The USSR MGB's Top Secret Operation "Priboi" ('Surf') for the Deportation of Population from the Baltic Countries, 25 February; 23 August 1949*

by Dr. Heinrichs Strods, Head of Research Programme, The Occupation Museum of Latvia (1940;1991)**

The twentieth century, when the three Baltic peoples succeeded in their struggle for national statehood and freedom, is nearing its close. Nevertheless, the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania only managed to preserve their freedom and independence for about thirty years. For the remaining seventy years not counting four years of Nazi occupation the Baltic countries were forcefully annexed to the Russian Empire, at times also known as the USSR. Being situated in the expansion zones of both of Europe's twentieth-century totalitarian empires, the Baltic peoples were not only subjected to physical destruction and colonisation by the imperialist peoples,1 but their territories were also transformed into military bridgeheads for future imperialist attacks to the east or west. The decimation of the inhabitants of the Baltic countries during the post-war period, following their "liberation" by the Soviet Union in 1944;45, is part of the third wave of communist genocide in the USSR. During this period, the communist partocracy held not only the so-called "class enemies" and "bourgeois nationalists" under suspicion of incomplete submission to Soviet rule, but also entire peoples.2 Included amongst these suspect groups were the Baltic peoples, to whom the special section of the GULAG registry ("Balts") was devoted.

State-organised communist genocide in the USSR during this third, post-war stage was carried out more and more on the inter-republican level, with top secret code names and secret dates ("D-1"), although the main brunt of the operation was against only one republic. In the Baltic countries, the largest inter-republican action of communist genocide was the top secret USSR MGB3 operation on 25 March 1949, code-named "Priboi" (Russ., 'surf'). Operation "Priboi" took place in accordance with decisions of the USSR Communist Party and Council of Ministers. Order 0068 by the USSR Minister of State Security on 28 February 1949 entrusted the fulfilment of the operation to the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration, under Lieutenant General P. Burmak. If, until the collapse of the Soviet empire, this operation was previously only ever mentioned in passing, over the last ten years lists of those designated for deportation have now been published,4 and this operation has been assessed as an act of genocide against the Baltic peoples.5 In my opinion, however, the organisational aspects of "Priboi" at the highest levels of the state and Communist Party apparatus have, to this day, not been fully researched, mainly due to the inaccessibility of primary sources.

An important source of information for examining this topic was the USSR NKVD6/MGB/MVD7 Interior Forces Chief Administration archival records, which are kept in the Russian State Military Archives (the former Soviet Army Central State Archives) in Moscow.8 This Chief Administration operated from 1942 until 1951. Based on the Chief Administration of the USSR NKVD Interior Forces in 1942, this structure was later reorganised into the USSR MGB Interior Security Chief Administration in 1951. From 1951 to 1954, the Chief Administration was merged with the USSR MVD Escort Forces Chief Administration. The USSR MVD Baltic Region Administration, under Lieutenant General Golovko, was transferred to the control of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration.9 This Baltic Region Administration commanded the USSR MGB Interior Forces Second Division in Šiauliai, Lithuania,10 the Fourth Division in Vilnius,11 the Fifth Division in Riga,12 and the Sixty-third Division in Tallinn,13 as well as the USSR MVD Escort Forces Forty-eighth Division in Riga.14 The regional MGB Interior Forces worked in close co-operation with other security structures headquartered in Riga: Major General Kemerov's MVD Escort Forces Forty-eighth Division, the three regiments of the MGB Railway Forces Security Division, and the USSR MGB Baltic Region Border Guard.

In amongst the documents of this complex network of administrations and divisions of the interior and escort forces, a fascinating file has been discovered: "Materials on USSR MGB Interior Forces' Top Secret Operation "Priboi," 25 February;23 August 1949." This file consists of 435 pages, including maps.15

The documentary materials on Top Secret Operation "Priboi" in the Russian State Military Archives, based on the accessibility, can be divided into three main groups. The first group is made up of top secret plans, orders, and reports on the operation's progress. One of the most important documents in this group is the report to USSR MGB Deputy Minister S. Ogal'tsov by operation leader Lieutenant General P. Burmak regarding the details of the operation. On 21 typewritten pages, Burmak describes the organisation and activities of the USSR MGB Interior Forces' operation to deport the inhabitants of the Baltic countries.16

The second group of materials consists of maps of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, each measuring approximately 1 x 2 m. Marked on these maps are the railway stations from which people are to be deported; the number to be deported from each station; and red arrows show those areas from where the "special settlers" are to be collected. The number of freight trucks required to bring the "special contingents" to the stations is mentioned. A map showing all three Baltic countries has also been preserved, showing the numbers of deportees and deporters (state security personnel, soldiers, Party activists, and local officials) for the different regions of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Operation leader Lieutenant General Burmak has approved this plan with his signature.17 Unfortunately, despite repeated requests in 1994 and 1995, the author has not been able to obtain photocopies of this map.

The third group of documents is destroyed operational materials, which were provided to regimental and battalion commanders during the time of the operation. A commission consisting of Colonel Shimko, Major Kalistrov, and Major Kil΄iachenko destroyed 182 documents and 66 topographical maps. Colonel Velikanov, head of the USSR MGB Chief Administration, confirmed the report from 23 August 1949 of this destruction of documents.18

My conclusions, therefore, can logically only be drawn from those materials that were not destroyed in this manner. I have based my findings on documents form those divisions and regiments that participated in the operation, with the exception of blank forms, preserved only for historical reference, and the military units' lists of agents, to which I was refused access.

In order to complete the objectives of this operation, the USSR MGB Interior Forces assembled a temporary staff including the following representatives of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration and the USSR MGB Communications Forces Administration:

    1. Chief of Staff Lieutenant General P. Burmak (head of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration).

    2. Lieutenant General Golovko (head of the Riga-based USSR MGB Interior Forces Baltic Region).

    3. Major General P. Leontiev (head of the Interior Forces in Riga).

    4. Head of Communications Lieutenant Colonel Kotov.

    5. Head of Transportation Lieutenant Colonel Spektor.

    6. Colonel Ryzhëv (representative of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration).19

Burmak had calculated the preliminary estimates of manpower and resources, required for the fulfilment of the given secret government order, already in late February 1949. Listed first were the existing forces and resources available for the deportation of 30,000 families from the Baltic countries on D-1, a date to be selected by the above-mentioned operative staff. USSR MGB Interior Forces Fourth Division, stationed in Šiauliai, exceeded the necessary number of penal expedition soldiers by 5250 men, but due to strategic considerations, it was not possible to deploy these personnel in Latvia and Estonia. Because of this, a total of 8850 soldiers were deployed from other areas, 4350 to Estonia and 4500 to Latvia (see Table 1).

Evidence of the seriousness of Top Secret Operation "Priboi" is the presence of the USSR MGB First Motorised Infantry Division Named for F. Dzerzhinskii, Recipient of the Order of Lenin. This unit, number 3111, had its headquarters near Moscow.

Table 1

Additional USSR MGB military units used in Operation "Priboi", Estonia and Latvia20

Military Unit

Personnel

1. Estonia:

USSR MGB Officers' Corps Qualifications-Raising School (Sortavala)

400

USSR MGB Thirteenth Motorised Infantry Division (Leningrad), one regiment

700

USSR MGB Seventh Division (Minsk), one regiment

1000

USSR MGB First Motorised Infantry Division (Moscow), combined unit

850

USSR MGB Security Corps sergeants

1400

Total

4350

2. Latvia:

USSR MGB First Motorised Infantry Division (Moscow), two regiments

2000

USSR MGB Military Training Facility (Saratov)

1000

USSR MGB Fourth Division (Lithuania), one regiment

1000

USSR MGB Security Corps sergeants

500

Total

4500

Grand Total

8850

From the information in Table 2, we see that 5025 sub-machineguns, 1900 rifles, and the necessary ammunition were shipped to the Baltic countries as additional armaments for Communist Party activists.

Table 2

Shipments of additional armaments to the Baltic countries on the eve of Operation "Priboi"

Republic

Sub-machineguns

Rifles

Latvian SSR

2435

500

Lithuanian SSR

510

 

Estonian SSR

1470

1400

Reserve

550

 

Total

5025

1900

Actively involved in the preparations for the deportation of the inhabitants of the Baltic countries was the USSR MVD Escort Forces Forty-eighth Division (Military Unit 00149), headquartered in Riga. As is evident from the divisional order dated 6 January 1949, the division was commanded by Major General Evgenii Kemerov, and his deputy commander was Colonel P. Kokhanovskii. Chief of the divisional staff was Colonel Nagornyi. The divisional staff, commanding regiments in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, was divided into three sections: I    Operational Section; II   Preparatory Section; III    Communications Section. Divisional secret planning also functioned as a separate section.21 According to the Order 00664 of 27 January by the commander of the USSR MVD Escort Forces, the Forty-eighth Escort Forces Division was ordered to escort "special settlers" to various regions of the USSR. In accordance with USSR MVD Order 588-41 and the USSR MVD Escort Forces commander's Directive 0200 of 27 January 1949, acting divisional commander Colonel P. Kokhanovskii's Order 12 appointed 108 commanders of trains from the Forty-eighth Division (see Table 3).22

In this manner, 42 escort teams were formed from the 244th Infantry Regiment "serving" Latvia, 26 from the 132nd Infantry Regiment in Lithuania, and 40 from the 392nd Infantry Regiment in Estonia. In all, these teams could accompany 108 trains of "special settlers" carrying 100,000;150,000 people. Participating in the escorting of 76 trains of "special settlers" were 2738 USSR MVD Escort Forces soldiers an average of 36 per train.

Table 3

USSR MVD Escort Forces Forty-eighth Division train commanders, 194923

Type of Escort

244th Inf. Reg.

132nd Inf. Reg.

392nd Inf. Reg.

Total

Escort Commander, First Class

(Top Secret Escort)

15

15

12

42

Escort Commander, Second Class

(Secret Escort)

8

5

8

21

Escort Commander, Third Class

(Heightened Secrecy Escort)

19

6

20

45

Total

42

26

40

108

The USSR MGB paid special attention to the secrecy of Operation "Priboi." Upon the wishes of USSR MGB Interior Forces commander Lieutenant General P. Burmak, USSR MGB Deputy Minister Lieutenant General S. Ogal'tsov approved the "Plan for Guaranteeing the Secrecy of Armed Forces Concentrations in Operative Districts."24 Orders forbade informing soldiers from Moscow, Saratov, Leningrad, and Minsk, or their families, of the location of their detail stations during Operation "Priboi." Unit commanders personally received information packages shortly before arrival at their destination.

Table 4

Reception of packages containing detail station destinations25

Military Unit

Station of Information Package Reception

First Motorised Infantry Division units

Velikie Luki

Saratov Training Facility units

Rzhev

Sortavala Officers' School units

Kingisepp

Seventh Division units

Dvinsk (Daugavpils)

Thirteenth Motorised Infantry Division regiment

Kingisepp

"With the purpose of keeping the local inhabitants misinformed," the plan states, "spring military training exercises at to be staged openly."26 "Commanders are forbidden to used the word 'operation' in any documents; all orders, payments, telephone conversations, and similar items are to be labelled 'training exercises.'" Furthermore, the plans required the "preparation of special procedures for MGB forces units to prepare and load into the trains materials necessary for training exercises (blank rounds, training grenades, etc.)."27 In this manner, it was the purpose of the USSR MGB to keep from the MGB soldiers the true location and nature of their upcoming operation until it started. This was, perhaps, in order to prevent the spreading of rumours about the next phase of genocidal activity, that might spread to the neighbouring "camp of capitalist countries." The approved confidentiality procedures for Operation "Priboi" in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were based on the 7 March 1949 USSR MGB plan. Thus, on 15 March, Minister of State Security for the Latvian SSR Major General A. Noviks approved the "Plan for the struggle against banditism and the use of military units on training exercises according to the Interior Forces Chief Administration plan."28

The plan was created on 10 March 1949 by Fifth Infantry Division special detail commander Lieutenant General P. Leontiev and divisional Chief of Staff Colonel Lopukhin.29 First and foremost, the plan foresaw the intensification of the struggle against nationalist partisan guerrillas in the district of Latvia "most polluted by banditism."30 Furthermore, the Latvian SSR MGB plan was not to use the combined Interior Forces, but only certain units for specific operations. Second, the plan also foresaw the stationing from 16 to 19 March of subordinate units for reconnaissance and surveillance of the territory. During this period the USSR MVD Interior Forces and secret police would confirm the existence of the "special settlers."

In addition to the confidentiality measure of Operation "Priboi," there was also a marked increase in the preparations for the upcoming training exercises for the members of political, Communist Party and Komsomol organisations. At Communist Party and Komsomol meetings, the "Tasks of the Communist (Komsomoler) in the Upcoming Training Execeri0ses" was discussed. Lectures were presented on topics, such as: "Observation: The Primary Weapon of the State Security Forces Soldier, " "Defending the Honour and Respect of the MGB Armed Forces," etc. Strong measures were taken against the use of alcohol, and punishments for such occurrences were meted out on officers of the Sortavala Officers' School, on members of the First Motorised Infantry Division's First and 261st Regiments, and others.

The republic-level Party authorities based their preparatory activities on Moscow's guidelines for the ideological preparation of Interior Forces soldiers. A particularly broad "Plan for political activity to ensure success of the operation" was devised for Estonia.31

Operation "Priboi" was also provided with excellent communications.

Table 5

Communications personnel for Operation "Priboi," 1949 (not including personal field radiomen)

Radio operators

812

Field radiomen

862

Communications officers

136

Telephone operators, technicians,

coders, cipherers

400

Total

2210

Table 5 shows 2210 additional communications personnel were involved in this operation. Radio communications were maintained with outlying state security posts, as well as with the railway stations where "loading" was underway. Contact with the republican MGB utilised radio and high-frequency telephone lines. Communications between local MGB posts, the republican MGB, regional, and operative groups depended mainly on telephone links. As noted in the final report by P. Burmak, all civilian telephone exchanges were under the control of the MGB throughout the operation.

All soldiers and Party activists were informed of the mission demanded of them by the government of the USSR 6;10 hours before the start of the operation on the morning of 25 March 1949.

Those on duty at the Party and Komsomol Central, township and district committees, at the request of the republican MGB, were informed of the operation by telephone. Those designated by the use of the code word "Priboi" were to be informed immediately, while those designated by the code word "collection" were to be contacted shortly thereafter.

The USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration reports on the progress of Operation "Priboi" show a slightly different level of civilian involvement than was laid out in earlier versions of the plan.

Table 6

USSR MGB Interior Forces, state security personnel, MGB Extermination Battalion soldiers, and Party activists involved in   the deportation of inhabitants from the Baltic countries, 25 March 194932

 

Number

%

State security personnel

8,215

10.78

USSR MGB Interior Forces troops

21,206

27.82

Republican MGB Extermination Battalion troops

18,387

24.13

Communist Party activists

28,404

37.27

Total

76,212

100.00

Table 6 shows that 76,212 people were involved in the deportation of the inhabitants of the Baltic countries. The 8,215 state security personnel most often were the leaders of the operative groups, and made up 10.78% of the penal enforcers. The USSR MGB supplied 21,206 people (27.82%), the equivalent of two entire divisions of soldiers. Nevertheless, the greatest number of penal enforcers came from the local population of the Baltic countries themselves, including 18,387 republican MGB Extermination Battalion soldiers (24.13%). The Communist Party in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, however, provided by far the most participants in the operation: 28,404 people, or 32.27%. It is therefore imperative to reject the myth that state security officers and MGB forces are solely responsible for carrying out this crime. In actual fact, the majority (61.40%) of those responsible a number equivalent to three military divisions was made up of Baltic members of the Communist Party, Komsomol, and local Soviet authorities. The number of communists, Komsomolers, and extermination battalion troops numbered 46,791. Yet, in addition to these "workers in the field", there were also on duty the members of local township, district, regional, and city Party and Komsomol Central Committees, as well as those of the local rural, town and city councils. The number of additional personnel from these structures can only estimated until precise information can be obtained from reports to the Communist Party Central Committee in Moscow, if any records from this operation remain in the central CPSU archives. In any case, it is obvious that these "office workers" helped the "field workers" in their mission. From the USSR MGB reports, it would also be possible to find out more about the activities of the penal expedition's "field workers".

The deportation of inhabitants was performed by operative groups of nine to ten people: two USSR MGB servicemen, one of whom led the group; 2 republican MGB Extermination Battalion soldiers; and four to five Communist Party activists.33 At this lowest level, then, local Party members made up 44.4;55.5% of those directly involved in the operation. These local communists, some of them also being armed, would guide the group to its destination. Under the guard of the MGB soldiers, they would catalogue the items confiscated from the "special settlers." On average, each operative group deported forty-four families.

