II. The arrest of Tukhachevsky, Yakir and Uberovich. Investigation and trial.
As mentioned above, notebooks have been found in Yezhov's archive in the TsK [Central Committee], in which Yezhov recorded various instructions regarding work in the NKVD. In one such notebook, the following entry is found: "1. Tukhachevsky, 2. Yefimov1, 3. Eideman, 4. Appoga2." The mark "(a)" was placed to the right of each of these names, which - in all probability - signified the order for their arrest. A check mark was also set against each name, signifying that this order had been carried out. Marshal Tukhachevsky and Corps Commanders Yefimov, Eideman and Appoga were all arrested on the same day - 22 May 1937. Tukhachevsky, in particular, was arrested in Kuibyshev, where he had already arrived to take up his new responsibilities. He was subsequently transferred to the inner prison of the NKVD in Moscow, where he was incarcerated in cell No. 94.Neither Yakir nor Uberovich confessed their guilt in the course of their preliminary interrogations. However, a record of these interrogations was never drawn up.
On 24 May 1937, two days after Tukhachevsky's arrest, the Politburo TsK VKP(b) passed the following resolution:
"The following motion is placed before the members of the TsK VKP(b) and before the candidate members of the TsK for a vote: The TsK VKP has received information exposing Rudzutak, member of the TsK VKP, and Tukhachevsky, candidate member of the TsK VKP, as participants in an anti-Soviet Trotskyist-Rightist conspiratorial bloc and of having engaged in espionage activity against the USSR on behalf of Fascist Germany. In connection with this, the Politburo of the TsK VKP calls on the members and candidate members of the TsK VKP to vote on the motion to expel Rudzutak and Tukhachevsky from the party and to transfer their cases to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs."
On 25-26 May 1937, the following resolution was written up by members of the TsK VKP(b) and candidate members of the TsK and signed by Stalin:
"On the basis of the information which has been received exposing member of the TsK VKP(b), Rudzutak, and candidate member of the TsK VKP(b), Tukhachevsky, as participants in an anti-Soviet Trotskyist-Rightist conspiratorial bloc and of having engaged in espionage activity against the USSR on behalf of Fascist Germany, that Rudzutak3 and Tukhachevsky be expelled from the party and their cases be transferred to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs."
There is insufficient information concerning how Tukhachevsky may have comported himself while being questioned during his first days in the hands of the NKVD. The minutes of Tukhachevsky's preliminary interrogations were either destroyed by the investigators or were never recorded in the first place. However, other documentation which has been preserved attests that Tukhachevsky denied participation in a conspiracy during the initial stages of the investigation.
This claim regarding Tukhachevsky's conduct is corroborated by a statement made by Fel'dman:
"I suspected that Tukhachevsky had no doubt been arrested, but I thought, that after falling into the hands of the investigation, he would divulge everything and thus try to atone somewhat for the heavy burden of guilt he bore before the State. However, in being confronted by Tukhachevsky during questioning, he denied everything and stated that I had made everything up..."
A statement made by Tukhachevsky from 26 May 1937, regarding his confrontations with Primakov, Putna and Fel'dman during the interrogation process, is also available:
"Confrontations with Primakov, Putna and Fel'dman, who accuse me of being the leader of an anti-Soviet Trotskyist military conspiracy, have already taken place. I hereby request that I be provided with the testimony of the other participants of this conspiracy who are making accusations against me. I pledge that I will provide frank and sincere testimony."
The minutes relating to these confrontations arranged by investigators between Tukhachevsky and Primakov, Putna and Fel'dman have not been located, either in Tukhachevsky's archival file pertaining to the investigation or in any other file.
In describing his conduct at the beginning of the investigation, Tukhachevsky stated in both hand-written testimony as well as in interrogation minutes recorded on 1 June 1937, that:
"I repeatedly and persistently attempted to deny my participation in the conspiracy as well as denying individual facts involving my my anti-Soviet activity."
Archival materials pertaining to the investigation reveal that such conduct on Tukhachevsky's part was extremely short-lived. All measures were taken in order to break his resistance, with Yezhov himself directly leading the investigation. As investigators for the case, Yezhov appointed the schooled and studious falsifiers Leplevsky, Ushakov and others. These individuals had long ago lost all semblance and understanding of being human, and reckoning upon the choice of methods for achieving their goals, applied various sorts of moral and physical torments in order to break the will of the prisoners and obtain false testimony. Having found himself in such circumstances, being placed under guard for several days and grasping the hopelessness of his position, Tukhachevsky wrote the following statement on 26 May 1937:
"I hereby acknowledge the existence of an anti-Soviet Trotskyist military conspiracy and that I was leading it... The founding of this conspiracy dates back to 1932."
On 29 May 1937, Yezhov interrogated Tukhachevsky, which led to the following testimony being provided:
"I was drawn into the Rightist organization by Yenukidze4 as early as 1928. In 1934, I personally got into contact with Bukharin. I established espionage contacts with the Germans in 1925, after having traveled to Germany for training exercises and maneuvers... During a trip to London in 1936, Putna arranged a meeting for me with Sedov5... I had conspiratorial contacts with Fel'dman, Kamenev S. S.6, Yakir, Eideman, Yenukidze, Bukharin, Karakhan7, Pyatakov8, Smirnov I. N.9, Yagoda10, Osepian11 and a number of others."
Between 1 and 10 June 1937, Tukhachevsky was compelled to elaborate further, describing the conspiratorial organization and plans for defeating the Red Army. This testimony was forwarded to Stalin and was attached to the file only after the trial had taken place.
Here is some information, which reveals the means by which Tukhachevsky was forced to provide false testimony. Bul, a former NKVD USSR official and member of the KPSS, reported in 1956:
"I personally witnessed Tukhachevsky being led through the corridors of Building 2 to be interrogated by Leplevsky. He was dressed in a splendid gray civilian suit with a peasant's greatcoat made of cloth tossed over it and bast shoes on his feet. I deduced that Tukhachevsky was forced to wear such an outfit in order to humiliate him. The entire case conducted against Tukhachevsky and the others was concluded very quickly... The investigators employed persuasion in addition to physical coercion in order to obtain testimony."
