TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

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  Vladimir Lenin

part I
Vladimir Ilich Lenin


part II
October Revolution
Cheka
Red Terror
White Terror
Russian Civil War
Russian famine of 1921
  Joseph Stalin

part I
Joseph Stalin 1879-1938

part II
Joseph Stalin 1939-1953

part III

Great Purge
Moscow Trials
Holodomor
Stalin and anti-Semitism
Stalin and Socialist Realism
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
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Joseph Stalin

part III:
Great Purge - Moscow Trials - Holodomor - Stalin and anti-Semitism -
Stalin and Socialist Realism
 
 
 
 
Great Purge
 
 
Political repression in the Soviet Union

Throughout the Soviet history millions of people became victims of Soviet political repression, which was an instrument of the internal politics of the Soviet Russia and Soviet Union since the first days after the October Revolution. Culminating during the Stalin era, it still existed during the "Khrushchev Thaw," followed by increased persecution of Soviet dissidents during Brezhnev stagnation, and didn't cease to exist during Gorbachev's perestroika. Its heritage still influences the life of the modern Russia.

Origins and early Soviet times

Early on the theoretical basis of the repressions was the Marxist view at the class struggle and the resulting notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Its legal basis was formalized into the Article 58 in the code of RSFSR and similar articles for other Soviet republics.

The terms "repression", "terror", and other strong words were normal working terms with respect to the internal politics of the early Soviet state,[citation needed] reflecting the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat was supposed apply ruthless force to suppress the resistance of the social classes which Marxism considered antagonistic to the class of proletariat. This phraseology was gradually abolished after destalinization, but the system of persecution for political views and activities remained until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At times, the repressed were called the enemies of the people. Punishments by the state included summary executions, sending innocent people to Gulag, forced resettlement, and stripping of citizen's rights. At certain times, all members of a family, including children, were punished as "traitor of Motherland family members". Repression was conducted by the Cheka and its successors, and other state organs. Periods of the increased repression include Red Terror, Collectivisation, the Great Purges, the Doctor's Plot, and others. The secret police forces conducted massacres of prisoners on numerous occasions. Repression was practiced in the Soviet republics and in the territories liberated by Soviet Army during World War II, including Baltic States and Eastern Europe.

State repression led to resistance, which were brutally suppressed by military force, such as the Tambov rebellion, Kronstadt rebellion, and Vorkuta Uprising. During the Tambov rebellion, Bolshevik military forces used chemical weapons against villages with civilian population and rebels. Prominent citizens of villages were often taken as hostages and executed if the resistance fighters did not surrender.

Red Terror

Red Terror in Soviet Russia was the campaign of mass arrests and executions conducted by the Bolshevik government. The Red Terror was officially announced on September 2, 1918 by Yakov Sverdlov and ended in about October 1918. However Sergei Melgunov applies this term to repressions for the whole period of the Russian Civil War, 1918-1922.

Collectivization

Collectivization in the Soviet Union was a policy, pursued between 1928 and 1933, to consolidate individual land and labour into collective farms (Russian: колхо́з, kolkhoz, plural kolkhozy). The Soviet leaders were confident that the replacement of individual peasant farms by kolkhozy would immediately increase food supplies for the urban population, the supply of raw materials for processing industry, and agricultural exports generally. Collectivization was thus regarded as the solution to the crisis in agricultural distribution (mainly in grain deliveries) that had developed since 1927 and was becoming more acute as the Soviet Union pressed ahead with its ambitious industrialization program. As peasantry, with exception of the poorest part, resisted the collectivization policy, the Soviet government resorted to the harsh measures to force the farmers to collectivize. In his conversation with Winston Churchill Stalin gave his estimate of the number of "kulaks" who were repressed for resisting collectivization as 10 million, including those forcibly deported.

Great Terror

The Great Purge (Russian: Большая чистка, transliterated Bolshaya chistka) was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin in 1937-1938. It involved the purge of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, repression of peasants, deportations of ethnic minorities, and the persecution of unaffiliated persons, characterized by widespread police surveillance, widespread suspicion of "saboteurs", imprisonment, and killings. Estimates of the number of deaths associated with the Great Purge run from the official figure of 681,692 to nearly 2 million.

Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and population transfers

In Soviet Union, political repressions targeted not only individual persons, but also whole ethnic, social, religious, and other categories of population.

Population transfer in the Soviet Union may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, often classified as "enemies of workers", deportations of nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite directions to fill the ethnically cleansed territories.

Entire nations and ethnic groups have been collectively punished by the Soviet Government for alleged collaboration with the enemy during World War II. At least nine of distinct ethnic-linguistic groups, including ethnic Germans, ethnic Greeks, ethnic Poles, Crimean Tatars, Balkars, Chechens, and Kalmyks, were deported to remote unpopulated areas of Siberia and Kazakhstan. Population transfer in the Soviet Union led to millions of deaths due to the inflicted hardships. Koreans and Romanians were also deported. Mass operations of the NKVD were needed to deport hundreds of thousands of people.

The Soviet famine of 1932-1933 was severely aggravated by the actions of the government of the Soviet Union, such as the confiscation of food, the lack of meat, planned delivery limitations that ignored the famine, blocking the migration of its starving population, and the suppression of the information about the famine, all of which prevented any organized relief effort. This had led to deaths of millions of people in the affected area. The overall number of the 1932-1933 famine victims Soviet-wide is estimated as 6-7 million or 6-8 million.

Gulag

Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum, explains: "It was the branch of the State Security that operated the penal system of forced labour camps and associated detention and transit camps and prisons. While these camps housed criminals of all types, the Gulag system has become primarily known as a place for political prisoners and as a mechanism for repressing political opposition to the Soviet state.”

Post-Stalin era (1953-1991)
After Stalin's death, the suppression of dissent was dramatically reduced and took new forms. The internal critics of the system were convicted for anti-Soviet agitation, Anti-Soviet slander, or as "social parasites". Others were labeled as mentally ill, having sluggishly progressing schizophrenia and incarcerated in "psikhushkas", i.e. mental hospitals used by the Soviet authorities as prisons. A number of notable dissidents, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Bukovsky, and Andrei Sakharov, were sent to internal or external exile.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
KGB


Agency, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Russian in full Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, English Committee for State Security

foreign intelligence and domestic security agency of the Soviet Union. During the Soviet era the KGB’s responsibilities also included the protection of the country’s political leadership, the supervision of border troops, and the general surveillance of the population.



The Federal Security Service headquarters building is the gray one to left side, No. 1/3

 

Pre-KGB Soviet security services
Established in 1954, the KGB was the most durable of a series of security agencies starting with the Cheka, which was established in December 1917 in the first days of the Bolshevik government. The Cheka (originally VCHEKA, an acronym derived from the Russian words for All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage) was charged with the preliminary investigation of counterrevolution and sabotage, but it quickly assumed responsibility for arresting, imprisoning, and executing “enemies of the state,” which included the former nobility, the bourgeoisie, and the clergy. The Cheka played a prominent role in the Russian Civil War (1918–20) and aided in crushing the anti-Soviet Kronshtadt and Antonov rebellions in 1921. When Soviet archives were opened in the 1990s, it was learned that the Cheka, which in 1921 had a staff of more than 250,000, was responsible for the execution of more than 140,000 people. Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the Cheka’s chief during the early years of Soviet power, molded the service into an effective, merciless tool of the ruling Communist Party.

In 1922 the Cheka was supplanted by the GPU (State Political Administration) in an effort by the Communist Party to reduce the scale of the Cheka’s terror. A year later the GPU was renamed the OGPU (Unified State Political Administration) and given additional duties, including the administration of “corrective” labour camps and the surveillance of the population. As Joseph Stalin consolidated his power and directed the modernization of the Soviet Union, the OGPU implemented the forced collectivization of agriculture and the deportation of the kulaks (wealthy peasants) and staged show trials of “enemies of the people.” By the early 1930s the OGPU controlled all Soviet security functions, directing a vast army of informers in factories, government offices, and the Red Army. During this period the OGPU also conducted covert operations on foreign soil to disrupt the activities of the regime’s opponents, some of whom it kidnapped and murdered.

In 1934 the OGPU was absorbed into the new NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), which helped Stalin to consolidate his power by carrying out purges (see purge trials). More than 750,000 people were executed in 1937–38 alone, including tens of thousands of party officials and military and security officers. Among the victims were more than half the members of the ruling Central Committee (the Communist Party’s highest organ) as well as the NKVD’s first two chiefs, Genrikh Yagoda and Nikolay Yezhov. Yezhov was succeeded as head of the NKVD by Lavrenty Beria, who served from 1938 to 1953.

Feliks Dzerzhinsky



Main
Russian revolutionary
Polish Feliks Dzierżyński

born Sept. 11 [Aug. 30, Old Style], 1877, Dzerzhinovo, near Minsk, Russian Empire [now in Belarus]
died July 20, 1926, Moscow

Bolshevik leader, head of the first Soviet secret police organization.

Son of a Polish nobleman, Dzerzhinsky joined the Kaunas (Kovno) organization of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party in 1895. He became a party organizer, and, although he was arrested by the Russian Imperial Police for his revolutionary activities five times between 1897 and 1908, he repeatedly escaped from exile in Siberia. Not only did he participate in the Russian Revolution of 1905 but he also became a leader of the Polish-Lithuanian Social Democratic Party and was influential in convincing his colleagues to unite with the Russian Social Democrats in 1906. Afterward, Dzerzhinsky pursued his revolutionary activities within the Russian Empire and in western Europe. Arrested for the sixth time in 1912, he remained in captivity until after the February Revolution of 1917.

Dzerzhinsky was elected to the Bolshevik Party’s Central Committee in July 1917, and he played an active role in the October Revolution (1917). On Dec. 20 (Dec. 7), 1917, he was named head of the new All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage (Cheka), which became Soviet Russia’s security police agency. The Cheka helped stabilize V.I. Lenin’s dictatorship by arbitrarily executing real and alleged enemies of the Soviet state. Dzerzhinsky, who organized the first concentration camps in Russia, acquired a reputation as an incorruptible, ruthless, and fanatical communist.

During the Russo-Polish War (1919–20), Dzerzhinsky was appointed to the Polish revolutionary committee that was intended to become the Bolshevik government of Poland. But after the Soviet army was forced to retreat from Poland, he again concentrated on Russian affairs. He remained head of the Cheka and commissar for internal affairs (after 1919) and became commissar for transport (1921). In 1924, after he had become a firm supporter of Joseph Stalin, Dzerzhinsky was given control of the Supreme Economic Council and was also elected a candidate of the Politburo. In 1926, during a debate at a Central Committee session, Dzerzhinsky collapsed and died.
 

Genrikh Yagoda



Soviet official
Yagoda also spelled Jagoda

born 1891, Łodz, Pol., Russian Empire
died March 15, 1938, Moscow

head of the Soviet secret police under Stalin from 1934 to 1936 and a central figure in the purge trials.

Yagoda joined the Bolsheviks in 1907 and became a member of the presidium of the Cheka (Soviet secret police) in 1920. He was a deputy chairman of the Cheka’s successor organization, OGPU, from 1924 to 1934 and from 1930 was in charge of the system of forced-labour camps in the Soviet Union. A close, longtime associate of Stalin, Yagoda became in 1934 a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and was put in charge of the newly organized Commissariat of Internal Affairs, or NKVD, into which the secret police had been absorbed. There is evidence that Yagoda was instrumental in engineering in 1934 the assassination of Sergey Mironovich Kirov, Leningrad party secretary and a member of the Politburo, whom Stalin perceived as a potential rival. As head of the NKVD, Yagoda prepared the first of the public purge trials (August 1936), in which Zinovyev, L.B. Kamenev, and a number of their associates confessed to a series of astonishing charges and were immediately executed.

One year later Yagoda himself became a victim of the widespread purges that he had helped to carry out on Stalin’s orders. He was removed from office in September 1936 and replaced as People’s Commissar by N.I. Yezhov, under whose direction the purge trials proceeded. Yagoda was arrested in 1937 and became a defendant at the third public purge trial (March 1938). He was accused of being a member of a “Trotskyite” conspiracy intent on destroying the Soviet Union through sabotage. He was convicted, sentenced to death on March 13, and shot soon afterward.


Nikolay Yezhov



Soviet official
Yezhov also spelled Ezhov, byname The Dwarf, Russian Karlik

born 1895, St. Petersburg, Russia
died after January 1939

Russian Communist Party official who, while chief of the Soviet security police (NKVD) from 1936 to 1938, administered the most severe stage of the great purges, known as Yezhovshchina (or Ezhovshchina).

Nothing is known of his early life (he was nicknamed the “Dwarf” because he was but five feet tall and lame). Joining the Communist Party in March 1917, he was a political commissar in the Red Army during the Civil War and thereafter rose through several political posts, becoming a functionary for the Party Central Committee in Moscow by 1927 and one of Stalin’s favourites. On April 29, 1933, he was named a member of a newly established central Purge Commission, which conducted a bloodless purge that ejected more than a million members from the Party. In January 1934, at the 17th Party Congress, he became a full member of the Central Committee and then, in February, succeeded L.M. Kaganovich in the key post of chairman of the Party Control Commission. In October 1937 he became a candidate member of the Politburo.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 26, 1936, he had succeeded G.G. Yagoda as chief of the NKVD and, in January 1937, acquired the newly created title of General Commissar of State Security. In these roles he perpetrated the grand excesses known as the Yezhovshchina, the cruel, ruthless elimination or repression of Stalin’s enemies or alleged enemies in the Great Purge (see purge trials). The liquidations gradually extended from the Party leaders to the Party and state apparatchiki and finally to the general population.

By the summer of 1938, however, Yezhov himself had become the object of Stalin’s suspicions, for reasons unknown. In December, L.P. Beria replaced him as head of the NKVD; and Yezhov, last heard of in January 1939, disappeared, probably executed.


Lavrenty Beria



Soviet government official

born March 29 [March 17, old style], 1899, Merkheuli, Russia
died Dec. 23, 1953, Moscow

Beria also spelled Beriya
director of the Soviet secret police who played a major role in the purges of Stalin’s opponents.

Having joined the Communist Party in 1917, Beria participated in revolutionary activity in Azerbaijan and Georgia before he was drawn into intelligence and counterintelligence activities (1921) and appointed head of the Cheka (secret police) in Georgia. He became party boss of the Transcaucasian republics in 1932 and personally oversaw the political purges in those republics during Stalin’s Great Purge (1936–38). Beria was brought to Moscow in 1938 as the deputy to Nikolay Yezhov, head of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police. Yezhov was apparently arrested and shot on Stalin’s orders, and Beria became head of the secret police (1938–53). He supervised a purge of the police bureaucracy itself and administered the vast network of labour camps set up throughout the country. In February 1941 he became a deputy prime minister of the U.S.S.R., and during World War II, as a member of the State Defense Committee, he not only controlled the Soviet Union’s internal-security system but also played a major role in raw-materials production using the slave labour in the camps. He was made a marshal of the U.S.S.R. in 1945. He was also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party from 1934 and of the executive policy-making committee, the Politburo, from 1946. When the Politburo was reorganized as the Presidium in 1952, Beria retained his seat.

Soon after Stalin’s death in March 1953, Beria became one of four deputy prime ministers as well as head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, an organization which at that time combined both the secret political and regular police functions. During the ensuing struggle for power, Beria apparently attempted to use his position as chief of the secret police to succeed Stalin as sole dictator. By July 1953, however, he had been defeated by an anti-Beria coalition (led by Georgy M. Malenkov, Vyacheslav M. Molotov, and Nikita S. Khrushchev). He was arrested, deprived of his government and party posts, and publicly accused of being an “imperialist agent” and of conducting “criminal antiparty and antistate activities.” Convicted of these charges at his trial in December 1953, Beria was immediately executed.


Yury Andropov



president of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

born June 15 [June 2, Old Style], 1914, Nagutskoye, Russia
died Feb 9, 1984, Moscow

head of the Soviet Union’s KGB (State Security Committee) from 1967 to 1982 and his country’s leader as general secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee from November 1982 until his death 15 months later.

The son of a railway worker, Andropov was a telegraph operator, film projectionist, and boatman on the Volga River before attending a technical college and, later, Petrozavodsk University. He became an organizer for the Young Communist League (Komsomol) in the Yaroslav region and joined the Communist Party in 1939. His superiors noticed his abilities, and he was made head of the Komsomol in the newly created Karelo-Finnish Autonomous Republic (1940–44).

The turning point in Andropov’s career was his transfer to Moscow (1951), where he was assigned to the party’s Secretariat staff, considered a training ground for promising young officials. As ambassador to Hungary (July 1954–March 1957), he played a major role in coordinating the Soviet invasion of that country. Andropov then returned to Moscow, rising rapidly through the Communist hierarchy and, in 1967, becoming head of the KGB. Andropov’s policies as head of the KGB were repressive; his tenure was noted for its suppression of political dissidents.

Andropov was elected to the Politburo, and, as Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s health declined, Andropov began to position himself for succession, resigning his KGB post in 1982. Andropov was chosen by the Communist Party Central Committee to succeed Brezhnev as general secretary on November 12, scarcely two days after Brezhnev’s death. He consolidated his power by becoming chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (president) on June 16, 1983.

Ill health overtook him by August 1983, and thereafter he was never seen again in public. He accomplished little and was succeeded by a former rival, Konstantin Chernenko.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



In 1941 responsibility for state security was transferred from the NKVD to the NKGB (People’s Commissariat for State Security). Both agencies became ministries—the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Ministry of State Security (MGB)—in 1946. Beria, as a member of the ruling Central Committee, continued to supervise the two ministries while serving as head of the MVD. Beria also was responsible for the Soviet Union’s nascent nuclear weapons program and oversaw intelligence operations directed at the U.S. and British atomic bomb projects.

The MGB, directed by V.S. Abakumov under Beria’s supervision, played a major role in the Soviet Union’s war effort in World War II and in the subsequent consolidation of its power in eastern Europe. During the war, the MGB conducted espionage and counterespionage operations, administered prisoner-of-war camps, and ensured the loyalty of the officer corps. It also supervised the deportation to Siberia and Central Asia of groups suspected of disloyalty, including more than one million Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechen-Ingush, and other people of the Caucasus.

After the war, the MGB helped to crush all opposition, whether real or suspected, in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union; between 1945 and 1953 more than 750,000 Soviet citizens were arrested and punished for political crimes. Information uncovered in the 1990s indicated that by 1953 some 2,750,00 Soviet citizens were in jail or in forced-labour camps, and approximately the same number were in internal exile.

Soviet foreign intelligence in the last decade of Stalin’s life was remarkable in both its scope and success. During World War II the MGB conducted operations in Nazi-occupied Europe. One of its networks, the “Red Orchestra,” comprised several hundred agents and informers, including agents in the German ministries of foreign affairs, labour, propaganda, and economics. Declassified Russian and American documents indicate that the Soviet Union had placed at least five agents in the U.S. nuclear weapons program and possibly as many as 300 agents in the U.S. government by 1945. The British diplomatic and security establishments also had been infiltrated by important agents, including Kim Philby, a senior British intelligence officer. Evidence suggests that Soviet agents in Britain passed 15,000 to 20,000 documents to Moscow between 1941 and 1945. British and American agents of Soviet intelligence were for the most part ideological supporters of the regime, and many were members of communist parties.

