Початкова сторінка

Сергій Білокінь (Київ)

Персональний сайт історика України


Liquidation of Socialists

S. Bilokin

According to Marx, people are only products of their environments. This is why individuals in the U.S.S.R. were liable to punishment for belonging to certain social strata rather than their own actions. In actual fact, the Leninists were bent on exterminating the country’s leading stratum and replacing it with people from the bottom whom they would be able to manipulate. The urban and rural middle classes, the “new bourgeoisie,” and the old intelligentsia were regarded as carriers of the petty-bourgeois, if not downright bourgeois, ideology. Social interests of the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois strata were supposed to be expressed by their political parties [11]. Accordingly, the regime’s struggle against members of these parties can be traced to its earliest days. As early as October 23, 1922 the Ukrainian Politburo heard a report of V. Balytsky on the SRs [12] and the Mensheviks. The resolution adopted on this matter consisted of two items:

“a) That the work of the GPU on the liquidation of SRs and Mensheviks be regarded as a high-priority task; and b) the GPU shall eliminate the SRs and Mensheviks before elections to the Soviets are called.” [13]

This would have been an impossible assignment if lists of victims had not already been prepared.

At least one normal Ukrainian found it hard to believe that one should be considered as guilty after 17 years as after one month. When the newspaper Za Vozvrashcheniye na Rodinu (For Return to the Motherland), a mouthpiece of the Soviet “special services,” denounced an emigre called Vasyl Hryshko (April 1960, Issue 30/325) it also accused his father of having been a “Petlyurite officer.” Hryshko was astounded:

“But that is what he was way back in 1918, and they killed him twenty years later, after having tortured him all his life, despite the fact that during this time they had solemnly declared several “general amnesties” absolving all former members of anti-Soviet armies of all sins, and that two of these “amnesties” – one of 1921 and another of 1927 – had been widely publicized by the Soviets all over the world.” [14]

Hryshko had never perused documents of Soviet secret services and did not understand their logic. Actually, he had never seen a single such document. All he knew was his personal experience of 25 years under Soviet rule seven of which he had spent under arrest or in prison (for the first time he had been arrested in 1929 when he had just turned 15) [15]. Musing over his father’s “guilt” he even names the real cause of his death but finds the whole thing incredible.

Yet some NKVD records, now declassified, shed light on the grounds for such arrests. On April 14, 1938 People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs A. I. Uspensky approved a request for the arrest of certain A. Gurevich, born in 1897, referring to party affiliation registration files.

“According to information of the 8th Dept., State Security Directorate, UkrSSR NKVD, Gurevich, Abram was accused by the Kremenchuh Dept. of the GPU as a person suspected of counterrevolutionary activities. In registration records of the Kharkiv Spec. Dept. of the GPU Gurevich, Abram Naumovich was listed, in 1920–21, with Bund [16] members and Mensheviks […] Gurevich is subject to arrest.” [17]

For 18 years the man had lived a regular life, married, divorced, and raised children, but all this time the prison cell had been waiting for him. During his arrest (1931) Academician S. F. Platonov asked:

“If we are criminals, why didn’t you arrest us during these thirteen years?” The OGPU investigator A. R. Stromin explained: “Then our own young people who were to replace you hadn’t grown big enough yet.” [18]

Every security operative interpreted the arrests in his own fashion. The wife of a serviceman, T. Gracheva, mentions a woman friend of hers who asked a security officer at a party what was the reason for the mass arrests in the Army. The NKVD man gave this reply:

“We kept [old military] specialists in the Army while we needed them. Now we don’t need them any more – we’ve trained our own. As to the old officers, they are an alien element that we must get rid of.” [19]

As we can see, the mechanism was in full operation already under Lenin when the Bolshevik “special” services busied themselves with making lists of members of bourgeois and middle-class parties. N. (A.?) Sutuzhenko explained:

“The favorite techniques of the Cheka include wholesale arrests of members of Socialist parties by registers listing all those who once ran for city and zemstvo councils, Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, the Constituent Assembly, or the boards of various associations and companies; more than that, they even rummage through files of the old police in search for more names. They grab several hundred people at a time, and the overwhelming majority of these people have not been involved in anything. ‘We’ve been doing it,’ Kozhevnikov said cynically, ‘so we can then, at leisure, fish out the most active ones from these hundreds, and if we catch five or six people, the goal of the mass arrests will be achieved’.” [20]

First arrests of SRs were made in Petrograd in 1918. A witness recalls:

“We obtained circulars sent to Communist cells at factories and plants that instructed them to keep a close watch on workers belonging to other parties, and one of these circulars ordered the Communist cells to prepare lists of all SRs of that particular factory.” [21]