While examining the Tukhachevsky case, several pages of his testimony were found to have brownish-coloured spots and stains and a judicial-medical analysis was conducted as a result. The Main Judicial-Medical Laboratory of the Military Medical Administration attached to the Ministry of Defense concluded on 28 June 1956, that:
"The stains and smears found on pages 165 and 166 of File No. 967581 were determined to be blood... Several of the blood stains have the shape of exclamation marks. Such a shape is usually observed only in the case of blood emanating from a subject which is in movement or with blood falling onto a surface at an angle..."
The investigator-falsifier Ushakov, who was mentioned previously, was himself arrested in September 1938. In an effort to justify the use of his "services," he boasted: "I dug information out of Tukhachevsky, Yakir and the others." In his testimony written on 23 September 1938, Ushakov stated:
"I was transferred to Moscow along with Leplevsky in December 1936... From literally my first days there I had determined the existence of a military Trotskyist organization in the RKKA and the Fleet and had worked out a specific plan for uncovering it. The first such evidence I obtained came from Zakupnev, the former commander of the Caspian military flotilla... I... then proceeded confidently towards exposing the anti-Soviet military conspiracy. At the same time, I moved forward with confidence in another department, and with Eideman I turned out not to be mistaken. As for Fel'dman, he confessed in my presence that he was a participant in an anti-Soviet military conspiracy (as recorded in the minutes of his interrogation of 19 May 1937), which formed the basis for the arrest of Yefimov and others which commenced on May 22. On May 25 I was given free rein to interrogate Tukhachevsky, who confessed on the 26th , and on the 30th I was given Yakir as well. Working alone and without assistants (or "partners") and with the three of us having received instructions that the case must be ready for a hearing within just a few days, I laboured unceasingly, dragging out of them a few more facts, a few more conspirators. Even early in the morning on the day of the trial, I succeeded in obtaining supplementary evidence from Tukhachevsky concerning Apanasenko12 and a few others."
Among these "others," for instance, was even mentioned Timoshenko.
Komkor [Corps Commander] Eideman, arrested on May 22 at the same time as Tukhachevsky, was conveyed first to the inner prison of the NKVD USSR and then transferred to Lefortovo prison the following day. On 25 May, Eideman presented a statement addressed to Yezhov, in which he agreed "to assist the investigation" in uncovering criminal activity. Judging by its external characteristics (irregular handwriting and the absence of certain letters in some words), it is evident that this letter was written in a state of nervous shock, and exhibited the results of physical coercion.
On 28 May 1937, the results of Eideman's interrogation were forwarded by Yezhov to Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov and Kaganovich with the following cover letter: "I am relaying the interrogation records of Eideman P. R., former Chairman of the Central Council of the OSOAVIAKHIM13 USSR, which took place on 27 May of this year. Eideman has testified that he was drawn into an anti-Soviet Trotskyist military conspiracy by Tukhachesky and has been active in carrying out sabotage efforts. Eideman has named Fel'dman, Yefimov, Peterson, Kork, Gorbachev, Fishman14, Osepian and Vol'pe15 as participants of this Trotskyist military conspiracy. Eideman states that he recruited Belitsky16, Voskanov17... into the Trotskyist military conspiracy. I request permission to arrest all the participants of the conspiracy, named by Eideman, who are working in the administration of the OSOAVIAKHIM."
Permission was granted to carry out the arrests and Yezhov wrote on his copy of this document: "All individuals named by Eideman employed with the OSOAVIAKHIM (center and periphery) are to be arrested immediately. Yezhov. "
The former NKVD official, Karpeisky, commenting on the illegal methods which had been used to render Eideman compliant, has testified:
"Eideman denied any involvement in a conspiracy, stating that he had no idea of its existence and that the charges did not correspond to how he had conducted himself throughout his life nor to his views.
"Threatening Eideman with physical coercion if he continued to remain stubborn and conceal his conspiratorial activities from the investigation... Agas declared, if Eideman did not being providing evidence immediately, then he - Agas - would continue the questioning in another place and in another fashion. Eideman fell silent and Agas interrupted the questioning with the remark that Eideman would have only himself to blame; that he would be sent to prison where his stubbornness would soon be broken... Some three days later, I was notified during the day that I was urgently required at Lefortovo prison where Agas was expecting me. This was my first time to be at this prison... and what I saw and heard that day at Lefortovo prison surpassed all my expectations. An unimaginable din carried on continuously throughout the prison and from the offices of the investigators could be heard the shouting of officials and - as was easily deduced - the groans and moans of those being beaten... I located Agas' office and found Eideman sitting across the table from him. Next to Agas sat Leplevsky... Dergachev. On the table, in front of Eideman, lay a statement written by him and addressed to the People's Commissar, Yezhov, in which he confessed his participation in the conspiracy and that he was prepared to provide frank testimony.
"A day or two later, I summoned Eideman again for questioning at Lefortovo prison. During this interrogation, however, Eideman conducted himself rather strangely, responding to questions in a rather sluggish if not disconnected fashion, apparently distracted by extraneous thoughts. Hearing the sound of an engine he declaimed, "Aircraft, aircraft." I did not write up the minutes of the interrogation and reported to Agas afterward that Eideman was in a rather strange state and that it was necessary to verify his testimony... After this, Eideman was essentially removed from me and was subsequently interrogated by Agas." On 28 May 1937, the NKVD USSR arrested [Army] Commander 1st Grade, Yakir. In Yezhov's notebook, the following entry is found: "Yakir, upon arriving in Moscow." Next to this phrase stands the word "check," signifying that the assignment had been carried out. On the following day, that is, 29 May 1937, Komandarm [Army Commander] 1st Grade, Uberovich, was arrested at Vyazma station on his way to Moscow. Sent to the internal prison of the NKVD USSR, both Yakir and Uberovich were placed in solitary confinement under secret designation.
