Kirov, Sergei Mironovich

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(18861934), Leningrad Party secretary and Politburo member.

Born in 1886 as Sergei Mironovich Kostrikov in Urzhum, in the northern Russian province of Viatka, Kirov was abandoned by his father and left orphaned by his mother. He spent much of his childhood in an orphanage before training as a mechanic at a vocational school in the city of Kazan from 1901 to 1904. He became involved in radical political activity during his student years, after which he moved to Tomsk and joined the Social Democratic Party, garnering attention as a local party activist before the age of twenty. Kirov joined the Bolshevik Party and was arrested in 1906 for his activities in the revolutionary events of 1905 in Tomsk. After his release in 1909, he moved to Vladikavkaz and resumed his career as a professional revolutionary, taking a job with a local liberal newspaper and changing his last name to Kirov. He continued his party activities in the Caucasus in the years before the October Revolution, serving in various capacities as one of the leading Bolsheviks in the Caucasus during the Revolution and civil war eras. Kirov occupied the post of secretary of the Azerbaijan Central Committee from 1921 to 1926. In 1926 he became a candidate member

of the Politburo and took the position of first secretary of the Leningrad Provincial Party organization, playing a major role in the political defeat of Grigory Zinoviev by Josef Stalin. Kirov gained full Politburo membership in 1930 and retained his position as head of the Leningrad Party organization until his death in 1934.

On December 1, 1934, a lone gunman named Leonid Nikolaev murdered Kirv at the Leningrad party headquarters. Kirov's murder served as a pretext for a wave of repression that was carried out by Stalin in 1935 and 1936 against former political oppositionists, including Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, and against large sectors of the Leningrad population. The connection between Kirov's death and the coordinated repression of 1935 and 1936 has led numerous contemporary observers, as well as later scholars, to speculate that Stalin himself arranged the murder in order to justify an attack on his political opponents. Proponents of this theory argue that Kirov represented a moderate opposition to Stalin in the years 1930 to 1933, in particular as an opponent to Stalin's demand in 1932 for the execution of the oppositionist Mikhail Riutin; they also argue that provincial-level party bosses wanted to replace Stalin with Kirov as general secretary of the Bolshevik Party at the Seventeenth Congress in 1934. Archival research carried out after the fall of the USSR has generally failed to support these claims, suggesting instead that Kirov was a dedicated Stalinist and that Kirov's murderer was a disgruntled party member working without instruction from higher authorities. Stalin's repressive response to the Kirov murder was likely a cynical use of the assassination for his own political ends as well as a genuine response of shock at the murder of a high-level Bolshevik official. Proponents of Stalin's responsibility, however, have not conceded the argument, and the debate is unlikely to be resolved without substantial additional evidence.

See also: civil war of 19171922; october revolution; purges, the great; social democratic workers party; stalin, josef vissarionovich


Conquest, Robert. (1989). Stalin and the Kirov Murder. New York: Oxford University Press.

Knight, Amy. (1999). Who Killed Kirov? New York: Hill and Wang.

Lenoe, Matt. (2002). "Did Stalin Kill Kirov and Does It Matter?" The Journal of Modern History 74: 35280.

Paul M. Hagenloh

Kirov, Sergei Mironovich

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Kirov, Sergei Mironovich (1888–1934) Soviet politician. An effective speaker, he was elected to the Communist Party Politburo in 1930. His murder, probably on Stalin's orders, served as a pretext for the Stalin purges (1934–38).

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