Copyright © 2024

The work of Euromaidan Press is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation

When referencing our materials, please include an active hyperlink to the Euromaidan Press material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. To reprint anything longer, written permission must be acquired from [email protected].

Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Russian blogger Yakovlev: My grandfather was a “chekist” and a murderer

Portraits of October Revolution leaders: (L-R, above) Vladimir Lenin, Andrei Bubnov, Feliks Dzerzhinskiy; (L-R, below), Yakov Sverdlov, Joseph Stalin, Moisei Uritsky (Getty Images)
Russian blogger Yakovlev: My grandfather was a “chekist” and a murderer
Article by: Vladimir Yakovlev
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Edited by: A. N.
57-year-old Vladimir Yakovlev was born in Moscow and now lives in Israel. He recently shared his family’s chekist history on his Facebook page and went on to explain how past atrocities in Russian/Soviet history have influenced the Russian mindset.

Have you ever seen a real chekist ID? This belonged to my grandfather and I still have it.

(The term “chekist” comes from the Russian abbreviation ChK, or Extraordinary Commission (Cheka), which was the original secret police organization set up under Lenin by the sadistic Feliks Dzerzhinsky-Ed.)

Vladimir Yakovlev’s Cheka ID card

I was named after my grandfather. My grandfather, Vladimir Yakovlev, was a murderer, a bloody butcher, and a security officer (chekist). Among his victims were his own parents. My grandfather arrested his own father for speculation and had him shot. His mother, my great-grandmother found out about it, and hanged herself.

My happiest childhood memories are associated with our old, spacious apartment on Novokuznetskaya Street. Our family was very proud of it. I learned later that this apartment was not bought or built, but requisitioned by the authorities, seized from a wealthy merchant family.

I remember the old carved cupboard that I used to climb into, searching for a jar of jam. I remember the large comfortable sofa, where my grandmother, wrapped a warm blanket, read me fairy tales in the evening. I remember two large leather armchairs, which were traditionally used only for important conversations.

As I learned later on, my grandmother, whom I loved very much, worked for most of her life as a professional agent provocateur. Born a noblewoman, she used her family background to build good and trusting relationships with her friends and acquaintances. She then drew up official reports and submitted them to the authorities.

Bogger Vladimir Yakovlev

Grandmother and grandfather did not buy the sofa, chairs, cupboard and other pieces of furniture in our apartment. They chose them at a special warehouse that stored possessions belonging to executed Muscovites. Chekists were authorized to visit this warehouse and select furniture and other equipment to decorate their apartments.

As a child, I was totally ignorant of what was going on around me, but my happy childhood memories are imbued with the smell of robbery, murder, violence and betrayal… soaked in blood.

Yes, but am I the only one?

We, who grew up in the Soviet Union/Russia are the grandchildren of victims or executioners. All of us, without exception… There were no victims in your family? So, there must have been executioners. There were no executioners in your family? So, there must have been victims. There were no victims or executioners? So, there are secrets…

I believe we underestimate the strong influence of Russia’s tragic past on the psyche of today’s generations.  Assessing the scale of Russia’s past, we usually think of the victims. But, in order to assess the impact of these tragedies on the psyche of future generations, we need to think more of the survivors.

The dead are no longer with us. The survivors were our parents and our parents’ parents.

Survivors were the widowed, orphaned, those who lost their loved ones, the exiled and dispossessed, the humiliated and murdered, those who killed to survive or for the sake of an ideal or victory, the dedicated and betrayed, those who were broken and destroyed, those who sold their souls and became executioners, those who were raped, mutilated, robbed, forced to inform and snitch on others, those who buried their sorrow, guilt and lost faith in drink, and those who lived through famines, captivity, the occupation, and gulags.

The dead number tens of millions, the survivors – hundreds of millions. Hundreds of millions of people who transmitted their fear, their pain, and their sense of suspicion to their children who, in turn, adding their own pain to such suffering, transmitted that fear to us.

Today, there isn’t a single family that doesn’t bear the scars and consequences of atrocities committed in Russia throughout the centuries.

Have you ever wondered just how much the life experience of three successive generations of your direct ancestors influences your personal perception of the world? Your wife? Your children?

If not, think about it!

Cheka symbol
The “sword and shield” symbol of the Cheka (succeeded by the NKVD, MVD, KGB, and now FSB) as it was carried in parade along with a portrait of its founder Felix Dzerzhinsky.

It took me years to understand my family history. Now I know where my constant irrational fear comes from? Or my tendency to absolute secrecy. Or my absolute inability to trust another person and build a relationship. Or a constant feeling of guilt that has haunted me since childhood… for as long as I can remember.

In school, we read about atrocities perpetrated by the German fascists. In university, we studied the crimes committed by the Chinese Red Guards and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge. But, our teachers forgot to tell as that the largest acts of genocide, unprecedented in scale and duration, were implemented not by Germany, not by China, not by Cambodia, but by our own country.

And it is namely us, three consecutive generations of OUR FAMILIES that have survived this horror, the worst genocides in the history of mankind. We often think that the best way to protect ourselves from the past is not to bother about history, ignore our family history and the horrors and brutalities endured by family members.

We think it’s better not to know. In fact, it just makes it worse. What we ignore continues to pursue us through childhood memories, through our relations with our parents. We don’t feel this influence, we aren’t aware of its effect and therefore, we’re powerless to resist.

The worst consequence of our inherited fear is our inability to recognize it, which makes us unable to realize the extent to which this trauma distorts our perception of reality today.

It’s not important whether the ultimate personification of our darkest fear is America, the Kremlin, Ukraine, Türkiye, homosexuals, “decadent” Europe, the fifth column or simply our boss or a policeman on duty.

What is important is whether we are aware of the extent to which our personal fears, our personal sense of external threat are, in reality, only ghosts of the past whose existence we are so afraid to admit.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Edited by: A. N.
You could close this page. Or you could join our community and help us produce more materials like this.  We keep our reporting open and accessible to everyone because we believe in the power of free information. This is why our small, cost-effective team depends on the support of readers like you to bring deliver timely news, quality analysis, and on-the-ground reports about Russia's war against Ukraine and Ukraine's struggle to build a democratic society. A little bit goes a long way: for as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you can help build bridges between Ukraine and the rest of the world, plus become a co-creator and vote for topics we should cover next. Become a patron or see other ways to support. Become a Patron!

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here

You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter

Please leave your suggestions or corrections here

    Euromaidan Press

    We are an independent media outlet that relies solely on advertising revenue to sustain itself. We do not endorse or promote any products or services for financial gain. Therefore, we kindly ask for your support by disabling your ad blocker. Your assistance helps us continue providing quality content. Thank you!

    Related Posts