Kirov is likely to be the correct one: a disturbed man, Nikolayev, planned and carried out his act by himself.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 20-22

The latest Soviet account concludes, “Stalin’s participation in the murder [of Kirov] is extremely probable, though there is no documentary confirmation”; or, as Khrushchev put it in a section of his memoirs which remained unpublished until mid-1989, “Yagoda could only have acted on secret orders from Stalin.”
Nikolayev had been out of work since March 1934, when he seems to have attacked a decision sending him to work outside the city, which he believed to be a piece of bureaucratic intrigue. He had been expelled from the Party for this breach of discipline, but his membership had been restored two months later on his making a declaration of repentance.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 43

Today, many people state: Stalin this, and Stalin that–killed Kirov! Instead of yelling into a bell, look into history. You must remember that Kirov criticized Trotsky since 1921, when Trotsky decided to give up Astrakhan to the civil war enemy, in order to straighten the front lines. Trotsky never forgave Kirov for this, since Lenin took the side of Kirov and thus, the civil war enemies were defeated at that place. Social-revolutionary Wasserman then started to spread gossips, lies, that Kirov was a monarchist. Kirov at that time was arrested, but these enemies were not able to liquidate him–the Tribunal exposed the provocation and sentenced Wasserman to death. Kirov always opposed Trotsky, knowing full well what Trotsky was capable of and what an enemy he was.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 16

The preliminary examination of Kirov’s assassin was concluded in 27 days. The findings were signed by the Assistant State Prosecutor, Andre Vyshinsky, and L. Sheinin, an investigating officer in especially important cases.
…I [the author] talked to Sheinin in the seventies…. In retirement he had started writing plays, so he was a colleague of sorts. He liked showing off his knowledge of secrets, and was quite delighted when I asked him whether Stalin had ordered Kirov’s murder. He smiled, and answered amiably, “Stalin was the Leader, not a thug, my dear fellow.”
…During Khrushchev’s Thaw a commission was set up to decide once and for all whether Stalin really did order Yagoda to kill Kirov. They hoped to find documents–and of course found none. Not because they had been destroyed. I am convinced that they never existed. What Sheinin said was not untrue:…
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 322

As to his [Stalin] feelings concerning Kirov, we cannot go beyond conjecture…. That Kirov had been a leader of the “liberal wing of the Politburo,” that he was popular with the Party to the extent that he aroused Stalin’s jealousy–all these are later reconstructions with no basis in an established fact. It is said that the ovation according to Kirov at the 17th Congress rivaled Stalin’s, but this is certainly not supported by reading the report of the Congress. The average delegates enthusiasm was rationed in accordance with the given notable’s proximity to an assumed standing with the Leader, and so Kirov, just like Voroshilov or Molotov, received the quota of Cheers prescribed for “a close comrade-in-arms of Great Stalin”–“loud, long-lasting applause, a warm ovation by the whole gathering, everybody stands up.” And it is extravagant to claim that assassination was the only means by which Stalin could get rid of Kirov without encountering party opposition…. Why, especially after he [Stalin] had been enthroned as a Marxian divinity at the 17th Congress, should he have had trouble with Kirov?
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 385

Without their [the colleagues of Khrushchov] help, then, what can we say about the background of the Kirov murder? The hypothesis of what might be called the Renaissance type of crime cannot be supported by facts and reasonable conjectures at our disposal.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 387

As for Kirov’s assassination, the source material and the evidence we have explain it so poorly that almost any hypothesis might be allowable.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 6

Supposedly Stalin was behind the killing. In fact all the evidence is circumstantial and no proof as ever been found.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 315

Volodya says, “There is a great deal written about how Stalin was involved in the murder of Kirov. In fact he had nothing to do with it. My mother, Anna, was with Stalin when they phoned him and informed him that Kirov had been murdered. My mother said to me that neither before nor after has she ever see Stalin in the state he was reduced to after that phone call.
…He had nothing to do with the murder.”
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 137


…Deputy commissar of the secret police Agranov was brought in to supervise a special investigation of the crime to be aimed at Zinoviev and his associate Kamenev…. After one month of questioning, Agranov reported that he was not able to prove that they had been directly involved in the assassination. So in the middle of January 1935 they were tried and convicted only for “moral complicity” in the crime. That is, their opposition had created a climate in which others were incited to violence. Zinoviev was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Kamenev to five.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 146

In the Kirov case itself 14 persons were executed, former members of the “Zinoviev opposition,” who confessed that they had in recent years formed a “Leningrad Center” to assassinate Soviet leaders. They connected abroad through the Latvian consul-general, who on evidence shown was recalled by his government…. Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves, with a small group of Moscow followers, were imprisoned on their own confession to organizational connection with the Leningrad Center and knowledge of its terrorist views. There was some popular demand for their execution, but it failed, as nothing indicated direct participation in or knowledge of the actual murder.
Strong, Anna Louise. “Searching Out the Soviets.” New Republic: August 7, 1935, p. 357


Sentencing policy in general did not harden following the Kirov assassination.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 157

What followed the Kirov assassination was not mass violence against the entire opposition, but the Stalin constitution and a campaign for party democracy and increased participation of the party rank-and-file.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 115

Whether Stalin ordered Kirov’s murder or not, another issue remains, did he use the event to frighten the populace? The answer is no, at least not immediately…. Nothing in the press, the major speeches of the day, the debates over judicial policy, or the overall atmosphere of 1934-35 suggested that the regime intended to repress anyone but a relatively small number of terrorists and former oppositionists.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 23

The internal party reviews of 1935-36 were not “blood purges” that necessarily resulted in tragedy. Expulsion at this point did not always mean arrest or even loss of one’s job. The oblast committee in Smolensk specifically directed lower organizations not to dismiss ousted members “wholesale” from their work. They were to be removed from leading posts but otherwise not touched unless they were discovered to be enemies of the people or “socially dangerous elements,” a phrase encompassing former priests, kulaks, other former “exploiters,” and ordinary criminals.
As shown in the previous chapter, arrests increased in 1935, but the number of political cases declined. The press did not demand a heightened search for enemies at this point. Instead, the policies of relaxation continued. Schools and other organizations for children decreased their emphasis on political education and awareness well into 1936. In short, Kirov’s death made little difference in policy and did not stop the trend toward moderation.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 24

Any fear resulting from Kirov’s murder was more often of internal enemies than of the state. People had no more reason to be afraid of the regime after the killing than they had earlier; as discussed above, it is unlikely that more than several hundred arrests occurred in the aftermath of the murder, most of them in Leningrad.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 143

The treatment of the political prisoners [after Kirov’s murder] underwent a radical change. Hitherto it had not been different from that accorded to them in Tsarist days. Political offenders had enjoyed certain privileges and been allowed to engage in self-education and even in political propaganda. Oppositional memoranda, pamphlets, and periodicals had circulated half freely between prisons and had occasionally been smuggled abroad.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 358

After the assassination of Kirov, terrorists had been deprived by decree of the right of appeal; but, a few days before the opening of the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev, the right of appeal was restored,…
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 375

In December 1934 a secret letter from the Central Committee, entitled “Lessons of the Events Connected with the Evil Murder of Comrade Kirov,” was sent to all Party Committees. It amounted to a call to them to hunt down, expel, and arrest all former oppositionists who remained in the Party organizations and was followed by a storm of indiscriminate denunciations. At this early phase in the purge, however, some discrimination was still shown in the action taken on these. Friendship with an exposed “Trotskyite” usually received a severe reprimand rather than expulsion:…
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 45

As yet, no NKVD announcement had directly blamed the assassination on anyone but Nikolayev. The “White Guards” had been vaguely charged with “terrorism.” On December 21, 1934, it was at last officially stated that Kirov had been murdered by a “Leningrad Center,” headed by Kotolynov, and consisting of him, Nikolayev, and six others–all of them categorized as former members of the Zinoviev Opposition who had “at various times been expelled from the Party,” though mostly restored to membership after statements of solidarity with the Party line. Six other accomplices were also implicated.
On the following day, a list was given for the first time of the arrested Zinovievite leaders, with a decision on the conduct of their cases.
There were distinguished names among them: Zinoviev and Kamenev, formerly members of the Politburo; Evdokimov, formerly member of the Secretariat; other former members and candidate members of the Central Committee–Zalutsky, who had formed with Molotov and Shliapnikov the first Bolshevik Committee in Petrograd after the February Revolution; Fedorov; Kuklin; Safarov. For the moment, a partial accusation went forward. Regarding 7 of those arrested, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, Zalutsky, and Safarov, it was announced that the NKVD, “lacking sufficient data for bringing them before a court,” would take them before a Special Board, with a view to sending them into administrative exile. With the others, headed by Bakayev, “further investigation” would take place.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 47


On January 15 and 16, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakayev, Kuklin, and 14 others were brought to trial in Leningrad as the “Moscow center.”
… Zinoviev was reported as saying in court, “The former activity of the former opposition could not, by the force of objective circumstances, but stimulate the degeneration of those criminals.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 48

…The trial of the ” Leningrad counterrevolutionary Zinovievist group of Safarov, Zalutsky, and others” sentenced 77 defendants to camp and exile terms of four to five years. Altogether in the 2 1/2 months following the assassination, 843 former Zinovievists were arrested in Leningrad; most of them were exiled to remote regions and not sentenced to camps.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 157

He [Zinoviev] took full responsibility for those he had misled, and summed up by remarking that, “the task that I see confronting me on this subject is to repent fully, frankly and sincerely, before the court of the working class, for what I understand to be a mistake and a crime, and to say it in such a way that it should all end, once and for all, for this group.”
On January 16, 1935, Zinoviev was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, Evdokimov to 8, Bakayev to 8, and Kamenev to 5. The other sentences ranged from 10 years to five.
There was still one batch of prisoners from the Kirov case left to be dealt with–the Leningrad NKVD leadership, whose forthcoming trial had been announced on December 4. On January 23 they finally came before a court under, as ever, Ulrich. Instead of the nine originally charged, there were now 12–and Zaporozhets was among them. Medved and Zaporozhets were charged with failure to observe the basic requirements of State security, in that “having received information about the preparations for the attempt on Kirov… they failed to take the necessary measures to prevent the assassination… although they had every possible means of arresting it.”
The sentences were extremely light. One official, Baltesevich, got 10 years for–in addition to the main charge–unspecified wrongful acts during the investigation. Medved got three years, and the others either two or three….
These sentences struck observant NKVD officers as totally out of proportion to the charges, especially as those sentenced for mere “negligence” got two years, and those for “criminal negligence” (apart from Baltesevich) three years–only one year more! Stalin’s natural reaction to a criminal failure to guard against a genuine assassination attempt–of the sort which might strike him next–would have been the exemplary execution of all the NKVD defaulters; in fact, they could scarcely have avoided a charge of complicity in the actual crime. But the whole thing became even odder and more sinister when it was discovered that Medved and Zaporozhets were being treated as though the sentences were little more than a tedious formality.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 49

As was later said at the 1938 trial, Yagoda displayed “exceptional and unusual solicitude” towards them. He had “entrusted the care of the families of Zaporozhets & Medved” to his personal secretary, Bulanov; he had “sent them for detention to the camp in an unusual way–not in the car for prisoners, but in a special through car. Before sending them, he had Zaporozhets & Medved brought to see him.”
This is, of course, impossible to conceive as a personal initiative of Yagoda’s. A higher protection was being provided. Moreover, NKVD officers learned that Pauker and Shanin (Head of the NKVD Transport Department) were sending records and radio sets to Zaporozhets in exile–contrary to the strict Stalinist rule of instantly breaking even with one’s best friend, once arrested.
A prisoner from the White Sea Canal camps reports that Medved appeared at the headquarters of the camp complex, arriving by train in a special compartment and being put up by the head of the project, Rappaport, in his own house, where he gave a party for him. Medved was wearing an NKVD uniform without the insignia of his rank. He then went on, in the same style, to Solvetsk.
When the ice of the Okhotsk Sea made the move possible, Medved, Zaporozhets, and all the others we can trace were sent to Kolyma, where they were technically prisoners, but in fact given high posts — Zaporozhets as head of the road-building administration in the Kolyma complex.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 50

At the same time the members of the Leningrad NKVD responsible for the failure to protect Kirov were charged with criminal negligence leading to his assassination. All pleaded guilty, but instead of the summary executions that would normally have followed, all, with one exception, received a mild sentence of two or three years imprisonment. Only one, who was found guilty, in addition, of “illegal actions during the investigation”–possibly the “accident” to Kirov’s bodyguard, Borisov–was given ten years. Contrary to all precedents, they were treated with “exceptional and unusual solicitude” by Yagoda, the head of the NKVD, and when they ended up in Kolyma, the most isolated of the islands of the Gulag, were rapidly given responsible posts, with every privilege, in the camp administration….
More came to light at the trial of Yagoda himself in March 1938. At the time of Kirov’s murder Yagoda was commissar-general of the NKVD and directly responsible to Stalin for all the operations of the Security Police. At this trial Yagoda confessed that he had then ordered the assistant chief of the Leningrad NKVD, Zaporozhets, “not to place any obstacles in the way of the terrorist act against Kirov,” including the order to release Nikolayev after he had been arrested with a revolver, cartridges, and a chart of the route Kirov usually took, two months before the assassination. Subsequently Yagoda admitted that he had taken care to see that Zaporozhets and the other NKVD men were well looked after.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 468

Only on 16 January 1935 did Zinoviev, Kamenev and 17 others come to trial for complicity in the Kirov murder. By this time a large number of lesser fry who were in the hands of the police appeared to have testified against the main figures, who were now found guilty of indirect responsibility for the assassination. But the Court explicitly exonerated them of actually planning the murder. Supposedly their worst crime was to have known of the terrorist inclination of some of the oppositional youth groups called ‘the Leningrad Center’. It allegedly operated under the direction of a ‘ Moscow Center’ of Zinovievites, which did not know about the actual assassination plot but only of the ‘terrorist state of mind’ of the youths, which the leaders ‘inflamed’. For this Zinoviev was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, Kamenev five,…
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 175


CHUEV: And Kirov was not forgiven for enjoying greater popularity than Stalin.
MOLOTOV: Absurd! Just look up the stenographic records of the congresses. Who enjoyed greater authority, Kirov or Stalin? Just look at Kirov’s speeches and collections of articles–what’s there? “It is difficult to imagine a figure as gigantic as Stalin”–I quote from memory what Kirov said. But where are there political signs indicating in him the character of a top leader? He had no such aspirations. He was not that kind of person…. Let them say what they will, but what is valuable in Kirov from a political point of view? Just cite me his ideas that are distinguished by their value or utility–nowhere!
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 219

…if you say that Kirov was better, what do you know about Kirov, what did he accomplish?
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 220

A tenacious legend has been created that Kirov could have replaced Stalin. But where are his theoretical works?… He was capable of work but not in the leading roles. I can tell you bluntly that he would not have been acknowledged as number 1, especially by the senior leaders….
Kirov was a poor organizer, though he could work the masses rather well. We all treated him fondly. Stalin liked him. I would say he was Stalin’s favorite. Khrushchev’s casting aspersions on Stalin and insinuating that Stalin had Kirov assassinated–that was foul.
I used to be friends with Kirov. I can now recall that only Zhdanov received from Stalin the same kind of treatment that Kirov enjoyed.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 221

CHUEV: Stalin is said to have been afraid that Kirov would replace him.
MOLOTOV: That’s absurd! Why should he have been afraid of Kirov?
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 222

[Footnote]: We cannot admit the story, or rather stories, which have circulated ever since the 17th Congress that in the election to the Central Committee Stalin got fewer votes than anyone else. The Socialist Courier, published in Paris by the Mensheviks, reported on February 25 that Stalin got fewer votes than two others, the most votes going to Kalinin. Medvedev reports (page 156) the recollections of a delegate that 270 delegates voted against Stalin, as against only three who crossed out Kirov’s name, and that Stalin was elected only because there were as many candidates as members to be elected. But the story is suspect, since the alleged recollections show unfamiliarity with the voting procedures for the Central Committee. The voting was secret, and ever since 1923 the announced results have not included the number of votes received by successful candidates. Only one list was proposed. Delegates could then show their disapproval by crossing out names on the ballot, and the candidate crossed out on at least half of them would fail of election. There were about 1200 people voting, and for anyone to be disqualified his name would have had to be crossed out on some 600 ballots rather than 270. There is every reason to believe that the election of the Central Committee was unanimous. Medvedev’s story is weakened further, as he acknowledges, by the fact that the Central Committee members who were elected comprised Stalin’s most recent favorites, such as Yezhov. Why should a hitherto obscure choice of the dictator get more votes in the election than he himself? But there are also good reasons why someone would have been interested in spreading rumors of Kirov’s popularity with the delegates and dealing a setback to Stalin.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 374

The intention of a group of delegates to replace Stalin by Kirov had been affirmed by certain participants of the 17th Congress and denied by others, while the almost 300 votes reportedly opposed to Stalin’s membership in the Central Committee cannot be confirmed by documentary evidence. The re-examination of the ballots showed that only three delegates had opposed Stalin’s election. To be sure, it is impossible to establish today if the documents were not falsified. But if they were and if Stalin was eager to eliminate embarrassing witnesses, he did not proceed thoroughly, since at least three members of the electoral commission survived the “Great Purge” to give rather contradictory testimonies of the vote at the beginning of the 1960s.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 6

At the time of the 17th Congress of the Party there was great euphoria because of the First Five-Year Plan. In fact for this reason this Congress was named the ‘Congress of the Victories’ by the people. Molotov’s, Stalin’s and, if I am not being immodest, my presentation was also very well received by the participants. Today the critics make an all-out effort to discredit the 17th Congress. They also concocted the story that 300 delegates voted against Stalin. I suppose that this kind of gossip was necessary so that one could say that Stalin later took revenge for this. They also generated the false story that Kaganovich, at the behest of the presidium of the Congress, interfered with work of the Counting Committee to misreport the votes against Stalin. THUS SPAKE KAGANOVICH by Feliks Chuyev, 1992


To speak of Kirov as some kind of deputy or successor to Stalin is entirely absurd to any literate and knowledgeable communist. That choice would have been totally at odds with the nature of the relationship between Stalin and Kirov, and above all with Kirov’s own perception of his potential. It so contradicts the realities of that period that only a criminal type such as Khrushchev could go so far as to allege that Stalin had special reason to finish off Kirov.
True, Kirov had told Stalin at the 17th Party Congress that a group of delegates had proposed to nominate him for top office in the party. But Kirov as general secretary? Utterly, simply absurd! Kirov was a highly effective agitator and a good communist. He was not and did not claim to be a theoretician. Never. It goes without saying that he was incapable of ideologically crushing Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. Others were more capable, feasible, or likely as a potential leader than Kirov! Indeed, far more!
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 327


Kirov’s assassination took place just as the Party leadership thought that the most difficult struggles were behind them and that Party unity had been re-established. Stalin’s first reaction was disorganized and reflected panic. The leadership thought that the assassination of the number two man in the Party meant the beginning of a coup d’Etat. A new decree was immediately published, calling for the use of summary procedures for the arrest and execution of terrorists. This draconian measure was the result of the feeling of mortal danger for the socialist regime. At first, the Party looked for the guilty within traditional enemy circles, the Whites. A few of them were executed.
Then, the police found Nikolayev’s journal. In it, there was no reference to an opposition movement that had prepared the attack. The inquiry finally concluded that Zinoviev’s group had `influenced’ Nikolayev and his friends, but found no evidence of direct implication of Zinoviev, who was sent back to internal exile.
The Party’s reaction showed great disarray. The thesis by which Stalin `prepared’ the attack to implement his `diabolical plan’ to exterminate the opposition is not verified by the facts.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 137 [p. 119 on the NET]


But the fact that a verification had been approved before Kirov’s death, coupled with the six-month delay between the assassination and the proverka, suggest that the proverka was not a planned escalation of terror hard on the heels of the Kirov murder, or even the direct result of it.

Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 63

Another lie is that the party card control would have been an act of revenge by the party leadership by which is meant Stalin of course for the assassination of Kirov. Kirov, who was a member of the Central Committee and chairman of the party in Leningrad was assassinated on December 1st 1934 in the party headquarters of the city. (The murderer Nikolajev entered the party headquarters by using an old, invalid party card.) The allegation of a revenge, which was to have been horrible and bloody with a huge number of executions, originates with the police agent Robert Conquest. Anybody reading his book The Great Terror without being familiar with these historical issues will have difficulties in detecting his lies. But for those who care to seek knowledge about the history, the allegation of a revenge is nothing but non-sensical. The party card control 1935 was just a consequence of the Central Committee decision concerning a new registration of the members in October 1934. As a matter of fact, Kirov took part in this decision, which took place two months prior to his assassination! Would Kirov have decided on an act of revenge for his own assassination, which was to take place two months later?!

Sousa, Mario. The Class Struggle During the Thirties in the Soviet Union, 2001.

Conquest mixes up the party card control with the very events connected with the police investigation of the assassination of Kirov. This is a typical Conquest-method of confusing, distorting and falsifying.

…the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial took place between 16th and 23rd January 1935. This was during the new registration of party members which had been decided in October 1934 and which, in January 1935 had almost died out without any result. The party card control, which according to Conquest was a revenge against the opposition, was a result of the earlier control having proved insufficient for the great problems revealed. It started only in June 1935, five months after the termination of the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial and after the prison sentences for the opposition. The party card control could not have influenced the trial, nor could it have been a revenge on the accused. Conquest is aware of the great ignorance about the historical questions of socialism and does not hesitate to use the ignorance of people to divulge his dirty propaganda.

Sousa, Mario. The Class Struggle During the Thirties in the Soviet Union, 2001.


It is sometimes thought that Kirov was a “moderate” who opposed Stalin’s generally hard-line on various issues. According to much of the literature, Stalin killed Kirov to clear the way for his policy of terror. In fact, it seems more likely that Stalin and Kirov were allies and that Kirov’s death was not the occasion for a change in policy.

Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 92

The Nicolaevsky scenario suffers from serious flaws. In the first place, virtually no evidence suggests that Kirov favored or advocated any specific policy line other than Stalin’s General Line….

The rumor that Kirov favored lenient treatment for dissidents, for example, is offset by opposite contemporary speculations. Trotsky, writing three years after the assassination, called Kirov “a clever and unscrupulous Leningrad dictator, a typical representative of his corporation,” and maintained that terrorist acts like the killing of Kirov by “despairing individuals” of the “younger generation” “have a very high significance.” Gregory Tokaev, who was on the receiving end of Kirov’s policies toward the opposition, said the Kirov “ruthlessly stamped out” the opposition at this time and was the “first executioner.” A contemporary article in Nicolaevsky’s [Socialist Herald] labeled Kirov a hard-liner. If Kirov was soft on the oppositionists, the opposition certainly did not know it.

Certainly Kirov’s public speeches do not reflect a moderate attitude toward members of the opposition. In his speech to the 17th Congress, he ridiculed members of the opposition, questioning their “humanity” and the sincerity of their recantations. He sharply denounced Trotsky’s “counter-revolutionary chatter” and applauded the services of the secret police, including their use of forced labor on canal construction projects. It was upon Kirov’s motion that Stalin’s speech was taken as the basis for the congress’s resolution.

Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 93

Simply reading through the minutes of the 17th Congress is enough to raise doubts over Kirov’s role as an opposition leader. Far from making the slightest allusion to any dissident “platform,” his speech asked the delegates to adopt “as law” the Central Committee report that Stalin had presented. Instead of proposing “moderate” reforms, the secretary from Leningrad praised the work of the secret police and the concentration camps. We find no trace in his contribution of any softness towards old oppositionists; quite the reverse, he jeers at them and makes fun of their repentance at the Congress.

Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 6

Kirov was to acquire a posthumous reputation as a political moderate in the Politburo. There is little to sustain this beyond the few gestures in the direction of increasing bread supplies in Leningrad where he was City Party Secretary Kirov did not comport himself as a Leader in the making and gave no sign of this ultimate ambition. It cannot be demonstrated beyond doubt that the Congress vote for the new Central Committee humiliated Stalin.

Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 314

Kirov has often been depicted as a ‘liberal’ in contrast to Stalin’s despotism, but this is hard to demonstrate. Stalin as much as Kirov appears to have supported the various forms of relaxation that appeared in 1933. In his own right Kirov seems to have been a tough Bolshevik and a staunch supporter of Stalin’s policies and emergent cult. The notion that Kirov represented some sort of ‘liberal’ alternative to Stalin rests in considerable measure on the desire of latter-day anti-Stalinists such as Khrushchev and Roy Medvedev to find such an alternative within the movement.

Wishful thinking of this sort may have informed the report of Medvedev and Antonov-Ovseenko that on the eve of the 17th Party Congress, about January 1934, a small group of leading Bolsheviks proposed to Kirov that he assume the post of General Secretary, which he declined to consider. Neither writer reveals the source of this story, and it is curious that neither Khrushchev nor the official historians of his era made reference to such a meeting, even though one would think that they would have welcomed any evidence of resistance to Stalin by ‘good Bolsheviks’ during this period.

McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 170


If Stalin and Kirov were antagonists, it would be difficult to explain Kirov’s continued rise. Stalin chose Kirov for the sensitive Leningrad party leadership position and trusted him with delicate “trouble-shooter” missions to supervise critical harvests (like Kirov’s journey to Central Asia in 1934). Kirov was elected to the Secretariat and Politburo in 1934, and Stalin wanted him to move to the Central Committee Secretariat in Moscow as soon as possible. Unless one is prepared to believe that Stalin did not control appointments to the Secretariat and Politburo… one must assume that he and Kirov were allies.

Much more probable than a Kirov-versus-Stalin scenario is one in which Stalin, Kirov, and Zhdanov cooperated.

Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 94

Stalin was often visited by Kirov who even slept on Stalin’s divan.

They took steam baths together. Such companionship and understanding between them, no one else of the Politburo had with Stalin. Stalin was very proud of Kirov as a talented, dedicated Bolshevik. Kirov did masterfully at the last Congress and had the Central Committee in stitches as he devastated the persons of Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev. And about Trotsky, he said the following: May he three times be damned, that his name should be brought up at a sacred Congress such as this one!

Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 13

On December 1, Kirov was assassinated. On December 2, Stalin, Molotov, and Voroshilov immediately went to Leningrad. Now, Stalin himself was under threat of assassination, therefore, the division of Dzerzhinsky was guarding our route, including both sides of the highway to Leningrad. Stalin became very sorrowful, his face darkened, blotches became evident on his face. He kissed the dead Kirov on his lips and crying, said:

Goodbye, my dear friend….

After the death of his wife, there was no other such close friend as was Kirov.

Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 14

His [ Kirov] friendship with Stalin, dating from Civil War days, was close, as witnessed by Stalin’s inscription in the copy of On Lenin and Leninism that he gave Kirov in 1924: “To my friend and beloved brother, from the author. Stalin.”

Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 240

In the late summer of 1934 Kirov was summoned to Sochi where he found Stalin and Zhdanov at work preparing comments on the prospectuses. Stalin wanted him to go to Kazakhstan to supervise the gathering of the harvest.

During the meeting at Sochi, Stalin had a further demand. He wanted Kirov to stay there for a week or so to take part in discussing (as Kirov’s post-Stalin biographer puts it) “the thoughts expressed by Stalin” on the prospectuses for history textbooks. Embarrassed, Kirov said: “Iosif Vissarionovich, what kind of historian am I”–to which Stalin replied. “Never mind, sit down and listen!” When the comments thus prepared in 1934 were published in Pravda on 27 January 1936, they bore the signatures of Stalin, Zhdanov, and Kirov. Stalin thus established in advance that he and Kirov were in close collaborative relations during the latter’s last months.

Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 281

Stalin was friends with Kirov. (I have seen only one affectionate inscription in Stalin’s hand, and that was in a book presented to Kirov: “To my friend and favorite brother from the author.” He wrote to no one else in such terms.)

Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 222

[During the Kirov funeral] Maria Svanidze recorded in her diary that on December 5, 1934, “…The sentries were ready to screw down the coffin lid. Joseph [Stalin] went up the steps of the catafalque…his face was sorrowful. He bent down and kissed the dead man’s forehead…. It was a heartrending picture for anyone who knew how close they were …. Everyone in the hall was weeping. Through my own sobs I could hear men sobbing loudly. Joseph is suffering terribly. Pavel was with him at the dacha a day or two after Kirov’s death. They were sitting in the dining room together. Joseph rested his head on his hand

(I’ve never seen him do that) and said “now I’m all alone in the world.” Pavel says it was so moving that he jumped up and kissed him. Joseph told Pavel that Kirov used to look after him like a child. After Nadya’s death Kirov had of course been closer to Joseph than anyone, he could approach him with simple affection and give him the warmth he was missing and peace of mind.

Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 326

…Kirov (the only man to figure in the whole of Stalin’s career as a genuine personal favorite).

Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 153

Stalin was shocked white and rigid [at the killing of Kirov],or at least this was how he appeared to others at the time.

Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 314

Stalin attended Kirov’s funeral looking grim and determined. Even his close associates wondered how he was going to deal with the situation; but everyone assumed that severe measures would be applied.

Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 315

Most biographers date the beginning of the purges from Kirov’s death in 1934. Kirov was a close friend of Stalin’s and undoubtedly the blow was as emotional as it was political: he showed a rare warmth towards Kirov.

Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 205


But in mid-1936, 18 months after the assassination, the Moscow leadership decided to reopen the Kirov affair. In a July 1936 secret letter to party organizations, Moscow identified certain leaders of the former Left Opposition as traitors and assassins. The letter, probably written by Yezhov, announced that on the basis of “new NKVD materials obtained in 1936,” it had become clear that Zinoviev and Kamenev had joined in a conspiracy with Trotsky back in 1932. The goals of the conspiracy were terror and assassination of Soviet leaders, and the group had killed Kirov.

Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 116

According to the letter, Zinovievist and Kamenevist opposition circles in the USSR had established contact with the emigre Trotskyists four years before (in Berlin in 1932 when defendant Ivan Smirnov contacted Sedov) and had jointly plotted the assassination of Soviet leaders. They had done this because the success of the party in industry and agriculture since 1929 meant that opposition politicians had no chance to take power via a political platform. What could they propose, given the successes of recent years? Thus, the opposition had turned to terror and assassination and had become “the organizing force for remnants of smashed classes” and “leading detachment of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.”

Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 122

Kamenev and Zinoviev were originally tried for complicity in Kirov’s murder and subsequently sentenced for moral responsibility. The added charges of counter-revolutionary activity and conspiracy with Trotsky for Imperialist intervention were, however, the fundamental charges against them. Kirov was an immensely popular leader and the odium of his assassination, lingering on Kamenev and Zinoviev, increased and illustrated their separation from the masses. Radek’s summing up in his own defense is probably the best statement of the position in which the conspirators found themselves after the triumph of the Stalin Line. Divorced from the people and yet hopelessly committed and entangled in Opposition, their choice was admission and immediate disaster or further conspiracy and ultimate disaster.

… The accused were fluent in their confessions, as fluent, for example, as police witnesses speaking with their notes. Does this suggests that their evidence, therefore, is concocted? I have shown in my record of my examination how the preliminary interrogation before the charges are fully formulated discards all that is doubtful and accidental and concentrates on what is positive and fundamental.

Edelman, Maurice. G.P.U. Justice. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd.,1938, p. 216

Kirov, one of the most important leaders in the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, was assassinated in December 1934. The actual shots were fired by one Nikolayev, who was an active member of the Zinoviev organization. As a result of the investigation, a part of the organization is discovered and some of its members are shown to have been in touch with Zinoviev and Kamenev. Zinoviev and Kamenev admit “moral responsibility” for the murder of Kirov in the sense that they had created such a frame of mind amongst their adherents in relation to the Soviet Government as provided a stimulus for such actions as that of Nikolayev.

That was the extent of their admission of guilt and they were sentenced accordingly. When people in Britain declare “It is almost incredible that old Bolsheviks should take to assassination against their opponents in the Party” they are only echoing what was the general opinion in the Soviet Union in January 1935. People were perfectly willing to accept the statements of Zinoviev and Kamenev that while they had sowed hatred against the policy of the Soviet Government they had not directly organized assassination. There were no proofs to the contrary discovered at that moment, and everyone was prepared to give Zinoviev and Kamenev the benefit of the doubt. It was only as a result of the discovery of other terrorist groups that the participation of Zinoviev and Kamenev in the organization of assassination was fully revealed. Zinoviev and Kamenev at each stage only admitted as much as was already known from other sources. The full names of the plot, the full meaning of the plotters’ association with Nazi Germany, they concealed to the end. Such behavior is not consistent with the theory that the OGPU first fabricated a plot and then–for reasons which are perfectly grotesque–forced a number of old revolutionists to confess to it.

Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 245-246


I returned to Moscow from the Caucasus early in October 1934. Not only was I not rested, I had worn myself out and had grown much thinner. The inward tension and the incessant need for vigilance had exhausted me. Now to my other anxieties was added something I had never anticipated–I found myself at a Conference of the military underground. No special approach was made in advance, I was merely taken on a plausible pretext to a place the existence of which I could never have suspected. The sense of having been observed and chosen, even though it was by people who were prominent in the State and whose views I largely shared, was in itself disturbing. Equally so was the further proof which this meeting afforded of the importance of the opposition and of the fact that we were perhaps on the verge of great events.
The Conference was presided over by an army officer of the highest rank. I found myself among people whom until that instant I had believed to be completely loyal Stalinists. Among them was an exceptionally beautiful young woman to whom her husband’s ADC had presented me at a Party during the last May Day festivities. I had danced with her once or twice and she had then invited me to her house, saying with a laugh: “You needn’t be worried, my husband isn’t jealous.” Now I discovered what this meant–her husband was a key figure at this Military Underground Conference. As I sat next to her, I WAS OVERWHELMED WITH THE REALIZATION OF HOW TRUE IT WAS THAT STALIN, MOLOTOV, AND KIROV COULD TRUST NOBODY.
It occurred to me to wonder at the great distance I myself had traveled from my initial loyalty to the regime. I must indeed have been a long way if these people, to whom I owed no allegiance, thus trusted me. How confident they already felt of me was revealed later in the evening: publicly, before the whole meeting, with military curtness, they put to me a request to perform a certain action (what, I cannot state here) which was necessary for their anti-Stalin work. Was I ready for such a step?
Never before had I been called upon to make so momentous a decision at such short notice and in so little time. I knew that such a request as theirs would be made only if it was unavoidable. I also realized what my refusal would mean–they would never trust me again; and the proof they had just given me of their confidence was priceless to me. I said I would do what they wanted, whenever they wished. In the name of the assembled men and women, the Chairman thanked me.
What was required of me was quite simple and concrete. The preparations were not my concern and they were to take some time. In October I was told that for an unforeseen reason the event had to be put off till November; then there was another postponement, and then a third.
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 239-240


Two hours later, Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Yezhov, Yagoda, Zhdanov, Agranov, Zakovsky and some others were on their way to Leningrad by special train. On arrival at the station, Stalin lambasted the Leningrad people who met them in obscene language, and struck Medved, the head of the local NKVD,… Stalin himself conducted the first interrogation of Nikolayev in the presence of those who had accompanied him from Moscow.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 207

That same night he [Stalin] set off for eternally rebellious Leningrad, together with faithful Molotov and the high executioners Yezhov and Yagoda. Medved, the head of the security police in Leningrad, met them at the station. Without a word Stalin struck him in the face–as much as to say “You should have looked after Kirov properly.” He then took over the investigation.
…A whole floor of the Smolny and a suite of rooms in the NKVD building were put at his disposal. He conducted the interrogations personally.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 321


After the trials and deportations which followed the assassination of Kirov, the regime seemed to relax once again. In the second half of 1935 in the first half of 1936 the successes of the second five-year plan and the forthcoming constitutional reform had the main share of public attention. Stalin was more frequently seen in the limelight, all smiles, surrounded by Stakhanovite workers, successful kolkhoz farmers and their womenfolk, who were all busy thanking him for their ‘new and joyous life’. He appeared at popular festivals, handed out prizes to successful athletes, accepted bouquets of flowers from children, and postured in all sorts of idyllic scenes for the camera. Everything seemed to promise a long spell of political mildness. Of the former opposition chiefs Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Smirnov were held in the prison of Verkhne-Uralsk; but they hoped to be released once more. Bukharin, Radek, and Sokolnikov continued to rub shoulders with Stalin at the sessions of the constitutional commission. Bukharin was editor of Izvestia and Radek was the chief journalistic interpreter of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Pyatakov was deputy Commissar for Heavy Industry and its real organizer. The former Premier Rykov was Commissar of Posts and Telegraphs; Rakovsky, Krestinsky, Karakhan, Raskolnikov, Antonov-Ovseenko, Rosengoltz, Yureniev, Bogomolov, and many, many others who had long made peace with Stalin were abroad as ambassadors, special envoys, heads of trade missions. Even in Georgia, Stalin’s old opponents, who had come out against him in Lenin’s lifetime, seemed to have been pardoned. Their chief leader Mdivani was back in office, as vice-Premier of the Georgian Government. The relations between Stalin and the leaders of the army seemed unruffled…. Five of the military chiefs, Tukhachevsky, Yegorov, Blucher, Voroshilov, and Budienny, were appointed Marshals.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 369


We can be virtually certain, on the other hand, that Yagoda’s responsibility for the murder of Kirov was correctly established….
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 386

In the autumn of that year [1934], Kirov was in Kazakhstan in order to see how the harvest was proceeding and was in strong disagreement with the leadership of the GPU who were extremely harsh against the Kulak families that were sent here for not having complied with taxes and requisitioning of grain. After returning to Moscow, he complained to Yagoda, head of the NKVD and complained bitterly for these uncivilized and unconstitutional actions by state security authorities. This was taken as a personal affront by Yagoda and since then, Yagoda had it in for Kirov. He carried this personal hatred until Kirov was done away with.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 14

I was always stationed at the Smolny at that time. Among the members of the guards, the assassination of Kirov was always on their lips. All of them swore at Nikolayev [the assassin]. But, let us ask the question as to who put that gun in his hands? Unbelievable situation: this armed assassin was twice stopped and held on the approaches to Smolny and also inside the building itself, and twice, he was let go. Zaporozhets gave the order to let him go! During the day of the assassination, Nikolayev was seen all day inside Smolny, loafing here and there, going to the floor which was barred to all strangers, and just waited on the steps without being challenged by the bodyguards assigned to guard Kirov and other state leaders.
There were no guards in the quarters, there was also no guard in front of the door to the office of Kirov. The law required that a guard always be present in the ante-room to Kirov’s office, whether Kirov was in the office or not. This was not followed this fateful day. As a specialist in bodyguards duties, I immediately became suspicious of this…. It was obvious that there were traitors here among the bodyguards–behind this traitorous act, there stood a former SR (Socialist-Revolutionary) member, Zaporozhets. While his chief, lurking in the background was Yagoda, who, after his trial began, confessed: “In this way, I categorically am telling you that the assassination of Kirov was accomplished according to the decision of the right wing Trotskyist bloc.”
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 15


Encouraged by Stalin to continue the “cleaning-up drive” of the NKVD garrisons, and also of factories and offices, Kirov did his utmost to prove to his Master, that Yagoda’s men were “either incapable of dealing with intricate situations, or were saboteurs themselves under the command of Trotsky and his associates.” He brought scores of people “to justice.”
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 90


Speaking of his responsibility for the crime committed on December 1st, 1934, the accused Zinoviev deposed:
“… The objective march of events was such that, with bowed head, I must say: the anti-Party struggle which assumed particularly sharp forms in the past year in Leningrad, could not but help in the degeneration of these scoundrels. This dastardly assassination threw such a sinister light on the past anti-Party struggle that I recognize that the Party is quite right in what it says on the question of political responsibility of the former anti-Party ‘Zinoviev’ group for the assassination that took place….”
Kamenev made a similar deposition. Thus in January, 1935, they admitted their moral guilt for the murder, but covered up their actual guilt as the organizers of it.
Shepherd, W. G. The Moscow Trial. London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1936, p. 5

Nikolayev along with a number of his political associates, was tried and sentenced to death. Zinoviev, together with his long-term close associate, Kamenev, was arrested and charged with ‘moral complicity’ in the assassination. In the hysterical atmosphere that was beginning to develop Zinoviev was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and Kamenev to 5.


Six months later, on December 1, 1934, Stalin’s best friend, Kirov, member of the Politburo and boss of Leningrad, was shot and killed by a communist assassin–the first assassination or attempted assassination of a Bolshevik notability since Fannie Kaplan’s shooting of Lenin in 1918.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 549


One hundred and three persons were executed, as well as the 13 said to have been Nikolayev’s accomplices. It was not pretended that the hundred and three had anything whatever to do with the Kirov case. They were, however, not innocent men and women picked off the streets, as was alleged. All were in prison at the time Kirov was shot; all were accused of some crime or other, from conspiracy to assassinate Stalin to espionage on behalf of foreign powers; all had been convicted of some offense.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 550


However, Nikolayev could never have obtained permission to the Smolny Institute, the party’s Leningrad headquarters, if the usual guards on each floor had not been withdrawn. At the same time, Kirov’s personal bodyguard was detained and prevented from accompanying his boss into the building. In the course of the investigation, it emerged that the NKVD were responsible for removing the guards, knew all about Nikolayev and his grudge, had twice arrested him on earlier occasions when he was found in the vicinity of Kirov with a revolver–and had twice released him despite the protests of those on guard duty. It was later revealed that the NKVD were responsible for a faked “accident” in which Borisov, Kirov’s bodyguard, was killed while being driven to the Smolny to give evidence to Stalin and the other investigators. Those who were involved in the “accident” were subsequently liquidated.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 466


On 10 February 1934, after the congress closed, the new Central Committee met for its first plenum and elected its standing bodies. The next day Pravda reported the results. Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Kalinin, Ordzhonikidze, Kuibyshev, Kirov, Andreev, and Kosior were listed (in that order) as full members of the Politburo; Mikoyan, Chubar, Petrovsky, Postyshev, and Rudzutak as candidate members. The Secretariat was reduced to four members; Stalin, Kaganovich, Kirov (who remained Secretary of the Leningrad committee), and Zhdanov (relieved of his duties as secretary of the Gorky committee). The Orgburo consisted of Stalin, Kaganovich, Kirov, Zhdanov, Yezhov, Shvernik, Kosarev, Stetsky, Gamarnik, and Kuibyshev, with M.M. Kaganovich (Lazar’s plant director brother) and Krinitsky as candidates….

