Mikhail Frinovsky

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Mikhail Frinovsky
Mikhail Frinovsky
Birth nameMikhail Petrovich Frinovsky
BornJanuary 1898
DiedFebruary 4, 1940
Allegiance Soviet Union
RankKomandarm 1st rank
SignatureFrinovsky Mikhail Signature 1937.png

Mikhail Petrovich Frinovsky (Russian: Михаил Петрович Фриновский; January 1898 - February 4, 1940) served as a deputy head of the NKVD in the years of the Great Purge and, along with Nikolai Yezhov, was responsible for setting in motion the Great Purge.


Mikhail Petrovich Frinovsky was born in 1898 to a teacher[1] in the village of Narovchat, Penza Guberniya. Prior to World War I, he studied in a religious school. In January 1916, Frinovsky volunteered for the army. He served as a sergeant in the cavalry until his desertion in August of the same year.[1] He joined an anarchist group and took part in the assassination of Major-General M. A Bem in 1917.[1]

In March 1917, Frinovsky began working as an accountant in Moscow. In September, he volunteered for the Red Guard. The unit under his command participated in the storming of the Kremlin, during which Frinovsky was severely wounded.

Between March and July 1918, Frinovsky again returned to civilian life and worked as a deputy administrator of the Hodynskaya Clinic. In July 1918, he joined the RKP(b) and volunteered for the Red Army. Frinovsky was made a commissar of a combat unit and also head of the Special Section (the political supervisor and the representative of the secret police, ChK) of the 1st Cavalry Army.

In 1919, Frinovsky was transferred to the VChK. Later in the year, he became a deputy of the Special Section for the Moscow ChK. In this capacity, he participated in many operations most vital for the survival of the bolshevik regime, including actions against the anarchists, as well as the destruction of anarchist and rebel militias in the Ukraine.

From December 1919 until April 1920, Frinovsky served in the Special Section for the Southern Front. In 1920, he was transferred to the South-Western Front, where he served as chief of the Special Section, and as deputy to the Chief of the Special Section of the 1st Cavalry Army. Between 1921-1922, he was the deputy to the Chief of the Ukrainian ChK.

From 1922 to 1923, Frinovsky headed the administrative division of the Kiev GPU. From the June 23 he was also head of the OGPU of the South-East.

In November 1923, Mikhail Frinovsky was transferred to the Northern Caucasus and given command of the Special Section for the region. In January 1926, he became head of GPU forces.

In July 1927, Frinovsky was again transferred to Moscow, this time as aide to the commander of the Special Section for the region. In 1927, he completed high-command courses at the Frunze Military Academy. From November 28, 1928, until September 1, 1930, he served as the commissar of the Special Forces division assigned to the Dzerjinsky College of the OGPU USSR.

On September 1, 1930, Mikhail Frinovsky was promoted and made chairman of the GPU of Azerbaijan.[2] In April 1933, he was again promoted and became the commander of OGPU Border Guard. On July 10, 1934, Frinovsky became head of Border and Internal Troops for the NKVD.

Great Purges[edit]

Frinovsky was one of the major beneficiaries of the first purge of the NKVD that followed the dismissal of its head, Genrikh Yagoda. He had had some kind of falling out with Yagoda, but was on good terms with Nikolai Yezhov, Yagoda's successor. On October 16, 1936, Frinovsky was appointed Deputy Chairman of the NKVD, which made him third in seniority within the security apparatus at the start of the great purge. On April 15, 1937, he was promoted First Deputy Chairman of the NKVD, and head of the Chief Directorate of State Security. Now second in command to Yezhov, he was in charge of the interrogation of Yagoda, in which Stalin took a personal interest.[3] He was jointly responsible with Yezhov for setting the quotas of arrests that were required in each part of the Soviet Union, and in drawing up the 383 lists submitted for Stalin's approval, containing 44,000 names of people who were to be arrested, of whom 39,000 were to be executed. He led the squad of senior NKVD officers who descended on Kiev on June 7, 1937, to facilitate the arrest of the recently dismissed head of the Ukraine NKVD, Vsevolod Balitsky, and of Red Army officers suspected of being too closely linked to their former commander, Iona Yakir. On February 17, 1938, he supervised the murder of the head of the NKVD Foreign Department, Abram Slutsky, who was chloroformed and injected with lethal poison in Frinovsky's office.[4] On April 28, 1938, he signed the warrant for the arrest of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in the gulag.[5] On June 17, 1938, he arrived in Khabarovsk, in the Far East, in a special train carrying a large contingent of NKVD officers, to supervise mass arrests of military and security personnel in the Far East, including 16 senior NKVD officials, who were shot, and the commander of the Far Eastern Army, Marshal Vasily Blyukher.[6]

While Frinovsky was in the Far East, Stalin proposed that he be appointed People's Commissar for the Navy, an apparent promotion, which was actually part of a manoeuvre to remove Yezhov. On August 22, 1938, it was announced that his replacement as First Deputy Chairman of the NKVD would be Lavrenti Beria. Frinovsky arrived back in Moscow on August 25 and for a few days he effectively ran the NKVD, while Beria was in Georgia arranging who would take over from him there and Yezhov was in a state of drunken depression. He seized the opportunity to have a group of former NKVD officers, including Leonid Zakovsky and S. N. Mironov, shot, to prevent them giving evidence against him to Beria.[7] On September 8, 1938, he was named People's Commissar for the Navy, and was sufficiently in favour to be among the guests at a lunch in the Kremlin on the 21st anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, at which Stalin and Beria were present, but Yezhov was excluded,[8] but at the party congress in March 1939, he was not elected to the Central Committee, when one of his nominal juniors was. He wrote to Stalin on March 16, pleading to be dismissed because he knew nothing about running a navy, but he was in office, at least nominally, until his arrest on April 6, 1939.[9] On April 12, his wife, Nina, and son, Oleg, were also arrested. All three were included in a list of 346 people Beria submitted to Stalin on January 16, 1940, with a recommendation that they all be shot. Yezhov and the writer Isaac Babel were on the same death list. Oleg Frinovsky, who was 17, was executed on January 21, and Nina Frinovskaya on February 3. It was standard procedure that the condemned were photographed prior to execution: the last pictures of Frinovsky's wife and son are in David King, Ordinary Citizens.[10] Mikhail Frinovsky was shot on February 4.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rayfield, Donald (2007). Stalin and His Hangmen. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 86. ISBN 0307431835. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  2. ^ "Heads of special services of Azerbaijan". Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  3. ^ Jansen,, Marc and Petrov, Nikita (2002). Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press. pp. 55–56, 62. ISBN 978-0-8179-2902-2.
  4. ^ Stalin's Loyal Executioner. p. 68.
  5. ^ McSmith, Andy (2015). Fear and the Muse Kept Watch. New York: The New Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-1-59558-056-6.
  6. ^ Conquest, Robert (1971). The Great Terror. Pelican Books. pp. 617–618.
  7. ^ Stalin's Loyal Executioner. p. 151.
  8. ^ Banac, Ivo (editor) (2003). The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 1933-1949. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-300-09794-8.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Stalin's Loyal Executioner. p. 184.
  10. ^ King, David (2003). Ordinary Citizens, The Victims of Stalin. London: Francis Boutle Publishers. pp. 158 and 159.
Military offices
Preceded by
Pyotr Alexandrovich Smirnov
Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy
Succeeded by
Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov
Preceded by
Pyotr Alexandrovich Smirnov
People's Commissars for the Navy
Succeeded by
Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov