Family members of traitors to the Motherland

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'Traitor of the Motherland family members' (Russian: ЧСИР: члены семьи изменника Родины) was a term in Article 58 of Criminal Code of RSFSR about criminal prosecution of wives and children (kin punishment) of all people who were arrested and convicted as "traitors of the Motherland" in the Soviet Union during Stalinist purges of 1930s and later. The practice of automatically convicting wives and children was a base element of the Great Purge. It introduced a new category of the inmates designated for the family members of the person who was recognized as the "Traitor of Motherland"; some Soviet labor camps were designated specifically to this category.


The NKVD Order № 00486[1] instructed about repression of wives and children of enemies of the people convicted to execution or imprisonment. It was dated August 15, 1937 and signed by Nikolai Yezhov acting both as chief of NKVD and General Commissar of State Security (chief of GUGB). The order implemented a resolution by Politburo.[2] The corresponding parts of Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code) were modified accordingly.[3]

As an element of the rollback of the Great Purge, on October 17, 1938, the later NKVD Order № 00689, signed by Lavrenty Beria, said not to arrest wives automatically, together with their husbands, but only after consideration by a single NKVD officer. Only wives that were deemed "politically untrustworthy or socially dangerous" or who knew about the "counter-revolutionary activity" of their husbands were to be arrested.

In 1940 a Politburo decree "On prosecution of traitors to the Motherland and their family members" and some other documents specified exile to Far North of the family members of those "traitors of the Motherland" who fled across the border. It primarily concerned the population of the territories newly acquired by the Soviet Union during the early years of World War II: Baltic States, taken from Poland Western Belarus and Western Ukraine, and Northern Bukovina taken from Romania.

On June 24, 1942 the State Defense Committee issued top secret resolution No 1926SS "On the Family Members of Traitors of the Motherland" that was signed by Stalin and restored some of the original wording [4]

Order No. 00486[edit]

All cases were to be considered by the Special Council of the NKVD.

Wives were subject to imprisonment into labor camps for terms of "at least 5–8 years".

"Socially dangerous" children were to be placed in labor camps, corrective labor colonies, or special-regimen orphanages -see also Orphans in the Soviet Union. The remaining orphaned children were to be placed in ordinary orphanages or with non-convicted relatives (if the latter wished). Personnel of the orphanages to house the children of the convicted were to be purged and refitted with politically reliable staff to properly supervise the "correction" of the children.[5][6]

Article 5 of the Order stated wives with breast-feeding children, those who were ill, or with ill children were not to be arrested. Article 17 further specified that they were to be placed to labor camps later: breast-feeders after the verdict, those with illness after the recovery.

Article 16 of the Order instructed to place the wives of the "traitors to the Motherland" into the Special Department of Temlag. Article 18 specified various kinds of facilities to imprison "socially-dangerous" children.

During the Great Purge the orphanages became overcrowded, and the country was flooded with runaway orphans, greatly increasing the juvenile delinquency once again since the Russian Civil War.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (full name: Operational Order of People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR by August 15, 1937 # 00486)
  2. ^ "Члены семей репрессированных (ЧСИР) :: NoNaMe". Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  3. ^ "Article 58, Criminal Code of the RSFSR (1934)". Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  4. ^ "О членах семей изменников родине". Журнал "Коммерсантъ Власть" (24). p. 52. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  5. ^ Corinna Kuhr, Children of ‘Enemies of the People’ as Victims of the Great Purges, Cahiers Du Monde Russe 39 (1998): 210.
  6. ^ Catriona Kelly, Children's World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890–1991, New Haven: Yale UP, 2007, 238.

External links[edit]