Tag Archives: Genocide

Roma Genocide in Latvia 1941-1944

Èigânu masu apbedîjumi Valguma meþâ. Anatolijs Berezovskis un Lûcija Ignis

The mass killing site at Valguma lake near Tukums

One of the less discussed events of the Latvian history is Roma Genocide that took place in Latvia during Nazi occupation. Called Porajmos in Romani language the Roma genocide was part of the Holocaust directed against Jews, mentally ill, homosexuals and Roma’s who lived in significant populations across the Eastern Europe. The death toll of Nazi killed Roma’s  estimated  220,000 to 1,500,000 people. Genocide against Roma took place also in Latvia, where they been living for centuries.

The Roma people have been originated from ancient India and appeared in Europe in Middle Ages as early of 12th century. By practicing nomadic lifestyle they appeared all over Europe including Britain on 16th century. The largest concentrations of them were in Eastern Europe, Poland-Lithuania, Moravia and Wallachia. Roma’s managed to keep their eastern traditions and independent lifestyle often defying the laws of the ruling society. Some Roma communities started continuous settlements. Their differences in looks and culture often sparked hatred and prejudices.

The Nazi movement combined all the prejudices in united policy of hate and persecution. However, Nazis had difficulties labeling all Roma’s as subhuman (Untermenchen) because of their “Aryan origin” that Nazis considered the prime race. Also it was inconvenient that most consequent nomadic Roma’s were those of “most purest Aryan”. To “solve” the problem the racial specialist Dr. Robert Ritter lead research team to determine the racial status of Roma people. By examining 2000 people they came to conclusion that 90% of Roma are mixed with other Europeans and therefore sent to “mischlinge” (crossbreeds) category. They were labeled as anti-social and dangerous to the Nazi regime.  This conclusion now made 90% of Roma’s in danger of persecution. The 1935 Nuremberg racial laws were also applicable to  Roma’s. First group of German Roma’s were sent to Dachau camp  on 1936. The Dr. Ritter’s “research group” considered Roma’s to be sterilized and excluded from the society; that also applied to the “racial pure” Roma. On 1937 all Roma were ordered to move to special containment camps (Zwangswohnlager) and on 1938-1939 even more Roma’s were “preventively arrested” and sent to concentration camps. The start of the World War II opened the extermination phase as Roma’s were deported to the occupied Poland where their extermination begun. On December 16 1942 Heinrich Himmler ordered to send all Roma’s and mixed ones to Auschwitz death camp. Before that on 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Union the extermination of the local Roma have already begun.

It’s not known when Roma’s settled in Latvian territory. Possibly after 1561 when former Livonian Confederation became part of Poland-Lithuania. The Romani language in Latvia has four dialects, in Courland (Kurzeme) and Semigallia (Zemgale) most common is so called “Latvian romani” (lotfitka roma), in Latgale the “Northern Russian romani” (xaladitka roma) and Belarusian and Polish language affected Romani. The last Latvian  national census in 1935 counted 3839 Romas. 234 lived in Riga. Large concentrations of them were in Jelgava, Daugavpils, Talsi, Ventspils, Rēzekne, Valmiera, and Tukums. Large numbers of them lived in regular homes. While encountering usual prejudice; labeling as “horse thieves”, “vagrants” and “tax and army service evaders” no serous acts of violence against Roma were ever recorded in Latvia. Latvians called Roma Čigāni (the gypsies) and this therm was used in press and official documents.

Its possible the Roma population in Latvia was larger then according to the 1935 census data. On June 1941 there could have been about 12 000 Roma people living in Latvia.  The first killings were made by the German Einsatzgruppen and assisting Latvian collaborator units. One of the first killing sites were Baltinava township in Eastern Latvia were 10 Roma families – 43 people were murdered in August 1941.  The Roma genocide really started on December 1941 when Nazis had finished the genocide of the Latvian Jews.  90 people were killed in Kalvene parish near town of Aizpute in Western Latvia. In Liepāja the full list of murdered Roma’s were found, only one such in Latvia. 100 Roma’s are mentioned in Nazi report to be shot in the Ciecere parish. The 1935 data had 176 Roma’s living in Liepāja. Tukums a city located between Kurzeme (Courland) and Zemgale region had large population of Roma. Inconclusive reports from interrogated Nazi suspects states that about 200-300 Roma’s were killed. Tukums had 233 Roma’s on 1935. The town of Bauska near Lithuania border had fairly large Roma population. It’s known that 250 people of all ages were killed in Jaunsaule parish. The people from nearby township of Skaistkalne were also murdered there. Fourth largest city Jelgava had 401 Roma’s 200 of them were destroyed although the data is inconclusive. 200 Roma’s were possibly killed in Ludza district in Latgale region. The heart town of Latgale Rēzekne had 130 Roma’s arrested on January 5 1942 and possibly concentrated in former synagogue or empty shop space nearby and then murdered at Garbari forest near Zvirgzdene township. During the Audriņi massacre on January 2,4 1942 when Germans murdered 215 local villagers for hiding the soviet partisans, several Roma’s were killed who lived nearby. 50 Roma’s were shot near the Valmiera concentration camp. There is very fewer details about the Roma genocide in Riga. It’s possible that Romas were shot in Jugla, Strazumuiža, Biķernieki Forest, Strazdumuiža railway station and other parts of Riga. Similarly fewer details are about the fate of Roma’s in Daugavpils where is known that 5 Romas were shot in the Daugavpils prison. Similar obscure details are about Ventspils.

Current research estimates conclude that about 2000 Latvian Romas were killed during the Nazi occupation. Half of the Roma 3839 population of 1935. As mentioned the real size of the Roma population on 1941 could be more larger than official data meaning the number of victims could be larger than 2000 people.

Kārlis Krūminš the savior of the 200 Roma at Talsi district

Kārlis Krūminš the savior of the 200 Roma at Talsi district

The Nazi policy towards Roma people changed on 1943 when the guidelines now separated Romas in nomadic and non-nomadic Romas. The regular living ones were considered as rural citizens, while nomads were equaled with Jews. That halted the active killing and saved lives of many. However, in some parts of Latvia the killings were avoided because of the involvement of the local populace. The chief of the Talsi district Kārlis Krūmiņš resisted the German order to exterminate all Roma’s for they are required for workforce and bear no danger to the district. Some days after this decision Lutheran Archbishop Teodors Grīnbers gathered all Roma’s to a mass and told they must be thankful to Krūmiņš for rescuing their lives. He pledged them to work hard for the German army. About 200 Roma’s in Talsi district were kept alive this way. Krūmiņš was later arrested by the Soviets where he gave testimonies of how he saved the Roma from the murder. Nevertheless, he was sent to Gulag as traitor. Another Roma savior was Mārtiņš Bērziņš the head of the Sabile city in Kurzeme. According to some reports the Roma’s were gathered at the killing site when Bērziņš in the nick of time rushed with a bicycle and stood in front of the shooters and declared: “If you shoot them; then shoot me too!” Local shooters were unable to do so and about 300 Roma’s were spared. Bērziņš was saved from the 1949 deportations by his Roma supporters and died in Dundaga on 1968. Bērziņš also warned local Jews of coming execution. Later a memorial plate in Sabile was unveiled to commemorate his heroic act. Both Krūmiņš and Bērziņš can be compared to Žanis Lipke the most famous Jewish savior from Latvia.

The facts about the Roma genocide in Latvia is found in the Soviet Emergency Investigation Commission documents. The commission persecuted all the captured Nazi collaborators and disclosed their crimes towards Jewish and Roma people. So far the most detailed research have been made by Aigars Urtāns about Bauska district while general research is still lacking. Jewish historian Marģers Vestermanis first opened the subject on 1993 with his publication about the Roma genocide in Latvia. On 2015 the senior chief Commissar of the International Roma Alliance made publication based on archive documents. More detailed publications are expected in the future. So far there have been no memorial plates and monuments dedicated to the victims of the Roma genocide in Latvia. Despite active calls from Roma community the process of research and remembrance have been very slow by comparing to the amount of work contributed to Jewish holocaust. Its one of the sad parts of the Latvian history that must be researched further and included in our memory of the past.

