Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov or Ezhov was a Soviet secret police official under Joseph Stalin. He was head of the NKVD from 1936 to 1938, during the most deadly period of Stalins Great Purge and his time in office is known as the Yezhovshchina, a term coined during the de-Stalinization campaign of the 1950s. After presiding over mass arrests and executions during the Great Purge and he was arrested, confessed under torture to a range of anti-Soviet activity, and was executed in 1940. By the beginning of World War II, his status within the Soviet Union became that of a political unperson, Yezhov was born either in Saint Petersburg, according to his official Soviet biography, or in Suwałki Governorate. In a form filled out in 1921, Yezhov claimed some ability to speak Polish and he completed only his elementary education. From 1909 to 1915, he worked as a tailors assistant, from 1915 until 1917, Yezhov served in the Imperial Russian Army. He joined the Bolsheviks on May 5,1917 in Vitebsk, during the Russian Civil War, 1919–1921, he fought in the Red Army. After February 1922, he worked in the system, mostly as a secretary of various regional committees of the Communist Party. In 1927, he was transferred to the Accounting and Distribution Department of the Party where he worked as an instructor, from 1929 to 1930, he was the Deputy Peoples Commissar for Agriculture. In November 1930, he was appointed to the Head of several departments of the Communist Party, department of special affairs, department of personnel and department of industry. In 1934, he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, from February 1935 to March 1939, he was also the Chairman of the Central Commission for Party Control. I do not doubt that in his childhood Yezhov amused himself in just such a manner, physically, Yezhov was short in stature, standing five feet, and that, combined with his sadistic personality, led to his nickname The Poison Dwarf or The Bloody Dwarf. Yezhov married the educated and sincere Marxist Antonia Titova in 1919, Yezhov and Feigenburg had an adopted daughter, Natalia, an orphan from a childrens home. After the death of Nikolai Yezhov, Natalia was sent back to an orphanage and was forced to relinquish the Yezhov surname. Subsequently, she was known by the name Natalia Khayutina, the turning point in Yezhovs life was the response by Stalin to the murder of the Bolshevik chief of Leningrad, Sergey Kirov. Stalin used the murder as a pretext for further purges, he chose Yezhov for this task, Yezhov oversaw falsified accusations in the Kirov murder case against opposition leaders Kamenev, Zinoviev and their supporters. Yezhovs success in this led to his further promotion. He became Peoples Commissar for Internal Affairs and a member of the Central Committee on September 26,1936, following the dismissal of Genrikh Yagoda
Yezhov in uniform
Yezhov's wife Yevgenia with their adopted daughter
Yezhov (left) and Stalin
In the original version of this photo (top), Yezhov is clearly visible on the right of the photograph. The later version (bottom) was altered by censors, removing all trace of his presence.