The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery
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Reminding us that Americans do not hold the monopoly on conspiracy theories, Knight analyzes the dramatic events and repercussions surrounding the murder of Sergei Kirov. In December of 1934, Leningrad Party Chief and leading Communist Kirov was murdered in a deserted corridor of party headquarters by a disenchanted ex-Communist named Nikolaev. The mysteries of the assassination are fascinating and myriad. Kirov’s bodyguard, who was somehow detained further down the corridor and didn—t even witness the murder, died en route to an interview with Stalin the next day, allegedly as the result of falling out of the truck in which he was being transported. Kirov’s office had been relocated to a distant portion of the main corridor while he was away. How could Nikolaev have entered the building unnoticed? These are but a few of the enigmas that arise on opening this Pandora’s box. There have been countless attempts to solve the case, from Stalin’s arrival in Leningrad the day after the murder to investigations headed by Khrushchev and Gorbachev. In this, her latest book dealing with the Soviet secret police, Knight (Spies Without Cloaks: The KGB’s Successors, 1996, etc.) draws a compelling picture of Kirov—a bright man and a gifted orator who rose from childhood poverty and incarceration under the tsarist regime to the highest levels of Communist leadership. In Knight’s view, the Kirov murder case served as a prototype of party and secret police complicity. Not only did Stalin use the murder to launch a campaign against Leningrad, she contends, but he planned it as a pretext for launching his massive purges. “No one, it seems, was untouched by what had happened on the first of December 1934.” Thus the Kirov murder raised questions for the entire nation about its leadership’s legitimacy. While some experts might argue with Knight’s conclusions, general readers will be drawn to her narrative of this fascinating case and its continued grip on the Soviet/Russian political imagination. (26 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8090-6404-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999


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