The NKVD Mass Secret National Operations (August 1937 - November 1938)

20 May, 2010
Werth Nicolas

1. Context

 In 1992, the discovery in the Soviet archives of the NKVD's secret operational orders has drastically changed our perception of Stalin's Great Terror. These documents disclosed the mechanisms of the hitherto hidden side of the Great Terror – that of the mass secret repressive operations (as opposed to the "public side" – that of the "show trials" and the purges of the political, economic and military elites). These secret operations were a form of social engineering intended to rid the country "once and for all of the entire gang of anti-Soviet elements who undermine the foundations of the Soviet State" (in the words of Nikolai Ezhov, the Head of the NKVD, in the preamble of Order n° 00447). Two main groups of "enemies" were targeted:

The Kulak Operation, launched by the NKVD Operational Order n° 00447 dated July 30, 1937, targeted a wide category of previously identified "social outcasts": the innumerable cohort of "formers", directly and purposefully marginalized in the 1930s ("former kulaks", "former members of anti-Soviet parties", "former White officers", "former tsarist civil servants" and "church officials"), but also various kinds of "socially harmful elements" (such as "recidivist criminals", "bandits", "hooligans", "speculators", "persons with no definite place of work or having ties with the criminal world", etc).

The "National Operations" targeted a number of diaspora minorities, suspected of being "a hotbed of spies and wreckers". On July 25, 1937, Nikolai Ezhov sent to all regional NKVD headquarters Order n° 00439 prescribing the immediate arrest of all German citizens employed (or having been employed) in defense factories, on the railroads and in "other sectors of the national economy". But "Germans" were not the main target: Order n° 00449 prescribed the arrest of all Soviet citizens "having, or having had, ties", in one way or another, with "German spies, wreckers and terrorists". This, of course, considerably widened the scope of the operation, since no more than 4,000 German citizens were registered in the Soviet Union in 1937 (Okhotin & Roginskii, 1999).

Two weeks later, on August 11, 1937, following a Politburo top-secret resolution taken two days earlier, Nikolai Ezhov issued another secret directive, Order n° 00485, aimed at "the complete liquidation of local branches of the Polish Military Organization (POW) and its networks of spies, wreckers and terrorists in industry, transport and agriculture". Order n° 00485 identified targets for arrest: all Polish political émigrés and refugees, as well as "the most active part of local anti-Soviet nationalist elements from the Polish national districts". A month later, this category was extended to all "Soviet citizens of Polish nationality with ties to Polish consulates", a category that could easily embrace any Soviet Pole.

Order n° 00485 served as a model for a series of similar NKVD secret decrees targeting a number of the Soviet Union's diaspora nationalities: the Finnish, Latvian, Estonian, Rumanian, Greek, and Chinese. The NKVD referred to these decrees collectively as "the National Operations" directed against "nationalities of foreign governments". Concerning diaspora minorities, the vast majority of whom were Soviet citizens and whose ancestors had resided for decades and sometimes centuries in the Soviet Union and Russian Empire, "this designation absolutized their cross-border ethnicities as the only salient aspect of their identity, sufficient proof of their disloyalty and sufficient justification for their arrest and execution" (Martin, 2001: 338). Oleg Khlevniuk has convinsingly shown, on the basis of Stalin's correspondence with Soviet diplomats and NKVD officials in Spain in the months preceding the Great Terror, that the launching of the National Operations was related to Stalin's reading of rearguard uprisings against the Republican regime in Spain in the course of the Spanish Civil War. Stalin was convinced that hostile capitalist powers such as Germany, Poland, Japan, Finland, Romania and the Baltic States would organize, in the ever more probable event of war with the Soviet Union, the same kind of rearguard uprisings, resorting to anyone who had some sort of connection with foreign countries, in order to form a "fifth column of diversionists and wreckers" (Khlevniuk, 2000).


