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The "Warm-Up Trials"

These trials were used to excuse problems in industry, which were actually caused by unrealistic goals, poor equipment and unskilled workers. Claims of foreign conspiracies also served to unite Russia behind the Bolsheviks and gave Stalin further reason to retain a tight hold on the country (instead of letting the State "wither away" in accordance with Marxist philosophy).

1928 - Shakhty trial

Fifty-three Soviet and foreign engineers accused of blowing up the Donbass mines in the Town of Shakhty, Rostov region.  Co-prosecuted by Vyshinsky and Krylenko. Supposedly the trial was directed against Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky.  OGPU chairman Menzhinsky was reportedly against the trial. Eleven condemned to death - five shot.

1930 - November-December - Industrial Party trial

Campaign of repression against "bourgeois specialists" - non-Bolshevik industrial managers and engineers.  Alleged the existence of an underground "Industrial Party" of 2,000 engineers and planners who collaborated with France, other countries, Lawrence of Arabia, White leadership in Paris to restore capitalism. Tried the party's 8-man "executive committee", 5 sent. to death but sentences later commuted, some rehabilitated.

1931 - March - "Union Bureau" of Menshevik Party

Open trial in Moscow of 14 former Mensheviks, now in high policy-making positions, who allegedly tried to interfere with the country's economic development and conspired to stage an armed revolt. All confessed, received sentences of 5-10 years.

1933 - April 12-19 - Metropolitan-Vickers Trial - aka "Engineer's Trial"

Eleven Soviet workers and six British electrical engineers arrested for sabotaging electrical power generating stations and conducting espionage. All Soviets and one British confessed. Sentences for the Soviets ranged from 18 mos. to ten years. One British engineer got three years, another two, three were deported and one was acquitted.

1934 - December 5 - Trial of White Guardists

71 White Guardists tried by USSR Supreme Court for "preparing and organizing terroristic acts" against Russian officials.  37 shot in Leningrad, 29 in Moscow.

1934 - December 17 - Zinoviev arrested, trial hastened.

1934 - December 28-29 - Leningrad Centre / Kirov murder trial

Nikolayev (shot), Rumyantsev (shot), Kotolynov (shot), Mandelstamm (shot), Levin (shot), Sossitsky (shot) and other Leningrad counter-revolutionaries were found guilty of murdering Kirov. (Report of Court Proceedings, 1936 show trial, p. 10)

Nikoyalev and accomplices - secret trial - 14 shot. Nikoyalev testified that Trotsky may have given 5K rubles for terrorism.  104 persons alleged to be foreign agents and terrorists were shot after the murder.

1935 - January 15-18 - "Moscow Centre" trial

Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR, meeting in Leningrad, convicts  G.E. Zinoviev(10 years), L.B. Kamenev (5 years), G.E. Evdokimov (8 years), I.P. Bakayev (8 years), Gertik, 14 others for guiding counter-revolutionary activities of Zinovievites and "fanning" the inclinations of the murderers of Kirov.

People's Commissariat of the Interior also sentenced 49 others to criminal labor camps and 29 to exile.

Held Zinoviev & Kamenev "morally responsible" for assassinating Kirov. All defendants got 5-10 years prison.

1935 - January 23 - GPU officials trial

Medved, chief of Leningrad GPU and his workers knew about the Kirov plot but did not properly investigate.  12 deft's, all confessed, 1-10 years prison each.

1935 - July 25 - Kamenev and others - Plot against Stalin

Kamenev and accomplices plotted against Stalin. Thirty-eight defendants, two shot. Kamenev sentenced to 10 years on July 27, 1935.

The Great Show Trials

The Great Show Trials of 1936-1938 were made possible by the assassination of Kirov on December 1, 1934. Immediately after the assassination, Stalin issued a directive ordering execution of those convicted of terrorist action immediately after sentencing. This prevented such cases being re-examined, even if the accused claimed they had been coerced. The trials allowed Stalin to do away with the "Old Bolsheviks", whom he did not trust, and who were the most likely to obstruct his dictatorship.

1936 - August 19-24 - First Show Trial - "The Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre" (also known as the "main centre" and the "Zinoviev-Kamenev trial")

Defendants:  Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Smirnov, Bakayev, Ter-Vaganyan. Mrachkovsky, Dreitzer, Holtzman, Reingold, Pickel, Olberg, Berman-Yurin, Fritz David aka Kruglyansky, M. Lurye and N. Lurye (all shot).

Allegations:  In 1932, under orders from Trotsky, the defendants joined forces to create a counter-revolutionary organization that "strived to seize power at all costs" (Report of Proceedings, p. 12).  Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokomov, Bakayev, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganyan and Smirnov helped the Leningrad group murder Kirov. Along with the other defendants, they also plotted to kill Stalin, Voroshilov, Zhdanov, Kaganovich, Kossior, Orjonikidze and Postyshev. To accomplish these murders Trotsky and Sedov sent German terrorists Berman-Yurin, Fritz David, N. Lurye and Olberg to the USSR. 

Witnesses: Yakovlev testified that in 1934 Kamenev had him organize a terrorist group in the Academy of Sciences, names Karev as a member (p. 70).

