Saturday, July 07, 2012
Vsevolod Meyerhold and Zinaida Reich
Theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold and actress Zinaida Reich, circa 1922.
On Stalin’s orders, Meyerhold was arrested and charged with treason on June 20, 1939. He was executed by firing squad on February 2, 1940.
Reich was found stabbed to death in her apartment less than a month after Meyerhold’s arrest. It is believed that the Soviet Secret Police, the NKVD, was responsible for her murder.
It is inconceivable today that harmless and apolitical persons such as Meyerhold and Reich, both very minor figures, were victims of Stalin’s Great Purge.
The arrest of Meyerhold, a man never viewed by anyone as any kind of threat, shocked the Russian intelligentsia and struck fear into the hearts of all persons working in every branch of the fine arts—and instantly made persons such as Dmitri Shostakovich and David Oistrakh believe that they had been marked for death.
Meyerhold was exonerated two years after Stalin’s death. He was one of the first persons “rehabilitated” shortly into The Khrushchev Thaw. Such rehabilitations were to continue, without end, until the collapse of the Soviet Union.