Eyewitness Accounts - Murder of Prime Minister Stolypin in Kiev 1911
General Alexander Spiridovitch was the Chief of Secret Personal Police in charge of protecting Nicholas II and his immediate family at all times outside of the Imperial Palaces. He served from 1905 until the outbreak of the First World War in late 1914.
His two volume work "Les Dernieres Annees de la Cour de Tzarskoe Selo", (Payot, Paris, 1929) is an invaluable day to day account of the Imperial Family, and important events around them during those years.
Published originally only in Russian and French, it has been a neglected source until recently. The following account of the Murder of Prime Minister Stolypin in 1911, in Kiev, is my own translation from the French undertaken in 2004.
Stolypin arrived that same evening. All of the required security measures for his safety at the Governor General's palace, where he was to go and what route he would follow at the time, were under the personal direction of Kuliabko, who had already been given a special detachment sent from Petersburg to guard the minister.
Since my teams were not yet busy, I ordered them to be posted along the route the Minister was planned to follow, and provisionally placed them under Kuliabko's direction for that.
Once Stolypin arrived, Kourlov told him about the information we had received, but the Minister remained skeptical.
Seeing that Stolypin had replaced his usual bodyguard, Police Lt. Deksbach, with someone new, Capt. Yessoulov, Kourlov told him about the difficulties this created and wanted to immediately send for Deksbach. Stolypin refused, to the great anger of Kourlov, who saw in the replacement of Deksbach with Yessoulov the work of the Minister's wife, who did not like the former, and never missed an opportunity to put the latter in his place.
Lt. Col. Deksbach, a police officer in the Petersburg Okhrana Section, became Stolypin's bodyguard from the first day he had been named Minister, and was constantly with him, and went with him on all of his trips and official travels. He loved Stolypin and was devoted to him body and soul. He assured the liason between the Minister and different security services, and served as his personal bodyguard. He wore, whenever he was in civilian clothes, a bulletproof overcoat, which he wore at all times when with the Minister; and the days when he did not wear the overcoat, he wore a bulletproof vest.
So now, without taking into account all of the experience and devotion of that man, the Minister, giving in to his wife's wishes, he decided to give up his services during the ceremonies in Kiev to replace him with Capt. Yessoulov.
Their Majesties and their children arrived in Kiev on August 25th. The celebrations began immediately in an atmosphere of great enthusiasm and unfolded in perfect order.
The weather was excellent, the huge crowds surged everywhere, the general enthusiasm, the appear of the city in celebration, all of this left nothing to be desired in appearance.
Their Majesties visited the Cathedral of St. Sophia, the Kievo-Petchorskaia Lavra. The Assembly of the Nobility received all classes of society in its palace, and the Emperor met for many hours with the chiefs of the districts (volostnoi star-cheena) of three governments which formed the general government of Kiev.
August 30th was the inauguration of the remarkable monument erected in memory of the Tsar-Liberator. The Italian artist Ximenes succeeded in creating an admirably accurate likeness of that great Emperor, a work which had to equal anywhere else in Russia. The inauguration was quite solemn. The municipality was headed by the energetic and intelligent I.N. Dyakov, the entire administration, in short, all those who took part in organizing the ceremonies truly surpassed themselves.
On the 31st, the Emperor went by automobile, for the third time, to the maneuvers, and in the evening visited the Merchants Garden high on the mountain from where he admired the Dnieper, the fields which extended off to infinity and the magnificent fireworks in his honor.
The huge cross which was built on the monument of Saint Vladimir-Saint Olga gleamed in a dazzling light. It was a beautiful picture and one of prodigious grandeur. Thousands of enthusiastic people crowded into the garden, two rows deep along the route of Their Majesties.
Our detachment of the mobile guards were won over by the enthusiasm of everything around them, and performed their duties without a minute's rest. Men in the officer's ranks were in a state of nervous tension while they bravely fought off fatigue. The police divisions also were equally outstanding in the performance of their duties in a praiseworthy fashion.
Everything went admirably well. Being occupied from morning through night with performing all of those tasks which required my direct involvement, I had no time for what has happening in the information gathering service, as I was certain that Kourlov or Kuliabko would be performing their tasks as well as they could.