Selected Sources:

Rudēvičs, Normunds. (2015) Romu Holokausts Latvijā. Konferenču un semināru materiāli 2009-2014. Shamir. Rīga, 2015

Vestermanis, Marģers. Čigānu genocīds vācu okupētajā Latvijā (1941.-1945). Latvijas Vēsture 1993/4 (11)

Urtāns, Aigars (2003), “Bauskas pilsētas un apriņķa čigānu iznīcināšana 1942. gada vasarā”, in: Dzintars Ērglis (ed.), Holokausta izpētes jautājumi Latvijā: Staptautiskā semināra referāti 2001. gada 29. novembris, Rīgā, un 2001.–2002. gada pētījumi par holokaustu Latvijā / The Issues of the Holocaust Research in Latvia: Reports of an International Seminar 29 November 2001, Riga and the Holocaust Studies in Latvia in 2001–2002.

http://www.la.lv/romu-glabejs-talsos%E2%80%A9-krumins/

http://www.ntz.lv/dazadi/mums-nevajag-atvainosanos-tikai-3-faktu-atzisanu/

Comments Off on Roma Genocide in Latvia 1941-1944

Filed under Uncategorized

The Nature of Communism

communism

75 years have passed since the signing of the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact. The pact that triggered the World War II and caused the occupation of Poland and the Baltic States. For decades historians only described this event from the Nazi Germany point of view, overlooking the role of Soviet Union and its leader Joseph Stalin. Now more and more historians acknowledge that Soviet Union just as Nazi Germany was responsible for causing the World War II. And Soviet Union had its own reasons for starting the world war and that was its ideology – communism. An ideology that wanted achieve social and national equality by using war and violence was the driving force for dragging world into war. 75 years later we are witnessing the resurgence of this ideology. Russia is trying to restore former soviet “glory” in grotesque ways by including the elements of Nazism and Russian Czarist imperialism. This new hybrid ideology is potentially even more dangerous than teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. But, the root of this conflict is the communist ideology proposed by these two men. Even 21st century people still believe in these teachings and want to restore former soviet order. These beliefs are based on ignorance and deception. Today, August 23, is the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of both Communism and Nazism. This article will reveal the deceitful nature of communism and explain why this is a  utopian ideology and philosophy can never be realized and always will turn to dystopia.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels formulated their ideas in their “Communist Party Manifesto”. They made thesis about that social conscience is dependent on the social being, named the laws of the social development and claimed that the means of production defines structure of the society. Social development is dictated by the forces of production. They formulated the idea of the proletarian dictatorship and the leading role of the communist party in struggle for full power. Manifesto clearly stated that the communist goals can be achieved only by force, overthrowing the present political power, taking away all capital from bourgeoisie and centralizing the recourses of production. Thus this manifesto was written by people who could be hardly classified as proletarians and enjoyed bourgeoisie lifestyles.

These ideas were the clear promotion of totalitarianism. The monopoly of one ideology, one party and one class dictatorship and centralized economy. The monopoly of the public sector. Later day totalitarian ideologies as fascism and Nazism that were opposed to communism in fact used similar ways- one party, one national group dictatorship and controlled private sector. For the totalitarian regimes have the same mechanism only the ways of operation differs. The communist ideology had controversial nature- while preaching humanitarian ideals it boasted the use of violence and oppression. That shows that these ideals were nothing more than ideological weapon for the communists to gain and secure power for their desired worldwide socialist revolution. In 19th century Europe communism was ideology made by middle class people who felt shorthanded by the ruling elite and wanted to overthrow it using masses of workers and poor peasants.

The first communist regime came into being in Russia not in Germany or  United Kingdom. Russian Empire was one of the last absolutist monarchies, unable to modernize and reform the Western way. Without fully established middle class as in Europe, Russia was full of people waiting for rapid change to end their injustice. The communists used the Russian defeat in the World War I, gained control over army and large masses of society and gained the power.

Basing on the theoretical generalizations by the Marx and Engels that bourgeoisie exploits the workers caused by the existence of the private property and its owners that causes contradiction between the forces of production and production relations – this most active part of the society was called as the enemies of the people and meant for destruction. Proletariat should now take the leading the role of the society. Their enemies were considered urban and rural businessmen, wealthy farmers, the intellectuals, state employees and the army leadership. In the event of revolution one social group destroys other by using murder and repression that is how the communists wanted to achieve things. And this social warfare continues after full victory of the revolution.

For seventy years this grandiose social experiment was carried out in Soviet Union causing the death of millions. And in the end it proved that communist regime is nothing but utopia, in fact it was dystopia. Communists believed that work productivity must be achieved by communistic job attitude, public property, planed state economy, socialistic competition, scientific work and moral stimulus. However, the soviet praxis proved to be flawed and with small efficiency. In EU and US the main food product production on one hectare was at least 2-4 times higher, and on one person employed in agriculture 8-10 higher than in Soviet Union. That’s clearly visible by comparing the full store shelves in capitalist countries comparing to nearly empty stores in the Soviet Union.

Communists underestimated the importance of individualism and the personal interests. Lenin declared that after the liberation from the exploiters worker can finally work for himself. It is a big difference if one work for himself or for others. However, the communism made this phrase an abstraction as people worked for the society for the proletarian cause. Meanwhile capitalist truly works for himself. However, the employed people in the private sector is limited by his recourses and recourses of the employer. In communism the state employed person is limited by the recourses of the state. So in communism the person is exploited by the state and the ruling elite. If the person has no personal interest in his work and no possibility to gain personal salary the work productivity drops. If people must work only for the state and society with limited salary and controlled life possibilities the interest in work is strained. And therefore the state economy is obstructed and failed.

In Soviet Union the human factor was the main problem of the productivity. As people were not interested in their work the resources were used irrationally, looted and lost. Corruption was eminent part of everyday soviet lives. During the Stalin’s rule this was fought with repressions and executions and constant threats. His successors tried to fight this by civil means. However, neither stimulated socialistic competition, salary according to accomplishments, material stimulation and state awards, could not ensure the needed productivity and amount of consumption. Instead state was forced to regularly write of the debts by the agricultural collective farms. Collective farming – in fact a modern form of serfdom was disastrous and ineffective. On 1959 Soviet minister of agriculture Nikonov reported that 259 weak Latvian collective farms of kolkhozes were unified with the soviet farms or sovhozes. While 59 soviet farms made 52 million ruble worth losses to the state. On 1963 the head of the Latvian Communist party Pelše admitted of having 203 weak kolkhozes and 343 sovhozes. The kolkhoz economy was disastrous for Latvian agricultural society as it was based on Russian village economy, while in Latvia the farmstead economy was the leading one. By deporting the private farm owners and forcing people to live in villages, communists destroyed a centuries of the Latvian cultural tradition.

Despite owning large territories of fertile agricultural land in Ukraine, Baltic States, Belarus, Moldova, and Russia, Soviet Union suffered from chronic food product deficit. Grain was regularly imported from the capitalist countries, while grain taken away from soviet farmers were exported in return. Same goes for industrial sector, despite owning large amounts of gas, oil and iron the same deficit was present. The soviet command economy was no different from feudal czarist economy. The economical plans were issued as laws and directives. The subordinates fulfilled it as orders with no regard to their personal interests. They were just executors in the large soviet machinery who do as their superiors told to. As they were liberated from working for others, they also were liberated from thinking. “Do as I am told” attitude not only lead to completely useless actions like trying to grow cornflakes in Latvia to disasters like Chernobyl and the Aral Sea.

While private property was declared as the main evil of the society it proved that the absence of the private property was the evil of the soviet society. Besides it was never really removed as it existed in various limited forms. During the first years after the Russian Civil War, Lenins New Economic Policy allowed limited state regulated private sector. Stalin to gather absolute power imposed concentration camp economy with almost total absence of private sector. However, his economy was ensured by the repressions. During the rule of Khrushchev and Brezhnev soviets again were forced to allow limited private enterprise. For instance collective farm workers could own small plot of land to grow their own food and even sell it in rural markets. That allowed people to survive, while EU was experiencing severe agricultural overproduction and had to limit it by imposing quotas.  The society is driven by social competition and contradictions in production. The private economy has been proven as best way to manage this. Democracy and non-violence is another effective way to handle such way of things. However, democracy was another thing that communists wanted to eradicate.

Communists believed that contradictions in society are antagonic and not correlative. Therefore violence and dictatorship was the only way of ruling the society according to them. Social classes and political groups seen as hostile to the revolution were to be destroyed. By attempting to destroy the employers the communists attempted to eradicate the very foundation of the social structure. The violent flawed belief that society can prosper without certain social groups lead to great human disasters. On 1919 Latvian Soviet government in short time killed hundreds of thousands people because of their social class and nationality. On 1932 -1933 to impose collectivization in Ukraine, Stalin stimulated famine to get rid of farmers unwilling to join kolkhozes. In result 2-7 million people died in horrible famine across Ukraine. This genocide known as Holodomor had also ethnic character because it killed native Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine. After that Ukrainian Soviet Republic was filled with immigrants from Russia, while Western Ukraine ruled by Poland preserved its Ukrainian population. The Holodomor is the true reason for the “ethnic divide” of Ukraine. During the 1937-1938 great purge Stalin to monopolize his power made certain social and ethnic groups as enemies and destroyed them. Latvian communists and socially active Latvian soviet citizens were accused of state betrayal and destroyed in thousands. Same happened to Poles, Germans. Later even Jews were accused of state betrayal and were considered for deportations.

hammer_and_sickle

In international scene the same antagonism was used. Soviet Union was considered as single state fortress against the fascist-capitalist world. However, the political and trade cooperation was allowed. As Lenin said: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. The cooperation was useful as it was according to soviet imperial interests. Ultimately the capitalist world had to be destroyed resulting worldwide socialist revolution. As Stalin lost his faith in European proletariat unwilling to support the communist revolution, he gave is chance in war. Another teaching by Lenin was that next global war between imperialists will cause socialist revolution.  Stalin’s foreign policy towards Germany actually helped Hitler to gain power. While being officially anti-fascist Stalin did not nothing to obstruct Hitlers gambles in Austria and Czechoslovakia.  When the September 1939 came, Stalin had unique chance to ally with UK and France against Germany to avert the invasion in Poland. Instead Stalin did what the communist ideology required him to do – by signing treaty with Germany initiate the war in Europe. Naturally this alliance with Nazis was only temporarily as Stalin was looking to hang Hitler with his own rope. The Nazi invasion in 1941 was failure for Stalin’s quest for worldwide revolution and despite capturing Berlin and gaining control over Eastern Europe Stalin did not considered himself truly victorious.

In the end the communism proved to be bloody fiction and deception. Soviet Union was not a proletarian dictatorship it was single party dictatorship lead by one man enjoying monarch lifestyle. The new ruling elite or nomenklatura enjoyed bourgeoisie lifestyles while rest of the people were standing in the lines of the empty shops. The so called Soviet Republics had only limited self governing rights as they were dependent on orders from Moscow.  The country boasted about their military might while in reality being technically inferior to its rivals and vulnerable. Despite relative quality of the standard of living, the state limited the trips to capitalist countries to prevent the people see the real life in the West.

This is not only the case of the Soviet Union. Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe, Kuba, Africa and Asia failed the same way. Chinese communists acknowledged the importance of the private property and diverted from the Marxist teachings and kept their power. Laos and Vietnam did the same. Meanwhile Cuba and North Korea still suffers from poverty and isolation because of tyrannical communist rule. To see difference between communism and capitalism you need to see the satellite view of Korean peninsula at night. You will see the South Korea full of light while Northern Korea as one big black hole. And yes the North Korean elite including their leader enjoys the capitalist Samsung smartphones and other gadgets.

Now Russia is heading for this same trap. Not only is that she is looking to draw her neighbors along. Communism is still seen favorable by old generation people and young people affected by propaganda. They may like to wave red flags while enjoying the fruits of capitalism the internet and shops full of their favorite western goods. They communism goes no further as slogan “our country is great and victorious and world fears us”. If they would be thrown back into Stalinist or even Brezhnev realities they would look for way to escape. The Putin and his henchmen are of course are no communists. They enjoy the private profit and luxury; they enjoy vacations in US and Europe and have their investments and bank funds there. Their main concern is keeping the power over their people and people in the neighboring countries. For that they can use neo-communist, nationalist or even Nazi influenced propaganda. They profit on masses of foolish people who thinks Putin will restore the communist Soviet Union. He may actually restore one thing- international isolation and deficit of food products. He can limit the freedom of expression. But, can such neo-soviet state exist for long? Under the reign of Putin Russia will only be a fascist state under the hammer and sickle. As communism is alien to human nature and is anti-human in its character. That is the danger of the nature of communism.

