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Iakir, Iona Emmanuilovich

(1896–1937), military figure. Iona Iakir (also rendered Yona Yakir) was born in Kishinev to the family of a pharmacist. In 1913, he graduated from a Kishinev professional school and continued his studies at the University of Basel in Switzerland. During World War I, he returned to Russia and studied at the Kharkov Institute of Technology. In 1915, he was sent as a conscript to Odessa, where he worked as a lathe operator in a military factory.

After the February 1917 Revolution, Iakir returned to Kishinev, where he engaged in political activity and joined the Bolsheviks. He participated in the establishment of Soviet authority in Bessarabia and in the organization of Red Guard detachments. In 1918, he led a battalion of Chinese workers, and struggled against Austro-German forces. He was elected a member of the Voronezh Provincial Party Committee and appointed commissar of the southern front. Next, he fought against the White Cossacks, was a member of the Eighth Army Revolutionary Military Council, and received the Order of the Red Banner. He also commanded a division and an army group. For the Southern (“Iakir”) Campaign, which broke through the White Guard encirclement in the Odessa region, Iakir was awarded a second Order of the Red Banner.

Rising through the ranks, from October 1920 Iakir was commander and commissar of the 45th Infantry Division; in 1921 he was commander and commissar of the Infantry Corps; from 1921 to 1924 he commanded the Crimean and Kiev military districts; and in 1924 he headed the Main Directorate of the Red Army Military Schools. He also became editor in chief of the journal Voennyi vestnik (Military Bulletin). Iakir was appointed commander of the armed forces of Ukraine and Crimea in 1925. Subsequently, he was elected to the Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee. In 1928 and 1929 he studied in Germany at the Higher Military Academy.

Iakir returned to the USSR in 1930, becoming a candidate member, and from 1934, a full member of the All-Union Communist Party Central Committee. At the Central Committee plenum of February–March 1937, which discussed Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin and Aleksei Ivanovich Rykov, Iakir favored “expulsion [from the Party], handing [them] over to justice, and execution by shooting.”

On 10 May 1937, Iakir was transferred to the post of commander of the Leningrad Military District. That same month, he himself was arrested and charged with participation in the so-called “military–fascist plot in the Red Army.” Iakir addressed a letter to Stalin and Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov, assuring them of his innocence. On 11 June a special session of the USSR Supreme Court examined the case and sentenced its participants to execution by shooting. Iakir was shot in the courtyard of Lubianka Prison. He was rehabilitated in 1957.

Suggested Reading

Anatolii Shikman, Deiateli otechestvennoi istorii: Biograficheskii slovar’-spravochnik (Moscow, 1997); Valerii Volkovinskii, “Iona Iakir,” Politika i vremia 3 (1991): 17–39; Konstantin Zalesskii, Imperiia Stalina: Biograficheskii entsiklopedicheskii slovar’ (Moscow, 2000).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson