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Gamarnik, Ian Borisovich

(1894–1937), Communist Party activist, political worker, and military commissar. Ian Gamarnik was born in Zhitomir to the family of an office worker. He studied at the Saint Petersburg Psycho-Neurological Institute and the Kiev University Law Faculty. In September 1916, he joined the Bolsheviks, and by October 1917 was secretary of the Kiev Committee of the Rossiiskaia Sotsial-Demokraticheskaia Partiia Bol’shevikov (Russian Social Democratic Workers Party of Bolsheviks). Gamarnik was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets in March 1918. He was a member of the Organization Bureau (Orgburo) that prepared the First Congress of the Ukrainian Communist Party of Bolsheviks.

During the post–October Revolution period, when German troops occupied Ukraine and the Ukrainian Rada government came to power, Gamarnik, as a member of the underground All-Ukrainian Center and a leader of the Odessa, Kharkov (Khar’kiv), and Crimean underground party organizations, sought both to expand the partisan movement and to undermine enemy forces.

Beginning in 1918, Gamarnik held a series of increasingly important party, government, and military positions. From the end of 1928 he was first secretary of the Belorussian Communist Party Central Committee and a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Belorussian Military District. From October 1929, Gamarnik headed the Red Army Political Directorate, was a member of the USSR Revolutionary Military Council, and edited Krasnaia zvezda (Red Star), the Commissariat of Defense newspaper. From June 1930, he was simultaneously deputy chair of the USSR Revolutionary Military Council, deputy head of the People’s Commissariat of Military and Naval Affairs, People’s Commissar of Defense, and a member of the Commissariat’s Military Council. In March 1937, he was appointed representative of the People’s Commissariat of Defense at the Council of People’s Commissars, and in May was confirmed as a member of the Military Council of the Central Asian Military District.

Gamarnik was elected to be a candidate member of the Communist Party Central Committee at the Fourteenth Party Congress in 1925, and by the Seventeenth Congress was a full member. From November 1929 he was also a member of the Orgburo. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Red Banner, and in 1935 received the status of army commissar of the first rank.

On 30 May 1937, in the context of the purge of the military command, the Politburo adopted a resolution removing Gamarnik from his positions at the Commissariat of Defense. He was charged with maintaining ties with members of the so-called “anti-Soviet Trotskyite military organization.” The following day Gamarnik committed suicide. His wife was sentenced to 8 and then to an additional 10 years imprisonment; she died in a prison camp. Their daughter was sent to a children’s home.

In August 1955, a declaration issued by the USSR attorney general in the name of the Presidium of the Communist Party Central Committee recognized as baseless the charges of anti-Soviet activity brought against Gamarnik, and he was officially rehabilitated by a decision of the Central Committee Party Control Commission.

Suggested Reading

Nikolai Ivanovich Salekhov, Ian Borisovich Gamarnik: Ocherk o zhizni i deiatel’nosti (Moscow, 1964); Anatolii Pavlovich Shikman, Deiateli otechestvennoi istorii: Biograficheskii slovar’-spravochnik (Moscow, 1997); Konstantin Aleksandrovich Zalesskii, Imperiia Stalina: Biograficheskii entsiklopedicheskii slovar’ (Moscow, 2000).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson