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1937 – The culmination of Soviet era political repressions. On July 30, 1937 NKVD issued order 00447 “About operations for the repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements” which was put into effect by “troikas” created on administrative levels of USSR republics and regions.

The “kulak operation” was territorially and time-wise bounded and at times a “grassroots” initiative would come up with a suggestion to increase the “threshold” of people to be repressed. In his letter to Stalin the Interior Commissar Yezhov informed the former that comrade Mikoyan had requested to increase the number of Dashnaks and other anti-Soviet elements subject to execution by 700 and Yezhov, in turn, suggested to make it 1500. The signatures on the letter attest that apart from Stalin the suggestion was approved by Molotov, Kaganovich, Chubar, Loginov.

The high-ranking officials seemed to compete in who would offer the highest number of executions: wherein the “closer” the people to be sacrificed, the better for the offering party. It was therefore in this logic that Mikoyan, an ethnic Armenian, should have been the one requesting increment in the number of executed Armenians. This kind of “contest” was perceived a pledge of loyalty to the regime as the additional 1500 people must have considerably elevated comrade Mikoyan in the eyes of comrade Stalin.

A month later, on October 22, 1937 the first secretary of Kirov regional committee proposed to increase the number of people repressed under “first category” (execution) by 300 and “second category” by 1000 people. Stalin makes his own input into the petition by changing 300 with 500 and decreasing the numbers of “second category” from 1000 to 800 people.

According to A. Manukyan around 18.000 people fell victims to the repressions in Armenia in 1930-1940 (Manukyan Armenak, Political Repressions in Armenia in 1920-1953, Yerevan, 1999, p. 25) of which 4639 people were sentenced to execution between 1930-1938.

1949 deportees – The 1949 deportation of Armenians of Caucasus was premised on May 17, 1949 decree of AUCP(b) CC that provisioned for the deportation of “politically unreliable elements” from all over RSFSR and Ukrainian Black See coast, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

USSR citizens of Greek origin, former Greek subjects who obtained USSR citizenship and former Greek subjects who did not hold citizenship per se fell under the definition of “politically unreliable” (Сталинские депортации 1928–1953 / под общ. ред.А. Н. Яковлева, М., 2005. с. с. 665). The aforementioned decree was reinforced by order № 00183 of May 29, 1949, of USSR Minister for State Security about “deportation of the families of former Turkish nationals, stateless people of Turkish origin, former nationals of Turkey who acquired Soviet citizenship, Greek citizens, currently stateless former Greek citizens and Dashnaks from Georgian SSR, Armenian SSR, Azerbaijani SRR and Black See coast”. N. Torosyan argues that this is the first document about 1949 deportation of Armenians (Торосян Н.Г. К вопросу о переселении армян в Алтайский край: исторический аспект, с.75 (http://izvestia.asu.ru/2013/4-1/hist/TheNewsOfASU-2013-4-1-hist-14.pdf).

The order was followed by May 29, 1949 decree № 2214-856ss of USSR Council of Ministers on “resettlement and employment of deportees from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan SSRs and from Black Sea coast”, which affected “Dashnaks”, Turkish nationals, stateless people of Turkish origin, Greek nationals, former Greek nationals who acquired Soviet citizenship. Although the order did not targeted Armenians as a specific group but obviously “Dashnaks” as well as the majority of “former Turkish nationals” and “former Greek nationals” were Armenians.

As set out by order of USSR Minister of the Internal Affairs (July 2, 1949) the deportees were to be dislocated as follows.

Altai Kari Dashnaks 3620 families 13 000

people

Tomsk oblast Turks

 

1500 families 5400

people

Dzambul oblast Greeks

 

6000 families 21 600

people

South-Khazakh oblast Greeks

 

1500 families 5400

people

As of June 1949 57.680 people were subjected to deportation, 15.465 of which on “Dashnak” charges.

Since the absolute majority of “former Turkish nationals” and “former Greek nationals” in Caucasus were Genocide survivors, the 1949 deportations from Armenia and the whole region can be discussed in the context of World War II and post-war policies of ethnic dislocations. This dislocation was not recognized as “ethnic deportation” and people rehabilitated thereof were not rehabilitated not as a group (i.e. Chechens, Balkars deported from Caucasus or Tatars of Crimea) but as individuals, which once again left the deportation short of the respective political characteristics.

This decree affected, inter alia, the Crimean Greeks, Bulgars, Armenians, Hemshen peoples (Hamshen Armenians), Meskhetian Turks, Kurds as well as 1949 deportees from Baltic states. All the above-mentioned groups were given a status of “deportees” (“выселенцы”) and each person had to sign under a note that he had familiarized with the decision (Pavel Polyan, НЕ ПО СВОЕЙ ВОЛЕ…История и география принудительных миграций в СССР, Москва, 2001, էջ 145)). Armenians, however, did not constitute a separate group per se (…How to explain the fact that just like the other deportees Armenians of Aleysk town reported to the commandant’s office on monthly basis to reaffirm their presence and signed on a card bearing a stamp “Dashnaks of Aleysk”). Deportees from Azerbaijan were “Mussavatists”, those from Georgia – “SR Mensheviks”. In the meantime, the cards of other deportees of similar status stated their nationality i.e. Germans, Kalmiks, etc.

A son does not answer for his father – Stalin made this statement in December, 1935 at All-Union Conference of Leading Combine Drivers when a delegate from Bashkiria by name of Kilba said: “Although I am a son of kulak, I will honestly fight for the interests of workers and peasants and for the building of socialism”.

Accusation – What were we charges pressed against the victimes of repressions? The absolute majority of research participants were not aware of the exact accusations. The mermories of the victims and post memory of their descendants appears to have retained the general vocabulary of the political accusations of 1930s such as “dashnak”, “anti-soviet”, “counter-revolutionary”, “anti-state”, “mauzerist”, “kulak”, “nationalist”, “terrorist”, “bandit”, “ghachagh”, “anharazat” (social alien), “anti-stalinist”, “spy”. Some accounts contain whole ranges of accusations which, however, does not imply that the person was convicted for all those “crimes”. The narrator simply recounts the terms familiar to him with assurance that all of the terms hold the same or at least similar meanings.

Agitator – Herein a preacher of socialist ideology and lifestyle, a person of special training engaged in propaganda of socialist ideology from the very first years of Bolshevik regime. There was a Department for Agitation and Propaganda within the Central Committee of the Communist Party. In Armenian SSR the Department for Agitation and Propaganda issued a fortnightly pamphlet (“Agitator” in 1933-1936, “Propagandist” in 1936-1963, “Agitator’s notebook” in 1963-1971 and “Agitator and Propagandist” from 1971-onwards) which was an outright imitation of Moscow-based periodical “Agitator”. The publication discussed the propagandist input and experience of the Communist Party of Armenia and served as the main source of reference for staff and non-staff agitators. The greater part of non-staff, volunteer agitators got involved in identification of anti-Soviet sentiments or ascription of those to certain individuals, particularly during the first decade of political repressions.

American spy – Accusations of espionage on behalf of a foreign country intelligence service were among the most common and vastly applicable charges pressed during the repressions (see Chronology and Character of Repressions). In the context of Armenia these allegations were particularly easy to work against repatriates who had lived and worked in a number of foreign countries and/or against the survivors of Armenian Genocide (former nationals of Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey).

Anti – An abbreviated, colloquial form of the term “anti-Soviet”.

Anti-Soviet – A set of opinions and judgments against Soviet authority, Soviet lifestyle and USSR as a whole. Effective 1920s all who doubted the righteousness of decisions and policies implemented by Soviet political and administrative agencies were labeled anti-Soviet. The term could be employed against those who spoke foreign languages, had travelled to foreign countries, did not follow soviet ethics in everyday life, extended a friendly hand to an “enemy of the people” (even if the person in question was a close relative). A person could be labeled anti-Soviet even for listening to “bourgeois music” and his “religious beliefs”. Anti-Soviet agitation in USSR was liable to criminal prosecution.

Anti-Soviet propaganda – A political accusation brought in during the repressions. The legal formulation of “anti-Soviet propaganda” was incorporated into the first Soviet criminal code (1922) in the section of “counter-revolutionary” crimes.

  1. article 67 – anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda
  2. article 70 – agitation and propaganda that serves international bourgeoisie
  3. article 72 – creation, preservation and dissemination of counter-revolutionary literature
  4. article 73 – insinuation and dissemination of false rumors or unverified data that may instigate panic, or cause distrust or defamation of the Soviet government

Subsequently a number of similar articles were introduced into Criminal Codes of Soviet republics.

Article 58 – Article 58 of Russian SFSR, then USSR Penal Code, that provisioned legal conviction for “counter-revolutionary” activity.

Bandits -“Banditism” is defined in the criminal code as one of grave crimes perpetuated against government administration and society. It is common to classify various armed rebellions as banditism. The legal employment of words “bandit”, “banditism” is typically aimed at qualifying politically motivated acts of militarized groups as common criminal acts. At wartime or during military operations groups of irregular army, militia, volunteer squads and partisans are oftentimes called “banda”. In Bolshevik agenda self-defense fighters of Zangezur – Garegin Nzhdeh’s troops were considered “bandas”. During political repressions the groups of villagers who resisted collectivization were branded as “kulak banda”. Banditism was among the recurring accusations during Soviet repressions (see chronology of Soviet repressions)

Black car – In the period of repressions the “criminals” used to be transported in closed black trucks, which led to a popular perception of “black car” as a signifier of “doom”, “unjust punishment” or a “tool for violence”.

Bond – A government bond, security, affirming that its owner gave money to the securities trader with a fixed rate of interest and repayable in a fixed period of time. In Soviet era there were solely long-term government bonds: only the state was allowed to borrow money from its citizens upon the commitment to return it in a certain time span and in accrued interest. Throughout Stalin years such bonds were factually compulsory: the state would often issue government bonds instead of the entire or half of the salary but never payed the interest rate. The repayment term of these bonds came only after Stalin’s death. His successor Khushov first “froze” them than started covering the debt by means of a “lottery” within 20 years. Many people had hundreds, even thousands of bonds but, gradually losing hope to be ever paid off, threw their securities away as “worthless papers”. Ultimately only the stubborn benefited – those who withstood the temptation of throwing the bonds away.

Chekist – Russian contraction of “Чрезвычайная комиссия” (extraordinary commission) which was known throughout USSR as an individual term in the sense of a member of extraordinary commission, its affiliate, enforcer of the commission’s decisions. The “extraordinary commission” was created immediately after Bolsheviks assumed power. The functions of the committee subsequently passed on to “Extraordinary Commission for Struggle Against Counter-revolutionary Elements”, “National Security”, “State Security” and other institutions of similar character but the term “chekist” persisted in the circulation. In Armenian public discourse the word is used to characterize the political denouncers, authorities, people carrying out punitive unlawful orders of influential people associated with the authorities. Sometimes it may refer to the alleged puppets of Russian political will.

Collectivization – The process of private farming households consolidation and creation of collective farms carried out in USSR in 1928-1933 (the decision on collectivization was promulgated at 15th Congress of AUCP(b) in 1927). Peasants opposing collectivization were declared anti-Soviet, enemies of the people, kulaks, counter-revolutionary – all criminally punishable.

Communist Party – Political party that adopted Marxism as its main doctrine and declared building of communism and achieving social justice its chief objectives. The first communist parties were of revolutionary character seeing armed rebellion and establishment of proletarian dictatorship as indispensible conditions for taking over the power. Liquidation of private property and market economy was considered the roadmap for achieving social justice. USSR was the first country to have a communist government. Although in theory there could be more than one Communist parties in one country, in USSR the CP was the only party at all. The Communist Party of Soviet Union had a monopoly for political activity embedded in article 126 of 1936 Constitution and article 6 of 1977 Constitution, which provisioned that the CP was the leading and guiding force of the soviet society.

Confiscation – Expropriation and nationalization of private property of a repressed person. Upon the decision of local authorities confiscated property could be turned over to another person.

Counter-revolutionary, counterrevolution – In a general terms – any ideology or concept, action, intention opposing socialist ideology and the authorities, conscious or unconscious resistance to official policies of the post-revolutionary period. More specifically – the general explanation for political repressions perpetrated by the new authorities. Although “counter-revolutionary” activity was introduced to the Penal Code only in 1926, it was effectuated by the administrative and legal authorities since 1918. In 1926 “counter-revolutionary” was legally defined first in RSFSR than in USSR Criminal Code, Article 58, laying out that any act “intended to overthrow, subversion or weakening of the power of worker-peasant Soviets” or “extending assistance to that part of international bourgeoisie which does not recognize the equality of rights of the Communist system and seeks to overthrow it” was rendered counter-revolutionary. The same definition held for the acts “intended to jeopardize the main political and economic achievements of proletarian revolution”.

CPSU CC – Central Committee of the Communist Party of USSR. Successor to RSDWP – Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (until spring of 1917), RSDWP(b) – Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (Bolsheviks) (1917-1918), RCP(b) – Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (1918-1925), AUCP(b) – All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (1925-1952) and effective 1952 CPSU – Communist Party of Soviet Union. The founders of the party did not intend for party positions, initially it did not have a chairman while the party secretary was engaged in activities of largely technical character. Subsequently, however, the CC grew into an enormous administrative body and the first secretary assumed the mantle of the leader. The CC was elected at party congress, was a supreme party body and was accountable to the next congress. The 28th congress of CPSU (1990) elected the largest number of delegates ever – 412 people. According to party regulations, the CC was tasked with coordination of party activities and operations, in reality, however, it took over the management of the whole country. CPSU CC regularly, at least once in six months, held meetings of member and candidates for membership.

Dashnak/Dashnaktsutyun – A member of Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) political party. ARF was founded in 1890 in Tbilisi and is currently active in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and in Diaspora communities. The party was banned in USSR since 1923 until the collapse of Soviet Union (see Dashnaktsutyun liquidation congress). During its formation period the party’s main objective was to consolidate Armenian people and push for political and economic freedom in Western Armenia. Ideologically ARF adheres to the ideas of democracy and socialism. The newly established party proved to be quite proactive in the face of multifaceted developments taking place round Armenians and Armenia (1905-07; 1917-20 during Armenian-Tatar clashes, Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Empire and Turkey.)

ARF established connections with Western European parties and elites with aspirations to actuate and reach a favorable solution of the Armenian question. To fulfill this goal Dashnaktsutyun even resorted to terrorist acts such as the takeover of Ottoman Bank in Constantinople. Apart from diplomatic activity the party was fully engaged in formation of volunteer fedayee groups in Western Armenia as well as preparation of self-defense operations.

ARF closely cooperated with anti-sultanist political powers of Turkey, especially with Young Turks, and held offices in the Government of 1908. In the aftermath of 1909 Adana massacres it realized the failure of Young Turks and severed ties with them. During World War I ARF cooperated with Russian Empire. After Armenian Genocide ARF affiliated troops embarked on rescue missions and escort of survivors to safety, simultaneously participating in political processes of Southern Caucasus.

In 1917, following the Bolshevik revolution, Russian army retreated and faced with the threat of Turkish regular army marching towards Caucasus, ARF worked to regiment Armenian troops and restructure the military. It was around the same period that confrontation between Dashnaktsutyun and Musavat party of Caucasian Tatars (Azerbaijanis) emerged, the latter being in line with Turks. In these dire circumstances ARF became the main political power in the newly announced Republic of Armenia (May 28, 1918). A year later on May 28, 1919 the Government declared a “United and Independent Republic”, reaffirming the claims of Armenians for Western Armenia.

In the aftermath of dissolution of the Soviet Union and regained sovereignty of Armenia, the party participates in the party and political life of the Republic of Armenia.

In 1982 and 1998 programs the motto “Free, Independent and United Armenia” was officially adopted as the party’s supreme objective. Being unable to resist the convergence of Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey ARF handed over the authority in December 1920.

Dekulakization – During collectivization of 1928-1932 USSR state policy executed wide-scale repressions of rural population standing against collectivization. Any action, speech or talk against collectivization was interpreted as anti-Soviet. The authorities formulated the thesis of “liquidation of the kulaks as a class” as “dekulakization”, an action plan stipulating that better-off peasants, using hired labor were to be deprived of their land, processing equipment, civil rights, subjected to extrajudicial punishment and deported to peripheral areas of the country. In 1930 AUCP(b) Politburo approved the decision on “Measures for the liquidation of kulak households in the regions of continuous collectivization”. The ispolkoms (executive committees of local Soviets) put the operations into effect; however, since the concept of being a kulak was not clearly identified, the local authorities oftentimes chose the “kulaks” “by eye”, often turning the situation to their own advantage. At the time the ideological term “kulak’s adherent” came to fore, authorizing repressions of any peasant, even a batrak.

The lack of research on process of dekulakization in Armenia makes it fairly difficult to assess the numbers of people exposed to repressions on allegations of dekulakization. The findings from our modest fieldwork suggest that indictments brought against the repressed contained terms such as “kulak”, “social alien”, “nationalist” without distinguishing between their ideological inclinations and affiliations.

Denunciation – In the period of Soviet repressions the intentional or unintentional act of reporting about political unreliability of a person. In public perceptions there is a clearly demarkator of denunciation and evidence. In 1930s denunciations were encouraged by administrative and legal agnecies, were often extorted by means of phisical and psycological violence and served as a basis for conviction.

Disenfranchised – A person deprived of the right to vote and a number of other civil rights. As stipulated by the first Constitution of USSR the right to vote was denied to users of hired labor, people living on “unearned” income (securities, shares) and people with multiple convictions. The disenfranchised were not allowed trade union membership which brought to naught their chances to occupy responsible and senior positions. The disenfranchised were segregated in the labor market, they were not entitled for unemployment pension or subsidy, neither did they receive ration books. Although there wasn’t a respective provision in the legislation, the disenfranchised could not get a university degree. Their sons were either not drafted for military service or served in working battalions.

Echelon – In the narratives presented herein the word echelon is meant for the train transporting the deportees to Siberia in 1949. “Echelon” has acquired a deeply negative connotation due to the intolerable conditions of closed doors, barred windows, military supervision, traveling for days non-stop or without permission to leave the car. Since the cars were not equipped with lavatories even the basic rules of hygiene and sanitation could not be preserved. Due to this circumstances instances of child death grew common and the corpses were sometimes simply tossed out of windows.

Enemy, enemy of the people – In oral history accounts about the repressions of the 1930s the word “enemy” is not specified (e.g. “child of an enemy” or “public enemy”) in the range of other legal accusations, rather it is identified with the term “enemy of the people” – the basis of political repressions. In the phrase “enemy of the people” the word “people” does not imply the notion of ethnie. The legal notion of the term is derived from Latin law (“hostis publicus” and “hostis populi Romani”) and traced back to 68 B.C. when Roman Senate declared Nero “public enemy”. Apart from that the term “enemy of the people” was widely used during French Revolution. The victorious regime grounded the necessity of mass terror by declaring all its opponents “enemies of the people”. The same pattern was put in motion in the period of Stalinist repressions. The newly established “Socialist” regime expounded that class struggle continued because in the aftermath of the revolution various ideological opponents (spies, terrorists, nationalists, saboteurs, wreckers) devised means of contesting with the established order. “Enemy of the people” was not a mere descriptive term but had a legal premise set out in in 1936 Constitution of USSR. Article 131 stipulated that “persons committing offences against public, socialist property are enemies of the people”. “Enemies of the people” were tried upon respective articles of USSR Republics penal codes (in Russian SFSR the notorious Article 58).

Even the walls have ears – see fear.

Execution by shooting – In oral history narratives almost all verdicts of death sentences are recollected as “shooting”, however, sometimes the narrators employ different vocabulary such as “axe”, “slaughter”, “annihilate”. None of our research participants knew whcih crimes were punishable with supreme penalty in the period of repressions. According to resolution № 00515 of NKVD “On Establishing the Procedure to Issue a Reference Note on Location of the Convicted and Arrested” the relatives of the executed people were told that the arrested persons were convicted to “ten years of labor camp incommunicado”, however, the real verdict was execution.

Exile, displacement, deportation – The forced departure of people from their homes upon the decision of high authorities. In Armenian context the Stalinist period the enforced displacement of families and individuals and their resettlement in predetermined areas are referred to by the word “aksor” [exile]. The same term is employed for the deportation of 1949 – a violent, massive displacement carried out in a single night. The bulk of the deportees and their descendants are still unaware of both the committed crime and the reasons behind the inflicted punishment. A recurrent opinion in oral accounts is that “the deportees were the families of war prisoners”. Many people, however, consider themselves innocent since none of their kin had fallen prisoner during the war, while some others see themselves as victimes of local authorities’ whims who exiled them instead of the “real criminals” in order to uphold the specified quota of deportees. The fact is that upon December 23, 1947 decree of USSR Council of Ministers considerable numbers of Azerbaijanis were resettled from Armenia to Kura-Araxes lowland, a multitude of Armenians (both repatiates and locals) were forecebly resettled in Altai Krai in 1948-1949 and many Armenians from both northern and southern corners of Caucasus were forced to settle in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in 1949. Russian historiography uses the term “deportation” to describe these acts of displacement, while Armenians use the word “exile”.

Exodus – The survivors of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated in Ottoman Empire in 1915 often refer to these events as “exodus”, “massacres”, “slaughter”.

Family of a criminal – see family of an enemy of the people.

Family of an enemy of the people – In the period of Soviet repressions all family members of political criminals, families of the enemies of the people were subject to legal or social segregation. In certain cases the families were exiled to labor camps or arrested as “members of the family of the traitor”. Despite Stalin’s famous statement of 1935 “a son does not answer for his father”, Politburo decree (№ 51/144) of July 5, 1937 ordered ‘‘to imprison all wives of the condemned traitors from rightist Trotskyite espionage-sabotage organization in camps for terms of 5–8 years”. For this purpose special camps were to be instituted in Narym province and Turgai district of Kazakhstan. Children under fifteen years were to be taken under state protection and sent to special children’s homes. All children were to be placed outside in cities (except Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Tiflis, Minsk and coastal and border towns). According to the notorious NKVD order № 00447 of July 30, 1937 “About operations for the repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements”

  1. Family members capable of active anti-Soviet activities will be subjected to isolation in camps or labor settlement
  2. Families of persons repressed in the first category (executed) living in border regions or in major metropolitan areas will be resettled from border areas into the depths of the respective republics, krais and regions.
  3. Families of executed persons residing in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Tbilisi, Baku, Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog and in areas of Sochi, Sukhumi, are to be resettled but will be allowed to chose a place of residence with the exception of border areas.
  4. All families of the repressed will be registered and undergo regular surveillance.