During this postcongress plenum, it was Stalin himself who nominated Kirov to be one of the members of the new smaller Central Committee Secretariat, and he proposed that Kirov move to Moscow to take up his new secretarial duties (and indeed, Kirov could hardly have discharged them in any but a formal sense without moving to Moscow). To the latter proposal Kirov objected strongly, asking to be permitted to stay in Leningrad for another year or two to help ensure fulfillment of the second Five-Year Plan. Both Ordzhonikidze and Kuibyshev spoke up in favor of this arrangement, and Stalin, infuriated that he was not receiving the usual full support, stalked out of the meeting room in a huff.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 262


The well-informed NKVD defector, Orlov, wrote that Nikolaev pointed at Zaporozhets, Leningrad’s deputy NKVD boss, and said, “Why are you asking me? Ask him.”
Montefiore, Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 149


[9 January 1935] Telegram from the Political Commission of the ECCI Political Secretariat to the Communist Parties of other countries on counteracting the anti-Soviet campaign abroad in connection with the executions related to the case of Kirov
“In order to confuse the masses, French reformists are talking about the execution of hundreds of workers. It is necessary to decisively refute this insolent lie. Those executed were accessories to Kirov’s murder and were linked to other White Guard terrorists who had infiltrated the Soviet Union from abroad with bombs and explosive charges with the goal of organizing attempts on the lives of the representatives of Soviet power.”
Chase, William J., Enemies Within the Gates?, translated by Vadim A. Staklo, New Haven: Yale University Press, c2001, p. 41.


Despite the changes in top-level policy, certain kinds of mass campaigns continued, albeit on a local and sharply reduced scale; the regime could not live without them. Following the assassination of S. M. Kirov in December 1934, several waves of police action deported thousands from Leningrad according to social category. In 1935-36, police troikas conducted sweeps against various categories of criminals and violators of residence restrictions. In early 1935 the Ukrainian NKVD conducted a mass deportation of suspicious populations from border regions. Nevertheless, these operations were seen as exceptions to the general policy, and when they took place, central party and state officials criticized their implementation. The post-Kirov assassination deportations were largely limited to Leningrad and tapered off rather quickly; already in May 1935, Vyshinsky was writing to Stalin complaining about how their wholesale character was producing a mass of procedural complaints. The April 1935 border deportations in Ukraine brought a protest from USSR NKVD chief Yagoda, who criticized his Ukrainian subordinates for the operation. NKVD Ukraine chief Balitskii defended himself by noting that the operation was ordered by regional officials, in this case the Ukrainian party Central Committee.
Getty, J. Arch. “Excesses are not permitted, “Russian Review 61 (January 2002) p. 120-121.


My own deepest impression at the trials I attended was that of the moral disintegration of the defendants and the process by which it had been reached. It had begun far back in honest differences of opinion; it had degenerated into naked lust for power and a hatred that enveloped everything, even the fellow conspirators. “Let him not pretend to be such an innocent,” cried Reingold in court of his co-defendant, Kamenev. “He would have made his way to power over a mountain of corpses.”
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 130

Bakayev, was slated to be chief of the GPU and would use the post to liquidate the agents who had done the actual murders, thus burying all evidence of a higher-ups’ crime. Some of the lesser agents apparently first learned in court the fate that their chiefs had reserved for them, and this greatly added to the venom with which they denounced those chiefs.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 130

After the reading of the indictment, the accused pleaded guilty on all counts, with the exception of Smirnov & Holtzman. Smirnov admitted to having belonged to the “Center” and to having received terrorist instructions from Trotsky, but again denied participation in preparing or executing terrorist acts. Holtzman, too, though admitting having brought terrorist instructions from Trotsky, denied himself participating in terrorism.
…Zinoviev, called on to confirm the story (Smirnov’s direct implication in terrorist activity), added that the murder of Kirov had been a joint enterprise involving both Zinovievites and Trotskyites, including Smirnov. Kamenev also confirmed this. The joint terror network was thus sketched out right at the start of the trial. For good measure, Mrachkovsky also implicated Lominadze (who had committed suicide the previous year), and a Red Army group of assassins headed by Divisional Commander Schmidt….
Mrachkovsky was followed by Evdokimov, who said he had deceived the court in January 1935. He then explained how he, Bakayev, Zinoviev, and Kamenev had organized the Kirov assassination. The plan had been to get Stalin at the same time: “… Bakayev warned Nikolayev and his accomplices that they must wait for Zinoviev’s signal,” said Evdokimov, “that they must fire simultaneously with the shots to be fired in Moscow and Kiev.” (Mrachkovsky had been quoted in the indictment as having said at the preliminary examination that “Stalin was to be killed first,” but in any case Kirov was not supposed to precede the general secretary to the grave). Evdokimov for the first time involved the Old Bolshevik Sokolnikov, former candidate member of the Politburo and still a candidate member of the Central Committee.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 94

But the trial showed that the guilty perpetrators started to point fingers at each other and to tell the truth on each other in order to save their own necks.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 95


The reason for the conspiracy was given by Kamenev, brother-in-law of Trotsky.
Kamenev said that by 1932 it became clear that Stalin’s policies had been accepted by the people and that all hopes of over-throwing him by political means had failed. “There remained two roads, either honestly to end the struggle against the government, or to continue it by means of individual terror. We chose the second road.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 130

Next morning, Aug. 20, Kamenev gave his evidence. He spoke at first with a certain dignity, but as the cross-questioning went on, this began to collapse. He made an almost complete confession, repudiating only the idea that the plotters had intended to cover the traces of their crimes by physically exterminating NKVD men and others who might know about them. About Smirnov’s denials, he said, “It is ridiculous wriggling, which only creates a comical impression.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 95

As Kamenev said, “Even with Stalin we, by our policy of double-dealing, had obtained, after all, forgiveness of our mistakes by the Party and had been taken back into its ranks….
No documentary evidence (except Olberg’s Honduran passport and Tukhachevsky’s visiting card) was produced [at the Aug. 1936 Zinoviev trial].
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 107

Another member of the counter-revolutionary Zinovievite grouping–Kamenev–recounting in detail how the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc was organized and giving the practical plans of the center, testified at the July 23, 1936 interrogation:
“…We, i.e., the Zinovievite center of the counter-revolutionary organization whose membership I have given above, and the Trotskyite counter-revolutionary organization consisting of Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, and Ter-Vaganyan, agreed in 1932 to the unification of both, i.e., the Zinovievite and Trotskyite, counter-revolutionary organizations for joint preparation of terrorists acts against the Central Committee leaders, principally against Stalin and Kirov.
The essential thing is that both Zinoviev and we–I, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakayev, and the Trotskyite leaders, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganyan, decided in 1932 that the only technique through which we could hope to attain power was to organize terrorist acts against the Communist party leaders, principally against Stalin.
The negotiations between ourselves and the Trotskyites on unification were conducted on precisely the basis of a terrorist struggle against the Communist party leaders.”
(Kamenev, Record of Interrogation, July 23-24, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 170

When asked if the 1932 negotiations between the Zinoviev-Kamenev and Trotskyite groupings were brought to a conclusion, Kamenev answered as follows during the interrogation:
“We did bring to a conclusion the negotiations with the Trotskyites on uniting the Trotskyites and Zinovievite counter-revolutionary organizations, and between us, that is–the Zinovievite center consisting of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakayev, and Kuklin, and the Trotskyite center consisting of Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, and Ter-Vaganyan–an agreement was reached on a bloc for joint struggle against the Communist Party, using, as I have already testified above, terror against the Communist party leaders.”
(Kamenev, Record of Interrogation, July 23-24, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 171

Kamenev, the other leader of the united center, gave the following answer to the investigator’s question: did he know of the center’s decision to kill comrades Stalin and Kirov:
“Yes, I must admit that even before the meeting in Ilinsk Zinoviev told me about the decisions contemplated by the center of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc with respect to preparing terrorist acts against Stalin and Kirov. At the time he told me that this decision was categorically insisted upon by the Trotskyite representatives in the center–Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, and Ter-Vaganyan–that they had a direct order on this from Trotsky, and that they demanded the de facto adoption of this measure in implementation of the principles on which the bloc was based….”
(Kamenev, Record of Interrogation, July 23-24, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 172

Here, for example, is what one of the leaders of the united Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc, Kamenev, testified at the investigation:
“At the very outset of our investigations with the Trotskyites there were still some pale attempts to discuss the possibility of putting together a positive platform.
However, we soon became convinced that this was a pointless task and that we did not have any ideological platform at all.
Our wager on the insurmountability of the difficulties through which the country was passing, on the critical state of the economy, on the collapse of the economic policy of the party leadership in the second half of 1932, had already clearly been lost.
Under the guidance of the Communist Party Central Committee and overcoming difficulties, the country was successfully following the course of economic growth. This we could not fail to see.
It would have seemed proper for us to end the struggle. However, the logic of the counter-revolutionary struggle, the naked usurpation of power–devoid of any ideas–drove us in the other direction.
The way out of the difficulties, the victory of the policies of the Communist Party Central Committee, aroused in us a new upsurge of bitterness and hatred of the party leadership, in particular, of Stalin.”
(Kamenev, Record of Interrogation, July 24, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 177

Kamenev at the investigation discussed with unconcealed cynicism the possible alternatives for achieving power.
To the investigator’s question–did the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center discuss plans for seizing power?–he answered as follows:
“We discussed this question several times. We had settled upon and worked out two alternative ways for the leaders of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc to attain power:
The first, and seemingly most realistic, alternative was that, after the commission of the terrorist act against Stalin, there would be confusion in the leadership of the party and government, and this leadership would engage in negotiations with the leaders of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc, and primarily with Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky.
Zinoviev and I counted on taking the dominant position in the party and country in these negotiations, since by our two-faced policy under Stalin we had, in any case, succeeded in having the party pardon our errors and accept us back into its ranks, whereas our participation, that of myself, Zinoviev, and Trotsky, in terrorist acts, would remain a secret to the party and the country.
The other alternative for seizing power, which seemed to us less reliable, was that the leadership of the party and the country would be disorganized and uncertain of itself after a terrorist act had been committed against Stalin.
The leaders of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc would succeed in exploiting the confusion and in compelling the remaining party leaders to bring us to power, or even in forcing them to yield us their places.
Trotsky’s appearance and his participation in the struggle for power were taken as self-evident.
In addition, we considered it as not out of the question that the Rightists–Bukharin, Tomsky, and Rykov–would also participate in reorganizing the new governmental power.”
(Kamenev, Record of Interrogation, July 23-24, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 179


Zinoviev, former chief of the Communist international and later dropped because unwillingness to follow the Stalin policy of non-interference by the Soviet government in other nations internal affairs, said that he had grown so accustomed to giving orders to large groups of people that he could not endure life without it.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 130


Pyatakov, former chief of Soviet state industry, said that he had met Trotsky abroad in 1935 and learned that the latter had made a deal with Rudolph Hess for Nazi support in the overthrow of the Stalin regime.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 132


Most of the foreign press at the time denounced the trials as a frame up. Most of foreign observers who sat at the trials found them credible, even if shocking. D. N. Pritt, a British member of Parliament, wrote a pamphlet stating his convictions that the men were guilty as charged. Edward C. Carter, Secretary-General of the Institute of Pacific relations, wrote: “It makes sense and is convincing. The confessions seem both normal and purposeful. The theory that it was a frame up is untenable. It was not a device to secure removal of critics. The Kremlin’s case was genuine, terribly genuine.”
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 132

In retrospect the portrait of conspiracy spread on the Soviet court record appears to the present writer, as it did at the time, to be closer to reality then any alternative explanation…. The culprits failed in their larger purposes because they became ever more muddled, desperate, and self-defeated with each passing year. They perceived, contrary to their hopes and beliefs, that the Second Five-Year Plan, as it developed under Stalin’s leadership, was not failing but was accomplishing its objectives. They also perceived that the Stalinist analysis of the international situation was essentially correct while their own expectations were as false as their plans were fatal. For these reasons they failed. For these reasons also they finally confessed out of a subjective necessity of redeeming themselves in their own eyes by serving anew, even in disgrace and in the face of death, the cause they had served all their lives. In many of its other aspects, however, the purge became “dizzy with success,” after the manner of 1930, and produced shocking abuses and injustices. But the denials and counter-accusations of Trotsky and his supporters, despite the doubt they cast on the time or place of certain episodes, do not invalidate the major theses of the Prosecutor and the accused. Neither do they lend credibility to the hypotheses of a “frame up” based on false confessions.
Those who have read the preceding chapters will have no difficulty in understanding how and why Trotsky, for all his denials, came to play the role of Judas.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 264


In connection with the arrest of Yagoda, other arrests of local G.P.U. officials occurred in many cities, on the charge of “arresting innocent citizens” and “using improper methods to export confessions.” They were given the severest sentences, for the crime was considered of the very gravest nature.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial Press, 1941, p. 134

On the terror side, they [Defendants in the Bukharin trial] had been responsible for the assassination of Kirov, which Yagoda had facilitated through Zaporozhets. But in addition, they had caused the deaths of Kuibyshev and of Maxim Gorky, hitherto regarded as natural (and of the former 0GPU chief, Menzhinsky, and of Gorky’s son Peshkov into the bargain). This had been done by medical murder. Yagoda was also charged with an attempt to poison Yezhov.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 343

In August 1936 I saw Yagoda…. He looked embarrassed. He said that Stalin was surrounded by rumor-mongers and slanderers, that there were reports which implicated every member of the Government…. He gave me a peculiar look and said, “I have information regarding Mekhlis. It will not be believed if I submit it. It concerns his contacts abroad.” I realized he wanted to involve me in some plan of his to compromise his enemies who are close to Stalin.
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 236


For the investigations set on foot by the Kirov murder led to the unraveling of a conspiracy the like of which it would be difficult to find anywhere in history. Zinoviev, Kamenev, and 11 others were brought to trial and accused of forming a counter-revolutionary terrorist organization…. They were found guilty of associating with Trotsky and with foreign powers, and were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment. Later, in 1936, when the investigations had gone further, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and 14 others were charged with treason and organized terrorism under Trotsky’s leadership. All confessed their guilt and were shot.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 162

…Stalin had re-opened the investigation into the Kirov assassination more than a year after he had pronounced it closed and several months after Yezhov’s failed attempt to reopen it in June 1935. Zinoviev and Kamenev, who had been in prison since early 1935, were re-interrogated.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 248

Although Zinoviev and Kamenev did not actually order the killing, according to the official formulation, they had encouraged and misled followers who had carried out the assassination.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 114


Whatever criticism may be made of the mode of operations, of the trials, terror, bureaucracy, fanaticism, and injustices of the period, they must be seen against the background of this fact: that all the trials–Schacti, Menshevik, Industrial Party, Metro Vickers, Tukashevsky–and the terror against the NEP men and kulaks represent in common the struggle between revolution and counter revolution in a country surrounded by hostile governments and beset by perils which would allow no time for pleasantries or refinement of procedure. To ignore this is to distort everything. Civil war is not pleasant. It is waged by masses who are not always discriminating, either in the means they use or in their choice of victims. And the whole period from the Schacti trial to the final bloody purge of the Red Army was one of civil war.
The struggle shocked the world because the world did not think in terms of civil war, but judged the events from the standpoint of a State’s relations with its citizens in a period of peace. Journalists, frequently working themselves into a state of hysteria, suggested the most sinister means of extracting confessions from the prisoners in the trials–drugs, false promises of leniency, third degree, all manner of threats–and continually saw, behind the screen of the courts…Joseph Stalin waiting for the right moment to dip his pen in blood and sign another death warrant. On the other hand it should not be overlooked that some lawyers, some journalists, some ambassadors, watching the proceedings with more impartial eyes, had no complaints to make of the proceedings of the courts, and while still amazed with the confessions of the prisoners, believed them to be true.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 163-64

On the other hand, there seems to be little doubt that the accused in these Trials were guilty of treason according to article 58 of the Soviet penal code.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 42

These activities and methods [Fifth Columnists and internal aggression], apparently, existed in Russia, as part of the German plan against the Soviets, as long ago as 1935.
It was in 1936 that Hitler made his now famous Nuremberg speech, in which he clearly indicated his designs upon the Ukraine.
The Soviet government, it now appears, was even then acutely aware of the plans of the German high military and political commands and of the “inside work” being done in Russia, preparatory to German attack upon Russia.
As I ruminated over this situation, I suddenly saw the picture as I should have seen it at the time. The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I had attended and listened to. In reexamining the record of these cases and also what I had written at the time from this new angle, I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnists activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self confessed “Quislings” in Russia.
It was clear that the Soviet government believed that these activities existed, was thoroughly alarmed, and had proceeded to crush them vigorously. By 1941, when the German invasion came, they had wiped out any Fifth Column which had been organized.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 274

For those who attended the trial, as for those of us who can read the trial proceedings, it is clear that the “show trial” theory, widely diffused by anti-Communists, is unrealistic.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 161 [p. 142 on the NET]

I studied the legal procedure in criminal cases in Soviet Russia somewhat carefully in 1932, and concluded (as published at the time in “Twelve Studies in Soviet Russia”) that the procedure gave the ordinary accused a very fair trial.
Their purpose, it seemed, was merely to seize power for themselves, without any pretense that they had any substantial following in the country and without any real policy or philosophy to replace the existing Soviet Socialism.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. The Moscow Trial was Fair. London: ” Russia To-day,” 1937, p. 5

And the charge against the men was not merely made. It was admitted, admitted by men the majority of whom were shown by their records to be possessed of physical and moral courage well adapted to protect them from confessing under pressure. And at no stage was any suggestion made by any of them that any sort of improper treatment had been used to persuade them to confess.
The first thing that struck me, as an English lawyer, was the almost free-and-easy demeanor of the prisoners. They all looked well; they all got up and spoke, even at length, whenever they wanted to do so (for the matter of that, they strolled out, with a guard, when they wanted to).
The one or two witnesses who were called by the prosecution were cross-examined by the prisoners who were affected by their evidence, with the same freedom as would have been the case in England.
The prisoners voluntarily renounced counsel; they could have had counsel without fee had they wished, but they preferred to dispense with them. And having regard to their pleas of guilty and to their own ability to speak, amounting in most cases to real eloquence, they probably did not suffer by their decision, able as some of my Moscow colleagues are.
The most striking novelty, perhaps, to an English lawyer, was the easy way in which first one and then another prisoner would intervene in the course of the examination of one of their co-defendants, without any objection from the Court or from the prosecutor, so that one got the impression of a quick and vivid debate between four people, the prosecutor and three prisoners, all talking together, if not actually at the same moment–a method which, whilst impossible with a jury, is certainly conducive to clearing up disputes of fact with some rapidity.
Far more important, however, if less striking, were the final speeches.
In accordance with Soviet law, the prisoners had the last word–15 speeches after the last chance of the prosecutor to say anything.
The Public Prosecutor, Vyshinsky, spoke first. He spoke for four or five hours. He looked like a very intelligent and rather mild-mannered English businessmen.
He spoke with vigor and clarity. He seldom raised his voice. He never ranted, or shouted, or thumped the table. He rarely looked at the public or played for effect. He said strong things; he called the defendants bandits, and mad dogs, and suggested that they ought to be exterminated… in many cases less grave many English prosecuting counsel have used much harsher words.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. The Moscow Trial was Fair. London: “Russia To-day,” 1937, p. 6

By the way, there are increasing signs that the Russian trials are not faked, but that there is a plot among those who look upon Stalin as a stupid reactionary who has betrayed the ideas of the Revolution. Though we find it difficult to imagine this kind of internal thing, those who know Russia best are all more or less of the same opinion. I was firmly convinced to begin with that it was a case of a dictator’s despotic acts, based on lies and deception, but this was a delusion.
Born, Max. The Born-Einstein Letters. New York: Walker and Company, 1971, page 130

(Recently Returned after Five Years in the USSR)
As in all previous big Soviet trials, this one has been declared a “frame up.” But just as Monkhouse’s outburst in court, during the famous Metro-Vickers trial, that the trial was a “frame up,” was never supported by one iota of evidence; so, today, the allegation of “frame up” remains unsupported in the slightest agree.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. The Moscow Trial was Fair. London: ” Russia To-day,” 1937, p. 8

They were granted every possibility of saying whatever they liked. They were granted the right to choose their defending counsel, to call witnesses, to demand examination of the evidence, etc. But they renounced the right of choosing defending counsel, to call any witnesses and to deliver speeches in their defense, for the chain of their crimes was too obvious and indisputably proved. Their crimes were proved before the world in public trial by documents, facts, material evidence.
The criminal conspirators were caught red-handed with weapons in hand, with passports in their possession, which they had received from the agents of Hitler and of the Gestapo, with explosives. Documentary proof was adduced before the court regarding the personal leadership of the terrorists by Trotsky, who had sent them to the Soviet Union to murder Stalin, to organize terroristic acts against the leaders of the socialist state. Overwhelming proof of the guilt of the Trotsky-Zinoviev terrorists was produced at an open trial. It was proved beyond dispute that Trotsky, Zinoviev and their gang stood on the other side of the barricades, in the same camp as those who are fighting against the Spanish people, sending airplanes, weapons, and munitions to the rebel generals, who are waging a counter-revolutionary civil war in Spain.
Dimitrov. To Defend Assassins is to Help Fascism. NY: Workers Library Pub., 1937, p. 7-8

The Bukharin-Rykov trial was public and was eagerly monitored by the diplomatic corps and the world press. As usual at Soviet trials all the accused were present during the whole trial seated side by side. During the whole trial they were fully free to talk at any time and to comment on the accounts of the others and even to pose questions to the other accused when they deemed it necessary. More than ever it is important today to have knowledge of this trial, the accusations of the attorney and the responses of the accused as well the possibilities to defense and freedom to speak. Knowing the facts is the best way to fight the smear campaign of the right against the Soviet Union and Socialism.
Sousa, Mario. The Class Struggle During the Thirties in the Soviet Union, 2001.


Pyatakov said, Trotsky was firmly in favor of the forcible overthrow of the Stalin leadership by methods of terrorism and wrecking.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 223

Pyatakov [said]… “I have waived my right to a speech in my defense because the prosecution is right in its statement of the facts, and in its estimation of my crime. But I cannot reconcile myself to one assertion made by the State Prosecutor, namely, that even now I am a Trotskyite. Yes, I was a Trotskyite for many years; but my only motive for the statements I have made at this trial, was the desire, even now, even when it is too late, to get rid of my loathsome Trotskyite past.”
Nobody acquainted with Pyatakov’s work could seriously doubt that he was speaking the truth.
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press, 1956, p. 66

…Orlov declined to become involved. He had already learned the sordid details of the second Moscow show trial, after which Pyatakov and Radek had been shot together with 15 other old Bolsheviks after abjectly confessing yet another Trotskyist plot against Stalin.
Costello, John and Oleg Tsarev. Deadly illusions. New York: Crown, c1993, p. 284


Shestov followed Trotsky with fanatical devotion…. Shestov quotes Sedov as saying “the only correct way, the difficult way but a sure one, was forcibly to remove Stalin and leaders of the government by means of terrorism.”
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 225


Trotskyite organizers addressed motley secret gatherings of die hard enemies of the Soviet regime — Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, leftists, rightists, nationalists, anarchists, and white Russian fascists and Monarchists.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 228


Mrachkovsky one of Trotsky’s followers told one of these terrorist groups in Moscow in 1932, “The methods of struggle used until now haven’t produced any positive results. There remains only one path of struggle, and that is the removal of the leadership of the party by violence. Stalin and the other leaders must be removed. That is the principal task!”
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 229


New evidence had been brought to light as the result of the special investigation into Kirov’s murder. Kamenev and Zinoviev were to stand trial again.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 285

Once again, innocent people were victimized because of what they might do. [Sounds like the Japanese and McCarthy]
It is clear that early in 1936 Stalin had become suspicious of the former opposition. Investigations and repression against them proceeded by degrees, with delays, indecision, and various twists and turns, zigs and zags. Back in 1935 the opposition had been accused only of moral complicity in indirectly encouraging minor figures in their dangerous opposition and assassination conspiracies. At that time the matter was declared closed. Later, “on the basis of new materials received in 1936,” it was said that Zinoviev and Kamenev, at Trotsky’s behest, had themselves been assassins, but that Bukharin and the Right had not been involved. Then, at the beginning of 1937–and not without considerable hesitation and ambiguity–the new political line began to implicate the rightists as well, though it was some time yet before this policy took its final shape.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 487

In June Zinoviev, Kamenev, and other members of the old Leningrad Opposition were tried secretly for complicity in the murder of Kirov. There seems to have been a somewhat tenuous link between them and persons with whom the assassin Nikolaev was acquainted, and there were also ugly suggestions of extraneous, that is non-Russian, influences at work. Be that as it may, the accused were all acquitted but not released from custody, and the inquiry continued….
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 212

After their conviction in the January 1935 trial, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others were sent to the Verkhne-Uralsk political prison. Ciliga, who saw them there, reported later that Zinoviev arrived with a bunch of books on fascism, a subject in which he was showing special interest, and that during the summer of 1935 he and Kamenev were returned to Moscow where they were put on trial a second time in secret, along with 34 others, on charges of preparing an attempt on the life of Stalin. Although Kamenev’s brother, the painter Rosenfeld, was a prosecution witness against him, he categorically denied all charges. As a consequence, the five-year sentence he received in the January 1935 trial was doubled. Ciliga learned about the second trial after Zinoviev and Kamenev were bought back to Verkhne-Uralsk. The decisive period in the trial preparation still lay ahead.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 314


Tomsky added that the moment the Nazis attacked Soviet Russia, the military group planned to “open the front to the Germans”–that is, to surrender to the German High Command. This plan had been worked out in detail and agreed-upon by Tukhachevsky, Putna, Gamarnik, and the Germans.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 292


As John Gunther later reported in Inside Europe:
“…the impression held widely abroad that the defendants all told the same story, that they were abject and grovelling, that they behaved like sheep in the executioner’s pen, isn’t quite correct. They argued stubbornly with the prosecutor; in the main they told only what they were forced to tell….
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 297


The American ambassador in Moscow, Joseph Davies, was profoundly impressed by the trial. He attended it daily and, assisted by an interpreter, carefully followed the proceedings. A former Corporation lawyer, Davies stated that Vyshinsky…Impressed him as being “calm, dispassionate, intellectual, able, and wise. He conducted the treason trial in a manner that won my respect and admiration as a lawyer.”
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 301

The Attorney General is a man of about 60 and is much like Homer Cummings; calm, dispassionate, intellectual, and able and wise. He conducted the treason trial in a manner that won my respect and admiration as a lawyer.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 67


On February 17, 1937, U.S. Ambassador Davies reported in a confidential dispatch to Secretary of State Hull that almost all the foreign diplomats in Moscow shared his opinion of the justice of the verdict. Davies wrote,
“I talked to many, if not all, of the members of the Diplomatic Corps here and, with possibly one exception, they are all of the opinion that the proceedings established clearly the existence of a political plot and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 301

But these facts were not made public. Powerful forces conspired to hide the truth about the Fifth Column in Soviet Russia. On March 11, 1937, Ambassador Davies recorded in his Moscow diary:
“Another diplomat, minister made a most illuminating statement to me yesterday. In discussing the trial, he said that the defendants were undoubtedly guilty; that all those who attended the trial had practically agreed-upon that;…
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 301

Ambassador Davies, who attended the proceedings, found the trial “terrific” in legal, human and political drama. He wrote his daughter on March 8,
“All the fundamental weaknesses and vices of human nature–personal ambitions at their wors –are shown up in the proceedings. They disclose the outlines of a plot which came very near to being successful in bringing about the the overthrow of this government.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 309

Three years later, in the summer of 1941, following the Nazi invasion of USSR, ambassador Davies wrote: “In re-examining the record of these cases [the trials of 1937 and 1938, which I had attended and listened to. I found that practically every device of German Fifth Column activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and the testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia….
All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work early to cleanup and clean out all the treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government.
There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941– they shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason. The Axis Fifth Column in Soviet Russia had been smashed.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 311

I cannot forget what a high-placed and saddened Frenchman told me recently in Washington when we were discussing the Purge… But don’t forget, mon ami, that in Russia they shot the Fifth Columnists, and in France we made them Cabinet Ministers. You see both results today… At Vichy, and on the Red war-front.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941, p. 135

At the time of the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev, no one had any knowledge of the existence of the Right-Left coalition. Opinion abroad has varied in regard to the great Moscow trials. At first it was supposed that they were a ‘frame up’, a mere pretext used by Stalin for the physical extermination of all his opponents. Later, when the Soviet Union came into the war and people had personal experience, especially in France, of the activities of the German ‘fifth column’, a very different view was expressed: Stalin, it was said, had been the only clear-sighted leader, and had ruthlessly destroyed the fifth column in the Soviet Union long before the war.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 290

When World War II finally came to the USSR, the rest of the world noted the relative absence of the Hitler Fifth Column, which had overthrown most of the governments of Europe. Howard K. Smith commented: “Had Russia not liquidated a few thousand bureaucrats and officers, there is little doubt that the Red Army would have collapsed in two months.” [The Last Train from Berlin, p. 325]
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 71


Bucharin said, “I may infer a priori that Trotsky and my other allies in crime, as well as the Second International…will endeavor to defend us, and particularly myself. I reject this defense…. I await the verdict.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 310

The third trial was that of Bukharin and Rykov, and also of Yagoda, the former head of the secret police, and of Krestinsky, Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Here again the truth of the facts alleged was thoroughly proved.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 294


The detailed evidence presented against Trotsky at the Moscow trials was, for the most part, completely ignored by the Commission of Inquiry. On April 17 Beals resigned from the commission. Beals issued a public statement which read in part: “… The hushed adoration of the other members of the committee for Mr. Trotsky throughout the hearings has defeated all spirit of honest investigation…. The very first day I was told my questions were improper. The final cross-examination was put in a mold that prevented any search for the truth. I was taken to task for quizzing Trotsky about his archives…. The cross-examination consisted of allowing Trotsky to spout propaganda charges with eloquence and wild denunciations, with only rare efforts to make him prove his assertions…. The commission may pass its bad check on the public if it desires, but I will not lend my name to the possibility of further childishness similar to that already committed.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 313


On August 21, 1940, Trotsky died in Mexico City…. The assassin (sentenced April 16, 1943, to a 20 year prison term) was at once labeled by all Trotskyites and anti-Soviet groups as a paid killer of the GPU, hired by Stalin to slay his enemies. No evidence has ever been adduced to substantiate this contention. The murderer said, apparently in all sincerity, that he was a Trotskyite who had slain Trotsky for “betraying” Trotskyism.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 268


But the statements of Pyatakov and Muralov (both shot like the rest of the culprits) were straightforward, clear, and unmistakable, and I think that few of those who heard them, whether Russians or strangers, could doubt that their words were true. A lot of ink has been spilled about political trials in the USSR, and the silliest assertions have been made. Hypnosis, hashish, torture–those are simple allegations, but some ingenious scribes let their imaginations fly still higher–to the mountains of Tibet, that land of mystery and distance. In Tibet, they claimed, there was a drug unknown to Western science whose properties are such that those who have consumed it become as clay in the potter’s hands, to be shaped as the potter pleases.
What preposterous nonsense! No one who heard Pyatakov or Muralov could doubt for a moment that what they said was true, and that they were saying it from no outer drag of force. I don’t speak of Kamenev or Zinoviev, because their Trial I did not see, but Pyatakov and Muralov I heard and believed. Remember, please, that these were no mediocre citizens of the Soviet Union. Pyatakov had a first-class mind and was a first-class executive; Muralov won Moscow for the Revolution in the hour of crisis, and had proved himself a doughty warrior for the Soviet cause. Their words rang true, and it is absurd to suggest or imagine that men like this could yield to any influence, against their own strong hearts. Why, then, it may be asked, did they confess so freely if, as I say, they were impervious to pressure?
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 48-49


The answer to that must be found in the difference between Russians and Western races…. Americans and Englishmen have lost lives for proven crime without a word let past their lips. The Russians are different. When confronted with damning facts which they can’t deny they seem to find satisfaction in “spilling the beans,” a final move towards atonement, a feeling that somehow they can square themselves, not perhaps with their judges, but with their own consciences, by telling all the truth. Why this is so I don’t attempt to explain, but that it is so I am convinced.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 50

The conspiracy, however, for the removal of Stalin was steadily continued.
The confessions in the trials were partly due to the fact that Trotsky’s supporters now in the dock rebelled against his policy, which had been a burden to them for years….
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 294

It is admitted that the Stalin regime was very much stronger in 1935 than it was in 1931. This improvement in the situation is referred to many times in the course of the testimony of the principal defendants as justification for their change of heart and final reasons for repentance and confession.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 35

The fact that the prisoners confessed, reply the Soviet people, can be explained very simply. It was because they were so irrevocably convicted by witnesses and documents during the preliminary inquiry that denial would have been senseless. The fact that they all confessed also has its explanation. By no means all the Trotskyists who were implicated in the plot were brought up for trial, but only those whose guilt was proved up to the hilt.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 129

Observers sent to the trials by foreign newspapers found difficulty in understanding the “monotonous sequence of confession.” Why they confess was the typical journalistic question, and no one, except the Communist papers, supplied the obvious answer: “Because they were guilty.” Some newspapers suggested that mysterious “talking drugs” were used: others suggested hypnotism and torture. Since, however, there was nothing in the demeanor of the prisoners to confirm that such influences had been used and since my examination I met no one who had been subjected to physical duress other than actual imprisonment, I consider that one should seek the fundamental reasons for the “guilty” pleas beyond the investigatory period.
Edelman, Maurice. G.P.U. Justice. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1938, p. 211


There’s no denying that many of the ablest and best informed foreigners in Moscow were highly skeptical about the Kremlin’s claim that a widespread murder and treason plot existed, with ramifications abroad involving the nazi Gestapo, and to a lesser degree the secret services of Britain and Japan. They were no less skeptical, however, three years later about the Kremlin’s other claim, that the occupations of East Poland, the Baltic states, Bessarabia, and southern Finland, were in reality measures of precaution against a danger which did in fact materialize, the danger of nazi invasion.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 52


Whatever doubt’s there may be about the guilt of other accused in other Trials, it is unthinkable that Stalin and Voroshilov and Budenny and the Court-Martial could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming. Then, too, there are other points, as follows:
(a) The suicide of Gamarnik
(b) The accused all confessed guilty, although their Trial was held so soon after their arrest that they could not have been subjected to the long, gruelling process of imprisonment and examination which later was said to have extracted confessions from civilian prisoners.
(c) The Trial was attended by a hundred or more representative officers of the Red Army summoned from all over the country. For them, too, the accused had been trusted colleagues or leaders. They all accepted the verdict without question.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., 1941, p. 65-66


The Russians are not like us; I mean they do not care about “rugged individualism.” The mass of the Russian people want things which Americans want, and many Americans have, but they do not like Tsars or landlords or bankers or Kulaks or traitors. If you wish to know the truth, the Russian masses applauded when such folk were shot. That’s dreadful but it’s true.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941, p. 162

[In 1937] the overwhelming majority of Soviet citizens indisputably believed that it was a struggle to the death with people who still wanted to restore capitalism.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 280

During the whole period of the trial, from the announcement on February 28, 1938, that it would take place until the actual executions, the papers had, of course, been full of the demands of workers’ meetings that no pity should be shown to the “foul band of murderers and spies.”… The verdict of the court was received with many expressions of public joy.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 396


It was now proved that before the assassination Tomsky had several times gone secretly to Leningrad [where Kirov’s killing occurred]. At the moment of his arrest he committed suicide, taking his secret with him into the grave.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 290


In this trial Zinoviev and Kamenev not only confessed their guilt in everything with which they were charged, but made long speeches of exaggerated penitence, filled with self-denunciation and recantation of all the ideas for which they had stood in the past–an unexampled self-abasement.
While these first trials seemed quite simply inexplicable, those that followed made the self-accusations and self-recriminations rather more intelligible. The confession of guilt is easy to understand. Certain facts had been established by the preliminary interrogation, and nothing could be gained by denying those facts. But at that moment Zinoviev and Kamenev knew that the majority of the conspirators were still at large and their groups and headquarters were still undiscovered; they knew also from the preliminary inquiry that the authorities had as yet found out relatively little. Their volubility in self-abasement was a sort of smoke-screen, a clouding of the issue. They wanted the trial to remain confined to themselves and to bring no fresh revelations; they wanted to create the impression that they were the only persons at work in the conspiracy and that they now saw how hopeless it had been. They saw death approaching, and beyond the cloud of self-abasement they could already see the avenging hand of their fellow conspirators. With death looming above them, they believed that the others, warned by the trial, would now make haste.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 291

Although in retrospect it seems easy to check the interplay between the trials and events abroad, foreign observers in Moscow were slow or even loath to perceive it at the time. They did not realize that the trials really represented the Kremlin’s effort to stamp out Fifth Column activities in the USSR, an effort which was only one of several measures,…taken to prepare the country for the expected Nazi attack. As far as foreigners in Moscow were concerned, the issue was obscured by the extraordinary nature of the first trial. The accused behaved in so hysterical a manner, heaping reproaches, accusations, and tears upon themselves and upon each other, that foreign diplomats and newspapermen who heard them were led to conclude that there was something fishy about the whole affair, that such abject confession and self-denunciation could not be genuine and must have been produced by some form of pressure. Reports were circulated and given considerable credence in America and Britain, that the accused had been hypnotized or tortured or terrorized by threats against their relatives, even dosed with a mysterious “Tibetan drug” which destroyed their will power and made them as wax in the hands of the prosecution. All of which really meant that the Anglo-Saxon mentality simply could not understand the masochistic eagerness of the accused not only to admit their guilt, but to paint it in the blackest terms.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 218


Some of the charges were repudiated very energetically by the defendants. Bukharin, for instance, admitted complicity in the conspiracy, but put up a determined fight throughout the trial against the charge made by the public prosecutor that he had engaged in espionage. The defendants’ attitude is easy to understand. As the trials went on, everything became known to the Soviet authorities, down to the smallest details. There was nothing whatever to gain by denying the facts. Dozens, if not hundreds, of the lesser members of the organization had been able to save themselves by giving full information.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 294


The time when the trials took place was, moreover, particularly favorable for Stalin. When the conspiracy was been organized, the opposition was expecting the absolute failure of Stalin’s policy. But in the end he had made a success of collectivization and had not brought the country to ruin: the conditions of existence were manifestly improving. There was nothing the defendants could do but admit the error of their policy if they did not want to seem ridiculous.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 295


The defendants [in the Moscow trials] had no desire at all to bring down the dictatorship, but only to become dictators themselves in Stalin’s place.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 295


Immediately the accused realized that for once their promises were to have no effect, they frantically tried to purchase their miserable lives by implicating others, revealing in the process a carefully organized plot against the sovereignty of the Soviet State. By these means they succeeded only in hardening the resolution of Stalin, who saw them at last for what they really were.
Armed with the new disclosures, and with Stalin’s approval, Yagoda opened the “Trial of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center,” better known to the Western reader from the newspaper headline, “The trial of the 16….”
As the trial progressed, searching cross-examination by Vyshinsky brought to the surface a veritable maze of underground plots. Not only Kirov but also the entire personnel of the Politburo, with the unexplained exception of Molotov, were scheduled for the knife or the bullet of an assassin. Regular channels of communication with the exiled Trotsky, whose advice was to be obtained on all points, were exposed. Letters from the former War Commissar were produced as proof that he had given the actual order to assassinate Stalin….
With deadly insistence, Vyshinsky beat down the feeble protests of the accused. One after another the men who had set personal ambitions above their country and had boldly planned to take the lives of others, confessed their part in the conspiracy and begged the state to spare their lives.
If Stalin needed further proof of the security of his Government, he received it in the universal outcry against the projected attempt on his life. From factories and villages came thousands of resolutions demanding death for the traitors, while hostile crowds besieged the court, screaming insults whenever the accused appeared. One of the principal Opposition leaders, the ex-Trade Union President, Tomsky, was so staggered by the volume of protest and universal condemnation that he committed suicide.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 100


In a September 9, 1929, letter to Molotov Stalin stated in a P. S. “I almost forgot. The new (new!) statement from Smirnov, Vaganian, Mrachkovski, and others must be rejected not only as unacceptable (and how!) but as a document from impudent counter-revolutionaries who are exploiting Yaroslavski’s easygoing nature and the trust he has shown them. Yaroslavski must be forbidden to have anything to do with those upstarts who have exploited his easygoing nature to organize their counter-revolutionary faction on ‘new,’ “within-the-regulations’ principles. We don’t need them in the party….”
Naumov, Lih, and Khlevniuk, Eds. Stalin’s Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1995, p. 178


… I sat in the court and watched the tale unfold. Zinoviev and Kamenev, once friends of Lenin and imminent theoreticians, told the judges, the audience, and the whole world that, having lost power through the rise of Stalin, they had conspired to seize power by assassinating several leaders, presumably including Stalin, through agents who, if caught, would not know the identity of the top conspirators, but would appear to be ordinary agents of the German Gestapo. The chief conspirators, with reputations intact, would then call for “party unity” to meet the emergency. In the confusion they would gain leading posts. One of them, Bakayev, slated to become head of the GPU, would liquidate the actual assassins, thus burying all evidence against the higher ups.
That was the tale I watched unfold in the court day after day. The defendants were vocal; they bore no evidence of torture. Kamenev said that by 1932 it became clear that Stalin’s policies were accepted by the people and he could no longer be overthrown by political means but only by “individual terror.” “We were guided in this,” he said, “by boundless bitterness against the leadership and by a thirst for power to which we had once been near.” Zinoviev stated in court that he had become so used to giving orders to large numbers of people that he could not endure life without it. Minor agents gave testimony connecting the group with the Gestapo. One of them, N. Lurye, claimed to have worked “under the guidance of Franz Weitz, personal representative of Himmler.” Some of the lesser lights apparently first learned in court of the fate their chiefs had reserved for them; this added to the venom with which they attacked those chiefs.
“Let him not pretend to be such an innocent,” cried the defendant Reingold against co-defendant Kamenev. “He would have made his way to power over mountains of corpses.”
Was the story credible? Most of the press outside the USSR called it a frame up. Most people who sat in the court-room, including the foreign correspondents, thought the story true. Ambassador Davies says in his book Mission to Moscow, that he believes the defendants guilty as charged. D. N . Pratt, imminent lawyer and British member of Parliament, was similarly convinced. Edward C. Carter, Secretary-General of the Institute of Pacific Relations, wrote: “The Kremlin’s case is…terribly genuine. It makes sense…is convincing.” Even Khrushchev’s comprehensive attack on excesses of this period, does not say that any of the open trials were a fraud.
For me, I listened to the defendants, often from only a few feet away; the process by which once revolutionary leaders became traitors seemed understandable. They began by doubting the Russian people’s ability to build socialism without outside help; this was the open discussion in 1924-27. Their doubt deepened through the contrast between Russia’s inefficiency–which even brought the land to famine in 1932–and the efficient German organization they had known. Was it hard to believe that Russia might profit by German discipline, impressed by the iron heel? Plenty of irritated people in those days made such remarks. Eventually there would be a German revolution; they themselves might promote it from within. Meantime, they would be rid of the hated Stalin.
If once we admit that these first trials were genuine–and trained foreign observers thought they were–then we have a situation that might well drive a nation off its sane base. Not only were they surrounded by hostile capitalist states; their own revolutionary leadership seemed deeply penetrated by agents, plotting assassination and government overthrow. After the conviction of Zinoviev and Kamenev, arrests and trials spread wider. Tomsky, former chairman of the Central Council of Trade Unions, mentioned in court by one of the defendants, confessed guilt and committed suicide to escape arrest. Regional trials began in the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Far East. In the Far East, the chief of the GPU fled to Japan and many of his subordinates were arrested as Japanese agents.
The army was next involved. The chief of its political commissars, Marshal Gamarnik, committed suicide June 1, 1937. On July 11th, Marshall Tukhachevsky, only recently a Vice-Commissar of Defense, was court-martialed with seven other top commanders, the first big trial to be held in secret. It was announced that the defendants admitted to being in the pay of Hitler, whom they had promised to help get the Ukraine. They got the death sentence. Some corroboration of their guilt came from abroad. E. R. Gedye, Prague correspondent of the New York Times, cabled June 18 that ” two of the highest officials in Prague” told him they had “definite knowledge that secret connections between the German General Staff and certain high Russian generals had existed since the Rapallo Treaty.” I myself was later told by Czech officials that their military men had been the first to learn and to inform Moscow that Czech military secrets, known to the Russians through the mutual aid alliance, were being revealed by Tukhachevsky to the German High Command.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 62

