Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




The Contemporary World

1945 to the present



After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.



The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.

 

 


The Soviet Union and its Successor
States
 


SINCE 1945
 

 


see also: United Nations member states -
Russian Federation,
Ukraine,Belarus, Moldova,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

 

After the Second World War, all of Eastern Europe came under the influence of Stalin's totalitarian system, which led the Soviet Union into the Cold War. The system was relaxed to a degree under his successors, who were increasingly bound to a "collective leadership." The party's claim to autocratic rule was not seriously questioned until Gorbachev. In the turbulent years of 1989-1991, the structure of the Eastern bloc crumbled, and then the Soviet Union itself collapsed, disintegrating into a federation of autonomous states. While the Central European countries sought bonds with Western Europe, autocratic presidential regimes established themselves in most of the former Soviet republics.

 


The Soviet Union up to Stalin's Death
 

 

see also:

Red Terror
Vladimir Lenin
The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)
German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact
Great Purge
Great Purge and Intelligentsia
Iosif Stalin

 

Joseph Stalin ensured Soviet domination of Eastern Europe after 1945 and oversaw industrial reconstruction. The USSR's increasing rivalry with the other victorious powers led to the Cold War.

 

In 1945, the Soviet Union was clearly one of the war's 2, 1 victors.


2 Victory celebrations on the Red Square in Moscow: Soviet soldiers carrying flags captured from the Waffen SS, June 24, 1945


1 Military parade on the occasion of the
70th anniversary of the October Revolution
on the Red Square in Moscow, November 7,
1987

At the conferences of Yalta in 1943 and Potsdam in 1945, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill had agreed on the division of influence in postwar Europe. Over the next few years, Stalin systematically went about setting up Eastern European satellite states. By 1948, the Communists had taken over power almost everywhere, at first in alliance with non-socialist antifascists. The only exceptions were Greece and Yugoslavia. In 1949 East Germany was founded.

3 Stalin had already developed his "two-camp" theory of the contrasts between the Communist and Capitalist worlds by 1946, which the United States answered in 1947 with the parallel concept of the "Cold War."

The relationship between the two former allies worsened steadily and reached its nadir in the Soviet blockade of Berlin lasting from 1948-1949.

Domestically, the terror of the Great Purges had passed, but the political pressure exerted by Stalin and 4 Lavrenti Beria, the all-powerful head of the Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), was relentless.


3 Portrait of the Russian leader Stalin, ca. 1945


4 Lavrenti Beria, the muchfeared
head of the Soviet secret police
who enforced Stalin's reign of terror,
1953

All soldiers and officers who had had contact with the enemy—the West—during the war were elimmated or relegated to obscure positions, including war hero Marshal Zhukov.

Stalin intensified the pace of the reconstruction of 6 industry within the framework of his fourth Five-Year Plan, which proceeded rapidly, while the development of agriculture lagged behind.


6 Workers in a locomotive factory,
1967


5 Stalin in uniform, painting,
1949

By 1948, the Soviet Union's industry had reached the prewar production level of 1940, and it had doubled by 1952, but there was no rise in the population's standard of living.

The Zhdanovshchina carried out by cultural official Andrei Zhdanov in 1947-1948 established Stalin's 5 personality cult and the nationalistic glorification of the Soviet Union.

Writers and artists who did not adhere to this direction were vulnerable to repression and accusations of "formalism" and "cosmopolitanism." In 1952. the Stalin Note proposed to western leaders the reunification of Germany as a demilitarized and nonaligned neutral state. The Western powers quickly dismissed the offer, suspecting Stalin's motives.

 

 

Andrei Zhdanov

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov

Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov (Russian: Àíäðǻé Àëåêñà́íäðîâè÷ Æäà́íîâ; February 26 [O.S. February 14] 1896, Mariupol – August 31, 1948, Moscow) was a Soviet politician.

Zhdanov joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (bolsheviks) in 1915 and rose through the party ranks, becoming the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) leader in Leningrad after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934. He was a strong supporter of socialist realism in art.

Zhdanov was Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet July 15, 1938–June 20, 1947.

Though somewhat less active than Molotov, Stalin, Kaganovich and Voroshilov, Zhdanov was a major perpetrator of the Great Terror, who personally approved 176 documented execution lists.

In June 1940, he was sent to Estonia to supervise the establishment of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and its annexation into the USSR.

During the Great Patriotic War, Zhdanov was in charge of the defence of Leningrad. After the cease-fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union was signed in Moscow on 4 September 1944, Zhdanov headed the Allied Control Commission in Finland until the Paris peace treaty of 1947.

In 1946, Zhdanov was put in charge of the Soviet Union cultural policy by Joseph Stalin. His first action (in December 1946) was to censor Russian writers such as Anna Akhmatova and Mikhail Zoshchenko (Zhdanov Doctrine).

1946–1947 Zhdanov was Chairman of the Soviet of the Union.

In 1947, he organized the Cominform, designed to coordinate the communist parties of Europe. In February 1948, he initiated purges in the musical area, widely known as a struggle against formalism.

Dmitri Shostakovich
, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian and many other composers were reprimanded during this period. He died in 1948 in Moscow of heart failure; Nikita Khrushchev recalled in Khrushchev Remembers that Zhdanov could not control his drinking, and that in his "last days", Stalin would shout at him to stop drinking and insist that he drink only fruit juice. Simon Sebag-Montefiore and others allege that Stalin himself was responsible for Zhdanov's death, citing Zhdanov's inability to coordinate a Communist takeover in Finland as cause.  Stalin had talked of Zhdanov being his successor but Zhdanov's ill health gave his rivals, Beria and Malenkov, an opportunity to undermine him.

His son, Yuri (1919-2006), married Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, in 1949. The marriage was brief and ended in divorce in 1950. They had one daughter, Ekaterina.

He was one of the main accused people during the U.S. House of Representatives' Kersten Committee investigation in 1953.


Until the late 1950s, Zhdanov's ideological code, known as Zhdanovism or zhdanovshchina, defined cultural production in the Soviet Union. Zhdanov intended to forge a new philosophy of art-making for the entire world. His method reduced the whole domain of culture to a straightforward, scientific chart, where a given symbol corresponded to a simple moral vlate 1950s, Zhdanov's ideological code, known as Zhdanovism or zhdanovshchinaalue. Roland Barthes summed up the core doctrine of Zhdanovism this way: "Wine is objectively good... the artist deals with the goodness of wine, not with the wine itself." Zhdanov and his associates further sought to eliminate foreign influence from Soviet art, proclaiming that "incorrect art" was an ideological diversion.

In the 1950s, following Zhdanov's death, there was a creative explosion in Soviet art—abstract and formal work.