After the arrest of Yakir and Uberovich, Stalin signed the following resolution, which was drawn up according to a decision of the Politburo of the TsK VKP(b) on 30 May 1937, and a vote conducted among members and candidate members of the TsK VKP(b) between 30 May - 1 June 1937:
"Confirmed, the following resolution of the Politburo TsK: In view of information which has been received which indicates that member of the TsK VKP, Yakir, and candidate member of the TsK VKP, Uberovich, have participated in a Fascist-Rightist Trotskyist military conspiracy and have engaged in espionage activity on behalf Germany, Japan and Poland, that they be expelled from the ranks of the VKP and their cases be transferred to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs."
The former NKVD USSR official, Soloviev A. F., member of the KPSS since 1918, providing details of the case to the TsK KPSS on 29 November 1962, wrote:
"I personally witnessed the Commander of the UVO [Ukrainian Military District], Yakir, being led to Leplevsky's office. Yakir entered the office dressed in uniform, without shoulder tabs or belt, and with his tunic unbuttoned. He was in a visibly deplorable state and it was obvious that he had been beaten by Leplevsky and his assisstants. Yakir was interrogated some 2-3 hours in Leplevsky's office on this occasion."
In an effort to coerce Yakir into providing false testimony, he was confronted with Kork during interrogation. During this confrontation, which took place on 30 May 1937, Kork maintained that he and Yakir had joined the leadership group of the military conspiracy in 1931. To this, Yakir responded:
"I deny this categorically. I always knew that Kork was a worthless individual, avoiding a more strongly-worded description, but I never thought he would be a simple provocatuer... We did indeed meet once in April of this year at Tukhachevsky's apartment, but nothing was said."
In "working over" Yakir and obtaining false evidence from him, Yezhov played an immediate and direct role. In an incomplete and unsigned statement addressed to Yezhov, found in the case file, Yakir wrote: "On the thirtieth of May, You personally demonstrated with conclusive clarity by means of investigative materials that further denial on my part was completely hopeless... In my testimony, I will relate everything I know regarding the Rightist-Trotskyist conspiracy and individuals connected with it, in order to help smash this despicable organization."
In a signed statement from 31 May 1937, Yakir reported:
"I wish... to assist in hastening the investigation, to relate everything I know about the conspiracy, and to earn myself the right to have the Soviet government believe in my complete disarmament."
Over the next seven days, Ushakov obtained six hand-written letters of testimony from Yakir and drew up two records of interrogation.
On 30 May 1937, a confrontation was carried out between Kork and Uberovich, during which Kork confirmed that Uberovich had joined the Rightist Trotskyist conspiracy in 1931. Objecting to Kork, Uberovich stated flatly:
"I categorically deny this. These are all lies from start to finish... I have never engaged in any conversations with Kork regarding counter-revolutionary organizations..."
It was extremely necessary, however, to obtain false evidence from Uberovich and this evidence was acquired by force. Avseevich, a former official of the Special Section of the NKVD USSR, testified:
"In May 1937, during one of our meetings, the assistant section chief Ushakov reported to Leplevsky that Uberovich did not wish to provide any testimony. Leplevsky ordered Ushakov to use physical coercion against comrade Uberovich."
Soon after, Uberovich signed two statements addressed to Yezhov, in which he confessed his participation in the military conspiracy. He also signed the record of his interrogation acknowledging his guilt.
Stalin was personally occupied with questions concerning the investigation of the military conspiracy on a daily basis, receiving the interrogation records of those who had been arrested, while also meeting Yezhov almost every day. During the period 21 to 28 May, however, he also met with the Deputy People's Commissar of Internal Affairs, Frinovsky, who also played a direct role in the falsification of the charges.
On 30 May 1937, the Politburo TsK VKP(b) reached the following decision:
"Comrades Gamarnik and Aronshtam are hereby removed from their duties in the People's Commissariat of Defense and expelled from the ranks of the Military Council for having been found in close contact with Yakir, who as of today has been from the party his participation in the Fascist military conspiracy."
Gamarnik was at home confined to his bed due to illness at this time. On 31 May 1937, Deputy Chairman of the PU [Political Administration] of the RKKA, Bulin, and the Chief of Administration of the NKO [People;s Commissariat of Defense], Smorodinov, were instructed by Voroshilov to go to Gamarnik's apartment and notify him of his dismissal from the RKKA. After they departed, Gamarnik immediately shot himself. The next day, Pravda and other newspapers published the following announcement:
"On 31 May, fomer member of the TsK VKP(b) Ya. B. Gamarnik, having become entangled with anti-Soviet elements and fearing possible exposure, committed suicide."
Between 1 and 4 June 1937, a report by Voroshilov titled "Concerning the Exposure by the Organs of the NKVD of a Counter-Revolutionary Conspiracy within the RKKA" was discussed in the Kremlin at an enlarged meeting of the Military Council, People's Commissariat of Defense, with the participation of the Politburo of the TsK VKP(b). In addition to the standing members of the Council, some 116 military officials had been invited from the provinces and from the central administration of the NKO. It should also be mentioned that by 1 June 1937, twenty members of the Military Council, that is, one quarter of its membership, had been arrested as "conspirators".
Those participating in the Military Council were only apprised of the testimony of Tukhachevsky, Yakir and other "conspirators" just before the meeting convened. This created a tense atmosphere within the Council from the very first day.
Voroshilov's report, which was heavily dependent upon the false and fabricated testimony provided by those who had been arrested, alleged:
"The People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs has uncovered within the military a long-standing and illegally operating strictly conspiratorial counter-revolutionary fascist organization, which has been led by persons who stood at the top ranks of the army." ...
