Konstantin Semenchuk, the scientist who ruled for two years in the 1930s over the Soviet station on the remote Wrangel Island, is so forgotten today he doesn’t even merit his own dedicated Wikipedia page, but it’s unlikely those he governed ever forgot what Time magazine described as the madman’s “shifty-eyed” visage.
Perhaps there’s a scholar somewhere who can explain what exactly provoked Semenchuk’s seemingly insane criminality and the tragedies it brought about, but there’s no easily accessible record that spells out anything beyond the charges and result of his trial. The facts as we know them: He was appointed as Governor of Wrangel Island in 1934 by Stalin’s Soviet Union and was accused of starving, extorting, poisoning, raping and murdering the native people and his own rival coworkers. At the conclusion of a short and sensational Moscow trial, Semenchuk was sentenced to death along with his accomplice and dogsled driver, S.P. Startsev, for, among other crimes, having killed N.A. Wulfson, a doctor whom he sent out on a fake mission through a snowstorm. What follows are a succession of 1936 articles from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle which paint pieces of a ghastly portrait.
From May 19:
From May 24: