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Nikolai Ivanovich Ezhov

Head of secret police

Nikolai Ezhov, USSR Head of secret police.


Ezhov, Nikolai was born in 1895.


Bolshevik from April 1917. During the Civil War political commissar with the Red Army, later carried out the same work in the provinces. People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs (NKVD) in 1936 after Iagoda’s fall and arrest.

Chairman of the Commission of Party Control and member of the Politburo, 1937. Dismissed from the NKVD, December 1938, and appointed Minister of Water Transport. Arrested and disappeared in March 1939.

Probably executed soon after arrest. A complete nonentity, whose name, during his short rule, struck terror into the hearts of the whole country. This period is known as ‘ezhovshchina’.

Brought in by Stalin with the specific aim of an unprecedented blood bath. Extolled by the Soviet press of the time as ‘Zhelezny Narkom’ (The Iron Narkom, People’s Commissar) he earned the nickname of ‘the bloody dwarf (due to his short stature and sickly appearance). According to those who knew him well, was totally dependent on drugs towards the end of his stay in office.

Even compared to his predecessor, Iagoda, who according to rumours, he had shot personally, and his successor Beria (who shot him in turn), he stands out as a bloodthirsty henchman, one of the most sinister figures of the Stalinist era. At the 20th Party Congress in October 1956, Nikita Khrushchev called him a ‘criminal’ and ‘narkoman’ (drug addict) who ‘deserved what he got’. Ezhov’s appalling crimes are now becoming the subject of investigation in the USSR.