Jānis Bērziņš also Ian Karlovich Berzin or Yan Karlovich Berzin (Russian: Ян Карлович Берзин; real name Pēteris Ķuzis) (13 November 1889 – 29 July 1938) was a Soviet communist military official and politician.
The future Yan Berzin was born Pēteris Ķuzis on 13 November 1889 (n.s.) to a Latvian peasant family in Zaube parish, Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire (now Latvia). He worked as a teacher and joined the Latvian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1902. Berzin was a participant in the Russian Revolution of 1905 and came to be a dedicated supporter of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), chosen as Secretary of the Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP in 1906. In Latvia following the failed 1905 uprising, Berzin was a leading organizer of the Bolshevik faction within the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party and led the fight against the Menshevik dominated Central Committee of that organization.
In 1914, Berzin was elected Editor in Chief of Cīņa ("Struggle"), the official organ of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party. He was a representative of that party to the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915 and was a member of the vigorously antimilitarist and revolutionary Zimmerwald Left minority group headed by Lenin at that gathering. In 1916, Berzin lived in the United States, where he participated in the socialist movement and wrote for its press. He returned home to Europe during the summer of 1917, following the revolution of March 1917.
1917 and after
Berzin was elected a member of the Central Committee of the RSDLP at its 6th Congress in 1917 and an alternate member at the 7th Congress in the following year. He was later named as Soviet Russia's ambassador to Switzerland, where he remained until the expulsion of Soviet embassy personnel after civil unrest in November 1918. Berzin was named as People's Commissar of Enlightenment (Minister of Education) in the short-lived Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic of early 1919.
According to the Soviet defector and former GRU agent Victor Suvorov, Berzin was one of the principal organizers of Lenin's Red Terror during the Russian Civil War, initiating the hostages system. Suvorov also intimates that Berzin was recognized by his superiors for his work in suppressing Russian sailors involved in the Kronstadt rebellion in March 1921.
Berzin briefly served as Secretary of the Communist International during 1919-1920, one of the chief functionaries involved in its day to day operations. He was taken from the Comintern apparatus to work in the "Registration Department" (Military Intelligence) of the Red Army's General Staff in December 1920. Berzin was named as Soviet Ambassador to Finland in 1921, and subsequently remained in the diplomatic service as a deputy plenipotentiary in London and as Soviet Ambassador to Austria from 1925 to 1927. Berzin was at the same time deputy chief of Military Intelligence from December 27, 1921 through March 1924, at which time he was promoted to chief of that department. In 1929 Berzin was recalled to Moscow and removed from the diplomatic corps, ostensibly to be placed in charge of the Soviet government's central archives and made editor-in-chief of the historical magazine Krasnyi Arkhiv ("Red Archives"). Berzin continued his work as chief of the Red Army's Fourth Bureau (military intelligence), the GRU. Among his agents was Richard Sorge.
Berzin seems to have been removed from his position as chief of military intelligence in the spring of 1935. From April 1935 through June 1936, Berzin served as deputy commander of the army in the Soviet Far East. During 1936 and 1937, he was chief military advisor to the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War under the nom de guerre Grishin. While stationed in Spain, he unsuccessfully attempted to rally the Basque Government to defend Bilbao rather than abandon it.
In June 1937, Berzin was recalled from Spain and reappointed as head of Military Intelligence. This second stint at the head of GRU came to an abrupt end with Berzin's arrest on May 13, 1938 during the Great Purge. On 29 July 1938 he was shot in the cellars of the Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow. Interestingly, it seems that Berzin's downfall came in connection with a secret police case having nothing to do with Berzin's work in the diplomatic service or military intelligence, but rather a so-called "Case of the espionage organization in the Central Archival Administration."
Berzin was posthumously rehabilitated following the death of Joseph Stalin.
- Branko Lazitch and Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; p. 27. Lazitch and Drachkovitch give the apparently erroneous patronymic "Antonovich" for Berzin, it should be noted. One does see this name or initial in other sources; see, for example: V.A. Torchinov and A.M. Leontiuk, Vokrug Stalina: Istoriko-biograficheskii spravochnik. St. Petersburg: Filologicheskii fakul'tet Sankt-Peterburgskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 2000. Reference to Berzin's peasant origins is also made by George Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police. Oxford: Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press, 1981; p. 301.
- Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, p. 27; G.M. Adibekov et al. (eds.), Politbiuro TsK RKP(b) — VKP(b) i Komintern: 1919-1943 dokumenty. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2004; p. 830.
- Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, p. 27
- Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, p. 27.
- Torchinov and Leontiuk, Vokrug Stalina: Istoriko-biograficheskii spravochnik, p. 84. Note that Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police, p. 301, has Berzin as deputy People's Commissar of Internal Affairs during this interlude.
- Viktor Suvorov (1984). Soviet Military Intelligence. London: Grafton. pp. 226–7. ISBN 0-586-06596-2. http://militera.lib.ru/research/suvorov8/index.html.
- Torchinov and Leontiuk, Vokrug Stalina: Istoriko-biograficheskii spravochnik, p. 84.
- Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police, p. 301. G.M. Adibekov et al. (eds.), Politbiuro TsK RKP(b) — VKP(b) i Komintern, p. 830.
- Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police, p. 301.
- G.M. Adibekov et al. (eds.), Politbiuro TsK RKP(b) — VKP(b) i Komintern, p. 830. Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police, p. 301.
- "Agent: Sorge, Richard". Spymuseum.com. http://www.spymuseum.com/pages/agent-sorge-richard2.html. Retrieved 2012-04-13.
- G.M. Adibekov et al. (eds.), Politbiuro TsK RKP(b) — VKP(b) i Komintern, p. 830.
- David J. Nordlander, "Origins of a Gulag Capital: Magadan and Stalinist Control in the Early 1930s," Slavic Review, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 791-812
- Torchinov and Leontiuk, Vokrug Stalina: Istoriko-biograficheskii spravochnik, p. 84. The exact words in this book are: "Ia.A. Berzin byl rasstrelian po 'delu o shpionskoi organizatsiia v Tsentral'nom arkhivnom upravlenii (TsAU) SSSR.'"
- Gorchakov, Ovidii Aleksandrovich, Ian Berzin — komandarm GRU. St. Petersburg: Izdatelʹskii dom "Neva", 2004.
- Visvaldis Mangulis, Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century, Chapter VII
- Janis Berzins.The Head of Intelligence Service, Documentary film 1990 35 mm, 90 min, Dir. Romualds Pipars
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