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German soldier has his straw boots checked at Russian prison camp
Polish officer murdered in Katyn (Fot. Tomasz Kamiński / Agencja Gazeta)
I Heard My People Cry: One Family’s Escape from Russia by Elizabeth Lenci-Downs
The Katyn massacre, was prompted by Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940. This official document was approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, with 21,768 being a lower limit.
Prisión de Lefortovo (Moscú)
InfoUkes: Ukrainian History — Black Famine in Ukraine 1932-33: A Struggle for Existence
1953: The gulag uprising at Vorkuta
Skulls of exhumed victims of NKVD, Stalin’s secret police, display clear evidence of the cherished NKVD method of murder: single bullet to the head. Chelyabinsk, Ural region, Russia, undated.
Что означают главные русские оскорбления
Secret KGB Torture House Opens Its Doors in Riga
For decades, the Corner House stood as a silent reminder of Russian oppression. Now, the former KGB headquarters are open and exposing the horrors committed against the people of Riga.
06.04.14 5:45 AM ET
It’s like the plot of one of those dystopian young adult novels. There’s a sudden rapping at the door in the middle of the night. A stoic man in a trim suit hands you a warrant. Before you can open the crisp envelope you’re escorted to an imposing structure in the center of town. You’re led inside, and you disappear—never to be heard from again.
For years, this was the reality for those living in the subjugated corners of the Soviet Union, where prosperous and forward-thinking individuals suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Communist ideals were imposed with an iron fist, and any dissenters—from politicians to poets—were disposed of in a variety of decisive ways: deportation, torture, execution.
The agents responsible for cleansing society of the bees that didn’t belong in the hive were known as the KGB, the Committee for State Security (or theKomitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, in Russian.) The organization rivaled the Stasi in its ability to gather information, purge adversaries, and evoke silent fear through an elaborate network of officers and collaborators.
In Riga, Latvia’s capital, the KGB set up its stronghold in an elegant building along the grand boulevards of the city center. The Latvians dubbed it “Stūra māja”—the Corner House, an ironically docile name considering the wicked machinations undertaken behind its walls.
Built during the industrial boom at the beginning of the 20th century, the Corner House was originally commissioned as a stack of luxury apartments for the newly wealthy. The façade bore all the trendy trappings of the Art Nouveau movement that swept across the European continent. It was so beguiling that the Latvian government purchased the building in the 1920s and transformed it into offices for the Ministry of the Interior. …
The Soviet secret police (NKVD) routinely massacred political prisoners as the Germans approached yet another city. Here, hundreds of corpses lay next to the execution field after the NKVD liquidated the city’s prison population in Lvov, Ukraine (called “Lemberg” by the Germans) in July 1941.
In the Russian Arctic north lies buried a disused railway built by prisoners of Joseph Stalin’s gulags and never used – but it could now be revived.
Budapest 1956 :Disabled Soviet tanks in Budapest after the Soviet invasion.
NKVD massacre in Lviv (Lwów) The massacres in this city began immediately after German attack of Soviet Union, on 22 June 1941 and continued until 28 June. Before fleeing the German advance the Soviet NKVD murdered thousands of Ukrainian and Polish civilians, mainly members of the city’s intelligentsia. Unable to evacuate them in time, the NKVD slaughtered their prisoners en masse during the week of 22-28 June 1941.
Lithuanians murdered by the Soviets in Rainiai massacre, one of the brutal mass murders in World War 2 Lithuania. Out of the at least 73 bodies, only 27 could be identified due to mutilations. Prior to death, the victims were tortured: their genitals severed and put into their mouths, eyes picked out, bones crushed, skin burned by hot water and acid, they suffered electrocution. The victims were recently arrested by the Soviets for such ‘crimes’ as participating in the Boy Scout movement or owning a Lithuanian flag.
Lithuanian freedom fighter officer awards a female citizen. In 1944-1953 Lithuanian forests sheltered an entire guerilla state with its own government, army, and courts of law. Some vainly hoped for Western help, for the others tough life in forest helped avoid an even quicker death in Soviet genocide. In order to intimidate the remaining population Soviets used to publically display guerilla corpses in town squares.
