Genrikh Yagoda PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 15:45

Genrikh Grigor'evich Yagoda  born Yenokh (Enoch) Gershonovich Yehuda

Born: 1891

Died: March 15, 1938


Cause of death: Execution by firing squad

Notable because:  One of Historys worst mass killers, one of the founders of the GULAG concentration camp system


Genrikh Grigor'evich Yagoda was the head of the NKVD, the Soviet internal affairs and border guards body, from 1934 to 1936.

Yagoda was born in Rybinsk in a Jewish family, and joined the Bolsheviks in 1907. After the October Revolution of 1917, he rose through the ranks of the Cheka (the NKVD's predecessor), becoming Felix Dzerzhinsky's second deputy in September 1923. After Dzerzhinsky's death in July 1926, Yagoda became deputy chairman under Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. Due to Menzhinsky's serious illness, Yagoda was in effective control of the secret police in the late 1920s. In 1931, Yagoda was demoted to second deputy chairman.

NKVD Chief

On July 10, 1934, two months after Menzhinsky's death, Joseph Stalin appointed Yagoda "People's Commissar for Internal Affairs," a position that included oversight of regular as well as secret police, the NKVD.

Yagoda was notorious for his love of gambling and womanizing. When eventually arrested, pornographic material including photographs and films was found in his house.  He may have been involved with the murder of his superior Menzhinsky, whom he was later accused of poisoning, and the popular Leningrad party head and Stalin opponent Sergei Kirov, who was assassinated under suspicious circumstances in December 1934 by Leonid Nikolaev.

Yagoda oversaw File:1936 genrich grigorijewitsch jagoda.jpgthe interrogation process leading to the first Moscow Show Trial and subsequent execution of former Soviet leaders Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev in August 1936, an important milestone in Stalin's Great Purge. Yagoda was one of the founders of the GULAG concentration camp system.  However, on September 16, 1936 he was replaced by Nikolai Yezhov, who oversaw the height of the purges in 1937-1938.

Initially he became People's Commissar for Post and Telecommunications. However in March 1937, Yagoda himself was arrested on Stalin's orders. During the Trial of Radek and Piatakov (Trial of the Seventeen), Yagoda extracted confessions from the defendants inadvertently revealing that the men had no political differences with Stalin, a point the Soviet state prosecutor was unable to challenge. This infuriated Stalin, as it implied that Stalin had eliminated the defendants solely to maintain his own political power. He had already earned Stalin's emnity eight years earlier, when Yagoda had expressed sympathy for Nikolai Bukharin, whom Stalin had forced from power. As one Soviet official put it, "The Boss forgets nothing." Yagoda was found guilty of treason and conspiracy against the Soviet government at the Trial of the Twenty One in March 1938. Solzhenitsyn describes Yagoda as trusting in deliverance from Stalin even during the show trial itself:

Just as though Stalin had been sitting right there in the hall, Yagoda confidently and insistently begged him directly for mercy: "I appeal to you! For you I built two great canals!" And a witness reports that at just that moment a match flared in the shadows behind a window on the second floor of the hall, apparently behind a muslin curtain, and, while it lasted, the outline of a pipe could be seen.

Yagoda was executed by shooting shortly after the trial.

Alexander Orlov, also Russian by birth, attributed the following conversation to Yagoda during his last days at the Lubyanka prison before his execution. When asked by his interrogator if he believed in God, Yagoda replied, "From Stalin I deserved nothing but gratitude for my faithful service; from God I deserved the most severe punishment for having violated his commandments thousands of times. Now look where I am and judge for yourself: is there a God, or not..."

The Hymn of the Soviet Union

Unbreakable Union of freeborn Republics,
Great Russia has welded forever to stand.
Created in struggle by will of the people,
United and mighty, our Soviet land!

Sing to the Motherland, home of the free,
Bulwark of peoples in brotherhood strong.
O Party of Lenin, the strength of the people,
To Communism's triumph lead us on!

Through tempests the sunrays of freedom have cheered us,
Along the new path where great Lenin did lead.
To a righteous cause he raised up the peoples,
Inspired them to labor and valorous deed.

Sing to the Motherland, home of the free,
Bulwark of peoples in brotherhood strong.
O Party of Lenin, the strength of the people,
To Communism's triumph lead us on!

In the vict'ry of Communism's deathless ideal,
We see the future of our dear land.
And to her fluttering scarlet banner,
Selflessly true we always shall stand!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 09:12

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