"That these individuals - Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uberovich and a number of others - maintained close relations was no secret. We knew this. Still, it is a long path from close relations - even close relations such as this - to that of counter-revolution.... Last year, in May, at my apartment and in the presence of Stalin, Molotov and many others, Tukhachevsky accused Budyonny and I of allegedly forming a small group around myself, of directing an entire set policy, and so on...The next day, Tukhachevsky withdrew everything he had said... Comrade Stalin then stated that this private squabbling must cease and that it was necessary to arrange a meeting of the PB [Politburo] in order determine what is going on. And now, at this meeting, we have sorted out all the issues and have arrived at the aforementioned result."
Stalin: He recanted the charges.
Voroshilov: Yes, he recanted, although Yakir and Uberovich were rather aggressive towards me at the meeting. Uberovich remained quiet, but Gamarnik and Yakir were quite rude to me."
In his report, Voroshilov ordered, that "the army be investigated inside and out, right down to the last tack....," while warning beforehand that this purge "may result in a significantly large number of casualties."
Voroshilov continued further:
"I, as People's Commissar... must be frank in saying that not only had I failed to notice these despicable traitors, but even when some of them (Gorbachev, Fel'dman and others) had already begun to be exposed, I did not wish to believe that these people, who seemed above reproach in their duties, were capable of such monstrous crimes. My blame in this is enormous, yet I can not cite a single indication of warning even on your part, comrades... I repeat, no one warned either myself or the TsK of the party even once that counter-revolutionary conspirators were operating in the RKKA... "
On 2 June 1937, Stalin spoke to the Military Council. Alluding to testimony provided by the accused themselves, he drew the conclusion that "a military conspiracy directed against Soviet power, incited and financed by the German Fascists," was operating within the country. He alleged that Trotsky, Rykov, Bukharin, Rudzutak, Karakhan, Yenukidze and Yagoda were the leaders of the political wing, while the military line was led by Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uberovich, Kirk, Eideman and Gamarnik.
"These men comprised the core of the military political conspiracy," stated Stalin, "a central body which had systematic relations with the German Fascists, especially with the German Reichswehr, and which coordinated its activities to the views and orders of the German Fascists."
Stalin was convinced, that of the thirteen leaders of the conspiracy he had named, ten of these individuals - that is, all of them except for Rykov, Bukharin, and Gamarnik - were German spies and that some were also working for Japanese intelligence. Thus, speaking about Tukhachevsky and the other arrested military officials, Stalin declared:
"He handed over our operational plan, our operational plan - our holy of holies - to the German Reichswehr. He met with representatives of the German Reichswehr. A spy? A spy... Yakir systematically informed the German General Staff... Uberovich informed them as well, both along with his friends and comrades, but also individually, on his own. Karakhan was a German spy. Eideman was a German spy. Karakhan started informing the German General Staff from the time he was stationed there as Military Attache."
According to Stalin, Rudzutak, Karakhan and Yenukidze had been recruited by the German-Danish agent Josefina Gensi (Yensen), who was in the employ of the German Reichswehr, and that she also "assisted in recruiting Tukhachevsky." It is obvious now, having examined the materials, that these allegations on the part of Stalin were based on false testimony, which lacked any veracity, and regarding Tukhachevksy in particular, was entirely non-existent.
Making use of the false investigative materials, Stalin spent his speech slandering many Soviet officials, naming them as participants of the military conspiracy, allegedly created by the Reichswehr. Accusing these individuals of sabotage, Stalin declared to the Military Council:
"This is a military-political conspiracy. The German Reichswehr has had its hands in it from the very beginning. I think these people are puppets and marionettes in the hands of the Reichswehr. The Reichswehr wanted an conspiracy in our country and these gentlemen undertook this conspiracy. The Reichswehr wanted these gentlemen to systematically provide them military secrets and these gentlemen reported these military secrets to them. The Reichswehr wanted the existing government to be removed, to be destroyed, and they undertook this business, but they did not succeed. The Reichswehr wanted everything prepared in case of war, that the army would cross over to performing sabotage, so that the army would be unprepared for defense. This is what the Reichswehr wanted and this was the business they were undertaking. These agents, the leading agents of the military political conspiracy in the USSR, consisted of 10 patented secret agents and 3 patented agents provocateurs. These are agents of the German Reichswehr. This is a fundamental fact. This conspiracy, thus, has not so much an internal basis, but rather an external foundation; not so much an internal policy regarding our country, but rather the policy of the German Reichswehr. They wanted to make a second Spain out of Russia and found themselves agents to actively pursue this. These are the circumstances of the case."
Having reported that between 300 and 400 persons had already been arrested on the military front, Stalin made the accusation that the case of military conspiracy "had been bungled," and that "few among the military have been uncovered through our own efforts." He declared, that our intelligence in regards internal matters had been poor and weak, that it was clogged with spies, and that within the Cheka an entire group had been found, which was working for Germany, Japan and Poland.
Having voiced his displeasure over the lack of warning signals from the provinces and demanding such signals, Stalin declared: "Even if only 5% turn out to be true, this is still something to be valued."
Having believed in Stalin and Voroshilov's assertions and accepting the authenticity of the testimony provided by the accused themselves, the participants of the Military Council harshly condemned the "conspirators," while assuring both the party and the government of their unbounded devotion. Still, of the 42 members who had listened to Voroshilov's report, 34 of them were soon arrested as conspirators themselves. These included:
Alksnis Ya. I., Belov I. P., Blyukher V. K., Bokis G. G. , Viktorov M. V., Gailit Ya. P., Grinberg I. M., Griaznov I. K., Dubovoi I. N., Dushenov K. I., Dybenko P. Ye., Yegorov A. I., Zhil'tsov A. I., Kozhanov I. K., Krivoruchko N. N., Kulik G. I., Kuchinsky D. A., Levandovsky M. K., Ludri I. M., Mager M. P., Mezis A. I., Meretskov K. A., Neronov I. G., Okunev G. S., Sedyakin A. I., Sivkov A. K., Slavin I. Ye., Smirnov P. A.. Stepanov M. O., Troianker B. U., Uritsky S. P., Fed'ko I. F., Khripin V. V., Shestakov V. N.1. N. I. Yefimov, Corps Commander and former Head of the Artillery Administration of the RKKA. Executed in 1937. 2. E. F. Appoga, Corps Commander, Department Head of the RKKA General Staff. Executed in 1937.
