Lubianka. Stalin I NKVD NKGB GUKR "SMERSH". 1939 mart 1946. Moscow, 2006, pp. 33-50.
TO THE PEOPLES COMMISSAR FOR INTERNAL AFFAIRS OF THE UNION
OF SOVIET SOC. REPUBLICS COMMISSAR
OF STATE SECURITY 1ST DEGREE
From the arrested suspect FRINOVSKY M.P.
The accusation of anti-Soviet conspiratorial work has been presented to me by the investigation. The thought of the necessity of admitting my criminal activity long fought within me in the period when I was at liberty, but the pitiable condition of cowardice took the upper hand. Having the possibility to tell everything honestly to you and to the leaders of the party, a member of which I have unworthily been during the past years, deceiving the party I did not do this. Only after my arrest, after the presentation of the accusation and a talk personally with you did I start on the road of repentance and I promise to tell the investigation all the truth to the end, both about my criminal hostile work and about the persons who were my collaborators and leaders in this criminal hostile work.
I became a criminal because of my blind trust in the authority of my leaders Yagoda, Evdokimov, and Ezhov, and once having become a criminal, I together with them committed revolting counterrevolutionary things against the party.
In 1928, soon after my appointment as commander and military commissar of the Division of Special Assignment attached to the College of the OGPU, at the regional party conference, I was elected to the plenum, and by the plenum to the bureau of the party organization of the Sokolnichesky raion.
While still at the conference I established contact with the former OGPU worker (in 1937 he committed suicide in connection with the arrest of Yagoda) Pogrebinsky, who informed me about the existence of a struggle between groups among the members of the raikom (regional committee). Following that I attached myself to the majority in the bureau, which turned out to be the Rights, and conducted work together with this group of members of the bureau until its exposure in the regional party organization.
At the next party conference in 1929 this majority bureau, including myself, and other OGPU workers: Mironov, Lizerson, and Pogrebinsky, were thoroughly exposed. I and Mironov gave speeches of repentance at the conference, however we did not break completely with the Rightist group in the region.
After the conference there took place in the OGPU a meeting of the leading members in connection with the directive of the Central Committee condemning the entanglement of the party organization of the OGPU into group struggle in the Sokolnichesk region.
After the regional party conference I hesitated and decided to take the correct party road and break with this group. However, soon after that I was called by Yagoda for an official report on the business of the division. After the report Yagoda came over to me for a talk about the business of the party organization. He began to curse me in every way saying: "How could you, a commander and a military commissar, be such a coward, you began to repent at the conference, how can anyone have any confidence in the division after that?? And then he said: "Bear in mind that there are still a few sins in your account." I asked, in confusion, what they were? Yagoda answered: "You made attempts to politically discredit Rykov." I said, "When was that?" "Long ago, the documents about your attempt to discredit Rykov are in my hands, bear that in mind." When I asked Yagoda what this was all about, he said
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that in 1920 in Kharkov, at the time of Rykovs arrival with a group of workers, in the villa where he was staying I performed a search. Then Yagoda said to me: "Have in mind, Rykov will have his own." And he added: "Try to orient yourself completely towards me in political matters and ask advice more often, especially of Pogrebinsky. And in political work in the division you should consult Mironov; he is a politically literate man and will show you what to do in the matter."
In that same year 1929 Evdokimov arrived in Moscow in connection with his transfer there as head of the Secret-Operative Directorate (SOU) of the OGPU. I was in his room at the "Selekt" hotel. At first Evdokimov was asking me how things were going in Moscow and then he told me that he would be transferred to Moscow and that the Central Committee had proposed that he take care of the operative work of the OGPU.
During this conversation I confided in Evdokimov and told him that I had fallen in with the Rights in my work.
At that time there was already a complicated situation in the countryside in connection with the collectivization of agriculture. I asked Evdokimov: How are thing going with you in the North Caucasus? He said: "Things are complicated, the kolkhozes in the Cossack and national regions are having difficulty in getting established, there is a great deal of opposition", and he expressed himself thus: "The devil knows whether anything will come of this?"
In 1930 after the decisive offensive of the party and government against the kulaks, as a result of the excesses in certain places uprisings began, and these uprisings took an especially complex form in the national oblasts of the North Caucasus, especially in Dagestan. I was called to the Collegium of the OGPU and send to Dagestan. I did not have the chance to speak with Evdokimov before my departure.
My next meeting with Evdokimov took place when he arrived in Transcaucasia in 1930, when he was making a tour of the regions in which we were conducting operations in the struggle against the uprisings.
After official talks I had a private talk with Evdokimov during which he told me that you cant establish kolkhozes by force, like the CC believes. There, he said, in Dagestan the population says that the kolkhozes are kaput, and thats not the case just in the national regions, that the situation is very complicated in central Russia too. It might turn out, said Evdokimov, that we defeat and physically annihilate this kulak, but still have many complications in the country and the party will not be able to establish the economy in the countryside.
On this point my talk with him ended. Evdokimov spent a few days there and left.
My next meeting with Evdokimov was in 1930 before my departure for work in Azerbaijan. We met in Evdokimovs office. I asked for his instructions. Along with operational and official instructions he stated to me that he, Evdokimov, did not believe in the success of the operation we had begun to liquidate the kulak class, even though he was the one charged with carrying out this operation. He also did not believe in the expediency of the operation he was leading according to the decision of the CC and considered that it might lead to the impoverishment of the countryside and the degradation of agriculture.
During that time in Azerbaijan I did not carry out any anti-Soviet work.
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In 1933, soon after my appointment as chief of the Central Directorate of Frontier and Internal Security (GUPVO) of the OGPU and my arrival in Moscow I met with Evdokimov at his apartment. He had arrived from Rostov.
In our talk Evdokimov said that the situation in the country remained extremely complicated, despite the fact that, as it appeared, there was some improvement of the situation in the countryside with industrial goods and food in the towns. And then Evdokimov began to talk frankly with me. He asked: "What about you, those Rightist views that you used to have, have you outlived them or not?" I said: "The devil only knows whether I have outlived them, I dont know, and so what?" "You see, sooner or later the Rights will succeed in proving to the Central Committee the incorrectness of the CCs line and the correctness of the line of the Rights." I tried to object and stated that the situation in the kolkhozes was becoming strong. He replied: "Just wait, those kolkhozes have begun to exist, but thats only the beginning and we dont know what will happen in the future. The cadres of the Rights are many, the Rights are carrying out large-scale underground work both in recruiting cadres and in creating dissatisfaction against the government and the Central Committee."
