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Video: How the "cannibal island" appeared in the USSR
2023 Author: Seth Attwood | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 22:42
In May 1933, more than six thousand repressed were disembarked from barges on a small uninhabited island on the Siberian Ob River. Under the constant supervision of guards, these so-called "socially harmful and declassed elements" of Soviet society were waiting to be sent further east to be accommodated in special labor settlements.
For almost a month, people were abandoned on a small piece of land with practically no food. It took very little time for some of them to cross the line and begin to eat their fellows in misfortune …
It all began with the revival of the passport system in the Soviet Union, abolished after the 1917 revolution. The Bolshevik leadership then deliberately abandoned passports as a means of controlling the movement of the population within the country. It was believed that a Soviet person can live and work wherever he deems it necessary.
In fact, it turned out that the masses of peasants, having experienced all the hardships of Soviet economic policy (the fight against wealthy peasants and private property, the creation of collective farms, etc.), flocked to the cities in search of a better life. This, in turn, created there an acute shortage of free real estate, which is so necessary for the placement of the main support of power - the proletariat.
It was the workers who became the bulk of the population, which from the end of 1932 began to actively issue passports. The peasantry (with rare exceptions) did not have the right to them (until 1974!).
Along with the introduction of the passport system in large cities of the country, a cleanup was carried out from "illegal immigrants" who did not have documents, and therefore the right to be there. In addition to the peasants, all kinds of "anti-Soviet" and "declassed elements" were detained. These included speculators, vagabonds, beggars, beggars, prostitutes, former priests and other categories of the population not engaged in socially useful labor. Their property (if any) was requisitioned, and they themselves were sent to special settlements in Siberia, where they could work for the good of the state.
The country's leadership believed that it was killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, it cleans the cities of alien and hostile elements, on the other hand, it populates the almost deserted Siberia.
The police officers and the OGPU state security service carried out passport raids so zealously that, without ceremony, they detained on the street even those who received passports, but did not have them in their hands at the time of the check. Among the "violators" could be a student on his way to visit relatives, or a bus driver who left home for cigarettes. Even the head of one of the Moscow police departments and both sons of the prosecutor of the city of Tomsk were arrested. The father managed to quickly rescue them, but not all of those taken by mistake had high-ranking relatives.
The "violators of the passport regime" were not satisfied with thorough checks. Almost immediately they were found guilty and prepared to be sent to labor settlements in the east of the country. A special tragedy of the situation was added by the fact that recidivist criminals who were subject to deportation in connection with the unloading of places of detention in the European part of the USSR were also sent to Siberia.
The sad story of one of the first parties of these forced migrants, known as the Nazinskaya tragedy, has become widely known.
More than six thousand people were disembarked in May 1933 from barges on a small deserted island on the Ob River near the village of Nazino in Siberia. It was supposed to become their temporary refuge while the issues with their new permanent residence in special settlements were being resolved, since they were not ready to accept such a large number of repressed.
The people were dressed in what the police had detained them in on the streets of Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg). They did not have bedding or any tools to make a temporary home for themselves.
On the second day, the wind picked up, and then frost hit, which was soon replaced by rain. Defenseless against the vagaries of nature, the repressed could only sit in front of fires or wander around the island in search of bark and moss - no one took care of food for them. Only on the fourth day they were brought rye flour, which was distributed at several hundred grams per person. Having received these crumbs, people ran to the river, where they made flour in hats, footcloths, jackets and trousers in order to quickly eat this semblance of porridge.
The number of deaths among the special settlers was rapidly going into the hundreds. Hungry and frozen, they either fell asleep right by the fires and burned alive, or died of exhaustion. The number of victims also increased due to the brutality of some of the guards, who beat people with rifle butts. It was impossible to escape from the "island of death" - it was surrounded by machine-gun crews, who immediately shot those who tried.
Isle of Cannibals
The first cases of cannibalism on Nazinsky Island occurred already on the tenth day of the stay of the repressed there. The criminals who were among them crossed the line. Accustomed to surviving in harsh conditions, they formed gangs that terrorized the rest.
Residents of a nearby village became unwitting witnesses to the nightmare that was happening on the island. One peasant woman, who at that time was only thirteen years old, recalled how a beautiful young girl was courted by one of the guards: “When he left, people grabbed the girl, tied her to a tree and stabbed her to death, having eaten everything they could. They were hungry and hungry. Throughout the island, human flesh could be seen ripped, cut, and hung from trees. The meadows were littered with corpses."
"I chose those who are no longer alive, but not yet dead," a certain Uglov, accused of cannibalism, testified later during interrogations: So it will be easier for him to die … Now, right away, not to suffer for another two or three days."
Another resident of the village of Nazino, Theophila Bylina, recalled: “The deportees came to our apartment. Once an old woman from Death-Island also visited us. They drove her by stage … I saw that the old woman's calves were cut off on her legs. To my question, she replied: "It was cut off and fried for me on Death-Island." All the flesh on the calf was cut off. The legs were freezing from this, and the woman wrapped them in rags. She moved on her own. She looked old, but in reality she was in her early 40s."
A month later, hungry, sick and exhausted people, interrupted by rare tiny food rations, were evacuated from the island. However, the disasters for them did not end there. They continued to die in unprepared cold and damp barracks of Siberian special settlements, receiving a meager food there. In total, for the entire time of the long journey, out of six thousand people, just over two thousand survived.
No one outside the region would have known about the tragedy that had happened if it had not been for the initiative of Vasily Velichko, instructor of the Narym District Party Committee. He was sent to one of the special labor settlements in July 1933 to report on how the "declassed elements" are being successfully re-educated, but instead he completely immersed himself in the investigation of what had happened.
Based on the testimony of dozens of survivors, Velichko sent his detailed report to the Kremlin, where he provoked a violent reaction. A special commission that arrived in Nazino conducted a thorough investigation, finding 31 mass graves on the island with 50-70 corpses in each.
More than 80 special settlers and guards were brought to trial. 23 of them were sentenced to capital punishment for "looting and beating", 11 people were shot for cannibalism.
After the end of the investigation, the circumstances of the case were classified, as was the report of Vasily Velichko. He was removed from his position as instructor, but no further sanctions were taken against him. Having become a war correspondent, he went through the entire Second World War and wrote several novels about the socialist transformations in Siberia, but he never dared to write about the "island of death".
The general public learned about the Nazin tragedy only in the late 1980s, on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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