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Vasiliy Vasilievich Ulrikh (Russian: Василий Васильевич Ульрих, July 13, 1889 – May 7, 1951) was a senior judge of the Soviet Union during most of the regime of Joseph Stalin. In this capacity, Ulrikh served as the presiding judge at many of the major show trials of the Great Purges in the Soviet Union.
Vasili Ulrikh was born in Riga, Latvia, then a part of the Russian Empire. His father was a Latvian revolutionary of German descent, and his mother was a Russian noblewoman. Because of their open involvement in revolutionary activity, the entire family was sentenced to a five-year period of internal exile in Irkutsk, Siberia.
In 1910, young Ulrikh returned to his native Riga and began to study at the Riga Polytechnical Institute. He graduated in 1914, and with the beginning of World War I he was sent to the front as an officer.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Leon Trotsky secured him entrance into the Cheka. Ulrikh subsequently served on a number of military tribunals, and came to the attention of Stalin, who apparently liked the efficient way in which he carried out his duties and his terse, even laconic style of reporting these tribunals' actions.
In 1926 Ulrikh became Chairman of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR. It was in this capacity that he handed down the pre-determined sentences of the Great Purges. Ulrikh sentenced Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Tukhachevsky, Rodzaevsky, Yezhov and many others. He attended the executions of many of these men, and occasionally performed executions himself.
During the Great Patriotic War, Ulrikh continued to hand down death sentences to people accused of sabotage and defeatism. He was also the main judge during the Trial of the Sixteen leaders of the Polish Secret State and Armia Krajowa in 1945, and Estonian freedom fighters.
After the conclusion of the war, Ulrikh presided over a number of the early trials of the Zhdanovshchina.
In 1948 a number of top judges, including Ulrikh were removed from their positions for severe drawbacks in the judicial system, including corruption and what was classified as political errors. Ulrikh was subsequently reassigned to be the course director at the Military Law Academy. He died of a heart attack on May 7, 1951 and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
- Nikita Pietrow, Psy Stalina, (Warszawa 2012: Demart), page. 218 (Russian original: Пaлaчи. Oни выплняли ӡакаӡы Сталина, 2011). Ulrich personally killed Jānis K. Bērziņš.
- „Члены Верховного суда брали взятки“ ("Members of the Superior Court Took Bribes") magazine «Коммерсантъ Власть», no. 31 (785), August 11, 2008
- Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny (New York City, N.Y.: Harper Colophon, 1983), page 83.
- Montefiore, " Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar " ( New York City, N.Y. : Alfred A. Knopf, 2004 ), page 162.
- Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, The Time of Stalin
- Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment
- Amy Knight, Who Killed Kirov: The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
- Arkady Vaksberg, Stalin's Prosecutor: The Life of Andrei Vyshinsky
- Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin, Court of the Red Tsar