Started reading The Gulag Archipelago, and its sort of mind numbing, the scale of it described in the book. Some were taken and summarily executed, some were tried and executed, some were sent to internal exile, some were sent to the Archipelago, some were put in penal battalions, and many other things.

But it does not put a number on them. Indeed, he concedes the incompleteness of his knowledge already.

Was wondering if we have any data today?

How many people in ratio to the population were taken by the state? (in the generation that lived under Stalin)

Is it 1 in 5? 1 in 10? 1 in 1000?


Not directly relevant to the question, but, interesting when put in backdrop of Gulag Archipelago.

Timur and His Squad (Timur I yevo komanda, Тимур и его команда) is a short novel by Arkady Gaidar, written and first published in 1940. The book, telling the story of a gang of village kids who sneak around secretly doing good deeds, protecting families whose fathers and husbands are in the Red Army, and doing battle against nasty hooligans had a huge impact upon the young Soviet audiences. Timurite movement (Timurovtsy), involving thousands of children, became a massive phenomenon all over the country. Timur and His Squad remained part of the curriculum in every Soviet school even up into the 1990s

I read this book when I was like 10. I think it was written to give the impression of flow of normal life, where kids can have quests and adventures in the neighborhood. No crimes, no shortages, no mention of repressions.

Came upon it from a group of marxists, who used to organize book exhibitions, of old books from the time strong Indo-Soviet ties. Books used to be translated from Russian to Hindi on quite a large scale.

  • You could say that anyone faced arrest, as anyone could be arrested, even Stalin (for example few days after Barbarossa started) . But actual percent of those who were arrested is hard to determine, it must be below 10% of adult population . – rs.29 Jan 22 '19 at 5:33
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    Anyway, if you didn't already found them, these links could be helpful to you : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… rbth.com/arts/history/2017/07/28/… – rs.29 Jan 22 '19 at 5:57
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    @Rohit your question is confusing, 100% of the population faced arrest ie could possibly be arrested, but only some were ie less than 100%. But still a large number – Solar Mike Jan 22 '19 at 6:56
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    I suggest removing the "close family member" part. That makes the question substantially more complicated to answer. – Aaron Brick Jan 22 '19 at 17:28
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    @MarkC.Wallace as I understand it from reading books about the period the arrest and apprehension were pretty much synonymous. Someone could in fact be arrested and not even know it yet because he'd not been picked up by the secret police at the time, the arrest having been some bureaucrat putting his name on a list, or even just a statement to "arrest 1000 people" – jwenting Jan 23 '19 at 4:54

Just browsing quickly through some WP articles:

  • ~10M kulaks were repressed
  • 3-10M Ukrainians died in the famines Stalin intentionally created
  • 6M underwent internal exile, and of these maybe 1-1.5M died
  • there was genocide and deportation of Crimean Tatars, Chechens, and Ingush

The total population in the 1930's was about 29M for Ukraine, 160M for the USSR as a whole.

So perhaps 1 in 10 suffered one of these consequences over all, but the proportion would be higher if you belonged to certain groups.

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    Thanks for your effort. I was looking for figures on those arrested, not necessarily those who died as a result of the state policy's other outcomes(famines etc.) – Rohit Jan 22 '19 at 4:13
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    Your list is far from complete however. The total number would be much higher if other categories are included, like those sent to prisons but never into internal exile. – jwenting Jan 22 '19 at 6:25
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    I'd just like to point out that "repressed" was Soviet-era jargon for executed, not just fined or given some other light punishment. By the same token, an article about the Soviet Union from Soviet or Gorbachev-era that talks about accused people being "rehabilitated" does not mean what it does in the west: these are people whose reputations were restored long after their deaths. In the glasnost era and subsequent years, many of Stalin's victims were rehabilitated in this sense. – Henry Jan 30 '19 at 4:49

The numbers of those who were arrested and of those who died is heavily disputed among historians. Some believe the numbers were in the low millions, others put them in the tens of millions. (Some Marxists insist the numbers were negligible, only a few thousand, and say that these happened only because of overzealous local officials.) It comes down to who seems to make the most credible case for their particular number but we all have different ways of assessing credibility.

I do know that Solzhenitsyn and his fellow survivor of the gulag Igor Shafareevich, a mathematician, wrote in Under the Rubble that they were absolutely certain that twenty million people perished under Stalin - I think that excluded those who died in WWII but I'm not positive - and may have been as high as 120 million. I also know that it used to be widely said in the Soviet Union - when it became safe to speak of such things - that not a single family in the entire Soviet Union was untouched by Stalin's secret police. Apparently every single family had a least one person arrested at the very least. (I'm not sure what definition of family they were using; I suspect they may have meant more than just the immediate family living in the same home and counted aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so forth but that's just a guess; they may indeed have meant immediate family in the same home.)

In other words, this was not an event that touched only a handful (or relative handful) of Soviet citizens.

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  • (Some Marxists insist the numbers were negligible, only a few thousand, and say that these happened only because of overzealous local officials.) Why mention this, even parenthetically, when it's obviously absurd? Here is a map of GULAGs: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gulag_Location_Map.svg . There are several hundred dots on it. If the numbers were only a few thousand, we would have to believe that each of these had no more than a few dozen occupants over its entire existence, or that the existence of most of these camps was a hoax. – user2848 Jan 29 '19 at 2:33
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    @BenCrowell and here is a picure of Earth from a satelite and yet there are people believing that Earth is flat. Proven facts are not enough to convince some people... – Yasskier Jan 29 '19 at 2:41
  • @BenCrowell many leftists choose to ignore reality, will claim that many or most of the Gulag camps were not prisons at all but voluntary work assignments. They'll claim that the famines under Stalin weren't caused deliberately or even as an unintended consequence of government policy and that the Soviet state in fact helped alleviate them (a deliberate lie on all counts). – jwenting Jan 29 '19 at 10:32
  • My point is not that nobody could possibly believe this. My point is that it should not be given undue weight in this answer. The answer as written implies that this is actually a possibility that could be taken seriously by knowledgeable people. – user2848 Jan 29 '19 at 17:06
  • My apologies if anyone got the impression that I believed that only a few thousand people died in the gulags; I really DON'T believe that. But I have seen it claimed. The frustrating thing about all this is that we all end up believing numbers put forward by others. Those numbers differ widely and all may have some reason to be believed - although some would have less than others - so we all tend to pick the one that seems most plausible to us. If you're a hardcore Marxist defending that ideology, you'll tend to give more credence to a low number; personally I tend to be the opposite. – Henry Jan 30 '19 at 4:39

I cannot remember the book unfortunately so may be criticised for offering this as an answer at all. However, years ago I read an estimate of combined deaths from Stalin's purges plus the famine associated with collectivization of agriculture based on the age structure of the population recorded by Post-World War II Soviet census figures.

Not surprisingly, the number of people in age group most likely to have fought in World War II was noticeably less than one would expect compared to most other age groups, indicating the great loss of life in the war. However, there was an even bigger shortfall in the age group born immediately before them, suggesting that combined deaths from the purges and famines may actually have been greater even than the enormous Soviet losses in World War II. Sorry I cannot be more specific but that could indicate one way to approach this question.

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  • I remember reading that at one point, the famine was killing so many people that the life expectancy had fallen to ELEVEN years in those areas. It was, of course, completely impossible to publish that number because of the embarrassment it would have caused Stalin so the number they published was in the low 60s, which was pretty normal for that time. Soviet statistics from those days are not to be trusted: they were all about supporting the lie about the "workers utopia" that was allegedly flourishing under Comrade Stalin. – Henry Jan 30 '19 at 4:44

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