Population transfer in the Soviet Union

Polish families deported during the Soviet occupation of Kresy in 1940. The number of Poles extracted from their homes and sent into barren land in Siberia exceeded hundreds of thousands

Population transfer in the Soviet Union may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, often classified as "enemies of workers," deportations of entire nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite directions to fill the ethnically cleansed territories.

In most cases their destinations were underpopulated remote areas (see Forced settlements in the Soviet Union). This includes deportations to the Soviet Union of non-Soviet citizens from countries outside the USSR. It has been estimated that, in their entirety, internal forced migrations affected some 6 million people.[1][2]

Some 1 to 1.5 million perished as a result of the deportations and of those deaths the deportation of Crimean Tatars and the deportation of Chechens were recognized as genocides by Ukraine and the European Parliament respectively.[3][4][5][6]

Deportation of social groups

Kulaks were a group of relatively affluent farmers and had gone by this class systems term in the later Russian Empire, Soviet Russia, and early Soviet Union. They were the most numerous group deported by the Soviet Union.[7] Resettlement of people officially designated as kulaks continued until early 1950, including several major waves.[8]

Large numbers of kulaks regardless of their nationality were resettled to Siberia and Central Asia. According to data from Soviet archives, which were published in 1990, 1,803,392 people were sent to labor colonies and camps in 1930 and 1931. Books say that 1,317,022 reached the destination. Deportations on a smaller scale continued after 1931. The reported number of kulaks and their relatives who had died in labour colonies from 1932 to 1940 was 389,521.[9]

Ethnic operations

A train with Romanian refugees following the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia

During the 1930s, categorisation of so-called enemies of the people shifted from the usual Marxist–Leninist, class-based terms, such as kulak, to ethnic-based ones.[10] The partial removal of potentially trouble-making ethnic groups was a technique used consistently by Joseph Stalin during his career;[11] between 1935 and 1938 alone, at least nine different nationalities were deported.[12] Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union led to a massive escalation in Soviet ethnic cleansing.[13]

Looking at the entire period of Stalin's rule, one can list: Poles (1939–1941 and 1944–1945), Romanians (1941 and 1944–1953), Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians (1941 and 1945–1949), Volga Germans (1941–1945), Ingrian Finns (1929–1931 and 1935–1939), Finnish people in Karelia (1940–1941, 1944), Crimean Tatars, Crimean Greeks (1944) and Caucasus Greeks (1949–50),[14] Kalmyks, Balkars, Karachays, Meskhetian Turks, Karapapaks, Far East Koreans (1937), Chechens and Ingushs (1944). Shortly before, during and immediately after World War II, Stalin conducted a series of deportations on a huge scale which profoundly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union.[15] It is estimated that between 1941 and 1949 nearly 3.3 million were deported to Siberia and the Central Asian republics.[16] By some estimates up to 43% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.[17]

The deportations started with Poles from Byelorussia, Ukraine and European Russia (see Polish minority in Soviet Union) 1932-1936. Koreans in the Russian Far East were deported in 1937. (See Deportation of Koreans in the Soviet Union.)

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politics and government of
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After the Soviet invasion of Poland following the corresponding German invasion that marked the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviet Union annexed eastern parts (known as Kresy to the Polish) of the Second Polish Republic. During 1939-1941 1.45 million people inhabiting the region were deported by the Soviet regime, of whom 63.1% were Poles, and 7.4% were Jews.[18] Previously it was believed that about 1.0 million Polish citizens died at the hands of the Soviets,[19] however recently Polish historians, based mostly on queries in Soviet archives, estimate the number of deaths at about 350,000 people deported in 1939-1945.[20][21] From the newly conquered Eastern Poland 1.5 million people were deported.

Latvians in railcars before being deported in 1941

The same followed in the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (see Soviet deportations from Estonia and Soviet deportations from Lithuania).[22] More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been deported from the Baltic in 1940-1953. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to the Gulag. 10% of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to labor camps.[23][24] In 1989, native Latvians represented only 52% of the population of their own country. In Estonia, the figure was 62%.[25] In Lithuania, the situation was better because the migrants sent to that country actually moved to the former area of Eastern Prussia (now Kaliningrad) which, contrary to the original plans, never became part of Lithuania.[26]

Likewise, Romanians from Chernivtsi Oblast and Moldovia had been deported in great numbers which range from 200,000 to 400,000.[27] (See Soviet deportations from Bessarabia.)

During World War II, particularly in 1943-44, the Soviet government conducted a series of deportations. Some 1.9 million people were deported to Siberia and the Central Asian republics. Treasonous collaboration with the invading Germans and anti-Soviet rebellion were the official reasons for these deportations. Out of approximately 183,000 Crimean Tatars, 20,000 or 10% of the entire population served in German battalions.[28] Consequently, Tatars too were transferred en masse by the Soviets after the war.[29]

Volga Germans[30] and seven (non-Slavic) nationalities of the Crimea and the northern Caucasus were deported: the Crimean Tatars,[31] Kalmyks, Chechens,[32] Ingush, Balkars, Karachays, and Meskhetian Turks. All Crimean Tatars were deported en masse, in a form of collective punishment, on 18 May 1944 as special settlers to Uzbekistan and other distant parts of the Soviet Union. According to NKVD data, nearly 20% died in exile during the following year and a half. Crimean Tatar activists have reported this figure to be nearly 46%.[33][34] (See Deportation of Crimean Tatars.)

Other minorities evicted from the Black Sea coastal region included Bulgarians, Crimean Greeks, Romanians and Armenians.

After World War II, the German population of the Kaliningrad Oblast, former East Prussia was expelled and the depopulated area resettled by Soviet citizens, mainly by Russians.

Poland and Soviet Ukraine conducted population exchanges - Poles who resided east of the established Poland-Soviet border were deported to Poland (c.a. 2,100,000 persons) and Ukrainians that resided west of the established Poland-Soviet Union border were deported to Soviet Ukraine. Population transfer to Soviet Ukraine occurred from September 1944 to April 1946 (ca. 450,000 persons). Some Ukrainians (ca. 200,000 persons) left southeast Poland more or less voluntarily (between 1944 and 1945).[35]

A dwelling typical to some deportees into Siberia in a museum in Rumšiškės, Lithuania

In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev in his speech On the Personality Cult and its Consequences condemned the deportations as a violation of Leninist principles, asserting as a joke that the Ukrainians avoided such a fate "only because there were too many of them and there was no place to which to deport them." His government reversed most of Stalin's deportations, although it was not until as late as 1991 that the Crimean Tatars, Meskhetian Turks and Volga Germans were allowed to return en masse to their homelands. The deportations had a profound effect on the non-Russian peoples of the Soviet Union and they are still a major political issue - the memory of the deportations played a major part in the separatist movements in Chechnya and the Baltic republics.

Some peoples were deported after Stalin's death: in 1959, Chechen returnees were supplanted from the mountains to the Chechen plain. The mountaineers of Tajikistan, such as the Yaghnobi people, were forcibly settled to the plain deserts in the 1970s.

Labor force transfer

Punitive transfers of population transfers handled by the Gulag[36] and the system of forced settlements in the Soviet Union were planned in accordance with the needs of the colonization of the remote and underpopulated territories of the Soviet Union. (Their large scale has led to a controversial opinion in the West that the economic growth of the Soviet Union was largely based on the slave labor of Gulag prisoners.) At the same time, on a number of occasions the workforce was transferred by non-violent means, usually by means of "recruitment" (вербовка). This kind of recruitment was regularly performed at forced settlements, where people were naturally more willing to resettle. For example, the workforce of the Donbass and Kuzbass mining basins is known to have been replenished in this way. (As a note of historical comparison, in Imperial Russia the mining workers at state mines (bergals, "бергалы", from German Bergbau, 'mining') were often recruited in lieu of military service which, for a certain period, had a term of 25 years).

There were several notable campaigns of targeted workforce transfer.

Repatriation after World War II

When the war ended in May 1945, millions of Soviet citizens were forcefully repatriated (against their will) into the USSR.[37] On 11 February 1945, at the conclusion of the Yalta Conference, the United States and United Kingdom signed a Repatriation Agreement with the USSR.[38]

The interpretation of this Agreement resulted in the forcible repatriation of all Soviets regardless of their wishes. British and U.S. civilian authorities ordered their military forces in Europe to deport to the Soviet Union millions of former residents of the USSR (some of whom collaborated with the Germans), including numerous persons who had left Russia and established different citizenship many years before. The forced repatriation operations took place from 1945-1947.[39]

At the end of World War II, more than 5 million "displaced persons" from the Soviet Union survived in German captivity. About 3 million had been forced laborers (Ostarbeiter)[40] in Germany and occupied territories.[41][42]

Surviving POWs, about 1.5 million, repatriated Ostarbeiter, and other displaced persons, totally more than 4,000,000 people were sent to special NKVD filtration camps (not Gulag). By 1946, 80% civilians and 20% of PoWs were freed, 5% of civilians, and 43% of PoWs re-drafted, 10% of civilians and 22% of PoWs were sent to labor battalions, and 2% of civilians and 15% of the PoWs (226,127 out of 1,539,475 total) transferred to the NKVD, i.e. the Gulag.[43][44]


Date of transfer Targeted group Approximate numbers Place of initial residence Transfer destination Stated reasons for transfer
April 1920 Cossacks, Terek Cossacks 45,000 North Caucasus Ukraine, northern Russian SFSR "Decossackization", stopping Russian colonisation of North Caucasus
1921 Cossacks, Semirechye Cossacks Semirechye Extreme North, concentration camps "Decossackization", stopping Russian colonisation of Turkestan
September 1922 "Socially dangerous elements" 18,000 Western border regions of Ukraine and Byelorussia Western Siberia, Far East Social threat
1930–1936 Kulaks 2,323,000 "Regions of total collectivization", most of Russian SFSR, Ukraine, other regions Northern Russian SFSR, Ural, Siberia, North Caucasus, Kazakh ASSR, Kirghiz ASSR Collectivization
November–December 1932 Peasants 45,000 Krasnodar Krai (Russian SFSR) Northern Russia Sabotage
1933 Nomadic Kazakhs 200,000 Kazakhstan China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey
February–May 1935 Ingrian Finns 30,000 Leningrad Oblast (Russian SFSR) Vologda Oblast, Western Siberia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan
February–March 1935 Germans, Poles 412,000 Central and western Ukraine Eastern Ukraine
May 1935 Germans, Poles 45,000 Border regions of Ukraine Ukraine
July 1937 Kurds 2,000 Border regions of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan Kazakhstan, Kirghizia
September–October 1937 Koreans 172,000 Far East Northern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
September–October 1937 Chinese, Harbin Russians 9,000 Southern Far East Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
1938 Persian Jews 6,000 Mary Province (Turkmenistan) Deserted areas of northern Turkmenistan
January 1938 Azeris, Persians, Kurds, Assyrians n/a Azerbaijan Kazakhstan Iranian citizenship
February–June 1940 Poles (including refugees from Poland) 276,000 Western Ukraine, western Byelorussia Northern Russian SFSR, Ural, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
July 1940 "Foreigners" / "Other ethnicities" - Kola Norwegians, Lithuanians & Latvians 8,627[45] Murmansk Oblast (Russian SFSR) Karelia and Altai Krai (Russian SFSR)
May–June 1941 "Counter-revolutionaries and nationalists" 107,000 Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Siberia, Kirov (Russian SFSR), Komi (Russian SFSR), Kazakhstan
September 1941 – March 1942 Germans More than 780,000 Povolzhye, the Caucasus, Crimea, Ukraine, Moscow, central Russian SFSR Kazakhstan, Siberia
September 1941 Ingrian Finns, Germans 91,000 Leningrad Oblast (Russian SFSR) Kazakhstan, Siberia, Astrakhan Oblast (Russian SFSR), Far East
1942 Ingrian Finns 9,000 Leningrad Oblast (Russian SFSR) Eastern Siberia, Far East
April 1942 Greeks, Romanians, etc. n/a Crimea, North Caucasus n/a
June 1942 Germans, Romanians, Crimean Tatars, Greeks with foreign citizenship n/a Krasnodar Krai (Russian SFSR) n/a
August 1943 Karachais 70,500 Karachay–Cherkess AO, Stavropol Krai (Russian SFSR) Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, other Banditism, other
December 1943 Kalmyks 93,000 Kalmyk ASSR, (Russian SFSR) Kazakhstan, Siberia
February 1944 Chechens, Ingush, Balkars 522,000 North Caucasus Kazakhstan, Kirghizia 1940-1944 insurgency in Chechnya
February 1944 Kalmyks 3,000 Rostov Oblast (Russian SFSR) Siberia
March 1944 Kurds, Azeris 3,000 Tbilisi (Georgia) Southern Georgia
May 1944 Balkars 100 Northern Georgia Kazakhstan, Kirghizia
May 1944 Crimean Tatars 191,014[46] Crimea Uzbekistan
May–June 1944 Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Turks 42,000 Crimea Uzbekistan (?)
May–July 1944 Kalmyks 26,000 Northeastern regions Central Russian SFSR, Ukraine
June 1944 Kalmyks 1,000 Volgograd Oblast (Russian SFSR) Sverdlovsk Oblast (Russian SFSR)
June 1944 Kabardins 2,000 Kabardino-Balkar ASSR, (Russian SFSR) Southern Kazakhstan Collaboration with the Nazis
July 1944 Russian True Orthodox Church members 1,000 Central Russian SFSR Siberia
August–September 1944 Poles 30,000 Ural, Siberia, Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic Ukraine, European Russia
November 1944 Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, Hamshenis, Karapapaks 92,000 Southwestern Georgia Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia
November 1944 Lazes and other inhabitants of the border zone 1,000 Ajarian ASSR (Georgia) Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia
December 1944 Members of the Volksdeutsche families 1,000 Mineralnye Vody (Russian SFSR) Siberia (according to other sources Tajikistan) Collaboration with the Nazis
January 1945 "Traitors and collaborators" 2,000 Mineralnye Vody (Russian SFSR) Tajikistan Collaboration with the Nazis
1945–1950 Germans Tens of thousands Königsberg West or Middle Germany New territory acquired by Soviet Union
May 1948 Kulaks 49,000 Lithuania Eastern Siberia Banditism
June 1948 Greeks, Armenians 58,000 The Black Sea coast of Russian SFSR Southern Kazakhstan For Armenians: membership in the nationalist Dashnaktsutiun Party
June 1948 "Spongers" ("тунеядцы") 16,000 n/a n/a "Social parasitism"
October 1948 Kulaks 1,000 Izmail Oblast (Ukraine) Western Siberia
1948—1951 Azeris 100,000 Armenia Kura-Aras Lowland, Azerbaijan "Measures for resettlement of collective farm workers"
March 1949 Kulaks 94,000 Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia Siberia, Far East Banditism
May–June 1949 Armenians, Turks, Greeks n/a The Black Sea coast (Russian SFSR), South Caucasus Southern Kazakhstan Membership in the nationalist Dashnaktsutiun Party (Armenians), Greek or Turkish citizenship (Greeks), other
July 1949 – May 1952 Kulaks 78,400 Moldavia, the Baltic States, western Byelorussia, western Ukraine, Pskov Oblast (Russian SFSR) Siberia, Kazakhstan, Far East Banditism, other
March 1951 Basmachis 3,000 Tajikistan Northern Kazakhstan
April 1951 Jehovah's Witnesses 8,576 Mostly from Moldavia and Ukraine[47] Western Siberia Operation North
May 1951 Japanese, Koreans 575,000 Mostly from Sakhalin, Kuril Islands Siberia, Far East, North Korea, Japan Soviet Union acquired new territories.