Of the endless trials, public and secret, four were of the greatest importance:…. All were charged with attempting to assassinate Stalin and the other members of the Politburo, to restore capitalism, to wreck the country’s military and economic power, and to poison or kill in any other way masses of Russian workers. All were charged with working from the earliest days of the revolution for the espionage services of Britain, France, Japan, and Germany, and with having entered into secret agreements with the Nazis by which they were to dismember the Soviet Union and cede vast slices of Soviet territory to Germany and Japan.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 372

Sydney and Beatrice Webb, who made an exhaustive study of life in Communist Russia, came up with this analysis of the confessions in The Treason Trials in Russia, a New Civilization?:
‘The confessions of the defendants; the manner in which the several stories corroborated one another; their frank explanations of the way they had yielded to the temptation of giving their general adherence to a treasonable company of which they did not at first understand the scope; and how they had then found themselves unable to escape from the coils in which they had become entangled;–be it added, a certain amount of further corroboration deduced from incautiously public utterances by both German and by Japanese statesmen, convinced the British and American journalists present at the trial in January 1937 that the defendants were really guilty of the treasonable conspiracies with which they were charged.’
Some other foreign observers shared this view. For instance, the American engineer John Littlepage, who had spent 10 years in Russia, and had written about Stalin’s Russia for various US publications, was asked by friends whether the accused were guilty. He said without equivocation that most of them were. What surprised Littlepage was that the men in the Kremlin had waited so long to realize that ‘other Communists are the most dangerous enemies they have’ (in The Saturday Evening Post , 1 January 1938).
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 205


I heard Radek speak about Trotsky in Moscow in 1925 and 1931, before and after his first defection…. Later he declared with the tone and mien that seemed to me somewhat too solemn, almost clerical, that he had searched his heart during his exile, re-examined everything and recognized the absurdity of Trotsky’s program.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 108

[In a letter to Kaganovich and Yezhov on 19 August 1936 Stalin stated] I read Radek’s letter addressed to me about his situation in connection with the Trotskyite trial. Although the letter is not very persuasive, I propose anyway that the question of arresting Radek be dropped for now and that he be allowed to publish an article over his byline against Trotsky in Izvestia. The article will have to be reviewed beforehand.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 328


The principal defendants [in the January 1937 trial] were Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebryakov, and Muralov…. In detail, calmly and dispassionately, Pyatakov set forth the narrative of his criminal activities. As he proceeded (as was the case with the others), his testimony would be interrupted by the prosecutor who called upon different defendants to corroborate the certain specific instances which he described. In some cases they modified or disputed some fact but in the main would corroborate the fact that the crime was committed. All this was done by these defendants with the greatest degree of nonchalance. I noted particularly that after Serebryakov, who was an old railroad man, was called to his feet to corroborate the fact of a peculiarly horrible crime (which he did laconically), he sat down quite unconcerned and yawned.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 38

Foreign observers at the trial [ Shakhty trial], of whom I was one, were somewhat puzzled by the apparent readiness, even willingness, of the accused to admit and sometimes actually to stress their own and each other’s sins.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 154


Radek, the second defendant to be called,… asked them to remember that he it was who had disclosed the Trotsky conspiracy, with the implication that, but for him, that which the government desired to establish would not have been forthcoming. Serebryakov was as mild-mannered a pirate as ever slit a throat (with a cherubic face), who casually recited horror after horror which he had projected. He seemed more or less resigned in his demeanor. Sokolnikov, former ambassador to London,…delivered himself of what might appear to be a dispassionate lecture upon his participation in the conspiracy, and expounded logically and clearly the reasons which prompted him and his associates to launch upon a plot with Japan in Germany; the basis of which was that there was no possibility of projecting their plans for the betterment of the Russian people internally because the Stalin government was so strong that mass action within could not overthrow it and that historically they had reason to believe that their best chance was to rise to power through a foreign war and to create a smaller state out of the embers, because of the friendly disposition of the victors (Germans), and the probable attitude of other Western powers of Europe in the resultant peace arrangements.
Muralov…told of his reasons for supporting Trotsky as one of his oldest and best friends and a great man, who had been a man “when others were mice,” and again when he spoke of his reasons for refusal to confess, and ultimate recantation. He denied there had been any pressure put upon him; and stated that for eight months he had refused to confess, because he resented his arrest and became angry and stubborn; that at first he thought he would prefer to die as a hero and forward the cause in that way, but that, when he gradually understood the whole plot, he had finally concluded that the Stalin government had made much progress and was doing such great things for the Russian people that he had been mistaken, and that his duty lay in making a clean breast of it. The remainder of the defendants all testified at length with reference to their particular crimes, and were of widely different types.
All defendants [at the Jan. 1937 trial] seemed eager to heap accusation upon accusation upon themselves–mea culpa maxima. They required little cross-examination by the prosecutor. In the case of one defendant a prosecutor even had to admonish him to get down to the case and not embroider his testimony with additional crimes. The attitude of the prosecutor generally was entirely free from browbeating. Apparently, it was not necessary.
At the conclusion of the testimony, the prosecutor made a long address to the court, based in part upon evidence but largely upon extraneous historical matter. It was a scholarly, able presentation.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 39-40


The defendant Pyatakov asked for no mercy in his final speech, nor did Shestov, who had been the chief agent for the perpetration of some of the most heinous crimes. Shestov, in fact, stated that he deserved death and wanted to die. Radek did not ask for mercy except by implication, nor did Muralov. Sokolnikov did, but in a very dignified way.
The defendants were all adjudged guilty and sentenced according to the degree of crime. Pyatakov and Serebryakov, as members of the anti-Soviet Trotskyite center and as those who had organized treason, espionage, wrecking, and terrorist activities, were sentenced to the supreme penalty–to be shot. Eleven others, including Muralov, as organizers and direct executors of the crimes, were sentenced to the supreme penalty–to be shot. Two, Radek and Sokolnikov, as being members of the anti-Soviet Trotskyite “parallel center” and responsible for its criminal activities–but not directly participating in the organization and execution of the specific crimes–were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Two others, Arnold and Stroilov, were sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years for the specific crimes with which they were charged…. The clemency shown to Radek and to Sokolnikov occasioned general surprise.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 41


The most extraordinary part of this trial, from a Western outlook, is that there should have been such a trial at all. The accused had all entered the plea of guilty. There remained nothing for a court to do but to hear possible pleas for clemency and to adjudge the facts and sentence the accused. But here a…trial was had which lasted for six days and in which presumably all proof was produced that the prosecutor could possibly adduce–from our point of view an entirely useless proceeding. There were probably two purposes for this program on the part of the authorities.
Off the record, one is admitted, to wit: that the occasion was dramatized for propaganda purposes. It was designed: first, as a warning to all existing and potential plotters and conspirators within the Soviet Union; second, to discredit Trotsky abroad; and third, to solidify popular national feeling in support of the government against foreign enemies– Germany and Japan. During the trial every means of propaganda was employed to carry to all parts of the country the horrors of these confessions. The newspapers were filled not only with reports of the testimony but also comments of the most violent and vituperative character as to the accused. The radio also was working overtime.
The other probable purpose was to disclose to the public in open court the bona fides of the confessions of the accused. Had these confessions been made “in chambers,” or produced over the signatures of the accused, their authenticity might have been denied. The fact of the confessions could never be disputed in the face of the oral self-accusations made “in open court.”
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 42


From reports of the previous trials the present case differed in the opinion of many observers here in that there was practically unanimity of confessions here, also greater corroboration, and a more general opinion on the part of disinterested observers that an actual conspiracy was shown to exist against the Soviet government.
With an interpreter at my side, I followed the testimony carefully. Naturally I must confess that I was predisposed against the credibility of the testimony of these defendants. The unanimity of their confessions, the fact of their long imprisonment with the possibility of duress and coercion extending to themselves or their families, all gave me grave doubts as to the reliability that could attach to their statements. Viewed objectively, however, and based upon my experience in the trial of cases and the application of the tests of credibility which past experience had afforded me, I arrived at the reluctant conclusion that the state had established its case, at least to the extent of proving the existence of a widespread conspiracy and plot among the political leaders against the Soviet government, and which under their statutes established the crimes set forth in the indictment…. I am still impressed with the many indications of credibility which obtained in the course of the testimony. To have assumed that this proceeding was invented and staged as a project of dramatic political fiction would be to presuppose the creative genius of a Shakespeare and the genius of a Belasco in stage production. The historical background and surrounding circumstances also lend credibility to the testimony. The reasoning which Sokolnikov and Radek applied in justification of their various activities and their hoped-for results were consistent with probability and entirely plausible.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 42

The lesser accused, who were merely tools, amplified in great circumstantial detail their chronicle of crime, and in many instances gave indications that what they were then stating was being uttered for the first time. These and other facts, which I saw, compelled the belief that there may have been much redundant embroidery in the testimony, but that the consistent vein of truth ran through the fabric, establishing a definite political conspiracy to overthrow the present government.
On the face of the record in this case it would be difficult for me to conceive of any court, in any jurisdiction, doing other than adjudging the defendants guilty of violations of the law as set forth in the indictment and as defined by the statutes.
I have talked to many, if not all, of the members of the Diplomatic Corps here and, with possibly one exception, they are all of the opinion that the proceedings established clearly the existence of a political plot and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 44

In the Diplomatic Corps there is no unanimity of opinion with respect to the testimony with reference to the alleged Trotsky agreement with Japan and Germany. The rationalization of such a plan as calmly discussed and justified by Sokolnikov and also by Radek carried weight with some, who pointed out that it was consistent with Lenin’s conduct in acquiring power through the use of the German military in 1917, and the rise of the Social Democrats in Germany out of the embers of war. With others, that part of the testimony was discounted. But all agree that the state established a case of conspiracy against the present government.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 45

Prevailing impressions among the correspondents here is that regardless of motives which may have prompted these extraordinary mass confessions these defendants are, generally speaking, telling the truth at least in part; and that the prosecution has made a strong case establishing the existence of widespread Trotsky conspiracy to destroy the present government….
Personally I have found great interest in following this trial and have attended each of the sessions.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 49

All of these defendants had been kept incommunicado for weeks and months. One by one they arose and told their story quite dispassionately and in the greatest of circumstantial detail, piling self-accusation upon self-accusation. The prevailing opinion is that, objectively viewed in the face of the proceedings, the government established its case at least to the extent of establishing a conspiracy against the present government.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 53

On February 2, 1937, Davies wrote in his diary, “The ———- minister called. He has been in the U.S. and in Washington several times. Opinion regarding the trial–guilty.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 56

On February 6, 1937, Ambassador Davies wrote in his diary, “Called on the Lithuanian minister–a fine old man. We discussed the trial. He stated that there was evidently a widespread plot.”
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 68

On February 18, 1937, Ambassador Davies wrote in his diary, “The——-minister called. Regarding the trial: There was no doubt but that a widespread conspiracy existed and that the defendants were guilty….
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 82

Reasonably neutral observers construct a “theory” about the trials more or less as follows:
1. Every important defendant in the first and second trials was a Zinovievite or a Trotskyist. Radek, Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Serebryakov, had been Trotskyists for years. Radek joined the Trotsky faction in 1923, went into exile, and only recanted in 1929; he was readmitted to grace in 1930. Their opposition to Stalin was ingrained and inexpungeable; they were Trotskyists to the bone; when they saw things going badly according to their lights, it was perfectly reasonable for them to turn back to their old leader.
2. Moreover, these old revolutionaries, quite apart from the fact that they were Trotskyists and therefore dissidents, were conspirators by nature, conspirators born and bred. From their very earliest days they had breathed the air of plot and counterplot. The day of their eminence passed; Stalin wanted engineers and administrators; they were naturally disgruntled. In a police-run state like Russia, one should remember, discontent can be expressed only by conspiracy. And Radek and company were congenitally incapable of giving conspiracy up.
3. The Trotskyists–outside Russia at least–made no effort to conceal their violent hatred of the Stalinist regime. They were far beyond such “bourgeois” considerations as orthodox patriotism. They were world revolutionaries and they no longer regarded the USSR as a revolutionary or communist state. They had the same aim as pre-1939 Germany and Japan, to overthrow the Stalinist regime. Stalin was as much an enemy to them as Hitler. And they were willing to cooperate even with Hitler, at that time an obvious ally, for their supreme goal–Stalin’s destruction.
4. Radek and the others testified over and over again–the central issue of the trial–that they felt war to be inevitable in 1933 or 1934 and that the Russians would be defeated. They thought that things were going very badly, and that when the crash came the Soviet Union would not survive it. Therefore, as good world revolutionaries, they deemed it their duty to get to work and perfect an underground organization that would survive the war, so that revolutionary communism would not altogether perish. Also, if war came, they might themselves have had a chance at getting power in Russia, and therefore an attempt to buy the Germans off, buy the Japanese off, was natural.
5. So much for Radek and his friends inside. As regards Trotsky outside, an anti-Trotskyist could probably add two more considerations: (a) Trotsky was actively eager for a German war against the USSR, and he hoped that the USSR would lose–therefore he sought to weaken it by sabotage; (b) his ambition and his lust for office were such that he was quite willing to give up the Ukraine and the Maritime Provinces as a price for power. One should not forget that Trotsky fought the Tsar during the Great War much as he fights Stalin now, that Lenin crossed Germany with German aid in a German sealed train, and that Trotsky signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk giving an immense amount of Russian territory to Germany.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 558-559

The confessions of the defendants; the manner in which their several stories corroborated one another; their frank explanations of the way they had yielded to the temptation of giving their general adhesion to a treasonable conspiracy of which they did not at first understand the…scope; and how they had then found themselves unable to escape from the coils in which they had become entangled;–be it added, a certain amount of further corroboration deduced from incautiously published utterances both by German and by Japanese statesman, convinced the British and American journalists present at the trial in January 1937 that the defendants were really guilty of the treasonable conspiracies with which they were charged. Careful perusal of the full reports of the proceedings and speeches at the public trial leaves upon us the same impression, so far as concerns the actual defendants,
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 927


The circumstantial detail, apparently at times surprising even to the prosecutor as well as to other defendants, which was brought out by the various acciused, gave unintended corroboration to the gist of the charges. The manner of testifying of various accused and their bearing on the stand also had weight with me. The dispassionate, logical, detailed statement of Pyatakov and the impression of despairing candor, with which he gave it, carried conviction. So, too, with Sokolnikov. The old general, Muralov, was particularly impressive. He carried himself with a fine dignity and with the forthrightness of an old soldier. In his “last plea” he said:…
“I refuse counsel and I refuse to speak in my defense because I am used to defending myself with good weapons and attacking with good weapons. I have no good weapons with which to defend myself…. I don’t dare blame anyone for this; I, myself, am to blame. This is my difficulty. This is my misfortune….
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 44


During the course of the Radek trial, Mr. Walter Duranty of The New York Times came to me with a cable which he had received from a group of journalists in the United States and which read as follows:
“All members of the Washington newspaper corps have read with anxiety of the arrest of our colleague Vladimir Romm of Izvestia. In our dealings with Romm we have found him a true friend and advocate of the USSR. Never once did he even faintly indicate lack of sympathy for or disloyalty toward the existing government…. We hope this testimonial can be strongly certified to his judges….”
Of course my sympathies were enlisted and I watched his testimony with the deepest interest and concern.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 46

Romm was placed on the witness stand on the day of the receipt of your message. His testimony was most extraordinary. Without prompting by the prosecutor or use of leading questions, he told a chronological story very clearly and simply. He disclosed that he was an intimate friend of Radek, had received his position from the latter, and in great detail recited the manner in which, upon several occasions, he acted as “go between” for Radek and Trotsky and Trotsk’y son, Sedov, in carrying letters (sewn into the binding of German books) back and forth. He stated that he had been an original Trotsky adherent and that from and after his conversation with Sedov in 1931 or 1932 had become part of the Trotsky organization. These letters, to which Romm and other defendants had testified, were the basis of the conspiracy charge against these defendants. They were relied upon to establish that Trotsky was plotting with those defendants the overthrow of the present Russian government, through sabotage, terrorism, assassination, and for the organization of defeatism among the population and active participation with Japan and Germany through foreign spies in the fomenting of an early war against Russia directed principally by Germany and out of which it was contemplated that the conspirators would rise to power in a new and smaller Soviet Republic, after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the cession of the Ukraine to Germany, and the maritime states and Sakhalin oil fields to Japan.
The indictment charges innumerable violations of the existing law of the Soviet Union and a typical counterrevolutionary terrorist conspiracy. Romm also stated that he had used government agencies, i.e., the Tass telegraph agency, to communicate with Trotsky.
The poor devil did not leave himself a leg to stand on. He did state that since 1934 when he went to the United States he had dropped all further participation in the plans.
While his [Romm] appearance on the stand was rather downcast, he looked physically well and as far as I could judge, his testimony bore the earmarks of credibility.
Under these circumstances it made it impossible for anyone to be of aid to him in the trial.
I would gladly have done anything I could to have helped the poor chap…. But after all he is a Soviet citizen, knew Soviet law, and entered into the situation with his eyes open….
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 48-49‚


On February 27, 1938, Ambassador Davies wrote in his journal, “Twenty-one prominent men are to be tried for treason, including Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky, Grinko, Krestinsky, Rosengoltz, Yagoda, Chernov, and Ivanov, according to an announcement by the State’s Attorney.
Organizing espionage, etc., on behalf of foreign states, to provoke war in order to dismember the union, and deliver up the Ukraine, White Russia, Turkestan, the Caucasus, and the Far Eastern Maritime Province to enemy countries, being in the pay of foreign states, are the principal charges named.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 261


On March 4, 1938, Ambassador Davies wrote in his diary, “Litvinov and his daughter came in for the movies at 5:30.”
He said he was much shocked by Krestinsky’s arrest. He could not understand why men would confess to crimes that they must know were punishable by death unless they were really guilty. He said that Rykov and Bukharin last summer, when haled before the Central Committee of the party and when confronted by Sokolnikov and Radek, faced them down and bitterly protested their innocence even when they broke down in tears; but that apparently they were in fact guilty as subsequently they made complete confessions. He said he could not understand their final confessions, knowing them as he did, on any other theory than that they were actually guilty. “A man could die only once,” said he, and these men knew that they would surely be condemned to death after such solemn admissions of their guilt. It was regrettable but the government had to be certain and could take no chances. It was, he said, fortunate that the country had a leadership strong enough to take the necessary protective measures.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 262

(Sinclair’s comments only)
You speak in your letter of “obviously phony trials.” That is, of course, begging the question. That the trials were “phony” seems obvious to you, but the exact opposite seems obvious to me. Over and over again I ask myself: Is it conceivable that revolutionists, trained in a lifetime of war against the czar, would go into open court and confess to actions which they had not committed? I ask: Is there any torture, any kind of terror, physical, mental, or moral, which would induce them to do such a thing?___
These men had withstood the worst that the Czar’s police could do. Here and there, of course, an individual weakened– that is always to be expected, it is a part of revolutionary history. But that they would all do it, and all join in framing a consistent story–that seems to me a psychological impossibility. You remember how the Czar’s young officers came into the cell of Spiridonova and burned her flesh with their lighted cigarettes; yet she did not betray her comrades. One could find a thousand such stories in the records of the revolutionists, and my belief is that the Bolsheviks would have let the GPU agents tear them to pieces shred by shred before they would have confessed to actions which they had not committed.
Sinclair and Lyons. Terror in Russia?: Two Views. New York : Rand School Press, 1938, p. 60-61


On March 8, 1938, Ambassador Davies wrote, “For the last week, I have been attending daily sessions of the Bukharin treason trial…. It is terrific. I have found it of much intellectual interest, because it brings back into play all the old critical faculties involved in assessing the credibility of witnesses and sifting the wheat from the chaff–the truth from the false–which I was called upon to use for so many years in the trial of cases, myself.
All the fundamental weaknesses and vices of human nature–personal ambitions at their worst–are shown up in the proceedings. They disclose the outlines of a plot which came very near to being successful in bringing about the overthrow of this government….
The extraordinary testimony of Krestinsky, Bukharin, and the rest would appear to indicate that the Kremlin’s fears were well justified. For it now seems that a plot existed in the beginning of November 1936 to project a coup d’etat, with Tukhachevsky at its head, for May of the following year. Apparently it was touch and go at that time whether it actually would be staged.
But the government acted with great vigor and speed. The Red Army generals were shot and the whole party organization was purged and thoroughly cleansed. Then it came out that quite a few of those at the top were seriously infected with the virus of the conspiracy to overthrow the government, and were actually working with the Secret Service organizations of Germany and Japan.
The situation explains the present official attitude of hostility toward foreigners, the closing of various foreign consulates in this country, and the like. Quite frankly, we can’t blame the powers that be much for reacting in this way if they believed what is now being divulged at the trial.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 269

On March 17, 1938, Ambassador Davies wrote, “I have the honor to report that this confirms the cable sent in confidential code with reference to the judgment of the court in the so-called Bukharin mass treason trial.
Paraphrase of the cable is as follows:
On March 13, 1938, at approximately five o’clock in the morning, all the defendants in the trial were adjudged guilty and the sentences were imposed. Three of the defendants were condemned to imprisonment and the remainder to death through shooting. Eight of the most prominent former members of the Soviet government…were among those condemned to be shot. Condemned to imprisonment were a former Ambassador to England and France, a former Counselor of the Soviet Embassy in Berlin, and one famous heart specialist.
…after daily observation of the witnesses, their manner of testifying, the unconscious corroborations which developed, and other facts in the course of the trial, together with others of which a judicial notice could be taken, it is my opinion so far as the political defendants are concerned sufficient crimes under Soviet law, among those charged in the indictment, were established by the proof and beyond a reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of guilty of treason and the adjudication of the punishment provided by Soviet criminal statutes. The opinion of those diplomats who attended the trial most regularly was general that the case had established the fact that there was a formidable political opposition and an exceedingly serious plot, which explained to the diplomats many of the hitherto unexplained developments of the last six months in the Soviet Union. The only difference of opinion that seemed to exist was the degree to which the plot had been implemented by different defendants and the degree to which the conspiracy had become centralized.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 271

CHUEV: But now it is said that the accusations had no basis in fact whatever, apart from the confessions of the accused, which still cannot be taken as proof of guilt.
MOLOTOV: No other evidence was required. We were absolutely certain they were guilty. They were enemies! You just read Bukharin. What an opportunist! And what about the kulak revolts?
CHUEV: Their innocence was out of the question, then?
MOLOTOV: Absolutely. Look, they strained to reduce their testimony to the point of absurdity because they were so terribly embittered by defeat.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 267

In order to balance the current denunciations of these trials as frame-ups, we might note the reaction at the time of the U.S. ambassador to the USSR, Joseph Davies, who attended the 1937 and 1938 trials and had himself been a trial lawyer. Davies first attended the trials of the Trotskyite center in January 1937. He reported in a “Strictly Confidential” memo to Cordell Hull, then Secretary of State, that in his opinion, the defendants were guilty as charged. “To have assumed that this proceeding was invented and staged as a project of dramatic political fiction would be to presuppose the creative genius of a Shakespeare and the genius of a Belasco in a stage production.”
Four other ambassadors confided in Davies that they, too, believed the trials to be genuine and the defendants guilty. But what the ambassadors reported back to their governments and what these governments propagated were different things:
“Another diplomat, Minister—–, made a most illuminating ”statement to me yesterday. In discussing the trial he said that the defendants were undoubtedly guilty; that all of us who attended the trial had practically agreed on that; that the outside world, from the press reports, however, seemed to think that the trial was a put-up job (facade, as he called it); that while we knew it was not, it was probably just as well that the outside world should think so.”
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 66

On the Bukharinite trial, Davies wrote at the time in a letter to his daughter:
“All the fundamental weaknesses and vices of human nature–personal ambitions at their worst–are shown up in the proceedings. They disclose the outlines of a plot which came very near to being successful in bringing about the overthrow of this government.”
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 67

And he wrote in a confidential memo to Cordell Hall:
“Notwithstanding a prejudice arising from the confession evidence and a prejudice against a judicial system which affords practically no protection for the accused, after daily observation of the witnesses, their manner of testifying, the unconscious corroborations which developed, and other facts in the course of the trial, together with others of which a judicial notice could be taken, it is my opinion so far as the political defendants are concerned [that] sufficient crimes under Soviet law, among those charged in the indictment, were established by the proof and beyond a reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of guilty of treason.”
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 67


In the summer of 1941 after the German invasion of Russia Ambassador Davies said, Passing through Chicago, on my way home from the June commencement of my old University, I was asked to talk to the University Club…. Someone in the audience asked: “What about Fifth Columnists in Russia?” Off the anvil, I said: “There aren’t any–they shot them.”
On the train that day, that thought lingered in my mind. It was rather extraordinary, when one stopped to think of it, that in this last Nazi invasion, not a word had appeared of “inside work” back of the Russian lines. There was no so-called “internal aggression” in Russia cooperating with the German High Command. Hitler’s March into Prague in 1939 was accompanied by the active military support of Henlein’s organizations in Czechoslovakia. The same was true of his invasion of Norway. There were no Sudeten Henleins, no Slovakian Tisos, no Belgian De Grelles, no Norwegian Quislings in the Soviet picture….
None of us in Russia in 1937 and 1938 were thinking in terms of “Fifth Column” activities. The phrase was not current….
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 272-273

Yet the trials were important, and not only because they revealed Russian weakness as so many experts thought. When Hitler marched into Russia there were no Quislings, and no organized Fifth Column. Every European country conquered by Hitler had traitors in high places. In Russia there were none. It is clear now that Stalin had eliminated the potential Lavals.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 30

…Thanks to 1937 there was no fifth column in our country during the war. Even among Bolsheviks, you know, there were some–there still are some–who are loyal and dedicated as long as the nation and the party face no danger. But as soon as something dangerous appears, they first waiver and then switch sides…. The main thing, however, is that at the decisive moment they could not be depended on.
A friend of mine, a professor, comes to see me from time to time. “How shall I explain that period?” he asks. I say, “But what would have happened if the right-wingers had been in charge? Where would the course of history have turned then? If you look closely at the details, you will see the answer.”
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 254

In the summer of 1941, after the German imperialist attack on the USSR, Davies commented:
On the train that day, that thought lingered in my mind. It was rather extraordinary, when one stopped to think of it, that in this last Nazi invasion, not a word had appeared of “inside work” back of the Russian lines. There was no so-called “internal aggression” in Russia cooperating with the German High Command. Hitler’s march into Prague in 1939 was accompanied by the active military support of Henlein’s organizations in Czechoslovakia. The same was true of his invasion of Norway. There were no Sudeten Henleins, no Slovakian Tisos, no Belgian De Grelles, no Norwegian Quisling’s in the Soviet picture…. There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941–they had shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason.”
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 67

[From J. S. Fuller, 1939-1945: World War II Foreign Literature Publishing House, Moscow, 1956]
“Even on June 29, the Volkischer Beobachter carried an article saying:…
Before the war with Russia the German intelligence service counted, to a large degree, on the ‘fifth column.’ But in Russia ‘the fifth column’ was not existent, although there were dissatisfied people in the country.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 306

Hitherto German Intelligence had largely relied on the Fifth Column assistance. In Russia, though there were to be found discontented people, there was no Fifth Column.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 411


All of us there in Moscow at the time paid comparatively little attention to that side of these cases. Some of us seemed to have “missed the boat.” I certainly did. There is no doubt but that, generally speaking, we were centering our attention on the dramatic struggle for power between the “ins” and “outs”–between Stalin and Trotsky–and the clash or personalities and policies within the Soviet government, rather than upon any possible German Fifth Column activities, which we were all disposed to discount at the time.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 275

The time all come when everything will be sorted out…. Then they had to be tolerated. Things are no different today. By 1937 they had lost a platform to stand on and the support of the people. They voted for Stalin but were double-dealers. It was shown in court that the right-wingers had Kuibyshev and Gorky poisoned. Yagoda, the former chief of the secret police, was involved in arranging the poisoning of his own predecessor, Menzhinsky.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 264

CHUEV: It really never occurred to Stalin that we could not possibly have so many enemies of the people?… They say the whole thing was fabricated.
MOLOTOV: That’s out of the question. They could by no means be fabricated. Pyatakov kept Trotsky informed….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 278

Each of our leaders would like to create Lenin in his own image. Lenin is now being falsified and exploited.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 337

The final doubt which one may have is concerning the charge against Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Smirnov that they conspired with the Gestapo and the German General Staff. Could Old Bolsheviks conspire with Nazi police and generals? The precedent of Lenin’s arrangement with the German General Staff during the Great War, permitting him to travel through Germany to Leningrad, is a sufficiently distinguished precedent of indifference to means for ends. And if Zinoviev, Kamenev, and the other Trotskyists considered that an Imperialist war against the USSR involving a collapse of both Germany and Russia and a new proletarian revolution, was a worthy end, is it any wonder that they should conspire with Nazis or that the Soviet people, becoming aware of it, should defend itself against these Old Bolsheviks?
The technique of Fascist penetration by spies, terrorists, saboteurs, and diversionists has been demonstrated in Spain and Austria by its success. Is there reason to believe that Hitler reserves more delicate treatment for the Ukraine than he did for Catalonia? Those who doubt the wisdom of the GPU in its sifting of Fascist agents or of its drastic treatment of Generals Tukhachevsky and Putna, should consider the example of Spain and Austria, whose political police lacked the vigilance or sincerity of the GPU. The movement of world events will, I feel, prove that the GPU did not and does not chase shadows in its watchfulness. In the years which have passed since my release, the bursting into flame of the Spanish-Fascist rebellion, the risings and intervention of the Nazis in Austria and the promise of intervention in Czechoslovakia have convinced me that whatever bewilderment is felt outside the Soviet Union at the unearthing there of Fascist conspirators, Fascist conspiracy in conjunction with Trotskyist conspiracy does exist and that its extirpation, so far from endangering the USSR, marks another peril avoided.
Edelman, Maurice. G.P.U. Justice. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd.,1938, p. 217


The story which was unfolded in these trials [the January 1937 treason trials] disclosed a record of Fifth Columnist and subversive activities in Russia under a conspiracy agreement with the German and Japanese governments that were amazing. The gist of the testimony, which the record of these cases discloses, is as follows:
The principal defendants had entered into a conspiracy among themselves, and into an agreement with Germany and Japan to aid these governments in a military attack upon the Soviet Union. They agreed to and actually did cooperate in plans to assassinate Stalin and Molotov, and to project a military uprising against the Kremlin which was to be led by Gen. Tukhachevsky, the second in command of the Red Army. In preparation for war they agreed to and actually did plan and direct the sabotaging of industries, the blowing up of chemical plants, the destruction of coal mines, the wrecking of transportation facilities, and other subversive activities. They agreed to perform and did perform all those things which the German General Staff required should be done by them pursuant to instructions which they received from such General Staff. They agreed to and in fact did conspire and co-operate with the German and Japanese Military Intelligence services. They agreed to and in fact did co-operate with German diplomatic consular representatives in connection with espionage and sabotage. They agreed to and actually did transmit to Germany and Japan information vital to the defense of the Soviet Union. They agreed among themselves and with the German and Japanese governments to co-operate with them in war upon the Soviet government and to form an independent smaller Soviet state which would yield up large sections of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine, and White Russia in the west to Germany and the Maritime Provinces in the east to Japan.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 276

They agreed after the German conquest of Russia that German firms were to have concessions and receive favors in connection with the development of iron ore, manganese, oil, coal, timber, and the other great resources of the Soviet Union.
To appreciate fully the character and significance of this testimony, which I personally listened to, it should be borne in mind that the facts as to this conspiracy were testified to by two cabinet members of the first order, the Commissar for the Treasury and the Commissar for Foreign Trade, by a former Premier of the government, by two Soviet Ambassadors who had served in London, Paris, and Japan; by a former Undersecretary of State and by the acting Secretary of State of the government, as well as by two of the foremost publicists and editors of the two leading papers of the Soviet Union.
To appreciate its significance, it was as though the Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau, Secretary of Commerce Jones, Undersecretary of State Wells, Ambassador Bullitt, Ambassador Kennedy, and Secretary to the President Early, in this country, confessed to a conspiracy with Germany to co-operate in an invasion of the United States.
Here are a few excerpts of the testimony in open court:
Krestinsky, Undersecretary of State, said:
We came to an agreement with Gen. Seeckt and Hess to the effect that we would help the Reichswehr create a number of espionage bases in the territory of the USSR…. In return for this, the Reichswehr undertook to pay us 250,000 marks annually as a subsidy.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 277

Grinko, Secretary of the Treasury, said:
I knew and was connected with people both in the Ukrainian organization as well as in the Red Army who were preparing to open the frontier to the enemy. I operated particularly in the Ukraine, that is to say, at the main gates through which Germany is preparing its blow against the USSR.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 277

Rosengoltz, Secretary of Commerce, stated:
I handed various secret information to the Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr…. Subsequently, direct connections were established by the Ambassador in the USSR to whom I periodically gave information of an espionage character.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 277

Sokolnikov, former Ambassador to Great Britain, stated:
Japan, in the event of her taking part in the war, would receive territorial concessions in the Far East in the Amur region and the Maritime Provinces; as respects Germany, it was contemplated to satisfy the national interests of the Ukraine.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 277

The testimony of many of the minor defendants went to establish the fact that upon orders of the principal defendants, they had direct connection with the German and Japanese Intelligence Services and co-operated with them in systematic espionage and sabotage; and either committed or aided and abetted in numerous crimes. For instance, Rataichak stated that he had organized and was responsible for two explosions at the Gorlovka nitrogen fertilizer plants which entailed enormous property losses as well as the loss of human life. Pushkin contributed or assumed responsibility for the disaster to the chemical plants of the Voskressensk Chemical Works and the Nevsky plant. Knyazev told how he had planned and executed the wrecking of troop trains, entailing great loss of life, upon the express directions or instructions from foreign Intelligence Services. He also testified as to how he had received instructions from these foreign Intelligence Services “to organize incendiarism in military stores, canteens, and army shipments,” and the necessity of using “bacteriological means in time of war with the object of contaminating troop trains, canteens, and army camps with virulent bacilli.”
The testimony in these cases involved and incriminated Gen. Tukhachevsky and many high leaders in the army and in the navy. Shortly after the Bukharin trial these men were arrested. Under the leadership of Tukhachevsky these men were charged with having entered into an agreement to co-operate with the German High Command in an attack upon the Soviet state. Numerous subversive activities conducted in the army were disclosed by the testimony. Many of the highest officers in the army, according to the testimony, had either been corrupted or otherwise induced to enter into this conspiracy. According to the testimony, complete co-operation had been established in each branch of the service, the political revolutionary group, the military group, and the High Commands of Germany and Japan.
Such was the story, as it was brought out in these trials, as to what had actually occurred. There can be no doubt but what the Kremlin authorities were greatly alarmed by these disclosures and the confessions of these defendants. The speed with which the government acted and the thoroughness with which they proceeded indicated that they believed them to be true. They proceeded to clean house and acted with the greatest of energy and precision. Voroshilov, Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army, said:
It is easier for a burglar to break into the house if he has an accomplice to let him in. We have taken care of the accomplices….
There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941–they had shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 277

As we look over the history of the 1920s and 1930s in the USSR, one of these reasons [for changes in the legal system] quickly becomes apparent, namely massive sabotage–in the mines, on the railways, in factories, in agriculture, in economic planning, in government. A picture of the extent of this sabotage emerged only in the trials of the various opposition leaders between 1936 and 1938, which also revealed that sabotage was linked with plans for the destruction of the Soviet Union in war. These public trials of the “opposition” leaders, however, had revealed only the tip of the iceberg. They indicated the existence of followers everywhere–wrecking machinery, making the wrong parts, sending materials to the wrong places, poisoning farm animals, starting pit fires in mines, planning railway sabotage to build up to the immobilization of the railways in the coming war. Nor was the sabotage only physical. Economic plans were deliberately distorted, government documents lost, statistics faked–actions which could cause widespread disruption in a planned economy. Furthermore, this sabotage, which appears to have been the most massive in history, was coordinated with Nazi and Japanese war plans and with terrorism. Kirov, the popular head of the Party in Leningrad, was assassinated, and terrorist plans seem to have been afoot to assassinate the whole top Party leadership.
To assert, then, that most of those arrested were innocent “victims” is patently absurd. If the leaders were guilty–and the evidence, as we have seen, indicates that they were–, their followers on the whole must have been guilty also. When the workers began to realize the nature of the situation–the assassination of Kirov in particular evoked angry demonstrations and petitions–they demanded action. The Party, which until then had actually been lagging behind events, began wide investigations and amended the penal code in order to move forward swiftly in a situation of threatening war.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 129


In 1938 the last major treason trial occurred. Defendants included Bukharin, ex-editor of Pravda; Rykov; former under Secretary of State Krestinsky; former Commissar of Trade Rosengoltz; former Secretary of the Treasury Grinko; Yagoda, former head of the GPU and the Kremlin physician Dr. Levin. Although most of these men had been involved in opposition politics for nearly two decades, the positions which they held indicates the leniency which existed and the opportunities they were given to make good–or commit sabotage.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 30

Almost all those in the group now coming to trial had held, until shortly before their arrests, posts as People’s Commissars, Assistant People’s Commissars, leaders of industrial complexes, engineers, and so forth.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 141

A group of the most senior officials of the Stalinist state who had for many years served it uncritically formed the bulk of the accused: Rosengoltz, Ivanov, Chernov, and Grinko–all People’s Commissar’s until the previous year; Zelensky, Head of the Cooperatives; and Sharangovich, First Secretary in Byelorussia.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 342

Shestov: head of Schachtstoj in the Kustnesk tank;
Livshitz: head of the railway line in Ukraine;
Kartsev: chief engineer of the Kemerovo-Combine;
Drobnis: deputy head of the construction work at the Kemerovo-combine,
Kolegayev: head of Uralsredmed the copper works of mid Urals;
Rataitjak: head of the Glavhimprom the main board of the chemical industry;
Maryasin: head of construction of the railways in Urals, and others.
The purges of the CPSU and the political trials. Mario Sousa, 2001.

