Yagoda Henry Grigoryevich, head of the NKVD: biography

Heinrich Yagoda was a People's Commissar for Internal Affairs of the USSR in 1934-1936. He became one of the "founding fathers" of Stalin's GULAG and the organizer of mass repressions of that period. During the Great Terror he himself was among the victims of the NKVD. Yagoda was accused of espionage and preparing a coup d'état and was eventually shot.

early years

Henry Jagoda came from Polish Jews. His real name is Enoch Hershevich Yehuda. The revolutionary was born on November 19, 1891 in Rybinsk, a city located in Yaroslavl province. A few months after the birth of the child, the family moved to Nizhny Novgorod.

Yagoda Henry Grigorievich was a relative of another famous Bolshevik - Yakov Sverdlov, who was his second cousin. Their fathers worked as typographers and made prints and stamps, which the revolutionaries used when forging documents. Heinrich had five sisters and two brothers. His family lived poorly. Nevertheless, the boy (after another move) graduated from Simbirsk Gymnasium.

In the printing house of Yagoda-Sverdlov there were Bolsheviks of very different caliber. For example, Nikolai Semashko, the future Leninist People's Commissar of Health, visited him. Nizhny Novgorod was also the birthplace of Maxim Gorky (they made friends with Henry on the eve of the revolution).


The key event, after which the boy's life changed radically, was the murder of his elder brother Mikhail. In this sense, Yagoda Henry Grigorievich was like Lenin. Mikhail was slaughtered by the Cossacks during the 1905 revolution. A sad fate awaited another brother, Leo. He was drafted into the army of Kolchak, and in 1919 he was shot for participating in the uprising in his regiment. But it was the death of Michael, who happened to be on the barricades, made Henry a revolutionary.

Growing up, Yagoda as an anarchist communist began to participate in illegal revolutionary activity. The tsar's gendarmes nicknamed him "Sychom" and "Lonely" (for a harassed and unsociable species).

In 1911 the revolutionary arrived in Moscow. On the instructions of his comrades, he had to establish contacts with local like-minded people and help in organizing the bank robbery. Inexperienced in conspiracy, the future People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR, fell into the hands of the police. In a sense, he was lucky. A suspicious young man found only false documents. As a Jew, he, finding himself without permission in Moscow, violated the law on the Pale of Settlement. Yagoda was tried and sentenced to a two-year exile in Simbirsk.

In Petersburg

In 1913, in honor of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in Russia, a broad political amnesty was declared. Thanks to her, Yagoda, a little earlier than he was, was free. The link to Simbirsk is over, and the revolutionary has already legally moved to St. Petersburg. To this end, he formally renounced Judaism and moved to Orthodoxy (the Pale of Settlement acted on a confessional rather than a national basis).

Yagoda Henry Grigorievich and religion had nothing in common. Nevertheless, according to the law, he did not have the right to be considered an atheist and only therefore moved to the bosom of the Orthodox Church.

In St. Petersburg, Yagoda met Nikolai Podvoisky, after the revolution became the first People's Commissar of the Armed Forces. Thanks to his help, the revolutionary began to work in the insurance department at the Putilov factory. Podvoisky was also the brother-in-law of Chekists Arbuzov and Kedrov: he opened his protege a whole new world of possibilities.

In 1915 Yagoda Henry Grigorievich was drafted into the tsarist army, after which he went to the front of the First World War. He rose to the rank of corporal, but was wounded and soon demobilized. In 1916, Henry returned to Petrograd.

Revolution and the Cheka

After the February Revolution Yagoda worked in the newspapers "Rural Poor" and "Soldiers' Truth". In the summer of 1917 he joined the Bolshevik Party. Later he would lie, that he joined them in 1907, but this invention was refuted by the studies of historians.

During the October events, Yagoda was in the thick of events in Petrograd. In 1918 he began his career in the Cheka-OGPU. First, the Chekist worked in the military inspection. Then the relative Sverdlov and Dzerzhinsky transferred him to Moscow.

So Yagoda Henry Grigorievich got to the Special Department. He was especially close to Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. When Dzerzhinsky died, the latter headed the Cheka-OGPU, and Yagoda became his deputy. Moreover, with the beginning of the illness of the chief a successful careerist began to actually manage the power department.

Doubtful earnings

Back in 1919-1920 years. Yagoda managed to work in the People's Commissariat of Foreign Trade. There he established a profitable cooperation with a security officer Alexander Lurie and began to earn commissions from foreign concessions. These two took everything that lay there badly. The point was that the commissariat of foreign trade from the very beginning was closely connected with the Cheka. State security bodies confiscated valuables, and the Lurie department sold this good abroad for currency.

Yagoda Henry Grigorievich, whose biography speaks of him as a deeply greedy and greedy person, in this sense was noticeably different from the principled Dzerzhinsky and Menzhinsky. Corruption of the Chekist liked Stalin. When he at the turn of the 20-30-ies. Fought for individual power, he enlisted the support of Berry. Neither one nor the other has not lost. Yagoda bet on a man who eventually became a dictator, and Stalin, knowing about Yagoda's fraudulent reputation, could now blackmail one by demanding loyalty.

Leader and People's Commissar

Despite the devotion of a subordinate to the Soviet leader, their relationship can hardly be called ideal. In the late 1920s, Stalin was generally quite cold towards Yagoda, as protection was provided by Yakov Sverdlov, and between Sverdlov and Stalin, even strangers from the time of the Turukhan exile felt noticeable tension. The Chekist papers were drafted with caution, if not with fear.

A serious problem for Yagoda after the establishment of Stalin's dictatorship was his old friendship with Bukharin. He even mentioned the head of the OGPU as the only Chekist, whom you can count on in the fight against Stalin. At the same time, Yagoda was noted for her irrepressibility in the execution of orders, diligence and behavior of the consonant for any crime of the executioner. Stalin found another as energetic and executive person in the NKVD only a few years later. It was Nikolai Ezhov. But at the beginning of the thirties Stalin inevitably tolerated Yagoda and built work with him.

People's Commissar for Internal Affairs

Yagoda lacked the erudition of Menzhinsky and the fanaticism of Dzerzhinsky. He himself modestly once described himself as a "watchdog on the chain". In a friendly company during the abundant libations he liked to recklessly recite poetry, but in his work he lacked creative talent. Private letters Berries were saturated with inexpressiveness and dryness. In the capital, he turned out to be an awkward provincial and always envied party figures, distinguished by greater looseness and emancipation. But it was precisely such a man that Stalin, for a time, directed the chekists of the whole country.

In 1934 a new People's Commissariat of the NKVD was created, and the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs of the USSR Yagoda also received control over the Main Directorate of State Security. He led an even more overgrown repressive state machine, which Stalin was preparing for new campaigns to fight opponents of his regime.

In a new capacity, Yagoda engaged in the creation and organization of the work of the Gulag. The Soviet Union for a short time covered the network of camps, which became an important part of the Stalinist economic system and one of the engines of forced industrialization. Under the direct leadership of the People's Commissar, the main Gulag building of that time was erected - the erection of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. For the ideologically correct coverage of events, Yagoda organized the trip there Maxim Gorky. By the way, it was the People's Commissar who contributed to the return of the writer to the USSR (he had lived on the Italian island of Capri for several years before that).

On this relationship Berries with the writing shop did not end there. As head of the political police, he certainly followed the loyalty of the creative intelligentsia to power. In addition, Ida's wife was Ida Leonidovna Averbakh. Her brother Leopold was one of the most replicated critics and writers of his time. Ida and Henry had one son - also Henry (or Garik, as he was called in the family). The boy was born in 1929. The People's Commissar loved the company of writers, musicians and artists. They drank good spirits, communicated with beautiful women, that is, led the way of life the chekist dreamed about.

Yagoda also had professional failures. For example, it was he who allowed the former head of the tsarist police Lopukhin to go to France. He became a defector. In the 1920s and 1930s the number of deserters steadily increased. Stalin literally every instance infuriated. He reproached Yagoda for his inattention, even if the fugitive did not possess any special knowledge and was an ordinary intellectual.