 

Zhdanov Doctrine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Zhdanov Doctrine (also called zhdanovism or zhdanovschina, Russian: äîêòðèíà Æäàíîâà, æäàíîâèçì, æäàíîâùèíà) was a Soviet cultural doctrine developed by the Central Committee secretary Andrei Zhdanov in 1946. It proposed that the world was divided into two camps: the imperialistic, headed by the United States; and democratic, headed by the Soviet Union. The main principle of the Zhdanov doctrine often referred by the phrase "The only conflict that is possible in Soviet culture is the conflict between good and best". Zhdanovism soon became a Soviet cultural policy, meaning that Soviet artists, writers and intelligentsia in general had to conform to the party line in their creative works. Under this policy, artists who failed to comply with the government's wishes risked persecution. The policy remained in effect until 1952, when it was declared that it had a negative effect on Soviet culture.

The 1946 resolution of the Central Committee was directed against two literary magazines, Zvezda and Leningrad, which had published supposedly apolitical, "bourgeois", individualistic works of the satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko and the poet Anna Akhmatova. Earlier some critics and literary historians were denounced for suggesting that Russian classics had been influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Molière, Lord Byron or Charles Dickens.

A further decree was issued on 10 February 1948. Although formally aimed at Vano Muradeli's opera The Great Friendship, it signalled a sustained campaign of criticism and persecution against many of the Soviet Union's foremost composers, notably Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian. The decree was followed in April by a special congress of the Composers' Union, where many of those attacked were forced publicly to repent. The composers condemned were formally rehabilitated by a further decree issued on 28 May 1958.
 

Zhdanovism in the People's Republic of China

During the Cultural Revolution, Zhdanovism was carried to an even further extreme than the one it reached in its Russian archetype. Yang Hansheng, former vice-chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, was denounced for extolling such "bourgeois" writers as William Shakespeare, Molière and Henrik Ibsen. Zhou Yang, who translated Nikolai Chernyshevsky and Leo Tolstoy into Chinese, was accused in Red Flag of the crime of praising the "foreigners" (used in the pejorative sense) Vissarion Belinsky, Chernyshevsky and Nikolay Dobrolyubov. Zhou "stubbornly announced" that "in aesthetics he was a faithful follower of Chernyshevsky". The accusations were all the more ironic as, in the Soviet Union, Belinsky, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov were considered key radical figures who paved the way for the 1917 Revolution.

 


Alexandr Gerasimov
STALIN OVER THE COFFIN OF ANDREI ZHDANOV
1948

 


Aleksandr Gerasimov
Stalin and Voroshilov at the Kremlin

 


Aleksandr Gerasimov
Sketch for Stalin's Speech at the 16th Party Congress

 


Aleksandr Gerasimov
Stalin at the 18th Party Congress

 

 


Joseph Stalin


Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin

prime minister of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Russian in full Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, original name (Georgian) Ioseb Dzhugashvili

born Dec. 21 [Dec. 9, Old Style], 1879, Gori, Georgia, Russian Empire
died March 5, 1953, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.

Overview
Soviet politician and dictator.

The son of a cobbler, he studied at a seminary but was expelled for revolutionary activity in 1899. He joined an underground revolutionary group and sided with the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party in 1903. A disciple of Vladimir Lenin, he served in minor party posts and was appointed to the first Bolshevik Central Committee (1912). He remained active behind the scenes and in exile (1913–17) until the Russian Revolution of 1917 brought the Bolsheviks to power. Having adopted the name Stalin (from Russian stal, “steel”), he served as commissar for nationalities and for state control in the Bolshevik government (1917–23). He was a member of the Politburo, and in 1922 he became secretary-general of the party’s Central Committee. After Lenin’s death (1924), Stalin overcame his rivals, including Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev, Nikolay Bukharin, and Aleksey Rykov, and took control of Soviet politics. In 1928 he inaugurated the Five-Year Plans that radically altered Soviet economic and social structures and resulted in the deaths of many millions. In the 1930s he contrived to eliminate threats to his power through the purge trials and through widespread secret executions and persecution. In World War II he signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (1939), attacked Finland (see Russo-Finnish War), and annexed parts of eastern Europe to strengthen his western frontiers. When Germany invaded Russia (1941), Stalin took control of military operations. He allied Russia with Britain and the U.S.; at the Tehrān, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences, he demonstrated his negotiating skill. After the war he consolidated Soviet power in eastern Europe and built up the Soviet Union as a world military power. He continued his repressive political measures to control internal dissent; increasingly paranoid, he was preparing to mount another purge after the so-called Doctors’ Plot when he died. Noted for bringing the Soviet Union into world prominence, at terrible cost to his own people, he left a legacy of repression and fear as well as industrial and military power. In 1956 Stalin and his personality cult were denounced by Nikita Khrushchev.

Main
secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–53) and premier of the Soviet state (1941–53), who for a quarter of a century dictatorially ruled the Soviet Union and transformed it into a major world power.

During the quarter of a century preceding his death, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin probably exercised greater political power than any other figure in history. Stalin industrialized the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, forcibly collectivized its agriculture, consolidated his position by intensive police terror, helped to defeat Germany in 1941–45, and extended Soviet controls to include a belt of eastern European states. Chief architect of Soviet totalitarianism and a skilled but phenomenally ruthless organizer, he destroyed the remnants of individual freedom and failed to promote individual prosperity, yet he created a mighty military–industrial complex and led the Soviet Union into the nuclear age.

Stalin’s biography was long obscured by a mendacious Soviet-propagated “legend” exaggerating his prowess as a heroic Bolshevik boy-conspirator and faithful follower of Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. In his prime, Stalin was hailed as a universal genius, as a “shining sun,” or “the staff of life,” and also as a “great teacher and friend” (especially of those communities he most savagely persecuted); once he was even publicly invoked as “Our Father” by a metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church. Achieving wide visual promotion through busts, statues, and icons of himself, the dictator became the object of a fanatical cult that, in private, he probably regarded with cynicism.
 

The young revolutionary
Stalin was of Georgian—not Russian—origin, and persistent rumours claim that he was Ossetian on the paternal side. He was the son of a poor cobbler in the provincial Georgian town of Gori in the Caucasus, then an imperial Russian colony. The drunken father savagely beat his son. Speaking only Georgian at home, Joseph learned Russian—which he always spoke with a guttural Georgian accent—while attending the church school at Gori (1888–94). He then moved to the Tiflis Theological Seminary, where he secretly read Karl Marx, the chief theoretician of international Communism, and other forbidden texts, being expelled in 1899 for revolutionary activity, according to the “legend”—or leaving because of ill health, according to his doting mother. The mother, a devout washerwoman, had dreamed of her son becoming a priest, but Joseph Dzhugashvili was more ruffianly than clerical in appearance and outlook. He was short, stocky, black-haired, fierce-eyed, with one arm longer than the other, his swarthy face scarred by smallpox contracted in infancy. Physically strong and endowed with prodigious willpower, he early learned to disguise his true feelings and to bide his time; in accordance with the Caucasian blood-feud tradition, he was implacable in plotting long-term revenge against those who offended him.

