Mikhail Koltsov

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Mikhail Koltsov. Official photo NKVD after arrest 1938
Signature of Mikhail Koltsov

Mikhail Efimovich Koltsov (Russian: Михаил Ефимович Кольцов) (June 12 [O.S. May 31] 1898, – February 2, 1940 or June 4, 1942), born Mikhail Efimovich Fridlyand (Friedland) (Михаил Ефимович Фридлянд), was a Soviet journalist.


Born at Kiev, Koltsov was the son of a Jewish shoemaker and the brother of Boris Efimov. Koltsov participated in the Russian Revolution of 1917, became a member of the Bolshevik party in 1918, and took part in the civil war. A convinced communist, he soon became a key figure of the Soviet intellectual elite and arguably the most famous journalist in the USSR, chiefly due to his well-written satirical essays and articles, where he criticised bureaucracy and other negative phenomena in the Soviet Union. Koltsov founded popular journals such as Krokodil, Chudak and Ogonyok and was a member of the editorial board of Pravda. As a Pravda correspondent, he travelled to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War, while at the same time he was working for the NKVD. He also acted as military advisor to Loyalist forces on occasion. Koltsov is widely regarded as having been Joseph Stalin's chief reporter in the Spanish war, with speculation suggesting he had a direct line from his hotel to the Kremlin. Koltsov described his experiences in The Spanish Diary, which was published in 1938. In the same year, Koltsov was summoned from Spain and arrested on charges of anti-Soviet and terrorist activities as part of the Great Purge. He was sentenced to death and shot in 1940 or 1942, according to different sources. His third wife Maria Osten was also sentenced and shot.

Koltsov was rehabilitated following Stalin's death in 1953.

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