Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Stalin and the Politics of Kinship: Practices of Collective Punishment, 1920s–1940s

  • Golfo Alexopoulos (a1)

At a Kremlin reception on 7 November 1937, Stalin declared that enemies should be eliminated as kinship groups: “And we will eliminate every such enemy [of the state and peoples of the USSR]… . we will eliminate his entire lineage (rod), his family! … Here's to the final extermination of all enemies, both themselves and their clan (rod).”1 In the Soviet Union, political enemies were rounded up in groups of kin, family ties marked people as disloyal, and “counterrevolutionary” charges against one person threatened also his or her relatives. The Soviet security police or OGPU-NKVD issued detailed instructions regarding the punishment that should be assigned to the spouses, children, siblings, parents, and even ex-wives of state enemies. Campaigns against anti-Soviet elements rounded up kinship groups, whether these counterrevolutionaries were identified as so-called kulaks, enemies of the people, or traitors to the motherland. To be sure, the collective punishment of kin did not accompany every act of Stalinist repression. The regime's draconian criminal legislation also constituted a form of terror, yet persons sentenced under such laws as those punishing theft of socialist property were dealt with individually; their relatives were not targeted. Only the “politicals,” that is, people accused of disloyalty, treason, or other counterrevolutionary activities experienced terror as family units. It was the collective punishment of kin that made political repression under Stalin truly a mass phenomenon.

Hide All

1 The Russian word rod is typically translated as “clan” in this particular passage, but more appropriately refers to “lineage.” I include here both translations of rod to convey the full meaning of Stalin's evocative language. See the diary of Dimitrov G. M., in, Nevezhin V. A., ed., Zastol'nye rechi Stalina: Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow–St. Petersburg:AIRO-XX, 2003), 148.

2 See, for example, Hooper Cynthia, “Terror of Intimacy: Family Politics in the 1930s Soviet Union,” in, Kiaer Christina and Naiman Eric, eds., Everyday Life in Early Soviet Russia: Taking the Revolution Inside (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 6191; Thurston Robert W., “The Soviet Family during the Great Terror, 1935–1941,” Soviet Studies 43 (Fall 1991): 553–74.

3 For example, see Deti GULAGa: 1918–1956 (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond “Demokratiia,” 2002); Jolluck Katherine R., Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union During World War II (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); Kuhr Corinna, “Children of ‘Enemies of the People’ as Victims of the Great Purges,” Cahiers du Monde russe 39 (1998): 209–20; Viola Lynne, “‘Tear the Evil from the Root’: The Children of the Spetspereselentsy of the North,” in, Baschmakoff Natalia and Fryer Paul, eds., Modernization of the Russian Provinces, Special issue of the journal Studia Slavica Finlandensia 17 (Helsinki, 2000): 3472; Vilensky Simeon, ed., Till My Tale Is Told: Women's Memoirs of the Gulag (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

4 On patronage networks as targets of Stalinist repression, see, for example, Easter Gerald M., Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Walker Barbara, Maximilian Voloshin and the Russian Literary Circle: Culture and Survival in Revolutionary Times (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).

5 Robert Service argues that Stalin adopted the practice from Ivan the Terrible. See his Stalin: A Biography (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 340–41.

6 See Ledeneva's Alena, “The Genealogy of Krugovaya Poruka: Forced Trust as a Feature of Russian Political Culture,” in, Markova Ivana, ed., Trust and Democratic Transition in Post-Communist Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 85108; and How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices that Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 91–115; and Hosking Geoffrey, “Forms of Social Solidarity in Russia and the Soviet Union,” in, Markova Ivana, ed., Trust and Democratic Transition in Post-Communist Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 4762.

7 Dewey Horace W., “Russia's Debt to the Mongols in Suretyship and Collective Responsibility,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 30 (1988): 254. Before coming to Russia, the Mongols conquered China, where practices of collective responsibility were quite old. Under the Qin dynasty (230–206 b.c.), the Chinese punished political offenses such as treason not only by executing the guilty persons but also by subjecting the traitor's entire clan to death or slavery. Later Chinese dynasties continued the practice of punishing the family members of criminals and political offenders. Ibid., 255–56.

8 Stalin himself constructed a system of collective responsibility to control his Politburo colleagues. See Gorlizki Yoram, “Stalin's Cabinet: The Politburo and Decision Making in the Post-War Years,” Europe-Asia Studies 53 (2001): 297. On the role of krugovaia poruka in the Stalinist system of denunciation, see Kozlov Vladimir A., “Denunciation and Its Functions in Soviet Governance: From the Archive of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1944–53,” in, Fitzpatrick Sheila, ed., Stalinism: New Directions (London: Routledge, 2000), 117–41. Alexander Solzhenitsyn also described how the Soviet regime deployed the principle of mutual responsibility as a way of organizing labor in its penal camps. See his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Max Hayward and Ronald Hingley, trans. (New York: Random House, 2005), 47.

9 The Mongols often took the sons of Russian princes hostage in order to ensure the fathers' loyalty and compliance. See Dewey, “Russia's Debt to the Mongols,” 266. For another example of hostage taking in the pre-revolutionary period, see Slezkine Yuri, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 27. With respect to the Great Terror, Hiroaki Kuromiya states, “Guilt by association was a convenient tool with which to take family members as hostages in case the enemy refused to capitulate.” See his Freedom and Terror in the Donbass: A Ukrainian-Russian Borderland, 1870s–1990s (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 244.

10 “Materialy o vziatii krasnoarmeitsami detei v zalozhniki pri podavlenii vosstaniia krest'ian Tambovskoi gubernii v 1921g.,” (Materials on the seizure of children as hostages by Red Army soldiers in the suppression of the peasant uprising in Tambov province in 1921), 22 June 1921, in Deti GULAGa, 18. Mikhail Tukhachevskii managed the operation against the Antonov movement in Tambov and later theorized about how counter-insurgency campaigns should be conducted. In 1926, he wrote that before an assault, “Cheka and GPU organs should compile lists, as complete as possible, of both bandits ... and the families they come from,” and that one of the most effective methods against insurgents involved “the deportation of bandits' families who are hiding their members.” See Holquist Peter, “To Count, to Extract, and to Exterminate: Population Statistics and Population Politics in Late Imperial and Soviet Russia,” in, Suny Ronald Grigor and Martin Terry, eds., A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 131–32.

11 Karl Marx argued that the interest of individual families stood opposed to the communal or general interest of the state. See his “The German Ideology: Part I” excerpted in The Marx-Engels Reader, Robert C. Tucker, ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), 159–60.

12 In particular, the state and not the family should assume the task of caring for and educating children in the new socialist society, and thereby “rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” excerpted in The Marx-Engels Reader, 487. Soviet family policy stressed the education of children in state institutions that would instill socialist values rather than in families that teach bourgeois values such as individualism and female dependency. See Goldman Wendy, Women, the State, and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917–1936 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Hoffmann David L., Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917–1941 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); Wood Elizabeth A., The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).

13 Lindholm Charles, “Kinship Structure and Political Authority: The Middle East and Central Asia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 28 (1986): 334; Stone Linda, Kinship and Gender: An Introduction (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997), 56.

14 Humphrey Caroline, Karl Marx Collective: Economy, Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farm (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 169. See also Kharkhordin Oleg, The Collective and the Individual in Russia: A Study of Practices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

15 Kollontai Alexandra, Sem'ia i kommunisticheskoe gosudarstvo (Moscow: n.p., 1918), 1819, quoted in Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 91. The party platform stated, “For every one hundred mothers, perhaps one or two are able to raise children. The future belongs to public education (vospitanie).” See Bukharin N. and Preobrazhensky E., Azbuka kommunizma (Moscow: n.p., 1921), 157; see also Trotsky Leon, “Ot staroi sem'i k novoi,” Pravda (13 July 1923): 2. French revolutionaries shared this view as well. According to Maximilien Robespierre, “The country has the right to raise its children; it should not entrust this to the pride of families or to the prejudices of particular individuals, which always nourish aristocracy and domestic federalism.” See Hunt Lynn, The Family Romance of the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 67.

16 As Barbara Evans Clements writes, “Faced with the task of governing an immense, war-ravaged country, [the party leadership] postponed the abolition of the family to a comfortably remote future. For the time being, they asserted, the family was essential to social order.” See her “The Birth of the New Soviet Woman,” in, Abbott Gleason, Peter Kenez, and Richard Stites, eds., Bolshevik Culture: Experiment and Order in the Russian Revolution, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 231.

17 Like their counterparts in Western Europe, Soviet officials in the interwar years put in place a series of pro-natalist and pro-family policies. See, for example, Burleigh Michael and Wippermann Wolfgang, The Racial State: Germany, 1933–1945 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Koonz Claudia, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, Family Life, and Nazi Politics (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987); De Grazia Victoria, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

18 Trotsky Leon, The Revolution Betrayed (New York: Merit Publishers, 1965); see also Fitzpatrick Sheila, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Goldman, Women, the State, and Revolution; Hoffmann, Stalinist Values.

19 Hoffmann, Stalinist Values, 105.

20 Like other modern states, the USSR appropriated family ideologies and symbols for political purposes. See, for example, Hunt, Family Romance; Sanborn Joshua, “Family, Fraternity, and Nation-Building in Russia, 1905–1925,” in, Suny Ronald Grigor and Martin Terry, eds., A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 93110.

21 See Steinberg Mark D., Proletarian Imagination: Self, Modernity, and the Sacred in Russia, 1910–1925 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002), 151; Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, Azbuka kommunizma, 116. Diane Koenker also notes that Soviet workers invoked the image of the “great worker family” as a way of constructing worker solidarity. See her “Class and Consciousness in a Socialist Society: Workers in the Printing Trades during NEP,” in, Alexander Rabinowitch, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Richard Stites, eds., Russia in the Era of NEP: Explorations in Soviet Culture and Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 34–57.

22 Clark Katerina, The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual, 3d ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 53.

23 These relationships are described in a journalist's account. See Montefiore Simon Sebag, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).

24 Various scholars have emphasized the role of kinship in Russian politics. Edward L. Keenan noted that the state of medieval Muscovy (and the Soviet Union as well) possessed what he called a “kinship-based political system,” or a “political culture of the clan system,” in which the politics of kinship proved central, in “Muscovite Political Folkways,” Russian Review 45 (1986): 115–81. See also Kollmann Nancy Sheilds, Kinship and Politics: The Making of the Muscovite Political System, 1345–1547 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987); and Rigby T. H., “Early Provincial Cliques and the Rise of Stalin,” Soviet Studies 33 (Jan. 1981): 328.

25 Clark, Soviet Novel, 116, 204.

26 Ibid., 117–19. A similar cultural shift occurred in revolutionary France with the fall of Robespierre and the rise of Napoleon. See Hunt, Family Romance, 151–91.

27 Boym Svetlana, Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994), 91; Barbara Walker adds “patron” to the list of Stalin's many social roles, see her Maximilian Voloshin, 192–93.

28 Verdery Katherine, What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 64.

29 Quoted in Merridale Catherine, Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 260–61.

30 Verdery, What Was Socialism, 66. Ken Jowitt also describes how Leninist regimes “recast the family's internal definition and its place in the social system.” See his New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 38. See also Chelcea Liviu, “Ancestors, Domestic Groups, and the Socialist State: Housing Nationalization and Restitution in Romania,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 45 (2003): 714–40; Siegelbaum Lewis H., “‘Dear Comrade, You Ask what We Need’: Socialist Paternalism and Soviet Rural ‘Notables’ in the Mid-1930s,” in, Fitzpatrick Sheila, ed. Stalinism: New Directions (London: Routledge, 2000), 231–55.

31 Slezkine Yuri, The Jewish Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 363.

32 Rittersporn Gabor T., “The Omnipresent Conspiracy: On Soviet Imagery of Politics and Social Relations in the 1930s,” in, Getty J. Arch and Manning Roberta T., eds., Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 99115. For example, the Soviet communal apartment reflected the government's attempt to subject the private sphere to community policing and surveillance. On the communal apartment, see Boym, Common Places; Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism; Gerasimova E. Iu., “Sovetskaia kommunal'naia kvartira,” Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal 1–2 (1998): 224–43; Stites Richard, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

33 Hooper, “Terror of Intimacy,” 65–66.

34 Hellbeck Jochen, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 8598.

35 Lih Lars T., Naumov Oleg V., and Khlevniuk Oleg V., Stalin's Letters to Molotov (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 203.

36 Alexopoulos Golfo, Stalin's Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1926–1936 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003).

37 Viola Lynne, The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

38 Hessler Julie, A Social History of Soviet Trade: Trade Policy, Retail Practices, and Consumption, 1917–1953 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).

39 Jowitt, New World Disorder, 32–36.

40 See, for example, the 18 March 1931 “Protocol of the Meeting of the Commission Headed by A. A. Andreev,” Istoricheskii arkhiv 4 (1994): 152–55.

41 Viola, Unknown Gulag, 84–88.

42 Ibid., 155.

43 Alexopoulos, Stalin's Outcasts, 47, 106.

44 Ibid., 35.

45 In Soviet cities, people shared apartments with various relatives just as in the countryside a widow might live with her grandson and niece. See Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism, 141; Fitzpatrick Sheila, Stalin's Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 221.

46 Bourdieu Pierre, The Logic of Practice, Nice Richard, trans. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 167–68.

47 Politbiuro decree of 30 January 1930, “O meropriiatiiakh po likvidatsii kulatskikh khoziastv v raionakh sploshnoi kollektivizatsii,” Tragediia sovetskoi derevni: kollektivizatsiia i raskulachivanie: dokumenty i materialy, vol. 2 (Moscow: “Rossiiskaia polit. Entsiklopediia,” 2000), 126–30.

48 Khlevniuk Oleg V., The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 11. In 1930–1931, a total of 1,803,392 people or 381,026 families of kulaks were deported. See Viola, Unknown Gulag, 196.

49 Viola, “‘Tear the Evil from the Root,’” 34–36. On deported kulak families in the Northern region, see 5 March 1930, “Spetssvodka PP OGPU po Severnomu kraiu o prieme i razmeshchenii ssyl'no-kulatskikh semei, pribyvshikh eshelonami no. 401, 501, 302, 103, 104,” Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, 282–86. The OGPU was supposed to first deport the head of household (glava sem'i) who would build barracks and perform other preparatory work prior to the arrival of his family in the place of exile. See the 18 March 1931 protocol in Istoricheskii arkhiv, 154.

50 Report of 3 Oct. 1927 from A. Enukidze to Molotov, RGASPI (Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History) f. 17, op. 85, d. 263, l. 238.

51 Alexopoulos, Stalin's Outcasts, 27.

52 Grant Bruce, In the Soviet House of Culture: A Century of Perestroikas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 88.

53 Kelly Catriona, Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero (London: Granta Books, 2005), 12. At the start of the Great Terror in 1936, a group of young pioneers played a Pavlik Morozov game in which “they went about finding bodies and arresting the victims' grandparents and cousins.” See Thurston, “Soviet Family,” 560.

54 Fitzpatrick Sheila, Tear off the Masks: Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 221–26.

55 “O meropriiatiiakh po likvidatsii kulatskikh khoziastv,” Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, 128.

56 5 Mar. 1930 “Spetssvodka PP OGPU po Severnomu kraiu,” Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, 285.

57 15 May 1931 “Protocol of the Meeting of A. A. Andreev's Commission,” Istoricheskii arkhiv, 158.

58 According to Lynne Viola, “children were ... to know that they had every possibility to study and enter the ranks of socialist society, and that the party differentiated between them and their parents.... They were to receive a communist upbringing, with all efforts extended to break them away from the [counterrevolutionary] influence of their parents.” See Viola, “‘Tear the Evil from the Root,’” 55–57. See also Viola, Unknown Gulag, 102–104.

59 Alexopoulos, Stalin's Outcasts, 169–70.

60 Ibid., 129–57.

61 According to the 15 May 1931 “Protocol of the Meeting of A. A. Andreev's Commission,” a special settler “acquires voting rights and all civil rights if he fulfills the decrees of Soviet power and acts as an honest worker for a five-year period from the time of his exile.” See Istoricheskii arkhiv, 158. See also Viola, Unknown Gulag, 155–59.

62 Khlevniuk, History of the Gulag, 262. By 1940, only 13,499 children had been allowed to leave the settlements under this Sovnarkom decree, far fewer than were eligible for release. Tsarevskaia-Diakina T. V., ed., Istoriia stalinskogo gulaga, tom. 5: Spetspereselentsy v SSSR (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2004), 299.

63 Individual cases can be found in the wartime protocols of the Commission for the Review of Petitions for Clemency (Komissiia po rassmotreniiu zaiavlenii o pomilovanii) under the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, GARF (State Archive of the Russian Federation) f. 7863, op. 2, d. 28, 32.

64 Viola, Unknown Gulag, 170; Weiner Amir, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 147–48.

65 Khlevniuk, History of the Gulag, 88.

66 NKVD order no. 00447 of 30 July 1937, “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu byvshikh kulakov, ugolovnikov i drugikh antisovetskikh elementov,” Deti GULAGa, 231–33. See also Iunge Marc and Binner Rolf, Kak terror stal “bol'shim”: sekretnyi prikaz no. 00447 i tekhnologiia ego ispolneniia (Moscow: AIRO-XX, 2003).

67 “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu zhen i detei izmennikov rodiny” [On the repressive operation against wives and children of traitors to the motherland], in A. I. Kokurin and N. V. Petrov, eds., Gulag (glavnoe upravlenie lagerei) 1917–1960 (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond “Demokratiia,” 2000), 106–10; also published in Deti GULAGa, 234–38.

68 “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu zhen i detei izmennikov rodiny,” 107.

69 “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu zhen i detei izmennikov rodiny,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 108, 110. The order also noted that wives who “unmask their husband and provide information to the authorities that result in the husband's arrest” would be spared arrest themselves. (p. 107).

70 Kuhr, “Children of ‘Enemies of the People,’” 216. Gamarnik's sister survived to petition Nikita Khrushchev for rehabilitation. See Artizov A. et al. , eds., Reabilitatsiia: kak eto bylo (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond “Demokratiia,” 2000), 182–83.

71 “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu zhen i detei izmennikov rodiny,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 107–10. On the treatment of women arrested with babies under one-and-a-half years old, see also NKVD USSR order no. 001167 of 2 Oct. 1939, “Regulations on Investigatory Detention at NKVD USSR Corrective-Labor Camps,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 490.

72 “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu zhen i detei izmennikov rodiny,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 109–10. The NKVD maintained control over them even if the young ones resided in Narkompros institutions. It was supposed to supervise and track the political mood (politicheskoe nastroenie), education, and upbringing of these children. See also NKVD USSR circular no. 106 of 20 May 1938, “O detiakh repressirovannykh roditelei,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 111–12.

73 July 1938 instructions of the Gulag administration, GARF f. 9414, op. 1, d. 1135, l. 197.

74 See NKVD USSR order no. 00309 of 20 May 1938, “Ob ustranenii izvrashchenii v soderzhenii detei repressirovannykh roditelei v detskikh domakh,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 455–56.

75 “Ob operatsii po repressirovaniiu zhen i detei izmennikov rodiny,” Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 109.

