Deportations of Ukrainians in the 1930s. The policy of dekulakization

Forced deportation and persecution accompanied Soviet governance of occupied Ukraine from the beginning until the breakup of the Soviet Union. In this manner, after the first wave of deportations in the early 20s, which targeted the Ukrainian intelligentsia, the Stalinist regime forcibly deported about 131,409 peasant Ukrainians to the Urals. It was the 1930s: the time of Polaroid and Nazism invention, the popularity of swing and blues, a period of mass deportations and genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Although the Soviet government positioned itself as an anti-imperialist entity, it methodically applied colonial practices, especially regarding the occupied lands used for its own economic benefit. Moscow, the metropolis of the USSR, regarded as its primary goal the conquest of Ukraine, a country which in the early twentieth century remained predominantly agricultural, and turning it into a resource appendage. The favorable geographical location, the density of fertile soil, and Ukrainian competence in treatment of agricultural lands marked these territories as the most profitable for the Soviet Union. Though, Ukrainian farmers posed the greatest obstacle to the consolidation of the communist dictatorship in Ukraine as they owned private territories which in some cases reached an entrepreneurial scale.

In its attempt to establish a socialist regime in all villages, which meant collectivization and forced nationalization of land, the Soviet government repeatedly encountered resistance. This manifestation of disobedience on the part of the Ukrainian peasantry was most often dealt by forcibly evicting Ukrainians to the far east of Russia. In this way,  the mass deportation of Ukrainians were conducted in the 1930s.

This intensification of deportation processes as a punitive method was preceded by unsuccessful efforts at mass collectivization, the liquidation of individual farms and the creation of collective households, i.e., collective farms. This meant the forced socialization of land, equipment, working and productive livestock; the administrative elimination of the private and cooperative sector by force; the introduction of socialist forms of management and the establishment of state ownership of the means of agriculture production. In such a radical way, the Bolshevik government tried to overcome the grain problem and the grain procurement crisis that arose as a result of early Soviet agricultural policy in 1917-1927.

The change in the land and food policy was officially enshrined in the resolutions of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) «On the Pace of Collectivization and Measures of State Assistance to Collective Farm Construction» on January 5, 1930, and «On the Pace of Further Collectivization and Tasks to Strengthen Collective Farms» on August 2, 1931. The ultimate goal was to involve at least 68-70% of peasant households in collective farms, covering 75-80% of their cultivated land [1]. The majority of wealthy peasants strongly opposed this policy and resisted the forcible annexation of their farms and lands to Soviet collective farms. Collectivization ignited a more violent enmity  between the government and wealthy peasants than ever before. It was an ontological clash between two different cultures, which took place in the economic, political, and everyday areas. In its imperialist aspirations, the Soviet government tried to gain full control over the land of the occupied territories of Ukraine, to «adjust» the peasants to its own vague Marxist idea of the worker – «technically advanced proletarian on the land», «educated» and «socialist»[2, 140].


Materials of the commission of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU (B) chaired by the People’s Commissar of Agriculture of the USSR Yakovlev on the preparation of a draft resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU (B) on the pace of collectivization and measures of state assistance to collective farm construction. From Minutes No. 112 of the meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU on the collectivization plan and measures of state assistance to collective farm construction. January 5, 1930 [3, 84].


The more pressure the Soviet government exerted on people, forcing them to give up their property to collective farms, the more powerful and widespread the peasant resistance movement grew. In 1929 there were 244,000 peasants who took part in 1307 mass demonstrations against grain procurement and the establishment of collective farms. As of March 1930, the ODPU recorded 6528 protests. In some places, these demonstrations escalated into armed uprisings; another 176 mass protests, according to the ODPU, were of an insurgent nature, i.e., farmers demanded the overthrow of the Soviet government. In some settlements, these protests evolved into real peasant war. Often, such uprisings, riots, and armed conflicts succeeded, leading to the dispersal of communist authorities in certain district centers and villages. This was the case in 4 districts: Shepetivka, Volyn, Berdychiv, and Korosten districts, 282 village councils ceased to function. In March 1930, in Tulchyn, Vinnytsia, and Mohyliv-Podilskyi districts, peasant unrest covered the territory of 343 village councils, with Soviet power being liquidated in 73 villages, and the ODPU recorded 81 armed protests [2, 142].