In December 1899, Dzhugashvili became, briefly, a clerk in the Tiflis Observatory, the only paid employment that he is recorded as having taken outside politics; there is no record of his ever having done manual labour. In 1900 he joined the political underground, fomenting labour demonstrations and strikes in the main industrial centres of the Caucasus; but his excessive zeal in pushing duped workers into bloody clashes with the police antagonized his fellow conspirators. After the Social Democrats (Marxist revolutionaries) of the Russian Empire had split into their two competing wings—Menshevik and Bolshevik—in 1903, Dzhugashvili joined the second, more militant, of these factions and became a disciple of its leader, Lenin. Between April 1902 and March 1913, Dzhugashvili was seven times arrested for revolutionary activity, undergoing repeated imprisonment and exile. The mildness of the sentences and the ease with which the young conspirator effected his frequent escapes lend colour to the unproved speculation that Dzhugashvili was for a time an agent provocateur in the pay of the imperial political police.


Rise to power
Dzhugashvili made slow progress in the party hierarchy. He attended three policy-making conclaves of the Russian Social Democrats—in Tammerfors (now Tampere, Finland; 1905), Stockholm (1906), and London (1907)—without making much impression. But he was active behind the scenes, helping to plot a spectacular holdup in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) on June 25 (June 12, O.S.), 1907, in order to “expropriate” funds for the party. His first big political promotion came in February (January, O.S.) 1912, when Lenin—now in emigration—co-opted him to serve on the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, which had finally broken with the other Social Democrats. In the following year, Dzhugashvili published, at Lenin’s behest, an important article on Marxism and the national question. By now he had adopted the name Stalin, deriving from Russian stal (“steel”); he also briefly edited the newly founded Bolshevik newspaper Pravda before undergoing his longest period of exile: in Siberia from July 1913 to March 1917.

In about 1904 Stalin had married a pious Georgian girl, Ekaterina Svanidze. She died some three years later and left a son, Jacob, whom his father treated with contempt, calling him a weakling after an unsuccessful suicide attempt in the late 1920s; when Jacob was taken prisoner by the Germans during World War II, Stalin refused a German offer to exchange his son.

Reaching Petrograd from Siberia on March 25 (March 12, O.S.), 1917, Stalin resumed editorship of Pravda. He briefly advocated Bolshevik cooperation with the provisional government of middle-class liberals that had succeeded to uneasy power on the last tsar’s abdication during the February Revolution. But under Lenin’s influence, Stalin soon switched to the more militant policy of armed seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. When their coup d’état occurred in November (October, old style) 1917, he played an important role, but one less prominent than that of his chief rival, Leon Trotsky.

Active as a politico-military leader on various fronts during the Civil War of 1918–20, Stalin also held two ministerial posts in the new Bolshevik government, being commissar for nationalities (1917–23) and for state control (or workers’ and peasants’ inspection; 1919–23). But it was his position as secretary general of the party’s Central Committee, from 1922 until his death, that provided the power base for his dictatorship. Besides heading the secretariat, he was also member of the powerful Politburo and of many other interlocking and overlapping committees—an arch-bureaucrat engaged in quietly outmaneuvering brilliant rivals, including Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev, who despised such mundane organizational work. Because the pockmarked Georgian was so obviously unintellectual, they thought him unintelligent—a gross error, and one literally fatal in their case.

From 1921 onward Stalin flouted the ailing Lenin’s wishes, until, a year before his death, Lenin wrote a political “testament,” since widely publicized, calling for Stalin’s removal from the secretary generalship; coming from Lenin, this document was potentially ruinous to Stalin’s career, but his usual luck and skill enabled him to have it discounted during his lifetime.



Lenin’s successor
After Lenin’s death, in January 1924, Stalin promoted an extravagant, quasi-Byzantine cult of the deceased leader. Archpriest of Leninism, Stalin also promoted his own cult in the following year by having the city of Tsaritsyn renamed Stalingrad (now Volgograd). His main rival, Trotsky (once Lenin’s heir apparent), was now in eclipse, having been ousted by the ruling triumvirate of Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, and Stalin. Soon afterward Stalin joined with the rightist leaders Nikolay Bukharin and Aleksey Rykov in an alliance directed against his former co-triumvirs. Pinning his faith in the ability of the Soviet Union to establish a viable political system without waiting for the support hitherto expected from worldwide revolution, the Secretary General advocated a policy of “Socialism in one country”; this was popular with the hardheaded party managers whom he was promoting to influential positions in the middle hierarchy. His most powerful rivals were all dismissed, Bukharin and Rykov soon following Zinoviev and Kamenev into disgrace and political limbo pending execution. Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Soviet Union in 1929 and had him assassinated in Mexico in 1940.

In 1928 Stalin abandoned Lenin’s quasi-capitalist New Economic Policy in favour of headlong state-organized industrialization under a succession of five-year plans. This was, in effect, a new Russian revolution more devastating in its effects than those of 1917. The dictator’s blows fell most heavily on the peasantry, some 25,000,000 rustic households being compelled to amalgamate in collective or state farms within a few years. Resisting desperately, the reluctant muzhiks were attacked by troops and OGPU (political police) units. Uncooperative peasants, termed kulaks, were arrested en masse, being shot, exiled, or absorbed into the rapidly expanding network of Stalinist concentration camps and worked to death under atrocious conditions. Collectivization also caused a great famine in the Ukraine. Yet Stalin continued to export the grain stocks that a less cruel leader would have rushed to the famine-stricken areas. Some 10,000,000 peasants may have perished through his policies during these years.

Crash industrialization was less disastrous in its effects, but it, too, numbered its grandiose failures, to which Stalin responded by arraigning industrial managers in a succession of show trials. Intimidated into confessing imaginary crimes, the accused served as self-denounced scapegoats for catastrophes arising from the Secretary General’s policies. Yet Stalin was successful in rapidly industrializing a backward country—as was widely acknowledged by enthusiastic contemporary foreign witnesses, including Adolf Hitler and such well-known writers as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw.

Among those who vainly sought to moderate Stalin’s policies was his young second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, whom he had married in 1919 and who committed suicide in 1932. They had two children. The son, Vasily, perished as an alcoholic after rising to unmerited high rank in the Soviet Air Force. The daughter, Svetlana, became the object for her father’s alternating affection and bad temper. She emigrated after his death and later wrote memoirs that illuminate Stalin’s well-camouflaged private life.


German Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop (left), Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and his
Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (right) sign the pact in the Kremlin on August 23, 1939.



The great purges
In late 1934—just when the worst excesses of Stalinism seemed to have spent themselves—the Secretary General launched a new campaign of political terror against the very Communist Party members who had brought him to power; his pretext was the assassination, in Leningrad on December 1, of his leading colleague and potential rival, Sergey Kirov. That Stalin himself had arranged Kirov’s murder—as an excuse for the promotion of mass bloodshed—was strongly hinted by Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the party, in a speech denouncing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress in 1956.

Stalin used the show trial of leading Communists as a means for expanding the new terror. In August 1936, Zinoviev and Kamenev were paraded in court to repeat fabricated confessions, sentenced to death, and shot; two more major trials followed, in January 1937 and March 1938. In June 1937, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, at the time the most influential military personality, and other leading generals were reported as court-martialed on charges of treason and executed.

Such were the main publicly acknowledged persecutions that empowered Stalin to tame the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet elite as a whole. He not only “liquidated” veteran semi-independent Bolsheviks but also many party bosses, military leaders, industrial managers, and high government officials totally subservient to himself. Other victims included foreign Communists on Soviet territory and members of the very political police organization, now called the NKVD. All other sections of the Soviet elite—the arts, the academic world, the legal and diplomatic professions—also lost a high proportion of victims, as did the population at large, to a semi-haphazard, galloping persecution that fed on extorted denunciations and confessions. These implicated even more victims until Stalin himself reduced the terror, though he never abandoned it. Stalin’s political victims were numbered in tens of millions. His main motive was, presumably, to maximize his personal power.


Conference at Yalta, 1945: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin


Role in World War II
During World War II Stalin emerged, after an unpromising start, as the most successful of the supreme leaders thrown up by the belligerent nations. In August 1939, after first attempting to form an anti-Hitler alliance with the Western powers, he concluded a pact with Hitler, which encouraged the German dictator to attack Poland and begin World War II. Anxious to strengthen his western frontiers while his new but palpably treacherous German ally was still engaged in the West, Stalin annexed eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of Romania; he also attacked Finland and extorted territorial concessions. In May 1941 Stalin recognized the growing danger of German attack on the Soviet Union by appointing himself chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (head of the government); it was his first governmental office since 1923.

Stalin’s prewar defensive measures were exposed as incompetent by the German blitzkrieg that surged deep into Soviet territory after Hitler’s unprovoked attack on the Soviet Union of June 22, 1941. Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was shocked into temporary inactivity by the onslaught, but, if so, he soon rallied and appointed himself supreme commander in chief. When the Germans menaced Moscow in the winter of 1941, he remained in the threatened capital, helping to organize a great counter-offensive. The battle of Stalingrad (in the following winter) and the Battle of Kursk (in the summer of 1943) were also won by the Soviet Army under Stalin’s supreme direction, turning the tide of invasion against the retreating Germans, who capitulated in May 1945. As war leader, Stalin maintained close personal control over the Soviet battlefronts, military reserves, and war economy. At first over-inclined to intervene with inept telephoned instructions, as Hitler did, the Soviet generalissimo gradually learned to delegate military decisions.

Stalin participated in high-level Allied meetings, including those of the “Big Three” with Churchill and Roosevelt at Tehrān (1943) and Yalta (1945). A formidable negotiator, he outwitted these foreign statesmen; his superior skill has been acclaimed by Anthony Eden, then British foreign secretary.


Last years
After the war, Stalin imposed on eastern Europe a new kind of colonial control based on native Communist regimes nominally independent but in fact subservient to himself. He thus increased the number of his subjects by about a hundred million. But in 1948 the defection of Titoist Yugoslavia from the Soviet camp struck a severe blow to world Communism as a Stalin-dominated monolith. To prevent other client states from following Tito’s example, Stalin instigated local show trials, manipulated like those of the Great Purge of the 1930s in Russia, in which satellite Communist leaders confessed to Titoism, many being executed.

Far from continuing his wartime alliance with the United States and Great Britain, Stalin now regarded these countries—and especially the United States—as the arch-enemies that he needed after Hitler’s death. At home, the primacy of Marxist ideology was harshly reasserted. Stalin’s chief ideological hatchet man, Andrey Zhdanov, a secretary of the Central Committee, began a reign of terror in the Soviet artistic and intellectual world; foreign achievements were derided, and the primacy of Russians as inventors and pioneers in practically every field was asserted. Hopes for domestic relaxation, widely aroused in the Soviet Union during the war, were thus sadly disappointed.

Increasingly suspicious and paranoid in his later years, Stalin ordered the arrest, announced in January 1953, of certain—mostly Jewish—Kremlin doctors on charges of medically murdering various Soviet leaders, including Zhdanov. The dictator was evidently preparing to make this “Doctors’ Plot” the pretext for yet another great terror menacing all his senior associates, but he died suddenly on March 5, according to the official report; so convenient was this death to his entourage that suspicions of foul play were voiced.


Assessment
A politician to the marrow of his bones, Stalin had little private or family life, finding his main relaxation in impromptu buffet suppers, to which he would invite high party officials, generals, visiting foreign potentates, and the like. Drinking little himself on these occasions, the dictator would encourage excessive indulgence in others, thus revealing weak points that he could exploit. He would also tease his guests, jocularity and malice being nicely balanced in his manner; for such bluff banter Stalin’s main henchman, Vyacheslav Molotov, the stuttering foreign minister, was often a target. Stalin had a keen, ironical sense of humour, usually devoted to deflating his guests rather than to amusing them.

Foremost among Stalin’s accomplishments was the industrialization of a country which, when he assumed complete control in 1928, was still notably backward by comparison with the leading industrial nations of the world. By 1937, after less than a decade’s rule as totalitarian dictator, he had increased the Soviet Union’s total industrial output to the point where it was surpassed only by that of the United States. The extent of this achievement may best be appreciated if one remembers that Russia had held only fifth place for overall industrial output in 1913, and that it thereafter suffered many years of even greater devastation—through world war, civil war, famine, and pestilence—than afflicted any of the world’s other chief industrial countries during the same period. Yet more appallingly ravaged during World War II, the Soviet Union was nevertheless able, under Stalin’s leadership, to play a major part in defeating Hitler while maintaining its position as the world’s second most powerful industrial—and now military—complex after the United States. In 1949 Stalinist Russia signaled its arrival as the world’s second nuclear power by exploding an atomic bomb.

Against these formidable achievements must be set one major disadvantage. Though a high industrial output was indeed achieved under Stalin, very little of it ever became available to the ordinary Soviet citizen in the form of consumer goods or amenities of life. A considerable proportion of the national wealth—a proportion wholly unparalleled in the history of any peacetime capitalist country—was appropriated by the state to cover military expenditure, the police apparatus, and further industrialization. It is also arguable that a comparable degree of industrialization would have come about in any case—and surely by means less savage—under almost any conceivable regime that might have evolved as an alternative to Stalinism.

Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture did not produce positive economic results remotely comparable to those attained by Soviet industry. Considered as a means of asserting control over the politically recalcitrant peasantry, however, collectivization justified itself and continued to do so for decades, remaining one of the dictator’s most durable achievements. Moreover, the process of intensive urbanization, as instituted by Stalin, continued after his death in what still remained a population more predominantly rural than that of any other major industrial country. In 1937, 56 percent of the population was recorded as engaged in agriculture or forestry; by 1958 that proportion had dropped to 42 percent, very largely as a result of Stalin’s policies.

Another of the dictator’s achievements was the creation of his elaborately bureaucratized administrative machinery based on the interlinking of the Communist Party, ministries, legislative bodies, trade unions, political police, and armed forces, and also on a host of other meshing control devices. During the decades following the dictator’s death, these continued to supply the essential management levers of Soviet society, often remaining under the control of individuals who had risen to prominence during the years of the Stalinist terror. But the element of total personal dictatorship did not survive Stalin in its most extreme form. One result of his death was the resurgence of the Communist Party as the primary centre of power, after years during which that organization, along with all other Soviet institutions, had been subordinated to a single man’s whim. Yet, despite the great power wielded by Stalin’s successors as party leaders, they became no more than dominant figures within the framework of a ruling oligarchy. They did not develop into potentates responsible to themselves alone, such as Stalin was during his quarter of a century’s virtually unchallenged rule.

That Stalin’s system persisted as long as it did, in all its major essentials, after the death of its creator is partly due to the very excess of severity practiced by the great tyrant. Not only did his methods crush initiative among Soviet administrators, physically destroying many, but they also left a legacy of remembered fear so extreme as to render continuing post-Stalin restrictions tolerable to the population; the people would have more bitterly resented—might even, perhaps, have rejected—such rigours, had it not been for their vivid recollection of repressions immeasurably harsher. Just as Hitler’s wartime cruelty toward the Soviet population turned Stalin into a genuine national hero—making him the Soviet Union’s champion against an alien terror even worse than his own—so too Stalin’s successors owed the stability of their system in part to the comparison, still fresh in many minds, with the far worse conditions that obtained during the despot’s sway.

Stalin has arguably made a greater impact on the lives of more individuals than any other figure in history. But the evaluation of his overall achievement still remains, decades after his death, a highly controversial matter. Historians have not yet reached any definitive consensus on the worth of his accomplishments, and it is unlikely that they ever will. To the American scholar George F. Kennan, Stalin is a great man, but one great in his “incredible criminality . . . a criminality effectively without limits,” while Robert C. Tucker, an American specialist on Soviet affairs, has described Stalin as a 20th-century Ivan the Terrible. To the British historian E.H. Carr, the Georgian dictator appears as a ruthless, vigorous figure, but one lacking in originality—a comparative nonentity thrust into greatness by the inexorable march of the great revolution that he found himself leading. To the late Isaac Deutscher, the author of biographies of Trotsky and Stalin—who, like Carr, broadly accepts Trotsky’s version of Stalin as a somewhat mediocre personage—Stalin represents a lamentably deviant element in the evolution of Marxism. Neither Deutscher nor Carr has found Stalin’s truly appalling record sufficiently impressive to raise doubts about the ultimate value of the Russian October Revolution’s historic achievements.

To such views may be added the suggestion that Stalin was anything but a plodding mediocrity, being rather a man of superlative, all-transcending talent. His special brilliance was, however, narrowly specialized and confined within the single crucial area of creative political manipulation, where he remains unsurpassed. Stalin was the first to recognize the potential of bureaucratic power, while the other Bolshevik leaders still feared their revolution being betrayed by a military man. Stalin’s political ability went beyond tactics, as he was able to channel massive social forces both to meet his economic goals and to expand his personal power.

Ronald Francis Hingley
Ed.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 

 

 


Political repression in the Soviet Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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: êîëõî́ç, 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: Áîëüøàÿ ÷èñòêà, 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.

 

 


KGB



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


Main
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.

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




Main
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



Main
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



Main
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



Main
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
 

 

 


Gulag

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Gulag
 

Meeting in a prison cell, Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya.The Gulag or GULAG was the government agency that administered the penal labour camps of the Soviet Union. Gulag is the Russian acronym for The Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies (Russian: Ãëàâíîå Óïðàâëåíèå Èñïðàâèòåëüíî-Òðóäîâûõ Ëàãåðåé è êîëîíèé; Glavnoye Upravlyeniye Ispravityel'no-Trudovih Lagyeryey i koloniy) of the NKVD. Eventually, by metonymy, the usage of "Gulag" began generally denoting the entire penal labor system in the USSR, then any such penal system. In Russian, Gulag is pronounced: (Russian: ÃÓËÀÃ, listen (help·info))

Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History, 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. Though it imprisoned millions, the name became familiar in the West only with the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 1973 The Gulag Archipelago, which likened the scattered camps to "a chain of islands."

There were at least 476 separate camps, some of them comprising hundreds, even thousands of camp units. The most infamous complexes were those at arctic or subarctic regions. Today's major industrial cities of the Russian Arctic such as Norilsk, Vorkuta, Kolyma and Magadan, were camps originally built by prisoners and run by ex-prisoners.

More than 14 million people passed through the Gulag from 1929 to 1953, with a further 6 to 7 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR. According to Soviet data, a total of 1,053,829 people died in the GULAG from 1934 to 1953, not counting those who died in labor colonies or those who died shortly after their release but which resulted from the harsh treatment in the camps. Anne Applebaum notes that "both archives and memoirs indicate that it was common practice in many camps to release prisoners who were on the point of dying, thereby lowering camp death statistics." The total population of the camps varied from 510,307 (in 1934) to 1,727,970 (in 1953).

Most Gulag inmates were not political prisoners, although the political prisoner population was always significant. People could be imprisoned in a Gulag camp for crimes such as unexcused absences from work, petty theft, or anti-government jokes. About half of the political prisoners were sent to Gulag prison camps without trial; official data suggests that there were more than 2.6 million imprisonment sentences in cases investigated by the secret police, 1921-1953. While the Gulag was radically reduced in size following Stalin’s death in 1953, political prisoners continued to exist in the Soviet Union right up to the Gorbachev era.

 

Modern usage and other terminology

Although Gulag originally was the name of a government agency, the acronym acquired the qualities of a noun, denoting: the Soviet system of prison-based, unfree labor — including specific labor, punishment, criminal, political, and transit camps for men, women, and children.

Even more broadly, "Gulag" has come to mean the Soviet repressive system itself, the set of procedures that prisoners once called the "meat-grinder": the arrests, the interrogations, the transport in unheated cattle cars, the forced labor, the destruction of families, the years spent in exile, the early and unnecessary deaths.

Other authors use gulag as denoting all the prisons and internment camps in Soviet history (1917–1991) with the plural gulags. The term's contemporary usage is notably unrelated to the USSR, such as in the expression "North Korea's Gulag".

The word Gulag was not often used in Russian — either officially or colloquially; the predominant terms were the camps (ëàãåðÿ, lagerya) and the zone (çîíà, zona), usually singular — for the labor camp system and for the individual camps. The official term, "corrective labor camp", was suggested for official politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union use in the session of July 27, 1929.