Pyatakov, who was expelled from the party at its Fifteenth Congress, then “exiled” to the Soviet Foreign Trade Office in Paris after capitulating to Stalin,…
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 289

Sokolnikov, who had announced his break with the united opposition at the Fifteenth Party Congress and had been chosen a member of the Central Committee (at the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Congresses he was chosen a candidate member of the Central Committee), and Pyatakov, who had been elected a member of the Central Committee at the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Congresses.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 68

After he was removed from the Politburo in 1926, Kamenev was posted by Stalin to various outposts of “socialist construction”: People’s Commissar for Trade, envoy to Japan, then to Italy, and then member of the board of the Lenin Institute. He was the first person to see Lenin’s personal archive, which formed the nucleus of the Lenin Institute’s collection, and his appointment as director was a sensible one. As editor of the first edition of Lenin’s works, he had already “weeded” a good deal of material that did not accord with the canon of Leninism, in effect establishing the Bolshevik tradition of showing only what portrayed Lenin in a positive light. In 1934 he was appointed Director of the Institute of Literature, where it seemed he might finally be able to accomplish something. It appears from indirect evidence that he wished to embark on reminiscences of Lenin, since he was more familiar than anyone else with the late leader’s literary heritage.
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 284

Lenin and Stalin were opposed by Pyatakov, who, together with Bukharin, had already during the war taken up a national-chauvinist stand on the national question. Pyatakov and Bukharin were opposed to the right of nations to self-determination.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 190

It was on the 15th of August that a press-release from the Procuracy announced charges against 16 people,… They had all been leaders and well-known personalities from the Left Opposition in the 1920s, and were accused of taking part in a terrorist conspiracy.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 78


There have been many in the West who hint at something sinister about the confessions. Normally, people don’t confess, it is said. They charge that either the defendants were tortured or they confessed hoping to save their lives or those of their families.
The evidence is all against either hypothesis. The accused were tried in open court with representatives of the whole world listening in. There was not then and is not now a scintilla of evidence that any of them had been tortured. They knew they were facing death, and yet did not protest innocence, although the world would have been prone to believe them. The defendants were ex-revolutionists who had never confessed under the Tsar’s regime to save their lives or their families. Further, both Mr. Pritt from England and Ambassador Davies from the United States say that it would have been absolutely impossible for the defendants to prepare fake confessions which would square with the rest of the evidence and all other testimony. They claim that 14 defendants could not rehearse their parts in advance and stick to their roles in the rapid give-and-take of Russian trial procedure, even if they had decided, for some unknown reason, to take part in such a farce.
Again it is said, why should guilt make people confess? It so happens that I was chairman of the Legislative Commission on Jails in the state of Connecticut for many years. I have seen hundreds of criminals who confessed when confronted with overwhelming proof of their guilt. Confession is by no means a “Russian trait.” I attended the Kharkov trial of Nazis in Russia in 1944. German officers and men confessed in open court to the most heinous crimes. They were hanged. During the 1920’s British engineers confessed to acts of sabotage in the Metro-Vickers trial in Moscow.
The fact is that all the allegedly sinister reasons for confessions do not agree with the evidence.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 31

…No one, however, who watched the bearing and heard the statements of such men as Pyatakov, former Vice Commissar of heavy industry, and Muralov, who had led the Reds to triumph in Moscow at the time of the revolution, could think for a moment that they were either terrorized or drugged. Pyatakov showed the utmost self-possession throughout, and spoke with the calm clarity and dispassionate logic of a college professor addressing a class of students. He gave no sign of weakness or hesitation, either in tone or appearance, and his whole attitude was that of one who had abandoned hope of life but wished, it might be said, to discharge a load from his conscience, to get the record clear, before the end. It seemed absurd, too, that Muralov, a big two-fisted soldier with a 20 years’ career of desperate hazards and hairbreath escapes as an underground revolutionary, should cringe at the thought of death or yield to any pressure. Even more striking was the conduct of Bukharin, once Lenin’s closest friend and the chief exponent of Bolshevik doctrine. Bukharin’s “last words,” as the final statements of the accused were ominously termed, proved a masterpiece of eloquence. In a clear, unfaltering voice he reviewed the series of ideological errors and divergencies which gradually led him to the evil fullness of treason and conspiracy. Firmly he repudiated the suggestion that his attitude or confession had been influenced in any way by drugs or threats or torture, either physical or moral. He went so far as to disavow another suggestion which had been put forward by foreigners familiar with the works of Dostoyevsky, that there was a peculiar characteristic of the “Russian soul” which inclined Russians to the depths of self-abnegation, a sort of martyr complex, when they knew that all was lost. Like Pyatakov, Bukharin gave the impression of a man who had made his peace with the world and wished only to cleanse and satisfy his own conscience by revealing all the motives of his thought and action.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 219

In the Moscow [1936] trial the accused were offered the right to a defense counsel, and refused. They themselves pleaded guilty, and explained their crimes, because they had no better way of conducting themselves.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. The Moscow Trial was Fair. London: ” Russia To-day,” 1937, p. 14

The confessions to monstrous crimes were so unbelievable that they fostered many versions about the reasons behind them. One of these was the version according to which “doubles” to the defendants–actors wearing makeup–sat in the courtroom. We can read about this, for example, in the memoirs of A. Larina, N. Joffe, and K. Ikramov. Legends and apocryphal stories of this type made their rounds for decades among circles of the Soviet intelligentsia.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 164

Returning to the events of the 1930s, let us name one more attempt at an explanation– the version of trial “rehearsals,” at which the defendants supposedly denied the charges made against ‘them, but then became convinced of the uselessness of the gesture, since the hall was filled exclusively with NKVD operatives. This version, which served as the basis for the poorly concocted film, “Enemy of the People Bukharin,” which appeared during the years of “perestroika,” has no foundation in fact. The defendants at the show trials couldn’t help but see in the courtroom well-known political figures, journalists, writers, and so forth, as well as famous foreign diplomats and journalists. Thus, they could be certain that if they told the truth, it could not fail to penetrate the walls of the courtroom.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 169

However, he [Trotsky] had at his disposal no direct evidence that “measures of physical coercion” have been applied to the victims of the Moscow trials.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 176

Eventually Rights and Lefts were mingled in the dock as conspiring together against Stalin. Nearly all of them admitted having done so, and on this point it is not necessary that we should doubt them, in whatever way their evidence was originally obtained. The bulky verbatim reports were in any case impressive. The most illuminating feature was the discrimination made by some of the more independent of the accused, as, for instance, the famous Bukharin, author of the ABC of communism: “I did this, but I would never have done that” (he admitted plotting against Stalin’s life, which was after all the main point), or again Radek: “I did so at that time, but I did the opposite at this.”
… It seems that there was really a plot to eliminate, and of course to kill, Stalin: after all, Stalin was killing his enemies….
Pares, Bernard. Russia. Washington, New York: Infantry Journal, Penguin books, 1944, p. 203

The 16 accused men had all confessed their guilt, and the Prosecution was in possession of signed confessions when the hearing was commenced. It has been stated, without a tittle of evidence, that these confessions had been obtained by methods of terror, or alternatively by a promise that sentence of death would not be carried out if they confessed. But anyone who reads the detailed report of the trial will see that the confessions arose from the weight of evidence, and that even to the last several of the accused were trying to evade full responsibility. Smirnov, for example, repeatedly denied that he had personally conveyed Trotsky’s instructions to murder Stalin and other Soviet leaders to the ” Moscow Center.” It was only after evidence had been given by other accused that Smirnov was at last compelled to admit that he had been personally responsible for transmitting Trotsky’s instructions.
Shepherd, W. G. The Moscow Trial. London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1936, p. 6

Now to get back to the Russian conspirators who have, during the decade 1927-1937, been convicted on their own confessions of attempts to create a counter-evolution. Are not such attempts at a counter-revolution exactly what was to be expected? Has there ever been a great and successful revolution without attempts at a counter-revolution? The Stalin group, who now constitute the government, have had immense difficulties to face in their fight against famine, and in their effort to raise to a higher level of efficiency and civilization what is reputed to have been the worst peasantry in the world.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 929

…It was hard to believe that old revolutionaries, who had proved their courage and devotion to a lifetime of work in struggle, could have become traitors. But it was even harder to believe that the same persons would not proclaim their innocence before all the world, given a chance to do so in a public trial. I read the verbatim transcripts of their trials; their confessions were very characteristic personal statements….
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 174


Radek states in his Jan. 1933 letter to Rudzutak, “In 1927, sometime during the summer, Zinoviev notified those who were then the leaders of the Trotskyist opposition of a proposal made to him–Zinoviev–by Smirnov for the formation of a bloc against Comrade Stalin.”
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 98


[Jan. 18, 1935, secret Central Committee letter on the Kirov assassination]
It is necessary, first and foremost, to make note of the following indisputable facts as established by the investigation and by the trial:
1) The villainous murder was committed by the Leningrad group of Zinoviev followers calling themselves the Leningrad Center.
It ought to be born in mind that the Zinoviev counter-revolutionary group, in the form in which it has been revealed as a result of the investigation and of the trial, represents something entirely new for which there is no precedent in the history of our party. There have been not a few factional groups in the history of our party. These groups usually made an effort to oppose their views to the party line and to defend them openly before the party. But our party has not known of a single group throughout its history which has made it its task to conceal its views and to hide its political face and which has hypocritically declared its loyalty to the party line while simultaneously preparing a terroristic attempt on the life of representatives of our party. Zinoviev’s group has turned out to be the only group in the history of our party that has made double dealing its commandment and has thereby slid down into the mire of counterrevolutionary terrorism, all the while masking its dark deeds with repeated declarations of devotion to the party in the press and at the party congress. It was difficult for the party to suppose that party veterans like Zinoviev, Kamenev, Yevdokimov, or Bakaev could fall so low and in the end get mixed up with the White Guard gang.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 148

…still the Zinoviev opposition had really fought Stalin by all the means at its disposal, in a political fight in which almost all the present Committee had been on Stalin’s side. They had compromised themselves by lying their way back into the Party, as was quite evident. And it was at least possible that the assassination of Kirov was “objectively” Zinoviev’s responsibility.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 165


…At one point, Yagoda had called the evidence that Trotsky was ordering terrorism in the USSR “trifles” and “nonsense”.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 248

After all, the NKVD was responsible for finding enemies, but in fact Yezhov did more to undercover them in his capacity as director of the party purges. Yagoda was also reportedly sympathetic to former oppositionists, something Molotov believed into the 1980s. Although Yagoda participated in preparing political trials through August 1936, he may also have tried to limit the damage among the former party critics. On the investigation records of some prisoners, he wrote comments like “nonsense” or “impossible” next to several of the more lurid assertions. Such remarks may well have made Stalin suspicious of him.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 34

Nevertheless, it does seem that Yagoda may have made some attempt to temper the wind to the oppositionists. He was to be similarly accused of ordering that Uglanov’s testimony be kept “within certain limits.” And there are other reports of underground obstruction within the NKVD which took the form of framing questions in such a way as to protect those interrogated….
For the moment, Bukharin and Rykov were safe. The former continued to hold his position as editor of Izvestia, and both remained candidate members of the Central Committee.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 138

Yagoda, however, felt that their testimony was a complete fabrication. On the record of Dreitzer’s interrogations, which contained passages speaking of receiving terrorist directives from Trotsky, Yagoda wrote: “untrue,” “nonsense,” “rubbish,” and “this cannot be.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 5


…There are persistent rumors that Zinoviev and Kamenev agreed to confess to the scenario in return for promises that their lives would be spared, but no documentary evidence or firsthand testimony has been found to support this.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 249


Regarding Trotsky’s attitude to the creation of a united Trotskyist-Zinovievist bloc and regarding the conditions of unification, the notorious Trotskyist, Mrachkovsky, one of Trotsky’s closest comrades-in-arms, testified at the investigation as follows:
“In the middle of 1932, Smirnov placed on the agenda of our ruling troika the necessity of unifying our organization with the Zinoviev-Kamenev and Shatskin-Lominadze groups. It was then that it was decided to inquire of Trotsky concerning this matter and to receive new instructions from him. Trotsky agreed to the creation of a bloc, on the condition that the united bloc consider the necessity of a violent removal [from power] of the leaders of the All-Union Communist Party and, first and foremost, of Stalin.”
[Mrachkovsky. Minutes to the interrogation of July 19-20, 1936)
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 252

Thus Zinoviev and Kamenev United with Trotsky, considered that the essential element was unanimous recognition of the new factor, which distinguished their newly created bloc from the preceding one. This new factor, from the testimony of the Zinovievites–Kamenev, Reingold, Pikel, Bakayev–and Trotskyites– Mrachkovsky, Dreitzer and others–was recognition of the advisability of the active use of terror against the party and governmental leadership.
Trotsky not only agreed with this attitude of Zinoviev and Kamenev, but he in turn considered the basic condition for unifying the Trotskyites and the Zinovievites to be recognition by both groupings of the advisability of using terror against the leaders of our party and government.
On Trotsky’s attitude toward creating a unified Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc and the conditions of unification, Mrachkovsky–a well-known Trotskyite and one of Trotsky’s closest comrades-in-arms–testified as follows at the investigation:
“In the middle of 1932 Smirnov raised in our guiding triumvirate the question of the necessity of unifying our organization and the Zinoviev-Kamenev and the Shatskin-Lominadze groups. At that time it was decided to make inquiries of Trotsky and obtain new instructions from him. Trotsky answered by agreeing to the bloc, on the condition that the groups entering into the bloc accept the necessity of the forcible elimination of the Communist party leaders, and in the first place, Stalin.”
[Mrachkovsky, Record of Interrogation, July 19-20, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 171

All of the other prominent Trotskyites and Zinovievites arrested, such as Bakayev, Reingold, Safronov, Pikel, Dreitzer, and others also testified that the principal task of the Trotskyites and Zinovievites was to conduct a terrorist struggle against the leaders of the Communist Party and the government.
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 171


The decision to murder Comrade Stalin was taken simultaneously with the decision to murder Comrade Kirov. With this aim in mind, the center organized a number of strictly conspiratorial, terroristic groups in Moscow. In order to unify the activities of these groups, the All-Union Trotskyist-Zinovievist center created the Moscow center comprising Bakaev, Reingold, and Pikel (Zinovievist) and Mrachkovsky and Dreitzer (Trotskyist). The immediate organization of the murder of Comrade Stalin was entrusted to Bakaev. At the investigation, Bakaev confessed his role as the direct organizer of terroristic acts….
From abroad, Trotsky who was directing the activities of the All-Union united Trotskyist-Zinovievist center, has used every means at his disposal, especially after the arrest of Kamenev and Zinoviev, to speed up the murder of comrades Stalin and Voroshilov. He has been systematically sending directives and practical instructions through his agents concerning the organizing of the murder.
Dreitzer, a man close to Trotsky, formerly serving as his bodyguard, a member of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist bloc, confessed at his investigation that in 1934 he had received a written directive from Trotsky regarding the preparation of a terroristic act against Comrades Stalin and Voroshilov.
He reported the following:
“I received this directive through Stalovitskaya, my sister, a permanent resident of Warsaw, who traveled to Moscow at the end of September 1934.
“The contents of Trotsky’s letter were brief. It began with the following words:
“My dear friend! Please pass on the information that the following main tasks are on the next day’s agenda:
“First task: the removal of Stalin and Voroshilov.
Second task: the organization of cells in the Army.
Third task: in case of war, to make use of confusion and failure of every sort in order to seize power.”
(Dreitzer. Minutes of the interrogation of July 23rd, 1936)
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 253

Trotsky, being abroad, pressed in every way for the killing of comrades Stalin and Voroshilov, especially after the arrest of Kamenev and Zinoviev, and directed the activities of the all-union united Trotskyite-Zinovievite center. Through his agents he systematically sent directives and practical instructions for organizing the killing.
Dreitzer, a participant in the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc who was close to Trotsky and was at one time his personal guard, admitted during the investigation that in 1934 he received a written directive from Trotsky to prepare a terrorist act against comrades Stalin and Voroshilov.
He stated:
“I received this directive through my sister, Stalovitsksaia, who resides permanently in Warsaw and came to Moscow in the end of September, 1934.
“The content of Trotsky’s letter was brief. It started with the following words:
“Dear friend! Pass on that today we face the following basic tasks: first–to get rid of Stalin and Voroshilov, second–to work on organizing cells in the army, third–in case of war to exploit any setbacks and confusion to seize the leadership.”
(Dreitzer, Record of Interrogation, July 23, 1936)

The content of this directive was confirmed by yet another prominent Trotskyite, Mrachkovsky, who testified as follows:
“Esterman handed me an envelope from Dreitzer. Opening it in Esterman’s presence, I saw a letter written by Trotsky to Dreitzer. In this letter Trotsky gave instructions to kill Stalin and Voroshilov.”
(Mrachkovsky, Record of Interrogation, July 4, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 173-174


5. Setting out on the path of individual White Guard terror, the Trotskyist-Zinovievist bloc lost all feeling of squeamishness and in order to carry out its criminal designs began to make use of the services not only of the crushed remnants of the belated followers of the White Guard oppositionism but also of the services of foreign intelligence services, foreign secret police operators, spies, and provocateurs.
For example, the terroristic group headed by M. Lure, who arrived here from Germany, was in fact organized by Franz Weitz, an active German fascist and Himmler’s representative (at the time leader of the fascist storm troop detachments in Berlin, currently leader of the Gestapo, the German secret police).
When visiting Zinoviev, M. Lure informed him that the members of his terroristic group were organizationally connected with the fascist Franz Weitz and the German secret police, the Gestapo, and asked Zinoviev for his attitude to this.
Zinoviev replied:
“What you find so disturbing in this? After all, Moisey Ilich, you are a historian. You know the case of Lassalle and Bismarck. When Lasalle wanted to exploit Bismarck in the interests of revolution.”
(M. Lure. Minutes of the interrogation of July 21st, 1936)

Konstant, a member of the terroristic group organized by M. Lure, in speaking of the motivations for his connections with Franz Weitz, the representative of the German secret police, testified as follows at the investigation:
“Being extremely embittered at the policies of the All-Union Communist Party and being personally bitter at Stalin, I gave in with relative ease to the political working over directed at me by Franz Weitz. In his conversations with me, Franz Weitz pointed out that the differences in our political positions (I am a Trotskyite, he a fascist) may not exclude and, on the contrary, ought to presuppose united action by Trotskyists and national Socialists in their struggle against Stalin and his supporters. After many doubts and hesitations, I agreed with Franz Weitz’s conclusions and remained the whole time in constant contact with him.”
[Konstant. Minutes of the interrogation of July first, 1936]
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 253-254

After the killing of Comrade Kirov and the consequent smashing of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center, Trotsky took upon himself complete guidance of terrorist activity in the USSR. To restore the terrorist groups in the USSR and activate them Trotsky dispatched his trusted agents across the border with forged documents. Among such agents sent by him at various times from Berlin to Moscow were Berman-Yurin, Olberg, Fritz David, Gorovich, Gurevich, Bykhovsky, and others. They were all assigned the task of killing Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, and other party leaders, whatever the cost.
5. Having set out on the path of individual, White-Guard terror, the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc lost all scruples and, to carry out their criminal designs, began to use the services not only of the defeated remnants of the White Guards but also the services of foreign intelligence agencies, foreign secret police, spies, and provocateurs.
Thus, for example, the terrorist group headed by M. Lurye, who came over from Germany, was actually organized by the active German Fascist, Franz Weiss, Himmler’s representative (at that time the head of the Fascist storm-trooper detachments in Berlin and now head of the German secret police–the GESTAPO).
While visiting Zinoviev, M. Lurye told him that the members of his terrorist group had organizational ties with the Fascist, Franz Weiss, and with the German secret police–the GESTAPO, and asked Zinoviev what were his relations with the latter.
To this Zinoviev answered:
“What bothers you in this? You are an historian. You know the story of Lassalle and Bismarck, when Lasalle wanted to utilize Bismarck in the interests of the revolution.”
(M. Lurye, Record of Interrogation, July 21, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 174


6. In order to acquire the necessary financial resources associated with the preparation of terroristic acts, the Trotskyist-Zinovievist counter-revolutionary bloc has resorted to the theft of state funds and to direct plundering of money belonging to the people.
It was established at the investigation that at one of the sessions of the united Trotskyist-Zinovievist center it was proposed to certain active Zinovievists to make contact with secret Zinovievists working in the economic sphere in order to obtain funds. In particular, Reingold was entrusted with such a task. In accordance with a commission by Kamenev, Reingold was supposed to make contact with Arkus, a secret double-dealer, who held the post of deputy chairman of the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank)….
The facts show that the Trotskyist-Zinovievist counter-revolutionary center and its leaders–Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev–have slid definitively into the mire of White Guard oppositionism, have merged with the most embittered, inveterate enemies of Soviet power, and have become transformed into an organizing force of the remnants of classes crushed in the USSR, which in their desperation are resorting to the basest tool of the struggle against the Soviet government–namely, the use of terror….
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 254

6. To obtain the funds needed to prepare terrorist acts, the Trotskyite-Zinovievite counter-revolutionary bloc resorted to theft of state funds and to outright robbery of the people’s money.
The investigation has established that at one of the meetings of the united Trotskyite-Zinovievite center certain active Trotskyites and Zinovievites were ordered to enter into connections, for the sake of obtaining funds, with concealed Trotskyites and Zinovievites in economic work. Specifically, such an assignment was given to Reingold. By Kamenev’s orders he was to make contact with the secret double dealer, Arkus, who was deputy-chairman of the USSR State Bank.
According to Reingold’s testimony, Arkus gave systematic material support to the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center. In particular, Reingold testified at the investigation that in July or August 1933 Arkus withdrew 30,000 rubles from Gosbank for the needs of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center. He transferred 15,000 to the Cartographic Trust which at the time was headed by the active Zinovievite, Fedorov, and 15,000 to the Economic Trust which was headed by the not unknown Evdokimov. The money was transferred in the form of sums to pay for work on economic statistics, which is not regulated by the state.
In a number of cases terrorist groups of Trotskyites and Zinovievites prepared to commit outright robberies in order to secure funds and weapons for the perpetration of terrorist acts. Thus, for example, a group of terrorists in Gorky, headed by the Trotskyite, Popov, attempted to carry out a series of robberies to obtain funds and weapons.
The Trotskyite, Lavrentev, who was an active member of this group, testified as follows at the investigation:
“The plan of the terrorist counter-revolutionary Trotskyite group for perpetrating a terrorist act against Comrade Stalin consisted of the following component parts: (1) the obtaining of funds for the terrorist group by committing ‘expropriation’s’ of state institutions and banks; (2) the acquiring of weapons for members of the terrorist group; (3) the direct preparation and perpetration of a terrorist act against Stalin. At one meeting of the terrorist group it was decided that Popov, Khramov, Pugachev, and I–Lavrentev–must devote ourselves entirely to terrorist activity and resign our jobs. On Popov’s orders Khramov was the first to resign his job, and on Popov’s instructions Khramov moved to Ardatovsky raion to prepare an ‘expropriation.’ It was proposed to start by seizing the treasury of a village soviet at a time when tax payments were at their maximum. Shortly after Khramov’s departure, Popov and Pugachev also resigned their jobs. I myself was on leave. All three of us, and Pelevina with us, went out to the village of Khokhlovo in Ardatovsky raion to carry out an ‘expropriation’ of the village soviet’s treasury. After we had reached the village of Khokhlovo, Khramov told us that he had not succeeded in preparing the ‘expropriation.’ For two days Popov also tried to prepare an ‘expropriation,’ but he was not successful. In this connection we–members of the terrorist group Popov, I (Lavrentev), Pugachev, and Pelevina –went out to Arzamas. On Popov’s prroposal we began to prepare to rob the cashiers who were receiving large sums into the bank. Three persons were appointed for the robbery. The robbery did not take place because the conditions were not suitable.”
(Lavrentev, Record of Interrogation, Nov. 9, 1935)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 175

Confronted with the indisputable triumphs of socialist construction, they first hoped that our party would be unable to cope with its difficulties, as a result of which would be created the possible conditions for their emergence into the open and their attainment of power. But, seeing that the party is successfully overcoming its difficulties, they are wagering on the defeat of the Soviet power in the forthcoming war, as a result of which they dream of attaining power.
And, finally, seeing no prospects at all, in desperation they seize upon the ultimate instrument of struggle–terror.
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 176


It is only the absence of proper Bolshevik vigilance that can explain the fact that in certain district party committees in Leningrad, Trotskyists and Zinovievists, expelled from the All-Union Communist Party, had already succeeded in 1935 in being restored into the party, and in certain cases they succeeded in making their way into the party apparat and exploiting it for their own vile terroristic aims.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 255


At the end of September 1936 the Politburo made a firm statement on the matter. Trotskyists were no longer to be considered political opponents on the left; now, as a category, they were defined as fascist spies and saboteurs.

[From September 29th, 1936 Protocol #43 of the Politburo]
The following directive concerning our stance toward counter-revolutionary, Trotskyist-Zinovievist elements is to be adopted:
a) Until very recently, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party considered the Trotskyist-Zinovievist scoundrels as the leading political and organizational detachment of the international bourgeoisie.
The latest facts tell us that these gentlemen have slid even deeper into the mire. They must therefore now be considered foreign agents, spies, subversives, and wreckers representing the fascist bourgeoisie of Europe.
b) In connection with this, it is necessary for us to make short work of these Trotskyist-Zinovievist scoundrels. This is to include not only those who have been arrested and whose investigation has already been completed, and not only those like Muralov, Pyatakov, Beloborodov, and others, who are currently under investigation, but also those who had been exiled earlier.

[Footnote: Draft by Yezhov and later signed by Stalin, the politburo resolution was approved by polling the members. Yezhov’s draft originally included a third point–removed by Stalin–calling for the summary shooting of several thousand Trotskyists and the exile of thousands of others to Yakutia.]
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 272-273


In August, Yezhov interviewed him [Pyatakov]…. Pyatakov protested his innocence, claiming that his only sin was in not seeing the counter-revolutionary activities of his wife. He offered to testify against Zinoviev and Kamenev and even volunteered to execute them (and his ex-wife) personally. (Yezhov declined the offer as “absurd.”) Pyatakov wrote to both Stalin and Ordjonikidze, protesting his innocence and referring to Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky as “rotten” and “base.”
As Ordzhonikidze’s deputy at heavy industry, Pyatakov was an important official with overall supervision over mining, chemicals, and other industrial operations. His arrest for sabotage and “terrorism” sent shock waves through the industrial establishment. Ordjonikidze…tried to intercede with Stalin to secure Pyatakov’s freedom. But Stalin and Yezhov forwarded to him transcripts of interrogations in which Pyatakov gradually confessed to economic “wrecking,” sabotage, and collaboration with Zinoviev and Trotsky in a monstrous plot to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. According to Bukharin, who was present, Ordjonikidze was invited to a “confrontation” with the arrested Pyatakov, where he asked his deputy if his confessions were coerced or voluntary. Pyatakov answered that they were completely voluntary.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 283

[February 5th, 1937 speech by Ordjonikidze at a meeting of the heads of the chief directorates of the Commissariat for Heavy Industry]
You think that a saboteur is someone who walks around with a revolver in his pocket, someone who hides in some dark corner somewhere, waiting for his victim? Who could imagine that Pyatakov could be a saboteur, and yet he turned out to be a saboteur, and, more still, a fine talker. He told [the investigators] how he did it.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 292

And his [Pyatakov] services to Stalin’s Government were extremely valuable. His energy and intelligence, probably unrivaled in the whole leadership, had been channeled into carrying out Stalin’s industrialization plans.
What was there to be said against him? [JUST READ WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT HIMSELF]
He had loyally accepted the Stalin leadership, but he would have accepted an alternative leadership if Stalin could have been overthrown; he supported him with reservations. He had been a major critic of Stalin’s in the 1920s. He had made it clear that he regarded his rise to power as unfortunate.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 140


[December 4th, 1936 speech by Yezhov to the Central Committee plenum]
You know that already at the August trial Zinoviev testified that apart from the main center of the Zinovievist-Trotskyist bloc, there existed also a backup center. Zinoviev gave four surnames as members of the backup center: Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Radek, and Serebryakov. All of this has now been fully confirmed by the testimony of the defendants themselves, who are now under arrest: Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Radek, and Serebryakov. All four members of the backup center have testified that they were members of this center….
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 304

At another plenary session, called in December 1936, Yezhov once again held center stage, launching a new series of dramatic charges that involved more former opposition leaders. At the August trial, Zinoviev and Kamenev had mentioned a “reserve center” of terrorists that existed in addition to the “basic center” of the Zinovievite-Trotskyite block. In the reserve group were Pyatakov; Radek, Sokolnikov, a former candidate member of the Politburo; and Serebryakov, a former secretary of the Central Committee. All had once been Trotsky’s followers. Yezhov informed the Center Committee that these men, now under arrest, had confirmed the information given earlier by Zinoviev and Kamenev. The job of the reserves had been to supply replacements for the basic center if its members were discovered. But Pyatakov had begun his wrecking work even before Zinoviev and Kamenev were arrested. He carried out his task more effectively than the Zinovievite center had, because he enjoyed more trust from the government and possessed more links with the periphery. Here Beria interjected, “And foreign connections, too.”
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 36


[December 4th, 1936 speech of Bukharin to a plenum of the Central Committee]
Comrades, it is very difficult for me to speak here today, because this may well be the last time that I speak before you. I know that it is especially difficult for me to speak now, because, in point of fact, it is necessary for all members of the party from top to bottom to exercise extreme vigilance and to help the appropriate [NKVD] organs utterly destroy those swine who are engaged in acts of sabotage and so on.
It follows quite naturally from all this–and should serve as our point of departure–that this is the main directive, that this is the main task before our party. I am happy that this entire business has been brought to light before war breaks out and that our [NKVD] organs have been in a position to expose all of this rot before the war so that we can come out of war victorious. Because if all of this had not been revealed before the war but during it, it would have brought about absolutely extraordinary and grievous defeats for the cause of socialism.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 309


Bukharin says: Kamenev and Zinoviev lusted for power, they were reaching for power.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 310


Bukharin says: let me appeal to Comrade Ordzhonikidze…. I was at his apartment when he asked me: “What is your opinion of Pyatakov?” This is literally what I told him: “My impression of him is that he is the sort of person who is so thoroughly ruined by his tactical approach to things that he doesn’t know when he is speaking the truth and when he is speaking from tactical considerations.”
Ordzhonikidze: That’s true.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 311


[December 1936 speech by Stalin to the Central Committee plenum]
STALIN:…If a person says openly that he adheres to the party line, then, in accordance with the established, widely known traditions of Lenin’s party, the party considers that this person values his ideas and that he has genuinely renounced his former errors and has adopted the positions of the party. We believed in you and we were mistaken. We were mistaken, Comrade Bukharin.
BUKHARIN: Yes, yes.
STALIN:…We believed in you, we decorated you with the Order of Lenin, we moved you up the ladder and we were mistaken. Is it true, Comrade Bukharin?
BUKHARIN: It’s true, it’s true, I have said the same myself.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 321


The stenographic notwithstanding, it is difficult to know exactly what happened politically at the December 1936 plenum. No one spoke up to defend Bukharin and Rykov. Nevertheless, the plenum did not expel Bukharin and Rykov from the party, nor did it order their arrest, despite specific proposals to that effect from some of the Central Committee members. This inconclusive result was not for want of trying on Yezhov’s part. His speech was direct and unambiguously accusatory repeating the charges he had been making against Bukharin for three months. Even while the plenum was meeting, he was sending to Stalin, Molotov, and Kaganovich records of the interrogation of rightist Kulikov, who testified that Bukharin had told him in 1932 of “directives” to kill Stalin….
Then Stalin did a strange thing. Despite Yezhov’s strong report, the lack of any support for Bukharin and Rykov from the plenum, and the damning testimony of Kulikov and others, Stalin moved “to consider the matter of Bukharin and Rykov unfinished” and suggested postponing a decision until the next plenum. Once again Yezhov’s proposals were not adopted.
We do not know the reasons for Stalin’s procrastination with Bukharin. This was the second time (the first was during the Zinoviev trial) that Stalin had ordered proceedings against Bukharin quashed, suspended, or delayed. It is tempting to imagine the existence of some group within the Central Committee that was resisting the move against the rightists, forcing Stalin to retreat and prepare his position again. But there is absolutely no evidence to support this. Unlike the case of valuable Pyatakov, neither Ordzhonikidze nor any other leader interceded for Bukharin. As far as we can tell from the documents, Bukharin and Rykov were met only with unrelenting hostility and even rude insults from those present at the plenum, many of whom were prepared to order his arrest on the spot. The only person dragging his feet was Stalin. As we shall see, this was not the last time Stalin resisted or delayed a move against Bukharin. Even in 1937, after the death of Ordzhonikidze, Stalin showed little enthusiasm for a quick and final liquidation of the leading rightists.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 324

Although Ordjonikidze may have slowed down the attack on industrial leaders, nobody seems to have opposed the crushing of Bukharin and it is difficult to credit the delays to anyone but Stalin.
Bukharin had come under official suspicion in August 1936, when Yezhov initiated the process in a letter to Stalin suggesting that former Rightists were implicated in the Zinovievist-Trotskyist “plot.” Yezhov asked Stalin’s permission to reinterrogate Uglanov, Ryutin, and other Rightists already sentenced on other charges. Stalin agreed. During August and September, Yezhov worked diligently to assemble “evidence” against Bukharin by pressuring former Rightists Uglanov, Ryutin, Rovinsky, and Kotov. The culmination of his effort was a dramatic confrontation between Bukharin and the already arrested Sokolnikov on Sept. 8 in the presence of Kaganovich, Vyshinsky, and Yezhov. The attempt failed, because at the meeting Sokolnikov denied personal knowledge of Bukharin’s participation in the treasonous Opposition “bloc.” The record of the confrontation was sent to Stalin and two days later Vyshinsky announced that there was insufficient evidence to proceed legally against Bukharin. Only Stalin could have decided this, and we have no evidence that anyone was defending Bukharin.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 56

Before, during, and after the December 1936 plenum, Bukharin denied his guilt. Stalin debated Bukharin at the plenum, demanded explanations and recantations from him, and even told the Central Committee members, “You can shoot [him] if you want, it’s up to you.” None of the other speakers questioned the case against Bukharin, and every single speaker accused him. Nevertheless, Stalin ended the meeting by “abruptly” suggesting only to continue “verification” and to postpone any decision on Bukharin.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 57

A subcommission, shared by Mikoyan, was formed at the February 1937 plenum to decide the fate of Bukharin. According to folklore, all the committee’s participants voted to “arrest, try, and shoot” Bukharin and Rykov. Again, the lore is wrong; documents show that the event went quite differently and showed continued indecision and confusion, even on Stalin’s part. The final protocol of the committee meeting shows that everyone indeed voted to expel Bukharin and Rykov from the party. Yezhov, Budenny, Manuilsky, Shvernik, Kosarev, and Iakir were for shooting them outright. Postyshev, Shkiryatov, Kossior, Petrovsky, and Litvinov were for sending them to trial but forbidding a death sentence. The rest voted “for the suggestion of Comrade Stalin,” which in the final text is given as: “to expel from the party, not to send them to trial, and to refer the matter to the in NKVD for further investigation.”
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 58

At the November 7th ‘demonstration’–the 19th anniversary of the Revolution in 1936–a soldier came up to Bukharin in one of the minor stands. Bukharin expected arrest, but it was instead an invitation from Stalin to come up and join him at the main stand. Later NKVD officers arrived to search Bukharin’s flat. Stalin ‘chanced’ to telephone, and on hearing of it ordered the NKVD men to leave at once.
In December 1936 the Central Committee, at its plenum, heard a series of violent attacks by Yezhov and others against Bukharin and his rightist plotters. Stalin intervened and suggested that the question should be postponed until the next plenum.
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 197

Many of the major Bolsheviks opposed Stalin, but never quite at the same time. At a Party meeting in the late 1920s, Stalin said, “You demand the blood of Bukharin? Well, you shall not get it.” Then, in 1935, Stalin once more pledged his friendship to Bukharin at a banquet. Raising a glass, he said, “Let’s all drink to Nikolai Ivanovitch [Bukharin].”
“It was strange,” Anna Larina said, “As late as 1936, it looked as if Bukharin’s position was more stable. He was appointed editor of Izvestia, he was on the constitutional commission, and it looked as if there could be a democratization process going on in the country.
Remnick, David. Lenin’s Tomb. New York: Random House, c1993, p. 65


Although there was a critical but generally conciliatory attitude toward the regional secretaries at the February-March 1937 plenum, the official rhetoric on former oppositionists was increasingly severe. Two months earlier, at Stalin’s suggestion, the previous plenum had not condemned Bukharin and Rykov and had postponed consideration to the next meeting. In the interim, Yezhov had been busy. He continued to interrogate former oppositionists in order to get “evidence” incriminating the rightist leaders. On Jan. 13, 1937, Bukharin participated in a “confrontation” with Astrov, a former pupil of Bukharin’s now arrested for treason. In the presence of Stalin and other Politburo members, Astrov angrily accused Bukharin of active participation in subversive conspiracies. Astrov alleged that Bukharin had used his former students in the Institute of Red Professors (The ” Bukharin School) as the basis for an underground organization. Bukharin denied everything.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 364

On January 13, 1937, Bukharin and Rykov were brought face-to-face with Astrov, with Stalin and other members of the Politburo….
At the confrontation, Astrov said that in the spring of 1932 the “center” of the illegal organization of Rightists decided to adopt the tactic of terror. He confirmed Kulikov’s testimony that the Ryutin platform had been written by Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, and Uglanov, and claimed that “Bukharin and Rykov continued to belong to the center of Rightists, remaining at their earlier positions.
In preparing Astrov for the face-to-face encounter, the investigators were particularly stubborn in extracting testimony from him about an illegal conference of “Rightists” which occurred in August-September 1932. Such a conference actually did take place at that time, but Astrov could say very little about it insofar as he participated in only one meeting of former Bukharin supporters in 1932, a meeting which occurred at his apartment. There, in response to a statement by several of his comrades that Stalin should be “removed by force,” Astrov declared that he had no intention of participating in any struggle against Stalin. Once they became convinced that this was indeed Astrov’s position, the oppositionally inclined “Young Rightists” apparently decided to not include him anymore in such discussions which continued at other locations.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 180

Astrov played a provocative role in the fate of Bukharin. In one confrontation he affirmed his deposition on the terrorism of the “right.” Later he declared that in the spring of 1932 “the center of the right resolved to turn to the tactics of terror,” that Bukharin had allegedly talked about “the necessity to kill Stalin,” and that the principal authors of the so-called Ryutin platform were Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, and Uglanov. He asserted that it was also personally known to him that “Bukharin and Rykov continue to compose the center of the right, having remained in their previous positions.”
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 327


STALIN: You [Bukharin] were at the face-to-face confrontations on the premises of the Orgburo, and so were we, members of the Politburo. Astrov was there and some of the others who were arrested. Pyatakov was there, so were Radek and Sosnovsky and Kulikov and others. When I or someone else asked each of these: “Tell me honestly, have you given your testimony freely or was it squeezed out of you?” Radek even burst out in tears when asked this question: “Squeezed out of me? Are you kidding! Freely, completely freely.”
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 370


[February 24th, 1937 speech of Rykov to the February-March 1937 plenum of the Central Committee]
Can a political leader disavow responsibility for the fact that many traitors, criminals, and wreckers model themselves on him and think that he is their instigator? I do not disavow responsibility for this. I had also made other mistakes….
And there is no disgrace greater than the fact that many people perpetrated these revolting deeds by modeling themselves on me–this is a horrible thing.
But it does not at all follow from this, it seems to me, that on the basis of this one ought to accuse me of knowing that Trotskyists talk to Hess, that they conceded the Ukraine to Germany, that they handed over the Baltic region [Rykov apparently means Primorsky Krai on the Pacific Ocean] to the Japanese, that they systematically practiced spying and sabotage on the widest possible scale.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 374


[February 24th, 1937 speech by Voroshilov to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee]
…This is Bukharin’s method. This method has been known to us for a long time. Bukharin is a very peculiar person. He is capable of many things. Vile, you know, as a mischievous cat and at once he starts covering his tracks, he starts confusing things, he starts carrying out all kinds of pranks, in order to come out of this filthy business clean, and he has succeeded in this often thanks to the kindness of the Central Committee. He has often succeeded in extricating himself with relative success from very unpleasant incidents. And he’s trying to do the same thing this time around.
I believe that the guilt of this group, of Bukharin, of Rykov, and especially of Tomsky, has been completely proven.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 376


[February 25th, 1937 speech by Andreev to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee]
…Meanwhile, what do the investigative materials afforded to plenum members speak of? It seems to me that, first of all, they decisively unmask the rightists, they unmask them in the sense that there was never any–now it is clear–there was never any difference between the Trotskyists and rightists. Such a difference never existed.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 377

[Andreev continues] All comparisons of the basic facts, of the testimony and of their [Bukharin’s and Rykov’s] personal conduct has led me to the firm conviction that Bukharin and Rykov knew of the treasonous work by the Trotskyists.
They knew about it. They were linked with them. My conviction is that Bukharin and Rykov not only knew of the activities of rightist elements, but rather they continued, very cautiously and subtly, to serve as leaders of these rightist elements; to the very last moment they served as their leaders and maintained their link with them. They encouraged them in their anti-Soviet activities and abetted their crimes, goaded these people to commit their crimes–I am convinced of this, no matter how much Bukharin and Rykov might deny it. What, we may wonder, is the value of statements and intimations by Bukharin and Rykov–namely, “that we are not allowed to prove our innocence, that they do not believe our vows and so on”?
…the Party and the Central Committee have given you [Bukharin and Rykov] sufficient time, more than enough time and means to disarm yourselves and prove yourselves innocent. No one else from the ranks of the oppositionists and enemies has been afforded such a period of time, the party has not afforded such a period of time to anyone other than you. The party did the maximum to keep you in its ranks. How much effort has been expended, how much patience has been shown to you by the party and especially, I must say, by Comrade Stalin
Yes, precisely, by Comrade Stalin, who always urged us, who constantly warned us, whenever comrades here or there, whenever local organizations here or there raised the issue “point-blank,” as it is said, in reference to the rightists, and whenever the question would arise in the Central Committee, Comrade Stalin would caution them against excessive haste; he always warned us. Nevertheless, you abused the party’s trust.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 378


[From Kabakov’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
…yet every terroristic group created under your [Bukharin] leadership was familiar with and felt your daily influence and said that “we were preparing to carry out terror, we were engaged in sabotage, we were fulfilling the will of Rykov, Bukharin, and Tomsky.”
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 379


[From Makarov’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
The materials reported by Yezhov are characterized by the fact that not only do numerous persons corroborate the fact that the leaders of the rightist opposition knew about the existence of a Trotskyite-Zinovievist center, the fact that they themselves had direct contact with it, but also that they took part in it. What characterizes the numerous persons who testified is the fact that, while residing all over our Union, they each gave his or her own distinct testimony, yet the essence of their testimony remains the same, their reply to these two questions is in the affirmative, that they knew of the existence of a Trotskyist-Zinovievist center and that they themselves were directly involved in all the counter-revolutionary activities which had been carried out both by so-called leftists and rightists and by the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 379


[From Kosarev’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
…We cannot even call Bukharin’s speech an ambiguous one. This is the speech of an embittered enemy, who, being surrounded on all sides by the incontrovertible facts of his vile crimes, will stop and nothing, will, as a last resort, slander the investigation and our investigative organs. Bukharin wants to create the impression that the Central Committee seeks his innocent blood and that he is prepared to give it. Only an enemy could speak like this–an enemy, moreover, caught red-handed and refusing to acknowledge is crimes….
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 380


[Molotov’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
Already at the last plenum we had sufficient evidence, and yet we postponed this case once again. We decided to give this man [Bukharin] the opportunity to extricate himself if he is in trouble. If he is guilty, we will give him time to admit his mistakes, to turn aside from it, to repent of it, to put an end to it. We have sought to bring this about in every way possible….
STALIN: What was Voroshilov’s reply?
MOLOTOV: Voroshilov’s reply was a good one. I must read Voroshilov’s reply to you:
“To Comrade Bukharin: I am returning your letter, in which you have permitted yourself to make vile attacks on our party leadership. If your wish was to convince me by this letter of your complete innocence, then you have succeeded in convincing me of only one thing–namely, that in the future I should place an even greater distance between us, regardless of the results of the investigation into your case. And if you do not recant your vile epithets against the party leadership, then I shall consider you, in addition, a scoundrel.”
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 382


[ Kalinin’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
And when some people shouted at Bukharin during his speech that, namely, you are acting like a lawyer, Bukharin replied: “Well, what of it? My situation is such that I must defend myself.” I think, and those comrades who shouted at him also probably think, when they speak of “acting like a lawyer,” that it doesn’t mean that Bukharin should not defend himself. That’s not the point. What it means, instead, is that, in defending himself, he is employing the methods of a lawyer who wants, at whatever cost, to defend the accused, even when the latter’s case is completely hopeless.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 383


[From Ugarov’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
…The main thing is obvious: The cadres of terrorists and wreckers from the ranks of the rightists looked upon Bukharin as their leader–directing all of the center’s work…. One thing is absolutely clear, namely, that Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, Uglanov, and Schmidt formed the leading group of rightists, a real center, which directed all the counter-revolutionary activity of the rightists,… It is obvious to all of us that Bukharin and Rykov are waging a struggle against the party, against the Soviet state, that they have gone over to the camp of our worst enemies, that they have broken off completely with the party. They are the instigators of the counter-revolutionary activity of the rightists, of acts of terror and sabotage unmasked by the organs of the NKVD.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 386


[Zhukov’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th, 1937]
…In vain do we bother with this counter-revolutionary gang. In vain do we try to persuade them. It’s hopeless. You’ll never succeed in persuading them. They will be able to [repudiate it] not only here but in any place, wherever they will be given opportunity to speak. They will repudiate it a hundred times. Lying and swindling has entered their blood and accompanies them at every step. They carried out their counter-revolutionary acts to the best of their ability. For this reason I am not sure there is any need for us to go on debating this matter. In my opinion, the matter is so clear after all of these incredible, murderous testimonies against them….
I end this by saying that these people need to be judged in accordance with all the principles of our legality. These people must be shot just as [other] scoundrels were shot.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 387


[Mezhlauk’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
You have been tormenting the party over many, many years, and IT IS ONLY THANKS TO THE ANGELIC PATIENCE OF COMRADE STALIN THAT WE HAVE NOT TORN YOU POLITICALLY TO PIECES FOR YOUR VILE, TERRORISTIC WORK. We would have done this long ago, two months ago, were it not for Comrade Stalin, were it not that policy dictated by the interests of the working-class predominates in Stalin over his just sense of indignation, were it not that he can see farther and better than any of us….
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 387


[Kaganovich’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 25th 1937]
I asked Kulikov [when the latter was under arrest]: “You were at my place in 1932 and apologized then. Does that mean that you were already engaging in duplicity then?” “Yes, I was, I was even guilty of duplicity in my relations with you,” said Kulikov. Voroshilov then asked him: “And why did you want to kill Kaganovich?” Kulikov replied: “[We] wanted to kill him for the same reason we wanted to kill Stalin–namely, in order to decapitate the leadership.”
…We never imagined before 1936 to what depths Zinoviev and Kamenev, who we had expelled several times from the party, could have sunk, nor to what depths Pyatakov, Livshits, and others could sink. To what depths they are capable of sinking–we see this in 1936 in a different light. This is why we must no longer, in my opinion, continue this magnanimous [policy] of ours. Our party must be purged of these people.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 388


[Osinsky’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 26, 1937]
…Bukharin and Rykov refute essentially secondary points. They do not refute the essentials, and the basic accusations against them still stand…. On the whole, all of their defense is completely inconsistent, poorly constructed, and spineless. And it is spineless not because Bukharin and Rykov lack capability but because on all main points they have nothing to say. In sum, it behooves us to establish the fact that the situation is extremely clear. The conclusions are also very clear. Like many other comrades who feel this, I too am baffled why we, in fact, are continuing this discussion.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 390


[Yaroslavsky’s speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 26, 1937]
Comrades, let’s hope that this is the last time that we’ll discuss the question of treasonable members and candidates of the Central Committee in the Central Committee of our Party. The charge that Bukharin and Rykov have betrayed our Bolshevik Party is, in my opinion, totally proven. It has been proven by the investigative materials….
…Any further postponement of this case can only cause us great harm because, otherwise, the younger members of the party will begin wondering whether we have solid facts against Bukharin and Rykov. And we do have very solid facts, incontrovertible facts, proving their guilt. We should keep in mind the upbringing of our younger generation.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 391


Allowing those accused of party crimes to speak a second time in rebuttal was a fairly unusual procedure and was cited by some speakers as proof that the Central Committee was willing to give the two accused [Bukharin and Rykov] every fair chance to defend themselves.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 392


My [Bukharin] sins before the party have been very grave. My sins were especially grave during the period of the decisive onslaught of socialism, when, in fact, our group, serving as an enormous break to the Socialist offensive, caused it great harm. I’ve confessed to the sins. I confessed that from 1930 to 1932 I committed many political sins.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 399

Arrested in March 1937 for espionage and wrecking, for three months Bukharin refused to provide the evidence needed to prove the existence of a conspiracy. Finally, in June, he was forced to make the following statement:
“After prolonged hesitation I have come to the conclusion that I must fully confess my guilt before the Party, the working-class, and the country and finish once and for all with my counter-revolutionary past. I confess that until recently I took part in an organization of Rights and was, with Rykov and Tomsky, a member of the organization’s center, that this organization aimed at the violent overthrow of the Soviet regime (by coup d’etat, uprising, terror), and that it was part of a bloc with the Trotskyite-Zinovievite organization. I will give details about this.”

