Order No. 00486 is a continuation of the order of the NKVD No. 00447 dated July 30, 1937: "On the operation to repress former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements." It was the start of the Great Terror. There were no courts - the verdicts were passed by the so-called "troikas" consisting of the secretary of the regional committee, the head of the regional department of the NKVD and the prosecutor.
The Commission of the Central Committee of the CPSU to investigate mass repressions presented a report on February 9, 1956: in 1937-1938 alone, 1,548,366 people (every 104th inhabitant of the USSR) were arrested on charges of anti-Soviet activities. Of these, 681,692 people were shot.
It was explained to the population that this was a “fight against the enemies of the people.” The population believed, supported, wrote denunciations itself. But what did it think, how did it justify arrests and sending wives and children to camps?
Everything was spelled out in the order:
- a certificate for socially dangerous and capable of anti-Soviet actions for children older than 15 years of age;
- the wives of convicted traitors to the Motherland are subject to imprisonment in camps for terms, depending on the degree of social danger, of at least 5–8 years;
- socially dangerous children of convicts, depending on their age, degree of danger and possibilities of correction, are subject to imprisonment in camps or correctional labor colonies of the NKVD or placement in children's homes with a special regime;
- wives of traitors to the motherland who have infants are immediately arrested after the verdict is passed and sent directly to the camp without being taken to prison.
All orphans remaining after the conviction should be placed:
- children aged 1-1.5 years and up to three full years - in orphanages and nurseries of the People's Commissariat of Health of the republics in the places of residence of convicts;
- children aged from 3 full years to 15 years old - in orphanages;
- infants are sent along with their convicted mothers to camps, from where, upon reaching the age of 1-1.5 years, they are transferred to orphanages and nurseries;
- in the event that other relatives (not repressed) wish to take the remaining orphans to their full dependency, this should not be prevented.
From the memorandum of the head of the AHU of the NKVD Sumbatov, January 29, 1939:
“A special task was assigned to the Administrative and Economic Department of the NKVD to remove the children of enemies of the people. <…>
From August 15, 1937 to the present <...> the following work has been done:
In total, children were seized in the Union - 25,342 people.
a) Sent to the orphanages of the People's Commissariat of Education and local nurseries - 22,427 people.
of which Moscow - 1909 people.
b) Transferred to custody and returned to mothers - 2915 people.
This is data on "work to remove children" only for the first 17 months - from August 15, 1937 to January 1939. This does not include "socially dangerous" children "over 15 years of age". How many babies were sent to camps with their mothers, how many were born in the Gulag during the decades of terror - is unknown.
Concentration camps for women and children - Temnikovsky in Mordovia, Dzhangizhirsky in Kyrgyzstan and Temlyakovsky in the Gorky region - began to “organize” in advance, by order of the head of the Gulag M. Berman: “In the near future they will be convicted and must be isolated under especially enhanced conditions of the regime of the families of the executed Trotskyists and rightists <…> predominantly women. Children of preschool age will also be sent with them.”
In January 1938, in the Akmola region of Kazakhstan, "on the basis of the 26th labor settlement", the largest, tragically famous Akmola camp for the wives of traitors to the Motherland - ALZHIR was built. He is also "camp number 26" of the Karaganda camp administration (Karlaga). "Lagpunkts" in reality are dozens of independent camps in the vast expanses of the Karlag.
20 thousand prisoners passed through ALZHIR.
Among them are the popularly famous singer Lidia Ruslanova, the actress Tatyana Okunevskaya, the creator of the children's musical theater Natalia Sats. The most titled prisoner of ALZHIR is, of course, Ekaterina Ivanovna Kalinina. Formally, she was not a "member of the family of a traitor to the Motherland." She herself is a “traitor to the Motherland”, articles 58-6 (“Espionage”) and 58-8 (“Commission of terrorist acts”). And “a family member of the traitor to the Motherland”, logically, was her husband, Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin. But he was not sent behind barbed wire. From January 1938 (the month and year of the opening of ALZHIR) to 1946, he served as chairman of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Formally - the head of state, the president.
