Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949
Book review by Debbie K. Beick, Spokane, Washington
Pohl, J. Otto. Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999.
In this book, Pohl addresses the issue of ethnic cleansing by
the Stalin regime in Soviet Russia. During the period of 1930-1953,
Stalin systematically deported entire nationalities to remote areas
in Russia, one of which was the Soviet Germans or Germans from Russia.
Pohl devotes Chapter 3, or 33 pages to the Germans from Russia.
Other nationalities included in the book are: Koreans, Kalmyks,
North Caucasians, Crimean Tatars (a copy of the chapter on the Crimean
Tatars can be found at the Crimean Tatar website at http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/pohlethnic.htm),
Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, Khemshils,
Ukrainians, and even briefly touches on the deportation of the former
Pohl states in his introduction: "The Stalin regime deported these
national groups in their entirety based solely upon their ethnicity
to areas whose living conditions inevitably lead to hundreds of
thousands of deaths." Pohl further states: "between the years of
1941 to 1948, the Stalin regime deported 3,266,340 people from their
homes to special settlements in the interior of the USSR. More than
two thirds of these people were members of national groups deported
in their entirety on the basis of their ethnicity...Between 1941
and 1950, more than 377,554 exiles perished in special settlements.
More than one out of every ten people deported to special settlements
died during their confinement. Stalin's deportation of national
groups was one of the worst crimes against humanity perpetrated
in the 20th century."
He goes on to address the reasons for the deportations, of which
he places the Germans under the category of "immigrants to the USSR...who
[Stalin] feared...were filled with spies and saboteurs awaiting
orders from their ethnic homelands...Paranoia motivated the Stalin
regime to deport these nationalities as a prophylactic measure against
In the specific chapter about the Germans, Pohl begins by giving
a brief, but seemingly very accurate synopsis of the migration of
the Germans to Russia, and includes footnotes to where further information
can be obtained about the migrations, including one to the Manifesto
of Catherine the Great. Pohl gives many, many facts and figures,
which are all thoroughly footnoted (you'll find footnotes to almost
every line on some pages). Many of these sources include information
from new publications in Russian which have just recently been released
based on new evidence coming out as a result of the opening of many
of the previously closed Russian archives.
Pohl then briefly addresses the Russian governments violation
of the pledges made to them when they migrated. He touches upon
the revocation of the immunity from military conscription and the
loss of the right to self-government.
Pohl continues on to address the living conditions in Russia for
the Germans from the period of WWI through the beginning of WWII,
addressing many of the issues that affected the lives of the GR's,
including some of the laws that went into effect such as: "On 28
April, 1936 the SNK passed resolution no. 776-120ss 'On Resettling
from the Ukrainian SSR for Economic Construction in Karanganda Oblast
Kazakh SSR 15,000 Polish and German Households." He also addresses
the time period after the deportations, and the laws, facts, and
figures on the Soviet Germans still living in Russia today.
Pohl includes many tables such as Table 3.1, which gives the number
of Soviet Germans in Corrective Labor camps from 1938-1947 on a
year by year basis and table 3.2, which gives the numbers of Soviet
Germans in various territories in the USSR as of 17 January, 1939,
and table 3.12, which gives the locations of German Special Settlers
as of 1 January, 1953.
If you are looking for specific information regarding laws, the
dates of their passing, where to find copies of the laws, facts
and figures on the deportation period (or even before or after),
this book is certainly a good place to start! I was very impressed
with the vast amount of information contained in a mere 33 pages,
and was also very impressed that Pohl backed up his every word with
footnoted documentation. I was initially concerned about the accessibility
of obtaining copies of the books he cites, but I have successfully
interlibrary loaned two of the Russian source books to get copies
of information that I was interested in. I think this book contains
a wonderfully condensed, factual synopsis of the entire time period
that the Germans lived in Russia, and provides a fantastic resource
for facts and figure. It also provides a detailed bibliography of
books in which type printed copies of the information sources can
Pohl has also written another book, "The Stalinist Penal System:
A Statistical History of Soviet Repression and Terror, 1930-1953"
McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina
28640. Tel: 336-246-4460. I have not had the opportunity to read
this book yet, but a sample chapter from the book can also be found
at the Crimean Tatar website at http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/statshist.html