Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]
[image ALT: a blank space]

This webpage reproduces a section of

Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine
by Hryhory Kostiuk

published in the U. S. A. by
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

[image ALT: a blank space]

 p149  Appendix Note

The Assassination of Kirov

Several theories have been advanced by writers who have tried to elucidate this assassination. We shall disregard here the theory put forward by the Russian emigre group — the National Labor Alliance (NTS), which claimed the responsibility for Kirov's murder. We regard this claim as too naive to deserve serious consideration. Explanations current in the USSR have been summarized in an article by B. Usinovsky:1

Version 1: Nikolaev was a member of the Zinoviev opposition inside the All‑Union CP(b). For this he was expelled from the Party. However, he twice appealed unsuccess­fully against this decision. Disappointed and frustrated, Nikolaev decided to avenge himself on the man who was blocking his readmission. This he did on December 1, by assassinating Kirov.

Version 2: The assassination of Kirov was engineered by Stalin himself. "Kirov," writes Usinovsky, "was the most influential and active member of the Central Committee . . . He was undoubtedly dangerous to Stalin, as a possible rival."2

Both these versions have been given some credence in a recently published book of dubious authenticity by Alexander Orlov, allegedly one of the top NKVD men, who deserted the regime in 1938 in Spain.3 The first version has all the earmarks of having been created by the NKVD — in order to justify the terrorist campaign against Stalin's enemies. The second explanation is even less convincing, since it is impossible to regard Kirov as a serious, or even potential, rival of Stalin. Kirov was Stalin's choice to lead the Leningrad Party Committee after the purge of Zinoviev. Unlike Zinoviev, Kirov was a man with no outstanding intellectual gifts; he was a typical apparatchik, a creature of Stalin. There was no reason why Stalin should feel alarmed by the activity of this man who was his obedient protégé. No record of any disagreements between them has been preserved. Those who accepted this view were, to some extent, confirmed in it by Khrushchev's disclosures in his secret speech before the Twentieth Congress.4 Nicolaevskyº, in a series of articles in Sotsialistichesky vestnik,5 argues that Kirov perished as Stalin's  p150 rival. Yet at no point in this argument is new evidence produced to support this view. Nicolaevsky's arguments about "the long duel between Stalin and Kirov"6 are based mostly on the "letter from an old Bolshevik" which was published in December 1936.7 This anonymous source can hardly be regarded as a reliable document. Khrushchev's revelations about Stalin only confirm one point in the Kirov case: that, in some degree, Stalin was implicated in the latter's murder. However, Khrushchev does not offer any explanation as to why Stalin should have been so anxious to dispose of Kirov. He states that "still today, many circumstances of Kirov's murder remain mysterious and unexplained and require most thorough investigation."8 Nicolaevsky's contention must, therefore, be regarded as hypothetical.

There was yet a third version of Kirov's death current in the Soviet Union, one which so far has received little attention in the Western literature on the subject. According to this version, Kirov was shot by a jealous husband. Nikolaev's wife, famous for her beauty, worked as Kirov's secretary while her husband was a member of the Leningrad Party Committee. Having convinced himself that his wife was being unfaithful to him with Kirov, Nikolaev first tried to put a stop to this liaison by talking to his wife and to Kirov. His attempt to win back his wife from his superior proved unsuccess­ful. Only then did Nikolaev resort to the desperate act of killing Kirov.

This version was first presented by the present author, a former inmate of the Vorkuta concentration camp.9 There the author met a cousin of Nikolaev, whose name was also Nikolaev, and from him heard the details of the assassin's personal tragedy. In 1950 this story was confirmed in Avtorkhanov's work10 and in 1952 by Eduard Dounet, formerly an active member of the opposition group of Democratic Centralism (group of Sapronov and Smirnov),11 who escaped from the USSR during the last war and died in France in 1953. Dounet wrote to the present author in 1949 that he had heard the same story of Kirov's assassination from his wife, who worked as a consultant at the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, and that he had no doubt that Nikolaev killed Kirov out of jealousy.

It seems most likely, therefore, that the last version of Kirov's assassination is true. The reasons which prompted Nikolaev to fire at Kirov were personal, not political.

 p151  How, then, can we explain Khrushchev's unmistakable hint as to Stalin's complicity in Kirov's death? Perhaps Trotsky's remark, made in 1929, may provide the key to this mystery. In connection with the execution of Blumkin, an agent of the GPU who allegedly met Trotsky in Constantinople in order to transmit his letter to his followers in the USSR, Trotsky wrote:

Stalin was left with one choice: to attempt to draw a bloody line between the official party and the opposition. It was imperative for him at any cost to link the opposition with attempts and preparations for an armed uprising . . .

This is why after the expulsion of the leaders of the opposition it is certainly to be expected that Stalin's clique will try to involve one or the other opposition group in an adventure, and, in case of failure, will fabricate an "attempt" or "a military conspiracy" by this opposition.12

Trotsky's remark proved to be prophetic. After 1930, and especially after the "Ryutin case" in 1932,13 Stalin looked for every opportunity to discredit and destroy opposition. In order to justify purges and indiscriminate terror it was necessary for him to uncover "plots" and "conspiracies." The murder of a prominent member of the Politburo would serve this purpose better than anything else. It might have been this search for situations which could be exploited in just such a way which led Stalin to make use of the romantic triangle: Nikolaev — his wife — Kirov. Only in this sense is Stalin implicated in Kirov's murder. The political accusation against Nikolaev was made only in order to justify the purges of all potential opposition groups in the USSR.

The Author's Notes:

1 B. Usinovsky, "Nemnogo skromnosti, gospoda" (A Little Modesty, Gentlemen), Sotsialistichesky vestnik, No. 11, November 1938.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Alexander Orlov, The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes, New York, Random House, 1953. Orlov's book, like that of W. G. Krivitsky (In Stalin's Secret Service, New York, Harper, 1939), contains little information on Kirov which is not guesswork.

[decorative delimiter]

4 "The Kirov Purges," New York Times, June 5, 1956, p14, col. 3‑4.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Sotsialistichesky vestnik, No. 5, 1956, pp91‑94; No. 10, 1956, pp185‑188; No. 12, 1956, pp239‑243.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Ibid., No. 12, 1956, p243.

[decorative delimiter]

7 "Kak podgotovlyalsya moskovsky protsess; iz pisma starogo bolshevika" (How the Moscow Trial Was Prepared; From a Letter of an Old Bolshevik), ibid., December 1936, pp20‑23 and January, 1937, pp17‑27.

[decorative delimiter]

8 "The Kirov Purges," New York Times, June 5, 1956, p14, col. 3.

[decorative delimiter]

9 B. P. "Za shcho bulo vbyto Kirova" (Why Kirov Was Murdered), Vpered (Forward), No. 1, April 1949, pp11‑12.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Avtorkhanov, op. cit. Professor F. L. Schuman also asserts that there were rumors about a love affair between Kirov and Nikolaev's wife (Soviet Politics, New York, Knopf, 1946, p259). Similar reports were current among the Russian emigres, particularly in Prague.

[decorative delimiter]

11 R. A., "Pamyati E. M. Doumet," Sotsialistichesky vestnik, No. 2‑3, February-March, 1953.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Byulleten oppozitsii, No. 1‑2, July 1929, p2.

[decorative delimiter]

13 B. Nikolaevsky, "Stalin i ubiystvo Kirova" (Stalin and the Murder of Kirov), Sotsialistichesky vestnik, No. 5, 1956, pp91‑94.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 27 Jan 23