Continuing, Evdokimov asked: "Have you taken charge of the GUPVO or not?" After I had replied in the affirmative he said: "You ought to be interested in the question of the armed forces. The armed forces will play a large role in case of any kind of complications inside the country, and you ought to take the armed forces into your hands."
Evdokimov knew that my assistants in the GUPVO were Kruchinkin, Lepin, and Roshal, and touched on them briefly, stating: "Kruchinkin is obviously a Yagoda man, but thats not important. Yagoda is paying attention to the military himself, but theres nothing to fear in that either." Then Evdokimov informed me that Yagoda was also a Rightist and recommended: "All the same, do not go too far in your relations with Yagoda and do not confide fully in him and, especially, in those around him, since these are men capable of criminal activity. They will fail because of these crimes and might give you up, but take Kruchinkin in your hands." And then Evdokimov told me that when Kruchinkin had been at work in Central Asia during the time Evdokimov had been there, during the conduct of an operation the operation failed because of Kruchinkins cowardice. I put the question to Yagoda, said Evdokimov, whether I should prosecute Kruchinkin but for some reason they remained silent. You should draw him to yourself, but carefully, but you should also bring your own cadre as well into the armed forces of the OGPU."
I asked what specifically should be done with the armed forces? In the first place, said Evdokimov, concern yourself with your completely reliable people and take charge of them in such a way that in case of complications they would do whatever you want.
In the same year, 1933, Yagoda, after I had clashed with him on an official question, began once again to bring me closer to him with the help of Bulanov. Bulanov would often call me to his dacha in the guise of going fishing and playing billiards. During one of these trips to Bulanovs on a free day at his dacha Yagoda arrived, who after dinner and drinks had a conversation with me in a separate room.
Yagoda began the conversation by saying I was not correct in opposing him and that here, obviously, the hand of Evdokimov was in play, and then he said to me: "Keep this in mind: I know that you remain a Rightist, that you are leading work, that I also know, and would it not be better for you to come to terms with the situation that exists with us in the central apparatus, to get off your high horse and obey me." And then, continuing the conversation, Yagoda asked me: "How are things in the GUPVO, you have a lot of assistants there, wouldnt it be better to get rid of somebody? What do you think who would it be best to keep, Kruchinkin or Lepin?"
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Without waiting for my answer Yagoda said that Kruchinkin was a reliable man. I understood that Kruchinkin was connected with him in some criminal activity.
With respect to Lepin Yagoda said that he hesitated, orienting himself to Akulov and Balitsky when they worked in the OGPU. "Maybe you should present him to Balitsky, -- he said, -- let him to him. You should cut off Roshal and take Kraft or Rymshan into the division of military preparedness." After this Yagoda began to invite me to go with him to his dacha, but because it was late I refused. When he said his goodbyes Yagoda said: "Now, peaceful and complete contact."
In carrying out the assignments I had received from Evdokimov and after my conversation with Yagoda I began to bring Kruchinkin closer to me in every way I could, and soon had a frank talk with him. I asked Kruchinkin what work he was doing in the armed forces on Yagodas orders. At first Kruchinkin gave me a puzzled look, but then he began to say that he had not received any special assignments and, for the most part, was conducting work along the lines of selecting people and educating them in a spirit of endless devotion to Yagoda personally.
Concerning the work he had done and the people who had been recruited by him and who were doing work within the armed forces of the OGPU Kruchinkin finally told me upon his return from Xinjiang in 1934.
Kruchinkin laid out the full picture of his anti-Soviet work and named the following persons: Kraft, Rymshan, who at that time had already been transferred out of the GUPVO to the Red Army (RKKA), Rotermel, Lepis, Zarin, Barkov, Kondratev, who commanded at this time a division of special assignment, and then told me that Yagoda and Bulanov had direct ties to Kondratev and that Kondratev had his own people in this division.
Lepin at this time was already working in the Ukraine as a chief of the Directorate of Frontier and Internal Security (UPVO). But regardless of the fact that Balitsky had agreed to accept him, his relations with Balitsky had not turned out to be completely normal, and Yagoda could not forgive him for his past orientation towards Akulov and Balitsky.
In his next regular visit to Moscow in 1934 Lepin greeted me. I called Kruchinkin and with him we told Lepin that I had learned about Lepins participation in enemy work under Kruchinkins leadership. Lepin first showed amazement but then, having learned that I too was taking part in the work and had begun to give it leadership in Border Security, we disclosed ourselves to each other. After that Lepin asked me to settle the question of his mutual relations with Yagoda and Balitsky. We succeeded in doing that by a direct talk with Yagoda about the fact that Lepin was our man and shouldnt be put in this position, especially in the Ukraine, where in our interests he ought to establish ties to Ukrainian people and to find out what was going on in the Ukraine. I spoke to Balitsky myself and told him not to insult Lepin.
From Lepin I learned that he had gotten the impression that in the Ukraine as well the work of the Rightists was going on within the organs and armed forces of the OGPU. I and Kruchinkin gave Lepin the task of establishing ties with the Ukrainians while not disclosing to them his own ties in Moscow and without saying anything about Yagoda, me, or Kruchinkin; to insinuate himself into Balitskys circle and, if they should try to recruit him, to agree.
In approximately the first months of 1935 Lepin, during his regular visit to Moscow, told me that he had established ties to Balitsky and that Balits-
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ky had put him in touch with a number of people from the Border Security, specifically with the commander of the Political Department of the UPVO Sarotsky, the chief of the Border Troops in Odessa, Kulesh, and the assistant chief of the UPVO of the Ukraine, Semenov.
