Skoblin's History Blog

This blog is composed of articles and translations written by Skoblin pertaining to the Soviet Security forces, White Russian underground movements and Russian counter-revolutionary forces during the 1920s and 1930s. Skoblin can be reached at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Murders of K. B. Radek and G. Ya. Sokolnikov

Excerpts from the testimony provided by the Chairman of the KGB, I. A. Serov, to the Central Committee of the CPSU on the "Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center" regarding the circumstances of the murder of G. Ya. Sokol'nikov and K. B. Radek


29 July 1956.

Top Secret


After having been convicted, Radek and Sokol'nikov began to assert their innocence in front of their fellow prisoners and to describe their entire trial as having been a sham. This, undoubtedly, led to the decision to have them "liquidated" in May 1939.Documentation available in the KGB archives attest to the fact that the murder of Radek and Sokol'nikov was done at the direction of Beria and Kobulev in accordance with a specially devised plan.

The immediate implementation of these plans was assigned to members of the 2nd Section of the NKVD USSR - Senior Superintendent Kubatkin, Superintendent Sharok and individuals who had been specially chosen among a number of arrested perons. They departed in secret in order to carry out their task at the Verkhne-Uralskiy and Tobol'sk prisons, where Radek and Sokol'nikov were being held.

As has been established, the murder of Sokol'nikov was carried out under the following circumstances. As a preliminary, Sokol'nikov was transferred to a solitary cell. Then, on 21 May 1939, in accordance with the plan, the prison chief Flyagin, Superintendent Sharok and the convict Lobov, who had arrived from Moscow, entered Sokol'nikov's cell, threw themselves on him and killed him.

A fictitious account was then rendered about the murder and an interrogation report was drawn up involving the convict, P. M. Kotov ( which was the name Lobov went under). In this report, composed by the chief of the prison, the circumstances of Sokol'nikov's murder were described as follows:

"Sokol'nikov questioned me in a provocative tone, which roused me to anger. I called him a fascist hireling and stated that I had been held accountable because of him and leaders similar to him. Sokol'nikov immediately stood up from his bed and began to approach me in a threatening manner. I sat up on my bed, grabbed the latrine bucket which stood next to it, and with a blow to his head released him from all wordly concerns." (арх. дело № 300954, т.1. л.д. 138) .

Radek was murdered under similar circumstances on 19 May 1939, at the NKVD Verkhne-Uralskiy prison, under Senior Supervisor Kubatkin's leadership.

In this case, the pre-planned murder of Radek was subsequently described as the result of a fight. Thus, in the deposition concerning Radek's death, which was drawn up by the prison administration, it was stated:

"Upon examining the corpse of K. B. Radek, bruising was discovered on his neck and blood was flowing from one ear and from his throat. This appeared to be the result of his head being struck hard against the floor. Death followed as a result of being beaten and strangled by the Trotskyist convict Varezhnikov, which is also compiled in the present deposition." (арх. дело № 300935, т.1. л.д. 105)

As established by the facts, after having carried out the murder of the prisoners Radek and Sokol'nikov, Kubatkin and Sharok, who had until then worked as rank and file officials in the NKVD administration, were promoted soon afterward. Kubatkin was appointed NKVD Chief for the Moscow region, while Sharok became the Deputy People's Commissar for Internal Affairs of the Kazakh SSR.

Other convicts in this case - Stroilov and Arnold, who had also renounced their testimony, were held at the NKVD prison in Oryol until the fall of 1941. On 11 September 1941, they were executed along with other prisoners in accordance with a closed judgement pronounced without legal basis by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR.

The fate of the Ovchinnikov, former Chief of the NKVD in Prokopievsk, who was found to be in contact with Arnold, also figures in these events.

In December 1940, Ovchinnikov was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Military Tribunal of the West Siberian region. While in custody, he related to his fellow inmates the false nature of the charges levelled against Arnold and stated his intention to declare this in writing.

On 24 March 1941, Ovchinnikov's case was reviewed by the Military Tribunal and in the absence of any additional information he was sentenced to death.

Chairman, Committe for State Security, Council of Ministers of the USSR, I. Serov.

(АП РФ. Ф. 3. Оп. 24. Д. 455. Л. 33—35. Подлинник.)


Excerpts from the N. M. Shvernik Commission (1961)
Concerning the murder of K. B. Radek

"In May 1939, Kubatkin, an offical from the 2nd Directorate of the GUGB NKVD, arrived the prison of Verkhne Uralskiy. He brought with him at first an alleged prisoner named Martynov (real name not established), who was placed in the same cell as Radek. Martynov was to deliberately provoke a fight with Radek, but he was unable to kill him and he was subsequently removed from the prison by Kubatkin. Several days later, Kubatkin returned with another prisoner named Varezhnikov. This prisoner was also placed in the same cell as Radek The next day, May 19, Varezhnikov killed Radek after provoking a fight. In the deposition written by the prison administration, it was stated that Varezhnikov, who had murdered Radek, was allegedly a Trotskyist. In actuality, Varezhnikov was in fact I. I. Stepanov, the former Commandant of the NKVD in the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, who had been arrested in February 1939 for official crimes of a serious nature. In November of the same year, he was released from custody on Beria's instructions. In the decree suspending his sentence, it was indicated that he had carried out "a special task," of important significance to the government."

(Арх.-следственное дело № 726531, том 1, л.д.176—178) (АП РФ. Ф. 3. Оп. 24. Д. 448. Л. 190).


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