Monday, December 19, 2005

Human Cost of Communism Part II

Each of these short posts is going to deal with an aspect of the Soviet death toll under Stalin. This first post deals with the deaths of those exiled as "kulaks" to special settlement villages during the 1930s. The mass deportation of farmers branded as "kulaks" to special settlements in the Far North and Urals began in 1930. Later the OGPU (Unified State Political Administration) exiled "kulaks" to western Siberia and northern Kazakhstan. A very large number of these deportees died of hunger, illness and the cold. The Soviet records regarding these deaths are woefully incomplete. The data for 1930 and 1931 when deaths were highest is very fragmentary. Russian historian Oleg Khlevniuk estimates special settler deaths during these two years at 200,000. An official Soviet figure of recorded deaths for special settlers for the years 1932 to 1940 does exist. It comes to 389,521 exiles. This number, however, does not include deaths in transit to the special settlements. It also does not include those who died trying to escape. A large number of those recorded as escapees may also have actually been deaths. The total number of registered escaped special settlers during the 1930s reached 629,042. Only 235,120 of these fugitives are listed as having ever been returned to the special settlements. How many extra deaths can be added to the nearly 400,000 recorded by the OGPU and NKVD is hard to say. But the total number of people to die during the 1930s as a result of being deported to special settlements certainly exceeds 600,000.

Sources for figures

Oleg V. Khlevniuk, The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror (London: Yale University Press, 2004), p. 327.

Pavel Polian, Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2004), p. 92.


Sara Mathewson said...


It is interesting to have this information. We all know about how many Jews died during WW2, but not many people know about the fate of many of the people in the Soviet Union during this time frame. Thanks for the info!

J. Otto Pohl said...

Thanks for the comment Sara. It may be a couple posts on this subject before I get to WWII proper. But, the 20 years between 1930 and 1950 in the USSR were extremely violent. I am glad you liked the post. I thought it might be a bit too academic.

Sara Mathewson said...

I am very interested in how people have been treated around the world. I am appalled at how humans have treated each other over the ages. I have hope that it will get better. You gotta have hope.