Stalin’s Great Terror: A Documentary History of Soviet Perpetrators

Collaborative Group

Professor Jeffrey J. Rossman, Professor Lynne A. Viola, Professor Lynne A. Viola




In the aftermath of Stalin’s Great Terror (1937-38), there were two waves of secret Soviet military trials of security police (NKVD) officers. During a three-year period following the Great Terror and an eight-year period following Stalin’s death, over 2,000 NKVD officers were prosecuted by Soviet military courts for “violations of socialist legality” (i.e., Soviet criminal procedure). The documentation generated by these trials – including reproductions of paperwork signed by perpetrators in 1937-38; testimony by defendants, victims, witnesses, and experts; and verbatim transcripts of court sessions – constitutes an invaluable source for the study of the Soviet perpetrator. The project collaborators are carrying out research on Soviet perpetrators in the archives of Ukraine and Georgia using these materials. On the basis of this research, they will publish a jointly authored, English-language book and two annotated document collections. This project casts into relief some of the most prolific perpetrators of Soviet mass violence and situates the secret Soviet military trials of NKVD officers in historical, political, and legal context. This projects also plans to publish the document collections, in their original language (Russian), in order to place them in the public domain and thereby ensure that they remain accessible to scholars of Soviet history and, more broadly, twentieth-century mass violence. The scholars have been working together on this project since 2011, with Rossman specializing in comparative genocide and Russian history, with previous experience in Georgia, and Viola, a specialist in Russian history, in particular Soviet collectivization, managing research in Ukraine. The research team also includes Marc Junge, who will serve as a general research coordinator. Award period: August, 11, 2013 - August 10, 2015