His surname is a synonym of Stalin's terror.The Great Purge was started under the NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, but the height of the campaigns occurred while the NKVD was headed by Nikolai Yezhov, from September 1936 to August 1938; this period is sometimes referred to as the Yezhovshchina (Russian: Ежовщина; "Yezhov era"). However the campaigns were carried out according to the general line, and often by direct orders, of the Party Politburo headed by Stalin.
Estimates of the number of deaths associated with the Great Purge run from the official figure of 681,692 to nearly 2 million. Hundreds of thousands of victims were falsely accused of various political crimes (espionage, wrecking, sabotage, anti-Soviet agitation, conspiracies to prepare uprisings and coups) and then executed by shooting, or sent to the Gulag labor camps. Many died at the penal labor camps due to starvation, disease, exposure and overwork. Other methods of dispatching victims were used on an experimental basis. For example, one secret policeman gassed people to death in batches in the back of a specially adapted airtight van.
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