Marc Jansen and Nikita Petrov

Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940

Copyright © 2002 by Hugo S. Cunningham
first posted 20030209
latest minor change 20030209

An authoritative book in English on Stalin's bloody servant

Jansen and Petrov's biography tells everything worthwhile likely to be known about N. I. Yezhov, Commissar of the NKVD (Stalin's secret police) during the Great Purge of 1936-38. It also summarizes the mechanics and motivation of the Purge itself, using extensive Russian-language sources emerging since 1988.

In some ways Yezhov was more a pathetic than an evil character, unfortunately falling under the spell of a brilliant but evil man. Good-natured and helpful before getting drawn into Stalin's work of repression, Yezhov would degenerate into a torturer and murderer, incapable of distinguishing true from imaginary charges.

The book is a bit dry in places, but that is a hazard of the subject: relatively little "human" detail is known about Yezhov. (Aleksei Polyansky's Russian-language biography tried to get around this problem by inventing dialogue.) Yezhov and his close associates were nearly all liquidated in 1939-1940; those who survived knew they should keep silent. Indeed, apart from some generic execration, Yezhov would remain taboo until the age of Glasnost' (1988), 48 years after his death.

Later note:
On February 2003, we found that the Hoover Institution Press had placed this book on line at URL:

Return to Counterrevolutionary version of N.I. Yezhov's biography.

Link to Authorized version of N.I. Yezhov's biography

Return to N.I. Yezhov's Home Page