Baberowski’s Falsification

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Baberowski’s Falsification
In this essay I examine a fact claim made by Prof. Jörg Baberowski on the first page of a 2003 paper entitled “Zivilisation der Gewalt. Die kulturellen Ursprünge des Stalinismus”. (http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/humboldt-vl/136/baberowski-joerg-3/PDF/baberowski.pdf )
Baberowski occupies an important chair of history at Humboldt University, Berlin. He is one of Europe’s most widely published anticommunist historians of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. His prominence justifies our paying some close attention to this short essay.
Baberowski makes very few statements of fact in this long paper. Of those, even fewer have references to specific sources for the evidence in support of those statements. Rarest of all are references to primary sources – the only kind of evidence worthy of the name.
A very long critique, examining every statement of fact and the evidence – normally, the lack of evidence – Baberowski gives for it, is beyond the scope of this essay. We prefer to subject this one statement of Baberowski’s to close scrutiny, and then let the part stand for the whole.
The statement is as follows:
An einem Sommertag im Juni 1937 empfing Stalin den Leiter des Volkskommissariats für Innere Angelegenheiten (NKVD), Nikolaj Ežov, in seinem Arbeitszimmer im Kreml,… Aber an diesem Sommertag im Juni 1937 sprachen Ežov und Stalin nicht nur über die Feinde, die aus der Sowjetgesellschaft entfernt werden mussten. Sie berieten auch über das Schicksal von Genrich Jagoda, den Vorgänger Ežovs im Amt des NKVD-Chefs, der wenige Wochen zuvor verhaftet worden war.
On a summer day in June 1937 Stalin received Nikolai Ezhov, head of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, or NKVD, in his office at the Kremlin…. But on this summer day in June 1937 Ezhov and Stalin did not talk only about the enemies who had to be removed from Soviet society. They also conferred about the fate of Genrikh Iagoda, Ezhov’s predecessor in the position of chief of the NKVD, who had been arrested a few weeks earlier.
Baberowski then claims that Stalin did the following:
Stalin befahl, nicht nur Jagoda, sondern auch dessen Gefolgsleute aus dem Apparat zu töten und ihre Leichen auf dem Gelände der Datscha zu verscharren, die Jagoda, ihr Patron, einst bewohnt hatte.1
Stalin ordered that not only Iagoda, but also his chief assistants in the NKVD apparatus be killed and their bodies buried in the property of the dacha that Iagoda, their boss, had once occupied.
Baberowski says that Stalin did not explain what he meant by this order:
Stalin erklärte sich nicht.
Stalin did not explain himself.
Whereupon, curiously, Baberowski goes on to explain what Stalin meant by it.
Wo Funktionäre Amt und Leben verloren, mussten auch ihre Gefolgsleute sterben.
Wherever state officials had lost their positions and their lives, their chief assistants must also die.
Not content with “channeling” Stalin to discover his intentions Baberowski makes this conversation with Ezhov a metaphor or synecdoche for Bolshevism itself.
Ihr Sterben symbolisierte die Essenz der stalinistischen Feudalsysteme, die mit den Personen fielen, die sie konstituierten. Die beschriebene Episode verweist auf zweierlei: auf die Obsession Stalins und der bolschewistischen Führungsriege, Feinde zu vernichten, die sich ihrem Gesellschaftsentwurf nicht einfügten und die archaischen Methoden, mit denen diese Feinde aus der Welt geschafft werden mussten.
Their death symbolized the essence of the Stalinist feudal systems, which fell with the people who constituted them. The episode just described demonstrates two things: the obsession of Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership to annihilate enemies who did not fit their social plan, and the archaic methods by which these enemies must be eliminated.
Since Baberowski has already admitted that “Stalin did not explain himself” we know that the only source of this “interpretation” is Baberowski’s imagination.
But what about Stalin’s laconic order to kill Iagoda and his assistants and busy them on the land of Iagoda’s dacha? Baberowski gives only one source, at footnote 1 above. That note reads as follows:
Petrov, N.: Die Kaderpolitik des NKVD während der Massenrepressalien 1936–39, in: W. Hedeler (Hg.), Stalinistischer Terror 1934–1941. Eine Forschungsbilanz, Berlin 2002, S. 24.
Consulting this article by Petrov, one of the chief researchers for the “Memorial” organization, we find the following:
Stalins Haß auf Jagoda kam zum Ausdruck als er Jeshow während einer Beratung zurief: Jagodas Datscha sollen die Tschekisten jetzt bekommen. Das bedeutete, daß die Leichen der ermordeten Tschekisten auf dem Gelände des Staatsgutes Kommunarka verscharrt warden sollten, an das die Datscha Jagodas grenzte.27
Stalin’s hatred for Iagoda found expression when during a session he shouted to Ezhov: “The Chekists should now get Iagoda’s dacha.” That meant that the corpses of the murdered Chekists should be buried on the land of the state-owned “Kommunarka” property, which bordered on Iagoda’s dacha.
(The note 27 is a list of NKVD men and when they were executed. There is not even any evidence that these men were buried in the “Kommunarka” (see below). It is not relevant to our present inquiry).
Petrov gives no evidence whatever for any of the details in this story:
Ezhov’s meeting with Stalin – not even a date is given;
Stalin’s “hatred” of Iagoda;
Stalin “shouting” to Ezhov that “the Chekists should get Iagoda’s dacha”.
In the writing of history an historian’s statements about a past event are supposed to be interpretations of evidence. The purpose of the scholarly apparatus of bibliography and footnotes is to cite the evidence that the statements made by the historian are true. If an historian cites no evidence in support of a statement of fact, or of a series of them, it is reasonable to assume that he knows of no evidence.
Petrov’s account contains what is evidently one quotation: “Jagodas Datscha sollen die Tschekisten jetzt bekommen.” In an attempt to discover a source for these words I did a Google search on the Russian-language Internet for the three nouns Ягода (Iagoda), дача (Dacha), and чекист (Chekist). The earliest mention I can find of this story is in an article titled “Dacha Osobogo Naznacheniia” (“Dacha of Special Designation”) by “Memorial” researcher Leonid Novak in the journal “Itogi” No.44 October 31, 2000. It’s online: http://www.itogi.ru/archive/2000/44/115914.html It contains the following passage:
В апреле 1937 года Ягода был арестован, с дачи вывезли конфискованные вещи, и она какое-то время оставалась бесхозной. В рабочих записях преемника Ягоды Ежова есть лаконичная строчка: “Дачу Ягоды чекистам”. К тому времени один расстрельный полигон – Бутово – уже работал в полную силу. Но в 1937 году ежедневное число расстрелянных стало исчисляться не десятками, а сотнями, и необходимо было открывать новое место захоронений.
In April 1937 Iagoda was arrested. The furnishings of the dacha were confiscated and removed, and it stood vacant for some period of time. In the working notes of Iagoda’s successor Ezhov there is a laconic line: “Iagoda’s dacha to the Chekists.” At this time one execution site – Butovo – was already working at full strength. But in 1937 the daily number of those executed began to number not in dozens but in hundreds, and it was necessary to open a new place for burials.
A copy of this article in larger format print and with a larger copy of the map (see below) is at http://www.ihst.ru/projects/sohist/repress/kommunarka.htm
I believe this is the earliest because an article by Arsenii Roginski at http://www.memo.ru/memory/communarka/komm.htm#n14 cites it as the source. Roginskii is one of the founders of the anticommunist “Memorial” organization and currently its Chairman (http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Рогинский,_Арсений_Борисович ). Leonid Novak is identified as a “collaborator” of the “Memorial” organization:
Леонид Новак – сотрудник научного и просветительского центра “Мемориал”
– http://www.itogi.ru/archive/2000/44/115914.html
Leonid Novak – collaborator of the scientific and educational center “Memorial.”
At note 14 of his essay Roginskii states:
14 В течение нескольких последних лет изучением «Коммунарки» как места расстрелов и захоронений занимается историк и литератор Л.Г. Новак. Результаты своих исследований он недавно начал публиковать в газете Общества «Мемориал» «30 октября» (1999. № 1-2; 2000. № 3).
During the past few years the historian and writer L.G. Novak has been conducting a study of the “Kommunarka” as a site of executions and burials. He has recently begun to publish the results of his research in the newspaper of the “Memorial” Society 30 October (1999, Nos 1-2; 2000, No. 3)
In Roginskii’s opinion Novak is a leading expert on the “Kommunarka.”
Copies of the Memorial newspaper “30 oktiabria” are not available to me. For the purposes of this essay I assume that Novak’s later article of 2000 in Itogi contains the same or even more information. I have been unable to find any reference to any source earlier than this one that cites the three-word note by Ezhov. Roginskii’s essay, which I have quoted from the online edition, is the “Afterword” (posleslovie) to the edition of the “Memorial Book” published by “Memorial” in Moscow in 2000. (Rasstrel’nye spiski : Moskva, 1937-1941 : “Kommunarka”, Butovo : kniga pamiati zhertv politicheskikh repressii. Ed. Eremina L.S., Roginsky A.B. Moscow: Obshchestvo “Memorial”: Izdatel’stvo “Zven’ia”, 2000. ISBN: 5787000447; 9785787000443. OCLC: 78216573 ).
In one sentence Novak mentions the note in Ezhov’s “working notes” (“рабочих записях”): “Дачу Ягоды чекистам” (“Iagoda’s dacha to the Chekists”). In the following sentence he introduces the subject of the purported need for a new place of burial. Novak simply juxtaposes these two statements. He does not claim that the first – “Give the dacha to the Chekists” – implied the second. Novak does not claim that Ezhov’s note states or implies anything about interments at all. Neither does he say anything about executions taking place in the dacha area.
Roginski says that the Sovkhoz “Kommunarka” was a подсобное хозяйство — an auxiliary “farm” or estate of the NKVD. Next to it was Iagoda’s dacha.
Москва имела свою специфику. Здесь одновременно действовали две структуры НКВД — Управление НКВД СССР по Москве и Московской области и Центральный аппарат НКВД СССР. Соответственно и «зон» было открыто две, притом всего в нескольких километрах друг от друга: одна, подведомственная Московскому УНКВД, — в поселке Бутово, другая, находившаяся в ведении Центрального аппарата НКВД, — на 24-м километре Калужского шоссе, близ совхоза «Коммунарка» (в те времена — подсобного хозяйства НКВД), на территории дачи арестованного в марте 1937 г. бывшего наркома внутренних дел Г.Г. Ягоды.
Moscow was a special case. Here at the same time there were in operation two structures of the NKVD – the Directorate of the NKVD of the USSR for Moscow and Moscow oblast’ (province), and the Central headquarters of the NKVD of the USSR. Accordingly two “zones” had also been opened, only a few kilometers apart from each other. One, run by the Moscow Directorate of the NKVD, was in the village of Butovo; the second, under the control of the Central headquarters of the NKVD, was at the 24th kilometer point on the Kaluga highway near the “Kommunarka” Sovkhoz (in those days a country club of the NKVD), on the property of the dacha of the former People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs G. G. Iagoda, who had been arrested in March 1937.
According to Novak this is not quite right — they were both part of the same property.
В первые послереволюционные десятилетия мыза стояла пустой, хозяев оттуда выселили. По сведениям Центрального архива ФСБ России, в конце 20 – начале 30-х годов (точная дата неизвестна) территорию выделили для устройства личной дачи председателю ОГПУ, позже наркому НКВД СССР Г. Ягоде.
In the first decades after the Revolution the estate had stood empty as its owners had been forced to leave. According to information in the Central archive of the FSB of Russia [Russian State Security, where the former NKVD archives are now kept. – GF] at the end of the ‘20s or beginning of the ‘30s (the exact date is unknown) the land had been divided for the construction of a personal dacha for the chairman of the OGPU, later People’s Commissar of the NKVD of the USSR, G. Iagoda.
Novak’s article in Itogi reproduces the map below. It clearly shows that the dacha is part of the original estate property.
Спецобъект НКВД “Коммунарка”: 1. Ворота объекта; 2. Дом-дача наркома НКВД СССР; 3. Пруд; 4. Дамба; 5. Березовая роща – одно из мест массовых захоронений; 6. Баня; 7. Липовая аллея; 8. Остатки заграждения из колючей проволоки
Special property of the NKVD ‘Kommunarka’: 1. The main gate; 2. The dacha of the People’s Commissar of the NKVD of the USSR; 3. Pond; 4. Dam; 5. Birch grove – one of the sites of mass burials; 6. Bathhouse; 7. Avenue of linden trees; 8. The remains of a barbed wire enclosure.