These incidents were documented in the reports of the head of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR, V. Balytsky, which he daily sent to Stalin. Balytsky personally traveled by armored train, accompanied by cavalry groups, to “tame” the rebellious village people. In particular, archival documents contain a record of a direct line message No. 54389 on March 9, 1930, informing about 16 protesting districts in Ukraine: Berdychiv, Sumy, Proskuriv, Dnipro, Izyum, Tulchyn, Volyn, Bila Tserkva, Kremenchuk, Poltava, and other. The case of Labun in the Polonyansky district, which was part of the Shepetivka region, was described in detail. From this town, 40 peasants armed with hunting rifles and axes marched to the district center of Hrytsiv, while another 400 peasants joined them. According to ten districts, during the mass uprisings, Soviet activists lost 386 men killed and injured [4]. In the next report, dated March 16, 1930, Balytskyi documented the situation in the Tulchyn district, where peasant uprisings spread across 153 villages. The note states that in 50 villages, the Soviet government was completely expelled, village elders were elected from the locals, and collective farms were liquidated. In fact, these were the usual demands of the Ukrainian peasants: the dissolution of collective farms, the removal of communist activists and Komsomol members from local authorities, and the return of confiscated property to peasants. In fact, the patriotic nature of the peasantry was quite distinguished; in particular, the same document mentions that in some villages farmers sang Ukrainian anthem at protests [5].




It was these episodes that provoked the Soviet leadership to look for ways to finally «solve the problem» of the wealthy, pro-Ukrainian peasantry — the «kulaks», as they are named in documents. Following the colonial model, the USSR government in Moscow decided to use punitive methods to suppress resistance, in particular the forced confiscation of property of wealthy peasants and their subsequent deportation to the interior of Russia. To identify «kulaks» and «kulak farms», Soviet repressive authorities relied on a resolution of the USSR Council of People’s Commissars of May 21, 1929, which allowed a peasant farm to be classified as a kulak farm if it had at least one of the following characteristics: 1) systematic use of hired labor for agricultural work or in cottage industries and enterprises within the limits that, according to the legislation on the election of Soviets, do not deprive the owner of voting rights; 2) ownership of a mill, gristmill, vegetable dryer or any other industrial tool, provided that it uses a mechanical engine or a water mill or windmill with two or more posts; 3) permanent lease of complex agricultural machinery with mechanical engines; 4) lease of separately equipped premises for housing or business for a season or for a long time; 5) engaging in trade, usury, commercial intermediation or any other non-labor income [6, 116].


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    After this, in the autumn of 1930, the district departments of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR began to massively evict groups of people who resisted collectivization and dekulakization to remote regions of the USSR. To ensure the implementation of preparatory measures for the deportation, a body was created in the districts. It consisted of the secretary of the RPK, the head of the REC, and the head of the DPU who were to coordinate the work of the Party of the Soviet Union and the Chekist authorities. The entire republican structure of the GPU was involved in organizing the mass deportation of Ukrainians.




    Among these repressive actions, the deportations of the villagers that took place in the early 1930s were particularly significant. The first one lasted from February to May 1930 and targeted 100 thousand people; the second took place from June to July 1931 and evicted 120-130 thousand Ukrainians. Thus, in total, 220-230 thousand peasants were deported during two centralized actions [7, 64].  The deportation, which lasted from June 1 to July 9, 1931, covered an even larger segment of the population than the Soviet authorities had previously planned: instead of 30 thousand peasant families, 31.655 families with 131.409 people were sent to the Urals. Most of the kulaks were deported from the Left Bank of Ukraine, that is 58,279 thousand people [6, 125]. Documents reveal the places where deportees were taken. In particular, according to a summary document of the ODPU Transport Department dated November 23, 1930, trains with «dekulakized» people arrived in the city of Irkutsk in Eastern Siberia and the city of Tomsk. A total of 31,320 people were disembarked at the stations, including 5970 men, 14081 women, and 11269 children. The Soviet authorities wanted to unilaterally deport entire families of peasants, thus tearing an entire stratum out of Ukrainian society and condemning them to oblivion and death in a foreign land without the possibility of returning to the territory of Ukraine.

    The 1930s were marked by mass deportations of the Ukrainian peasantry to Russia. The main group of deportees were the “kulaks,” farmers, and those whose self-management on their own land was more successful than the Soviet collective farm system. It was these categories of Ukrainian society at the time that posed the primary threat to the implementation of the USSR’s colonial policy. Having occupied the territories of the then independent and democratic Ukrainian People’s Republic, the Soviet government resorted to mass deportations of protesters and those who disagreed with the authorities, along with peaceful but wealthy peasants. This made it possible to nullify the pro-Ukrainian nationalist potential, which was then exiled to the Far East, and to freely exploit the «liberated» lands. Over the years, this Red Terror became systematic, and waves of forced deportations of Ukrainians followed one another.



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