Every time I had occasion to encounter Kuliabko, which was always on the run, he would tell me in haste two or three words to reassure me, and let me know that, thank god, he had no more bad news to tell me, that he had no new information, no letter from Kryementchoug.
I was really so busy throughout those days that I really could not find a minute for even a quick stop at the Kouliabko home, despite my deep desire to see and embrace my children, a little boy and little girl, who were lodged with them. I would not have seen them at all except for when my cossack Syerebriakov found the opportunity to bring them to my hotel.
Seated at an oval table covered with the invariable velvet cover, they set to devoured watermelons brought just for them, and told me all about the little events in their little lives; after only ten minutes the cossack Syerebriakov took them back to my sister, as I had to leave immediately for whatever place it was that I had been called for some urgent matter.
The end of the ceremonies was nearing. Under Stolypin's order Kourlov's office had already prepared the compensation roster for those men who had so well performed the security service. Kouliabko had been proposed for a promotion to Colonel.
That day, around 6 am, I was awakened by Kouliabko who told me, after having met with Bogorov, the "boyeviks" (terrorists) were to arrive in Kiev where they were to have a secret meeting, at noon, with a girl who played an important role in the party. He added that he had already spoken to Kourlov about all this and they were going to take all the needed steps to carry out the arrests they had to make.
While listening to his report, I quickly dressed, because I had to go and inspect the assigned route the Emperor would take to go from the Palace to the grounds of the maneuvers. As the Emperor was leaving the Palace at 8 am, I had Kouliabko join me in my automobile so that we might continue our conversation while I made the rounds to inspect my teams.
While on the way, we ran into the Governor General. Leaving Kouliabko, I got into his car. We exchanged words about this latest information we had received. The Governor General seemed totally reassured, saying that Kourlov and Kouliabko would do everything which they needed to do. He added that he himself, now that the ceremonies were over, was going to personally go to the Emperor to request the granting of Kouliabko's promotion to Colonel, since, in his position, he had the right to ask and obtain any promotion to the superior officer rank.
Taking leave of the Governor General, I continued to inspect my posts and arrived at the maneuver grounds which were about 80 versts outside of Kiev.
The length of the travel route was watched by my men. On the grounds themselves we had placed my bicycle teams in uniform. Arriving at the site where Aide de camp Gen. Ivanov was waiting for the Emperor, I approached him and saluted.
Gen. Ivanov told me about the plans, and showed me the map of the maneuvers and he designated certain points to me, saying:
"The maneuvers will take place as expected. I have explained all of this to the commander of your detachment; he is an excellent lad and we have assigned the detachment to the desired points. They are positioned at all points where the Emperor will pass."
We were at some distance from a group of men from the State Major. While we spoke, the Imperial automobiles were driving up the road. Ivanov continued to show me certain things on his map. The Emperor who say everything and noticed everything, saw us from his car and said to Dyedyuline (who told me about it afterward)
"What are Ivanov and Spiridovitch in the midst of discussing, a murder plan?"
It was around ten in the morning, and this fact, which will be seen later, was of a certain importance for me.
When the automobile stopped, I made a report to Dyedyuline on the new situation. He told me that he had already been updated about it all by Kourlov. After discussing the matter, we decided that, not attending the end of the maneuvers, I would go back to Kiev to set up the security measures necessary for the Emperor's return there, conforming to what I had told to Kourlov.
We agreed that I would wait for the Emperor at Svyatochino on the way back from maneuvers. I would raise my hand to the visor of my cap to signify that the chauffeur of the Imperial automobile that he should follow the original route planned. If, on the other hand, I had my head uncovered, that would let the driver know that the original route planned was dangerous and that once in the city he should turn left and follow side streets: Boulvarnia, Koudriavskaia, Lyontienskaia, etc.
I then went back to Kiev and went immediately to Kourlov who was in the middle of lunch with his Major. He told me that the "boyeviks" had arrived and that 7 o'clock in Bibikov Blvd the known "secret" meeting would take place with the girl and the handing over of the bombs.