At that same time, 1934, I had several meetings with Evdokimov when he came to Moscow. At these meetings he gradually disclosed to me his practical work and spoke about the work of the center of the Rights and around the USSR. In particular he told me that he had a number of people inside the apparatus of the GPU, and named Rud, Dagin, Raev, Kursky, Dementev, Gorbach, and others. He said that he was beginning to have contacts in the national oblasts: in Dagestan, though Mamedbekov, in Chechnya Gorsheev or Gorshenin, and then said that the only person he had trouble with was Kalmykov, who had his own line of work, and Evdokimov couldnt cut him off in any way, but he characterized Kalmykov as a man wholly "ours", a Rightist, but evidently one who had his own line of work.
I asked him what was being done generally in the USSR? Evdokimov said that large-scale work was going on, a whole number of people who had important positions in a number of other oblasts of the USSR, had crossed over to the Rights. And here he stated: "You see how we must now conduct the struggle with the Central Committee: at one time we fought against the movement of uprisings, and now we ourselves must seek out the threads, ties to this movement and, in order to organize it, we must go down to its base. This is very complicated and dangerous work but without the base the secretaries of the regional committees, the chairmen of the regional executive committees (RIKs) or men who have contacts with the countryside we will not be able to lead the movement of uprisings, and that is one of the fundamental tasks that presents itself to us."
Evdokimov asked me what I was doing with respect to the armed forces. I told him fully about everything, in particular about my meeting with Yagoda and my talk with him. Evdokimov again gave me the instruction not to break this contact with Yagoda, but not to go all the way either and, most important, not to tell Yagoda anything about my contact with him, Evdokimov.
At one of our meetings Evdokimov suggested that I contact with the former vice-commissar of internal affairs Prokofev and feel out his attitude. When I asked what the purpose was he answered that he would tell me later.
To accomplish Evdokimovs assignment I became close to Prokofev. Afterwards I learned that Evdokimov was seeking contact with Prokofev with the aim of getting in touch with him personally himself, which in essence he was able to do through me. Their first meeting was at my dacha, and after that during their visits to Moscow he started to drop by Prokofevs place. After a little while Evdokimov told me that in getting close to Prokofev he was trying to ascertain whether Kalmykov was in contact with the OGPU.
In the same year, 1934, as the work in the GUPVO was developing, Kruchinkin and I tried to get more closely in contact with Kondratev, the former commander of the division of special assignment of the OGPU, since Kondratev was receiving his assignments directly from Yagoda and Bulanov. We wanted to know what specifically were his assignments with respect to this division. However Kruchinkins talk with Kondratev did not yield any results, and only after the inspection of the division, which we managed to carry out while Yagoda was on leave, and the disclosure of a number of facts about the disgraceful condition of the units of the division did we succeed in forcing Kondratev in telling about the conspiratorial work he was carrying on in the division.
Kondratev said that the majority of commanders of the companies in the division, and also many of the workers in the political apparatus, had been recruited by him. Kondratev
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said also that Golkhov, the chief of the political department of the division (he had come with Kondratev from the Far East) had been drawn into the conspiracy.
Further Kondratev said that Yagoda had given him the task (and this was being developed by him) that the members of the command who had been recruited and drawn into the work should work out a plan of possible actions for the division in the conditions of Moscow. This plan basically consisted in securing and isolating the Kremlin from the other part of the city. Besides that he said that in case of complications they had a military group from the members of the division which would immediately act according to Yagodas instructions. And finally he informed us that the commanders who had been named to the team on watch within the OGPU in armored cards were separate, in the main, from the group of members of the conspiracy. After he said that Kondratev suddenly became fearful and began to say that he did not want Yagoda to know about his talks with us until he had settled this question with him. At the same time Kondratev said that he knew from Bulanov that Kruchinkin and I were carrying out work.
In 1935 Evdokimov began to ask me whether Yagodas hand were in the assassination of Kirov and whether I had any facts about this? At the same time he indicated that if Yagoda had participated in this affair it was a bad move, not from the viewpoint of sympathy about the loss of Kirov, but from the viewpoint of complicating the position and of the repressions which began soon after Kirovs murder.
During this talk Iakov Lifshits dropped by the apartment, the former vice-commissar of the Peoples Commissariat of Transportation. He greeted me and said "We live in the same city and yet we do not get together." Evdokimov then said that you ought to meet, it would be useful for us both. This was on the eve of a free day and Lifshits invited us to his dacha on the free day.
After Lifshits had left Evdokimovs I asked him whether Lifshits had been honest when he had recanted. Evdokimov answered: "People like Iashka do not honestly repent" and added that Lifshits was carrying out corresponding work.
Two days later I and Evdokimov were at Lifshits dacha. We had no conspiratorial conversations but Evdokimov was always underscoring the importance of close contact with Lifshits, which we established in further meetings.
At one of these meetings during horseback riding Lifshits said to me: I heard about you from Evdokimov. Frankly, I did not suspect that you were also with us. Good for you!" I began to speak with Lifshits – and how about you? He answered: "Evdokimov has already told you that I am doing work." I asked him again – are you doing important work? He said that he was doing important work, he had contact with the conspiratorial center through Pyatakov, had a large number of people and was not breaking his contacts with the Ukrainians.
At our next meeting in connection with the arrests which were beginning of a number of Trotskyites Lifshits gave me the task, though I was working in the GUPVO and had no direct relation to operative work to listen in on what kind of confessions the arrested Trotskyites were giving, and to inform him.
In 1935, in the autumn, the race of the wives of Ukrainian border guards to Moscow took place. Yagoda permitted me to organize the welcoming for them at my dacha, and on the morning of the same day I went on a horseback ride with Lifshits and told him about this welcoming. Lifshits asked me who would be there? I said that I had invited the chiefs of the departments. Then he said ask Molchanov too, and I myself should not be at that welcoming. I asked that thered be nothing special to it, he should just drop by as though by chance. In fact Lifshits did come to my dacha towards evening. Molchanov
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came too. After dinner Lifshits and Molchanov sat side by side, they had a drink, and after that they went for a walk into the garden. Lifshits left when the rest of the invited guests had not yet departed, and only after about ten days did I ask Lifshits what he and Molchanov had been talking about and whether Molchanov had said anything to him about me? He answered that he had spoken with him about the Trotskyites. "You see, Molchanov is not a completely clean person, but he was playing the big man with me. We did not have a straightforward talk but I was feeling him about what kind of confessions the Trotskyites were giving.
