Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda
(b. Lódź in Russian Poland, 1891; d. Moscow, 15 Mar. 1938)
Chairman of the NKVD 1934–6 Yagoda was the son of a Jewish carpenter. After secondary education he became a statistician. He worked for the father of Sverdlov and married into the Sverdlov family. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1907 and was imprisoned for two years in 1911. He served in the army from 1915 to 1917 and helped organize the Red Guard in Petrograd in 1917. Yagoda served in the Cheka in the Civil War as well as holding some administrative posts. Dzerzhinsky appointed him second deputy chairman of the GPU (secret police) in 1923, and he became deputy head of the GPU in 1926, serving under Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. As Menzhinsky's health declined after 1929, Yagoda was effectively in control of the secret police. He disapproved of Stalin's collectivization of agriculture though the secret police were closely involved in its implementation. From July 1934 to September 1936 he was chairman of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), and had overall control of the purges which took place after Kirov's murder in 1934. It is generally believed that he had no prior knowledge of the murder. In 1936 he was replaced by Yezhov and made Commissar for Communications. He was arrested in April 1937, accused of having been first a tsarist then a Nazi agent, and executed in 1938 after a show trial alongside Bukharin, Rykov, and others. Yagoda always had a fearful reputation in the Soviet Union and was not rehabilitated.