He began with theoretical confessions, which ought to have shown him that his fate, like that of millions, was not an accident, but was profoundly systematic, and prompted by Marxism-Leninism, which grounded his crimes in theory. Bukharin’s “personal evidence” makes astonishing reading as a human document. He was prepared to confess to anything under the interrogation of State Security Captain Kogan. As the Chekists were themselves incapable of penetrating Bukharin’s theoretical “errors,” they told him to write them down himself. He did so in the form of a philosophical treatise: “1. My general theoretical anti-Leninist views; 2. The theory of the state and the theory of the dictatorship; 3. The theory of class struggle in conditions of the proletarian dictatorship; 4. The theory of organized capitalism….” Only at the end of this “treatise,” composed in an NKVD prison, did he speak of political issues: his struggle against the Party, the origins of his “school” with its counter-revolutionary aims and so on.
Bukharin’s voluminous “theoretical evidence,” is perhaps unique as an occasion when an accused man assisted his interrogators by writing in his own hand a deposition that sought to trace the sins of his own theoretical views. “As is known,” he began, “Lenin’s “testament” indicates that I did not understand dialectics and had never studied it seriously. This was entirely true…. [My] abstract schematism strove to keep up with the “latest generalizations,” detaching them from multi-form, rapidly moving life, and in this moribund approach to the processes of history and historical life lies the root of my huge political mistakes, becoming under certain circumstances political crimes.” Bukharin confessed to being not merely “scholastic,” but also anti-Leninist. “As is known, Lenin accused me of concentrating all my attention on the destruction of the bourgeois state, on the one hand, and on the classless society, on the other…. It was precisely here that lay one of the roots of the recent ideology of the Rights…. The might of the state apparatus of the nascent and strengthening dictatorship of the proletariat was underrated.
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 292

He [Bukharin] had been true to himself then, as he wrote to Stalin from prison on 15 April 1937: “I sincerely thought that Brest [would cause] the greatest harm. I sincerely thought that your policy of ’28-’29 was dangerous in the extreme. I proceeded from the policy to the person, not the other way round. But what did I do wrong, what let me down? Anti-dialectical thinking, schematism, striving for literary effect, abstraction, bookishness.”
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 294

The finale of the Bukharin drama was his letter, dated 13 March 1938 and addressed to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, from “Bukharin, sentenced to death.” It was a plea for clemency:
“I regard the sentence of the court as just retribution for the heavy crimes I have committed against the Socialist motherland, her people, Party and government. There is not a single word of protest in my soul. I should be shot 10 times over for my crimes….”
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 302


[Rykov’s second speech to the February-March 1937 Plenum of the Central Committee on February 26, 1937]
It is now absolutely clear to me that I will be better treated if I confess. This is absolutely clear to me–and many of my torments will also come to an end, at whatever price, just so long as it comes to some end.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 401


[Resolution of the February-March 1937 Central Committee Plenum on the affair of Bukharin and Rykov]
1. On the basis of investigative materials furnished by the NKVD, on the basis of the face-to-face confrontation between Comrade Bukharin & Radek, Pyatakov, Sosnovsky, and Sokolnikov, as well as on the basis of a thorough and detailed discussion of the matter at the Plenum, the Plenum of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party has established that, at a minimum, Comrades Bukharin and Rykov knew of the criminal, terrorist, espionage, and sabotage-wrecking activities of the Trotskyist center, and that they not only did not combat these activities but in fact helped these activities along by concealing them from the party and not reporting them to the Central Committee.
2. On the basis of investigative materials furnished by the NKVD, on the basis of Comrade Bukharin’s face-to-face confrontation with the rightists–with Kulikov and Astrov –in the presence of members of the Politburo of the Central Committee and Comrade Rykov’s face-to-face confrontation with Kotov, Schmidt, Nesterov, and Radin, as well as on the basis of a detailed and thorough discussion of the matter at the Plenum of the Central Committee, the Plenum of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party has established that comrades Bukharin and Rykov, at a minimum, knew from their followers and supporters, that is, from Slepkov, Tsetlin, Astrov, Maretsky, Nesterov, Radin, Kulikov, Kotov, Uglanov, Zaitsev, Kuzmin, Sapozhnikov, and others, that criminal terrorist groups had been organized, and they not only did not resist them but in fact encouraged them.
Bearing in mind the above and taking into account the fact that even while Lenin was alive Comrade Bukharin waged a campaign against the party and against Lenin himself both before the October Revolution (concerning the dictatorship of the proletariat) and after the October Revolution (concerning the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty, the party’s program, the nationalities question, and the role of the trade unions) and the fact that Comrade Rykov also waged a campaign against the party and against Lenin himself both before the October Revolution and at the time of the October uprising (he was against the October Revolution), as well as after the October coup d’etat (he demanded a coalition with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, and, as a sign of protest, he quit his post of commissar for foreign affairs, for which he received from Lenin the nickname of “strikebreaker”), and that all this speaks indubitably of the fact that the political fall of comrades Bukharin and Rykov is not merely fortuitous or unexpected–taking into account all this, the Plenum of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party considers that Comrades Bukharin and Rykov deserve to be immediately expelled from the party and brought to trial before the military tribunal.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 408

[Stalin said in a June 1937 speech], Rykov. We have no proof that he himself gave secrets to the Germans, but he instigated and got that information through his own people, while others gave the secrets to the Germans. Enukidze and Karakhan worked with him very closely–both became spies; Karakhan from 1927, as also Enukidze from the same year. We know through whom these messages and secrets were given, through whom they exported their messages and by what routes –this was through a person working in the German Embassy in Moscow. We know. Rykov knew that also. We have no proof that he himself was a spy, but he was the courier, tied in to German fascists.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 109


[Stalin’s February 27th 1937 report to the February-March 1937 Central Committee Plenum on the commission on the affair of Bukharin and Rykov]
Comrades, the commission of the Central Committee plenum has entrusted me with the task of reporting to you the results of its work. Permit me to read you the report. The members of the commission were all in accord that, at a minimum, Bukharin and Rykov should be punished by being expelled from the list of candidate members of the Central Committee and from the ranks of the All-Union Communist Party. There was not a single person on the commission who expressed himself against this proposal. There were differences of opinion as to whether they should be handed over for trial or not handed over for trial, and if not, then as to what we should confine ourselves to. Part of the commission expressed itself in favor of handing them over to a military tribunal and having them executed. Another part of the commission expressed itself in favor of handing them over for trial and having them receive a sentence of ten years in prison. A third part expressed itself in favor of having them handed over for trial without a preliminary decision as to what should be their sentence. And, finally, a fourth part of the commission expressed itself in favor of not handing them over for trial but instead referring the matter of Bukharin and Rykov to the NKVD. The last named proposal won out….
If we look at the Trotskyists and Zinovievists, we see that they were expelled from the party, then restored, then expelled again. If we look at Bukharin and Rykov, we see that they had never been expelled. We should not equate the Trotskyists and Zinovievists, who once, as you well know, staged an anti-Soviet demonstration 1927, with Rykov and Bukharin. There are no such sins in their past.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 409-410


[Protocol of the February 27th, 1937 meeting of the Commission of the Central Committee on the matter of Bukharin and Rykov]
Discussion: of the suggestions of members of the commission.
1. Yezhov– to expel Bukharin and Rykov as candidate members of the Central Committee and members of the All-Union Communist Party and to transfer them to the military tribunal with application of the highest measure of punishment–shooting.
2. Postyshev, Shkiriatov, Antipov, Khrushchev, Nikolaeva, Kosior, Petrovsky, Litvinov, –to expel from the ranks of candidate members of the Central Committee and as members of the All-Union Communist Party, to transfer them to court without application of the death penalty.
3. Budenny, Manuilsky, Shvernik, Kosarev, Yakir –to expel from the ranks of candidate members of the Central Committee and as members of the All-Union Communist Party, to transfer them to court with application of the death penalty.
4. Stalin, Ulianova, Krupskaya, Vareikis, Molotov, Voroshilov –to expel from the ranks of candidate members of the Central Committee and as members of the All-Union Communist Party, not to send them to court but rather transfer their case to the NKVD.
1. To expel from the ranks of candidate members of the Central Committee and as members of the All-Union Communist Party, not to send them to court but rather transfer the case of Bukharin and Rykov to the NKVD (adopted unanimously).
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 412

The plenum appointed a commission of 36 members, with Mikoyan in the chair (and not voting), to report on the question. Twenty spoke. Yezhov, supported by five others, proposed the expulsion of Bukharin and Rykov from the Central Committee and the Party, trial before the Military Collegium, and execution. Postyshev, supported by seven others, including Petrovsky and Kossior, proposed the same, without the application of execution. Stalin, supported by five others, proposed merely sending them to the NKVD for further investigation. Stalin’s proposal was eventually accepted unanimously.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 174


Following Bukharin’s exoneration in September 1936 and Stalin’s move to delay proceedings against him at the December 1936 plenum, this was the third time that Stalin had personally intervened to avoid unambiguously condemning Bukharin….
We can now finally rule out the notion, so often found in the literature, that Stalin in the period was backing down before an anti-terror “liberal” coalition of senior Bolsheviks. Of those often mentioned in such a role ( Kuibyshev, Kirov, Ordjonikidze, and others), none were alive at the time of the plenum. On the contrary; according to the documents, once again only Stalin was resisting application of either a prison or death sentence.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1999, p. 416

…Even after Bukharin began to “confess” to the charges against him (later in June 1937), it would be half a year before Stalin brought him to the dock.
…certainly treatment of no other repressed oppositionist was moderated so many times at Stalin’s initiative. Even after Bukharin’s arrest, his wife was allowed to live in her apartment in the Kremlin for several months. Stalin personally intervened to prevent her eviction. About the time Bukharin began to confess in the summer of 1937, his wife was given the option to live in any of five cities outside Moscow; she picked Astrakhan. Although Yezhov wanted to have her shot along with other “wives of enemies of the people” (according to Beria), Stalin refused.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 418

Stalin’s position also maintained maximum flexibility. He had not publicly or wholeheartedly associated himself with Yezhov’s charges and had taken an almost neutral stance at the plenum; he gave Bukharin and Rykov unprecedented time to answer the charges and in comparison with the other speakers his demeanor seemed balanced and evenhanded.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 418


His [Bukharin] attempt at defense [at the December 1936 plenum of the Central Committee] could not have helped him much and probably strengthened Stalin’s hand vis-a-vis the great majority of the Central Committee members. Bukharin had offered nothing concrete in his favor except his denunciation of Yakovlev –but that could have been interpreted as a smokescreen. The point about speaking to Pavlov and Rolland [in which he allegedly defended the government’s policies] was worthless. All that Bukharin really counted on was his long service in the party and his personal honor; he asked people to take his word about his honesty over the testimony of numerous others. And he himself said that he had struggled in the late 1920s against pressure on the peasants. But by 1936 it appeared, correctly or not, that that policy, culminating in collectivization, had enabled industrialization to take off.
More important for understanding his [Bukharin] fate and the course of the Terror was his admission that some sort of “conference” of his young followers had occurred in 1932. Apparently one of them had said in Bukharin’s presence that he wished to kill Stalin. Bukharin now acknowledged that he had been “two-faced” about his followers and had not informed the authorities of their discussions. He had believed at the time, he claimed, that he could lead them back to the party. As for the accusations that he was linked to foreign espionage services and had fostered terrorism, all that was false. But by this time Bukharin had lied repeatedly to Stalin and the whole Central Committee.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 41-42

[Yevdokimov’s report to the Azov-Black Sea Territorial Party Committee on the February-March 1937 Central Committee Plenum]
Bukharin addressed the Central Committee and the members of the plenum. He called his speech “Against the slanderers” and accused all of his friends and all of his underlings of slander. Moreover, he analyzed his case in a manner that made it appear that all of this had been contrived by the NKVD, and he attacked the Central Committee. The following legitimate question was posed to him: “All Right. You have been slandered, but why then has the man closest to you, Tseitlin, your secretary, slandered you; why have your followers, whom you have trained and brought up, why have they slandered you?” Bukharin explained that he had had a quarrel with Tseitlin. But what about the others? The others–he doesn’t know why. If they had slandered you, then why are they slandering themselves by confessing to their own counter-revolutionary actions, such as preparations for terror, etc.? Why? He is at a loss.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 440


[Dec. 10, 1937 letter of Bukharin to Stalin]
…In order to avoid any misunderstandings, I will say to you from the outset that, as far as the world at large (society) is concerned: a) I have no intention of recanting anything I’ve written down [confessed];
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 556

[Bukharin continues] My head is giddy with confusion, and I feel like yelling at the top of my voice. I feel like pounding my head against the wall….
I bear not one iota of malice toward anyone, nor am I bitter. I’m not a Christian. But I do have my quirks….
When I was hallucinating, I saw you several times and once I saw Nadezhda Sergeevna [Stalin’s late wife]. She approached me and said: “What have they done with you, Nikolai? I’ll tell Joseph to bail you out.” This was so real that I was about to jump and write a letter to you and ask you to…bail me out! Reality had become totally mixed up in my mind with delusion….
…I have done all this in advance, since I have no idea at all what condition I shall be in tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, etc.. Being a neurasthenic, I shall perhaps feel such universal apathy that I won’t be able even so much as to move my finger.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 558

…Yezhov admitted to nothing in connection with the charges against him. In his statement, however, Bukharin admitted to a bit more than he had at the February 1937 Central Committee plenum. There he had denied any knowledge of the activities, conspiratorial or otherwise, of his former followers after 1930. In this letter, however, he admitted to knowing that they were up to something as late as 1932 and not telling Stalin about it out of pity or a belief that he could reform them: “I once heard someone say that someone had yelled out something…or something of the sort. And, yes, I concealed this fact, feeling pity for the ‘gang.’… I was also guilty of engaging in duplicity in 1932 in my relations with my ‘followers,’ believing sincerely that I would thereby win them back wholly to the party.”
It is difficult to see how such an admission could have done anything other than destroy any credibility Bukharin may have still had. Along with his testimony at the last two plena he attended, it represented another in a series of incremental concessions, each more damning than the last. Stalin might thus have legitimately wondered at what point Bukharin was telling (or would tell) the whole truth about his connections and knowledge of others’ activities.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 563


But in our country everything was made public with the exception of two military tribunals. For reasons of military secrecy these were closed trials. The enemies of Soviet power have always been good at concocting ingenious stories. The open trial lasted for 12 days, with the world press attending and with 21 individuals, all well known to the public, sitting in the dock…. Our enemies also attended the trials.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 267

The Trial of the Sixteen was supposed to be conducted in accordance with the law of December 1, 1934, which established extraordinary procedures for reviewing all cases involving terror: these cases were to be held behind closed doors and the defendants were to be deprived of the right to appeal for clemency. However, as an exception to this law, the court session lasting from Aug. 19 to 24 was open, and besides “representatives at Soviet society,” foreign journalists and diplomats were in the courtroom.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 36


Those who allege that the trials were badly scripted are, in their obtuseness, simply allied with the White Guards. No GPU or any other security service could have fabricated the trials that way. Three major trials were held: in 1936, 1937, and 1938, with much material released to the public….
To say that people like Krestinsky and Rosengoltz, people like Yagoda, like Bukharin and Pyatakov all followed some kind of script is absurd!
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 268


CHUEV: You are reproached inasmuch as Stalin allegedly killed off the most talented people in the country.
MOLOTOV: The most talented being Trotsky, Zinoviev, that ilk? With such talented people we would have crept backward. There is talent and there is talent….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 269


CHUEV: A new version has developed with regard to the open trials of the 1930s. It is said that the defendants were promised life in exchange for exhaustive confessions–something on that order.
MOLOTOV: That’s a White Guard version. It’s their fabrication. Such notions appeared earlier, too. Are they complete fools, or what?
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 269


…The trials fully exposed him [Rudzutak] as an active accomplice of the rightists. He actually had personal associations with Rykov and Tomsky.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 275


CHUEV: Bukharin and Dubcek are now counterposed to Stalin.
MOLOTOV: They are both right-wingers, kulaks who escaped. Bukharin & Dubcek have a lot in common, by the way.
A struggle still lies ahead for the party. Khrushchev was no accident. We are primarily a peasant country, and the right-wing is powerful. Where’s the guarantee to prevent them from gaining the upper hand? The anti-Stalinists in all probability will come to power in the near future, and they are most likely to be Bukharinists. [8-14-73, 3-8-74]
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 373


Nevertheless, with all its abuses, sorrows, and injury to national morale and industrial production, the Purge had a certain value. It eliminated completely Nazi plans for a Fifth Column in the USSR, and not only eradicated the “doubtful elements” with whom Nazi agents had tried to cooperate, but destroyed in toto their espionage and information services.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 230

The actual purge was decided upon after the revelation of the Tukhachevsky military conspiracy. The discovery of such a plot at the head of the Red Army, a plot that had links with opportunist factions within the Party, provoked a complete panic.
The Bolshevik Party’s strategy assumed that war with fascism was inevitable. Given that some of the most important figures in the Red Army and some of the leading figures in the Party were secretly collaborating on plans for a coup d’Etat showed how important the interior danger and its links with the external menace were. Stalin was extremely lucid and perfectly conscious that the confrontation between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would cost millions of Soviet lives. The decision to physically eliminate the Fifth Column was not the sign of a “dictator’s paranoia.” as Nazi propaganda claimed. Rather, it showed the determination of Stalin and the Bolshevik Party to confront fascism in a struggle to the end. By exterminating the Fifth Column, Stalin thought about saving several million Soviet lives, which would be the extra cost to pay should external aggression be able to profit from sabotage, provocation or internal treason.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 184 [p. 163 on the NET]


The theory that the trials were entirely or mainly fraudulent falls apart in the face of testimony such as Bukharin’s and a mass of interlocking evidence given by some 30 witnesses. That evidence, in turn, was supported in the main by the testimony of witnesses at the previous state trials. Even if, as ambassador Davies suggested, the Soviet prosecutors had had a script writer of Shakespearean genius, they could not have constructed out of whole cloth such a set of complexly integrated events…. The indication, as Davies argues, is that the defendants were, on the whole, guilty as charged. In these trials and others, there was evidence of massive and diverse sabotage–in the coal mines, chemical plants, tractor stations, collective farms, the railways. Combined with deliberate economic misplanning and financial fraud, it constituted a concerted effort to destroy the growing socialist state.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 70

That the myth persists of these trials as an elaborate charade created by inhuman monsters is, in essence, further evidence of the extraordinary scope and depth of anti-Stalin, anti-Soviet defamation. The myth is made to appear believable by appeal to two facts: the defendants confessed their guilt and most of them were executed. There is, however, no evidence that the confessions were exacted by torture or drugs; such a claim was denied by Bukharin and others. The indication is that the defendants confessed because the evidence against them was overwhelming; also, as Bukharin notes, some of them at least had, in spite of their actions, a “duality of mind,” a feeling that regardless of their motives, their deeds were morally wrong and would harm their country. Davies certainly had no trouble in believing that the confessions were genuine.
Whether it was necessary to execute most of the defendants or whether imprisonment for all would have served is a question that has to be answered in the light of the then-existing conditions. In a situation of gathering war, with the Italian fascists in Ethiopia, the Japanese militarists invading China, and Hitler supporting Franco and straining for war, the Soviet government obviously decided that a severe counterblow must be struck to stop all efforts to weaken the Soviet state from within. Whatever the decision, however, responsibility for it cannot have been Stalin’s alone or even primarily his. The charge that it was stems from the view of Stalin as absolute dictator. But the trials were conducted by the judicial system and although Stalin as Party leader had considerable influence upon that system, he by no means ran it. The trials, we must also remember, came after the new constitution of 1936 with its mass-democratic structures. Furthermore, there was a national outpouring of rage at the time against those who were perceived (correctly) as traitors and saboteurs. The argument that this indignation, which included mass demonstrations, was “rigged” again reflects the automaton picture of Soviet society. No doubt, the Party participated in and helped to organize such demonstrations and other expressions of popular outrage, but it could not have done so had not the feeling itself existed.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 71

If murder and sabotage took place, what implicates the defendants in the three trials? There is firstly their admission before the examining authority, repeated by them in court, and there is the corroborating evidence.
There were 54 defendants in all, some of them old revolutionists; some of them, like Mrachkovsky and Muralov, were men of outstanding physical courage. Yet the people who reject the genuineness of the plea of guilty, tell us that all these people sat in court for a week or more, and admitted crimes (punishable by death) that they had never committed. The trials took place in a large hall packed by foreign journalists, and yet out of 54 people, from whom (according to the hypothesis) a spurious confession had been extracted, not one was prepared to denounce the methods by which the confession was extracted. We are told that the leading group of those 54 were people who were opposing Stalin from the “Left,” that they wanted an attack on bureaucracy, and a break with the policy of alliance with bourgeois States. Yet these men were seen talking freely in court for a week. Not only do they not give the listening world an account of the alleged political program for which (according to the hypothesis) they are about to die, but Zinoviev, Pyatakov, Radek, Bukharin and the others give an account of their adherence to a quite different programme–a program of capitalist restoration.
These men had a certain revolutionary reputation in the past. Their names were household words with millions of workers in the capitalist world. They had the opportunity to tell these workers that they had carried on a struggle against Stalin because he was “betraying the revolution”; and yet instead of doing this, they exposed themselves as people who had themselves betrayed the revolution.
And we are actually told by some critics, as we will see, that they did this in order to oblige Stalin.
Is not the assertion that these men were guilty a thousand times more credible than the fantastic hypotheses that are brought forward to explain away their admissions?
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 243-244

Yet in a summary published in England under the sponsorship of the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee, a preface by the Moscow correspondent of the Daily Herald, R.T. Miller, could say “They confessed because the State’s collection of evidence forced them to. No other explanation fits the facts.” Neil Maclean, Labor Member of Parliament for Govan and Chairman of this committee noted in a foreword: “Practically every foreign correspondent present at the [Pyatakov] Trial–with the exception of course of the Japanese and German–have expressed themselves as very much impressed by the weight of evidence presented by the Prosecution and the sincerity of the confessions of the accused.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 167

By a coincidence I had found independent evidence for the existence of a conspiracy. My friend Gregersen, on the eve of going on vacation to Copenhagen, was asked by an acquaintance by the name of Grasche to take a book to a friend of his in Denmark. When Gregersen asked why he did not send it by mail, which functioned quite normally, the answer was that it was a particularly valuable book, a luxury edition of Arabian Nights issued by the Academy of Art. Gregersen did not get around to picking up the book and did not see the intended recipient, a former Communist of Trotskyist bent who had turned against the Soviet Union. Soon after this, Grasche was arrested and sentenced as a spy in a public trial. No
mention was made of a book; but in a different trial the very same edition was identified as having been used as a secret code. This cannot well be a coincidence.
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 174


During the trial’s dozens of hours, Bukharin was perfectly lucid and alert, discussing, contesting, sometimes humorous, vehemently denying certain accusations.

Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 161 [p. 142 on the NET]


And now as to the “frame up.” The actual question is: Why did 16 accused men all confess guilt, participate in a lively way in the court proceedings, and show all their old capacity for public speaking and repartee, and yet plead “Guilty”?

It is not because they had been rotting in dungeons or anything of that kind. Actually, the most recently arrested of the accused were at liberty in the USSR until May of this year. And anyway, if they had been maltreated in prison, surely some signs of this would have been visible to the public, or at least one of them would have made some sort of a statement on the matter!

No–the fact is this: The prisoners had four alternatives. First, to plead innocent. Second, to plead guilty–making political speeches against the Soviet government, the “Stalinist bureaucracy,” and justifying their crime. Third, to plead guilty and say no more. Fourthly, to confess, and give a full account of their activities. Besides these possibilities, there was no other way open to them–except suicide, the way chosen by Tomsky alone.

To plead innocent was impossible because the proofs were overwhelming, and all these people knew this. They knew what additional evidence could be brought against them if they tried to prove their innocence.

To attack the Soviet government and the “Stalinist bureaucracy” was impossible–because for nearly 10 years now these people have had absolutely no political policy to oppose to that of Stalin. The fact is that Stalin’s policy is a success, and this has robbed his opponents of every excuse of a political attack. This fact is openly admitted by the accused.

And so, before all the men, against whom the proofs were overwhelming, who had no policy, there was the one possibility of pleading Guilty–with, or without, details of their crime.

Pritt, Denis Nowell. The Moscow Trial was Fair. London: ” Russia To-day,” 1937, p. 11-12

The newspaper, the “Observer” of August 23, no lover of the Bolsheviks, “old guard” or new, was bound to conclude:–

“Stalin is now the acknowledged leader of the unified party, whose prestige in the country is now unquestioned.

“The defendants admitted frankly that they resorted to individual terror as a last resort, fully knowing that disaffection in the country now is not sufficiently strong to bring them into power by any other way….

“It is futile to think the trial was staged and the charges trumped up. The Government’s case against the defendants is genuine.”

Pritt, Denis Nowell. The Moscow Trial was Fair. London: ” Russia To-day,” 1937, p. 13


… For instance, we knew beyond question that the dossier against Yagoda was being built up while he was still Stalin’s trusted tool.

Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 17

[Tovstukha said]… “Comrade Yagoda has just phoned. He wants to see you urgently”

“Yagoda? What the devil for?” my uncle answered irritability. “He just left here!”

“He says something new has developed in–about–about the case,” Tovstukha said.

“…tell Yagoda if he doesn’t stop splitting hairs [in the Zinoviev-Kamenev business] I’ll break him! If he thinks he can play a double game, he’s all wrong. The opposition has become criminal. It will be broken, crushed! And anyone who tries to protect it, directly or indirectly, will be crushed too! Tell Yagoda that!”

Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 117

Speaking of Yagoda, Koba said, “I know he is a scoundrel. But we dare not risk smashing the fragile apparatus of the GPU by removing Yagoda and his associates. This would be exploited by class enemies at home and abroad. We shall settle out accounts with Yagoda at the right moment.” He added, “If you want to understand revolutionary tactics, read Schiller’s Fiasco’s Conspiracy. Revolutions always require Moors, but they go when they have served their purpose–they are sent to the gallows. Only you must not miss the right moment, or else they will send you to the gallows. I know precisely who is a friend and who is a foe. You, Papasha, grumble frequently, but I know that you will never be guilty of a stab in the back. I respect you and shall stand up for you. But we shall wage a life and death struggle with double-crossers. We carry an historic responsibility for the destiny of the country and of the revolution….”

Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 56

Berzin had proved before the war that Yagoda was neither a Latvian nor a communist.

Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 205


In fact, May 25, 1935, was a more significant date in the destruction of the old leaders than January 16th, when the press had announced the startling news that the first group of leaders on trial, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and others, had ‘confessed that they were guilty of terrorist activities’. Only sentences of terms of imprisonment had followed, despite the law of December 1st, 1934, providing for the immediate death of terrorists.

Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 19

The investigation did not establish facts that would provide a basis for describing the crimes of the Zinovievites as instigation of the assassination of Kirov. Therefore Zinoviev’s sentence was “only” 10 years in prison, and Kamenev’s 5.

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 347


… the first step was taken to bring about the downfall of Yagoda. He was removed from the NKVD and we lost a strong link in our opposition intelligence service.

Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 63


A mixed Trotskyite and Zinovievite group, exposed at the first Moscow trial in August 1936, consisted of:

Zinoviev and Kamenev

They were the leaders of the former Leningrad opposition.

Other Zinovievites were:

Bakayev, who was in charge of the day-to-day organization of terrorist attacks against the leaders of the Party and government.

Reingold, who was the most active member of the Zinovievite underground counter-revolutionary reorganization and who was at all times in direct contact with Zinoviev and Kamenev and took part in all the secret conferences of the Zinovievites.


Pickel, who was one of Zinoviev’s most trusted men and was for many years in charge of his secretariat. He was an active member of the Moscow terrorist center.

The Trotskyites were:

Smirnov, who was a firm supporter of Trotsky during the Party debate of 1923-27, Trotsky’s deputy in the USSR, and the actual organizer and leader of the underground Trotskyite counter-revolutionary activities in the USSR. He maintained personal connections with Trotsky and Trotskyite organizations abroad.

Dreitzer, who was responsible for the day-to-day organizational work of this group. Trotsky described Dreitzer has “an officer of the Red Army. During and after my expulsion he had, together with 10 or 12 of the officers, organized a guard around my home.” Together with Trotsky he had organized the counter-revolutionary demonstration of November 7, 1927. When Trotsky was in exile in Alma-Ata, Dreitzer organized the communications between Trotsky and the Moscow Trotskyite center.

Mrachkovsky, who was the man most in Trotsky’s confidence and personally closest to him. He had at one time occupied an important position in the army.

Holtzman, who was an active member of the Trotskyite counter-revolutionary organization, personally connected with Smirnov on whose instructions he maintained contact with the Trotskyite center abroad. In 1932 he personally received from Trotsky instructions regarding preparations for terroristic acts against the leaders of the CPSU.

Ter-Vaganyan, who admitted in court that he was one of the organizers of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center and that this center was organized on the basis of Trotsky’s instructions on terrorism.

Olberg, “that peculiar citizen of the Republic of Honduras”, was a paid agent of Trotsky and simultaneously of the German secret police, the Gestapo. He was a member of the German Trotskyite organization since 1927-28 and was sent to the USSR by Trotsky with a commission to carry out terrorist acts.

M. Lurye, who left Berlin for Moscow on March 4, 1933 having received Trotsky’s instructions to speed up terroristic acts against the leaders of the CPSU and the Soviet government.

N. Lurye, who arrived in the USSR in April 1932 from Berlin on a special mission of the Trotskyite organization for the purpose of committing terroristic acts.


Fritz David, who was also sent to the USSR by Trotsky with instructions to make an attempt on the life of Comrade Stalin. He received these instructions in Copenhagen personally from Trotsky.

A parallel center of Trotskyites. This center was exposed at the second Moscow trial in January 1937. It consisted of:

Pyatakov, the Vice-Commissar of Heavy Industry, who as a result of occupying this very important post was able to place other members and supporters of the center into key positions. He was one of the leaders of the so-called parallel center.

Radek, who adhered to the Trotskyite theory of the impossibility of building socialism in the USSR and who jeered at the theory of building socialism in the USSR as the theory of building socialism in one street. He was one of the leaders of the center.

Sokolnikov, the Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and one-time People’s Commissar of Finance, who in 1925 slandered the Soviet state by his assertion that the internal trading establishments of the USSR were state capitalist enterprises.

Serebryakov, who was another of the leaders of the so-called parallel Trotskyite center and who had opposed Lenin in the discussion on the trade unions. He held a liquidationist position with regard to the Party.

Muralov, who was a Trotskyite ‘soldier’, one of Trotsky’s most loyal and steadfast aides. He too confessed that he was a wrecker and a diversionist.

Livshitz, who was an ex-Assistant People’s Commissar of Railways and simultaneously Pyatakov’s assistant in criminal affairs on the railways.

Drobnis, who was an old professional Trotskyite who exterminated workers in accordance with the formula ‘the more victims the better’.

Boguslavsky, a Trotskyite.

Knyazev, who was a Japanese spy who wrecked dozens of trains.

Rataichak, who occupied the key post of Chief of the Central Administration of Chemical Industry. In this responsible post ‘this super-wrecker, develops his chemical talents,… causes explosions, destroys the fruits of the labor of the people, kills people” (Vyshinsky).





Hrasche, whom Vyshinsky described as “a man not only of three dimensions, but at least of three citizenships, who himself described his principal occupation by the eloquent, but not very pleasant word, spy.”


Arnold, who was described as “this international tramp”, and was a man of many names, a hardened scoundrel and a trusted Trotskyite agent.

As can be seen this group held very important positions in the Soviet government and industry, much more so than those held by the first-mentioned group.

The Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites. This Bloc was exposed at the third Moscow trial in March 1938. Predominant in the Bloc were the foremost Right-wing leaders:

Bukharin, who for years occupied many important positions in the Party, though he was known for his vacillations in politics and for his opposition to Lenin and the line of the Party.

Rykov, who was an ex-Prime Minister of the USSR.

Yagoda, who was head of the political police, the OGPU, until 1936.

Trotskyites in the Bloc.

Krestinsky, who was an ex-ambassador to Berlin, an ex-People’s Commissar of Finance and an ex-Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

Rakovsky, who was an ex-ambassador to London and Paris, was an agent of the British intelligence service since 1924 and a Japanese spy since 1934.

Rosengoltz, who was the People’s Commissar of Foreign Trade of the USSR, began espionage work for the German general staff in 1923 and for the British intelligence service in 1926.


Nationalist allies of the Rights and Trotskyites were:

Grinko, who was People’s Commissar of Finance of the USSR and a Ukrainian nationalist. He was a German and Polish spy from 1932.

Ikramov, who was one of the leaders of the bourgeois nationalist organization in Uzbekistan, and in the 1930s the Secretary of the Central Asiatic Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

Khodjayev, who was also one of the leaders of the bourgeois nationalist organization in Uzbekistan.

Sharangovich, who was one of the leaders of the Byelorussian national fascist organization which had set itself the aim of undermining Soviet power and of severing Byelorussia from the USSR and placing it under the rule of Polish capitalist and landlords. He was recruited and sent by the Polish intelligence service to carry on espionage work in the USSR in 1921. He remained a Polish spy until the day of his arrest.

Chernov, the People’s Commissar of Agriculture of the USSR, who was an ex-Menshevik who maintained connections with the Menshevik organizations in foreign countries. He joined the CPSU at the time of the NEP. He began espionage work for Germany in 1928, having formed connections with the German intelligence service with the aid of the notorious Menshevik and emigre, Dan.

Levin, who, like Pletnev and Kazakov, was one of a group of doctors under the influence of Yagoda.



Zelensky, who was a former head of the All Union Administration of Co-operatives.

Other’s of less political importance, who were merely tools of the leadership group, were:


Zubarev, who was one of the organizers and leaders of the counter-revolutionary underground organization of the Rights in the Urals.

Bulanov, who was former Secretary of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs.

Kryuchkov, who was the former secretary of Gorky.

Maximov-Dikovsky, who was a former secretary of Kuibyshev, the Vice-Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissar’s of the USSR who was murdered by the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.

The military group included:









Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 209


It is not surprising, therefore, that the world bourgeoisie should have come out as the foremost vilifier of Soviet revolutionary justice. In these circumstances the Moscow trials were a heaven-sent opportunity for the imperialists and the bourgeois intelligentsia, Trotskyites included, to exploit to the utmost the fertility of their imagination for the purpose of misrepresenting these trials. They turned them into a Hollywood melodrama, so much so that anyone who has read the verbatim reports of these trials could not but begin to wonder, should he read the bourgeois version of the trials, if he is reading about the same ones. The bourgeois version has no connection whatsoever with the real Moscow trials, so for this reason the bourgeois criticisms of the trials are not scientific criticisms, but the criticisms of a dying and decadent class and its ideological flunkeys who are paid inflated salaries for doing this dirty work in defense of the tottering and moribund imperialist bourgeois class rule.

Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 294


On the one hand the Trotskyites and other bourgeois critics of the trials continue to assert that the accused at the trials were Bolsheviks and old revolutionaries who were fighting against the “Stalinist bureaucracy”, “the ruling caste,” and found themselves in the dock because Stalin wanted to get rid of them. On the other hand we are told by the same gentry that the accused accepted false accusations, made false confessions that they knew would cost them their lives, out of party duty and to please Stalin! In other words, they took upon themselves false confessions all for the love of the “bureaucracy,” the “ruling caste,” and the “chief bureaucrat,” Stalin, i.e., for the love of, and out of duty to, the same Party which they had hitherto regarded as bureaucratic and had devoted themselves wholeheartedly to fight against.

Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 307


[Excerpt from Bukharin speech to the Central Committee Plenum of Feb. 23, 1937, in response to charges made by Yezhov]

STALIN (to Bukharin): You must come around to our position. Trotsky with his disciples, Zinoviev and Kamenev, at one time worked with Lenin, now these people have negotiated an agreement with Hitler. After this, can we label such things as shocking! Absolutely not. After everything that has happened to these gentlemen, former comrades, who have negotiated an agreement with Hitler, a sellout of the USSR, there is nothing surprising in human affairs. Everything has to be proven and not replied to using exclamation points and question marks.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 105


Vyshinsky, the former Public Prosecutor, at that time a Deputy Foreign Minister,… Of all the officials we dealt with, he was unquestionably the brightest and most intelligent. As a former teacher of Latin, and with a legal career behind him, he had many intellectual advantages over his colleagues.

Birse, Arthur Herbert. Memoirs of an Interpreter. New York: Coward-McCann, 1967, p. 139


Then we somehow got onto the theme of his having been Public Prosecutor during the Great Purge shortly before the war. I felt this was delicate ground and I should have to be careful what I said, but he came out with the following: “I know what you people abroad have been saying–that I was responsible for the death and exile of many innocent people. But do you realize that I saved the lives of thousands who might have been engulfed in the plot to undermine the safety of our State?”

Birse, Arthur Herbert. Memoirs of an Interpreter. New York: Coward-McCann, 1967, p. 185


Some of the defendants in the trial of the ” Trotskyite-Zinovievite Center,” unexpectedly adding to their pretrial depositions, began to talk about their “criminal” connections with Bukharin Rykov, and Tomsky., and also with Radek, Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Serebryakov, Uglanov, Shliapnikov, and other ex-oppositionists who had not yet been arrested. 0n Aug. 21, 1936, the newspapers carried an order from Vyshinsky starting a new investigation into the counter-revolutionary conspiracy of the people mentioned. In offices and factories throughout the country meetings demanded a full investigation of “the connections of Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, and others with the despicable terrorists.” The same issue of Izvestia that included this demand in its lead article listed Bukharin as its editor-in-chief on the last page.

On September 10, 1936, Vyshinsky published a report: “The investigation has not established a juridical basis for legal proceedings against Bukharin and Rykov, as a result of which the present case is discontinued.” Thus Bukharin, Rykov, and the majority of the former “right” oppositionists remained free.

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 356-357


Explicit accusations were made against Bukharin and Rykov. Radek, for example, said that friendship had long prevented him from implicating Bukharin. He had very much wanted to give his friend the chance to disarm himself by volunteering honest testimony. But now, Radek said, he had decided that he could not enter the court hiding another terrorist organization. He and others offered detailed stories about their counter-revolutionary “connections” with the Bukharin-Rykov group. Radek and other members of the ” Parallel Center” thus decided the fate of the former right deviation. On Jan. 17, 1937, Izvestia appeared without the signature of its editor-in-chief, Bukharin. Rykov, too, was removed from his post. But Stalin still put off arresting these now universally proclaimed “enemies of the people.”

…According to Anna Larina, on Nov. 7, 1936, Bukharin decided to celebrate the holiday at Red Square–not, as usual, on the top of Lenin’s tomb, but in the stands with his wife. But Stalin saw him there and had him invited up.

After the holiday, however, the most painful phase of Bukharin’s life began. He was not summoned to the Lubyanka, but personal confrontations between him and arrested “leftists” and members of the “Bukharin school”–that is, his closest disciples–were arranged in the Kremlin itself. After a face-to-face encounter with Radek he had another with Sokolnikov and one with Serebryakov, then one with Tseitlin, one of his closest followers. They all told of their alleged criminal ties with Bukharin, of the existence of another counter-revolutionary terrorist center headed by Bukharin and Yagoda. For example, in Bukharin’s presence Tseitlin alleged that Bukharin had given him a revolver and placed him on the corner of a street down which Stalin was supposed to travel that day but that Stalin’s car had taken a different route so that the assassination attempt failed.

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 362


At the Red Square celebrations [on Nov. 7, 1936] he [Bukharin] and his wife were on one of the minor stands. A soldier came over with Stalin’s invitation to join him on the Lenin mausoleum. Soon after, Bukharin was served with an eviction order from his Kremlin apartment. Stalin telephoned, and on being told of this said angrily that the evictors must get out immediately, and they did so.

Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 144

In early December 1936 a group of chekists came to Bukharin’s apartment in the Kremlin and served him notice of his eviction from the apartment. Bukharin panicked. He was especially concerned over the fate of his huge library and archive. Where could they be moved to? Suddenly the internal Kremlin phone rang. It was Stalin.

“How are things with you, Nikolai?” he asked as though everything were perfectly normal. Bukharin lost his presence of mind; still, he did manage to say that he was being served an eviction notice. Without asking anything further, Stalin roared, “Chase them the hell out of there!” The uninvited guests left immediately.