I asked him if he and Kouliabko believed in the reality of the arrival of the "boyeviks". He said yes. I replied the following:
"In my position of head of the detachement responsible for the safety of the Emperor, I believe that the presence in Kiev of "boyeviks", while it may be true that they only have the intention to take the life of ministers, is a genuine danger for the Emperor and if they are not immediately arrested, the adutant to the Minister of the Interior must immediately inform the Commandant of the Palace of the arrival of the "boyeviks"."
A discussion then took place. Finally everyone accepted my point of view. Kourlov asked me to draft a letter, which I did. The order was given to have that letter immediately mechanically copied and have it urgently expidited, under Kourlov's signature, to the commandant of the Palace.
In the meanwhile I learned that Kourlov had gone that morning to Stolypin and Kasso, to inform them about the security measures which were going to be reinforced and that Bogrov was to be put under surveillance. And concerning the meeting which was to take place at 7 o'clock on Bikov Blvd, Kourlov had ordered the arrest of everyone who was taking part, the moment they saw the exchange of whatever packages.
I asked to know what security plan was to be adopted for the Emperor's return. Several plans had been made in advance, but I found them all unacceptable. After telling them about the conversation I had with the Commandant of the Palace, I proposed to remove all of the visible special police postings which had been set up within the city along the route the Emperor was to follow on his return, and to loudly announce to the public that the Emperor was to return instead by train. Once the public had learned of this they would disperse, which would only facilitate the work of my secret teams from my detachment who would stay in their places.
Kourlov accepted my project and we got into our automobile and we went back to Svyatochino, and removed all of the supplemental postings along the route, under the pretext that the Emperor was not coming back until the next day. Seeing the posts go, the public would soon know about it.
Kourlov and I then went to await the Emperor at Svyatchino. As I put my hand to the visor of my cap, the automobile took the right hand route, designated in advance, and we followed.
After lunch, the Emperor went to the hippodrome to see the "Potychni". All of the guards were nervous, but could not tell why they were. Kourlov made a report to Stolypin about the new "agency information" he had received. The minister seemed upset.
Among the wives tangential to the administration they were already talking about an attempt being prepared in Kiev. The widow of Gen. Aide de Camp Tchertkov, an elderly lady who did not like Stolypin, did not ignore this talk. When Stolypin approached her box, Mrs. Tchertkova, seeing the large Red Cross medal which the Minister wore on his uniform, asked him "What is that large cross you are wearing Peter Arcadyevitch? One might call it a funeral cross!"
Stolypin was visibly shaken by this question; but he replied, explaining to the lady what that cross signified and then went on his way.
Wounds to his self-esteem were not missing the minister in those days.
Thus for example, they had not given him an apartment in the Imperial Palace, though in his opinion he had a right to one and had relied on getting it. The Governor General gave him several rooms, rather small and uncomfortable, on the ground floor of his own house. The people accompanying the Minister recounted, and accorded to this fact a rather exaggerated importance, that the Court had not believed it necessary to place a special vehicle at the disposition of the President of the council of Ministers. It was above all Yessoulov who took it on himself to let everyone know this fact. Finally, for the trip they were to make to Chernigov they could not find a place for the Prime Minister on the same boat carrying the Emperor.
During the party given in the Merchants' Garden, Stolypin was relating this fact to the Minister of the Court saying that in his position as Minister of the Interior he needed to accompany the Emperor and to be at his side; but that the Emperor was free to decide otherwise and, without a place on the boat, he would go to Tchernigov in automobile or by train. Baron Freedericks went to Flag Capt. Nilov who said that he could not assign a cabin for the Prime Minister. Thanks later to the repeated attempts of Kourlov who went to Dyedyuline and with the latter's intervention, the situation changed and it was decided to invite Stolypin on the boat.
There had been many subtle signals which the experienced eye could discern as showing the disgrace of the Minister neared. Stolypin himself was not fooled by the change of attitude which had arisen toward him. At the time the widow of Gen. Tcherkov had joked about the subject of his "funeral cross", Bogrov, dressed to the nines, was found a few steps away from him, next to a group of photographers, not yet knowing who he would assassinate, but having decided to assassinate someone in order to restore himself in the eyes of the members of his party who he had been betraying for so many years, most willingly, so that he could get financial gains from the Okhrana to supplement his income and permit him to live large. At that moment, he hesitated between Stolypin and some other official person.