Immediately following Stalin’s death in March 1953, the MGB was merged back into the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), still under Beria. Before the end of summer, the post-Stalinist leadership under Nikita Khrushchev turned against the power-hungry Beria, and he was deposed and executed. A series of trials and executions continuing into 1956 eliminated a number of his senior associates. In the meantime, millions of political prisoners were released from the MVD’s vast system of forced labour camps and from internal exile. The MVD was gradually dismantled and finally abolished in 1960.

Creation and role of the KGB
The KGB was created in 1954 to serve as the “sword and shield of the Communist Party.” The new security service, which played a major role in the purge of Beria’s supporters, was designed to be carefully controlled by senior Communist Party officials. It was divided into approximately 20 directorates, the most important of which were those responsible for foreign intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, technical intelligence, protection of the political leadership, and the security of the country’s frontiers. In the late 1960s an additional directorate was created to conduct surveillance on suspected dissidents in the churches and among the intelligentsia. For the next 20 years the KGB became increasingly zealous in its pursuit of enemies, harassing, arresting, and sometimes exiling human rights advocates, Christian and Jewish activists, and intellectuals judged to be disloyal to the regime. Among the most famous of its victims were the Nobel laureates Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrey Sakharov.

After World War II the KGB gradually expanded its foreign intelligence operations to become the world’s largest foreign intelligence service. As the Cold War with the United States intensified, the KGB came to be viewed as a counterpart of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency; however, unlike the CIA, the KGB conducted most of its activities domestically, on Soviet soil and against Soviet citizens. The KGB’s many agents sometimes posed as businessmen and journalists, though many used the more conventional diplomatic cover. Its successes included the infiltration of every major Western intelligence operation and the placement of agents of influence in almost every major capital. The KGB also was able to procure scientific and technical information for the Soviet military, and it repeatedly obtained advanced technology necessary for the development of Soviet submarines, airplanes, and rockets. Along with the GRU (Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff), which was responsible for purely military operations, the KGB enjoyed tremendous access to the secrets of both its adversaries and its allies.

By the end of the 1960s, the KGB had become firmly established as the Communist Party’s security watchdog. Its value as an instrument of political control was reflected in the appointment of its head, Yury Andropov, to the Politburo (1973) and his succession to the head of the party and the country in 1982. Under Andropov, the KGB recruited the “best and the brightest” members from the party establishment. Although it was aware of the extent of corruption in the decaying Soviet Union and did investigate and arrest some minor figures, it continued to be a servant of the party and was thus powerless to halt the country’s decline.

The KGB did not fare as well under the reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1985–91). Although Gorbachev respected the KGB’s prowess in foreign intelligence, his reform agenda undercut its authority as well as that of the Communist Party. In the summer of 1991, several senior KGB officers, including KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, played key roles in an abortive coup designed to return the Soviet system to ideological and bureaucratic purity. Afterward the KGB was systematically stripped of its extensive military units and many of its domestic security functions.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the KGB came under the control of Russia. The government of Russian President Boris Yeltsin supervised the division of the KGB into several major services responsible for internal security and foreign intelligence. Ukraine, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics established their own intelligence and security services, which maintained links to those of Russia. Nevertheless, efforts in Russia to reform the intelligence services were at best incomplete. The KGB and its leaders were never held accountable for crimes against the Soviet people.

Assessment
At its peak the KGB was the largest secret-police and foreign-intelligence organization in the world. Researchers with access to Communist Party archives put the number of KGB personnel at more than 480,000, including 200,000 soldiers in the Border Guards. Estimates of the number of informers in the Soviet Union are incomplete but usually range in the millions. Every Soviet leader depended on the KGB and its predecessors for information, surveillance of key elites, and control of the population. With the Communist Party and the army, the KGB formed the triad of power that ruled the Soviet Union. The KGB played a particularly important role in Soviet foreign policy. Foreign intelligence allowed the Soviet Union to maintain rough parity with the West in nuclear weapons and other weapons systems. Inside the country, however, the role of the KGB was baleful. Scholars disagree about the human cost of the KGB and its predecessors, but many estimate that they were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people.

A critical question in evaluating the KGB’s foreign and domestic operations is why it failed to prevent the eventual collapse of the Soviet system. There is ample evidence that the KGB suffered from the same problems of bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption that plagued the sclerotic political leadership. In addition, during the last decade of Soviet power, numerous KGB officials defected to the West or agreed to work as agents in place in Moscow. Moreover, some studies suggest that, despite its vaunted reputation for espionage, the KGB lacked the analytical skills necessary to form an accurate picture of the regime’s declining international and domestic situation. See also Federal Security Service.

Robert W. Pringle

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Joseph Stalin

 

Great Purge

Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin in 1937–1938. It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and Government officials, repression of peasants, Red Army leadership, and the persecution of unaffiliated persons, characterized by widespread police surveillance, widespread suspicion of "saboteurs", imprisonment, and executions. According to the archive data, in 1937–38 the number of death sentences was 681,692 and many more died in GULAG labor camps.

In Russian historiography the period of the most intense purge, 1937–1938, is called Yezhovshchina (Russian: Ежо́вщина; literally, the Yezhov regime), after Nikolai Yezhov, the then head of the Soviet secret police, NKVD.

In the Western World the term "the Great Terror" was popularized by the title of Robert Conquest's book. The book, The Great Terror, was in turn inspired by the period of the Great Terror (French: la Grande Terreur) at the end of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.



Partial view of a plaque with photos of victims of the Great Purge who were shot in the Butovo firing range near Moscow. The photos were taken after the arrest of each victim.
 

Introduction

The term "repression" was officially used to denote the prosecution of people considered as anti-revolutionaries and enemies of the people. The purge was motivated by the desire on the part of the leadership to remove dissident elements from the Party and what is often considered to have been a desire to consolidate the authority of Joseph Stalin. Additional campaigns of repression were carried out against social groups which were accused of acting against the Soviet state and the politics of the Communist Party.

A number of purges were officially explained as an elimination of the possibilities of sabotage and espionage, in view of an expected war with Germany. Most public attention was focused on the purge of the leadership of the Communist Party itself, as well as of government bureaucrats and leaders of the armed forces, the vast majority being Party members. However, the campaigns affected many other categories of the society: intelligentsia, peasants and especially those branded as "too rich for a peasant" (kulaks), and professionals. A series of NKVD (the Soviet secret police) operations affected a number of national minorities, accused of being "fifth column" communities.



Leningrad party leader Sergei Kirov with Stalin (and his daughter Svetlana) in 1934.

 

According to Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 speech, "On the Personality Cult and its Consequences", and more recent findings, a great number of accusations, notably those presented at the Moscow show trials, were based on forced confessions, often obtained by torture, and on loose interpretations of Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code, which dealt with counter-revolutionary crimes. Due legal process, as defined by Soviet law in force at the time, was often largely replaced with summary proceedings by NKVD troikas.

Hundreds of thousands of victims were falsely accused of various political crimes (espionage, wrecking, sabotage, anti-Soviet agitation, conspiracies to prepare uprisings and coups) and then executed by shooting, or sent to the Gulag labor camps. Many died at the penal labor camps due to starvation, disease, exposure and overwork. Other methods of dispatching victims were used on an experimental basis. For example, one secret policeman gassed people to death in batches in the back of a specially adapted airtight van.

The Great Purge was started under the NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, but the height of the campaigns occurred while the NKVD was headed by Nikolai Yezhov, from September 1936 to August 1938, hence the name "Yezhovshchina". However the campaigns were carried out according to the general line, and often by direct orders, of the Party Politburo headed by Stalin.



Stalin and Kirov

 

Background
The term "purge" in Soviet political slang was an abbreviation of the expression purge of the Party ranks. In 1933, for example, some 400,000 people were expelled from the Party. But from 1936 until 1953, the term changed its meaning, because being expelled from the Party came to mean almost certain arrest, imprisonment, or even execution.

The political purge was primarily an effort by Stalin to eliminate challenge from past and potential opposition groups, including left and right wings led by Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, respectively. Following the Civil War and reconstruction of the Soviet economy in the late 1920s, the "temporary" wartime dictatorship which had passed from Lenin to Stalin seemed no longer necessary to veteran Communists. Stalin's opponents on both sides of the political spectrum chided him as undemocratic and lax on bureaucratic corruption. These tendencies may have accumulated substantial support among the working class by attacking the privileges and luxuries the state offered to its high-paid elite. The Ryutin Affair seemed to vindicate Stalin's suspicions. He therefore enforced a ban on party factions and banned those party members who had opposed him, effectively ending democratic centralism. In the new form of Party organization, the Politburo, and Stalin in particular, were the sole dispensers of communist ideology. This necessitated the elimination of all Marxists with different views, especially those among the prestigious "old guard" of revolutionaries. Communist heroes like Tukhachevsky and Béla Kun, as well as Lenin's entire politburo, were shot for minor disagreements in policy. The NKVD were equally merciless towards the supporters, friends, and family of these heretical Marxists, whether they lived in Russia or not. The most infamous case is that of Leon Trotsky, whose family was almost annihilated, before he himself was killed in Mexico by NKVD agent Ramón Mercader, who was part of an assassination task force put together by Special Agent Pavel Sudoplatov, under the personal orders of Joseph Stalin.

Sergey Kirov's murder in 1934 may be called the crime of century as it was used by Stalin as a pretext to launch the Great Purge, in which about a million people perished. Some later historians came to believe that Stalin himself arranged the murder, or at least that there was sufficient evidence to reach such a conclusion. Kirov himself was a staunch Stalin loyalist, but Stalin may have viewed him as a potential rival because of his emerging popularity among the moderates. In the 1934 party congress, Kirov was elected to the central committee with only three negative votes, the fewest of any candidate, while Stalin received 292 negative votes. After Kirov's assassination, Stalin NKVD charged the ever growing group of former oppositionists with Kirov's murder and a growing list of other charges including treason, terrorism, sabotage, and espionage.

Another official justification was to remove any possible "fifth column" in case of a war, but this is less substantiated by independent sources. This is the theory proposed by Vyacheslav Molotov, a member of the Stalinist ruling circle, who participated in the Stalinist repression as a member of the Politburo and who signed many death warrants. Stalin's vehemence in eliminating political opponents may have had some basis in, and was definitely given official justification by, the need to solidify Russia against her neighbors, most notably Germany and Japan, whose governments had previously invaded, and now openly threatened, Soviet territory. A famous quote of Stalin's is "We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in 10 years. Either we do it, or they crush us." The Communist Party also wanted to eliminate what it perceived as "socially dangerous elements", such as ex-kulaks, ex-"nepmen", former members of opposing political parties such as the Social Revolutionaries, and former Tsarist officials.

Repression against perceived enemies of the Bolsheviks had been a systematic method of instilling fear and facilitating social control, being continuously applied by Lenin since the October Revolution, although there had been periods of heightened repression, such as the Red Terror, the deportation of kulaks who opposed collectivization, and a severe famine. A distinctive feature of the Great Purge was that, for the first time, the ruling party itself underwent repressions on a massive scale. Nevertheless, only a minority of those affected by the purges were Communist Party members and office-holders. The purge of the Party was accompanied by the purge of the whole society. The following events are used for the demarcation of the period.




 

Moscow Trials

First and Second Moscow Trials

Between 1936 and 1938, three very large Moscow Trials of former senior Communist Party leaders were held, in which they were accused of conspiring with fascist and capitalist powers to assassinate Stalin and other Soviet leaders, dismember the Soviet Union and restore capitalism. These trials were highly publicized and extensively covered by the outside world, which was mesmerized by the spectacle of Lenin's closest associates confessing to most outrageous crimes and begging for death sentences.

The first trial was of 16 members of the so-called "Trotskyite-Kamenevite-Zinovievite-Leftist-Counter-Revolutionary Bloc", held in August 1936, at which the chief defendants were Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, two of the most prominent former party leaders. Among other accusations, they were incriminated with the assassination of Sergey Kirov and plotting to kill Stalin. After confessing to the charges, all were sentenced to death and executed.
The second trial in January 1937 involved 17 lesser figures known as the "anti-Soviet Trotskyite-centre" which included Karl Radek, Yuri Piatakov and Grigory Sokolnikov, and were accused of plotting with Trotsky, who was said to be conspiring with Nazi Germany. Thirteen of the defendants were eventually shot. The rest received sentences in labor camps where they soon died.
There was also a secret trial before a military tribunal of a group of Red Army generals, including Mikhail Tukhachevsky, in June 1937.
Some Western observers who attended the trials said that they were fair and that the guilt of the accused had been established. They based this assessment on the confessions of the accused, which were freely given in open court, without any apparent evidence that they had been extracted by torture or drugging. Others, like Fitzroy Maclean were a little more astute in their observations and conclusions.

The British lawyer and Member of Parliament D. N. Pritt, for example, wrote: "Once again the more faint-hearted socialists are beset with doubts and anxieties", but "once again we can feel confident that when the smoke has rolled away from the battlefield of controversy it will be realized that the charge was true, the confessions correct and the prosecution fairly conducted".

It is now known that the confessions were given only after great psychological pressure had been applied to the defendants. From the accounts of former OGPU officer Alexander Orlov and others, the methods used to extract the confessions are known: such tortures as repeated beatings, simulated drownings, making prisoners stand or go without sleep for days on end, and threats to arrest and execute the prisoners' families. For example, Kamenev's teenage son was arrested and charged with terrorism. After months of such interrogation, the defendants were driven to despair and exhaustion.

Zinoviev and Kamenev demanded, as a condition for "confessing", a direct guarantee from the Politburo that their lives and that of their families and followers would be spared. This offer was accepted, but when they were taken to the alleged Politburo meeting, only Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov, and Yezhov were present. Stalin claimed that they were the "commission" authorized by the Politburo and gave assurances that death sentences would not be carried out. After the trial, Stalin not only broke his promise to spare the defendants, he had most of their relatives arrested and shot.

 
   
  Moscow Trials
   
  The Moscow Trials were a series of show trials held in the Soviet Union at the instigation of Joseph Stalin between 1936 and 1938. The Moscow Trials included the Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center (Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial, aka "Trial of the Sixteen," 1936), the Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center (Pyatakov-Radek Trial, 1937), and the Case of the Anti-Soviet "Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites" (Bukharin-Rykov Trial, aka "Trial of the Twenty-One," 1938).

The defendants of these were Old Bolshevik party leaders and top officials of the Soviet secret police. Most defendants were charged under Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code with conspiring with the western powers to assassinate Stalin and other Soviet leaders, dismember the Soviet Union, and restore capitalism.

The Moscow Trials led to the execution of many of the defendants. They are generally seen as part of Stalin's Great Purge, an attempt to rid the party of current or prior oppositionists, especially but not exclusively Trotskyists, and any leading Bolshevik cadre from the time of the Russian Revolution or earlier, who might even potentially become a figurehead for the growing discontent in the Soviet populace resulting from Stalin's mismanagement of the economy. Stalin's hasty industrialisation during the period of the First Five Year Plan and the brutality of the forced collectivisation of agriculture had led to an acute economic and political crisis in 1928-33 and to enormous suffering on the part of the Soviet workers and peasants. Stalin was acutely conscious of this fact and took steps to prevent it taking the form of an opposition inside the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to his increasingly autocratic rule.


Background

Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev formed a ruling 'troika' in early 1923 after Vladimir Lenin had become incapacitated from a stroke. In the context of the series of defeats of communist revolutions abroad (crucially the German revolutions of 1919 and 1923 but also later the Chinese Revolution of 1927) which left the Russian Revolution increasingly isolated in a backward country, enabled the troika to effect the marginalization of Leon Trotsky in an internal party political conflict over the issue of Stalin's theory of Socialism in One Country. It was Trotsky who most clearly represented the wing of the CPSU leadership which claimed that the survival of the revolution depended on the spread of communism to the advanced European economies especially Germany. This was expressed in his theory of Permanent Revolution.

A few years later, Zinoviev and Kamenev joined the United Front in an alliance with Trotsky which favored Trotskyism and opposed Stalin specifically. Consequently, Stalin allied with Nikolai Bukharin and defeated Trotsky in a power struggle. Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929 and Kamenev and Zinoviev temporarily lost their membership in the Communist Party. Zinoviev and Kamenev, in 1932, were found to be complicit in the Ryutin Affair and again were temporarily expelled from the Communist Party. In December 1934, Sergei Kirov was assassinated and, subsequently 15 defendants were found guilty of direct, or indirect, involvement in the crime and were executed. Zinoviev and Kamenev were found to be morally complicit in Kirov's murder and were sentenced to prison terms of ten and five years, respectively.

Both Kamenev and Zinoviev had been secretly tried in 1935 but it appears that Stalin decided that, with suitable confessions, their fate could be used for propaganda purposes. Genrikh Yagoda oversaw the interrogation proceedings.

The trial was held from August 19 to August 24, 1936 in the small October Hall of the House of the Unions (chosen instead of the larger Hall of Columns, used for earlier trials) and there were 16 defendants.

The main charge was forming a terror organization with the purpose of killing Joseph Stalin and other members of the Soviet government. They were tried by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR, with Vasili Ulrikh presiding. The Prosecutor General was Andrei Vyshinsky, a former member of the Mensheviks who in 1917 had signed an order to arrest Lenin.

Defendant Ivan Nikitich Smirnov was blamed by his co-defendants for being the leader of the Center which planned Kirov's assassination. He, however, had been in prison since January 1933 and refused to confess.

Another defendant, the Old Bolshevik E.S. Goltsman, was accused at the Trial of the 16 of conspiring with Trotsky in Copenhagen at the Hotel Bristol in 1932, where Trotsky was giving a public lecture. A week after the trial it was revealed by a Danish Social Democratic newspaper that the hotel had been demolished in 1917.

All the defendants were sentenced to death and were subsequently shot in the cellars of Lubyanka Prison in Moscow.

Trial of the Sixteen
In December 1935, the original case surrounding Zinoviev began to widen into what was called the Trotsky-Zinoviev Center. Stalin allegedly received reports that correspondences from Trotsky were found among the possessions of one of those arrested in the widened probe. Consequently, Stalin stressed the importance of the investigation and ordered Nikolai Yezhov to take over the case and ascertain if Trotsky was involved. In June 1936, Yagoda reiterated his belief to Stalin that there was no link between Trotsky and Zinoviev, but Stalin promptly rebuked him.

In July 1936, Zinoviev and Kamenev were brought to Moscow from an unspecified prison. They were interrogated and denied being part of any Trotsky-led conspiracy. Yezhov appealed to Zinoviev's and Kamenev's devotion to the Soviet Union as old Bolsheviks and advised them that Trotsky was fomenting anti-Soviet sentiment amongst the proletariat in the world. Furthermore, this loss of support, in the event of a war with Germany or Japan, could have disastrous ramifications for the Soviet Union. To Kamenev specifically, Yezhov showed him evidence that his son was subject to an investigation that could result in his son's execution.

