In 1962 workers, from the Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Works (NEVZ), marched on the Communist Headquarters in Novocherkassk in protest of Khrushchev’s passing of legislation that would double the prices for meat and dairy products. The march on the headquarters turned into a labor strike consisting of thousands of laborers that were displeased with the new prices for these goods for multiple reasons. NEVZ workers were the strongest crowd at the strike since they have been overworked recently since their factory began competing in a socialist competition, where they received no extra benefits or compensation for the extra work. Secondly, it is rumored that their factory manager was over heard saying something along the lines that he could care less about the workers not being able to feed themselves. When the protesters refused to disperse and heed the Soviet Army’s request one of the generals ordered his troops to fire their guns into the crowd. The shooting resulted in 24 deaths, dozens injured, and the arrest of over 100 strikers for causing disorder and committing banditry. Many of those charged with these crimes were exiled to Siberia.
Although one would think news of an atrocity like this would spread rather quickly to other nations and peoples, the Soviets managed to keep the major details and events secret until 1988, when close to two dozen bodies were found and ultimately connected to the massacre of ’62. Once the discovery occurred, a Soviet newspaper acquired classified documents on the event and published an article revealing the true events that took place.
Part of the reason the Soviets were able to keep this event under wraps for so long was because they quickly and quietly buried the bodies of those killed and immediately shut down a second attempt at protest the next day. Another important aspect of its secrecy was that Soviet authority grew concerned about the proletariat taking the upper hand, and in response, quickly organized themselves with the help of some Politburo members, executives in the communist party, who flew in the next day to Novocherkassk to assess the situation and stabilize it.
As our progression through 20th Century Russian History continues, it becomes more and more evident that the Soviets were able to hide the majority of human rights violations and oppressive actions quite effectively. Many of the truths of Soviet massacres and abuses were kept secret up until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although other countries had ideas as to what was happening, the Soviets were able to keep many of the major details and evidence hidden from external eyes. By successfully doing this, the Soviets were able to maintain friendly ties with other communist nations on the eastern bloc that they had annexed or aligned themselves with and, most importantly, maintain favorable relations with citizens throughout the Soviet Union by preventing the spread of this information domestically as well. I feel that if a decent amount of this information got out, not only would there be a call for a large scale rebel movement, but other communist nations that the Soviets associated with may cut ties with the Kremlin and instead, support the proletarians movement for social, economic, and political reform in the S.U.
3 thoughts on “The Novocherkassk Massacre, 1962”
It is truly astonishing that the murders of innocent people in the streets can simply be covered up for 25 years. It is scary how much control the Soviet government must have had over all realms of society in order to keep something this horrific from the world when there must have been thousands of witnesses. Worse yet is the idea that if something like this could be covered up for so long, how many other incidents along these lines may have occurred that we may never find out about.
This was really interesting to read, I wasn’t aware there had been a government sanctioned massacre of Soviet citizens this recently. It seems like the Soviet government is always full of new and surprising human rights violations, there seem to be government sanctioned/ordered massacres for each decade we read about. It seems like if this had gotten leaked at that time there probably would have been significant international backlash, not only from other Eastern Bloc Communist nations but also from the West since the 60’s ended up developing into a decade of civil rights movements and the US assumed the role of “world police” during this time.
This was a really great read! I learned something new about the Soviets. I definitely knew they were the masters of coverups, but it is hard to believe that they managed to hide killing 24 of their own citizens for over 20 years. How did the government deal with the family and friends of those killed?