Shakhty Trial

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The Shakhty Trial (Russian: Ша́хтинское де́ло) was the first important Soviet show trial since the case of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in 1922. The trial was conducted in 1928 in Moscow. [1]

History[edit]

In 1928, the local OGPU arrested a group of engineers (including Peter Palchinsky, Nikolai von Meck and A. F. Velichko)[2] in the North Caucasus town of Shakhty, accusing them of conspiring with former owners of coal mines (living abroad and barred from the Soviet Union since the Revolution) to sabotage the Soviet economy. The architect of these arrests and interrogations was Efim Georgievich Evdokimov. Technically retired from the OGPU in 1931, he would later lead a secret police team within the NKVD itself.

The Shakhty trials marked the beginning of a long series of accusations against class enemies within the Soviet Union, and was to become a hallmark of the Great Purge of the 1930s. On March 10, 1928, in response to the arrests, Pravda announced that the bourgeoisie were using sabotage as a method of class struggle. Joseph Stalin mentioned a month later that the Shakhty arrests proved that class struggle was intensifying as the Soviet Union moved closer to socialism.

Fifty Russian and three German technicians and engineers from the coal industry were to be tried publicly on charges of counter-revolutionary sabotage and espionage... This was Revolutionary Justice... the same Revolutionary Justice that had presided over the guillotine in the French Terror... the accused men were coming into the court pre-judged... We waited in vain for a genuine piece of impersonal and unimpeachable testimony... that did not carry the suspicion of G.P.U. extortion. The "far-reaching international intrigue" never did emerge... Only a very few [of the accused], among them two aged Jews, Rabinovich and Imineetov, retained their self-respect intact. Imineetov said, "One day another Zola will arise and will write another J'Accuse to restore our names to honor."

Lyons, Eugene (1937), Assignment in Utopia, pp. 114–133, ISBN 0887388566 

Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, and Mikhail Tomsky all opposed Stalin's new policy on repression from within the Politburo, but Stalin insisted that international capital was trying to "weaken our economic power by means of invisible economic intervention, not always obvious but fairly serious, organizing sabotage, planning all kinds of 'crises' in one branch of industry or another, and thus facilitating the possibility of future military intervention....We have internal enemies. We have external enemies. We cannot forget this for a moment."

They picked this Palchinsky to be the chief defendant in a grandiose new trial. However, the [prosecutor] Krylenko, stepping into what was for him a new field — engineering — not only knew nothing about the resistance of materials but could not even conceive of the potential resistance of souls . . . despite ten years of already sensational activity as a prosecutor. Krylenko's choice turned out to be a mistake. Palchinsky resisted every pressure the OGPU knew—and did not surrender; in fact, he died without signing any sort of nonsense at all. N. K. von Meek and A. F. Velichko were subjected to torture with him, and they, too, appear not to have given in.

[2]

The trial resulted in five of the fifty-three accused engineers being sentenced to death and another forty-four sent to prison. Among accused in similar trials and executed was Nikolai Karlovich von Meck, Tchaikovsky's nephew by marriage, who was accused of "wrecking" the state railway system.[3][4] The trial marked the beginning of "wrecking" as a crime within the Soviet Union, as found in Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code). Workers not producing as much as the government felt they ought to were suspected of conspiring with foreign capital to sabotage the Soviet economy and summarily tried and sent to prison (or sometimes executed). On this subject, G.M. Krizhizanovskii said, "Who is not with us is against us."

References[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Kotkin 2014, pp. 702-705
  2. ^ a b Solzhenitsyn & p.285-286.
  3. ^ Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. (1973). The Gulag Archipelago, pp. 44–45 (1st ed.). Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-080332-0.
  4. ^ Nikolai von Meck http://en.tchaikovsky-research.net/pages/Nikolay_von_Meck

Further reading[edit]

  • Walter Duranty, The Curious Lottery: And Other Tales of Russian Justice. New York: Coward-McCann, 1929.
  • Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1937.