December 20 in Russian history


(7 December Old Style)

90 years ago the Council of the People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) approved the proposal of Felix Dzerzhinsky: "We must adopt all methods of terror, to devote all our strength to it! Don't think that I am looking for a revolutionary justice, the justice won't fit our goals. I demand for one thing only — the punishment for the activists of counter-revolution." And Sovnarkom established VCheKa, the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation, and Sabotage. In 1918 there were about 600 extraordinary commissions in the regions of Russia. Cheka did not start killing people from the very first days. The Provisional Government abolished capital punishment and Cheka found it impossible to restore it so soon. The methods used by the early Cheka included confiscation of property, exile from the Soviet Russia, publication of the proscription lists (lists of the enemies of the people) and deprivation of rationing (which was equal to the capital punishment in the days of starvation). Quite soon, though, on 21 February 1918 Sovnarkom adopted a decree titled "The Socialist Fatherland is in danger!" Foreign spies, counter-revolutioners and even debauchees were to be shot on spot.

The first chairman of Cheka was Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Pole who never had a job or education, who never worked, but was a "professional revolutioner". By the way, the unusually high percentage of representatives of national minorities often attracted the attention of historians: Poles, like Dzerzhinsky or Jozef Unszlicht, Latvians, like Jakobs Peters, Martins Lacis, Jan Berzin, Estonians, like Victor Kingisepp… According to O.Kapchinsky, who published the book "The State Security from the inside. National and social structure" (Moscow, 2005), up to 70% of the workers of the Cheka core belonged to ethnic minorities.

Dzerzhinsky, unlike many tyrants, did not care about comfort or luxury. He wore military uniform and did not use cars, preferring long walks alone. He was a good psychologists, like many his colleagues. He preferred long political discussions with the arrested enemies to tortures. He offered them tea and some of them even survived after these tea-parties. In the years of the NEP (new economic policy) he often came up with reasonable ideas and offered to use elements of market economy. Dzerzhinsky was the head of the commission on homeless children and saved many of them.

The Red Terror began officially on September 2, 1918, soon after the attempt to assassinate Lenin, but even earlier Lenin insisted on the mass terror and executions. Sovnarkom introduced the capital punishment and granted the permission to execute people without trial to the local Cheka commissions. On September 5, commissar Petrovsky ordered to take hostages from the families of bourgeois and army officers. On September 8, first concentration camps were established. On September 18, Grigory Zinovyev, the leader of communists in Petrograd, said in his speech: "Our task is to lead 90 million people out of 100 million citizens of Soviet Russia. There's nothing we can tell to the others. They are to be exterminated." In the first days after the adoption of the Sovnarkom decree, 600 people were executed in Moscow, 900 in Petrograd, 400 in small Kronstadt. Altogether, more than 50,000 people were killed in the autumn of 1918. First, the executions were public, but later Cheka came to the conclusion that disappearing people influence the public psychology more effectively. Since then, in every city where the Red Army entered, mass executions were held. So, 4,000 people were executed in Astrakhan, 3,000 in Kiev, Kharkiv and Arkhangelsk, 2,200 in Odessa, 2,000 in Novorossiysk, etc. Since active counter-revolutioners mostly joined the White Guard, these victims were mostly innocent people, like chambermaids in cooks from the hotels where white officers had lived.

In the end of the Civil war, when bolsheviks took Crimea, one of the largest massacres took place. Bela Kun, the Hungarian communist who was in charge of the Crimean executions, said: "Crimea is a bottle which not a single counter-revolutioner will escape." According to the Soviet data, about 80,000 people were killed in Crimea.

Russian historian Ivan Melgunov wrote in his book "The Red Terror in Russia" that the total number of victims of the people executed by Cheka is around 482,500 people. We should remember also that Cheka was not the only organization that had the right to kill. So, the Special Commission, created by Denikin, estimated the number of victims of the Red Terror as 1.7 million people. Similar figures were given by a group of British specialists in 1923.

In 1922 Lenin began the campaign to expropriate the "treasures of the church". During this campaign, 8,600 clerics were executed and 15,000 more died in concentration camps and prisons.

Since 1917 till 1953 about 10-12 million people were killed, died in Gulag and in jails or died because of the hunger caused by the policy of prodrazvyorstka (food expropriation). Since 1953, the repressions fade away. However, since 1953 till 1988 about 2,000 people were found guilty in treason, anti-Soviet propaganda and "slandering the Soviet state". Some of them were sentenced to death. About 500,000 more people were "prophylacted" — officially warned by KGB to stop their inappropriate or illegal anti-Soviet activity.

Unhappy birthday, you bastards!

No comments: