Russia sheds light on murder that sparked purges

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ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia on Tuesday published previously secret documents that shed light on a notorious murder 75 years ago that historians say sparked the purges of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The mysterious killing of Stalin's rival Sergei Kirov on December 1, 1934 has remained one of the Kremlin's most closely guarded riddles for decades because many of the key documents were immediately classified by the secret police.

Kirov, a fiery Bolshevik revolutionary whose popularity among ordinary Communist Party members by far outshone that of Stalin, was shot dead in a corridor near his office in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, by a man called Leonid Nikolayev.

Historians have long suspected that Stalin had Kirov killed to eliminate a rival and a potential threat.

But documents released on Tuesday by Russia's domestic intelligence agency -- including Nikolayev's diary, published with the permission of his son -- painted a picture of a disillusioned Communist Party functionary acting alone, out of bitterness and revenge.

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