Mikhail Kol'tsov and the Evidence

(Published on the ALBA Digest for Wednesday, November 05, 2008.)

In the review of Paul Preston's book We Saw Spain Die from The Economist at


I note the following erroneous statement:

> Mikhail Koltsov ..whose loyalty to Stalin was rewarded by torture and execution.

There is no evidence that Kol'tsov was "loyal to Stalin", and considerable evidence that he was not.

The "terror" in the USSR in 1937-38 was led, in large part, by Nikolai Ezhov, head of the NKVD, the Commissariat (= Ministry) of Internal Affairs, including the political police. During 1937 and 1938 more than 650,000 people were sentenced to execution.

Once Lavrentii Beria replaced Ezhov as head of the NKVD, at the end of 1938, the number of executions dropped to less than 1% of this total -- 2600 in 1939, 1800 in 1940. Many of those executed during these two years were those who had been responsible for the "terror". These included political leaders, NKVD torturers, and Ezhov himself and his closest associates.

Mikhail Kol'tsov, the famous journalist, was one of these. Arrested in April 1939, Ezhov named many of his co-conspirators and those of his wife, who died in late 1938. One of these was Kol'tsov. Ezhov testified about Kol'tsov's espionage activities at least twice.

It appears that Kol'tsov had been involved with Ezhov's wife since the mid-1920s, long before her marriage to Ezhov.

Kol'tsov was "rehabilitated" in late 1954. But as in many other cases the "rehabilitation" report on Kol'tsov (it has been published) is a whitewash. It states that Kol'tsov confessed and then retracted his confessions. But it neglects all other evidence against him, and never mentions that Ezhov himself incriminated Kol'tsov.

Kol'tsov was tried, convicted, and executed in early February 1940, at the same time when all those who had been closely associated with Ezhov were tried, including Ezhov himself.

The Russian government has not released the criminal investigation files of Ezhov and those associated with him, so we can't study the evidence the Soviet prosecutors had. Of course, it is possible that Kol'tsov was "framed" and was in fact innocent, and was named by Ezhov for some reason we don't know.

But ALL the evidence we do have points to Kol'tsov's involvement in some kind of espionage with Ezhov and his wife.

Grover Furr

Montclair SU