As a matter of fact, diaspora nationalities with cross-border ethnic ties to a foreign Nation-State had been considered as potentially disloyal for several years. In early 1935, the Soviet regime launched a number of deportations aimed at "cleansing" the most strategic border regions (the region of Leningrad and the Soviet-Polish border) of their "ethnically suspect elements". Over 8000 families of Polish and German origin were deported in February-March 1935 from the border districts of Kiev and Vinnitsa provinces to eastern Ukraine; at the same time, 12,000 Finns, Estonians and Latvians were deported from the border districts of Leningrad province to Siberia and Central Asia. The cleansing operations in border areas were continued and expanded in 1936, encompassing 20,000 families from the Leningrad region and Western Ukraine. In these operations which were still limited and selective, the ethnic criterion was "blended" with class considerations. Ethnicity was not the only element at stake in the deportations of 1935-1936 and in the murderous outburst of the National Operations of 1937-1938. "Soviet xenophobia" (Martin, 2001: 342) was an ideological rather than an ethnic concept. A good illustration of this is provided by one specific National Operation, initiated by NKVD Order n° 00593 on September 20, 1937, which targeted the so-called "Kharbintsy". These were former personnel (engineers, employees, railway workers) of the Chinese-Manchurian railway whose headquarters were based in Kharbin, in Manchuria. After the sale, by the Soviet government, of this railway to Japan in 1935, many returned to the Soviet Union. For Stalin and his team, although most of the Kharbintsy were ethnic Russians, their cross-border ties to the Kharbintsy remaining in China turned them into the functional equivalent of a diaspora nationality. And so, despite their "Russianness", they too became an "enemy group" targeted as part of the National Operations during the Great Terror (Martin, 2001: 343).

The National Operations were not a minor part of the Great Terror. According to centralized NKVD statistics, from July 1937 to November 1938, 335,513 persons were sentenced by extrajudicial organs in the course of the implementation of the National Operations (while over 800,000 persons were convicted in the so-called Kulak Operation carried out under Order n° 00447). Among them, 247,157 (or 73.6%) were shot – a proportion considerably higher than in the Kulak Operation, in the process of which 49.3% were sentenced "in the first category" (death sentence) (Okhotin & Roginskii, 1999).



2. Decision-Makers, Organizers and Actors

Although Nikolai Ezhov signed all the secret NKVD Operational Orders related to the National Operations, its instigator was Stalin himself. Five days before the issuing of Order n° 00439 (which launched the German Operation), Stalin scribbled, during the Politburo meeting of July 20, 1937, a short note: "ALL Germans working on our military, semimilitary and chemical factories, on electric stations and building sites, in ALL regions are ALL to be arrested" (Okhotin & Roginskii, 1999). As his correspondence with Ezhov clearly shows, Stalin closely monitored the implementation of the National Operations. On Ezhov’s first report on the progress of the Polish Operation (23,000 arrests in four weeks) Stalin wrote: "Cam. Ezhov. This is excellent! Continue to dig, cleanse, eradicate all this polish dirt ! Liquidate all this dirt in the name of the interests of the USSR. J.Stalin, 14.X.37".

In their organization and implementation, National Operations had several specific characteristics with regard to the Kulak Operation". Order n° 00485 (as well as all the other secret directives concerning National Operations) did not fix any quotas of people to sentence in the first category (death) or second category (10 years imprisonement), but indicated several categories of people to arrest. In the case of the Polish Operation, for example, these were:

- all Polish ex-prisonners of war, who had remained in the USSR

- all Polish refugees settled in the USSR

- all Polish political exiles

- all ex-members of the Polish Socialist Party and of other polish political parties

- all "antisoviet and nationalistic elements" from districts and regions of the USSR where a Polish community existed.

- all Soviet citizens having had some sort of contact with Polish diplomatic, consular, military, commercial or economic representatives in the USSR.

In the case of the German Operation, the targeted categories were much the same: German ex-prisonners of war, who had remained in the USSR; German political exiles and refugees from Germany, especially workers and engineers who had come from Germany in the 1920s and at the beginning of the 1930s and who had taken Soviet citizenship; "anti-soviet and nationalistic elements" from districts and regions of the USSR where a German community existed.

To these "standard categories", local officials of the NKVD were encouraged to add "specific groups" – which they did. In Kharkov, for example, L. Reikhman, the newly-appointed Head of the NKVD, ordered the following "additional" categories of people to be arrested, in the process of the Polish Operation:

- all ex-agents of the NKVD "Foreign Department" having been in charge of "Polish affairs"

- all informants of the NKVD "specialized in Polish affairs"

- all "clerical elements" having, or having had, some kind of connection with Poland

- all Soviet citizens having "family or other suspect ties" in Poland.

In Gorki, the local Head of the NKVD decided to add to the "standard categories" of the German Operation, which were "too thin" in the area within his juridiction, another group consisting of "ex-prisoners of World War I having been in captivity in Germany, recruited by German secret services to organize terrorist and spying activities" (441 persons were arrested in this category under Order n° 00439 in Gorky region). In Sverdlovsk, the NKVD Chief D. Dmitriev decided, for lack of "proper suspects" for the German Operation, to arrest thousands of Ukrainian and Russian deportees. Thus, the Sverdlovsk region could boast an excellent score – 4,379 individuals arrested in operations implementing Order n° 00439, or 8% of the overall figure of the German Operation (but out of these 4,379, only 122 were of German origin!). As the fate of the arrested depended entirely on the zeal of local NKVD bosses, the chance of being caught and the probability of being sentenced "in the first category" (death penalty) varied considerably: in Armenia, 31% of those trapped in National Operations were shot; in the Vologda region, 46%; in Bielorussia, 88%; Krasnodar territory, Novossibirsk and Orenbourg regions had the highest rate of "first category" victims: respectively 94%, 94.8% and 96.4%!

The cases of people arrested under one of these National Operations was swiftly examined by the regional dvoïka (a two-man commission comprising the NKVD chief and the procurator), who decided what punishment should be applied to the accused: the first category (death sentence) or the second category (10 years in camp). The verdict was to be confirmed by Moscow, that is by Ezhov or Vychinski (the General Procurator of the USSR). Each case examined by the local dvoïka was summed up in a few lines giving a minimal information on the identity of the accused, their alleged crime, and the proposed punishment. These short abstracts were copied in a special album. When the album was full, it was sent "for approval" to Moscow, with a special NKVD messenger. Of course, neither Ezhov nor Vychinski had time to countersign every record, since each album contained several hundred cases. The records were countersigned (and the verdict of the dvoïka thus confirmed) by NKVD high-ranking officials, who glanced through the album, ratifying the sentence in 99% of the cases. Ezhov or Vychinski signed only the final page of the album. In spite of this swift procedure, albums got stuck in Moscow: in July 1938, over a hundred thousand cases (several hundred albums) piled up in the headquarters of the NKVD. Meanwhile, prisons all over the country were overcrowded with people waiting for their sentence to be confirmed. In order to put an end to this situation, the Politburo decided, on September 15, 1938, to abolish the "album procedure" (as it was called in NKVD circles) and to set up, in every region, territory and republic, "special troïki", whose decisions, as those of the extra-judicial organs implementing Order n° 00447, would not require confirmation by central authorities. These special troïki were to complete the examination of all cases related to the different National Operations before November 15. During these two months, over 105,000 people were sentenced. Special National Operations were stopped on November 17, 1938, after the Politburo issued a top-secret decision abolishing all troïki and dvoïki, and sharply criticizing "major deficiencies and distortions" in the work of the NKVD (Okhotin & Roginskii, 1999; Petrov &Roginskii, 2003).



3. Victims

According to the State Security central authorities’ accountancy, over 335,000 persons were sentenced in the course of the National Operations. The largest contingent (140,000) was trapped in the Polish Operation. Out of this number, 111,000 (or 79%) were executed. Some 55,000 were sentenced under Order n° 00439 (the German Operation), 76% of whom (or 42,000 persons) were executed. In the course of the Kharbin Operation, 33,000 persons were sentenced, of whom 65% (21,200) were executed. The Latvian Operation ended in 22,000 sentences (75% – or 16,500 – in the first category). For the Greek, Romanian, Finnish and Estonian "mass operations", statistics run until mid-September 1938. At that time, the number of people sentenced in each of the four mass operations was respectively: 11,260 (9,450 sentenced to death); 6,300 (4,020 sentenced to death); 7,023 (5,724 sentenced to death); 5,680 (4,672 sentenced to death).

Unfortunately, we do not know exactly how many members of the diaspora nationalities were arrested, sentenced and executed, since not everyone arrested in the Polish Operation, for example, was a Pole or a Soviet citizen of Polish origin, nor were all arrested Poles or Soviet citizens of Polish origin included in the Polish Operation. For instance, through September 1938 in Belorussia, Soviet citizens of Polish origin made up only 43% of those arrested in the Polish Operation, whereas Soviet citizens of German origin made up 76% of the German Operation, and Soviet citizens of Latvian origin 75% of the Latvian Operation. In Moscow, through July 1938, Soviet citizens of Polish origin made up 57% of those arrested in the Polish Operation (Martin, 2001: 339). 

For the Polish and the German Operations, NKVD central statistics, discovered by N. Okhotin, A. Roginski and N. Petrov, give information on the number of people arrested and sentenced in the different regions of the USSR. Not surprisingly, the largest group (40% of all people arrested in the process of the Polish Operation; 39% of all people arrested in the process of the German Operation) came from the Ukraine, and in particular from its western border districts, where there lived a large Polish community and a smaller German one. Tens of thousands of peasants, industry and railway workers, employees and engineers were arrested for no reason other than that they lived and worked "too close to the enemy". For the same reason, Bielorussian provinces accounted for 17% of the arrested under Order n° 00485. Surprisingly, at first sight, Western Siberia, Southern Urals, North Caucasus, Kazakhstan and the Far-East showed high numbers of arrests: in these unruly regions, with large numbers of deportees and social outcasts, high quotas of "anti-Soviet" and "socially harmful elements" to "repress", local NKVD officials tended to fill in "national lines" (another piece of police jargon) with their usual victims, who had little in common with those targeted by Orders 00439, 00485 or 00593 (Okhotin & Roginskii, 1999; Petrov & Roginskii, 2003).

A remarkable feature of the National Operations should be underlined: until May 1938, the NKVD leadership did not seem concerned by the ethnic origin of those arrested; information concerning their nationality and ethnic origin was systematically collected only after September 1938, when "special troïki" were set up to "finish off" the National Operations. Thus, we know that among the 36,768 individuals sentenced under Order n° 0048" (Polish Operation) by the "special troïki" between September and November 1938, Poles and soviet citizens of Polish origin represented 55% of the total, Bielorussians 15%, Ukrainians 13%, Russians 9% and Jews 4%.

According to N. Okhotin and A. Roginski, Poles and Soviet citizens of Polish origin represented about 70% of the 140,000 persons sentenced under Order n° 00485 (that is 98,000 persons). Altogether, during the Great Terror, approximately 120,000 Poles and Soviet citizens of Polish origin were arrested and sentenced. With one-fifth of its total group repressed, Soviet citizens of Polish origin paid the heaviest toll of all ethnic minorities forming the "Great Soviet family". Soviet citizens of German origin represented 69% of the 55,000 persons sentenced under Order n° 00439 (that is 38,000 people). Altogether, during the Great Terror, approximately 72,000 Soviet citizens of German origin were arrested and sentenced – that is 5% of the Soviet Germans. A remarkable feature should be stressed at this point: relatively few Soviet Germans living in the Autonomous Republic of the Volga Germans (by far the largest community of soviet citizens of German origin) were arrested in the course of the German Operation. In 1937-1938, Soviet citizens of German origin living in the Autonomous Soviet Republic of the Volga Germans seem to have been considered as "better integrated" in the Soviet system than individuals of German origin scattered in "sensitive" border areas or in industrial towns (German, 1996). Ethnicity as such was not the prime criteria, as it would be two or three years later, when entire ethnic groups would be deported (among them, all Soviet Germans).



