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The Great Terror In The Ukraine History Essay

The Great Terror 1937 - 1938 engulfed the whole Soviet Union and aimed at the destruction of real and imagined enemies of Stalin, inspiring in all segments of the population a sense of fear and insecurity, dependence and submission to the "great leader". The death penalty took commonplace and was not a subject to appeal. At best, the "public enemy" spent a long term of imprisonment in Siberian labor camps.

Although Stalin considered repressions as an auxiliary element of communism building, they turned to be the only tool in achieving implicit obedience. As Danilenko points, repression was an integral part of the totalitarian system functioning, the system which “required constant existence of fear, permanent opposition to somebody and something – whether external, or internal enemy.” [1] 

The most mass "cleansing" of "public enemies" in the entire Soviet era, which was theoretically grounded by Commissar of the Soviet NKVD Nikolai Ezhov and was personally approved by Stalin, began according to the order № 00447 in August 5, 1937. It was supposed to last four months. In fact, it took over 15 months and was terminated by resolution of the Politburo on November 15, 1938 having the plans for “enemies” increased in several times. The fate of the Ukraine is particularly interesting in regards the Great Terror.

In this paper I will discuss the implementation of the terror in the Ukraine during 1937-1938, briefly touching the pre Great Terror situation in the country. Moving on, I am willing to describe the history of the killing field of Bykivnya, used as a burial place for the victims of the state policy, and to analyze as well as to question the number of victims of the Great Terror buried there, and the veracity of the reports concerning the excavations, basing on the analysis of the materials from declassified archives of the Ukrainian NKVD.

The collapse of the Soviet Union exposed many classified materials of the Ukrainian NKVD, which helped to estimate the number of victims as well as to identify the places of mass burials. However, there are not many scientific sources concerning the Great Terror in the Ukraine available in English. This may be an obstacle for many non Ukrainian researchers to explore the afore-mentioned period in the history of the Ukraine. Nevertheless, many Ukrainian historians explore the Stalinist terror in the Ukraine. Among them are Nikolskyi, Shapoval and Bilokin, who made a substantial contribution to the study of this issue. Some of their works were used in writing this paper.

2. The Prerequisites of the Great Terror in the Ukraine.

2.1. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic

The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was the second largest Soviet republic, bordered with Poland and Romania. [2] As stated by the Soviet census of 1926 the Ukrainian population comprised 21% of the total Soviet and 45% of the non-Russian citizenry. It reached almost thirty million people, being the most densely populated republic within the non-Russian regions of the USSR. [3] Furthermore, Ukrainian peasants made up a half of all non-Russian peasants in the Soviet Union [4] and constituted five sixth of the whole Ukrainian population. Appendix 1 presents the map of the rural population distribution in the Ukrainian SSR in 1926. This visual data helps to assess the social structure of the Ukraine where urban population comprised around five million people.

The Ukraine considered having powerful economic potential [5] and an important geopolitical location. The situation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as the last socialist country on the border with capitalist enemies gave the hope to the Soviet leadership to convert these states to communism. The Ukraine produced “more than 20% of the industrial output” [6] , and having fertile soils, one-fourth of the total grain production in the Soviet Union.

2.2. Repressions before the Great Terror

Before the beginning of the Great Terror in 1937, Ukrainians experienced several waves of repressions. It can be explained by the plans of the Soviet leadership to closely tie together the Ukraine with the center. [7] Thereby, in the period of 1929-1932 several repressions against intellectuals, religious ministers and engineers were conducted, among them: “Shakhty” case (1929), “Union for the Liberation of Ukraine” case (1930), liquidation of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (1931) and “Ukrainian national centre’ case (1931). [8] 

During 1932-1934 the NKVD was mainly concerned with “dekulakization”, deportation of peasants, and fabrication of cases against “counter-revolutionary organizations”. Around 199 312 people were arrested by security organs in 1932-1933. [9] Certainly the biggest tragedy for Ukrainians during that time was the creation of artificial famine (“Holodomor” 1932-1933), which should be addressed as both “class- and nationally-oriented [repressions]” [10] .

It is important to mention repressions against ethnic minorities of Poles and Germans who were mainly deported from the territory of the Ukraine. Vasiliev stressed that:

“In March 1935 approximately 3,500 households were deported from the Kyiv and Vinnitsa oblasti. In January 1936, 1 500 households were removed from Vinitsa oblast. At the end of 1936, a further 4 048 households were sent to Kazakhstan.” [11] 

During the years of Holodomor and dekulakization the Ukrainian population decreased according to different accounts on two to four and a half million of people. Consequently, the country approached the year of the Great Terror already quite “filtered” by the NKVD.

3. The Great Terror in the Ukraine

3.1. Limits

The Great Terror in the Ukraine was initiated by the NKVD order No 00447 of 30 July 1937 likewise in the USSR in general. It followed a Politburo decision concerning “anti-Soviet elements” from 2 July 1937, giving the instruction to all local authorities and NKVD branches to collect and present the lists of “kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements” [12] to be repressed. The objects of repressions had two ways: either to be shot or to be sent to the GULAG.

After a bit more than a month, in August 1937, the limits for the Ukraine were “calculated” and amounted 28 800 victims. The numbers were estimated in the field and then sent to the Ukrainian NKVD department №8, which presented quota to the USSR NKVD. It is believed that the all-USSR secret police increased the figures initially introduced by the Ukrainian NKVD. The Table 1 presents the limits by oblasti (regions) of those to be repressed in the Ukraine according to the order №00447. [13] 

Table 1. ‘Limits’ in the Ukraine

Oblast’

First category [14] 

Second category [15] 

Total

Khar’kov

1500

4000

5500

Kiev

2000

3500

5500

Vinnitsa

1000

3000

4000

Donetsk

1000

3000

4000

Odessa

1000

3500

4500

Dnepropetrovsk

1000

2000

3000

Chernigov

300

1300

1600

Moldavia ASSR

200

500

700

Total

8000

20800

28800

It is vainly to search any logics in the numbers given by the NKVD. Even if concede that initial figures collected locally had at least some grounding (former criminals, kulaks, former members of different political parties), the later search for enemies was absurd and nothing more than a kind of “socialist competition” in arrests and executions among the NKVD officers.

3.2. The Ukrainian NKVD

The crucial trait of the staffing policy at the Ukrainian NKVD during the times of the Great Terror was the permanent rotation of chief employees. At that time five persons were appointed as Narkoms of Internal Affairs one after another. The Table 2 represents the rotation of cadres within the Ukrainian NKVD and emphasizes short term service of the heads.

Table 2. Heads Rotation within the Ukrainian NKVD [16] 

Head of the Ukrainian NKVD

Appointed

Dismissed

Subsequent steps

V.A. Balitskyi (State Security commissioner 1st class)

July 10, 1934

May 17, 1937

na

V.T. Ivanov (State Security commissioner 3rd class)

May 17, 1937

June 15, 1937

na

I.M. Leplevskyi (State Security commissioner 2nd class)

June 15, 1937

January 27, 1938

Arrested and shot in July 28, 1938 [17] 

O.I. Uspenskyi (State Security commissioner 3rd class)

January 27, 1938

November 14, 1938

Staged his own suicide, hid for 18 months; was arrested and shot in January, 1940 [18] 

V.V. Osokin (Division commander)

November 14, 1938

December 14, 1938

na

The person who introduced a new and stronger wave of the mass repressions in the Ukraine was Israel Leplevskiy, appointed as the head of the Ukrainian NKVD on June 14/15 [19] , 1937. It seemed Leplevskiy was excited about his work: he addressed Yezhov three times asking to increase the limits on both categories. Firstly, the head of the Ukrainian secret police asked to expand the limits for executions on 4 200 cases, which was granted by Ezhov. Secondly, already in the end of September Leplevskyi requested for increase of the limits on 4 500 in the first category and 15 200 in the second category. However, the USSR NKVD granted 3 000 for the first category and 5 100 for the second. Nevertheless, it was not sufficient for Leplevskyi and finally he asked to add 4 000 for the first category and 10 000 for the second. This request was satisfied by Ezhov in overall dimension. [20] However, even the high rates of the repressed initiated by Leplevskyi did not satisfy the Soviet NKVD and consequently he was dismissed and later on shot. [21] 