This Day in History: Apr 10, 1940: Katyn massacre – Mass execution of 40 thousands Polish officers
Bolshevik Politburo, fall of 1917 the leaders of the opposition. Notice the top three – sound familiar?
Hungry and neglected children — the so-called “Besprisornyje” (“the waifs”)
The Holodomor. Child died on the streets of Kharkov, 1933
Hercolano2: UKRAINE – Holodomor 1932-33 – INTRO + TESTIMONIES + PICTURES
September 1933, approximately two-thirds of Ukrainian pupils were recorded as missing from schools
Victims of hunger. Kharkiv, 1933
A family in Ukraine Starves during the #Holodomor. Photo taken 11 November 1932 pic.twitter.com/vN1Wz2NkZv
Голодомор на Украине Genocide by starvation engineered by Stalin’s regime in Ukraine 1932-1933
The Great Russian famine (1919-1922). Cannibalism. 6 million people died.
Soviet police load corpses of Holodomor victims onto a train, 1932-1933, somewhere in Ukraine.
Dead child, a victim of the Famine Genocide
in Kharkiv. Ukraine, 1933.
These are not the victims of the Nazis. It’s Ukrainians. victims of communist madness.
A victim of the Josef Stalin-ordered Holodomor famine, which killed millions of Ukrainians from 1932-33, is lying on a Kharkiv street in 1933.
Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich Stalins “Kulak” trouble shooter. Between 1928-34, up to 16 million people died in the Ukraine, as a result of mass stravation, shootings, even bombing of entire towns by the Red Army/ Airforce. later he was involved in mass deportations to Siberia of ethnic Muslims in Crimea. He once boasted to Stalin, that famine was cheaper then bullets to kill the Kulaks.
Yakov Yurovsky – Head executioner of the Russian Imperial family. Personally shot Nicholas II, the oldest daughter Tatiana, and only son, tsarevich Alexei.
Newly declassified U.S. army documents proving that two American POWs wrote encoded messages to Army intelligence, MIS-X, soon after their 1943 visit to Katyn, pointing to Soviet guilt for the 1940…
Published September 10, 2012
Written by Associated Press
Declassified documents prove U.S. DID help cover up 1940 Katyn massacre where Soviets slaughtered 22,000 Polish officers
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2201226/Declassified-documents-prove-U-S-DID-help-cover-1940-Katyn-massacre-Soviets-slaughtered-22-000-Polish-officers.html#ixzz4pQWfDjH3
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Two boys with a cache of potatoes they have found during the man-made Holodomor famine in the Ukraine, former Soviet Union, Spring 1934
“Tied up and killed” (Polish Ministry of Information and Documentation records, Hoover Institution Archives)
Starving Ukrainian children during 1932-1933 genocidal famine initiated by the Soviets, known as Holodomor. It resulted in deaths of estimated 2.5-7.5 million Ukrainians. Victims of Holodomor are commemorated fourth Saturday of November each year.
Boryslaw, Poland, Bodies of prisoners killed by the NKVD, 1941.
Molotov children’s camp
Most countries have prison systems where those convicted of crimes serve out their sentences. However, the GULAG—the prison camp system that arose in the Soviet Union after 1929—functioned primarily as a way to gain control over the entire population rather than punish criminal acts. This set of resources and lesson plans helps students to understand what is correctly seen as one of the worst and most shocking episodes of the twentieth century. It includes background readings that outline the establishment and scope of the GULAG system, daily life in the camps, as well as their historical legacy, from De-Stalinization to the birth of the human rights movement; active learning exercises include multiple role play scenarios as well as other activities.
Soldier and kitten. This old picture is precious
Joseph Stalin’s deadly railway lead to nowhere
In the Russian Arctic north lies buried a disused railway built by prisoners of Joseph Stalin’s gulags and never used – but it could now be revived.
