The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials


All the latest Stalinist amalgams have been constructed over Kirov’s corpse. To see clearly into the Moscow trials, one must first of all recall the history of this assassination and the circumstances connected with it.

On December 1, 1934 in Leningrad, the terrorist Nikolaev assassinated Kirov.

For more than two weeks, nothing was known of the assassin personally, or of the nature of the assassination.

On the 6th, 12th, and 18th of December the Soviet newspapers printed the news of the execution of terrorist White Guards (104 people in all), the majority of whom had come to the USSR illegally from Poland, Latvia, Finland and Romania. They created the impression that these people were shot in connection with the Nikolaev affair, that is, that Nikolaev had been connected with White Guards.

On December 17, sixteen days after the assassination, in resolutions of party organizations on the assassination of Kirov, came the first mention that Nikolaev had at one time been a member of the “Zinovievist anti-party group.” (Furthermore, the entire Leningrad party organization had joined this group in 1926.)

The mention of Nikolaev as a “Zinovievist” revealed Stalin’s intentions at one stroke: to attempt to implicate the Left Opposition and Trotsky in the assassination of Kirov, by means of the old Zinovievist group which, although it had broken with the Opposition in January 1928, was easier, from the policeman’ s point of view, to draw into the case.

On December 22, Tass [16] announced that in connection with the assassination of Kirov, fourteen old Zinovievists had been arrested (Kotolynov, Shatsky, Mandelstam and others), the majority of whom were supposedly part of a so-called “Leningrad Center.” This center, whose existence was Far from proven, was characterized by the news as “closed”; it said nothing of Zinoviev, Kamenev, or of any other known Zinovievist.

On December 23, new information was published indicating that a week before (on December 16), Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakaev, etc, had already been arrested in connection with the Nikolaev affair; for seven of them, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Evdokimov, “given the absence of sufficient evidence,” judicial prosecution would not be undertaken; they would be handed over to the GPU for administrative punishment.

On December 27 the newspapers published the formal indictment for the case of Nikolaev, Kotolynov and others, in which there was not a word mentioned about the Zinoviev group and its participation in Kirov’s assassination. [17]

On December 28 and 29 the trial of the fourteen (Nikolaev, Kotolynov and others) took place, and, as we know, they were condemned to death and shot.

At the trial of the fourteen, the overwhelming majority of the defendants, in spite of a four-week investigation, did not admit their participation in Kirov’s assassination. Besides Nikolaev, only Zvezdov and Antonov admitted it fully and Yuzkin partially, that is, four out of the fourteen.

If, as it is turns out according to the new version at the Moscow trial, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev and the others were not only connected with the Leningrad Center, which is supposed to have committed the murder of Kirov, but also immediately and practically directed the assassination, how can one explain that an investigation conducted for an entire month established absolutely no evidence in this respect? Why would the defendants who gave full depositions have decided to conceal at all costs precisely the role of Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others? Why would the participation of these men have been concealed as well by the GPU agent [18] who was located in Nikolaev’s entourage?

The only explanation for it is that Zinoviev, Kamenev, and the others had nothing to do with Kirov’s assassination. It is precisely for that reason that, as long as they had not yet been completely broken, they could not be accused of Kirov’s assassination.

On January 16, 1935 the Soviet newspapers published the formal indictment in the case of the so-called Moscow Center, with Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and the others at its head.

Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and the others, whom the press had only a few weeks earlier declared as having no part in Kirov’s assassination, were now being brought to trial in connection with this murder. The case took a new turn. On January 15 and 16 the court pronounced judgment on the fate of Zinoviev, Kamenev, et al., 19 defendants in all. They were accused of striving for the “restoration of capitalism” and of counter-revolutionary activity in general. Not a single concrete fact, no proof, was introduced by the prosecution. During the trial, it was only stated that by their “malevolent criticism,” by “spreading rumors,” Zinoviev, Kamenev, et al, had encouraged terrorist moods, and that consequently they bore the political and moral responsibility for the Kirov murder. At the same time, the court considered it established that none of the accused had anything to do with the assassination itself, although there had been no doubt on this subject in the mind of any man who was the least bit informed and politically experienced. If Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others had had the slightest hand in Kirov’s assassination how could one explain, once again, that the new investigation (from December 16, 1934 to January 15, 1935) had also not uncovered a single thread leading to Kirov’s murder? And in the Zinoviev-Kamenev affair dozens of people were implicated who were already demoralized for the most part and who accused themselves and others of non-existent crimes. Yet none of them, either by word or by allusion, be it ever so “unintentional,” gave into the hands of the GPU the thread leading to the participation of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others in Kirov’s assassination!

Stalin had to content himself in 1935 with the admission by Zinoviev and the others of “political and moral responsibility” for Kirov’s murder, and even this admission was wrenched from them under the threat of the firing squad. But by the insolent and deliberately ambiguous formulation of the verdict,—“the investigation has not established the facts” of the participation of Zinoviev and the others in Kirov’s assassination,—Stalin retained the possibility of “developing” the case in the future, depending on how the situation worked out.

All the accused avoided the firing squad at that time. They were sentenced to long prison terms. Even then it was totally clear that the arrest and conviction of Zinoviev and Kamenev were provoked not by their activity (it was nonexistent), but by Stalin’s plans: striking at this group meant striking at all the oppositionist moods in the country, in particular inside the bureaucracy itself, where Zinoviev and Kamenev still showed certain authority, and above all—striking out at “Trotskyism.”

No sooner had the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev come to its end, than a new case, the third case in connection with Kirov’s assassination, had begun. On January 23, 1935, twelve leaders of the Leningrad GPU appeared before the military Tribunal under the following indictment: “While having information at their disposal on an attempt being prepared against Kirov ... they had demonstrated an attitude which was not only careless, but also criminally negligent ... by not taking the necessary measures.”

We thus learned, with complete surprise, that the GPU had “information at their disposal” about the attempt being prepared against Kirov, and that the heads of the Leningrad GPU “had not taken measures to bring to light and stop the activity of Kirov’s assassin in Leningrad, L. Nikolaev, even though they had all the necessary opportunities to do so.”

In what way could the GPU have known and had “every necessary opportunity?” In only one way: amongst the Leningrad terrorists, the GPU had an agent provocateur (perhaps even more than one), directly associated with Nikolaev.

The trial of the members of the Leningrad GPU and the very formulation of the verdict demonstrate irrefutably that Kirov’s assassination did not happen without the GPU having had a hand in it. The verdict states literally that “they were informed (sic!) of the attempt being prepared against Kirov ... and they acted with criminal negligence.” Trotsky had already explained in his pamphlet devoted to Kirov’s murder that “negligence” had nothing to do with it and that: “When the preparation of the terrorist attack, of which the GPU knew, had already begun, the task of Medved (chief of the GPU in Leningrad) and his collaborators was not at all to arrest the conspirators—that would have been too simple—it was necessary to find the appropriate consul, to put him in touch with Nikolaev ... and establish a link between the Zinoviev-Kamenev group and the Leningrad terrorists. It was not an easy job. It demanded time and Nikolaev refused to wait.

Medved was an instrument in the hands of Stalin-Yagoda, nothing more. Stalin consequently bears not only the political but also the direct responsibility for Kirov’s assassination. Certainly Stalin and the GPU did not want this assassination, they were counting on arresting the terrorists at the last moment, but while preparing the amalgam (between the consul and Trotsky) they “played with Kirov’s head.” This game was interrupted by Nikolaev’s premature pistol shot. Left unfinished, the combination made between the consul and Trotsky collapsed pitifully. Even the trial against Zinoviev and Kamenev had to be built upon accusations “in general” without any possibility of linking them with Kirov’s assassination. Now, about a year and a half later, without the least new fact, a new case the fourth!—has come to fruition in the backstage area of the GPU around Kirov’s body: Zinoviev, Kamenev and others, it turns out, organized and carried out Kirov’s assassination.

The fact that the terrorist activity of Zinoviev and the others could not be established earlier is explained, according to the GPU, by the exclusive secrecy of the conspirators.

Is this true? The Moscow trial gives a completely contradictory picture. In theory, there is an extraordinary conspiracy, which goes so far as to plan the murders of those who carried out the terrorist acts after the seizure of power, in order to erase every trace; in practice, there is incessant chatter about terror, endless meetings, trips, communications.

Let us demonstrate this with the facts. In order to prepare Kirov’s murder, Bakaev goes to Leningrad and joins Kotolynov, Levin, Rumiantsev, Mandelstam, and Miasnikov. [19] (These are all people who were executed in the Nikolaev affair.) Bakaev meets five people! But that is not enough for him.

It turns out that he has not gone to Leningrad alone, but with some “Trotskyist-terrorist” (whose name is not cited and whose identity the court does not even attempt to establish.) As if Bakaev were visibly trying to fail, he asks to “assemble the men.” “A little later, in Levin’s apartment were gathered, in addition to himself and Mandelstam, Sositsky, Vladimir Rumiantsev, Kotolynov and Miasnikov” (at this meeting the only one missing is Medved!). [20] Evidently thinking that everything had not yet been done to make sure that the affair would be discovered, Bakaev also asks that he be introduced to Nikolaev personally. He meets with Nikolaev and discusses Kirov’s assassination with him and not with him alone, but in the presence of the same “anonymous” Trotskyist, as if he were trying hard to have a witness.

Still another interesting detail. At the time of his journey to Leningrad, Levin meets Bakaev at the station. He complains to him: “Well, Grigori Evseievich (Zinoviev) does not trust Gertik or Kuklin or even Evdokimov.” Thus we learn—it was also mentioned in the indictment—that Gertik, Kuklin and Evdokimov were also connected with the Leningrad terrorists. And this is called “secrecy”!

Zinoviev not only personally sends Bakaev, Gertik, Kuklin and Evdokimov (and later, as we will see, Kamenev himself) to Leningrad to make contact with the terrorists, but further considers it necessary to talk about it right and left. Thus, for example, Reingold, who, according to the court evidence, took no direct part in the terrorist act against Kirov, declares: “I learned from Zinoviev himself that Kirov’s assassination in Leningrad was prepared under his own direction ...” It seems that Zinoviev is very worried that his personal role in the assassination of Kirov will remain unnoticed and insufficiently appreciated. The same Reingold indicates that Faivilovich also kept in touch with the Leningrad terrorists.

Bakaev indicates that Kirov’s murder was also entrusted to Karev, while Evdokimov proposed to put Karev in touch with Levin and Anishev. Of course, that seemed insufficient to Zinoviev and he proposed to “put Bakaev, in Leningrad, in touch with Rumiantsev as well.” Thus Karev is linked to Levin, Anishev and Rumiantsev. In addition, Bakaev, during a “conversation,” informs Karev of the existence of Kotolynov’s terrorist group. The affair does not stop there. It turns out that in June 1934, Kamenev went personally to Leningrad; “where he ordered the active Zinovievist, Yakovlev, to prepare, parallel to the Nikolaev-Kotolynov group, an attempt on Kirov”; in addition Kamenev tells Yakovlev that other groups are preparing terrorist acts as well: in Moscow against Stalin; in Leningrad, the Rumiantsev-Kotolynov group against Kirov.

In search of new listeners, Zinoviev relates his terrorist intentions to—everyone! everyone!—Matorin and Pikel, while Pikel puts Bakaev in contact with another “terrorist,” Radin.

After an absence of almost two years, Mrachkovsky returns to Moscow in the summer of 1934. Kamenev tells him immediately that “in Leningrad Bakaev is organizing ... a terrorist act against Kirov.”

Evdokimov finally testifies that “in the summer of 1934, in Kamenev’s apartment in Moscow a meeting took place which was attended by Kamenev, Zinoviev, Evdokimov, Sokolnikov, Ter-Vaganian, Reingold and Bakaev. It was decided at this meeting to speed up the assassination of Kirov.”

Thus it turns out that dozens of terrorists—the number just of those mentioned above adds up to 24—chatted for many months about terror, travelled to terrorist meetings, had terrorist conferences, etc., etc. They talked in every direction about it; all their friends and acquaintances knew they were preparing Kirov’s murder; the only ones not to know ... were the GPU. And when the GPU, finally made some arrests after Kirov’s assassination, it was not able to extract any information from them. After nearly two months of investigation of the Kirov case, with the presence, we repeat, among the terrorists of an agent (or agents) of the GPU and three trials, the GPU, in spite of everything, still has no suspicion of the “terrorist activity” of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others. It seems that the affair is taking place on the moon and not in the USSR, which is completely ensnared in the nets of the omnipotent GPU.

All this uproar and all this improbable “terrorist” turmoil is raised around Kirov. Why then Kirov? Let us admit for an instant that Zinoviev and Kamenev were really terrorists. Why would they have needed to assassinate Kirov? Zinoviev and Kamenev were too intelligent not to understand that the assassination of Kirov, absolutely a third-rate figure, immediately replaced by another Kirov-Zhdanov, could not “bring them close to power.” However, in the words of the verdict, they were hoping for one thing only—to obtain power by terrorist means!

Let us also note the following: Zinoviev, says Vyshinsky, hurried up Kirov’s assassination and the “desire to out-do the terrorist-Trotskyists was not the least of his motives,” and at another point: “Zinoviev declared that for them it was a ’question of honor’ to accomplish their criminal desire (Kirov’s assassination) faster than the Trotskyists.”

Bakaev, for his part, declared before the court: “Zinoviev said that the Trotskyists, following Trotsky’s orders, had undertaken the organization of Stalin’s assassination and that we (that is, the Zinovievists) must take the initiative for Stalin’s assassination into our own hands.”

If Zinoviev had wanted thus to cover up[21] his participation and that of his friends in the terrorist acts, he ought to have been very pleased that the “Trotskyists” were taking upon themselves all the risks and that by doing so, the Zinovievists, all the while keeping out of danger, would be able, afterwards, to reap the fruits of victory.

Here there is something clearly absurd: either Zinoviev wants to cover up his participation in the terrorist acts, or he gives these acts the character of a political demonstration (it is we, the Zinovievists, and not the Trotskyists, who ...). But not both at the same time!

There is no doubt that if one tenth of that which the defendants were accused of were true, they would have been tried and shot at least two years ago.

Kirov’s assassination was the act of a few desperate Komsomols from Leningrad, without any connection whatsoever with any central terrorist organization (none existed). Neither Zinoviev, nor Kamenev, nor any other of the old Bolsheviks had anything to do with Kirov’s assassination.


[16] TASS: the news agency of the Soviet Union.

[17] An attempt was made to drag L.D. Trotsky into the case immediately with the help of the anonymous consul. For details, see page 27. (L.S.)

[18] See page 17.

[19] The testimony of Evdokimov and Bakaev. (L.S.)

[20] Medved: the head of the Leningrad GPU.

[21] Reingold for example, testified, and the court considered the fact established, that Zinoview had told him: "The principal practical task is to organize the terrorist work in a sufficiently conspiratorial way, so that we do not compromise ourselves at any point." (L.S.)

Last updated on: 13.2.2005