4. Witnesses

The main characteristic of the mass operations was their absolute secrecy: no more than a hundred high party and NKVD officials received a copy of the NKVD secret operational orders; all the other executants were given oral instructions on how to proceed with the operation. The dvoiki and troiki sat behind closed doors, in the absence of the accused and without any defender. The obsession with secrecy went so far as not to inform the condemned person - nor his relatives - of the death sentence passed on him. The instructions issued on August 14, 1937 to the NKVD regional chiefs, emphasized the need "to ensure that there is absolute secrecy concerning time, place and method of execution. Immediately on receipt of this order you are to present a list of NKVD staff permitted to participate in executions. Red Army soldiers or ordinary policemen are not to be employed. All persons involved in the work of transporting the bodies and excavating or filling in the pits have to sign a document certifying that they are sworn to secrecy" (McLoughlin, 2003). Nevertheless, some NKVD chiefs not only infringed these regulations, but invited colleagues to attend the "wedding" – a coded expression, in NKVD circles, to designate executions. Except for those who were forced to testify during the limited purges of the NKVD apparatus after the end of the Great Terror (it goes without saying that these testimonies should be subjected to strong historical criticism), very few witnesses, such as people living in the neighborhood of the NKVD "shooting ranges" for example, left testimonies on this secret mass crime.


