The Yezhovshchina

The Yezhovshchina

It was Robert Conquest who invented the term of the „Great Terror“ which applies to the time of repressions between 1936 and 1939. In the Sovietunion itself the people nicknamed the uninhibited way of arresting and shooting “Yezhovshchina” (the Yezhov era; translator’s note) already in 1937 – after the surname of the man who was the NKVD chief at that time.

Even nowadays, people are still disputing about the essence of those events, about reasons and aims. The heirs of Stalin’s and Beriya’s ideas emphasize that terror actions targeted moral degeneration and corruption among leading party functionaries and economic leaders; they were replaced by young people, who were given the chance to climb to positions of great responsibility and power. This is a lie: in the first instance those who became victims of terror, were simple citizens of the country – farmers, workers, clergymen, representatives of the intelligentsia. Thus, the Politbureau sent a telegram to the local authorities on the 2 July 1937 ordering them to “arrest without delay all former kulaks …, shoot those, whose attitude is particularly hostile, after their cases have been reviewed by a “troyka” and resettle all less active, but nonetheless dangerous elements”. As we can see, the directive says absolutely nothing about high-ranking party employees or party members.

Shooting on the basis of killing quotas

In 1937 and 1938 ALONE 1 575 000 individuals were arrested by the NKVD; within the same period of time 1 345 000 people were sentenced and 681 692 (51% of all convicts) executed by a firing squad. The Communists made up the minority among those arrested and shot during these years.

There is another version yet: allegedly, the cyberspeed economic growth of the country had never happened without support by the GULAG system, and without sending millions of people away to work for timber industry, pits and huge construction projects, the country would not have succeeded to get prepared for the war. This variant is an attempt to justify the atrocities; it reveals the incompetency to organize production process. In 1912 and 1913 the speed of growth of Russian economy made up 13% per year – which is more than the index of the 1930s shows.

According to information given by the All-Russian Center of the Study of Public Opinion, more than half of the Russian population argue that Stalin did more good to the country than evil. Unfortunately, the doom of entirely innocent people does not seem to confuse some of our countrymen in the slightest. The huge number of repressed individuals, who just got “under the roll” without cause, attests the practice of arresting and shooting quotas, which were drawn up for Moscow and any other region of the country. In accordance with Yezhov’s Order N°. 00447 dated the 30 July 1937 each region was imposed the obligation to seize the predetermined number of “enemies of the people”. And since there were only a very few “arctic hares” (former White armists; translator’s note), merchants, “kulaks” (rich farmers; translator’s note) and clergymen left, they arrested everybody just running into them, solely because they had “to fulfill the plan quota with regard to the abolition of the counter-revolutionary elements”.

The “GULAG Empire”

During the “Yezhovshchina” the Krasnoyarsk territory was one of the centers of the “GULAG Empire”. About 500 000 people went through camps, prisons and special resettlement. According to archival files the “Memorial” Organization refers to, every hundredth resident of the region was affected by repressions carried out by a “troyka” of the NKVD administration between August 1937 and November 1938. About 70% of the arrestees were executed by firing squads.

The Krasnoyarsk “Book of Memory” documents: “Executions took place were often and they concerned a great number of individuals. Just to give an example: on the 06.09.1937 they shot 58 people, on the 27.10.1938 – 87. In Minusinsk they executed a total of 199 individuals on the 4 and 5 November 1937, 222 on the 8 and 9 December 1937. On the 17 March 1938 – 123 people were killed by shooting in Krasnoyarsk, 202 in Kansk …. The head of the Minusinsk NKVD section, Alekseev, was of the opinion that they were to economise bullets; for this reason he gave the order to just spend one bullet “and then put the seriously injured victims over the edge by means of a spade”.

Another paragraph within the same book runs as follows: “One of the most remarkable files of inquiry with regard to the number of accussed and the massiness of charges was File N°. 4435. Suspected individuals covered by this case were arrested in 1937 and 1938. … They were condemned and even executed in groups. Public figures, people working for the cultural sector, doctors of the Krasnoyarsk Military Hospital and railway employeees were seized in great number. Every single accident that happened during the production process entailed arrests and executions”.

One could report ad infinitum about the horrible period of the “Great Terror”. However, it is much more important to understand, why, late in the 1930s, a couple of our own fellow citizens began to wipe the others out in an extremely bestial way, based on utterly absurd motives, than to merely cling to the endless martyrolog of those killed and tormented during interrogations, of those who disappeared without a trace in prisons or on transports. Blood – that is the nutrient for extremists such as the Bolsheviks. Comrade Stalin was of the opinion that clergymen, former “kulaks”, individuals who earlier had been members of a social-revolutionary party, cadets as well as enemies within the party (“Trotskyists” and “Bukharinists”) were a danger to the Soviet power. Well, he was a cruel and ignorant man, who suffered from various kinds of manias. However, the power of the bolsheviks turned out to be so horrible and painful for another reason yet: for the people all over the country blindly executed all paranoid commands issued by the Kremlin-maniac. Civil servants and ordinary citizens competed against eachother for the hysteric exposure of “enemies of the people”.

The terror which ruled the country 70 years ago must never fall into oblivion. If we do not recall these sad circumstances, we will cease to commemorate all those, who were killed during the years of the Great Terror.

Sergei POLIKARPOV
“Arguments and Facts on the Yenisey”, 07.11.2007


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