Source: Nikita Petrov, Mark Jansen. Stalinskii pitomets Nikolai Ezhov.
No. 21. From the transcript of the interrogation of the accused Ezhov Nikolai Ivanovich
4 August 1939
Ezhov N.I., year of birth 1895
Former member of the ACP(b) since 1917
Before arrest: Peoples Commissar
Transportation of the
Question: The investigation is aware that you used
the mass operations carried about by the organs of the NKVD of the
To what extent does this correspond to the truth?
Answer: Yes, that corresponds completely to the truth.
[NOTE: The reactionary editor of this interrogation Nikita Petrov, a senior researcher at the Memorial society in Russia, a super right-wing anticommunist group of liars, has omitted about 8 pages in which Ezhov details his NKVD conspiracy. Petrov does not believe in such conspiracies, so he omits it! GF]
Question: Did you achieve your provocational, conspiratorial aims in carrying out these mass operations?
Answer: The first results of the mass operation were completely unexpected by us conspirators. Not only did they not create dissatisfaction among the population with the punitive policy of Soviet power, but on the contrary they resulted in a large political upsurge, especially in the countryside. We observed a great many cases in which the kolkhoz workers themselves came to the UNKVD and the regional sections of the UNKVD with the demand that we arrest one or another fugitive kulak, White Guardist, trader, and so on.
In the towns the levels of robbery, knife-fighting, and hooliganism, from which working-class regions suffered especially, were sharply reduced.
It was completely obvious that the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) was correct and timely in deciding to carry out these measures. Despite the provocational measures with which we undertook to carry out the mass operation it met with friendly approval by the working people.
Question: Did this cause you to abandon your heinous aims?
Answer: I dont want to say that. On the contrary, we conspirators used this situation to expand the mass operations in every possible way. In the final analysis we succeeded in intensifying the provocational methods of carrying it out and realizing our treasonous conspiratorial schemes.
Question: How did you manage to use the working peoples sympathy with repression against kulaks, counter-revolutionary clerics, and criminals, in order to attain the goals set by the conspiratorial organization?
Answer: In the provinces, when the so-called limits that had been set of the numbers of former kulaks, White Guards, counter-revolutionary clerics, and criminals to be repressed had been exhausted, we the conspirators and I in particular again set before the government the question of the need to prolong the mass operations and increase the number of those to be repressed.
As evidence of the need to prolong the mass operations we alleged that the kolkhozes in the countryside and the factories in the towns had been heavily infested by these elements, and stressed the interest and sympathy of the working people of town and country for these measures.
Question: Did you succeed in obtaining a government decision to prolong the mass operations?
Answer: Yes. We did obtain the decision of the government to prolong the mass operation and to increase the number of those to be repressed.
Question: What did you do, deceive the government?
Answer: It was unquestionably essential for us to prolong the mass operation and increase the number of persons repressed.
However, it was necessary to extend the time period for these measures and to set up a real and accurate account so that once we had prepared ourselves, we could strike our blow directly on the most dangerous part, the organizational leadership of the counterrevolutionary elements.
The government, understandably, had no conception of our conspiratorial plans and in the present case proceeded solely on the basis of the necessity to prolong the operation without going into the essence of how it was carried out.
In this sense, of course, we were deceiving the government in the most blatant manner.
Question: Were there any warnings from local NKVD workers and from the population about the distortion that existed in the conduct of the mass operation?
Answer: There were a great many warnings concerning these distortions from among the rank and file workers of the local UNKVDs. There were even more warnings of this sort from the population. However, we stifled these warnings both in the UNKVDs and in the Central headquarters of the Peoples Commissar for Internal Affairs, and often arrested the workers who sent those warnings for doing so.
Question: How did you manage to stifle the warnings about these excesses that came from the local workers and from the population?
Answer: We managed to stifle these warnings with relative ease, in view of the fact that all leadership positions were concentrated in the hands of the conspirators. In the center the whole affair concerning the mass operations was concentrated entirely in the hands of the conspirators. Many [local] directorates of the NKVD were also headed by conspirators who were fully conversant with our conspiratorial plans.
Concerning these questions we from the center dispatched such concrete leadership that we pushed all the heads of the UNKVDs to broaden the mass repressions and their provocational conduct.
In the end they became accustomed to the fact that the mass operations were the easiest form of operational work, all the more so since these operations were in fact carried out without any supervision, without recourse to the courts.