Kamenev and Zinoviev agreed to confess on condition that they receive a direct guarantee from the entire Politburo that their lives and those of their families and followers would be spared. When they were taken to the supposed Politburo meeting, they were met by only Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov. Stalin explained that they were the "commission" authorized by the Politburo, and Stalin agreed to their conditions in order to gain their desired confessions.



Prosecutor General Vyshinskiy (centre), reading the indictment, in 1937
 

Trial of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center
The second trial occurred between January 23 and January 30, 1937.

This second trial involved 17 lesser figures including Karl Radek, Yuri Piatakov and Grigory Sokolnikov. Thirteen of the defendants were eventually executed by shooting. The rest received sentences in labour camps. Radek was spared as he implicated others, including Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, and Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, setting the stage for the Trial of Military and Trial of the Twenty One.

Radek provided the pretext for the purge on a massive scale with his testimony that there was a "third organization separate from the cadres which had passed through [Trotsky's] school" as well as "semi-Trotskyites, quarter-Trotskyites, one-eighth-Trotskyites, people who helped us, not knowing of the terrorist organization but sympathizing with us, people who from liberalism, from a Fronde against the Party, gave us this help."

By the third organization, he meant the last remaining former opposition group called Rightists led by Bukharin, whom he implicated by saying: "I feel guilty of one thing more: even after admitting my guilt and exposing the organisation, I stubbornly refused to give evidence about Bukharin. I knew that Bukharin's situation was just as hopeless as my own, because our guilt, if not juridically, then in essence, was the same. But we are close friends, and intellectual friendship is stronger than other friendships. I knew that Bukharin was in the same state of upheaval as myself. That is why I did not want to deliver him bound hand and foot to the People's Commissariat of Home Affairs. Just as in relation to our other cadres, I wanted Bukharin himself to lay down his arms."

At the time, many Western observers who attended the trials said that they were fair and that the guilt of the accused had been established. They based this assessment on the confessions of the accused, which were freely given in open court, without any apparent evidence that they had been extracted by torture or drugging. Joseph E. Davies, the U.S. ambassador, wrote in Mission to Moscow:

"In view of the character of the accused, their long terms of service, their recognized distinction in their profession, their long-continued loyalty to the Communist cause, it is scarcely credible that their brother officers ... should have acquiesced in their execution, unless they were convinced that these men had been guilty of some offense.* It is generally accepted by members of the Diplomatic Corps that the accused must have been guilty of an offense which in the Soviet Union would merit the death penalty.

* The Bukharin trial six months later developed evidence which, if true, more than justified this action. Undoubtedly those facts were all full known to the military court at this time."


to the People's Commissariat of Home Affairs. Just as in relation to our other cadres, I wanted Bukharin himself to lay down his arms."

 

Trial of the Generals and the Tukhachevsky Affair

The Tukhachevsky Affair was a secret trial before a military tribunal of a group of Red Army generals, including Mikhail Tukhachevsky, in June 1937.

It featured the same type of frame-up of the defendants and it is traditionally considered one of the key trials of the Great Purge. Mikhail Tukhachevsky and the senior military officers Iona Yakir, Ieronim Uborevich, Robert Eideman, August Kork, Vitovt Putna, Boris Feldman, and Vitaly Primakov were accused of anti-Communist conspiracy and sentenced to death; they were executed on the night of June 11/June 12, immediately after the verdict delivered by a Special Session of the Supreme Court of the USSR. This trial triggered a massive purge of the Red Army.



Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization

The Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization (Russian: "дело троцкистской антисоветской военной организации" or "дело антисоветской троцкистской военной организации", also known as the "Military Case" (Russian: "дело военных") or the "Tukhachevsky Case"), was a 1937 secret trial of the high command of the Red Army, a part of the Great Purge.



Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky

 
Defendants

The Case of Military was a secret trial, unlike the Moscow Show Trials. It is traditionally considered one of the key trials of the Great Purge. Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and the senior military officers Iona Yakir, Ieronim Uborevich, Robert Eideman, August Kork, Vitovt Putna, Boris Feldman and Vitaly Primakov (as well as Yakov Gamarnik, who committed suicide before the investigations began) were accused of anti-Soviet conspiracy and sentenced to death; they were executed on the night of June 11 to 12, 1937, immediately after the verdict delivered by a Special Session (специальное судебное присутствие) of the Supreme Court of the USSR.

The Tribunal was presided over by Vasili Ulrikh and included marshals Vasily Blyukher, Semyon Budyonny and Army Commanders Yakov Alksnis, Boris Shaposhnikov, Ivan Belov, Pavel Dybenko, and Nikolai Kashirin. Only Ulrikh, Budyonny and Shaposhnikov would survive the purges that followed.

The trial triggered a massive subsequent purge of the Red Army. In September 1938, the People's Commissar for Defense, Kliment Voroshilov, reported that a total of 37,761 officers and commissars were dismissed from the army, 10,868 were arrested and 7,211 were condemned for anti-Soviet crimes.

Background
The trial was preceded by several purges of the Red Army. In the mid-1920s, Leon Trotsky was removed as Commissar of War, and his known supporters were expunged from the military. Former tsarist officers had been purged in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The latter purge was accompanied by the "exposure" of the "Former Officers Plot". The next wave of arrests of military commanders started in the second half of 1936 and increased in scope after the February–March 1937 Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), where Vyacheslav Molotov called for more thorough exposure of "wreckers" within the Red Army since they "had already been found in all segments of the Soviet economy".

Evidence, arrest and secret trial
General Mikhail Tukhachevsky was arrested on May 22, 1937 and charged, along with seven other Red Army commanders, with the creation of a "right-wing-Trotskyist" military conspiracy and espionage for Nazi Germany, based on confessions obtained from a number of other arrested officers.

Before 1990, it was frequently argued that the case against the eight generals was based on forged documents created by the Abwehr, documents which deluded Stalin into believing that a plot was being fomented by Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders to depose him. However, after Soviet archives were opened to researchers after the fall of the Soviet Union, it became clear that Stalin actually concocted the fictitious plot by the most famous and important of his Soviet generals in order to get rid of them in a believable manner.

At Stalin's order, the NKVD instructed one of its agents, Nikolai Skoblin, to concoct information suggesting a plot by Tukhachevsky and the other Soviet generals against Stalin and pass it to Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the German (Sicherheitsdienst) intelligence arm, concocted information suggesting a plot by Tukhachevsky and the other Soviet generals against Stalin. Seeing an opportunity to strike a blow at both the Soviet Union and his archenemy Wilhelm Canaris of the German Abwehr, Heydrich immediately acted on the information and undertook to improve on it, forging a series of documents implicating Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders; these were later passed to the Soviets via Beneš and other neutral parties. [Stalin's archives indeed contain a number of messages received during 1920–30s duly reporting the possible involvement of Tukhachevsky with the "German Nazi leadership".

While the Germans believed they had successfully deluded Stalin into executing his best generals, in reality, they had merely served as useful and unwitting pawns of Stalin.[clarification needed] It is notable that the forged documents were not even used by Soviet military prosecutors against the generals in their secret trial but instead relied on false confessions extorted or beaten out of the defendants.

Afraid of the consequences of trying popular generals and war heroes in a public forum, Stalin ordered the trial also be kept secret and for the defendants to be executed immediately following their court-martial. Tukhachevsky and his fellow defendants were probably tortured into confessions.

All convicts were rehabilitated on January 31, 1957 for the "absence of essence of an offence". It was concluded that arrests, investigations and trials were performed in violation of procedural norms and based on forced confessions, in many cases obtained with the aid of physical violence.

Unresolved issues
Reasons and motives

There are no conclusive facts about the real rationale behind the forged trial. Over the years, researchers and historians put forth the following hypotheses:

The central hypothesis and the one with the widest support is that Stalin had simply decided to consolidate his power by eliminating any and all potential political or military rivals. Viewed from the broader context of the Great Terror which followed, the execution of the most popular and well-regarded generals in the Red Army command can be seen as a preemptive move by Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, People's Commissar of State Security, to eliminate a potential rival and source of opposition to their planned purge of the nomenklatura. The fall of the first eight generals was swiftly followed by the arrest of most of the People's Commissars, nearly all regional party secretaries, hundreds of Central Committee members and candidates and thousands of lesser CPSU officials. At the end, three of five Soviet Marshals, 90% of all Red Army generals, 80% of Red Army colonels and 30,000 officers of lesser rank had been purged. Virtually all were executed.

At first, it was thought 25-50% of Red Army officers were purged, but it is now known to be 3.7-7.7%. Previously, the size of the Red Army officer corps was underestimated, and it was overlooked that most of those purged were merely expelled from the Party. 30% of officers purged 1937-9 were allowed back.

Another suggestion is that Tukhachevsky and others indeed tried to conspire against Stalin. Leon Trotsky, in his later works, argued that while it was impossible to speak conclusively about the plot, he saw indications in Stalin's mania for involvement in every detail of Red Army organization and logistics that the military had real reasons for dissent, which may have eventually led to a plot. However, the revelations of Stalin's actions following the release of Soviet archival information have now largely discredited this theory. While the military may well have had many secret reasons for their dislike of Stalin, there is now no credible evidence that any of them ever conspired to eliminate him.[citation needed]

Victor Suvorov has claimed that the purge was intended to replace Red Army officers with more competent generals for his future conquests. For example, he claims that the ultimate reason why Tukhachevsky was killed is because he failed to conquer Poland during the Polish-Soviet War; despite this failure, Tukhachevsky had made a career in the party when he suppressed the Tambov rebellion. Suvorov compared the change of leadership in the Army as teeth of an shark: each new row is sharper than the previous one.

Speedy inquest
Vadim Rogovin's book 1937: Stalin's Year of Terror contains a lengthy discussion of another unexplained mystery: that it took only about two weeks to force admissions of guilt from the accused despite the fact that all of them were relatively young, able-bodied military trained people. Rogovin contrasts it with the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, where the inquest lasted about four years, despite brutal tortures. One possible explanation is that the Soviet commanders, after a life of military service, could not stand up psychologically to the position of opposing their commander-in-chief. Another is that the men may have been tricked into signing confessions in the belief that the lives of them or those of their families would be spared, a tactic sometimes employed by Stalin.

 

Trial of the Twenty-One
The third trial, in March 1938, included 21 defendants alleged to belong to the so-called "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites", led by Nikolai Bukharin, former head of the Communist International, former Prime Minister Alexei Rykov, Genrikh Yagoda, Christian Rakovsky and Nikolai Krestinsky. All the leading defendants were executed.

The third show trial, in March 1938, known as The Trial of the Twenty-One, is the most famous of Soviet show trials because of the people involved and the scope of charges, which tied together all the loose threads from earlier trials. It included 21 defendants alleged to belong to the so-called "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites":

Nikolai Bukharin – Marxist theoretician, former head of Communist International and member of Politburo
Alexei Rykov – former premier and member of Politburo
Nikolai Krestinsky – former member of Politburo and ambassador to Germany
Christian Rakovsky – former ambassador to Great Britain and France
Genrikh Yagoda – former head of NKVD
Arkady Rosengolts – former People's Commissar for Foreign Trade
Vladimir Ivanov – former People's Commissar for Timber Industry
Mikhail Alexandrovich Chernov – former People's Commissar for Agriculture
Grigori Grinko – former People's Commissar for Finance
Isaac Zelensky – former Secretary of Central Committee
Sergei Bessonov
Akmal Ikramov – Uzbek leader
Fayzulla Khodzhayev – Uzbek leader
Vasily Sharangovich – former first secretary in Belorussia
Prokopy Zubarev
Pavel Bulanov – NKVD officer
Lev Levin – Kremlin doctor
Dmitry Pletnev – Kremlin doctor
Ignaty Kazakov – Kremlin doctor
Venyamin Maximov-Dikovsky
Pyotr Kryuchkov


The fact that Yagoda was one of the accused showed the speed at which the purges were consuming its own. Meant to be the culmination of previous trials, it now alleged that Bukharin and others had conspired to assassinate Lenin and Stalin numerous times after 1918 and had successfully murdered the noted Soviet writer Maxim Gorky by poison in 1936. The group also stood accused of espionage. Bukharin and others were claimed to have plotted the overthrow and territorial partition of the Soviet Union in collusion with agents of the German and Japanese governments, among other preposterous charges.

Even sympathetic observers who had stomached the earlier trials found it hard to swallow the new charges as they became ever more absurd, and the purge had now expanded to include virtually every living Old Bolshevik leader except Stalin.

The preparation for this trial was delayed in its early stages due to the reluctance of some party members to denounce their comrades. It was at this time that Stalin personally intervened to speed up the process and replaced Yagoda with Yezhov. Stalin also observed some of the trial in person from a hidden chamber in the courtroom. On the first day of the trial, Krestinsky caused a sensation when he repudiated his written confession and pleaded not guilty to all the charges. However, he changed his plea the next day after "special measures", which dislocated his left shoulder among other things.

Anastas Mikoyan and Vyacheslav Molotov later claimed that Bukharin was never tortured, but it is now known that his interrogators were given order, "beating permitted," and were under great pressure to extract confessions out of the "star" defendant. Bukharin held out for three months, but threats to his young wife and infant son, combined with "methods of physical influence" wore him down. But when he read his confession, amended and corrected personally by Stalin, he withdrew his whole confession. The examination started all over again, with a double team of interrogators.

Bukharin's confession in particular became the subject of much debate among Western observers, inspiring Koestler's novel Darkness at Noon and a philosophical essay by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Humanism and Terror among others. His confessions were somewhat different from others in that, while he pleaded guilty to general charges, he denied knowledge of any specific crimes. Some astute observers noted that he would allow only what was in his written confession and refused to go any further. The fact that he was allowed to write in prison (he wrote four book-length manuscripts including an autobiographical novel, How It All Began, a philosophical treatise, and a collection of poems – all of which were found in Stalin's archive and published in the 1990s) suggests that some kind of deal was reached as a condition for his confession. (He also wrote a series of very emotional letters to Stalin, tearfully protesting his innocence and professing his love for Stalin, which contrasts with his critical opinion of Stalin and his policies as expressed to others and with his conduct in the trial.)

There are several possible interpretations of Bukharin's motivation (besides coercion) in the trial. Koestler and others viewed it as a true believer's last service to the Party (while preserving a modicum of personal honor), whereas Bukharin's biographers Stephen Cohen and Robert Tucker saw traces of Aesopian language, with which Bukharin sought to turn the table into a trial of Stalinism (while keeping his part of the bargain to save his family). Bukharin himself speaks of his "peculiar duality of mind" in his last plea, which led to "semi-paralysis of the will" and Hegelian "unhappy consciousness", which presumably stemmed from the reality of ruinous Stalinism (although he could not of course say so in the trial) and the threat of fascism (which required kowtowing to Stalin, who became the personification of the Party).

The result was a curious mix of fulsome confessions and subtle criticisms of the trial. After disproving several charges against him (one observer noted that he proceeded to demolish, or rather showed he could very easily demolish, the whole case), Bukharin said that "the confession of accused is not essential. The confession of the accused is a medieval principle of jurisprudence" (his point being that the trial was solely based on [coerced] confessions). He finished his last plea with "the monotonousness of my crime is immeasurable, especially in the new stage of the struggle of the U.S.S.R. May this trial be the last severe lesson, and may the great might of the U.S.S.R become clear to all."

Romain Rolland and others wrote to Stalin seeking clemency for Bukharin, but all the leading defendants were executed except Rakovsky and two others (they were killed in prison in 1941). Despite the promise to spare his family, Bukharin's wife, Anna Larina, was sent to a labor camp, but she survived.

Aftermath
Communist Party leaders in most Western countries denounced criticism of the trials as capitalist attempts to subvert Communism.

A number of American communists and progressive "fellow travellers" outside of the Soviet Union signed a Statement of American Progressives on the Moscow Trials. These included Langston Hughes and Stuart Davis, who would later express regrets.

Some contemporary observers who thought the trials were inherently fair cite the statements of Molotov, who while conceding that some of the confessions contain unlikely statements, said there may have been several reasons or motives for this – one being that the handful who made doubtful confessions were trying to undermine the Soviet Union and its government by making dubious statements in their confessions to cast doubts on their trial. Molotov postulated that a defendant might invent a story that he collaborated with foreign agents and party members to undermine the government so that those members would falsely come under suspicion, while the false foreign collaboration charge would be believed as well. Thus, the Soviet government was in his view the victim of false confessions. Nonetheless, he said the evidence of mostly out-of-power Communist officials conspiring to make a power grab during a moment of weakness in the upcoming war truly existed. This defense collapsed after the release of Khrushchev's Secret Speech to the Twentieth Congress.

In Britain, the lawyer and Labour MP Denis Nowell Pritt, for example, wrote: "Once again the more faint-hearted socialists are beset with doubts and anxieties," but "once again we can feel confident that when the smoke has rolled away from the battlefield of controversy it will be realized that the charge was true, the confessions correct and the prosecution fairly conducted",[citation needed] while socialist thinker Beatrice Webb "was pleased that Stalin had 'cut out the dead wood'". Communist Party leader Harry Pollitt, in the Daily Worker of March 12, 1936, told the world that "the trials in Moscow represent a new triumph in the history of progress". The article was ironically illustrated by a photograph of Stalin with Yezhov, himself shortly to vanish and his photographs airbrushed from history by NKVD archivists.

In the United States, left-wing advocates such as Corliss Lamont and Lillian Hellman also denounced criticism of the Moscow trials, signing An Open Letter To American Liberals in support of the trials for the March 1937 issue of Soviet Russia Today. In the political atmosphere of the 1930s, the accusation that there was a conspiracy to destroy the Soviet Union was not incredible, and few outside observers were aware of the events inside the Communist Party that had led to the purge and the trials.

However, the Moscow trials were generally viewed negatively by most Western observers including many liberals. The New York Times noted the absurdity in an editorial on March 1, 1938: "It is as if twenty years after Yorktown somebody in power at Washington found it necessary for the safety of the State to send to the scaffold Thomas Jefferson, Madison, John Adams, Hamilton, Jay and most of their associates. The charge against them would be that they conspired to hand over the United States to George III."

For Bertram Wolfe, the outcome of the Bukharin trial marked his break with Stalinism.

In May 1937, the Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials, commonly known as the Dewey Commission, was set up in the United States by supporters of Trotsky, to establish the truth about the trials. The commission was headed by the noted American philosopher and educator John Dewey, who led a delegation to Mexico, where Trotsky lived, to interview him and hold hearings from April 10 to April 17, 1937. The hearings were conducted to investigate the allegations against Trotsky who publicly stated in advance of them that if the commission found him guilty as charged he would hand himself over to the Soviet authorities. They brought to light evidence which established that some of the specific charges made at the trials could not be true.

The Dewey Commission published its findings in the form of a 422-page book titled Not Guilty. Its conclusions asserted the innocence of all those condemned in the Moscow Trials. In its summary the commission wrote:
 "Independent of extrinsic evidence, the Commission finds:

That the conduct of the Moscow Trials was such as to convince any unprejudiced person that no attempt was made to ascertain the truth.
That while confessions are necessarily entitled to the most serious consideration, the confessions themselves contain such inherent improbabilities as to convince the Commission that they do not represent the truth, irrespective of any means used to obtain them."

