Moscow (Jul. 11)
The Soviet secret police, the dread GPU, were abolished today by order of the Tzik, the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Republic, and all functions transferred to the newly-created People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs.
Henry G. Yagoda, head of the GPU, was appointed Commissar of Internal Affairs, and his assistant, Yakov Saulowich Agaranov, was named vice-commissar. Both are Jews. George Prokofiev was appointed second vice-commissar.
The Tzik decree also ordered that the judicial functions exercised by the GPU be turned over to the regular courts, which will be enlarged. The GPU had its own police force, courts and prisons and also had the power of sentencing prisoners to death. Hated and feared by opponents of the Soviet regime, it was regarded by the Communists as one of the most important departments of the government.
However, the growing security of the Soviet regime has brought open demands for the abolition of the GPU. Recently the Soviet Attorney General, in a speech at a Soviet congress, demanded the end of the secret police on the ground that its duty was only to punish and it was unable to educate in the fashion that courts could.
The newly-established commissariat will have many of the investigating powers formerly vested in the GPU, but in all cases evidence will be turned over to the regular courts, where offenders will be tried by regular judges.
The GPU was in charge of combatting all counter-revolutionary activity in the Soviet Union. Abolition at this time would indicate that the Soviet regime is no longer afraid of internal enemies.
Yagoda, head of the GPU and now commissar of Internal Affairs, is regarded as one of the most efficient officials of the Soviet regime. He was in direct charge of digging the White Sea-Baltic Sea canal with workers, most of them disaffected peasant prisoners of the GPU. Not only was the canal finished in less than the scheduled time, but the prisoners cheered their GPU chief and praised him highly. Thousands of the prisoners were freed and their citizenship rights restored as a result of their good work on the canal.