Raising quotas during the Great Terror | Russia's Necropolis of Terror and the Gulag

Raising quotas during the Great Terror

As demonstrated in detail in Karelia (see The Great Terror in Karelia) the ever-increasing arrests and executions were prompted by requests from below for larger and larger quotas.

This document from the Bukovsky Archives [1] gives a glimpse of one moment in that process, when the central authorities increased quotas for arrest and execution across the Soviet Union. (Note: at this time in addition to the national republics much of the country, especially Soviet Russia, was composed of enormous administrative areas, e.g., The Northern Krai, The Far Eastern Krai, that were soon to be divided into their present constituent Regions and Republics.)


Dealing with “Anti-Soviet Elements” (31 January 1938)

 The Politburo accepts NKVD request to increase quotas for 1st category arrests (executions) and 2nd category arrests in 22 Republics and Regions across the USSR. [Russian: 31 January 1938, Pb 57-48] total 2 pp.

[page one of two]

Return within 24 hours to the Central Committee Special Sector


(From Special File)

CENTRAL COMMITTEEof the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)

Pb 57/48

[?31 January] 1938

To Comrade Yezhov, all pages; [individually] to the relevant Regional and National Committees of Communist Parties

Abstract from the Minutes of meeting No 57 of the Politburo of the VKP (b) Central Committee

 Resolution of 31 January 1938

48. Concerning Anti-Soviet elements

1. Adopt the proposal of the USSR NKVD to confirm additional acts of repression [2] against former kulaks, criminals and active anti-Soviet elements for the following Regions and Republics:

    Armenian SSR – 1,000 persons - 1st category & 1,000 - 2nd category

    Belorussian SSR – 1,500 - in 1st category [2]

    Ukrainian SSR – 6,000 - in 1st category [2]

    Georgian SSR – 1,500 - in 1st category

    Azerbaijani SSR – 2,000 - 1st category

    Turkmen SSR – 1,000 - 1st category

    Kirgiz SSR – 500 - 1st category

    Tadjik SSR – 1,000 - 1st category & 500 - 2nd category

    Uzbek SSR – 2,000 - 1st category & 500 - 2nd category

    Far East Region – 8,000 - 1st category & 2,000 - 2nd category

    Chita Region – 1,500 - 1st category & 500 - 2nd category

    Buryat-Mongol Region – 500 - 1st category

    Irkutsk Region – 3,000 - 1st category & 500 - 2nd category

    Krasnoyarsk Region – 1,500 - 1st category & 500 - 2nd category

    Novosibirsk Region – 1,000 - 1st category

    Omsk Region – 3,000 - 1st category [2]

    Altai Region – 2,000 - 1st category & 1,000 - 2nd category

    Leningrad Region – 3,000 - 1st category

    Karelian ASSR – 500 - 1st category & 200 - 2nd category

    Kalinin Region – 1,500 - 1st category & 500 - 2nd category

    Moscow Region – 1,000 - 1st category

    Sverdlovsk Region – 2,000 - 1st category

(see next page)  

[page two]

Workers of All Lands, Unite!


(Special File)

Must be returned

CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)

page 2


Item No. [48] of [57th] meeting of the Politburo, dated [31 January] 19 [38]


2. Propose that the USSR NKVD carry out the entire operation, but that the above-mentioned Regions and Republics complete no later than 15 March 1938, and the Far Eastern Region no later than 1 April 1938.

3. In accordance with this Resolution prolong the work of troikas [3] examining the cases of former kulaks, criminals and anti-Soviet elements in the Regions and Republics listed in item 1.

In all other Regions and Republics the work of the troikas will end no later than 15 February 1938, having finished and examined all cases within the quotas established for these Regions and Republics.



[1] Veteran dissident Vladimir Bukovsky gained access to this and other classified documents in the early 1990s, made copies of them and brought them to the West. Subsequently they were put online by Memorial and acquired by Western archives such as the Hoover Institution.

[2] Subsequently, the NKVD in the Republics, or the local Party bosses, would ask for yet further increases in their quotas, as other documents in the Bukovsky Archive show: in the Gorky Region, in Ukraine, the Omsk Region and Belorussia. See, for example, 4 February 1938* (No 95/111), 17 February 1938* (Pb 58/57), 10 May 1938 (Pb 61) and 17 July 1938.

[3] The troika was a local extra-judicial, three-man tribunal (with representatives, typically, from the Party, the NKVD and the Procurator’s Office) that rubber-stamped lists of those already condemned to imprisonment or execution.

[4] In Karelia (northwest Russia) in the 1990s Ivan Chukhin and his assistant Yury Dmitriev gained access to the NKVD execution lists and were able, by painstaking and persistent effort, to establish who was killed, when and where, in the republic during the Great Terror.


1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];

2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;

3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been insertedin a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.

Translated and annotated by John Crowfoot

Raising quotas during the Great Terror