People’s Commissar “Yagodka”. How Heinrich Yagoda became a victim of his own system

Plot World history with Andrey Sidorchik

In March 1938, the so-called Third Moscow Trial over a group of former high-ranking officials of the USSR took place. In the Soviet press, it was called the case of the “ Anti-Soviet bloc of Rights and Trotskyites. ''


The court's verdict, handed down in the midst of the Great Terror, was expected & mdash; & nbsp; 18 of the 21 accused were sentenced to death.

In the 1960s & mdash; 1980s, all those convicted of this were rehabilitated business, except for one & mdash; First People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR Genrikh Yagoda.

Heinrich Grigorievich, or, more precisely, Genakh Gershenovich, historians describe very contradictory. Some call him a fiend of hell, the man who created the terrible GULAG system, the organizer of secret murders. Others point out that Yagoda was selective in pursuing his repressive policy and insisted on adhering to the letter of the law. That & nbsp; allegedly & nbsp; ultimately forced to change Yagoda to a more helpful executioner.

Genrikh Grigorievich was definitely not an angel and an innocent victim. But his real sins are not so easy to separate from what was later attributed to him.

Doomed to revolution

Heinrich was born on November 19, 1891 in Rybinsk, where his family moved from Simbirsk & mdash; & nbsp; homeland of the future leader of the October Revolution Vladimir Lenin.

Yagoda's family was & nbsp; quite wealthy, but Heinrich , like other representatives of Jewish youth, could not help being dragged out by the elements of the revolution. Tightened under Alexander & nbsp; III & nbsp; the nuts of all kinds of restrictions for Jews, starting with the notorious “ residency qualification '', under Nicholas & nbsp; II & nbsp; were not weakened. Moreover, the last Russian emperor openly favored the “ Black Hundreds '' behind the Jewish pogroms. Of course, the Jewish youth did not want to put up with this state of affairs.

Henry's older brother, 16-year-old Mikhail, was killed in battle during the 1905 revolution. Henry followed in his footsteps, already at the age of 15, joining the Nizhny Novgorod anarchists.

In 1912, he, who by the age of 20 had a rich experience of illegal activities, was arrested in Moscow. True, the punishment was very mild – two years of exile in Simbirsk, where his relatives lived. In 1913 Yagoda was amnestied on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov.

Heinrich Yagoda's registration card, 1912. Photo:

Personal connections

Before the First World War, Yagoda managed to work at the Putilov plant, then he was drafted into the army, in the ranks of which he fought on the fronts of the First World War. In 1916 he was demobilized due to injury.

In 1917, the former anarchist joined the Bolsheviks, whom he considered the most promising force. Moreover, the party leadership included Yakov Sverdlov, who was Yagoda's relative. Subsequently, the Chekist married Sverdlov's niece, the daughter of his own sister.

This is not all the intricacies of Berry's family ties. His relative was, of course, the brother of Yakov Sverdlov Zinovy ​​Peshkov, who & nbsp; in turn was the godson of the writer Maxim Gorky.

With the petrel of the Russian revolution Yagoda was familiar from pre-revolutionary times & nbsp; and even received the affectionate nickname “ Berry '' from the writer.

Nadezhda Peshkova. Photo:

'Berry' fell in love with Timosha & mdash; & nbsp; the wife of Gorky's son Nadezhda Peshkova. This alleged novel is sometimes called the reason why Yagoda persecuted Gorky's family, and then organized the murder of first his son, the writer, and then himself.

These murders were included in the list of charges brought against Yagoda during the trial, but, objectively speaking, no real evidence of such a conspiracy has been found. And in general, the big question is whether there really was some kind of relationship between Yagoda and Nadezhda Peshkova, or the feelings of the Chekist & nbsp; in this case & nbsp; remained purely platonic.

Nadezhda Alekseevna Peshkova far outlived all the heroes of that drama, but she didn’t share any revelations.

Necessary & nbsp; and a useful person

But we have deviated a little from the biography of Yagoda himself. After the October Revolution, he was the editor of a newspaper (without even having a primary education), then worked in the Petrograd Cheka, fought in the Civil War on the Southern Front, and then was transferred to the Supreme Military Inspectorate of the & nbsp; Red Army.

On the executive and an active employee, Yakov Sverdlov drew attention, who recommended Yagoda to Felix Dzerzhinsky. The head of the Cheka himself knew him from his work in the Petrograd Cheka and considered that Yagoda could be entrusted with a more responsible business. At the end of 1919, he was appointed manager of the Cheka Special Department.

In the first half of the 1920s, Yagoda gradually climbed the career ladder within the Soviet secret service, becoming the second deputy chairman of the OGPU in 1923.

In 1926, Felix Dzerzhinsky died suddenly, and was succeeded by Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. Yagoda & nbsp; in turn & nbsp; became the head of the head of the Secret Operations Directorate & mdash; & nbsp; a key structure within the OGPU.

Menzhinsky was ill a lot, and at that time the operational leadership was in the hands of Yagoda. Against this background, a fierce internal party struggle unfolded, in which the head of the Secret Operations Directorate supported Joseph Stalin.