On 5 June 1937, Stalin received Molotov, Kaganovich and People's Commissar of Interanal Affairs USSR, Yezhov. On that same day, those who undergo trial in the case of the "military conspiracy" were chosen from among the large group military officials who had been arrested in May 1937. Those selected included Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Kork, Uberovich, Eideman and Fel'dman. Primakov and Putna would also be chosen in roder to impart a Trotskyist hue on the proceedings, as both these men shared Trotskyist views until 1927. The individual criminal cases of all of these persons were combined into one large case on 5 June 1937.
On 7 June 1937, Yezhov and Vyshinsky met with Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich and Voroshilov. and the final text of the statement of indictment was issued. On this same day, Budyonny, Shaposhnikov, Belov, Kashirin and Dybenko were approved as auxiliary judges of the Supreme Court of ther USSR by a resolution of the Presidium of the TsIK USSR as part of the trial preparations. Following this, the NKVD took measures to immediately conclude the case of the military conspiracy.On 7 June 1937, Primakov was indicted, followed the next day by Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uberovich, Kork, Fel'dman and Putna according to Articles 58-1 "B", 58-3, 58-4, 58-6, 58-8 and 58-9 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (betrayal of the Motherland, espionage, terror, and so on.)
On 9 June 1937, Vyshinsky and Subotsky, assistant to the Chief Military Prosecutor, subjected the accused to a brief round of questioning. Conducted in the presence of the NKVD investigators, the questions were intended to certify the "authenticity" of the various testimony, which had been provided by the accused. Transcripts of these interviews have been found in Stalin's archives. On the record of Tukhachevsky's interrogation is found the inscription: "To com. Stalin. Yezhov. 9. VI. 1937."
On that same day, 9 June 1937, Subotsky announced to the accused that the investigation had been concluded, but in breach of the provisions of Article 206 of the UPK [Criminal Trial Procedures] RSFSR, he did not present them with a copy of the case nor did he explain to them their right to review the proceedings and to supplement the investigation.
Before the trial, the accused were permitted to address Stalin and Yezhov with statements of penance, in order to create the illusion that this could save their lives. Taking advantage of such a possibility, Yakir wrote on 9 June 1937:
"My dearest comrade Stalin. I dare thus to approach You, as I have told everything, divulged everything, and it now appears to me that I have once again become that honest man, devoted to the party, to the state, and to the land of fighters that I had been for so many years. All my conscious political life has been spent in selfless honest work for the sake of the party and its leaders, which then plunged into the irreparable nightmare and horror of betrayal... The investigation has ended. I have been presented with the charge of state treason. I confess my guilt and declare my utter repentance. I have boundless faith in the prudence and correctness of the decision of both the court and the government... Now, I am honoured by each word I say, when I say I love You, the party and country, with unbounded faith in the victory of Coimmunism."
The following remarks are found on Yakir's statement:
"My archive. St [alin]"; "Scoundrel and prostitute. I. St [alin]"; "An absolutely accurate desription. K. Vorishilov."; "Molotov". "Bastard, swine and whore. There is but one punishment - death. L. Kaganovich."
On 9 June 1937, the day that the investigation into the military conspiracy concluded, Vyshinsky was received twice by Stalin. Both Molotov and Voroshilov were present during the second visit, which took place at 10:45 in the evening. On that same day, Vyshinsky signed the statementof indictment regarding the case.
The statement of indictment confirmed that during April and May 1937, the organs of the NKVD had uncovered and eliminated a Trotskyist military conspiracy in Moscow. The central leadership of this conspiracy included Gamarnik, Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uberovich, Kork, Eideman and Fel'dman. The military Trotskyist organization, into which all of the accused in the case had entered, was formed in 1932-1933 under the direct instructions of Trotsky and the German General Staff and was linked with the Trotskyist center and with the Rightist group of Bukharin and Rykov. The organization was engaged in sabotage, wrecking, terrorism and prepared for the overthrow of the government and the seizrue of power with the intention of restoring captialism. The charges were in accordance with Articles 58-16, 58-8 and 58-11 of the UK [Criminal Code] RFSFR. In so doing, State Prosecutor Vyshinsky failed to consider the fact that Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uberovich and the four other detainees had not been presented with this charge.
Following Vyshinsky, Stalin met with Molotov, Yezhov and Mekhlis, the editor of Pravda, at 11:30 in the evening. On 11 June 1937, Pravda published a report announcing the conclusion of the investigation of Tukhachevsky and the others and their impending trial. As stated in the report, they were accused of "breaching their military duty, betrayal of the Motherland, betrayal of the peoples of the USSR, and betrayal of the Workers-Peasants Red Army."
On 10 June 1937, an Extraordinary Plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR listened to a report by Vyshinsky regarding the charges leveled against Tukhachevsky and the others. The Plenum decreed that the case be heard by a Special Judicial Session of the Supreme Court of the USSR composed of Ulrikh, Alksnis, Bluykher, Budyonny, Shaposhnikov, Belov, Dybenko, Kashirin and Goryachev.
The initiative for convening a special military court to hear the case of Tukhachevsky and the others and the decision to employ well-known military officials as members of the court lay with Stalin himself. The selection of these officials was not accidental. All of them were members of the Military Council of the Commissariat of Defense, and had attended the June meeting of the Council where, in Stalin's presence, they sharply condemned Tukhachevsky, Yakir and Uberovich as "conspirators". Zaryanov, a former member of the Military Collegiate of the Supreme Court of the USSR, who took part in the trial against Tukhachevsky as Secretary of the Court, writes:
"In conversation with Ulrikh, I was led to believe that the Special Session, which was composed entirely of marshals and komandarms [army commanders], had been created solely on Stalin's initiative. In creating this special military court, Stalin had the goal of raising its authority while evincing the correctness of its verdict."
