Yakov Blumkin
Yakov Grigoryevich Blumkin was a Left Socialist-Revolutionary
Left Socialist-Revolutionaries
In 1917, Russia the Socialist-Revolutionary Party split between those who supported the Provisional Government, established after the February Revolution, and those who supported the Bolsheviks who favoured a communist insurrection....

, assassin
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

, Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

, Cheka
Cheka was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by aristocrat-turned-communist Felix Dzerzhinsky...

 agent, State Political Directorate (GPU)
State Political Directorate
The State Political Directorate was the secret police of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1934...

 spy, and adventurer, executed as Trotskyist.

Early life

He was born into a Jewish family, was orphaned early in his life, and was raised in Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

. In 1914 he joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Socialist-Revolutionary Party
thumb|right|200px|Socialist-Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" , short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries...


Cheka employee

After the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, in 1917 he became head of the Cheka's counter-espionage department working for Felix Dzerzhinsky. During the Red Terror
Red Terror
The Red Terror in Soviet Russia was the campaign of mass arrests and executions conducted by the Bolshevik government. In Soviet historiography, the Red Terror is described as having been officially announced on September 2, 1918 by Yakov Sverdlov and ended about October 1918...

, Blumkin was known for his brutality. The following story is recounted about the poet Osip Mandelstam
Osip Mandelstam
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets...

 by his biographer Clarence Brown:
"One evening early in the Revolution he was sitting in a cafe and there was the notorious Socialist Revolutionary terrorist Blumkin… at that time an official of the Cheka… drunkenly copying the names of men and women to be executed on to blank forms already signed by the head of the secret police. Mandelstam suddenly threw himself at him, seized the lists, tore them to pieces before the stupefied onlookers, then ran out and disappeared. On this occasion he was saved by Trotsky's sister."


Like many Cheka employees at the time, Blumkin was, politically, a Left Socialist-Revolutionary rather than a Bolshevik. Since this party was opposed to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

, Blumkin was ordered by its executive committee to assassinate Wilhelm Mirbach
Wilhelm Mirbach
Wilhelm Graf von Mirbach-Harff was a German diplomat.- Biography :Mirbach was born in Bad Ischl in Upper Austria. He participated in the Russian-German negotiations in Brest-Litovsk from December 1917 to March 1918...

, the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 ambassador to Russia; they hoped by this action to incite a war with Germany. This event was timed to occur at the opening of the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

 at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. On the afternoon of 6 July 1918, Blumkin – along with an aide, Nikolai Andreyev – went to the residence of the German Ambassador on Denezhny Lane. Blumkin gained entrance to the embassy by presenting forged documents. When Mirbach entered the drawing room, Blumkin pulled a gun from his case and shot the ambassador at point blank range, killing him. At the same time, the Left SRs launched a coup attempt in Moscow, which was quickly quelled. The members of the Left SR party at the Bolshoi Theater were arrested and the party was forcibly suppressed. Blumkin, however, escaped and went into hiding.

He fled to Petrograd and then to Ukraine where he joined the LSR Cheka. In Kiev he organized an assassination attempt against the Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi and fought in the LSR insurrection against the reactionary government of Symon Petliura. In April 1919 Blumkin surrendered to the Bolsheviks, who still had a warrant for his arrest. Dzerzhinsky pardoned Blumkin, due to his voluntary surrender, and ordered him to return to Ukraine to assassinate Admiral Kolchak. While forming a combat group, Blumkin survived three assassination attempts made by his former LSR comrades. He joined the 13th Red Army as director of counter-espionage and worked under Georgy Pyatakov
Georgy Pyatakov
Georgy Leonidovich Pyatakov was a Bolshevik revolutionary leader during the Russian Revolution, and member of the Left Opposition.Pyatakov was born August 6, 1890 in the settlement of the Mariinsky sugar factory which was owned by his father, an ethnic Russian, Leonid Timofeyevich Pyatakov.He...



In the spring of 1920, Dzerzhinsky sent Blumkin to the Iranian province of Gilan, on the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

, where the Forest Party under the leadership of Mirza Koochak Khan had established a secessionist government called the Persian Socialist Soviet Republic
Persian Socialist Soviet Republic
The Persian Socialist Soviet Republic was a short-lived Soviet republic in the Iranian province of Gilan that lasted from June 1920 until September 1921...

. On 30 May 1920, Blumkin, with his penchant for intrigue, fomented a coup d'état which drove Koochak Khan and his party from power and replaced them with the bolshevik controlled Iranian Communist Party. The new government, nominally headed by Kuchak Khan's second-in-command, Ehsanollah Khan, was dominated by the Russian Commissar, Abukov. He commenced a series of radical reforms which included the closing of mosques, confiscating money from the rich. Blumkin became chief of the General Staff of the Persian Red Army. An army was raised with the intention of marching on Tehran and bringing Persia under the Red Banner.

