Prior to World War II, the NKVD experimented with the mass deportation of suspected peoples. In 1935, NKVD Commissar Genrykh Yagoda ordered the deportation of 40,000 Finns, Poles, and Germans from the Leningrad oblast as a reaction to the murder of Sergei Kirov. Between May and October 1937, 172,000 Koreans living in the Soviet Far East were deported to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The NKVD also moved several Polish settlements in the Ukraine and Byelorussia in 1937 and 1938 as part of a purge of Polish enemies.
   During World War II, the NKVD deported to the gulag and internal exile millions of Soviet citizens. Between 1939 and 1941, more than 1 million Poles and 200,000 Balts were deported, 5 percent of the population of the three Baltic republics. In August 1941, following the outbreak of war, 1.2 million Soviet Germans, including all 600,000 German inhabitants of the Volga Autonomous Republic, were deported. In 1943–1944, Joseph Stalin ordered the deportation of Islamic peoples from the Caucasus and the Crimean peninsula to Siberia. More than 1.5 million Chechen, Ingush, Balkars, and Crimean Tatars (just to mention the larger groups) were deported. The Communist Party and the police used deportations to reduce the native populations of Lithuania and the western Ukraine. In fighting insurgencies in these two republics, the MGB deported hundreds of thousands of villagers to Central Asia. Mikhail Suslov, who was Stalin’s man in Lithuania in 1944–1946, said that the way to keep Lithuania quiet was to have enough boxcars ready. Stalin also insisted on the ethnic cleansing of Islamic peoples along the Soviet–Turkish border, who were presumed to be future traitors in a war with Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
   Deportations were conducted under inhuman conditions by armed security forces showing no mercy for men, women, and children who were considered traitors to the motherland for their suspected support of Nazi Germany or Poland. Thousands of deportees were murdered by NKVD special troops or died in transit. Crimean and Chechen historians estimate that one-third of those deported died in transit or in their first year of exile. Lavrenty Beria rewarded his officers responsible for the deportations: in 1944, 413 NKVD officers received decorations for their role in the deportation of Chechen and Ingush peoples.
   Following the war, most of the Ukrainians and Lithuanians returned from exile. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus were “forgiven” and allowed to return to their mountain homes. For the Volga German and Crimean Tatars, forgiveness was not immediately forthcoming, and most remained in exile until the 1980s. Today, the majority of Volga Germans and Koreans continue to live in Kazakhstan. For the Chechens, memory of exile and their hatred of Russian occupation spurred resistance to Moscow in the two Chechen wars of the late 1990s.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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