Robert Indrikovich Eikhe (Latvian: Roberts Eihe, Russian: Роберт Индрикович Эйхе; August 12, 1890 — February 2, 1940) was a Latvian Bolshevik, who was the provincial head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Siberia during the forced collectivization of agriculture, until his arrest during the Great Purge.
Robert Eikhe's parents were farm labourers on an estate in Doblen County in what was then Courland province, in modern day Latvia. He left school at the age of 13 or 14, to become an apprentice in a locksmith's workshop, and joined the Latvian Social Democrat party (which was closely aligned to the Bolsheviks) during the 1905 Revolution. Arrested in August 1907, he spent two months in prison. In February 1908, he was arrested with 18 others at an illegal meeting, after six months in prison, released under police supervision.
At the end of 1908 he emigrated to the UK. He was a stoker on a steamboat on long voyages, worked in Scotland at a coal mine, at a zinc smelter in West Hartlepool.
In 1911, he settled in Riga, believing that he was no longer at risk of a long prison sentence, but was arrested in 1915 and exiled to East Siberia. He escaped to Irkutsk and worked in a oil factory under a false name. He returned to Riga after the February Revolution, but was arrested during the German occupation in January 1918. He escaped to Moscow in July 1918. During 1919, he was People's Commissar for Food in the short-lived Latvian soviet republic. Later that year, he was posted to Chelyabinsk province. He was based in Siberia for the next 18 years.
Party boss in Siberia
In 1929, as a trusted supporter of Josif Stalin, Eikhe was appointed First Secretary of the Siberian territorial communist party. From 1930, after a boundary change, he was First Secretary of the West Siberian regional party committee, and a member of the Central Committee of the of the communist party in 1930-1938.
Eikhe was also a member of the Politburo commission appointed in January 1930, chaired by Molotov, which drafted instructions on eliminating private farms and forcing the farmers onto collective farms. Speaking in Novosibirsk on 27 January 1930, he called for brutal measures against the kulaks (the name given to 'rich' peasants, or more generally to any who resisted collectivisation). Eikhe called for "the most hostile, reactionary kulaks" be held in concentration camps in "distant areas of the North" such as Narym or Turukhansk, while the others should be made to do forced labour, for instance building a 550 mile road from Tomsk to Yeniseysk. In a single month, in May–June 1931, 39,788 peasant families in West Siberia had their farms seized. In 1933, he opposed a plan to deport a million more victims from Ukraine and west Russia to Siberia, saying that the area could accommodate a maximum of 250,000.
In January 1935, following the assassination of Sergei Kirov, Eikhe was elected a candidate member of the Politburo, making him one of the dozen or so most powerful men in the Soviet Union. At the start of the Great Purge, Eikhe showed utter ruthlessness in eliminating anyone who came under suspicion. On 28 June 1937, he was named as a member of a troika (three member commission) which was given special instructions by the Politburo to round up and execute peasants who had been exiled to Siberia during collectivisation. Its chairman was the recently appointed head of the West Siberian NKVD, Sergei Naumovich Mironov. By 8 July, the troika had lists of 10,924 people who were marked for execution, and 15,036 who were to be sent to the Gulag. By 5 October, the troika had sentenced 13,216 people to death, and 6,205 to the Gulag. Among the victims were Eikhe former second-in-command V.P.Shubrikov and the chairman of the West Siberian territorial party executive. F.P.Griadinsky
During the preparation of "Latvian Operation" - in which thousands of Latvians were arrested and killed - Eikhe was summoned to Moscow, and on 30 October 1937 was appointed to the lesser post of USSR People's Commissar for Agriculture.
Arrest and Execution
Eikhe was arrested on 29 April 1938. After being brutally tortured by an NKVD officer named Zinovy Ushakov, he confessed to various counter-revolutionary crimes, and implicated others, but after Ushakov had been arrested - when Nikolai Yezhov was replaced as head of the NKVD by Lavrentiy Beria - Eikhe wrote to Stalin, on 1 October 1938, renouncing his confession. He sent a second declaration, on 27 October, saying that his confession had been mostly written by Ushakov, who "who utilised the knowledge that my broken ribs have not properly mended and have caused me great pain." He persisted in asserting his innocence during his closed trial, on 2 February 1940, but was sentenced to death nonetheless. The following day, he was taken to Beria's office, and subjected to a prolonged beating by the expert torturer Boris Rodos and another officer, in a final attempt to force him to confess. Despite being knocked out and beaten while he was prone, and having an eye gouged out, he refused to confess, and was taken away for execution.
Eikhe's wife Yevgenia Yevseyevna Rubtsova was arrested with him in April 1938, and shot on 26 August.
Eikhe's torture and execution was a major theme of the famous Secret Speech that Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev delivered at the 20th Communist Party Congress in 1956
- Эйхе Роберт Индрикович
- "ТАЛОВСКАЯ ТРАГЕДИЯРасследование сталинских репрессий в Тайгинском районе Западно Сибирского края 1920 — 1953 гг. (Talov tragedyInvestigation of the Stalinist repressions in the Taiginsky district of the West Siberian Territory 1920 - 1953)". Retrieved 1 December 2019.
- Davies, R.W. (1980). The Industrialisation of Russia, volume 1: The Socialist Offensive. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U.P. p. 234. ISBN 0-674-81480-0.
- J. Arch Getty, and Oleg V. Naumov (1999). The Road to Terror, Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939. New Haven: Yale U.P. p. 469. ISBN 0-300-07772-6.
- Slezkine, Yuri (2019). The House of Government, A Saga of the Russian Revolution. Princeton: Princeton U.P. p. 761. ISBN 9780691192727.
- Slezkine. House of Government. p. 763.
- Khrushchev, Nikita S. "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, Speech to the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (the Secret Speech)" (PDF). Wilson Center Digital Archive. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
- Slezkine. House of Government. pp. 841–42.
- Slezkine. House of Government. p. 809.