Of those families living 15;20 km "loading stations" and collection points for "special settlers," 12% were taken to their destination by freight trucks. The majority of "special settlers," however, were transported in 8422 lighter vehicles, of which 3412 (40.5%) were provided by the Soviet army, and 5010 (59.5%) by civilian structures. In addition, operative groups and Interior Forces units used 700 Interior Forces automobiles. Of the military vehicles used in the "special shipments," 2000 came from the Baltic, 1202 from the Leningrad, and 210 from the Byelorussian Military District. Automobiles were concentrated on the borders of the three Baltic countries in advance, and were sent in to their appointed places only at the start of the operation on 25 March. The vehicles had all been inspected beforehand by MGB officers. In all, 106 USSR MGB officers commanded the transportation of these "special shipments."34

Table 7

Transportation allocated to Operation "Priboi," 25 March 1949

Republic

Military

vehicles

Civilian

Vehicles

Total

%

Estonia

1,202

1,956

3,158

37.5

Latvia

1,500

1,816

3,316

39.4

Lithuania

710

1,238

1,948

23.1

Total

3,412

5,010

8,422

100.0

The "special shipments" also required 1250 t of fuel to be brought into the Baltic countries.

Aside from these 8422 vehicles, 118 railway stations were appointed for receiving 4437 boxcars modified for shipping "special settlers." On 25 March 1949 ("D-1"), following the special signal, there began in the Baltic countries the arrests and transfer to transportation and concentration points of 29,973 families 92,204 people.

The figures in Table 8 show that, by six o'clock in the evening of 28 March 1949, 89,874 people had been "picked up," and 87,589 of these (97.5%) had been "loaded" and shipped away in 60 trains (86.9% of the those to eventually be used).

Table 8

Summary of the results of Operation "Priboi" by 6:00 PM, 28 March 194935

 

Number of

families

Absolute number

of people

%

Lithuanian SSR

"Picked up"

8,407

27,929

98.9

"Loaded"

8,012

25,951

 

Trains used

20

   
Latvian SSR

"Picked up"

13,537

41,811

104.0

"Loaded"

13,537

41,811

 

Trains used

31

   
Estonian SSR:

"Picked up"

7,743

20,134

103.2

"Loaded"

 

19,827

 

Trains used

15

   
In total:

"Picked up"

29,687

89,874

102.3

"Loaded"

29,251

87,589

 

Trains used

66

   

Table 9 gives evidence of the final results of the operation. In 1949, 30,630 families 94,779 people in all were deported for the Baltic countries. If one is to believe the final report of the leader of Operation "Priboi," then the totals on 26 March amounted to 29,873 families, or 92,204 people. A further 757 families, consisting of 2775 people and making up 2.5% of the total number in 1949, were sent also deported. The deportees sent after 25 March (2.9%) may be those who managed to hide from the penal expeditions, who at first were not deported because of some mistake, etc.

Table 9

Deportations of inhabitants of the Baltic Republics, 194936

Republic

Families

People

%

Lithuania

9,518

31,917

33.7

Latvia

13,624

42,149

44.5

Estonia

7,488

20,713

21.8

Total

30,650

94,779

100.0

To determine the ethnic and social composition of the "special settlers," as well as their education, number of children, birth rate and life expectancy requires further research on this subject. Nevertheless, several available, unconfirmed sources give some clues as to the gender and age of the "special settlers," as well as to their main geographic destinations and places of work there.

Table 10

Gender and age of deportees from the Baltic countries, 194937

 

Number

%

Men

25,708

27.1

Women

41,987

44.3

Children

27,084

28.6

Total

94,779

100.0

Looking at the breakdown of deportees by age and gender, the slyness of the communist occupational régime yet again becomes apparent. As can be seen in Table 10, 72.9% of the "special settlers" were women and children under the age of sixteen, that is, over two thirds of the "class enemies" deported from the Baltic countries.

In September 1988, USSR KGB chairman V. Chebrikov made a statement to the CPSU Central Committee Politburo commission on the repressions of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. If the figures he cited are to be trusted, between 1941 and 1953, 195,707 people (not including those arrested, with their rights suspended, or shot) were forced from their homes in Baltic countries and sent to the USSR.38

During Operation "Priboi," 94,779 "special settlers" were deported or 48.6% of the total during the period 1941;1953. The recall of the additional forces required for Operation "Priboi" in Estonia and Latvia occurred 3;8 April, with the troops arriving back at their permanent stations on 11 April.

