The Mystery Of The Kirov Assassination – Part I

Dear Readers:

We are entering the mysterious realm of Assassinology and Conspiratology. Assassinations do occur; and Conspiracies also happen, so it’s not always fiction. The killing of Leningrad Communist Party Leader Sergei Kirov on December 1, 1934, by a man named Leonid Nikolaev, was an earthshaking event, not unlike, to Americans, the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963. Both events leading to myriads of conspiracy theories and considered still unsolved, by many people. Another common thread being that both assassinations were “allegedly” the work of lone gunmen, working alone. Both lone gunmen being mentally unstable outsiders.

Milda Draule and her good-looking but no-goodnik husband Leonid Nikolaev.

Nikolaev’s official wiki page, which I just linked, coyly does not explicitly exonerate Stalin, but vigorously propagandizes the notion that Nikolaev acted alone; even going so far as to cast aspersions on Kirov’s morality, stating as fact that the popular Leningrad Party leader was having an affair with Nikolaev’s wife, Milda; although other historians dispute that. If such adultery were a true fact, then certainly the affair would have provided a solid motive for Nikolaev to shoot Kirov without any prompting from Yezhov.

Here is a quick review of what that wiki states: Born in 1904 in St. Petersburg, Russia, to a working-class family. Joined the Communist Party in 1923 and got a job as a minor functionary. In 1933 was asked to transfer to a different job in the provinces and “took offense”, refused to leave the city and was subsequently expelled from the Party. Lobbied for reinstatement, and was able to worm himself back in, April of 1934. Nonetheless, by then he had burned too many bridges and was unable to find work. The wiki historian kicks more sand in his face: “Having only a partial middle-school education, Nikolaev nonetheless felt that, as a Party member, he deserved a higher position.” In other words, he was a male “Karen” type who suffered from feelings of entitlement. In his rage and humiliation, he blamed Kirov for all his problems. “The other reason for his hatred of Kirov was the news that his wife Milda had become Kirov’s lover.” It’s so logical now, and so obvious, that this loser would become a lone gunman!

Theory: He Acted Alone

Nikolaev was still officially unemployed when he took up his gun and started to stalk Kirov. The wiki also mentions that, on the eve of the assassination, Nikolaev visited both German and Estonian consulates. (Another astounding coincidence with Lee Harvey Oswald, who was known to visit Soviet and Cuban Embassies before shooting Kennedy!) The wiki also adduces, as extra evidence for the Prosecution, that on December 2, the day after the shooting, the German Consul in St. Petersburg Rudolf Sommer abruptly left his post and transferred to Finland, without the usual diplomatic protocol of informing the Soviet Minister. Very suspicious, no? Implying that the Germans were pushing Nikolaev’s buttons, just as American conspiratologists believe that Osward was working for the Russians or Cubans!

Lee Harvey Oswald: Lone gunman or Patsy?

In both cases, one may choose to believe what one chooses to believe: That Oswald either acted alone, or was put up to it by the CIA. (Or by Khrushchev, or Castro.) That Nikolaev either acted alone, or was put up to it by the NKVD. (Or by the Germans, or Estonians.) There is no definitive proof, either way. You can’t prove a positive, and you can’t prove a negative; that’s the infuriating thing about these mysterious criminal cases. One can invoke the cui bono rule, which works especially strongly in the Kirov case (less so in the Kennedy case) — namely, that Kirov along with Ordzhonikidze and others in the younger wing of the rising Party leadership, were looking to become an actual threat to Stalin’s dominance. What with some tactical differences regarding the collectivization project, and suchlike. Stalin clearly benefited from Kirov’s death (Ordzhonikidze’s as well), as the loss of these charismatic and popular leaders helped him (Stalin) maintain his grip on power; and then, with Kirov’s death, to acquire even more, godlike powers. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that he actually killed them, or ordered their deaths: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

And sometimes not. It’s unclear to me how intelligence agents can twist a mentally ill lone gunman to do something they need done; we know that this does happen in real life, not necessarily with Oswald nor Nikolaev — but we know that it has happened in the past with other assassins. How is this actually done? What is the mechanism? I understand how people can be talked to and manipulated; but how are the puppeteers able to maintain plausible deniability? What would stop the puppet, when arrested, from just blurting out: “My CIA handler told me to do this!” I often wonder about such things…

Is Shefir Another Kirov?