According to a chronicle compiled by Menshevik professional revolutionaries, the first wave of repressions hit Russia’s major cities where mass searches and arrests of Social Democrats took place in the early morning of November 3, 1923. Then several hundred members of these parties were jailed in Moscow. Those arrested in Petrograd were mainly secondary school students, and about 50 people, mostly factory workers, were detained in Rostov-on-Don [22]. Six months later, after having assimilated its Russian experience, the GPU switched its attention to Ukraine. An operation aimed at eliminating the Social Democrats was carried out in Ukrainian cities in the early hours of July 24 and 25, 1924. Arrests were made in Kharkiv (about 200 people), Kiev, Kremenchuh (70), Poltava, Odessa (30), etc. Altogether, those jailed in Ukraine numbered about 600. A vivid eyewitness account is on record: “[…] all or nearly all who had ever had anything to do with the RSDLP [Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party] were detained.” [23] In the provinces, those arrested were sorted out, and about 215 persons were transferred to Kharkiv, from where 16 of them were sent on to Moscow. The above evidence presents a sufficiently comprehensive picture of how the Social-Democratic organizations were deprived of their leaders.

Ye. Ginzburg [24] reminisced:

“In the fall of 1935 they began to arrest all those who had once been associated with the [Trotskite] opposition. Then few realized that similar actions were carried out according to a rigorous plan, absolutely irrespective of the actual conduct of the various individuals belonging to this category slated for removal.” [25]

During the same months a wave of arrests of Trotskites swept through Ukraine. Literary critic Hryhoriy Kostyuk, who was then in Kiev’s Lukyanivka Jail, dates the campaign at January–February 1936. His fellow prisoner Pankin

“in 1924–27 belonged to the Trotskite opposition. For a variety of reasons he broke with the Trotskites after 1927 and had since had nothing to do with them. All the same he was now arrested – as a Trotskite. He said there were thousands, if not tens of thousands, of such people all over the USSR. Many of them were guilty only of having once – in 1923–27 – voted at some Party meeting for the proposal of the then still legal Trotskite faction or signed one of its declarations. And that was all. But now they were all in here.” [26]

Kostyuk goes on:

“A last-year student of the Kiev Polytechnic Institute, Hryhoriy Kytayner, completely corroborated this version. He himself had belonged to a Komsomol Trotskite group in 1926 but later left it. Then he had worked. Since 1930 he had been studying. He had never been reprimanded or warned. And yet at the beginning of February he was arrested as… a Trotskite.” [27]

But, of course, the arrests of 1936 had a wider chronological span than that given by Kostyuk:

February 28 – Konstatyn Petrovych Yaroshevsky

March 16 – Semen Yulyevych Semkovsky-Bronshteyn

July 9 – Mykola Vasylyovych Holubenko

July 26 – Izrail Iosyfovych Agol

July 31 – Lev Solomonovych Akhmatov

August 2 – Borys Arkadiyovych Vesely

August 28 – Iosyf Izrailevych Liberberg

September 3 – Mykhaylo Vasylyovych Mykhaylyk

September 5 – Izrail Manuyilovych Gurevich

September 5 – Mykhail Markovych Killerog

October 5 – Ivan Andriyovych Musulbas

October 5 – Ivan Semenovych Plachynda-Sporosh

November 10 – Osvald Petrovych Dzenis

November 10 – Samuil Borysovych Shchupak

November 14 – Zarmayr Andriyovych Ashrafyan

November 17 – Lev Abramovych Hrushevsky

December 21 – Mykhaylo Fedotovych Postolovsky [28]

It is important that rank-and-file members of the Socialist parties could still be let off the hook. It was entirely different with those who had ever had the misfortune of being elected to one committee or another. They could expect no mercy. O. Semenenko recalled:

“[…] those who were in a special situation and had no chances of being released were […] members of regional and city committees of these parties, to say nothing of central committee members […] In the 1937–39 period I no longer came across any leading members of the Ukrainian parties in prisons. They had been liquidated before that […]. It would have been no use looking for a Holubovych, a Shrag or Yu. Mazurenko in the Kharkiv prisons of 1937.” [29]

This view became quite common among the emigre intelligentsia. In a 1958 propaganda pamphlet Yury Smolych, a member of the Cheka-sponsored committee “For Return to the Motherland,” maintained that the Russian Communist Party (RCP) and the CPU had gained the endorsement of ‘the Left faction of the Party of Ukrainian SRs (so-called ‘Strugglers’ [30]) and part of the ‘independent’ Ukrainian Social Democrats.” [31] Polemizing with him, Vasyl Hryshko noted:

“But please name me today at least one person alive and available in the UkrSSR from among those numerous ‘Strugglers’ and UCP [32] members who, together with the Bolsheviks, have fought for and built up that UkrSSR of yours. Tell me – what have you done with Shumsky, Hrynko, Poloz, Prykhodko, Ozersky, Khrystovyi, Yalovyi and such as Lyubchenko, Khvylya, Musulbas and other ‘Strugglers’ who turned Bolshevik? Where are Richytsky, Lapchynsky, Avdiyenko, Hrytsay, Kyyanytsa and many other ‘Ukrainian Communists’? All of them, all to a man, have been exterminated by the cruel Moscow!” [33]

