Nikolai Ezhov's Concluding Statement at Trial February 3 1940

(This version July 31 2010)

- Poliansky, 298-305. He cites the text in Moskovskie novosti January 30 Ė February 6 1994.

- Briukhanov and Shoshkov 146-152.

- Pavliukov cites this text not from a printed source but from the following archival source (notes 490, 491 and 492, p. 564):

÷ņ ‘—Ń –‘. —ŽŚšŮÚ‚ŚŪŪÓŚ šŚŽÓ Ļ Õ-15302. “.7. ňŽ. 176-177; 180-184; 184-186.

This means: Central Archive of the FSB, Investigative case Number N-15302. Volume 7. Pages 176-177; 180-184; 184-186.

("FSB" means "Federal Security Service". It is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, MVD-MGB, and NKVD-NKGB.)

Assuming these archival attributes are correct, we do not have the complete text of Ezhovís "final words" at trial. Neither of the other two sources, Briukhanov and Shoshkov, or Polianski, give the text that Pavliukov summarizes in his first passage below.

In Note 492, p. 564 Pavliukov states in parentheses:

(Excerpts from N.I. Ezhovís final words to the court were first published in the newspaper Sovershenno sekretno in issue No. 4 for 1992).

"Excerpts" means that this publication did not publish the whole text either.

What follows is all of the text that we now have, translated into English for the first time. Getty & Naumov, pp. 561-2, translate only excerpts from it.


"For a long time I have thought about what it will feel like to go to trial, how I should behave at the trial, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way I could hang on to life is by telling everything honestly and truthfully.

Only yesterday, in a conversation with me, Beria said to me: "Donít assume that you will necessarily be executed. If you will confess and tell everything honestly, your life will be spared."

After this conversation with Beria I decided: it is better to die, but to leave this earth as an honorable man and to tell nothing but the truth at the trial. At the preliminary investigation I said that I was not a spy, that I was not a terrorist, but they didnít believe me and applied to me the strongest beating. During the 25 years of my party work I have fought honorably against enemies and have exterminated them. I have committed crimes for which I might well be executed and I will talk about them later. But those crimes which are imputed to me by the indictment in my case I did not commit and I am not guilty of Ö

[At this point both Briukhanov and Shoshkov (p. 147) and Poliansky (p. 299) indicate an ellipsis with the three dots. Pavliukov, who cites the paragraphs above from an archival sources, does not indicate an ellipsis here but instead begins to summarize what follows. Pavliukov omits some of the text published by the first two sources but summarizes text which they do not mention.

Here is Pavliukovís summary of what is missing at this point from the texts of Briukhanov and Shoshkov, and of Poliansky:

"Then Ezhov continued with concrete examples to refute his confessions that he gave at the preliminary investigation. Of course, the greater part of these refutations were of an unsubstantiated nature but there were also some that could have been checked with the aid of objective facts. So, denying his ties with the German military attache general E. Kostring, Ezhov stated that upon his own order all Germans and their automobiles were under observation, and if he had met with Kostring then he would have had to stop the observation temporarily for that time, and that was not done, which could be checked by documents kept in the Security Section of the GUGB of the NKVD.

No such employee of the German economic ministry named Artnau, who had supposedly recruited him at the time of the Soviet delegationís presence at the agricultural exposition in Konigsberg in 1930 ever existed, continued Ezhov. This could be easily verified through the appropriate handbooks."

Pavliukov then omits the next seven paragraphs and begins the text with "I did not organize any conspiracy against the party and the government."]

Kosior was never in my office and likewise I never had any connection with him in espionage. I also invented this story. I confessed against Doctor Taits simply because he is already dead and nothing can be verified. I knew Taits simply because once when I called the Medical Department a Dr. Taits came to the phone and spoke his name. I remembered that name at the preliminary investigation and simply invented confessions against him.

At the preliminary investigation the investigator suggested to me that I confess about my supposed sympathy with the one-time "Workersí Opposition." Yes, in its day I did sympathize with the "Workersí Opposition" and I never concealed this fact, but I never took part in the opposition itself and never joined it. When Leninís theses "On the Workersí Opposition" were published I acquainted myself with the theses, understood the oppositionís dishonesty, and since that time I have been an honest Leninist.

I first met Shliapnikov in 1922 when I went to him on the grain-gathering campaign. After that I never met Shliapnikov.

I have already told the investigation about my enmity with Piatakov. In 1931 Maríiasin tried to make peace between us, but I refused to do it.

In 1933-1934 when Piatakov was travelling abroad he there gave Sedov an article to be printed in Sotsialisticheskii Vestnik. In this article there was a lot of filth poured over me and others. I myself established the fact that this article was handed in specifically by Piatakov.

Therefore, given these incidents with Piatakov, I could never have held any contact with them, and my confessions about establishing anti-Soviet ties with Piatakov are also imagined.

