Agranov, Yakov Samulovich

   An Old Bolshevik who joined the Communist Party in 1915, Agranov was one of the most effective of the early Chekist leaders. He advanced quickly in the service as a counterintelligence expert to become deputy chief. Agranov set up the first show trial in Leningrad in 1921 to publicize and punish resistance to the regime among the Leningrad intellectual elite. An intellectual, Agranov was close to a number of leading writers, including Vladimir Mayakovsky and Maksim Gorky. Following Sergei Kirov’s assassination on 1 December 1934, Agranov took charge of the Leningrad NKVD and pursued the conspirators with zeal. Hundreds of men and women were shot in the few weeks he was in Leningrad. Agranov was then given extraordinary power by Joseph Stalin and NKVD chief Genrykh Yagoda to prepare a major show trial that would implicate the Old Bolsheviks and Leon Trotsky in Kirov’s death. Agranov forced two of Vladimir Lenin’s old comrades, Grigori Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, to confess that they had planned Kirov’s death and that they were Nazi spies and saboteurs. It was a coup de theatre: all the defendants at the trial confessed and were shot. Agranov had not, however, earned Stalin’s gratitude; he was arrested in July 1937 as Nikolai Yezhov cleansed the security service of enemies. On 1 August 1938, Agranov was tried and immediately shot for treason. His trial was “private.” He has not been rehabilitated, like so many of the Old Bolsheviks he helped murder.
   See also Moscow Trials.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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