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Russian revolutionary Sergei Kirov murdered

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Sergei Kirov, a leader of the Russian Revolution and a high-ranking member of the Politburo, is shot to death at his Leningrad office by Communist Party member Leonid Nikolayev, likely at the instigation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Whatever Stalin’s precise role in the assassination of his political rival Kirov, he used the murder as a pretext for eliminating many of his opponents in the Communist Party, the government, the armed forces, and the intelligentsia. Kirov’s assassination served as the basis for seven separate trials and the arrest and execution of hundreds of notable figures in Soviet political, military, and cultural life. Each trial contradicted the others in fundamental details, and different individuals were found guilty of organizing the murder of Kirov by different means and for varying political motives.

The Kirov assassination trials marked the beginning of Stalin’s massive four-year purge of Soviet society, in which millions of people were imprisoned, exiled or killed.

READ MORE: Lenin vs Stalin: Their Showdown Over the Birth of the USSR


Ⓘ Monument to Sergey Kirov is a monument in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Oblast, Russia. It was opened in 1939. ..

Monument to Sergey Kirov is a monument in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Oblast, Russia. It was opened in 1939.

  • In order to comply with decommunisation laws, Kirovohrad was renamed in July 2016 by the Ukrainian parliament to Kropyvnytskyi. Sergey Kirov was born
  • was renamed for the Soviet leader Sergey Kirov who had been assassinated on December 1. However, whilst the name Kirov has remained since the dissolution
  • 1948 - 1982 as Professor and as Rector of the Academy 1964 - 1970 monument to Sergey Kirov Kirovskaya Square, St. Peterburg, 1937, with architect Noi Trotsky
  • Street, 1923 Kirov Palace of Culture on Vasilievsky Island, 1931 1937 Kirov District Administration, with the monument to Sergey Kirov by sculptor Nikolai
  • Military Institute of Physical Culture was launched in 1909. After Sergey Kirov s assassination in 1934, the Academy received his name. Leon Orbeli
  • Marx Monument and the restoration of the Monument to Catherine II again began to be actively discussed in 2005, when a Monument to Sergey Kirov was moved
  • established a public garden and constructed a Monument to Sergey Kirov it is said that for construction of this monument there were used marble slabs left from
  • Zaporizhia - In March 2016, statues of Lenin, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Sergey Kirov and a Komsomol monument were removed or taken down. The statue overlooking the Dnieper
  • Census Sergey Kirov founded Kirovsk in 1929 as the settlement of Nevdubstroy Невдубстрой in order to serve the nearby 8th Sergey Kirov Power Station
  • His first famous works were: monument of Vladimir Lenin in Azov, Portrait of Mikhail Kalinin and Bust of Sergey Kirov in Manufacturing plant Dinamo
  • Guide Michelin travelguide.michelin.com. Retrieved 30 July 2018. Sergey Kirov Russiapedia Politics and society Prominent Russians russiapedia.rt
  • are two tombs of soldiers fallen during World War II and a house where Sergey Kirov stayed when he visited the construction place of the paper mill. Oblast
  • shortly after the unveiling of the monument The monument therefore, became an increasing source of embarrassment to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
  • The Stalin Monument was a statue of Joseph Stalin in Budapest, Hungary. Completed in December 1951 as a gift to Joseph Stalin from the Hungarians on
  • man attempting to take a selfie Kimry - a monument placed in the town center Kirov - Theatre Square, XX Party Congress Kolomna - monument installed in the
  • of accusations, followed, including the suggestion that the murder of Sergey Kirov in 1934, the event that sparked the Great Terror, could be included in
  • approached Kirov with the suggestion that he replace Stalin as the party leader. Kirov declined the offer and reported the conversation to Stalin. In
  • of Soviets officially established the Soviet Union in December 1922. Sergey Kirov speaking at the Congress, proposed building a congress palace on the
  • Kirovakan Armenian: Կիրովական in 1935, after the Russian Bolshevik leader Sergey Kirov After the independence of Armenia, Kirovakan was renamed Vanadzor in
  • Deyneka, Vasily Efanov, Oleg Eremeev, Alexei Eriomin, Nikolai Galakhov, Sergey Gerasimov, Ilya Glazunov, Igor Grabar, Aleksei Gritsai, Mikhail Kaneev
  • were reported. In Kirov Several dozen people arranged a protest in Kirov In Samara Hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to memory of Egor Sviridov
  • Rights. In March 2016, statues of Lenin, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Sergey Kirov and a Komsomol monument were removed or taken down in the eastern city of Zaporizhia
  • of a Murder by Vitali Bezrukov and the main role was played by his son Sergey Bezrukov. The series has two parallel storylines. One takes place in the
  • The Monument to the Victims of the USS Maine Spanish: Monumento a las victimas del Maine was built in 1925 on the Malecon boulevard at the end of Linea
  • calculations for the atomic bomb project Sergey Mergelyan: mathematics Manfred von Ardenne: 1st degree, for contributions to the Soviet atomic bomb project Nikolay
  • linked by the Kirov Railway to St. Petersburg and is linked to the rest of Russia by the M18 Kola Motorway. Murmansk Airport provides air links to Moscow and
  • with journalist and publisher Sergey Parkhomenko, who saw in Germany the stones of the European Stolpersteine project to commemorate the victims of Nazism
  • Gegello and OSA s Alexander Nikolsky, as well as public buildings like the Kirov Town Hall by Noi Trotsky 1932 4 an experimental school by G.A Simonov
  • interior and ceramics but also left architecture monuments The Church of the Holy Spirit in Talashkino by Sergey Malyutin with mosaics of Nicholas Roerich 1903 1905
  • Committee Plenum passed a resolution in 1935 declaring an end to the purges of 1933. Sergey Kirov leader of the Leningrad section of the Communist party

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Sergei Kirov (Cherry, Plum, and Chrysanthemum)

People's Commissar for Defense of the Soviet Union
June 27, 1941 – February 25, 1946

Full member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
March 15, 1934 – January 10, 1953

Sergei Mironovich Kirov (Russian: Серге́й Миро́нович Ки́ров March 15 [March 27 N.S.], 1886 – January 10, 1953), born Sergei Mironovich Kostrikov, was a Soviet communist revolutionary and politician. He was the informal leader of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party from 1934 until his death in 1953.

Relatively unknown among party inner circle during the time of Russian Revolution, Kirov rose rapidly through the Communist Party ranks in the 1920s when he served as leader of Azerbaijani Communist Party. He slowly managed to consolidate power following the 15th Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1927 after being elected as the head of the Party Central Control Commission and the Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate. He ascended into the top Soviet leadership after got elected to head the Leningrad party organization, replacing Grigory Zinoviev who had expelled from the Politburo on the 17th Party Congress in 1934.