Alexander Uspenskyi became the new head of the Ukrainian NKVD. During his leadership another 6 000 people were repressed and later in February 1938, 30 000 Ukrainians had their cases completed. [22] Finally, on November 17, 1938 the mass operations were over and the whole blame for repressions was put on the NKVD organs who “conduct[ed] mass operations, which simplified the investigative process and granted ‘limits’ for mass arrests” [23] . [24] Alexander Uspenskyi even faked his own suicide and hid during more than a year. However, he was finally caught and executed. [25] 

Fearing of being dismissed, each head of the secret police considered increasing of limits his duty. Consequently, the amount of people to be repressed rose on 46 150 [26] compare to the limits established in the order № 00447.

3.3. Social Composition of People Repressed in the Ukraine.

One of the main indicators of political repressions in the period of 1937-1938 was a social belonging of the arrested. There were several social groups who faced repressions. [27] The Table 3 presents the social structure and amount of the arrested during 1937 in the Ukraine. All the groups were generalized within three categories indicated in the NKVD order No 00447: former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements.

Table 3. Social Structure of Arrested by the Ukrainian NKVD during 1937 [28] 

Groups of repressed

Arrested

(quantity of people)

Percentage from the total amount of the arrested in the Ukraine

Former “kulaks”

66 401

41,6 %

“Former people” [29] 

58 502

36,7 %

Declassed elements

14 504

9,1 %

Ministers of religion

4 744

3,0 %

Office employees

4 300

2,7 %

Housemaids, dependents, pensioners

3 035

1,9 %

Individual peasants

2 473

1,5 %

Handicraftsmen

1 389

0,9 %

Members of collective farms

1 266

0,8 %

Commanding staff of

the Red Army

1 083

0,7 %

Workers

777

0,5 %

Red Army soldiers and junior commanding staff RSChA

864

0,5 %

NKVD employees

236

0,1 %

Total

159 574

100 %

It is important to mention that four upper groups consisted 91,4 % of all arrested in the Ukraine during 1937. Nikolskyi points at the fact that the group of “former people” was not indicated either in the decision of Politburo of July 2, 1937 or in the order No 00447. Allegedly, these people were to be repressed automatically. [30] 

The Ukrainian party leadership also underwent large scale repressions. 55 out of 62 members of the CC CP (B)U, elected in June, 1937, were accused of hostile activities. Ten out of eleven members of the Politburo of the CC CP (B) U and four out of five candidates to the Politburo were repressed. All nine members of the Orgburo of Central Committee CP(B)U were killed. The first secretary of the CC CP(B) U, Stanislav Kosior who had been holding the post since January 23, 1934, was accused in being a member of POV and was executed in February, 1939. Nikita Khrushchev took the place of the first secretary and held this position till March 3, 1947 sometime later being appointed the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

3.4. National Operations in the Ukraine

Along with the repressions of ethnic Ukrainians, a similar series of measures was launched against Polish, German and other ethnic minorities who lived in the Ukraine at that time. On July 25, 1937 Yezhov signed Order №00439, which directed to arrest all German citizens including political immigrants and uncover the agents of foreign intelligence. On August 11, 1937 Yezhov issued Order №00485 that launched Polish operation – to liquidate local organization of Polish Military Organization (POV). Due to the fact, that Ukraine had border with Poland and numerous German and Polish communities historically, huge numbers of people were arrested according to the national operation. [31] 

In contrast to “kulak” operation, limits for the national operations were not established. [32] However, Nikolskyi states that political repressions directed on Poles, Germans and Greeks were much more severe than against other nationalities. Furthermore, he argues that the quantity of people repressed along the national lines usually exceeded the amount of representatives of these minorities in the society. It is appropriate to mention here the amount of arrested among ethnic minorities and the correlation to the total amount of the population during 1937 (see Table 4). [33] 

Table 4. Repressions against Ethnic Minorities in the Ukraine during 1937

Nationality

Arrested

Percentage from the total population

Percentage from the amount of repressed

Ukrainians

84 915

78,2

53,2

Poles

30 148

1,5

18,9

Germans

16 228

1,4

10,2

Russians

12 291

11,3

7,7

Jews

4 097

5,2

2,6

Greeks

3 689

0,4

2,3

Byelorussians

1 292

0,4

0,8

Others

6 972

1,6

1, 3

Total

159 632

100

100

In search for foreign spies the Ukrainian NKVD arrested everyone who had any relation to ethnic minorities - Polish or German surname, involvement in trips abroad or relatives who lived out of the Soviet Union, and aliens from Galicia. [34] The Ukrainian scientist Nikolskyi points to the facts discovered in the declassified Soviet archives which prove the random choice of the Polish “dangerous elements”. [35] Indeed, due to the lack of card index, the NKVD officers searched for any surname that could resemble the Polish one in telephone books. [36] 

After the appointment of Uspenskyi as a head of the Ukrainian NKVD, Yezhov issued directive to increase the amount of repressed individuals. The “operation for the routing of espionage-wrecking contingents of Poles, Letts, Germans, Estonians, Finns, Greeks, Iranians, Kharbins, Chinese, Romanians of both foreign and Soviet citizenship, in accordance with corresponding USSR NKVD orders” [37] was to be continued until April 15, 1938. [38] 

The ideology of the national operations can be identified even from the instruction given by Uspenskiy to the newly appointed head of Vinnitsa oblast’ NKVD Korablev. He said: “’all Germans and Poles living in the Ukraine are spies and saboteurs’ and ‘75-80 per cent of Ukrainians are bourgeois nationalists’” [39] 

3.5. Specific Character of the Great Terror in the Ukraine

According to the Ukrainian historian Stanislav Kulchytsky, during 1937-1938, 265 699 people were arrested in the Ukraine, and “198 918 cases were committed for trial. 62 % (123 329 people) were shot […], 34,7 % (68 823) sent to labor camps, 2,1 % (4 124) imprisoned, 0,5 % (1 067) exiled, and 0,3 % (658) released” [40] . Appendix 3 presents the diagram with quantitative proportion of the repressed in the Ukraine.

If the percentage of repressed ethnic minorities can explained by the proximity to Polish and Romanian borders, traditional multi-ethnicity of Ukrainian population; percentage of ‘kulaks’ may be explained by the fact that Ukraine had vast majority of rural population most of which were easily identified as ‘kulaks’ by the NKVD; the third category – members of bourgeois, nationalist organizations – had deeper political roots.

After the victory of the October revolution in the Ukraine, there was a huge rise of the national-liberation movement, inspired then by Lenin’s thesis on right for self-identification of nations. Despite the fact that attempts to create a Ukrainian national state – Ukrainian National Republic - failed in 1917-1921, the rebuilding of national identity after the years of Tsarist rule continued with creation of the USSR. From 1923 till the end of 1920-s the ‘Ukrainization’ policy was officially implemented by the Soviet leadership. Huge reforms in education, governance and culture were designed to bring Ukrainian language in education, Ukrainians to the governing bodies, develop Ukrainian theatre and cinema. A number of Ukrainian political parties existed – Borotbisty (Ukrainian Left Social Revolutionaries), UKP (Ukrainian left socialists) and others.

The policy of ‘Ukrainization’ was cancelled together with NEP, and everyone who implemented it as a state policy combining social liberation with national in 1920-s, were labeled ‘bourgeois nationalists’ and repressed in 1930-s. This is why in the times of the Great Terror almost every Ukrainian could be blamed as nationalist, and officers of the NKVD fabricated thousands of cases all over Ukraine against ‘nationalist underground’.

3.6. Exoneration of Victims

At the turn of 1989-90-s and in the later years one of the main government and NGOs’ activity was exposing the truth about political repressions and publish the overall number of the repressed citizens. First necessary steps were made by the former USSR in 1988 when local management of KGB and Republican committees were received the decree to review the KGB criminal cases and to exonerate innocent victims of the Great Terror.

