Wrecking (Soviet crime)

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Wrecking (Russian: вредительство or vreditel'stvo, lit. "inflicting damage", "harming"), was a crime specified in the criminal code of the Soviet Union in the Stalin era. It is often translated as "sabotage"; however, "wrecking", "diversionist acts", and "counter-revolutionary sabotage" were distinct sub-articles of Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code) (58-7, 58-9, and 58-14 respectively), and the meaning of "wrecking" is closer to "undermining".

These three categories are distinguished in the following way.

  • Diversions were acts of immediate infliction of physical damage on state and cooperative property.
  • Wrecking was deliberate acts aimed against normal functioning of state and cooperative organisations, e.g., giving deliberately wrong commands.
  • Sabotage was non-execution or careless execution of one's duties.

As applied in practice, "wrecking" and "sabotage" could refer to any actions which could be broadly construed to negatively affect the economy in some way, including failing to meet economic targets, causing poor morale among subordinates, lack of effort, or alleged or real incompetence. Thus, it referred to economic or industrial sabotage only in the very broadest sense. Many who were charged were merely scapegoats. In many cases, even those who were not engaged in industrial activity (including scientists) were charged with wrecking. Many of the victims of the Great Purge were charged with wrecking.

Cultural depictions[edit]

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his historical account of the prison camps of the Soviet Union, The Gulag Archipelago, describes Nikolai Karlovich von Meck (son of Karl and Nadezhda von Meck, patroness of Tchaikovsky), an engineer who advised heavier-than-average loads being placed on freight trains for the betterment of the economy. He was accused of being a wrecker and shot, his crime being supposedly having overloaded the trains for the purpose of wearing out the rails faster.[1]


  1. ^ Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. (1973). The Gulag Archipelago, pp. 44–45 (1st ed.). Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-080332-0.