Seventy six years ago today, on December 1st 1934, Leonid Nikolaev strolled into the Smolny Institute, walked up behind Sergei Mironovich Kirov, pulled a 7.62mm Mossin Nagant revolver from his briefcase, and shot Kirov in the back of the neck. Leonid’s apparent plan was to then shoot himself.
Comerade S.A. Platanov was an electrician doing work on the floor of the Smolny Institute where the shooting occurred. Plantanov apparently threw a screwdriver at Leonid with such force that it pinned Leonid’s wrist to the wall. Platanov then subdued Leonid; thus preventing him from shooting himself. Before the end of the year, on December 29th 1934, Leonid would be shot to death by a firing squad.
Leonid was not a very competent assassin. He had tried on October 15th to enter the Smolny Institute with the same revolver in the same briefcase. The guards had searched his briefcase, found the illegal revolver, and detained him. Then, inexplicably, they received special instructions to let Leonid go. They even gave him back his revolver and briefcase for good measure. When Leonid returned on December 1st the regular guards were, inexplicably, off duty.
Strangely enough in late October even the normal personal guards for Kirov had been re-assigned, so Kirov walked the halls escorted only by an associate named Borisev. Borisev and Kirov were strolling together through the halls of the Smolny Institute. Just as they approached the hallway where Leonid waited Borisev stalled to tie his shoelace or something. Kirov continued down the hall, and was as much as 40 yards away when Leonid slipped in behind him with his revolver.
Borisev was interrogated in connection with Kirov’s death. The next day, while being transported to an enhanced interrogation facility, he fell off a truck to his death. Perhaps he tripped on his shoelace?
Leonid had not been very good at much of anything. He was broke, jobless, and irritable. He was described as having “the unmistakable signs of childhood malnutrition”, and he appeared poised to pass that condition onto his infant son Marx. He had been expelled as a party member due to insubordination, and he blamed various institutions of the communist system for his vagrancy.
Despite Leonid’s apparent vision of the Communist party as a coordinated evil entity the communist party of 1934 was fracturing. Martemyan Ryutin had circulated a 200 page document that called for, amongst other reforms, the removal of Stalin. Stalin had called for Ryutin’s execution, but was thwarted by an opposition group that was coalescing behind the very popular Kirov. Kirov was so popular that he had only received 3 negative votes at the 1934 party congress; Stalin received 292 negative votes. Ryutin would only outlive Kirov by a few years. In 1937, when Stalin began his purges in earnest, Ryutin would be one of the first with their backs against the wall.
Kirov was not popular with everyone (besides Leonid). He was a rabid ideologue, and in March of 1919 during the Russian civil war, was responsible for the deaths of over 4,000 individuals. He reportedly would have “bourgeois” who were caught hiding their possessions summarily shot.
Leonid’s malnutrition-addled hatred incited him to regularly proclaim his desire to kill people in positions of authority. It was during one of his tirades that a shadowy unnamed individual gave him the directions to Kirov’s office and the revolver. He also gave him a couple of drinks and some cash too.
After Kirov’s assassination Stalin personally ordered Leonid’s mysterious and shadowy provocateur shot. The nameless individual was apparently executed on these orders, but his name was not released.
In addition to the mystery man Stalin had Leonid’s 85 year old mother, his brothers, his sisters, several cousins, and some other folk for good measure rounded up and executed. Just to even things out Stalin ordered 104 persons who were in jail on unrelated charges at the time of Kirov’s death executed.
Leonid’s infant son was sent to an orphanage and only found to be “rehabilitated” in 2005.