On December 1, 1934, a lone gunman shot and killed Sergei Kirov, Secretary of the Central and Leningrad Party Organization, member of the Moscow Politburo, and heir apparent to Joseph Stalin. This assassination was arguably one of the most significant crimes of the century. Not only did it seal the fates of thousands--and, indirectly, millions--of people spuriously connected to the killer, but it eliminated the second most powerful man in Russian politics, giving Stalin free rein to dominate Soviet policy.
Stalin and the Kirov Murder, written by the much acclaimed author of Harvest of Sorrow, is the first book-length examination of the case. Robert Conquest chronicles this story of political misfeasance and cover-up on the eve of what may be the first disclosure by the U.S.S.R. of the actual facts of the case. Though an interrogation was conducted in 1934, and over the next few years a purge charged thousands with complicity in the case, a number of unusual circumstances leading up to the murder were never properly explained. Why, for instance, was the assassin, who had twice been arrested in possession of a weapon, allowed unguarded in the building where the Leningrad government officials had their offices? As Roy Medvedev, a Leninist dissident, later explained, "The investigation was carried out in complete violation of the law, of common sense, of the desire to find and punish the real culprits."
A later investigation, conducted under Khrushchev, produced 200 volumes of documents but was never made public. Now, 54 years after the crime was committed, glasnost has prompted a new examination of this singular crime--one that will perhaps reveal the truth about the case for the first time.
Based on all the available evidence, including official documents as well as the reports of numerous Russian defectors, Conquest has written a fascinating, at times chilling account of the murder and its aftermath. He concretely establishes what has long been rumored--that Stalin not only sanctioned Kirov's assassination, but used it as a justification for the terror that culminated in 1937 and '38.