After the Emperor returned from the hippodrome to the Palace, I went back to my hotel to change my clothes; after which I was to go to the theater to inspect the posts there and make sure that all of the security measures had been taken.
In preparing for the gala performance to be given at the Kiev theater, I had, since early summer, sent two agents in place there from my Tsarskoie Selo detachment, with the orders to study in minute detail the arrangement and layout of the theater, make a list of all artists, musicians, employees, administrators, etc of the theater. In short, every singe person attached in any way to the theater, and to know their beliefs and political opionions. They were to, among other things, familiarize themselves with these people, in such fashion as to know them on sight so that on the evening of the performance to be given in the Tsar's honor, they would only allow those people into the theater or backstage not only after inspecting their invitations, but also on sigh, to the greatest extent possible.
My agents were to observe every single thing which was done in the theater and, above all, any work which was done, and to get the most complete information possible on the workers of each business which was hired for the work. After all the information was gathered, they were set up a security plan for the theater, taking into account that the public was going to be admitted by the local authorities by necessity they were going to be across the board from a political point of view.
Before I arrived in Kiev, my agents had sent detailed reports to me at Tsarskoie Selo, detailing their observations and conclusions, as well as the results of their investigations. They were working in Kiev with a constant relationship with the local bureau chief, to whom I had assigned them assigned, until I arrived there.
The day of the gala performance, from the basement to the rafters had been searched minutely by a strong team of my agents and the police, commanded by my adjutant Lt.Col. Oupravine.
After the search, the theater was occupied by 90 men posted as interior guards, according to the written plan I had approved. From that moment until six in the evening, a special pass was required for the people working in the theater, each person had to have a special card in their hand which had been made for them and to who were know by at least two of our agents.
After the moment the public was to be admitted, a control post was established on each door of an officer, several agents from the detachment, more police men and representatives of the different services, professions, businesses, etc, who were there to identify the people who presented themselves for admission.
No one was permitted into the theater without having an invitation or the required pass.
All of the interior guard and control posts were directly under my command.
Additionally, outside the Imperial Box, from the stairway to the Imperial Entrance were posts from the Palace police and a detachment of His Majesty's escort, according to the latest methods.
In placing the security agents inside the theater, we took into account the fact that the public which was going to be allowed in had already been investigated and could be guaranteed from a political point of view. It was also decided, in agreement with the Commandant of the Palace, that each person of His Majesty's suite and each of the high functionaries would all stay in their places, which would implicitly eliminate the need to place officers in the first rows, next to the Imperial Box.
The first four rows of seats, and above all those places nearest the Imperial Box were to be set aside by my agents and Kourlov's men.
It was thus that the seats nearest the Imperial box were assigned to the Governor General, commander of the army and commandant of the Palace. These seats were separated by an aisle from those of the Ministers: Stolypin, Baron Freedericks, Soukhomlinov, etc.
In the second row, were the seats for Prince Orlov, Prince Troubetskoy, Col. Komarov and on the other side of the aise, the governor, etc. The third row was for Drenteln, the aide de camp on duty, and the last seats on the aisle were for the Chief of the Palace police and me. In the eighth row along the aisle had been reserved seats for my adjutant and the adjutant to the Chief of the Palace police. The twelfth row was to be occupied by my officers, etc.
This arrangement totally excluded the possibility of anyone approaching the Imperial box while Their Majesties were there. Only, those who had seats reserved in the first rows could go down the aisle to take their seats. In addition to the surveillance by the men in the security service, distributed throughout the theater, every person along that aisle was to be watches by agents placed two by two on the 12th, 8th, and 4th rows, next to the aisle. If anyone showed the slightest inclination to deviate from a straight line, they would be intercepted and invited to return to their place.
