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Kirov's Biography

Sergei Kostrikov was born (27 March 1886) to a poor family in Urzhum, Russia, a small town nestled in the Ural mountains. His father, Miron Kostrikov left home while Sergei was still at a tender age. Times were hard in late 19th century Czarist Russia. His mother and sisters eaked out a hardscrabble existence and put considerable energy into providing for and educating young Sergei. His mother, (Ekaterina) died the year after his father left (1893). His care was then turned over to his Grandmother.

In 1901 a group of local, wealthy benefactors provided the growing Kostrikov with a scholarship at an industrial school in Kazan. He earned a degree in engineering. It was in Tomsk, Siberia in 1904 and during the 1905 Russian Revolution that Sergei began to awaken to Marxist ideology. His idealism was spawned by the poverty endemic in a totalitarian state and the lure of an organization promising, however irrationally, to eradicate the vagaries of the human condition. He became active in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party and was arrested several times in 1905 and 1906 for illegal agitation against the state.

By 1909 he had moved to Vladikavkaz. Although he was not trained to be a journalist, he had the interest and aptitude to get on the staff of a liberal newspaper, TEREK. In 1911 he was arrested again and continued to bolster his revolutionary credentials through his work distributing leaflets and agitating workers at factories. By 1917 he was prepared to throw himself into the maelstrom of the Russian Revolution. The great war (1914-18) had absorbed all of Imperial Russia's economic and human capital. Bankrupt, it slid further and further into revolutionary ferment. When Lenin arrived in 1917 the inevitable occured. The autocratic Czar was killed (as was his entire family) and a subsequent civil war wreaked havoc upon the countryside.

By this time Sergei Kostrikov had changed his name to Kirov. He had selected it as a pen name. He had seen the name, "Kir", on a calendar of Saints names. It reminded him of a Persian warrior king. It was an appropriate name for the young man who was to become head of the Bolshevik military administration in Astrakhan. In this position, he ruthlessly crushed the White Russian forces who were fighting for a return of the Czar.

As a reward for his grim work in Astrakhan, he was appointed Russian Embassador to Georgia. While there he helped instigate the Soviet takeover of the Region. In the early 1920's he worked his way up the party machinery to become the Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and was also elected a member of the Central Committee in Moscow. In the Soviet Union, party secretary was the true position of power since it was the secretary who controlled all communist party and government appointments. Stalin himself derived his power from the fact that he was the head secretary of the communist party.

The Russian Revolution and the subsequent civil war did not change the essence of rule in Russia. The autocratic Czar was replaced by an autocratic secretariat of the communist party. However, the new regime, without the legitimacy of time or popularity, was compelled to maintain power by repressive measures. Kirov assisted in these measures, which included forced labor camps, and the destruction of a peasant class known as the Kulaks (of which it is estimated that 4-8,000,000 were killed). Though there is evidence that Kirov attempted to minimize the disruption and destruction, there is no doubt that by his actions ten's of thousands of individuals were liquidated.

In 1926, after Stalin initiated a purge in Leningrad (the second largest city in Russia), Stalin replaced his rivals with a man on whom he felt he could depend. As the new head of the Leningrad Communist Party, Kirov was put in a position of prominence and power second only to Stalin himself. From 1926 to 1934, as Stalin's paranoia was becomming more noticeable and more destructive, Kirov became more and more the only evident rival to Stalin. Though he always towed the party line, he put softer touches on the repression and was becomming more and more popular with the people. At a Party conference in 1934 he spoke out against some new repressive measures being dictated by Stalin. He was loudly applauded by the party apparatus. Some even thought that he might be able to topple Stalin from his position as overall party leader.

It was less than a year later that Kirov was murdered...

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