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 363

Unlike Rykov, who at the end of 1936 had been moved out of the Kremlin, Bukharin and his family continued to live in their Kremlin apartment. A few days before the plenum was to begin, three Chekists appeared at this apartment with an order to evict Bukharin. Immediately after they arrived, the telephone rang: for the first time in several months, Stalin was calling Bukharin to find out about how he was feeling. Bukharin, who was quite distraught, told Stalin that they were getting ready to evict him. In reply, Stalin advised him to tell his visitors to “go to hell.” Understanding from Bukharin’s responses who was on the other end of the line, the Chekists immediately disappeared. Bukharin unexpectedly received one more ray of hope.

Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 184

At the end of November 1936 a group of strangers arrived at his door from the housekeeping department of the Kremlin. Bukharin was sure that they had come to do a search, which in those months would not have been unusual, even in a Kremlin apartment. But in fact it was worse; they had brought Bukharin an order to vacate the Kremlin. He got extremely upset and was at a total loss to know what to do. He immediately started thinking about his enormous collection of books and personal papers. How could he transport them and where? At that moment the internal Kremlin telephone suddenly rang. It was Stalin. “So, how are things with you, Nikolai?” as though everything were perfectly normal. Bukharin did not know how to reply, and after a pause said that he was being served an eviction notice. Without asking anything further, Stalin exclaimed in a loud voice, “Tell them all to go to the devil.” Hearing that, the uninvited guests beat a hasty retreat.

Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 290

Suddenly, while we were sitting together in the study, three men walked in. We had not heard the doorbell; Ivan Gavrilovich [Bukharin’s father] had let them in. They abruptly informed “Comrade Bukharin” that he was about to be moved out of the Kremlin. Before Nikolai could react, the telephone rang. Stalin was on the line.

“What’s with you there, Nikolai?” asked Koba.

“They’ve just come to move me out of the Kremlin. I don’t care about the Kremlin, but I do want to ask that a place be found to hold my library.”

“You just send them to the devil’s mother!” said Stalin and hung up.

Standing beside the telephone, the three unknown men heard the Boss clearly. They packed off immediately to “the devil’s mother.”

Larina, Anna. This I Cannot Forget. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993, p. 325


No one opposed the overall policy of Stalin and the NKVD; the condemnation and denunciation of Bukharin and Rykov was unanimous. Everyone demanded that they be called to account.

The atmosphere at the February 1937 plenum was already quite heated when Bukharin was given the floor…. he declared, “I am not Zinoviev or Kamenev, and I will not tell lies against myself.” To this Molotov replied from the floor: “If you don’t confess, that will prove you’re a fascist hireling. Their press is saying that our trials are provocations. We’ll arrest you and you’ll confess!”

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 364-365


The commission established to decide Bukharin and Rykov fate met under the chairmanship of Mikoyan…. To reach a decision, the vote was taken by alphabetical order. One after another the Central Committee members rose– Andreev, Bubnov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Molotov–and uttered three words: “Arrest, try, shoot.” When Stalin’s turn came he said: “Let the NKVD handle the case,” and several other people then repeated this formula,….

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 367


But when it was Krestinsky’s turn, he unexpectedly answered:

“I do not admit my guilt. I am not a Trotskyite. I never took part in the “Right-Trotskyite Bloc” and wasn’t aware of its existence. I never committed a single one of the crimes imputed to me, and in particular I do not confess myself guilty of contacts with German intelligence.”

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 369


It has been said that Bukharin, Kamenev, Rakovsky, and the others did not really appear in court; skillfully made-up and specially trained NKVD agents supposedly took their place. But some who attended the trials and who knew many of the defendants well, including Ehrenburg, and others whom I personally interviewed in the ’60s denied this supposition.

Ehrenburg expressed his confidence to me in a conversation that it really was Bukharin, Rykov, Krestinsky, Rosengoltz, and Rakovsky who sat on the defendants’ bench…. At the same time they did not give the impression of people who had been recently subjected to prolong torture.

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 381


I referred again to the harmful effect which the all too simple conduct of the Zinoviev trial had had abroad, even amongst the well-wishers. Stalin laughed a little at those who demanded many written documents before they could bring themselves to believe in a conspiracy; practiced conspirators, he said, were not in the habit of leaving their documents lying around for all to see.

Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 108


And to me also, as long as I was in Western Europe, the indictment in the Zinoviev trial seemed utterly incredible. The hysterical confessions of the accused seemed to have been extorted by some mysterious means and the whole proceedings appeared like a play staged with consummate, strange, and frightful artistry.

But when I attended the second trial in Moscow, when I saw Pyatakov, Radek, and his friends, and heard what they said and how they said it, I was forced to accept the evidence of my senses, and my doubts melted away as naturally as salt dissolves in water. If that was lying or prearranged, then I don’t know what truth is.

So I took up the records of the trials, reflected on what I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own years, and considered once more the pros and cons of the charge.

Fundamentally, the proceedings were directed above all against the great Trotsky, indicted and absent, and the principal objection is the alleged unauthenticity of the charge brought against him. “This man Trotsky,” opponents cry, “one of the founders of the Soviet State, Lenin’s friend, is supposed himself to have given general instructions to sabotage the building up of the state which he had helped to found, to kindle war against it, and to scheme for its defeat in this war? Is that conceivable? Is that credible?”

That may be, but closer examination reveals that the conduct of which the charge accuses Trotsky, far from being incredible, is the only conduct which can be expected from Trotsky’s state of mind.

Imagine this man Trotsky, condemned as he was to inactivity, compelled to look on idly, whilst the noble experiment which Lenin and he had begun was transformed into a sort of gigantic petty bourgeois allotment. For to him, who wanted to steep the terrestrial globe in socialism, the ” Stalin State,” as he says in word and writing, appeared a ridiculous caricature of his original idea. In addition, there is the deep personal antagonism towards Stalin, the compromiser, who had always bungled his, the creator of the plan’s work, and finally expelled him. Trotsky has given expression time and time again to his unbounded hatred and contempt for Stalin. Would he not translate into action what he had expressed in word and writing?

It also seems to me to be conceivable that a man who, blinded by hate, refused to admit to himself the generally acknowledged facts of the accomplished economic construction of the Union and the strength of its army, would be incapable of seeing the uselessness of his expedient and would choose a course which was manifestly wrong. Trotsky is bold and unhesitating, a great gambler. His whole life is a chain of adventures, and foolhardy projects had often turned out very successfully for him. Trotsky, all his life an optimist, had relied on his being able to utilize evil to attain his ends and finally, if it should become necessary, to cut it out and render it harmless. If Alcibiades went to the Persians, why not Trotsky to the Fascists?

What, then, must have been Trotsky’s principal goal during all the years of exile, and what must be his principal goal today? To get back into the country at any price and reassume power.

Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 113-116last night of peace was quite different.

At 3:30 a.m. the Chief of Staff of the Western District reported a German air raid on towns in Byelorussia. About three minutes later the Chief of Staff of the Kiev District, Purkayev, reported an air strike on Ukrainian towns. At 3:40 a.m. the Commander of the Baltic District, General Kuznetsov, called to report enemy air raids on Kaunas and other towns.

The Commissar for Defense ordered me to phone Stalin. I started calling. No one answers. I keep calling. Finally I hear the sleep-dulled voice of the general on duty of the security section. I ask him to call Stalin to the phone.


The room in which the trial took place is not large: it holds about 350 people. The judges, the public prosecutor, the accused, the counsel for the defense, and the experts sat on a low platform which had steps leading up to it, and there was no barrier between the court and the public. There was nothing in the nature of a prisoner’s dock; the barrier which divided the prisoners from the others reminded one rather of the support round a loge. The prisoners themselves were well-groomed, well-dressed men of a careless, natural bearing. They drank tea, had newspapers in our pockets, and often looked towards the public. The whole thing was less like a criminal trial than a debate carried on in a conversational tone by educated men who were trying to get at the truth and explain why what had happened had happened. Indeed, the impression one received was that the accused, prosecution, and judges had the same, I might almost say sporting, interest in arriving at a satisfactory explanation of what had happened, without omitting anything. If a producer had had to arrange this court scene, years of rehearsal and careful coaching would have been necessary to get the prisoners to correct one another eagerly on small points and to express their emotion with such restraint. In short, the hypnotizers, and poison-mixers, and police officers who prepared the prisoners would, in addition to their normal bewildering qualifications, have had to be first-class stage-managers and psychologists.
Unreal and uncanny were the detachment and bluntness with which these men just before their as good as certain death set forth and explained their conduct and their guilt. It is a pity that the laws of the Soviet Union forbade photographs and gramophone records to be made in court. If one could have reproduced for the whole world not only what the prisoners said, but how they said it, their intonations, their faces, I think there would be very few skeptics left.
They all confessed, but each in a different way; the first with a note of cynicism in his voice; the second with the soldier’s uprightness; the third conquering himself, not without an internal struggle; the fourth like a schoolboy who is sorry; the fifth lecturing. But every one with the tone, the appearance, and gestures of truth.
I shall never forget how Pyatakov stood in front of the microphone, a middle-aged man of average build, rather bald, with a reddish, old-fashioned, sparse, pointed beard, and how he lectured. Calmly and at the same time sedulously, he explained how he had managed to sabotage the industries under him. He expounded, pointed his finger, gave the impression of a school teacher, a historian giving a lecture on the life and deeds of a man who had been dead for many years, named Pyatakov, anxious to make everything clear even to the smallest details so that his listeners and students should understand fully.
Nor shall I easily forget Radek, the writer; how he sat there in his brown suit, his ugly fleshless face framed by a chestnut-colored old-fashioned beard; how he looked over to the public, a great many of whom he knew, or at the other prisoners, often smiling, very composed, often studiedly ironical; how he laid his arm with a light and easy gesture round the shoulders of this or that prisoner as he came in; how, when he spoke, he would pose a little, laugh a little at the other prisoners, show his superiority; arrogant, skeptical, adroit, literary. Somewhat brusquely, he pushed Pyatakov away from the microphone and himself took up his position there….
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow , 1937. New York : The Viking Press, 1937, p. 123-125

During my last year in Russia , I came into Moscow on two or three occasions for brief visits. We were invited to various social gatherings of the American community, and I discovered that Moscow Americans were engaged in a non-stop discussion of the Russian conspiracy trials which had started in August 1936,…
The Moscow Americans were about evenly divided on the question of whether or not the conspiracy trials were pure fakes. I listened to their debates on the subject. Some of them argued that there had been no conspiracy whatever, that the defendants in these had never done anything worse than criticize Stalin and his actions, and that they had been compelled by torture to confess crimes they had never committed.
But most of the Americans who had attended the trials were not so sure that the testimony was false. Especially after the second trial was held, in January, 1937, some of them who had argued the whole thing was a frame-up switched over to the other side and decided there had been a big conspiracy, although they were pretty sure that some of the testimony in these trials was inaccurate.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York : Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 290-291


In his concluding words, Radek told how throughout 2 1/2 months, every single word of the confession had had to be forced out of him and how difficult he had made it for the examining magistrate. “It was not I who was tortured by the examining magistrate,” he said, “but the examining magistrate who was tortured by me.”
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow , 1937. New York : The Viking Press, 1937, p. 144

At the prosecutor’s bidding, the defendants denied even the suggestion that they had given their testimony under “external pressure.” Thus, Vyshinsky questioned Norkin in detail about whether the investigators had “pressured” him. Such “pressure,” Vyshinsky said in concretizing his questions, could be expressed in depriving the accused of good food or sleep: “We know this from the history of capitalist prisons. They might take away cigarettes.” In response to these cynical questions, Norkin meekly replied that “there had been nothing of the sort.”
Radek went even further in his concluding remarks when he himself raised this risky theme: “If the question is posed here, did they torture us during the investigation, then I must say that they did not torture me, but I tortured the investigators by forcing them to perform unnecessary work.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park , Michigan : Labor Publications, 1998, p. 124


Nevertheless, anyone who underlines the shortcomings and relegates the big things which are to be seen there to footnotes accuses himself more than the Soviet Union . He is like a critic who notices first and foremost in a poet of genius that his commas are not in the right places.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow , 1937. New York : The Viking Press, 1937, p. 147


When I reached Moscow, I reported exactly what I had discovered at Kalata to Serebrovsky….
He started an investigation right away, and in a short time the mine manager and some of the engineers were put on trial for sabotage. The manager got 10 years, the maximum prison sentence in Russia, and the engineers lesser terms. The evidence indicated that they had deliberately removed the former manager in order to wreck the mines.
I was satisfied at the time that there was something bigger in all this than the little group of men at Kalata; but I naturally couldn’t warn Serebrovsky against prominent members of his own Communist party. It has never been my policy to get mixed up in politics but I was so sure that something was wrong high up in the political administration of the Ural Mountains that I agreed to stay on in Russia….
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 98

I studied all the information I could get hold of about the trial of the manager and engineers at Kalata. It seemed clear to me at the time that the selection of this commission [this group of miners] and their conduct at Kalata traced straight back to the Communist high command in Sverdlovsk, whose members must be charged either with criminal negligence or actual participation in the events which had occurred in these mines.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 99

However, the chief secretary of the Communist Party in the Urals, a man named Kabakoff, had occupied this post since 1922, all through the period of great activity in developing the mines and industries of the Urals. For some reason which was never clear to me he had always commanded the complete confidence of the Kremlin, and was considered so powerful that he was privately described as the “Bolshevik Viceroy of the Urals.”
If this man’s record was examined, there was nothing to justify the reputation he appeared to have. Under his long rule, the Ural area, which is one of the richest mineral regions in Russia and which was given almost unlimited capital for exploitation, never did produce anything like what it should have done.
This commission at Kalata, whose members later admitted they had come there with wrecking intentions, had been sent directly from this man’s headquarters, and yet when this evidence came out at the trial, there was no reflection against Kabakoff. I told some of my Russian acquaintances at the time that it seemed to me there was a lot more going on in the Urals than had yet been revealed, and that it came from somewhere high up.
All these incidents became clearer, so far as I was concerned, after the conspiracy trial in January, 1937, when Pyatakov, together with several of his associates, confessed in open court that they had engaged in organized sabotage of mines, railways, and other industrial enterprises since the beginning of 1931. A few weeks after this trial had ended and Pyatakov had been sentenced to be shot, the chief Party Secretary in the Urals, Kabakoff, who had been a close associate of Pyatakov’s, was arrested on charges of complicity in the same conspiracy.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 100

I was particularly interested in that part of Pyatakov’s confession which concerned his actions at Berlin in 1931, when he headed the purchasing commission to which I was assigned as technical adviser. It then became clear to me why the Russians around Pyatakov had not been pleased when I discovered that German concerns had substituted cast-iron for light steel in specifications for mine hoists.
Pyatakov testified that anti-Stalin conspirators, headed by Trotsky, the exiled former Commissar of War, needed foreign currency to build up a fund for their work abroad. INSIDE RUSSIA, WITH SO MANY CONSPIRATORS OCCUPYING IMPORTANT POSITIONS, he said it was easy to get funds, but Soviet paper money was no good abroad. Trotsky’s son, Sedov, according to Pyatakov, therefore worked out a scheme to get foreign currency without arousing suspicion.
At his trial, Pyatakov testified that he met Sedov in Berlin in 1931 by previous arrangement in a restaurant near the Zoo. He added: “Sedov said that only one thing was required of me, namely, that I should place as many orders as possible with two German firms, and that he, Sedov, would arrange to receive the necessary sums from them, bearing in mind that I would not be particularly exacting as to prices.”
Questioned by the prosecutor, Pyatakov added that he was not required to steal or divert Soviet money, but only to place as many orders as possible with the firms mentioned. He said that he made no personal contacts of any kind with these firms, but that the matter was arranged by others without any further action on his part than throwing business to them.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 101

Pyatakov testified: “It was done very simply, particularly since I had very many opportunities, and a fairly large number of orders went to those firms.” He added that it was easy to act without arousing suspicion in the case of one firm because the firm itself had a fine reputation, and it was simply a question of paying slightly higher prices than were necessary.
The following testimony then was given at the trial:
PYATAKOV: But as regards the other firm, it was necessary to persuade and exercise pressure in order to have purchases placed with this firm.
PROSECUTOR: Consequently, you also paid this firm excessively at the expense of the Soviet Government?
Pyatakov then went on to say that Sedov did not tell him exactly what the conditions were, what the technique was for this transfer of money, but assured him that if Pyatakov placed orders with these firms, Sedov would receive money for the special fund.
This passage in Pyatakov’s confession is a plausible explanation, in my opinion, of what was going on in Berlin in 1931, when my suspicions were aroused because the Russians working with Pyatakov tried to induce me to approve the purchases of mine hoists which were not only too expensive, but would have been useless in the mines for which they were intended. I had found it hard to believe that these men were ordinary grafters, as they did not seem to be the kind interested in feathering their own nests. But they had been seasoned political conspirators before the Revolution, and had taken risks of the same degree for the sake of their so-called cause.
Of course, I have no way of knowing whether the political conspiracy mentioned in all confessions at this trial was organized as the prisoners said it was. I never attempted to follow the ins and outs of political disputes in Russia, and wouldn’t have known what anti-Government conspirators were talking about if they had tried to drag me into their affairs, which none of them ever did.
Another part of this testimony that some Moscow journalists found it hard to believe was that German firms should give commissions to Sedov. But I have already mentioned in an earlier chapter that Russian emigres were in the habit of collecting commissions from German firms for using their alleged influence to throw Soviet business in their direction. The managers of these German firms might consider that Sedov was simply another Russian emigre, and would make the same kind of deal with him that I know they have been making for years with other emigres.
In such cases, it was the usual procedure for German firms merely to figure in the promised commissions into their prices, and if the Russians accepted the prices nothing more was necessary. But in the case of these mine hoists, the commission must have been put so high that the firm had to juggle the specifications in order to clear its profit. When they did this, my attention was attracted and the deal was blocked. Pyatakov testified that he had to exert pressure to have some orders passed, and I have told how pressure was put on me.
The testimony at this trial aroused a great deal of skepticism abroad and among foreign diplomats at Moscow. I talked with some Americans there who believed it was a frame-up from beginning to end. Well, I didn’t attend the trial, but I did follow the testimony very closely, and it was printed verbatim in several languages. A GREAT DEAL OF THE TESTIMONY ABOUT INDUSTRIAL SABOTAGE SOUNDED MORE PROBABLE TO ME THAN IT DID TO SOME OF THE MOSCOW DIPLOMATS AND CORRESPONDENTS. I KNOW FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE THAT A GOOD DEAL OF INDUSTRIAL SABOTAGE WAS GOING ON ALL THE TIME IN SOVIET MINES AND THAT SOME OF IT COULD HARDLY HAVE OCCURRED WITHOUT THE COMPLICITY OF HIGHLY PLACED COMMUNIST MANAGERS.
… Pyatakov’s confession cleared up what had happened.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 102
One of my last jobs in Russia, in 1937, was a hurry call to return to the same mines. Once more those fine mines [which Littlepage had straightened out] were close to destruction. Thousands of tons of rich ores had already been lost beyond recovery, and in a few more weeks, if nothing had been done meanwhile, the whole deposit might have been lost.
When I began looking into what had happened, I saw a striking parallel between events here and those at the copper mines at Kalata. The Ridder mines, I discovered, had gone along fairly well for two or three years after I reorganized them in 1932. The two young engineers who had impressed me so favorably had remained in charge, and had carried out the instructions I had left them with noteworthy success. Considering the kind of workmen they had to deal with and all the restrictions which hedged their movements, they have performed marvels.
Then an investigating commission had appeared from Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, similar to the one sent to the minds at Kalata. From that time on, although the same engineers had remained in the mines, an entirely different system was introduced throughout those mines which any competent engineer could have foretold would cause the loss of a large part of the ore body in a few months. They had even mined pillars which we had left to protect the main working shafts, so that the ground around had settled.
One of the most flagrant examples of mismanagement concerned a rather elaborate ventilating and dust-collecting system which had been ordered for the lead smelter to prevent the poisoning of workers. This ventilating system, which cost a lot of money and was necessary to protect the health of workers in the smelter, had actually been installed in the filter section of the mill, where there were no harmful gases or dust of any kind. NOW I AM SURE THAT EVERY ENGINEER WILL AGREE THAT SUCH INCIDENTS CANNOT POSSIBLY BE THE RESULT OF MERE STUPIDITY, and I have already pointed out that the two engineers in these mines were unusually capable.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 113

I went through the plant thoroughly, and drew up my report with great care, as I knew it was likely to be damaging to a number of managers and engineers. I WAS COMPELLED TO STATE, HOWEVER, THAT THE EVIDENCE STRONGLY INDICATED A DELIBERATE CHANGE IN THE METHODS OF OPERATING THE MINES FROM THE TIME OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMISSION’S VISIT. It was necessary also to point out that my written instructions, which had been followed with good results for several years, had then apparently been thrown into the stove, and that methods had been introduced which my instructions had warned against.
I have failed to mention that the engineers of whom I have spoken were no longer at work in the mines when I arrived there in 1937, and I understood they had been arrested for alleged complicity in a nationwide conspiracy to sabotage Soviet industries which had been disclosed in a trial of leading conspirators in January.
When I had submitted my report, I was shown the written confessions of the engineers I had befriended in 1932. They admitted that they had been drawn into a conspiracy against the Stalin regime by opposition Communists who convinced them that they were strong enough to overthrow Stalin and his associates and take over control of the Soviet Government. The conspirators proved to them, they said, that they had many supporters among Communists in high places. These engineers, although they themselves were not Communists, decided they would have to back one side or the other, and they picked the losing side.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 114

According to their confessions, the “investigating commission” had consisted of conspirators, who traveled around from mine to mine lining up supporters. After they had been persuaded to join the conspiracy, the engineers at Ridder had taken my written instructions as the basis for wrecking the mines. THEY HAD DELIBERATELY INTRODUCED METHODS WHICH I HAD WARNED AGAINST, AND IN THIS WAY HAD BROUGHT THE MINES CLOSE TO DESTRUCTION.
I know that many observers are skeptical about the charges of wrecking conspiracies in Russia; I don’t pretend to know anything about such matters except in those cases in which I have been directly concerned. In this case, I know that methods had been introduced into the Ridder mines which I had warned engineers there would be seriously destructive, if not fatal, to the mines. I know that these methods were introduced by the very engineers who had impressed me as particularly capable, and to whom I had explained in great detail why such methods could not be used. And I have seen confessions, signed by these engineers, which stated they had deliberately introduced these methods in order to wreck the mines as their part in a nationwide conspiracy.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 115

For almost three years, I devoted most of my time to ailing copper, lead, and zinc mines. I had rushed from one group of mines to another, trying to repair the ravages of management which was either incredibly stupid or deliberately hostile to proper operation of the minds.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 116

It was reported at the time that the decision to restore prospectors was reached only after a prolonged debate, covering a period of months and resulting in some bitterness. According to these reports, Stalin himself and his fellow-Georgian Ordjonikidze, the Commissar of Heavy Industries, had swung the decision in favor of prospectors.
…Serebrovsky, being an engineer himself, had selected a managing staff with more attention to their technical training than some of the other Bolshevik executives. He was apparently a better judge of men, too; the number of wreckers in the gold industry was always extremely small compared to other Soviet industries.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 118
…A little later my title was changed to Deputy Chief Engineer of the Gold Trust, in charge of production. In this capacity I was the trouble-shooter for all the mines in the USSR.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 120

My own views on this subject are based largely upon my personal experiences. I have told how I encountered large-scale sabotage in the copper-lead minds and mills in the Urals and Kazakhstan, and how the atmosphere I encountered in the Copper-Lead Trust from the moment I first worked for this Trust in 1931 made me uncomfortable and suspicious….
After I had left Russia, a third great conspiracy trial was held in March, 1938. The testimony in this trial did much to confirm my previous impressions that a tremendous anti-Stalin conspiracy had been organized in Russia in 1931 or earlier, and that it had included some of the most important men and women in the country–Communist managers who had been given the most responsible positions in industry as well as in politics, and who could easily cause catastrophic damage to any large industry if they were so minded.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 292

I have made it clear in this book that I believe some Communist industrial managers were guilty of sabotage, judging solely by my own first-hand observations of what happened in enterprises under their control.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 308

(Sinclair’s comments only)
I know just as well that there are German and Japanese agents in Russia today posing as being ultra-left-wingers, as I know that there are spies in the American labor movement, posing as being Communists and doing everything they can to lead the movement into violence and disorder so that it may be discredited.
I knew this must be so; and then one day in the Saturday Evening Post I came upon the articles of Mr. Littlepage, an American engineer who is without any trace of radicalism; and he tells how during his 10 years of service in the mining industry of the Soviet Union he witnessed the wholesale sabotage and speculated as to its causes.
He tells about one of the high-up officials [Pyatakov] whose acts of sabotage in the purchase of machinery he witnessed in Berlin; and it so happens that this individual was one of the men who confessed to those very same acts in the public proceedings which you describe as “obscene show trials.”
Sinclair and Lyons. Terror in Russia?: Two Views. New York : Rand School Press, 1938, p. 27

QUESTION: During 1928-32 many scientists and technicians were falsely charged with sabotage and arrested or imprisoned merely as scapegoats for inevitable shortcomings of the Five-Year Plan.

ANSWER: Every American specialist who worked in Soviet industry during those years knows that there was much sabotage. Ball, in the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, told me: “At first there were two gangs in this plant; one was making tractors, the other was preventing them. I’ve seen sabotage in the States when firms were at war. Think I didn’t know it here? The plant was lousy with it, but oh, boy, they took them out of here!”
Other Americans told me of an agronomical expert who organized the plowing of a 200,000 acre farm to increase erosion, of a factory manager who sent false reports on American machines being bribed by a rival German firm. I myself heard a dozen Russian employees of the British firm Metro-Vickers tell in open court of the destruction they did in power plants.
Strong, Anna Louise. “Searching Out the Soviets.” New Republic: August 7, 1935, p. 357


Pyatakov “admitted” that in the spring of 1931 he had met in Germany with Trotsky’s son Sedov, who passed him a directive on terror in the Soviet Union. According to Yezhov, Pyatakov told the police after his arrest that “I, unfortunately, gave my agreement.” Here the stenographic record notes “noise, movement in the hall.” Beria once more interrupted: “Bastard!” Yezhov responded, “Worse than a bastard.”
Pyatakov, he continued, then set up terrorist organizations through his Trotskyite friends but did not yet give them the order to act. That came only in 1935-36, “more accurately at the beginning of 1936,” after which these groups tried to assassinate Molotov, Ordjonikidze, and Kaganovich. There was also a plan to poison all the leaders of the government at a Kremlin banquet. “You understand, comrades,” Yezhov went on, “that I am speaking here only of those facts in the direct testimony [of the arrestees] and of confirmed facts.” Ominously, he announced that “I assume that we have many, many undiscovered cases.”
He then read a number of excerpts from prisoners statements, in which they admitted causing accidents in military factories and on railroads. One direct link had been found between Trotskyites and a White Guard organization working in biology. Sokolnikov had confessed that for all these “little groups,” the Ryutin memorandum was “in essence the acceptable program.” Sokolnikov had linked all the terrorist activity to Radek and Tomsky, a former Politburo member and union chief.
At this point a connection to Bukharin began to surface. Tomsky had been one of his partners in the “Right Opposition” of 1928-29, which opposed forced collectivization. Zinoviev, Yezhov stated, had also pointed to the Right in his pretrial testimony; Kamenev had done so in the trial itself. Four rightist leaders, Rykov, Tomsky, Bukharin, and Uglanov, knew of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc and “completely shared its aims,” Yezhov announced. At that, Bukharin, present as a candidate member of the Central Committee, asked to speak; he was ignored.
Yezhov continued that other sources had confirmed the testimony about knowledge by the Right of terrorist plans. In particular Sosnovsky, a follower of Trotsky in the 1920s and later a journalist under Bukharin at Izvestia, had told the NKVD that his boss had accepted the Ryutin platform. Three other former oppositionists had testified that a Right Center of Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, and two other men had decided to turn to terror. Yezhov and the Politburo member Kaganovich had then brought Rykov and Bukharin face-to-face with other Rightists; the two Stalinist henchmen had “had no doubt” that the two under suspicion “were informed of the Trotskyites’ decision to turn to terrorism and sympathized with it.” This remark was obviously not evidence of all, but it fit the mood of the session.
To come to the decision that Yezhov was lying, those present at the December 1936 plenum had to make several mental calculations. They had to conclude that the testimony gathered by the police was false, which could only mean that those arrested, who had all served in high positions in the party for years, had been tortured. Such a possibility was as yet unthinkable; no precedent existed for torturing party members who had been in good standing until their arrests. If torture had occurred, then Stalin must have known about it. But why would he have authorized physical methods and arranged “confessions”? The usual theory says that he wanted to cement his position completely; the Central Committee records, however, give no indication that serious resistance to him existed within it or within the party as a whole, except among former oppositionists. This sentiment, such as it was, had last appeared three years earlier, At the Seventeenth Party Congress. So anyone deciding that Stalin needed torture to gain confessions from the arrestees also needed to believe that he was mad; yet he had led the party to some important successes, at least from the point of view of industrial development, and major domestic crises seemed in the past. Therefore an apparently capable leader, by the standards and conditions of the contemporary USSR, had to be deemed insane in order for one to find a hole in Yezhov’s presentation. And striking at former oppositionists had little to do with the vast majority of the Central Committee in 1936, which had never resisted Stalin. Thus the cases of Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Serebryakov, Bukharin, and the others did not suggest that Stalin had a broader attack on the party in mind. For all these reasons, it would have been both psychologically safer and more logical to accept what the top leadership said was happening. And who could know for sure that the confessions were false?
In fact, not only staunch Stalinists but also Bukharin accepted the charges against many others, though of course not against themselves. Bukharin tried to play by Stalin’s rules in defending himself to the Central Committee when he was allowed to speak, on the same day that Yezhov had presented his charges.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 37-38

The Central Committee plenum met on December 4th to the 7th. On December 4th, Yezhov reported on “the Trotskyite and Rightists anti-Soviet organizations” and said that Bukharin and Rykov had not “laid down their arms” but had gone underground. He produced the evidence of Kulikov and others, and Bukharin and Rykov were violently denounced by Kaganovich, Molotov, and Voroshilov. Although many seem to have remained silent, and Ordjonikidze is reported as making remarks implying distrust of Yezhov, many speakers demanded the expulsion of the two Rightists from the Central Committee and the Party (all the Central Committee–including Bukharin and Rykov themselves–had been receiving confidential copies of the testimony against the two men). They strongly denied the accusations. During intervals they were brought to confrontations with Kulikov and with Pyatakov and Sosnovsky. But Stalin again temporized, and the plenum accepted his proposal “to consider the question of Rykov and Bukharin as incomplete. Further investigation to be undertaken, a decision postponed until the next plenum.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 145

…On 4 December 1936 Stalin convened a plenum of the Central Committee in the Kremlin, prohibiting any mention of it in the press…. The plenum approved the final text of the USSR Constitution and heard a report from Yezhov on the activities of the “anti-Soviet Trotskyist and Right organizations.” Yezhov, joined by several other speakers, demanded that Bukharin and Rykov be expelled from the Party and their case handed over to the NKVD. Bukharin tried to defend himself, categorically denying all the accusations that had been made against him. Stalin spoke cautiously, but said that although it was impossible simply to believe Bukharin, there had to be more substantial evidence. Arrangements were made for a confrontation to take place on 7 Dec 1936 during an interval between sessions of the plenum. On one side there were Pyatakov, Radek, Kulikov, Sosnovsky, and several other prisoners, all of whom had implicated Bukharin. On the other side there was Bukharin, who was given the opportunity to refute their accusations. Questions were asked by Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Andreev, Ordzhonikidze, and Zhdanov. At the evening session of the plenum Stalin reported that he had not found the statements of all the accusers to be convincing. Therefore he proposed that they “consider the question of Rykov and Bukharin to be unfinished and postpone a decision until the next plenum.”
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 290


It appears that in late 1936 Ordjonikidze had wavered in his judgment of his longtime subordinate, Pyatakov. In a speech Ordjonikidze gave in early December, he departed from his notes to say that he had spent many sleepless nights wondering how wrecking could have occurred in the Commissariat of Heavy Industry…. According to Bukharin’s wife, Anna Larina, Ordjonikidze met with Pyatakov in prison at this point and asked him twice if his testimony was entirely voluntary. Upon receiving the answer that it was, Ordjonikidze appeared shaken.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 46


But Trotsky would try and have us believe that a whole series of entirely innocent men, working quietly at their posts– some of them in key positions in the country–were arrested and forced to confess to a plot which had no existence in reality. Why? What purpose could this serve? The trials gave the capitalist press of the world an opportunity which they used to the full to throw mud at the Soviet Union.
The Soviet government was perfectly well aware that they would do so, and yet it is alleged to have gratuitously presented capitalism with this opportunity by inventing a monstrous plot which had no existence in fact. And people who accept this monstrous nonsense dare to talk of “credibility”; “Who led these people into a state in which all human reflexes are destroyed?” Who indeed? What proof is there that the prisoners were other than in their normal state of physical and mental health? They answered questions for hours on end. The testimony of the one was carefully compared with the testimony of the other before a crowded court.
…We are asked by Trotsky to believe that one of his most outstanding followers, a man [Muralov] who never made his peace with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, not only confessed to crimes of which he was guiltless, but actually falsely declared that he was treated most politely.
We are told that Stalin was anxious to ensure the world bourgeoisie that he had completely abandoned Socialism and revolution and was moving back to capitalism, and that the executions were a proof of the genuineness of his intentions. And so Stalin selects a number of men who never believed in the possibility of building socialism in Russia anyhow, and has them shot in order to show the world that he also no longer believes in that possibility! And the victims–enemies of Stalin from pass struggles–they also treat Stalin “decently and politely” and falsely accuse themselves of committing a crime which they know is punishable by death. Surely the more the Trotskyists try to explain away the trial, the more fantastic their explanations become. In fact the more they talk the more they confirm the fact that there was a plot of a particularly despicable character.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 248-250


“All trials of political opponents, real and alleged,” says Shachtman, Trotsky’s American henchman, “that is, all trials held in public, have been monotonously identical under the reign of Stalin. No documents, no material evidence, nothing written adduced, all the evidence confined to the spontaneous and ‘voluntary’ confessions of the invariably penitent accused. This has been the case from the Shakhty trial to the Zinoviev trial.”
This is completely untrue. There were witnesses and material evidence to supplement the evidence of the accused in all these trials. And what is more, before Trotsky went over to terrorism it never occurred to him to doubt these trials for a single moment. In a pamphlet entitled Problems of the Development of the USSR which Shachtman translated in 1931, Trotsky treats both the Shakhty and the Menshevik trial as “giving an extremely striking picture of the relationships of force of the classes and the parties in the USSR.” He expresses no doubts about these trials. On the contrary, he says:
“It was irrefutably established by the Court that during the years 1923-28 the bourgeois specialists, in close alliance with the foreign centers of the bourgeoisie, successfully carried through an artificial slackening down of industrialization, counting upon the re-establishment of capitalist relationships” (page 26).
To take the Radek-Pyatakov trial as an example, there was the testimony of five accomplices, Bukhartsev, Romm, Tamm, Stein, and Loginov.
There were the Experts Committee of three, which showed that some of the explosions could not have occurred accidentally. Further, letters that Knyazev, a prominent railway official concerned in wrecking, had received from Japanese agents and had omitted to destroy, were found amongst his personal effects and were identified by him.
The diary of the accused Stroilov, who had been blackmailed by German Secret Service agents into engaging in espionage and sabotage, was produced and was found to contain their telephone numbers, which were checked and confirmed by the appropriate telephone directory.
The movements of the German agents mentioned in the trial were confirmed by the production of official records of their arrival. The identity photographs were produced, and the accused Stroilov picked them out from a number of other photographs. The charge of “no documents, no material evidence” will not bear examination.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V.Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 261-262

Touching upon the trial’s main weak spot–the absence of even the slightest material evidence of the defendants’ criminal activity–Vyshinsky declared: “May I be so bold as to state that, in accordance with the fundamental demands of the science of criminal procedure, in cases of conspiracy such demands cannot be presented.”
In conclusion, Vyshinsky saw only one shortcoming in the given trial. “I am convinced,” he said, “that the accused have not stated even 1/2 of the truth which comprises the nightmarish tale of their terrible crimes against our country, against our great motherland.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 123


There are three points in the trials, however, on which Trotsky had tried to fasten in order to discredit the whole edifice of evidence put forward.
In the first trial, Holtzman, one of the accused, confessed to having a long interview with Trotsky in the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen. “But it so happens that the Hotel Bristol,” says Trotsky gleefully, “was razed to its foundations in 1917. In 1932 this hotel existed only as a fond memory.” The Trotskyists are gleeful: the OGPU, which made the prisoners confess down to the minutest detail, was apparently so clumsy that when it made Holtzman confess that he had seen Trotsky in the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen in 1932, it did not even trouble to ascertain whether there was a Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen in 1932. A frame up is (according to Trotsky) devised down to the minutest detail, but the authors are so clumsy that they mention meeting places in hotels that do not exist. But what do the facts show? Holtzman testified that when he arrived at the station he crossed over to the Bristol Hotel. Now opposite the station there is no Bristol Hotel. There is, however, the Grand Central Hotel, and in the same building there is a Bristol Cafe. Further, at the date mentioned, it was possible to obtain entrance to the Hotel through the cafe. It may be that Holtzman, seeing the sign above the cafe, was confused as to the name of the hotel. He was naturally not taking notes with a view to a future confession. It is one of the curiosities of Trotskyist quibbling that while they were at great pains to convince the world that no Bristol Hotel existed in Copenhagen, they concealed the fact that just over from the station, as described by Holtzman, there was the Bristol cafe through which entrance could be obtained to the Grand Central Hotel. But those who believe in Trotsky’s innocence will find the following remark of Trotsky more than curious. “Holtzman apparently knew the Hotel Bristol through memories of his emigration long ago, and that is why he named it.” On the one hand we are told by the Trotskyists that the confessions were dictated to the prisoners by the remorseless OGPU, and on the other hand we have a prisoner who obligingly makes up his own confession out of his memories of emigration.
The second objection is the journey of Pyatakov to see Trotsky in Oslo in 1935. It is declared that this is impossible because not a single foreign airplane landed at the Oslo airport in December 1935.
On the other hand, not only Pyatakov, but a witness, Bukhartsev, the Berlin correspondent of Izvestia, gave the most circumstantial details as to how the journey was arranged in a special airplane placed at Pyatakov’s disposal by the German government. To put it on the lowest possible level, it is more likely that the Nazi Government, which has known how to get hundreds of airplanes into Northern Spain in spite of the control exercised by the Non-Intervention Committee, should succeed in getting a single airplane in and out of Norway, than that Pyatakov and Bukhartsev should charge themselves with a crime which they never committed.
The next so-called loophole refers to the evidence of the witness Romm, another Izvestia correspondent who carried correspondence between Trotsky and Radek. Romm deposed that he had a meeting with Trotsky in the Bois de Boulogne at the end of July 1933 and had a conversation lasting from 20 to 25 minutes. Trotsky seeks to refute this by declaring that he was staying during the month of July 1933 at Royan, and that he was seen there by John Patton and C.A. Smith of the British Independent Labor Party, and those gentlemen have very obligingly told the world that they saw Trotsky there in the flesh during that period. We do not doubt that for a single moment. Suppose in a criminal case in Great Britain a witness testified that he had a conversation with one of the accused in Hyde Park in the middle of July. Would it be regarded as an adequate refutation of that witnesses evidence that the accused had been domiciled in Edinburg during July? Are there not trains traveling between Edinburg and Glasgow, and are there no motor-cars? Really, would that type of refutation convince anybody?
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 263-265


But if there were no conspiracy in the Soviet Union why the trials?
Hear the explanations of Trotsky’s defenders are many and varied.
“The Trial,” says the American Trotskyist Shachtman, “also served the purpose of the bureaucracy in distracting the attention of the Soviet proletariat and the workers in the capitalist lands from the base betrayal of the Spanish working-class by the Stalinist apparatus.” This was written on November 1st, 1936, after the Soviet Union had declared that it was no longer bound by the non-intervention agreement, and when it was apparent to the whole world that the Soviet Union was rendering most generous aid to the Spanish people–aid which was to transform the whole prospects of the struggle. What “aid” Trotskyism rendered the Spanish people will be seen later. It would be more correct to say that Trotsky and his supporters have used the trials in order to endeavor to detach working-class support from the Soviet Union, at the very moment when it was rendering unforgettable assistance to the Spanish people.
The “explanation” of Trotsky is that the trials were staged in order to discredit him and the Fourth International.
“An international conference as recently been held under the sign of the Fourth International. This movement does not cease to grow beneath the blows of its enemies, while the Communist International is the prey of trouble and confusion. Now Stalin cannot keep his leadership of the bureaucracy and his power over the people without having international authority. The growth of the Fourth International, information about which penetrates more and more into Russia, constitutes a grave peril for him. Finally, the leading coterie fears more than anything the still living traditions of the October Revolution, inevitably hostile to the new privileged caste. All this explains why Stalin and his group have not for a moment ceased to combat me personally.”
Is this a rational explanation? According to Trotsky’s whole hypothesis there was no conspiracy in the Soviet Union; the accused were not in opposition to the Government, they have “capitulated” to the Government; Trotsky had no relation with the Nazis, he had few direct connections with the Soviet Union and no organization within it; and yet the Government suddenly swoops upon scores of people who are loyally doing the jobs assigned to them, Prime Ministers of National Republics, Vice -Commissars of Industry, prominent diplomats, ex-leaders, whose names were well-known throughout the international Labor Movement, and charged them with crimes they never committed. And all this was done–to make things a little more difficult for Trotsky and to discredit the Fourth International! One might as well argue that the trials were held to discredit the Rugby Union and the Southern League. Was there ever such a crying disproportion between means and ends? The Bolshevik steamroller is set in motion to crack a peanut.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 268-269


Still acting on the assumption that if one throws out a sufficiency of “explanations” some of them are bound to be believed by someone, the Dewey Commission tries once again:
“The Commission finds that the conclusion appears to be inevitable that the indictments and the confessions in the series of widely publicized trials against the regime, were governed in each case by current internal difficulties economic and political and by the current situation in the foreign relations of the Soviet Union. In other words the trials have not really been criminal but political.”
Did the Commission take any evidence which showed that the years 1936-38 were years of economic or political difficulty inside the Soviet Union? It did not. All evidence goes to show that these years were years of remarkable economic growth (despite all the saboteurs could do) and of advancing standards of life for the people. We are asked to believe that at the very moment that the Soviet Government was telling the people of the marvelous progress it had made, it was also staging trials to explain the terrible difficulties it was in. No, it will not do!
There only remains the pseudo-historical explanation of the capitalist intellectuals, i.e. “all revolutions devour their children.” In his concluding speech, Rakovsky dealt with this “explanation.”
“It is a ridiculous, groundless analogy. Bourgeois revolutions did indeed finish–excuse me if I cite here some theoretical arguments which, however, are of significance for the present moment–bourgeois revolutions did indeed finish by devouring their own children, because after they had triumphed they had to suppress their allies from among the people, their revolutionary allies of the Left.
“But the proletarian revolution, the revolution of the class which is revolutionary to the end, when it applies what Marx called ‘plebeian methods of retaliation’, it applies them not to the advanced elements, it applies them to those who stand in the way of this revolution, or to those who, as ourselves, were with this revolution, marched along with it for a certain time, and then stabbed it in the back.”
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 272


Naturally there is no attempt by the Trotskyists to frame a policy on the basis of an objective evaluation of the situation existing in a given country, bearing in mind the relations of that country to the rest of the world, for this would inevitably expose the true character of Trotskyist policy.
Instead of proceeding from a concrete analysis we are presented with a theoretical hotch-potch, calculated to confuse the workers and justify the sabotage of the anti-Fascist front. Elements of the old Trotskyism in which alliance of the workers with other sections of society, notably the peasantry, is rejected; misrepresentation of the tactics which brought victory to the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution, and the urging of the workers to apply this caricature to the struggles of today; a wholly mechanical interpretation of the relation of monopoly capitalism to Fascism; attempts to draw an analogy between the immediate post-war period when parliamentary democracy was the rallying ground of reaction against the advancing Social Revolution, and the present day when monopoly capitalism is seeking to attack and undermine parliamentary democracy; attempts to show that the building up of an anti-Fascist People’s Front to resist the drive of monopoly capitalism to Fascism is a betrayal similar to that of those Socialist parties which at the end of the war cooperated with capitalism to defeat the advancing social revolution–such are the principal arguments in the arsenal of Trotskyism.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 314


Before the commission met, Bukharin composed a long and impassioned memorandum repudiating every charge…. Stalin reassured him: ‘Nikolai, don’t panic. We’ll sort things out… We don’t believe you’re an enemy. But as you been implicated by Sokolnikov, Astrov, Kulikov and other double-dealers, who have admitted to being wreckers, we have to look into it calmly. Don’t worry!’
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 285


If you [Bukharin] won’t confess’, Mikoyan answered malevolently, ‘you’re just proving that you’re a Fascist hireling. They’re already writing in the newspapers that our trials are a provocation. We’re arresting you–confess!’
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 286


Footnote: [Sokolnikov] Condemned to life imprisonment in 1937 at the trial of the oppositionists, Sokolnikov died in the central prison at Yakutsk, Siberia. (That was not his sentence)
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 82


All the accused had fully admitted their guilt, with the exception of I. N. Smirnov, whose full guilt was, however, proved by the confessions of the other accused. He had made only a partial confession: of belonging to the ” United Center ” and being personally connected with Trotsky up to the time of his arrest in 1933; and of having received, in 1932, instructions from Trotsky to organize terror. He had denied, however, taking part in terroristic activities.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 93

Next came–as witness only–Smirnov’s former wife, Safanova. She said that Smirnov had transmitted Trotsky’s instructions on terrorism and strongly supported them. Smirnov firmly denied both assertions, but others of the accused backed her up.