On 10 June 1937, a preparatory meeting of the Special Judicial Session of the Surpeme Court of the USSR took place, which confirmed the statement of indictment compiled by Vyshinsky and handed over Tukhachevsky and the others for trial.
On that same day, all of the accused were presented with copies of the statement of indictment by the Secretary of the Court, while Leplevsky, Chief of the Special Section NKVD, signed the security and order protocals for the judicial session and presented it to Yezhov.
The squeezing of testimony from the accused carried on so far that even after Tukhachevsky and the others had been transferred to the court, investigators still demanded additional evidence from them against various military commanders, especially against the very judges of the Special Judicial Session itself. Thus, on 10 June 1937, testimony was obtained from Primakov, which compromised three members of the court: Komandarms Kashirin, Dybenko and Shaposhnikov. Regarding Kashirin, Primakov testified:
"In the fall of 1934, when in Moscow, Fel'dman got me into touch with Alafuzo, who told me at one and the same time that both Kozitsky and Kashirin were taking part in the conspiracy."
Avseevich, who interrogated Primakov, reported:
"During the last phase of the investigation, Leplevsky summoned Primakov to his office, and presented him with an entire list of prominent Soviet army commanders, none of whom had been mentioned in Primakov's earlier testimony. Primakov now offered to write something regarding each of them on behalf of Yezhov... Thus arose testimony against Kashirin, Dybenko, Gamarnik, Kuibyshev, Gryaznov, Uritsky, Vasil'ev and others... All this slanderous testimony, compiled by Primakov and the others at that time, was utter speculation, which had been brought about by the violation of the most elemental standards of legality - both in regards the conduct of the case and that of the court itself. Within the NKVD at that time, it was known among us officials that Stalin controlled the leadership of the NKVD and that Yezhov would by-bass the TsK VKP(b), reporting only to Stalin and obeying only his orders. This system of personal subordination to Stalin within the NKVD continued under Beria and Abakumov. Everything done within the organs of the NKVD was connected with the name of Stalin."
Not long before the judicial trial began, an operational meeting took place within the Special Section of the NKVD USSR, at which Leplevsky gave instructions to the investigators to prevail upon their charges to maintain their testimony during trial and to convince them that doing so may alleviate their fate. The investigators who had fabricated the case, led their prisoners to the court, sat with them in the waiting rooms and were situated in the hall of the court. Concerning these preparations, Avseevich has testified:
"As for the preparations involving the judicial trial against Tukhachevsky, Primakov and the others, an operational meeting was summoned upon the conclusion of the investigation. This occurred two days before the trial. At the meeting, Leplevsky gave instructions to all those who had taken part in the investigation to speak with their charges once again, and to convince them to maintain their testiony while in court. The day before the trial began, I sat down with Primakov, and he promiseed me that he would maintain his testimony during the trial. Other officials from the Section spoke with other members of the accused. In addition, we were ordered to conduct the accused to court, sit beside them in the waiting hall.... I wish to report further that right prior to the trial session commencing, I was ordered by Leplevsky to acquaint Primakov with the contents of his testimony."
In his subsequent explanations, Avseevich has written:
"On the eve of the trial, the accused were summoned by Leplevsky, who announced that the trial would begin the next day and that their conduct in the court would determine their fate."
"Immediately before the trial began, Primakov was summoned by Yezhov and queried as to how he planned to conduct himself in court. He was then urged to maintain the testimony he had given the investigators beforehand. Primakov promised Yezhov he would expose the conspirators to the very end."
The former NKVD official, Karpeisky, has also provided testimony concerning the trial preparations.
On 11 June 1937, the Special Judicial Session of the Supreme Court of the USSR in Moscow examined the charges against Tukhachevsky and the others in a closed hearing. After reading out the statement of indictment, all the defendants confessed their guilt when queried by the chairman of the court. They would subsequently fulfill the demands placed upon them by their NKVD investigators, essentially maintaining the testimony they had given beforehand.
The following excerpts may give an idea of the trial proceedings.
In his speech to the court, Yakir adhered to the plans of the trial organizers and provided the framework for the other defendants in exposing the intrigues of Trotsky and the Fascist governments against the USSR, while stressing Tukhachevsky's role in the conspiracy whenever possible.
When Bluykher, however, attempted to obtain a concrete accounting of how the Red Air Force was to be sabotaged in a coming war, Yakir responded, "I am unable to tell you anything beyond that provided to the investigation."
When the Chairman of the Court inquired about the specifics involved in his attempt to sabotage military preparedness, Yakir announced evasively, "I have addressed this in a special letter."
Tukhachevsky and Uberovich were examined by the court by means of simple questions and answers. In the process, they were repeatedly interrupted by Ulrikh, who would add his own comments and remarks. Tukhachevsky failed to maintain some of the charges that had been leveled against him. When Uberovich started to deny the charges of sabotage and espionage, the court suspended his examination and called a recess. When the preceedings resumed an hour later, they crossed over to the examination of the other defendants.
The investigators had placed great hopes on Kork's testimony and had painstakingly prepared him for the trial. As a result, he was permitted to deliver a lengthy speech "unmasking" the conspiracy, which filled some 20 pages in the stenographic record. The subsequent examinations of Eideman, Putna and Primakov were alse conducted in question and answer format, with Eideman asked a total of no more than three questions.
As with Kork, the investigators had also placed their "hopes" on Fel'dman. Prior to his examination, Fel'dman appealed to the court with the following request:
"I would request, cit. [izen] Chairman, that I be allowed to give a brief account (I shall not detain your attention for long) regarding those things known to me as a member of the center and those things which I have done. I believe that this will be of assistance to the court as well to those commanders who are in attendance."
Permission was naturally granted and Fel'dman's subsequent speech filled some 12 pages of the stenographic record.
During the trial, the circumstances of the case were subjected to an extremely superficial and incomplete examination, while the questions directed to the defenadants were tendentious and leading in nature. The court not only ignored contradictions present in the defendants' testimony, regarding when the conspiracy was formed, when the defendants had entered it, who comprised the central leadership, and the nature of their conspiratorial activities, but also covered up these contradictions as is clear in the following section.
The court did not demand any objective documentary evidence and testimony, which should have been required in order to assess the veracity of the charges, nor did it summon any expert witnesses to examine the case.
The entire proceedings concerning the trial of Tukhachevsky and the others was recorded by stenograph However, the stenographic record was proof read and corrected by the same NKVD officials who had carried out the investigation, in particular, the fasifier of the case, Ushakov-Ushamirsky. This explains the numerous distortions in testimony that is met with in the stenographic record. One of the court stenographers, Timofeeva, member of the KPSS from 1938, when comparing her authentic stenographic notes with the decoded text, explained to the Party Commission of the TsK KPSS in 1962, that:
"I worked as a stenographer during the trial of Tukhachevsky and the others... In Volume 15, page 154, of the official corrected stenographic record, the word "Japanese" had been added to the phrase "General Staff," resulting in an apparent confession on the part of Tukhachevsky during his final words to court that he had been in contact with the Japanese General Staff. In actual fact, this was a falsification committed by persons unknown, as the stenographic record of the proceedings, which I had written, made no mention such connections on the part of Tukhachevsky, nor did he in fact say them...
On page 144 in the same volume of the stenographic record, it states that Eideman told the court: "Although it is true to say that the information I handed over was not all that valuable in comparison to that which Tukhachevsky and the others had given to the Germans, Japanese and Poles, nevertheless, I must confess that I was engaged in espionage, as this information was secret." This was also a falsification as the stenographic record which I had taken down has Eideman stating on page 133, that "Although it is true to say that if I am asked about this, then yes, these are state crimes...a crime involving trivial information, neverthelss, it is a crime - state betrayal, and should be named as such."
In presenting their final remarks to the court, the defendants continued to slander themselves, while swearing love and devotion to the Motherland, the party and Stalin.
Their fate, of course, had been decided in advance. The former Secretary of the Court, Zaryanov, reports:
"Ulrikh told me that he had kept I. V. Stalin informed about the course of the proceedings. He stated he had received instructions from Stalin that all the defendants were to receive the highest measure of punishment - execution."
Zaryanov's remarks are supported by the visitor registration record [of the Kremlin - skoblin], which shows Stalin receiving Ulrikh on 11 June 1937.From the accompanying notes it is obvious that Molotov, Kaganovich and Yezhov had also been in attendence.
On the same day of the trial, Stalin directed the following instructions to the various republics, territories and regions:
"To the national TsKs, kraikoms [territorial committees - skoblin] and obkoms [regional committees - skoblin]. In connection with the ongoing trial against the spies and saboteurs Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uberovich and the others, the TsK suggests that you organize workers' meetings, and where possible meetings among peasants and red army units as well, and put forward the proposal that the most severe method of punishment is required. The trial is to be concluded this evening. A report of the sentencing is to be published tomorrow, that is the twelfth of June. 11.VI.1937. Secretary TsK. Stalin."
At 11:35 in the evening on 11 June 1937, Chairman Ulrikh announced the verdict, sentencing all eight defendants to be executed, along with the confiscation of all personal possessions and the deprivation of all ranks that had been conferred.
During the night of June 12, Ulrikh signed orders for the Commandant of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR, Ignatiev, to conduct the immediate execution of Tukhachevsky and the other condemned as determined by sentencing. The execution order was signed by Vyshinsky, Ulrikh, Tsesarsky, Ignatiev and NKVD Commendant, Blokhin, who had all attended the execution.
After the trial, Budyonny presented Stalin an account of his impressions of the proceedings on 26 June 1937. In it he wrote:
"From the very beginning of the proceedings, while the statement of indictment was being read aloud and during the presentation of testimony by the other defendants, Tukhachevsky would shake his head, as if telling the court, the investigation and everyone else that everything written in the statement of indictment was essentially false and did not correspond to the facts. In other words, he struck the pose of an aggrieved man, neither comprehending nor deserving that which was taking place, although outwardly he gave the impression of being very confused and frightened. It is obvious, that he did not reckon on such a swift unmasking and elimination of the organization nor such a swift investigation and trial... During the proceedings, Yakir dwellt on the essential aspect of the conspiracy, which consisted of restoring capitalism in our country on the basis of a fascist dictatorship...
In subsequent speeches given by the defendants, they all essentially adhered to the basic framework supplied by Yakir in his speech.
In his own speech, Tukhachevsky initially attempted to refute the testimony he had given during the preliminary investigation. Tukhachevsky began by stating that until Hilter's fascist revolution had occured in Germany, the Red Army had been prepared to meet the Poles and was capable of defeating the Polish state. Upon Hitler's rise to power, however, Germany entered into a bloc with Poland and expanded from 32 divisions to 103 divisions. The Red Army, in comparison to the German and Polish armies had some 60 to 62 fewer divisions... Tukhachevsky, as if presenting an official report, attempted to popularise the idea to those in attendance, that he had foreseen everything, and had attempted to demonstrate to the government that this situation would lead the country to defeat, but that no one had allegedly listened to him. Com. Ulrikh, however, on the advice of several members of the Special Session, interrupted Tukhachevsky and asked him to reconcile this explanation with the testimony he had given to the preliminary investigation, and specifically, with his testimony that he had been in contact with the German General Staff and had been working as a German agent since 1925. Tukhachevsky declared that, although he could be considered a spy, in actual fact he had given German intelligence no information whatsoever...
