Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine
The author shows motives and methods of falsifications in the activity of NKVD officers at the time of Great Terror. An example of Perm NKVD officers is a focus of this micro-historical analysis. The main sources include the files of so called «counterrevolutionary crimes’ trials» in the State Contemporary History Archives of Perm Region. The most useful documents are examination testimonies of Perm NKVD officers. These sources correlate with a great number of evidences of the victims of political repressions. Available sources permit revealing both the motives and methods of falsification work of Perm NKVD officers. The subject of inquiry is an illegal activity of executors who were NKVD officers of mean and lower rank. Using mass falsification allowed them to construct fabulous plots which were supposedly hatched by “public enemies”. Those NKVD officers, together with their leaders, became co-organizers of Great Terror. The analysis of the sources permits stating that daily work of NKVD officers in the years of Great Terror was not in conducting inquiries but in providing mass falsifications based on forgery, violence, etc.
The article reviews social context of repressions during the Great Purge. The main focus is made on the specific features of terror's events, specifically - on the interpretation of social ties as a basis of "counter-revolutionary organizations". This interpretation turned prisoners' relationships with neighbors, colleagues and personal friends into acts of conspiracy. The author proves the struggle of the government against informal ties between participants of political, economical and cultural institutions. Political campaign against "clans", "workingmen's cooperatives" etc. served as a basis for social politics of RCP(b) and AUCP(b) in the 1920s-1930s. The Great Purge was aimed to deconstruct existed both professional and personal social relationships between Soviet citizens. It was a basis for production of atomized individuals and as cogs in state's machine. The destruction of existing social ties allowed the power to organize new social politics aimed to organize the society into productive "collectivity". Pressure against other forms of association whether they were territorial, based on friendship and even kinship, was proclaimed to be the war against "gruppovschina". The purpose of total collectivization of the society required terror and repressions.
In their most recent works, North and his coauthors (North, D. C., J. J. Wallis, S. Webb, and B. R. Weingast. 2012. In the Shadow of Violence: Politics, Economics, and the Problems of Development. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; North, D.C., J. J. Wallis, and B. R. Weingast. 2009. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press) name the formation of organizations capable of effectively restricting violence in society as a necessary condition for transition from developing societies to societies with sustainable economic growth. However, the mechanisms of emergence and conditions for the operation of such organizations in contemporary developing countries remain unclear. We follow the logic of formation of such organizations using the case study of collective actions of the Russian business community aimed at restricting “state violence” against business. We seek to identify the conditions leading to a shift in the choice of strategies from attempts at informal agreements with extortionists controlling means of coercion to cooperation of businessmen and trace the further evolution of organized forms of collective action. Finally, we assess to what extent the created organizations can be efficient and self-supporting in the long term.
In the Great Terror of 1937–38 more than a million Soviet citizens were arrested or killed for political crimes they didn’t commit. What kind of people carried out this violent purge, and what motivated them? This book opens up the world of the Soviet perpetrator for the first time. Focusing on Kuntsevo, the Moscow suburb where Stalin had a dacha, Alexander Vatlin shows how Stalinism rewarded local officials for inventing enemies. Agents of Terror reveals stunning, detailed evidence from archives available for a limited time in the 1990s. Going beyond the central figures of the terror, Vatlin takes readers into the offices and interrogation rooms of secret police at the district level. Spurred at times by ambition, and at times by fear for their own lives, agents rushed to fulfill quotas for arresting “enemies of the people” —even when it meant fabricating the evidence. Vatlin pulls back the curtain on a Kafkaesque system, forcing readers to reassess notions of historical agency and moral responsibility in Stalin-era crimes.