The executive order № 00486 of August 15, 1937 specified the terms of implementation of the order № 00447

  • Subjected to (total) repressions were to be only the wives and children, not the entire family of the traitor.
  • Wives of the “traitors of the Motherland” were to be arrested simultaneously with their husbands. Wives who denounced their husbands were to be exempted from the order.
  • The divorcees were to be arrested only in cases of “their implication in anti-Soviet activities”.
  • Children over 15 were to be arrested only if they proved to be “socially dangerous”.
  • Arrests of the wives of traitors who were pregnant, had infant or sick children under their care were temporarily deferred.
  •  Children left without a guardian after mother’s arrest were to be placed in children’s homes, however, “the willingness of relatives (not subjected to repression) of the orphans to take over their care will not be hindered”.

In October 1938 this order was revised so that only women who “knew about the counter-revolutionary activity of their husbands” or “aided their husbands in counter-revolutionary activities” were to be arrested.

One way or another almost all relatives of the families were “punished”. The families of the “formers” (former clergymen, white guardists, dashnaks, nobles, Tsarist bureaucrats, etc.) were not allowed to work, enter universities, serve in the army and sometimes to participate in the elections. These process were the main underlying factors that incited the “denunciation of relatives”. Furthermore, the special decree of August 27, 1938 allowed unilateral divorce at the initiative of the party at liberty.

Fear – “…Even the walls have ears”. “The personality cult” was not all about worshiping Stalin, there was a great deal of fear at play. Everybody was afraid”. The condition of total fear became an integral part of USSR population habitat and was largely premised on the state-instigated practices of denunciation and defamation.

Fedayee – Fedayee is an Arabic word, meaning one who sacrifices himself for a cause, typically a righteous or a sacred one. Effective 19th century the word was commonplace among the Christian communities of Western Armenia struggling against Turkish oppression.

Ghachagh – A culprit, outlaw. Former counter-revolutionaries, dashnaks, fedayees who sought refuge in woods and mountains in order to avoid bolshevik repressions. Having spent a long time in the woods some of these people recoursed to banditry: the efforts to obtain food, clothing and weaponry turned them into common criminals

Guilty – Herein the perception of families and relatives of the repressed towards those responsible for the repressions. The search for “the guilty” begins with pinpointing “Soviet regime” and giving the names of statsemen of the time (Stalin, Beria), up to “our neighbors”, “the chairman of the village council”, “the informers” etc.

Informer – Herein political unreliability of certain individuals or provision of information to the authorities pertaining political dissent (for instance: “The man informed on him, reported that he had cursed Stalin”, “they denounced him, said that he doesn’t believe in Khanjian’s suicide and thinks Beria is responsible for the killing”, “the informers were from our own village, they said he had fought alongside Nzhdeh”. During political repressions the words “informer”, “denouncer” were synonymous with the notion of “slanderer”. The equalization is probably premised on the fact that oftentimes there was nothing to “denounce” and slander was taken as a basis for resorting to repression. In this context the Armenian word Þծախելß [tsakhel] – to sell” is likely to reflect certain social or material compensation received for denunciation.

KGB – Russian abbreviation for “комитет государственной безопасности” (Committee for State Security). This organization was a successor to Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage (ChEKA) 1920-1926, State Political Directorate (GPU) 1926-1934, People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) 1941-1946, Ministry of State Security (MGB) 1946-1953 and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) 1953-1954. It functioned as Committee for State Security between (1954-1991).

Kolkhoz – A contraction from Russian “Колективное хозяйство” (collective farm). Kolkhoz was a management system introduced to USSR rural communities. The property and labor force of the rural population were handed over to the system through a series of decisions on “collectivization” taken between 1928-1930. Collectivization stipulated that the means of agricultural production (the land, tools and machinery, livestock, sowing fund) were to be the common property of the entire kolkhoz and the activities of the farm were to be coordinated by the chairman of the kolkhoz elected by its members. Prior to the formation of collective farms the bulk of the peasants were given lands upon the Decree on Land of December 28, 1920, however, according to the Land Code of 1923 all lands were nationalized and redistributed among rural communities. With establishment of collective farms the purchase or lease of lands was no longer possible. The production of the farm was allocated among its owner-members at the general assembly session, which, was strictly regulated. A part of the farm’s production was sold to the state by very low prices determined by the state itself, loans recieved from state banks for spring fieldworks were returned, wages of mechanics were paid, forage was stored and whatever was left was divided among the farm members on the basis of labor-days.

A kolkhoz worker was allowed a “household plot” and some private livestock (until Stalin’s death – one cow, two calves, ten sheep and goats, one sow). For a rural resident working in kolkhoz was compulsory. On February 21, 1948 upon Nikita Khrushchev’s initiative USSR Supreme Council adopted a resolution pertaining Ukraine, but effective June 2 the whole USSR, that all those willfully evading agricultural work, those leading anti-social, parasitic lives will be sentenced to 8 year of exile. This decision remained in effect until 1953.

State policy towards the kolkhoz was slightly changed in 1956, following Stalin’s death. The practice of membership deprivation, workdays were exempted from taxation, the income tax from household plots was reduced, the allowed number of private livestock and size of the household plot was expanded, etc. In 1966 workdays were replaced by fixed wages. These reforms became known as changes brought about by Malenkov and the peasants even created songs in his honor:

10 sheep and two cows

Our precious Malenkov

In 1990s there were very few collective farms left in USSR. They were mostly replaced by sovkhozy.

Komsomol – All-Union Leninist Communist League of Youth. It was the sacred duty of each Soviet youth to be a Komsomol member. Although affiliation to Komsomol was voluntary, it was factually made mandatory for all teenagers. Children of formers (former clergymen, Dashnaks, nobles, Tsarist bureaucrats and officers, etc.) and the repressed were denied membership to Komsomol. “Denial to enter Komsomol” was a punishment in itself since Komsomol membership card was an indispensable asset for career growth. Moreover, all official youth-oriented programs including activities of youth sport clubs, summer camps, excursions, various arts and sciences workshops were designed for Komsomol affiliates and non-members were in fact left out of all youth programs.

