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Yakov Saulovich Agranov
Born (1893-10-12)12 October 1893
Died 1 August 1938(1938-08-01) (aged 44)
Place of birth Checherskaya, Gomel Region, Belarus (then Mogilev Governorate, Russian Empire)
Place of death Moscow executed
Allegiance Soviet Union
Service/branch NKVD
Years of service 1919-1938
Rank Commissar
Awards Order of the Red Banner (twice)

Yakov Agranov in 1934. From left to right: Agranov, Yagoda, unknown, and Redens.

Yakov Saulovich Agranov (Russian: Я́ков Сау́лович Агра́нов) (born Yankel Samuilovich Sorenson; 1893 – 1938) was the first chief of Soviet Main Directorate of State Security and a deputy of NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda. He is known as one of main organizers of Soviet political repressions and Stalinist show trials in 1920s and 1930s. He fabricated the "Tagantsev conspiracy" case and Moscow trials, including Trial of the Twenty One and Industrial Party Trial, as well as mass arrests and executions in Saint Petersburg during Stalin's Great Purge.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Agranov was born in a Jewish shopkeeper's family in Checherskaya, a village in the Mogilev Governorate of the Russian Empire. In 1912 he joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party while working as a clerk and in 1915 joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He was arrested by the tsarist police in 1915 and exiled to Yenesei province.

In 1918, Agranov became secretary of Sovnarkom. At this time he was taking orders directly from Vladimir Lenin and Felix Dzerzhinsky. During this period Agranov was put in charge of compiling the lists of intellectuals for the forced exile of leading figures of Russian sciences and culture that were seen as the anti-Soviet element. Among those expelled were Nikolai Berdyaev and Nikolai Lossky.

In 1921, Agranov was the chief investigator who conducted the "Petrograd military organization", allegedly headed by Vladimir Tagantsev. Tagantsev was arrested and then tricked into giving names 300 "conspirators", who, he was told, would not be executed.[1] in exchange for leniency for himself. The investigation ended with more than 85 persons being sentenced to death, including Tagantsev himself and the poet Nikolay Gumilyov. All concerned were promptly executed. When asked why he was so merciless, Agranov responded: "Seventy percent of Petrograd intellectuals were standing by one leg in the camp of our enemies. We had to burn that leg off".[2]

Agranov also investigated the Kronstadt rebellion and the peasant uprising in Tambov region. At the end of his career he led the Trial of the Twenty One against the Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization, the “Promparty” and "Working Peasant Party " cases.

Agranov was also implicated in the suspicious suicide of Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1930. The poet shot himself from the gun given to him as a gift by Agranov who had an affair with Lilya Brik, a woman known as the muse of Mayakovsky.[3]

Immediately after the assassination of Sergey Kirov in Leningrad in 1934, Agranov was entrusted with the organization of mass reprisals in the city. The interrogation sessions of Lev Kamenev, Grigory Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov and Mikhail Tukhachevsky were conducted under his supervision.

The cynical motto "If there is no enemy, he should be created, denounced and punished" was attributed to Yakov Agranov[citation needed]. His career and life come to an end when in 1938 he himself was accused of being a Trotskyite sympathizer, arrested on 20 July and executed by firing squad as an "enemy of the people" (on 1 August).[4]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Stalin and his Hangmen, Donald Rayfield, 2004, pub. Random House. p 117
  2. Vitaliy Shentalinsky, Crime Without Punishment, Progress-Pleyada, Moscow, 2007, ISBN 978-5-93006-033-1 (Russian: Виталий Шенталинский, "Преступление без наказания"), page 214.
  3. Vitaly Shentalinsky, page 241; Nikolay Punin, husband of Anna Akhmatova, also had an affair with Lilya Brik, according to his published diaries
  4. Nikita Petrov and Marc Jansen, Stalin’s Loyal Executioner: People’s Commissar Nikolai Ezhov 1895–1940, 4 April 2002, ISBN 978-0-8179-2902-2, page 62 (chapter 3), available online at: http://www.hoover.org/publications/books/8348.

External links[edit | edit source]

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