|Birth||7 May 1877, Kutaisi Governorate, Russian Empire|
|Death||30 October 1937, Moscow, Russia (aged 60 years)|
|Politics||Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (bolshevik)|
Avel Safronovich Yenukidze (Georgian: აბელ ენუქიძე, Abel Enukidze, [ˈɑbɛl.ˈɛnukʰid͜zɛ]; Russian: А́вель Сафронович Енуки́дзе; 19 May [O.S. 7 May] 1877—30 October 1937) was a prominent "Old Bolshevik" and, at one point, a member of the Soviet Central Committee in Moscow. In 1932, along with Mikhail Kalinin and Vyacheslav Molotov, Yenukidze co-signed the infamous "Law of Spikelets".
Yenukidze was the son of a peasants, born in a village in Kutaisi province, Georgia. After graduating from Tiflis Technical College, he was employed in the main workshop of the Transcaucasian railways in 1897-1900. He joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1898. In 1900, he moved to Baku, to work on the railways there, and created Baku's first RSDLP organisation. He was also one of the organisers of an underground printing press in Baku, used to print RSDLP literature. . He was arrested twice in 1902, escaped from Siberia in 1903 and lived in a cellar with the illegal printing press in Baku in 1903-06. After the split in the RSDLP, he joined the Bolshevik faction. He was arrested again in 1907, 1908, 1910 and 1911, but escaped every time. In 1914, he was arrested for the seventh time, and deported to Turukhansk, then drafted into the Russian army.
Yenukidze was stationed with the Petrograd garrison at the time of the February Revolution. He quit the army in April, when he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Soviets. During 1918, he was appointed Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Soviets, which meant that he was in charge of administration and security in the Kremlin. As one of the three most senior native Georgians in the Soviet leadership, after Josif Stalin and Sergo Ordzhonikidze, he was of four authors of The Life of Stalin, a hagiography published to coincide with Stalin's 50th birthday. His co-authors were Ordzhonikidze, Kliment Voroshilov and Lazar Kaganovich. In 1922-1934, he was also chairman of the boards of the Bolshoi Theatre and Moscow Art Theatre. In February 1934, he was elected a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC CPSU).
By all accounts, Yenukidze was one of the most amiable and least ambitious officials in Stalin's circle. Leon Trotsky acknowledged that "he was no careerist and certainly not a scoundrel." Alexander Barmine described him as "the very soul of kindness and sensitiveness towards the needs and feelings of other...human ..., sympathetic." And the French communist, Victor Serge wrote that:
He was a fair-headed Georgian, with a kind sturdy face lit up by blue eyes. His bearing was corpulant and grand, that of a mountain-dweller born and bred. He was affable, humorous and realistic...In the discharge of these high offices, he proved himself a man of human feeling, and as liberal and large-hearted as it was possible to be in that age.
When the poet Anna Akhmatova was seeking Osip Mandelstam after his arrest in May 1934, Yenukidze was the only high-ranking official to receive her. "He listened to her carefully, but said not a word." However, he was also debauched. While in exile in Siberia, he had an affair with the future wife of Kliment Voroshilov, and while running the Kremlin he reputedly abused his position to seduce young women.
The "Kremlin Affair"
In February 1935, Yenukidze was removed from his post administering the Kremlin, and appointed Chairman of the Central Executive Committee (ie President) of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which would have meant sending him back to his native Georgia. In the same month, the NKVD began a series of security checks on Kremlin staff, in the wake of the assassination of Sergei Kirov. By summer, 110 had been arrested, of whom two were sentenced to death, the rest to prison terms.. They included a brother of Stalin's former opponent, Lev Kamenev. In May, Yenukidze - who apparently had not taken up his new job - pleaded not to be made to move to Tiflis, on health grounds, and asked to be given post either in Moscow or the North Caucasus. He was sent to the North Caucasus to supervise mineral resorts.
Two weeks after taking up this position, he returned to Moscow for a plenum of the CC CPSU, apparently unaware that it had been called to denounce him. Nikolai Yezhov, the future head of the NKVD, made his debut as a recently appointed Secretary of the CC, accusing Yenukidze of having put Stalin's life at risk by allowing potential assassins to work in the Kremlin. He was also attacked by his fellow Georgians, Ordzhonikidze and Lavrentiy Beria over his practice of giving money to former Bolsheviks who had been deprived of their livelihoods for opposing Stalin. He was expelled from the Central Committee and appointed head of the automobile works in Kharkov.
While the accusation of lax security in the Kremlin was the pretext for humiliating Yenukidze, the real reason may have been his failure to contribute adequately to the glorification of Stalin. In particular, memoirs published in the 1920s, including Yenukidze's, principally attribute the creation of the illegal printing press in Baku to the late Lado Ketskhoveli, and made no mention of Stalin, who was then based in Tiflis, being involved. He complained privately of being under pressure to change the record for Stalin's benefit, saying: "I am doing everything he has asked me to do, but it is not enough for him. He wants me to admit that he is a genius." On 16 January 1935, Yenukdize was forced to publish a public apology, altering the record to say that Ketskhoveli was 'sent to Baku' by Stalin and others to set up and to create the party organisation in Baku. Six months later, Beria published a history of the Bolshevik organisation in Transcaucasia, which accused Yenukidze of having "deliberately and with hostile intent" falsified the record.
Arrest and Execution
Yenukidze was arrested on 11 February 1937. During the purges, it was comparatively rare for the Soviet press to publicise executions, apart from those of the defendants at show trials (citation needed). In a rare exception to this rule, it was reported in Pravda that Yenukdize and six others had been tried in private on 15 December 1937, and executed on 20 December. His co-defendants were said to have been the Armenian diplomat, Lev Karakhan, the former Georgian party secretary Mamia Orakhelashvili, two former leading official from the North Caucasus, V.F.Larin and Boris Sheboldayev, the diplomat Vladimir Tsukerman, and the mysterious 'Baron' Boris Steiger. During the largest of the Moscow Trials, in March 1938, Yenukidze was posthumously denounced by one of the leading defendants, the former head of the NKVD, Genrikh Yagoda as the linchpin of the supposed 'rightist conspiracy' and the principal organiser of the assassination of Kirov, and the supposed murder by poisoning of Maxim Gorky.
This was all untrue, including the report of a secret trial. After the archives were opened, it emerged that Yenukdize was actually shot in October 1937. He was rehabilitated and posthumously readmitted to the communist party in 1960.
A character named Arkady Apollonich Sempleyarov, 'chairman of the Moscow Theatres' Acoustics Commission', based on Yenukidze appears briefly in The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The malicious Koroviev, one of the Devil's companions, is giving a stage performance and is challenged by Sempleyarov, who speaks in "a pleasant and supremely self-confident baritone" to explain how he performs his magic tricks. Fagotto's response is to reveal to the entire audience that Sempleyarov, whose wife is sitting alongside him, had secretly spent four hours the previous evening with an actress, when he claimed to have been at a meeting.