The Novocherkassk massacre refers to events tied to the labor strike at a locomotive building plant in Novocherkassk, a city in the Russian SFSR, Soviet Union. The events eventually culminated into the protests of June 1–2, 1962 when reportedly 26 protesters were killed by Soviet Army troops, and 87 were wounded.
The riots were a direct result of shortages of food and provisions, as well as the poor working conditions in the factory. The protest began on June 1 in the Budyonny Electric Locomotive Factory, when workers from the foundry and forge shops stopped work after factory management refused to hear their complaints. The strike and attendant discussions had spread throughout the whole factory by noon.
The unrest began when Nikita Khrushchev raised the prices of meat and butter throughout the Soviet Union on June 1st. On the same day, as required by a separate economic plan, the minimum production quotas for each worker at the factory were increased, thereby effectively reducing pay rates. This culminated in a march on the town hall and police headquarters, and the strike spread to other enterprises after police arrested thirty workers.
According to documents declassified in 90's, motorized infantry units were called to suppress the protesters, but they fired in the air, and the lethal fire came from a unit of Internal troops, from Rostov-on-Don composed of 10 snipers and 2 machine guns, who were set up at the "Don" hotel. Orders to kill were approved through the whole chain of command, from Khrushchev, through the ministry of defense.
The Commander of the North-Caucasian Troops, general Kuzmich Shapochnikov, refused to execute an order to attack peaceful demonstrators with tanks (he reportedly said, "I don't see any enemy that we could turn our weapons against"), for which he was later degraded and arrested.
According to now available official sources, 26 protesters were killed by the machine-gun-equipped Soviet Army troops, and 87 were wounded with 3 of those dying later of their wounds. After the initial demonstrations, a curfew was implemented in the town. The dead bodies were secretly buried in the cemeteries of other towns of the Rostov Oblast. However, the following morning, a large group of several hundred demonstrators again gathered in the square. One hundred and sixteen were arrested, of which fourteen were convicted by show trials, seven of those receiving a death sentence and were executed. The others were sentenced to prison terms of ten to fifteen years.
Following the incident, the Soviet government directed extra food supplies to the region and began an investigation. Additional arrests of workers followed, as did courts martial of military officials involved. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn claimed that individuals wounded in the unrest and their families were exiled to Siberia.
The whole story was never allowed to appear in the press or any other Soviet mass media and remained an official secret until 1992, when the remains of 20 bodies were recovered and identified in 1992 and buried in the cemetery of Novoshakhtinsk.
During a Politburo scene in The Devil's Alternative (1979) by author Frederick Forsyth, the KGB chief, asked if he could suppress riots during famine, responds that the KGB could suppress ten, even twenty Novocherkassks, but not fifty – intentionally using the example to highlight how serious the difficulties would be that the Soviet Union finds itself in the novel.
The massacre is dramatized in Francis Spufford's 2010 novel Red Plenty.
- 1961: Novocherkassk Massacre Archived 2011-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.
- "«Не хватает денег на мясо и колбасу, ешьте пирожки с ливером»". Бессмертный барак. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
- Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshkov, Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: from Stalin to Khrushchev, Harvard University Press, p. 262
- Hosking, Geoffrey. A History of the Soviet Union, Fontana Press, London. 1992.
- "«Не хватает денег на мясо и колбасу, ешьте пирожки с ливером»". Бессмертный барак. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
- "Шапошников Матвей Кузьмич - История на сайте Бессмертный барак". Шапошников Матвей Кузьмич :: Бессмертный барак. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
- (in Russian) Новочеркасск вспоминает жертв трагедии, Vest, 2007
- And Then the Police Fired, TIME Magazine, October 19, 1962
- Taubman, William. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, First Edition, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, NY. 2003.
- The Novocherkassk Tragedy, June 1–3 1962 – An eyewitness account of the strike leading up to the shootings.