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Home АИРО-XXI Новости Slavic Review о книге Марка Юнге "Чекисты Сталина: мощь и бессилие"

Slavic Review о книге Марка Юнге "Чекисты Сталина: мощь и бессилие"

chekisty stalina
21 августа
– журнал "Slavic Review" опубликовал рецензию на книгу Марка Юнге "Чекисты Сталина: мощь и бессилие. «Бериевская оттепель» в Николаевской области Украины"

Chekisty Stalina: Moshch΄ i Bessilie “Berievskaia ottepel΄” v Nikolaevskoi oblasti Ukrainy. By Marc Junge. Series: Pervaia publikatsiia v Rossii. Moscow: AIRO– XXI, 2017. xvi, 339 pp.

Appendix. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Tables. ₽400.00, hard bound. doi: 10.1017/slr.2019.149

Cheskisty Stalina is one more in a long line of excellent studies by Marc Junge on
the so-called Great Terror of 1938 and 1939 in the Soviet Union. This study differs
from his previous works, however, in that it examines primarily the aftermath of the
great purges, the purging of the purgers, covering the period from mid-1938 to 1941.
Junge’s book is one of the first to examine the campaign to restore “socialist legality”
in its own right and not just as a “coda” to the purges that preceded it. It is a study
of one region, Nikolaevsk in Ukraine, and is divided into roughly two sections. The
first, covering about two-thirds of the text, examines in detail the fall from grace and
trials of several of the region’s ranking NKVD officers. These chapters are based on
a close reading of the multi-volume sets of materials, transcripts, depositions, and
other evidence gathered by prosecutors over the course of their investigations into
the violations of law by NKVD officers. Junge reserves his interpretive and historiographic
analysis for the last third of the book. The author’s conclusions are bold,
and one may take issue with some. Still, this book will be the touchstone for studies
that follow.
Junge describes three major phases of the socialist legality campaign. The first
two phases, relatively mild, lasted from summer 1938 through 1940. The third phase,
from the end of 1940 into 1941 and beyond was the harshest and most decisive period.
Waves of arrests, investigations, and trials swept the whole oblast, carried out by
the procuracy and courts, and ended in a number of death sentences and many long
prison terms. This was no symbolic purge, but a serious campaign to break and discipline
the whole of the NKVD, when the “center” finally and decisively asserted its
“dictate” over the periphery (213). Junge also traces in this phase the real psychological
breakdown of police officials. As he concludes from their testimonies, police,
especially at lower levels, were “executioners by conviction.” They believed, and
almost all testified, that their actions and brutality had been fully justified. Few used
the defense that they acted out of fear. Here, Junge is at his best, tracing the breakdown
of this sense of mission and conviction to doubt and then to a broken sense
of powerlessness as so many came to realize that their regime and government had
abandoned them.
Junge notes that, at first, charges included the usual ones of counter-revolution
and Trotskyism, but these were changed in almost every case to charges of legal
violations, abuse of authority, and other similar crimes. As a result, Junge argues
that the real purpose of the post-terror purges was not intended to find symbolic
scapegoats, but was a genuine campaign to discipline the political police into a force
not centered on loyalty to a particular person or persons (a vozhd-oriented political
police) but into a security organization loyal and dedicated to the protection of the
state. Junge frames this process as part of “Stalinist modernization” (224), a move
away from a personalized to a “statist” dictatorship. As he writes, after 1941, one
cannot refer to Stalinism as a despotism (241–42). As evidence of this statization of a
“political police” into a state security organization, Junge points to the abolition of
the political police and the creation of the separate Commissariat of State Security,
NKGB, in 1941 (242).
These are interesting arguments, but there are some problems in them. First, the
argument about despotism does not refer to police relations but to Stalin’s increasing
isolation from the decision-making mechanisms of the Central Committee and
Politburo. This is exactly the time that Stalin began to rule increasingly through his
small inner circle, and despotism is, arguably, an accurate description of that style
of rule. Second, the argument about statization may be plausible in some sense,
but not concerning the transformation of the political police into a state security
agency. That transition occurred in 1934, not 1941. In 1934, the State Political [Police]
Administration, the OGPU, was abolished, reorganized, and given a new charter
as the Chief Administration for State Security, the GUGB. There existed no political
police after 1934. This does not completely undermine Junge’s thesis about statization,
but that process had nothing to do with transformation of a political police.
Despite these criticisms, Junge’s book stands now as the most thorough study to
date of the post-purge purges. Any scholar who takes up this topic will have to confront
Junge’s arguments.

David Shearer
University of Delaware


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