Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

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

On December 17, 1953, Moscow announced the criminal indictment of L. P. Beria and six high police officials. Three of the defendants ( V. G. Dekanozov, B. Z. Kobulov, S. A. Goglidze) had occupied positions both in Georgia and at the center, while three others ( V. N. Merkulov, P. Y. Meshik, L. E. Vlodzimirsky) were described only by their Moscow past. The defendants thus form a homogeneous group, in contrast to the "amalgams" of all previous trials studied above. The announcement said that the seven would be tried at a special session of the Supreme Court of the USSR in accordance with the law issued on the day of Kirov's murder, December 1, 1934, which provided for a procedure in camera.

On December 24, 1953, Moscow released a statement concerning the alleged trial (December 18-23) of the seven. This statement described the court as being composed of two military figures ( Marshal I. S. Konev, the President, and General K. S. Moskalenko), two high Party figures ( N. M. Shvernik and N. A. Mikhailov), one high policy official ( K. F. Lunev), one high Georgian official ( M. I. Kuchava), and two judges ( E. L. Zeidin and L. A. Gromov). According to the indictment, all of the defendants had, in the preliminary investigation, "admitted their guilt in committing a series of most serious crimes against the state." And according to the verdict

"The defendants confirmed on trial the confessions which they had made in the preliminary investigation and admitted their guilt in committing a series of most serious crimes."

All the defendants were condemned to death, without the right of appeal. According to a second communiqué, the judgment was executed on December 23, the day of the verdict.

The liquidation of the Beria group adds another variant of Bolshevik trials of Bolshevik leaders to those already mentioned in this study (cf. pp. 381- 382). All of the trials we have analyzed were public, with the exception of the Prague trial of November, 1952, which was secret but recorded; and many, though not all, of the words spoken at that trial were subsequently played over the radio. We have also noted certain alleged trials--such as that of Yenukidze and others--for which no proceedings were disclosed and whose published indictments and verdicts were brief. In the case of the Beria group,

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