76 NKVD USSR circular of 7 Jan. 1938, “O vydache na opeku rodstvennikam detei repressirovannykh roditelei,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 111. Relatives of children between the ages of fifteen and seventeen could become guardians for these children if the teenagers were not deemed socially dangerous or had not revealed “anti-Soviet revanchist moods and actions.” See “O detiakh repressirovannykh roditelei,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 112. See also Kuhr, “Children of ‘Enemies of the People,’” 213.

77 “O vydache na opeku rodstvennikam detei repressirovannykh roditelei,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 111.

78 The deception was openly discussed following Stalin's death. See the Kremlin report of 18 Nov. 1954 on how officials should deal with citizen petitions regarding the fate of their repressed relatives, in Artizov, et al., Reabilitatsiia, 179. This practice is described in Khlevniuk, History of the Gulag; Merridale, Night of Stone; Vilensky, Till My Tale Is Told.

79 Telegram of 28 Dec. 1936 to Stalin from Orel, GARF f. 3917, op. 12, d. 21, l. 124.

80 On “family circles” in the Stalin period, see Getty J. Arch and Naumov Oleg V., The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932–1939 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism; Fitzpatrick, Tear off the Masks; Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001); On “family circles” in the post-Stalin period, see Suny Ronald Grigor, The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

81 “Zakliuchitel'noe slovo na plenume tsentral'nogo komiteta VKP(b), 5 marta 1937g,” in I. V. Stalin, Sochineniia, tom I [XIV] 1934–1940, Robert H. McNeal, ed. (Stanford: Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, 1967), 230.

82 Kozlov, “Denunciation and Its Functions,” 134–40.

83 “Petition of V. M. Molotov on the error of his vote on the decision regarding P. S. Zhemchuzhina,” of 20 Jan. 1949, in O. V. Khlevniuk et al., eds., Politbiuro TsK VKP(b) i Sovet Ministrov SSSR, 1945–1953 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2002), 313. See also Gorlizki Yoram and Khlevniuk Oleg, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle, 1945–1953 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 7579.

84 Protocol from a 9 Jan. 1938 meeting of the Politburo, RGANI (Russian State Archive of Contemporary History) f. 89, op. 73, d. 1, l. 132.

85 No longer would all wives be arrested together with their husbands, but only those whose complicity or anti-Soviet disposition (nastroenie) has been documented. See “O poriadke aresta zhen izmennikov rodiny,” in Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 112–13.

86 A 17 Nov. 1938 joint decree of Sovnarkom USSR and the communist party central committee, “Ob arestakh, prokurorskom nadzore i vedenii sledstviia” [On arrests, procuracy supervision, and the conduct of investigations], in, S. V. Mironenko and N. Werth, eds., Istoriia stalinskogo gulaga, tom. 1: Massovye repressii v SSSR (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2004), 305–8.

87 Artizov, et al., Reabilitatsiia, 322.

88 This literature is vast. See, for example, Alexopoulos, Stalin's Outcasts; Kate Brown, A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004); Gabor Rittersporn, “‘Vrednye elementy,’ ‘opasnye men'shinstva’ i bol'shevistskie trevogi: massovye operatsii 1937–38 gg. i etnicheskii vopros v SSSR,” in, Timo Vihavainen and Irina Takala, eds., V sem'e edinoi: natsional'naia politika partii bol'shevikov i ee osushchestvlenie na Sever-Zapade Rossii v 1920–1950-e gody (Petrozavodsk: Izd-vo Petrozavodskogo universiteta, 1998), 99–122; Kuromiya, Freedom and Terror; Martin, Affirmative Action Empire; Viola, “The Role of the OGPU in Dekulakization;” Weiner, Making Sense of War.

89 Hirsch Francine, Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005), 255–57.

90 Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors, 198–99.

91 Payne Matthew J., Stalin's Railroad: Turksib and the Building of Socialism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001), 9293.

