The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials


Here is what the indictment says: “At the end of 1932 the unification of the Trotskyist and Zinovievist groups took place and they organized a unified center ...”

Organized at the end of 1932, this center, according to the indictment, carried on terrorist activity for almost four years: “from 1932 to 1936.” It is the end of 1932 which is considered the moment—and that is repeated dozens of times during the trial—when the Zinovievists on the one hand, and the so-called “Trotskyists” (Smirnov and others), on the other hand, supposedly obeyed Trotsky’s instructions and created the Unified Center, “which gave itself the task of executing a series of terrorist acts.”

What happened next? Here is what a number of the defendants and Bakaev in particular, say: “In the autumn of 1932, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been expelled from the party ... it was decided to temporarily suspend the terrorist activity. In the autumn of 1934 it was taken up again.” Reingold also says: “In our terrorist activity ... between the autumn of 1932 and the summer of 1933 there was a break, beginning with the autumn of 1932.” The inconsistencies concern only the time when this activity was resumed. It thus turns out that the center which was formed at the end of 1932 had already ceased its activity for a while ... before its formation, in the autumn of 1932. [36]

In reality, to demonstrate that the center (if it had ever existed) could not do otherwise than cease its activity in the autumn of 1932, we do not need this testimony. The fact is that in the autumn of 1932 (in October) Zinoviev and Kamenev were exiled from Moscow, and in the winter(on January 1, 1933) Smirnov was arrested. Mrachkovsky was also outside Moscow; he was, according to the information available at that time, deported, as were Ter-Vaganian and a number of other former Oppositionists. We can see that from the autumn of 1932 and until at least the summer of 1933 (the return of Zinoviev and Kamenev from exile), the center could not in fact exist.

This does not stop Dreitzer from stating that in the spring of 1933 he received “instructions from the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center to hasten the terrorist acts against the leadership of the Communist party in the USSR.” According to Dreitzer, consequently, it turns out that, just in the period in which the center “had ceased its activity,” it demanded that he “hasten” the preparation of the terrorist acts.

In this jumble of absurdities, it is difficult to understand anything at all! The center is organized and dissolved all at once, ceases its activity and at the same time “hastens” it.

There is no less confusion tied to the question of exactly when the center finally “resumed” its mysterious activity. Bakaev, who answers this question the most precisely, says: “In the autumn of 1934,” that is, two years later. This date is not chosen accidentally. It must be a preparation for the “confession” of Kirov’s assassination. If we believe Bakaev’s testimony, the only period in which the center existed and involved itself in terrorist activity was the second half, and, in particular, the autumn of 1934, that is, a period of only a few months. If we accept the version of the other defendants (Pikel, Reingold, Zinoviev, Kamenev), the center existed and acted from the summer or autumn of 1933 to the end of 1934, that is, one year and a half at the very most. Meanwhile, the indictment and the verdict say that the center existed from 1932 to 1936. In order to demonstrate that this statement is not unfounded, Vyshinsky asks Zinoviev the following question: “For how long did it (the center) function?” Zinoviev answers: “In fact, until 1936.” [37] This testimony of Zinoviev’s is at least strange, since he himself, like Evdokimov, Bakaev, and Kamenev had been in prison since December 1934. (Since the end of 1934, none of the members of the center had been in Moscow.) Obviously, from the end of 1934 to 1936 they engaged in terrorist activity ... in prison. Another member of the center, Mrachkovsky, during the four years of his “terrorist activity” was in Moscow only twice, in 1932 and in 1934, and even these were only short visits. How he was able, under these conditions, to work actively in the center is incomprehensible.

Besides this, one of the members of the center, I.N. Smirnov, never left prison after January 1, 1933, that is, for more than three and one half years. One wonders what role I.N. Smirnov could have played in the activity of the center since he was arrested in the period when this center had just been organized, and how, in particular, he could have taken an active part in Kirov’s assassination when he was in prison, without interruption, for the two years which preceded the assassination. But the verdict says in black and white — and Smirnov was shot in accordance with this verdict—that he is accused of “having organized and carried out on December 1, 1934 ... the assassination of S.M. Kirov.” Is this not a “model trial”?

Vyshinsky, it is true, also has a reply to that. Regarding the terrorist directives which Dreitzer was supposed to have received (in 1934), that is, when Smirnov had already been in prison for a long time, the prosecutor Vyshinsky says: “I am deeply (!) convinced (!!) that you knew about it (the terrorist directive) even while you were being held in the political isolator.” The material proofs are replaced by false “confessions” and mind-reading.

During the trial, several meetings are mentioned: in Zinoviev and Kamenev’s country house in Ilinskoe, in Zinoviev’s apartment, in Kamenev’s apartment and in Mrachkovsky’s railroad car. The first three were made up exclusively of Zinovievists; the last one, in Mrachkovsky’s railroad car, was, on the contrary, made up of former Trotskyists (which the exception of Evdokimov). Furthermore, the very fact of the last meeting is formally denied by I.N. Smirnov. These meetings, if they really took place, were not and could not have been sessions of the “Unified” Center, since they were only meetings of a single group. The court furthermore does not attempt to present these meetings as assemblies of the Unified Center.

With the object of crushing Smirnov, Vyshinsky asks Zinoviev: “And did you personally hear from Smirnov a series of propositions (concerning terror)?” Zinoviev: “I personally held talks with him on two or three occasions.”

This dialogue, by the way, exposes the fictitious character of the center. It turns out that during the entire terrorist activity, the two most outstanding members of the center “held talks” only “on two or three occasions.” And the common work of the center? The joint participation in its sessions? Of this—not a word!

Thus, during the trial, there is no evidence of any kind which would permit one to say that the “Unified Center” ever met, even once, or even once carried out any decision at all.

And as for I.N. Smirnov, who had started making “confessions” during the preliminary investigation, when it came to the trial he made an attempt to stop; [38] on the question of the Center, the following dialogue took place with the prosecutor:

Vyshinsky: When did you leave the center?

Smirnov: I did not have to leave it, there was nothing that I might have left.

Vyshinsky: Did the center exist?

Smirnov: But what center ...? [39]

The trial record is also forced to say that Smirnov confirmed these words by referring to the fact that “the center did not meet.” With this testimony, Smirnov struck the last blow to the legend of the “Unified Center.”

Is it worthwhile to dwell on the fact that neither the court, nor the prosecutor tries to look into all these contradictions? Rightly fearing that by “deepening” the investigation they would be threatened with even more disagreeable contradictions, they quite reasonably prefer not to dwell on them.

The attentive reader of the trial records who has little experience with Stalinist amalgams cannot help but say to himself: “What a bizarre center! It is impossible to establish its exact composition, the moment of its creation, or the period of its activity; it did not meet a single time. What it did in general is unknown!” Certainly, this center would be very bizarre, if ... if it had ever existed. [40]


[36] In the verdict an attempt was made to correct the situation by saying that the center arose not at the end of 1932, but in the autumn of 1932. That changes nothing in the case. It turns out that the center was organized and at the same time ceased its activity. It was undoubtedly organized with the special object .... ceasing its activity. (L.S.)

[37] Citing in his indictment speech the words of Zinoviev, “until 1936,” Vyshinsky changes 1936 to 1934, fearing, evidently, that otherwise the lie would be too crude to get away with. (L.S.)

[38] This explains why Smirnov’s depositions in court contradict in some measure the depositions at the time of the investigation. Not having the courage to openly break with the “confessions” extorted by the GPU and to tell the whole truth, Smirnov tried nonetheless to put up resistance during the trial. Justice demands that we note that Smirnov conducted himself somewhat better than the other defendants. (L.S.)

[39] This is the official translation from the International Correspondence (special number for the trial). Smirnov’s reply corresponds, rather, in English, to the exclamation, Come on! (L.S.)

[40] Besides the Unified Center there also appears in the trial a certain terrorist Center of Moscow (not to be confused with the Zinovievist Moscow Center of 1934!) The official composition of this center is: Dreitzer, Reingold and Pikel. It would be easy to show that everything we have said on the question of the Unified Center could more or less apply to this “center.” Its composition varies according to different testimony. This “center” was organized by Mrachkovsky before his departure from Moscow in 1932. Returning to Moscow nearly two years later, Mrachliovsky hears a report from the director of this center, Dreitzer, according to whom ... the Moscow center has been organized and so on, all in the same spirit. (L.S.)

Last updated on: 13.2.2005