The Rehabilitation of Stalin’s Victims in Ukraine, 1953–1964: A Socio-Legal Perspective
The death of Josef Stalin on 5 March 1953, coming at a point of great tensions in the Cold War, accentuated the urgent necessity to modernise the ruling communist regime. The aspiration to reform the Stalinist system, to transform it into a more vital public organism, capable of reacting adequately to the challenges of the time, encouraged the new leaders to abandon terrorist methods, mass political repression and hypertrophied ideological control. The rejection of state terrorism by the political nomenklatura on the grounds that it was dysfunctional initiated a series of complex and contradictory attempts to modify the totalitarian structures of the Soviet Union, not least of which was the rehabilitation of victims of Stalinist terror. In this chapter, I shall show that the rehabilitation process in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was held back by a number of problems, some of them specific to Ukraine, and some of them relating to Soviet-wide barriers to the restitution of social and legal rights to all citizens (and foreign nationals) who had been wrongly deprived of their jobs, homes, property and liberty during the Stalin era. In particular, attention will be drawn to the paradoxes inherent in attempts to rehabilitate former members of the NKVD who had been both perpetrators and victims of the Stalinist terror system, and to the challenges presented by particular groups of deportees and prisoners hoping to return to Ukraine after being released from long spells in the Gulag or internal forced migration, including former members of the anti-communist Ukrainian national liberation movement arrested in the post-1944 period, and Crimean Tatars expelled from their homeland during the Second World War.
KeywordsInternal Affair Central Committee State Archive Socialist Legality Judicial Body
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