A significant impetus to the activization of the exoneration process and improvement in methods of work was the adoption of Law “On Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression in the Ukraine" in April 17, 1991. Interestingly enough, the Ukraine adopted the mentioned legislation the first among other former Soviet republics. [41] 

According to the SBU data in 1997, they had reviewed 259 927 archival criminal cases and decided 212 052 citizens to be exonerated and 84 717 citizens to refuse an exoneration. It was explained by the availability of proof of guilt in the criminal cases of such citizens. Those people who attempted or actually deserted were considered as not having a possibility to be rehabilitated. [42] However, this issue is quite controversial. According to researchers who examined the cases, hardly any case consists of any proof despite the examination record with self-accusation [43] , which was made by the person after well-known tortures. Thereby, it is not clear how the SBU distinguished who was indeed involved in anti-Soviet crime and who was not.

4. The Burial Grounds of the Great Terror

Stalinist leadership tried to hide all the information about the conducted repressions and to keep a secret of the places of mass burial of victims. However, it is obvious that the massacre of such a great number of people could not be hidden. After WWII many places of mass burials have been exposed, nevertheless, almost until the collapse of the Soviet Union the official propaganda has been stating that there were buried victims of the Nazi occupation.

Since 1991 some of the archives of the NKVD have become available, giving the possibility to reconstruct the picture and to exonerate the victims of the Great Terror. The government has supported the construction of the memorial complexes commemorating the victims who were sentenced to be shot or who died because of the harsh conditions in the labor camps. There are around eighteen such places throughout the Ukraine.

Yet in the end of February 1989 the head of KGB Ukrainian SSR M. Golushko sent a secret letter to the first secretary of CC of Ukrainian Communist Party V. Sherbitskyi. The letter contained a list of places of mass burials of repressed people during 1937-1938. They are presented in the Appendix 4. The biggest mass burial grounds were in Vinnitsa and in the forest near the village Bykivnya which is close to Kyiv. [44] 

Vasil Danilenko, employee of the Sectoral state archive of SBU and a professor, reported that during the Great Terror the places of mass burials were thoroughly concealed. There were controlled-access facilities of KGB, building grounds where people were buried at the depth of 2,5 meters. Very often corpse were concreted or the area was leveled off and then planted with trees. Furthermore, sometimes people who lived in the neighborhood were told that it was a mass burial place of the dead people from typhus or any other infectious diseases. Consequently, local people were kept in a fear of being infected and tried not to approach to the territory. [45] 

However, there were many people who happened to be witnesses of the NKVD activities. Thanks to witnesses and declassified NKVD archives, one can reconstruct the “humdrum” of the Great Terror times in the Ukraine. Next subchapter will explore the history of Bykivnia Graves National History Memorial Preserve which was one of the places of mass burials during 1937-1938.

4.1. Bykivnya: Victims of the Great Terror or the Nazi Occupation?

One of the biggest mass burial grounds in the Ukraine is situated in forest near the aforementioned village Bykivnia. According to SBU materials in 1936 there was created a facility of special purpose [46] , which was strictly guarded by the NKVD. On March 20, 1937 during the night, the city council made a secret order for using the land as a burial place for the people executed by shooting during 1937-38 in Kiev by the decision of the courts and judicial bodies. The sentences were executed in the basement of the Kiev office of the regional administration of the NKVD (now there is the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, Lipska str. 16), Bodies were taken to Bykivnia by night. Sometimes people were shot right in front of the dug holes. [47] One of the witnesses recalled that he heard the reports of shots coming from the Bykivnya’s forest. [48] In contrast, the other witness was sure that shots never rang out, although he noticed trucks repeatedly going to and from that place. [49] However, the same person did not hear the noise of construction of the facility, although it would make much noise caused by building equipment.

