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Mass Crimes under Stalin (1930-1953)

Last modified: 21 December 2009
Nicolas Werth

March 2008

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Nicolas Werth, Mass Crimes under Stalin (1930-1953), Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on 14 March 2008, accessed 21 August 2014, URL : http://www.massviolence.org/Mass-crimes-under-Stalin-1930-1953, ISSN 1961-9898

 «Liquidation of kulaks as a social group» through mass deportations of farmers (1930-1932)****

Forced collectivization of rural areas, decided at the November 1929 Central Committee of the Communist Party Plenum, led to the «liquidation of the kulaks as a social group,» a process also known as «Dekulakization.» The collectivization campaign supported a double objective: firstly, to «extract» (term used in confidential instructions) all elements prone to actively oppose forced collectivization and secondly, to «colonize» vast inhospitable regions of Siberia, the Great North, the Ural and Kazakhstan. The first objective followed the Bolshevik belief, which had been clearly stated ever since they had taken power, that the peasantry, abounding with class antagonisms, concealed «capitalist elements» (kulaks) and was thus irrecoverably hostile to the regime. The second objective was in accordance with the 1st Five Year Plan (launched in 1929) emphasizing development of unpopulated but resource rich regions with penal or deported labor. «Dekulakization» mainly consisted in expropriation followed by deportation of millions of farmers.

1930; January 30: Communist Party Politburo Resolution "on measures to be taken for the liquidation of kulak ownership in complete collectivization regions." This Resolution determines "Dekulakization quotas" in "1st" and "2nd" categories for each region or republic. An initial estimate of 60,000 "1st category kulaks" defined as "activists, engaged in counter-revolutionary activities," were to be arrested and sent to labor camps after "a brief appearance before the troika" (political police extraordinary jurisdiction). The "most harmful and tenacious activists" were to be sentenced to death whereas "2nd category kulaks" defined as "exploiters, but less actively engaged in counter-revolutionary activities" and estimated at 129,000 to 154,000 families, were to be deported as families to "distant" regions of the country, following simple administrative procedures. Deprived of their civic rights, deported, administratively considered as "specially displaced," they were assigned to residence in "special villages" run by the OGPU (NKVD as of 1934).

1930; Beginning of February - end of September: Mass arrests of "1st category Kulaks"
During this period, 284,000 persons were arrested as "1st category kulaks," five times the original estimate. This was in part due to unexpected opposition to collectivization on behalf of farmers as well as non-farmers. Only 44% of those arrested were farmers; others were members of the clergy, tradesmen, former Czarist civil servants, former landowners, teachers or other representatives of the "rural intelligentsia," who had been close to the Socialist-Revolutionary party in the past (Danilov & Berelowitch, eds, 2003, vol III/1). These contingents were sent to Gulag labor camps. The OGPU troika sentenced approximately 20,000 persons to death in 1930 (GARF 9401/1/4157/201).

1930; Beginning of February - end of May: First wave of "2nd category kulaks" deportations.
In a matter of four months, 560,000 persons (115,000 families) were arrested and expropriated from the richest agricultural regions (where resistance to forced collectivization was strongest) - Ukraine, Kuban, Lower and Middle Volga, Black Soil Central Region - and deported to the North (province of Arkhangelsk), the Ural and Western Siberia. In order to manage these deportations, military logistics mobilized 280 railway convoys and deployed thousands of special unit OGPU personnel (Danilov & Berelowitch, eds, 2003, vol III/1). During the first wave of deportation there was little coordination between militarized OGPU procedures and settlement procedures managed by overwhelmed local authorities. This first wave often amounted to an unprecedented level of "deportation-abandon”: deportees were abandoned in temporary barracks along railroad tracks or in the steppes and taiga. Mortality was extremely high, particularly among children and the elderly. Approximately 15% of deported died in the months following deportation. Amidst this deadly chaos, a large portion of deported (between 15 and 20%) managed to flee (Poliakov, ed, 2000, vol 1, p. 278 sq; OGPU regional administrative documents in Danilov & Berelowitch, eds, 2003, vol III/1).

1930; End of September - October: Second wave of "2nd category kulaks" deportations
During the agitated summer of 1930 - 8 million farmer families left the kolkhozes after the publication in early March of Stalin’s famous article condemning "the vertigo of success" and blaming local authorities for "abuses" that occurred during collectivization - large scale "Dekulakization" was interrupted at the end of May. "Dekulakization" specifically resumed end of September 1930, after the harvest. Some 16,500 families (about 60,000 persons) were deported from regions adjacent to Poland on the border of Belarus and Western Ukraine, strategic border regions where major peasant uprisings had taken place in the spring (Telegram from Messing to Balitskii and Rappoport on September 22, 1930, in Danilov & Berelowitch, eds, 2003, vol III/1). Deported were sent to Kazakhstan and the Ural.

1931; May-September: Third wave of "2nd category kulaks" deportations
Taking advantage of the favorable context created by the particularly successful 1930 harvest, the Politburo and the OGPU directorate decided to launch a new wave of deportations in the beginning of 1931. The 1930 procurement campaign allowed the State to recover over 21 million tons of cereal (twice the amount recovered before forced collectivization in 1927-1928), several million peasant families having been forced to join kolkhozes over the last months of 1930. On February 20, 1931, the Politburo adopted an ambitious new deportation plan: starting in the spring of 1931, between 200,000 and 300,000 families were to be deported mainly to Southern Kazakhstan (Politburo Resolution of February 20, 1931, in Danilov, Manning & Viola, eds, 2003: vol III, 90).
On March 11, 1931, the Politburo created a special commission directed by A. Andreev, vice-president of the Council of People’s Commissars. This new commission was in charge of supervising and coordinating the entire deportation process by organizing "rational and efficient management of specially displaced persons in order to avoid the recurrence of tremendous waste and disarray in the use of labor force as noted in previous deportation procedures." On May 15, 1931, the Andreev Commission transferred the entire economic, administrative and organizational management of the "special population" to the OGPU. In this "third wave" of "Dekulakization," a total of 1,244,000 persons (265,000 families) were deported, mainly to the Ural, Western Siberia, the Northern Region and Kazakhstan. As in 1930, human loss was extremely high. The first general census of the "specially displaced" population on January 1, 1932 recorded only 1,317,000 individuals when 1,804,000 had been deported in 1930-1931, indicating a loss of nearly half a million individuals over a two year period. This loss was evenly shared between flight and death (Danilov & Berelowitch, eds, 2003: vol. III/1, 771; Poliakov, ed, 2000: 279-280).

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