Approximation of danger

In 1935, Yagoda received a new title, which had not yet been appropriated to anyone. Now he was known as the "General Commissioner of State Security". Such an exclusive privilege became a sign of a special Stalinist favor.

The Soviet leader just as ever needed the services of a dedicated NKVD head. In 1936, the first Moscow trial was held. At this exemplary trial, Stalin's longtime comrades in the Bolshevik Party Zinoviev and Kamenev were tried.

Other revolutionaries also fell under the pressure of repressions, who at one time worked directly with Lenin and did not treat their persecutors as indisputable authority. One of these people was Mikhail Tomsky. He did not wait for the trial and committed suicide. In a note sent to Stalin, he mentioned Yagoda in the sense that he also belonged to the party opposition, over which the massacres were committed. The People's Commissar was in mortal danger.


In the fall of 1936, Yagoda received a new appointment and became head of the People's Commissariat of Communications. The last blow on him was postponed. Opal turned into a long agonizing wait. Although outwardly the removal from the post of the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs and the appointment to another post looked like an episode of a successful career, hardly Yagoda could not fail to understand what everything was going on. Nevertheless, he did not dare to refuse to Stalin and agreed to a new job.

In the Commissariat of Communications, the disgraced Chekist stayed a little. Already in early 1937, he lost this post. Moreover, the unlucky People's Commissar expelled the VKP (b) from its ranks. At the February plenum of the Central Committee he was severely criticized for the failure of his department.

On March 28, Yagoda was arrested by his most recent subordinates. An attack on the yesterday's uncivilized powerless man was led by a new NKVD People's Commissar, Nikolai Yezhov. These two, despite their own antagonism, became figures of the same rank for history. It was Yezhov and Yagoda who were the direct executors of the large-scale Stalinist repressions of the 1930s.

During the search of the fired people's commissar, they found a banned Trotskyite literature. Soon there was an accusation of espionage, preparing an attempt on Stalin, planning a coup d'état. The investigation linked Yagoda with Trotsky, Rykov and Bukharin, the same people whose persecution he had recently actively promoted. The plot was described as "Trotskyite-Fascist". Yagoda's longstanding colleagues Yagov Agranov, Semyon Firin, Leonid Zakovski, Stanislav Redens, Fedor Eichmans, etc., joined the accusations, all of them characterized the untried and limited person who was untried as a person and counterposed him to the educated and principled Menzhinsky.

The wife of the Berry was also subjected to repression. First of all, she was fired from work in the prosecutor's office, and then arrested as a family member of the enemy of the people. I go Averbakh together with my son and mother were exiled to Orenburg. Soon the woman was shot.

Among other things, Yagoda was accused of the murder of Maxim Peshkov - the son of Maxim Gorky (in fact, he died of pneumonia). Allegedly, the violence occurred for personal reasons. Yagoda really was in love with Nadezhda Peshkov - Maxim's widow. The murder was also accused of the secretary of the main Soviet writer Pyotr Kryuchkov.


The Yagoda affair became part of one common third Moscow process (officially it was called the Anti-Soviet "Right-Trotskyite bloc" process). The public court passed in the spring of 1938. It was accompanied by a major state propaganda campaign in the press. The newspapers printed open letters of various public and ordinary people, in which they branded traitors to the Motherland, offering to shoot "like rabid dogs", etc.

Yagoda asked (and the request was granted), so that the issue of his relationship with Nadezhda Peshkova and the murder of Maxim Peshkov was examined in a separate order in a private meeting. The key episodes of espionage and treason were openly considered. Yagoda was interrogated by the prosecutor and state prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky, the main character of the Moscow trials.

On March 13, 1938, the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to death. Clinging to life, Yagoda wrote a petition for pardon. It was rejected. On March 15, the former Commissar for Internal Affairs was shot. Unlike the rest of the process, Yagoda was never rehabilitated.

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