That Trotsky never instructed any of the accused or witnesses in the Moscow trials to enter into agreements with foreign powers against the Soviet Union [and] that Trotsky never recommended, plotted, or attempted the restoration of capitalism in the USSR.
The commission concluded: "We therefore find the Moscow Trials to be frame-ups."

For example, in Moscow, Pyatakov had testified that he had flown to Oslo in December 1935 to "receive terrorist instructions" from Trotsky. The Dewey Commission established that no such flight had taken place.

In Britain, the trials were also subject to criticism. A group called the British Provisional Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky was set up. In 1936, the Committee published an open letter in the Manchester Guardian calling for an international inquiry into the Trials. The letter was signed by several notable figures, including H. N. Brailsford, Harry Wicks, Conrad Noel, Frank Horrabin and Eleanor Rathbone. The Committee also supported the Dewey Commission. Emrys Hughes, the British MP, also attacked the Moscow Trials as unjust in his newspaper Forward.

Legacy
All of the surviving members of the Lenin-era, except Stalin and Trotsky, were tried. By the end of the final trial Stalin had arrested and executed almost every important living Bolshevik from the Revolution. Of 1,966 delegates to the party congress in 1934, 1,108 were arrested. Of 139 members of the Central Committee, 98 were arrested. Three out of five Soviet marshals (Alexander Ilyich Yegorov, Vasily Blyukher, Tukhachevsky) and several thousands of the Red Army officers were arrested or shot. The key defendant, Leon Trotsky, was living in exile abroad, but he still did not survive Stalin's desire to have him dead and was assassinated by a Soviet agent in Mexico in 1940.

While Khrushchev's Secret Speech denounced Stalin's personality cult and purges as early as 1956, rehabilitation of Old Bolsheviks proceeded at a slow pace. Nikolai Bukharin and 19 other co-defendants were officially completely rehabilitated in February 1988. Yagoda, who was deeply involved in the great purge as the head of NKVD, was not included. In May 1988, rehabilitation of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, and co-defendants was announced.

After the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev repudiated the trials in a speech to the Twentieth Congress of the Russian Communist Party:

"The commission has become acquainted with a large quantity of materials in the NKVD archives and with other documents and has established many facts pertaining to the fabrication of cases against Communists, to glaring abuses of Socialist legality which resulted in the death of innocent people. It became apparent that many party, Government and economic activists who were branded in 1937–38 as 'enemies,' were actually never enemies, spies, wreckers, etc., but were always honest Communists ... They were only so stigmatized and often, no longer able to bear barbaric tortures, they charged themselves (at the order of the investigative judges – falsifiers) with all kinds of grave and unlikely crimes."

It is now known that the confessions were given only after great psychological pressure and torture had been applied to the defendants. From the accounts of former GPU officer Alexander Orlov and others the methods used to extract the confessions are known: repeated beatings, torture, making prisoners stand or go without sleep for days on end, and threats to arrest and execute the prisoners' families. For example, Kamenev's teenage son was arrested and charged with terrorism. After months of such interrogation, the defendants were driven to despair and exhaustion.

In January 1989, the official newspaper Pravda reported that 25,000 persons had been posthumously rehabilitated.

   

 

Dewey Commission
In May 1937, the Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials, commonly known as the Dewey Commission, was set up in the United States by supporters of Trotsky, to establish the truth about the trials. The commission was headed by the noted American philosopher and educator John Dewey. Although the hearings were obviously conducted with a view to proving Trotsky's innocence, they brought to light evidence which established that some of the specific charges made at the trials could not be true.

For example, Georgy Pyatakov testified that he had flown to Oslo in December 1935 to "receive terrorist instructions" from Trotsky. The Dewey Commission established that no such flight had taken place. Another defendant, Ivan Smirnov, confessed to taking part in the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934, at a time when he had already been in prison for a year.

The Dewey Commission later published its findings in a 422-page book titled Not Guilty. Its conclusions asserted the innocence of all those condemned in the Moscow Trials. In its summary, the commission wrote: "Independent of extrinsic evidence, the Commission finds:

That the conduct of the Moscow Trials was such as to convince any unprejudiced person that no attempt was made to ascertain the truth.
That while confessions are necessarily entitled to the most serious consideration, the confessions themselves contain such inherent improbabilities as to convince the Commission that they do not represent the truth, irrespective of any means used to obtain them.
That Trotsky never instructed any of the accused or witnesses in the Moscow trials to enter into agreements with foreign powers against the Soviet Union [and] that Trotsky never recommended, plotted, or attempted the restoration of capitalism in the USSR.
The commission concluded: "We therefore find the Moscow Trials to be frame-ups."

Implication of the Rightists
In the second trial, Karl Radek provided (or more accurately was forced to provide) the pretext for greater purge to come on a massive scale with his testimony that there were "third organization separate from the cadres which had passed through [Trotsky's] school" as well as "semi-Trotskyites, quarter-Trotskyites, one-eighth-Trotskyites, people who helped us, not knowing of the terrorist organization but sympathizing with us, people who from liberalism, from a Fronde against the Party, gave us this help."

By the "third organization", he meant the last remaining former opposition group called Rightists led by Bukharin, whom he implicated by saying:

"I feel guilty of one thing more: even after admitting my guilt and exposing the organisation, I stubbornly refused to give evidence about Bukharin. I knew that Bukharin's situation was just as hopeless as my own, because our guilt, if not juridically, then in essence, was the same. But we are close friends, and intellectual friendship is stronger than other friendships. I knew that Bukharin was in the same state of upheaval as myself. That is why I did not want to deliver him bound hand and foot to the People's Commissariat of Home Affairs. Just as in relation to our other cadres, I wanted Bukharin himself to lay down his arms."






NKVD chiefs responsible for conducting mass repressions:
Yakov Agranov, Genrikh Yagoda, Stanislav Redens.
All three were themselves eventually arrested and executed


 

Third Moscow Trial
The third and final trial, in March 1938, known as The Trial of the Twenty-One, is the most famous of the Soviet show trials, because of persons involved and the scope of charges which tied together all loose threads from earlier trials. It included 21 defendants alleged to belong to the so-called "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites", led by Nikolai Bukharin, the former chairman of the Communist International, ex-premier Alexei Rykov , Christian Rakovsky, Nikolai Krestinsky and Genrikh Yagoda, recently disgraced head of the NKVD.

The fact that Yagoda was one of the accused showed the speed at which the purges were consuming its own. Meant to be the culmination of previous trials, it was now alleged that Bukharin and others sought to assassinate Lenin and Stalin from 1918, murder Maxim Gorky by poison, partition the U.S.S.R and hand out her territories to Germany, Japan, and Great Britain, and other preposterous charges.

Even previously sympathetic observers who had stomached the earlier trials found it harder to swallow new allegations as they became ever more absurd, and the purge now expanded to include almost every living Old Bolshevik leader except Stalin. No other crime of the Stalin years so captivated Western intellectuals as the trial and execution of Bukharin, who was a Marxist theorist of international standing. For some prominent communists such as Bertram Wolfe, Jay Lovestone, Arthur Koestler, and Heinrich Brandler, the Bukharin trial marked their final break with communism, and even turned the first three into fervent anti-Communists eventually. To them, Bukharin’s confession symbolized the depredations of communism, which not only destroyed its sons but also conscripted them in self-destruction and individual abnegation.

The preparation for this trial, which took over a year, was delayed in its early stages due to the reluctance of some party members in denouncing their comrades. It was at this time that Stalin personally intervened to speed up the process and replaced Yagoda with Nikolai Yezhov. Stalin also observed some of the trial in person from a hidden chamber in the courtroom.

Bukharin's Confession
On the first day of trial, Krestinsky caused a sensation when he repudiated his written confession and pled not guilty to all the charges. However, he changed his plea the next day after "special measures", which dislocated his left shoulder among other things.

Anastas Mikoyan and Vyacheslav Molotov later claimed that Bukharin was never tortured, but it is now known that his interrogators were given the order, "beating permitted," and were under great pressure to extract confession out of the "star" defendant. Bukharin held out for three months, but threats to his young wife and infant son, combined with "methods of physical influence" wore him down. But when he read his confession amended and corrected personally by Stalin, he withdrew his whole confession. The examination started all over again, with a double team of interrogators.

Bukharin's confession in particular became subject of much debate among Western observers, inspiring Koestler's acclaimed novel Darkness at Noon and philosophical essay by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Humanism and Terror. His confessions were somewhat different from others in that while he pled guilty to "sum total of crimes", he denied knowledge when it came to specific crimes. Some astute observers noted that he would allow only what was in written confession and refuse to go any further. Also the fact that he was allowed to write in prison (he wrote four book-length manuscripts including a autobiographical novel, How It All Began, philosophical treatise, and collection of poems - all of which were found in Stalin's archive and published in 1990's) suggests that some kind of deal was reached as a condition for confession. (He also wrote a series of very emotional letters to Stalin tearfully protesting his innocence and professing his love for Stalin, which contrasts with his critical opinion of Stalin and his policies expressed to others and his conduct in the trial.)

There are several interpretations of Bukharin's motivations (besides being coerced) in the trial. Koestler and others viewed it as a true believer's last service to the Party (while preserving little amount of personal honor left) whereas Bukharin biographer Stephen Cohen and Robert Tucker saw traces of Aesopian language, with which Bukharin sought to turn the table into an anti-trial of Stalinism (while keeping his part of bargain to save his family). Bukharin himself speaks of his "peculiar duality of mind" in his last plea, which led to "semi-paralysis of the will" and Hegelian "unhappy consciousness", which presumably stemmed from the reality of ruinous Stalinism (although he could not of course say so in the trial) and the impending threat of fascism (which required kowtowing to Stalin, who became the personification of the Party).

The result was a curious mix of fullsome confessions (of being a "degenerate fascist" working for "restoration of capitalism") and subtle criticisms of the trial. After disproving several charges against him (One observer noted that he "proceeded to demolish or rather showed he could very easily demolish the whole case.") and saying that "the confession of accused is not essential. The confession of the accused is a medieval principle of jurisprudence" in a trial that was solely based on confessions, he finished his last plea with the words: "the monstrousness of my crime is immeasurable especially in the new stage of struggle of the U.S.S.R. May this trial be the last severe lesson, and may the great might of the U.S.S.R become clear to all."

Romain Rolland and others wrote to Stalin seeking clemency for Bukharin, but all the leading defendants were executed except Rakovsky and two others (who were killed in NKVD prisoner massacres in 1941). Despite the promise to spare his family, Bukharin's wife, Anna Larina, was sent to a labor camp, but she survived to see her husband rehabilitated




The first five Marshals of the Soviet Union in November, 1935. (l-r):
Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Semyon Budyonny, Kliment Voroshilov, Vasily Blyukher, Aleksandr Yegorov.
Only Voroshilov and Budyonny survived the Great Purge.

 

Purge of the army

The purge of the Red Army was claimed to be supported by Nazi-forged documents (said to have been correspondence between Marshal Tukhachevsky and members of the German high command).

The claim is, however, unsupported by facts, since by the time the documents were supposedly created, two people from the eight in the Tukhachevsky group were already imprisoned, and by the time the document was said to reach Stalin, the purging process was already underway. However the actual evidence introduced at trial was obtained from forced confessions. The purge of the army removed three of five marshals (then equivalent to six-star generals), 13 of 15 army commanders (then equivalent to four- and five-star generals), eight of nine admirals (the purge fell heavily on the Navy, who were suspected of exploiting their opportunities for foreign contacts), 50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars.

Viktor Suvorov, in his The Cleansing (Очищение), writes that the impact of the purge on the Red Army was not as severe as was claimed later; in fact he suggests that it was beneficial to the Red Army, and was not Stalin's blunder as usually claimed. Of all the victims, not more than one-third were actually army officials. Of the remainder, one-third were commissars — political supervisors — and one-third were NKVD officials who wore military ranks. For example, one of the most senior executed was the minister of navy affairs, former deputy minister internal affairs (NKVD), Mikhail Frinovsky (М.П. Фриновский) who wore the rank of "Army-commander 1st rank", although he never in his life served in the army.

The wider purge

Eventually almost all of the Bolsheviks who had played prominent roles during the Russian Revolution of 1917, or in Lenin's Soviet government afterwards, were executed. Out of six members of the original Politburo during the 1917 October Revolution who lived until the Great Purge, Stalin himself was the only one who remained in the Soviet Union, alive. Four of the other five were executed. The fifth, Leon Trotsky, went into exile in Mexico after being expelled from the Party but was assassinated by Soviet agent Ramón Mercader in 1940. Of the seven members elected to the Politburo between the October Revolution and Lenin's death in 1924, four were executed, one (Tomsky) committed suicide and two (Molotov and Kalinin) lived. Of 1,966 delegates to the 17th Communist Party Congress in 1934 (the last congress before the trials), 1,108 were arrested and nearly all died.

However, the trials and executions of the former Bolshevik leaders, while being the most visible part, were only a minor part of the purges.




 

Ex-kulaks and other "anti-Soviet elements"

On July 30, 1937 the NKVD Order no. 00447 was issued, directed against "ex-kulaks" and other "anti-Soviet elements" (such as former officials of the Tsarist regime, former members of political parties other than the communist party, etc.).

They were to be executed or sent to GULAG prison camps extrajudicially, under the decisions of NKVD troikas.

The order instructed to classify kulaks and other anti-Soviet elements into two categories: the First category of repressed was subject to death by shooting, the Second category was sent to prison labor camps. The order set upper quotas per territory and category. For example Byelorussian SSR was estimated to have 2,000 (1st cat.) + 10,000 (2nd cat.) = 12,000 anti-Soviet elements. It was specifically stressed that quotas were estimates and could not be exceeded without personal approval of Yezhov. But in practice this approval was easy to obtain, and eventually these initial quotas were exceeded by orders of magnitude. For example, in September 1937, the Dagestan obkom requested the increase of the First Category from 600 to 1,200; the request was granted the next day.

The implementation was swift. Already by August 15, 1937, 101,000 were arrested and 14,000 convicted.

National operations of NKVD

A series of national operations of the NKVD was carried out during 1937–1940, justified by the fear of the fifth column in the expectation of war with "the most probable adversary", i.e., Germany, as well as according to the notion of the "hostile capitalist surrounding", which wants to destabilize the country. The Polish operation of the NKVD was the first of this kind, setting an example of dealing with other targeted minorities. Many such operations were conducted on a quota system. NKVD local officials were mandated to arrest and execute a specific number of "counter-revolutionaries", produced by upper officials based on various statistics.

Timeline of the Great Purge

The Great Purge of 1936–1938 can be roughly divided into four periods:

1.October 1936–February 1937
Reforming the security organizations, adopting official plans on purging the elites.

2.March 1937–June 1937
Purging the Elites; Adopting plans for the mass repressions against the "social base" of the potential aggressors, starting of purging the "elites" from opposition.

3.July 1937–October 1938
Mass repressions against "kulaks", "dangerous" ethnic minorities, family members of oppositions, military officers, Saboteurs in agriculture and industry.

4.November 1938–1939
Stopping of mass operations, abolishing of many organs of extrajudicial executions, repressions against some organizers of mass repressions.
 

End of Yezhovshchina

By the summer of 1938, Stalin and his circle realized that the purges had gone too far; Yezhov was relieved from his post as head of the NKVD and was eventually purged himself. Lavrenty Beria, a fellow Georgian and Stalin confidant, succeeded him as head of the NKVD. On November 17, 1938 a joint decree of Sovnarkom USSR and Central Committee of VKP(b) (Decree about Arrests, Prosecutor Supervision and Course of Investigation) and the subsequent order of NKVD undersigned by Beria cancelled most of the NKVD orders of systematic repression and suspended implementation of death sentences. The decree signaled the end of massive Soviet purges.

Nevertheless, the practice of mass arrest and exile was continued until Stalin's death in 1953. Political executions also continued, but, with the exception of Katyn and other NKVD massacres during WWII, on a vastly smaller scale. One notorious example is the "Night of the Murdered Poets," in which at least thirteen prominent Yiddish writers were executed on August 12, 1952.

It should be noted that when the relatives of those who had been executed in 1937-38 inquired about their fate, they were told by NKVD that their arrested relatives had been sentenced to "ten years of imprisonment without the right to correspond with anybody" (десять лет без права переписки). When these ten year periods elapsed in 1947-48 but the arrested did not appear, the relatives asked MGB about their fate again and this time were told that the arrested died in imprisonment. The causes and the dates of the deaths were invented by MGB.

Western reactions

Although the trials of former Soviet leaders were widely publicized, the hundreds of thousands of other arrests and executions were not. These became known in the west only as a few former gulag inmates reached the West with their stories. Not only did foreign correspondents from the West fail to report on the purges, but in many Western nations, especially France, attempts were made to silence or discredit these witnesses; Jean-Paul Sartre took the position that evidence of the camps should be ignored, in order that the French proletariat not be discouraged. A series of legal actions ensued at which definitive evidence was presented which established the validity of the former labor camp inmates' testimony.

According to Robert Conquest in his 1968 book The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties, with respect to the trials of former leaders, some Western observers were unable to see through the fraudulent nature of the charges and evidence, notably Walter Duranty of The New York Times, a Russian speaker; the American Ambassador, Joseph E. Davies, who reported, "proof...beyond reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of treason" and Beatrice and Sidney Webb, authors of Soviet Communism: A New Civilization. While "Communist Parties everywhere simply transmitted the Soviet line", some of the most critical reporting also came from the left, notably The Manchester Guardian.

Evidence and the results of research began to appear after Stalin's death which revealed the full enormity of the Purges. The first of these sources were the revelations of Nikita Khrushchev, which particularly affected the American editors of the Communist Party USA newspaper, the Daily Worker, who, following the lead of The New York Times, published the Secret Speech in full.

Some of the victims of the terror were American immigrants to Russia, who had emigrated to Russia at the height of the Great Depression in order to find work. At the height of the Terror, American immigrants besieged the US embassy, begging for passports so they could leave Russia. They were turned away by embassy officials, only to be arrested on the pavement outside by lurking NKVD agents. Many were subsequently shot dead at Butovo Field near Scherbinka, south from Moscow.

Efforts to minimize the extent of the Great Purge continue among revisionist scholars in the United States.

Rehabilitation

1963 postage stamp of the Soviet Union, featuring Tukhachevsky following his post-death rehabilitation The Great Purge was denounced by Nikita Khrushchev, who became the leader of the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. In his secret speech to the 20th CPSU congress in February 1956 (which was made public a month later), Khrushchev referred to the purges as an "abuse of power" by Stalin which resulted in enormous harm to the country. In the same speech, he recognized that many of the victims were innocent and were convicted on the basis of false confessions extracted by torture. To take that position was politically useful to Khrushchev, as he was at that time engaged in a power struggle with rivals who had been associated with the Purge, the so-called Anti-Party Group. The new line on the Great Purges undermined their power, and helped propel him to the Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers.

