Genrikh Lyushkov

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Genrikh Samoilovich Lyushkov
Russian: Генрих Самойлович Люшков
Genrikh Samoilovich Lyuskhov
Born 1900
Odessa, Russian Empire
Disappeared August 1945
Nationality Russian
Spouse(s) Inna Lyushkova
Children 1
Far Eastern Commander of the NKVD[1]
In office
31 July 1937 – 13 June 1938
Preceded by V. A. Balitsky
Succeeded by M. M. Zapadny

Genrikh Samoilovich Lyushkov (Russian: Генрих Самойлович Люшков; 1900 – disappeared August 1945) was an officer in the Soviet secret police and its highest-ranking defector. His subsequent disappearance has been subject to controversy and speculation by journalists and scholars.

Early life

Lyushkov was born in Odessa in the Russian Empire in 1900. His Jewish father supported him and his siblings as a tailor. He began his education in 1908 in a state-owned, six-classroom school, continuing there until 1915. While in school, he was influenced by his brother (a member of the Bolshevik underground) to join the Bolshevik Party and take part in the Russian Revolution several years later.

In April 1919, he received political training in Kiev for the Ukrainian People's Republic. The Russian Civil War broke out, and after his graduation in September of that year, he was assigned to the Bolshevik 14th Army for political work, where he saw combat against Poles and the White Russian forces of Anton Denikin. By then, he was a fully-fledged political commissar and had received the Order of the Red Banner.[1][2]

Secret police

In November 1920, he joined the Cheka of Odessa, which became known for its ruthlessness and corruption after it recruited many criminals and ex-criminals.[3] He also served in Moscow and Ukraine. When the Cheka was disbanded and reformed into the GPU (the Государственное политическое управление НКВД РСФСР or "State Political Directorate"), Lyushkov rose even further. Around 1930,[4] he carried out an industrial espionage assignment in Germany, where he monitored activities within the Junkers aviation company, bringing him the favour of Joseph Stalin. That led to his working again within the USSR, now as a member of the NKVD (the Народный комиссариат внутренних дел or "People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs"). He was quickly transferred to preferential positions such as his posting as the NKVD chief in the Sea of Azov-Black Sea region[4] as well as being awarded the Order of Lenin "for exemplary performance of tasks of the Party and government."[2] He was also made a deputy of the Supreme Soviet and a member of the Central Committee.

During the time of the Moscow Trials, he was the one who led the interrogations of Zinoviev and Kamenev.[5] Later, he earned a reputation as "an arrogant, arbitrary and sadistic bully...."[4] On 31 July 1937, he received his final posting, as the NKVD chief in the Russian Far East, where he had direct command over "20,000–30,000 élite NKVD troops."[6]

When he was given the post, he was, according to an interview with Japanese military officials, given personal orders to aid in the elimination of specific officials as a part of the Great Purge (a period in Soviet history when Stalin had many officials arrested and executed on a variety of charges, usually false): Vsevolod Balitsky (the former NKVD chief in the Far East, whom Lyushkov was replacing); Vasily Blyukher (a Marshal of the Soviet Union); and A. I. Lapin (the Far East Air Corps Commander). Balitsky, Blyukher, and Lapin all fell victim to the Great Purge. Balitsky's arrest and execution resulting from evidence gathered by Lyushkov. Blyukher's arrest and subsequent death resulting from blame being assigned to him for Lyushkov's defection. Lapin committed suicide while imprisoned.[4]

Prompted by his Japanese interrogators, Lyushkov gave one of the earliest explanations of the circumstances of the Great Purge, arguing that he had been merely appeasing Stalin and that he had no choice but to carry out his orders. Lyushkov, immediately upon arriving to Khabarovsk, saw that Balitsky had been arrested and sent to Moscow for trial and execution.

However, his time in the post proved to be short. When the Great Purge was near its peak and NKVD boss Nikolai Yezhov was gradually losing power, Lyushkov received a summons to return to Moscow but strongly suspected that it would mean his own arrest and execution since his own two predecessors in his post, Terenty Deribas and Balitsky, had both been purged. Balitsky had been convicted based on information from Lyushkov himself, whom he had considered a friend.[2]

By then, Lyushkov had been promoted to "third-rank commissar of state security" (комиссар госбезопасности 3-го ранга) or "Commissar 3rd Class", the approximate equivalent of a major-general in the Imperial Japanese Army.[7]


In preparation for his defection, Lyushkov arranged for his Jewish wife, Inna, to leave the country with his eleven-year-old daughter for the daughter to receive medical treatment in Poland. Their plan was for Inna to embed a secret codeword into a telegram, which would signal Lyushkov that it was safe for him to leave the Soviet Union.

Under unknown circumstances, however, Inna and her daughter were captured. Though the daughter's fate remains unknown, Inna was kept at the Lubyanka prison and tortured for information throughout late 1938 before eventually being executed.[2] Other members of Lyushkov's family were arrested and imprisoned in Siberian gulags.[2] While his mother and brother were both killed, his sister survived her imprisonment.[2]

On 13 June 1938, Lyushkov defected from the Soviet Union by crossing the border into Manchukuo with valuable secret documents about the Soviet military strength in the region, which was much higher than the Japanese had realised. He was the highest-ranking secret police official to defect; he also had the greatest inside knowledge about the purges within the Soviet Red Army because of his own participation in carrying them out.

