[From: The Stalinist Penal System: A Statistical History of Soviet Repression and Terror, 1930-1953 copyright 1997 J. Otto Pohl by permission of Mc Farland & Company, Inc, Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640. 336-246-4460.]


(page 1)

Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union from 1928 until his death in 1953. Massive repression and political terror distinguished his regime from the more restrained era that succeeded it. Few dispute that Stalin and his henchmen inflicted great human suffering upon the people of the Soviet Union. A debate has, however, arisen among historians regarding the extent of Stalin's terror and the number of victims it claimed. Information regarding the extent of terror has previously been limited by the inaccessibility of Soviet archives.

Recently, however, a number of Russian scholars, foremost among them V.N. Zemskov, A.N. Dugin, A. Malygin, V. Popov, and N.F. Bugai, have examined the archives of the Soviet security organs during the Stalin regime. Their collective work in the newly opened Soviet archives has shed a great deal of light on the size and composition of the Soviet penal system under Stalin. (See A Note on the Primary Sources beginning on page 139.)

The purpose of this book is to provide the information unearthed by Russian scholars and others on the Stalinist penal system in a single English language source. Previously most of the information contained in this book was scattered throughout various Russian language academic journals. At the back of the book, just before the index, are 886 numbered Russian source citations (in transliteration), references to which appear throughout the 27 chapters and 76 tables in the text and appendix. All facts and figures are documented with Soviet sources.

This book provides a portrait of the Soviet penal system's development and composition under the reign of Stalin. It is, of course, far from a complete portrait, but it does contain the statistical skeleton of the Stalin regime's vast system of prisons, labor camps, labor colonies, and special settlements. This punitive system was so vast that its population exceeded that of many independent nations. It was an internal empire within the USSR, an empire whose archives have been kept secret until recently.

Crimean Tatars

(Chapter 23, pages 112-118)

The Soviet regime ruthlessly purged the Crimean peninsula of its non - Slavic population at the end of World War II. Officially the Soviet rationale for the deportation of the Tatars, Greeks, Armenians, and Bulgarians from the Crimean peninsula was that they collaborated in large numbers with the German occupation of the peninsula. The Crimean peninsula occupied an important position in Soviet naval strategy. The peninsula ensured Soviet dominance of the Black Sea in the event of any conflict in the Balkans or with Turkey. The importance of the Crimean peninsula was impressed upon Russian military leaders by the devastating loss to Britain, France, and Turkey during the Crimean War. Soviet plans to acquire access to the Dardanelles, and the territory of Kars and Ardahan from Turkey after World War II required a solidly loyal Crimean population.(765) The Crimean Tatars with their ethnic and historical ties to Turkey represented a potential fifth column in any military conflict with Ankara.

Beria kept Stalin and the other members of the GKO informed about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by telegram.(766) Beria received his information from frequent telegrams from Kobulov and Serov.(767) On 25 April 1944, Beria sent a telegram to Stalin, Molotov, and Malenkov regarding the situation in Crimea.(768) He stated that the population of the peninsula before the war had been 1,126,000 of which 218,000 were Tatars.(769) He further noted that upon the liberation of the peninsula Soviet forces arrested 1,178 German collaborators.(770) Beria described these collaborators as members of the "Tatar National Committee" under the leadership of D. Abdureshidov.(771) Beria charactarerized the actions of this organization as anti - Soviet. He accused it of recruiting spies for work in the Soviet rear, mobilizing volunteers to participate in German sponsored Tatar military divisions, and helping to deport non-Tatars to Germany for forced labor.(772)

On 10 May 1944 Beria sent another telegram to the GKO.(773) This telegram informed Stalin that the NKVD and NKGB were uncovering and interning enemy agents, traitors to the motherland, German collaborators, and other anti-Soviet elements in the Crimea.(774) By 7 May 1944 the NKVD had arrested 5,381 people in connection with this sweep.(775) In the course of these arrests the Soviet security organs confiscated 5,995 rifles, 337 machine guns, 250 sub-machine guns, 31 mortars, and large amounts of grenades and rifle ammunition.(776) According to Beria, during the course of 1944 alone more than 20,000 Crimean Tatars deserted the Red Army, and went to fight with the Germans against the Soviet Union.(777) This telegram notes that because of the treasonous actions of the Crimean Tatars the NKVD concurred with the GKO's decision to deport the entire population to Uzbekistan.(778) Beria further noted that the deported Crimean Tatars would be utilized for work on kolhozes, sovhozes, industry, and construction.(779) The telegram ends by estimating the Crimean Tatar population at between 140 and 160 thousand, and placing the date of the deportations from 20 to 21 May to 1 July 1944.(780) The preparatory work for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars was complete.

The next day on 11 May 1944, the GKO issued decree No. 5859 ss ordering the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.(781) This decree repeated the charges earlier made by Beria of Crimean Tatar collaboration with the German occupation. The preamble of this decree accused large number of Crimean Tatars of deserting the Red Army, serving in German sponsored military units, engaging in punitive expeditions against Soviet partisan, rounding up workers for forced labor in Germany, providing military intelligence to the Germans, and attempting to create an independent Crimean Tatar state.(782) As punishment for these acts all Crimean Tatars including women and children were to be permanently exiled to special settlements in Uzbekistan.(783) The decree then lists the procedures for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

On 16 May 1944 Beria sent a telegram to Stalin and Molotov on the activities of the NKVD in Crimea.(784) The NKVD continued to arrest anti-Soviet elements and confiscate military armaments among the Tatar population. Up until 16 May 1944 the NKVD had arrested 6,452 people, of which 657 were spies, and confiscated 39 mortars, 449 machine guns, 532 submachine guns, 7,238 rifles, 3,657 mines, 10,296 grenades, and 280,000 bullets.(785) These preparations for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars were almost complete on 16 May 1944. Two days later the NKVD began the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

On 18 May 1944 Beria sent a telegram to Stalin and Molotov informing the GKO that the NKVD had begun the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars.(786) On the first day of the deportation (18 May 1944) the NKVD placed 48,400 Tatars in 25 echelons bound for special settlements in Uzbekistan.(787) The next day Beria sent another telegram to Stalin and Molotov informing them that the NKVD had taken 165,515 Tatars to the train station for deportation and placed 136,412 of them on trains headed east.(788)

On 20 May 1944 Kobulov and Serov updated Beria on the process of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.(789) Kobulov and Serov informed Beria that the operation would be completed by 4 P.M. that day.(790) A total of 180,014 Tatars had been placed in 67 echelons, of which 63 echelons with 173,287 had already left for their new destinations, while the remaining four echelons were scheduled to leave that day.(791) In addition to those Crimean Tatars placed on echelons bound for special settlements the Red Army mobilized 6,000 Tatars for service in Guryev, Rybinsk, and Kubishev.(792) The NKVD mobilized another 5,000 Tatars for work in the Moscow coal trust under the provisions of GKO resolution No. 1123 ss of 10 January 1942.(793) Between 18 May 1944 and 20 May 1944 the NKVD and Red Army forcibly removed a total of 191,044 Tatars from the Crimean peninsula.(794)

During the deportation of the Crimean Tatars the NKVD arrested another 1,137 anti-Soviet elements, bringing the total arrests for the entire operation up to 5,989 people.(795) They also confiscated another 10 mortars, 173 machine guns, 192 submachine guns, 2,650 , and 46,603 bullets.(796) The total number of armaments confiscated duriflesring the operation consisted of 49 mortars, 622 machine guns, 724 submachine guns, 9,888 rifles, and 326,887 rounds of ammunition.(797) Beria passed this information on to Stalin and Molotov by telegram later the same day.(798) The NKVD removed almost the entire Tatar population from the Crimean peninsula in a period of only three days.

After the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, Beria prepared to deport the Bulgarian, Greek, and Armenian minorities from the peninsula. On 29 May 1944 Beria sent a telegram to Stalin regarding the treasonous activities of these communities during the German occupation of the Crimea.(799) According to this telegram there were 12,075 Bulgarians, 14,300 Greeks, and 9,919 Armenians in the Crimea in May 1944.(800) The Bulgarians were mostly farm-farmers, and lived in the raions between Simferopol and Feodosiya, and the Ozhankoy Raion in ten villages with populations from 80 to 100 people each.(801) The Greeks and Armenians in contrast were spread throughout most of the cities of the Crimea, particularly in the coastal regions, where they engaged in trade and minor industry.(802) For providing these services to the German occupation forces, Beria ordered the exile of all Bulgarians, Greeks, and Armenians from the Crimean peninsula.