Starting from 1954, some of the convictions were overturned. Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other generals convicted in the Trial of Red Army Generals were declared innocent ("rehabilitated") in 1957. The former Politburo members Yan Rudzutak and Stanislav Kosior and many lower-level victims were also declared innocent in the 1950s. Nikolai Bukharin and others convicted in the Moscow Trials were not rehabilitated until as late as 1988.

The book Rehabilitation: The Political Processes of the 1930s-50s (Реабилитация. Политические процессы 30-50-х годов) (1991) contains a large amount of newly presented original archive material: transcripts of interrogations, letters of convicts, and photos. The material demonstrates in detail how numerous show trials were fabricated.

Number of people executed

According to the declassified Soviet archives, during 1937 and 1938, the NKVD detained 1,548,367 victims, of whom 681,692 were shot - an average of 1,000 executions a day. Historian Michael Ellman claims the best estimate of deaths brought about by Soviet Repression during these two years is the range 950,000 to 1.2 million, which includes deaths in detention and those who died shortly after being released from the Gulag as a result of their treatment in it. He also states that this is the estimate which should be used by historians and teachers of Russian history. According to Memorial society

On the cases investigated by the State Security Department of NKVD (GUGB NKVD):

At least 1,710,000 people were arrested
At least 1,440,000 people were sentenced
At least 724,000 were executed. Among them:
At least 436,000 people were sentenced to death by NKVD troikas as part of the Kulak operation
At least 247,000 people were sentenced to death by NKVD Dvoikas' and the Local Special Troykas as part of the Ethnic Operation
At least 41,000 people were sentenced to death by Military Courts
Among other cases in October 1936-November 1938:
At least 400,000 were sentenced to labor camps by Police Troikas as Socially Harmful Elements (социально-вредный элемент, СВЭ)
At least 200,000 were exiled or deported by Administrative procedures
At least 2 million were sentenced by courts for common crimes, among them 800,000 were sentenced to Gulag camps.

Some experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete or unreliable. For example, Robert Conquest suggests that the probable figure for executions during the years of the Great Purge is not 681,692, but some two and a half times as high. He believes that the KGB was covering its tracks by falsifying the dates and causes of death of rehabilitated victims.

Soviet investigation commissions

At least two Soviet commissions investigated the show-trials after Stalin's death. The first was headed by Molotov and included Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Suslov, Furtseva, Shvernik, Aristov, Pospelov and Rudenko. They were given the task to investigate the materials concerning Bukharin, Rykov, Zinoviev, Tukhachevsky and others. The commission worked in 1956–1957. While stating that the accusations against Tukhachevsky et al. should be abandoned, it failed to fully rehabilitate the victims of the three Moscow trials, although the final report does contain an admission that the accusations have not been proven during the trials and "evidence" had been produced by lies, blackmail, and "use of physical influence". Bukharin, Rykov, Zinoviev, and others were still seen as political opponents, and though the charges against them were obviously false, they could not have been rehabilitated because "for many years they headed the anti-Soviet struggle against the building of socialism in USSR".

The second commission largely worked from 1961 to 1963 and was headed by Shvernik ("Shvernik Commission"). It included Shelepin, Serdyuk, Mironov, Rudenko, and Semichastny. The hard work resulted in two massive reports, which detailed the mechanism of falsification of the show-trials against Bukharin, Zinoviev, Tukhachevsky, and many others. The commission based its findings in large part on eyewitness testimonies of former NKVD workers and victims of repressions, and on many documents. The commission recommended to rehabilitate every accused with exception of Radek and Yagoda, because Radek's materials required some further checking, and Yagoda was a criminal and one of the falsifiers of the trials (though most of the charges against him had to be dropped too, he was not a "spy", etc.). The commission stated:

Stalin committed a very grave crime against the Communist party, the socialist state, Soviet people and worldwide revolutionary movement... Together with Stalin, the responsibility for the abuse of law, mass unwarranted repressions and death of many thousands of wholly innocent people also lies on Molotov, Kaganovich, Malenkov....

However, soon Khrushchev was deposed and the "Thaw" ended, so most victims of the three show-trials were not rehabilitated until Gorbachev's time.

Mass graves and memorials
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, numerous mass graves filled with executed victims of the terror were discovered. Some, such as the killing fields at Kurapaty near Minsk and Bykivnia near Kiev, are believed to contain up to 200,000 corpses.

In 2007, one such site, the Butovo firing range near Moscow, was turned into a shrine to the victims of Stalinism. From August 1937 through October 1938, more than 20,000 people were shot and buried there.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
Intelligentsia
 
 
In the 1920s and 1930s, two thousand writers, intellectuals, and artists were imprisoned and 1,500 died in prisons and concentration camps.

Russian poet Nikolai Gumilev was executed on 24th August, 1921.


 Nikolai Gumilev

 
 

Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova and their son Lev Gumilev, 1913
 
 
 
After sunspot development research was judged un-Marxist, twenty-seven astronomers disappeared between 1936 and 1938. The Meteorological Office was violently purged as early as 1933 for failing to predict weather harmful to the crops. But the toll was especially high among writers. Those who perished during the Great Purge include:

The great poet OSIP MANDELSTAM was arrested for reciting his famous anti-Stalin poem Stalin Epigram to his circle of friends in 1934. After intervention by Nikolai Bukharin and Boris Pasternak (Stalin jotted down in Bukharin's letter with feigned indignation: “Who gave them the right to arrest Mandelstam?”), Stalin instructed NKVD to "isolate but preserve" him, and Mandelstam was "merely" exiled to Cherdyn for three years. But this proved to be a temporary reprieve. In May 1938, he was promptly arrested again for "counter-revolutionary activities". On August 2, 1938, Mandelstam was sentenced to five years in correction camps and died on December 27, 1938 at a transit camp near Vladivostok. Boris Pasternak himself was nearly purged, but Stalin is said to have crossed Pasternak's name off the list, saying "Don't touch this cloud dweller."

 
 

Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam
 
 
   
 
Osip Mandelstam. NKVD photo after the second arrest, 1938
   
   
  The Stalin epigram, also known as The Grinches Death (Russian: Кремлёвский горец) is a satirical poem by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, written in November 1933. The poem describes the climate of fear in the Soviet Union.

Mandelstam read the poem only to a few friends, including Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova. The poem played a role in his own arrest and the arrests of Akhmatova's son and husband, Lev Gumilev and Nikolay Punin.

The "Kremlin Caucasian" in line 4 refers to Stalin's Caucasus Mountains origin. The phrase "Ossetian torso" in the final line refers to the ethnicity of Stalin, whose father's (Besarion Jughashvili) paternal grandfather was an Ossetian.


We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay,
More than ten steps away you can’t hear what we say.
But if people would talk on occasion,
They should mention the Kremlin Caucasian.

His thick fingers are bulky and fat like live-baits,
And his accurate words are as heavy as weights.
Cucaracha’s moustaches are screaming,
And his boot-tops are shining and gleaming.

But around him a crowd of thin-necked henchmen,
And he plays with the services of these half-men.
Some are whistling, some meowing, some sniffing,
He’s alone booming, poking and whiffing.

He is forging his rules and decrees like horseshoes –
Into groins, into foreheads, in eyes, and eyebrows.
Every killing for him is delight,
And Ossetian torso is wide.

   
 
 

NKVD photo after the first arrest
 
NKVD photo after the second arrest
 

Mandelstam's own prophecy was fulfilled:

"Only in Russia is poetry respected – it gets people killed.
Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?"

 
 
Varlam Shalamov's short story "Sherry Brandy" was written as a fictional description of Mandelstam's death in a Soviet Union GULAG transit camp near Vladivostok.
 

Varlam Shalamov (1907-1982)


Russian writer best known for a series of short stories about imprisonment in Soviet labour camps.

In 1922 Shalamov went to Moscow and worked in a factory. Accused of counterrevolutionary activities while a law student at Moscow State University, Shalamov served two years at hard labour in the Urals. He returned to Moscow in 1932 and became a published writer, journalist, and critic. Rearrested in 1937, supposedly in part because of his public approval of Soviet émigré writer and 1933 Nobel laureate Ivan Bunin, Shalamov spent the next 17 years in the extremely harsh labour camps of the Kolyma River basin in the Soviet Far East. He was released in the 1950s and was allowed to publish some of his poetry, including the collections Ognivo (1961; “Flint”), Doroga i sudba (1967; “Journey and Destiny”), and Moskovskiye oblaka (1972; “Moscow Clouds”). In the early 1970s Shalamov, by then broken, ill, and dependent on the Soviet Writers’ Union for publication and money, was forced to write a public letter denouncing publication of his work abroad.

In 1978 a Russian edition of Shalamov’s Kolymskiye rasskazy (1978; “Kolyma Stories”) was published in England. This collection of 103 brief sketches, vignettes, and short stories chronicles the degradation and dehumanization of prison-camp life. Written in understated and straightforward documentary style, the tales contain almost no philosophical or political nuances. Publication was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988.

Among the collections of his poetry that were posthumously published are Stikhotvoreniya (1988; “Poems”) and Kolymskiye tetradi (1994; “The Kolyma Notebooks”). Complete editions of Shalamov’s works were released in Moscow in 1992. Selected tales from the collection were published in English in two volumes, Kolyma Tales (1980) and Graphite (1981).

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 
Rehabilitation
After the end of the Stalin era, Mandelstam was rehabilitated in 1956, when he was exonerated from the charges brought against him in 1938. On October 28, 1987, he was also exonerated from the 1934 charges and thus fully rehabilitated.
 
 
 
Writer Isaac Babel was arrested in May 1939, and according to his confession paper (which contained a blood stain) he "confessed" to being a member of Trotskyist organization and being recruited by French writer Andre Malraux to spy for France. In the final interrogation, he retracted his confession and wrote letters to prosecutor's office stating that he had implicated innocent people, but to no avail. Babel was tried before an NKVD troika and convicted of simultaneously spying for the French, Austrians, and Leon Trotsky, as well as "membership in a terrorist organization." On January 27, 1940, he was shot in Butyrka prison.
 

Isaac Babel


Isaac Babel


Russian author

born July 13 [July 1, Old Style], 1894, Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire
died Jan. 27, 1940, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.

Soviet short-story writer noted for his war stories and Odessa tales. He was considered an innovator in the early Soviet period and enjoyed a brilliant reputation in the early 1930s.

Born into a Jewish family, Babel grew up in an atmosphere of persecution that is reflected in the sensitivity, pessimism, and morbidity of his stories. His first works, later included in his Odesskiye rasskazy (“Odessa Tales”), were published in 1916 in St. Petersburg in a monthly edited by Maksim Gorky; but the tsarist censors considered them crude and obscene. Gorky praised the young author’s terse, naturalistic style, at the same time advising him to “see the world.” Babel proceeded to do so, serving in the Cossack First Cavalry Army and in the political police (Babel’s daughter denied this), working for newspapers, and holding a number of other jobs over the next seven years. Perhaps his most significant experience was as a soldier in the war with Poland. Out of that campaign came the group of stories known as Konarmiya (1926; Red Cavalry). These stories present different aspects of war through the eyes of an inexperienced, intellectual young Jew who reports everything graphically and with naive precision. Though senseless cruelty often pervades the stories, they are lightened by a belief that joy and happiness must exist somewhere, if only in the imagination.

The “Odessa Tales” were published in book form in 1931. This cycle of realistic and humorous sketches of the Moldavanka—the ghetto suburb of Odessa—vividly portrays the lifestyle and jargon of a group of Jewish bandits and gangsters, led by their “king,” the legendary Benya Krik.


The NKVD photo of Babel made after his arres

Babel wrote other short stories, as well as two plays (Zakat, 1928; Mariya, 1935). In the early 1930s his literary reputation in the Soviet Union was high, but, in the atmosphere of increasing Stalinist cultural regimentation, Communist critics began to question whether his works were compatible with official literary doctrine. After the mid-1930s Babel lived in silence and obscurity. His last published work in the Soviet Union was a short tribute to Gorky in 1938. His powerful patron had died in 1936; in May 1939 Babel was arrested, and he was executed some eight months later. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Babel was rehabilitated, and his stories were again published in the Soviet Union.

Encyclopaedia Britannyca


Writer Boris Pilnyak was arrested on October 28, 1937 for counter-revolutionary activities, spying and terrorism. One report alleged that "he held secret meetings with (Andre) Gide, and supplied him with information about the situation in the USSR. There is no doubt that Gide used this information in his book attacking the USSR." Pilnyak was tried on April 21, 1938. In the proceeding that lasted 15 minutes, he was condemned to death and executed shortly afterward.
 

Boris Pilnyak



Boris Pilnyak

Boris Pilnyak (Russian: Бори́с Пильня́к) (October 11 [O.S. September 29] 1894–April 21, 1938) was a Russian author. Born Boris Andreyevich Vogau (Russian: Бори́с Андре́евич Вога́у) in Mozhaisk, he was a major supporter of anti-urbanism and a critic of mechanized society. These views often brought him into disfavor with Communist critics. His most famous works are The Naked Year, Mahogany, and The Volga Falls into the Caspian Sea, all novels concerning revolutionary and post-revolutionary Russia. Another of his well-known works is OK, an unflattering travelogue of his 1931 visit to the United States.

On October 28, 1937, he was arrested on charges of counter-revolutionary activies, spying and terrorism. One report alleged that "he held secret meetings with (Andre) Gide, and supplied him with information about the situation in the USSR. There is no doubt that Gide used this information in this book attacking the USSR." Pilnyak was tried on April 21, 1938. In the proceeding that lasted 15 minutes, he was condemned to death. A small yellow slip of paper attached to his file read: "Sentence carried out."

 

Theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold was arrested in 1939 and shot in February 1940 for "spying" for Japanese and British intelligence. In a letter to Vyacheslav Molotov dated January 13, 1940, he wrote: "The investigators began to use force on me, a sick 65-year-old man. I was made to lie face down and beaten on the soles of my feet and my spine with a rubber strap... For the next few days, when those parts of my legs were covered with extensive internal hemorrhaging, they again beat the red-blue-and-yellow bruises with the strap and the pain was so intense that it felt as if boiling water was being poured on these sensitive areas. I howled and wept from the pain. I incriminated myself in the hope that by telling them lies I could end the ordeal. When I lay down on the cot and fell asleep, after 18 hours of interrogation, in order to go back in an hour's time for more, I was woken up by my own groaning and because I was jerking about like a patient in the last stages of typhoid fever." His wife, the actress Zinaida Raikh, was murdered in her apartment by NKVD agents She was stabbed 17 times, two of them through the eyes.

Vsevolod Meyerhold


Vsevolod Meyerhold

Russian theatrical producer, director, and actor
born Feb. 9 [Jan. 28, old style], 1874, Penza, Russia
died Feb. 2, 1940, Moscow

Russian theatrical producer, director, and actor whose provocative experiments in nonrealistic theatre made him one of the seminal forces in modern theatre.



Vsevolod Meyerhold's mugshot, taken at the time of his arrest
 

Meyerhold became a student in 1896 at the Moscow Philharmonic Dramatic School under the guidance of Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, cofounder of the Moscow Art Theatre. Two years later, Meyerhold joined the Moscow Art Theatre and there began to formulate his avant-garde theories of symbolic, or “conditional,” theatre. In 1906 he became chief producer at the theatre of Vera Komissarzhevskaya, a distinguished actress of the time, and staged a number of Symbolist plays that employed his radical ideas of nonrepresentational theatre. For his presentation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in 1906, Meyerhold rebelled against the stylized naturalism popularized by Konstantin Stanislavsky’s art theatre and instead directed his actors to behave in puppetlike, mechanistic ways. This production marked the beginning of an innovative theatre in Russia that became known as biomechanics. Meyerhold’s unorthodox approach to the theatre led him to break with Komissarzhevskaya in 1908. Thereafter, drawing upon the conventions of commedia dell’arte and Oriental theatre, he went on to stage productions in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). During 1920–35 Meyerhold achieved his greatest artistic success as a director, beginning with Fernand Crommelynck’s Le Cocu magnifique (1920; The Magnificent Cuckold) and ending with his controversial production in 1935 of Aleksandr Pushkin’s story “Pikovaya Dama” (“The Queen of Spades”).



Alexander Golovin. Portrait of Meyerhold



Dmitriy Shostakovich, Vsevolod Meyerhold,
Vladimir Mayakovsky & Alexander Rodchenko

Although he embraced the Russian Revolution of 1917, his fiercely individualistic temperament and artistic eccentricity brought reproach and condemnation from Soviet critics. He was accused of mysticism and neglect of Socialist Realism. Meyerhold refused to submit to the constraints of artistic uniformity and defended the artist’s right to experiment. In 1939 he was arrested and imprisoned. Weeks later, his actress-wife, Zinaida Raikh, was found brutally murdered in their apartment. Nothing more was heard of him in the West until 1958, when his death in 1942 was announced in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia; in a later edition the date was changed to 1940.


Vsevolod Meyerhold and Zinaida Raikh

 

Zinaida Raikh (1893 -1939)


Zinaida Raikh

Actress. She was married to the poet Sergei Essenin from 1917 to 1921. Known more for her great beauty and fiery temperament than for her acting ability, she nevertheless became a star at the theatre of Vsevolod Meyerhold, whom she married in 1924. In 1939, Josef Stalin had Meyerhold arrested on trumped-up charges of anti-Soviet activities. Three weeks later, thugs acting on orders of Stalin's secret police broke into Meyerhold's Moscow apartment and savagely attacked Raikh; she died of 17 stab wounds, two of them through her eyes. Meyerhold was executed in 1940.


Zinaida Raikh

Georgian poet Titsian Tabidze was arrested on October 10, 1937 on a charge of treason and was tortured in prison. In a bitter humor, he named only the 18th-century Georgian poet Besiki as his accomplice in anti-Soviet activities. [30] He was executed on December 16, 1937. His friend and poet Paolo Iashvili, having earlier been forced to denounce several of his associates as the enemies of the people, shot himself with a hunting gun in the building of the Writers' Union. (He witnessed and even had to participate in public trials that ousted many of his associates from the Writers' Union, effectively condemning them to death. When Lavrenty Beria further pressured him with alternative of denouncing his life-long friend Tabidze or being arrested and tortured by the NKVD, he killed himself.)


Titsian Tabidze
 
Paolo Iashvili

 

In early 1937, poet Pavel Vasiliev is said to have defended Bukharin as "a man of the highest nobility and the conscience of peasant Russia" at the time of his denunciation at the Pyatakov Trial (Second Moscow Trial) and damned other writers then signing the routine condemnations as "pornographic scrawls on the margins of Russian literature." He was promptly shot on July 16, 1937.



Pavel Vasiliev





Pianist Khadija Gayibova, executed in 1938.