History



Prisoners at work
 

Early Soviet period

From 1918, camp-type detention facilities were set up, as a reformed analogy of the earlier system of penal labor (katorgas), operated in Siberia in Imperial Russia. The two main types were "Vechecka Special-purpose Camps" (îñîáûå ëàãåðÿ Â×Ê, osobiye lagerya VČK) and forced labor camps (ëàãåðÿ ïðèíóäèòåëüíûõ ðàáîò, lagerya prinuditel'nikh rabot). They were installed for various categories of people deemed dangerous for the state: for common criminals, for prisoners of the Russian Civil War, for officials accused of corruption, sabotage and embezzlement, various political enemies and dissidents, as well as former aristocrats, businessmen and large land owners. These camps, however, were not on the same scale as those in the Stalin era. In 1928 there were 30,000 prisoners in camps, and the authorities were opposed to compelling them to work. In 1927 the official in charge of prison administration wrote that: "The exploitation of prison labour, the system of squeezing ‘golden sweat’ from them, the organization of production in places of confinement, which while profitable from a commercial point of view is fundamentally lacking in corrective significance – these are entirely inadmissible in Soviet places of confinement.”

The legal base and the guidance for the creation of the system of "corrective labor camps" (Russian: èñïðàâèòåëüíî-òðóäîâûå ëàãåðÿ, Ispravitel'no-trudovye lagerya), the backbone of what is commonly referred to as the "Gulag", was a secret decree of Sovnarkom of July 11, 1929, about the use of penal labor that duplicated the corresponding appendix to the minutes of Politburo meeting of June 27, 1929.

As an all-Union institution and a main administration with the OGPU (the Soviet secret police), the GULAG was officially established on April 25, 1930 as the "ULAG" by the OGPU order 130/63 in accordance with the Sovnarkom order 22 p. 248 dated April 7, 1930, and was renamed into GULAG in November.

Expansion under Stalin


Belomorkanal, Prisoners at work, 1932

In the early 1930s a drastic tightening of Soviet penal policy caused a significant growth of the prison camp population. During the period of the Great Purge (1937–38) mass arrests caused another upsurge in inmate numbers. During these years hundreds of thousands of individuals were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms on the grounds of one of the multiple passages of the notorious Article 58 of the Criminal Codes of the Union republics, which defined punishment for various forms of "counterrevolutionary activities."

Under NKVD Order ¹ 00447 tens of thousands of GULAG inmates who were accused of "continuing anti-Soviet activity in imprisonment" were executed in 1937-38.

The hypothesis that economic considerations were responsible for mass arrests during the period of Stalinism has been refuted on the grounds of former Soviet archives that have become accessible since the 1990s, although some archival sources also tend to support an economic hypothesis. In any case the development of the camp system followed economic lines. The growth of the camp system coincided with the peak of the Soviet industrialization campaign. Most of the camps established to accommodate the masses of incoming prisoners were assigned distinct economic tasks. These included the exploitation of natural resources and the colonization of remote areas as well as the realization of enormous infrastructural facilities and industrial construction projects.

In 1931–32 the Gulag had approximately 200,000 prisoners in the camps; in 1935 — approximately 800,000 in camps and 300,000 in colonies (annual averages), and in 1939 — about 1.3 millions in camps and 350,000 in colonies.



Katyn Massacre
 

GULAG during World War II
After the German invasion of Poland that marked the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviet Union invaded and annexed eastern parts of the Second Polish Republic. In 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bessarabia and Bukovina. According to some estimates, hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens and inhabitants of the other annexed lands, regardless of their ethnic origin, were arrested and sent to the GULAG camps. However, according to the official data, the total number of sentences for political crimes in USSR in 1939-41 was 211,106.

Approximately 300,000 Polish prisoners of war were captured by the USSR during and after the Polish Defensive War. Almost all of the captured officers and a large number of ordinary soldiers were then murdered (see Katyn Massacre) or sent to GULAG. Of the 10,000-12,000 Poles sent to Kolyma in 1940-1941, most POWs, only 583 men survived, released in 1942 to join the Polish Armed Forces in the East. Out of Anders' 80,000 evacuees from Soviet Union gathered in Great Britain only 310 volunteered to return to Soviet-controlled Poland in 1947.

During the war, Gulag populations declined sharply due to a steep rise in mortality in 1942–43. In the winter of 1941 a quarter of the Gulag's population died of starvation.516,841 prisoners died in prison camps in 1941-43.

In 1943, the term katorga works (êàòîðæíûå ðàáîòû) was reintroduced. They were initially intended for Nazi collaborators, but then other categories of political prisoners (for example, members of deported peoples who fled from exile) were also sentenced to "katorga works". Prisoners sentenced to "katorga works" were sent to Gulag prison camps with the most harsh regime and many of them perished.



GULAG after World War II
After World War II the number of inmates in prison camps and colonies again rose sharply, reaching approximately 2.5 million people by the early 1950s (about 1.7 million of whom were in camps).

When the war ended in May 1945, as many as two million former Russian citizens were forcefully repatriated (against their will) into the USSR. On 11 February 1945, at the conclusion of the Yalta Conference, the United States and United Kingdom signed a Repatriation Agreement with the Soviet Union. One interpretation of this agreement resulted in the forcible repatriation of all Soviets. British and U.S. civilian authorities ordered their military forces in Europe to deport to the Soviet Union up to two million former residents of the Soviet Union, including persons who had left Russia and established different citizenship years before. The forced repatriation operations took place from 1945-1947.

Often, one finds statements that Soviet POWs on their return to the Soviet Union were often treated as traitors (see Order No. 270). According to some sources, over 1.5 million surviving Red Army soldiers imprisoned by the Germans were sent to the Gulag. However, that is a confusion with two other types of camps. During and after World War II freed PoWs went to special "filtration" camps. Of these, by 1944, more than 90 per cent were cleared, and about 8 per cent were arrested or condemned to penal battalions. In 1944, they were sent directly to reserve military formations to be cleared by the NKVD. Further, in 1945, about 100 filtration camps were set for repatriated Ostarbeiter, PoWs, and other displaced persons, which processed more than 4,000,000 people. By 1946, 80 per cent civilians and 20 per cent of PoWs were freed, 5 per cent of civilians, and 43 per cent of PoWs re-drafted, 10 per cent of civilians and 22 per cent of PoWs were sent to labor battalions, and 2 per cent of civilians and 15 per cent of the PoWs (226,127 out of 1,539,475 total) transferred to the NKVD, i.e. the Gulag.

After Nazi Germany's defeat, ten NKVD-run "special camps" subordinate to the GULAG were set up in the Soviet Occupation Zone of post-war Germany. These "special camps" were former Stalags, prisons, or Nazi concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen (special camp number 7) and Buchenwald (special camp number 2). According to German government estimates "65,000 people died in those Soviet-run camps or in transportation to them." According to German researchers Sachsenhausen, where 12,500 Soviet era victims have been uncovered, should be seen as an integral part of the Gulag system.

For years after World War II, a significant minority [vague] of the inmates were Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians from lands newly incorporated into the Soviet Union, as well as Finns, Poles, Romanians and others. POWs, in contrast, were kept in a separate camp system, which was managed by GUPVI, a separate main administration with the NKVD/MVD.

Yet the major reason for the post-war increase in the number of prisoners was the tightening of legislation on property offences in summer 1947 (at this time there was a famine in some parts of the Soviet Union, claiming about 1 million lives), which resulted in hundreds of thousands of convictions to lengthy prison terms, sometimes on the basis of cases of petty theft or embezzlement. At the beginning of 1953 the total number of prisoners in prison camps was more than 2.4 million of which more than 465 thousand were political prisoners.