Shefir: Happy to be alive.

My starting point for all of these musings is this barely-related story which I saw a few days ago. The reporter is Dmitry Bavyrin, and I tend to like Bavyrin’s work, so I read it. The story is mostly about some Ukrainian events of last week, wherein Zelensky’s Consigliere, right-hand man and personal friend Sergei Shefir, was the target of an assassination attempt on September 22. Shefir survived unscathed, by the way, which is a good thing; but his driver was seriously wounded, which is horrible. But Bavyrin goes on to speculate that Zelensky might use this assassination attempt in the same way that Stalin used the Kirov assassination: as an excuse to purge his enemies and increase his own authoritarian power, leading to one-man rule over the Ukrainian nation.

Bavyrin has to tread somewhat softly in delivering his thesis, he is careful not to imply or hint that Stalin might actually have been the guiding puppeteer hand behind the murder of Kirov, he limits himself to describing how Stalin cleverly used the event — fully knowing that the Zinovievites and the like had absolutely nothing to do with it — to launch his Great Terror:

“For the leadership of the NKVD, these scribblings [Nikolaev’s diary] were never a secret, but Stalin unambiguously ordered the search for the conspiracy within the Party — among the Trotskyites and Zinovievites. In order words, the murder of Kirov was used by the Leader as a routine excuse for repressions, and as a result of its so-called correct investigation, the future head of the NKVD, Nikolai Yezhov, rose in prominance.”

Good pals Kirov and Ordzhonikidze

The thought here being that a good politician might work to prevent a crisis; but a great politician will never let a good crisis go to waste. Even with such a lukewarm fomulation, Bavyrin gets in trouble with his readers. Like I said, he has to tread lightly here, given the great (and growing) popularity of Stalin among ordinary Russians. Some of his commenters take offense that he dares even mention the “great Stalin” in the same sentence with the clown Zelensky. “Stalin, now THERE was a personality…”, “Bavyrin, you are uttering heresies…”, etc. I get the impression sometimes, reading such comments in various pieces, that the average pro-Stalin Russian reader wouldn’t even care if Stalin did just make shit up and lie and murder his way into power, it’s only the Western Furries who want Stalin to be an innocent angel who spent all his days rescuing kittens; ordinary Russians only care that he was a strong leader for the nation, and they don’t care how many people he had to kill to stay in power.

Anyhow, unfortunately I have to skip over the rest of Bavyrin’s article, which goes into Ukrainian politics and more about the Shefir story. Because my main focus here is the Nikolaev character.

The Lone Gunman

As Bavyrin mentioned, Nikolaev’s diary was de-classified and published in 2009. To help us go over this material, I have this piece by reporter Irina Smirnova. She interviews a person named Tatiana Sukharnikova, who manages the Kirov Museum in Saint Petersburg. So, let us begin…

[to be continued]

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14 Responses to The Mystery Of The Kirov Assassination – Part I

  1. Pavlo Svolochenko says:

    Lee Oswald is less than suitable as a comparison because he:

    1. Was not mentally ill, nor mentally subnormal – though he possessed the kind of overpowering naivety that can easily be taken for stupidity. Intelligent, curious and daring, but quite unable to realise that he was nothing but a fly caught in a spider’s web until it was much too late.

    2. Held no enmity, either personal or political, toward the man he is alleged to have killed – all such claims are malicious fabrications.

    3. Did not kill John Kennedy, who was shot by at least two assailants from two different directions. Neither is at all likely to have been Oswald, a poor marksman who could not possibly have hit a moving target with his shitty Italian rifle (supposing that he even had it with him that day – the young chap who gave him a ride to the book depository was adamant that the box Oswald had been carrying could not have contained a rifle).

    It was a masterpiece of skullduggery. The sudden intervention of Jack Ruby damaged the plausibility of the show, but the men orchestrating the affair were in uncharted waters, and who could guess what might happen if the alleged presidential assassin were given the chance to divulge in court the nature of his association with the CIA?