Table 11

Destinations of deportees from the Baltic countries, 194939

Destination of deportees

Number of

families

Number of

people

Average

family size

% of

deportees

Krasnoyarsk area

3,671

13,823

3.8

14.6

Novosibirsk region

3,152

10,064

3.2

10.6

Omsk region

7,944

22,542

2.8

23.8

Amur region

2,028

5,451

2.6

5.7

Total deported

16,795

51,888

3.1

54.4

In all, 1949

30,630

94,779

3.1

 

The final destination of deportees is known for 54.4% of the "special settlers" from the Baltic countries, and this information has been summarised in Table 11. Most Balts were sent to the Omsk region (23.8%), with roughly equal numbers ending up in the areas of Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk, while only 5.7% were deported to the Amur region.

Table 12

Places of work of following deportation from the Baltic countries, 194940

Place of work

People

%

Kolkhozes

75,790

80.0

Sovkhozes

16,005

16.9

Manufacturing

2,031

2.1

Forestry

953

1.0

Total

94,779

100.0

As Table 12 shows, 96.9% of the Baltic "special settlers" were forced to work in the sector of the Red Empire's economy with the least opportunities for improving one's quality of life the collective and state farms. Only 2.1% were given factory jobs.

Of those deported in 1949, 4,123 "special settlers" (4.5%) had died by 31 December 1950. Amongst those who perished were 2,080 children (2.3%). During this same period, 903 children were born into families of the deported.41

There was much praise for the participation in Operation "Priboi" of the Communist Party at all levels from the local organisations to the republican central Committees. Discussions of the results of the operation in the meetings of city and district Party committees involved acclaim for a job well done.42 In the presence of USSR MGB Interior Forces Major General Golovko, the Central Committee of the Latvian Communist Party in March discussed the great success of the removal of "kulak and nationalist elements" from Latvia.

Congratulations upon the fulfilment of the "special government mission" were also not lacking for the USSR MGB Interior Forces. In the summary of the operation number 002 for the Interior Forces Twenty-fourth Regiment (Military Unit 3179), the regiment's participation on 25 March 1949 in the "removal and special objects" from twelve districts in Latvia is noted.43 Based on Order 00163 ("Regarding the results of fulfilling the operation due to the regiment's involvement in operative support, and regarding personnel advancements") by the divisional commander of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Fifth Infantry Division fourteen men had been awarded "a personal photograph, taken by the unfurled regimental flag" by 4 April 1949. Seven had been given ten days' leave, while 274 soldiers and sergeants received official thanks. Previous reprimands against Captain V. Pugachėv, Captain V. Pavlovskii, and Junior Lieutenant Kostrikov were removed.44 On 12 May 1949, commander of the First Motorised Infantry Division General Major Pipashev asked the head of the Interior Forces Chief Administration General Major P. Burmak to support the awarding of 84 officers battle decorations for courage and heroism displayed during the deportation of peaceful inhabitants of the Baltic countries.45

Order 032 "Regarding the results of fulfilling the mission involving the escorting of special appellants for the division's escort units," dated 30 May 1949, summarises the division's activity. In all, the division's units performed their duties with "special settlers" excellently. Failings, however, were noted in the escort work of the 132nd Infantry Regiment, which "served" Lithuania. Four "special settlers" escaped from Train 97360 during a stop at the station in Smolensk. Disciplinary charges were laid against Lieutenant Alolisen for the fact that eleven "special settlers" escaped from Train 97359 in the Ignalina area on 28 March 1949, and only three of the escapees were caught. Two out of six escapees from Train 97377 in Minsk managed to evade recapture. Privates Nedelin, Zakharov, and Mendeleev had been drinking vodka, thus allowing many "special settlers" the opportunity to escape. Nevertheless, by way of a divisional order, regimental commander Captain Vazhin and Captain Muronshik, both of the 392nd Infantry Regiment, received official congratulations for successfully ensuring the arrival of "special settlers" at their appointed destinations. The same went for 132nd Infantry Regiment officers escort leader Captain Vasiliev and Lieutenant Kuzmenko.46 Another recipient of official congratulations was the commander of the canine section of the 392nd Infantry Regiment, who recaptured "special settler" escapees in Estonia.

The government of the USSR also thanked the leaders and most active participants of the operation for the successful completion of the "special mission."

In a secret decree of the USSR Supreme Soviet's Presidium "Regarding personnel advancements of generals, officers, sergeants, and the rank and file of the USSR MGB and MVD organs and armed forces for successful fulfilment of the special government mission," orders and medals were awarded to over a hundred people. The text of this decree was partially published in Pravda in August and September of 1949. The Military Order of the Red Star was awarded to 75 people. Among these were also Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians. The Latvians were Latvian SSR MGB Colonel Jānis Vēvers, MGB Major Ovans Zujevs, militia Colonel Nikolajs Platais, Captain Pēteris Reinholds, and MGB Major General Augusts Eglītis. Estonians receiving the Order of the Red Star were Major General Boris Kumma and Dmitrii Haevere, while the Lithuanians honoured were Colonel Leonardas Martevičius, Captain Vincas Tutinas, and Jokūbas Šalmas. A great many state security men were awarded the Order of the Great Patriotic War, First Class, but the publication of the decree was discontinued.

Over the last thousand years, the Baltic peoples and countries were repeatedly occupied by great powers and states that felt themselves to be so. In the last century alone, the communists have "liberated" these lands and peoples three times. None of the occupying forces in the last millennium, however, ever practised genocide against the subjugated Baltic inhabitants, with the exception the twentieth century's two totalitarian régimes: nazism and communism. Communist genocide over the last half century sought to destroy the Baltic nationalities, peoples that had inhabited their home territories for 5,000;7,000 years. This was the largest wave of mass destruction that these nations had experienced in their entire histories, with the apogee of destruction being Operation "Priboi" in 1949.

A few conclusions:

  1. The secret mass penal operation "Priboi" in the Baltic countries, during which 100,000 people were taken from their homes, was organised at the highest levels of power in the Communist Party and Soviet state structures.

  2. There are undeniable similarities between the planning, execution, secrecy, and precision of Top Secret Operation "Priboi" and the Nazi-organised camps at Auschwitz and elsewhere.

  3. A large proportion of the most socially, economically, and politically active members of society fled the Baltic countries in 1944;45, were captured or killed fighting in nationalist partisan guerrilla units, or went into hiding after the war. Viewed in this context, the mass deportations of 1949 are not the destruction of "class enemies," but an act of revenge against the active and passive resistance to the third communist occupation of the Baltic States.

  4. Top Secret Operation "Priboi" remains a crime against humanity committed against the Baltic peoples by and occupying power the Communist Party and the Soviet state. Such crimes have no statute of limitations.

  5. By putting into action Operation "Priboi," the Communist Party and the Soviet state sought to:

    1. completely suppress armed and unarmed resistance by the Baltic peoples to the occupation, which sought to re-establish the independence of these states;

    2. ease the process of agricultural collectivisation in the Baltic countries

    3. free occupied Baltic territory of the original inhabitants, in order to reinforce colonisation policies

Regardless of the rumours at the time of impending deportations of "enemies of the working class," the USSR MGB's policies of secrecy and misinformation surround Operation "Priboi" achieved their desired results: they found their main victims to be completely unprepared for what awaited them. Despite, however, the reputation of the USSR's state security structures as being Number One in the world for secrecy and misinformation, it was impossible to keep the upcoming operation completely secret, mainly due to the alertness of society as a whole. The spectre of deportations had been hanging over the Baltic countries for quite some time.

Recently a collection of articles was published in Moscow under the title "There is No Blood on the Executioners." This book sheds light on the barbarism of the communist régime and its most famous chekists (state security men). A similar lack of blood can be found on the hands of the state security men and their Communist Party helpers in the Baltic States, where during the Soviet occupation one in three citizens suffered communist atrocities. For this reason, it is imperative that scholarly research, scholarly discussion, and academic conferences on armed and unarmed resistance take place in the Baltic States with the support of state funding. Without the moral and otherwise condemnation of the communist régime, there can be no overcoming the after-effects of occupation, nor can there be a true renewal of democracy in the Baltic States today.

 

This article first published in Lithuanian in the journal Genocidas ir rezistencija 1997, no. 2, pp. 66;76, and in Latvian in the journal Latvijas Vēsture 1998, no. 2(30), pp. 39;47.

Dr habil. hist. Heinrichs Strods is also a professor of history at the University of Latvia and a member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences.

English translation © the Occupation Museum Foundation (OMF), 1998.