With Maríiasin I had personal, everyday ties for a long time. I knew Maríiasin as a businesslike person, and Kaganovich recommended him to me, but then I broke off relations with him. When he had been arrested, for a long time Maríiasin did not confess about his espionage and provocations in relation to the members of the Politburo. That is why I gave the order to "beat up" Maríiasin. I had no anti-Soviet ties with any groups and organizations of Trotskyites, Rights, and "Workersí Opposition", or with Piatakov, Maríiasin, or others.

I did not organize any conspiracy against the party and the government. On the contrary, I used everything at my disposal to expose conspiracies. In 1934, when I began to lead the case "the Kirov events" I was not afraid to report about Iagoda and other traitors in the Cheka to the Central Committee. These enemies sitting in the Central Committee like Agranov and others misled us, claiming that this was the work of Latvian Intelligence. We did not believe these chekists and forced them to reveal to us the truth about the participation in this affair of the pro-Trotskyist organization. I was in Leningrad at the time of the investigation into the murder of S. M. Kirov; I saw how the chekists tried to hush up the case. Upon my arrival in Moscow, I wrote a detailed report concerning all this personally to Stalin, who immediately after this called for a meeting.

In the course of the verification of documents through the Party Control Commission and the Central Committee of the Party we exposed many enemies and spies of various types and intelligence services. We reported this to the Cheka but there for some reason they did not carry out the arrests. Then I reported to Stalin, who called Iagoda to him and ordered him to take care of these matters immediately. Iagoda was very unhappy with this but was forced to carry out arrests of those persons on whom we gave him evidence.

One may wonder why I would repeatedly place the question of the Chekaís sloppy work before Stalin if I was a part of an anti-Soviet conspiracy.

[At this point Pavliukov indicates an ellipsis and his text skips one paragraph, beginning again at "Coming to the NKVD, at first I was alone."]

Now they say to me that you did all this for careerist reasons, with the goal of being promoted into the organs of the Cheka myself. I consider that this accusation is completely unfounded. In reality, having begun to uncover the poor work of the Cheka organs I continued immediately after that to expose concrete individuals. First I exposed Sosnovsky Ė a Polish spy. Both Iagoda and Menzhinski raised a scandal about this and instead of arresting him sent him to work in the provinces. At the first opportunity I arrested Sosnovsky. I did not expose Mironov and others at that time, but Iagoda was hindering me. Thatís how it was even before my arrival to work in the organs of the Cheka.

Coming to the NKVD, at first I was alone. I didnít have an assistant. At first, I acquainted myself with the work, and only then did I begin my work by crushing the Polish spies who had infiltrated all departments of the organs of the Cheka. Soviet intelligence was in their hands. In this way, I, "a Polish spy," began my work by routing the Polish spies. After destroying Polish espionage I immediately set out to purge the group of defectors. Thatís how I began my work in the organs of the NKVD.

[Here Pavliukov indicates another ellipsis and omits the following two sentences.]

I personally exposed Molchanov and, along with him, also other enemies of the people who had infiltrated the organs of the NKVD and who were occupying important positions. I had intended to arrest Liushkov, but he slipped out of my hands and fled abroad.

I purged 14,000 chekists. But my guilt lies in the fact that I did not purge enough of them. My practice was as follows: I would assign the task of interrogating the person under arrest to one or another department chief while at the same time thinking to myself: "You are interrogating him today, and tomorrow I will arrest you." All around me were enemies of the people, my enemies. I purged chekists everywhere. It was only in Moscow, Leningrad, and the Northern Caucasus that I did not purge them. I thought they were honest, but in fact it turned out, in fact, that I had been harboring under my wing diversionists, saboteurs, spies, and other kinds of enemies of the people.

[Here Pavliukov indicates another ellipsis and omits the next seven paragraphs, beginning again with "I am charged with corruption as pertaining to my morals and my private lifeÖ]

My mutual relations with Frinovsky. I have always considered him a "straightforward lad." But on the job I had run-ins with him more than once, when I cursed him out and called him a fool to his face because as soon as one of his colleagues in the NKVD was arrested he right away ran to me and cried that this was all "fabrications.", the person was arrested unjustly, etc. And that is why during the preliminary investigation in my confessions I linked Frinovsky with the arrested former NKVD workers whom he used to defend. In the end my eyes were opened in relation to Frinovsky after one assignment from the Kremlin to Frinovsky was unsuccessful, about which I immediately reported to Stalin.