G. G. Yagoda (far left) with V. R. Menzhinsky and F. E. Dzerzhinsky in 1924. Photo:

Father GULAG

Yagoda was one of the founders of the system of forced labor camps, designed to replace the existing prison system. The aim was to use the labor resource of prisoners in the interests of the state.

Several clarifications need to be made here at once. The first & mdash; & nbsp; in the economy of the Soviet Union, the GULAG system was never decisive. During the heyday, the contribution of prisoners to the economy did not exceed 10 percent. The second & mdash; & nbsp; contrary to the statements of a number of researchers, nothing to do with Hitler's “ death camps '' The Gulag did not. No mass targeted extermination of prisoners has ever been carried out. This directly contradicted the tasks set for the GULAG. The third & mdash; & nbsp; conditions in the forced labor camps varied significantly at different times. During Yagoda's leadership, most of the camps tried to create tolerable living conditions in order to present an indicative picture of “ re-education through labor. '' Fourth & mdash; & nbsp; at the time of Yagoda's departure from the post of head of the NKVD, the percentage of political prisoners in the Gulag was only 12.6. This is the lowest figure until the liquidation of this system.

The White Sea-Baltic Canal was built by the forces of the GULAG prisoners in 1931-1933. Yagoda, who oversaw the project, was awarded the Order of Lenin.

Loss of vigilance and porn collection

In 1934, the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the USSR was created, headed by Yagoda. After the murder of Sergey Kirov The head of the NKVD supervised the organization of the first trials over the “ enemies of the people '', but very soon he himself fell into disgrace.

Comrade Stalin was dissatisfied with Yagoda's activities, considering his work on the preparation of the First Moscow trial ineffective. Complaints from suspects and convicted persons of violation of socialist legality during the investigation turned out to be very opportune. The chairman of the Party Control Commission under the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) Nikolai Yezhov was especially zealous in exposing the shortcomings.

It wasn’t just a “loss of revolutionary vigilance.” The People's Commissar has collected compromising evidence that he is a corrupt and moral decay.

The stories that the head of the NKVD sold timber to Canada & mdash; & nbsp; is most likely unscientific fantasy. But the fact that large sums of money, luxury items, antiques were seized from Yagoda during his arrest is documented. And also “ 11 pornographic films '' & nbsp; and “ collection of pornographic photographs '' the number of 3904 pieces & nbsp; and many other things that do not fit with the image of a real communist.

New position as a harbinger of collapse

But the “ punishing sword of the proletariat '' fell upon the lover of life in all its manifestations not at once. In September 1936, he was removed from the post of People's Commissar of Internal Affairs, entrusting him with the People's Commissariat of Communications.

“ People's Commissariat of Communications is a very important matter. This is the People's Commissariat for Defense. I have no doubt that you will be able to put this People's Commissariat on its feet. I very much ask you to agree to the work of the People's Commissariat for Communications, '' Stalin wrote to Yagoda.

Yagoda hardly believed that the transfer from one position to another became a manifestation of trust. Before him, the former head of the Soviet government Alexey Rykov was the Commissar of Communications. A few months later, Rykov will be arrested.

Yagoda repeated the same path, only in a more accelerated mode. He was removed from the post of People's Commissar in January 1937, and was arrested on March 28, a month after Rykov's arrest.

Rykov, Yagoda and Nikolai Bukharin will make up a trio of the main accused at the Third Moscow Trial.

The former head of the NKVD was ready to admit everything except espionage & mdash; Yagoda said that if he were a spy, “ dozens of countries '' would have to disband intelligence. The paradox of the situation was that during the trial he was mainly charged with & nbsp; what he did not commit, but his real abuses of socialist legality remained in the shadows.

With my wife Ida Averbakh, September 30, 1922. Photo:

“ I am on my knees and ask you to have mercy on me ''

He hoped that agreeing to play by the proposed rules would help save life. When the death sentence was pronounced, Yagoda petitioned for a pardon, writing as follows: “ My guilt before the Motherland is great. Do not redeem her in any way. It's hard to die. I am on my knees before all the people and the party and I ask you to have mercy on me, saving my life. '' The former People's Commissar was forced to watch the executions of everyone who got into the firing squad with him, and then they beat & nbsp; and only then finished them off.

Yagoda's wife, an employee of the Prosecutor's Office Ida Averbakh, the author of the book “ From Crime to Labor '', dedicated to the activities of & nbsp; forced labor camps & nbsp; in the & nbsp; USSR, was shot in June 1938.

To Yagoda's son, Garik , was not even nine years old when the parents were executed. He was brought up in orphanages, took his mother's surname, but in 1949, the family past caught up with a 20-year-old boy – he was sentenced under Article 58 to 5 years in prison. But he was more fortunate than his father and mother: Genrikh Genrikhovich was rehabilitated, he received the profession of an engineer, was married twice, and after the collapse of the USSR he moved to Israel, where he died in 2003.

Maxim Gorky and Genrikh Yagoda. Not earlier than November 1935. Photo:

In April 2015 & nbsp; the Supreme Court of Russia & nbsp; declared the former head of the NKVD of the USSR Genrikh Yagoda not subject to rehabilitation.


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