In August 1920, Blumkin was back in Petrograd where he was entrusted with the command of an armored train that conveyed Grigory Zinoviev
Grigory Zinoviev
Grigory Yevseevich Zinoviev , born Ovsei-Gershon Aronovich Radomyslsky Apfelbaum , was a Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet Communist politician...

, Karl Radek
Karl Radek
Karl Bernhardovic Radek was a socialist active in the Polish and German movements before World War I and an international Communist leader after the Russian Revolution....

, Béla Kun
Béla Kun
Béla Kun , born Béla Kohn, was a Hungarian Communist politician and a Bolshevik Revolutionary who led the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919.- Early life :...

, and John Silas Reed
John Silas Reed
John Silas "Jack" Reed was an American journalist, poet, and communist activist, best remembered for his first-hand account of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World...

 from the Second Congress of the Communist International to the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Baku
Baku , sometimes spelled as Baki or Bakou, is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, which projects into the Caspian Sea. The city consists of two principal...

. Their journey took them through parts of Western Russia where the Civil War still lingered. Blumkin claimed he served as a member of the Persian delegation, perhaps incognito because his name is not listed in the published rolls. At the congress, the delegates enacted the proposal of Zinoviev, leader of the Comintern, which called upon the bolsheviks to support the uprisings of native peoples from the Middle East against the British. Lenin shortly abandoned this policy, in order to sign a treaty with Great Britain.

Vagabond Agent

After his adventure in the Caucasus, Blumkin returned to Moscow and became a student at the military college. He befriended Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

, becoming a secretary, and helped over the next two years with the "selection, critical checking, arrangement and correction of the material" in Trotsky's Military Writings (1923). Trotsky noted in particular the irony of a former Left SR conspirator editing the volume describing the Left SR conspiracy. Blumkin introduced his friend, the poet Sergei Esenin, to Trotsky, hoping that Trotsky would sponsor and promote a literary journal. This sharing of friendship, scholarship, and political ideas with Trotsky would later cost Blumkin his life.

In 1924 the OGPU made Blumkin an illegal resident in the Arab peninsula. From the summer of 1924 until the fall of 1925 he worked for the OGPU in Tiflis and was the Assistant Chairman of the Soviet delegation in the mixed Soviet-Persian Border commission and a member of the Soviet delegation in the mixed Soviet-Turkish Border commission. In his autobiography, the Soviet diplomat Alexander Barmine
Alexander Barmine
Alexander Gregory Barmine was an officer in the Soviet Army who fled the purges of the Joseph Stalin era. After settling in France, he later moved to the United States where he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private during World War II as an anti-aircraft gunner, later joining the Office of...

 provides a glimpse of Blumkin, whom he met along with Esenin on a train from Moscow to Baku in the spring of 1924. The two friends, Blumkin and Esenin, "got along well and never went to bed sober." Esenin was "suffering from an overindulgence in alcohol and woman," and "had turned into a sot." Blumkin shouldered the burden of pulling Esenin together, which according to Barmine, "was more than anyone could do!" In general, Blumkin was often seen maundering about in Moscow with poets as an adherent of the Imaginism
Imaginism was a poetic flow inside Russian avant-garde which came about after the Revolution of 1917. It was founded in 1918 in Moscow by a group of poets including Anatoly Marienhof, Vadim Shershenevich, and Sergei Yesenin, who wanted to distance themselves from the Futurists; the name may have...

 literary movement to which Esenin belonged, boasting a gun and a notorious reputation. Nevertheless, part of "Blumkin lore" has it that Esenin's eventual suicide was actually a murder committed by Blumkin either out of jealousy for his wife, or on Trotsky's orders, or both, although no evidence confirms such a claim.

Blumkin's Eastern adventures soon became a byword and attained mythical proportions, making him something of a Soviet James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

. Thus, it is claimed that in 1924, he travelled secretly to Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 or Pamir
Pamir may refer to:* a pamir, a U-shaped grassy valley in the Pamir Mountains**Great Pamir, a high valley in the Wakhan on the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan**Little Pamir, a high valley in the Wakhan, Afghanistan...

 in order to contact the Ismailites and the local representative of the Aga Khan
Aga Khan
Aga Khan is the hereditary title of the Imam of the largest branch of the Ismā'īlī followers of the Shī‘a faith. They affirm the Imamat of the descendants of Ismail ibn Jafar, eldest son of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, while the larger Twelver branch of Shi`ism follows Ismail's younger brother Musa...

 for the purposes of "anti-imperialist struggle" against the British, after which he disguised himself as a dervish
A Dervish or Darvesh is someone treading a Sufi Muslim ascetic path or "Tariqah", known for their extreme poverty and austerity, similar to mendicant friars in Christianity or Hindu/Buddhist/Jain sadhus.-Etymology:The Persian word darvīsh is of ancient origin and descends from a Proto-Iranian...

 and travelled with an Ismailite caravan, exploring the British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 military positions in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 as far south as Ceylon. In 1926, Blumkin was supposedly the secret representative of the GPU in Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, where he ruled for some time as a virtual dictator (and occasionally travelled on missions in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 and India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

) until he was recalled to Moscow because the local Communist leadership had tired of his reign of terror.