Beria accused the Crimean Bulgarians of preparing bread and other food products for the German army, assisting the German military in finding and detaining Red Army soldiers and Soviet partisans, and receiving "protective licenses" from the German command.(803) He also accused the Bulgarians of participating in German organized police units and recruiting workers for labor in Germany.(804) In comparison Beria's charges against the Greeks are relatively minor. Their crimes consisted of assisting the Germans with trade and transport, their traditional occupations.(805) Regardless of the actual extent of collaboration with the Germans among the Crimean Bulgarians and Crimean Greeks, Beria recommended to Stalin the wholesale deportation of both communities.

Beria's charges against the Crimean Armenians are much more detailed. Beria accused the German organized Armenian National Committee of actively collaborating with the German occupation of the Crimea and participating in anti - Soviet activities.(806)' He also charged the local Crimean Armenian committees of working with emigres from Berlin and Istanbul to propagandize for an independent Armenia.(807) He further accused the Armenian Religious Societies in the Crimea of collecting funds for Germany's military needs.(808)

According to Beria, German intelligence also organized an Armenian group called "Dromedary" in Simferopol.(809) The former Dashnak (Armenian Federation) General Dro headed this organization and used it to organize several committees of Armenians to engage in espionage and subversive work in the rear of the Red Army.(810) He also helped organize volunteers for the Armenian Legion through Dromedary.(811) Despite the genuinely anti - Soviet activities of Dromedary and the Armenian Legion, the NKVD only deported the Armenians living on the Crimean peninsula and Black Sea coast.(812) They did not exile the vast majority of the Armenian population living in the Armenian SSR.

Many of the deportees from the Crimean peninsula previously served with the Red Army or were Communist Party or Komsomol members. Among the Crimean Tatars in special settlements in March 1949 there were 8,995 former Red Army soldiers of which 524 were officers, 1,392 sergeants, and 7,079 rank and file soldiers.(813) There were also 742 former Communist Party members and 1,225 Komsomol members among the Crimean Tatars in special settlements.(814) Among the Greeks there were 8 officers, 86 sergeants, 465 rank and file soldiers, 8 Communist Party members, and 90 Komsomol members.(815) The Bulgarians had 9 officers, 79 sergeants, 494 rank and file soldiers, 8 Communist Party members, and 117 officers Komsomol members. And the Armenians had 19 officers, 70 sergeants, 485 rank and file soldiers, 8 Communist Party members, and 81 Komsomol members.(816) All of these servants of the Soviet state received equal treatment from the NKVD.

The NKVD deported all of them to special settlements without exception. In addition to the Tatars, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Armenians with Soviet citizenship, the NKVD also deported 3,652 Turkish, Greek, and Iranian citizens living on the Crimean peninsula to special settlements in Uzbekistan. (817)

On 4 July 1944 the NKVD reported that it had successfully finished the deportation of the Tatars, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Armenians to special settlements.(818) This operation required 23,000 officers and soldiers of the NKVD and 9,000 operatives of the NKVD-NKGB.(819) During the course of this operation the NKVD arrested 7,883 anti - Soviet elements, of which 998 were spies, and confiscated a total of 15,990 weapons.(820) The confiscated armaments included 716 machine guns and five million rounds of ammunition.(821)

The deported population from the Crimea totaled 225,009 people, of which 183,155 were Tatars, 12,422 Bulgarians, 15,040 Greeks, 9,621 Armenians, 1,119 Germans, and 3,652 foreigners.(822) This number was later revised up to 228,392, with the addition of several thousand additional non - Tatar exiles.(823) The NKVD exiled 151,604 of the Tatars to Uzbekistan and 31,551 to areas of the RSFSR.(824) They dispersed the Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians, and Germans across the RSFSR and Kazakhstan.(825) [See Table 62.] The NKVD completely cleansed the Crimean peninsula of its non-Slavic population.

