Stalinist perpetrators on trial by Lynne Viola

Stalinist perpetrators on trial by Lynne Viola – Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine – is a fascinating book, well worth reading. The Purges or the Great Terror are well-known. Between 1937 and 1938 over 1.5 million people were arrested and hundreds of thousands were executed. This book is not about those victims, but it is about the ones who were employed by the NKVD and who carried out torture (interrogations) before themselves becoming victims of the Purges. As these people are both perpetrators and victims, this is a book that makes one think.

Stalinist perpetrators on trial by Lynne Viola

The trials covered in the book were not public, such as the Nazi war crime trials. Almost 1,000 NKVD officers were prosecuted in the military courts. What is ironic is that some were charged with fabricating evidence, use of torture, and murder before the suspect was put on trial.

Reading about what they did and what happened to them is chilling and interesting. All the people presented in the book took part in the purges in soviet Ukraine, but not all were Ukrainians. This purges happened a few years after Holodomor (1932-1933), so they saw the terrible events of the famine with its high death toll and great human suffering.

I will leave a quote from the book, page 118:
‘Interrogators… were pressed to turn in 5 to 6 signed confessions per day. These procedures led to absurd results. In one case concerning a group of 50 supposed spies arrested as members of the POV (Polish Military Organisation), most of whom incidentally were Ukrainians, the spies were accused of publicizing the location of a well-known factory.’

This was the kind of evidence for which many were either imprisoned or killed. It’s very similar to the kind of evidence used for the trials covered in the book, but with the ones lying about others being lied about.

Stalinist perpetrators on trial by Lynne Viola

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes!
Published by: Oxford University Press
Year it was published: 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): History – Ukraine
Pages: 304

About the author: Lynne Viola is a scholar on the Soviet Union. She is a professor at the University of Toronto and has written four books and 30 articles.
Website & Social Media Links: –



2 thoughts on “Stalinist perpetrators on trial by Lynne Viola”

  • This is certainly a different perspective. Some might say becoming victims themselves is karma. In fact, it might be difficult not to think that way.
    Kelly recently posted…Merlin Bird IDMy Profile

    • It is hard to have pity on people who lied, tortured, and executed other people, the karma you mention. It is also interesting to see the system that allowed/encouraged this to happen.

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