See also


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  2. Rosefielde, Steven (2009). Red Holocaust. Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-415-77757-5.
  3. UNPO: Chechnya: European Parliament recognizes the genocide of the Chechen People in 1944
  4. Naimark, Norman M. Stalin's Genocides (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity). Princeton University Press, 2010. p. 131. ISBN 0-691-14784-1
  5. Rosefielde, Steven (2009). Red Holocaust. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-415-77757-5.
  6. "Ukraine's Parliament Recognizes 1944 'Genocide' Of Crimean Tatars". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty.
  7. "Gulag: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom". Gulaghistory.org. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  8. Archived 21 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
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  10. Martin 1998.
  11. Pohl 1999.
  12. Martin 1998, p. 815. Poles, Germans, Finns, Estonians, Latvians, Koreans, Chinese, Kurds, and Iranians.
  13. Martin 1998, p. 820.
  14. Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949 - J. Otto Pohl - Βιβλία Google. Books.google.gr. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  15. Stephen Wheatcroft. "The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-45" (PDF). Sovietinfo.tripod.com. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
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  17. "Table 1B : Soviet Transit, Camp and Deportation Death Rates" (GIF). Hawaii.edu. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  18. Poland's Holocaust, Tadeusz Piotrowski, 1998 ISBN 0-7864-0371-3, P.14
  19. Franciszek Proch, Poland's Way of the Cross, New York 1987 P.146
  20. "European WWII Casualties". Project InPosterum. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  21. "Piotr Wrobel. The Devil's Playground: Poland in World War II". Warsawuprising.com. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  22. Archived 9 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. Archived 20 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. "Taigi veebimüük | Taig.ee". Rel.ee. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  25. Laar, M. (2009). The Power of Freedom. Central and Eastern Europe after 1945. Centre for European Studies, p. 36. ISBN 978-9949-18-858-1
  26. Misiunas, Romuald J. and Rein Taagepera. (1983). Baltic States: The Years of Dependence, 1940-1980. University of California Press. Hurst and Berkley.
  27. "east-west-wg.org". east-west-wg.org. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  28. Alexander Statiev, "The Nature of Anti-Soviet Armed Resistance, 1942-44", Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History (Spring 2005) 285-318
  29. A. Bell-Fialkoff, A Brief History of Ethnic Cleansing. Foreign Affairs, 1993, 110-122)
  30. Archived 6 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. Archived 15 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. "Europe | Remembering Stalin's deportations". BBC News. 2004-02-23. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  33. Jean-Christophe Peuch. "World War II - 60 Years After: For Victims Of Stalin's Deportations, War Lives On". Rferl.org. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  34. "MEDIA REPORTS | Crimean Tatars mark wartime deportations". BBC News. 2002-05-18. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  35. "MIGRATION CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION - Forced migration in the 20th century". Migrationeducation.org. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  36. "Getman Paintings | The Jamestown Foundation". Jamestown.org. 2015-01-20. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  37. The United States and Forced Repatriation of Soviet Citizens, 1944-47 by Mark Elliott Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 88, No. 2 (Jun., 1973), pp. 253-275
  38. Archived 25 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  39. Archived 7 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. "Final Compensation Pending for Former Nazi Forced Laborers | Germany | DW.DE | 27.10.2005". Dw-world.de. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  41. Archived 9 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  42. "The Nazi Ostarbeiter (Eastern Worker) Program". Collectinghistory.net. 1922-06-26. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  43. (“Военно-исторический журнал” (“Military-Historical Magazine”), 1997, №5. page 32)
  44. Земское В.Н. К вопросу о репатриации советских граждан. 1944-1951 годы // История СССР. 1990. № 4 (Zemskov V.N. On repatriation of Soviet citizens. Istoriya SSSR., 1990, No.4
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