NKVD Order No. 00485

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The Polish Operation of the NKVD (1937–38)[1]
NKVD Order No. 00485 - Kharkov copy (2).jpg
First page of one of the copies of the order, archived by the Kharkov branch of the NKVD
Location Soviet Union, modern-day Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and others
Date 1937–1938
Target Ethnic Poles
Attack type
Prison shootings
Deaths At least 111,091 Poles executed
Perpetrators NKVD security forces

The Soviet NKVD Order № 00485 released on August 11, 1937 laid the foundation for the systematic elimination of the Polish minority in the Soviet Union between 1937 and 1938. The order was called "On liquidation of Polish sabotage and espionage groups and units of P.O.W." (Polish Military Organization, Polska Organizacja Wojskowa) (Russian: О ликвидации польских диверсионно-шпионских групп и организаций ПОВ) dated August 9, 1937 by the Central Committee Politburo (VKP b) and signed by Nikolai Yezhov, the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs. The operation was the epicenter of the national operations of the NKVD; and the largest ethnic shooting action of the Great Terror.[1][2][3]

According to the Order, the list of those subject to repression included, among others, "former Polish prisoners of war, defectors from Poland, Polish refugees, Polish political émigrés, those admitted through prisoners' exchange (политобменянные), former members of PPS and other Polish political parties". Polish convicts suspected of espionage that were about to complete their labor camp sentences could not be released and their files had to be referred to the Special Council of the NKVD.

Particularly affected were ethnic Poles employed in "strategic" sectors (transportation and telecommunications, defense industry, armed forces, security services, etc.), as well as members of Polish cultural organizations.

The Order created an extrajudicial body composed of two persons, the so-called "Dvoika", a Committee of the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs (chief of the NKVD) and the Prosecutor of the USSR, and instituted a special procedure for handling of such cases. Specifically, regional (oblast, krai, respublic) NKVD units had to compile lists of the Polish cases, bind them into so-called "albums" and send the "albums" to Moscow, where the suspects were summarily tried in absentia by the Dvoika. This procedure had to be applied to all other national operations of 1937-1938: German, Latvian, Finnish, Estonian, Romanian, Greek, and others.

This procedure was amended in September, 1938. To expedite the process, regional NKVD units were instructed to set up so called "Special Troikas" (not to be confused with the regional Troikas established under the NKVD Order № 00447) authorized to try the "national operations" cases locally.

In all, 139,815 people were sentenced under the anti-Polish mass operation, including 111,071 sentenced to death and executed.[4]

See also[edit]

  • Soviet Major-General Vasili Blokhin, the chief executioner of the Stalinist NKVD

Notes and references[edit]