The state continued to maintain the extensive camp system for a while after Stalin's death in March 1953, although the period saw the grip of the camp authorities weaken and a number of conflicts and uprisings occur.

The amnesty in March 1953 was limited to non-political prisoners and for political prisoners sentenced to not more than 5 years, therefore mostly those convicted for common crimes were then freed. The release of political prisoners started in 1954 and became widespread, and also coupled with mass rehabilitations, after Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalinism in his Secret Speech at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in February 1956.

By the end of the 1950s, virtually all "corrective labor camps" were dissolved. Colonies, however, continued to exist. Officially the GULAG was liquidated by the MVD order 20 of January 25, 1960.


Soviet Subjects on the Way to the Gulag


Conditions

Living and working conditions in the camps varied significantly across time and place, depending, among other things, on the impact of broader events (World War II, countrywide famines and shortages, waves of terror, sudden influx or release of large numbers of prisoners). However, to one degree or another, the large majority of prisoners at most times faced meagre food rations, inadequate clothing, overcrowding, poorly insulated housing; poor hygiene, and inadequate health care. The overwhelming majority of prisoners were compelled to perform harsh physical labor. In most periods and economic branches, the degree of mechanization of work processes was significantly lower than in the civilian industry: tools were often primitive and machinery, if existent, short in supply. Officially established work hours were in most periods longer and days off were fewer than for civilian workers. Often official work time regulations were extended by local camp administrators.

In general, the central administrative bodies showed a discernible interest in maintaining the labor force of prisoners in a condition allowing the fulfillment of construction and production plans handed down from above. Besides a wide array of punishments for prisoners refusing to work (which, in practice, were sometimes applied to prisoners that were too enfeebled to meet production quota), they instituted a number of positive incentives intended to boost productivity. These included monetary bonuses (since the early 1930s) and wage payments (from 1950 onwards), cuts of sentences on an individual basis, general early release schemes for norm fulfillment and overfulfillment (until 1939, again in selected camps from 1946 onwards), preferential treatment and privileges for the most productive workers (shock workers or Stakhanovites in Soviet parlance).

A distinctive incentive scheme that included both coercive and motivational elements and was applied universally in all camps consisted in standardized "nourishment scales": the size of the inmates’ ration depended on the percentage of the work quota delivered. Naftaly Frenkel is credited for the introduction of this policy. While it was effective in compelling many prisoners to make serious work efforts, for many a prisoner it had the adverse effect, accelerating the exhaustion and sometimes causing the death of persons unable to fulfill high production quota.

Immediately after the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 the conditions in camps worsened drastically: quotas were increased, rations cut, and medical supplies came close to none, all of which led to a sharp increase in mortality. The situation slowly improved in the final period and after the end of the war.

Considering the overall conditions and their influence on inmates, it is important to distinguish three major strata of Gulag inmates:

people used to physical labor: "kulaks", osadniks, "ukazniks" (people sentenced for violation of various ukases, such as Law of Spikelets, decree about work discipline, etc.), occasional violators of criminal law
dedicated criminals
people unused to physical labour sentenced for various political and religious reasons.
Mortality in GULAG camps in 1934-40 was 4-6 times higher than average in Russia. The estimated total number of those who died in imprisonment in 1930-1953 is 1.76 million, about half of which occurred between 1941-1943 following the German invasion.


Prisoners at work

Geography
 

In the early days of Gulag, the locations for the camps were chosen primarily for the ease of isolation of prisoners. Remote monasteries in particular were frequently reused as sites for new camps. The site on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea is one of the earliest and also most noteworthy, taking root soon after the Revolution in 1918. The colloquial name for the islands, "Solovki", entered the vernacular as a synonym for the labor camp in general. It was being presented to the world as an example of the new Soviet way of "re-education of class enemies" and reintegrating them through labor into the Soviet society. Initially the inmates, the significant part being Russian intelligentsia, enjoyed relative freedom (within the natural confinement of the islands). Local newspapers and magazines were edited and even some scientific research was carried out (e.g., a local botanical garden was maintained, but unfortunately later lost completely). Eventually it turned into an ordinary Gulag camp; in fact some historians maintain that Solovki was a pilot camp of this type. See Solovki for more detail. Maxim Gorky visited the camp in 1929 and published an apology of it.

With the new emphasis on Gulag as the means of concentrating cheap labour, new camps were then constructed throughout the Soviet sphere of influence, wherever the economic task at hand dictated their existence (or was designed specifically to avail itself of them, such as Belomorkanal or Baikal Amur Mainline), including facilities in big cities — parts of the famous Moscow Metro and the Moscow State University new campus were built by forced labor. Many more projects during the rapid industrialization of the 1930s, war-time and post-war periods were fulfilled on the backs of convicts, and the activity of Gulag camps spanned a wide cross-section of Soviet industry.

The majority of Gulag camps were positioned in extremely remote areas of north-eastern Siberia (the best known clusters are Sevvostlag (The North-East Camps) along Kolyma river and Norillag near Norilsk) and in the south-eastern parts of the Soviet Union, mainly in the steppes of Kazakhstan (Luglag, Steplag, Peschanlag). These were vast and sparsely inhabited regions with no roads (in fact, the construction of the roads themselves was assigned to the inmates of specialized railroad camps) or sources of food, but rich in minerals and other natural resources (such as timber). However, camps were generally spread throughout the entire Soviet Union, including the European parts of Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine. There were also several camps located outside of the Soviet Union, in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Mongolia, which were under the direct control of the Gulag.

Not all camps were fortified; in fact some in Siberia were marked only by posts. Escape was deterred by the harsh elements, as well as tracking dogs that were assigned to each camp. While during the 1920s and 1930s native tribes often aided escapees, many of the tribes were also victimized by escaped thieves. Tantalized by large rewards as well, they began aiding authorities in the capture of Gulag inmates. Camp guards were also given stern incentive to keep their inmates in line at all costs; if a prisoner escaped under a guard's watch, the guard would often be stripped of his uniform and become a Gulag inmate himself. Further, if an escaping prisoner was shot, guards could be fined amounts that were often equivalent to one or two weeks wages.

In some cases, teams of inmates were dropped to a new territory with a limited supply of resources and left to set up a new camp or die. Sometimes it took several attempts before the next wave of colonists could survive the elements.

The area along the Indigirka river was known as the Gulag inside the Gulag. In 1926, the Oimiakon (Îéìÿêîí) village in this region registered the record low temperature of −71.2 °C (−96 °F).

Under the supervision of Lavrenty Beria who headed both NKVD and the Soviet Atom bomb program until his demise in 1953, thousands of zeks were used to mine uranium ore and prepare test facilities on Novaya Zemlya, Vaygach Island, Semipalatinsk, among other sites.