Iagoda’s dacha was part of the NKVD “khoziaistvo” or estate. Therefore, the most obvious interpretation of the phrase “Дачу Ягоды чекистам” is: “Return Iagoda’s dacha to the “Kommunarka” NKVD estate once again.”
Novak’s article does not mention Stalin’s name at all, in any context. Specifically, Novak does not connect Ezhov’s “laconic” note to any meeting with Stalin. So where does “Stalin” come in? Evidently from Roginski, who writes:
Полагаем, что «расстрельный спецобъект» «Коммунарка» возник как место, специально предназначенное для захоронений бывших сотрудников НКВД, осужденных «в особом порядке». Устроить на территории бывшей дачи бывшего наркома тайное место захоронений (вероятно, и расстрелов) для его сотрудников, убитых даже без формальных приговоров, — это, нам кажется, вполне соответствовало характерам и Сталина, и Ежова. «Дачу Ягоды — чекистам» — такая запись (к сожалению, не датированная) сохранилась в записной книжке Ежова, в которую он обычно заносил (в крайне обрывочной форме) указания Сталина. С этой записи, видимо, и начинается история «Коммунарки» как места захоронения14.
We assume [or, let us assume] that the “secret place of execution” Kommunarka was created as a place specially designated for the burials of former NKVD workers who had been condemned by the “special procedure.” To build on the land of the former dacha of the former Commissar a secret place for burials (and probably also for executions) for its employees who had been killed without even formal sentences – it seems to us that this is completely in conformity with the characters of both Stalin and Ezhov. The note “Iagoda’s dacha to the Chekists” — to our regret, it is undated – was kept in a notebook of Ezhov in which he usually recorded (in an extremely abbreviated form) Stalin’s directives. With this note, evidently, begins the story of the “Kommunarka” as a site for burial.
Roginskii cites no evidence that “Kommunarka” was designated as a place for the burial of executed NKVD men. Nor does he claim to know this as a fact. Instead he calls it an “assumption” — he writes “let us assume”, or “we assume” (polagaem).
Roginskii also admits that Ezhov’s note to himself is not dated. In other words, Roginskii has no idea when Ezhov wrote it or why. There is no indication that the note is related to any talk with or orders from Stalin, let alone to a specific talk with Stalin in June 1937. Evidently Stalin’s name is not associated with this note, for if it were he would certainly have said so.
In any event, why would Stalin have to direct that NKVD property – Iagoda’s dacha – be returned to the NKVD, when it had always been in the property of the NKVD? The map reproduced in Novak’s article makes it clear that this is a single property. According to Novak it had been so since before the Revolution.
While conceding that there is no indication at all of when Ezhov wrote the three-word note to himself Roginskii adds that it is in a notebook “in which he usually recorded [zanosil] (in an extremely abbreviated form) Stalin’s directives.” But Roginskii cites no evidence to support this statement. Evidently Ezhov also recorded other matters in this notebook. Otherwise Roginskii would surely have written that all the other contents of this notebook consists of directives by Stalin; that this was a notebook dedicated by Ezhov to recording Stalin’s directives; and that therefore this three-word note must be a directive of Stalin’s too.
Therefore Roginskii has no basis to assume that this note by Ezhov to himself was an “abbreviated” reminder of a directive of Stalin’s. Even if it were, though, it would prove nothing. As we have pointed out above, the most logical interpretation is that Iagoda’s dacha and its territory should be returned to the “Kommunarka” NKVD country club of which it had originally been a part. Ezhov almost certainly had the authority to make this decision on his own, without checking such an insignificant detail with Stalin.
Roginskii concludes:
С этой записи, видимо, и начинается история «Коммунарки» как места захоронения.
With this note, evidently, begins the story of the “Kommunarka” as a site for burial.
In fact this note says nothing whatsoever about the use of the land as a burial place for anybody, let alone for NKVD men. Roginskii says “evidently” (vidimo) because he realizes that he is guessing.
One remark by Roginskii suggests that this interpretation may have been inspired by Nikita Petrov. At note 11 he thanks Petrov for help with this article:
Пользуемся случаем поблагодарить Н.В.Петрова, поделившегося с нами своими наблюдениями относительно этих списков.
We take this opportunity to thank N.V. Petrov who shared with us his observations concerning these lists.
We are now in a position to evaluate Petrov’s and Baberowski’s statements.
Not Petrov and not Roginskii, but Novak is the expert on the “Kommunarka” site. Novak has nothing about any decision to bury executed NKVD men there.
Baberowski’s reference to “einem Sommertag im Juni 1937” (“a summer day in June 1937”) comes from Petrov. But Petrov does not claim that “Stalin’s directive” was issued then. Instead, Petrov just begins the paragraph with an unrelated event that took place on June 20, 1937.
There is no evidence that Stalin spoke with Ezhov about Iagoda’s fate (“über das Schicksal von Genrich Jagoda”) in June 1937. We don’t know the content of any of the discussions that took place in Stalin’s office, including those with Ezhov.
There’s no evidence that the three-word note refers to any discussion with Stalin whether in June 1937 or at any other time. Ezhov certainly met frequently with Stalin during that month. However, Ezhov continued to figure in the list of visitors to Stalin’s office both before and after June, 1937. (“Posetiteli Kremlevskogo kabineta I. V. Stalina …” Istochnik 4, 1995, 15 – 73. For June 1937 see pp. 54-57)
Therefore, there is no evidence whatsoever that Stalin ordered Ezhov to kill Iagoda and his lieutenants and bury them on the property of Iagoda’s dacha. This is all an elaboration of Petrov’s interpretation of the three words in Ezhov’s notebook.
Conclusion
Petrov wrote:
Stalins Haß auf Jagoda kam zum Ausdruck als er Jeshow während einer Beratung zurief: Jagodas Datscha sollen die Tschekisten jetzt bekommen. Das bedeutete, daß die Leichen der ermordeten Tschekisten auf dem Gelände des Staatsgutes Kommunarka verscharrt warden sollten, an das die Datscha Jagodas grenzte.
Stalin’s hatred for Iagoda found expression when during a session he shouted to Ezhov: “The Chekists should now get Iagoda’s dacha.” That meant that the corpses of the murdered Chekists should be buried on the land of the state-owned “Kommunarka” property, which bordered on Iagoda’s dacha.
This article has demonstrated that there is not a shred of evidence for any of these statements. Consequently, there is no evidence whatsoever to support Baberowski’s statement.
Petrov is vice-chairman and senior investigator for the Russian “Memorial” organization. He is, or is commonly thought to be, an historian. He has an historian’s obligation to give evidence in support of the statements he makes, and to make it clear to his readers when he is speculating beyond the existing evidence.
Baberowski holds a position in the History faculty at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Presumably he knows that statements made by another historian cannot be simply accepted as factual or true — particularly when, as with Petrov’s article, no evidence is given for those statements.
Both Baberowski and Petrov have flagrantly betrayed their professional obligations as historians. Petrov fabricated a story about Stalin and Baberowski repeated it as fact. Roginski imagined a connection between Ezhov’s three-word note and the use of the “Kommunarka” country club as a burial site.
Another Lie: The “Lists”
Incidentally, Roginski is a liar as well (or incompetent and blinded by his anticommunist prejudices — it is often hard to tell which!). He writes:
Здесь есть только одна неточность — на самом деле на смертную казнь обрекала не Военная коллегия. Она лишь оформляла решения, вынесенные до того, как дело поступало на ее рассмотрение. Решение же выносили Сталин и несколько человек из его самого близкого окружения.
There is only one error here – in point of fact the Military Collegium did not determine the death sentences. It only formalized the decisions taken before the case had come before it for review. The decision itself was taken by Stalin and a few men from his closest circle.
This is false. The introduction to the “Lists” in question makes it clear that these lists were sent to Stalin and others in the Secretariat of the Bolshevik Party “for review.” We know of many examples of individuals who, despite being on the “lists” in “Category 1” (execution) were not executed. The “Categories” were not sentences but indications of the sentence that the State would ask if the individual were convicted of the crimes he or she was charged with.
We have discussed these lists in a separate work as follows:
Like Khrushchev did, the very anti-Stalin editors of these lists do in fact call the lists “sentences” prepared in advance. But their own research disproves this claim. The lists give the sentences that the prosecution would seek if the individual was convicted – that is, the sentence the Prosecution would ask the court to apply. In reality these were lists sent to Stalin (and other Politburo or Secretariat members) for “review” – rassmotrenie – a word that is used many times in the introduction to the lists. (http://www.memo.ru/history/vkvs/images/intro1.htm )
Many examples are given of people who were not convicted, or who were convicted of lesser offenses, and so not shot. A.V. Snegov, whom Khrushchev later befriended and mentioned by name later in this speech, is on the lists at least twice.
At http://stalin.memo.ru/spiski/pg13026.htm , No. 383;
At http://stalin.memo.ru/spiski/pg05245.htm , No. 133.
In this last reference Snegov is specifically put into “1st Category”, meaning: maximum sentence of death. A brief summary of the Prosecutor’s evidence against him is provided, and there seems to have been a lot of it. Nevertheless Snegov was not sentenced to death, but instead to a long term in a labor camp.
According to the editors of these lists “many” people whose names are on them were not in fact executed, and some were freed.
For example, a selective study of the list for the Kuibyshev oblast’ signed on September 29, 1938 has shows that not a single person on this list was convicted by the VK VS (the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court), and a significant number of the cases were dismissed altogether.
– http://www.memo.ru/history/vkvs/images/intro.htm
So Khrushchev knew that Stalin was not “sentencing” anybody, but rather reviewing the lists in case he had any objections. Khrushchev knew this because the note from Kruglov, Minister of Internal Affairs (MVD) to Khrushchev of February 3, 1954 has survived. It says nothing about “sentences prepared in advance,” but gives the truth:
These lists were compiled in 1937 and 1938 by the NKVD of the USSR and presented to the the CC of the ACP(b) for review right away. [emphasis added, GF]
The Prosecutor went to trial not only with evidence, but with a sentence to recommend to the judges in case of conviction.
(Furr, Khrushchev Lied, Chapter 4.)
Conclusion
Baberowski’s article is an illustration of the problem with the historiography of the Stalin years in the Soviet Union generally. For the most part it consists not in an attempt to discover the truth, but in anticommunist falsehoods. These falsehoods are placed at the service of moralizing and condemnation, often in the most strident tones. Baberowski’s exclamation on the first page of his article
Stalinismus und Terror sind Synonyme. Stalinismus ist Terror.
Stalinism and terror are synonymous. Stalinism is terror.
sounds like one of Josef Goebbels’ Nazi rants: “Hitler ist Deutschland, wie Deutschland Hitler ist” (also the leitmotiv of Lenni Riefenstahls’ film Triumph des Willens). It is a particularly tasteless form of propaganda. It has nothing at all in common with historiography.
There is, perhaps, one positive aspect to this otherwise sad state of affairs. No one lies when the truth is on their side. So we can confidently conclude that the truth, as demonstrated by reasonable deductions from the available evidence, does not support the fanatic anti-Stalin, anticommunist conclusions that these and many other historians – and, no doubt, those who back them – want. For if the truth did support their preconceived conclusions, they would tell the truth. In fact, they could dispense with their preconceived conclusions!
But they continue to fabricate – in plain language, to lie. Sometimes the lies are as blatant as those we have exposed here – obvious to anybody with a little knowledge plus patience, access to sources, and curiosity.
This is strong evidence that the truth will not sustain the anticommunists’ project. In that fact there is much hope for the future of a far different project: to discover the truth, successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies, of Soviet history.

ON Jorg Baberowski: The slandering of communism never stops (because it can’t afford to).

By GROVER FURR

IN THIS ESSAY I EXAMINE a fact claim made by Prof. Jörg Baberowski on the first page of a 2003 paper entitled “Zivilisation der Gewalt. Die kulturellen Ursprünge des Stalinismus”. (http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/humboldt-vl/136/baberowski-joerg-3/PDF/baberowski.pdf ).

Baberowski occupies an important chair of history at Humboldt University, Berlin. He is one of Europe’s most widely published anticommunist historians of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. His prominence justifies our paying some close attention to this short essay.

Baberowski makes very few statements of fact in this long paper. Of those, even fewer have references to specific sources for the evidence in support of those statements. Rarest of all are references to primary sources – the only kind of evidence worthy of the name.

A very long critique, examining every statement of fact and the evidence – normally, the lack of evidence – Baberowski gives for it, is beyond the scope of this essay. We prefer to subject this one statement of Baberowski’s to close scrutiny, and then let the part stand for the whole.

The statement is as follows:

An einem Sommertag im Juni 1937 empfing Stalin den Leiter des Volkskommissariats für Innere Angelegenheiten (NKVD), Nikolaj Ežov, in seinem Arbeitszimmer im Kreml,… Aber an diesem Sommertag im Juni 1937 sprachen Ežov und Stalin nicht nur über die Feinde, die aus der Sowjetgesellschaft entfernt werden mussten. Sie berieten auch über das Schicksal von Genrich Jagoda, den Vorgänger Ežovs im Amt des NKVD-Chefs, der wenige Wochen zuvor verhaftet worden war.

On a summer day in June 1937 Stalin received Nikolai Ezhov, head of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, or NKVD, in his office at the Kremlin…. But on this summer day in June 1937 Ezhov and Stalin did not talk only about the enemies who had to be removed from Soviet society. They also conferred about the fate of Genrikh Iagoda, Ezhov’s predecessor in the position of chief of the NKVD, who had been arrested a few weeks earlier.

Baberowski then claims that Stalin did the following:

Stalin befahl, nicht nur Jagoda, sondern auch dessen Gefolgsleute aus dem Apparat zu töten und ihre Leichen auf dem Gelände der Datscha zu verscharren, die Jagoda, ihr Patron, einst bewohnt hatte.1

poster27
J. Stalin, official portrait

Baberowski says that Stalin did not explain what he meant by this order:

Stalin erklärte sich nicht.

Stalin did not explain himself.

Whereupon, curiously, Baberowski goes on to explain what Stalin meant by it.

Wo Funktionäre Amt und Leben verloren, mussten auch ihre Gefolgsleute sterben.

Wherever state officials had lost their positions and their lives, their chief assistants must also die.

Not content with “channeling” Stalin to discover his intentions Baberowski makes this conversation with Ezhov a metaphor or synecdoche for Bolshevism itself.

Ihr Sterben symbolisierte die Essenz der stalinistischen Feudalsysteme, die mit den Personen fielen, die sie konstituierten. Die beschriebene Episode verweist auf zweierlei: auf die Obsession Stalins und der bolschewistischen Führungsriege, Feinde zu vernichten, die sich ihrem Gesellschaftsentwurf nicht einfügten und die archaischen Methoden, mit denen diese Feinde aus der Welt geschafft werden mussten.

Their death symbolized the essence of the Stalinist feudal systems, which fell with the people who constituted them. The episode just described demonstrates two things: the obsession of Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership to annihilate enemies who did not fit their social plan, and the archaic methods by which these enemies must be eliminated.

Since Baberowski has already admitted that “Stalin did not explain himself” we know that the only source of this “interpretation” is Baberowski’s imagination.

But what about Stalin’s laconic order to kill Iagoda and his assistants and busy them on the land of Iagoda’s dacha? Baberowski gives only one source, at footnote 1 above. That note reads as follows:

Petrov, N.: Die Kaderpolitik des NKVD während der Massenrepressalien 1936–39, in: W. Hedeler (Hg.), Stalinistischer Terror 1934–1941. Eine Forschungsbilanz, Berlin 2002, S. 24.

Consulting this article by Petrov, one of the chief researchers for the “Memorial” organization, we find the following:

Stalins Haß auf Jagoda kam zum Ausdruck als er Jeshow während einer Beratung zurief: Jagodas Datscha sollen die Tschekisten jetzt bekommen. Das bedeutete, daß die Leichen der ermordeten Tschekisten auf dem Gelände des Staatsgutes Kommunarka verscharrt warden sollten, an das die Datscha Jagodas grenzte.27

Stalin’s hatred for Iagoda found expression when during a session he shouted to Ezhov: “The Chekists should now get Iagoda’s dacha.” That meant that the corpses of the murdered Chekists should be buried on the land of the state-owned “Kommunarka” property, which bordered on Iagoda’s dacha.

There is, perhaps, one positive aspect to this otherwise sad state of affairs. No one lies when the truth is on their side. So we can confidently conclude that the truth, as demonstrated by reasonable deductions from the available evidence, does not support the fanatic anti-Stalin, anticommunist conclusions that these and many other historians – and, no doubt, those who back them – want. For if the truth did support their preconceived conclusions, they would tell the truth. In fact, they could dispense with their preconceived conclusions!

(The note 27 is a list of NKVD men and when they were executed. There is not even any evidence that these men were buried in the “Kommunarka” (see below). It is not relevant to our present inquiry).

Petrov gives no evidence whatever for any of the details in this story:

Ezhov’s meeting with Stalin – not even a date is given;

Stalin’s “hatred” of Iagoda;

Stalin “shouting” to Ezhov that “the Chekists should get Iagoda’s dacha”.

In the writing of history an historian’s statements about a past event are supposed to be interpretations of evidence. The purpose of the scholarly apparatus of bibliography and footnotes is to cite the evidence that the statements made by the historian are true. If an historian cites no evidence in support of a statement of fact, or of a series of them, it is reasonable to assume that he knows of no evidence.

Petrov’s account contains what is evidently one quotation: “Jagodas Datscha sollen die Tschekisten jetzt bekommen.” In an attempt to discover a source for these words I did a Google search on the Russian-language Internet for the three nouns Ягода (Iagoda), дача (Dacha), and чекист (Chekist). The earliest mention I can find of this story is in an article titled “Dacha Osobogo Naznacheniia” (“Dacha of Special Designation”) by “Memorial” researcher Leonid Novak in the journal “Itogi” No.44 October 31, 2000. It’s online: http://www.itogi.ru/archive/2000/44/115914.html It contains the following passage:

В апреле 1937 года Ягода был арестован, с дачи вывезли конфискованные вещи, и она какое-то время оставалась бесхозной. В рабочих записях преемника Ягоды Ежова есть лаконичная строчка: “Дачу Ягоды чекистам”. К тому времени один расстрельный полигон – Бутово – уже работал в полную силу. Но в 1937 году ежедневное число расстрелянных стало исчисляться не десятками, а сотнями, и необходимо было открывать новое место захоронений.

