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The Evidence in the Kirov Murder

Perhaps one way of clearing up the conflicts of witness testimony would be to find out what the assassin, Nikolaev, had to say on the subject. Leonid Nikolaev was a failed party functionary who had lost his job recently and had been haunting the halls of the city's pary aparatus at the Smolnyi in an effort to get his job back.

There is considerable evidence that he actually performed the murder. The NKVD (KGB) found a diary explicitly detailing his plans and intentions. However, the diary is suspect and was possibly manufactured by the political police. Even his testimony was likely taken under torture and he reportedly committed suicide in his cell when the NKVD had extracted the information it wanted. Thus the body of evidence against Nikolaev even pulling the trigger is quite suspect. And even if he had, there is some reason to believe complicity within the NKVD. Nikolaev had been detained 3 weeks earlier and had been found carrying a Nagan revolver and a map detailing the rout Kirov followed daily from his home to his office. Several years later Yagoda, the then head of the KGB, testified (in a subsequent show trial/purge) that he had been informed of this detention and had ordered that any terrorism directed toward Kirov should not be hindered.

Other witnesses who might have been useful in determining what actually happened died rather suddenly. For example, Borisov, Kirov's bodyguard died in a truck accident the day after the murder while riding with a group of NKVD agents. Subsequent investigations show that he likely was thrown from a fast moving vehicle.

In fact, the testimony of those present points to a few alternative scenarios. It is possible that the NKVD was directly involved and had recruited Nikolaev when they found he had a vendetta against Kirov. It was also possible that Mikhail'chenko or others who emerged from the conference room had committed the murder and subsequently thrust the weapon into Nikolaev's hand. In fact, Mikhail'chenko was one of the few people present who were aware that Kirov would show up at his office at the late hour. (It is assumed that even Nikolaev could not have known that Kirov would make this unplanned trip to his office.)

NKVD complicity seems to be indicated by several factors. Besides the suspicious disappearances of witnesses one wonders why a possibly dangerous man was detained and released. There is also a question of how he might have even reached such a secure place as the corridor leading to the office of the Leningrad Party Secretary. One might also point to the actions of Comrade Stalin himself...

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