Kulak – A borrowing from Russian linguistic and social culture. In pre-revolutionary period it was employed to characterize a well-off peasant who used hired labor, placed his fellow villagers in dependence and kept them in his “fist” (Rus. “Кулак” [kulak]). In the aftermath of 1917 the word acquired political significance as 1/ rural middle class of post-capitalist transition period, 2/ rural elite, 3/ in a broader sense a class of hired labor exploiters. In the first two decades of post-revolutionary period political and administrative leaders used the term “kulak” in sense of “class” (eliminate kulaks as a class) thus attributing characteristics of an enemy of soviet ideology and regime.

1928 marked the beginning of a full-scale propaganda waged against kulaks. They were accused of hindering affiliation of the poor into local authority bodies and party cells. № 259 issue of Pravda newspaper (November 7, 1929) published Stalin’s call for liquidation of the kulaks as a class, declaring “a year of the great change”. In the first place this entailed deprivation of kulaks of all means of production – the right to lease land, tools, the right to hire labor, a policy known as “dekulakization”.

Labor-day – method of payment incollective farms. Once the compulsory cuts from the produced goods were made, each member of a collective farm recieved his/her share of the annual products according to the number of workdays. One working day could account for two or half a workday depending on the qualification of the worker and the quality of implementation. Blacksmiths, mechanics and white-collar workers were typically among those who recieved most workdays. A minimal number of required workdays was instituted in 1939 (60-100 workdays for each able-bodied farmer). Those who didn’t fulfill the required amount were left out of kolkhoz and lost all rights including the ownership of a household plot.

Mauzerist – A person armed with a mauzer. In the first Republic of Armenia (1918-1920) the term referred to the officers leading the Dashnak-recruited volunteer squads fighting against the Turkish army. After Bolshevik revolution it was frequently employed for the Dashnak participants of Armenian-Turkish clashes but in negative connotations. In early Soviet period the word “mauzerist” signified an armed counter-revolutionary, an enemy of the people, a person acting against the will of workers and peasants, even a “bandit”.

Mayovka – Russian word “маевка” [maiovka] was used since the first decade of Bolshevik rule to signify the open-air feasts held in May. Among Armenians, mayovkas came to substitute the religious springtime holidays such as Tsaghkazard, Easter, Green and Red Sundays, Ascension Day. Mayovkas were typically held on May 1 or 2 but could be organized on any Sunday in May. The open-air feasts and parties were usually held in fields and highly encouraged by local authorities: in rural communities working brigades would receive a sheep, a lamp, sometimes cattle. Stored goods were written out from kolkhoz – butter, cheese, honey, brewage, ropewalkers and armature musical groups were invited. Mayovkas were intended to supplant religious holidays but on the other hand they served to create common soviet culture and foster the spirit of collectivist tradition. The folkloric music that emerged during these holidays is very common for all USSR peoples.

Nationalist – Legal-philosophical, social perceptions around the terms “nationalist”, “nationalism” as well as its criteria and nature have long been a subject of controversy. In general terms the notion can be defined as the apprehension of national (state) and ethnic values, a world-view of “placement” and “appreciation” of these among other values of similar character. Should these values be fostered as an ideology, they would grow into “nationalism”, which in turn is the act of defending or establishing the world-view in question. One of the “Armenian peculiarities” of Soviet political repressions was the consistent presence of accusations such as “nationalist” or “bourgeois-nationalist” among the charges pressed against victims of political dissent (trotskyite, anti-Soviet, counter-revolutionary, anti-bolshevik, dashnak). A salient illustration of the above-mentioned are the accusations brought against intellectuals grounded by expression of mere sentiments (longing, direct reference, including the memories of Genocide) towards the lost homeland – Western Armenia. “Nationalism” is found in almost every post factum issued indictment concerning 1949 deportation.

Bolsheviks struggled against “nationalism” from the outset of revolution, defining it as elevation of ethnic values over the Bolshevik ideology or, as it was the case for the Caucasus, affiliation, former membership or association with a “national party”. Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Dashnaktsutyun was seen as such and consequently all its members were considered nationalists. During the repressions they were factually accused of past actions i.e. participation in Armenian-Tatar clashes. Thus the first wave of political repressions in Zangezur was first and foremost directed against the participants of freedom fight, which is clearly reflected in oral history narratives from Syunik.

Opening of the archives – Article 2 of the Republic of Armenia law on the repressed sets out that “upon the request of a person subjected to repression, his/her relatives or other interested parties and organizations the state media are required to deliver in 10 days’ time a corresponding report indicating the repressed person’s name, surname, father’s name, date of birth, place of birth, the occupation prior to repression, prosecuting body, terms of repression, charges, penalties, the decision of acquittal and release dates”. The Republic of Armenia law on “Archive Business”, Chapter 7 (Access to and Use of Archival Documents), Article 22 (Restriction of the Access to Archival Documents) provisions three cases of information access limitation of which the third is most essential for our cause. It stipulates that “access to use of archival documents containing secret personal and family information shall be restricted for 100 years since their creation unless otherwise prescribed by law. Archival documents containing personal and family secrets can be made available earlier than 100 years since their creation only upon written permission of the person in question, his/her heirs or court ruling”.

Chapter 1, Article 3 (paragraph 5) of the same law pertains to “archival documents with information on the personal and family secret of an individual: archival documents on the health, family and strictly personal relations, birth, adoption, marriage and divorce circumstances, personal data , personal business correspondence, notarial deals, properly law and sources of income”. These paragraphs are used to restrict the access of researchers to the files of the repressed unless they present a written permission of the repressed person or his direct heir. Furthermore, even such permission can be obtained researchers are not allowed to see the whole lawsuit file since it is feared that they would contain data on other individuals (those who testified at court, etc). Only court decisions are made available.