Question: After you succeeded in prolonging the mass operations, did you achieve the set aims of the conspiratorial organization to cause dissatisfaction among the population with the punitive policy of Soviet power?
Answer: Yes, once we had prolonged the mass operations over many months we finally succeeded, in a number of areas, in causing incomprehension and dissatisfaction with the punitive policy of Soviet power among specific sectors of the population.
Question: In which areas specifically did you succeed in attaining your conspiratorial plans and how was this manifested?
Answer: This relates
mainly to the following regions: the
In all of these oblasts there were more gross anti-Soviet acts of repression against people who were basically innocent, which caused legitimate dissatisfaction among the working people.
Question: Give more detailed information about each oblast separately, and report to the investigation those facts known to you about provocational methods of repression that were deliberately carried out.
Answer: Ill begin
Question: Was Leplevsky aware of your conspiratorial plans?
Answer: No, Leplevsky could hardly have known about our real conspiratorial plans. In any case I myself did not recruit him to our conspiratorial organization and did not inform him of out plan to conduct the operation in a provocational manner. None of the leading conspirators told me that he was connected to Leplevsky in the conspiracy.
In carrying out the mass operation Leplevsky, like most of the other chiefs of the UNKVDs who were not conspirators, spread them out over a broad front while leaving the most bitter and active of the organizers from among the kulaks, White Guardists, Petliurovists, counter-revolutionary clergy, etc., almost untouched. At the same time he concentrated the whole force of his blow against the less active elements and in part among that part of the population that was close to Soviet power.
Question: Was Uspensky aware of your conspiratorial plans to carry out the mass operations in a provocational manner?
Answer: Yes, Uspensky was completely informed about our conspiratorial plans and I informed him about them personally. I personally also gave him concrete assignments concerning this matter. The result was that Uspensky not only continued Leplevskys practice of sabotage but increased it significantly.
Uspensky received additional limits after my arrival in
He even urged in my presence that we extend the category of those subject to repression to all former Party members. However I forbade him to arrest people on that basis alone, since that was too obvious and blatant a provocation.
Question: What was the result of the sabotage and provocational practice in conducting the mass operation?
Answer: I have to say that
the whole blow of the mass operation in the oblasts of the
All of this caused bewilderment and dissatisfaction among the working
people in many regions of the
The NKVD of the
Question: Are you aware of the facts concerning how the dissatisfaction of the population was concretely expressed?
Answer: Of course I dont know all these facts. I knew about them only from information given me by Uspensky.
From what Uspensky said I know that flights through the border posts
Dissatisfaction with the punitive policy was so great that local
party organizations began to insist that all the family members of persons who had been
repressed be resettled from the
Such in general terms were the results of the provocational conduct
of the mass operations in the
We were successful in achieving about the same results in
At the time the mass operations were taking place B. Berman was in charge of the NKVD of Belorussia.
Question: Was Berman a member of the conspiratorial organization in the NKVD?
Answer: Berman was not a member of our conspiratorial organization. However, Frinovsky, Belsky, and I knew by the beginning of 1938 that he was an active member of Yagodas anti-Soviet conspiratorial group.
We did not plan to draw Berman into our conspiratorial organization.
Already at that time he was sufficiently compromised and was subject to arrest. However,
we delayed his arrest. In turn Berman, who feared arrest, worked very hard. I only had to
give him general directives that
Question: With what result specifically?
Answer: He incessantly demanded an increase of limits and, following Uspenskys example, put nationalists into the category of persons subject to repression, carried out completely unfounded arrests, created exactly the same kind of dissatisfaction in the border regions of Belorussia, and left the families of those repressed where they were.
There were even more warnings sent to the NKVD and the Procuracy
concerning dissatisfaction among the population of the border regions of
Question: How did things stand in the other oblasts that you enumerated?
Answer: In the other oblasts I enumerated in my confession we achieved analogous results and also succeeded in creating dissatisfaction among certain sectors of the population.
These results were different only in the conduct of the mass nationalist operations, about which I will confess below.
I need only to select some results of the mass operations in the Far Eastern Region, the Donbass, and the Central Asian republics.
Question: Why specifically do you consider it essential to separately select the results of the provocational conduct of the mass operations in the Far Eastern Region, the Donbass, and the Central Asian republics?
Answer: We attributed a very great importance to these regions in the sense of possibilities for sabotage and the provocational conduct of the mass operations.
