1934: Josef Stalin, who had ruled the USSR with an iron hand since the end of the 1920s, launched the Great Purge in January 1934 to consolidate his power.
1935: Between 7,000 and 9,000 Finns from Lembovo and Nikoulias districts, in the Leningrad region, becaome the first group to be massively deported based on ethnicity. Falsely accused of betrayal, the Finns were expelled to secure the Soviet frontiers. The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), forerunner of the Committee for State Security (KGB) orchestrated the operation, as it did for all subsequent mass deportations.
** (Gelb, 1996:237-269; Matley, 1979:1-16)
1936, April: About 35,700 Poles living alongside the Ukrainian frontier and some 20,000 Finnish peasants were deported to Kazakhstan for the same reasons as those previously mentioned. The deportation was class-based in the sense that it targeted specific economic categories; but it was also ethnically motivated, as it aimed to secure the frontiers.
** (Bugai, 1995:8-27; Polian, 2004:35-75)
1937, September-October: The first large-scale operation of massive deportation occurred in the Soviet Far East. About 175,000 Koreans living along the Chinese and Korean borders were relocated by force to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. They were charged with espionage, spying for the Japanese. After a brutal expulsion, the Koreans experienced severe living conditions. Moscow did not inform the local Uzbek and Kazakh authorities about the arrival of a large population of “administrative settlers.” Nothing was prepared to accommodate or provide them with basic supplies such as food, clothes and shoes. Although there was no reliable data regarding the Korean death toll, testimonies and NKVD documents indicate that many of them died from disease, starvation and lack of housing. By 1945, they joined the long list of “special settlers,” among other punished peoples.
*** (Gelb, 1995:398-412; Pohl, 1999:9-21)
1939, August 23: Germany and the Soviet Union signed a Nonaggression Pact, known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.
1939, September 17: (Poland) The Red Army invaded Poland.
1940, February to April: (The Red Army annexed territories in the eastern parts of Poland) About 250,000 Poles and thousands of Ukrainians and Byelorussians were deported in three major waves to Siberia and to Central and Far Eastern Asia in order to remove the most active populations from the annexed territories. Although based on ethnic criteria, these forced expulsions mainly targeted families of military colonists, prisoners-of-war and foresters. They were dispatched to labor camps or executed. The deportees who survived the journey experienced very hard living conditions in exile. Most of the Polish citizens were allowed to return home when the USSR and Poland reached an agreement on July 30th, 1941.
*** (Lebedeva, 2000:28-46; Sword, 1994)
1941, June 13-14: (Baltic countries) In the aftermath of the Baltic States’ conquest, about 39,395 persons – Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians but also Poles, Finns, and Germans – were deported to the Soviet Far East. Ivan Serov coordinated the operation under the command of Lavrenti Beria.
** (Bugai, 1993:213-223; Polian, 2004:35-75)
1941, June 22: The Nazi army invaded the Soviet Union.
1941, August: The Finns, or Ingrians, inhabiting the Leningrad region and who had not been deported in 1932-1934, were expelled by force to Central Asia. The USSR took this measure to prevent them from assisting the Finnish army that had just invaded the Soviet Karelia region.
** (Pohl, 1999:21-27)