Operation North

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Operation North (Russian: Операция "Север") was the code name assigned by the USSR Ministry of State Security[1] to massive deportation of Jehovah's Witnesses[2] and their families to Siberia in the Soviet Union on 1–2 April 1951.[3][4][5][6]


There were almost no Jehovah's Witnesses in the Soviet Union until its annexation of the Baltic States, Western Belarus, Western Ukraine, Bessarabia, and Northern Bukovina; most of them were located in the Moldavian SSR and Ukrainian SSR. Jehovah's Witnesses came into the conflict with the Soviet power, primarily because of their refusal to join the military.[4] Their teachings were soon regarded as anti-Soviet. Members of religious groups, mostly Jehovah's Witnesses, qualified as religious elements considered a potential danger for the communist regime.[7][8] In November 1950, Viktor Abakumov reported an idea to Stalin about their deportation, and Stalin suggested to plan this for March–April 1951.[3]


On February 19, 1951, Abakumov delivered a secret notice[9] to Stalin, detailing plans for the deportations of Jehovah's Witnesses to Tomsk Oblast and Irkutsk Oblast. It said, in particular, that during 1947-1950, 1048 Jehovah's Witnesses leaders and activists had been arrested, 5 underground print houses had been uncovered, and large amounts of printed matter confiscated. The deportees were permitted to take a maximum of 150 kilograms of property; the remaining property was to be confiscated "to cover the obligations of the deportees before the state".[4] Abakumov's notice listed the following planned numbers of deportees:[10]

On March 3, 1951, the USSR Council of Ministers issued the corresponding decree (no. 667-339ss[11]), followed by an order of the Ministry of State Security (no. 00193[11]) of March 5, 1951. On March 24, the Moldavian SSR Council of Ministers issued the decree on the confiscation and selling of the property of the deportees. Operation North started at 4 a.m. on April 1, 1951, and round-ups ended on April 2. The deportees were classified as "special settlers".[3] From the Moldavian SSR, there were 2,617 persons (723 families) deported on the night of March 31 to April 1, 1951.[12][13][7][8] In total, 9,389 persons were deported from the whole country.[citation needed][11]

Amnesty and exculpation

On September 30, 1965, a decree (no. 4020-1U[11]) of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers cancelled the "special settlement" restriction for members of the four deported religious groups and their family members. However, this decree signed by Anastas Mikoyan stated that there would be no compensation for the confiscated property, and that return to their previous places of residence was subject to the approval of the local administrations. Though released, Jehovah's Witnesses remained the subject of legal persecution due to their ideology classified as anti-Soviet. The organization was legalized in the Soviet Union in 1991. The deported and convicted Jehovah's Withesses (and other religion-related convicts) were rehabilitated as victims of Soviet political repressions by the ukase no. 378 of President of the Russian Federation of March 3, 1996, "On the Measures for Rehabilitation of the Priests and Believers who had become Victims of Unjustified Repressions" (О мерах по реабилитации священнослужителей и верующих, ставших жертвами необоснованных репрессий).[4][11]

Notable deportees

See also

References and notes

  1. "Operation North" (Russian)
  2. In Soviet documents the group was often called Jehovists. Pavel Polyan in the footnotes to his book Against Their Will notices that the Soviets were probably unaware of another Russian religious group with the same name in Russian
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Валерий Пасат ."Трудные страницы истории Молдовы (1940-1950)". Москва: Изд. Terra, 1994 (Russian)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Christian Believers Were Persecuted by All Totalitarian Regimes" Prava Lyudini ("Rights of a Person"), the newspaper of a Ukrainian human rights organization, Kharkiv, December 2001 (Russian)
  5. Charles King, The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture, Hoover Institution Press, 2000, p.96
  6. "50th Anniversary of the Operation North", Bulletin #23, 2001, of the Memorial Society (Russian)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Comisia Prezidenţială pentru Analiza Dictaturii Comuniste din România: Raport Final / ed.: Vladimir Tismăneanu, Dorin Dobrincu, Cristian Vasile, Bucureşti: Humanitas, 2007, ISBN 978-973-50-1836-8, p. 754 (Romanian)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Elena Şişcanu, Basarabia sub ergimul bolşevic (1940-1952), Bucureşti, Ed. Semne, 1998, p.111 (Romanian)
  9. titled Записка МГБ СССР "О необходимости выселения из западных областей Украины и Белоруссии, Молдавской, Латвийской, Литовской и Эстонской ССР участников антисоветской секты иеговистов и членов их семей".
  10. "Recalling Operation North", by Vitali Kamyshev, "Русская мысль", Париж, N 4363, 26 April 2001 (Russian)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 "A Survey of Judicial Practice of the Jehovah's Witnesses Cases", G.A.Krylova
  12. Charles King, The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture, p. 96
  13. Andrei Brezianu and Vlad Spânu, The A to Z of Moldova, p. 118