The Murder of Count Mirbach

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On the Murder of Count Mirbach

[For a detailed study of the circumstances of this affair, see G. Katkov, The Assassination of Count Mirbach, in St. Antony’s Papers, No.12 (Soviet Affairs Series No.3), edited by D. Footman, London, 1972.]

A bomb has been thrown at the German Embassy by persons unknown. Ambassador Mirbach is said to be gravely wounded.[1] The aim of this deed is obviously to try and involve Russia in war with Germany. This aim is being pursued, as is known, by all the counter-revolutionary elements – the White Guards, the Right SRs and their allies.

In view of the decision taken yesterday by the All-Russia Congress, approving the foreign policy of the Council of People’s Commissars, the counter-revolutionary plotters resolved to wreck this decision of the Congress.

The bomb they threw was aimed not so much at the German Embassy as at the Soviet power. I hereby order the investigatory organs of the Commissariat for Military Affairs to take measures against the counter-revolutionary conspirators and those who carried out the attentat on their behalf.

The progress of the investigation is to be reported directly to me.

  1. From the documents of the investigation that was carried out, the circumstances connected with the murder of Mirbach emerge as follows. Count Mirbach, the German Ambassador to Soviet Russia, was killed in Denezhny Lane, in one of the drawing-rooms of the Embassy building, at about 3 p.m. on July 6, 1918. The political origin of this terrorist act was as follows. The All-Russia Congress of the Left SRs, which met in Moscow at the same time as the Fifth Congress of Soviets, resolved, on the question of foreign policy, ‘to tear up, by revolutionary means, the Brest treaty which is fatal to the Russian and world revolution.’ The Congress entrusted the execution of this decision to the Party’s Central Committee. The latter decided to carry out the will of the Congress by killing Mirbach and placing the Soviet Government in a situation where the Brest treaty had been broken. The Central Committee of the Left SRS intended by this deed to appeal to the solidarity between the German proletariat and the working masses of Russia. At the session of the Left SR Central Committee during the night of July 4 the assassination was entrusted to Yakov Blyumkin and Nikolai Andreyev, who had personally volunteered for the task. Both were members of the Left SR party: the former held at that time the responsible post of head of the Cheka’s counter espionage department, while the latter was a photographer in the same department. In order to carry out the deed assigned to him, Blyumkin made use of the papers of the case of a German spy, Count Robert Mirbach, the ambassador’s nephew, which he already had in his possession through his duties. Blyumkin filled in on a Cheka form the following authorisation: ‘The All-Russia Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution empowers its member Yakov Blyumkin and the representative of the Revolutionary Tribunal Nikolai Andreyev to enter into direct negotiations with the German Ambassador to Russia, Count M. Mirbach, regarding a matter of direct concern to the Ambassador.’ The signature of the Chairman of the Cheka, Comrade Dzerzhinsky, and its secretary Ksenofontov, were forged. The seal was supplied by the Vice-Chairman of the Cheka, Aleksandrovich, a member of the Left SRs’ Central Committee, who knew that the assassination was being prepared. On arriving at the embassy, Blyumkin insisted to the Counsellor of the Embassy Riezier that he must see Mirbach personally. After some discussion, this was agreed to, and the Ambassador came out to meet them. After a lengthy conversation regarding the above-mentioned case, Blyumkin fired point-blank at Mirbach, Riezier and the interpreter. Mirbach had evidently only been wounded, so Andreyev threw a bomb at him. As it did not go off, Blyumkin picked it up and threw it again, this time killing Mirbach. It was with difficulty that they succeeded in getting away in a car, as the Embassy guard opened fire on them, and Blyumkin was wounded. The assassination was the signal for open revolt by the Left SRs in Moscow and in the provinces. The details of the revolt are given in Comrade Trotsky’s subsequent speeches and orders.