At the afternoon session, Smirnov was the first to be questioned. He continued with his partial confession. He had passed on Trotsky’s and Sedov’s ideas about terrorism; but he had not shared them, and he had done nothing else:
“I admit that I belonged to the underground Trotskyite organization, joined the bloc, joined the center of this bloc, met Sedov in Berlin in 1931, listened to his opinion on terrorism and passed this opinion on to Moscow . I admit that I received Trotsky’s instructions on terrorism from Gaven and, although not in agreement with them, I communicated them to the Zinovievites through ter-Vaganyan.”
VYSHINSKY: (ironically) When did you leave the Center?
SMIRNOV: I did not intend to resign; there was nothing to resign from.
VYSHINSKY: Did the center exist?
SMIRNOV: What sort of Center…?
VYSHINSKY: Mrachkovsky, did the Center exist?
Mrachkovsky: Yes.
VYSHINSKY: Zinoviev, did the Center exist?
VYSHINSKY: Evdokimov, did the Center exist?
VYSHINSKY: Bakayev, did the Center exist?
VYSHINSKY: How, then, Smirnov, can you take the liberty to maintain that no center existed?
Smirnov again said that no meetings of such a Center had taken place, and again three of the other members of it were made to bear him down.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 97

Smirnov’s partial confession was a rather difficult position to maintain, but on the whole he succeeded in confusing the issue. When the contradictions in his stance became awkward, he simply did not answer the question.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 98

The prosecution case made much of better-established contacts between Smirnov, Holtzman, the absent Gaven, Sedov, and others in the early 1930s, and the establishment of a “bloc” between them and the Trotskyists. These contacts had indeed taken place, and in the old sense of the coming together of factions in the prewar party (like the “August bloc”) the Trotskyists certainly thought that an opposition bloc had been established. When the accused were so charged, however, the Trotskyites in exile denied the whole story, apparently on the supposition that this would help the accused and discredit the trial.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 100

Smirnov here again intervened to deny that Putna was a Trotskyite, but Pikel, Reingold, and Bakayev confirmed it.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 101

Even so, he [Smirnov] is said to have gone to his death remarking that he and the other defendants had behaved despicably.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 119

Despite all the efforts of both the prosecutor and Safanova, who furiously defamed Smirnov at the trial, the latter refused during the entire trial to conduct himself in a manner which would please Vyshinsky.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park , Michigan : Labor Publications, 1998, p. 22

Finally, in his concluding remarks, Smirnov “just as he had been at the pretrial and trial investigations, continued to deny responsibility for the crimes committed by the Trotsky-Zinoviev center after his arrest.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park , Michigan : Labor Publications, 1998, p. 23


Ever since the publication of the indictment, the Soviet press had been violently demanding the death penalty. Resolutions from all over the country came in and were printed. Workers in the Kiev Red Flag Factory and the Stalingrad Dzerzhinsky Tractor Works, Kazakh kolkhozes and Leningrad Party organizations, calling for the shooting of the accused, day by day made an overwhelming buildup…. But, in addition, there were manifestos from Rakovsky, Rykov, and Pyatakov, which showed another aspect of Party discipline. They, too, all demanded the death penalty. Rakovsky’s was headed “No Pity.” Rykov insisted that no mercy be shown to Zinoviev. The tone of all may be judged from Pyatakov’s contribution, which said:
“One cannot find the words fully to express one’s indignation and disgust. These people have lost the last semblance of humanity. They must be destroyed like carrion which is polluting the pure, bracing air of the land of the Soviets; dangerous carrion which may cause the death of our leaders, and has already caused the death of one of the best people in our land–that wonderful comrade and leader Kirov…. Many of us, including myself, by our heedlessness, our complacency and lack of vigilance toward those around us, unconsciously helped these bandits to commit their black deeds…. It is a good thing that the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs had exposed this gang…. It is a good thing that it can be exterminated…. Honor and glory to the workers of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 98

Amid the pages crowded with these [resolutions pass by workers in hundreds of factories and kolkhozes demanding the deaths of Zinoviev and Kamenev] there also appeared “manifestos” from three prominent party leaders, Rakovsky, Rykov, and Pyatakov, also demanding the death penalty. Pyatakov wrote:
“One cannot find words fully to express one’s indignation and disgust. These people have lost the last semblance of humanity. They must be destroyed like carrion that is polluting the pure, bracing air of the land of Soviets , dangerous carrion that may cause the death of our leaders.”
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York : Knopf, 1992, p. 479

On 21 August 1936 the newspapers carried articles by Rakovsky, Radek, and Piatakov sharply condemning Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev, and demanding that they should be executed.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven : Yale University Press, c2003, p. 317


He [Mrachkovsky] ended by saying that he was a traitor who should be shot.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 103

Various accounts of the actual execution have filtered out. They are of course based on unconfirmable NKVD reports.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 104


He [Mrachkovsky] had later been one of the boldest of Trotsky’s followers, and had been the first to be arrested when, in 1927, he organized the Trotskyites’ short-lived underground printing press.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 109


…That impression of unanimous surrender was not, indeed, entirely a correct one. Two of the 1936 accused (Smirnov & Holtzman) hedged considerably in their admissions, but this was hardly noticed among the self-abasement of so many others, including the two major figures, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 109


On September 10, 1936, in a small paragraph at the top of page 2, Pravda announced that the investigation into the charges against Rykov & Bukharin was being dropped, for lack of evidence. This reversal is said to have been made “under pressure of some members of the Politburo.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 136


He [Pyatakov] denied the terrorist charges (Yezhov reported), but said that he deserved demotion for not having denounced his ex-wife’s connections with Trotskyites. To regain the trust of the Party, he would be willing to appear for the prosecution at a trial, and would personally offer to shoot all the accused, including his ex-wife, and announce this publicly….
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 141

At first, Pyatakov did not feel any similar threat hanging over him. At the end of July he was even selected as public prosecutor at the trial of the “Trotsky-Zinoviev center.” In his own words, he saw this appointment “as an act of the most enormous confidence on the part of the Central Committee,” and he prepared to fulfil this mission “heart and soul.” However, on the night of July 28, Pyatakov’s former wife was arrested. At her apartment correspondence was seized belonging to Pyatakov, including material relating to the period when he was in the Opposition.
… Calling himself guilty of “not paying attention to the counter-revolutionary work of his former wife, and of being indifferent to meetings with her acquaintances,” Pyatakov said that he should be punished more severely, and asked “that he be granted any form of rehabilitation.” With this in mind, he asked that “they allow him personally to shoot all those sentenced to be shot in the (upcoming) trial, including his former wife,” and to publish a statement about this in the press.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 69


A number of the Rightists under arrest, including Uglanov and Schmidt, did not give evidence against Bukharin before his own arrest. Some of his junior associates, however, were testifying to his plans for a “palace coup,” and their statements were sent to him. Bukharin was then called in for several confrontations in the presence of the whole Politburo and Yezhov. First the prominent ex-Trotskyite Sosnovsky gave testimony that some money Bukharin had given him when he was in trouble was a conspiratorial payment. Then came a confrontation with Pyatakov. Pyatakov is described as looking like a skeleton, and so weak that he could hardly stand. When he had confessed his membership in a counter-revolutionary center, implicating Bukharin, Ordjonikidze asked him if his testimony was voluntary. He replied that it was. The next confrontation was with Radek. Although pale, he was not in such a bad state as Pyatakov, and, unlike the lifelessness reported of the others, was “visibly agitated.” He confessed everything, on his own behalf and Bukharin’s, including a plot of theirs at Izvestia to assassinate Stalin. Rykov, who had earlier been sent confessions implicating him made by his secretary Ekaterina Artemenko, also had “confrontations” with Sokolnikov, Pyatakov, and others. Meanwhile, with the Bukharin-Rykov group thoroughly implicated, Stalin was fully prepared to face the resistance of his own “moderates” squarely. [Stalin is the moderate stupid –editor]
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 146

Therefore, on Dec. 7, 1936 the plenary session was recessed for four hours. During this time, Bukharin and Rykov confronted Pyatakov, Sosnovsky and Kulikov, who had been brought from prison. Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Ordjonikidze, Mikoyan, Andreev, and Zhdanov were also present.
Sosnovsky stated at the confrontation that he had held “a political conversation” with Bukharin, in the course of which “they agreed that the practice of terror was correct.”
Pyatakov recounted that in 1928 Bukharin had read him his platform, about which he, Pyatakov, had then informed the members of the Stalinist grouping in the Politburo. To this solitary real fact Pyatakov added that at the beginning of the 1930s he had told Bukharin about Trotsky’s directives for terror and sabotage; after Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky had exchanged opinions on this question, they told Pyatakov that they shared Trotsky’s position and that the center of Rightists had itself come to analogous conclusions.
During the confrontation, Stalin and Ordjonikidze asked Pyatakov whether he was giving his testimony freely or under pressure. Pyatakov replied that no pressure had been applied. When he recounted this episode at the February-March plenum, Voroshilov added: during the face-to-face confrontation, “Pyatakov knew that he would be shot…. When Ordjonikidze asked him this question, he waved his hand and said: “I know the position I am in.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 110


He [Pyatakov] made certain limitations in his evidence. Admitting the responsibility for forming terrorist and sabotage groups, and for planning acts of terror and “diversion” to be carried out in the future, he at no time confessed to complicity in any particular act of violence, and specifically denied being in direct touch with all the plotters. After considerable revelations about the political contacts of the alleged plot, he went on to confess to the organization of sabotage.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 150

[At the Feb. March 1937 Plenum Stalin stated]…In their trials in 1937, Pyatakov and Radek took a different path. They admitted that they had another political path that they were promoting. They did not call upon the workers to follow them, instead they admitted their guilt that they did want to re-establish capitalism, eliminate collective and state farms, sign a treaty with fascist Germany and Japan; give up Ukraine to Germany while in the East, give the Maritime Provinces to Japan. These traitors admitted their work, which included terroristic acts against the Soviet Union. These confessions were heard and witnessed by foreign dignitaries of capitalist embassies (it was a perfect time for these traitors to say that they were innocent–Editors).
It is easy to understand that such a program the Trotskyites had to hide from the masses. These leaders not only hid these aims from the masses, they hid them also from their own Trotskyite followers.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 233


Serebryakov, who followed, exposed a number of railway chiefs and explained that the system of railway organization prior to Kaganovich’s appointment in 1935 had amounted to intentional sabotage.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 154


[Drobnis stated]… The Kemerovo district power station was put into such a state that, if it were deemed necessary for wrecking purposes, and when the order was given, the mine could be flooded. In addition, coal was supplied that was technically unsuitable for the power station, and this led to explosions. This was done quite deliberately.”
He went on to the case of the Tsentralnaya Mine. He ended, but only after considerable bullying from Vyshinsky, with the confession that the plotters had hoped for as much loss of life as possible from the explosions. Although he had been in jail at the time of the disaster, he accepted responsibility.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 154


Shestov explained that it was Trotskyites rather than Government policy which was rendering the worker’s life intolerable:…
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 154


VYSHINSKY: “Muralov, who will under no circumstances agree to having the preparation of an attempt on the life of Comrade Ordjonikidze attributed to him… admits that he did indeed organize a terrorist act against Comrade Molotov.” We can hardly see it as other than a demonstration of loyalty to, and hope of help from, Ordjonikidze.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 156


He [Knyazev] named 33 men in all as the “cadres of my Trotskyite organization on the South Urals Railway.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 160


VYSHINSKY: You directed the clearance operations in such a way that 17 workers were killed and 15 injured.
RATAICHAK: That is true, but it was the only thing to do.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 161


VYSHINSKY:… I think that all these circumstances enable me to say that if there is any shortcoming in the present trial, it is not that the accused have said what they have done, but that, after all, the accused have not really told us all they have done, all the crimes they have committed against the Soviet State.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 162


The present case had, Vyshinsky pointed out, been proved with a rigor not demanded in bourgeois courts:
VYSHINSKY: With the assistance of the experts, we verified the evidence of the accused, and although we know that according to the laws of certain European countries the confession of an accused person is regarded as sufficient proof of guilt and the court does not consider itself obliged to call corroborating evidence, we, however, in order to observe strict impartiality, notwithstanding the confessions of the criminals themselves, verified their statements once again from the technical side and obtained a categorical reply concerning the explosion of November 11, the fires in the Prokopyevsk mine, and the fires and explosions at the Kemerovo plant. Malicious intent was established without any possibility of doubt.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 162

(Sinclair’s comments only)
I read many criticisms of the legal procedure in the Russian trial. People seem to find that there’s something obviously improper in accepting confessions of guilt as a basis for the death penalty. Curiously enough, our own Constitution provides for the same thing in explicit terms. Article 3, Section 3, specifies what treason shall consist in, and adds that conviction may be had upon the basis of “confessions in open court.”
Sinclair and Lyons. Terror in Russia?: Two Views. New York : Rand School Press, 1938, p. 61


Certain of the objections to the Zinoviev Trial were dealt with. For example, on the absence of documentary proof Vyshinsky now remarked:
VYSHINSKY: The accused committed the deeds attributed to them…. But what proof have we in our arsenal from the point of view of judicial procedure?… The question can be put this way: a conspiracy, you say, but where are the documents?… I am bold enough to assert, in keeping with the fundamental requirements of the science of criminal procedure, that in cases of conspiracy such demands cannot be put.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 163


BRAUDE (lawyer for the defense): In this case, Comrade Judges, there is no dispute about the facts. Comrade Prosecutor was quite right when he said that from all points of view, from the point of view of documents available in the case, from the point of view of the examination of the witnesses who were summoned here, and cross-examination of the accused, all this has deprived us of all possibility of disputing the evidence. All the facts have been proved, and in this case the Defense does not intend to enter into any controversy with the Procurator. Nor can there be any controversy with the Procurator concerning the appraisal of the political and moral aspects of the case. Here, too, the case is so clear, the political appraisal made here by the Procurator is so clear, that the Defense cannot but wholly and entirely associate itself with that part of his speech.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 164


Radek referred, perhaps ironically, in his evidence to “scores of wandering terrorist groups waiting for the chance to assassinate some leader of the Party.” At least 14 separate groups or individuals are named who had the task of assassinating Stalin (several of them), Kaganovich, Molotov, Voroshilov, Ordjonikidze, Kossior, Postyshev, Eikhe, Yezhov, and Beria. Again, in spite of the protection and complicity of high officials everywhere, they had been unable to carry out any overt act, successfully or unsuccessfully, with the sole exception of the attempt to murder Molotov, and even this did not sound very professional….
Vyshinsky had to deal with the fact that Zinoviev and his colleagues, who had supposedly made full confessions, had (as it now appeared) concealed much of the story. He said flatly, as we saw, that they “lied and deceived when they already had one foot in the grave.”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 166


Becoming attached to Trotsky’s views, he [Rakovsky] lost his high posts and from 1924 to 1927 was Soviet Charge d’Affaires in London and then ambassador to Paris. He was recalled to Moscow in November 1927 and was expelled from the Central Committee in the same month, for supporting the Left opposition. He defended the opposition viewpoint at the 15th Party Congress. In January 1928, he was expelled from the Party and deported to Astrakhan, and later to Barnaul. It had not been until February 1934, one of the very last, that he had recanted and been readmitted to the Party. He had been implicated in the Pyatakov Trial and was arrested on Jan. 27, 1937.
…now confessed that he had been a British spy since 1924. His disavowal of Trotskyism in February 1934 had been designed to deceive the Party.
…He himself became a Japanese as well as a British spy.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 360

After his [Rakovsky] capitulation in 1934, he went so far as to write an article during the Trial of the Sixteen demanding the execution of “these agents of the German Gestapo, the organizers of the attempt on the life of our dear leader, Comrade Stalin.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 54


Bukharin admitted that Trotsky had spoken of ceding the Ukraine, but that he himself “did not consider Trotsky’s instructions as binding on me”
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 368


There were four of these alleged murders. First, in May 1934, Menzhinsky, Yagoda’s predecessor as head of the OGPU, had been killed by his favorite doctor, Kazakov, under instructions from Levin. Then, in the same month, Gorky’s son Peshkov had been killed by Levin & Pletnev. Next came Kuibyshev, killed by Levin & Pletnev; and finally Gorky himself, killed by Levin & Pletnev.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 375


Bulanov, a veteran NKVD officer–he had been in charge of the expulsion of Trotsky from the country in January 1929–testified to the special version of the planned coup involving Yenukidze, Yagoda, and the seizure of the Kremlin, and developed its links with the Tukhachevsky group and with Karakhan’s German negotiations. He went on to say that Yagoda had protected Uglanov and Smirnov in their interrogations and had ordered no search to be made when Zinoviev and Kamenev were arrested. He implicated all the old NKVD chiefs in the plot, and described how Yagoda had ordered Zaporozhets to “facilitate” Kirov’s assassination, and how Zaporozhets had released Nikolayev on his first attempt and later killed Borisov.
…Yagoda was, Bulanov said, “exceptionally” interested in poisons. His laboratory is believed to have really existed (Yagoda had been a pharmacist by profession before the Revolution). Given the characters and the motivations, this is one crime which appeared to be possibly genuine.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 380


He [Yagoda] confirmed his long connection with the Rightist plotters from 1928 on. In the early days, he had supplied Rykov & Bukharin with tendentious material from the NKVD secret files, for use in their anti-Party struggle. It was due to his activities in the NKVD that the Rights, and the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyites,” had not been uncovered and liquidated until 1937-1938. He had appointed conspirators in all the leading posts in the Secret Police –Molchanov (on Tomsky’s express instructions), Prokofiev, Mironov, Shanin, Pauker, Gay, and others. He had joined in Yenukidze’s plot to seize the Kremlin, and it was on Yenukidze’s orders that he had arranged for Zaporozhet’s collaboration in the Kirov assassination.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 381

After Kirov was assassinated, the investigation was being conducted by Agranov, Yagoda’s assistant, who was falsifying everything. Stalin was becoming suspicious about this and had a commission appointed from the Central Committee CPSU to investigate the NKVD. In the personal files of Yagoda, this commission found a right-wing clique opposing the party and at the same time, files of Tsarist Secret Police and their agents that were still operational. Agents of Tsarist Police, like Zelensky, Zubarev, and Ivanov, were agents in Tsarist times. Where do you think these agents under Soviet power were? Zelensky was the Secretary of the Moscow Party Committee. Zubarev was the Second Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Party Committee. Ivanov was the Secretary of the North-Caucasus District Party Committee, and on the instructions of Bukharin, organized the hunger epidemic from 1928 to 1934, in order that the people would be dissatisfied with Soviet power. These are the kind of people that were supported and helped by Yagoda, and before him, Bukharin!
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 74

This must explain the fact that the obliging Yagoda inserted false accusations of collaboration with the tsarist security services in the dossiers of many old Bolsheviks.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 317

…In March, 1934, a serious discovery was made in the Kremlin. A pharmacist employed in the Kremlin nursing-home–Moise Rosenfeld, a nephew of Kamenev’s–had proposed to poison several members of the Politburo. He had also made plans for a military coup d’etat, thanks to the complicity of the military commandant of the Kremlin, Peterson, a Lett. They were denounced by a Confederate, Pastukhov. The opposition insisted that the entire conspiracy was a provocation engineered by Pastukhov, an agent of Yagoda’s. Rosenfeld and the conspirators confessed that they wanted “to get rid of Stalin and his Politburo and regenerate the leadership of the Party.”
…During this period–a crucial period for him–Stalin, who trusted no one, subjected Rosenfeld and his accomplices to a personal interrogation. His confidence in Yagoda, who after Menzhinsky’s death had become the head of the G.P.U., with the title of “Commissary-General for the security of the State” was not complete. Menzhinsky’s private diary, found by Redens and submitted to Stalin, told the latter that he could not place absolute confidence in the heads of the secret police.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 173


Yagoda went on to admit to killing Menzhinsky and to reluctantly becoming involved in the murder of Gorky, at Yenukidze’s insistence.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 382

With the help of his associate Bulanov, Yagoda tried hard to get rid of Menzhinsky, who suffered greatly from asthma and bronchitis. After getting rid of Menzhinsky, this faithful comrade of Lenin, through poison, Yagoda was now free to do his evil deeds, while masking himself in the cloak of a Bolshevik, patriot, and falsifying documents in court. Practically all of the people that were sentenced and shot had the signature and hand of Yagoda on them. Letters from innocent arrested comrades, written to Stalin, never reached the eyes of Stalin…but were utilized to fabricate threats against Stalin… this giving credence to their arrest and execution.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 73


Kazakov, the remaining doctor, confirmed his part in Menzhinsky’s death.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 385


The last accused, Maximov-Dikovsky, was then examined. He admitted having been placed in Kuibyshev’s secretariat by Yenukidze, and explained how he had helped the medical killers to dispose of Kuibyshev.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 386


We must turn rather, to the details. In the first place, there is Yagoda’s evidence of the morning of March 8, when he pleaded guilty to the murders of Kuibyshev and Gorky, and not guilty to those of Peshkov and Menzhinsky.
On the whole, Yagoda’s initial evidence seems to have been true, or as true as was possible in the circumstances, on most other matters.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 387

One day, Yagoda came to visit Gorky at his dacha on Gorky Hills. I was there to go with Yagoda. The party was taking place until about 4 a.m.. I could not understand what this uncouth Yagoda had in common with this literary genius, Gorky. It became known to me later. Yagoda and his friends were pouring drinks for Gorky from all the bottles, mixing them together. After Gorky became completely drunk, Yagoda and his friends threw Gorky into the snow where he froze all night. There, Gorky contracted inflammation of the lungs. In the end, even the “doctors” of Yagoda helped to have death come sooner for Gorky.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 73


4. The United Center of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite counter-revolutionary bloc set as its fundamental and principal task the killing of Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Kirov, Ordjonikidze, Zhdanov, Kossior, Postyshev. The killing of Comrade Stalin was decided upon at the same time as the killing of Comrade Kirov. To this end the center organized in Moscow several strictly conspiratorial terrorist groups. To co-ordinate the activities of these groups the all-union Trotskyite-Zinovievite center set up a Moscow center consisting of the Zinovievites–Bakayev, Reingold, Pikel, and the Trotskyites, Mrachkovsky and Dreitzer. Bakayev was entrusted with the direct organization of the killing of Comrade Stalin. At the investigation Bakayev admitted his role as direct organizer of terrorist acts.
He testified:
“I recognize that Zinoviev entrusted me personally with organizing the killing of Comrade Stalin in Moscow.
On Zinoviev’s instructions, the Zinovievites, Reingold, Bogdan, and Faivilovich, who consented to take part in a terrorist act, were recruited by me to organize a terrorist act against Stalin.
Not only we, but Smirnov and Mrachkovsky were also preparing to kill Stalin, having received a direct order from Trotsky to commit a terrorist act.”
(Bakaev, Record of Interrogation, July 17-19, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 172-173


Pikel, an active member of the Zinovievite center and Zinoviev’s former chef-de-cabinet, stated at the investigation that Bakaev displayed feverish activity in organizing the attempt, putting all his energy into the matter.
Pikel stated:
“Bakaev not only guided the preparation of the terrorist act in the general sense but went out personally to the observation point, checked up on people and inspired them…. In the summer of 1934 I was once with Reingold.__Reingold told me that the observations of Stalin had yielded positive results and that on that very day Bakaev had left in his own automobile with a group of terrorists to kill Stalin. Reingold was nervous because they had been away for so long. I again encountered Reingold on the evening of the same day, and he told me that Stalin’s Guard had prevented the terrorist act from being carried out, frightening the participants in the organization (as he expressed himself).”
“Pikel, Record of Interrogation, July 22, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 173


Analogous testimony was also given by the Zinovievite, Reingold, a member of the Moscow terrorist center:
“I met Kamenev in the second part of 1933, and also in 1934, at his apartment on Karmanitsky Lane in Moscow. Kamenev evaluated the situation in much the same way as Zinoviev but reinforced his own conclusions by an analysis of the economic and political situation in the country. Kamenev came to the conclusion that “affairs, in any case are not headed for catastrophe but for an improvement; therefore, all expectations of an automatic collapse are groundless, and the existing leadership is granite which is too hard to permit any expectation that it will split of itself.” From this Kamenev concluded that ‘it was necessary to split the leadership.’
Kamenev frequently quoted Trotsky’s saying that ‘the summit is everything and therefore the summit must be removed.’
Kamenev proved the need for a terrorist struggle and, above all, for the killing of Stalin, pointing out that this was the only way to reach power. I especially remember his cynical remark that ‘heads are distinguished by the fact that they don’t grow back on.
Kamenev ordered terrorist fighters to be trained. He said that the new bloc differed from the former Opposition bloc by its adoption of active terrorism.
And further:
I have already testified above that the Trotskyite-Zinovievite united bloc did not have any new political program. It was based on the old decrepit platform, and none of the leaders of the bloc were concerned with or interested in working out any sort of unified and coherent political programme. The only unifying feature of this whole ill-assorted bloc was the idea of a terrorist struggle against the leaders of the party and the government.
Indeed, the bloc was a counter-revolutionary, terrorist band of killers striving by any and all means to take power into their own hands.”
(Reingold, Record of Interrogation, July 9, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 177-178

[An 18 January 1935 Control Committee letter to all party organization says], “As can be seen, all of this testimony by the arrested trotskyites and zinovievites only indicates that, lacking any positive political platform acceptable to the toilers of our country, without any influence upon the masses or contact with them, forced to recognize the decisive successes of our party and their own total political bankruptcy, they turned into an unprincipled band of killers whose only ‘principle’ was the careerist slogan of worming their way into power using any means available.
Their decisions as to the ways and means of struggling were directly connected with this ‘principle’ of theirs.
Practicing double dealing on a broad scale, as a system of relationships with the party and the Soviet government, they extended it to monstrous proportions. They created a whole system of double dealing, one to be envied by…any secret police, with its whole staff of spies, provocateurs, and diversionists.
Considering double dealing to be the fundamental method for attaining power, the trotskyites and zinovievites made broad use of it in connection with their terrorist activities. Painstakingly concealing their infamous, terrorist intentions, every day spitting on their own views and convictions, every day swearing fidelity to the party and setting themselves up as adherents of the Central Committee line, they counted on success in achieving power, after murdering the main leaders of the party and the government, because in the eyes of the party and the broad masses of toilers they would appear to have fully repented and to have recognized their errors and crimes–adherents of the leninist-stalinist policy.
That is precisely why they took particular pains to conceal their terrorist activities.
In line with this, Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, while issuing directives to the executors of terrorist acts, at the same time gave them detailed instructions to conceal any and all ties with trotskyite-zinovievite organizations.”
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 178


It his testimony, for example, Reingold told of the following directives from Zinoviev:
“In 1933-34 Zinoviev told me face to face in his apartment–the main practical task is to arrange terrorist work in such a conspiratorial manner as not to compromise oneself in any way. In an investigation the main thing is to stubbornly deny any ties at all with the organization. If accused of terrorism–deny this categorically, using the argument that terror is inconsistent with the views of Bolshevik Marxists.”
(Reingold, Record of Interrogation, July 17, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 179

[The summary in an 18 January 1935 Control Committee letter to all party organization says], “Trotsky displayed particular concern about this. He gave instructions that, if a terrorist act was carried out, the trotskyites must disassociate themselves from it and ‘take a position analogous to that taken by the Social Revolutionary central committee with respect to Miss Kaplan’ who shot Lenin.”
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 179


On the same matters Reingold testified as follows at the investigation:
“In addition to the deeply conspiratorial work on preparing terrorist acts against the party and government leadership, Zinoviev and Kamenev devoted every effort to winning the confidence of the Central Committee and the party and, insofar as this was possible, to occupying leading positions in the party.
The statements of Kamenev and Zinoviev in the press, emphasizing their devotion to the party and their repudiation of the past, were directly aimed at this. In meetings with party leaders Zinoviev and Kamenev in every way stressed their loyalty and devotion to the Central Committee of the party and their repudiation of their former errors. The speeches of Zinoviev and Kamenev from the rostrum of the 17th Congress served the same purpose.
Here Zinoviev and Kamenev counted on the success of the terrorist act against the leaders of the party and government directly opening up to them–persons who had been pardoned by the party and accepted into its ranks under Stalin–a straight road to the leadership of the party and the country.
Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s deeply concealed calculations of ways to power took the form of this Machiavellian plan of struggle.”
(Reingold, Record of Interrogation, July 17, 1936)
McNeal, Robert. Resolutions and Decisions of the CPSU–The Stalin Years: 1929-1953. Vol. 3. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974, p. 180

[At the closed joint meeting of the ECCI party organization and the ECCI Komsomol organization on 28 December 1934]
KNORIN: …We broke with Zinoviev not because we wanted to lay down arms before the party. We broke with Zinoviev because he capitulated to the party. We knew that this capitulation was a false one, that he deceived the party.
Chase, William J., Enemies Within the Gates?, translated by Vadim A. Staklo, New Haven: Yale University Press, c2001, p. 65.


But now the conversation took a turn for which Radek was not prepared. Stalin began to talk of army loyalty and of Tukhachevsky. He reminded Radek of what happened in 1924, when the Politburo relieved Trotsky of his post as President of the War Council.
“You remember the letter of Antonov Ovseenko” (Political head of the army at that time) “threatening us with trouble and protests from the army at Trotsky’s dismissal. The ‘ignoble dismissal of the Soviet Carnot’ as he called it?”
“There were certain meetings of senior officers,” Stalin went on, “and they even spoke of arresting members of the Politburo.”
Radek reminded him that Zinoviev, not Stalin, had been the target.
“It was a question of arresting all the Politburo, and of electing a new Secretary-General in my place. Trotsky, wasn’t it?”
“Many foolish things were said, I really don’t remember.”
“Then I’ll refresh your memory. A young Komandarm, Tukhachevsky, was to have had the job of carrying out the putsch by agreement with Trotsky.”
Radek protested. “You know very well that Trotsky refused that sort of discussion. He repeated many times that he would never agree to open the door to a third force that could mean the end of the Soviet state.”
“I wonder whether Tukhachevsky would take the same position today,” pursued Stalin. “What’s your personal opinion of him?”
“What does it matter? I’m only a figure from the past.”
“This concerns the past. According to my evidence, you were given the job of liaison with Tukhachevsky and his associates, by Trotsky.”
“To tell him ‘no’ to the proposal Trotsky had been offered. But things didn’t go so far.”
“To tell him ‘no’, but a ‘no’ with nuances, a ‘no’ that, in case of need, very well may have been ‘yes.'”
“How you exaggerate! You are seeing phantasmal plots from the past. Even if they had existed, which they didn’t, it was more than ten years ago. Why are you so keen on stirring up the dust on the archives?”
“Because there are germs in it. If it isn’t disinfected, there’s a risk of an epidemic. To be specific, I received some time ago from our Paris Embassy a book about Tukhachevsky by a French officer. The author shared his captivity in Germany, in the fortress of Ingolstadt. A very curious little book. I’ll have it sent to you. Anyway, it looks as though Tukhachevsky told that French officer that he joined the Party to try to profit from the next war, and perhaps to play the role of Bonaparte….”
“Pure fiction! There’s been a civil war since then; Poland, Antonov’s revolt, Kronstadt–and Tukhachevsky never wavered. He’s become a convinced Marxist–as you very well know.”
“Consider. You’re very fond of quoting the history of the French Revolution–”
“Marx wasn’t the cause of that….”
Has it never occurred to you that Tukhachevsky put down the Tambov and Kronstadt revolts just as Bonaparte crushed the Vendemiaire?”
Radek countered with more parallels from the French Revolution. “You could just as well say that Tukhachevsky’s crushing of the Antonov revolt was like Hoche’s treatment of la Vendee. And Hoche was no Bonaparte.”
He produced more apt parallels to deal with Stalin’s point about the Kronstadt incident.
Stalin was skeptical. “I’d still like to know what you really think of Tukhachevsky.”…
“Well,” Radek said finally, “I think he’s a sincere believer in our system and an outstanding officer. And if I didn’t think it risky to praise anyone unduly in front of you, I would say he had a gift for generalship, just as some people have a gift for mathematics.”
“On that last I think we’re in agreement,” said Stalin. “Nor are we alone in thinking so. Would you like to know what your friend Trotsky wrote in his rag?”
He felt in his pocket and pulled out a quotation from Trotsky’s article. “By his ill-fated policy, Stalin is making the task of the Bonapartist elements easier. If matters came to conflict, a man like Tukhachevsky would have little trouble in overthrowing the regime, with the help of all the anti-Soviet elements.”
Radek shrugged, as if all this was hardly worth recalling.
“These are my fears,” Stalin hastened to add, “but they do represent the hopes of Trotsky. As far as I’m concerned I would like nothing better than to forget this ancient history.
Alexandrov, Victor. The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: Macdonald, 1963, p. 31-34


Yagoda the toxicologist knew all this. The idea of resorting to his own special methods to get rid of Stalin and his rival [Yezhov] simultaneously was to occupy long hours of his sleepless nights. But Stalin must have guessed his meditations.
Yagoda was caught up in his own police machinery and could see only one way out; to re-double his zeal and make himself irreplaceable, at least for the time needed to get rid of Yezhov. He knew what he wanted: all he had to do was to invent what might have taken place between Radek and Nikolai [German political envoy and acquaintance of Radek’s during the Russo-German military-industrial collaboration 1920-21. Meets Radek as Stalin’s envoy at Oliva talks. After a long and dramatic talk with Orlov, of the state security, Yagoda obtained a full “report” on the Oliva meeting.
In it Orlov stated that while in conversation with Schwebel, he had been able to overhear some important snatches of the Radek-Nikolai interview. Radek had told the colonel:
(1) That a conspiracy was being hatched against Stalin instigated by the Opposition in collaboration with the military group, Tukhachevsky, Kork, Putna, Yakir, Gamarnik.
(2) That he, Radek, was playing the role of political leader, with Pyatakov as second.
(3) That Pyatakov had been to see Trotsky in Norway for his approval, and that he had also been to Copenhagen to see Trotsky’s son, Sedov.
(4) That the conspirators offered to conclude an economic and political agreement with the German government, on condition the said government undertook not to take advantage of possible disturbances during the coup d’etat to attack the USSR.
Armed with this fantastic report, Yagoda demanded permission to arrest Radek, which was given forthwith.
Alexandrov, Victor. The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: Macdonald, 1963, p. 91


[In the correspondence from Joseph Davies, U.S. ambassador in Moscow, to Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, are to be found many details relating to the Tukhachevsky affair]. “He [Radek] had several sharp colloquies with the prosecutor and did not come off second best. Throughout his testimony he gave indications of spirit, but in his final plea to the court he asked them to remember that it was he who disclosed the Trotsky conspiracy, with the implication that but for him that which the government desired to establish would not have been forthcoming.”
Alexandrov, Victor. The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: Macdonald, 1963, p. 130


“In the course of the Radek trial the names of general Putna and Marshal Tukhachevsky were mentioned. Great care at the time was taken by Vyshinsky, the prosecutor, to absolve Tukhachevsky from all possible criminal complicity.
Alexandrov, Victor. The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: Macdonald, 1963, p. 130


He [Mekhlis] shrugged his shoulders and said the Instantsia had decided not to foist a decision on the Court. Ulrich will. I understood that they did not want to take any formal responsibility, but that the lives of the defendants would not be spared.
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 238


Stalin’s promises to spare the lives of the defendants [in the Zinoviev trial] may have been given weight by a decree published in February 1936 by the Central Executive Committee freeing the defendants of the “Promparty” Trial from further time in prison. This amnesty was linked to their “full repentance…with regard to their earlier crimes against the Soviet regime” and their successful work performed in prison. It was also well known that the Academician Tarle, who, according to the material of the same trial had been marked by the “Promparty” for the post of Foreign Minister, was living at liberty, pursuing scientific studies, and completing the preparations for the publication of his book, Napoleon.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 36


An announcement was made that all the defendants had refused the services of defense lawyers.
Five days before the trial began, the Central Executive Committee passed a decree which restored the right of those condemned on charges of terror to appeal for clemency.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 37


Particularly shameful were the articles by Pyatakov and Radek. “After the pure, fresh air which our beautiful, flourishing socialist country has been breathing,” Pyatakov wrote bombastically, “suddenly we were enveloped by the overwhelming stench emanating from this political morgue. People who long ago became political corpses are rotting and decomposing, poisoning the air around themselves. And it is precisely in this final stage of decomposition that they have become not only lonesome, but socially dangerous…. There are no words which can fully express one’s indignation and loathing. These are people who have lost their last human characteristics. They must be destroyed like carrion which infects the pure and refreshing air of our Soviet land, like dangerous carrion which is capable of bringing death to our leaders and which has already brought death to one of the best people in our land –such a wonderful comrade and leader as Kirov.”
Radek used similar expressions to state his attitude toward the trial. “From the trial room in which the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR investigating the case of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Mrachkovsky, and Smirnov, the case of the absent Trotsky,” he wrote, “a corpse-like stench engulfs the whole world. The people who raised their weapons against the lives of the favorite leaders of the proletariat must pay with their heads for their boundless guilt.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 67


Using the lexicon of the current newspapers, Bukharin expressed in his letter his enthusiastic satisfaction with the trial’s results [WHICH TRIAL]: “That the bastards have been shot–wonderful: the air immediately became fresher. The trial will have the most enormous international significance. This is an aspen stake –a real one–driven into the grave of the bloody turkey, filled with arrogance which led him [Trotsky] into the fascist secret police.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 73

…Bukharin sent a letter to Voroshilov, in which he used Vyshinsky’s terminology: “I am terribly happy that they shot the dogs. Trotsky has been politically destroyed by the trial, and this will soon become absolutely clear.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 75


Stalin said to Bukharin: “I’m not saying anything personally about you. Perhaps you’re right, and perhaps you’re not. But you can’t come here and say that you have not been trusted, that there is no belief in my, Bukharin’s, sincerity. And do you want, Comrade Bukharin, that we take you at your word? And if you don’t want that, then don’t get upset because we have raised this question at a plenum of the Central Committee…. And you cannot frighten us with your tears or with suicide.
After Stalin had spoken, the floor was given to Rykov, who announced that he “must fully and completely acknowledge the correctness of the points” made in Stalin’s speech, “correctness in the sense that we live in a period when double-dealing and deception of the party have reached such dimensions and have assumed such a sophisticated and pathological character, that, of course, it would be absolutely baffling if you took Bukharin or me at our word.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 103


That Rykov had lost any hope for a favorable outcome of their case was caused in large part by the fact that on the eve of the plenum he had been brought to a face-to-face confrontation with his former closest colleagues, Nesterov, Radin, Kotov, and Schmidt. In the presence of Stalin and other members of the Politburo, the participants in the confrontation testified that after 1929, the “center of rightists” continued its work and in 1932 developed a program, the authorship of which was attributed to Ryutin as a means of camouflage.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 210


Only the speeches made by Sarkisov and Bagirov contributed to deepening the psychosis over wrecking….
Bagirov announced that previously, explosions at oil fields had been considered the results of negligence, but “now the people under arrest are testifying that this was not negligence or dereliction of duty, but was done consciously.”
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 254


Smirnov told his interrogator that he had met Trotsky’s son in Berlin and exchanged letters with Trotsky. But terrorism had never been mentioned in the exchange as a method of political struggle. There had been no “instructions,” no “center,” and even less a terrorist conspiracy. But Safanova [Smirnov’s wife] said, when the two were confronted: “Ivan, the talk about terrorism took place in my apartment; you yourself talked about killing Stalin.” The confrontation took place one week before the opening of the trial, and Safanova repeated her accusation against her husband in open court. Smirnov, who had been holding out for so long, now admitted everything and was duly executed.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 136


In this regard, Karl Radek’s letter to his wife is quite characteristic.
Knowing that the letter would be read by the interrogators… Radek quite transparently gave to understand what was the true value of the “unexpected” and “intolerable” admissions that he had to “confirm” in court. A draft of this letter has been preserved in the archives; it is dated January 20, 1937:
“During the next few days there will be the trial against the Zinoviev-Trotsky organization. I have asked for a meeting with you so that what will happen in court should not come as a shock to you. Listen to what I shall tell you and don’t ask any questions. I have admitted that I was a member of the center, that I participated in terrorist activities and about links with the German and Japanese governments, and shall confirm this in court…. It means that this is the truth. If this truth is intolerable as far as you are concerned, then try to remember me as you knew me.
But you have no reason or the right to put any doubt whatsoever concerning the truth as it will be established by the court. If you think it over carefully, you will understand that in view of what will happen in court, and in particular the international part of the revelations, I had no right to hide the true from the world.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 312


At the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937, a number of people were arrested, including Radek, Astrov, Padin, and Nesterov. Radek gave depositions concerning the connections of the leaders of the former “right opposition” with the supporters of Trotsky and Zinoviev, their terrorist activity, and the participation of Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky in the murder of Kirov….
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 327


After these confrontations, new and numerous arrests of former rightists and other opposition members followed, from which the “necessary” depositions on Bukharin and Rykov were obtained. The proceedings of the interrogations of these persons were sent to Bukharin in his apartment. For only one day, Feb. 16, 1937, Bukharin received 20 such depositions. In his letters to Stalin and the Politburo, Bukharin denied the statements of all these individuals and protested against his persecution in the press, against the fact that Pravda was already proceeding from the “proven nature” of unprecedentedly grave charges against the “leaders of the right,” and against the fact that in Pravda he had been “proclaimed an agent of the Gestapo.”
For a day prior to the opening of the plenum in 1937, confrontations were held in the Politburo between Rykov and the previously arrested Radin, Schmidt, and Nesterov.
Radin testified that in 1932 Rykov allegedly provided the “right” with a directive on the use of terror and wrecking. Schmidt provided depositions concerning the fact that after 1929 the “center of the right continued to operate,” that in 1932 a meeting of the “center” was allegedly held that considered the question of “the need for the violent elimination of the AUCP (B) leadership–Stalin et al.”
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 328


Therefore, his secretary Bulanov during the court proceedings humbly admitted: “All these anti-state activities, I carried out on behalf of Trotsky & Bukharin. On their directives, we killed people, crippled people, and jailed people–people that were absolutely innocent. We cannot be forgiven. Let not Bukharin shake his head here…he is ready to drown all of us, but he is a vicious crook and an enemy of our era. It is they–Trotsky and Bukharin–who told us that we must kill Menzhinsky and Kuibyshev, Peshkov and Gorky.”
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 74


There were many such provocations, instigated by Yagoda in order to get rid of people loyal to the State, to Stalin and Socialism.
One more example. Once I asked a well-known flyer, Gromov, why it was that they arrested so many engineers-designers of the Flying Institute. He very calmly said:
“Arrests were being made because, under goading by Yagoda, plus foreign agents working in the Institute, the designers-builders of airplanes used to write protests against each other, praising their own designs while criticizing others. This was the calamity that was masterminded by enemies in order that the aviation industry of the USSR would suffer from backwardness in design and production.”
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 76

[In a June 1937 speech Stalin said], The others. Enukidze, Karakhan I already mentioned. Yagoda–a spy, and being in charge of GPU (Internal Security) he promoted spying for Germany. He conveyed to the Germans what the GPU has and how it counteracts German provocateurs and spies. He sent Intelligence agents across the borders, on the pretext that they were going on holidays, and these names were given to the German General Staff. Now the German Counter-intelligence agency, knowing these names, set a trap and caught these people. They were made to spy for Germany, or otherwise they would be exposed to the Central Committee CPSU. Yagoda told them: “I know the Germans have you in their clutches–you have a choice, either you will be my people, devoted to me and you shall work as I direct you, blindly follow my instructions, or I will expose you to the Central Committee CPSU–that you are German spies.” That is the way he started with Gayem–the German-Japanese spy. Yagoda admitted this himself at the trial.
(At that Jan. 1937 trial, there were scores of foreign journalists, ambassadors, and other political observers. None of them wrote at that time that the trial was staged. The American Ambassador himself stated that the trial was in harmony with international law and that the defendants themselves confessed without any urging from the prosecution or that torture was seen on any of the accused–Editors) Thus, those had to obey and carry out everything that Yagoda demanded–those were his own people. These people themselves confessed. He also did the same with Volovich–a German spy. The same was with Paukero—a spy for Germany, he admitted himself, already from 1923. It was evident that Yagoda was the organizer.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 109-110

… Yagoda, the former head of the NKVD (who had prepared the evidence for the first purge trial) figured in the third of these well-publicized trials. Yagoda was charged with collaboration with German and Japanese intelligence agencies, and, in conspiracy with the others, of falsely accusing many honest revolutionaries of counter-revolutionary activities and thus being responsible for their wrongful execution….
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 239


Within the circumscriptions of Russian procedure the trials were fair enough. The defendants had the right of legal defense; they had the privilege of cross-examining witnesses; they talked with the greatest vivacity and freedom. The attitude of the court was severe but not coercive. The closing speeches of the prosecutor, Vyshinsky, were violent, but during the testimony he treated the defendants with reasonable consideration. For instance:
VYSHINSKY: Accused Pyatakov, perhaps you are tired.
PYATAKOV: No, I can go on.
THE PRESIDENT: I propose to adjourn at 3:00.
VYSHINSKY: I do not object, but perhaps it is tiring for the accused?
PYATAKOV: How much longer?
THE PRESIDENT: 50 minutes.
Vyshinsky then resumes the questioning.
The confessions, in both the first and second trials, bewildered observers because it seemed literally inconceivable (a) that men like Sokolnikov, Smirnov, Radek, Serebryakov, and so on could possibly be traitors, and (b) that they should have so meekly gone to conviction without a struggle. Point (a) we shall come to later on. As to point (b), the defendants did struggle. It lasted during all the preliminary examination which was prolonged. Radek held out 2 1/2 months. Muralov, an old Trotskyist, held out eight months. Radek says of him, “I was convinced he would rather perish in prison than say a single word.”
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 553


The plot developed although inefficiently. Sabotage did occur. Trains were wrecked, soldiers killed. Details came out in testimony that make the flesh creep; officials of the railroads deliberately slowing up car loadings, disrupting freight schedules, stalling trains (the chief train wrecker, Knyazev, confessed to getting 15,000 rubles from a Japanese agent); engineers ruining chemical factories by burning out their furnaces and sabotaging work in the mines; one defendant, Shestov, described how he ordered the murder of an honest official who suspected sabotage in the coal industry.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 557

An element of paranoia may have actuated some of these arrests and trials. But without question the world’s first socialist society’s enemies, both outside and inside the USSR, did engage in actions designed to weaken it, and popular mobilization against saboteurs did reduce the level of both active sabotage and passive resistance to socialist construction.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 227


As I have had the advantage of having studied Soviet legal procedure pretty thoroughly for some years past, and also of having attended the trial in question, I would like to state and answer as briefly and as clearly as I can the main criticisms that have been made in Great Britain.
Probably the most general and important criticism that has been made is the simple one that it is incredible that men should confess openly and fully to crimes of the gravity of those in question here. Associated with this criticism there comes the suggestion that the confessions must have been extracted by “third-degree” or other improper means. I can deal with these two points more or less together, starting with the more general one….
If, then, it may be taken to be normal, in the USSR or anywhere else, for accused persons to know in their own minds that they are guilty to consider whether they will admit their guilt, and in some cases at any rate to decide to admit it when they see that the prosecution can prove it quite clearly if they do not, and we proceed to consider the present case in the light of this act, we arrive at several somewhat interesting conclusions. The first is this, that if one studies the matter revealed in the indictment itself, the questions put to the accused by Vyshinsky (the public prosecutor), and their answers, the long uninterrupted narrative statements made by most of the accused in their examination by Vyshinsky, and still more the occasionally vigorous contradictions of one accused by another when some point was being thrashed out by men concerned in the course of these examinations (which occupied practically three out of the five days of the hearing), one forms the view… that the evidence available against each of the accused, including in that evidence, as every European jurisdiction would without hesitation include, the testimony of others of the accused, was evidence of real strength and substance. When I use the moderate phrase, “one forms the view,” I do so because it is of crucial importance, when attempting to criticize or to appraise this case in general or the actual strength of the prosecution’s evidence in particular, to bear in mind that, as all the accused pleaded guilty to the whole charge (with definite but minor reservations on the part of two of them, Smirnov and Holtzman), there was no necessity either for the prosecution to adduce in open court all the available evidence going to establish the whole case, or for the court to consider and weigh the evidence against the other 14 of the accused for the purpose of deciding their guilt.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 4, 6

…the evidence was pretty strong, that the accused when confronted with it, having the opportunity to consider it and to make up their minds, elected to plead guilty. They were experienced, intelligent, and educated men, and they said that they were guilty; that might well be the end of the matter. But for many of the critics it seems rather to be the beginning; for the confessions, they suggest, may have been extorted by brutality, by threats, or by promises. We are asked to assume this, apparently; assuming what one desires to prove is one of the oldest of the unconscious tricks of criticism, and certainly saves a good deal of trouble. We know, of course, that the obtaining of confessions by such methods is only too common in too many countries;… but what iota of evidence is there that anything of the sort actually happened in this case?
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 9

It is sufficient, I think, in this instance to confine oneself to considering the circumstances of the present case. It seems plain to me, on a number of different grounds, that anything in the nature of forced confessions is intrinsically impossible. In respect of most of the accused, it must be remembered that we are considering the case of stubborn and infinitely experienced revolutionaries, men who knew from the best of all sources, that of personal contact, most kinds of prisons and most kinds of investigations, and who were also fully acquainted above all with the mentality and outlook of the authorities who were dealing with this case. If it were the practice of the People’s Commissariat for Home Affairs, which has taken over the staff and the functions of the GPU, to extract confessions by false promises of lenient treatment (which I do not know and do not believe, but which others who equally do not know are at liberty to believe), surely no one would be better able to estimate the complete worthlessness of such a promise under the circumstances of this case than the experienced revolutionaries whom I saw in the dock. If, again, it were the practice of this department to attempt to extract confessions by violence (which I do not think any competent observer believes) no one would be better able than these men to support the violence and subsequently to expose it before the world in the sure hope of discrediting their enemies and gaining sympathy for themselves. If any trickery or deceit, simple or complicated, were employed in an effort to trap any of these men into confession, surely they would be better fitted than anyone else on earth to detect and circumvent the plot.
It was, moreover, obvious to anyone who watched the proceedings in court that the confessions as made orally in court could not possibly have been concocted or rehearsed. Such a farce would doubtless not be beyond the mental powers of normal men to stage in the case of a small set of well-defined facts, which could be memorized by one or two people and parroted without any basis of truth. But in the present case 16 men were involved, and dozens of conversations and incidents spread over years and over thousands of miles, now one, now another, or two or three or more of the accused being involved. I doubt whether, even if they had to deal with the relatively slow tempo of an English trial, more than one or two of the accused could successfully master their role in such a farce without betraying the whole thing; certainly 16 could not hope to do so…. And in the middle of the examination of one of the accused, when he said something that implicated another or denied something to which another had previously testified, that other would come to his feet spontaneously or would be called upon by the prosecutor, and then and there the point would be fought out with a quick cross-fire of question and answer, assertion and counter-assertion. Months of rehearsal by the most competent actors could not have enabled false participants in such a contest to last 10 minutes without disclosing the falsity; nor indeed would any stage manager risk a breakdown by allowing the farce to play so quickly. The employment of this procedure (normal, of course, in the Soviet Union), without the keenest critic finding a false note, is a most convincing demonstration of the genuineness of the case. (I observed in one eminent newspaper the statement that the accused seemed to be repeating a well-learned lesson as if hypnotized; but I am unable to understand how any correspondent, however far away he was from the courtroom, can have obtained such an impression. I am more impressed by the Moscow correspondent of a Conservative Sunday paper, who reported: “It is futile to think the trial was staged and the charges trumped up. The Government’s case against the defendants is genuine.”)
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 10

Another point of some substance in favor of the genuineness of the confessions is the complete absence of that very usual feature of proceedings in most countries (including England) in which it is common to allege that confessions have been improperly obtained: to wit, the attempt by the accused at some stage of the trial to withdraw all or part of his confession. One may repeat that if either intelligence or courage were needed for such withdrawal, the accused in this case possessed both. If experience or common sense were needed to make clear to the accused that, so long as their confessions stood unwithdrawn and unchallenged, the chances of, at any rate, most of them escaping the death penalty were infinitesimal, they, above all possessed it. And it is worth while realizing the number of opportunities they had to make such a withdrawal. They could have done so after the indictment was read. If they chose to let that pass, they were each of them separately examined during the first three days, and could have made any withdrawal then. Moreover, throughout those examinations, each of the accused was allowed to come to his feet and address the court almost whenever he liked and for as long as he liked, whilst one of the other accused was really under examination, to explain, or contradict, or amplify, or modify. Further, when these examinations were over, and before the prosecutor’s final speech, each of the 16 defendants was called upon, in accordance with the usual procedure, to state his defense. Naturally and reasonably enough, as they were not in the strict sense making a defense at all, and as the universal rule of Soviet procedure gives accused persons always the right to the last word, they preferred not to say anything at that stage, when the prosecutor would have the full opportunity to answer anything they put forward, but to reserve what they wanted to say until their “last word” should come. And finally, when the prosecutor had made his final speech, vigorous in substance, however quiet and well-controlled in form, each one of the 16 had the right of the last word, the right to address the court freely and at any length he desired. They exercised this right, of course. Some of them spoke briefly, some at length; some addressed themselves to the court, as it was their duty to do; some turned quite frankly away from the court and addressed the public in the body of the hall, without being called to order for doing so; interruptions of the speeches by the court or the prosecutor certainly did not take up 1/10 of 1% of the time. If, with all these successive opportunities, these resourceful and experienced, and, however criminal, brave men did not even suggest (except to the extent that Holtzman at the outset stated that he, like Smirnov, denied direct complicity in terrorist acts, although during the investigation he had admitted it) that they desired to withdraw any part of their confessions, or that anything improper had gone to their procuring (and let it be remembered that if the old-fashioned trick of getting A to confess by telling him that B has already confessed were employed, and were not detected at the time, it would inevitably be detected at the hearing); and if, above all, this attitude of making no withdrawal continued at the end of the case, when the prosecutor had very emphatically asked for the death sentence as to all the accused, and the whole nature of the case made it impossible, save perhaps for one or two of them, to cherish the slightest hope of leniency, surely the inference is inevitable that they confessed because they were guilty, and without threats or promises, or third-degree. Where is there any justification for the assertion of one well-known critic that the confessions were “worthless in the circumstances”? It is, above all, the circumstances that demonstrate how they must be genuine. Are we not to assume, of such men as these, that if they said nothing against the Government and against the investigators, and nothing in favor of themselves, it was because there was nothing to be said? And where, we may ask still more cogently, is there any ground for the categorical assertion that comes from one very distinguished quarter, that the “confessions were extracted by means which have not yet been properly disclosed”? I understand how it is assumed, without proof, that the confessions were “extracted,” because experience has taught me how oddly even intelligent people will reason; but what is this complaint of non-disclosure? The accused, of course, might have disclosed how they came to confess; indeed, they did in effect disclose that they confessed because they were guilty and could not hope to escape conviction. But apparently this critic demands that the means of investigation employed should be published to the world. Is it part of the duty of the judicial authorities to publish reports showing exactly how they have conducted preliminary investigations of which the persons who are at once most interested and best informed, viz. the accused, make no complaints? Can he tell us of any case in any country where this has been done, or even demanded?
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 12

That answer [as to why these criticisms should be rejected] is to be found in a study of the more or less immediate past history of four of the accused, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, and Bakayev. The circumstances of this history demonstrate that these four men possessed, and exercised in very important circumstances, the tactical wisdom, when confronted with evidence which clearly implicated them, to confess exactly what they could not evade, and no more, however much more they might in fact have done.
In the present case, of course, confronted with the evidence, they all confessed to being directly implicated in the murder of Kirov at Leningrad in December 1934; but it is important to follow the history of the discovery of their guilt, and of their confession of it, stage by stage. The first judicial proceeding in respect of Kirov’s death was instituted by an indictment presented on the 25th of December 1934, against the actual murderer and some 13 other persons directly implicated; in that indictment none of these four persons was included (although investigations into their activities were being pursued), since evidence implicating them was not forthcoming.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 14

…At the hearing I studied over long periods the demeanor of the defendants. They were an interestingly varied group. One looked like a German watch-maker, one like a book-keeper, one like an intelligent German prince, one like an English cavalry officer, one like a pugilist, one like a popular actor, one like an alert businessman. But all of them, at every stage, save two, of the five long days of the hearing showed a complete absence of fear, or embarrassment. The haggard face, the twitching hand, the dazed expression, the bandaged head, normal ornaments of the prisoners’ dock in too many modern jurisdictions, were all alike absent. As soon as one entered the court, one was struck by their apparent ease. Treated with courtesy and patience equally by the court, the prosecutor, the guards, (even strolling out of court for a few moments when they wished), they spoke up freely when they wanted to, disputed minor and major points of difference with one another with vigor if not violence of speech, and displayed no signs of pressure or repression. The two stages at which, as I have mentioned, this was not wholly the case were naturally enough, the one coming during the strong final speech of the prosecutor, and the other during the accused’s own last words. In the first of these, always a depressing period for the accused in any criminal case, four or five of the accused sat with their eyes closed or their heads in their hands, not fidgeting but rather drearily motionless. The journalists present varied in their views as to whether they were sleeping, or merely bored, or greatly affected. For my part, as a lawyer, I was satisfied that they were undergoing the experience of many accused persons; however clearly they might have thought before that they realized the strength of the case against them and the peril of their position, the final speech of the prosecutor was bound to make that realization more clear and more depressing. In the other stage, the final speeches of the defendants, it was natural enough to find that some of them, but some only, were somewhat affected by emotion.
On the whole, then, examining the two main and, at first blush, most weighty criticisms [it is incredible that men should confess openly and fully to crimes of the gravity of those in question and the confessions must have been extracted by “third-degree” are other improper means] with all the care and skill that I can command, I confess that I can find no solid ground for either of them.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 16

Whatever impression may be made on the purely English mind by this curious psychical attitude [of the defendants], it seems difficult on full consideration to see how it can, in the light of all the circumstances of the present case, convince any observer of the falsity of the confession, of the innocence of the accused, or of the existence of any impropriety in the preliminary examination of the accused.
The next criticism that should be dealt with can be answered more shortly. It takes the form, briefly, that the whole story is simply incredible, and that nobody, least of all old revolutionaries, could possibly have behaved as these men are said to have behaved. There would be some weight in this argument if the men had denied the charge, and the evidence in support of it had proved to be weak; but in the circumstances I hope I shall not be thought flippant if I say that it reminds me of the man who, when first confronted with the Grand Canal at Venice in a beautiful sunset, bluntly said that he did not believe it. The odd thing, moreover, about this criticism is that it comes mainly from people who for years have been saying that both the Government of Soviet Russia and its economic conditions are so bad, and its people in such a state of seething revolt, that only the most ruthless employment of force prevents a revolutionary outbreak at any moment. Such critics should surely receive news of plots to murder the heads of such a Government as the most natural and inevitable thing in the world, instead of offering a blank incredulity which at once insults the Soviet judicial authorities and evidences the critics’ real belief in the stability of the Soviet Government. Still, it is well to answer the criticism by reasoning, so far as it is solid enough to admit of such treatment. In the first place, surely the most skeptical examination imaginable of the evidence available, both within the limits of this case and without, must convince anyone that Trotskyite and Zinovievite centers or groups of a more or less conspiratorial character had been in existence for some time; and the real question is as to how far some or all of these centers were prepared to go to achieve their aims. It is, alas, beyond question that some of them were prepared to go, and did go, as far as to arrange for and achieve the murder of Kirov; and if one takes account also of the confessions and of the mass of genuinely corroborative evidence which, as above-mentioned, can be deduced from the indictment and from such evidence as was actually brought out in court, there is a good deal to show that the terrorist conspiracy did exist; and one does not need to be a student of psychology to realize how far, over long periods, a frustrated longing for power, or a sense of injustice or defeat, will ultimately demoralize ambitious men.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 19


The more extreme critics might perhaps pause at this stage to consider the weight of these facts. If the views which they put forward so readily, although without any apparent ground, about Soviet procedure were correct, if Stalin and his associates were the sort of persons who would readily engage in a conspiracy to procure the judicial murder of their old rivals, and if confessions were as easily obtained as the critics suggest, surely a little thing like the absence of evidence would not have deterred the prosecuting authorities at that stage. They suspected the four men; their confession, conviction, and punishment at that time would have been of the greatest possible value from the point of view of prestige and propaganda; and the moment was psychologically the most favorable imaginable for unscrupulous men to engineer the elimination of opposition. Such men as the critics suggest that Stalin is, would not have hesitated for a moment; they would have procured a confession, a simple enough task. It only involved a promise of leniency; or some simple trick like telling each of them that the other has confessed; or a dose of the famous drug invented by one of the more unscrupulous of the slanderers at the time of the Metro-Vickers’ trial, which compels men to tell the truth, or to tell a lie, or anyhow to tell something; a little hypnotism, or a little torture; or a simple fabrication of evidence.

It would seem, indeed, that nothing but a desire to administer justice fairly and properly could have hindered them. Nevertheless, in sober fact, the Soviet authorities, just as if they were civilized people, having no evidence against the four men, did not then indict them; and, as there was no evidence with which to confront them, the four did not of course confess. (Zinoviev, indeed, sent to Pravda a somewhat fulsome obituary on the man in whose murder he was later to admit direct complicity, but it was not printed). Soon after the trial of the 14 persons, however, the investigating authorities discovered further facts, and on January 13, 1935, the four men, with others, were indicted for the crime involved in their membership of the ” Moscow center” of a terrorist organization, in touch with the ” Leningrad center” which had been responsible for the murder of Kirov. There was still nothing to show that any of them had consented to or given instructions for the murder; and, confronted with what evidence there was then available, the four men deliberately, and no doubt very wisely, confessed to what could be proved–to far less, of course, than was subsequently discovered. Zinoviev in his confession stigmatized the persons who were then already implicated in the Kirov murder as degenerate miscreants, and Kamenev called them a gang of bandits, thus carefully circumscribing their confessions. They were not even then sentenced to death, as they might have been, but to imprisonment; so far as Zinoviev and Kamenev were concerned, it is not unfair to attribute this leniency to respect for their great services to the revolution, but it is to be remembered that this and many other instances of leniency towards these two men and their associates is inconsistent with the suggestion that excuses were being sought to destroy them. They were probably never of less weight as a serious political opposition, whatever their danger as inciters to individual assassination, than they were in 1936. There seems no reason to doubt either the truth of the confessions of January 1935 or the propriety of the investigations which led to them; and if that is so it is difficult to see why such doubts should be entertained about the confessions of 1936, or the methods of obtaining them. They seem but a consistent following, by clear and cool-headed men, of a prudent course; let the investigators show them what can be proved, and they will confess to that and no more.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 15


The most cogent repudiation of this criticism, however, seems to me to lie in this, that it is surely not merely unlikely but utterly impossible that any intelligent group of persons engaged in the government of a country should let lose all the fears and doubts, the heart-searchings and criticisms, the innumerable misunderstandings and misrepresentations, that must follow in the train of a case such as this, on any ground whatsoever other than that the conspiracy was clearly and definitely shown to exist by the evidence finally forthcoming. It is worthwhile pausing here to consider for a moment the internal political setting into which the discovery of this conspiracy has intruded…. The Soviet Union has recently, and in particular in the present year of 1936, entered upon a new phase not merely of economic but also of political advancement [a New Constitution]. Politically, such an event as the complete and unreserved concession of the franchise to all members of the “deprived” classes, which friendly critics thought and hoped might come about in the next eight or ten years will almost certainly be accomplished before 1936 is gone. Direct election by secret ballot, right through the whole series of Soviets and other bodies so long elected by the indirect system, is also pretty certain to come this year. Moreover, both in the administrative and in the judicial sphere, concessions have been or are being made which, taken as a whole, amount to a very great surrender of executive power. (One knows that few Governments have ever surrendered willingly any part of their executive power, be it large or be it small, and that almost every Government in the world today is seeking to enlarge its executive powers). Such further points as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom from arrest, and inviolability of correspondence, are also at any rate formally a matter of early concession. These proposals and tendencies, in the existing world-political situation, constitute an almost defiant assertion in the face of the world that the Soviet Union is politically and economically so stable that it no longer needs any exceptional executive power to safeguard itself, the long and stubborn, if circumscribed, heresies of the Trotskyite and Zinovievite fractions having apparently come to an end, the bulk of their leaders, even those involved in grave counter-revolutionary activities, having recanted fully and publicly, and been forgiven and reinstated in the Communist party. A summer sky indeed, one in which no one could want a thunderstorm, in which no one would, above all, attempt to precipitate a thunderstorm. Suddenly, tragically, the storm bursts; the recantations are seen to have been false, and the heretics are shown to have taken advantage of their reinstatement, not merely to continue propaganda for their point of view (thus alas almost forcing the Government to wonder whether lenient treatment of hostile elements was not a mistake after all, and whether it would not be compelled in the interests of public safety to re-investigate the activities of all known or suspected ex-Trotskyites and ex-Zinovievites at present holding responsible posts in different parts of the government), but also to conspire actively to bring about the assassination of a number of the principal leaders of the country in a fashion likely to produce the maximum of confusion, terror and bloodshed, for the sole purpose of themselves seizing power. Surely even the worst paranoiacs and morphiomaniacs of Central Europe would appear to be mild and sober citizens in comparison to the rulers of a great country who would at such a time announce the discovery of such a conspiracy and proceed to the public trial of the conspirators on any ground other than the overwhelmingly compelling one that the facts were there, the conspiracy proved, and the nettle had to be grasped.
Pritt, Denis Nowell. At the Moscow Trial, New York City: International Publishers, 1937, p. 20


[Stalin said in a June 1937 speech], Bukharin. We have no proof that he himself delivered the secrets, but with him were linked very firmly Enukidze, Karakhan and Rudzutak–these discussed with him, made plans, were informing him, although they themselves did not do the actual spying–but they organized and oversaw these spying activities.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 109


Under interrogation on 28 July 1936, Zinoviev was asked: “It has been established by investigation of your case that the organization’s center carefully worked out a plan of the conspiracy. What evidence can you give us about this?” He replied: “The political aim of the plot was to overthrow the Central Committee and the Soviet government and to create our own central committee and our own government, which would have consisted of Trotskyites, Zinovievites, and Rightists. In concrete terms the plan for the coup was the following: we calculated that the murder of Stalin (and other party and governmental leaders) would cause confusion in the Party leadership. We intended that Kamenev, Zinoviev, I. N. Smirnov, Rykov, Sokolnikov, Tomsky, Evdokimov, Smilga, Mrachkovsky and others would in these circumstances return to leading Party and governmental posts…. According to the plan, Trotsky, I, and Kamenev were to have concentrated in our hands the entire leadership of the Party and state…., and so on in the same vein.
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 287


He [Stalin] made another such gesture when Bukharin, using the pass issued to him as Izvestia’s editor, appeared in Red Square for the annual parade on 7 November 1936 and took a place with his wife on a side-stand–only to have a guard approach him, salute, and say: “Comrade Bukharin, Comrade Stalin asked me to inform you that you are in the wrong place. Would you please proceed to the stand above the Tomb? That was where Stalin and the other top leaders stood.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 375

According to Larina, whom I often met in the 1970s, she and her husband went together to Red Square on 7 Nov 1936 for the celebration of the 19th anniversary of the October Revolution. They had and Izvestia pass to be admitted to the stands near the platform on top of the mausoleum. Stalin noticed Bukharin. Suddenly Larina saw a guard pushing his way towards them through the crowd. She thought they would be told to leave Red Square immediately but the young Red Army soldier saluted and said: “Comrade Bukharin, Comrade Stalin asked me to inform you that you are not in the right place and he requests that you come up to the platform.”…
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 289

On a holiday, having received a guest pass from the newspaper, he [Bukharin] decided to greet this 19th anniversary in Red Square with me at his side. His place on the reviewing stand turned out to be on the lowest level, closest to the Mausoleum, where Stalin caught sight of him. Suddenly, I noticed a sentry coming our way and took fright. I assumed that he was either going to ask us to leave or, worse, arrest Nikolai. But the sentry saluted and said, ” Comrade Bukharin, Comrade Stalin asked me to convey to you that you are not standing in the right spot. Come up onto the Mausoleum.” Thus we found ourselves atop the Mausoleum,…
Larina, Anna. This I Cannot Forget. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993, p. 299

Former ‘Right deviationists’ seem to have been left alone in late 1936, and Stalin went out of his way to demonstrate that he had accepted Bukharin’s innocence, inviting him to stand on the Lenin Mausoleum during the observances in November of the anniversary of the revolution.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 191


[In a letter to Stalin on 6 July 1936 Kaganovich stated] I read the testimonies of those swine Dreitzer and Pikel. Although this was clear even earlier they have now revealed the true bandit face of those murderers and provocateurs Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Smirnov. It is a already absolutely clear that the main instigator of this gang is that venal scum Trotsky. It is time to declare him an outlaw, and to execute the rest of the lowlifes we have in jail.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 324


[in a letter to Stalin on 17 August 1936 Kaganovich stated] Golubenko, Loginov, and Mrachkovsky had given very serious evidence about Piatakov, the minutes have been sent to you. They all testified that he was the leader of a Ukrainian terrorist center. They also point to Livshits as a participant. We don’t think that Piatakov’s article should be allowed in the press now, and in general what should we do with him?
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 326

Pyatakov kept his principles but, like so many others, took to the bottle. Just because he was bold, stubborn, shrewd and could not be seduced beyond some point fixed by his conscience, he knew that he had no future. It was said that in his last year at the Ministry he was often drunk at work, that he drank himself into DTs and wanted only to die. This did not come out at the trial.
Berger, Joseph. Nothing but the Truth. New York, John Day Co. 1971, p. 91


[in a letter to Stalin on 19 August 1936 Kaganovich and Yezhov stated] When the defendants were asked whether they had any statements, a reply came from Zinoviev and Kamenev.
Zinoviev and Kamenev made the following statements:
a) Zinoviev stated that he confirmed the entire testimony of Bakaev that the latter reported to Zinoviev that a terrorist act was being prepared against Kirov and, in particular, that Nikolaev would be the direct perpetrator. In addition, Zinoviev also reported that on the day of Kirov’s assassination, Mandelshtam, a member of the Leningrad center, traveled to deliver a report to Zinoviev in person. Mandelshtam reported all the circumstances of Kirov’s assassination to Zinoviev.
b) Kamenev asks to be allowed to cross-examine the witness Yakovlev, only after he, Kamenev, is questioned.
…The indictment was read. After the indictment was read, all of the defendants were asked whether they pleaded guilty, and all of them replied, “Yes we do.”
Three of them made qualifying statements:
a) Smirnov stated:
he was a member of the united center;
he knew that the center had been organized with terrorist objectives;
he had received a personal directive from Trotsky to proceed to terrorism. But he himself did not personally take part in the preparation of acts of terrorism.
b) Goltsman stated that he pleads guilty. He confirmed that he had received a written directive from Trotsky to proceed to terrorism and to pass on this directive to the center and specifically to Smirnov. At the same time he stated that he personally did not take part in the preparation of acts of terrorism.
c) Ter-Vaganian pleaded guilty only to the extent of the statements he gave (he was a member of the terrorist center and so forth, according to his statements in the transcript).
…The guilty pleas by all the defendants made a stunning impression on the foreign correspondents.
After the recess the direct examination of Mrachkovsky began. His demeanor was calm. He confirmed and clarified all the statements. He totally buried Smirnov. Smirnov, under pressure from the statements and the prosecutor, was compelled to confirm most of Mrachkovsky’s testimony. It is actually good that he is expressing a little discontent. Because of that he has put himself [in] a stupid situation. All the defendants are attacking Smirnov.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 328

1. [In a letter to Stalin on 20 August 1936 Kaganovich and Yezhov stated] During the morning and evening sessions the following were examined: Mrachkovsky, Yevdokimov, Dreitzer, Reingold, Bakaev, and Pikel.

2. The most essential parts of their examinations were the following:
a) Mrachkovsky confirmed in full the entire factual aspect of his statements from the pretrial investigation and clarified these statements. His testimony with regard to the role of Trotsky and Smirnov was especially convincing. This was the most important part of Mrachkovsky’s testimony.
b) Yevdokimov fully confirmed the statements from the pretrial investigation and added a number of important details. What was most convincing in his testimony were the details of Kirov’s assassination on the direct instructions of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, himself–Yevdokimov–and others.
c) Dreitzer confirmed all the statements from the pretrial investigation. He dwelled in particular on the roles of Trotsky, Smirnov, and Mrachkovsky. He gave very detailed testimony about them. The especially attacked Smirnov for the latter’s attempt to play down his role in organizing the terror.
d) Reingold confirmed in full the statements made during the pretrial investigation and clarified them in a number of places. The most essential parts of his testimony were:
a detailed account of the two variants of the plan to seize power (double-dealing, terrorism, military plot);
a detailed statement on communications with rightists and on the existence of terrorist groups among the rightists (Slepkov, Eismont), of which Rykov, Tomsky, and Bukharin were aware;
a statement about the existence of a reserve center consisting of Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov, and Piatakov;
a statement about a plan to expunge the trail of the crime by destroying any Chekists who knew anything about the crime as well as their own terrorists;
a statement about the theft of state funds for the needs of the organization with the aid of Arkus and Tumanov.
e) Bakaev confirmed in full the statements from the pretrial investigation. He gave a very detailed and convincing account of Kirov’s assassination and the preparation for Stalin’s assassination in Moscow. He especially insisted that Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Yevdokimov were direct accomplices in this affair. While he minimized his own role somewhat, he was resentful that they had not told him everything earlier.
f) Pikel confirmed in full the statements from the pretrial investigation. For the most part, he repeated Reingold’s testimony. He gave particular attention to Bogdan’s suicide, stating that, in effect, they had murdered Bogdan, that he had committed suicide at Bakaev’s insistence. The day before Bogdan’s suicide, Bakaev spent the entire night at his home and told him that either he had to commit suicide himself in the morning or they would destroy him themselves. Bogdan chose Bakaev’s first suggestion.

3. We are taking special note of the behavior of the following defendants at the trial:
a) Smirnov has taken the line that, while he was a member of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center and knew about its terrorist principles, he did not himself participate in the organization’s practical activities, did not participate in the preparation of acts of terrorism and did not share the principles of Trotsky-Sedov. The cross-examinations of all the defendants immediately and repeatedly exposed Smirnov’s lies. Under pressure from the other defendants’ testimonies, Smirnov was compelled at the evening session to admit a number of facts that incriminated him and he became less active.
b) Zinoviev, when questioned by the prosecutor on redirect examination about whether the facts set forth by the defendants were accurate, admitted to the overwhelming majority of them. He disputed minutiae, such as whether it was precisely those particular individuals or others who were present during the discussions of plans for terrorism, and so forth. His demeanor was more depressed than anyone else’s.
c) Kamenev, when questioned by the prosecutor on redirect examination about whether the facts disclosed by the defendants were accurate, confirmed the overwhelming majority of them. His demeanor was more provocative than Zinoviev’s. He tried to show off.

4) Several defendants, especially Reingold, spoke in detail about ties with rightists, referring by name to Rykov, Tomsky, Bukharin, and Uglanov. Reingold, specifically, testified that Rykov, Tomsky, and Bukharin knew about the existence of rightist terrorist groups.
This made a particular impression on the foreign correspondents. All of the foreign correspondents dwelled specifically on this point in their dispatches, calling it especially sensational testimony.
We believe that when the report on Reingold’s testimony is published in our newspapers, the names of the rightists should not be deleted.

5) Many defendants identified the reserve center as consisting of Radek, Sokolnikov, Piatakov, and Serebriakov, identifying them as convinced supporters of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc. All of the foreign correspondents in their dispatches pounced on this testimony as a sensation and are transmitting it to their press. We believe that when the report is published in our press these names should not be deleted, either.

[Footnote]: The draft of the letter also contained an item 6, which has not survived in full: “The trial has had a stunning impression on every foreign correspondent without exception. According to a report from Tal, Astakov, and the Chekists, the foreign correspondents have no doubts about the guilt of all the defendants, and in particular Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. They were particularly impressed by the redirect examination of Kamenev, Zinoviev….
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 330


[In a letter to Kaganovich on 23 August 1936 Stalin stated] First. The articles by Rakovsky, Radek, and Piatakov came about pretty well. Judging by the correspondent summaries, the foreign correspondents are keeping quiet about these articles, which were of great significance. They must be reprinted in newspapers in Norway, Sweden, France, and America, at least in the Communist newspapers. What makes them important, by the way, is that they deprive our enemies of the opportunity to depict the trial as a show and as a factional reprisal by the Central Committee against the Zinoviev-Trotsky faction.

Second. It is obvious from Reingold’s testimony that Kamenev, through his wife Glebova, sounded out French ambassador Alphand about the possible attitude of the French government toward a future “government” of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc. I think Kamenev also sounded out the British, German, and American ambassadors. This means that Kamenev must have disclosed to those foreigners the plans for the conspiracy and assassinations of the [party] leaders. This also means that Kamenev had already disclosed these plans to them, because otherwise the foreigners would not have agreed to talk with them about a future Zinovievite-Trotskyite “government.” This is an attempt by Kamenev and his friends to form an outright bloc with the bourgeois governments against the Soviet government. This is also the key to the secret of the well-known advance obituaries by American correspondents. Obviously, Glebova is well informed about this whole filthy subject. Glebova must be brought to Moscow and subjected to a series of meticulous interrogations. She might reveal a lot of interesting things.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 338


[Footnote to a letter sent by Stalin to Kaganovich on 11 September 1936] A little earlier on 9 September, Dvinsky sent a secret telegram to Sochi for Stalin’s vote: “To Comrade Stalin. For voting purposes. It has been determined on the basis of indisputable information that Central Committee member Piatakov maintains close ties with the terrorist groups of Trotskyites and Zinovievites. The Politburo believes that such behavior by Piatakov is not compatible with membership in the Central Committee or the Communist Party, and submits for a vote by Central Committee members a proposal that Piatakov be expelled from membership in the Central Committee of the Communist Party….” Stalin wrote on the secret message “In favor.”
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 355


[In a letter to Stalin on 14 September 1936 Kaganovich stated] A few words about the confrontation between Sokolnikov, Rykov, and Bukharin [as part of their interrogation]. Sokolnikov makes an impression of an embittered criminal bandit who lays out the assassination plan and their work in this direction without the slightest embarrassment.
Rykov was fairly composed and kept trying to find out from Sokolnikov whether he knew about Rykov’s participation only from Tomsky or from someone else as well. Evidently, after he found out that Sokolnikov knew about Rykov’s connections with Zinoviev and Kamenev only from Tomsky and Kamenev, he, Rykov, completely settled down and went on the offensive. But both Rykov and Bukharin put their main emphasis on recent years, as for ’31-’32-’33 , they were both obviously evasive.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 357


[In a letter to Kaganovich, Molotov and other members of the Politburo on 25 September 1936 Stalin and Zhdanov stated] First. We consider it absolutely imperative and urgent that Comrade Yezhov be appointed People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs. Yagoda has clearly turned out not to be up to his task in the matter of exposing the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc. The OGPU was four years late in this matter. All the party functionaries and most of the regional representatives of the NKVD say this. Agranov can be retained as Yezhov’s deputy at the NKVD.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 359


[Footnote]: Preserved in the file is a memorandum from Stalin to Yagoda dated 26 September, taken down by Chechulin: “Comrade Yagoda. The People’s Commissariat of Communications is a very important matter. It is a defense-oriented People’s Commissariat. I have no doubt that you will be able to get this People’s Commissariat on its feet. I urge you to agree to take the People’s Commissariat of Communications job. Without a good People’s Commissariat of Communications we feel as though we have no hands. The People’s Commissariat of Communications cannot be left in its present condition. We must urgently get it on its feet.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 359


Little Bukharin went on writing to him [Stalin], 43 letters, 43 unanswered declarations of love.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 376


This letter [from Bukharin to Stalin] gives us the final key to the trials. It tells us everything. No, Stalin had not promised to pardon him. Bukharin went on hoping, but the Boss was silent.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 380


But only days later [after the incident in which Bukharin was invited by Stalin to view the Nov. 1936 parade on the mausoleum] Bukharin had to face a much more distressing ordeal. He was not summoned to the Lubyanka but taken straight to a room in the Kremlin where a confrontation took place between Bukharin and a number of prisoners who had incriminated him in their “confessions”–former Trotskyists as well as several young academics and political figures who had been part of the “Bukharin school.” He had to face, one after another, Sokolnikov, Radek, Serebryakov and others. They all spoke of their “criminal links” with Bukharin and claimed that he was the head of yet another underground counter- revolutionary terrorist centre. Bukharin was stunned by his encounter with Tseitlin who had been one of his favorite disciples. In the presence of the investigator of his case, Tseitlin declared that Bukharin had personally given him a revolver and positioned him on the street just where Stalin was due to drive by. Stalin took a different route that day, which prevented the assassination from taking place.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 289


Indeed, many people at the time did think that there were stand-ins at the trial, that this Bukharin was not Bukharin. But as the reading continued, my initial doubts rapidly dissolved. I knew Nikolai too well not to recognize his style and character. Besides, using impostors would have been too crude and risky a subterfuge in general, and with Bukharin in particular….
Many years afterward, when I had returned to Moscow, the writer Ehrenburg confirmed that it was definitely Nikolai in the dock.
Larina, Anna. This I Cannot Forget. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993, p. 67


When political differences arose in the Party in 1928, Yagoda, who understood better than most the overall situation in the countryside, was closer to the views of Bukharin and Rykov than those of Stalin,…
Larina, Anna. This I Cannot Forget. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993, p. 100


Nicolaevsky permits himself this fiction [according to Anna Larina]…
“When we were in Copenhagen, Bukharin recalled that Trotsky lived not too far off, in Oslo, and said, “Why not take a trip for a day or two to Norway to visit with Trotsky?” And then he added, “Of course, there were great conflicts between us, but this does not prevent me from holding him in great respect.”
Larina, Anna. This I Cannot Forget. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993, p. 275


[Footnote]: Medvedev relates that Tomsky’s son believed that the suicide [of Tomsky] occurred just after Stalin visited Tomsky at his apartment, bearing a bottle of wine, and that a violent argument occurred between him. But it is reasonably clear that Stalin was not in Moscow at the time, and the official report of Tomsky’s death states that it occurred at his dacha in Bolshev, not in Moscow.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 363


Conversation on 11 February 1937 with Stalin about the resolution by the Presidium of the Comintern on the anti–Trotskyite campaign.
Stalin says:
1. You are not taking into account that the European workers think that everything is happening because of some quarrel between me and Trotsky, because of Stalin’s bad character.
2. It must be pointed out that these people fought against Lenin, against the party during Lenin’s lifetime.
3. Quote Lenin on the opposition: “Any opposition in the party under Soviet power that insists on is slipping directly toward whiteguardism.”
4. Refer to the stenographic report of the trial. Quote the defendants’ testimony.
5. Play up their politics and their working for the defeat of the Soviet Union
Dimitrov, Georgi, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 1933-1949. Ed. Ivo Banac. New Haven : Yale University Press, c2003, p. 52


… it has taken over 60 years for anyone to discover that Stalin was actually far away [from the Zinoviev trial], though he followed the legal melodrama almost as closely as if he had been listening to it in his office.
Montefiore, Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 189

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