Collaborative Group

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

Project

The Question of the Perpetrator in Soviet History: An Exploration into Violence in the Soviet Union, 1928-41

Project

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

Department

History

The Question of the Perpetrator in Soviet History: An Exploration into Violence in the Soviet Union, 1928-41

The question of the perpetrator is uncharted territory in the history of the USSR due to historiographical omission, archival secrecy, and the USSR’s survival to 1991. The question is essential to understanding mass violence in the Stalinist 1930s. This study explores the question within three theatres of operation: the village (collectivization), the interrogation room (great terror), and the gulag. The study centers upon the peregibshchik, a stock label of Stalinist scapegoating that focused attention (press and procuracy) on cadres accused of excessive zeal (ie, atrocities). It contextualizes violence, examining the relationship between ideology, contingency, and action. The project is based on extensive archival research and grounding in the literatures on genocide and mass violence.

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

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