Yakov Peters

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Yakov Peters
Yakov Peters2.jpg
1st Deputy Chief of Soviet State Security
In office
December 1917 – March 1919
Prime Minister Vladimir Lenin
Preceded by position created
Succeeded by Ivan Ksenofontov
Chief of Petrograd Defense
In office
March 1919 – August 1919
Prime Minister Vladimir Lenin
Chief of Kiev Defense
In office
August 1919 – August 1919
Prime Minister Vladimir Lenin
Chief of Tashkent Cheka
In office
Prime Minister Vladimir Lenin
1st Chief of East Department of GPU
In office
2 June 1922 – 31 October 1929
Prime Minister Vladimir Lenin
Aleksei Rykov
Preceded by position created
Chairman of Moscow Control Commission of Party
In office
Prime Minister Vyacheslav Molotov
Personal details
Born 21 November [O.S. 3 December] 1886
Brinken district, Hasenpoth county, Courland Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 25 April 1938 (aged 51)
Kommunarka Shooting Range, Moscow Oblast, Soviet Union
Citizenship Russia, Soviet Union
Nationality Latvian
Political party SDLK (1904-38)
Spouse(s) Maisie Freeman (1910s-1917)
Children May (daughter)
Alma mater none
Profession Statesman and revolutionary
Military service
Allegiance Russia, Soviet Union

Yakov Khristoforovich Peters (Latvian: Jēkabs Peterss, Russian: Я́ков Христофо́рович Пе́терс, English: Jacob Peters, Jan Peters; 3 December [O.S. 21 November] 1886 – 25 April 1938) was a Latvian Communist revolutionary who played a part in the establishment of the Soviet Union. Together with Felix Dzerzhinsky, he was one of the founders and chiefs of the Cheka (VChK), the secret police of the Soviet Union. He was the Deputy Chairman of the Cheka from 1918 and briefly the acting Chairman of the Cheka from 7 July to 22 August 1918.

Early years[edit]

He was born in Brinken volost of Hasenpoth uyezd, Courland Governorate (now Nīkrāce parish, Skrunda Municipality), to a poor farmer's family on 3 December 1886. He became a member of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party in 1904. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1905 he was arrested in 1907 for the attempted murder of a factory director in Libau, but was later acquitted by the Riga military court in 1908. Peters emigrated to England and lived in London where he was a member of the London Group of the Social Democracy of Latvia and of the British Socialist Party. In 1911, he achieved notoriety in Britain when he and four others were arrested and put on trial in the aftermath of the Sidney Street Siege, following a failed jeweler's shop robbery at Houndsditch in which three police officers were killed. Despite some incriminating evidence (in connection with Peter the Painter), Peters and his companions were acquitted, to the dismay of the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill.[citation needed]

He married May Freeman, the daughter of a London banker, and together they had a daughter, Maisie Peters-Freeman (born 1914). Peters returned to Russia in May 1917 after the February Revolution. Having become deputy head of the Cheka, he invited his wife and daughter to join him there, where they discovered that he had a new family. Maisie was never able to leave Russia and died there in 1971.[1]

In Riga, Peters became one of the leaders of the Social Democracy of Latvia working at the front-lines of the Northern Front. During the German advance he moved to Valmiera where he was an editor of the party newspaper Cīņa. Peters was a peasant representative of the Governorate of Livonia to the Democratic discussion initiated by Kerensky.

October Revolution[edit]

Moving to Petrograd, he actively participated in the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 being a member of the Military-Revolutionary Committee in Petrograd. At that time he was preparing military units for the October Revolution. Afterward, he was a member of Cheka Collegiate, the Deputy Chairman of the Commission, and the chairman of the Revolutionary Tribunal. He participated in the disclosure of the alleged Lockhart plot as well as leading the liquidation of the Left SR mutiny of 1918. Following Dzerzhinsky's resignation in the aftermath of the Left SR Uprising, assassination of Mirbach, and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Peters briefly served as the chief of the Cheka until Dzerzhinsky resumed his duties. As one of the Cheka's leaders, Peters was responsible for the first major Cheka operations involving killings. These were against alleged anarchists in Petrograd and later in May 1918 against anarchists in Petrograd and Moscow. He also was involved in the investigation of the SR attempt on Lenin's life in August 1918 (Fanni Kaplan case), for the indiscriminate Red Terror campaigns and reprisals that followed. He called it a "Hysterical Terror" in the newspaper "Utro Moskvy" (#21) of November 4, 1918. During these times appeared a term "room of souls" in numerous prisons such as Butyrka.

In March 1919 he was appointed as the Chief of internal defense in Petrograd, and then the Commandant of the reinforced raion. Following the retreat of the Yudenich forces he was appointed as the Commandant of the reinforced raion in Kiev in August 1919. Upon the sack of Kiev he was a member of the Military Council in Tula. In the same year, an American diplomat testified to Congress that Peters was, with Cheka leader Aleksandr Eiduk, considered the "most blood-thirsty monster in Russia".[2] In winter 1919-1920 Peters became the deputy chairman of the Special Committee of the STO in providing military preparations on railways.

Post Revolution[edit]

In 1920 he represented the Cheka in the Northern Caucasus and served there as the Commissar of the Northern Caucasus Railways. In 1920-1922 was the Cheka plenipotentiary in Turkestan ASSR, where he also was the local party bureau member. There he led numerous operations against the anti-Bolshevik formations of Dutov, Annenkov, Enver Pasha and Dzhanuzakov. He returned to Moscow in 1922 and worked as a high-ranking official in the OGPU, Rabkrin, and as the chief of the Eastern department of the GPU (created on June 2, 1922).

Peters was arrested and executed during the Great Purge on April 25, 1938. His conviction was overturned posthumously in 1956.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Donald Rayfield on The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis". Literary Review (356). 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  2. ^ "R.E. Simmons and W.W. Welsh Tell Senators of Brutalities of Bolsheviki". The New York Times. 16 February 1919. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 

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