Much despised political leaders of North Korea are in the news again. No.2 Jang Song Thaek was recently stripped of power by No.1 Kim Jong Un. Jang was Kim’s uncle and widely regarded as younger leader’s mentor. Political move was dramatic and happened in a full view of entire legislative assembly, when he was dragged out by security police.
Knowing the history, his future doesn’t look that bright. Such men in the past were executed after accusations of corruption, spying and being “enemy of the people”. Their families were persecuted and lucky if ended up alive. Images were deleted from state controlled media in order to erase any memories of such a person.
But wait, I have seen this before! Right, it was during Great Purges in Stalinist Russia.
Man on the right was Nicolai Yezhov, a close comrade of Stalin. He was a long time chief of NKVD, Soviet secret police and one of main architects of The Great Purge. Yezhov persecuted and supervised the execution of his predecessor Yagoda and he also designed an execution chamber with slanted floor (easier to clean?). Yezhov in turn was deposed and persecuted by his successor Beria. He also was accused of being “enemy of the people” (have we heard it before?), tortured, sentenced to death, clemency was rejected and he was executed . All on the same day. He was shot in the same room with slanted floor, which he built for his predecessor Yagoda. Both Yagoda and Yezhov didn’t believe all this was done on Stalin’s order and were begging for a last chance to talk to him. Fat chance. Yezhov was only 45 years old. On the picture above he is seen with Stalin and Molotov inspecting Volga-Don Canal. On the second one he is gone. Here you see it and here you don’t. Out of memories.
Now about famous (infamous?) Volga-Don Canal. There is a geographical proximity of the two big Russian rivers Volga and Don in south-eastern part of the country. The idea of connecting these huge basins was not new, going back to Ottoman Empire in XVI century. The work was started by Turks, abandoned, continued by Tsars and finished by Stalin in 1952. Most of work was done by political prisoners. One day of work on Canal counted as three days of prison time. Construction was interrupted by German invasion and was marred by sloppy work and mishaps. Canal was also famous for a different reason. You didn’t tell political jokes in Poland. If you did, the question was coming “Do you know who built Volga-Don Canal? People like you,telling political jokes”.
P.S. I started writing this post at 8 AM. At 5 PM I got a breaking news message from LA Times. Jang Sung Thaek has been executed, just four days after being accused of being “enemy of the people”.