In his book, The Storm Petrels, Gordon Brooke-Shepard relates that the GPU sent Blumkin to Paris in October 1929 to assassinate the defector and former Stalin personal secretary, Boris Bazhanov
Boris Bazhanov
Boris Georgiyevich Bazhanov , sometimes also spelled Bajanov, was a secretary in the Politburo and the personal secretary of the leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin from August 1923 through the end of 1925. Bazhanov held different positions at the Politburo from 1925 to 1928...

. In fact, this information comes from Bazhanov himself. Although it became common gossip among the inmates of the labor camps that Blumkin had indeed killed Bazhanov, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was aRussian and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of...

 repeats this legend in The Gulag Archipelago, the truth is that Bazhanov only died in 1983. Bazhanov at the time was also aware of the rumour of his own murder and wrote that Stalin had probably planted the rumour himself in order to instill fear.

Le Vivant est Mort

In 1929, Blumkin was the chief illegal resident in Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, where he was allegedly selling Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

Incunable, or sometimes incunabulum is a book, pamphlet, or broadside, that was printed — not handwritten — before the year 1501 in Europe...

 that he collected from synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s all over Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and Southern Russia and even from state museums such as the Lenin Library in Moscow, in order to finance an espionage network in the Middle East. While he would supposedly travel personally to Ukraine to look for rare Hebrew books, he also spent time in Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 and elsewhere organizing the network, posing as a devout Jewish laundry owner or as a Jewish salesman from Azerbaydzhan. Eventually he was deported from Palestine by the British.

It is known that during his work in Turkey, Blumkin met with Trotsky, who was living there after his expulsion from the Soviet Union. Trotsky gave Blumkin a secret message to transmit to Karl Radek, Trotsky's former supporter and friend in Moscow, which was seen by Stalin as an attempt to set up lines of communication with "co-thinkers" and "oppositionists" in the Soviet Union. Information about the meeting reached the GPU. Trotsky later claimed that Radek had betrayed Blumkin to Stalin, and Radek would later acknowledge his complicity, but it is also likely that the information was passed along by a GPU informer within Trotsky's entourage.

After Blumkin met with Radek in Moscow, Mikhail Trilisser
Mikhail Trilisser
Mikhail Abramovich Trilisser-Moskvin was a Soviet OGPU chief of the Foreign Department of the Cheka and the OGPU. Later, he worked for the NKVD as a covert bureau chief and Comintern leader.-Career:...

, head of the GPU Foreign Section, ordered an attractive agent named Lisa Gorskaya (aka Elizabeth Zubilin
Elizabeth Zubilin
Elizaveta Yulyevna Zarubina , born Lisa Rozensweig, was aSoviet spy. She was known as Elizabeth Zubilin while serving in the United States, and also known as Lisa Gorskaya....

) to "abandon bourgeois prejudice" and seduce Blumkin. The couple carried on an affair lasting several weeks and Gorskaya revealed their pillow-talk to Trilisser. When agents sent to arrest Blumkin arrived at his apartment, he was getting into a car with Gorskaya. A chase ensued and shots were fired. Blumkin stopped the car, turned to Gorskaya and said: "Lisa, you have betrayed me!" Following his arrest, Blumkin was brought before a GPU tribunal consisting of Yagoda
Yagoda is a Russian surname meaning "berry" and may refer to:*Genrikh Yagoda , Soviet state security official*Ben Yagoda , American professor of journalism...

, Menzhinsky, and Trilisser. The defector Georges Agabekov
Georges Agabekov
Georges Agabekov , was a Soviet Red Army soldier, Chekist, OGPU Agent, Chief of OGPU Eastern Section...

 claims: "Yagoda pronounced for the death penalty. Trilliser was against it. Menzhinsky was undecided." The matter was referred to the Politburo where Stalin, ending the deadlock, declared himself in favor of the death penalty.

In his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1941), Victor Serge
Victor Serge
Victor Serge , born Victor Lvovich Kibalchich , was a Russian revolutionary and writer. Originally an anarchist, he joined the Bolsheviks five months after arriving in Petrograd in January 1919 and later worked for the Comintern as a journalist, editor and translator...

 fancifully relates that Blumkin was given a two week reprieve so that he could write his autobiography. This manuscript, if indeed it ever existed, remains undiscovered. The defector Aleksandr Mikhailovich Orlov writes that Blumkin stood before a firing squad and shouted, "Long live Trotsky!" The Russian Government has never rehabilitated Blumkin.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.