 

Jan Sten, philosopher and deputy head of the Marx-Engels Institute was Stalin's private tutor when Stalin was trying hard to study Hegel's dialectic. (Stalin received lessons twice a week from 1925 to 1928, but he found it difficult to master even some of the basic ideas. Stalin developed enduring hostility toward German idealistic philosophy, which he called "the aristocratic reaction to the French Revolution".) In 1937, Sten was seized on the direct order of Stalin, who declared him one of the chiefs of Menshevizing idealists. On June 19, 1937, Sten was put to death in Lefortovo prison.

 
 
 
 

Soviet propaganda poster: "Comrade, come and join the kolkhoz!"; "We will keep out Kulaks from the collectives", 1930

Collectivization in the Soviet Union

Policy adopted by the Soviet government, pursued most intensively between 1929 and 1933, to transform traditional agriculture in the Soviet Union and to reduce the economic power of the kulaks (prosperous peasants). Under collectivization the peasantry were forced to give up their individual farms and join large collective farms (kolkhozy). The process was ultimately undertaken in conjunction with the campaign to industrialize the Soviet Union rapidly. But before the drive began, long and bitter debates over the nature and pace of collectivization went on among the Soviet leaders (especially between Stalin and Trotsky, 1925–27, and between Stalin and Nikolay Bukharin, 1927–29).

Some Soviet leaders considered collective farms a socialist form of land tenure and therefore desirable; but they advocated a gradual transition to them in order to avoid disrupting the agricultural productivity necessary to stimulate industrial growth. Other leaders favoured rapid industrialization and, consequently, wanted immediate, forced collectivization; they argued not only that the large kolkhozy could use heavy machinery more efficiently and produce larger crops than could numerous small, individual farms but that they could be controlled more effectively by the state. As a result, they could be forced to sell a large proportion of their output to the state at low government prices, thereby enabling the state to acquire the capital necessary for the development of heavy industry.

A decision was made by the 15th Congress of the Communist Party (December 1927) to undertake collectivization at a gradual pace, allowing the peasantry to join kolkhozy voluntarily. But in November 1928 the Central Committee (and in April 1929 the 16th Party Conference) approved plans that increased the goals and called for 20 percent of the nation’s farmland to be collectivized by 1933. Between October 1929 and January 1930 the proportion of peasant households forced into kolkhozy rose from about 4 percent to 21 percent, although the government’s main efforts in the countryside were concentrated on extracting grain from the kulaks.

Intensive collectivization began during the winter of 1929–30. Stalin called upon the party to “liquidate the kulaks as a class” (Dec. 27, 1929), and the Central Committee resolved that an “enormous majority” of the peasant households should be collectivized by 1933. Harsh measures—including land confiscations, arrests, and deportations to prison camps—were inflicted upon all peasants who resisted collectivization. By March 1930 more than one-half of the peasantry (a larger proportion in the agriculturally rich southwestern region of the Soviet Union) had been forced to join collective farms.

But the peasants objected violently to abandoning their private farms. In many cases, before joining the kolkhozy they slaughtered their livestock and destroyed their equipment. The losses, as well as the animosity toward the Soviet regime, became so great that Stalin decided to slow down the collectivization process. On March 2, 1930, he published an article, “Dizzy from Success,” in which he shifted the blame to local officials, whom he characterized as overzealous in their duties. Immediately, many peasants left the kolkhozy. In March 1930 approximately 58 percent of the peasant households had been enrolled in kolkhozy; by June only about 24 percent remained. In the southwestern “black earth” region the figure dropped from 82 percent in March to 18 percent in May.

In the fall of 1930 the drive was renewed at a slower pace, but with equal determination. The application of various administrative pressures—including punitive measures—resulted in the recollectivization of one-half of the peasants by 1931. By 1936 the government had collectivized almost all the peasantry. But in the process millions of those who had offered resistance had been deported to prison camps and removed from productive activity in agriculture. Furthermore, the absence of heavy agricultural machinery and of the horses and cattle that the peasants had killed seriously handicapped the new collective farms.

Output fell, but the government, nevertheless, extracted the large amounts of agricultural products it needed to acquire the capital for industrial investment; this caused a major famine in the countryside (1932–33) and the deaths of millions of peasants. Despite these great costs, the forced collectivization achieved the final establishment of Soviet power in the countryside. Through collectivization agriculture was integrated with the rest of the state-controlled economy, and the state was supplied with the capital it required to transform the Soviet Union into a major industrial power.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)
 

The famine of 1932–33

The result of Stalin’s policies was the Great Famine (Holodomor) of 1932–33—a man-made demographic catastrophe unprecedented in peacetime. Of the estimated six to eight million people who died in the Soviet Union, about four to five million were Ukrainians. The famine was a direct assault on the Ukrainian peasantry, which had stubbornly continued to resist collectivization; indirectly, it was an attack on the Ukrainian village, which traditionally had been a key element of Ukrainian national culture. Its deliberate nature is underscored by the fact that no physical basis for famine existed in Ukraine. The Ukrainian grain harvest of 1932 had resulted in below-average yields (in part because of the chaos wreaked by the collectivization campaign), but it was more than sufficient to sustain the population. Nevertheless, Soviet authorities set requisition quotas for Ukraine at an impossibly high level. Brigades of special agents were dispatched to Ukraine to assist in procurement, and homes were routinely searched and foodstuffs confiscated. At the same time, a law was passed in August 1932 making the theft of socialist property a capital crime, leading to scenes in which peasants faced the firing squad for stealing as little as a sack of wheat from state storehouses. The rural population was left with insufficient food to feed itself. The ensuing starvation grew to a massive scale by the spring of 1933, but Moscow refused to provide relief. In fact, the Soviet Union exported more than a million tons of grain to the West during this period.

The famine subsided only after the 1933 harvest had been completed. The traditional Ukrainian village had been essentially destroyed, and settlers from Russia were brought in to repopulate the devastated countryside. Soviet authorities flatly denied the existence of the famine both at the time it was raging and after it was over. It was only in the late 1980s that officials made a guarded acknowledgement that something had been amiss in Ukraine at this time.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




 

The Holodomor
 

(Ukrainian: Голодомор; translation: death by starvation) refers to the famine of 1932-1933 in the Ukrainian SSR during which millions of people were starved to death due to Soviet policies. There were no natural causes for starvation and in fact, Ukraine - unlike other Soviet Republics - enjoyed a bumper wheat crop in 1932. The Holodomor is considered one of the greatest calamities to affect the Ukrainian nation in modern history. Millions of inhabitants of Ukraine died of starvation in an unprecedented peacetime catastrophe. Estimates on the total number of casualties within Soviet Ukraine range mostly from 2.6 million to 10 million.




Lazar Kaganovich (left) played a role in enforcing Stalin's
policies that led to the Holodomor.
 

The root cause of the Holodomor is a subject of scholarly debate. Some scholars have argued that the Soviet policies that caused the famine may have been designed as an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism, and therefore fall under the legal definition of genocide. Therefore the Holodomor is also known as the "terror-famine in Ukraine" and "famine-genocide in Ukraine". Others, however, conclude that the Holodomor was a consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialization.

As of March 2008, Ukraine and nineteen other governments have recognized the actions of the Soviet government as an act of genocide. The joint statement at the United Nations in 2003 has defined the famine as the result of cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime that caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and other nationalities in the USSR . On 23 October 2008 the European Parliament adopted a resolution that recognized the Holodomor as a crime against humanity.




Stalin and Holodomor

 

1. Etymology
The term first appeared in print on July 18, 1988 in an article by Ukrainian writer Oleksiy Musiyenko . The origins of the word Holodomor come from the Ukrainian words holod, ‘hunger’, and mor, ‘plague’, possibly from the expression moryty holodom, ‘to inflict death by hunger’. The Ukrainian verb "moryty" (морити) means "to poison somebody, drive to exhaustion or to torment somebody". The perfect form of the verb "moryty" is "zamoryty" — "kill or drive to death by hunger, exhausting work". The neologism “Holodomor” is given in the modern, two-volume dictionary of the Ukrainian language as "artificial hunger, organised in vast scale by the criminal regime against the country's population." Sometimes the expression is translated into English as "murder by hunger or starvation."

2. Scope and duration
The famine affected the Ukrainian SSR as well as the Moldavian ASSR (a part of the Ukrainian S.S.R. at the time) between 1932 and 1933. However, not every part suffered from the Holodomor for the whole period; the greatest number of victims was recorded in the spring of 1933.

The first reports of mass malnutrition and deaths from starvation emerged from 2 urban area of Uman - by the time Vinnytsya and Kiev oblasts dated by beginning of January 1933. By mid-January 1933 there were reports about mass “difficulties” with food in urban areas that had been undersupplied through the rationing system and deaths from starvation among people who were withdrawn from rationing supply according to Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Decree December 1932. By the beginning of February 1933, according to received reports from local authorities and Ukrainian GPU, the most affected area was listed as Dnipropetrovsk Oblast which also suffered from epidemics of typhus and malaria. Odessa and Kiev oblasts were second and third respectively. By mid-March, most reports originated from Kiev Oblast.

By mid-April 1933, the Kharkiv Oblast reached the top of the most affected list, while Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Vinnytsya, Donetsk oblasts and Moldavian SSR followed it. Last reports about mass deaths from starvation dated mid-May through the beginning of June 1933 originated from raions in Kiev and Kharkiv oblasts. The “less affected” list noted the Chernihiv Oblast and northern parts of Kiev and Vinnytsya oblasts. According to the Central Committee of the CP(b) of Ukraine Decree as of February 8 1933, no hunger cases should have remained untreated, and all local authorities were directly obliged to submit reports about numbers suffering from hunger, the reasons for hunger, number of deaths from hunger, food aid provided from local sources and centrally provided food aid required. Parallel reporting and food assistance were managed by the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR. Many regional reports and most of the central summary reports are available from present-day central and regional Ukrainian archives. There is documentary evidence of widespread cannibalism during the Holodomor. The Soviet regime of the time even printed posters declaring: "To eat your own children is a barbarian act."



3. Causes
The reasons for the famine are a subject of scholarly and political debate. Some scholars view the famine as a consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialization. However it has been suggested by other historians that the famine was an attack on Ukrainian nationalism engineered by Soviet leadership of the time and thus may fall under the legal definition of genocide.



Photograph by Alexander Wienerberger, 1933

 

4. Death toll
By the end of 1933, millions of people had starved to death or had otherwise died unnaturally in Ukraine, as well as in other Soviet republics. The total estimate of the famine victims Soviet-wide is given as 6-7 million or 6-8 million. The Soviet Union long denied that the famine had ever taken place, and the NKVD (and later KGB) archives on the Holodomor period opened very slowly. The exact number of the victims remains unknown and is probably impossible to estimate even within a margin of error of a hundred thousand. Numbers as high as seven to ten million are sometimes given in the media and a number as high as ten or even twenty million is sometimes cited in political speeches.

One reason for estimate variance is that some assess the number of people who died within the 1933 borders of Ukraine; while others are based on deaths within current borders of Ukraine. Other estimates are based on deaths of Ukrainians in the Soviet Union. Some estimates use a very simple methodology based percentage of deaths that was reported in one area and applying the percentage to the entire country. Others use more sophisticated techniques that involves analyzing the demographic statistics based on various archival data. Some question the accuracy of Soviet censuses since they may have been doctored to support Soviet propaganda. Other estimates come from recorded discussion between world leaders like Churchill and Stalin. For example the estimate of ten million deaths, which is attributed to Soviet official sources, could be based on a misinterpretation of the memoirs of Winston Churchill who gave an account of his conversation with Stalin that took place on August 16, 1942. In that conversation, Stalin gave Churchill his estimates of the number of "kulaks" who were repressed for resisting collectivization as 10 million, in all of the Soviet Union, rather than only in Ukraine. When using this number, Stalin implied that it included not only those who lost their lives, but also forcibly deported.

A number of difficulties exist when attempting to estimate casualty rates. Some estimates include the death toll from political repression including those who died in the Gulag, while others refer only to those who starved to death. In addition, many of the estimates are based on different time periods. Thus, a definitive number of deaths continues to be a source of great debate.

The results based on scientific methods obtained prior to the opening of former Soviet archives also varied widely but the range was narrower: for example, 2.5 million (Volodymyr Kubiyovych), 4.8 million (Vasyl Hryshko) and 5 million (Robert Conquest).

One modern calculation that uses demographic data including that available from recently opened Soviet archives narrows the losses to about 3.2 million or, allowing for the lack of precise data, 3 million to 3.5 million.

The Soviet archives show that excess deaths in Ukraine in 1932-1933 numbered 1.54 million. In 1932-1933, there were a combined 1.2 million cases of typhus and 500,000 cases of typhoid fever. All major types of disease, apart from cancer, tend to increase during famine as a result of undernourishment lowering resistance and generating unsanitary conditions; thus these deaths resulted primarily from lowered resistance rather than starvation per se. In the years 1932-34, the largest rate of increase was recorded for typhus, which is spread by lice. In conditions of harvest failure and increased poverty, the number of lice is likely to increase, and the herding of refugees at railway stations, on trains and elsewhere facilitates their spread. In 1933, the number of recorded cases was twenty times the 1929 level. The number of cases per head of population recorded in Ukraine in 1933 was already considerably higher than in the USSR as a whole. But by June 1933, incidence in Ukraine had increased to nearly ten times the January level and was higher than in the rest of the USSR taken as a whole.

However, the number of the recorded excess deaths extracted from the birth/death statistics from the Soviet archives is self-contradictory and cannot be fully relied upon because the data fails to add up to the differences between the results of the 1927 Census and the 1937 Census.

Stanislav Kulchytsky summarized the natural population change. The declassified Soviet statistics show a decrease of 538,000 people in the population of Soviet Ukraine between 1926 census (28,925,976) and 1937 census (28,388,000).

According to the correction for officially non-accounted child mortality in 1933 by 150,000 calculated by Sergei Maksudov, the number of births for 1933 should be increased from 471,000 to 621,000. Assuming the natural mortality rates in 1933 to be equal to the average annual mortality rate in 1927-1930 (524,000 per year) a natural population growth for 1933 would have been 97,000, which is five times less than this number in the past years (1927-1930). From the corrected birth rate and the estimated natural death rate for 1933 as well as from the official data for other years the natural population growth from 1927 to 1936 gives 4.043 million while the census data showed a decrease of 538,000. The sum of the two numbers gives an estimated total demographic loss of 4.581 million people. A major hurdle in estimating the human losses due to famine is the need to take into account the numbers involved in migration (including forced resettlement). According to the Soviet statistics, the migration balance for the population in Ukraine for 1927 - 1936 period was a loss of 1.343 million people. Even at the time when the data was taken, the Soviet statistical institutions acknowledged that its precision was worse than the data for the natural population change. Still, with the correction for this number, the total number of death in Ukraine due to unnatural causes for the given ten years was 3.238 million, and taking into account the lack of precision, especially of the migration estimate, the human toll is estimated between 3 million and 3.5 million.
 

Declassified Soviet statistics
 

   
 
Declassified Soviet statistics 
 
Year
Births
Deaths
Natural change
1927
1184
523
661
1928
1139
496
643
1929
1081
539
542
1930
1023
536
487
1931
975
515
460
1932
782
668
114
1933
471
1850
-1379
1934
571
483
88
1935
759
342
417
1936
895
361
534

 


In addition to the direct losses from unnatural deaths, the indirect losses due to the decrease of the birth rate should be taken into account in consideration in estimating of the demographic consequences of the Famine for Ukraine. For instance, the natural population growth in 1927 was 662,000, while in 1933 it was 97,000, [this does not fit with the table, it had to be a decline of 1.379 thousand, i.e., approx. 1.4 million] in 1934 it was 88,000. The combination of direct and indirect losses from Holodomor gives 4.469 million, of which 3.238 million (or more realistically 3 to 3.5 million) is the number of the direct deaths according to this estimate.

A 2002 study by Vallin et al utilizing some similar primary sources to Kulchytsky, and performing an analysis with more sophisticated demographic tools with forward projection of expected growth from the 1926 census and backward projection from the 1939 census estimate the amount of direct deaths for 1933 as 2.582 million. This number of deaths does not reflect the total demographic loss for Ukraine from these events as the fall of the birth rate during crisis and the out-migration contribute to the latter as well. The total population shortfall from the expected value between 1926 and 1939 estimated by Vallin amounted to 4.566 million. Of this number, 1.057 million is attributed to birth deficit, 930,000 to forced out-migration, and 2.582 million to excess mortality and voluntary out-migration. With the latter assumed to be negligible this estimate gives the number of deaths as the result of the 1933 famine about 2.2 million. According to this study the life expectancy for those born in 1933 sharply fell to 10.8 years for females and to 7.3 years for males and remained abnormally low for 1934 but, as commonly expected for the post-crisis peaked in 1935-36.

According to estimates about 81.3% of the famine victims in Ukrainian SRR were ethnic Ukrainians, 4.5% Russians, 1.4% Jews and 1.1% were Poles. Many Belarusians, Hungarians, Volga Germans and other nationalities became victims as well. The Ukrainian rural population was the hardest hit by the Holodomor. Since the peasantry constituted a demographic backbone of the Ukrainian nation, ] the tragedy deeply affected the Ukrainians for many years.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the overall number of Ukrainians who died from 1932-1933 famine is estimated as about four to five million out of six to eight million people who died in the Soviet Union as a whole.


5. Was the Holodomor a genocide?

Robert Conquest claimed that the famine of 1932-33 was a deliberate act of mass murder, if not genocide committed as part of Joseph Stalin's collectivization program in the Soviet Union. In 2006, the Security Service of Ukraine declassified more than 5 thousand pages of Holodomor archives. [47] These documents suggest that the Soviet regime singled out Ukraine by not giving it the same humanitarian aid given to regions outside it. Some scholars say that Conquest's book on the famine is replete with errors and inconsistencies and that it deserves to be considered an example of Cold War lack of objectivity.

R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft have interacted with Conquest and note that he no longer considers the famine "deliberate". Conquest—and, by extension, Davies and Wheatcroft—believe that, had industrialization been abandoned, the famine would have been "prevented" (Conquest), or at least significantly alleviated.

...we regard the policy of rapid industrialization as an underlying cause of the agricultural troubles of the early 1930s, and we do not believe that the Chinese or NEP versions of industrialization were viable in Soviet national and international circumstances.

They see the leadership under Stalin as making significant errors in planning for the industrialization of agriculture.

Davies and Wheatcroft also cite an unpublished letter by Robert Conquest:

Our view of Stalin and the famine is close to that of Robert Conquest, who would earlier have been considered the champion of the argument that Stalin had intentionally caused the famine and had acted in a genocidal manner. In 2003, Dr Conquest wrote to us explaining that he does not hold the view that "Stalin purposely incited the 1933 famine. No. What I argue is that with resulting famine imminent, he could have prevented it, but put ‘Soviet interest’ other than feeding the starving first—thus consciously abetting it".

This retraction by Conquest is also noted by Kulchytsky.

Some historians maintain that the famine was an unintentional consequence of collectivization, and that the associated resistance to it by the Ukrainian peasantry exacerbated an already-poor harvest. Some researchers state that while the term Ukrainian Genocide is often used in application to the event, technically, the use of the term "genocide" is inapplicable.