We assumed that in these areas, far from the center and with weak
Party organizations, we would be able to apply our provocational methods with more
determination and without any special precautions, and that we would be able at the same
time to achieve more tangible results in accomplishing the tasks we had set for our
conspiratorial organization. We said directly that if we were bold in carrying out the
operation we would be able to lower the output of coal in the Donbass, to curtail the
sowing and harvest of cotton in
These were the sole considerations, for example, upon which my
vice-commissar in the NKVD and conspirator Belsky, to whom was assigned the
leadership in the conduct of the mass operation, was specially sent to the Donbass and
Q: What was the result of Belskys trip?
A: Belsky instructed the Narkoms of Internal Affairs of the
Central Asian republics along these lines and he himself carried out the mass operations
in the republics of
So, for example, as a result of the operation that he conducted he achieved dissatisfaction with the punitive policy of Soviet power among the workers of the Donbass, an enormous instability of the work force, and a decrease in the extraction of coal. In the Central Asian republics and especially in Turkmenia the NKVD, which was led by a conspirator recruited by Belsky Kondakov, I think (I dont remember his name exactly right now) caused great dissatisfaction and ferment in the population, in connection with which the desire to emigrate was strengthened and there occurred many instances of organized illegal border crossings of large groups of persons.
Q: In what you said above you named the Far Eastern Region [FER] as among the group of areas upon which you thought it essential to concentrate specially. Give your confession as to what were the results of the provocational conduct of the mass operations in the FER?
A: I considered it essential to give special attention to the conduct of the mass operation in the FER not only because of the importance of this region but also in connection with those conspiratorial tasks that Frinovsky received at the time of his trip to the FER in June 1938.
Q: What specifically were the conspiratorial tasks given to Frinovsky that you have in mind?
A: I mean only the task of conducting the mass operation of repressing former kulaks, counter-revolutionary clergy, White Guardists, et al. in a provocational manner.
Q: But can it be that in June 1938 this operation had still not been completed in the FER?
A: It had already been completed in the FER. However, we had arranged
with Frinovsky that after he had arrived in the
Frinovsky did this. He arrived in the FER and after a few days asked that the limits be increased by 15,000 persons, for which he received permission. For the FER with its small population this was a significant figure.
Q: Why did you find it necessary to renew the mass operation in the FER?
A: We considered it to be the most convenient and most effective form of sabotage, capable of very quickly evoking dissatisfaction among the population. Since the situation in the FER at that time was rather tense we therefore decided to exacerbate it even further through the provocational prolongation of the mass operation.
Q: What were the results of the provocational conduct of the mass operation in the FER?
A: Upon his arrival from the FER Frinovsky reported to me that he had been completely successful in carrying out this operation according to the provocational plans of the conspirators, taking into account the complex and sharp condition of the conflict with the Japanese.
Q: The investigation is interested in concrete facts. What precisely was Frinovsky reporting to you concerning the provocational conduct of the operation in the FER?
A: According to Frinovskys words the mass operation prolonged
by us came in very handy indeed. He created the impression that he had thoroughly routed
the anti-Soviet elements in the FER and in fact was successful in using the mass operation
in order to preserve the more leading and active cadre of the counterrevolution and of the
conspirators. Frinovsky concentrated the whole blow of the mass operation on those sectors
of the population closest to us and on passive, declassed elements and was able on the one
hand to stir up legitimate dissatisfaction among the population of many areas of the FER,
and on the other hand to preserve the organized and active cadre of the counterrevolution.
He especially boasted that from a formal point of view you could not find fault with his
conduct of the operation. He routed Kolchak supporters, Kapelev supporters, and Semenov
supporters who, however, were mostly old men, many of whom for this reason alone had not
Q: You are talking about the mass operations conducted in those areas in which you had concentrated your attention. But were matters really better in other oblasts and yet you did not apply your sabotage and provocational practices?
A: It was no better in other oblasts. However, there the contingent of repressed was smaller and so the results of our provocation on the population were not as strongly expressed.
At this time I have, in general terms, told everything on the question of the provocational conduct of the mass operation of the repression of former kulaks, counter-revolutionary clerics, and criminals. I can only make it more concrete and amplify it with some of the many facts that I have, which however will not change the general picture.
Q: Above you have touched on the question that you also utilized the mass operations concerned with the repression of persons of foreign origin from the capitalist countries neighboring with us (refugees, political emigrants, and others) in a provocational manner in the interests of realizing your conspiratorial plans.
Give detailed confessions on this question.
A: The mass operations concerning the repression of persons of
foreign origin from neighboring capitalist countries had as their goal to destroy the base
of foreign intelligence services within the
We conspirators naturally could not carry out these operations without trying to use them for our conspiratorial ends.
We conspirators decided to conduct these operations too on a broad front and strike as great a number of persons as possible, all the more so since there were no definite limits assigned to these operations and, accordingly, we were able to broaden them at will according to our judgment.
Q: What were your aims in carrying out these operations?
A: The aims that we pursued in the provocational conduct of these
operations also consisted in causing dissatisfaction and ferment within the Soviet
population who belonged to these nationalities. Besides that we hoped, by the
provocational conduct of these operations, to create the public opinion in European states
that people in the
I must say that all this also coincided with our conspiratorial plans of orienting ourselves towards the seizure of power during wartime, insofar as it created the prerequisite conditions for this. These conditions in the present case were expressed in creating a condition of dissatisfaction not just with the punitive but also with the national policies of Soviet power.
Question: Did you succeed in attaining the treasonous aims that you mentioned by means of conducting these operations?
Answer: Yes, we were successful, and to a considerable extent with greater effect for us conspirators than in the conduct of the mass operation against kulaks, counter-revolutionary clergy and criminals. As a result of the provocational conduct of this kind of mass operations we succeeded in achieving the result that among the Soviet population of nationalities under repression we created a great sense of alarm, incomprehension concerning the purpose of these repressions, dissatisfaction with Soviet power, talk about the approach of war, and strong a orientation towards emigration.
All these things took place everywhere, however they were especially
developed -- in the
Besides that, as a result of the provocational conduct of these operations there were many protests on the part of the government of Germany, Poland, Persia, Greece, and other states, and articles of protest appeared in a number of newspapers of European countries.
Question: Precisely which were the protests you mean? Give more detailed confessions.
Answer: The most energetic
protests were from the Iranian government. It protested the repressions being carried out
against Persian citizens and their banishment from the
Besides that in
The government of
The Finnish government also protested against arrests of Finns and
demanded their release and deportation to
The governments of
Besides that, as I have already said, in the European press a number of articles of protest appeared, which succeeded in evoking incomprehension and protests even among friends of the Soviet Union.
Question: And namely?
Answer: I have in mind in
the first place Romain Rolland. He sent a special letter in which he asked that he be told
whether it were true that repressions against foreigners had begun in the USSR that took
place purely on the basis of nationality without regard to their attitude towards the
Soviet Union. He explained this request by the fact that a number of protest articles had
appeared in the foreign press, and then many prominent figures in Europe had turned to him
to ask about this, knowing that he was a friend of the
Besides that Romain Rolland had already asked about certain persons under arrest whom he knew personally and whom he recommended because of their sympathy with Soviet power.
Question: By means of what provocational methods of conducting these mass operations were you able to achieve the conspiratorial aims you had set for yourselves?
Answer: As I have already said, we had decided to carry out these mass operations on a broad front and to encompass in the repressions the greatest number of people possible.
Our main pressure on the heads of the UNKVDs, whether they were conspirators or not, was precisely along these lines with the aim of forcing them all the time to expand the operation.
As a result of this pressure the practice of repressions without any incriminating evidence whatsoever on the sole basis of one criterion alone, that the person repressed belonged to such-and-such a nationality (Pole, German, Latvian, Greek, etc.), was broadly expanded.
However, that was not enough. The practice of including Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, et al. in the category of Poles, Finns, Germans, et al., became a rather mass phenomenon, especially in certain oblasts.
Of those who especially distinguished themselves in this manner were
the Peoples Commissars of Internal Affairs of such republics as: the
So for example Dmitriev, former head of the NKVD of the
There were many cases in which Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians generally were made into Poles with falsified documents.
The practice in
Uspensky, under the appearance of Poles arrested many Ukrainian Uniates, that is, selected them not on the basis of national origin but according to their religion. I could multiply many times examples of this kind. They are characteristic for the majority of oblasts.
Question: How did you manage to realize such obvious and crude criminal activities?
