Prison and Execution Room of the Cheka-NKVD on Varsonofyevskii Lane

Address: 11 Bolshaya Lubyanka Street; 9 and 7 Varsonofyevskii Lane, Moscow

Houses no. 7 and 9 on Varsonofyevskii Lane and House no. 11 on Bolshaya Lubyanka formed the so-called black square, which became the property of the Cheka in 1918. At present, these properties remain under the control of the FSB.

View of courtyard from Varsonofyevskii Lane. Photo: Memorial Society Photo Archive

View of courtyard from Varsonofyevskii Lane. Photo: Memorial Society Photo Archive 

The house on the corner of Varsonofyevskii Lane and Bolshaya Lubyanka was the Cheka’s first headquarters. The basement, which resembled a ship’s hold, was equipped to function as a prison. Isolated prison cells, which were suitable for general and solitary confinement, were built inside the basement.

In 1918, a garage for the Cheka was built in the building's courtyard. This later became car park no. 1 of the OGPU-NKVD-KGB.

The basement of the garage was filled with zinc and used as a special space for regular mass executions until 1948. According to rough estimates, around 10,000–15,000 people were executed there.

From 1926 to 1953, the Head Commandant of the OGPU-NKVD-KGB was Vasiliy Blokhin, who was infamous for carrying out large-scale executions.

From 1937 (or possibly 1939), Grigory Mairanovskii’s laboratory, known as “Laboratory X,” “Laboratory 12,” and “The Chamber,” was located at 11 Bolshaya Lubyanka. The laboratory staff developed toxic substances and poisons there and tested them on people who had been sentenced to death. 

Vasiliy Blokhin himself supervised the laboratory's operations: he guarded the rooms, delivered arrested people to the experiments, and sent their remains to the crematory. 

The laboratory was originally established in 1921 by Vladimir I. Lenin as a space for “political assassinations.” Until 1947, the laboratory was located on Varsonofyevskii Lane, and in 1951 it was finally closed down.