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Rehabilitation in the Soviet Union, 1953–1964: A Policy Unachieved

  • Marc Elie

Abstract

After Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953, the repressive legacy he bequeathed to his successors continued to haunt their internal discussions and intrigues for many years. The terrorist policy of the Stalinist period became a pivotal issue in the post-Stalin power struggles and a decisive criterion in delineating attitudes towards the dictator and his system. Members of the Presidium of the Central Committee (CC) regarded an immediate review of the past as essential, and throughout the decade known as the ‘Thaw’, the depth and publicity to be given to the re-evaluation of the repressive past and the restoration of justice to the illegally persecuted were central concerns of both the political elite and Soviet society. As a result, 960,000 people were recognised as innocent and rehabilitated — a third of the number of politically repressed as estimated at the time. Certainly, rehabilitation policy was part of the struggle for power among Stalin’s heirs: Nikita Khrushchev proved especially adept at instrumentalising the ‘ghosts from the past’ — party colleagues murdered by Stalin with the consent, complicity or even at the suggestion of his entourage. Consequently, this chapter will pay attention to how the ebb and flow of the rehabilitation policy coincided with the conflictual political conjuncture of the post-Stalin years.

Keywords

Central Committee Transitional Justice Labour Code Party Membership Party Functionary 
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Notes

  1. 14.
    M. Elie, ‘Les politiques à l’égard des libérés du Goulag: Amnistiés et réhabilités dans la région de Novosibirsk, 1953–1960’, Cahiers du Monde Russe, vol. 47, no. 1–2 (2006), pp. 327–48.Google Scholar
  2. 20.
    Reabilitatsiia 1, pp. 129–42. On the ‘Leningrad affair’, see B. Tromly, ‘The Leningrad Affair and Soviet Patronage Politics, 1949–1950’, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 56, no. 5 (2004), pp. 707–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 23.
    The expression is used by A. I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918–1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, vol. 3 (New York, 1997), p. 489. O. Lavinskaia, ‘Dokumenty prokuratury o protsesse reabilitatsii zhertv politicheskikh repressii v 1954–1956 gg’, Otechestvennye arkhivy, no. 3 (2007), pp. 38–46. M. Elie, ‘Unmögliche Rehabilitation. Die Revisionskommissionen 1956 und die Unsicherheiten des Tauwetters’, Osteuropa, vol. 57, no. 6 (2007), pp. 369–86.Google Scholar
  4. 27.
    D. Kozlov, The Readers of Novyi Mir: Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past (Cambridge, MA, 2013); Jones, Myth, Memory, Trauma; M. Dobson, ‘Contesting the Paradigms of De-Stalinization: Readers’ Responses to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’, Slavic Review, vol. 64, no. 3 (2005), pp. 580–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Marc Elie 2015

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  • Marc Elie

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