Ekaterina Kalinina served 7 out of 15 years in ALZHIR under the sentence. She did not dig the earth, she did not cut the reeds, she did not knead the clay, she did not make adobe bricks; she, a 56-year-old woman, was given an easy job.
Her husband was formally the head of the USSR (formally the president), and his wife was cleaning nits from the linen of prisoners in a laundry room. And she lived there, in the linen room, which is incomparable with the conditions in the common barracks on the bunk.
From 1938 to 1953, 1507 children were born in ALZHIR alone. 100 babies - annually. Only survivors are included in this statistic. In the nursery of the village of Dolinka, the capital of the large Karlag (the system of the Karaganda camp management), 500 babies were kept at the same time. Fifty children died every month. In winter, they were not buried - it was impossible to hollow out the ground, bound by forty-degree frosts. The corpses were piled in barrels - until spring. The nurse Valentina, an employee of the NKVD, passing by, saw: someone's little hand was moving. She pulled out a tiny Kazakh girl, took her home. She raised her daughter for eight years, and when her mother's term was over, she returned the child to her.
Maya Plisetskaya at the age of 12 escaped the orphanage, because her aunt, Shulamith Messerer, a ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater, took her to her place. And Maya's younger brother, Azaria, was sent to ALZHIR as an eight-month-old child - along with his mother, film actress Rachel Messerer. She was the wife of Mikhail Plisetsky, the manager of the Arktikugol trust. He was shot in January 38th.
“Either the end of the 39th, or the 40th, in any case, I already walked and even uttered such a coherent phrase:“ I want for the zone. Now I understand what zone I wanted for, ”said the choreographer, Honored Artist of the RSFSR Azariy Plisetsky in the film Longer than Life by Daria Violina and Sergei Pavlovsky. - It's hard to believe that I was there ... The moment came when my aunt, Shulamith Mikhailovna Messerer, obtained permission to transfer us to a free settlement. And she tells how she came for us. And how the gates opened. And I ran. Although I never saw my aunt, but she spread her arms like that, and I ran to her. And suddenly there was a roar. The roar of those hundreds or thousands of women who watched this picture of a running boy... Because each one either had a child or was taken away. Anyway, I imagine how they might feel. And she told me, aunt: “I took you in my arms, and you rustled all over. I took you somewhere and realized: your jacket was full of letters.
As Maya Klyashtornaya, the daughter of the Belarusian poet Todor Klyashtorny, who was shot in October 1937, who ended up in Algeria four months old, recalled, they, the children of ALZHIR, called all imprisoned women mothers.
Moms were dying. From illness, overwork. They were buried here, nearby.
Children who reached the age of three were taken to orphanages. They were brought up in colonies and orphanages, as it should be - in hatred for "traitors to the Motherland", they were taught that their parents were enemies of their beloved Stalin and their own party. Some grew up like that - if not in hatred for their fathers and mothers, then in hostility towards them. Parents were considered guilty for the crippled life.
Early in the morning, at dawn
Corps will come.
Children will stand in faith
The sun will rise.
A thin ray will make its way
On the damp wall
To the imprisoned child
To a little dear.
But it won't get any brighter.
Who will return your blush,
Behind the bars, behind the locks
Days are like years.
Children cry, even mothers
They cry sometimes.
But they grow a change
You do not believe, child, in treason
This is a camp lullaby.
In 2007, in Kazakhstan, where ALZHIR used to be, 40 kilometers from the current Kazakh capital city of Nur-Sultan (formerly Akmolinsk), the Memorial and Museum of Victims of Political Repressions and Totalitarianism was opened.
“Our authorities killed their own people! - President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the rally. - Women and children were exiled to the bare steppe, doomed to hunger, illness, torment, death. Victims of political repressions are not subject to oblivion.”
Today's Russians call Stalin "the most outstanding person of all times and peoples." According to a 2019 sociological survey, 70% of respondents positively assess his role in the history of the country, and 46% believe that the human sacrifice that the Soviet people suffered in those days was justified by great goals.