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On November 11, 1938, Stalin and
signed a clear decision,
putting an end to the
excesses that took place during the purges.
`The general operations --- to crush and destroy enemy elements
--- conducted by the NKVD in 1937--1938, during which investigation and
hearing procedures were simplified, showed numerous and grave defects
in the work of the NKVD and prosecutor. Furthermore, enemies of
the people and foreign secret service spies penetrated the NKVD,
both at the local and central level. They tried by all means to
disrupt investigations. Agents consciously deformed Soviet laws,
conducted massive and unjustified arrests and, at the same time,
protected their acolytes, particularly those who had infiltrated the
`The completely unacceptable defects observed in the work of the NKVD
and prosecutors were only possible because enemies of the people had
infiltrated themselves in the NKVD and prosecutor offices, used every
possible method to separate the work of the NKVD and prosecutors from
the Party organs, to avoid Party control and leadership and to
facilitate for themselves and for their acolytes the continuation of
their anti-Soviet activities.
`The Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of the
`1. To prohibit the NKVD and prosecutors from conducting any massive arrest
or deportation operation ....
`The CPC and the CC of the CPSU(b) warn all NKVD and prosecutor office
employees that the slightest deviation from Soviet laws and from Party
and Government directives by any employee, whoever that person might
be, will result in severe legal proceedings.
Nouvelles de Moscou 26 (30 June 1992), p. 15.
There is still much controversy about the number of people that were affected
by the Great Purge. This subject has been a favorite topic for propaganda.
in 1937--1938, during the `Great Purge', there were
278,818 expulsions from the Party. This number was much smaller than during
the preceding years. In 1933, there were 854,330 expulsions; in 1934, there
were 342,294, and in 1935 the number was 281,872. In 1936, there
, p. 12.
However, we should underscore that this purge was completely different
from the previous periods. The `Great Purge' focused mainly on cadres. During
the preceding years, elements that had nothing to do with Communism, common
criminals, drunkards and undisciplined elements constituted the majority
of the expelled.
from November 1936 to March 1939, there were fewer than
180,000 expulsions from the Party.
, p. 176.
This number takes into account reintegrated individuals.
Even before the 1938 Plenum, there were 53,700 appeals against expulsions.
In August 1938, there were 101,233 appeals. At that time, out of a total
of 154,933 appeals, the Party committees had already examined 85,273, of which
54 per cent were readmitted.
, p. 190.
No other information could better
give the lie to the statement that the purge was blind terror and
without appeal, organized by an irrational dictator.
claims that there were 7 to 9 million arrests in 1937--1938. At
that time, the number of industrial workers was less than 8 million. This
`bases this on the memoirs of ex-prisoners who assert that
between 4 and 5.5 per cent of the Soviet population
were incarcerated or deported during those years'.
, p. 12.
These figures are sheer fantasy,
invented by enemies of socialism who were firmly committed to harming
the régime by all means. Their `estimates' are based on no serious
`Lacking evidence, all estimates are equally worthless, and it is
hard to disagree with
observation that it is impossible
to make any estimates without erring in the hundreds of thousands
or even millions.'
, pp. 257--258, n. 16.
We would now like to address the Gulag and the more general problem of
the number of imprisoned and dead in the corrective work
camps, the word Gulag meaning Principal Administration
of the camps.
Armed with the science of statistics and extrapolation,
makes brilliant calculations: 5 million
interned in the Gulag at the beginning of 1934; more
than 7 million arrested during the 1937--1938 purges,
that makes 12 million; from this number one million
executed and two million dead of different causes
during those two years. That makes exactly 9 million
politically detained in 1939 `not counting the
figures and those that refute his claims all come
from Nicolas Werth,
`Goulag: les vrais chiffres', op. cit.
See also Getty,
Zemskov, op. cit.
Now, given the size of the repression,
to count cadavers. Between 1939 and 1953, there was
an average annual mortality `of around 10 per cent'.
But, during all these years, the number of detained
remained stable, around 8 million. That means that
during those years, 12 million persons were assassinated
in the Gulag by Stalinism.
The Medvedez brothers, those `Communists' of the
those revealing figures.
