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Andrei Yanuarevich Vyshinsky

Andrei Yanuarevich Vyshinsky [1883-1954] was born 10 December 1883 in Odessa, son of a well-off Baku family with noble Polish antecedents. In about 1901, Vyshinsky was kicked out of the Kiev University law school for his violent activities. Joined Menshevik wing of Social Democrats in 1903. Sent to prison as a revolutionary in 1908, he met Stalin and had numerous political arguments (Menshevik vs. Bolshevik) with him. To the surprise of many, Stalin would never hold this against him.

After the revolution, in 1908, he returned to Odessa, married and had a child. He attended the University of Kiev and obtained a law degree in 1913 and for the next four years, busied himself with young lawyer duties. In 1915, he moved to Moscow and gained prominence by signing the arrest warrant for Lenin.

With a sharp academic mind, he became established as lawyer before 1917 revolutions. He joined Soviet government as a left-wing Menshevik in 1917. Joined Bolshevik (Communist) Party in 1920. By 1921, he had moved on to lecture law at Moscow University.

In 1922 Vyshinsky was elected Chairman at Moscow’s Collegium of Lawyers. 23 In that position he was instrumental in devising a legal system for Soviet Russia. Vaksberg Arkadii wrote that is “gave an illusion of democracy and a sham guarantee of defendants’ rights. To create and run this legal institution in such a way that it appeared all-important while remaining totally insubstantial was a highly complex and responsible task. Only the loyal and devoted could rise to it.”

Vyshinsky’s efforts were essential to establishing the legal framework necessary to wrongly convict the millions of people needed to populate the largest and most inhumane prison system ever created - the Gulag Archipelago - that was established after Stalin became ruler of the Soviet Union in 1929.

Vyshinsky worked closely with Stain in manufacturing the charges and writing the scripts (of the show trials of 1936 through 1938). Chief prosecutor in the murderous Moscow show trials of the 1930s, mild-mannered, cunning Andrei Vyshinsky matched his boss, Josef Stalin, in his lust for power, insatiable vanity and fear for his own safety. Slavishly obsequious to his master, Vyshinsky was a first-rate actor and virtuoso stage-manager who orchestrated countless "confessions" from innocent victims. Bolsheviks, eniment doctors and teachers, military men, bureaucrats, intellectuals - all were branded criminals or traitors and sent to death squads or labor camps. Often, his rhetoric would contrast the utter baseness of the defendants with the radiant future of Soviet society.

A.Ya.Vyshinsky at 1936 Zinoviev trial declaimed "The enemy is stealthful. A stealthful enemy must not be spared. The entire nation rose to their feet when first informed of this nightmarish evildoing. The entire nation trembles with indignation. And I, as representative of the state prosecution, unite my own outraged and indignant state prosecutor's voice to this cry of millions! I demand that these mad dogs be shot -- each and every one of them!"

Vyshinsky added to his legal legacy when he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Soviet People’s Commissariat in 1939. From 1939 to 1944, he was vice-premier of the USSR.

He was in charge of the art world in the Soviet Union - including motion pictures, theater productions, and book publication. While in that position he wrote a book, The Theory of Legal Evidence in Soviet Law. Among his gems of legal wisdom is that “confession is a queen over all sorts of evidence,” which was reflected in his method of prosecuting the Moscow “show trials.”

In 1940 Stalin rewarded Vyshinsky by making him a senior official in the Soviet foreign diplomat corps. He accompanied Stalin to the February 1945 Yalta conference, and he was present at Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Vyshinsky's international profile increased after the war when he gave several speeches at the United Nations, and he was the Soviet Union’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1949 to 1953.

At the conclusion of World War II, he led the organization of Russian participation in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. From 1949 to 1953, was the USSR's foreign minister. He died in New York City, while attending to United Nations duties on behalf of the USSR, for whom he was permanent representative.

After Stalin died in March 1953 there was a backlash in Russia against his decades long campaign of domestic terror. However Vyshinsky’s stature as a foreign diplomat protected him from being executed like other Stalinist sycophants. Instead he was demoted and assigned as the Soviet Union’s permanent delegate to the United Nations. On the morning of November 22, 1954, Vyshinsky was scheduled to address the United Nations. However while preparing in the Soviet’s five-story Park Avenue compound he was suddenly stricken by a strange ailment and died within minutes. One person shrieked: “They’ve killed him!”

There is no question Vyshinsky was an embarrassment to the new Soviet regime because he was directly linked to many of Stalin’s crimes. Whether he was murdered or died of natural causes doesn’t change that he died much more pleasantly than the innumerable innocent people he helped send to their death. Vyshinsky was given a state funeral for foreign public relations purposes, and he was buried by the Kremlin Wall in Moscow’s Red Square.

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Page last modified: 25-04-2016 20:32:06 ZULU