At one of my meetings in 1935 Evdokimov at his apartment told me about a number of men whom he had been drawn into the work in Pyatigorsk. He named Pivovarov and a large group of Chekists: Boiar, Diatkin, and Shatsky. Here too he told me about his contacts with Khataevich, and also praised him in every way as a man who knew the countryside; with Eikhe, about part of the Leningrad group Chudov, Zhukov, and also warned me bear in mind that you should not meet with them separately because the Leningraders drink a lot and in general they have the reputation in the Central Committee of people who are drunkards, who are dissolute because of their drinking.
On that same trip Evdokimov said: Cant you somehow, through Yagoda, get Dagin on at the operative department? "Although Pauker is a Yagoda man, he is a fool and if anyone gives him anything serious to do he inevitably fails", said Evdokimov. He added, warning, that if you want to try to get Dagin into the first department, then it must be done very carefully, considering the situation.
Evdokimov also said that in a number of regions of the North Caucasus his people had succeeded in leading some groups of rebels, and that the purge of the party that was taking place at that time might help in the sense of recruitment of people.
At the time of the trial of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others, when the testimony about Bukharin was published in the press, Evdokimov was in Moscow. He became very upset and in a conversation with me, said: "The devil only knows how he will be able to extract himself from this whole affair. I just dont understand Yagoda at all, what he is doing, why he is broadening the circle of persons for repression, or maybe the nerves of these people are weak they will give out. But it could have been possible to direct the course of the investigation in such a manner as to leave oneself safe in any case."
Then he asked me about Lifshits: whether there was any mention of Lifshits in any Chekist material? Lifshits was not in Moscow at that time, he was on leave. I told Evdokimov that I had taken part in one of the operational meetings where Molchanov had reported on confessions against Lifshits, and that these confessions had come from the Ukraine. At this Evdokimov said: "Lifshits will soon return from leave, do not meet with him openly." At this time I was already about to go on official business to the Far East, and during one of my horseback outings with Lifshits before his leave we had spoken somehow about the possibility of a trip together to the Far East.
I said to Evdokimov that Lifshits and I were preparing to go together to the Far East. He said that, you can, it would be better in these circumstances to travel alone. Evdokimov was interested in the question of who among the Chekists was conducting the investigation and the agent work on the Trotskyites and Rights. He himself was very downcast.
Before my departure for the Far East Lifshits returned from his leave but I stopped meeting with him, considering the fact that there were confessions against him and my own possible compromise.
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When I was leaving for the Far East Yagoda gave me a letter for Deribas, the contents of which I do not know, and besides that asked me orally to tell Deribas that the Central Committee was not completely satisfied with Deribas work, that the situation with combating the Trotskyites in his area was not very good, and added: "You tell him that, whether he wants to or not, he has to do it, he will understand." I asked Yagoda what if he asked me about my relationship with you and with your activities? Yagoda answered me: Deribas is an intelligent man and I think that he will not do that, tell him what we went through here after Kirovs murder."
I had that conversation with Deribas, and Deribas was interested, in the main, in the names of the people who had already been repressed and the people who were mentioned in the [investigative] materials. I told him about Lifshits and Pyatakov who were on the point of being exposed.
On the way from the Far East to Moscow, this was already after my appointment as vice-commissar, at one of the railroad stations an agent came up to me in the train car and said that at the next station vice-commissar of transportation Lifshits wanted to speak with me. And in fact I met Lifshits at the next station. I consciously exited the train car so as not to speak with him in the car, as a number of coworkers were travelling with me. Lifshits approached me together with Rutenburg, chief of the [rail]road. Lifshits asked my permission to travel with me one station. He told me that he had been dismissed as vice-commissar and that in Moscow he had had face-to-face confrontations with some arrested persons. He cursed in every way the people who had given him up, was very nervous, and asked me, since I was already vice-commissar, somehow to arrange things so that he could extract himself from this matter. I, in turn, asked: "If you have already been taken, since things have already gone this far, behave yourself properly."
At the next station he got off. Having met with Lifshits I became a little timid myself, lest there might be some unpleasantness on these grounds, and determined on a plan that upon my arrival in Moscow I would tell Ezhov about this, and would tell him in such a context that Lifshits swore up and down that he was not guilty, was terribly nervous, and through practical work was trying to prove his dedication to the Central Committee. Upon returning to Moscow I did this.
Soon after starting work in my new position as vice-commissar Ezhov began to bring me close to himself, to select me from among the remaining vice-commissars, to hold franker conversations with me in the evaluation of the other vice-commissars, to express some dissatisfaction with Agranov. Before the division of duties among the vice-commissars, besides the fact that I continued to be the chief of the GUPVO, Ezhov proposed that I become involved in operative questions also, and in 1937, after Yagodas arrest, he began to hold talks with me in relation to my possible appointment as first vice-commissar. During one of these talks Ezhov told me: "I have decided this question, but I want to talk it over with you, only look be honest, there are some sins on your account."
At first I was completely taken aback. I thought Im done for. When he saw my dismay Ezhov began to speak: "Dont be afraid, speak honestly." Then I told him about the story with the Sokolnichesky affair, about my ties with Yagoda, ties with Evdokimov, and through him with Lifshits. Then Ezhov said: "There are so many sins to your name that we could throw you in prison right now, but never mind, you will keep working, you will be my man 100%." I looked at him in dismay and tried to refuse the appointment to the position of first vice-
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commissar, but he said: "Sit down, get to work, well work together and take the responsibility together."
