Why did Moscow execute the Poles residing on its territory?

After the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934, the Soviet Union lived between 1936 and 1938 under the horrors of the Great Purge, which resulted in the deaths of about 700,000 people.

The campaigns of arrests and executions, during the period of the “Great Purge”, affected all persons whose intentions were suspected by Stalin and the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs.

In addition to army commanders, political officials of the Communist Party, competencies, and peasants, security prosecutions extended to many ethnicities, as Stalin feared their role in the Soviet Union.

Order No. 00485

At the invitation of Joseph Stalin and with the approval of the Politburo of the Communist Party, on August 9, 1937, Nikolai Yezhov, an official of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, signed the draft Order No. 00485 concerning the extermination of Polish groups living on Soviet territory accused of espionage and collaborating with the fascists and the Nazis.

Portrait of Joseph Stalin

Portrait of Joseph Stalin

In his statements to his comrades in the Communist Party, Stalin stressed the need to get rid of the Poles in the interests of the Soviet Union.

As for the next period, Order No. 00485 was circulated to the various centers of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, these centers were required to compile local lists of names of residents of Polish origin whose activities had come under suspicion.

111091 sentenced to death

Archive photo of Order 00485

Archive photo of Order 00485

Accordingly, units of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs began to arrest Poles with anti-Soviet nationalist tendencies and immigrants who had left the Second Polish Republic.

The security campaign extended to political refugees and clerics of Polish origin, in addition to the Polish-Soviet prisoners of war who later preferred to settle in the Soviet Union.

Photo by Sergey Kirov

Photo by Sergey Kirov

Telephone book

According to the records of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, 111,091 Poles residing on Soviet territory were sentenced to death after being accused of collaborating with Poland. In addition, about 28,000 other Poles were exiled to forced labor centers, known as gulags, in Siberia.
On the other hand, the Soviet authorities deported the wives of detained Poles to remote areas of Kazakhstan for periods ranging from 5 to 10 years.

Photo of the official of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs Nikolai Yezhov

Photo of the official of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs Nikolai Yezhov

In return, the children of Poles sentenced to death were sent to orphanages where they received a strict Soviet education through which Moscow sought to obliterate their Polish identity.

It is reported that members of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs in Leningrad deliberately reviewed the phone book.

Based on the numbers and the names of their owners, the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs proceeded to arrest everyone who bore a Polish surname. During that period, the number of detainees in Leningrad was estimated at about 7,000, most of whom were executed within the next ten days.

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