In reviewing the video made by my brother in 1995 in which Dad discussed his memories growing up in the Soviet Union, I honed in on my father’s memories of the story about cranking the gramophone for the “Communist Big Shot.” It turned out that Dad actually called him a “Three-Star KGB agent”, not a “Communist Big Shot.”
In researching what that meant, I discovered that this neighbor would have been a captain in the NKVD- the Soviet Secret Police (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), which controlled all internal aspects of security. During the period of the Great Purge in the mid to late 1930s, the NKVD arrested anyone suspected of opposing Stalin and his policies. (The KGB was not formed until the 50’s, so that specific reference was Dad’s mistake.)
The assassin of Sergei Kirov- Leonid Nikolaev- was executed before the end of the year, but none of the other men in attendance at the meeting in my father’s apartment building were even arrested. The “Communist Big Shot” was a man who shared the apartment with Dad’s family, so my grandfather quietly approached him about the meeting. Dad explained that the meeting was attended by Nikolaev as well as various NKVD agents. None of the NKVD agents were arrested.
My grandfather was worried that both he and my father would be in danger if it was ever learned that they had a connection to the meeting, so he asked his neighbor for advice on how to handle the situation. According to my father, my grandfather was told the name of an individual to report what had happened, and shortly thereafter, those men were arrested. Nothing ever happened to my grandfather or father.
The assassination of Sergei Kirov has been discussed for years much like the assassination of our president, John F. Kennedy. Like Lee Harvey Oswald, did Nikolaev act alone, or was he part of a larger conspiracy? I do not believe there is a definitive answer yet, but Dad did not believe the theory that Stalin felt threatened by Kirov and therefore orchestrated the murder. His opinion was based on his feeling that if Stalin was behind the assassination, he would have needed the assistance of the Leningrad NKVD. Since the meeting in Dad’s building was attended by NKVD agents, he felt that proved to him that Stalin was not involved.
So that is one of my father’s bedtime stories!