Published June 6, 2012
Written by Lucy Ash
Women building the Trans-Polar Mainline – Joseph Stalin’s deadly railway to nowhere – makes an interesting read and an insight into the time.
The Solovetsk Special Camp — according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsin — may be considered as the “mother of the GULAG”. This camp was neither the biggest nor most brutal, yet it became a model camp where the NKVD developed and tested security measures, “living conditions”, production norms for prisoners, and all possible methods of repression. Photo by Tomasz Kizny
MASS DEPORTATIONS TO REMOTE PARTS OF THE SOVIET UNION
This kind of train was used for mass deportations during the Stalinist period and many people were deported from this site. There were two groups of deported people: Prisoners sent to GULAG camps as slave labours, and deportees who should develop isolated regions, also through hard physical labour.
150,000 people were sent to GULAG camps as prisoners, mainly in Siberia. It is estimated that 20.000-25.000 died in the camps. The deportees sent to isolated regions were mainly “kulaks” and so-called “bandit families” of punished individuals. 136,000 of these people were deported to Siberia, the Arctic zone and Central Asia.
Around 28,000 of them died in exile. After Stalin’s death in 1953, it became possible for many deportees to return to Lithuania in the following decades.
POLAND UNDER SOVIET TERROR
When the Red Army invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939, they began the first of three waves of Sovietization – the execution of thousands of Polish intelligentsia, and mass deportations. Hundreds of thousands of Poles, military and civilian, were arrested, and deported to the Russian gulags. They were shoved into trains headed for the farthest reaches of Russia. The voyage took over a week – there was no food, no water, no heat (in sub-zero temperatures), no window, no toilets. Many people died – standing. Upon arrival, those who were too weak to work were shot. Within two years, over 1.5 million Poles were interned in Russian labor camps and concentration camps throughout Russia. Fifty-two per cent of them were ethnic Poles, 30% were Jewish, and18% Ukrainians and Byelorussians.
Stalin’s objective was to finish what the tsars, emperors and kaisers could not accomplish in the past centuries: the total destruction of the Polish nation off the face of the earth. Lenin established the first totalitarian rule, but Stalin perfected it. The entire Russian territory literally became an open prison with thousands of internment camps. Stalin imposed the death penalty on children as young as twelve years old – just for stealing a loaf of bread. He treated animals better than human beings. While horses were well fed, kept in separate stalls with warm blankets, the prisoners were helpless – trying to keep warm by covering themselves with dirty rags, and were given rotting fish heads to eat, and very little water.
Stalin was a killer. He surpassed even Hitler in the brutality and the number of victims that were massacred by his decree. The most infamous was the Katyn Massacre, where the NKVD under orders by Stalin, arrested and detained 15,000 Polish officers and systematically executed them, burying them in mass graves. These graves were discovered German troops when they invaded Russia. After examining the corpses, the Germans accused the Russians of the atrocity, but the Russians denied any responsibility.
The Soviet-Maisky agreement made between Russian and Poland re-established diplomatic ties, and called for thecreation of a new Polish army to be assembled on Russian soil. Though Stalin gave the order to release Polish POWs from Soviet camps, he allowed only about 100,000 of them to leave. The Poles came from as far away as Lake Baikal, and the borders of Mancukug and Manchuria. The remaining 1.4 million Poles were detained as prisoners and not permitted to leave. The NKVD made every effort to obstruct the passage of the refugees trying to reach army checkpoints. Thousands of Poles died travelling on foot through the Russian Steppes, with no food, no water, and insufficient clothing – in the worst sub-zero temperatures. Many refugees managed to reach safety and enlisted in the Polish Army, but once there they faced other perils. Already sick and severely emaciated from years of Soviet oppression, they were not given enough food to eat, although Stalin did promise to provide food rations for
them all. The NKVD even prevented the American Red Cross from providing the refugees with food, medicine, and clothing. It was Stalin’s plan to kill as many Poles as possible – by starvation, or on the battlefield. He wanted to send the fledgling Polish army straight into battle against the Germans, without backup reinforcements, thus ensuring that as many Poles died as possible. General Wladyslaw Anders, the Commander of the II Polish Corps, refused to permit it. Of the 20,000 Poles who were sent to work in the Kolyma mines, only 170 made it to the army camp on the Volga. Thousands of Polish prisoners were released from the gulag of Navaya Zemlya (situated near the Arctic Circle). They walked more than 3,000 miles. There was only one survivor. He died on the day he arrived at the army camp. Of 3,000 Poles sent to work in the lead mines of North Kamchatka, all died of lead poisoning.