Table 62. Number of Crimean Special Settlers, 1945-1953
Year Number of Crimeans
October 1945 195,200 (826)
October 1946 193,959 (827)
26 November 1948 185,603 (828)
1 January 1949 186,535 (829)
1 January 1953 204,698 (830)

The Tatars and other exiles from the Crimea suffered high mortality rates in the special settlements. By 1 July 1948 a total of 44,887 Crimeans had perished in special settlements, 19.6 percent of the total exiled population.(831) In 1949 and 1950, another 4,258 Crimeans died in special settlements, for a total of 49,145 over 21.5 percent of the population deported from the Crimea.(832) The Crimean Tatars sufFered especially high death rates during 1944 and 1945. From 21 May 1944 to 1 January 1945, 13,5 92 Crimean Tatars perished en route and in special settlements.(833) From 1 January 1945 to 1 January 1946, another 13,183 Crimean Tatars died.(834) These deaths for the first year and a half in exile constituted 14 percent of the Crimean Tatar population.

Infectious diseases and malnutrition were the two main causes of death among the Crimean settlers. Like the earlier typhus outbreak among the North Caucasians in Kostroma, the NKVD feared that an epidemic among the Crimean special settlers could spread to the general population. On 5 December 1944 Colonel Kuznetsov, chief of the section of special settlements of the NKVD, wrote to V.V. Chernyshov informing him of a potential typhus epidemic.(835) Among special settlers from Crimea in the Balzkhninsk raion of Gorky Oblast were 38 confirmed cases of typhus.(836) Kuznetsov recommended that the state take prophylactic measures to prevent a general typhus epidemic.(837) [See Tables 53 - 65.] Despite attempts to quarantine typhus victims, many Crimean exiles died of typhus and other infectious diseases.

Table 63. (838) Deaths and Births of Crimeans, 1945-1950
Year Deaths Births
1945 15,997 1,099
1946 4,997 961
1947 2,937 1,753
1948 3,918 1,753
1949 2,120 3,586
1950 2,138 4,671
Total 32,107 13,823

Table 64. (839) Location of Crimean Exiles, 1 January 1949
Territory Number of Crimeans
Kazakhstan 5,466
Uzbekistan 118,488
Kirghizia 827
Molotov Oblast 15,948
Tadzhikistan 4,537
Tula Oblast 3,446
Bashkiria 4,521
Mari ASSR 8,013
Kemerovo Oblast 5,415
Kostroma Oblast 2,550
Kirov Oblast 465
Moscow Oblast 1,260
Kubishev Oblast 598
Gorky Oblast 1,853
Ivanov Oblast 391
Volga Tatar ASSR 170
Chuvashia 55
Other 12,532
Total 186,535

Table 65. (840) Location of Crimeans, 1 January 1953
Territory Tatars Bulgarians Greeks Armenians Others
Kazakhstan 2,511 1,868 1,240 575 366
Uzbekistan 128,348 53 4,097 381 852
Tadzhikistan 6,711 154 153 121 49
Bashkiria 299 768 1,967 941 498
Tula Oblast 2,846 4 5 2 3
Kirov Oblast 8 486 4 9 1
Mari ASSR 7,652 196 128 282 83
Kostroma Oblast 2,243 0 1 0 23
Moscow Oblast 706 33 2 23 0
Kubishev Oblast 663 0 1 0 2
Kirghizia 366 1 16 0 6
Kemerovo Oblast 209 2,365 1,334 1,385 357
Molotov Oblast 8,438 3,625 2,268 1,835 426
Sverdlovsk Oblast 2,488 2,847 3,414 2,858 927
Other 1,771 65 130 570 51
Total 165,259 12,465 14,760 8,570 3,644

The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet released 22,059 Crimean Greeks, Bulgarians, and Armenians from special settlements on 27 March 1956.(841) Another decree on 28 April 1956 released 178,454 Crimean Tatars, Balkars, Turks, Kurds, and Khemshils from special settlements.(842) The Soviet regime, however, did not until 5 September 1967 admit that its charges against the Crimean Tatars during World War II had been spurious.(843) Even after 1967, the Crimean Tatars, like the Soviet Germans, were not allowed to return to their ancestral homeland, despite years of petitioning and protests. Only in the late 1980s were a substantial number of Crimean Tatars allowed to move to the Crimean Peninsula. The collapse of the Soviet Union greatly accelerated the return of the Crimean Tatars to their ancestral homeland. Today more than 300,000 Crimean Tatars live on the land of their ancestors.

