Question by Darrell: Soviet gulag: what factors determined whether a person was sent there or into exile?
…or to an execution! I know much of the time such decisions were made seemingly at random by Cheka/NKVD officers, or even by Lenin or Stalin or their immediate subordinates, but I can’t find any set “rules” about the how the Bolshevik powers chose to perceive in whether people should get exile, slave labor in a gulag or death. Thank you…
Bu$ – OF COURSE they themselves didn’t have the choice! I’m talking about the sentencing of political prisoners by others, and was quite clear about that in the question.
Answers and Views:
Answer by Bu$ – Spurs best team north London
people never had a choice to go exile. they sneaked there. Anti Communists, spy’s and foriegnerforeigners supsected
Answer by Spellbound
It was to do with whether or not they were “politically dangerous”.
Members of the Left Opposition and supporters, the Right Deviation and supporters, signers of the Ryutin Platform and their supporters or those who were named by others or suspected as supporters of the oppositions were nearly all executed.
Other factors included their compliance in the charade of their arrest and trial. If they played their assigned roles, recant, admit their “crimes”, name others and admit the “correctness” of the General Line (the directives and policies of the Party), then they, if they were not one of the leaders of the opposition, may only be sent to the Gulag. Their political position, the point of the Great Purge was to eliminate the intransigent party leadership in the cities, provinces and republics, so a high ranking party official in a city soviet was more likely to be shot than their underlings.
You have to remember that the Great Purge, whilst it was murderous, was not nearly as deadly as was previously thought – “only” some “680,000 were shot and at its greatest extent only about 1.2 million were imprisoned in the Gulag.
People were imprisoned there for many reasons:
Criminals were sent to labour camps as well as to prisons.
Many Kulaks were sent to the Gulag – these were the richer peasants, although, in reality, they were often just the best farmers in the village.
Political opponents were sent to the Gulag. Initially these were the leadership of the rival political parties, the Kadets, the Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries. Then this was expanded to include Bolshevik opportunists: followers of Trotsky, or of the “Right Deviation”.
The Gulag also took in those who took part in rebellions and uprisings as well as those in the party who discussed (in negative terms) policies that had already been decided upon – they were accused of factionalism and of trying to undermine “democratic centralism”.
Then the Gulag expanded and people were imprisoned for almost no reason: a careless word could lead to the Gulag. Teachers feared their pupils, parents feared their children, lovers feared their rivals – as a word to the NKVD about how they had insulted the USSR, expressed “bourgeois nationalist sentiment” or similar could also lead to the Gulag.
On the Origin of the Great Purge by J Arch Getty
BTW – it should be referred to as the Gulag, as it means the political prison system, not the individual camps.
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