“Judges” and Executioners [2]

In February 2021 after a visit to Petrozavodsk reporters eagerly repeated [Postscript] a suggestion of DMITRIEV’s 88-year-old acquaintance Alexander Selyutsky that the historian might have upset a local relative or descendant of the “Judges” or Executioners of 1937-1938:

“He not only came across those who were arrested: the executioners were also named in those documents.”

Krasny Bor (September 2012)

Yet, as noted before, the troika members and 47 others who signed execution reports from a dozen sites across Karelia were all publicly named in the 1990s by Dmitriev’s mentor Ivan Chukhin. It was the first time such information was published anywhere in Russia,[R] notes Sergei Krivenko of Memorial.

In his 1999 book, for instance, Chukhin named 16 men who took part in executing 3,778 “near Petrozavodsk” between 9 August 1937 and 22 October 1938 (not just at Krasny Bor, perhaps, but at other still unidentified locations). And he described (Karelia in 1937, [R] p. 119) the three most often in charge of such operations : Travin, NKVD commandant for the Karelian capital; Pushkin, head of the city fire brigade; and Voronkov, seconded from the special section of the NKVD’s 17th rifle division in the Leningrad Region.


In the run-up to his arrest on 13 December 2016, said another acquaintance, Yury DMITRIEV received anonymous and sometimes hostile telephone calls about the “list of executioners”.

This popular name describes a work of reference made available shortly before. In November 2016, after International Memorial was designated a “foreign agent” it published online the names and details of 42,000 “Officers of the USSR NKVD, 1935-1939” [R]. A major resource — but it is easier to find some names than others. Travin, for example, is absent.

Naturally, the NKVD chairmen of the troika in Karelia are all included: Tenisson (1897-1938 died in prison), his odious deputy Solonitsyn (1895-?1965); and his successor Matuzenko (1897-1940 shot). Despite a plea in 1956 by Tenisson’s widow and in 1957 by Solonitsyn himself, none were later granted rehabilitation. “The majority of NKVD men who were members of a troika were not rehabilitated after Stalin’s death,” commented the chairman of International Memorial in 2018, “but all the regional Party secretaries who were members, often enthusiastic members, of such bodies were rehabilitated. Likewise, the third member of the troika, the regional prosecutor [or procurator, ed.], was also always rehabilitated.”


Only 13 of the 47 named by Chukhin in 1999 as officers from the Karelian NKVD or from the NKVD’s Gulag system can be recognised, with varying degrees of certainty, in the 2016 “list of executioners”. (The preface to the online publication warned users that not all whom it mentioned were directly involved in acts of political repression. This caveat has been largely ignored.) Chukhin did not supply their initials. Even those with uncommon surnames cannot always be found: they were probably too junior for inclusion in the 2016 collection — where dates of birth are known those named by Chukhin had only reached their early thirties by 1937. A few NKVD district heads can be identified with confidence: P.P. Beizot (1905-1943) in Pudozh; I.K. Terekhov (??) in Rugozero; G.G. Goldberg (1906, retired 1951) in Olonets; and P.P. Yermushin (1904-? 1945 Perm Region) in Kem. The detail is often very thin. One exception is A.M. Kuznetsov (1902-1971), NKVD district head in Kandalaksha during the Terror: after the war he became head of the MGB in Karelia and died in Petrozavodsk.

Without initials six of the 16 who oversaw and took part in shootings near Petrozavodsk, cannot be found in the 2016 “list of executioners”. Only three of the eight signatories of execution reports from Sandarmokh have been publicly identified: I.A. Bondarenko (1900-1939), A.F. Shondysh (1902-1939) and P.P. Dolinsky. Shondysh and the sadistic Bondarenko are also not in the 2016 list but were convicted and shot long ago, after the trial of the unspeakable NKVD executioner Captain Matveyev.

John Crowfoot

“Judges” and Executioners [1]



The Seryshev thesis

In February 2021 the Project team of investigative journalists published a long piece developing the suggestion first made by Nikita Girin that the former head of the Karelian FSB (2011-2016) Anatoly Seryshev was “The very grey cardinal” [R] operating behind the scenes to sustain the persecution of Yury DMITRIEV.

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