PAK – State Security Committee, Committee for State Security, see KGB

Partkartughar Party Secretary – A contraction of Russian word “партия” (party) and Armenian քարտուղար (secretary). Herein a person in charge with party work in any level of a Communist Party cell. Party cells existed in rural and urban communities, regions, establishments – factories, universities, the army etc. The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was the leading figure of the USSR while other administrative units (krai, region, autonomous republic) were led by respective secretaries of lower authority. In all more or less prominent establishments the party secretary was relieved of all specialty-related workload. In less important or smaller institutions the secretary combined pary work with other job-wise obligations.

Party, member of the party – Herein the Communist party, a member of the Communist Party, the sole legal political party in the USSR.

Personality cult – Exxagerated, overstated elevation and popularization of specific qualities (genious, wise, infallible) of a particular person (typically a statesman), subjugation to his will. In modern history personality cult is characteristic of totalitarian states. Khrushchev, in his report on political assessment of Soviet repressions (“On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences”) made to the 20th Party Congress in 1956, ascribed repressions to the personality cult of deceased Stalin. In his speech Khruschev claimed that the reason behind the tremendous growth of Stalin’s cult of personality was that Stalin fostered the elevation of his figure by all means possible. Among other arguments, Khrushchev referred to Stalin’s “Short Biography” published in 1948 and edited by Stalin himself as containing manifestations of unbounded flattery such as idolization of a person, creation of an image of infallible wise man, “greatest leader”, “sublime strategist of all times and nations”.

Prisoner, war prisoner – In the context of Soviet political repressions the word “prisoner” factually stands for Soviet soldiers fallen prisoners to Germany during World War II, who were guilty for the precise fact of being taken prisoner: the circumstance of their captivity, escape or participation in military operations was entirely discredited. In Armenia many believe that the list of 1949 deportees was drawn from the based on the numbers of war prisoners.

Refugee – Herein the survivors of 1915 Genocide perpetrated against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Corresponds to the official Turkish term used in Young Turk’s program – expelle – which was subsequently adopted by the survived Armenians. It is used interchangeably with the word “refugee”.

Regime – USSR totalitarian political system and its ideology of 1920-1950s are frequently characterized in the interviews as “regime”, “Stalin’s regime”, “stalinizm”. Stalinizm is defined as exclusiveness of Stalin’s personal authority manifested in excessive increase in punitive actions on behalf of the state, coalescence of party and state administrative agencies activities, strictest ideological control over all spheres of public life, violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights. It can be argued with a fair percent of certainty that Stalinizm had a major impact on formation of certain patterns of social behavior throughout the entire Soviet space. In particular it entailed overestimation of the authorities’ role in public and private life, seeded an atmosphere of fear and doubt in people’s relationships, factors that prove to have a crucial effect even after the collapse of Soviet Union.

Rehabilitation – In legal context – restoration of rights or tarnished reputation, reinstatement of an unjustly convicted person or a group “in the absence of corpus delicti”. Rehabilitation should be differentiated from a pardon inasmuch as the former implies restoration of all legal limitations and consequences caused by the false conviction.

Soviet penal law interpreted “rehabilitation” as restoration of the former position held by a person convicted upon unfounded criminal charges. The rehabilitated person was entitled to reimbursement of suffered losses. In USSR large-scale rehabilitation of repressed masses and peoples began in 1953-1954 and continued intermittently until its collapse. In the aftermath of Armenia’s independence rehabilitation process was re-initiated and is currently underway.

Renounce relatives – Herein official rejection of repressed kin, which entailed public condemnation of the perpetrated unlawfulness. Although criminal prosecution of the family/relatives of the criminals or the enemies of the people began with July 5, 1937 Decree, these people were in fact subjected to legal, social pressure and limitation of civil rights throughout the whole period of repressions. Some renounced their relatives or family members to avoid exerted pressure and be able to pursue administrative or political careers. Renunciation was perceived as unconditional acceptance of Soviet values and particularly Soviet regime. Albeit renunciation was portrayed as a voluntary initiative civil servants frequently provoked it, promising to ease the imposed limitations (e.g. limitation of the right to higher education).

Repressed – Republic of Armenia law on “the Repressed” sets out that a former citizen of USSR, a stateless person or a foreign citizen who permanently resides in the Republic of Armenia and who under Soviet regime (effective November 29, 1920 up until the collapse of Soviet Union) was subjected to politically motivated

  1. conviction under articles 65, 67, 69 and 206 of 1961 Criminal Code of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic or articles of similar content of 1927 Armenian SSR Criminal Code or else respective articles of former USSR republics, other articles that aim to suppress or limit political dissent and was later acquitted
  2. was extrajudicially brought to criminal liability
  3. was subjected to coercive measures of a medical nature in an illegal procedure
  4. was exiled from former USSR territory or deprived of citizenship
  5. was imprisoned, exiled or deported as a family member of a repressed
  6. was subjected to administrative deportation or exile
  7. subjected to unfounded criminal responsibility and lawsuits were terminated
  8. was declared socially dangerous and imprisoned, deported or exiled by the court or extrajudicially without being charged with a specific accusation.

The law also provisions that a permanent residence of the Republic of Armenia who is former citizen of USSR, a non-citizen or foreign national who was born in exile, deportation or incarceration sites or else in special settlements (exile site, places of deportation and incarceration or on the route to special settlements) in the consequence of Soviet era political motives.

Repression – A punitive action enforced to prevent something undesirable. Political repression is defined as a set of punitive constraints reaching up to supreme penalty, executed by the state or authorities. A prison or a labor camp incarceration, exile, deportations, expulsion from workplace, overloading with heavy physical work, deprivation of citizenship, limitation of political and civil rights (the right to vote, to higher education, to state employment) etc. Repressions may target individual people or larger groups (based on ethnic, civic, party, class, religious, racial, ideological or gender belonging and affiliation). The political repressions in USSR proved to be directed at both individual people and various groups, down to the “members of family”.

