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Trial of the Twenty One

The Trial of the Twenty One was the last of the Stalinist show trials (Moscow Trials) of prominent Bolsheviks. There were four key trials from 1936 to 1938, The Trial of the Sixteen was the first (December 1936); then the Trial of the Seventeen (January 1937); then the trial of Red Army generals, including Marshal Tukhachevsky (June 1937); and finally the Trial of the Twenty One in March 1938.

The chief accused at the final trial were Alexei Rykov, Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin, Nikolai Krestinsky, Christian Rakovsky, and Genrikh Yagoda.

In a similar vein to the earlier trials the defendants were accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin, of conspiring to wreck the economy and the country's military power, of working for the espionage services of Britain, France, Japan, and Germany and of making secret agreements with Germany and Japan.

All confessed immediately, except Krestinsky who initially denied the charges before confessing the following day - "I fully and completely admit that I am guilty of all the gravest charges brought against me personally, and that I admit my complete responsibility for the treason and treachery I have committed". All were found guilty of "of having committed extremely grave state offences covered by... the Criminal Code... sentenced to the supreme penalty - to be shot". The others found guilty were Arkady Rosengoltz, Vladimir Ivanov, Mikhail Chernov, Grigori Grinko, Isaac Zelensky, Akmal Ikramov, Faizulla Khodjayev, Vasili Sharangovich, Prokopy Zubarev, Pavel Bulanov, Lev Levin, Ignaty Kazakov, Veyamin Maximov-Dikovsky and Pyotr Kryuchkov.

All of the original Politburo, except Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov, were tried. By the end of the final trial Stalin had had arrested and executed almost every important living Bolshevik from the Revolution. Of 1,966 delegates to the party congress in 1934, 1,108 were arrested. Of 139 members of the Central Committee, 98 were arrested. Three out of five Soviet marshals and one-third of the Red Army officers were arrested or shot. Outside of politics, many millions of others died in the purges. The key defendant, Leon Trotsky, was living in exile abroad, but he still did not survive Stalin's desire to have him dead and was eventually assassinated.