Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

By Nathan C. Leites; Elsa Bernaut | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 24 Contradictions

A defendant might introduce into his testimony contradictions--which he would not point out--to convey its falsity.1*

For the same reason, a defendant might allow a contradiction introduced by Vishinsky to stand. Bessonov said he had seen abroad Maslov, the leader of the Trudovaia Krest'ianskaia Partiia:

BESSONOV: He . . . said that he had sources of financial aid among Polish, Rumanian and Yugoslavian circles. . . .

VISHINSKY: . . . Maslov . . . and his organization were maintained by . . . bourgeois circles--Polish, Rumanian and Bulgarian?

BESSONOV: Yes.2

A defendant might minimize the significance of admitted contradictions in the trial, in the same way that he might minimize the importance of details or his qualifications of his own admissions.3 He might then hope that he would be understood in the opposite of what he was saying. Thus Rykov hinted at the non-existence of the conspiracy by describing it as:

". . . a very secret conspiratorial organization, so secret that . . . I cannot, nor can any of the members the Center, reproduce the whole picture. . . . Here certain discrepancies in the evidence of individual leaders of the organization are possible. It seems to me that these discrepancies are of no great moment."45*

A defendant might, covertly or overtly, point to the incompatibility between what he alleged about himself and the credibility of his testimony. Thus Evdokimov explained in his last plea:

"Who will believe a single word of ours? . . . Who will believe us, who played so detestable a comedy at the fresh grave of Kirov whom we had killed; who will believe us, who only by accident, not through any fault of our own, did not become the assassins of Stalin and other leaders of the people? Who will believe us, who are facing the Court as a counter-revolutionary gang of bandits, as allies of fascism, of the Gestapo?"6

Khodjayev also said this:

KHODJAYEV: . . . it is hard for me to speak now because I have no witnesses.

VISHINSKY: Ikramov is a witness.

KHODJAYEV: Ikramov will deny it. I ask you to believe me; of course, I cannot be believed either, because I figure in such a position.7

-314-

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