Soviet Mass Deportations of June 14 1941

The arrested people were loaded into cattle trains and taken to camps in Siberia

The June 14 was one of the darkest nights of the Latvian nation. Thousands of people were taken from their homes and loaded on freight trains and taken to Siberia. Whole families, women, children and old people were sent to death camps in Siberia. This terrific crime was done by the Soviet occupation regime, ordered by high authorities in Moscow.

In  August 23 1939  Soviet Union and Germany signed non aggression agreement the Molotov- Ribbentrop pact. Latvia was included in the Soviet sphere of interest. On  June 17 1940 Latvia was occupied by Soviet forces. As the Karlis Ulmanis government was removed new illegitimate elections were held in June 21 1940 with only one party list “electing”fake parliament which made resolution to join the Soviet Union. The resolution was drawn up in Moscow already before. Latvia became part of the Soviet Union in August 5  and on 25 August all people in Latvia became citizens of the Soviet Union. The Ministry of Foreign affairs was closed isolating Latvia from the rest of the world.

Occupation was locally administered by a Latvian Communist Party that became part of the main All Union Communist (Bolshevik) Party. From the first days of occupation it loyally carried out all orders from Moscow. The main task was the liquidation of the “bourgeois” state apparatus and establishment of the Soviet state apparatus everywhere. In economical field the task was the elimination the private property.

 From the first days of occupation the campaign against the enemies of the regime begun. The puppet government lead by Augusts Kirhensteins called to wipe out all reactionary and nationalist elements from the state apparatus by all means.

 So the first arrests of  the “people’s enemies” and “alien class enemies” begun. The first victims were members of the Latvian Army and National Guards (Aizsargi). The number of arrests rose from 20 in June 1940 to 300 in August 1941. On August 30 the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic Peoples Commiserate of Interior was established lead by Alfons Noviks. The NKVD officers appointed from Moscow such as Semyon Shustin became the main organizers of repressions. An underground prison was made at Riga Brivibas Street Nr. 37/39 that became the place of torture and death for political prisoners of Latvia.

 Local repressive authorities gathered lists of “people’s enemies” in all Soviet western republics. First deportations already were carried out in the occupied area of Eastern Poland. Polish nationals were first to be sent to Siberia. The decision of mass deportations was made on May 14 1941, by Moscow authorities. The draft order stated that in the Baltic states there is a considerable amount of former members of counter-revolutionary nationalist parties, former policemen, gendarmes, landlords, civil servants of the former government who carry out destructive anti-Soviet activities. Local Interior commissariats were allowed to arrest these people, confiscate their property and deport them to concentration camps for five to eight years. After passing the sentence they will be settled in remote areas of the Soviet Union.   On  May 19 1941  an instruction was sent out to local authorities about how to carry out the deportations. To make the list of the deported people LSSR PCSS central authorities, departments of districts, cities and towns as well as the staff of the Baltic Special Military district prepared the files of the persons to be arrested and deported. The main persons involved in this were Semyon Shustin, Janis Cinis and A. Brezgins.

Shortly before the deportation in  June 14 1941, the Peoples Commissariat established operational groups who preformed arrests, search and seizure of the property. Whole families were arrested and taken to train stations where trains made to transport the cattle awaited them. The arrests took place in all parts in Latvia including rural areas.

The main deportation routes and locations of the camps

  According to research made by Latvian State Archive in 2001, 15, 424 people were deported of them 5, 259 were arrested in 14, June actions in Latvia. Of nationalities 11 418 Latvians, 1771 Jews, 742 Russians, 36 Germans and other nationalities 247 were deported. Of professions 616 merchants, 306 policemen, 29 prison guards, 166 army officers, 7 deputies, 6 diplomats, 31 judges 71 teachers, 24 doctors, 7 clergyman, 15 students, 39 foresters, 1345 peasants, 44 chiefs of pagasts (small rural areas) 13 secretaries of pagasts. The breakdown by nationality and profession of the reported peoples are not completely  accurate  since not all archive files contain such information.

The deported people ended in the Soviet prison camp system also called Gulag. Latvians were sent to Yuhnov, Vyatka, Norilsk, North Uralian labor camp Sevurrallag, Usolye, and to Astrakhan prison. The working and living conditions in the camps were extremely hard. Often there were no light or heating, no possibility to wash themselves or wash and dry clothes in the barracks. People were forced to work to complete exhaustion often 16 hours a day without any proper tools, just hands only. Because of the lack of proper clothes in the bitter cold and extremely small food portions 3 400 prisoners died at their places of imprisonment. Because of that Soviet prison camp could also be called death camps. Unlike the Nazi camps where people were killed systematically, the Soviet camps took their prisoners to slow painful death by imposing hard work and life conditions. Mostly the male prisoners died, families lost their fathers. A large number of children spent their childhoods in Siberia.

On 1948 those who served their sentence in the camps were sent to settlement “forever”. They had no passport, just identity card. The places of settlement were Abana, Achinsk, Bogotol, Boguchani, Dzerzhinsk, Irbeisk, Kansk, Kozulka, Partizansk, Taseyo and other districts in Krasnoyarsk area, also in Novosibirsk, Kazakhstan and Igarka and Dudina in Siberian far north. The living conditions in the settlement were hard as there was no support, the houses and dugouts were not fit for living especially in the winters. Many people again died there.

After the death of Joesph Stalin, the  “thaw” of Nikita Khrushchev allowed the release of the deported persons. Many were rehabilitated and were allowed to move back to Latvia. Many people stayed in Siberia, where they married locals and lived in towns and rural areas. Today there is still few hundreds of deportees and their children and grandchildren living in Siberia.

  Although Latvians were not deported by ethnic means as may Jews and Russians also were deported, it was a heavy blow to the nation as a whole since the those the ones deported were elite members, intellectuals and members of the middle class. The action was done to destroy nationalistic and democratic people within Latvians to cease any possible resistance. They are some speculation that there was another deportation planned shortly after the first but was interrupted by the German invasion in June 22. The deportations of the June 14 sparked a large will of resistance within Latvian people that was shown in the first days of the German invasion.

The memorial site at Tornukalns Train Station Riga where the deportation took place

Selected Sources:

Pelkauss, Elmārs (Ed.) (2007) Aizvestie : 1941. gada 14. jūnijs.Rīga : Latvijas Valsts arhīvs : Nordik.

Starptautiska konference “1941. gada 14. jūnija deportācija – noziegums pret cilvēci”. 1941. gada 14. jūnija deportācija – noziegums pret cilvēci : starptautiskās konferences materiāli, 2001. gada 12.-13. jūnijs, Rīga = Deportation of 14 June 1941: crime against humanity : materials of an International Conference 12-13 June. (2001). Riga. Latvijas vēstures institūts.

 

 

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