His defection was initially kept a state secret by Japan, but the revelation of his defection was judged to have a high propaganda value,[8] so the decision was made to release the news to the world. A press conference was arranged at a Tokyo hotel on 13 July,[8] a month after Lyushkov had defected. He "categorically denied Moscow's allegation that he was an impostor"[8] but some news agencies, such as the New York Times wondered if he was telling the truth.

During subsequent interviews and interactions with Japanese military personnel, Lyushkov adopted an anti-Stalinist position.[9] However, his professed political views remained socialistic in nature according to the recollections of some Japanese intelligence officers, with Lyushkov calling himself a Trotskyite,[10] but some Japanese officers believed that he had later become a liberal communist.[11] Though Lyushkov was anti-Stalinist, he was resistant to the idea of creating a new regime led by Russian émigrés.[11] He was, however, willing to include them in a proposed plan for the assassination of Stalin.

A resistance group of Russian emigrants would travel across the Turkish-Soviet border when Stalin would travel south to a resort in Sochi, which he had visited previously to swim in the Matsesta River. Lyushkov's intimate knowledge of NKVD procedures and the way Stalin's guard detail would be organised encouraged the Japanese to support the plan. However, a Soviet agent had infiltrated the group of Russian exiles and foiled the plan, which was considered the only serious attempt to assassinate Stalin.[2]

Lyushkov was able to detail the strength of the Red Army in the Far East, Siberia and Ukraine, simultaneously providing Soviet military radio codes. He was considered highly intelligent and dedicated,[9] producing great volumes of written material,[10] but there was some uncertainty about his ability to provide useful information specific to military operations.[11]

As he spent more time in Japan, his hard work impressed the Japanese intelligence officers with whom he had been assigned to work. The staff of the Imperial Japanese Army had concerns, however, about his psychological state, especially pertaining to the status of his wife and daughter about whom he had heard no news since his defection. After a failed search by Japanese intelligence agents for his family, a plan to both pacify and "domesticate"[10]

Lyushkov was decided upon: he would be paired with a woman both to distract him from the question of his family's status and to keep him rooted in Japan. An eventual match was found after Lyushkov refused several White émigré women.[10]

At some point, he began to make plans to travel to the United States and contacted an American publisher about a possible autobiography that he would write. He had concerns that he might be prevented from leaving Japan and went as far as to negotiate a written safe-conduct guarantee.[12]


After Germany's capitulation, Lyushkov was sent on 20 July 1945 to work for the Japanese Kwantung Army's Special Intelligence authorities in the puppet state of Manchukuo.[13] On 7 August 1945, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria commenced and Lyushkov vanished in the confusion of the assault, where he was reportedly last seen in a crowd at a Dairen train station.[13]

Other theories hold that he was captured by the Red Army or that he was killed on the orders of a Japanese Special Intelligence officer to prevent him from giving away Japanese military secrets to the Soviet Union.[13][14] Lyushkov's ultimate fate remains unknown.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Coox 1968, p. 407.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Kuksin, Ilya (17 August 1999). ПОБЕГ СТОЛЕТИЯ. Vestnik (in Russian). Vestnik Information Agency. 17 (224). Retrieved 12 February 2012. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Alexander, Berkman (1989) [1925]. "Chapter 32: Odessa: Life and Vision". The Bolshevik Myth (Diary 1920–1922). London: Pluto Press. ISBN 1-85305-032-6. OCLC 1144036. Retrieved 12 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Coox 1968, p. 408.
  5. Medvedev, Roy (1972) [1969]. К суду истории (in Russian). Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-44645-3. OCLC 251139. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Coox 1968, p. 409.
  7. Coox 1968, p. 405.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Coox 1968, p. 411.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Coox 1968, p. 412.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Coox 1968, p. 413.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Coox 1968, p. 414.
  12. Coox 1968, p. 417.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Coox 1968, p. 418.
  14. ЛЮШКОВ ГЕНРИХ САМОЙЛОВИЧ. (in Russian). Memorial. Retrieved 12 February 2012. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Coox, Alvin D. (January 1968). "L'Affaire Lyushkov: Anatomy of a Defector". Soviet Studies. 19 (3): 405–20. doi:10.1080/09668136808410603. ISSN 0038-5859. JSTOR 149953.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Coox, Alvin D. (1998). "The Lesser of Two Hells: NKVD General G. S. Lyushkov's Defection to Japan, 1938–1945, part I". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. 11 (3): 145–86. doi:10.1080/13518049808430355.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Coox, Alvin D. (1998). "The Lesser of Two Hells: NKVD General G. S. Lyushkov's Defection to Japan, 1938–1945, part II". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. 11 (4): 72–110. doi:10.1080/13518049808430361.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Overy, Richard (2004). The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02030-4. OCLC 55885552.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links