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« Tuna 1 / 2017

The Families of “Exploiters” and “Enemies of the People” in the Fetters of the Soviet Regime

According to the platform of the Russian Communist (Bolshevist) Party passed in 1919, the nature of every kind of state is founded on class until classes are done away with. All manner of measures, including violence, were permissible in the struggle against the bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union. Class struggle was not at all limited to doing away with private property alone, rather it also extended to the persecution of so called exploiters and their descendents or ohter relatives. Representatives of the bourgeois class had to be replaced in the Soviet Union with ideologically trustworthy people of suitable social origin. These were not merely theoretical principles of the Comintern, they were practical precepts. Background checks were employed in institutions to ascertain people’s social origin, and personnel departments were formed for this purpose. When applying for a job, financial support, a permit, or in order to enrol at an educational institution, applicants had to fill out a comprehensive form concerning themselves and their relatives, and they were warned not to submit inaccurate information. Yet even the “confession of the sins” of people close to the applicant was not necessarily of any help. Quite often, being related to an “enemy of the people” brought fateful consequences and the desired job or education was denied.

After Stalin’s death, indirect repression grounded on the pretext of class struggle became milder and more covert, yet never really disappeared until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The many variations of forms that still had to be filled out were no longer as detailed, yet even in the latter half of the 1980’s, applicants still had to list their foreign relatives living both in Estonia and abroad in order to visit a foreign country or to apply for a permit to travel abroad. At the same time, for instance, the arrest of the applicant’s father for political reasons at some time in the past was no longer necessarily a factor preventing the applicant from travelling.