Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Why Did Moscow Deport Pskov Residents from Near Baltic Borders in 1950?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – Between 1944 and 1952, Moscow deported some 200,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to break the back of the Baltic resistance to the Soviet occupation of their countries. But in addition, the Soviet authorities deported a significant number of people from neighboring Pskov Oblast in the RSFSR.

            If the deportations from the Baltic countries are still far less known than those from the North Caucasus and Middle Volga, they have received far more attention that the analogous deportations from Pskov Oblast, a shortcoming that a new article on the Russian 7 portal seeks to rectify (russian7.ru/post/deportaciya-zhiteley-pskovskoy-oblast/).

                In it, historian Taras Repin says that resistance movements had emerged in Pskov, especially in the newly absorbed Pechora, Pytalov and Kachanov districts, some of it indigenous as the areas had bene under German occupation and some of it linked to Latvian “forest brothers” who came into the Russian areas during and after the war.

            He says that in combatting these forces, which in some cases involved units of as many as 700 fighters, the Soviet authorities made use of “the means and methods that had worked for them in the 1920s and 1930s,” arresting, executing and deporting those whom they deemed a threat to Soviet power.

            According to Repin, fighting such groups in Pskov was especially difficult because of “the enormous number of supporters from among the local population who provided the militants with food, clothing and also information about the movements of officers of Soviet organs, the location of military units … as well as weapons.”

                The first wave of deportations of forest brother units and their supporters took place in Lithuania in 1948; the second in Latvia and Estonia a year later. During that period, the Soviet authorities did not adopt that measure against the militants in Pskov Oblast.  That occurred only at the end of 1949; but by then, the historian says, “the situation had changed.”

                The Soviet Union had been rocked by the so-called “Leningrad affair,” in which various officials were accused of planning to form a Russian Communist Party in opposition to the CPSU. The resulting purge ultimately spread to Pskov Oblast; and the newly installed party authorities in the oblast capital moved against not only forest brother units but also those they deemed unreliable on this other issue.

            On December 25, 1949, the USSR Council of Ministers ordered the expulsion of a variety of categories of people from the western regions of Pskov Oblast. Most of just over 1500 people from these areas expelled were peasants but some lower-ranking officials appear to have been swept up as well.  They were dispatched to Krasnoyarsk Kray east of the Urals.

            Although Repin does not mention it, there may have been another factor behind the deportations from this border area.  At that time, Lavrenty Beria was quietly exploring the possibility of allowing the Baltic states to become peoples’ democracies like the countries in Eastern Europe.

            If Beria had succeeded in this plan, Moscow would have a particular interest in “cleansing” border regions. (For hints about Beria’s calculations and plans, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/01/berias-bet-on-republics-in-1953.html  and https://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-longer-russia-occupies-crimea-more.html.)

            Stalin’s secret police chief hoped that doing so would cause the West to back away from forming NATO and lead to the neutralization of a unified Germany. The plan came to nothing, but among the charges Beria was executed for in 1953 was that he was working to divide the USSR.

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