Throughout the period of Stalinism, at least 476 separate camp administrations existed. Since many of these existed only for short periods of time, the number of camp administrations at any given point was lower. It peaked in the early 1950s, when there were more than a hundred different camp administrations across the Soviet Union. Most camp administrations oversaw not just one, but several single camp units, some as many as dozens or even hundreds. The infamous complexes were those at Kolyma, Norilsk, and Vorkuta, all in arctic or subarctic regions. However, prisoner mortality in Norilsk in most periods was actually lower than across the camp system as a whole.

Special institutions
Special camps or zones for children (Gulag jargon: "ìàëîëåòêè", maloletki, underaged), for disabled (in Spassk), and for mothers ("ìàìêè", mamki) with babies.
Camps for "wives of traitors of Motherland" — there was a special category of repression: "Traitor of Motherland Family Member" (×ÑÈÐ, ÷ëåí ñåìüè èçìåííèêà Ðîäèíû: ČSIR, člyen sem'i izmennika Rodini).

Sharashka (øàðàøêà, the goofing-off place) were in fact secret research laboratories, where the arrested and convicted scientists, some of them prominent, were anonymously developing new technologies, and also conducting basic research.

Influence


Culture
The Gulag spanned nearly four decades of Soviet and East European history and affected millions of individuals. Its cultural impact was enormous.

The Gulag has become a major influence on contemporary Russian thinking, and an important part of modern Russian folklore. Many songs by the authors-performers known as the bards, most notably Vladimir Vysotsky and Alexander Galich, neither of whom ever served time in the camps, describe life inside the Gulag and glorified the life of "Zeks". Words and phrases which originated in the labor camps became part of the Russian/Soviet vernacular in the 1960s and 1970s.

The memoirs of Alexander Dolgun, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Varlam Shalamov and Yevgenia Ginzburg, among others, became a symbol of defiance in Soviet society. These writings, particularly those of Solzhenitsyn, harshly chastised the Soviet people for their tolerance and apathy regarding the Gulag, but at the same time provided a testament to the courage and resolve of those who were imprisoned.

Another cultural phenomenon in the Soviet Union linked with the Gulag was the forced migration of many artists and other people of culture to Siberia. This resulted in a Renaissance of sorts in places like Magadan, where, for example, the quality of theatre production was comparable to Moscow's.



Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Literature
Many eyewitness accounts of Gulag prisoners were published before World War II.

Julius Margolin's book A Travel to the Land Ze-Ka was finished in 1947, but it was impossible to publish such a book about the Soviet Union at the time, immediately after World War II.
Gustaw Herling-Grudziński wrote A World Apart, which was translated into English by Andrzej Ciolkosz and published with an introduction by Bertrand Russell in 1951. By describing life in the gulag in a harrowing personal account, it provides an in-depth, original analysis of the nature of the Soviet communist system.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's book The Gulag Archipelago was not the first literary work about labour camps. His previous book on the subject, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", about a typical day of the GULAG inmate, was originally published in the most prestigious Soviet monthly, Novy Mir, (New World), in November 1962, but was soon banned and withdrawn from all libraries. It was the first work to demonstrate the Gulag as an instrument of governmental repression against its own citizens on a massive scale. The First Circle, an account of three days in the lives of prisoners in the Marfino sharashka or special prison was submitted for publication to the Soviet authorities shortly after One Day in the Life but was rejected and later published abroad in 1968.
János Rózsás, Hungarian writer, often referred to as the Hungarian Solzhenitsyn, wrote a lot of books and articles on the issue of GULAG.
Zoltan Szalkai, Hungarian documentary filmmaker made several films of gulag camps.
Karlo Štajner, an Austrian communist active in the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia and manager of Comintern Publishing House in Moscow from 1932–39, was arrested one night and taken from his Moscow home under accusation of anti-revolutionary activities. He spent the following 20 years in camps from Solovki to Norilsk. After USSR–Yugoslavian political normalization he was re-tried and quickly found innocent. He left the Soviet Union with his wife, who had been waiting for him for 20 years, in 1956 and spent the rest of his life in Zagreb, Croatia. He wrote an impressive book entitled 7000 days in Siberia.
Dancing Under the Red Star by Karl Tobien (ISBN 1-4000-7078-3) tells the story of Margaret Werner, a young athletic girl who moves to Russia right before the start of Stalin's terror. She faces many hardships, as her father is taken away from her and imprisoned. Werner is the only American woman who survived the Gulag to tell about it.
"Alexander Dolgun's Story: An American in the Gulag." (ISBN 0-394-49497-0), of a member of the US Embassy, and "I Was a Slave in Russia" (ISBN 0-815-95800-5), an American factory owner's son, were two more American citizens interned who wrote of their ordeal. Both were interned due to their American citizenship for about 8 years circa 1946–55.
Eugenia Ginsburg, a journalist, wrote two famous books, Into the Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind.


 

Colonization
Soviet state documents show that among the goals of the GULAG was colonization of sparsely populated remote areas. To this end, the notion of "free settlement" was introduced.

When well-behaved persons had served the majority of their terms, they could be released for "free settlement" (âîëüíîå ïîñåëåíèå, volnoye poseleniye) outside the confinement of the camp. They were known as "free settlers" (âîëüíîïîñåëåíöû, volnoposelentsy, not to be confused with the term ññûëüíîïîñåëåíöû, ssyl'noposelentsy, "exile settlers"). In addition, for persons who served full term, but who were denied the free choice of place of residence, it was recommended to assign them for "free settlement" and give them land in the general vicinity of the place of confinement.

This implement was also inherited from the katorga system.

Life after term served
Persons who served a term in a camp or in a prison were restricted from taking a wide range of jobs. Concealment of a previous imprisonment was a triable offence. Persons who served terms as "politicals" were nuisances for "First Departments" (Ïåðâûé Îòäåë, Pervyj Otdel, outlets of the secret police at all enterprises and institutions), because former "politicals" had to be monitored.

Many people released from camps were restricted from settling in larger cities.

Lack of prosecution
It has often been asked why there has been nothing along the lines of the Nuremberg Trials for those guilty of atrocities at the Gulag camps. Two recent books, reviewed by Peter Rollberg in the Moscow Times, cast some light on this.

Tomasz Kizny's Gulag: Life and Death Inside the Soviet Concentration Camps 1917-1990 details the history of the labour camps over the years while Oleg Khlevniuk's The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror presents records of confidential memos, official resolutions, individual testimonies and tabulated statistics. Rollberg explains how both books contribute to our understanding of why there were no post-Communism trials. "The gulag had already killed tens of thousands of its own most ardent killers. Again and again, yesterday's judges were declared today's criminals, so that Soviet society never had to own up to its millions of state-backed murders."

 





"Communism is not love.
Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy."

Mao Zedong




see also:

Red Terror
Vladimir Lenin
The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)
German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact
Great Purge
Great Purge and Intelligentsia
Iosif Stalin

 

 


see also: United Nations member states -
Russian Federation,
Ukraine,Belarus, Moldova,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

 

 

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