Zakovskiy, Leonid Mikhailovich

(1894–1938)
   A Latvian worker born Henry Shtubis, Zakovskiy joined the Bolshevik Party at age 19. He was arrested before the 1917 Revolution but then joined the Red Guards and helped the Bolsheviks build support among the soldiers and sailors in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Zakovskiy was co-opted into the Cheka in December 1917 and served in intelligence and counterintelligence in the Russian civil war. Days following Sergei Kirov’s death in December 1934, Zakovskiy was brought to Leningrad to take command of the local NKVD. Zakovskiy, clearly Joseph Stalin’s man, pushed the purge of dissidents. Over the next four years, thousands of men and women were arrested, tried, and shot for being somehow connected to the murder of Kirov. There has been speculation that Zakovskiy was sent to Leningrad by Stalin to cover up any evidence that Stalin and NKVD chief Genrykh Yagoda had set up Kirov’s murder. At a Communist Party plenum, however, Zakovskiy played a key role in calling for an intensification of the terror, and the arrest of Yagoda. In 1938 Zakovskiy began a downward spiral. He was given a provincial assignment for a few weeks to get him away from his power base; his inevitable arrest followed. After several months of interrogation, Zakovskiy was tried on 29 August 1938 for treason. He was shot the same day. He has not been rehabilitated.
   Zakovskiy was typical of those drafted into the Cheka in the early days of the regime. Poorly educated, street smart, and tough, he was the type of person first Vladimir Lenin and then Stalin relied on to maintain power. Yet during the Yezhovshchina, people with Zakovskiy’s background were at risk, and many perished. They were not Russians, or Slavs; they had little idea of how to manage the more complex Soviet society; and they knew the most important secrets of the leadership.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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