Excavations were made by the governmental commission three times [50] in 1971, 1987 and 1989. After the arrest of three teenagers in the mid of 1971 who were plundering the burials with the rests of human skeletons near the village Bykivnya, the KGB officers were sent to examine the place. According to their report they concluded several things:

events associated with the execution of people found buried in the pits, refer to the period of the Great Patriotic War;

killed people before the death were not in a jail, most likely, they were concentrated in the camp;

the number of the shot and buried in the pits is probably about two thousand people;

most of the killed people seem to be urban dwellers. [51] 

Following this, the governmental commission had revealed the place of burials and concluded:

There were discovered the remains of the Soviet Army officers’ bags, an asterisk for a hat and buttons from the Soviet Army soldiers’ uniform. In addition, we found a significant number of objects and the remains of the clothes comparable with civilian pattern, including hats, rubber overshoes, porcelain cups, enamel mugs, glasses, combs, razors, prosthetic feet, and objects of the female toilet.

In a number of pits we found bullets and cartridge cases from the rifle and pistol of foreign pattern […] The commission concluded that corpses are the rests of citizens shot by Hitlerites during the occupation of Kyiv in 1941-1943. [52] 

It is not surprising that the governmental commission had found different things associated with WWII, because it could indeed happened that during the occupation of Kyiv the Nazis killed Ukrainians in Bykivnya. One person from the village has told that during the occupation Germans had ordered rural dwellers to come and see at that place in order to know the deeds of communism. [53] However, surprising is that the commission did not find any evidence of the purpose of the “facility behind the green fence” such as personal things of repressed. Have not found or did not want to officially declare finds? Was it a manipulation of public attention or lack of evidence? However, even if to assume that they concealed the truth and the commission found victims of the Terror, why did people take mugs and cups with them for the execution? It is the question to be answered in the future research, although personally I incline to the opinion that the burial ground contains both shot “Anti-Soviet elements» and WWII victims, as it was supposed in the paragraph.

In 1987 the governmental commission decided that it was a burial ground of WWII victims as well. However they found:

… many cups, including a significant number of white earthenware cups with inscriptions in Polish “Olevsk”. There were detected horn-rimmed glasses, spoons, keys, toothbrushes of German production, plastic combs, including of the Austrian production [...] Age of the buried individuals was from eighteen to seventy years, the main part - 25-45 years. Among the remains mostly men's skulls were found. [54] 

Very interesting here is the mentioned “Polish” word “Olevsk”. The thing is that there is no such word in Polish, but there is a small city in Zhytomirska oblast where the Olevskyy electrical porcelain factory is with more than hundred years’ history. Due to the fact that the detailed history of the factory is not available, and since the production of faience and porcelain is quite similar, but differs in proportions of the ingredients, this factory could produce porcelain in the first half of the twentieth century. Moreover, according to the testimony of one of the marauders, all the cups they had found contained trademarks of the Soviet production. [55] All of this prompted to the thought that the officer who saw the cup could try to mask the Ukrainian word under the Polish one with attempt to fog the truth and to give an ominous [56] tinge to the case. Consequently, it allows us to consider the whole report containing deceptive elements and, thus, being not reliable.

The last excavation, which for the first time illuminated the Bykivnya case, were held in 1989 and the impetus to it was a phone call in January 29, 1989 to the prosecutor’s office in Kyiv from a certain Klimov, who informed that in 1985 in the forest near the village Bykivnya he had found a cigar holder with the inscription “V.A. Bryl 16.09.1937”. This cigar holder helped the investigators to find a criminal case and to find out victim’s destiny. [57] At that time many witnesses’ testimonies, of those who marauded or passed by the place, were exposed. Many of them contained the information concerning the foreign money (usually Czech and Polish) and foreign footwear (mainly of German production) found at the Bykivnya forest. Some of the “adventurers” has found a note of the following contents: “We are at the NKVD, we are being tortured […] for no reason” [58] .

On different accounts, the number of victims buried in Bykivnia varies from ten thousand to several dozens of thousands. However, returning to the issue of the origin of victims, it makes sense for the SBU to specify at least approximately the quantity of victims of the Great Terror and of WWII who were buried in the pits behind the green fence.

All stated above aim to point at the fact that testimonies of witnesses cannot be the only source of exposing the truth, but rather serve an impetus to the following research. The only procedure which might be capable of elucidating is prescription of death coming with the help of information technology, which is quite expensive in the Ukraine and cannot be used on account of other state priorities.