With his influential power base on Leningrad, the position as the head of Party Control Commission-Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate that controlled the Soviet secret police, and his charismatic personality that highly popular with the party cadres, Kirov rapidly gained prominence among other Politburo members by the 1930s. By the end of the 1930s, Kirov solidified his position as de facto leader of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after being re-elected to the Politburo with only five negative votes at the 18th Party Congress in 1939.

Kirov was one of early members of Goretnik ("highlander") faction within the AUCP, named so because its initial figures, including Kirov, such as Sergo Ordzhonikidze and Anastas Mikoyan, were based or rose in power in the Caucasus regional party organizations. Kirov and other Goretniks adopted a pragmatic, centrist position between ultra-left Leon Trotsky and gradualist Nikolai Bukharin. Kirov favored rapid industrialization like Trotsky, but restrained from implementing strict social controls on the Soviet population, favoring more relaxed approach. Unlike Bukharin, Kirov favored more aggressive foreign policy which, however, aiming at the territorial security of the union rather than motivated ideologically by communism like Trotsky.

Kirov was mostly remembered for his leadership on the World War II where he led the country, together with the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan as allies against the Axis powers. Despite heavy human and territorial losses, Soviet forces managed to halt the German offensive after the decisive Battles of Moscow and Stalingrad. After defeating the Axis powers on the Eastern Front, the Red Army captured Berlin in May 1945, effectively ending the war in Europe for the Allies. The Soviet Union subsequently emerged as one of the world superpowers along with the United States and Japan.


Revolution times

Kirov took part in the� Russian Revolution and was arrested and later released. He joined with the Bolsheviks soon after being released from prison. In 1906, Kirov was arrested once again, but this time jailed for over three years, charged with printing illegal literature. Soon after his release, he again took part in revolutionary activity. Once again being arrested for printing illegal literature, after a year of custody, Kostrikov moved to the Caucasus, where he stayed until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II.

By this time, Sergei Kostrikov had changed his name to Kirov in order to make his name easier to remember [citation needed] , a practice common among Russian revolutionaries of the time. Kostrikov began using the pen name "Kir", first publishing under the pseudonym "Kirov" on 26 April 1912. One account states that he chose the name "Kir" (Cyrus, from the Greek Kūros), after a Christian martyr in third-century Egypt from an Orthodox calendar of saints' days, Russifying it by adding an "-ov" ending. A second story is that he based it on the name of the Persian king Cyrus.

Kirov became commander of the Bolshevik military administration in Astrakhan. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, he fought in the Russian Civil War until 1920. Simon Sebag Montefiore writes: "During the Civil War, Kirov was one of the swashbuckling commissars in the North Caucasus beside Ordzhonikidze and Mikoyan. In Astrakhan he enforced Bolshevik power in March 1919 with liberal bloodletting more than 4,000 were killed. When a bourgeois was caught hiding his own furniture, Kirov ordered him shot."


Primary Sources

(1) The Granat Encyclopaedia of the Russian Revolution was published by the Soviet government in 1924. The encyclopaedia included a collection of autobiographies and biographies of over two hundred people involved in the Russian Revolution. This included one written by Sergei Kirov.

The prison library was quite satisfactory, and in addition one was able to receive all the legal writings of the time. The only hindrances to study were the savage sentences of courts as a result of which tens of people were hanged. On many a night the solitary block of the Tomsk country prison echoed with condemned men shouting heart-rending farewells to life and their comrades as they were led away to execution. But in general, it was immeasurably easier to study in prison than as an underground militant at liberty.

(7) Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003)

Stalin devised a plan to deal with Kirov's dangerous eminence, proposing his recall from Leningrad to become one of the four Secretaries, thereby cleverly satisfying those who wanted him promoted to the Secretariat: on paper, a big promotion in reality, this would bring him under Stalin's observation, cutting him off from his Leningrad clientele. In Stalin's entourage, a promotion to the centre was a mixed blessing. Kirov was neither the first nor the last to protest vigorously - but, in Stalin's eyes, a refusal meant placing personal power above Party loyalty, a mortal sin. Kirov's request to stay in Leningrad for another two years was supported by Sergo and Kuibyshev. Stalin petulantly stalked out in a huff.

Sergo and Kuibyshev advised Kirov to compromise with Stalin: Kirov became the third Secretary but remained temporarily in Leningrad. Since he would have little time for Moscow, Stalin reached out to another newly elected CC member who would become the closest to Stalin of all the leaders: Andrei Zhdanov, boss of Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod), moved to Moscow as the fourth Secretary.

Kirov staggered back to Leningrad, suffering from flu, congestion in his right lung and palpitations. In March, Sergo wrote to him: "Listen my friend, you must rest. Really and truly, nothing is going to happen there without you there for 10-15 days. Our fellow countryman (their codename for Stalin) considers you a healthy man. none the less, you must take a short rest!" Kirov sensed that Stalin would not forgive him for the plot. Yet Stalin was even more suffocatingly friendly, insisting that they constantly meet in Moscow. It was Sergo, not Stalin, with whom Kirov really needed to discuss his apprehensions. `I want awfully to have a chat with you on very many questions but you can't say everything in a letter so it is better to wait until our meeting.' They certainly discussed politics in private, careful to reveal nothing on paper.

There were hints of Kirov's scepticism about Stalin's cult: on 15 July 1933, Kirov wrote formally to "Comrade Stalin" (not the usual Koba) that portraits of Stalin's photograph had been printed in Leningrad on rather "thin paper". Unfortunately they could not do any better. One can imagine Kirov and Sergo mocking Stalin's vanity. In private, Kirov imitated Stalin's accent to his Leningraders.

When Kirov visited Stalin in Moscow, they were boon companions but Artyom remembers a competitive edge to their jokes. Once at a family dinner, they made mock toasts:

"A toast to Stalin, the great leader of all peoples and all times. I'm a busy man but I've probably forgotten some of the other great things you've done too!" Kirov, who often "monopolized conversations so as to be the centre of attention", toasted Stalin, mocking the cult. Kirov could speak to Stalin in a way unthinkable to Beria or Khrushchev.

"A toast to our beloved leader of the Leningrad Party and possibly the Baku proletariat too, yet he promises me he can't read all the papers - and what else are you beloved leader of?" replied Stalin. Even the tipsy banter between Stalin and Kirov was pregnant with ill-concealed anger and resentment, yet no one in the family circle noticed that they were anything but the most loving of friends. However the `vegetarian years', as the poetess Akhmatova called them, were about to end: "the meat-eating years" were coming.

On 30 June, Adolf Hitler, newly elected Chancellor of Germany, slaughtered his enemies within his Nazi Party, in the Night of the Long Knives - an exploit that fascinated Stalin.