Answer: The judicial
system of review of this kind of case was simplified to the extreme. It was simpler and in
this sense even more unsupervised than the system of review of cases in the mass operation
against former kulaks and criminals. There at least judicial troikas existed, in whose
membership the secretaries of the oblast committees were included. But in these national,
or so-called album operations even this simplified judicial procedure did not
exist. The list of those to be repressed, with a short explanation of the case in an
album and with the measure of punishment noted, was signed by the chief of the
UNKVD and Procuror of the oblast, and was then transferred to Moscow for confirmation to
the NKVD of the USSR and the Procuracy. In
This simplified judicial system of review of cases completely guaranteed us against supervision and permitted us to realize in full measure our sabotage and provocational conspiratorial plans.
Question: Was it only the simplified judicial procedure that permitted you to realize your provocational plans?
Answer: Basically, of course, it permitted us to carry out sabotage with impunity.
As a result of such an extremely simplified judicial procedure in the oblasts, for example, the practice of falsifying investigative facts, forgery, and deception was widely developed.
In particular this characterized once again the
The heads of those UNKVDs, conspirators Uspensky and Zakovsky, and the members of Yagodas anti-Soviet group Dmitriev and Berman committed forgeries and falsified investigative results and repressed many innocent persons who had no connection with counterrevolutionary crimes, and created a base of discontent among specific sectors of the population.
Question: Confess in what manner you managed to deceive the organs of prosecutorial oversight in implementing this clear, obvious, and criminal practice of repression?
Answer: I cant say that we had any special thought-out plan to consciously deceive the organs of the Procuracy.
The procurors of the oblasts, krais, and republics, and also the
Procuracy of the
This inactivity of prosecutorial supervision can only be explained by the fact that in charge of the Procuracy in many oblasts, krais, and republics were members of various anti-Soviet organizations who often practiced even more widespread provocational repressions among the population.
Another part of the procurors those who were not involved in participation in anti-Soviet groupings simply feared to argue with the heads of the UNKVDs on these questions, all the more so since they did not have any directives on these matters from the center, where all the falsified investigative reports that had been mechanically signed by themselves, i.e. the procurors, went through without any kind of restraint or remarks.
Question: You are talking
about the local organs of the Procuracy. But didnt they see these criminal
machinations in the Procuracy of the
Answer: The Procuracy of
I explain the behavior of the Procuracy of the USSR and, in particular, of Procuror of the USSR Vyshinsky by that same fear of quarreling with the NKVD and by [the desire] to prove themselves no less revolutionary in the sense of conducting mass repressions.
I have come to this conclusion also because Vyshinsky often spoke to me personally about the tens of thousands of complaints coming in to the Procuracy and to which he was paying no attention. Likewise, during the whole period of the conduct of the operations I do not recall a single instance of a protest by Vyshinsky concerning the mass operations, while there were instances when he insisted on more severe sentences in relation to some persons or other.
This is the only way I can explain the virtual absence of any procuratorial supervision at all during the mass operations and the absence of any protests from them to the government against the acts of the NKVD. I repeat, we the conspirators and specifically, I myself did not have any kind of thought-out plans to fool the Procuracy.
Question: It is well known that a large number of those persons repressed in all the mass operations were sentenced to terms of imprisonment in the camps.
How is it that you did not fear the exposure of your criminal practices, since you knew that many of these people were convicted on the basis of falsified materials?
Answer: We, and specifically I, had no fears that our criminal machinations might be exposed by those imprisoned in the camps. All the camps were not only under the command of the NKVD but were also commanded from the GULAG by conspirators. Under these conditions we could always take the appropriate preventative measures.
Most important, we had our own special consideration when we sent this contingent to the camps.
These considerations and plans were as follows: when we sent repressed persons to the camps on the basis of materials that had no sufficient basis we planed to use their dissatisfaction during wartime and, in particular, upon our seizure of power.
Question: What else can you add to your confessions about your hostile work in the mass operations?
Answer: I have basically told you everything. Its possible that I did not point out a few minor details of our hostile work in the mass operations, but they do not change the general picture of our criminal activities.
Confessions are truthful, read through by me (Ezhov)
Interrogator: Senior investigator of the investigative section of the NKVD USSR Senior lieutenant of state security: (Esaulov)
TsA FSB [Central Archive of the Federal Security Service [[successor to the NKVD MGB KBG]]]. Archival investigative file of Frinovsky M.P. No. N-15301. Vol. 10. P. 241, 249-275. Certified copy.