The statistical distribution of famine's victims among the ethnicities closely reflects the ethnic distribution of the rural population of Ukraine Moldavian, Polish, German and Bulgarian population that mostly resided in the rural communities of Ukraine suffered in the same proportion as the rural Ukrainian population. While ethnic Russians in Ukraine lived mostly in urban areas and the cities were affected little by the famine, the rural Russian population was affected the same way as the rural population of any other ethnicity.

University of West Virginia professor Dr Mark Tauger claims that any analysis that asserts that the harvests of 1931 and 1932 were not extraordinarily low and that the famine was a political measure intentionally imposed through excessive procurements is based on an insufficient source base and an uncritical approach to the official sources.

Author James Mace was one of the first to claim that the famine constituted genocide. But scholars believe that Mace's work debased the field of Russian studies.

Professor Michael Ellman of the University of Amsterdam concludes that, according to a relaxed definition of the term, the famine of 1932-33 may constitute genocide. He bases this on the actions (two of commission and one of omission: exporting grain - 1.8 million tonnes - during the mass starvation, preventing migration from famine afflicted areas and making no effort to secure grain assistance from abroad) and the attitude (that many of those starving to death were "counterrevolutionaries," "idlers" or "thieves" who fully deserved their fate) of the Stalinist regime in 1932-33. He asks:

“Throughout his career as a Soviet leader, from Tsaritsyn (1918) to the ‘Doctors' plot’ (1953), he used violence (arrests, shootings, deportations) to achieve his political goals. Is it really plausible to suppose that with these perceptions, convictions, words, actions, plans, and record, Stalin would have abstained from an efficient, cost-saving method (i.e. starvation) of repressing ‘counterrevolutionaries’ (or ‘anti-Soviet elements’) and liquidating ‘idlers’?”



6. Denial of the Holodomor
Denial of the Holodomor is the assertion that the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine did not occur. This denial and suppression was made in official Soviet propaganda and was supported by some Western journalists and intellectuals.

Denial of the famine by Soviet authorities, including President Mikhail Kalinin and Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, was immediate and continued into the 1980s. The Soviet party line was echoed at the time of the famine by some prominent Western journalists, including Walter Duranty and Louis Fischer. The denial of the famine was a highly successful and well orchestrated disinformation campaign by the Soviet government. Stalin "had achieved the impossible: he had silenced all the talk of hunger... Millions were dying, but the nation hymned the praises of collectivization", said historian and writer Edvard Radzinsky. That was the first major instance of Soviet authorities adopting Hitler's Big Lie propaganda technique to sway world opinion, to be followed by similar campaigns over the Moscow Trials and denial of the Gulag labor camp system, according to Robert Conquest

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
Stalin and anti-Semitism
 
 
Stalin and anti-Semitism after World War II
The experience of the Holocaust, which wiped out some six million Jews in Europe under Nazi occupation, and left millions more homeless and displaced, contributed to growing concern about the situation of the Jewish people worldwide. However, the trauma breathed new life into the traditional idea of a common Jewish peoplehood and became a catalyst for the revival of the Zionist idea of creating a Jewish state in the Middle East.

The Jewish Autonomous Oblast experienced a revival as the Soviet government sponsored the migration of as many as ten thousand Eastern European Jews to Birobidzhan in 1946–1948. In early 1946, the Council of Ministers of the USSR announced a plan to build new infrastructure, and Mikhail Kalinin, a champion of the Birobidzhan project since the late 1920s, stated that he still considered the region as a "Jewish national state" that could be revived through "creative toil."

In the meantime, Stalin also warmed to the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. In 1947, the Soviet Union joined the United States in supporting the partition of British Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, and supported Israel in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War with weaponry supplied via Czechoslovakia.

Nonetheless, Stalin began a new purge with repressing his wartime allies, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In January 1948, Solomon Mikhoels was assassinated on Stalin's personal orders in Minsk. His murder was disguised as a hit-and-run car accident. Mikhoels was taken to MGB dacha and killed, along with his non-Jewish colleague Golubov-Potapov, under supervision of Stalin's Deputy Minister of State Security Sergei Ogoltsov. Their bodies were then dumped on a road-side in Minsk[29][30]

Despite Stalin's willingness to support Israel early on, various historians suppose that antisemitism in the late 1940s and early 1950s was motivated by Stalin's possible perception of Jews as a potential "fifth column" in light of a pro-Western Israel in the Middle East. Orlando Figes suggests that

“After the foundation of Israel in May 1948, and its alignment with the USA in the Cold War, the 2 million Soviet Jews, who had always remained loyal to the Soviet system, were portrayed by the Stalinist regime as a potential fifth column. Despite his personal dislike of Jews, Stalin had been an early supporter of a Jewish state in Palestine, which he had hoped to turn into a Soviet satellite in the Middle East. But as the leadership of the emerging state proved hostile to approaches from the Soviet Union, Stalin became increasingly afraid of pro-Israeli feeling among Soviet Jews. His fears intensified as a result of Golda Meir's arrival in Moscow in the autumn of 1948 as the first Israeli ambassador to the USSR. On her visit to a Moscow synagogue on Yom Kippur (13 October), thousands of people lined the streets, many of them shouting Am Yisroel chai ('The people of Israel live!')—a traditional affirmation of national renewal to Jews throughout the world but to Stalin a dangerous sign of 'bourgeois Jewish nationalism' that subverted the authority of the Soviet state.”

Historians Albert S. Lindemann and Richard S. Levy observe that "When, in October 1948, during the high holy days, thousands of Jews rallied around Moscow's central synagogue to honor Golda Meir, the first Israeli ambassador, the authorities became especially alarmed at the signs of Jewish disaffection.". Jeffrey Veidlinger writes that "By October 1948, it was obvious that Mikhoels was by no means the sole advocate of Zionism among Soviet Jews. The revival of Jewish cultural expression during the war had fostered a general sense of boldness among the Jewish masses. Many Jews remained oblivious to the growing Zhdanovshchina and the threat to Soviet Jews that the brewing campaign against 'rootless cosmopolitans' signaled. Indeed, official attitudes toward Jewish culture were ambivalent during this period. On the surface, Jewish culture seemed to be supported by the state: public efforts had been made to sustain the Yiddish theater after Mikhoels's death, Eynikayt was still publishing on schedule, and, most important, the Soviet Union recognized the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. To most Moscow Jews, the state of Soviet Jewry had never been better.

In November 1948, Soviet authorities launched a campaign to liquidate what was left of Jewish culture. The leading members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were arrested. They were charged with treason, bourgeois nationalism and planning to set up a Jewish republic in Crimea to serve American interests. The Museum of Environmental Knowledge of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (established in November 1944) and The Jewish Museum in Vilnius (established at the end of the war) were closed down in 1948. The Historical-Ethnographic Museum of Georgian Jewry, established in 1933, was shut down at the end of 1951.

In Birobidzhan, the various Jewish cultural institutions that had been established under Stalin's earlier policy of support for "proletarian Jewish culture" in the 1930s were closed down between late 1948 and early 1949. These included the Kaganovich Yiddish Theater, the Yiddish publishing house, the Yiddish newspaper Birobidzhan, the library of Yiddish and Hebrew books, and the local Jewish schools. The same happened to Yiddish theaters all over the Soviet Union, beginning with the Odessa Yiddish Theater and including the Moscow State Jewish Theater.

In early February 1949, the Stalin Prize-winning microbiologist Nikolay Gamaleya, a pioneer of bacteriology and member of the Academy of Sciences, wrote a personal letter to Stalin, protesting the growing antisemitism: "Judging by absolutely indisputable and obvious indications, the reappearance of antisemitism is not coming from below, not from the masses. . . but is directed from above, by someone's invisible hand. Antisemitism is coming from some high-placed persons who have taken up posts in the leading party organs... The ninety-year-old scientist wrote Stalin a second letter in mid-February, again mentioning the growing antisemitism. In March, Gamaleya died, still having received no answer.

During the night of 12–13 August 1952, remembered as the "Night of the Murdered Poets" (Ночь казнённых поэтов), thirteen of the most prominent Yiddish writers of the Soviet Union were executed on the orders of Stalin. Among the victims were Peretz Markish, David Bergelson and Itzik Fefer.

In a 1 December 1952 Politburo session, Stalin announced: "Every Jewish nationalist is the agent of the American intelligence service. Jewish nationalists think that their nation was saved by the USA. . . They think they are indebted to the Americans. Among doctors, there are many Jewish nationalists."

A notable campaign to quietly remove Jews from positions of authority within the state security services was carried out in 1952–1953. The Russian historians Zhores and Roy Medvedev wrote that according to [MVD] General Sudoplatov, "simultaneously all Jews were removed from the leadership of the security services, even those in very senior positions. In February the anti-Jewish expulsions were extended to regional branches of the MGB. A secret directive was distributed to all regional directorates of the MGB on 22 February, ordering that all Jewish employees of the MGB be dismissed immediately, regardless of rank, age or service record. . . ".

The outside world was not ignorant of these developments, and even the leading members of the Communist Party USA complained about the situation. In the memoir Being Red, the American writer and prominent Communist Howard Fast recalls a meeting with Soviet writer and World Peace Congress delegate Alexander Fadeyev during this time. Fadeyev insisted that "There is no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union", despite the evidence "that at least eight leading Jewish figures in the Red Army and in government had been arrested on what appeared to be trumped-up charges. Yiddish-language newspapers had been suppressed. Schools that taught Hebrew had been closed. . . ."

The Doctors' Plot
On 13 January 1953, the Soviet Union's TASS information agency announced the unmasking of a conspiracy of so-called "doctors-poisoners" who had covertly attempted to decapitate the Soviet leadership. The accused doctors were all senior physicians—most of them Jewish—who had allegedly confessed to planning and successfully carrying out heinous assassinations, including the covert murders of such high-profile Soviet citizens as writer Alexander Shcherbakov (died 1945) and politician Andrey Zhdanov (died 1948). The alleged conspirators were accused of acting on behalf of both the American and British intelligence services and an anti-Soviet international Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organization.

As Western press accused the Soviet Union of antisemitism, the Central Committee of Communist Party decided to organise a propagandistic trick, a collective letter by the Jewish public, condemning with fervour "the murderers in white overalls" and the agents of imperialism and Zionism, and to assure there was no antisemitism in the USSR. The letter was signed by well-known scientists and culture figures, who had been forced to do so by the NKVD.

However, the letter, initially planned to be published in February 1953, remained unpublished. Instead of the letter, a vehement feuilleton "The Simple-minded and the Swindlers" was published in Pravda, featuring numerous characters with Jewish names, all of them swindlers, villains, saboteurs, whom the naïve Russian people trust, having lost vigilance. What followed was a new wave of antisemitic hysteria, and a plan by Stalin to send all of the Jews to Siberia,[ similar to other ethnic groups. Only Stalin's death the same year relieved the fear.

Similar purges against Jews were organised in Eastern Bloc countries (see Prague Trials).

During this time Soviet Jews were dubbed as persons of Jewish ethnicity. A dean of Marxism-Leninism department at one of Soviet Universities explained the policy to his students:

One of you asked if our current political campaign can be regarded as antisemitic. Comrade Stalin said: "We hate Nazi not because they are Germans, but because they brought enormous suffering to our land". Same can be said about the Jews.
Following the Doctor's Plot and Stalin's death, it has been claimed that: "At the time of [Stalin's] death, no Jew in Russia could feel safe."

Associates and family
Some of Stalin's associates were Jews or had Jewish spouses, including Lazar Kaganovich. Many of them were purged, including Nikolai Yezhov's wife and Polina Zhemchuzhina, who was Vyacheslav Molotov's wife, and also Bronislava Poskrebysheva. Historian Geoffrey Roberts points out that Stalin "continued to fête Jewish writers and artists even at the height of the anti-Zionist campaign of the early 1950s."

When Stalin's young daughter Svetlana fell in love with prominent Soviet filmmaker Alexei Kapler, a Jewish man twenty-three years her elder, Stalin was strongly irritated by the relationship. According to Svetlana, "He (Stalin) was irritated more than anything else by the fact that Kapler was Jewish". Kapler was convicted to ten years of hard labor in Gulag on the charges of being an "English spy." Stalin's daughter later fell in love with Grigori Morozov, another Jew, and married him. Stalin agreed to their marriage after much pleading on Svetlana's part, but refused to attend the wedding.

Stalin's son Yakov also married a Jewish woman, Yulia Meltzer, and though Stalin disapproved at first, he began to grow fond of her. Stalin's biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore writes that Lavrenty Beria's son noted that his father could list Stalin's affairs with Jewish women.

Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that

“ A hostile attitude toward the Jewish nation was a major shortcoming of Stalin's. In his speeches and writings as a leader and theoretician there wasn't even a hint of this. God forbid that anyone assert that a statement by him smacked of antisemitism. Outwardly everything looked correct and proper. But in his inner circle, when he had occasion to speak about some Jewish person, he always used an emphatically distorted pronunciation. This was the way backward people lacking in political consciousness would express themselves in daily life—people with a contemptuous attitude toward Jews. They would deliberately mangle the Russian language, putting on a Jewish accent or imitating certain negative characteristics [attributed to Jews]. Stalin loved to do this, and it became one of his characteristic traits.”

He further professed that Stalin frequently made antisemitic comments after World War II.

Analyzing various explanations for Stalin's perceived antisemitism in his book The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939–1953, historian Michael Parrish posits that

“It has been suggested that Stalin, who remained first and foremost a Georgian throughout his life, somehow became a 'Great Russian' and decided that Jews would make a scapegoat for the ills of the Soviet Union. Others, such as the Polish writer Aleksander Wat (himself a victim), claim that Stalin was not an antisemite by nature, but the pro-Americanism of Soviet Jews forced him to follow a deliberate policy of antisemitism. Wat's views are, however, colored by the fact that Stalin, for obvious reasons, at first depended on Jewish Communists to help carry out his post-war policies in Poland. I believe a better explanation was Stalin's sense of envy (an occupational hazard for Marxists), which consumed him throughout his life. He also found in Jews a convenient target. By late 1930, Stalin, as [his daughter's] memoirs indicate, was suffering from a full-blown case of antisemitism.”

On the other hand, in Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews, historian Albert S. Lindemann observes that

“Determining Stalin's real attitude to Jews is difficult. Not only did he repeatedly speak out against anti-Semitism but both his son and daughter married Jews, and several of his closest and most devoted lieutenants from the late 1920s through the 1930s were of Jewish origin, for example Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich, Maxim Litvinov, and the notorious head of the secret police, Genrikh Yagoda. There were not so many Jews allied with Stalin on the party's right as there were allied with Trotsky on the left, but the importance of men like Kaganovich, Litvinov, and Yagoda makes it hard to believe that Stalin harbored a categorical hatred of all Jews, as a race, in the way that Hitler did. Scholars as knowledgeable and diverse in their opinions as Isaac Deutscher and Robert Conquest have denied that anything as crude and dogmatic as Nazi-style anti-Semitism motivated Stalin. It may be enough simply to note that Stalin was a man of towering hatreds, corrosive suspicions, and impenetrable duplicity. He saw enemies everywhere, and it just so happened that many of his enemies—virtually all his enemies—were Jews, above all, the enemy, Trotsky.

Jews in the party were often verbally adroit, polylingual, and broadly educated—all qualities Stalin lacked. To observe, as his daughter Svetlana has, that 'Stalin did not like Jews,' does not tell us much, since he 'did not like' any group: His hatreds and suspicions knew no limits; even party members from his native Georgia were not exempt. Whether he hated Jews with a special intensity or quality is not clear.

 
 
 
Night of the Murdered Poets

The Night of the Murdered Poets (Russian: Дело Еврейского антифашистского комитета, Delo Yevreyskogo antifashistskogo komiteta "Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee case"; Yiddish: הרוגי מלכות פונעם ראטנפארבאנד‎ Harugey malkus funem Ratnfarband, "Soviet Union Martyrs") was an execution of thirteen Soviet Jews in the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, Soviet Union on August 12, 1952. The arrests were first made in September 1948 and June 1949. All defendants were accused of espionage and treason as well as many other crimes. After their arrests, they were tortured, beaten, and isolated for three years before being formally charged. There were five Yiddish writers among these defendants, all of whom were a part of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.


Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee

The threat of an attack on Soviet Russia by Nazi Germany catalyzed the start of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC), a committee reaching out to Jews worldwide to support the Soviet war effort against Nazi Germany. Solomon Mikhoels, a Yiddish actor and director, headed the Committee. Other members of the committee were prominent Yiddish literary figures, actors, and doctors who wanted to help influence Jewish support for the Soviet Union through their writing and also using radio broadcasts from Russia to different countries. In 1943, Mikhoels and the vice chairman of the Anti-Fascist Committee, Itzik Fefer, traveled to the U.S. and England to help raise money.

As Nazi Germany secured its stronghold in Soviet Russia, Jewish culture and identity was destroyed in the Holocaust. The last influence left in Russia were the Yiddish figures in the JAC, and soon the initial purpose for the committee was changed. The committee felt it had a duty to change priorities, and focus on the rebuilding of Jewish communities, farms, culture and identity. Not everyone agreed with the direction things were headed in and many thought the JAC was "intervening in matters in which it should not interfere."

At the onset of the Cold War, the newly created state of Israel was allied with the West. With antisemitism already extant in the Soviet Union, the rise of the Zionist state exacerbated official antipathy to any outward show of Jewish activism. As a result, official persecution was sanctioned, leading to the Soviet's elimination of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in 1948 and the launching of a campaign against Zionists and so-called "rootless cosmopolitans," the preferred euphemism for Jews.

Interrogation and indictment
The charges filed against the accused included mentions of "counterrevolutionary crimes" and organized action meant to "topple, undermine, or weaken the Soviet Union." Additionally, the inculpation revealed that the investigation uncovered evidence that the accused had used the JAC as a means for spying and promoting anti-government sentiment. The indictment went on to assert that the accused had been enemies of the government prior to their involvement with the JAC, and that the JAC served as their international network for communicating anti-Soviet views.

Overemphasis on exchanges of relatively innocuous information between the JAC leadership and Jews in other countries, particularly American journalists, augmented accusations of espionage.[4] Another piece of evidence supporting the indictment was a letter that the leadership of the JAC wrote as a formal request for Crimea to become the new Jewish homeland.

All of the defendants endured incessant interrogations which, for everyone except Itzik Fefer, were coupled with beatings and torture. Eventually, these tactics led to forced, false confessions. One defendant, Joseph Yuzefovich told the court at the trial, "I was ready to confess that I was the pope's own nephew and that I was acting on his direct personal orders" after a beating. Another defendant, Boris Shimeliovich, said he had counted over two thousand blows to his buttocks and heels, but he was the only member of the accused who refused to confess to any crimes.