In April 1937 Iagoda was arrested. The furnishings of the dacha were confiscated and removed, and it stood vacant for some period of time. In the working notes of Iagoda’s successor Ezhov there is a laconic line: “Iagoda’s dacha to the Chekists.” At this time one execution site – Butovo – was already working at full strength. But in 1937 the daily number of those executed began to number not in dozens but in hundreds, and it was necessary to open a new place for burials.

A copy of this article in larger format print and with a larger copy of the map (see below) is at http://www.ihst.ru/projects/sohist/repress/kommunarka.htm

I believe this is the earliest because an article by Arsenii Roginski at http://www.memo.ru/memory/communarka/komm.htm#n14 cites it as the source. Roginskii is one of the founders of the anticommunist “Memorial” organization and currently its Chairman (http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Рогинский,_Арсений_Борисович ). Leonid Novak is identified as a “collaborator” of the “Memorial” organization:

Леонид Новак – сотрудник научного и просветительского центра “Мемориал”

http://www.itogi.ru/archive/2000/44/115914.html

Leonid Novak – collaborator of the scientific and educational center “Memorial.”

At note 14 of his essay Roginskii states:

14 В течение нескольких последних лет изучением «Коммунарки» как места расстрелов и захоронений занимается историк и литератор Л.Г. Новак. Результаты своих исследований он недавно начал публиковать в газете Общества «Мемориал» «30 октября» (1999. № 1-2; 2000. № 3).

During the past few years the historian and writer L.G. Novak has been conducting a study of the “Kommunarka” as a site of executions and burials. He has recently begun to publish the results of his research in the newspaper of the “Memorial” Society 30 October (1999, Nos 1-2; 2000, No. 3)

In Roginskii’s opinion Novak is a leading expert on the “Kommunarka.”

Copies of the Memorial newspaper “30 oktiabria” are not available to me. For the purposes of this essay I assume that Novak’s later article of 2000 in Itogi contains the same or even more information. I have been unable to find any reference to any source earlier than this one that cites the three-word note by Ezhov. Roginskii’s essay, which I have quoted from the online edition, is the “Afterword” (posleslovie) to the edition of the “Memorial Book” published by “Memorial” in Moscow in 2000. (Rasstrel’nye spiski : Moskva, 1937-1941 : “Kommunarka”, Butovo : kniga pamiati zhertv politicheskikh repressii. Ed. Eremina L.S., Roginsky A.B. Moscow: Obshchestvo “Memorial”: Izdatel’stvo “Zven’ia”, 2000. ISBN: 5787000447; 9785787000443. OCLC: 78216573 ).

In one sentence Novak mentions the note in Ezhov’s “working notes” (“рабочих записях”): “Дачу Ягоды чекистам” (“Iagoda’s dacha to the Chekists”). In the following sentence he introduces the subject of the purported need for a new place of burial. Novak simply juxtaposes these two statements. He does not claim that the first – “Give the dacha to the Chekists” – implied the second. Novak does not claim that Ezhov’s note states or implies anything about interments at all. Neither does he say anything about executions taking place in the dacha area.

Roginski says that the Sovkhoz “Kommunarka” was a подсобное хозяйство — an auxiliary “farm” or estate of the NKVD. Next to it was Iagoda’s dacha.

Москва имела свою специфику. Здесь одновременно действовали две структуры НКВД — Управление НКВД СССР по Москве и Московской области и Центральный аппарат НКВД СССР. Соответственно и «зон» было открыто две, притом всего в нескольких километрах друг от друга: одна, подведомственная Московскому УНКВД, — в поселке Бутово, другая, находившаяся в ведении Центрального аппарата НКВД, — на 24-м километре Калужского шоссе, близ совхоза «Коммунарка» (в те времена — подсобного хозяйства НКВД), на территории дачи арестованного в марте 1937 г. бывшего наркома внутренних дел Г.Г. Ягоды.

Moscow was a special case. Here at the same time there were in operation two structures of the NKVD – the Directorate of the NKVD of the USSR for Moscow and Moscow oblast’ (province), and the Central headquarters of the NKVD of the USSR. Accordingly two “zones” had also been opened, only a few kilometers apart from each other. One, run by the Moscow Directorate of the NKVD, was in the village of Butovo; the second, under the control of the Central headquarters of the NKVD, was at the 24th kilometer point on the Kaluga highway near the “Kommunarka” Sovkhoz (in those days a country club of the NKVD), on the property of the dacha of the former People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs G. G. Iagoda, who had been arrested in March 1937.

According to Novak this is not quite right — they were both part of the same property

В первые послереволюционные десятилетия мыза стояла пустой, хозяев оттуда выселили. По сведениям Центрального архива ФСБ России, в конце 20 – начале 30-х годов (точная дата неизвестна) территорию выделили для устройства личной дачи председателю ОГПУ, позже наркому НКВД СССР Г. Ягоде.

In the first decades after the Revolution the estate had stood empty as its owners had been forced to leave. According to information in the Central archive of the FSB of Russia [Russian State Security, where the former NKVD archives are now kept. – GF] at the end of the ‘20s or beginning of the ‘30s (the exact date is unknown) the land had been divided for the construction of a personal dacha for the chairman of the OGPU, later People’s Commissar of the NKVD of the USSR, G. Iagoda.

Novak’s article in Itogi reproduces the map below. It clearly shows that the dacha is part of the original estate property.

Спецобъект НКВД “Коммунарка”: 1. Ворота объекта; 2. Дом-дача наркома НКВД СССР; 3. Пруд; 4. Дамба; 5. Березовая роща – одно из мест массовых захоронений; 6. Баня; 7. Липовая аллея; 8. Остатки заграждения из колючей проволоки

Special property of the NKVD ‘Kommunarka’: 1. The main gate; 2. The dacha of the People’s Commissar of the NKVD of the USSR; 3. Pond; 4. Dam; 5. Birch grove – one of the sites of mass burials; 6. Bathhouse; 7. Avenue of linden trees; 8. The remains of a barbed wire enclosure.