Uberovich's speech conformed to that given by Yakir...
Kork testified that he was apprised of everything, and that the leadership of the Fascist counter-revolutionary military organization viewed its connections with Trostsky and the Rightists as a temporary phenomenon. Eideman was unable to tell the court anything... Putna, this patented secret agent and confirmed Trotskyist, testified that, while being a member of this organization and always adhering to the principle of working honestly for the conspirators, nevertheless alleged that he did not believe in the correctness of their actions... Primakov maintained a courageous demeanour during the trial more than the rest... He persistently denied that he had led a terrorist group consisting of Shmidt, Kuz'michev and others directed against the person of com. Voroshilov.... Fel'dman testified in the same fashion, as did Kork."
In describing the last words of the defendants, Budyonny remarked that Yakir, Uberovich, Putna, and Fel'dman stated that they had confessed and repented "within the walls of the NKVD."
Upon the conclusion of his report to Stalin, Budyonny remarked:
"1. ... in an attempt to conceal their espionage and counter-revolutionary activities prior to 1934, the defendants, who had been exposed by Kork in this regard, tried to make Kork out as a liar and a confused individual. 2. All the defendants attempted to conceal Gamarnik's participation in the conspiracy in no uncertain terms... 3. ...Although the defendants stated that they did not succeed in handing over their defeatist plan to the German General Staff, I believe that their plan to defeat the red armies, while not necessarily detailed, was neverthless turned over to German intelligence."
Belov, another member of the military court, wrote to Voroshilov on 14 July 1937:
"Bourgeois morality, interpreting everything in its own fashion, states "the eyes are the windows of the soul." After witnessing the proceedings of this trial, I was able to satisfy myself of the falsity of this expression more than any other time during my entire life. Nothing in the eyes of this entire gang could convey anything which would allow one to discern the boundless villainy of those defendants who sat in the dock. They shared a common countenance... something unnatural. The stamp of death already lay on all their faces. On the whole, they had a sallow look about them... Tukhachevsky attempted to maintain his "aristocratic bearing" and his superiority over the others... He tried to show off his broad operational and tactical insight. He attempted to prevail upon the feelings of the judges, by recalling past comradely endeavours and the good relations he had held with the majority of the members of the court. He also tried to steer the court towards considering his positive qualities, while reducing his traitorous activity to trivialities...
Uberovich was more unnerved than the first two. He appeared in a civilian suit, without tie or collar, a tramp...
Kork, although also dressed in a civilian suit, always maintained a soldier's demeanour... Fel'dman strove for complete sincerity. Rebuking his defendants -in-arms in the trial for lacking the courage to call things by their proper name, he stated that they had been engaged in the most common form of espionage yet they wished to interpret this as legal relations with foreign officers. Eideman. This man was the most pitiable of them all. Weakened by defeat, he walked with an unsteady gait. He did not speak, but prattled on incessantly in a confused and halting voice. Primakov seemed to have become seriously thin, and displayed a deafness which he had not had earlier. He carried himself with confidence... Putna had not lost nearly as much weight, but the usual confidence in his voice was missing...
All their final words were spoken in brief, except for Kork and Fel'dman, both of whom pleaded for mercy. Fel'dman even went so far to state, "Where indeed lay concern for the living, if pardon and forgiveness are not given." The rest all stated that death was little for such serious crimes... They swore their love for the Motherland, for the party, and for the leader of peoples, com. Stalin...
General impression regarding the condemned: 1. None of them were entirely truthful and they have taken much with them to the grave. 2. All of them nursed the hope that they would be forgiven; hence their verbal declarations of love for the Motherland, the party and com. Stalin."
As for the conduct of Tukhachevsky, Yakir and the others upon their execution, Todorsky, member of the KPSS since 1918, reported:
"Several days after the execution, the People's Commissar of Defense, K. Ye. Voroshilov, told us...that during the execution the doomed comrades cried out" "Long live Stalin!", "Long live Communism!". Now that these inccoruptible men have been fully rehabilitated within both the ranks of the party and that of the government, we take cognizance of the fact that these men, while staring an underserved death square in the face, found in themselves the strength of spirit to declare that they were dying as communists."
After the execution of Tukhachevsky and the others, Stalin ordered that assemblies and meetings be conducted everywhere in order to set public opinion against these men. Reports of the verdict and the executions were published in the newspapers and broadcast in the army on Voroshilov's orders. All of this resulted in disinformation of the facts among the party organs, military organizations and the soviet public concerning the case, while the role of the NKVD in the country was extolled and praised. Soon after the Tukhachevsky trial concluded, a large number of NKVD officials, led by Yezhov, were awarded with medals.
3. Ya. E. Rudzutak, Member of the Central Committee. Executed in 1938.
4. A. S. Yenukidze, Member of the Central Committee. Executed in 1938.
5. L. L. Sedov. Son of Leon Trotsky. Murder in Paris by Stalinist agents in 1938.
6. S. S. Kamenev. Soviet military leader. Died in 1936.
7. L. M. Karakhan. Soviet diplomat. Executed in 1937.
8. G. L. Pyatakov. Member of the Central Committee. Executed in 1937.
9. I. N. Smirnov. Former Trotskyist. Executed in 1936.
10. G. G. Yagoda. Former head of the NKVD. Executed in 1938.
11. G. A. Osepian. Army Commissar, 2nd Rank. Executed in 1937.
12. I. R. Apansenko. RKKA Commander. Killed in action in 1943.
13. OSOAVIAKHIM. Soviet paramilitary organization: Voluntary Society of Assistance to the Army, Air Force and the Navy..
14. M. Fishman. Head of the RKKA Chemical Administration..
15. A. M. Vol'pe. Red Army instructor. Executed in 1937.
16. Belitsky. Former NKVD official.
17. G. K. Voskanov, Corps Commander. Executed in 1937.
Next section: III. Analysis of the materials involved in the investigation and the trial.