4.2. Social and National Structure of Repressed in the Kyivska oblast

Since Bykivnya is considered to encompass mainly victims from Kyivska oblast, it makes sense to indicate the social and national structure of the repressed. Unfortunately, empirical data is available only for 1937, however, the tendency of the 1938 may be assumed. Table 5 presents the national categories of the repressed. It is notable from the table that Kyivska oblast was one of the leaders in the repressions race, especially in the execution of Ukrainians.

Table 5. National Structure of Repressed in the 1937 [59] 

National identity

Number of the repressed

Percentage from the total amount of the repressed in this category in the Ukraine

Ratio among other oblasti

Ukrainians

15 409

18,2

1

Russians

939

7,6

5

Poles

3 058

10

5

Germans

629

3,9

6

Jews

692

16,8

2

Table 6. Social Structure of Arrested in the 1937 [60] 

Social identity

Number of the arrested

Percentage of the arrested from the total amount of arrested of this category in the Ukraine

Percentage from the total amount of arrested in the Ukraine

Ratio among other oblasti

Former “kulaks”

7 374

11,1

34,5

3

“Former people” [61] 

9 892

16,9

46,3

3

Declassed elements

2 239

15,4

10,5

3

Ministers of religion

941

19,8

4,4

3

Office employees

114

2,7

0,5

3

Housemaids, dependents, pensioners

348

11,5

1,6

3

Individual peasants

65

2,6

0,3

3

Handicraftsmen

16

1,2

0,1

3

Members of collective farms

33

2,6

0,2

3

Commanding staff of

the Red Army

119

11,0

0,6

3

Workers

49

6,3

0,2

3

Red Army soldiers and junior commanding staff RSChA

166

19,2

0,7

3

NKVD employees

18

7,6

0,1

3

Total

21 374

100

Table 6 presents social structure of the arrested in the Ukraine during 1937. It shows that Kyivska oblast was again one of the leaders in the race for executions of different social categories of people as well as in repression of ethnic minorities. However, it was not on a top position, which was held by Donetska oblast.

5. Conclusion

Physical destruction of citizens in the Ukrainian SSR began immediately after the October coup in 1917. Although repressions aimed to affect certain categories of people such as party members, military men, intelligentsia, workers and peasants, they did affect every person directly or indirectly. Unprecedented scale of mass repression came after artificial famine of 1932 - 1933.

The net effect of the mass repressions was physical extermination of active and intelligent part of the nation and moral depraving of those who were not touched by the terror. Stalinist terror probably was one of the cruelest destruction of the population in own country. It is no coincidence that Robert Conquest called the period of repressions as the Great Terror.

To sum up, the brutal massacre of those who were considered opponents of the Soviet rule in the Ukraine began yet in 1920-s. However, only in 1930-s the Ukrainian people faced the real tragedy of “Holodomor” and “The Great Terror”. The peak of repressions during the years of the Great Terror in the Ukraine was the second half of 1937. A sharp decline in repression occurred in the second half of 1938. It is estimated that during the period of the Great Terror 265 thousand 699 people were arrested. 123 thousand 329 people were convicted to the so-called "high degree of social protection" (execution). During the 1937-1938 the categories of people who suffered especially greatly were farmers, intellectuals, officials, and a bit less than other workers. At the same time military repressions, particularly against the Red Army, junior and senior staff of the Red Army, border troops, and employees of the NKVD intensified.

The policy of ‘Ukrainization’, which was cancelled some time after its implementation, and the geopolitical location played a crucial role in the intensive character of the terror in the Ukraine. One of the most populated oblasti in the Ukraine, namely Kyivska, hold almost top position in the “war with anti-Soviet elements”. Despite the fact of the acceptance by the Ukrainian leadership and public the tragedy of Bykivnya, there are still many controversial issues to be researched.

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Appendix 1

Ukrainians as a percentage of entire rural population of the Ukrainian SSR, 1926 [62] 

Appendix 2

Repressions in CP(b)U

Appendix 3

Victims of the Great Terror during 1937-1938 in the Ukraine [63] 

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