"Did you hear what happened in Germany?" he asked Mikoyan. "Some fellow that Hitler! Splendid! That's a deed of some skill!" Mikoyan was surprised that Stalin admired the German Fascist but the Bolsheviks were hardly strangers to slaughter themselves.

(2) Alexander Orlov was a NKVD officer who escaped to the United States.

Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin's former comrades. Stalin came to the conclusion that, if he could prove that Zinoviev and Kamenev and other leaders of the opposition had shed the blood of Kirov, "the beloved son of the party", a member of the Politburo, he then would be justified in demanding blood for blood.

(3) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

The details of Kirov's assassination at first pointed to a personal motive, which may indeed have existed, but investigation showed that, as commonly happens in such cases, the assassin Nikolaiev had been made the instrument of forces whose aims were treasonable and political. A widespread plot against the Kremlin was discovered, whose ramifications included not merely former oppositionists but agents of the Nazi Gestapo. As the investigation continued, the Kremlin's conviction deepened that Trotsky and his friends abroad had built up an anti-Stalinist organisation in close collaboration with their associates in Russia, who formed a nucleus or centre around which gradually rallied divers elements of discontent and disloyalty. The actual conspirators were comparatively few in number, but as the plot thickened they did not hesitate to seek the aid of foreign enemies in order to compensate for the lack of popular support at home. In other words, the whole set of trials and investigations from that of Kirov's assassin and his accomplices up to that of the generals in June 1937, have not been separate incidents but part of a continuous process which has revealed step by step the development of a conspiracy in which Trotsky and the foreign enemies of Russia had not only the strongest of incentives but ample opportunity to co-operate with the conspirators.

If one accepts these premises, it is obvious that both Trotsky and the foreign enemies would use every means in their power to deny and discredit the evidence produced at the trials. In this they have been aided by Western unfamiliarity with Soviet mentality and methods, and to no small degree, by Soviet unfamiliarity with Western mentality and methods. Thus, at the very outset, the Western world was shocked by the harshness of the reprisals which followed Kirov's murder, and already the cry was raised abroad that this wave of killings and arrests was a sign of panic on the part of the Kremlin or that Stalin and his associates were taking advantage of an "accident" to rid themselves of political opponents.

The later "treason trials" of the Kamenev-Zinoviev and Piatakov-Radek groups were used by Stalin's enemies to confirm these two assertions and to deepen the scepticism with which the extraordinary (to Western minds) nature of the confessions had been received abroad. In the fog of denials and declarations that the confessions were elicited by drugs, torture, pressure upon relatives, hypnotism or other nefarious devices of the G.P.U., foreign opinion lost sight of three important facts: first, that these same men had, individually and collectively, confessed their sins and beaten their breasts in contrition no less fully and abashedly on previous occasions second, that the outline of the conspiracy was gradually taking shape third, that through the maze of charge and counter-charge the thread of collusion with foreign enemies ran ever stronger and more clear. The second trial established the fact of personal contact between several of the accused and foreign - i.e., German and Japanese - representatives. This in itself meant little because Piatakov received dozens of foreigners every week in his official position, the accused railway managers of the Far Eastern lines had similar official contact with Japanese consuls and business men, and Radek was a familiar figure at most of the diplomatic receptions in Moscow. Nevertheless the element of opportunity was thus introduced to buttress the prosecution's charge of treasonable and hostile motives that led to collusion.

(4) The New Republic (9th January, 1935)

Up to last Sunday 117 persons had been executed in Soviet Russia as the direct result of the Kirov assassination. To what extent are Zinoviev and Kamenev implicated in the plot. The hysteria of Karl Radek's and Nikolai Bukharin's charges against them in Pravda and Izvestia fails to carry conviction.

Russia's right to crush Nazi-White Guard conspiracies or other plots of murder and arson no one questions few have anything but approval for it. What is in question is the guilt of particular persons who have not been tried in an open court of law.

(5) Robin Page Arnot, The Labour Monthly (November 1937)

In December 1934 one of the groups carried through the assassination of Sergei Mironovich Kirov, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Subsequent investigations revealed that behind the first group of assassins was a second group, an Organisation of Trotskyists headed by Zinoviev and Kamenev. Further investigations brought to light definite counter-revolutionary activities of the Rights (Bucharin-Rykov organisations) and their joint working with the Trotskyists. The group of fourteen constituting the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre were brought to trial in Moscow in August 1936, found guilty, and executed. In Siberia a trial, held in November, revealed that the Kemerovo mine had been deliberately wrecked and a number of miners killed by a subordinate group of wreckers and terrorists. A second Moscow trial, held in January 1937, revealed the wider ramifications of the conspiracy. This was the trial of the Parallel Centre, headed by Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov. The volume of evidence brought forward at this trial was sufficient to convince the most sceptical that these men, in conjunction with Trotsky and with the Fascist Powers, had carried through a series of abominable crimes involving loss of life and wreckage on a very considerable scale. With the exceptions of Radek, Sokolnikov, and two others, to whom lighter sentences were given, these spies and traitors suffered the death penalty. The same fate was meted out to Tukhachevsky, and seven other general officers who were tried in June on a charge of treason. In the case of Trotsky the trials showed that opposition to the line of Lenin for fifteen years outside the Bolshevik Party, plus opposition to the line of Lenin inside the Bolshevik Party for ten years, had in the last decade reached its finality in the camp of counter-revolution, as ally and tool of Fascism.

(6) Victor Kravchenko, I Choose Freedom (1947)

Hundreds of suspects in Leningrad were rounded up and shot summarily, without trial. Hundreds of others, dragged from prison cells where they had been confined for years, were executed in a gesture of official vengeance against the Party's enemies. The first accounts of Kirov's death said that the assassin had acted as a tool of dastardly foreigners - Estonian, Polish, German and finally British. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking Nikolayev with present and past followers of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other dissident old Bolsheviks. Almost hourly the circle of those supposedly implicated, directly or "morally", was widened until it embraced anyone and everyone who had ever raised a doubt about any Stalinist policy.

(7) Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003)

Poskrebyshev answered Stalin's telephone in his office. Kirov's deputy, Chudov, broke the terrible news from Leningrad. Poskrebyshev tried Stalin's phone line but he could not get an answer, sending a secretary to find him. The hozhd, according to his journal, was meeting with Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov and Zhdanov, but hurriedly called Leningrad, insisting on interrogating the Georgian doctor in his native language. Then he rang back to ask what the assassin was wearing. A cap? Were there foreign items on him? Yagoda, who had already called to demand whether any foreign objects had been found on the assassin, arrived at Stalin's office at 5.50 p.m.

