European Memories

of the Gulag


TIMELINE (1943-1952)



February: Victory at Stalingrad, one of the turning-points in the Second World War.

November: deportation to Central Asia of some 69,000 Karachai from the Caucasus. This was the first collective operation against a “punished people” accused of mass collaboration with the occupier and expelled entirely from their lands. The national autonomy these peoples had was abolished (Karachai autonomous region, Kabardino-Balkar ASSR, Chechen–Ingush ASSR, Kalmyk ASSR).

December: deportation of some 92,000 Kalmyks from the Caucasus to Central Asia.


February: deportation of some 387,000 Chechens, 91,000 Ingush and 37,000 Balkars from the northern Caucasus.

November [*?*]: deportation of some 92,000 Meskhetian Turks, Kurds and Hemshils from Georgia.

May: deportation of some 187,000 Tatars, 22,000 Bulgarians and Armenians from Crimea, 40,000 Greeks from Crimea, Georgia, Armenia and the regions of Krasnodar and Rostov.

30 July: Stalin orders the disarming, arrest and deportation of the officers and men of the Polish Home Army (AK) who had taken part in Operation Burza (tempest).

December: deportation of some 110,000 German-speakers (Volksdeutsche) living in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.

Winter 1944-June 1945

In Carpathian Ruthenia, arrests are made of members of the Agrarian Party and Hungarian Party, Russian émigrés of the 1920s, Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalists, and Czechs and Slovaks who oppose the territory’s annexation by the USSR.

Spring 1944-1951

Arrest and deportation of hundreds of thousands of real or imagined collaborators, members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), fighters in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Belarusian partisans, real or imagined Baltic resisters taking up arms against Soviet occupation. The families of the Ukrainian and Baltic resisters the Soviets call “bandits” are deported to resettlement villages in Siberia and the Great North.


January: deportation of some 70,000 Saxons and Swabians (German-speaking Romanians) from southern Transylvania (Romania) to the Donbass, a mining area in the Soviet Union and other Ukrainian industrial areas.

Spring: deportation of some 100,000 people from Slovakia; some are forcibly taken to the USSR, particularly the Donbass, to help in reconstruction; others are sentenced as “war criminals” for fighting with the Germans, Hungarians or Slovaks (Slovakia had taken advantage of Nazi Germany’s domination to declare its independence).

April: within days of the Red Army’s liberation of Czechoslovakia and until February 1948, the NKVD arrests and deports to the USSR the Russian émigrés who had fled the Bolshevik regime in the 1920s and 1930s, mainly members of the cultural and business elite (engineers, lawyers, journalists, writers, translators, officers, teachers, diplomats, business people).

From April 1945: deportation of some 800,000 forced labourers (including 500,000 Germans) from the countries occupied by the Red Army by way of war reparations.

8-9 May 1945: Germany capitulates. The Red Army occupies part of Germany and the Eastern European countries.

Spring-summer: deportation of German-speakers (Volksdeutsche) living in Lithuania.

In Central and Eastern Europe, many people who might hamper the installation of pro-Soviet regimes are arrested and deported to the USSR.


May: as land is collectivised in Lithuania, the NKVD launches Operation Vesna (Russian, “spring”): 40,000 country-dwellers, including 11,000 children, are deported to villages in the Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Buryatia regions.


March: mass deportation operation in the Baltic countries, mainly from country areas.

In Lithuania, the operation is codenamed Priboi (Russian, “coastal surf”): nearly 9,000 Lithuanian families, some 30,000 people, are deported to Siberia.

April: similar deportation operation in Moldova.

May: operation to deport Greeks from Georgia.


From June 1949 to August 1952, deportations of varying size are carried out in the Baltic countries. In October 1951, a mass operation, codenamed Osen (Russian, “autumn”) occurs in Lithuania alone, targeting only those farmers who do not join the collective farms. More than 16,000 people, including 5,000 children, are deported to Krasnoyarsk region.

   Alain Blum et Marta Craveri