Defendants

Peretz Markish (1895–1952), Yiddish poet, co-founder the School of Writers, a Yiddish literary school in Soviet Russia
David Hofstein (1889–1952), Yiddish poet
Itzik Feffer (1900–1952), Yiddish poet, informer for the Ministry of Internal Affairs
Leib Kvitko (1890–1952), Yiddish poet and children's writer
David Bergelson (1884–1952), distinguished novelist
Solomon Lozovsky (1878–1952), Director of Soviet Information Bureau, Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs, vigorously denounced accusations against himself and others
Boris Shimeliovich (1892–1952), Medical Director of the Botkin Clinical Hospital, Moscow
Benjamin Zuskin (1899–1952), assistant to and successor of Solomon Mikhoels as director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater
Joseph Yuzefovich (1890–1952), researcher at the Institute of History, Soviet Academy of Sciences, trade union leader
Leon Talmy (1893–1952), translator, journalist, former member of the Communist Party USA
Ilya Vatenberg (1887–1952), translator and editor of Eynikeyt, newspaper of the JAC; Labor Zionist leader in Austria and U.S. before returning to the USSR in 1933
Chaika Vatenburg-Ostrovskaya (1901–1952), wife of Ilya Vatenburg, translator at JAC.
Emilia Teumin (1905–1952), deputy editor of the Diplomatic Dictionary; editor, International Division, Soviet Information Bureau
Solomon Bregman (1895–1953), Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs. Fell into a coma after denouncing the trial and died in prison five months after the executions.
Lina Stern (or Shtern) (1875–1968), the first female academician in the USSR and is best known for her pioneering work on blood–brain barrier. She was the only survivor out of the fifteen defendants.


Some who were either directly or indirectly connected to the JAC at the time were also arrested in the years surrounding the trial. Although Solomon Mikhoels was not arrested, his death was ordered by Stalin in 1948. Der Nister, another Yiddish writer, was arrested in 1949, and died in a labor camp in 1950. Literary critic Yitzhak Nusinov died in prison and journalists Shmuel Persov and Miriam Zheleznova were shot – all in 1950.

Trial
The trial began on May 8, 1952 and lasted until the sentencing on July 18. The structure of the trial was peculiar due to the fact that there were no prosecutors or defense attorneys, simply three military judges. This was in accordance with Soviet law at the time, but is characterized by historians today as "nothing less than terror masquerading as law." While some defendants admitted their guilt, others plead partially guilty and some maintained their innocence. Since the trial was not public, the defendants made expressive and often lengthy statements professing their innocence. The defendants also had the opportunity to cross-examine each other, furthering the trial's intense atmosphere. During the trial, defendants answered some questions from judges which were wholly unrelated to the trial and resulted merely from personal curiosities. For example, the judges often asked the defendants about kosher meat and synagogue services.

With extensive statements, arguments, and inconsistencies between the defendants, the trial lasted much longer than the government had desired. On June 26, experts were called to give testimony about the issues of treason, but they ultimately acknowledged that "their judgment was incomplete and insufficient." It became clear that some pieces of evidence had been tremendously exaggerated. For example, a statement by Leon Talmy that a particular Russian village was "not as pretty" as a certain Korean village was used as evidence of his nationalist tendencies. Alexander Cheptsov, the lead judge of the trial, confronted with such a great number of discrepancies and contradictions, twice made attempts to appeal to the Soviet leadership to reopen the investigation, and was denied both times. Even after sentencing the defendants, Cheptsov attempted to lengthen the process by declining to immediately execute the defendants.

Sentence
The sentence stated that the defendants would receive "the severest measure of punishment for the crimes committed by them jointly: execution by firing squad[citation needed], with all of their property to be confiscated." The court also stripped the men of their medals and made petitions to remove military commendations such as the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. On August 12, 1952, thirteen of the defendants (excluding Lina Stern and Solomon Bregman) were executed. After the execution of the defendants, the trial and its results were kept secret. There was not a single reference to the trial or the execution in Soviet newspapers. Defendants' families were charged with "being relatives of traitors to the motherland" and exiled in December of 1952. They did not learn about the fates of their family members until November 1955, when the case was reopened.

The defendant Lina Stern was sentenced to three and a half years in a correctional labor camp and five years of exile, but after Stalin's death she was able to return to her home and continue her studies. During the trial, she was determined to be "no less guilty" than the other defendants but was considered important to the state because of her research; she therefore received a lesser sentence than the others. Officials counted her time spent in prison before the sentencing towards her labor camp term, so she went into exile immediately after the sentencing.

During his imprisonment, Solomon Bregman collapsed and was placed in the prison infirmary. He remained unconscious until his death on January 23, 1953.

Reactions and results
Stalin continued his oppression of Jews with the Doctors' Plot, which began to gain publicity just as his health began to deteriorate. Weeks after Stalin's death, on March 5, 1953, the new Soviet leadership renounced the Doctors' Plot, which led to questions about the similar situation with the JAC defendants. Upon the discovery that much of the testimony from the trial was the result of torture and coercion, the proceedings were reexamined. On November 22, 1955, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR determined that there was "no substance to the charges" against the defendants and closed the case.

Many of the surviving members of the JAC emigrated to Israel in the 1970s. A memorial for the JAC victims was dedicated in Jerusalem in 1977 on the 25th anniversary of the Night of the Murdered Poets.

The anniversary of the murders was commemorated by the activists of the Soviet Jewry Movement in the 1960s through the 1980s as an example of a particularly grim anti-Jewish act by the Soviets.

 
 
 
Doctors' plot
 
 
The Doctors' plot (Russian: дело врачей [delo vrachey, "doctors' case"], врачи-вредители [vrachi-vreditely, "doctors-saboteurs"], or врачи-убийцы [vrachi-ubiytsy "doctors-killers"]) is considered to be the most dramatic episode of antisemitism in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin's regime. In 1952–53, a group of prominent Moscow doctors (predominantly Jews) were accused of conspiring to assassinate Soviet leaders. This was later accompanied by publications of anti-Semitic character in the media, which talked about the threats of Zionism and condemned people with Jewish names. Many doctors, officials and others, both Jews and non-Jews, were promptly dismissed from their jobs and arrested. A few weeks after the death of Stalin, the new Soviet leadership stated a lack of evidence and the case was dropped. Soon after, the case was declared to have been fabricated.



January 20, 1953. Soviet ukaz awarding Lydia Timashuk the Order of Lenin for "unmasking doctors-killers."
It was revoked after Stalin's death later that year.


Beginnings

A number of theories attempt to explain the origins of the Doctors' plot case. Historians typically relate it to the earlier case of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and to the campaign against the so-called rootless cosmopolitans in the second half of the 1940s, as well as to the power struggle within the Soviet leadership during that time.

In 1951, Ministry for State Security (MGB) investigator Mikhail Ryumin reported to his superior, Viktor Abakumov, minister of the MGB, that Professor Yakov Etinger, who was arrested as a "bourgeois nationalist" with connections to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, had committed malpractice in treating Zhdanov (died 1948) and Shcherbakov (died 1945), allegedly with the intention of killing them. However, Abakumov refused to believe the story. Etinger died in prison (2 March 1951) due to interrogations and harsh conditions. Ryumin was then dismissed from his position in the MGB for misappropriating money and was held responsible for the death of Etinger. With the assistance of Malenkov, Ryumin wrote a letter to Stalin, accusing Abakumov of killing Etinger in order to hide a conspiracy to kill off the Soviet leadership. On 4 July 1951 the Politburo set up a commission (headed by Malenkov and including Beria) to investigate the issue. Based on the commission's report, the Politburo soon passed a resolution on the "bad situation in the MGB" and Abakumov was fired.

Both Beria and Malenkov tried to use the situation to expand their power, by gaining control of the MGB.

Arrests
Abakumov was arrested and tortured soon after being dismissed as head of the MGB. He was charged with being a sympathizer and protector of the criminal Jewish underground. This arrest was followed by the arrests of many agents who worked for him in the central apparatus of the MGB, including most Jews.

The doctors-killers case was revived in 1952 when the letter of cardiologist Lydia Timashuk was dug up from the archives. In 1948 Timashuk wrote a letter to the head of Stalin's security, General Nikolai Vlasik, explaining that Zhdanov suffered a heart attack, but the Kremlin doctors who treated him missed it and prescribed the wrong treatment to him. Zhdanov soon died and the doctors covered up their mistake. The letter, however, was originally ignored.

The Kremlin doctors involved in the cover up were to be arrested, but they were all Russian. To keep the conspiracy as Zionist, Ryumin and Semyon Ignatyev, who had succeeded Abakumov as head of the MGB, had the Jewish doctors Etinger supposedly specified also added to the arrest list; many of them, like Miron Vovsi, had been consulted by the Kremlin's medical department. The arrests started in September 1952. Vlasik was fired as head of Stalin's security and eventually also arrested for ignoring the Timashuk letter.

Initially, 37 were arrested, but the number quickly grew into hundreds. Under torture, prisoners seized in the investigation of the alleged plot were compelled to produce evidence against themselves and their associates.

Stalin harangued Ignatyev and accused the MGB of incompetence. He demanded that the interrogations of doctors already under arrest be accelerated. Stalin complained that there was no clear picture of the Zionist conspiracy and no solid evidence that specifically the Jewish doctors were guilty.

Newly opened KGB archives provide evidence that Stalin forwarded the collected interrogation materials to Malenkov, Khrushchev and other "potential victims of doctors' plot".

Media campaign
Stalin ordered TASS and Pravda to issue reports about the uncovering of a doctors' plot to assassinate top Soviet leaders, including Stalin. The possible goal of the campaign was to set the stage for show trials. Other sources say that the initiative came from Beria and Malenkov, who continued to use the plot for their own interests. Beria pushed the Politburo to decide to publicize the plot on 9 January 1953. For him it was especially important that the Doctors' Plot got more attention than the Mingrelian Affair, which personally affected him.

On January 13, 1953, some of the most prestigious and prominent doctors in the USSR were accused of taking part in a vast plot to poison members of the top Soviet political and military leadership. Pravda, the official newspaper of the CPSU, reported the accusations under the headline "Vicious Spies and Killers under the Mask of Academic Physicians."

Today the TASS news agency reported the arrest of a group of saboteur-doctors. This terrorist group, uncovered some time ago by organs of state security, had as their goal shortening the lives of leaders of the Soviet Union by means of medical sabotage.

Investigation established that participants in the terrorist group, exploiting their position as doctors and abusing the trust of their patients, deliberately and viciously undermined their patients' health by making incorrect diagnoses, and then killed them with bad and incorrect treatments. Covering themselves with the noble and merciful calling of physicians, men of science, these fiends and killers dishonored the holy banner of science. Having taken the path of monstrous crimes, they defiled the honor of scientists.

Among the victims of this band of inhuman beasts were Comrades A. A. Zhdanov and A. S. Shcherbakov. The criminals confessed that, taking advantage of the illness of Comrade Zhdanov, they intentionally concealed a myocardial infarction, prescribed inadvisable treatments for this serious illness and thus killed Comrade Zhdanov. Killer doctors, by incorrect use of very powerful medicines and prescription of harmful regimens, shortened the life of Comrade Shcherbakov, leading to his death.

The majority of the participants of the terrorist group… were bought by American intelligence. They were recruited by a branch-office of American intelligence — the international Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organization called "Joint." The filthy face of this Zionist spy organization, covering up their vicious actions under the mask of charity, is now completely revealed…

Unmasking the gang of poisoner-doctors struck a blow against the international Jewish Zionist organization.... Now all can see what sort of philanthropists and "friends of peace" hid beneath the sign-board of "Joint."

Other participants in the terrorist group (Vinogradov, M. Kogan, Egorov) were discovered, as has been presently determined, to have been long-time agents of English intelligence, serving it for many years, carrying out its most criminal and sordid tasks. The bigwigs of the USA and their English junior partners know that to achieve domination over other nations by peaceful means is impossible. Feverishly preparing for a new world war, they energetically send spies inside the USSR and the people's democratic countries: they attempt to accomplish what the Hitlerites could not do — to create in the USSR their own subversive "fifth column."...

The Soviet people should not for a minute forget about the need to heighten their vigilance in all ways possible, to be alert for all schemes of war-mongers and their agents, to constantly strengthen the Armed Forces and the intelligence organs of our government.

Among other famous names mentioned were Solomon Mikhoels (actor-director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater and the head of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, assassinated in January 1948), who was called a "well-known Jewish bourgeois nationalist," Miron Vovsi (therapist, Stalin's personal physician and a cousin of Mikhoels), V. Vinogradov (therapist), Mikhail Kogan (therapist), Boris Kogan (therapist), P. Yegorov (therapist), A. Feldman (otolaryngologist), Yakov Etinger (therapist), A. Grinshtein (neuropathologist) and G. Mayorov (therapist). Six of the nine mentioned doctors were Jewish.

The list of alleged victims included high-ranked officials Andrei Zhdanov, Aleksandr Shcherbakov, Army Marshals Aleksandr Vasilevsky, Leonid Govorov and Ivan Konev, General Sergei Shtemenko, Admiral Gordey Levchenko and others.

According to Russian historian Yuri Zhukov, neither Malenkov nor Beria needed the plot to have an anti-Semitic character, but the secretary of ideology, N. Mikhailov, did not specify to newspapers and magazines what exactly was expected of them or pursued his own interests, and, after the initial Pravda article, the media made emphasis on Jewish names and a Zionist conspiracy. Mikhailov and the heads of agitprop had to soon intervene. The media campaign was then refocused on lack of vigilance and negligence. Articles about Zionists, Israel and foreign spies, by writers who were quick to serve their editors, had to get special approval and many were rejected. Furthermore, those condemned in publications now had mostly Russian names.

Stalin intended to publish in Pravda a letter signed by many well-known Soviet Jews in which the Jews involved in the plot would be denounced, but the difference between them and the rest of the Soviet Jews, who are loyal to the USSR and socialism, would be made clear. Two versions of the letter were created, but it was never published. Stalin eventually decided not to publish it or it was still being worked on by the time of his death.

Stalin's death and the consequences
After Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, the new leadership quickly distanced itself from the investigation into the plot. The charges were dismissed and the doctors exonerated in a March 31 decree by the newly appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, Lavrentiy Beria, and on April 6, this was communicated to the public in Pravda.[30] Chief MGB investigator and Deputy Minister of State Security M. D. Ryumin was blamed for making up the plot and was arrested and later executed.

Historian Zhores Medvedev argues that Stalin was getting ready to end the Doctors' Plot case right before his death. Attacks on the alleged plotters abruptly disappeared from Pravda on 2 March 1953, the day after Stalin suffered a stroke, but it is unlikely that the new leaders were responsible for this. Propaganda associated with the plot continued in other publications, and the case itself continued for weeks after Stalin's death. Most likely Stalin himself called the newspaper a day or two before his stroke and ordered the attacks to stop, but this was only reflected in the print on Monday, 2 March. According to Medvedev, the execution of the leading Soviet doctors would not have given Stalin any political gains and the international reaction would have been obvious. Medvedev further hypothesizes that Stalin intended to use the closing of the Doctors' Plot to remove from power those who had been involved in it.

Former Komsomol official, Nikolai Mesyatsev recalls that Malenkov, on orders from Stalin, assigned him and two other Komsomol activists to thoroughly review the Doctors' Plot case. The investigation concluded by the middle of February 1953 that the case was obviously falsified. Therefore, Mesyatsev explains, allegations that the case was stopped due to Stalin's death are incorrect.

Khrushchev's statements
In his 1956 "Secret Speech", First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev stated that the Doctors' plot was "fabricated... set up by Stalin," but that Stalin did not "have the time in which to bring it to an end," which saved the doctors' lives. Khrushchev also told the session that Stalin called the judge in the case and, regarding the methods to be used, stated "beat, beat and, beat again." Stalin supposedly told his Minister of State Security, "If you do not obtain confessions from the doctors we will shorten you by a head."

Khrushchev also claims that Stalin hinted to him to incite antisemitism in Ukraine, saying, "The good workers at the factory should be given clubs so they can beat the hell out of those Jews."

According to Khrushchev, Stalin told Politburo members, "You are blind like young kittens. What will happen without me? The country will perish because you do not know how to recognize enemies."

Alleged planned deportation of Jews
In his Secret Speech at the Communist Party's Twentieth Congress, Nikita Khrushchev asserted that Stalin intended to use the doctors' trial to launch a massive party purge.

According to one source, Nikolai Nikolayevich Polyakov, Stalin purportedly created a special "Deportation Commission" to plan the deportation of Jews to these camps. Poliakov, the secretary of the commission, stated years later that, according to Stalin's initial plan, the deportation was to begin in the middle of February 1953, but the monumental tasks of compiling lists of Jews had not yet been completed. "Pure blooded" Jews were to be deported first, followed by "half breeds" (polukrovki). Before his death in March 1953, Stalin allegedly had planned the execution of Doctors' plot defendants already on trial in Red Square in March 1953, and then he would cast himself as the savior of Soviet Jews by sending them to camps away from the purportedly enraged Russian populace. There are further statements that describe some aspects of such a planned deportation. Others argue that any charge of an alleged mass deportation lacks specific documentary evidence and that attempts to move the then-geographically-assimilated Jewish population would not have comported with Stalin's other postwar methods.

Yakov Etinger (son of one of the doctors) said that he spoke with Bulganin, who told him about plans to deport Jews. Etinger's credibility was questioned, however, when he claimed to have published a previously unpublished letter to Pravda signed by many Jewish celebrities and calling for Jewish deportation. The alleged original two versions of the letter have been published in Istochnik and other publications. Not only did they lack any hint of a plan to deport Jews to Siberia, they called for the creation of a Jewish newspaper. The alleged text of the famous letter serves as an argument against the existence of the deportation plans. Etinger was asked to publish the notes taken during his alleged meetings with Bulganin, but they are still unpublished.

Four large camps were built shortly before Stalin's death in 1953 in southern and western Russia, with rumors swirling that they were for Jews, but no directive exists that the camps were to be used for any such effort.

Based on these and other asserted facts, a researcher of Stalin's antisemitism, Gennady Kostyrchenko, concluded that there is no credible evidence for the alleged deportation plans and that there is much evidence against their existence. Some other researchers disagree, asserting that the question is still open. Аccording to historian Samson Madiyevsky, the deportation was definitely considered, and the only thing in doubt is the time-frame. He also said that Коstyrchenko himself said that the deportation might have happened later on.

According to Victor Suvorov's childhood memories, there were new camps built in the Far East in expectations of incoming Jews. Also, Suvorov and other people maintain that the lack of documentation cannot be considered as negative evidence, as all deportations during Stalin's tenure were conducted on verbal orders and were documented on paper post factum.

According to Zhores Medvedev, such a massive deportation would have been very difficult. It required the creation of specialized departments in the security ministries and the building of infrastructure for settling the deportees. There are no signs that any of this was started, and this could not all have been authorized by just verbal orders. Furthermore, Medvedev points out that many Soviet Jews were assimilated into Soviet society and had feelings of patriotism towards the USSR rather than Israel. The deportation would have also had a destructive effect on healthcare, the education system, science, culture, film making and other important fields of public life.

The prevailing opinion of many scholars outside the Soviet Union, in agreement with what Khrushchev said, is that Joseph Stalin intended to use the resulting doctors' trial to launch a massive party purge.

 
 
 
 
Stalin and Socialist Realism
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
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