Mikoyan, Sergo and Bukharin arrived quickly. Mikoyan specifically remembered that 'Stalin announced that Kirov had been assassinated and on the spot, without any investigation, he said the supporters of Zinoviev (the former leader of Leningrad and the Left opposition to Stalin) had started a terror against the Party. Sergo and Mikoyan, who were so close to Kirov, were particularly appalled since Sergo had missed seeing his friend for the last time. Kaganovich noticed that Stalin 'was shocked at first'.

Stalin, now showing no emotion, ordered Yenukidze as Secretary of the Central Executive Committee to sign an emergency law that decreed the trial of accused terrorists within ten days and immediate execution without appeal after judgement. Stalin must have drafted it himself. This 1st December Law - or rather the two directives of that night - was the equivalent of Hitler's Enabling Act because it laid the foundation for a random terror without even the pretence of a rule of law. Within three years, two million people had been sentenced to death or labour camps in its name. Mikoyan said there was no discussion and no objections. As easily as slipping the safety catch on their Mausers, the Politburo clicked into the military emergency mentality of the Civil War.

If there was any opposition, it came from Yenukidze, that unusually benign figure among these amoral toughs, but it was he who ultimately signed it. The newspapers declared the laws were passed by a meeting of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee - which probably meant Stalin bullying Yenukidze in a smoky room after the meeting. It is also a mystery why the craven Kalinin, the President who was present, did not sign it. His signature had appeared by the time it was announced in the newspapers. Anyway the Politburo did not officially vote until a few days later.
Stalin immediately decided that he would personally lead a delegation to Leningrad to investigate the murder. Sergo wanted to go but Stalin ordered him to remain behind because of his weak heart. Sergo had indeed collapsed with grief and may have suffered another heart attack. His daughter remembered that "this was the only time he wept openly". His wife, Zina, travelled to Leningrad to comfort Kirov's widow.

Kaganovich also wanted to go but Stalin told him that someone had to run the country. He took Molotov, Voroshilov and Zhdanov with him along with Yagoda and Andrei Vyshinsky, the Deputy Procurator, who had crossed Sergo earlier that year. Naturally they were accompanied by a trainload of secret policemen and Stalin's own myrmidons, Pauker and Vlasik. In retrospect, the most significant man Stalin chose to accompany him was Nikolai Yezhov, head of the CC's Personnel Department. Yezhov was one of those special young men, like Zhdanov, on whom Stalin was coming to depend.

The local leaders gathered, shell-shocked, at the station. Stalin played his role, that of a Lancelot heartbroken and angry at the death of a beloved knight, with self-conscious and preplanned Thespianism. When he dismounted from the train, Stalin strode up to Medved, the Leningrad NKVD chief, and slapped his face with his gloved hand.
Stalin immediately headed across town to the hospital to inspect the body, then set up a headquarters in Kirov's office where he began his own strange investigation, ignoring any evidence that did not point to a terrorist plot by Zinoviev and the Left opposition. Poor Medved, the cheerful Chekist slapped by Stalin, was interrogated first and criticized for not preventing the murder. Then the "small and shabby" murderer himself, Nikolaev, was dragged in. Nikolaev was one of those tragic, simple victims of history, like the Dutchman who lit the Reichstag fire with which this case shares many resemblances. This frail dwarf of thirty had been expelled from, and reinstated in, the Party but had written to Kirov and Stalin complaining of his plight. He was apparently in a daze and did not even recognize Stalin until they showed him a photograph. Falling to his knees before the jackbooted leader, he sobbed,

"What have I done, what have I done?" Khrushchev, who was not in the room, claimed that Nikolaev kneeled and said he had done it on assignment from the Party. A source close to Voroshilov has Nikolaev stammering, "But you yourself told me. " Some accounts claim that he was punched and kicked by the Chekists present.

"Take him away!" ordered Stalin.

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."

Zaporozhets had been imposed on Kirov and Leningrad in 1932, Stalin and Yagoda's man in Kirov's fiefdom. The reason to ask Zaporozhets was that Nikolaev had already been detained in October loitering with suspicious intent outside Kirov's house, carrying a revolver, but had been freed without even being searched. Another time, the bodyguards had prevented him taking a shot. But four years later, when Yagoda was tried, he confessed, in testimony filled with both lies and truths, to having ordered Zaporozhets not to place any obstacles in the way of the terrorist act against Kirov.

Then the assassin's wife, Milda Draul, was brought in. The NKVD spread the story that Nikolaev's shot was a crime passionnel following her affair with Kirov. Draul was a plain-looking woman. Kirov liked elfin ballerinas but his wife was not pretty either: it is impossible to divine the impenetrable mystery of sexual taste but those who knew both believed they were an unlikely couple. Draul claimed she knew nothing. Stalin strode out into the ante-room and ordered that Nikolaev be brought round with medical attention.

"To me it's already clear that a well-organized counter-revolutionary terrorist organization is active in Leningrad. A painstaking investigation must be made." There was no real attempt to analyse the murder forensically. Stalin certainly did not wish to find out whether the NKVD had encouraged Nikolaev to kill Kirov.

Later, it is said that Stalin visited the "prick" in his cell and spent an hour with him alone, offering him his life in return for testifying against Zinoviev at a trial. Afterwards Nikolaev wondered if he would be double-crossed.

The murkiness now thickens into a deliberately blind fog. There was a delay. Kirov's bodyguard, Borisov, was brought over to be interrogated by Stalin. He alone could reveal whether he was delayed at the Smolny entrance and what he knew of the NKVD's machinations. Borisov rode in the back of an NKVD Black Crow. As the driver headed towards the Smolny, the front-seat passenger reached over and seized the wheel so that the Black Crow swerved and grazed its side against a building. Somehow in this dubious car crash, Borisov was killed. The `shaken' Pauker arrived in the anteroom to announce the crash. Such ham-handed "car crashes" were soon to become an occupational hazard for eminent Bolsheviks. Certainly anyone who wanted to cover up a plot might have wished Borisov dead. When Stalin was informed of this reekingly suspicious death, he denounced the local Cheka: "They couldn't even do that properly."

The mystery will never now be conclusively solved. Did Stalin order Kirov's assassination? There is no evidence that he did, yet the whiff of his complicity still hangs in the air. Khrushchev, who arrived in Leningrad on a separate train as a Moscow delegate, claimed years later that Stalin ordered the murder. Mikoyan, a more trustworthy witness in many ways than Khrushchev and with less to prove, came to believe that Stalin was somehow involved in the death.

Stalin certainly no longer trusted Kirov whose murder served as a pretext to destroy the Old Bolshevik cliques. His drafting of the lst December Law minutes after the death seems to stink as much as his decision to blame the murder on Zinoviev. Stalin had indeed tried to replace Kirov's friend Medved and he knew the suspicious Zaporozhets who, shortly before the murder, had gone on leave without Moscow's permission, perhaps to absent himself from the scene. Nikolaev was a pathetic bundle of suspicious circumstances. Then there were the strange events of the day of the murder: why was Borisov delayed at the door and why were there already Moscow NKVD officers in the Smolny so soon after the assassination? Borisov's death is highly suspect. And Stalin, often so cautious, was also capable of such a reckless gamble, particularly after admiring Hitler's reaction to the Reichstag fire and his purge.

(7) Nikita Khrushchev, speech to the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (1956)

There are reasons for the suspicion that the killer of Kirov, Nikolayev, was assisted by someone from among the people whose duty it was to protect the person of Kirov. A month and a half before the killing, Nikolayev was arrested on the grounds of suspicious behaviour but he was released and not even searched. It is an unusually suspicious circumstances that the member of the Secret Police assigned to protect Kirov was being brought for an interrogation, on 2nd December, 1934, he was killed in a car accident in which no other occupants of the car were harmed.


This week in history: Kirov is assassinated in Leningrad

On Dec. 1, 1934, Sergei Kirov, the leader of the Leningrad Communist Party, was shot dead in the Smolny Institute. A popular Bolshevik and possible threat to Joseph Stalin's leadership, the circumstances of his death remain a mystery.

Sergei Mironovich Kirov was born in 1886 in Urzhum, in central Russia. Drawn to revolutionary politics, Kirov participated in the 1905 Russian Revolution against the czar's regime. He joined Vladimir Lenin's movement in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, and took part in Russia's civil war as anti-Bolshevik elements attempted to overthrow the burgeoning communist regime.

After the death of Lenin in early 1924, Stalin maneuvered himself into a position of power. While the Soviet State still practiced a theoretical collective leadership, by the end of the 1920's no one could openly move against Stalin and expect to survive politically. Many who had opposed him, like rival Leon Trotsky, had been exiled, and many more had been arrested. The worst was yet to come for victims of Stalin's paranoia, however.

Throughout Stalin's rise to power, Kirov had been a loyal supporter. The early 1920's saw Kirov working in the Bolshevik party leadership of Azerbaijan. An adept party organizer, Kirov was elevated in 1926 to the post of leader of the Leningrad party. Leningrad, formerly St. Petersburg, had been the Russian cradle of Bolshevism and the city that bore Lenin's name had become a symbol to many communists. Kirov's new position carried with it significant prestige.

To be sure, Kirov didn't fit the mold of a typical Soviet leader. He liked to live the high life, as much as a communist of the time could. He drank too much, and swore. His habits often flew in the face of the more puritanical leaders of the USSR. Still, he enjoyed widespread popular support. Many Leningrad workers and party members saw Kirov as approachable, almost like one of their own.

In early 1934, the 17th Party Congress met in Moscow to address political issues of the day and to celebrate the “success” of the First Five Year Plan, an economic industrialization program that had resulted in numerous deaths and arrests throughout the Soviet Union. Because of the propaganda that the plan had worked, however, the Soviet newspaper Pravda labeled the congress the “Congress of the Victors.”

Many delegates to the congress, however, had become critical of the regime's brutal excesses under Stalin, and some voices in the Soviet leadership, like G.I. Petrovsky, Sergo Ordzhonikidze and I. Vareikis, felt as though the need for Stalin's heavy hand had come to an end, and began casting about the idea, very carefully, that perhaps a new leader for the USSR might be desirable. This cabal approached Kirov about possibly assuming the mantle of leadership, but he demurred.

In fact, Kirov spoke of it to Stalin, bold enough to tell him that he had brought such conspiracies on himself, by his drastic measures at agricultural collectivization and industrialization. Toward the end of the congress, the 1,225 voting delegates cast their votes for members of the Central Committee, the party's executive organ through which Stalin exercised his control. Ballots had a number of names on them, and delegates simply crossed out the names they didn't want and left alone those they did. When the ballots were counted, it was found that 166 were missing.

In the book, “Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery,” historian Amy Knight wrote: “When the results of the voting were announced to the congress on 10 February, Stalin received 1,056 (out of 1,059) in his favor, while Kirov received 1,055 favorable votes. But three members of the voting commission … recalled years later that Stalin actually received a substantial number of negative votes — many more than Kirov.”

Undoubtedly, the vote was rigged. Though Stalin certainly would have remained in his position without the fraud, for political reasons he believed he had to be seen as receiving more votes than any other member. To Stalin's mind, Kirov's popularity now seemed to be a political threat.

Not long after the close of the congress, Stalin offered Kirov an important position in Moscow, presumably to keep him close. Kirov, however, refused the offer and requested to remain at his post in Leningrad. Friction between Stalin and Kirov continued throughout the year. In the book “Stalin: Breaker of Nations,” biographer Robert Conquest wrote:

“Stalin and Kirov had various quarrels. Kirov had to some extent dragged his feet over collectivization, with a smaller proportion of farmers in his area collectivized than elsewhere. … Kirov and Stalin also had a direct confrontation, with angry words (witnessed by Khrushchev) over Kirov allotting extra food to the Leningrad workers (on the grounds that this would improve productivity, a logic far different from Stalin's own). At any rate, Kirov was an obstacle, and he represented a mood hostile to any increase in Stalin's power.”

On Dec. 1, Kirov was attending to his duties at the Smolny Institute, a former girls' school and the Leningrad Communist Party headquarters. In the afternoon, he was walking down the main corridor of the third floor when, according to historian Alla Kirilina, Leonid Nikolaev, a 30-year-old former party member, emerged from a restroom, waited for Kirov to pass, then followed him several feet. Finally, Nikolaev produced a Nagan revolver and fired at Kirov from behind, hitting him in the back of the neck.

The same account states that Nikolaev turned the gun upon himself, but before he could fire an electrician threw a screwdriver at him that caused the would-be suicidal shot to go wild and sending the assassin to the floor. Kirov's bodyguard, distracted downstairs, emerged in the corridor and subdued Nikolaev.

As Knight has demonstrated, however, this account, as well as the findings of the Soviet Union's supreme court in the 1990's, leave many of the details quite vague. The fundamental question that has never been answered is this: Did Nikolaev act alone? Or was he involved in a plot by Stalin to take out a popular rival?

Supposedly, Nikolaev had his own motives. Nikolaev had been expelled from the party for his inability to perform his duties in various posts, and had been unable to secure another job. Also, as Stalin biographer Robert Service has alleged, Kirov had had an affair with Nikolaev's wife. Perhaps Nikolaev did indeed act alone.

Several theories don't add up, however. Several weeks before the assassination, Nikolaev had been loitering in front of the Smolny Institute. Upon his arrest the loaded Nagan revolver was found in his briefcase — and carrying an unauthorized handgun was a serious crime in the Soviet Union at the time. Yet Nikolaev was not only released, the weapon was returned to him.