Iagoda’s dacha was part of the NKVD “khoziaistvo” or estate. Therefore, the most obvious interpretation of the phrase “Дачу Ягоды чекистам” is: “Return Iagoda’s dacha to the “Kommunarka” NKVD estate once again.”

Novak’s article does not mention Stalin’s name at all, in any context. Specifically, Novak does not connect Ezhov’s “laconic” note to any meeting with Stalin. So where does “Stalin” come in? Evidently from Roginski, who writes:

Полагаем, что «расстрельный спецобъект» «Коммунарка» возник как место, специально предназначенное для захоронений бывших сотрудников НКВД, осужденных «в особом порядке». Устроить на территории бывшей дачи бывшего наркома тайное место захоронений (вероятно, и расстрелов) для его сотрудников, убитых даже без формальных приговоров, — это, нам кажется, вполне соответствовало характерам и Сталина, и Ежова. «Дачу Ягоды — чекистам» — такая запись (к сожалению, не датированная) сохранилась в записной книжке Ежова, в которую он обычно заносил (в крайне обрывочной форме) указания Сталина. С этой записи, видимо, и начинается история «Коммунарки» как места захоронения14.

We assume [or, let us assume] that the “secret place of execution” Kommunarka was created as a place specially designated for the burials of former NKVD workers who had been condemned by the “special procedure.” To build on the land of the former dacha of the former Commissar a secret place for burials (and probably also for executions) for its employees who had been killed without even formal sentences – it seems to us that this is completely in conformity with the characters of both Stalin and Ezhov. The note “Iagoda’s dacha to the Chekists” — to our regret, it is undated – was kept in a notebook of Ezhov in which he usually recorded (in an extremely abbreviated form) Stalin’s directives. With this note, evidently, begins the story of the “Kommunarka” as a site for burial.

Roginskii cites no evidence that “Kommunarka” was designated as a place for the burial of executed NKVD men. Nor does he claim to know this as a fact. Instead he calls it an “assumption” — he writes “let us assume”, or “we assume” (polagaem).

Roginskii also admits that Ezhov’s note to himself is not dated. In other words, Roginskii has no idea when Ezhov wrote it or why. There is no indication that the note is related to any talk with or orders from Stalin, let alone to a specific talk with Stalin in June 1937. Evidently Stalin’s name is not associated with this note, for if it were he would certainly have said so.

In any event, why would Stalin have to direct that NKVD property – Iagoda’s dacha – be returned to the NKVD, when it had always been in the property of the NKVD? The map reproduced in Novak’s article makes it clear that this is a single property. According to Novak it had been so since before the Revolution.

While conceding that there is no indication at all of when Ezhov wrote the three-word note to himself Roginskii adds that it is in a notebook “in which he usually recorded [zanosil] (in an extremely abbreviated form) Stalin’s directives.” But Roginskii cites no evidence to support this statement. Evidently Ezhov also recorded other matters in this notebook. Otherwise Roginskii would surely have written that all the other contents of this notebook consists of directives by Stalin; that this was a notebook dedicated by Ezhov to recording Stalin’s directives; and that therefore this three-word note must be a directive of Stalin’s too.

Therefore Roginskii has no basis to assume that this note by Ezhov to himself was an “abbreviated” reminder of a directive of Stalin’s. Even if it were, though, it would prove nothing. As we have pointed out above, the most logical interpretation is that Iagoda’s dacha and its territory should be returned to the “Kommunarka” NKVD country club of which it had originally been a part. Ezhov almost certainly had the authority to make this decision on his own, without checking such an insignificant detail with Stalin.

Roginskii concludes:

С этой записи, видимо, и начинается история «Коммунарки» как места захоронения.

With this note, evidently, begins the story of the “Kommunarka” as a site for burial.

In fact this note says nothing whatsoever about the use of the land as a burial place for anybody, let alone for NKVD men. Roginskii says “evidently” (vidimo) because he realizes that he is guessing.

One remark by Roginskii suggests that this interpretation may have been inspired by Nikita Petrov. At note 11 he thanks Petrov for help with this article:

Пользуемся случаем поблагодарить Н.В.Петрова, поделившегося с нами своими наблюдениями относительно этих списков.

We take this opportunity to thank N.V. Petrov who shared with us his observations concerning these lists.

We are now in a position to evaluate Petrov’s and Baberowski’s statements.

Not Petrov and not Roginskii, but Novak is the expert on the “Kommunarka” site. Novak has nothing about any decision to bury executed NKVD men there.

Baberowski’s reference to “einem Sommertag im Juni 1937” (“a summer day in June 1937”) comes from Petrov. But Petrov does not claim that “Stalin’s directive” was issued then. Instead, Petrov just begins the paragraph with an unrelated event that took place on June 20, 1937.

There is no evidence that Stalin spoke with Ezhov about Iagoda’s fate (“über das Schicksal von Genrich Jagoda”) in June 1937. We don’t know the content of any of the discussions that took place in Stalin’s office, including those with Ezhov.

There’s no evidence that the three-word note refers to any discussion with Stalin whether in June 1937 or at any other time. Ezhov certainly met frequently with Stalin during that month. However, Ezhov continued to figure in the list of visitors to Stalin’s office both before and after June, 1937. (“Posetiteli Kremlevskogo kabineta I. V. Stalina …” Istochnik 4, 1995, 15 – 73. For June 1937 see pp. 54-57)

Therefore, there is no evidence whatsoever that Stalin ordered Ezhov to kill Iagoda and his lieutenants and bury them on the property of Iagoda’s dacha. This is all an elaboration of Petrov’s interpretation of the three words in Ezhov’s notebook.

Conclusion

Petrov wrote:

Stalins Haß auf Jagoda kam zum Ausdruck als er Jeshow während einer Beratung zurief: Jagodas Datscha sollen die Tschekisten jetzt bekommen. Das bedeutete, daß die Leichen der ermordeten Tschekisten auf dem Gelände des Staatsgutes Kommunarka verscharrt warden sollten, an das die Datscha Jagodas grenzte.