Before the arrest of Bukharin and Rykov Ezhov, speaking with me openly, started to talk about the plans for Chekist work in connection with the current situation and the imminent arrests of Bukharin and Rykov. Ezhov said that this would be a great loss to the Rights, after that regardless of our own wishes, upon the instructions of the Central Committee large-scale measures might be taken against the cadres of the Right, and that in connection with this his and my main task must be to direct the investigation in such a way so that, as much as possible, to preserve the Rightist cadre. Then he outlined his plan for this matter. Basically this plan consisted of the following: "We must put our own men, in the main, in the apparatus of the Secret Political department (SPO) and to select as investigators those who might be either completely tied to us or in whose records there are some kind of sins and they would know that they had these sins in their records, and on the basis of these sins we can hold them completely in our hands. We must connect them ourselves to the investigation and direct them." "And this consists in the following", said Ezhov, "not to write down everything that a person under arrest says, but the investigator must bring all the outlines, the rough drafts to the chief of the department, and in relation to those arrested persons who in the past occupied an important position and those who occupy a leading position in the organization of the Rights, it is necessary to write these people down in a special list and to report to him each time. It would be good, said Ezhov, to take into the apparatus people who have already been tied to the organization. "Here, for example, Evdokimov spoke to you about people, and I know some of them. It will be necessary in the first place to draw them into the central apparatus. In general it will be necessary to familiarize ourselves with capable people and from a businesslike point of view among those who are already working in the central apparatus, to somehow bring them close to ourselves and then to recruit them, because without these people it will be impossible for us to arrange our work, and it is necessary to somehow show the Central Committee some work."
In carrying out this suggestion of Ezhovs we chose a firm course in preserving Yagodas cadres in leading posts in the NKVD. It is essential to mention that we only managed to do this with difficulty, since in various local organs [of the NKVD] there were materials on the majority of these people about their participation in the conspiracy and in anti-Soviet work generally.
To preserve these cadre and their formal rehabilitation the arrested persons who gave such confessions were called to Moscow where by means of re-interrogations we brought them to recant the confessions they had already given (the case of Zirnis, the case of Glebov and others).
At the same time, in replacement of arrested Yagoda men (whom we did not succeed in preserving) on Ezhovs direction we made a push to draw in and appoint North Caucasus cadres of Chekists to leadership work.
A significant number of these men, who had made up Evdokimovs cadre, were taken also into the work in the department of security of the NKVD. As I pointed out above, these cadre were used by Dagin for preparing, upon Ezhovs direction, to carry out terrorist acts at the necessary moment against leaders of the party and government.
After the arrest of Pauker Ezhov posed the question about the selection of the chief of the first department and he himself proposed Kursky, who was appointed to the position of chief of the first department. Soon after Kurskys appointment Evdokimov came to Moscow. Evdokimov was asking me what was happening.
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I told him about my establishing ties with Ezhov. Evdokimov then at once raised the subject of the first department and said that Kursky was an unfortunate choice for the first department, although this man is ours, he said, he is a neurasthenic and rather cowardly; I told you that you should appoint Dagin.
I told him about Kurskys attitude already in the process of working, that he wanted in any way possible to be let go from the position of chief of the first department. Evdokimov proposed to take advantage of this attitude and at any cost to appoint Dagin in Kurskys place. Kursky was let go and Dagin was appointed.
At this same meeting with Evdokimov he said: "Are you going to continue the Yagoda line; we will destroy ourselves. How long is this going to continue?"
I told him about the conversation I had had with Ezhov and pointed out that we were now taking measures to preserve our cadre as far as possible.
Evdokimov advised me to carry out as soon as possible the cases against the Chekists who had been arrested and who were about to be arrested. "You see," he said, "you cant hide Yagodas cadres, they are known to everybody, each of them will be thrown out if not today then tomorrow, the collective from the bottom is simply rising against them, so that here we must rush through these cases as soon as possible."
Further he said that we had to be especially careful with Yagoda. Yagoda is the kind of person that will start to blurt out outlandish things in the investigation, and he advised that Kursky conduct the investigation on Yagodas case.
I told Ezhov about this conversation with Evdokimov. Ezhov said its good that you tell me, but it was not good that you tell Evdokimov that you and I had spoken, lets arrange things better you will say to Evdokimov only what I tell you.
After the October 1937 Central Committee Plenum I and Evdokimov met for the first time at Ezhovs dacha. At that time Evdokimov started the conversation. Turning to Ezhov he asked: "Whats the matter with you, you promised to straighten out Yagodas position and instead the case is getting more and more serious and now is coming very close to us. Obviously, you are leading this affair poorly." Ezhov was silent at first, and then stated that "really, the situation is difficult, so now we will take steps to reduce the scope of the operations, but obviously, we have to deal with the head of the Rights." Evdokimov swore, spit, and said: "Cant you get me into the NKVD, Ill be able to help more than the rest." Ezhov said: "It would be good, but the Central Committee will scarcely agree to transfer you to the NKVD. I think that the situation is not altogether hopeless, but you need to have a talk with Dagin, you have influence on him, its necessary for him to develop the work in the operations department, and we need to be prepared to carry out terrorist acts."
I dont remember either Ezhov or Evdokimov said that we need to see how the cadre were assigned under Pauker and Yagoda, and take them away. Once people remain without direction they can do stupid things, undertake independent actions. Here Evdokimov said that it would not be bad to introduce into the armed security force, directly at the dachas, people from the nationalities of the North Caucasus, these people will serve honestly, in fact the Ingush served as security for the tsar. After this Ezhov again began to say that in no case should we limit or curtail our work, but that it was necessary to pass more into the underground and in no case should he (Evdokimov) develop more contacts around the country. "If you have people, let them quietly verify and recruit people themselves."
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Returning from Mongolia I found out that the question had arisen of my transfer from the NKVD to the Commissariat of Defense as vice-commissar.
The day the plenum opened I asked Ezhov about this. He said that the question had not yet been decided. On my question -- whether the talk in the apparatus was true about the transfer of Vakovsky to Moscow to the post of first vice-commissar, Ezhov answered: We want to take Zakovsky into the apparatus as chief of the department with the right of vice-commissar. This man, he said, is ours completely, but he is a man who must be supervised, and then we must get him out of the situation in Leningrad, because there are serious discussions in relation to his ties to Chudov and Kodatsky. In the Central Committee they are also talking about Zakovskys dissipation.