5. Memories

The mass operations of 1937-1938 remained secret for over half a century, until the beginning of the 1990s. Two and a half years after the end of the Great Terror, Soviet society was confronted with the Nazi invasion. The murderous cataclysm of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) in the course of which over 20 million Soviet citizens were killed and the collective sufferings of a whole nation at war deeply buried the secret, unspeakable and thus strictly individual memory of the arrest and disapearance of beloved and relatives during the Great Terror. Only a handful of prisoners, sentenced in 1937-1938 to a ten-year sentence were released in 1947-1948. Most of those who had survived the terrible war years in the Gulag (the mortality rates were as high as 20% in 1942 and 1943) were given a second ten-year term. Only after the death of Stalin did hope return for the relatives of the repressed. In 1954-1956, special commissions were set up in order to "review the cases of individuals condemned for counter-revolutionary crimes and serving their sentence in camps or labour settlements". Approximately 450,000 political prisoners were released, but no more than 4% of them were duly rehabilitated. Among those released, how many were survivors of the 1937-1938 Great Terror"? Less than 100,000 out of the 750,000 ascribed to the "second category". The return of the survivors brought about a stream of letters sent to the Procuracy or the KGB (State Security) by relatives of those who had vanished since 1937-1938. The question of what they should be answered was discussed at the highest level of the Party and the State Security. On August 24, 1955, Ivan Serov, the newly appointed Chief of the KGB, directed, in a secret instruction to the State Security staff, "not to inform the relatives of persons sentenced to the death penalty of the sentence (…) and tell them that the condemned was sentenced to a ten-year term in camp and had died at a date which will be arbitrarily fixed in the lapse of time between 1937-1938 and 1947-1948" (Artizov et al., 2000). The Procuracy and the KGB slowed down all the demands of revision. Less than 8% of the demands were examined in 1957; 6% in 1958 and under 5% during the following years. The few rehabilitated persons – approximately five to ten thousand per year in the late 1950s and early 1960s – received neither moral, nor material compensation for all the time they had spent in camps (except a two-month wage calculated on the basis of their last salary before arrest, the latter being assimilated to a "breach of work contract"). Not a single NKVD torturer who had extracted false confessions from the victims was handed over to justice. After Khruschev’s fall, in October 1964, the rehabilitation process came to a complete stop for nearly twenty years. The memory of the Great Terror survived only in the private sphere. Only with the perestroika launched by Mikhail Gorbatchev in 1986 did the tragic events of 1937-1938 begin to re-emerge in the public sphere. In september 1987, Mikhail Gorbatchev set up a special commission in charge of inquiring into the "mass crimes committed by the Stalinist regime" (Artizov et al., 2003). Considering the growing flood of rehabilitation demands which threatened to engulf the whole judicial apparatus (since the beginning of the perestroika, over 100,000 demands of rehabilitation had arrived at the Procuracy), the commission proposed, in September 1988, a general rehabilitation of every Soviet citizen who had been condemned by the infamous troїki, dvoїki or by any other extra-judicial authority appointed by Stalin and his team. On January 16, 1989, a law abolished all the sentences delivered by special juridictions under the Stalinist regime. However, the archives related to the political mechanisms of the repression remained closed for historians and members of civic rights associations, such as Memorial. Only after the fall of the Soviet regime, in December 1991, were they allowed to conduct archival research on the mass repressive campaigns of the Staline era and on the Great Terror in particular. Thus, a team of historians from Memorial discovered, in June 1992, the secret Stalin instructions on the launching of the mass operations and the NKVD operational orders of 1937-1938. The testimony of a NKVD official put these historians on the track of the Butovo "shooting range". Excavations carried out in 1997 established, sixty years after the Great Terror, that it was a place of mass burials, and probably of mass executions, too (although medical experts were uncertain whether "the corpses were thrown into the graves immediately after their death, or from eight to ten hours after") (Golovkova, 1999). At the same time, Memorial historians and activists decided to start a meticulous process of establishing, in local and central State Security archives, an exhaustive list of the victims of the Stalinist repressions, and of the Great Terror of 1937-1938. Since the mid-1990s, several hundred "memorial books" (knigi pamiati) have been published. These books list standard biographic data concerning the victims (birth date and place, profession, nationality, place of residence). They often also provide information concerning social origin, education, Party membership, previous convictions as well as the date of arrest, sentencing (including the article of the criminal code, the sentence itself and the sentencing body) and execution. A drawback of these books is that they almost never include those convicted as ordinary criminals (which they were not). Many of the memorial books also include extensive valuable documentary materials from local and central KGB archives, as well as autobiographical memoirs from survivors. A complete collection of these memorial books can be found in the library of the Moscow branch of Memorial (the website has an extensive list of these knigi pamiati).



6. General and Legal Interpretations of the Facts

Long before the opening of the Soviet archives, the Great Terror had provoked a number of debates about the amplitude, the mechanisms, the reasons and the purpose of these mass purges. In the 1950s American scholars proposed a structural explanation of the Great Terror: as a totalitarian system Stalin’s regime had to maintain its citizens in a state of fear and uncertainty, and recurrent random purging provided the mechanism (Brzezinski, 1958). At the end of the 1960s, Robert Conquest published the first detailed account, which was to become a classic reference, on the Great Terror (Conquest, 1968). This work emphasized Stalin’s paranoia, focused on the Moscow show trial of “Old Bolsheviks”, and analyzed the carefully planned and systematic destruction of the Leninist party leadership as the first step toward terrorizing the entire population. In the mid 1980s, John Arch Getty, an american historian of the revisionist school contested Conquest’s interpretation, arguing that the exceptional scale of the purges was the result of strong tensions between Stalin and regional Party bosses who, in order to deflect the terror that was being directed at them, had found innumerable scapegoats on which to carry out repressions, demonstrating in this way their vigilance and intransigence in the struggle against the common enemy. Thus, far from being a planned and long-term project revealing the growing paranoia of an all-mighty dictator, the Great Terror turned out to be a “flight into chaos” (Getty, 1985). In spite of their fundamentally different approach, historians of both schools focused on party purges, repression of real or imagined “oppositionists”, show trials of party leaders, elimination and replacement of political, intellectual, economic or military elites, and struggle between the center and regional party cliques. Neither of them studied, mainly because of the scarcity of information on the subject, the mechanisms, organization, implementation of mass arrests and mass executions, or the sociology of the victims, who represented a much wider group than party elites or intelligentsia. Thus, the Great Terror of 1937-1938 in the Soviet Union solidified in popular and academic memory as Stalin’s attack on political and social elites, as the “Great Purges”. 

