Proceeding to work through this piece, the reporter is Irina Smirnova. She interviews Tatiana Sukharnikova, who manages the Kirov Museum in St. Petersburg. As mentioned before, Leonid Nikolaev’s diary was declassified and published in 2009, in full and without any editorial redactions. This piece by Smirnova was published on December 1, 2009. So, it’s not exactly breaking news, but it’s still a relevant story to this day. The headline reads:
Kirov’s Murderer Speaks Up After 75 Years
Exactly 75 years ago, on December 1, 1934, Sergei Kirov was shot. This murder did not go unnoticed , people argue about it to this day, and the event unleashed mass repressions, which peaked in 1937.
Tatiana Sukharnikova: “This was not a political act.” As the manager of the Kirov Museum in St. Petersburg and the Primary Investigator of the Criminal Investigation, “On the wicked murder of Comrade S. Kirov”, Tatiana was granted access to the 58 volumes of the criminal case. These files still reside in the Central Archive of the FSB of the Russian Federation, and include the diaries of the killer.
Irina Smirnova: Tatiana Anatolievna, the Kirov murder investigation was conducted by the Stalin leadership, then by Khrushchev Commissions in 1956-67, and also certain other Party and government commissions over the years, for example by A.N. Yakovlev in 1988-89. How could there be any new information?
Tatiana: The conclusions of all these commisisons contradict each other and, to this day, evoke [more] questions [than answers]. The Preliminary Investigation occurred 75 years ago. Then there was the trial, and 14 people were repressed for allegedly being members of the “Leningrad Center”. Many years later Khrushchev placed the results [of these trials] under doubt. In the 1950’s and 60’s there were, at a minimum, four investigative commissions. They all consisted of people who worked under Party control, but you must agree that it is nonsense when a criminally punishable offense is investigated by Party functionaries. Not to mention the fact that none of the conclusions of these commissions were ever published, and that around Kirov’s murder there are a lot more theories than actual facts.
Irina: But surely during the Perestroika years, the case once again was put in the center of attention?
Tatiana: That’s true. Towards the end of the 1980’s public opinion was boiling over, and the Party leadership once again undertook to verify the circumstances of Kirov’s death. The Commission was headed by Communist Party Politburo member Alexander Yakovlev. The General Prosecutor and the Investigative Division of the KGB of the USSR were also included in the work. The security people went over with fine-tooth comb all the materials of the original investigation, and pronounced their verdict: That there was nothing in the documents which would testify to Stalin’s involvement in the murder of Kirov. This conclusion evoked Yakovlev’s protest. And the ensuing conflict was so bitter that it spilled over into the press: the investigators from the Prosecutor’s office, the KGB, and Yakovlev himself all debated with one another publicly, in the newspapers. Yakovlev accused the Commission of shoddy work, and of covering up Stalin’s involvement in the murder, due to their role as functionaries. On the other hand, 13 people who had been executed [because of the murder] were rehabilitated, and their children were declared as having been politically repressed.
Irina: They decided that the only guilty person was the shooter himself, Leonid Nikolaev?
Tatiana: Yes, but he had nothing to do with the so-called “Leningrad Center”, nor to any conspiracy. In the 1990’s, the conclusions of the Yakovlev Commission were published. But the public was not satisfied, since they had no confidence in the Prosecutor’s office, nor in the KGB. And there were still a lot of questions remaining, I have many questions myself.
Irina: For example?
Tatiana: The Central Archive of the FSB of the Russian Federation contains several investigations over the “Wicked Murder of Kirov“. These archives contain many and various documents, material exhibits, transcripts of Nikolaev’s interrogation, and also the interrogations of 13 other people, those latter cases being completely fabricated. There was a separate case against Nikolaev’s wife, Milda Draule, and that case also dragged in her sister, Olga Draule and Olga’s husband, Roman Kulisher. There was also a case against Nikolaev’s brother Petr. And against Milda’s brother, also named Petr. The Lubyanka contains documents of special convenings, at which the courts convicted and sent to exile and prison camps Nikolaev’s two sisters, his mother, his cousin, a childhood friend — some kind of mechanic who worked in a cinema — in all, there were a heap of documents. But historians were never permitted access to all of these criminal cases. I was the first person who was able to obtain access, thanks to a letter of recommendation from Nikolaev’s son, Marx Leonidovich. And here before you is a document from the archive: This is the “Autobiographical Tale” of Nikolaev himself. It consists of 56 pages. Here we are not dealing with some abtract conclusions, but with an actual original document; and it speaks for itself.
Irina: Well, what does it say?
[to be continued]