After one of the sessions of the plenum, in the evening, Evdokimov, Ezhov and I were at Ezhovs dacha. When we arrived Eikhe was there, but Eikhe did not have any conversation with us. What happened before our arrival at Ezhovs with Eikhe Ezhov did not tell me. After dinner Eikhe left and we remained and talked almost until morning. Evdokimov, for the most part, emphasized that they were gathering information on us, specifically he began to talk about himself and expressed dissatisfaction that Ezhov had sent Deich, who was gathering material on him, to his region.
During this same plenum I had one more meeting with Evdokimov. He constantly pressed the point that it was necessary always to keep a tight hold on Nikolai Ezhov, that "you cant fix this situation, pick your own cadre and shoot", and then Evdokimov proposed "I would advise you not to send the Leningraders who have been arrested (Chudov, Kodatsky, Struppe) to Leningrad because, although Zakovsky is our man completely, but those who work with him, the devil knows they might start to shake." Evdokimov continued: "I consider that you have started to give awards too early. After all, its not just our people who are receiving awards, but also others, a burst of struggle will appear, and that we should restrain, for awards are a stimulus to people who are organically with us and organizationally not tied and therefore might broaden the operation." And here Evdokimov and Ezhov together talks about the possible limiting of the operations but, as this was considered impossible, they agreed to deflect the blow from their own cadre and to try to direct to against honest cadres who were devoted to the Central Committee. That was Ezhovs instruction.
I forgot to mention one incident that has a substantive meaning for this matter.
In the autumn of 1935 at Lifshits dacha a meeting between Evdokimov, myself, Dagin, and Lifshits took place, at which Evdokimov in an extremely irritated condition began to say that he did not have confidence at all in the success of the terrorist acts that were under preparation by Trotskyites and Rights against Stalin. Evdokimov then directly stated that a terrorist act against Stalin could only be realistically carried out by the forces of the security department of the NKVD.
Evdokimov strongly regretted that he had not succeeded in getting Dagin appointed head of the security department when he was still at his work as the chief of the Secret-Operative Directorate of the OGPU, and suggested that I carefully recommend Dagin instead of Pauker at a propitious moment.
Soon Evdokimov was transferred to work to Moscow. Our meetings took place more often, both Ezhovs directly with Evdokimov, and among the three of us.
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Here I consider it essential to mention the following:
After the arrests of the members of the center of Rights Ezhov and Evdokimov in essence became the center, and organized:
1) the preservation, as far as possible, of the anti-Soviet cadre of the Rights from destruction; 2) the direction of the blows against honest party cadre who were dedicated to the Central Committee of the ACP(b); 3) preservation of the rebel cadre in the North Caucasus and in other krais and oblasts of the USSR, with the plan to use them at the time of international complications; 4) a reinforced preparation of terrorist acts against the leaders of the party and government; 5) the assumption of power of the Rights with Ezhov at their head.
Upon my return from the Far East at Ezhovs request I went to the Commissariat without going home first. I had never before see Ezhov in such a despondent condition. He said: "The business is garbage" and immediately introduced the matter that Beria had been named to the NKVD despite his wishes. This is going to be a lousy business, he said. I am afraid that everything will be discovered and ruin our plans.
August 27 28 1938 Evdokimov phoned me and asked me to drop in to see him at his apartment. Evdokimov led our whole conversation to the point that if there is any unfinished business according to which our participation in criminal doings could begin to be developed, they must be finished before Berias arrival, and then Evdokimov said to me: "You must check to see whether Zakovsky has been shot, and whether all Yagodas men have been shot, because when Beria arrives the investigation of these cases might be reopened and these cases will turn back against us." I checked and established that Zakovsky, Mironov, and a group of other Chekists had been shot August 26 27.
I move now to the practical hostile work which was led by Ezhov, myself, and other conspirators in the NKVD.
The investigative apparatus in all departments of the NKVD was divided into "investigator-bonebreakers", "bonebreakers", and "ordinary" investigators.
What did these groups represent and who were they?
"Investigator-bonebreakers" were chosen basically from among the conspirators or persons who were compromised. They had unsupervised recourse to beating arrested persons and in a very short time obtained "confessions" and knew how to write up transcripts in a grammatical and elegant fashion.
In this category belong: Nikolayev, Agas, Ushakov, Listengurt, Evgenev, Zhupakhin, Minaev, Davydov, Altman, Geiman, Litvin, Leplevsky, Karelin, Kerzon, Iamnitsky, and others.
Since the quantity of those under arrest who confessed due to such methods grew daily and there was a great need for investigators who knew how to compose interrogations, the so-called "investigator-bonebreakers" began, each on his own, to create groups of simple "bonebreakers."
The group of "bonebreakers" consisted of technical workers. These men did not know the evidence concerning the suspect, but were sent to the Lefortovo [prison in Moscow], summoned the accused, and set to beating him. The beatings continued up to the moment that the accused agreed to give a confession.
The remaining group of investigators took care of interrogations of those accused of less serious crimes and were left to themselves, without leadership from anyone.
The further process of investigation was as follows: the investigator conducted the interrogation and instead of a transcript put together notes. After several such inter-
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rogations a draft transcript was put together by the investigator. The draft went for "correction" to the chief of the appropriate department, and from him, still unsigned, for "review" to former Peoples Commissar Ezhov and in rare cases to myself. Ezhov looked through the transcript, made changes and additions. In most cases those under arrest did not agree with the editing of the transcript and stated that they had not said that during the investigation and refused to sign it.
Then the investigators would remind the arrested party about the "bonebreakers", and the person under investigation would sign the transcript. Ezhov produced the "correction" and "editing" of transcripts, in most cases, never having seen with his own eyes the person under arrest and if he did see him, then only during a momentary inspection of the cells or investigative rooms.
With such methods the investigations supplied the names.
In my opinion I would speak the truth if I declared, in general, that very often the confessions were given by the investigators, and not by those under investigation.
Did the leadership of the Peoples Commissariat, that is I and Ezhov, know about this? We knew.
How did we react? Honestly speaking not at all, and Ezhov even encouraged it. No one bothered to find out to which of the accused physical pressure was applied. And since the majority of the persons who were employing these methods were themselves enemies of the people and conspirators, then clearly false accusations too place, we took false accusations and arrested and shot innocent people who had been slandered by enemies of the people from among those under arrest and by enemies of the people among the investigators. Real investigation was wiped out.
