31 October 1937* [NKVD] Kuibyshev

Letter from A. FRENKEL (Kuibyshev) to NKVD chief YEZHOV: malfunctioning of special troika, unburied bodies of “Enemies of the People”, and poor safety measures during interrogation. [Russian: 31 October 1937] Two pages.


[page one of two]

Comrade Yezhov!

I consider it my duty to advise you of the following facts that have been made known to the Party Control Commission [Oversight Department or Partkontrol]:

1. The [local] military procurator reports that Comrade Popashchenko, head of the Kuibyshev UNKVD [1], often entrusts Comrade Akimov, his administrative secretary, and Comrade Zarubin, deputy procurator for special cases, with making decisions during sessions of the troika [2]. (Popashchenko brought Akimov with him when he himself was posted to Kuibyshev.)

Comrade Popashchenko has often failed to attend troika sittings, so only the two above-mentioned comrades were in attendance, and they took decisions, although  Comrade Zarubin is not a member of the troika. Comrade Popashchenko would sign the sentences. Despite the fact that Comrade Andreyev [3] prohibited this behaviour when he visited Kuibyshev, Comrade Popashchenko allowed this practice until recently.

Comrade Zarubin has notified the Party Control Commission of the above.

2. Several days ago, members of a collective farm in the Kuznetsk district informed a visiting instructor of the regional Party committee that a mass murder had been committed the previous night not far away.

Investigation discovered that eight Enemies of the People had been shot in the woods after being sentenced by the special troika. The head of the district NKVD [RONKVD], who was previously expelled from the Party in retaliation for contacts with the unmasked Enemies of the People, committed a provocative, hostile act by failing to have the bodies of those shot buried. This NKVD officer was arrested and the bodies were buried.


[page two]

3. Because of inadequate security arrangements, there have been two cases of Enemies of the People escaping from the interrogation rooms of the Kuibyshev NKVD by jumping through the window. One of them fell to his death.

… October, 1937




[1] Kuibyshev UNKVD – the city department of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (i.e. security police).

[2] Troika – an extra-judicial body, made up of three leading local officials: usually the Party secretary, the NKVD head and the Procurator for the Region, Republic or City. Its sessions were brief and the accused were not present or represented.

[3] Andrei Andreyev – a member of Stalin’s Politburo from 1932 until 1952.


  • 1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
  • 2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;
  • 3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted in a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.

Translation, George Sklyar

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