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Wartime Repressions

 

The common tragedy united the whole nation in a fight for its very survival. But the rise of patriotism did not signify abandonment by the Soviet regime of its customary repressive practices. On the contrary, the punitive apparatus shored up national unity by its own methods, suppressing all symptoms of dissidence, lack of faith, or questioning of the leadership’s actions. The GULAG network continued to function: labor camps and prisons provided recruits for the Red Army and were, in turn, replenished by those, returning from the German captivity (the regime declared surrender to the enemy tantamount to treason), or those who had stayed behind in the occupied territories (they were automatically suspect of collaboration with the enemy), or those arrested for “anti-Soviet attitudes and gossip” at the front and in the rear.  

Entire nationality groups were singled out for punishment for alleged collaboration with the enemy, including the Crimean Tatars, the Volga Germans, and a number of Caucasian peoples, such as the Ingushetians, Ossetians, and Chechens. They were evicted from their home territories by the interior ministry troops and resettled in the central Asian regions, Kazakhstan, and Siberia. These repressive operations, which victimized nearly two million people, required a massive number of railway carriages and trucks, so badly needed to move supplies to the front. Many of the deportees perished en route to their destinations or did not survive the harsh conditions of the exile.

Despite the efforts by Stalin’s successors—from Khrushchev to Gorbachev—to right the wrongs inflicted on these nationality groups, the consequences of the wartime repressions would continue to have negative effect on interethnic relations within Russia even to the present day.

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USSR in World War II

 

Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
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