I am not going to take issue with Michael Ledeen’s military sources (quoted
in Michael’s piece on the site today) that a bullet passes straight through
the head without stopping. For high-speed, heavy, rifle or machine-gun
bullets, this is very likely true. That it is not the case with handgun
rounds is illustrated by a very grisly story in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s
book Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, which I have just been reading.
(And which David Pryce-Jones reviews in the new NRODT.) If you have a weak
stomach, or have just finished your Egg McMuffin, you might be wise to stop
reading this post now.
Stalin’s NKVD boss G.G. Yagoda, was personally present at the execution of
Old Bolsheviks Zinoview and Kamenev on August 25, 1936. It was the normal
style of Soviet execution — shooting through the back of the head with a
“The bullets, with their noses crushed, were dug out of the skulls, wiped
clean of blood and pearly brain matter, and handed to Yagoda, probably still
warm. … Yagoda labeled the bullets ‘Zinoviev’ and ‘Kamenev’ and treasured
these macabre but sacred relics, taking them home to be kept proudly with
his collection of erotica and ladies’ stockings.”
Yagoda was himself shot two years later. The bullets were found among his
possessions and given to his successor, N.I. Yezhov. Yezhov was shot in his
turn (in 1940, after “confessing” to having been an English, Japanese and
Polish spy). I don’t know what happened to the bullets.