Greek Operation of NKVD
The Greek Operationa[›] (Russian: Греческая Операция, translit. Grecheskaya Operatsiya; Ukrainian: Грецька операція) was an organised mass persecution of the 450,000 Greeks of the Soviet Union that was ordered by Joseph Stalin. Greeks often use the term "pogrom" for this persecution, though this term usually refers to mob violence rather than persecution by police acting under direct orders, as this one was. It began in December 1937 and went on for 13 years.
Under Stalinism, the USSR considered some nations to be "progressive" and some others to be "reactionary". Reactionary nations included the Greeks, the Koreans, the Volga Germans, the Crimean Tatars, the Chechens, Eskimos in the Chukchi Peninsula facing Alaska, USA, and others. Stalin considered that everyone who was born of a "capitalist" ethnicity was an enemy of his regime, no matter their personal political beliefs. Many of the Greeks who came to Russia, particularly to the Black Sea region, had been involved in trading - by definition a "bourgeois" way of life. Moreover, Greeks may have incurred Stalin's suspicion due to their cultural, religious and linguistic links with Greece, a nation state outside his control - though by no means all Soviet Greeks felt an identification with Greece or sought to serve its interests.
The late 1930s was the time of the Moscow Show Trials and of mass purges of people perceived as a threat by Stalin, targeting also many people of Russian ethnic origin, as well as many foreign Communists resident in the Soviet Union. The persecution of Soviet Greeks should be seen in this general context.
The prosecution of Greeks in USSR was gradual: at first the authorities shut down the Greek schools, cultural centres, and publishing houses. Then, the secret police indiscriminately arrested all Greek men 16 years old or older. All Greeks who were wealthy or self-employed professionals were sought for prosecution first.
On many occasions, the central authorities sent telegrams to police forces with orders to arrest a certain number of Greeks, without giving any individual names, and the police officers were expected to arrest at random any person of Greek origin until they reached the requested total number of arrests, until the process was repeated at a later date. In all, some 50,000 Greeks were affected, more than 10% of the entire community.
Pavlos Kerdemelidis from Pontus was a survivor of the 1922 events at Smyrna who went to live in Crimea and arrested there in 1937 during Stalin's Greek Operation. He spent 13 years imprisoned in Siberia, but he survived, making him one of the few survivors of the 50,000 Greeks who were affected by the Greek Operation.
- ^ a: In Greece, Grecheskaya Operatsiya is also known with the transliteration Gretseskayia Operatsia as that is how it was printed in various publications. In Greek, it is known as Ελληνική Επιχείρηση, which means "Greek Operation".
- Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949, a book by J. Otto Pohl, ISBN 0-313-30921-3, ISBN 978-0-313-30921-2, DOI 10.1336/0313309213: Google Books