Stalin’s hatred for Iagoda found expression when during a session he shouted to Ezhov: “The Chekists should now get Iagoda’s dacha.” That meant that the corpses of the murdered Chekists should be buried on the land of the state-owned “Kommunarka” property, which bordered on Iagoda’s dacha.

This article has demonstrated that there is not a shred of evidence for any of these statements. Consequently, there is no evidence whatsoever to support Baberowski’s statement.

Petrov is vice-chairman and senior investigator for the Russian “Memorial” organization. He is, or is commonly thought to be, an historian. He has an historian’s obligation to give evidence in support of the statements he makes, and to make it clear to his readers when he is speculating beyond the existing evidence.

Baberowski holds a position in the History faculty at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Presumably he knows that statements made by another historian cannot be simply accepted as factual or true — particularly when, as with Petrov’s article, no evidence is given for those statements.

Both Baberowski and Petrov have flagrantly betrayed their professional obligations as historians. Petrov fabricated a story about Stalin and Baberowski repeated it as fact. Roginski imagined a connection between Ezhov’s three-word note and the use of the “Kommunarka” country club as a burial site.

Another Lie: The “Lists”

Incidentally, Roginski is a liar as well (or incompetent and blinded by his anticommunist prejudices — it is often hard to tell which!). He writes:

Здесь есть только одна неточность — на самом деле на смертную казнь обрекала не Военная коллегия. Она лишь оформляла решения, вынесенные до того, как дело поступало на ее рассмотрение. Решение же выносили Сталин и несколько человек из его самого близкого окружения.

There is only one error here – in point of fact the Military Collegium did not determine the death sentences. It only formalized the decisions taken before the case had come before it for review. The decision itself was taken by Stalin and a few men from his closest circle.

This is false. The introduction to the “Lists” in question makes it clear that these lists were sent to Stalin and others in the Secretariat of the Bolshevik Party “for review.” We know of many examples of individuals who, despite being on the “lists” in “Category 1” (execution) were not executed. The “Categories” were not sentences but indications of the sentence that the State would ask if the individual were convicted of the crimes he or she was charged with.

We have discussed these lists in a separate work as follows:

Like Khrushchev did, the very anti-Stalin editors of these lists do in fact call the lists “sentences” prepared in advance. But their own research disproves this claim. The lists give the sentences that the prosecution would seek if the individual was convicted – that is, the sentence the Prosecution would ask the court to apply. In reality these were lists sent to Stalin (and other Politburo or Secretariat members) for “review” – rassmotrenie – a word that is used many times in the introduction to the lists. (http://www.memo.ru/history/vkvs/images/intro1.htm )

Many examples are given of people who were not convicted, or who were convicted of lesser offenses, and so not shot. A.V. Snegov, whom Khrushchev later befriended and mentioned by name later in this speech, is on the lists at least twice.

At http://stalin.memo.ru/spiski/pg13026.htm , No. 383;

At http://stalin.memo.ru/spiski/pg05245.htm , No. 133.

In this last reference Snegov is specifically put into “1st Category”, meaning: maximum sentence of death. A brief summary of the Prosecutor’s evidence against him is provided, and there seems to have been a lot of it. Nevertheless Snegov was not sentenced to death, but instead to a long term in a labor camp.

According to the editors of these lists “many” people whose names are on them were not in fact executed, and some were freed.

For example, a selective study of the list for the Kuibyshev oblast’ signed on September 29, 1938 has shows that not a single person on this list was convicted by the VK VS (the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court), and a significant number of the cases were dismissed altogether.

http://www.memo.ru/history/vkvs/images/intro.htm

So Khrushchev knew that Stalin was not “sentencing” anybody, but rather reviewing the lists in case he had any objections. Khrushchev knew this because the note from Kruglov, Minister of Internal Affairs (MVD) to Khrushchev of February 3, 1954 has survived. It says nothing about “sentences prepared in advance,” but gives the truth:

These lists were compiled in 1937 and 1938 by the NKVD of the USSR and presented to the the CC of the ACP(b) for review right away. [emphasis added, GF]

The Prosecutor went to trial not only with evidence, but with a sentence to recommend to the judges in case of conviction.

(Furr, Khrushchev Lied, Chapter 4.)

Conclusion

Baberowski’s article is an illustration of the problem with the historiography of the Stalin years in the Soviet Union generally. For the most part it consists not in an attempt to discover the truth, but in anticommunist falsehoods. These falsehoods are placed at the service of moralizing and condemnation, often in the most strident tones. Baberowski’s exclamation on the first page of his article

Stalinismus und Terror sind Synonyme. Stalinismus ist Terror.

Stalinism and terror are synonymous. Stalinism is terror.

sounds like one of Josef Goebbels’ Nazi rants: “Hitler ist Deutschland, wie Deutschland Hitler ist” (also the leitmotiv of Lenni Riefenstahls’ film Triumph des Willens). It is a particularly tasteless form of propaganda. It has nothing at all in common with historiography.

There is, perhaps, one positive aspect to this otherwise sad state of affairs. No one lies when the truth is on their side. So we can confidently conclude that the truth, as demonstrated by reasonable deductions from the available evidence, does not support the fanatic anti-Stalin, anticommunist conclusions that these and many other historians – and, no doubt, those who back them – want. For if the truth did support their preconceived conclusions, they would tell the truth. In fact, they could dispense with their preconceived conclusions!

But they continue to fabricate – in plain language, to lie. Sometimes the lies are as blatant as those we have exposed here – obvious to anybody with a little knowledge plus patience, access to sources, and curiosity.

This is strong evidence that the truth will not sustain the anticommunists’ project. In that fact there is much hope for the future of a far different project: to discover the truth, successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies, of Soviet history.

GROVER FURR teaches at Montclair State University. For much of the last decade has been researching the history of the Soviet Union during the period 1929-1953 and the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Links to his books and articles, in both Russian and English, are on his Home Page, http://tinyurl.com/grover-furr

 

 

One comment on “Baberowski’s Falsification
  1. Where the author writes:

    “But what about Stalin’s laconic order to kill Iagoda and his assistants and busy them on the land of Iagoda’s dacha?”

    I assume he intended:

    “But what about Stalin’s laconic order to kill Iagoda and his assistants and bury them on the land of Iagoda’s dacha?”

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