There were `12 to 13 million people thought to have been in
concentration camps during Stalin's time'.
who reawoke hopes for `democratization', things
went much better, of course: in the Gulag, there
were only some 2 million common law criminals left.
Roy A. Medvedev
and Zhores A. Medvedev,
The Years in Power (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), p. 19.
Up to now, no problem. Everything was going just fine
for our anti-Communists. Their word was taken for granted.
Then the USSR split up and
able to grab the Soviet archives. In 1990, the
unedited statistics for the Gulag. They contain the
arrivals and departures, right down to the last person.
Unexpected consequence: These accounting books
made it possible to remove
counted 5 million political detainees.
In fact there were between 127,000 and 170,000. The
exact number of all detained in the work camps, political
and common law combined, was 510,307. The political
prisoners formed only 25 to 35 per cent of the detainees.
To the approximately 150,000 detainees,
added 4,850,000. Small detail!
estimated an average of 8 million
detainees in the camps. And
12 to 13 million.
In fact, the number of political detainees oscillated
between a minimum of 127,000 in 1934 and a maximum of
500,000 during the two war years, 1941 and 1942. The
real figures were therefore multiplied by a factor
of between 16 and 26. When the average number of
detainees was somewhere between 236,000 and 315,000
7,700,000 extra! Marginal statistical error, of
course. Our school books, our newspapers, do not
give the real figure of around 272,000, but the
horror of 8,000,000!
the fraud, claims that in 1937--1938,
during the Great Purge, the camps swelled by
7 million `politicals' and there were in addition
1 million executions and 2 million other deaths.
In fact, from 1936 to 1939, the number of detained
in the camps increased by 477,789 persons
(passing from 839,406 to 1,317,195). A falsification
factor of 14. In two years, there were 115,922
deaths, not 2,000,000. For the 116,000 dead
of various causes,
`victims of Stalinism'.
refers to 12 to
13 million in the camps; under the liberal
there remained 2 million, all common
law. In fact, during Stalin's time, in 1951,
the year of the greatest number of detained in
the Gulag, there were 1,948,158 common law prisoners,
as many as during
time. The real
number of political prisoners was then 579,878.
Most of these `politicals' had been Nazi
collaborators: 334,538 had been convicted for
between 1939 and 1953,
there was, in the work camps, a 10 per cent death rate
per year, some 12 million `victims of Stalinism'.
An average of 855,000 dead per year. In fact,
the real figure in peace time was 49,000.
invented a figure of 806,000 deaths
per year. During the four years of the war,
when Nazi barbarity was imposing unbearable
conditions on all Soviets, the average number
of deaths was 194,000. Hence, in four years,
the Nazis caused an excess of 580,000 deaths,
for which, of course, Stalin is responsible.
falsifications, still does his best to
maintain as much as possible the myth of Stalinist `crimes'.
`In fourteen years (1934--1947), 1 million deaths were registered in
the work camps alone.' So
also blames socialism for the 580,000
extra deaths caused by the Nazis!
Let us return to the purge itself.
One of the best-known slanders
claims that the purge was intended to eliminate the `Old Bolshevik Guard'.
Even a vicious enemy of Bolshevism like
can take up the
The Grand Failure
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989), p. 89.
In 1934, there were 182,600 `Old Bolsheviks' in the Party,
i.e. members who joined in 1920 at the latest. In 1939, there were 125,000.
The great majority, 69 per cent, were still in the Party. There was during
those five years a drop of 57,000 individuals, i.e. 31 per cent. Some died
of natural causes, others were expelled, others were executed. It is clear
that if `Old Bolsheviks' fell during the Purge, it was not because they
were `Old Bolsheviks', but because of their political behavior.
, p. 176.
We conclude with the words of
Professor J. Arch Getty
who, at the end
of his remarkable book, Origins of the Great Purges, writes:
`The evidence suggests that the
--- which is what most people
really mean by the ``Great Purges'' --- should be redefined. It was not
the result of a petrified bureaucracy's stamping out dissent and
annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just
the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the
was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to
bureaucracy. The entrenched officeholders were destroyed from above and
below in a chaotic wave of voluntarism and revolutionary puritanism.'
, p. 206.
Next: The Western bourgeoisie
Up: The Great Purge
Previous: The 1937--1938 Purge
Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995