The Archival documents prove that the Stalinist totalitarian regime has had the most detrimental effect upon peasantry, and especially it refers to its more prosperous group, the so-called “kulaks”.
Most grievously the Latvian peasantry felt this severity of the Stalinist laws and arbitrariness of the occupation regime authorities during the time from 1944 to spring 1949, i.e. till the deportation of the “kulaks” and other “hostile elements” on 25 March 1949 and the “overall” collectivization. After that date the traditional individual peasant farmsteads did not exist anymore in Latvian countryside. And “kulaks” as a class was liquidated. This brought along changes in compulsory supply system of agricultural products, taxation, timber processing requirements, as well as decreased scale of reprisals directed towards rural population.
The present collection comprises the articles that refer to the most widely applied types of reprisals. It consists of 5 chapters.
According to the effective USSR rules of the time, the most important and responsible task for Latvian peasantry was delivery of various agricultural products to the state “as soon as and as much as possible”. And primarily, to complete the grain supply campaign in a shock speed. The officials of the Communist Party and Soviet institutions considered application of the most extensive and ruthless reprisals against the debtors or the so-called saboteur farms as the main means to accelerate the supply and receipt of a certain amount of agricultural products. Any farmer could be announced as “kulak –saboteur” at that time. They were sued for the debts of duties both at district courts, the Supreme Court and military tribunals. In many counties there were organized the so-called model courts. Many peasants were imprisoned or sent to the so-called correctional labor facilities. During the supply campaigns there were committed outright arbitrariness, jeering at farmers and sometimes also grave criminal offences. The documents with the reference to the above are aggregated in the chapter “Punishing of Supply Debtors”.
During the first post-war years in Latvia, tax collection and, in particular, collection of agricultural tax was given an important role among other arrangements aimed at economic and political destruction of more prosperous farmers, acceleration of agricultural collectivization and acquisition of maximized resources for the USSR Budget. The “kulak” farmsteads were loaded with the main tax burden. In 1947, a set of features characteristic of “kulak” farms were defined in Latvia, a similar step was previously made also in other republics of the USSR.
Until 1 November 1947, 10 924 or 4.1% of the total number of 266 187 farms were recognized as “kulak farms”. Starting with 1947 until 1953 tax surcharges for the “kulak” farmsteads were continuously raised on an increased scope. For tax debts the peasant farms were distrained, their cattle, agricultural inventory as well as other type of assets were withdrawn while farmers themselves were brought to trial. By implementing the Stalinist taxation policy, many thousands Latvian peasant farms were fully destroyed and their owners were sentenced to imprisonment or deported for “lifetime settlementî to Siberia. On 25 March 1949 during the deportation, more than 9 thousand “Kulakî families were sent out to Siberia. Documents apropos of this are included in the chapter “Tax Burden – Means to Ruin Peasantsî
The documents within the chapter “Driving Peasants to Forest Works” disclose the arbitrariness relating to the compulsory timber processing works and delivery. According to the effective rules of the time all the rural active labour population had to participate in these works on an obligatory basis. The output rates were set very high. It was often that old and sick people were driven to forests as well. For forest workers their labour and living conditions were inconceivably heavy. Payment for the work usually was deferred for a long time. Most often those who could not meet the tough timber processing and delivery production norms were called to lawsuit. This field brought evidence of stark administrative methods as well.
In order to achieve an undisrupted functioning of totalitarian regime, peremptory fulfillment of different directives, a continuous “cleansing” of personnel was carried out. The occupation regime officials were inclined to think that personnel of all the branches, institutions and organisations are “polluted with politically hostile elements” therefore all the possible efforts was exerted to find, unmask and dismiss these hostile elements from the work or repress them. The employee cleansing process concerned also the widest rural population. Thus, for instance, in 1945 and 1946, totality of 2746 people were checked, including 431 chairman of regional executive committees, 1127 chairmen of local Soviets and 729 other Soviet employees. 522 people were dismissed from work, out of them 255 because of political reasons. In some counties the chairmen of executive committees within a short time were replaced 5-6 times. By October 1948 in rural areas 1100 local employees were dismissed. Many agronomists, zoo-engineers, veterinarians, employees of agricultural corporations and other institutions and organisations lost their jobs. Many of them, labelled as “kulaksî, were deported to Siberia on 25March 1949. By March 1950, mainly due political motives, 610 chairmen of collective farms were fired. The documents of the chapter “Personnel Cleansing relate to the persecution campaign of the “suspectedî ones.
The Chapter “Personnel Arbitrariness of Repressive Institutionsî contains the documents which prove stark arbitrariness and criminal offences committed against rural population by the State Security Peoples Commissariat of the Latvian SSR, the Peoples Commissariat (later – ministry) of Interior, employees of Secret Service Authority, Militia and prosecutor’s office, fighters of combat battalion as well as Latvian Communist Party and Soviet institutions. Railway military tribunal repressed many rural inhabitants as “desertersî. The employees of the State Security and Interior institutions committed especially many grave offences while pursuing “banditsî and other “enemies of the nationî. The detained people without presenting indictment were held imprisoned for months, sometimes even years. During investigation many detained people were heavily beaten up and the adduced evidence distorted and falsified. It often happened that the detained people without any investigation and court were shot down there.
For the purpose of this collection, mainly were used the existing documents of the Latvian Communist Party, Latvian SSR Council of Ministers, Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Finance, the USSR Ministry of Supply as well as other institutions that most overtly describe the nature and scope of reprisals against rural population during the time period of 1944 –1949 and which are preserved in the Latvian State Archives. The collection contains also some newspaper articles that add to the opinion expressed in official documents and reveal the attitude of the Communist Party and different authorities towards various reprisals. The documents included in the collection are mainly published for the first time and translated from Russian.