92 Suny, Revenge of the Past, 120.

93 Ibid., 115.

94 Hirsch, Empire of Nations, 247–48.

95 Dragadze Tamara, ed., Kinship and Marriage in the Soviet Union (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 4445, 174–75.

96 Humphrey, Karl Marx Collective, 267–71, 340–52. Other ethnic minorities within the USSR used kinship ties for similar ends. See Dragadze, Kinship and Marriage.

97 Geertz Hildred, “The Meaning of Family Ties,” in, Geertz Clifford, Geertz Hildred, and Rosen Lawrence, eds., Meaning and Order in Moroccan Society: Three Essays in Cultural Analysis (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 338. In the case of American slaves, an enlarged network of slave kin as well as quasi- or symbolic kin (and unrelated neighbors and friends) offered support and protection, and transmitted notions of reciprocity and obligation. See Gutman Herbert G., “Afro-American Kinship before and after Emancipation in North America,” in, Medick Hans and Sabean David Warren, eds., Interest and Emotion: Essays on the Study of Family and Kinship (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 243–48.

98 Dal' V., Poslovitsy russkogo naroda: sbornik (Moscow: Gos. izd-vo khudozh. lit-ry, 1957), 390.

99 Ledeneva Alena V., Russia's Economy of Favours: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 125. Chris Ward also describes how kinship networks operated in the Russian cotton mills. See his “Languages of Trade or a Language of Class? Work Culture in Russian Cotton Mills in the 1920s,” in, Lewis H. Siegelbaum and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Making Workers Soviet: Power, Class, and Identity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 194–219.

100 Northrop states that the party tended to attract “widows, orphans, and runaways who found shelter and protection in Soviet institutions, and thus stood outside powerful local kin networks.” See his Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), 210, 226.

101 Khlevniuk, History of the Gulag, 148.

102 Quoted in Martin, Affirmative Action Empire, 334.

103 See “O dopolnenii Polozheniia o prestupleniiakh gosudarstevnnykh (kontrrevoliutsionnykh i osobo dlia Soiuza SSR opasnykh prestupleniiakh protiv poriadka upravleniia) stat'iami ob izmene rodine,” Pravda (9 June 1934): 1.

104 Decree of 24 June 1942 of the State Defense Committee no. GOKO-1926SS, “O chlenakh semei izmennikov rodine,” Deti GULAGa, 379–80. This practice has a long history. During World War I, the government of tsar Nicholas II punished entire families for the crimes of individual soldiers, and during the civil war the family members of Red Army soldiers faced punishment if their kin committed military offenses. See Sanborn, “Family, Fraternity, and Nation-Building,” 98–100. As late as 1952, the government denied pensions to the family members of Red Army soldiers who had been classified as traitors to the motherland. Memo of 21 Mar. 1952 from the MGB to the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers, RGANI f. 89, op. 18, d. 16, l. 16.

105 On the deportation of ethnic groups under Stalin see, for example, Gelb Michael, “An Early Soviet Ethnic Deportation: The Far-Eastern Koreans,” Russian Review 54 (July 1995): 389412; Martin, Affirmative Action Empire; Naimark Norman M., Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001); Weiner, Making Sense of War.

106 Brown, Biography of No Place, 182.

107 The family size of settlers tended to be larger in the 1930s than in the 1940s, but generally stood at three to four persons per family. See, for example, Tsarevskaia-Diakina, Spetspereselentsy v SSSR, 249, 296, 335.

108 See Martin, Affirmative Action Empire, 327; Slezkine, Jewish Century, 305; Weiner, Making Sense of War, 7–39.

109 For example, the government's operation to remove so-called counterrevolutionary elements from the Western regions of Belorussia punished the family members of participants in “Polish counterrevolutionary insurgent organizations” with the confiscation of property, arrest, and exile for a term of twenty years. See “Ob iz'iatii kontrrevoliutsionnykh elementov zapadnykh oblastiakh BSSR,” May 1941 joint decree of the Party Central Committee and Sovnarkom USSR, RGANI f. 89, op. 18, d. 4, l. 2–3. The Soviet government also conducted mass deportations of suspected enemies when the Red Army occupied Latvia, and punishment extended to the family members of those identified as disloyal or dangerous; women made up 46.5 percent of the population deported on 14 June 1941, while 15 percent of deportees included children under the age of ten. See “Concluding Document of the International Conference,” Hoover Institution Archives, Deportations of 14 June 1941, box 1, file 1.

110 “Excerpt from NKVD USSR report (svodka) #17 of 23 Sept. 1941 on the operation to deport Germans,” GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 174.

111 Tsarevskaia-Diakina, Spetspereselentsy v SSSR, 327.

112 NKVD USSR report of 5 Jan. 1942 on the settlement of Germans in Kazakhstan, GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 265.

113 Sept. 1941, NKVD USSR Instructions “On the Deportation of Germans Living in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast',” GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 159. In the Moscow operation, over 900 people were spared deportation because their family was headed by a Russian male, although married to a German wife. See “Excerpt from NKVD USSR report (svodka) #17 of 23 Sept. 1941 on the operation to deport Germans,” GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 174. On the attention that NKVD officials paid to this distinction, see also GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 270.

114 For an example, see GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 269.

115 Sept. 1941, NKVD USSR Instructions “On the Deportation of Germans Living in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast',” GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 159.

116 Sept. 1941, NKVD USSR Order “On Executing the Operation to Deport Germans from Moscow and the Moscow Oblast',” GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 164. Krugovaia poruka was also employed in the kulak settlements. See Viola, Unknown Gulag, 94, 123.

117 Ibid.

118 Sept. 1941, NKVD USSR Instructions “On the Deportation of Germans Living in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast',” GARF f. 9479, op. 1, d. 86, l. 159.

119 Decree of 5 July 1954 of the USSR Council of Ministers, “O sniatii nekotorykh ogranichenii v pravom polozhenii spetsposelentsev,” [On removing some restrictions on the rights of special settlers], in Artizov, et al., Reabilitatsiia, 158–59; Pohl J. Otto, The Stalinist Penal System (London: McFarland and Co., Inc., 1997), 89133.

120 In particular, Weiner argues “the exterminatory character of the antinationalist campaign” in western Ukraine is demonstrated by Soviet attacks against entire families of nationalists. Although most of the active nationalist guerrillas had been killed in the war, “182,543 nationalists deported from the seven western regions between 1944 and 1952 included family members of the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian nationalists] and the UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army] and their supporters, non-adults, and families of those killed in clashes.” See his Making Sense of War, 173. On the repression of OUN members, see also NKVD order “O repressirovanii semei ounovtsev” [On the repression of families of persons belonging to the Ukrainian nationalists' military organization], Deti GULAGa, 407–8.

121 The male head of household and older male relatives were more likely to face execution or hard labor; women and children more frequently received a sentence of exile (which often proved no less harsh). Men largely populated the labor camps and colonies while their wives, parents, and children constituted the majority population of the settlements. In the late 1930s, men made up over 90 percent of the 1,289,491 prisoners in the Gulag labor camps. See Kokurin and Petrov, Gulag, 416. Women, children, and adolescents comprised over 70 percent of the population in labor settlements; less than half of the roughly 880,000 people in these settlements were identified as fit for work (trudosposobnye). See Tsarevskaia-Diakina, Spetspereselentsy v SSSR, 248–49.

Acknowledgments: For their comments on earlier versions of this work, I thank Giovanna Benadusi, Katherine Jolluck, Alena Ledeneva, Valerie Sperling, Ronald Suny, Lynne Viola, the participants of the Gulag conference at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, as well as Jonathan Daly and the Humanities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I am also very grateful to the anonymous reviewers at CSSH for their extremely valuable insights and suggestions. This research was supported by a Campbell National Fellowship at the Hoover Institution.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 87 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 337 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.