The impressions of Hryshko can now be corroborated by documentary evidence. Thus, we now know that the ex-member of the Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries (UPSR) Mykola Khrystovyi, director of the Kiev Opera House and the Museum of Arts of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, was arrested on May 13, 1933 [34]. Several leading ‘Strugglers’ were at once sentenced to death: Andriy Lizhdvoy, head of the Forest Service – on October 23, 1937 [35]; Zonoviy Antonyshyn, former secretary of the Vinnytsya provincial committee of the UPSR – on October 25, 1937 [36]; and Feodosiy Taran-Honcharenko, editor of the newspaper Visti VUTsVK – on December 23, 1937 [37]. Ivan Musulbas, secretary of the Kharkiv regional committee of the CPU, was executed on March 10, 1937 [38]; and Oleksiy Trylisky, chairman of the Vinnytsya regional executive committee, on Sunday, October 24, 1937 [39]. Andriy Slipansky, vice president of the Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, was arrested [40], and deputy chairman of the Radnarkom Vasyl Porayko, a former member of the Ukrainian Revolutionary-Democratic Party (URDP), was executed by firing squad on October 25, 1937 [41].

The Bolshevik ideology was characterized by a total negation of social peace or national consolidation. The Communists’ blind espousal of the doctrine of class struggle turned them into champions of destruction and disintegration.


11. V. M. Danylenko, H. V. Kasyanov, and S. V. Kulchitskyi, Stalinism in Ukraine, pp. 170(171.

12. Socialists-Revolutionaries ( Transl.

13. CSAPOU, F. 1, Rec. 6, No. 30, Sh. 86, Minutes No. 88.

14. V. Hryshko, Shcho y treba bulo dovesty: Reply […] to Yury Smolych, Neu-Ulm, My shche povernemos! Publishers, 1960, pp. 8(9.

15. Ibid., p. 10.

16. Jewish Social-Democratic Union

17. CSAPOU, No. 31081 FP, Box 177, Supervision Case, Sh. 3.

18. V. S. Brachev, "Sergey Fedorovich Platonov," Otechestvennaya Istoriya, No. 1, 1993, p. 123.

19. T. Gracheva, Arest muzha, Volya [Munchen], March 1953, No. 3, p. 10.

20. N. Sutuzhenko, Sukhaya gilyotina, Che-Ka, Berlin, 1922, p. 240..

21. Ibid., pp. 55(56.

22. "Repressions," Sots. Vestnik, Jan. 10, 1924, No. 1 (71), pp. 13(14.

23. "Kharkiv: GPU operations," Sots. Vestnik, Oct. 22, 1924, No. 20 (90), pp. 15(16.

24. Ginzburg, Yevgeniya Semyonovna (1906(77), Russian writer, mother of writer Vassily Aksyonov, jailed under Stalin, described her experiences in a biographical novel Krutoy marshrut (Sharp Turns).

25. Ye. Ginzburg, Krutoy marshrut, p. 15.

26. H. Kostyuk, Zustrichi i proshchannya, p. 510.

27. Ibid., pp. 510(511.

28. CSAPOU, No. 38485 FP, Box 414, Vol. 1, Sh. 11(12, 16(1, 27, 30, 35v.

29. O. Semenenko, Kharkiv, Kharkiv…, p. 199.

30. Borotbysty (Ukr.), so called after their newspaper Borotba (Struggle).

31. Yury Smolych Z narodom chy proty narodu?, Berlin, Za Povernennya na Batkivshchynu Publ., 1958, p. 29.

32. Ucrainian Communist Party (1920(25), pro-independence pol. party that split off from the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers' Party; not to be confused with the official CPU(B).

33. V. Hryshko, Khto z kym i proty koho?, p. 13.

34. CSAPOU, No. 37203 FP, Box 379, Sh. 9, 64; F. 1, Rec. 85, No. 5014, Sh. 69.

35. Ibid., No. 51728 FP, Box 68, Sh. 62.

36. Ibid., No. 32224 FP, Box 226, Sh. 8.

37. Ibid., F. 1, Rec. 85, No. 5014, Sh. 86(87.

38. Ibid., F. 1, Rec. 1, No. 441, Sh. 166; No. 38485 FP, Box 414, Vol. 2, Sh. 258; Vol. 3, Sh. 35(38.

39. Ibid., F. 1, Rec. 1, No. 442, Sh. 19; F. 1, Rec. 85, No. 5014, Sh. 94(103.

40. Ibid., F. 1, Rec. 85, No. 5014, Sh. 104(105.

41. Ibid., F. 1, Rec. 1, No. 442, Sh. 41; F. 1, Rec. 6, No. 40, Sh. 159 rev.; No. 455, Sh. 138; F. 1, Rec. 85, No. 5014, Sh. 61; No. 49872 FP, Box 973, Sh. 53(57, 60.