Leningrad affair

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The Leningrad affair, or Leningrad case (Russian: Ленинградское дело, "Leningrad delo"), was a series of criminal cases fabricated in the late 1940s–early 1950s by Joseph Stalin in order to accuse a number of prominent politicians and members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of treason and intention to create an anti-Soviet organisation based in Leningrad.[1][2]


Moscow and Leningrad were two competing power centers in the Soviet Union. Researchers[2] argue that the motivation behind the cases was Joseph Stalin's fear of competition from the younger and popular Leningrad leaders – who had been fêted as heroes following the city's siege. Stalin's desire to keep power was combined with his deep distrust of anyone from Leningrad from the time of Stalin's involvement in the Russian Revolution, Russian Civil War, execution of Grigory Zinoviev and the Right Opposition. Among Stalin's competitors from Leningrad who were also assassinated were two former leaders of the city: Sergei Kirov and Leon Trotsky; whose appointed subordinates continued to work in the city government for years after they left office.[3][4][5] During the siege of Leningrad, the city leaders were relatively autonomous from Moscow.[2] Survivors of the siege became national heroes, and leaders of Leningrad again gained much clout in the Soviet central government in Moscow.[2]


In January 1949 Pyotr Popkov, Alexey Kuznetsov and Nikolai Voznesensky organised a Leningrad Trade Fair to boost the post-war economy and support the survivors of the Siege of Leningrad with goods and services from other regions of the Soviet Union. The fair was attacked by official Soviet propaganda,[6] and was falsely portrayed as a scheme to use the federal budget from Moscow for business development in Leningrad, although the budget and economics of such a trade fair were normal and legitimate and approved by State Planning Commission and the government of the USSR.[7] Other accusations included that Kuznetsov, Popkov and others tried to re-establish Leningrad's historic and political importance as a former capital of Russia, thus competing with Moscow-centered communist government[citation needed]. The initial accuser was Georgy Malenkov, Stalin's first deputy. Then formal accusations were formulated by the Communist Party and signed by Malenkov, Khrushchev and Lavrentiy Beria. Over two thousand people from the Leningrad city government and regional authorities were arrested. Also arrested were many industrial managers, scientists and university professors. The city and regional authorities in Leningrad were swiftly occupied by pro-Stalin communists transplanted from Moscow. Several important politicians were arrested in Moscow and other cities across the Soviet Union.[8]

As a result of the first prosecution, on 30 September 1950, Nikolai Voznesensky (chairman of Gosplan), Mikhail Rodionov (Chairman of the RSFSR Council of Ministers), Alexey Kuznetsov, Pyotr Popkov, Ya. F. Kapustin and P. G. Lazutin were sentenced to death on false accusations of embezzlement of the Soviet State budget for "unapproved business in Leningrad", which was labeled as anti-Soviet treason. Thus old and sick Stalin eliminated some of his younger rivals and strengthened his dictatorship.[2]


The verdict was announced behind closed doors after midnight and the six main defendants, including the mayor of the city, were executed by shooting on 1 October 1950. Stalin's government had reinstated the death penalty in the Soviet Union on 12 January 1950; it had previously been repealed in 1947. It was applied to the accused retroactively.[9][10][11] Over 200 Leningrad officials were sentenced to prison terms from 10 to 25 years. Their families were stripped of rights to live and work in any major city, thus limiting their lives to Siberia.

About 2,000 of Leningrad's public figures were removed from their positions and exiled from their city, thus losing their homes and other property. All of them were repressed, together with their relatives. Respected intellectuals, scientists, writers and educators, many of whom were pillars of the city's community, were exiled or imprisoned in the Gulag prison camps. Intellectuals were harshly persecuted for the slightest signs of dissent, such as Nikolai Punin, who was killed in a prison camp for expressing his dislike of Soviet propaganda and "tasteless" Lenin portraits.[12]

The Leningrad affair was organised and supervised by Malenkov and Beria. Executions and purges were done by Viktor Abakumov and the MGB. Graves of executed leaders of Leningrad were never marked and their exact locations are still unknown.

All of the accused were later rehabilitated during the Khrushchev Thaw, many of them posthumously.[13]

Alexei Kosygin, the future Chairman of the Council of Ministers, survived but his political career was hampered for some time.


  1. ^ Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, 1996, ISBN 0-7615-0718-3
  2. ^ a b c d e "Stalin and the Betrayal of Leningrad". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Leon Trotsky: On the Kirov Assassination (1934)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  4. ^ "The Affair of Leningrad Centre...", from Russian Encyclopedia Krugosvet (in Russian)
  5. ^ Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives, 1997, ISBN 0-385-47954-9
  6. ^ Malenkov against Zhdanov. Games of Stalin's favourites. (in Russian)
  7. ^ The "Leningrad Affair" Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  8. ^ Ruble, Blair A. (1 July 1983). "The Leningrad Affair and the Provincialization of Leningrad". Russian Review. 42 (3): 301–320. doi:10.2307/129824. JSTOR 129824.
  9. ^ N.F. Kuznetsova and I.F. Tyazhkova (ed.). "7 Военное и послевоенное уголовное законодательство (1941-1945 гг. и 1945-1953 гг.)". Курс уголовного права. Том 1. Общая часть. Учение о преступлении (in Russian). I.F. Zertsalo. p. 2002. ISBN 978-5-94373-034-4. Archived from the original on 2013-12-07.
  10. ^ ""Ленинградское" дело (политический процесс 40-50 гг. XX века)". Memorial.
  11. ^ Pazin, Mikhail (2012). "«Ленинградское дело»". «Страсти по власти: от Ленина до Путина» (in Russian). ISBN 978-5-459-01201-9.
  12. ^ The Diaries of Nikolay Punin: 1904-1953. University of Texas Press (1999) ISBN 0-292-76589-4
  13. ^ William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, London: Free Press, 2004