Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu: Thousands of people were executed only because they were regarded as a possible source of opposition

In 1937-1938, thousands of people from the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic were shot dead or sent to camps by the Soviet power as part of the Great Terror or the Great Purge, which was launched in the former USSR by an order issued by Nikolai Yezhov, People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union. The events were related by historian Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu in a public debate hosted by IPN. According to the historian, the people were convicted to execution and imprisonment or deported in the absence of court proceedings, based on suspicions only.

The Great Terrier was one of the bloodiest pages in the history of Europe. This was a campaign of political repression led by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin against political opponents and against all those who were suspected of not being loyal to the Soviet regime.

“The anti-kulak operation was a component part of the Great Terror and was launched by a series of directives and orders issued by Nikolai Yezhov in the summer of 1937 with the Stalinist argument that class struggle worsened and actions against the enemies of the Soviet power and anti-revolution elements were needed. A series of party leaders from the administrative regions were called immediately and ordered to apply repression. What is interesting is that after this meeting, Yezhov organized repression also among party staff. A series of leaders who hesitated or delayed this process were sentenced to execution,” stated the Doctor of History.

According to him, the Great Terror covered also the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and thousands of people there were executed only because they were regarded as a possible source of opposition.

“In August, in all the territories, including the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, the repression was launched through the actions of the People’s Commissariat. In September, there were distributed the so-called quotas. The first category included those who were convicted to execution by shooting, while the second category – those who were sentenced to long jail terms or were sent to camps. This operation was aimed against the peasantry that was considered an antisocial and anticommunist element capable of resisting the initiatives of the Soviet state and, respectively, those elements were to be eradicated from the social composition of the Soviet state and society. In the MASSR, in September 1937, these quotas were of 200 for the first category and 500 for the second category. But in time these quotas underwent changes, including because local-level requests to extend this number were made. Towards the end of 1937, 2,300 persons were convicted and the figures increased significantly in 1938,” explained Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu.

According to the historian, the Great Purge was applied by the so-called NKVD troika – a commission consisting of three persons who took decisions about the people’s fate outside court proceedings. The decisions of the troika were directed to operational groups for being implemented.

“The historians fulfilled their duty. They wrote studies, conducted research and published collections of documents and monographs. Based on them, we see that this was a process out of court. In accordance with the order, a local representative of the NKVD, a representative of the party and a representative of the prosecutor’s office came together and signed a list of persons who were to be tried based on suspicions only. The meetings were very short. There were cases when hundreds of people were executed during one night and such events happened daily. The decisions were taken during the day and the people were executed at night,” related Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu.

The public debate entitled “Stalinist repression in MASSR and memory of victims of totalitarian communist regime” was the 25th installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” which is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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