    Putting the Kirov and Kennedy assassinations side by side does however neatly illustrate the vastly-differing information management abilities of the American and Soviet governments. America killed her own President, triggered a crisis of distrust in the national government which has never really ended since… and yet the country was made to swallow the lie, to profess the lie, and now three whole generations have grown up believing it, and the government can still make every new lie stick for as long as is necessary for its current purpose – the Soviet government couldn’t even get people to accept the rather more straightforward official story of Sergei Kirov’s death. A vertically-controlled state press will never be as powerful as an association of media enterprises which are officially independent of each other but privately bound by common material interest and guided by a hidden hand.


    • yalensis says:

      Excellent points, Pavlo! I never personally bought the Oswald/lone gunman story, like you say, the conspirators lost all plausibility when they threw Jack Ruby in there as the “cleaner”. That was obviously a sloppy last-minute panic maneuver, but it raises the same question once again: What were they thinking? I mean, it’s pretty clear that Kennedy was killed by the CIA (for whatever reason of internal American elite politics), but why didn’t they have a better plan for taking care of the patsy once he was arrested? Don’t they think these guys will eventually talk to the media once pushed into a corner? Also, the American media was a lot “freer” in the 1960’s and 70’s than it is now, which isn’t saying much.

      Putting Kennedy and Kirov side-by-side maybe wasn’t such a great analogy, but one of the points in common is the claim that both shooters were busily running around to visit foreign embassies the day before committing the deed. Didn’t Oswald visit both Soviet and Cuban Embassies? (probably told to, by CIA). And in turn, Nikolaev was alleged to have visited German and Estonian embassies. That last bit, if true, could actually be explained away by conspiracy theorists: (1) Either the NKVD gave him some bogus assignments which required him to visit those Embassies; or, (2) knowing he was about to commit a violent crime, maybe that was Nikolaev’s exit strategy, like hoping one of these countries would grant him asylum (?)

      Mystery upon mystery…


    • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

      Perhaps it was anticipated that local police would shoot Oswald dead in attempting to apprehend him, or perhaps someone else entirely had been meant to waylay him but had failed to reach him. Oswald is supposed to have shot and killed a patrolman who identified him, but while cartridge cases at the scene match Oswald’s revolver, the bullets found in the patrolman did not. It’s hard enough to organise the murder of an important person, more so when the plan depends on managing the movements of an unknowing party. It is testament to just how bitterly Kennedy had angered the Dulles circle that they were willing to embark on such a plan.

      Don’t they think these guys will eventually talk to the media once pushed into a corner? Also, the American media was a lot “freer” in the 1960’s and 70’s than it is now, which isn’t saying much

      No doubt this was their big concern, prompting them to silence Oswald at any cost. But once the thing was done… it wasn’t simply a matter of media manipulation any longer, it was veiled intimidation. It was clear that the Company would not hesitate to employ in America the sort of tactics they had employed abroad. There was nobody who was beyond their reach, and no method of execution so brazen that they wouldn’t use it if they deemed it necessary. Nothing short of civil war would ever dislodge them, and who could doubt they were willing to wage it? Millions of right-wing fanatics gloried in Kennedy’s death and would have flocked to the colours if they had been asked to. For safety and peace of mind, Kennedy’s former friends accepted the Warren Commission’s blessed fairytale – not just outwardly, they forced themselves to believe it, because the alternative was too terrifying.

      The miserable fate of Sirhan Sirhan demonstrates just how successful the grand plan was – Robert Kennedy was shot in the back of the head, below his ear, and the man arrested for killing him was the one who was standing a few feet in front of him. The man protested his innocence, denied having any memory of committing the crime, a former employee of Robert Maheu happened to be on the scene – none of it mattered. America accepted what they were told to accept, Sirhan Sirhan went to prison, and the Company stamped out the last of the embers. Could that have worked with Lee Harvey Oswald?

      Didn’t Oswald visit both Soviet and Cuban Embassies? (probably told to, by CIA)

      Yes, and was associated with the Cuban Friendship Society. The poor fool was never a willing agent of the Company’s schemes, he just wanted to travel the world, learn about foreign parts and promote friendship and understanding – he couldn’t see that he was being guided along the garden path. It had been in the same spirit that he had emigrated to the Soviet Union, gotten work in a radio factory in Belorussia (at a time when the Company was very interested in the development of the Soviet electronics industry) and ultimately returned to America. None of Oswald’s travels nor the numerous occasions when he expressed sympathy for Communism nor his return to his home country seemed to trouble the paranoid and cruel American security services in the slightest.