NOTES

  1. Heinrihs Strods, Zem melnbrūnā zobena (Riga: Zvaigzne, 1994).
  2. V. Chebrikov, "O vyselenii v 40-50 godakh nekotorykh kategorii grazhdan iz zapadnykh raionov SSSR," Istochnik 1996, no. 1: 137-38 pp.
  3. Ministerstvo gosudarstvennoi bezopastnosti - Ministry of State Security (Russ.), 1946-1954.
  4. In Latvia, these are the Represēto saraksti, a publication of the Latvian State Archives. Four volumes on the 1949 deportations appeared in 1995.
  5. Arvydas Anušauskas, Lietuvių tautos sovietinis naikinimas, 1940-1958 metais (Vilnius: Mintis, 1996).
  6. Narodnyi komissariat vnutrennikh del - People's Commissariat for Interior Affairs (Russ.), 1934-1946.
  7. Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del - Ministry of Internal Affairs (Russ.), 1946-.
  8. Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi voennyi arkhiv (hereafter, RGVA), group (fond) 38650.
  9. RGVA, group 38657.
  10. Idem, group 38671.
  11. Idem, group 38672.
  12. Idem, group 38673.
  13. Idem, group 38686.
  14. Idem, group 38058.
  15. "Materialy po operatsii 'Priboi'. 28 fevralia 1949 g. - 23 avgusta 1949 g. Sovershenno sekretno. Osoboi tsennosti. Delo bez nomera. Srok khraneniia postoianno," RGVA, group 38650, ser. (opis') 1, file (delo) 408.
  16. Ibid., pp. 45-65.
  17. "Otchetnaia karta po delu 'Priboi' v Èstonskoi, Latviiskoi, i Litovskoi SSR, 1949 g. Sekretno," RGVA, group 36580, ser. 1, file 408, p. 432.
  18. RGVA, group 3680, ser. 1, file 408, pp. 428-442.
  19. Ibid., p. 3.
  20. Ibid., p. 48.
  21. "Prikazy po divizii 48 KV MVD SSSR. 6 ianvaria - 27 avgusta 1949 g. Sovershenno sekretno," RGVA, group 38058, ser. 1, file 40, pp. 2-3.
  22. "Sekretnye prikazy po divizii, 4 ianvaria - 27 dekabria 1949 g.," RGVA, group 38058, ser. 1, file 40, pp. 21-23.
  23. Ibid., p. 47.
  24. "Sovershenno sekretno. Osoboi vazhnosti," RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, p. 31.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid., p. 32.
  28. RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, pp. 292-93.
  29. Ibid., pp. 292-94.
  30. I.e., the Districts (rajoni) of Viļāni, Alūksne, Jēkabpils, Ilūkste, Jelgava, and Talsi.
  31. RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, pp. 280-87.
  32. "Sovershenno sekretno. Osoboi vazhnosti. Obshaia spravka o silakh i sredstvakh pravlichennykh dlia provedeniia operatsii 'Priboi' po trëm respublikam," RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, p. 47.
  33. RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, p. 10.
  34. Three in the operation's command group, seventeen in Estonia, 30 in Latvia, and 56 in Lithuania.
  35. Based on a top secret summary prepared by Dontsov (Dmitriev) for S. Ogal'tsov at the request of Burmak, RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, p. 124.
  36. Russian archival documentary material copies in the collections of the University of London.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Chebrikov, op. cit., pp. 137-39. The original document is in the Presidential Archives of the Russian Federation, group 3, ser. 108, file 526, pp. 4-8.
  39. Russian archival documentary material copies in the collections of the University of London.
  40. Ibid.
  41. "Spravka o kolichestve vyselentsev," Shpion 1994, no. 2, p. 62.
  42. The Fifth Regiment of the Twenty-fourth Infantry Division, "serving" Eastern Latvia and stationed in Madona, expressed gratitude to the Madona District Committee of the Latvian Communist Party (RGVA, group 32916, ser. 1, file 24, pp. 219, 355).
  43. RGVA, group 32916, ser. 1, file 24, pp. 97, 355.
  44. RGVA, gorup 32916, ser. 1, file 143, pp. 52-55.
  45. RGVA, group 38650, ser. 1, file 408, pp. 321-326.
  46. From the file of secret divisional orders, 4 January to 29 December 1949, RGVA, group 38058, ser. 1, file 4, pp. 78-80.

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