This has been fundamentally challenged since the opening of the soviet archives, the discovery of the NKVD operational orders and other top-secret Politburo documents. Scholars now insist on the hidden side of the Great Terror, interpreting it as a crucial moment – or rather the culmination – of a vast social engineering campaign started at the beginning of the 1930s (Hagenloh, 2000; Shearer, 2003; Werth, 2003). In the light of recent research, the qualification of “Great Purges” seems incorrect to characterize this murderous outburst of violence. The extreme diversity of the victims makes difficult any legal qualification of this crime, which appears to be in a class of its own: 800,000 people executed in secret (over half of them under Order n° 00447) by means of a bullet in the back of the head after a pretence of justice; this over a period of sixteen months, at a rate of 50,000 executions per month or 1,700 per day for nearly 500 days. Let us therefore content ourselves with a “minimalist” classification: the Great Terror was one of the worst and largest mass crimes carried out by the Stalinist State against one per cent of its adult population.



7. Bibliography


A - Books

ARTIZOV, Andrei, SIGACHEV, Iouri, et al. (eds.), 2000, Reabilitatsia: kak eto bylo. Dokumenty Prezidiuma TsK KPSS, mart 1953-fevral’ 1956 (Rehabilitation: as it happened. Documents of the Praesidium of the CC of the CPSU, March 1953 – February 1956), Moscow: Mejdunarodnyi Fond Demokratia. 

ARTIZOV, Andrei, SIGATCHEV, Iouri, et al. (eds.), 2003, Reabilitatsia: kak eto bylo. Dokumenty Prezidiuma TsK KPSS, fevral’ 1956- nacalo 1980-x godov (Rehabilitation: as it happened. Documents of the Praesidium of the CC of the CPSU, February1956 – beginning of the 1980’s), Moscow: Mejdunarodnyi Fond Demokratia. 

BELKOVETS, Lidia, 1995, Bolshoi Terror i sud’by nemetskoi derevni v Sibiri (The Great Terror and the Fate of German Settlements in Siberia), Moscow: Zvenia.

BRZEZINSKI, Zbigniew, 1958, The Permanent Purge, Cambridge (Mass): Cambridge University Press.

CONQUEST, Robert, 1968, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, New York: MacMillan 

DANILOV, Viktor Petrovitch, MANNING, Roberta, VIOLA, Lynne (eds.), 2001, Tragedia sovetskoi derevni. Dokumenty i materialy v 5 tomax, 1927-1939 (The Tragedy of the Soviet Countryside: Documents in 5 volumes, 1927-1939), vol.3, Moscow: ROSSPEN.

DANILOV, Viktor Petrovitch, MANNING, Roberta, VIOLA, Lynne (eds.), 2006, Tragedia sovetskoi derevni. Dokumenty i materialy v 5 tomax, 1927-1939 (The Tragedy of the Soviet Countryside: Documents in 5 volumes, 1927-1939), vol.5, 1/2, Moscow: ROSSPEN.

GERMAN, Andrei, 1996, Istoria Respubliki Nemtsev Povoljia (History of the Volga German Republic), Moscow: Zvenia. 

GETTY, John Arch, 1985, Origins of the Great Purges: the Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.

GOLOVKOVA, Lidia (ed.), 1997-2004, Butovskii Poligon. 1937-1938: Kniga pamiati jertv politiceskix repressij (Butovo’s Shooting Range, 1937-1938: Book of memory of the victims of political repression), vol.1-8, Moscow: Alzo. 

JANSEN, Marc and PETROV, Nikita, 2002, Stalin’s Loyal Executioner: People’s Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940, Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

KHANEVITCH, Viktor, 1998, Iz istorii zemli tomskoi: 1937 Sibirskii Belostok (From the History of Tomsk Region: The Siberian Belostok), Tomsk: Zvenia.

KUROMIYA, Hiroaki, 2007, The Voices of the Dead: Stalin’s Great Terror in the 1930’s, New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

MCLOUGHLIN, Barry and MCDERMOTT, kevin (eds.), 2003, Stalin’s Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

MARTIN, Terry, 2001, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939, Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

VATLIN, Aleksandr, 2004, Terror rajonnogo maschtaba: ‘massovye operatsii’ NKVD v Kuntsevskom rajone Moskovskoj oblasti 1937-1938 (The Terror on a District Level: ‘mass operations’ of the NKVD in the district of Kuntsevo of the Moscow region in 1937-1938), Moscow: ROSSPEN.

WERTH, Nicolas, 2007, La terreur et le désarroi. Staline et son système, Paris: Perrin.

WERTH, Nicolas, 2009, L’ivrogne et la marchande de fleurs. Autopsie d’un meurtre de masse, 1937-1938, Paris: Tallandier.


B - Articles

HAGENLOH, Paul, «Socially Harmful Elements and the Great Terror», in FITZPATRICK, Sheila (ed.), 2000, Stalinism: New Directions , London & New York: Routledge, pp. 286-307.

KHLEVNIUK, Oleg, «The Reasons for the Great Terror: the Foreign-Political Aspect», in PONS, Silvio, and ROMANO, Andrea (eds.), 2000, Russia in the Age of Wars, 1914-1945 , Roma: Annali, pp. 159-173.

MARTIN, Terry, 1998, «The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing», Journal of Modern History , 70: 4, pp. 813-861.

OKHOTIN, Nikita, and ROGINSKII, Arsenii, «Iz istorii ‘nemetskoi operatsii’ NKVD 1937-1938» (History of the ‘German Operation’ of the NKVD, 1937-1938), in SCHERBAKOVA, Irina (ed.), 1999, Nakazannyi Narod (The Punished People), Moscow: Zvenia, pp. 35-74.

PETROV, Nikita, and ROGINSKII, Arsenii, «The ‘Polish Operation’ of the NKVD, 1937-1938», in MCLOUGHLIN, Barry, MCDERMOTT, Kevin (eds.), 2003, Stalin’s Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union , Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 153-172.

SHEARER, David, «Social Disorder, Mass Repression and the NKVD During the 1930’s», in MCLOUGHLIN, Barry, and MCDERMOTT, Kevin (eds.), 2003, Stalin’s Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 85-117.

WERTH, Nicolas, «The Mechanism of a Mass Crime: The Great Terror in the Soviet Union, 1937-1938», in GELLATELY, Robert, and KIERNAN, Ben (eds.), 2003, The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective , Cambridge (Mass): Cambridge University Press, pp. 215-241.

WERTH, Nicolas, 2006, «Les ‘opérations de masse’ de la ‘Grande Terreur’ en URSS, 1937-1938», Bulletin de l’IHTP , 86: 6-167.


C - Website

Website of the Memorial Society:

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Werth Nicolas, The NKVD Mass Secret National Operations (August 1937 - November 1938), Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 20 May, 2010, accessed 17/05/2021,, ISSN 1961-9898
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