The information gathered in the 1990s in Russia’s Books of Remembrance about “victims of political repression” mainly derives from the records of the Soviet police and security services.
Even that thin evidence provides glimpses of human suffering that are shocking both in scale and persistence. These examples from the 1930s begin with the forced collectivization of agriculture and end with the Great Terror.
Andrian Avdeyenko, an independent peasant farmer, was shot in 1931 (aged 29). He was born and worked in the Yedogon village, Irkutsk Region. Arrested in April 1930, he was charged under Article 58 with “armed uprising” and “the organisation of counter-revolutionary activities”. The OGPU troika sentenced him to death and on 22 January 1931 Avdeyenko was shot in Irkutsk.
Daniil A. Yepifantsev (1889-1933 shot) did not resist collectivization and joined a collective farm (kolkhoz). Nevertheless, he was arrested in 1932 and shot the next year, leaving behind a 41-year-old wife and seven children aged 2-17.
DIED IN CAPTIVITY
Luka Ryabikov suffered a different fate. A former Red Partisan, he was deprived of his electoral rights, dekulakized and sentenced by the Special OGPU Troika of West Siberia to five years in “a concentration camp” (as Soviet forced labour institutions were then known). His wife Alexandra was left to care for their seven children, aged between 4 and 16. A native of the Krasnoyarsk Region, Ryabikov was sent first to the Siblag camps and then to the White Sea Canal where he died in April 1933, aged 50.
Mikhail Ryzhkov was, like Avdeyenko, another independent peasant farmer. He lived in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk Region. Arrested as a “kulak” or rich peasant in February 1930, he was sentenced in December 1931 by the Special OGPU Troika to five years in the camps for “Anti-Soviet Activities” (58:10). In addition, his property was confiscated and his family — wife Varvara, four children aged 9-19 plus his daughter-in-law Alexandra – were deported to a special settlement in the Tomsk Region. Ryzhkov joined them there, presumably, after his release and died in 1949, aged 74.
DEPORTED AS KULAKS
In certain regions, the fate of deported “kulak” families has been preserved in more detail.
Ivan and Dorothea Berger, father and mother of a family from the Saratov Region were, like a number of fellow Soviet Germans, “dekulakized” in 1930 and sent to the Vokvad special settlement in Komi (Northwest Russia). They were accompanied by their four children, two married sons and two daughters, and by four granddaughters.
While Dorothea (1872-1949) and Ivan (1870-1947) survived the long journey and change of circumstances, their son Johann’s little daughters, Yekaterina, Maria and Frieda all died in 1930, as did their aunt Alvina (aged 24). They were buried in the graveyard there.
Vokvad special settlement. The graveyard (2010)
Today Vokvad is not only uninhabited. No signs remain, apart from the graveyard, that people once lived there. Each year the site is visited, nevertheless, by those who were born or grew up there.
Some avoided “dekulakization” and survived until the Great Terror of 1937-1938. Others were targeted in the special settlements to which they had been sent.
Sergei D. Anisiferov (1875-1937 shot) was due to be dekulakized in 1930 but he and his wife Matryona (1875-1938 in the camps) managed to escape and hide. Caught later, they were sent to a special settlement. Sergei fled from that captive existence and when he was caught he was shot in Kansk in 1937. Matryona was sent to a corrective-labour camp for 8 years; there she died of dysentery in 1938.
Andrei Ovchinnikov (1895-1938 in the camps) was dekulakized in the Altai Region in 1931 and sent with his brother Daniil’s family to the Kosikha special settlement in the Tomsk Region. All the adult males were rounded up in 1937. Andrei was given 10 years in the camps and died in Taishetlag of pellagra in January 1938. His brother Daniil (1892-1937 shot) was executed and buried at Kolpashevo, as was his uncle Ivan.
Victims of Political Terror in the USSR [in Russian]
The Open List database [in Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian and Belorussian]
Russia’s Necropolis of Terror and the Gulag [in English]