Mariasin was arrested, the former chairman of the State Bank, with whom Ezhov had been in close relations before his arrest. Ezhov exhibited an exceptionally great interest in the investigation of his case. He led the investigation on his case personally and was often present at the interrogations. Mariasin was held the entire time in the Lefortovo prison. He was beaten ferociously and continually. If other persons under arrest were beaten only up to the moment they confessed, Mariasin was beaten even after the investigation had ended and no more confessions were being taken from him.
Once, as I walked around the interrogation rooms with Ezhov (and Ezhov was drunk) we dropped in on an interrogation of Mariasin and Ezhov spoke for a long time with Mariasin, told him that he had still not said everything and , in particular, made a remark to Mariasin about terror in general and a terror act against himself, Ezhov, and then stated that "we will beat, beat, beat you."
Another example: from the arrested Yakovlev at the first or second interrogation after his arrest Ezhov, drunk, obtained confessions about the preparation by Yakovlev of a terrorist act against Ezhov. Yakovlev said that that was not true, but he was beaten by Ezhov and by those present, and after that Ezhov left without having obtained a confession. After a few days there appeared confessions about a terrorist act prepared against Ezhov by Yakovlev.
The uncamouflaged line carried out by Ezhov of falsifying investigative materials about preparation of terrorist acts against himself went so far that the agreeable investigators from among the "bonebreakers" were continually obtaining "confessions" of those under arrest about the imaginary preparation of terrorist acts against Ezhov.
The arrested suspect Kruglikov (former chairman of the State Bank) also gave confessions about a terrorist group preparing the murder of Ezhov. I was present at a pre-interrogation meeting between Kruglikov and Ezhov. Kruglikov stated that he had lied in the matter of a terrorist act against Ezhov. Ezhov after that remark got up, said nothing to Kruglikov, and went out. After him went the investigator who was interrogating Kruglikov and went up to Ezhov. The
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latter said something to him, and then Ezhov and I left for the Peoples Commissariat. What he said to the investigator I do not know, but I know that in the morning we had a statement from Kruglikov in which he explained his retraction by saying that when he saw Ezhov he "became confused" and did not wish to confirm his confessions in Ezhovs presence.
They forced Kruglikov to confirm these confessions, and after that Ezhov never once was interested in the question of what the truth was.
In carrying out the investigation of the case of Yagoda and the Chekist conspirators, and also in those of other arrested persons, especially the Rights, the system of "correction" of the transcripts set up by Ezhov pursued the goal of preserving the cadres of conspirators and preventing any possibility of the failure of our participation in the anti-Soviet conspiracy.
I can cite dozens and hundreds of examples when the defendants under arrest did not give up the persons who were tied to them in anti-Soviet work.
The most glaring examples were the conspirators Yagoda, Bulanov, Zakovsky, Kruchinkin and others, who knew about my participation in the conspiracy and did not confess about it.
How were those under arrest prepared for the face-to-face confrontations, and especially for those that were conducted in the presence of members of the government?
At first the investigator, then the chief of the department, prepared the suspects in a special way. The preparation consisted in the reading of the confessions that the suspect had given against the person with whom the face-to-face confrontation was about to be conducted, they explained how the face-to-face confrontation would be conducted, what unexpected questions might be presented to the suspect and how he should answer. In essence what happened was an agreement and a rehearsal for the upcoming face-to-face confrontation. After that Ezhov would call the suspect to himself, or pretending that he had by chance dropped in to the investigators room where the suspect was sitting he would speak to him about the upcoming confrontation, and would ask whether he felt himself strong, would he confirm his confessions, and by the way, would mention that members of the government would be present at the face-to-face confrontation.
Usually Ezhov was nervous before such face-to-face confrontations, even after he had had a talk with the suspect. There were cases when the suspect would state, during the conversation with Ezhov, that his confessions were not true, that he had been falsely accused.
In cases like this Ezhov would go away and the investigator or the chief of the department would be given the order to "restore" the suspect, since the face-to-face confrontation had already been set. As an example I can cite the preparation for the face-to-face confrontation between Uritsky (chief of the Razvedupr [???????????????? ?????????? ????? ????, intelligence directorate of the staff of the Red Army]) with Belov (commander of the Belorussian military district). Uritsky had recanted his confessions against Belov when Ezhov had interrogated him. Ezhov did not talk with him about anything and left, and after a few minutes Uritsky through Nikolayev [his interrogator and a famous "investigator-bonebreaker"] excused himself to Ezhov and said that he had "had a fit of faint-heartedness."
The preparation of the trial of Rykov, Bukharin, Krestinsky, Yagoda and others
An active participant in investigations generally, Ezhov kept himself aloof from the preparation of this trial. Before the trial the face-to-face confrontations of the suspects, interrogations, and refining, in which Ezhov did not participate. He spoke for a long time with Yagoda, and that talk concerned, in the main, of assuring Yagoda that he would not be shot.
Ezhov had conversations several times with Bukharin and Rykov and also in order to calm them assured them that under no circumstances would they be shot.
Ezhov had one conversation with Bulanov, and began this conversation in the presence of the investigator and myself, and finished the conversation one on one, having asked us to leave.
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At that moment Bulanov had begun talking about the poisoning of Ezhov. What the conversation was about Ezhov did not say. When he asked us to enter again he said: "Behave yourself well at the trial I will ask that you not be shot." After the trial Ezhov always expressed regret about Bulanov. At the time of the executions Ezhov suggested shooting Bulanov first and he himself did not enter the building where the shootings took place.
Here Ezhov unquestionably was ruled by the necessity of covering up his own ties with the arrested leaders of the Right who were going into the public trial.
The truth of the matter about Ezhovs poisoning. The idea about his poisoning came from Ezhov himself from one day to the next he kept stating to his vice-commissars and to the heads of departments that he felt poorly and that as soon as he would enter his office he would feel some kind of metallic taste and odor in his mouth. After that he began to complain that blood began to come out of his gums and his teeth became loose. Ezhov began to insist that he was being poisoned in his office, and by doing so inspired the investigation to obtain corresponding confessions, which was done by the use of the Lefortovo prison and recourse to beatings.
