|Russia||Russian Revolution||Soviet Union 1920-45|
Genrikh Yagoda was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1891. Lodz was part of the Russian Empire and Yagoda objected to the rule of Nicholas II.
Yagoda joined the Bolsheviks in 1907 and after the successful October Revolution in 1917 he joined the Communist Secret Police (Cheka). He took part in the Red Terror and in 1930 was placed in charge of forced-labour camps.
Yagoda was a close friend of Joseph Stalin and in 1934 he was put in charge of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). Soon afterwards Yagoda is believed to have been involved in the assassination of Sergy Kirov, a man Stalin believed to be a threat to his power.
In 1936 Yagoda arrested Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, and fourteen others and accused them of being involved with Leon Trotsky in a plot to murder Joseph Stalin and other party leaders. All of these men were found guilty and were executed on 25th August, 1936.
Genrikh Yagoda was arrested in 1937 and was accused of being involved in a plot with Leon Trotsky, Nickolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Nikolai Krestinsky and Christian Rakovsky against Joseph Stalin. He was found guilty and was executed in Moscow on 15th March, 1938.
On the instigation of Trotsky, preparations were now made for the assassination of members of the Government and leading figures such as Maxim Gorky. The length to which these criminals went in their desperate gamble was illustrated by this cynical crime of murdering one of the great figures of world literature. In raising this question originally, Trotsky had emphasised the need for taking measures to overcome the difficulty created for the conspirators by the fact that Gorky was a staunch adherent of the policy of the Party and the Soviet Government and personally very close to Stalin. Trotsky feared the tremendous influence of Gorky and the role that Gorky could play in winning sympathy and support from all liberal-minded people throughout the world for the Soviet Union. Yagoda, one of the accused, was assistant commissar in the Department for Internal Affairs. On a decision of the bloc he secured the co-operation of Dr. Levin to whose care Gorky’s health was committed. Trapping the doctor in a preliminary crime as partial means of ensuring docile obedience, Yagoda then proceeded systematically with the task of murdering Maxim Gorky, the idol of all the Soviet people and millions of lovers of literature and humanity the world over. How terribly he succeeded in this cold-blooded plan and how this plan was utilised to dispose of his own chief, thus making room for him in the position of Commissar of Internal Affairs, as well as of Kuibyshev and Gorky’s son, provided a sinister feature of the trial. There were moments during the taking of testimony on this aspect of the case when one’s blood almost “ran cold”.