Comments Off on The Nature of Communism

Filed under Historical Articles

Latvians in the Great Purge 1937-1938

Cathedral at the Butuvo polygon where about 200 Latvians were killed

Every first Sunday of December its official commemoration day for Latvians who died in the Great Purges in 1937 -1938.  Latvians along with other non-Russian communists were targets of Joseph Stalin repressions. Before the purges many Latvians were involved in the Soviet government, many took high rank posts. Nearly all them became victims of Stalinist repressions. Along them many low rank Latvian activists and intellectuals were killed only because of their nationality. However, not all Latvians living in the Soviet Union were exterminated, but they are part of overall Stalin Genocide that took place during 1929 to 1939 that was aimed on social and ethnic groups.

The reason so many Latvians lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s reign was the events of First Wold War and Russian Civil War. The German invasion in the Latvian territory in 1915  sparked a mass exodus to inner parts of Russia. About half million Latvian and Jewish refugees entered Russia and settled in major Russian cities. Also in Latvia, a Latvian Rifleman division were formed to fight against the Germans in Baltic front. After the February Revolution, political divisions affected the rifleman and Latvian refugees and many choose to follow the Bolshevik path. Majority of Latvian rifleman after the Bolshevik coup in November joined the ranks of the Red Army. The Latvian Red Rifleman was one of the most important units that helped the Bolsheviks to gain victory. Over the end of civil war, not all Latvians head back to Latvia. Many of then were true believers of communist ideas and were willing to contribute the Soviet government. And the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was friendly to non-Russians in the government. He believed in internationalist ideas and so he allowed Jews, Latvians, Caucasians to share the power.

There have been a wide discussion on why Stalin, who himself was a Georgian decided to remove non-Russians from the posts in the party and the army. Commonly described reason was the Stalin’s belief of coming war with the western powers that made him to look at foreign nationals as the members of the “fifth column”. All ethnic groups who had independent countries outside  Soviet Union fell victim of ethnic cleansing. For instance there was no action taken against the Jews, because they had no country at that time. But, Latvians, Poles, Germans and others were considered as foreign spies.

However, it’s a question whether the Stalin’s fears of spies and conspirators were real or just a disguise. Stalin’s policy was to eliminate all his competitors and people who may question his orders. He had a certain dislike for people who took a direct part in October revolution and the Civil war. As we know Stalin’s role in these events was marginal. So Stalin eliminated all government and army members who he considered not loyal.  He certainly had aggressive plans and he prepared not to defend his country, but took active part in the future world war.

The start of ethnic cleansing was July 25 1937 when the chief of Soviet NKVD (the secret police) Nikolai Yezhov issued the order nr. oo49 to arrest in five days all German citizens and political emigrants who mainly worked in the military and transportation system.  Next on May 11, repressions were started against the Poles. All who emigrated to the Soviet Union to find a better place to live in now were thrown in prison and shot.

By this time many Latvians were arrested as the members “fascist conspiracy”, “Trotsky supporters”, “spies of Latvia” and members of “counterrevolutionary organizations”. Already on January 21, Yezhov reported to Stalin that he had discovered and eliminated a “Latvian counter-revolutionary organization” formed by party members and emigrants. The idea of “Latvian Action” was brought by the chief of the western sector of the People’s Commissariat of Interior comrade Nasedkin.  He arrived in Moscow on November 1937, to report to Yezhov and inform him about the so-called “Latvian National Center”. It was described as a wide network of Latvians working in a Latvian section of the Comintern and Latvian society “Prometejs” and other Latvian circles. Nasedkin reported that 500 people are suspects in what Yezhov replied “Nonsense! Arrest no less than 1500 people!” Two days later Nasedkin received order from Yezhov that everything is set for the “Latvian Action” and the members of Belorussia Interior Commissariat, the Latvian Club, Latvian National Theater and Latvian rifleman sections should be first to be arrested.

Soviet operatives did this with ease. If they found a Latvian national within any governmental office, they automatically  added him to “Latvian conspirator list”. Next on November 23, Yezhov issued an order to gather information about all Latvian societies and organizations in every region and town.

On 30 November deputy of Peoples Commissar of the Interior Frinovsky sent a coded telegram to all commissars within the Soviet Union claiming that Latvian counter-revolutionary nationalists and saboteurs have been discovered and must be eliminated. The order allowed to arrest everyone with Latvian nationality in the passport. The arrests of all Latvian suspects within all Soviet Union begun on December 3.  To gather enough information about Latvian nationals top members of the communist party were arrested and tortured. Basically after hours of torture these people were willing to not only admit their “guilt”, but also report other Latvians, friends and relatives.

