Nikita Petrov, Mark Jansen. “Stalinskii pitomets” – Nikolai Ezhov. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2008, pp. 359-363.

No. 18. Letter Accompanying the document of transfer of Cases into the NKVD USSR from People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs of the USSR L.P. Beria, Secretary of the CC of the ACP(b) A. A. Andreev and the Head of the Department of Organizational-Party Work of the CC ACP(b) G. M. Malenkov to J. V. Stalin

No. 447 / B                                                                                           January 29 1939

The CC ACP(b)

To comrade Stalin

Herewith we present the document of transfer of cases concerning the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the USSR.

At the same time we consider it essential to report to you the following conclusions about the situation of cases in the NKVD USSR:

1. During the period of time that com. Ezhov headed the Narkomvnudel of the USSR right up until the moment he left the duties of People’s Commissar a majority of the leading positions in the NKVD USSR and in the organs under its supervision (the NKVDs of union and autonomous republics, the UNKVDs of the krais and oblasts) – have been occupied by enemies of the people, conspirators, and spies.

2. Enemies of the people who penetrated the organs of the NKVD have consciously distorted the punitive policy of Soviet power, have carried out massive, unfounded arrests of completely innocent persons, while at the same time covering up real enemies of the people.

3. The methods of conducting investigations have been perverted in the most brutal manner. They had recourse to beatings of prisoners on a massive level in order to force them into false confessions and “admissions.” The quantity of admissions that each investigator was supposed to obtain from prisoners in the course of 24 hours has been decided upon in advance. In addition, the quotas have often reached several dozen “admissions.”

Investigators have widely made use of the practice of fully informing one another concerning the content of the confessions they obtained. This gave the investigators the ability, during interrogators of “their” prisoners, to suggest to them by one means or another facts, circumstances, and names of persons about whom confessions had earlier been given by other prisoners. As a result this kind of investigation very often led to organized false slanders against persons who were completely innocent.

In order to obtain a greater number of admissions in a number of organs of the NKVD had recourse to direct provocation: they convinced prisoners to give confessions about supposed espionage work for foreign intelligence services by explaining that these kinds of fabricated confessions were needed by the party and government in order to discredit foreign states. They also promised the prisoners that they would be liberated after they gave such “admissions.”

The leadership of the NKVD in the person of com. Ezhov not only did not put a stop to this kind of arbitrariness and extremism in arrests and in the conduct of investigations, but sometimes itself abetted it.

The slightest attempts by Chekist party members to oppose this arbitrariness were stifled.

4. All agent and informer work was neglected, no one really paid any attention to it. There is not one single more or less valuable agent who could have informed us of the counterrevolutionary formations in the operational departments of the NKVD. At the same time there was a great effort to establish a network of informers within the Party apparatus (in the oblast committees, krai committees, the CCs of national parties, and even in the apparatus of the CC ACP(b).

5. There was serious negligence in the work of the troikas of the NKVD of the union republics, the directorates of the NKVDs of the krais and independent oblasts, and also in the work of verifying materials sent from the local areas to the NKVD of the USSR (in the so-called “large collegia” at a single session in a single evening between 600 and 1000 – 2000 cases were reviewed).

Arbitrariness was permitted also in the work of the troikas of the NKVDs of the republics and the UNKVDs of the krais and oblasts. There was no supervision at all over the work of these troikas from the NKVD of the USSR.

Approximately 200 thousand persons were sentenced to sentences of up to 5 years by the so-called police troikas, whose existence had no legal basis.

There has not been a single session of the special conference of the NKVD of the USSR with its lawful composition.

6. During the period of com. Ezhov’s work the security for the leaders of the party and government was handled in a completely unsatisfactory manner and the leadership of this security was passed from one enemy of the people to another (Kursky, Dagin, and others).

7. Until very recently the Directorate of the Commandant of the Moscow Kremlin has also been in an unsatisfactory condition with respect to the organization both of security and of economics.

Coms Ezhov and Frinovsky have had since April 1938 information exposing a number of high-ranking workers in the Directorate of the Commandant of the Kremlin as terrorists and conspirators (Briukhanov, Kolmakov, and others).

In spite of this these conspirators continued to work in the Directorate of the Commandant of the Kremlin and were arrested only in October – November 1938.

8. The entire foreign agent and informer network of the NKVD of the USSR was in the service of foreign intelligence services. In addition, a colossal amount of state resources in the form of hard currency was expended on this agent work and on the so-called “cover” of the foreign residents.

9. The leadership of the NKVD paid little attention to questions of the security of the state borders.

10. The Main Directorate of Camps [GULAG - GF), whose apparatus numbers more than 1000 persons, is in a pitiable condition and is completely incapable of leading this large, complex, and varied organization.

GULAG handles questions of security very poorly and does not guarantee the security of the prisoners in the camps, as a result of which in 1938 alone about 30 thousand persons escaped, not counting the presence of more than 60 thousand persons of hired security [i.e. not NKVD employees – GF].

The leadership of the NKVD of the USSR has carried out a line of separating the peripheral organs of the NKVD from the party organizations, from party oversight. This has given the conspirators in a number of krais and oblasts the ability to hide their hostile work.

12. Com. Ezhov has systematically received a great many warnings in the form of statements, letters, complaints, and reports from Chekist-party members and from workers about the perversions and crimes that have been taking place in the organs of the NKVD, and likewise about the presence in the leading positions of the NKVD of politically dubious, foreign persons and of outright conspirators. Many of those who reported these things were urgently insisting that necessary measures be taken on the basis of statements they had already made, and had tried themselves on several occasions to obtain an appointment with com. Ezhov, but always without result. We have established that not a single statement of this kind was ever verified and that no measures of any kind were taken on the basis of these statements.

Com. Ezhov concealed in every way from the Central Committee of the ACP(b) the situation of the work in the NKVD organs. Besides that he hid from the CC ACP(b) materials that compromised leading NKVD workers.

13. C. Ezhov systematically came to work no earlier than 4-5 o’clock in the afternoon and adapted the whole apparatus of the NKVD USSR to this schedule. We have also established that com. Ezhov was consistently drunk.

All these flagrant mistakes, perversions, and excesses that were taking place in the NKVD cannot be explained simply as incompetent and unsound leadership on the part of com. Ezhov.

Com. Ezhov could not have been ignorant of, could not have failed to see, all these flagrant mistakes, perversions, and excesses.

Therefore the failure on the part of c. Ezhov to take measures to correct them in a timely manner, his hiding the actual condition of the work in the organs of the NKVD from the CC of the ACP(b), the hiding by him of materials compromising leading NKVD workers who have now been exposed and arrested as conspirators – all his work and behavior raise serious doubts in the political honestly < and reliability> of com. Ezhov.

<We consider it unavoidable to set before the CC of the ACP(b) the question of whether com. Ezhov should be a member of the CC of the ACP(b) and the party Collegium and to discuss the question of whether he should remain in the party’s ranks.>

Former vice-commissars Frinovsky and Bel’sky also must bear responsibility for this situation in the work of the organs of the NKVD.

In addition we believe it essential to note that all the above disgraceful actions, distortions and excesses <in the matter of arrests and the conduct of investigation> were carried out with the sanction and knowledge of the organs of the Procuracy of the USSR (coms. Vyshinsky and Roginsky). Assistant Procuror of the USSR Roginsky has been especially zealous in this matter. Roginsky’s practice of work raises serious doubts about this political honesty <and reliability>.

            L. Beria, A. Andreev, Malenkov.

            Note: Distributed to Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Mikoian, Zhdanov

            TsA FSB. F. 3-os. Op. 6. D.1. L. 1-6. Original