General Anders concern for the safety and lives of his men lead him to negotiate with the Allies for an immediate evacuation, which began on March 1942. It was one of the largest evacuations in modern history. But all efforts at obtaining the release of the remaining Polish prisoners in Russia were in vain. Stalin adamantly refused to give in, insisting that they were Soviet citizens .Of the Polish prisoners in Russia, 415,800 died and were buried at registered graves – 434,300 were lost or disappeared, and the 681,400 were never permitted to leave Russia – dead or alive.
The Vinnytsia massacre was a mass execution of (mostly ethnic Ukrainian) people in the Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia by the Soviet secret police NKVD during Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge in 1937–1938.
The Jewish (Ashkenazi Khazar Zionists) Bolshevik Revolution Leaders killed over 200 million Russian and Ukraine people , they were either shot or committed suicide 1917 – Rothschild Communist Zionism…
A GENOCIDE OF HUNGER
The “Grand Famine” (Holodomor in Ukrainian means “ to inflict death through hunger”), organized intentionally by the Soviet regime, struck Ukraine from 1932-1933. According to research, the regions most affected by the famine were what is today known as Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Kiev, and Zhytomyr, which contributed to 52.8% of the famine’s victims. In reality Holomodor affected all of Central, South, East, and North Ukraine. The population of Ukraine in 1932 was 32,680,000 people; diverse sources have estimated the number of victims with values that range from 4.5 to 6 or 7 million. Journalist Paolo Rumiz says that “almost six million died from starvation in only Ukraine” that is “25 thousand a day,” “17 a minute”, specifying that “one out of three deaths were children or babies”. Andrej Gregorovich, an Ukrainian-American, speaks of the death of 7 million Ukrainians; he mentions the statement of Stalin to Churchill, according to which the dead in four years of collectivization were 10 million; Gregorovich confirms that “prudent assessments” said the dead were around 4.8 million, while “many studies re-confirmed” the estimated number of deaths to be between 5 and 8 million. In theBlack Book of Communism, Nicolas Werth talks about “over 6 million victims” (pg.147), as does Giovanni Gozzini in his volume dedicated to illustrate Gulag (the Soviet institution responsible for operating forced labor camps). Deaths from the labor camp system in the USSR “the most recent estimates, accurately conducted by official demographic sources, value that between 4 and 6 million deaths were the fruit of the famine, which was used as an instrument to normalize the structure of classes in the country” (pg.46), says the research of S.G.Wheatcroft and also citing the research gathered by A. Graziosi in Letters from Krakow. The famine in Ukraine and the North Caucaus in reports of Italian Diplomats from 1932-1933. The census of 1933 compared to the census of 1926 shows that the population of the USSR increased by 15.7%, however it fell in Ukraine by 9.9%. The archives of the era, accessible only for a small amount of time, testify to the intentional exploitation of the famine by the Soviet regime in order to damage the peasantry in the new design of “engineered socialism” (cfr. G. Gozzini, Gulag. The system of Labor Camps in the USSR, p.49). Keeping the truth secret, the soviet regime wanted to escape their rightful blame.
Today, no doubts remain that the Holomodor was an act of genocide, which resulted from political decisions of Stalin’s totalitarian regime, to suppress the Ukrainian people. Recently Ukraine has revealed numerous well-known documents from archives of ex-KGB that show the objectives and mechanisms, used by politicians, which sent millions of Ukrainians to their deaths. In many countries around the world there were undisclosed publications and research, like in the archives of Gran Bretagna, Italiy, France etc, which testify that in the case of Ukraine and neighboring regions hunger has been provoked permanently.
Certainly the responsibility for what happened is attributed to the complex Stalinist regime with its punitive branch. Because of the fulfillment of repressive measures, such as: the introduction of enormous shares of harvested grain designated to stockpiles (requisition of the State); the seizure of all foodstuffs; rationing the sale of foodstuffs; the deployment of internal troops, and the restriction of the starving people to marry in other region of the USSR in search of food; the Ukrainian population was made prisoner in enormous ghettos, in which it was impossible to survive. By August 7th, 1932 in the USSR the property collective was dictated “sacred and secure” in a way on which whoever-including children-committed a theft or offense to “socialist property” (such as harvesting and hiding wheat/grain for ones children who were dying of hunger), or “wasted,” would be accused and serve a sentence between ten years in labor camps and the death penalty. The shares designated for the stockpiles (for the city and exports) had absolute prices that could not be reduced for any reason; those constraints on Ukraine were unbearable (in July 1932 45% of harvested grain was demanded and gathered up, in November a second requisition was announced and in January 1933 a third). December 6, 1932, in a bulletin from the Political Office on local authority, Ukrainian villages were accused of not supplying their fixed shares and were subjected to the following sanctions: banned from all provisions (of goods and of food), forced requisitions, banned from all trade, confiscation of every financial resource; all of their available grain was ransacked, including grain for sowing.
On December 27, 1932 the obligatory “passport” was imposed, the passport designated internal movements in order to stop desperate escapes to the zones not struck by the famine. On January 22, 1933 another bulletin, signed by Stalin at Molotov, prevented every method of transportation (by the suspension of selling train tickets and blocking streets) to the Ukrainian peasants and of the Northern Caucasus to escape from districts where there was not anything left to eat.
A quarter of the rural population, including men, women, and children, were annihilated by hunger. Often corpses were left on the street and their relatives, also at the end of their life, did not have the strength to bury them. Although in 1933 the Soviet government exported 18 million kilograms of grain and other products, they continued to officially ignore the famine. On March 15, 1933 the distribution of grain was suspended and in April peasants took grain from army depots in villages. The peasants’ stolen grain would help them in sowing and gathering seeds that, finally, would put an end to the nightmare. The bulletin of the Politburo on December 27, 1932 explained that the objective of the internal passport was “to liquidate the parasite of socialism and to combat the infiltration of Kulak’s in cities”, while the bulletin of January 22, 1933 signed by Stalin in Molotov, referred to “the stop of counter-revolutions” and explained that “The Central Committee and government had the task of stopping the migration of peasants in mass [to the cities in order to escape the famine] organized by the enemies of the Soviet government, by counter-revolutionaries and Polish agents, the purpose of propaganda against the kolkhosiano system in particular and the soviet government in general” (p. 152 The Black Book of Communism).
On May 6th, 1933 Stalin responding with these words to the request of writer Mihail Solohov to send foodstuffs to the exhausted population: “…the respected farmers of his district, and not only his, have led protests and sabotages, and were ready to leave workers and the Red Army without bread! The fact that one commits a silent sabotage yet appears loyal and peaceful (without bloodshed) is a fact that does not change anything about the affair, those respected farmers have searched for a way to depose Soviet power. Causing themselves war with a vengeance, dear Slovak companion!” (p. 154, The Black Book of Communism).
The famine determined to, together with the annihilation of peasants, exterminate the Ukrainian cultural elites and religious and intellectual Ukrainians, all of the categories considered “enemies to socialism”.
On November 29, 2006 Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenk signed a law that defines the Holomodor as an event provoked based on, and then exploited by, precise and provable political decision. The law proclaimed the fourth Saturday of November as a Day of Remembrance in order to commemorate the innocent victims.
On October 23, 2008 the European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Holomodor as “appalling crimes against the Ukrainian population and against humanity”.
In the month of November 2008 the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Patriarch of Moscow defined the Holomodor as an act of genocide. In fact, the Holomodor was recognized as an act of genocide by the governments of: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungry, and the United States.
Two hungry children
The gulag uprising at Vorkuta, 1953
An article, edited from News and Letters, outlining the uprising at the Gulag in Vorkuta in 1953.
Don’t Forget Vorkuta: A Soviet Holocaust
For decades the Russian coal mines of Vorkuta, in the country’s Far East region, have been at the centre of mineworkers’ resistance to oppressive policies. Over the past five years the threat has been regarded as primarily stemming from World Bank-led privatisation programmes. But, sixty and more years ago,when the mines were the central powerhouse for Soviet industrialisation, the peoples’ enemy was Stalinism. Vorkuta then was worked by thousands of political and other prisoners under appalling conditions. Indeed it has been claimed more people (including many Jews) died an unnatural death in Vorkuta under Stalinism than in Auschwitz under Nazism.
In summer 1953 the prisoners finally went on strike. The consequences of this historic resistance – now almost forgotten – arguably led directly to the gradual emptying of the forced labour camps, which not only encompassed Vorkuta but also the liiving hell of Norilsk, Russia’s nickel enclave on the Kola peninsula . However, “dissidents” were still being thrown into the camps well into the 1960’s under the regimes of Krushchev and Brezhnev (see Anne Applebaum “Gulag: a history of the Soviet Camps” Allen Lane, London 2003).
The 1953 uprising is recounted below in an article taken (slightly abridged) from News and Letters, the US-based Marxist Humanist journal. The main text was written by N&L’s founder, the philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya – herself a refugee from what she memorably dubbed “state capitalism”. Her works include “Marxism and Freedom, from 1776 to today” (revised edition 2000) and “Philosophy and Revolution: from Hegel to Sartre and from Marx to Mao” (new edition 2003), both published by News & Letters
The myth of the invincibility of totalitarianism
On the 50th anniversary of the June 17, 1953 East German revolt
News and Letters editor’s note: June 2003 marked the 50th anniversary of the first mass revolt against Stalinist totalitarianism –the June 17, 1953 uprising of the workers of East Berlin. It was followed soon afterward by a revolt inside Russia by prisoners at the Vorkuta slave labor camp. In light of the claim by today’s ruling ideologues, that it is impossible to oppose totalitarianisms from within, Raya Dunayevskaya’s discussion of these two mass uprisings takes on a special importance.
The following document, originally entitled “Two Pages of History That Have Shown the Way to Freedom,” was written on April 23, 1955, at the time of the founding conference of News and Letters Committees . It can be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 1204212046, and has been edited for publication; footnotes are the editors’.
Two Pages of History That Have Shown the Way to Freedom
Adapted from the original April 1953 letter
On June 17, 1953 the East Berlin workers came out in a strike against the Communist rulers. This unprecedented action began as a strike against “higher norms,” that is, speed-up, and developed into calling for the release of political prisoners and the formation of a new government through free elections. It was the first strike to have occurred in a country under Russian occupation and it thereby changed the political face of Europe.
A few weeks later another “first” occurred that shook the Kremlin to its foundations. This time it was a strike at its own slave labor camp at Vorkuta.(1) This strike, inspired by the East German revolt, was even more remarkable than the first in that it was organized underground by prisoners who had no rights whatever and right under the noses of the NKVD (the Russian Secret Police).
We now have the story of this other strike in a most remarkable book by a Dr. Joseph Scholmer, an inmate there who experienced imprisonment by the Gestapo for his anti-Nazi activities only to be re-arrested by the Russians after his liberation for his anti-Russian sentiments.(2) This eyewitness account of the Vorkuta revolt (published after Dr Schulmer returned to the West) is distinguished from all other stories of forced labor camps by its passionate and relentless struggle for freedom. Even the horrible conditions in these camps stand out not for their terror but by virtue of the prisoners’ sense of humor; from their reference to the guards’ tommy-guns as “balalaikas” to their tales of how Jews meet the new anti-Semitism by writing “Indian”, next to the word, “nationality” It is this humanity, this comradeship, which made living tolerable and united them not alone in the aspiration to revolt but the actual planning and execution of it.
‘NOT IN THE WILDEST DREAMS’
The strike in July 1953 could not have occurred without the previous underground formation of resistance groups within the camps, which were led by the various nationalities of Russia, mainly Ukrainians. Yet the strike as it occurred was entirely different from the action planned previously.
Prior to June 17 all the preparations for resistance to the totalitarian rulers were based on the eventuality of war and therefore looked to the Western rulers. When Stalin died [in March 1953] hope spread through the camp, but all that came from the Eisenhowers and Churchills were condolences to the leaders who continued the Stalin regime. Once June 17th took place, on the other hand, the Vorkuta prisoners saw that the workers and only the workers, of whatever country, must achieve their own liberation and by their own methods. East Germany had shown the way and they decided to follow up that strike.
“For a time,” writes Dr. Scholmer, “the prisoners had not really been thinking in terms of outward success at all. They were just intoxicated by the strike….For all those taking part in it, the strike was simply the first positive defiant action of this sort ever to take place within the Soviet Union. And that was enough. It was something unheard of, something which no one had ever thought possible even in his wildest dreams.”
THE STRIKE ITSELF
Indeed, the most remarkable part of the strike is that it ever took place at all. For most participants it was the first strike they had ever been on. It was the ordinary man in the camps that had to bear the day-to-day burden of the strike. At first they just refused to work. But then they actually organized a public meeting right in the camp. They elected a strike committee of their own in which all nations were represented, and informed the camp police that they better withdraw because the prisoners themselves were taking control of the camp.
The police withdrew, not of course without informing Moscow immediately.The strikers refused to meet with their direct jailers but insisted that a representative from the Kremlin be sent down to meet with them. The Russian government sent a commission headed by General Derevianko.(3) His attempt to harangue a public meeting of the inmates proved a failure. The prisoners stood solid, refused to be moved by the [promise of] better food if their sentences remained the same, and they demanded a review of all political trials and removal of barbed wire.
The commission returned to Moscow. Nothing shows so well the uncertainty and insecurity of these totalitarian rulers than the caution with which the government at first dealt with this revolt. The sympathy of the soldiers was also with the prisoners. In the end they did what the Tsar did back in 1912 in the Lena gold field strike: they opened fire and shot down the strikers. But, whereas in East Berlin they resorted to violence quickly, here they bargained and moved cautiously for weeks before the mass shooting.
MYTH OF INVINCIBILITY DESTROYED
[The workers action] had the effect of shaking the Kremlin to its very foundations. A few months later students from the Leningrad Mining Institute ,working in the pit in Vorkuta, told [the prisoners] that everyone had talked about the strike in Leningrad:
“We soon got to know you were on strike,’ they told us. ”The drop in coal was noticeable at once. We don’t have any reserves. There’s just the plan, that’s all. And everyone knows how vulnerable plans are. It destroyed the myth that the system was unassailable'”
Five months after June 17 one of the leaders of the Russian resistance group met an East German student in Vorkuta and naturally the talk was all about the East German revolt. Then the Russian [strike] leaders first grasped the treachery of “the West.” Not only had the Eisenhowers and the Churchills sided with the Stalin regime in Russia as the prisoners here knew, but they now found out that no encouragement to the workers in revolt had been sounded, even from their safe Allied radios. To the prisoners’ “why,” the East German students replied: “Because they were afraid that any aggravation of the situation might lead to war.”
But it’s clear from reports by the prisoners [as Scholmer explains] that the Russians were also afraid it might lead to war! Each side was afraid of the non-existent courage of the other.
The East German students resumed their tale that the labor bureaucrats, as well as the West German government, found nothing better to tell the workers than to be sure “not to compromise themselves.” Finally the Russian resistance leader saw how wrong it was to at all depend on “the West.”
The epilogue, Dr. Scholmer writes, is much more depressing than the conditions at Vorkuta. For here he was, free at last, he thought. He had been one of some thousands of slave laborers released [after Stalin’s death] during the Big Four ministers’ conference.(4) He had a story of revolt to tell and the press to listen. They listened but they didn’t HEAR. First, these Russian experts could not understand that a revolt had occurred; they were (only) ready to discuss abstractions Then he was given the line that “the time was inopportune” to tell his story.
“When I first mentioned the word, ‘civil war’ to these people,” Dr. Scholmer concludes, “they were appalled. The possibility of a rising lay outside their realm of comprehension. They had no idea that there were resistance groups in the camps… I talked to all sorts of people in the first few weeks after my return from the Soviet Union. It seemed to me that the man in the street had the best idea of what was going on. The ‘experts’ seemed to understand nothing.”
The man in the street does indeed know more than these experts because the American worker, as the American public in general, in its own struggles with the bureaucrats, inside and outside factories; in its own aspirations for a new society and struggle for it, feels at one with the Russian and East German workers. It is not a question of language. It is a question of experiences and expectations.
1. The Vorkuta camp, 1,500 miles north of Moscow, was a coal mine that employed tens of thousands of slave laborers at a time. In total, more people perished in Vorkuta than at Auschwitz.
2. See Joseph Scholmer, “Vorkuta “(New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1955)
3. General Kozma N. Derevianko was a major figure in Stalin’s regime who, along with General Douglas McArthur, accepted the surrender of the Japanese in 1945.
4. The “Big Four” refers to the U.S., Russia, England and France, the occupying powers which controlled Berlin after World War II.
News & Letters
36 S. Wabash, Room 1440 Chicago IL 60603, USA
[inline:cemetery.jpg] The cemetery at Vorkuta
Skulls of exhumed victims of NKVD, Stalin’s secret police, display clear evidence of the cherished NKVD method of murder: single bullet to the head. Chelyabinsk, Ural region, Russia, undated.
Foot wrappings of gulag prisoners
Slave labor in the Gulag. Russia.
Unknown ‘Daimler facility in Minsk’ 1942 Female forced laborers of the Daimler facility in Minsk, September 1942. Source: Mercedes-Benz Classic, Archive, Stuttgart
lithuanian girl – prisoner of NKVD
Man spitting on the decapitated head of a statue of Joseph Stalin during the Hungarian Revolt, Budapest Hungary, 1956
Criminal offenders were kept separately from political prisoners. The latter were sent to so-called political isolation camps and to the Department of Special Purpose Solovetski Camps which were established in the early 1920s. The camps were controlled by the state security agencies.
Stalingrad, January 1943: German, Romanian and Italian soldiers are brothers in captivity as they begin the treck to Soviet POW camps, mostly in Siberia.
Alexandre Soljhenitsyn – Gulag Archipel
tragic story of 50,000 British and American soldiers who disappeared into the soviet gulag
Incredible story of pilot who survived a Russian gulag and trekked 830 miles to India before making it to Britain to fly Spitfires for the RAF in WW2
Alexander Ilyich Yegorov or Egorov was a prominent military leader during the Russian Civil War when he commanded the Red Army’s Southern Front. After the war he rose quickly; in 1935 he was one of the first five Marshals of the Soviet Union when this rank was created.During the Great Purge, however, he was accused of conspiring against Stalin and “training terrorists.” He was arrested, stripped of his rank, and died in prison; he was rehabilitated by Khrushchev after Stalin’s death in 1953.
“The Women of the Gulag” by Paul R. Gregory. “These five women put a human face on the terror of Stalin’s purges and the Gulag in the Soviet Union of the 1930s. They show how the impersonal orders emanating from the Kremlin office of “the Master” brought tragedy to their lives.”
The Butugychag Camp on the Kolyma, where a uranium ore-enrichment factory was located.
Soviet Union. Children of the Gulag. Identity photographs of arrested children – image taken from Catriona Kelly, Children’s World: Growing Up in Russia 1890-1991 In 1935 the introduction of Article 12 of the Criminal Code also permitted children from the age of twelve to be sentenced as adults and interned in the Gulags. This law was used to round up the children of those who had earlier been arrested for political crimes based on the belief that ‘an apple never falls far from the tree.’