Martin Latsis

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For the Greek tycoons, see Spiros Latsis and Yiannis Latsis.
Martin Ivanovich Latsis
Мартын Иванович Лацис
Chairman of the Red Army Cheka (Eastern Front)
In office
July 1918 – November 1918
Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Cheka
In office
April 2, 1919 – August 16, 1919
Preceded by Isaak Shvarts
Succeeded by Vasiliy Mantsev
Chairman of Cheka in Kiev Governorate
In office
August 1919 – September 1919
Director of Plekhanov Institute of People's Economy
In office
Personal details
Born (1888-12-16)December 16, 1888
Putina estate, Wenden district, Livland Governorate, Russian Empire
Died March 20, 1938(1938-03-20) (aged 49)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Martin Ivanovich Latsis (Russian: Мартын Иванович Лацис Latvian: Mārtiņš Lācis, born Jānis Sudrabs) (December 14, 1888 – February 11, 1938) was a Soviet politician, revolutionary and state security high officer from Courland (today - Latvia). He was a member of the Bolshevik Party since 1905 (an "Old Bolshevik"),[1] an active participant in the Russian Revolutions of 1905–1907 and 1917, a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee, a member of the Collegium of the All-Russia Cheka (1918–1921) and Chairman of the Cheka in Ukraine (1919), and a member of VTsIK. Between 1932 and 1937, Latsis was a director at the Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics.

Latsis was the author of the book Dva goda borby na vnutrennom fronte ("Two Years of Struggle in the Internal Front", Moscow: Gos. izd-vo, 1920), in which he advocated unrestrained violence against class enemies. He boasted of the harsh repressive policies used by the Cheka.[2] In 1918, while a deputy chief of the Cheka in Ukraine, he established the principle that sentences were not to be determined by guilt or innocence—but by social class. He is quoted as explaining the Red Terror as follows:

We are engaged in exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. You need not prove that this or that man acted against the interests of the Soviet power. The first thing you have to ask an arrested person is: To what class does he belong, where does he come from, what kind of education did he have, what is his occupation? These questions are to decide the fate of the accused. That is the quintessence of the Red Terror.[3]

Latsis became a victim of the Soviet regime himself during the 1930s Great Purge, when he was arrested on November 29, 1937 and accused by a commission of NKVD and Prosecutor of the USSR belonging to a "counter-revolutionary, nationalist organization". He was executed in 1938 by firing squad.[2]

In 1956, the Military Collegiate of the Supreme Court of USSR politically rehabilitated him.[2]



  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr; The Gulag Archipelago, Harper & Row, 660 pp., ISBN 0-06-080332-0.
  • Gordievsky, Oleg; Andrew, Christopher, KGB: The Inside Story (1990), Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-48561-2.

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