Jeremy Morris is an Associate Professor in the School of Culture and Society at Aarhus University where he researches and writes about the informal economy, class, precarity and post-socialism. His most recent book is Everyday Postsocialism: Working-class Communities in the Russian Margins published by Palgrave.
Jeremy has written up an addendum to this interview providing more detail. I highly recommend it.
The Clash, “Career Opportunities,” The Clash, 1977.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Seventy years ago today the infamous Operational Order No. 00447 was approved by the Politburo of the Soviet Union. The Order launched, according to the document, “a campaign of punitive measures against former kulaks, active anti-soviet elements, and criminals.” In the appending memo to Stalin’s personal secretary, A. N. Poskrebyshev, M. P. Frinovsky, then deputy commissar of the NKVD, wrote, “I ask that you send the decree to members of the Politburo for their vote, and please send an extract of relevant items to Comrade Ezhov.”
Dated 30 July 1937, the document outlines which groups would be subjected to “punitive measures,” how they would be carried out, and provided execution and arrest quotas for every oblast and autonomous republic.
The document split those subject to “punitive measures” into two categories. The document reads:
- “To the first category belong all the most active of the above mentioned elements [kulaks, former Whites, criminals, Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties, fascists, religious sectarians, etc]. They are subject to immediate arrest and, after consideration of their case by the troikas, to be shot.
- To the second category belong all the remaining less active but nonetheless hostile elements. They are subject to arrest and to confinement in concentration camps for a term ranging from 8 to 10 years, while the most vicious and socially dangerous among them are subject to confinement for similar terms in prisons as determined by the troikas.”
Quotas for the first category range from 100 (in Komi ASSR and Kalmuk ASSR, for example) to 5000 (in Western Siberia, Moscow oblast, and Azov-Black Sea). Estimates for the second category ranged from 300 (again in Komi and Kalmuk) to 30,000 (Moscow).
The quotas were merely guidelines for execution and arrest. Considering that they all end in zeros says that the Party had no idea how many “anti-Soviet elements” roamed the country. The quotas were merely estimates presumably made from local NKVD reports. The quotas give a total estimate of 50,950 in the first category and 167,200 in the second category. A grand total of 218,150 persons. The order essentially transfered almost all criminal proceedings to NKVD troikas in 1937-38. According to figures released by the Russian Government in 1995, troikas handed down 688,000 sentences or 87% of all criminal sentences in the USSR in 1937 and 75% in 1938. A total of 681,692 people were sentenced to be shot in 1937-38, with 92.6% of those sentences handed down by troikas.
What is interesting about the Order is where it placed the power to deem an individual (and/or their family members) subject to “punitive measures.” Troikas (three man commissions) were to comprise of commissars of the republic’s NKVD or by regional departments. The minutes of the troikas investigation were the sole legal basis for a person’s execution or arrest. The day to day implementation of the mass operations was essentially outside the purview of central organs. Stalin basically handed local NKVD agents the power to wipe out their local rivals. And a bloodbath ensued. Most of the victims of this blind terror were regular people, most without any political connections at all.
An English translation of Operational Order 00447 can be found in J. Arch Getty, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939, p. 473-480.Post Views: 1,011
By Sean — 8 months ago
By Sean — 5 years ago
This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Family Values and Putin’s Fourth Pillar,”
Last month, the Russian journalist Oleg Kashin called the 23 year old man brutally murdered in Volgograd for being gay a “sacrificial victim.” Kashin argued that the anti-gay rhetoric coming from the Duma would “quiet down” because the murder revealed “state homophobia” which was until then still “virtual” had become “perhaps more convincing than the state itself wished, and has now started materializing into reality.” Kashin was wrong. But I can’t blame him for suffering from a lapse of naïve hope. Crimes like the one in Volgograd, after all, should have caused national pause. It should have at least tempered the actions of the State Duma. This man’s humanity should have overshadowed his otherness. But it didn’t. Kashin underestimated the conservative cultural politics defining Putin’s third term.
Since December 2011 the Russian government has retrenched itself on a myriad of fronts: political, cultural, economic and social. Several theories come to mind to explain this siege mentality. It’s the state striking back against the liberal thaw of the Medvedev years. The culture war is part of Putin’s efforts to erect a new populist majority. It’s a new anti-cosmopolitianism seeking to purge Russian society of its Western infections. Putinist conservativism serves as a retrograde substitute for a proactive social ideology to rebind the nation. All of these are plausible. They could even exist concurrently as they complement more than contradict. But still, one or even all of these interpretations appear too superficial. It’s important to remember Putinism is characterized by a series of reconstructions: the reestablishment of the power vertical; the rebuilding of the Russian economy; and the reinstitution of the social structure. Viewed in this light, the recent efforts to assert Russian Orthodox family values are an attempt to re-erect the last pillar: the cultural sphere.
A society’s character is constructed on the margins. Meaning, a society gets its identity not from the inclusion of the normal, but from the identification, isolation, and expulsion of the abnormal. For it is the aberrant that defines the border between what is acceptable and unacceptable. The reassertion of Russian Orthodox values is no different. Its increasing presence as a pillar in Russian cultural life is not established by what it is, but by what it’s not: Western, liberal, feminist, and homosexual. Today’s Russian conservativism is not proactively constituted. It is reactively defined by negation.
Image: Slon.ruPost Views: 1,034