Nor do we know what Kirov's security was doing during the murder. Conquest writes that Kirov's bodyguard, Borisov, “was detained at the front door.” Further, Borisov himself was murdered by NKVD men (Soviet secret police) before he could testify at the investigation into Kirov's murder. Within a few years, the Leningrad leaders of the NKVD, responsible for party leaders' safety, were also shot.

Whoever was responsible for the death, Stalin proved the ultimate beneficiary of the assassination as no one else in the USSR had the personal popularity to oppose him. Perhaps anticipating the political maxim of Rahm Emanuel, “Never waste a crisis,” Stalin frequently used complicity in Kirov's murder as a trumped-up charge against his enemies. During The Great Purge of 1937-38, Stalin's show trials sent numerous Soviet leaders to concentration camps or to their death.

Many of the delegates from the 17th Party Congress were among those liquidated in Stalin's purge. “The Congress of the Victors” soon became known as the “Congress of the Victims.” Of the 1,966 voting and non-voting delegates that attended the congress in 1934, 1,108 would be arrested during the purge.

Despite Stalin's brutality and lack of moral scruples, what part he played, if any, in Kirov's murder remains a mystery that historians continue to debate to this day.


Legacy [ edit | edit source ]

A portrait of Kirov from his museum (former apartment) in St.Petersburg

Kirov was buried in the Kremlin Wall necropolis in a state funeral, with Stalin personally carrying his coffin.

Many cities, streets and factories took his name, including the cities of Kirov (formerly Vyatka), Kirovsk (Murmansk Oblast), Kirovohrad (today Kropyvnytskyi in present-day Ukraine), Kirovabad (today Ganja, Azerbaijan) and Kirovakan (today Vanadzor, Armenia), the station Kirovskaya of the Moscow Metro (now Chistye Prudy), Kirov Ballet, and the massive Kirov industrial plant in Saint Petersburg. In order to comply with (Ukrainian) decommunization laws Kirovohrad was renamed Kropyvnytskyi by the Ukrainian parliament on 14 July 2016. Α] Ukraine's Kirovohrad oblast was not renamed because as such it is mentioned in the Constitution of Ukraine,and the Oblast can only be renamed by a constitutional amendment. ⎣]

The S. M. Kirov Forestry Academy, in Leningrad, was named after him today this is the Saint Petersburg State Forest Technical University. ⎤]

In the city of Kirov a speedskating match, the Kirov Prize, was named for him. This match is the longest enduring annual organised race in speedskating apart from the World Speed Skating Championships and the European Speed Skating Championships.

The English Communist poet John Cornford wrote an eponymous poem in his honour. ⎥]

For many years, a huge statue of Kirov in granite and bronze dominated the panorama of the city of Baku. The monument was erected on a hill in 1939 and was dismantled in January 1992, after Azerbaijan gained its independence. The Kirov class of battlecruisers is named in his honor, though the first-of-class vessel originally named Kirov has since been renamed Admiral Ushakov.


  • Publisher &rlm : &lrm Hill & Wang Pub 1st edition (May 1, 2000)
  • Language &rlm : &lrm English
  • Paperback &rlm : &lrm 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 &rlm : &lrm 0809097036
  • ISBN-13 &rlm : &lrm 978-0809097036
  • Item Weight &rlm : &lrm 12.8 ounces
  • Dimensions &rlm : &lrm 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches

Top reviews from the United States

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It's pretty obvious to everyone that Stalin had Kirov shot out of jealousy, but the hard evidence is scant, and Stalin didn't do it in his usual way (a kangaroo trial, an absurd "confession," and a formal execution.) In fact, the Kirov murder was used as the excuse for the show trials and the terror, so there is still some mystery as to why this happened as it did.

The historical importance of the Kirov murder is enormous--it shaped WWII and the cold war, right up to the Khrushchev era. Knight gives such forensic evidence as there is, without much speculation. It's a subject on which it's easy to get carried away by partisan fervor.

"Who Killed Kirov" by Amy Knight is a superbly researched biography and study of the 1934 murder of Leningrad's Party Leader and Stalin's "right-hand" man , Sergei Kirov.
The author's premise is focused on the fact that Stalin himself plotted the murder of his upcoming rival but did so specifically to justify the onslaught of his infamous purges of the 1930's.

Although this theory is well known with Russian historians, Ms. Knight brings it up on the stage of reality and deeper understanding. The book also has a superb spread of apparently rare photographs that help to enhance the research and interest in the subject matter.

Sometimes, the story line seems to "bog down" due to the extensive web of historical facts and uncovered records but none the less. it is a fine piece of historical intrigue and research. Ms. Knight's contribution to Russian history is but one more addition to the great puzzle of the former Soviet Union and its people who were trapped inside. "THE BELLY OF THE BEAR."

There have been other major political upheavals before the Russian October, 1917, revolution. The French revolution may have been more colourful and more romantic. But no other revolution can match that of the Russians in the nobility of its conception, in the brilliance of its ideals, in its violence, and in its tragedy,

It is a mystery to the ordinary mind, though academics will continue to speculate, how a movement once just a dream of political outcasts became such a giant as to contest the mastery of the world. Was it due to the revolutionary rhetoric: ‘workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain.’? Was it its ‘vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world’? Whatever the reasons were, the communist party became the most revolutionary movement in the history of man.

It was in the heart of the gigantic political body that Sergei Mironovich Kirov lived, flourished and perished. Like many of his contemporaries his life is typical rags to hero fairy tale. He was born on the 27th of March, 1886, to a peasant family. His father abandoned his family when Kirov was five years old. His mother soon died of tuberculosis. He had to rely on the largesse of others to receive an education. He was soon ensnared in the political ferment of in Russia that heralded the Revolution in 1905.

He joined the workers’ demonstrations that followed Bloody Sunday in January 1905, when tsarist troops mowed down a demonstrating crowd killing about 200 people. He was jailed several times before the October revolution of 1917. With the communists in power he served the Bolshevik army that brutally crushed all resistance. He rose within the party until he became a member of the politburo, and later the secretary of the Central Committee.

He therefore shared the stage with some of the most fabled figures of the Russian revolution. He worked with Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, the three who embodied the essence of the revolution. He served with the other architects of the Russian state Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin. He was acquainted with one of the most eminent Russian writers, Emil Gorky. He knew the great General Zhukov. There are few to match these great men on the Russian pantheon. Thus to dig into the murder of Kirov is to cast a light into the lives and intrigue of very powerful men.