Concerning the mass operations at the very beginning a directive was sent out by Ezhov that fully corresponded to the decision of the government, and during the first months the operations proceeded normally.
Soon it was established that in a number of krais and oblasts, and especially in the Ordzhonikidze krai there were cases of killings of suspects during interrogations, and from then on the cases on suspects were handled through a troika like on those who had been sentenced to death. At about this time facts began to appear about disgraceful acts from other oblasts as well, specifically from the Urals, Belorussia, Orenburg, Leningrad, and the Ukraine.
The disgraceful acts grew in number especially when in addition to the mass operations that were being carried out in the krais and oblasts a directive was issued about the repression of people of minority nationalities suspected of espionage and of ties to the embassies of foreign governments, and of refugees. In the Leningrad and Sverdlovsk oblasts, in the Belorussian republic, in the Ukraine there were cases when there were no facts of any kind about such ties. The case files on these operations were reviewed in Moscow by a troika specially formed for this purpose. The chairman of this troika was at first Tsesarsky, and then Shapiro.
The decision taken by Ezhov, myself, and Evdokimov about the necessity to head off and deflect the blow away from our own anti-Soviet rebellion-organizing cadre and the necessity of directing the blow against honest cadre who were devoted to the country and party found its expression in practice in the criminal conduct of punitive policy, which was supposed to have been directed against traitors to the country and the agents of foreign intelligence. Honest NKVD workers in the localities, not suspecting treason from the leadership of the NKVD of the USSR and man of the leaders of the UNKVDs who were participants in the anti-Soviet conspiracy, accepted our hostile directives as directives of the party and government and objectively became participants in the extermination of completely innocent, honest citizens.
The huge number of warnings about so called "excesses" that were coming in and were, in essence, exposing our hostile work, by Ezhovs order were left without any reaction. In those cases in which it was not possible because of involvement by the Central Committee to hide or stifle one or another warning exposing these excesses, we had recourse to direct forgery and falsification.
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So for example in 1938 by order of the CC of the ACP(b) Shkiriatov travelled to the Ordzhonikidze krai to investigate the materials that had come in concerning criminal deformation in the mass operations being carried out by the NKVD in this krai.
Ezhov, with the aim of proving to the CC of the ACP(b) that he had already reacted in good time to these warnings, gave Shkiriatov a copy of an "order" that he had supposedly issued to the NKVD. In reality he had never issued such an order.
In other cases, in order to cover up the hostile work of the conspirators, we brought rank and file NKVD workers to trial.
Deceiving the party and government
When Ezhov arrived in the NKVD, in all meetings, in conversations with operational workers, he rightly criticized the institutional narrow-mindedness and isolation from the party, stressed that he would instill a party spirit into the workers, that he did not hide and would never hide anything, ever from the party and from Stalin. In reality he was deceiving the party both in serious, major matters and in small things. Ezhov had these talks for no other purpose than to put to sleep any sense of watchfulness in the honest NKVD workers.
Ezhov himself, and afterwards his closest aides, beginning with myself, created an aura of praise, of the best of the best, the most watchful of the watchful. Ezhov would often say that if were not for him there would be a coup in the country, that as a result of his work and the cases uncovered war had been postponed, etc. He was critical in a hostile manner and discredited individual members of the Politburo. He spoke openly of them as unreliable, wavering people. Often, in the presence of a number of subordinate workers, he would throw out high-sounding phrases about the close ties of certain members of the Politburo with conspirators who had been exposed and repressed. He referred to some of them as blind, not seeing what was happening around them, closing their eyes to the enemies of the people in their own midst. These were all phrases to cover up his own deception of the party and the Central Committee and his own criminal activities. The facts that I have laid out earlier would probably be sufficient, but I would like to cite several more examples.
The former chief of the Razvedupr of the Red Army Uritsky started to give confessions against the commander of the BVO [Belorussian Military District] Belov, who had been summoned to Moscow where a face-to-face confrontation between Belov and Uritsky was proposed. The face-to-face confrontation was scheduled for the evening. Ezhov was summoned to the Kremlin to Stalins apartment and after a little while he called on the telephone to me in my office and said: "You must immediately find Belov and ask him to go to the NKVD." To my question as to where he might be Ezhov answered in a loud voice: "Didnt I already give you the instructions to put a watch on Belov?" I tried to tell Ezhov that he had not given me any such instructions, but without hearing me out Ezhov hung up the phone.
We checked and determined that there had been no arrangement to observe Belov and that Ezhov deceived the CC.
A second fact about which I became aware after I left the NKVD. Ezhov hid from the CC and from Stalin confessions that were sent from the Georgian NKVD on Liushkov and other conspirators at the time of Liushkovs appointment as chief of the directorate of the NKVD in the DVK [Far Eastern Region].
Upon Ezhovs instructions I conducted a "verification" of these confessions against Liushkov by means of interrogating Yagoda. The interrogation was deliberately carried out in such a way that Yagoda did not confirm these confessions against Liushkov, at a time when Liushkov had been one of the men closest to him. Liushkov, as is well known, fled abroad.
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A third fact. About the group of conspirators and terrorists in the Kremlin (Briukanov, Tabolin, Kalmykov, Vinogradova).
I dont know whether theres any point in writing this, citizen Peoples Commissar, since you know this already, but I still consider it essential to inform you that the transcript of confessions against Briukhanov and the others was sent as soon as it had been received to Ezhov and kept by him supposedly for a report to Stalin and Molotov. And it was essential to do this, since Briukhanov was the husband of Vinogradova, and the latter worked in caring for Stalin and his secretariat. However, Ezhov, as I learned upon my return from the Far East, hid these materials from the party and government for seven months.
The present statement does not by a long shot exhaust the whole sum of facts concerning my criminal work.
In my succeeding confessions I will relate to the investigation in exhaustive detail what I know, and I will not hide even one enemy of the communist party and Soviet power that I know of, and I will name all the persons who have taken part in anti-Soviet conspiratorial work regardless of whether they have been arrested by now or not.
April 11, 1939
AP RF F. 3 Op. 24. D. 373. L. 3-44. Original. Typescript.