Anharazat – “Social alien”, a commonplace term in oral history narratives from Syunik region signifying a group of people who either defied socialist ideology or were percieved as such by the authorities. This political term does not appear amidts the legal vocabulary of official charges pressed against the victims of repressions. One of the research participants from Syunik conceptualized the term as “someone who stood against the state. We were not allowed to attend meetings, factually we were left out of everything. We were percieved as enemies, aliens”.

Social pressure – The families of the repressed found themselves in continuous isolation from the society and their own relatives at the same time being exposed to tremendous social pressure. The schools encouraged resentment towards the children of “enemies of the people”, exemplified them as the opposite of commitement tot he regime.

Socially dangerous elements – A psychologically unbalanced or criminally dangerous person. In the absence of clear reference points it proves to be a very convenient characteristic for a state prone to political persecution. In USSR the accusation was a widely used to bring charges against a person for anti-Soviet activities.

Son of a Trotskyite – Leon Trotsy was a revolutionary prosecuted during the repressions. Labels such as “Trotskyite”, “Trotsky’s follower” were tantamount to accusations of “anti-Bolshevism”, “counter-revolutionary”, “enemy of the people”.

Sovkhoz – A state farm. Contrary to collective farms created through consolidation of the peasants’ private property, where workers were their own employees and were paid by labor-days, a sovkhoz was a state enterprise that employed waged labor and paid salaries in cash.

Sybir – Syberia, the frosty northern part of Russia had been an exile destination of political dissidents and criminals since the time of Tsarist Russia. Apart from geographical location in Armenia the name also stands as a synonym for exile destination. People may sometimes refer to any place of exile as “Sybir” and specific clarifications would yield that the exile was in fact sent to Central Asia, one of the main exile destinations of 1930s.

Terrorist – In the course of political repressions in USSR the term “terrorist” appears in numerous cases of defendants. In the accounts published herein the charges of “terrorism” were defined as violent acts (enforced through terror) of dissemination of anti-Soviet sentiments or elaboration of terrorist acts against the state.

Torg – Russian word for “auction” used in colloquial Armenian. In 1930s after the property of a political prisoner was nationalized (confiscated) it was commonly put at the auction. The profit from the sales went to state budget.

Transcaucasian Regional Committee – Russian abbreviation for Transcaucasian Regional Committee. Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic was a union of the three Southern Caucasus SSRs of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Federation was a founding Republic of USSR and existed between 1922-1937. The idea to unite the three republics came from Lenin who argued that such consolidation would decrease inter-ethnic tension and help to coordinate the economic, ideological and military activities. According to 1926 census the population of Armenia constituted 880.500 people, Georgia – 2.666.500 people, Azerbaijan – 2.314.600 people. Despite the considerably small number of citizens of Armenia, the overall figure of Armenians, Georgians and Caucasian Turks (Tatars) across Southern Caucasus did not vary much. There were 1.423.000 Armenians (including those in Georgia and Azerbaijan), 1.788.000 Georgians and 1.651.900 Caucasian Turks (Tatars) (including those of Georgia and Armenia). Despite this circumstance the bulk of First Secretaries of Communist Party throughout the 15 years of its existence were of Georgian origin:

Ordzhonikidze Sergo – 1922-1926

Orakhelashvili Mamia – 1926-1929

Krinitsky Alexander – 1929-1930

Lominadze Vissarion – November 1930- December 1930

Kartvelishvili Lavrenti – 1930-1931

Orakhelashvili Mamia – 1931-1932

Beria Lavrenti – 1932-1937

Troika – Troikas were committees of three (the chief of the territorial NKVD division, the prosecutor of the territorial unit in question and the chief of the respective Militia department) set up upon NKVD order of 1935 May 27. Troikas were authorized to issue sentences of exile (5 years) or incarceration in labor camps. NKVD order № 00447 set out the “operations for the repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements”. The order affected:

  • Former kulaks, who returned after serving out their punishment and continue to conduct active anti- Soviet subversive activity.
  • Former kulaks who escaped from camps or labor colonies, as well as kulaks hiding from dekulikization and carrying out anti-Soviet activity.
  • Former kulaks and socially dangerous elements, belonging to rebellious, fascist, terrorist, and bandit formation who have served out their terms, hidden from repression or escaped from places of confinement and resumed their anti-Soviet criminal activity.
  • Members of anti-Soviet parties (SRs, Georgian Mensheviks, Musavatists, Ittihadists), former Whites, gendarmes, officials, members of punitive organizations, bandits and gang members, accomplices, those assisting escapes, re-emigrants, those who have hidden from repression or fled from places of confinement and continue to pursue anti-Soviet activity.
  • Those exposed in course of investigations and based on argumented material as the most hostile and active participants in currently- being- liquidated Cossack-White Guard insurgent organizations, fascist, terrorist, espionage-diversionist counter-revolutionary formations.
  • The most active anti-Soviet elements among former kulaks, members of punitive groups, bandits, sectarian activists, clergy and others currently being held in prisons, camps, labor settlements and colonies and continue to carry out active anti-Soviet insurgency activity.
  • Criminals (bandits, thieves, recidivist thieves, professional contrabandists, swindler- recidivists, livestock thieves) engaged in criminal activity and associated with criminal circles.
  • Criminal elements confined in camps and labor settlements who are engaged in criminal activity.
  • All the aforementioned elements currently based in rural communities – collective farms, state farms, agricultural enterprises, and in urban areas – industrial and trade enterprises, transport, in Soviet institutions and construction venues, will be subject to repression

On May 21, 1938 NKVD issued an order about creation of “police troikas” authorized to convict “socially dangerous elements” to 3-5 years of exile without a trial. Among others this group included criminals, resellers, individuals purchasing stolen goods, etc.

TSEKA – Russian abbreviation for Communist Party Central Committee

Companay commander – Herein the commanders of armed volunteer groups (ARM – vasht [vaʃt]) recruited by Garegin Nzhdeh for self-defense and national liberation.

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