As for the security guard for the President of the Council of Ministers, his agents were placed by the men in command of that guard, such that Capt. Yessaoulov, the Minister's personal bodyguard, was seated in the 3rd or 4th row behind him.
When I went to the theater on the day of the performance, I found all of my men at their posts. The control posts were already in place. My adjutant, Lt.Col. Oupravine, who was directing the service, reported that the inspection of the theater had been made, and all of my orders were followed to the letter.
In making my tour of the theater, I met Gen. Kourlov, who I told about the measures taken. And when the Emperor entered, I went to take my place on the aisle, next to my seat in the 4th row.
As for Kouliabko, I did not see him in the theater; so absorbed in my duties, I had not thought to speak with him or Kourlov about the information service; hypnotised with the presence of the Emperor, I had no other thoughts or worries or preoccupation that his security. I had been, in other words, professionally irresponsible.
The curtain rose. I was in such a state that that I understood absolutely nothing which was happening on stage; each instant I thought I heard steps in the aisle and, despite myself, I would turn around, obsessed by indescribable anxiety.
At the end of the first act, when the Emperor left his box, I went into the corridor to make sure that the guard supposed to be posted there during the intermission was actually in place, in front of the Emperor's entrance. I saw neither Kourlov nor Koubliako in the corridor. I saw only Vyerigine, some ways off, busy as always, approaching everyone with a mysterious, conspiritorial air.
Here is happened, from Kourlov's "Memoirs", between him and Kouliabko.
"…Lt. Col. Kouliabko, returning from Bibikov Blvd, announced to me that all of the orders which I had given about the awaited meeting had been executed. I was then ready to go to the theater and while going to my seat, which was next to the Imperial Box, I had been stopped by the minister sitting in the first seat on the aisle, who told me, after the communication which had been sent to him from Kouliabko, about the meeting in question had not taken place.
"We will speak among ourselves about all of this during the first intermission" Stolypin added.
"I impatiently waited for the intermission and when the Emperor retired into the outer room of the box, I approached the Minister.
"What do you think we should do now?" he asked me. I replied that there would be nothing other than to do than the return of Their Majesties after the end of the show and that there was all hope that everything would be carried out without incident. I added that I had spent all of the night going over the measures which were taken.
"You would do well to speak one more time to Kouliabko" the Minister said to me and took his leave. I left to obey my order. Leaving Stolypin, I encountered Capt. Yessaoulov who had to task not to leave the Minister's side for a single instant.
"Lt. Col Kouliabko has informed me that Bogrov had come to the theater to find him to tell him that the meeting in Bibikov Blvd. had not taken place and was reset for the next day. I could not hide from Kouliabko the upset I felt from all of this moving around of Bogrov and I ordered him to make certain that Bogrov did not leave his residence and not to leave the people who came from Kryemtchoug alone for one single instant. I then invited him to come see me after the theater discuss the ulterior measures we would have to take.
"After the above report, I would not stand for an instant that Bogrov could be found at the theater, and it seemed impossible to me that Kouliabko had given him such extraordinary permission without first asking my permission."
"I went to the parterre at the beginning of the second act; when it was over, I went to Stolypin to let him know about my conversation with Kouliabko, and stayed next to him then, which is what I usually did whenever the Minister was out in a public place. This time, P.A. Stolypin, ordered me, despite my objections, to go and see Kouliabko again, because the rather vague nature of the new information had begun to seriously upset him. Thus it was that I learned later, that Capt. Yessaoulov, who was supposed to stay constantly by the Minister's side, was found out in the foyer. Going into the corridor, I met Kouliabko again who confirmed that the orders I had given during the first intermission, to confine Bogrov in his apartment, had been executed. The inquiry later established the fact that it was only after the second act had begun that Kouliabko had given Bogrov, who was already at the theater, the order to go home, without even considering to make sure that Bogrov carried the order out. The gunshot which then echoed proved that the order had, in fact, not been followed."
Here is what I know on my part. After the second act, the Emperor left his box to take tea in an adjacent room. His children followed. The Imperial box was empty. I went again out into the corridor. No one was left on the parterre. Stolypin was standing in front of the ramp separating the parterre from the orchestra, his back to the stage. On his right were Baron Freedericks and Gen. Souhkomlinov. Yessaoulov had gone to smoke.