Sergei Kirov was shot in the neck on the 1 December, 1934, as he walked into his offices in Leningrad by Leonid Nikolaev. Kirov’s bodyguard, Borisov, who had been walking ‘too far behind’ his master, a grave breach of discipline, to even see the shooting, died a day after the crime. Did Nikolaev have a personal motive or did he have accomplices? Was Kirov’s murder an attack on Stalin and communism? Or did Stalin have Kirov killed because of his rising popularity in the party, and later used his murder as a pretext to wipe out his party enemies,

Interestingly, Nikolaev never tried to escape after the shooting: instead he was found next to his victim unconscious. The assassination of the Kirov triggered a catalogue of repressive measures. Nikolaev, after several months of torture confessed to a litany of crimes against the state and was shot. His mother, wife and siblings were also arrested and executed.

This was followed by a series of show trials in which many with even the flimsiest of connections with Nikolaev were arrested, charged and shot. Many of the old Bolsheviks were imprisoned, and the common charge was complicity in the murder of Kirov. The old guard of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin after being charged ‘with having a moral responsibility’ in Kirov’s murder met with the same fate. Others committed suicide in despair. Even the exiled Trotsky was charged with Kirov’s murder, and sentenced to death in-abstentia. Trotsky was later killed in Mexico by a Soviet agent, and most of his family members were murdered.

The executions slowly gathered force like an avalanche, and were a prelude to the Great Purge. The latter according to Whitaker Chambers in his book ‘Witness’ ‘was in the most literal sense a massacre. It was like one of those western jack-rabbit hunts in which a whole countryside forming a vast circle that finally closes in on its victims, and then clubs them to death. The purgees, like the rabbits, had no possible chance of escape’.

The reader initially flinches from the violence and the brutality in Stalin’s Russia. It precedes the murder of Kirov, and continues without respite after it. The book fails to resolve the mystery that it set out to answer. Despite pointing a finger at Josef Stalin for the murder and even arguing compellingly about his culpability, it does not provide conclusive evidence to support its thesis.

Yet it raises a few interesting issues, and answers an even broader question. It points the finger at the powerful men who were part of the Soviet leadership and were themselves later purged. In other words the writer is saying that Kirov was not just a victim but he was also a culprit.

‘He had after all been an accomplice in the crimes that the young Bolshevik regime perpetrated upon its people, and he had contributed to Stalin’s rise to power’. The author asks therefore if the communist old guard with their unquestioning and mindless support of Stalin create a cult around his leadership, and thus generously feed the monster that destroyed them, and later soaked the entire Russian landscape in blood.

Who killed Kirov is a well written historical novel, and is a compelling narrative of the Kirov murder. It is also a well-researched analysis of the psychology of the Stalin years. There are no heroes in the story, but only villains and their victims. The writer portrays Stalin as the predecessor to the brutal autocrats who continue to haunt and hound humanity to this day. The book transcends the goriness of the violence by posing questions that the entire world should be asking itself. What it depicts seethes on in both rich and poor countries even in the 21st century.


Assassination of Kirov

The Seventeenth Party Congress in 1934 ignited the turbulent beginning of the Great Purge. A political divide had formed due to disagreements over parts of Stalin’s collectivisation. The majority of the Party felt as though they should stop taking the grain whilst Stalin wanted to ‘maintain the pace of industrialisation’ (Revolution and Dictatorship).

It was decided at this congress that Stalin’s position as the General Secretary of the Party was not valid anymore and that four men, Kirov, Stalin, Zhdanov and Kaganovich would become ‘Secretary of Equal Rank’.

It was because of this that when Kirov had been assassinated, political motivations were seen to be the root cause, especially in terms of Stalin and his need for power. Stalin used this event as an opportunity to quickly blame Trotsky and his followers. 𠆊 decree was published a day after the assassination, giving Yagoda, as head of the NKVD, powers to arrest and execute anyone found guilty of ‘terrorist plotting’’ (Revolution and Dictatorship). As a result of this decree thousands were either killed or arrested and taken to gulags (or prison camps) - most of which would have been falsely accused. By 1935, once prominent members were being targeted, such as Kamenev and Zinoviev.

Kirov’s assassination occurred in Leningrad when he was on his way back to his office (which was in the headquarters). A man named Leonid Nikolayev, a party member, was waiting for Kirov there and consequently shot him in the neck. Nikolayev was reported to be a somewhat disgraced member who had been expelled once and was facing financial difficulties.

Nikolayev was executed following Kirov’s death and so was his wife three months later. The child, it was noted, was put into an orphanage.


Seventy-five years ago, on Dec. 1, 1934, Sergei Kirov, the first secretary of the Leningrad Regional Committee, VKP(b), was killed by a shot to the back of the head. The bloody bacchanalia known in history as the Great Terror followed. Violence became the means to rule an huge country. Show trials of then leaders Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, and Rykov, who were all accused of the murder, became the symbol of Stalinist justice. Millions of people, including almost all of the Society of Political Prisoners and the founders of the Bolshevik Party went on execution lists or did time in the Gulag. However, whether Stalin planned or ordered Kirov’s murder, as Khrushchev stated in his famous speech at the 20th Party Congress, was an evil genius, or the “Kremlin mountain man” used the assassination in Leningrad as a pretext to unleash the Great Terror – still remains a subject of lively discussion among historians. The New Times put this question to Matthew Lenoe, Professor of History at the University of Rochester, whose book Kirov’s Murder and Soviet History is published by Yale University Press.

So Professor, did Stalin order Kirov’s murder?

No. I am 99 percent certain of this.

Do you leave one percent in case any new documents from the secret archives of the Kremlin or FSB suddenly come to light?

I examined documents that were submitted to the Central Committee Commission and the Committee of Party Control in April 1956, the documents of the investigation in 1934, the testimony of people who were interrogated during the Great Terror, and finally [those of] Genrikh Lyushkov, a member of the NKVD central apparatus, and later NKVD administrator of the Far East. In June 1938, he defected to Japan . Lushkov was one of the principle investigators in Kirov’s murder. He arrived in Leningrad the morning after the murder on the same train as Stalin and Genrikh Yagoda (then head of the NKVD), interrogated key witnesses including the murderer Leonid Nikolaev. He played an important role in the case against Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1935-36. Japanese intelligence meticulously interrogated Lushkov, and he, unlike Alexander Orlov, gave a very accurate account of the Great Terror. A year later, in 1939, a Japanese magazine published a translation of his “Open Letter” to Stalin, in which Lushkov wrote about Kirov’s murder and its investigation in great detail. His description is confirmed by archival documents which were opened decades later. So Lushkov, who did not have any illusions about Stalin, wrote that Nikolaev, a man with obvious mental problems, committed the murder on his own initiative. But Stalin already used it as an excuse to eliminate his enemies and opponents.

