In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2016. Berlin: Metropol Verlag, pp. 57–74.
Not much is known about Sergei Bessonov, a key witness and a victim in the final Moscow show trial of March 1938. Initially, he sympathized with the Socialist Revolutionary Party, but in 1920 joined the Communist Party. This article examines his activities in the 1920s and 1930s. After graduating from the Institute of Red Professors in 1924, Bessonov became rector of the Ural University (1924–25) and of the Ural Polytechnic Institute (1925–27). Thereafter he became a major protagonist in the debates on economic and tariff policy on the Soviet railroads. In 1930 he was assigned to work in Germany as a member of the Soviet trade delegation in Berlin. After a short-term assignment to the Soviet trade offices in London, he was posted as counsellor to the Soviet Embassy in Berlin. As an aide of David Kandelaki, the Soviet trade representative at Berlin between 1934 and 1937, he was involved in major efforts to expand German-Soviet trade, including a proposal for a German-Soviet non-aggression treaty, which has been seen as a prelude to the Soviet-Nazi Pact of August 23, 1939. In the Bukharin show trial of 1938 he played the dual role of accused conspirator and witness who bore testimony against the other accused.