Nikolai Krestinsky


Nikolai Krestinsky

Nikolai Nikolaevich Krestinsky ("Николай Николаевич Крестинский") (October 13, 1883 - March 15, 1938) was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and Soviet politician. According to Vyacheslav Molotov (see Chuev, Felix (ed), "Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics", 1993, Dee Ivan Inc), Krestinsky's family had converted from Judaism to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Biography

Rise to the Top

Krestinsky joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903 and sided with its Bolshevik faction. After the February Revolution, which overthrew monarchy in Russia, he proved to be a capable organizer and was elected to the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party on August 3, 1917 (Old Style). He was made a member of the first Soviet Orgburo on January 16, 1919 and the first Politburo on March 25, 1919. He was also made a member of the Central Committee Secretariat on November 29, 1919 and served as the party's senior secretary for the next 1.5 years.

Fall from Power

In late 1920-early 1921, after the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War, Krestinsky supported Leon Trotsky's faction in an increasingly bitter dispute over the direction of the country. After Vladimir Lenin's victory at the Xth Party Congress in March 1921, Krestinsky lost his Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat posts and became Soviet ambassador to Germany. The post was an important and sensitive one because of Soviet Russia's crucial and delicate relationship with Germany at the time, but not nearly as important as his previous posts.

Krestinsky supported Trotsky and the Left Opposition in 1923 -early 1927, but distanced himself from Trotsky later in 1927. He completely [http://www.marxists.org/archive/rakovsky/biog/biog5.htm broke with the opposition] in April 1928.

The Show Trial

Krestinsky continued working as a diplomat until 1937 when he was arrested during the Great Purges. He was put on trial (as part of the Trial of the Twenty One) on March 12, 1938. While almost all other defendants admitted their guilt during the Moscow Show Trials, Krestinsky at first denied everything, but reversed himself the following day:

On March 12th, he said to the presiding judge, Vasili Ulrikh::::I do not recognize that I am guilty. I am not a Trotskyite. :::I was never a member of the "right-winger and Trotskyite bloc", :::which I did not know to exist. Nor have I committed a single one of :::the crimes imputed to me, personally; and in particular I am not guilty :::of having maintained relations with the German Secret Service.

The following day, he made a total reversal on his position::::Yesterday, under the influence of a momentary keen feeling of false shame, :::evoked by the atmosphere of the dock and the painful impression created by :::the public reading of the indictment, which was aggravated by my poor health, :::I could not bring myself to tell the truth, I could not bring myself to say that I:::was guilty. And instead of saying, "Yes, I am guilty," I almost mechanically answered,::: "No, I am not guilty."

It was hard to believe that Krestinsky's change of heart was due to anything other than coercion, physical or otherwise. The episode was one of Joseph Stalin's few failures during the well orchestrated show trials of the late 1930s.

Krestinsky was sentenced to death and executed in March 1938. He was partially exonerated during Khruschev's partial destalinization and was cleared of all charges during perestroika.

ee also

*Soviet-German relations before 1941


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