Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

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

CHAPTER 5 The Unimportance of Emotional Relief

According to (the usually implicit) Bolshevik ethical doctrine, a Bolshevik ought to regard himself entirely as an instrument of the Party. It is sinful to undertake any act aimed at the enhancement of pleasure or the reduction of pain in oneself, unless it can be shown as necessary for the maximization of one's effectiveness as a tool of the Party.

Hence, it was mainly the defendants who were not old Bolsheviks who presented their conduct in court as a means of obtaining immediate relief from subjective distress. Thus an engineer, Pushin, said in his last plea:

"I have not concealed anything from the court, desiring . . . to give an outlet to the agonizing feeling of my guilt . . . which found vent in frank confession."1

A physician, Dr. Kazakov, said at the third trial, about his alleged medical murders:

". . . this nightmare was haunting me and I have been waiting for the occasion when I could rid myself of it. The Court now represents the occasion for me . . . first of all, when I can obtain inner relief from the consciousness of the crime which I committed."2

The counsel of another alleged medical murderer, Dr. Levin, quoted from a prison letter written by Levin to Yezhov, the head of the NKVD:

". . . the . . . memory of my . . . crimes burdened my soul like a rock. Now . . . having related all that has taken place in my mind, I have felt a profound relief."3

On the other hand, Radek affirmed in his last plea:

"I have admitted my guilt and I have given full testimony concerning it, not from the . . . necessity of repentance--repentance may be an internal state of mind which one need not necessarily share with or reveal to anybody . . . but . . . from motives of the general benefit that this truth must bring."4

And Krestinsky, in his last words:

". . . I considered that in the dock I must answer for my . . . actions, and not indulge in repentance."56*

-82-

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