Along the aisle to the left, a young man in elegant clothes calmly approached the group of those three men. Arriving at the top of the fourth row of seats, he fired three shots at Stolypin. Someone in the orchestra shouted. The Minister put his hand to his chest, and staggered.
"I am wounded" he said; then he took off, mechanically, his frock coat, dropped it on the ramp, look at the blood pouring out and fell without a sound into his seat.
"I am happy to die for the Tsar" the Minister said. He turned toward the Imperial Box, then seeing the Emperor who had entered the box, he made a gesture with both hands to tell the Emperor to go back.
The Minister was immediately surrounded by the people in the hall, to care for him, and they carried him off.
The young man, after firing the gunshots, went calmly still towards an exit. Suddenly he started to run. He was immediately caught, grabbed, thrown to the ground, and beaten.
At the moment he fired the gunshots I was in the corridor.
Hearing the shots, I jumped down into the parterre. The crowd was thick and I could not push my way through. Having drawn my saber, I then succeeded, by jumping from seat to seat, to go up the group pressed around the assassin. At the moment I went to hit him, I saw his face and recognized Bogrov.
"This is treason" I thought. "There has been an attempt."
My arms fell. My thoughts were spinning.
"Shall I finish him off?" the Chief of the Escort, Prince Troubeskoy asked me, greatly upset, holding his hand on the hilt of his sword.
"No, Prince, he must be arrested." I said briefly, and then left him at a run. My thoughts quickly ran and I saw immediately what was to be done.
I ran to the Imperial Box and planted myself in front of it and forbade the public from approaching. The word "treason" burned in my ears. I waited for more gunshots. I was convinced that terrorists were in the theater.
The public pulled back from the box. Gen. Dyedyuline came down into the hall by jumping over the rail of the box.
"Go see what happened in the orchestra" he told me.
"No, Excellency, I will not move. They might fire again. Get the Emperor out."
Dyedyuline went to the orchestra himself. He came back a few seconds later and told me"
"Your agents are there. Nothing to fear from there."
The entire theater had been shaken up. I shouted several things to the adjacent box.
This is he himself later recounted several days later to the officers of the Standardt, the Emperor had heard the gunshots, but thought they were to signal the rising of the curtain, he went toward the door of the outer box room. Grand Duchess Tatiana had had the time to look out the door and for her see and understand what was happening in the theater, had shut the door on the Emperor.
"Papa, don't come in, they are shooting" she yelled to him, crying.
I was in the presence of genuine chaos. Everywhere were shouts of "the anthem, the anthem". The orchestra began to play "God Save the Tsar."
The Emperor appeared in his box. He was greeted by endless hurrahs. He saluted and left. I immediately went towards the exit. My ideas were still becoming confused. How had this all happened? Who could have let Bogrov into the theater? "I see!" is suddenly said to myself, this explains all of those mysterious conversations and all those whispers of Vyerigine.
Breaking through the crowd, Oupravine came up to me quickly.
"My Col." He said, "they have found one of the entry control permits on the assassin."
"God be praised" I replied to him. I thanked him. "Has the Emperor left?"
"Yes, and without further incident."
I let out an immense sigh. The permit on the assassin proved that the control posts under my direction had not disobeyed my instructions in letting Bogrov pass.
Leaving the theater, I encountered Gen. Kourlov. He was stunned and depressed. One would have thought a spring had sprung inside him.
"Who let Bogrov pass? I demanded from him.
"I am unaware" he replied. The he immediately added:
"It was Kouliabko. He wanted to kill himself. I am going to most severely chew him out. He will comt to find me when he is to give his dispostition."
I went to the Commandant of the Palace and let him know everything which I knew, and tried to persuade him to believe in the existence of a terrorist group. After what had happened, he would have to listen to everyone and not just rely on himself.
It goes without saying that there was great upset among the members of the suite. The words "agent" and "agent of the Section of the Okhrana" passed from mouth to mouth.
My heart was heavy, I felt humiliated, baffled, and filled with rage.