But Robert Conquest doesn’t have much faith in Lushkov’s testimony especially since he was under house arrest in Tokyo and apparently under the control of Japanese intelligence. Another researcher Amy Knight also believes that Kirov’s murderer was precisely Stalin. However, Adam Ulam (the famous Harvard historian and author of tens of books, including Stalin: Man and his Era) upholds the version you present. Why are you so inclined to believe the testimony of one of Stalin’s “wolves”?

Because in a number of other issues–the number of repressed in the NKVD’s Far East Department and the preparation of the show trials–Lushkov gives facts that are absolutely accurate and supported by archival documents, which the KGB opened in 1956. I don’t understand why he would lie about Kirov especially since he wanted to get over to the United States. Finally, his version is confirmed by an interview with another of the case’s investigators, Leonid Raikhman (he wrote a book under the pseudonym Popov) which he gave in 1989 during perestroika to the St. Petersburg historian Alla Kirilina. She has done a lot to uncover this mystery.

What then of Khrushchev of findings?

He failed to obtain enough evidence, though he very much wanted to. The issue is that it was important for Khrushchev to show that Stalin, and only Stalin, answer for the entire nightmare of repression and the Party and the system itself was held hostage by a dictator. Then and later this myth persisted, designed to protect the essence of the Soviet system and its principles. Khrushchev could not allow the population to have another notion about the nature of the regime.

Then why did Nikolaev shoot Kirov, what drove him, moreover because he understood that he would be shot?

The fact is that everything somehow went bad for Nikolaev. From the beginning of the 1920s to 1934, he changed jobs 13 times, and every new one was worse than the last. For example, he ran a “red corner” in a factory he was a strange mentally unbalanced person. Today we would say he was depressed. In April 1934, Nikolaev was fired from the Institute of Party History. He was also expelled from the Party. He appealed and he was let back in, but [the Institute] wouldn’t take him back. His wife was a mid-level employee in the Ministry of Heavy Industry, and they didn’t have enough money. But most important, Nikolaev was working class and thought that everything that had happened to him was extremely unfair for representative of the proletariat. He wrote letters to Kirov, Stalin, the Central Committee and the Politburo, but again this did nothing. In 1956, the KGB published long excerpts from his diary, as well as what he called his “political testament” which shows that he had completely lost touch with reality. Finally, Nikolaev came to the conclusion, and he writes about this, that the Soviet government had betrayed the ideals of the October Revolution, which represented his ideals. He tried to meet with Kirov–he was arrested by Kriov’s security. They interrogated him and set him home. Shortly thereafter, he began writing his diary, in which he described his plan to murder Kirov. He wrote about Ryabov and other revolutionary-terrorists and considered himself a fighter for the Revolution. However, it needs to be recognized that his writings are not completely consistent and lend to delusions. Several times he got quite close to Kirov, for example in the Moscow train station. In the morning of the murder, he was in Smolny and attempted to get a pass to a Party meeting. He didn’t and they told him “to come back at 4.” He did and they gave him is pass. He had a revolver in his pocket. Nikolaev came out of the toilet as Kirov passed him. He took out his revolver and fired.

Where did Nikolaev get his gun?

Many members of the Party had weapons at that time. All the more so that Nikolaev participated in collectivization in western Siberia. In the middle of the 1920s and then in 1931 his gun was registered. As for the ammunition, he bought them in an NKVD store, since only the NKVD had the right to sell weapons in the USSR at the time.

There has been talk that Kirov seduced or attempted to seduce Nikolaev’s wife?

We know that Kirov had one mistress: his wife was terribly sick and he had affairs. There’s talk about his passion for a ballerina at the Marinskii theater, but Nikolaev’s wife was not among his flames.

You, and many others, have referred to Nikolaev’s diary. More specifically to the part which was published by the KGB. Have you excluded the possibility that the NKVD destroyed other evidence that proved that Nikolaev was not a lone gunman?

Anything is possible. As you know, during the show trial in 1938 a version was floated that Genrikh Yagoda, who had already been shot, ordered Zaprozhets (Ivan Zaprozhets (1885-1937, deputy head of the Leningrad NKVD), and he turned to Nikolaev to kill Kirov. This version is a clear falsification. There is a bulk of evidence: Zaporozhets was not in Leningrad the months before the murder occurred. In my book, I dwell on another version in detail where Stalin, or Kaganovich, or Molotov, who saw Kirov as their rival, using a lower level NKVD employee, gave the understanding that they wanted to eliminate Kirov. It is completely unclear how Kirov stood in their way. In contrast to the well known myths, Kirov was far from a serious opponent of Stalin, he was not an alternative leader. He, however, consistently followed the line of the Central Committee and comrade Stalin. He was much more loyal that others, and the legend that there were hundreds votes against the leader of the Party at the XVII Party Congress is also a myth created in Khrushchev’s time to show that the Party was not responsible for the terror and that it attempted to stop Stalin in 1934. I repeat this is a myth. By the way, Stalin personally promoted Kirov, he created him, appointed him to such an important post as the first secretary of Leningrad. So what sense does it make that he would kill Kirov? It’s another question whether he would have shot him later like many others.

To blame Zinoviev and Kamenev and unleash a bloodbath, no?

That is how Stalin used the assassination as a justification for mass repression, for which he was a genius. For the USSR, the consequences of Kirov’s murder were much more important than the murder itself. But–and this is one more argument against the version about an order for Kirov’s murder–the actions of Nikolaev created a very dangerous precedent: if someone could decide to kill one of the leaders of the Party, he could have followers. Second, Nikolaev was from the working class, and this was also an unpleasant fact for the authorities: the proletariat, is not like the kulak, not like another hostile element, but it was precisely a person from the working class who lifted his hand against a fellow Party member. And therefore, as a result, they hid the fact that Nikolaev was from the working class. The NKVD thought up a certain “Leningrad Terrorist Center” and made Nikolaev the center of this organization. In December 1934, Zinoviev and Kamenev were arrested, and they were accused of “moral responsibility for the murder”, and also for plotting a conspiracy with the purpose of removing Stalin. In August 1936, both already “admitted” to the Kirov murder, and this became the basis for the first in a series of show trials. Then Bukharin and Rykov were arrested and a whole line of other people (the NKVD had found proof of their involvement), and a second show trial followed in March 1938.

In your book, you explore the Stalin era in detail. Do you think that without Stalin’s industrialization based on Gulag slavery and mass executions, the Soviet Union would have been unable to gain the power to win the war with Germany?

No, I hold the opposite opinion. Many researchers show that the repressions, including those in the Red Army, in many ways became the reason that the first eighteen months of the war were so disastrous. The same studies show that if the policy of NEP was continued, the Soviet Union would have been much better prepared and thus millions of people would not have been killed.