The death sentences were issued in masses by the so-called “trios” (troikas) or “duos” (dvoika) the two or three top NKVD officials who could issue death warrants for more than 1000 people within a day. On February 3, 1938 in Butovo 258 people were killed along with then 229 Latvians

The Soviet “style” of death sentencing was not only to sentence the prime suspects, but his wives, children and relatives. Whole families were killed along the way. According to Russian historians N. Okhotin and A. Roginsky from December 1937 to September 1938, 172, 830 people were sentenced to death. Along with then 22, 360 people were sentenced because of their Latvian nationality. 16, 573 were shot. Others were deported to Siberia and concentration camps of the Gulag.

The precise number of the Latvian victims of the Great Purge is yet to be fully discovered. It must be kept in mind that the “Latvian action” along with actions against Poles and Germans was a prime initiative of the Communist Party Central Committee Politburo and its chief Joseph Stalin.

Selected Sources:

Riekstiņš, Jānis (2012) PSRS Iekšlietu tautas komisariāta “Latviešu operācija”, (1937-1938). Rīga : LU Akadēmiskais apgāds.

Riekstiņš, Jānis (Ed) (2009) Represijas pret latviešiem PSRS, 1937-1938 : dokumenti. Rīga : Latvijas Valsts arhīvs

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Articles

Stalin and Hitler

It was August 23 1939 when Nazi Germany and Soviet Union signed an agreement pact that set the path to World war II. The reasons behind this pact are described here, and Stalin’s real intentions in the war are discussed here. This article raises question is both regimes Hitler National Socialism and Stalin’s Communism is comparable or are they two opposite things that don’t come together. Latvian historians have promoted that Stalinism and Nazism are equal and must be equally condemned. This view has been battled against by Russian patriots, leftists and Western historians who support the theory of the victorious side.

The theory of the victorious side in short is such: World War II was caused by Nazi Germany, who was led by an aggressive dictator who desired for large territories in the east. His plans for living space in the east are clearly set in his book Mein Kamph. It was his desire to start war alone, he annexed Austria, Czechoslovakia and wanted to take Poland. Soviet Union on the other side was toughened by the Stalin’s purges and was not ready for the war. Thus Stalin’s foreign policy was peaceful and was not meant to attack Europe since he used slogan “Socialism in sole state”. A Molotov – Ribbentrop pact was signed so the Soviet Union could gain time to prepare for war and acquire “neutral border zone”  between Germany and Soviet Union so it would not have been captured by Germany. Also Stalin did not expect German attack and Soviet Union was only ready for war in 1942. After the German attack in 1941 Soviet Union together with UK and US defeated the “primary evil” – Nazism.

Nowadays more and more people disbelieve this simple Hollywood style theory where three “heroes” destroys one “villain”.  It its clear that Stalin had aggressive plans of his own. The occupation of Baltic state and Eastern Poland only made the Soviet Union unsafe of Germany since it made a large border with it. Nor Hitler was originally intending to start world war by attacking Poland and operation “Barbarossa” was not just part of one page statement in “Mein Kamph” but part of the strategical situation in 1941, and Soviet aggressive foreign policy. And Red Army was ready enough to attack Germany on 1941. German invasion made Soviet Union the supreme ally against Germany. The Soviet victory for 50 years silenced the talk about Soviet crimes against humanity, Soviet aggressive plans and movements and Soviet war crimes. It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union when historians opened the lid of the Soviet crimes that showed that the Soviet was no better than Nazi Germany in fact it was more bloody and repressive than “Supreme Evil” – Nazism.

Nazism and Communism share same insights in ideological basis. Even if it’s commonly described that Hitler was far right and Stalin was far left, National socialism was a mixture of both left and right. Nazism also supported the workers rights, it was also generally against  classical capitalist order. Nazi ideologues took many insights from Karl Marx teachings. During the peacetime Nazi regime in Germany Hitler introduced social policies for lower classes and supported welfare. The main departure from Socialist thought was the idea of a clash between races not between classes. Nazis believed that racial unity can unite all social classes. Soviets on the other hand believed that social unity can unite the races.