      And in turn, Nikolaev was alleged to have visited German and Estonian embassies. That last bit, if true, could actually be explained away by conspiracy theorists: (1) Either the NKVD gave him some bogus assignments which required him to visit those Embassies; or, (2) knowing he was about to commit a violent crime, maybe that was Nikolaev’s exit strategy, like hoping one of these countries would grant him asylum (?)

      Or perhaps he reached out to them, hoping for a better job offer than he was getting at home, in exchange for whatever inside information he could offer. Germany, perhaps, chose to play hardball: kill someone important first and then we’ll take you in. Of course, all these theories are hard to square with the fact that he tried to kill himself after doing the deed.

      ‘Согласно рассказу конвоира, услышав приговор, Николаев крикнул: «Обманули!»’

      One wonders what he meant by that, supposing that he really did say it.


      • yalensis says:

        Согласно рассказу конвоира, услышав приговор, Николаев крикнул: «Обманули!» “According to the story of the convoy person, Nikolaev shouted: They deceived me!”

        That is indeed interesting, I had not heard that bit. Very vague, though, I wish people would be more specific in their death-utterances, who do they think they are, the Oracle of Delphi, that we must decode their riddles? I never liked riddles, by the way, which is why all of this is so maddening! Why couldn’t Nikolaev have shouted, “The NKVD deceived me!” Or perhaps: “The Germans deceived me!” Be more specific, dude!

        The Germans, by the way, I woudn’t put it past them to stir things up. They could have egged Nikolaev on and promised him asylum. Although, like you said, that contradicts the fact that Nikolaev was pretty clear in his diary that this “beau geste” was to be his grand suicide by cop. He was Samson, bringing down the pillars along with himself.

        Returning to the Germans, though, it is said they tried to play on Stalin’s paranoia and get him to kill off his top generals prior to their (=German) invasion of the USSR. It is also said that Stalin saw right through those German forgeries, but still thought it was a good idea to kill off his generals… Which segues back to Tukhachevsky, just in time for my next series of posts!


        • FatMax says:

          “the Oracle of Delphi”
          Makes sense in this context, LOL. After all, Delphi was a Spook Central of ancient Mediterranean.


          • yalensis says:

            Oh yeah! I’ve read a lot about the ancient world and have a lot of theories about the Oracles and Magis and the like. It’s a super-interesting topic.I think we’re on the same wavelength, Max, because my theory is that the Magis were like an international intelligence agency of the ancient world, with tentacles extending all over Eurasia and the Middle East.
            Sorry to have to plug one of my own posts from times gone by (2018!), but I laid out some of my “Magi” theories in series, which was a review of the Met Opera production of Rossini’s Semiramide.
            It seemed very obvious to me, reading the libretto, that the Priests employed “magic technology” to manipulate the ruling elites, while maintaining a vast Intel network spanning the entire ancient world!


            • yalensis says:

              P.S. – if you don’t have time to read the whole series, this section in particular lays out my theories about the Magis and the Oracle of Delphi, etc.


              • FatMax says:

                A most interesting theory indeed. Loved it!
                Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant: priests and Oracles were spies and “influencers” of the Ancient Mediterranean.
                When Rome conquered Greece, it took over this spy network. But unlike Greece, it did not exactly utilized it well and overwhelming victory over Parthia stayed out of its’ reach.
                And for the better, too. Could you imagine overwhelming Roman (i.e. Western) influence in the heart of Eurasia? The horror.


              • yalensis says:

                Thanks, Max, curious to hear your theory why you think the Romans did not utilize this network of Magis and Oracles very well? Were they not willing to provide a comfortable living to these captive spies and illusionists? If I were Caesar, I would have granted them all a comfortable salary and built them more dovecots for the network carriers!


              • FatMax says:

                I can think of several reasons why Romans failed to properly use this network.
                This network was thoroughly Greek and “graecized”. One should always remember that the Greeks were unwilling members of the Roman Empire and they always kept their independent spirit, cultural separatness and loathing for the Romans.