Safonova testified that Smirnov (her ex-husband) passed on Trotsky's instructions to the centre that "Stalin must be assassinated, that Stalin would be assassinated" (p. 77). [Smirnov testified that he passed instructions from Trotsky to the bloc but said he did not agree with the instructions and denied joining the bloc (p. 86)].

Clsoing arguments: Vyshinski indicated that Kamenev, Zinoviev and Reingold had, in their testimony, mentioned complicity by Tomsky, Bukharin, Rykov, Uglanov, Radek, Pyatakov, Serebryakov and Sokolnikov and that these persons would be investigated (pp. 115-116).

Families of Kamenev and Zinoviev killed or exiled. Kamenev's wife, two sons, his brother and his sister-in-law were killed.

January 23-30, 1937 - Second Show Trial - "The Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre" (also known as the "parallel centre" and the "Piatakov-Radek" trial

Defendants:  Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov, Bogulasky, Drobnis, Muralov, Shestov, Stroilov, Norkin, Arnold, Livshitz, Knyazev, Turok, Rataichak, Hrasche, Pushin.

Allegations:  Defendants were members of a "parallel centre" that caused acts of wrecking, sabotage and murder in furtherance of a plot between Trotsky, Germany and Japan to overthrow the Soviet government and restore capitalism. All shot except Radek, Sokolnikov, Arnold (each got 10 years) and Stroilov (8 years).

Witnesses:  Romm, Izvestia correspondent to Washington, testified he was introduced by Putna to Sedov in Berlin.  Sedov recruited Romm to pass messages to Radek. He passed a message mailed to him by Sedov, and another given to him by Trotsky. Radek and Trotsky also told him about the parallel centre.

Bukhartsev, Izvestia correspondent to Berlin, testified that he was a member of the "centre" and had agreed to carry out operations for Radek. He arranged a meeting in Berlin between Trotsky's representative, Stirner, and Pyatakov. Stirner told Burkhatsev that a "special plane" would take Pyatakov to Oslo to meet with Trotsky.

Loginov, manager of the Coke Trust in Khartov, testified that at Pyatakov's direction he operated a terrorist centre in the Ukraine, including  himself, Kotsyubinsky, Golubenko and Livshitz (the latter had been involved in wrecking the railways in Khartov). To kill Stalin, Golubenko formed a group in Odessa headed by Kalashnikov. In Dniepropetrovsk, Zhukov headed a group to kill Voroshilov.

At Loginov's direction, manager of coke and chemicals Yanovsky, plant director Kholyavko and worker Situlin slowed operations and committed sabotage at several plants, including Novo-Yenakievka, Krivoy Rog, Gorlovka, Staro-Yenakievka and Zaporozhye.

Loginov knew that another Pyatakov associate, Rataichak, was disrupting the nitrogen industry.  Rataichak wanted to contact German intelligence. Moskalyov had once said that Hrasche had "contacts", so Loginov referred Rataichak to Hrasche. Loginov also suggested to Rataichak they recruit German specialists to commit acts of wrecking in the Gorlovka works.

Stein, a German engineer at electric power stations in Leninsk, said he and other German workers, including Wurm, Sommeregger, Flessa and Floren purposely damaged imported German machinery.  Shestov, the Russian manager, asked him to hinder coal extraction by flooding the pits. Floren had already committed wrecking and was preparing to cause explosions.

Tamm, deputy chief engineer of the nitrogen industry, previously technical director of the Gorlovka Nitrate Fertilizer works. At the request of Pushin, a central administrator, he agreed to commit acts of "diversion" at Gorlovka. These were carried out by employees Assinovsky, Khalezov, Dratch and Krushelnitsky.

1938 - March 2-12 - Third Show Trial - "The Case of the Anti-Soviet Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites" (also known as the "Rykov-Bukharin trial")

Defendants:  Bukharin, Rykov, Yagoda, Krestinsky, Rakovsky, Rosengoltz, Ivanov, Chernov, Grinko, Zelensky, Bessonov, Ikramov, Khodjayev, Sharangovich, Zubarev, Bulanov, Levin, Pletnev, Kazakov, Maximov-Dikovsky, Kryuchkov

Allegations:  At the direction of Trotsky, the accused cooperated with German, Polish and Japanese intelligence to commit acts of wrecking and diversion in industry, transport, agriculture and distribution, and to commit murder and terrorism, with the goal of overthrowing the Government, dismembering the USSR and restoring capitalism.

Yagoda testified he told his Leningrad agent, Zaporozhetz, not to interfere with the murder of Kirov, which was organized by Yenukidze. Yagoda also recruited physicians Levin, Pletnev and Vinogradov to murder Gorky, Kuibishev, Menzhinsky and Peshkov using incorrect treatments.  The doctors completed these assignments with assistance from Kryuchkov (Gorky's secretary) and Maximov (Kuibishev's secretary). Yagoda also unsuccessfully tried to poison Yezhov; he was assisted by Savolainen (his personal aide) and Bulanov.

Witnesses:  Yakolevka, Ossinsky, Mantsev, Kamkow and Karelin testified they had been Left Communists. Since the signing of the Brest-Litvosk treaty in 1918, Bukharin, acting on behalf of Trotsky, had worked to overthrow the Soviet Government, plotted to assassinate Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov and install in their place a coalition of Bukharinites ("Left Communists"), Trotskyites and Left SR's. Mantsev was revealed as a Chekist (p. 469).