De-Stalinization of the Gulags


One major step that was taken during the “De-Stalinization” period was to grant amnesty to the many people who were thrown into the Gulag during Stalin’s dictatorship.  On March 27, 1953 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR granted amnesty to “…persons sentenced for up to five years, those convicted of economic and military crimes regardless of their terms of imprisonment, women with children under 10 years of age or who were pregnant, juveniles up to age 18, men over 55 years of age and women over 50 years of age, and convicts suffering from incurable diseases.” This act could be seen as a throwback to older Russian traditions where the death of the tsar or the ending of a war would permit granting amnesty to prisoners and as a result of this act over 1.5 million prisoners would be released from the gulags.  It did take a while for these people who had just been imprisoned (many of which were imprisoned unjustly) for many years to work their way back into society and carry on normal lives.

Khrushchev’s secret speech helped in speeding up the rehabilitation process by making sure that prisoners were properly rehabilitated and integrated back into Soviet society so they could go on to be productive members of society once more. Though, it took much time for the prisoners to be integrated back into society (though many would never be fully integrated again) many were still able to go on and live a somewhat normal life.  However, this event just goes to show how brutal and unjust the state was in their accusations and imprisonment of so many people, many of which were completely innocent.  Of course one thing that this amnesty fails to address is all of those who died in the gulags and would never get a chance to live a normal life.

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2 thoughts on “De-Stalinization of the Gulags

  1. This post really makes one think about the repercussions of leadership. Stalin was responsible for sending thousands upon thousands of people to prison. His death shows how quickly people tend to reject what was once the norm. Without the fear of Stalin, people were more willing to undo what was previously allowed despite moral dilemmas. The amnesty granted shows how the new leadership aimed to correct past wrongs, but with most circumstances you cannot undo everything. The ability to pay back those who died due to unjust crimes was too great. The impossibility of correcting these wrongs can only be counteracted by the measures taken on to rehabilitate prisoners. By taking this step and time, Khrushchev would lead the country to continue productivity and growth in the 1950s.

  2. This “De- Stalinization” shows just how damaged and oppressed Russians were during Stalin’s rule. The initiative by the new Soviet leadership to re-integrate these prisoners into Soviet life illustrates the turning point in USSR domestic policy after Stalin. It is interesting to wonder how this massive ‘correction’ may have changed the course of the Soviet Union demographically and economically.

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