Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

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

CHAPTER 26 Playing with the Truth

A number of devices of veiled launguage--adopted, for different reasons, both by the prosecution and the defendants--have in common the fact that they present something near to the truth.

The truth could be presented as a conspiratorial pretense. The indictment in the trial of December 28-29, 1934, said about Nikolayev, Kirov's assassin and one of the defendants:

"With the object of . . . concealing his accomplices and . . . masking the true motives for the murder of Comrade Kirov, the accused Nikolayev prepared several documents (a diary, statements addressed to various institutions, etc.), in which he endeavored to portray his crime as a personal act of desperation and dissatisfaction arising out of his straightened material circumstances and as a protest against 'the unjust attitude of certain members of the government towards a live person.'"1

These were probably the motivations of Nikolayev.

The indictment in the first trial quoted a statement by Reingold in the preliminary investigation:

"In 1933-34 Zinoviev told me . . . '. . . If accused of terroristic activities, you must emphatically deny it and argue that terror is incompatible with the views of Bolsheviks-Marxists.'"2

And in his speech for the prosecution in this trial Vishinsky mentioned an alleged statement by Zinoviev quoted in the preliminary investigation:

"The main thing during an investigation . . . is to deny all connection with organization, arguing that terror is incompatible with the views of Bolsheviks- Marxists."3

This, again, presumably renders correctly the views of the major defendants in the first trial.

According to Pickel, the conspirators forced Zinoviev's secretary, Bogdan, to commit suicide when he showed himself to be an unwilling terrorist:

" Bogdan took his own life and, as he had been instructed, left a note making it appear that he was the victim of the Party cleansing."4

This is presumably what he was.

Radek talked about the line in Trotsky's alleged letter of April 1934, predicting a German-Japanese attack on, and victory over, the Soviet Union:

". . . the new feature was--although this, far from being the essence of the

-321-

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