Genrikh Yagoda: Wikis


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Genrikh Yagoda
Russian: Генрих Григорьевич Ягода

Genrikh Yagoda in 1936

People's Commissar for Internal Affairs (NKVD)
In office
July 1934 – September 1936
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Nikolai Yezhov

Born 1891
Rybinsk, Russian Empire
Died March 15, 1938
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Genrikh Grigor'evich Yagoda (Russian: Генрих Григорьевич Ягода; born Enon Gershеvich Ieguda (Russian: Енон Гершевич Иегуда)[1]; 1891 – March 15, 1938) was the head of the NKVD, the Soviet internal affairs and border guards body, from 1924 to 1936.


Early Life and Career

Yagoda was born in Rybinsk into the family of a Jewish watchmaker Gersh Filippovich Ieguda and a Russian mother Maria Gavrilovna[2]. Yagoda joined the Bolsheviks in 1907. Contrary to the rumors invented by himself, Yagoda has never been a pharmacist but in fact an apprentice engraver in Yakov Sverdlov's father's workshop.[3] Yagoda subsequently married Sverdlov's niece Ida Averbach which permitted him, after the October Revolution of 1917, to rise through the ranks of the Cheka (the NKVD's predecessor)[4], becoming Felix Dzerzhinsky's second deputy in September 1923. After Dzerzhinsky's appointment as chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy in January 1924 Yagoda became the real leader of the GPU as the deputy chairman Vyacheslav Menzhinsky had very few authority because of his serious illness. The troika Zinoviev-Kamenev-Stalin wanted a symbolic direction represented by Dzerzhinsky and Menzhinsky and an effective direction represented by Yagoda who was neither a people's commissar or a central committee member to make sur that the GPU stays submitted to the party.[5] 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.[6] 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 in suspicious circumstances in December 1934 by Leonid Nikolaev.[7]

Yagoda oversaw the 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.[8] However, on September 16, 1936 he was replaced by Nikolai Yezhov, who oversaw the height of the purges in 1937-1938.

Fall from power

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, thus inadvertently revealing that the men had no political differences with Stalin, a point the Soviet state prosecutor was unable to challenge[citation needed]. This infuriated Stalin[citation needed], as it implied that Stalin had eliminated the defendants solely to maintain his own political power. Yagoda had already earned Stalin's enmity eight years earlier, when he had expressed sympathy for Nikolai Bukharin[citation needed], whom Stalin had forced from power. As one Soviet official put it, "The Boss forgets nothing."[9] 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.[10]

Yagoda was executed by shooting shortly after the trial. His successor and former deputy Nikolai Yezhov ordered the guards to strip Yagoda naked and severely beat him for added humiliation just before his execution[citation needed]. Yezhov himself would suffer exactly the same treatment at the order of his successor and former deputy, Lavrenti Beria, before dying by the same hand (NKVD Chief Executioner Vasili Blokhin) just two years later.[citation needed]

Alexander Orlov, also Jewish 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..."[11]


  1. ^ Chronos. Bibliography Index. Genrikh Yagoda (Russian)
  2. ^ See Zvi Gitelman. A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present, 2nd expanded edition, Indiana University Press, 1988, 2001, ISBN 0-253-21418-1 , p.112
  3. ^ Boris Bazhanov, Bajanov révèle Staline, 1979, Gallimard
  4. ^ Boris Bazhanov, Bajanov révèle Staline, 1979, Gallimard
  5. ^ Boris Bazhanov, Bajanov révèle Staline, 1979, Gallimard
  6. ^ See Simon Sebag Montefiore. Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar, Knopf, 2004, ISBN 1-4000-4230-5
  7. ^ Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, New York: G.P. Putnam (1945), p. 252
  8. ^ See Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago Vol I-IV, Harper & Row, 1973
  9. ^ Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, New York: G.P. Putnam (1945), pp. 295-296
  10. ^ See Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago Vol I-II, Harper & Row, 1973, ISBN 0-06-013914-5
  11. ^ See "Yagoda in his Prison Cell," in Alexander Orlov The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes, Knopf, 1953.

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