Soviet repressions in Belarus
Soviet repressions in Belarus refers to cases of ungrounded criminal persecution of people in Belarus under Communist rule. This includes persecution of people for the alleged counter-revolutionary activity, as well as deportations of people to other regions of the USSR based on their social, ethnic, religious or other background.
The repressions started in 1917 and have reached their peak during the 1930s and especially during the USSR-wide Great Purge in 1937-1938. Significant executions of notable Belarusian intellectuals and politicians have been made in the night between 29 and 30 October 1937 and related to the fabricated Case of the Union of Liberation of Belarus in 1930.
A separate wave of repressions occurred in 1939—1941 in West Belarus after its annexation to the USSR, when thousands of kulaki, priests, social and political leaders, former Polish officials and osadniki were either exterminated or forcibly resettled to Kazakhstan, Siberia and other regions of the USSR.
The repressions have largely stopped after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.
Number of victims
According to incomplete calculations, about 600,000 people fell victim to Soviet repressions in Belarus between 1917 and 1953. Other estimates put the number at higher than 1.4 million persons., of which 250,000 were sentenced by judicial or executed by extrajudicial bodies (dvoikas, troikas, special commissions of the OGPU, NKVD, MGB). Excluding those sentenced in the 1920s-1930s, over 250,000 Belarusians were deported as kulaks or kulak family members in regions outside the Belarusian Soviet Republic.
358,686 persons believed to be victims of Soviet repressions were sentenced to death in Belarus in 1917—1953, according to historian Vasil Kushner.
Effects of the repressions
According to Kushner, in the 1930s, only 26 Belarusian academicians and 6 correspondent members of the Belarusian Science Academy were unaffected by repressions. Of 139 PhD students (aspirants) in Belarus as of 1934, only six people escaped execution during the repressions. According to Kushner, the Soviet repressions virtually stopped any humanities research in Belarus.
According to the Belarusian-Swedish historian Andrej Kotljarchuk, in the 1930s the Soviets either physically exterminated or banned from further research 32 historians from Minsk with their works being also excluded from libraries. According to Kotljarchuk, the Soviet authorities thereby physically destroyed the Belarusian school of history studies of that time.
According historian Leanid Marakou, of approximately 540—570 writers who had been published in Belarus in the 1920s and 1930s, not less than 440—460 (80%) became victims of Soviet repression. This number includes Todar Kliashtorny, Andrej Mryj and many others. Including those forced to leave Belarus, no less than 500 (90%) of published Belarusian writers fell victim to the repressions, a quarter of the total number of writers persecuted by the state at this time in the entire USSR.
At the same time, according to Marakou, in Ukraine only 35% to 40% of writers have been victims to repressions, in Russia the number is below 15%.
A total of 1520 Belarusian medical specialists have become victims of repressions, this includes anout 500 doctors, over 200 nurses, almost 600 veterinarians, several hundreds of family members that have been sentenced within the same legal cases.
Notable victims of Soviet repressions in Belarus
- Zmicier Zhylunovich, poet, writer and journalist, the first leader of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus, arrested during the Great Purge and committed suicide in prison in 1937
- Branisłaŭ Taraškievič, linguist, translator and West Belarusian politician, executed in 1938
- Vaclaw Lastowski, literature historian, member of the Belarusian Science Academy, former prime minister of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, executed in 1938
- Adam Stankievič, Roman Catholic priest, Christian democratic politician in West Belarus, died in a concentration camp in 1949
In late 1980s the influential pro-democracy and pro-independence movement in Belarus (the Belarusian Popular Front) has been largely inspired by the Perestroika and by the findings of graves on the former Soviet execution site in Kurapaty near Minsk.
Unlike in neighbouring countries, the authorities of the Republic of Belarus under president Aliaksandr Lukashenka give only limited access to state archives related to Stalinist repressions and do not commemorate the victims of Communism on a governmental level.
The democratic opposition close to the Conservative Christian Party, the revived Belarusian Christian Democracy and Partyja BNF commemorate the victims of the Soviet regime on 29 and 30 October, the day of a mass execution of Belarusian writers in 1937, and on the traditional ancestors commemoration day (Dziady) in early November.
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