One of the main common aspect of both ideologies are belief of making the  new human – Homo Novus. It was the idea of making new society and thinking that would completely differ from the old type of humanity and society. For Nazis the new human was racially sterile and strong patriotic men and women. For Soviets it was strong worker and peasant free from  bourgeois desires for private property, nationalism and religion.   To make such society both regimes needed to get rid of the elements who could not submit to new laws of mankind. To Nazis they were the Jews, homosexuals, mentally ill persons and communists. For Soviets it was the bourgeois, religious, nationalists and private owners. The idea of parasites that are needed to exterminate was common for both ideologies.

Soviet Union was declared as free land for all nations with  equal opportunities. In reality there were one dominant nation – Russians. Stalin often spoke that the Russian people won the war, not thousands of Baltic, Ukrainian,   Caucasians and Asians who also fought the war. The Russian language was official language, other languages were allowed but constantly dismissed and repressed. No wonder that many small nations in Siberia have lost their culture and language because of the Russifacation. Stalin did everything to remove Jews, Latvians and other small nations from top governmental posts and replaced them with Russians. Even if he was born Georgian he identified himself with Russian people rather than Georgian. Stalin’s Soviet Union in this matter was also Nationalsocialist and kept being so until the very end. After the end of the war many exile Russian Nazis came to conclusion that Stalinist Russia was actually very nationalist and moved back to it.

Soviet Union also was antisemitic. In the very roots the revolution was organized by many Jewish Bolsheviks – Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoyev  and others. Stalin was a moderate anti-Semite and consequently removed Jews from top party posts. He did not allow his son Yakov to marry a Jewish woman and was angry when his daughter Svetlana married a Jew. His last purge in 1952 to 1953 was mainly against Jews. It is a speculation that Stalin intended to make a mass deportation of Jews to Siberia before his death. Even after Stalin’s death the antisemitism persisted, as the Soviet Union made a strong opposition against Zionism and Israel and supported Jewish enemies. Its also no secret that the Soviet Union was homophobic by nature and homosexual behavior was impossible to practice without severe exclusion from the society.

However the main common things between Nazism and Communism is practical in state matters. Both regimes were based on political cult of one supreme leader. Both regimes where single party totalitarian states. Both had overwhelming security apparatus- the Gestapo for Germany and KGB for Soviet Union. Both had youth organizations like Hitlerjugend  and Pioneer Movement. Both regimes gave large importance to army matters. Both regimes build concentration camps in fact it was the Soviet Union who first set a large network of concentration camps. It was not the famous Nazi death camps that were largest camps during the war it was a Soviet camp in Vorkut that the largest camp in WW2 history. Another fact that after the liberation of Nazi Death Camps in Poland, the camps were not closed but put back in order for the Soviet use.

In therms of Genocide Nazis are the main evil. The Holocaust is the major ethnic genocide in the history of the 20th century. However the question of Stalin’s genocide is important. The convention on genocide also included the mass extermination of social and political classes, however was was declined by the Soviet Union in UN. If the original draft would pass it would potentially make Stalin’s crimes as Genocide. Soviet Union had good reason not to support the original draft. Since the October coup, Bolsheviks eliminated large masses of political and social groups.  And the body count of the Stalin’s Genocide exceeds the Holocaust victim count. They may be a question of more than 10 million people.  We must note that recognition of Stalinist genocide or comparison with the Nazi crimes does not in any way minimize the importance of the Holocaust. The objective research of the Stalinist crimes and its commemoration is not Holocaust revisionism and cannot change what the Nazis did. The victims of the Stalinist crimes deserve the same attention and support just as the Holocaust victims. No nation holds the rights for the monopoly of suffering for the suffering is deeply individual and subjective experience. Both sides fighting against or for so called double genocide theory needs to remember this.

In order to compare Stalin and Hitler regime we do not need to go deeply into speculations about ideology and patterns of killings. The main resemblance is the common nature of the both totalitarian states. The crimes they committed were close to each other and went beyond in terms of ideological writings and speeches. On May 9 1945 Nazi Germany was defeated but the Soviet Union along with its crimes was able to pretend as the “lesser evil” for 50 years. And they are still pretending now. Communist propaganda freely exists, communist symbols are not banned and ex communist nation Russia still defends Stalin’s actions in official level. There is a need for a time when Communism will suffer the same condemnation as Nazism. Until then the World War II is far from being over.

4 Comments

Filed under Historical Articles