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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA

The Way It Was

Beria`s mistress comes out of the closet

Nina Alexeva was pursued by the press in 1993 after a researcher working in Soviet-era archives found her name in the address book of Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s secret police chief. It turned out that Ms Alexeva had been Beria’s lover —and lived to tell the tale. Many others didn’t, as Beria was notorious for luring young women to his mansion on Nikitsky Pereulok in Moscow and killing them after having sex.

I met Ms Alexeva, by then an old lady, in her carpet-strewn apartment in a nondescript tower block. She wore a scarlet silk dressing gown and dark glasses and coquettishly pretended she didn’t want to be photographed. I had the impression the pensioner was loving all the attention she was getting from the media.

“One Western journalist promised to make me a millionaire if I would say that I had French sex with Beria,” she said. “Russian journalists have twisted my story to make out that Beria was more brutal than he really was, for political ends.”

The truth, she said, was that while Beria had sent countless numbers of innocent people to their deaths and while she had been his “unwilling victim”, he was not a monster to her. “He was gallant and affectionate. Why should I sin by speaking ill of the dead?”

Beria, who was responsible for the mass deportation of the Baltic people to Siberia, among other crimes, spotted Ms Alexeva when she was singing in the NKVD (later called the KGB and now the FSB) choir in the late 1940s. He sent a black limousine to fetch her but she told the driver: “My husband is meeting me.” She got away that time.

But a year later, Beria sent his bodyguards for her and this time she knew she couldn’t refuse.

She was shown into an elegant dining room, where a table was laid with zakuski (hors d’oeuvres) and wines from the cellars of Tsar Nicholas II. After dinner, Beria took her to bed.

“I was trembling all over. I didn’t want this to happen,” she said, although she refused to use the word “rape”.

Every two or three days for the next 18 months, the car was sent for her and she spent the night with the secret policeman. “I was not Beria’s mistress, I was his victim,” she said. “I had fallen into his net.”

She was confined to the dining room and the bedroom and never saw any of his other victims. “I didn’t know about his bloody business then,” she said. “Nobody did really. We could only guess.”

Amazingly, at the end of this ordeal, Beria agreed to let Ms Alexeva go, perhaps because she reminded him of his Georgian wife, who was also called Nina.

Other women were not so lucky and their skeletons were found buried near the house of horror. As for Beria himself, when Stalin died in 1953, his successors had the police chief shot on the absurd charge that he was a “British spy”.

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