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A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


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Sunday 10 February 2008

Rejection & the NKVD - Stalin's SS

I write from time to time on Helium.com, so far only in the History section. Recently as a balance to so many articles about the Nazis and the SS I decided that attention should be drawn to the shocking historical double standards that prevail about that period of history. The NKVD was the Soviet equivalent of the SS and at least as disgusting. I did a great deal of research and carried out many re-writes of the article which is only 1500 words only to have it rejected on the grounds that "it attempted to cover too wide an area" - as though I had written a 1000-year history of Russia! I have re-read it many times since and am simply not prepared to re-write it. Since Helium refuses to publish it I am publishing it here, in two parts.

N.B. Subsequently after my representations, Helium did indeed publish the article.

Here is the first part:

Source: here

Stalin’s SS: The NKVD

A vast organisation, operating outside the law, responsible for political repression, espionage, counter-espionage, operating forced labour camps, practising “ethnic cleansing”; for mass murder on an enormous scale, brutal torture, fabrication of evidence, interference in foreign countries and with its own military arm. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Yes, this description obviously applies to the Nazi SS but it applies equally to the Soviet equivalent: Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, “The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”, the NKVD. As with the SS, the total number of deaths attributable to this organisation will probably never be known. Estimates vary but are usually in the order of 20 millions. Of course apart from the deaths, many more had their lives ruined irrevocably as a result of the NKVD’s activities.

Given this lamentable record, it seems extraordinary to the author that writings about the SS’s operations (and indeed the Nazis generally) hugely outnumber those covering the Soviet side.

“Our task is not only to destroy you physically, but also to smash you morally before the eyes of the society.”

Major Wiktor Herer, a superior officer at the Office of Public Security, to a prisoner, 1948.

A most interesting point is made in the first of my sources listed at the end of this article from which the above quotation is drawn. A contrast is drawn between the Gestapo and the NKVD. It is pointed out that appalling as the Gestapo were, they abused people in an attempt to get the truth about a particular subject, whereas the NKVD would abuse people to get them to confess to an untruth. To this writer, this depressing observation highlights the essential depravity and moral bankruptcy of the Stalinist regime.

In the early years following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviets established a secret police organisation, the Cheka, founded by Feliks Dzerzhinsky, which was intended to “protect the revolution”. This organisation was renamed in 1922 as the GPU (State Political Directorate) of the NKVD. In subsequent years, numerous reorganisations took place, and gradually the NKVD’s remit was expanded to include the activities listed in the first paragraph above.

The NKVD’s most infamous period began in 1934 following the assassination of Sergey Kirov, party boss in Leningrad. Many have asserted that the murder was carried out on Stalin’s orders on the grounds that he was concerned about Kirov’s popularity and further that Kirov was of a more liberal disposition than Stalin. Whilst there is no substantive proof of this allegation, it was at this time that Stalin ordered the NKVD to investigate a number of his revolutionary comrades, for example Kamenev, Zinoviev and Simonov, who were arrested on the grounds that they had, in collusion with the exiled Trotsky, plotted Kirov’s murder and were planning to assassinate Stalin. Following confessions extracted presumably under torture and threats to their families, they were tried, found guilty and shot in 1936. At this time N.I. Yezhov, known as “the bloody dwarf” was appointed head of the NKVD and predecessor G.G. Yagoda, together with more of Stalin’s old comrades Bukharin, Rykov and others were arrested and also charged with involvement in a plot with Trotsky to assassinate Stalin. They shared the same gruesome fate as the others.

Thus it was that Stalin was able to achieve unchallenged dominance of state and Party. These events were followed in 1937, by purges in the armed forces, many being executed for alleged Trotskyite sympathies: the higher echelons of the military were drastically reduced and deprived of talent as the events following the German invasion of 1941 were to show. Beginning some years earlier, millions of people had been forcibly removed to what is known as The Gulag: forced labour camps where the inmates were subjected to the most barbarous treatment: it is estimated that only 10% survived. Beyond this, hundreds of thousands of so-called “enemies of the state” were murdered very often following a simple denunciation by a neighbour; the administration even set quotas – clergy, military, Kulaks and so on, for the “liquidations” by region. Many mass graves have been uncovered, gradually revealing the extent of the atrocities perpetrated in order to “defend the State”. Instructions were issued (NKVD Order No 00486) that the wives and children of these “enemies of the state” were suspect and thousands were sent for “re-education” and shipped off either to the work camps or to special state institutions.

Areas were “ethnically cleansed”: Tatars, Poles, Ukrainians, Germans were transported to Siberia, as was during the war, virtually the entire population of Chechenya.

(To be concluded)

N.B. A full list of the sources consulted in the preparation of this article will be provided at the end of PartII

Until next time whenever...

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