The confessions of Frinovsky which were given by him at the preliminary investigation were sabotage from beginning to end. I donít doubt that he was the spawn of Iagoda, just as I donít doubt his participation in the anti-Soviet conspiracy, which is obvious from the following: Iagoda and his henchmen called every Trotskyist case a "fabrication", they shouted about things being well now, about the attenuation of the class struggle. Once I became the head of the NKVD I immediately turned my attention to this "well-being", and directed all my fire towards the liquidation of this situation. And there in the light of this "fabrication" Frinovsky appeared like a Iagoda man, in connection with which I expressed even to him my lack of political trust.

My relations with Evdokimov. I have known Evdokimov, I think, since 1934. I considered him a Party man, one who is proven. I have been to his apartment and he to my dacha. If I had been a participant in a conspiracy then, naturally, I should have been interested in keeping him as a participant in the conspiracy. But documents exist that speak of the fact that I, as much as I could, took part in exposing him. It was upon my own denunciation to the Central Committee of the Party that he was dismissed from workÖ

If you take my confessions given at the preliminary investigation, the two principal conspirators Ė Frinovsky and Evdokimov Ė seemed to have been more really my collaborators then the rest of the persons who were exposed by me personally.

But among them there are also persons whom I trusted and considered honest, like Shapiro, whom I consider honest even now, Tsesarskii, Passov, Zhurbenko and Fedorov. To the rest of the persons I always related with distrust. In particularly, I reported to the Central Committee about Nikolaev-Zhurid, that he was a venal mug and that he could be bribed.

I have never taken part in the anti-Soviet conspiracy. If all the testimonies of the members of the conspiracy are carefully read, it will become obvious that they were slandering not only me but also the CC and the government.

At the preliminary investigation I was forced to confirm Frinovskyís confession that, supposedly upon my instructions, the mercury poisoning was fabricated. Soon after my transfer to work in the NKVD of the USSR I felt poorly. After some time my teeth began to fall out and I felt some kind of lethargy. The doctors examined me and diagnosed the flu. One time Blagonravov dropped in to my office and in a conversation with me said, among other things, that I should be careful about eating at the Commissariat, since I could be poisoned here. I didnít pay any attention to that remark at the time. After some time Zakovsky dropped by my office and seeing me, said, "I think you have probably been poisoned, you look very lousy." On this question I exchanged views with Frinovsky, and he ordered Nikolaev-Zhurid to immediately carry out an examination of the air in the building where my office was. After the investigation it was discovered that fumes of mercury were found in the air, and I had been poisoned by them. One should ask himself: Who in the world would go so far as to try to raise his authority for careerist purposes at the cost of his health? This is all lies.

I am charged with corruption as pertaining to my morals and my private life. But where are the facts? I have been in the eye of the party for 25 years. During these 25 years everyone saw me, everyone loved me for my modesty and honesty. I do not deny that I drank heavily, but I worked like an ox. Where then is my corruption?

[Here Pavliukov cites the archival source again.]

I understand and honestly declare [Here Pavliukov indicates an ellipsis and omits the words "and honestly declare"] that the only means of saving my life would be for me to admit that I am guilty of the accusations against me, to repent before the party and to beg it to spare my life. Perhaps the party would spare my life after taking my services into account. But the party has never had any need of lies, and I am once again declaring to you, that I was not a Polish spy, and I do not want to admit guilt to that charge because such an admission would only be a gift to the Polish landowners, just as admitting guilt to espionage activity for England and Japan would only be a gift to the English lords and Japanese samurai. I refuse to present such gifts to these gentlemen.

When during the preliminary investigation I wrote about my supposed terrorist activity, my heart was in anguish. I insist that I was not a terrorist. Besides that, if I had wanted to carry out a terrorist act against anyone of the members of the government, I would not have recruited anyone for that purpose but, using the technical means at my disposal, I would have committed that base act at any time I wanted.

Everything that I said and wrote myself concerning terror during the preliminary investigation Ė is a "fabrication."

I am finishing my final speech. I ask the Military collegium to grant me the following requests:

[The following fives points are given numbers 1 through 5 by Pavliukov and by Briukhanov and Shoshkov, but not by Poliansky.]

My fate is obvious. My life, naturally, will not be spared since I myself have contributed to this at my preliminary investigation. I ask only one thing: shoot me quietly, without tortures.

Neither the court nor the CC will believe that I am not guilty. I ask that, if my mother is alive, she be provided for in her old age, and that my daughter be taken care of.

I ask that my relations Ė my nephews -- not be repressed, since they are completely not guilty of anything.

I ask that the court investigate thoroughly the case of Zhurbenko whom I considered and still consider to be an honest man devoted to the Leninist-Stalinist cause.

I request that Stalin be informed that I have never in my life deceived the party politically, a fact known to thousands of persons who know my honesty and modesty. I request that Stalin be informed that everything that has happened with me is simply the confluence of circumstances and the possibility cannot be excluded that enemies whom I have overlooked may have had a hand in this too. Tell Stalin that I shall die with his name on my lips."