                Both parties disliked the other one: Greeks considered the Romans to be brutal, crass and violent intruders.
                Romans considered the Greeks to be effete, untrustworthy and degenerate poofters.

                Greek language was “lingua franca” for the “eastern-looking”, highly educated parts of the Roman elite. Greek philosophies like stoicism were also popular among such people.
                But the other parts of said elite considered this Greek influence to be “feminising” and “weakening” all those “masculine” qualities of the Empire. There was a proto-“Culture War” in the Roman Empire considering such influences.
                There’s a good reason that Nero was so badmouthed after his death: after all, he was thoroughly under this Greek influence. You really think that Roman historians would otherwise really care that the Emperor had a bunch of people killed, including his own mother? ROFL!

                Also, let’s not forget that these are the same people who didn’t take Parthian threat seriously at first, because Parthian leaders enjoyed theater, music and dance as pastimes. Certainly nothing that “good” Roman leaders would enjoy, I’m certain.

                By the way, Romans were indeed brutal, crass and violent. Their culture was almost non-existant and mostly picked up from the other members of their empire. There was no way they could spread their “culture” and soften up the resistance to their empire, since they had none! And almost every product of this culture was inferior to equivalent Greek products.

                Roman Empire spread by fire and sword. Highly disciplined, trained and equipped Roman legions brought “The Eagle” far and wide. These people had neither inclination nor patience for large-scale intelligence gathering and wetwork.

                It’s no wonder that only the most graecized of the Five Good Emperors had any luck in using this network: Hadrian. Some accounts imply that he used it during his reign and his attempts to stabilize the Empire’s borders and undermine Bar Kochba’s Rebellion.
                Let us not forget that he spent quite a lot of time in the eastern parts of the Empire on his pilgrimage. He was a Greek, through and through.


              • yalensis says:

                Excellent comment, Max. Maybe the Romans felt they didn’t need to use the “soft power” of the Magi, since they relied so much on “hard power”. Oh, they knew how to use military intel, like cyphers and spies, and that sort of thing. But maybe the subtleties of the Magi-type network were just too much for them. To control such a network, one needed to be even more of an artist than a scientist.

                Seems to me like Romans were somewhat deficient in high culture. They had art and literature, but it wasn’t as good as that of the Greeks. On the other hand, they were pretty good at creating “mass culture”, like the theatrical comedies of Plautus and Terence. That kind of popular culture later evolved into commedia dell’arte, which was a low culture that sank so low, it eventually came out the other end and became high culture!


              • FatMax says:

                It takes a particularly sophisticated and sneaky person to use such network to good effect and dumb Roman brutes were neither of these things.
                Also, most popular form of “low” Roman culture were the amphitheatre games . And they certainly did not survive the Fall of the Empire in any recognizable form.
                Most people who were “bought off” by the Romans were either interested in Roman gold or Roman comforts like aquaeducts, baths, heated floors and the like. Roman “culture” didn’t account for much, LOL.


              • yalensis says:

                “Also, most popular form of “low” Roman culture were the amphitheatre games . And they certainly did not survive the Fall of the Empire in any recognizable form.”

                Oh yeah? What about bullfighting! That survived almost to current times.
                Not to mention gladiatorial combat, which survives to this day, in the form of Cage Fighting and Ultimate Wrestling, and that sort of thing… All a testament to the Glory that was Rome!



              • FatMax says:

                Indeed! Violent “entertainment” survived unto this day.
                But Roman Games had an insteresting and niche purpose: they weren’t only “entertainment” but also propaganda.
                “Look at how mighty our Empire is! We can force people to fight each other to the death! We can kill thousands of rare animals! All of these were brought here from all over the known world! Look at our power and tremble!”
                Bullfighting and UFC and whatnot really don’t have the same purpose.
                Dunno what would, though. For the US of A, I’d be a combination of… Fox and CNN and NFL and OVER 9000 of cable channels and Hollywood and God knows what else.
                Roman Games had it neatly packaged. Also, it’s no coincidence that the gladiators wore stylized armors and represented Roman “enemy du jour”: Thracians, Gauls and so forth.


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