End Notes

765. For an explanation of this hypothesis see Fisher, Crimean Tatars, pp. 168 - 170. For a description of Soviet diplomatic and military actions against Turkey see Druks, Truman, pp. 115 - 119.
766. Bugai, "Deportatsiia," pp. 106 - 110.
767. Bugai, "Pogruzheny," document no. 19, p. 151, and documents 22 - 25, pp. 152 - 153.
768. Telegram from Beria to Stalin, Molotov, and Malenkov 25 April 1944, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 106.
769. Ibid.
770. Ibid.
771. Ibid.
772. Ibid.
773. Telegram from Beria to Stalin 10 May 1944, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 107.
774. Ibid.
775. Ibid.
776. Ibid.
777. Ibid.
778. Ibid.
779. Ibid.
780. Ibid.
781. Document downloaded from America Online 20 October 1994, Library of Congress, "Secret Soviet Archives," p. l.
782. Ibid.
783. Ibid.
784. Telegram from Beria to Stalin and Molotov 16 May 1944, reproduced in Bugai," Deportatsiia," p. 107.
785. Ibid.
786. Ibid.
787. Ibid.
788. Telegram from Beria to Stalin and Molotov 19 May 1944, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 108.
789. Bugai, "Pogruzheny," document no. 25, pp. 152 - 153, and telegram from Serov and Kobulov to Beria 20 May,1944 reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 108.
790. Ibid.
791. Ibid.
792. Ibid.
793. Ibid.
794. Ibid.
795. Ibid.
796. Ibid.
797. Ibid.
798. Telegram from Beria to Stalin 20 May 1944, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 108.
799. Telegram from Beria to Stalin 29 May 1944, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," pp. 108 - 109.
800. Ibid.
801. Ibid.
802. Ibid.
803. Ibid.
804. Ibid.
805. Ibid.
806. Ibid.
807. Ibid.
808. Ibid.
809. Ibid.
810. Ibid.
811. Ibid.
812. In 1949 the Soviet government deported the Greeks, Armenians, and Turks living on the Black Sea coast to special settlements. On 1 January 1953 the Black Sea Coast contingent of special settlers numbered 57,142 exiles. These exiles consisted of 37,352 Greeks, 15,486 Armenians, 1,794 Turks, and 2,510 others. Zemskov, "Zakliuchenye," table no. 3, p. 155.
813. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 24, p. 134.
814. Zemskov, "Spetsposelentsy," pp. 15 - 16.
815. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 24, p. 134, and Zemskov, "Spetsposelentsy," pp. 15 - 16.
816. Ibid.
817. Undated telegram from Beria to Stalin, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 109.
818. Ibid.
819. Telegram from Beria to Stalin 5 July 1944, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 110
820. Ibid.
821. Ibid.
822. Undated telegram from Beria to Stalin, "Deportatsiia," p. 109.
823. Report by Colonel Shiain, Chief of Section on Special Settlements MVD USSR, "On the Number of Exiles and Special Settlers ... 1948 - 1949," reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 111.
824. Undated telegram from Beria to Stalin, reproduced in Bugai, "Deportatsiia," p. 109.
825. Ibid.
826. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody Posledstviia," document no. 12, p. 128, and Bugai, "K Voprosu," p. 141.
827. Bugai, "Pogruzheny," document no. 37, p. 157.
828. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 21, p. 133.
829. Zemskov, "Spetsposelentsy," p. 10.
830. Zemskov, "Zakliuchenye," table no. 3, p. 155.
831. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 35, p. 142.
832. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 30, p. 139.
833. Nekrich, pp. 112 - 113.
834. Nekrich, pp. 113 - 114.
835. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 7, p. 125.
836. Ibid.
837. Ibid.
838. Bugai, "40 - 50-e Gody: Posledstviia," document no. 30, pp. 138 - 140.
839. Zemskov, "Spetsposelentsy," pp. 10 - 12.
840. Zemskov, "Zakliuchenye," pp. 154 - 160.
841. Zemskov, "Massovoe," table no. 3, p. 14.
842. Ibid.
843. Reproduced in Conquest, Nation Killers, pp. 186 - 187.

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