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In what cases did the triple courts of the NKVD pass acquittals?
In what cases did the triple courts of the NKVD pass acquittals?

Those who are interested in Soviet history know that different periods have happened throughout its course. Most evoke patriotic pride. However, there are those who would forever like to erase not only from memory, but also to remove them altogether, turning the wheel of this very story in the other direction. One of these is a time span of a little over a year - the period of existence of the infamous "triple-ships" of the NKVD.

The history of the appearance of "triple ships" of the NKVD

At the end of July 1937, the then People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR Nikolai Yezhov signed operational decree No. 00447, which became an indirect death sentence for thousands of innocent citizens of the young country of Soviets. According to this document, on the ground, it was envisaged to create regional "troikas" of the NKVD - a body for out-of-court consideration of cases. As was typical of that time period of Soviet history, the decree began to be executed immediately and with special zeal. The first "execution" sentences were passed by the "troika" courts in early August 1937.

Molotov, Stalin and Yezhov. 1937 year

The main task set by the leadership of the NKVD before the troikas was to speed up the entire trial - from raising suspicion to announcing the verdict. Moreover, these courts were empowered to either send people to prisons and camps for a period of 8-10 years, or to pass death sentences. The decree on the creation of “extrajudicial instances” of the NKVD, signed by Yezhov on July 30, 1937, also stipulated the composition of the “troikas”.

This "collegium" must necessarily include: the head of the NKVD department of the USSR in the subject (republic, territory, region), the secretary of the regional committee of the CPSU (b), as well as the local prosecutor. The presence of the secretary of the regional committee and an employee of the prosecutor's office, as conceived by the authors of the creation of the "troikas", was obliged to ensure that all sentences passed by this extrajudicial body of justice would be fair and impartial. And it was in this respect that something went wrong as a result.

Fast trial and short sentence

According to Yezhov's order, an operation to repress criminals, kulaks and “other anti-Soviet elements” began in the country from the beginning of August 1937. However, if you carefully examine the document itself, you can understand that this decree from the very beginning could not be an incentive for prompt, but at the same time fair trials. After all, “quotas” were already spelled out in it: how many people in a given subject of the Union should be repressed and sent to camps or prisons, and how many “enemies of the people” should be shot.

Soviet poster of 1937

From the first days of their existence, the entire process of considering cases by the "triple courts" of the NKVD was truly "put on stream." And the productivity of these non-judicial instances was simply amazing: an average of 100-120 convictions were handed down by threes every day.

Among the "Yezhov's triplets" were also their absolute "record holders". So, at the beginning of 1938, in the West Siberian Territory, in one night alone, the local "troika", which sat in Novosibirsk, issued 1,221 guilty verdicts. Moreover, according to the declassified archival documents, most of these sentences were “execution”.

Court yes business

As historians note, at the very peak of their activity, the "triple courts" acted according to a very well-oiled scheme. First, the so-called “summons” was going to the future accused. She represented something like an album with the name and biography of the suspect, which contained photographs of this citizen and, in fact, “case materials”. Most of these were denunciations - most often unverified and absolutely unconfirmed.

"Troika" of the NKVD

It was this album that was submitted for consideration by the “triple court of the NKVD”. The very same procedure has been simplified to the maximum. Neither the accused nor his lawyer was present at the trial. Everything was done quickly and easily. At the very beginning, the secretary read out a ready-made indictment. At the same time, quite often, due to “lack of time” or “a large volume of cases that cannot be delayed,” the accusation itself was not even read out. Then the "troika" began to discuss the degree of guilt of the accused (who was found guilty in almost 99% of cases). After that, the “non-judicial assessors” determined the degree of punishment that the guilty person was obliged to incur.

At this stage, due to the fact that the list of sentences was not diversified, the "troika" also did not stop for a long time - the convict could go (if he was lucky) either to the "second category" - a labor camp or prison, or to the first - execution. The sentences were carried out on the same day. Naturally, they were not subject to any appeal.

Shooting was one of the most common sentences for "anti-Soviet elements"

The entire trial in each case lasted an average of 5-10 minutes. At the same time, proceeding from the provision of the decree, execution sentences were obliged to be carried out with full safety in the strictest secrecy "both of the time and place of their execution." Thus, thousands of people simply disappeared without a trace. Those relatives who tried to find out at least some information and knocked down the thresholds of the militia were answered briefly and extremely simply: “does not appear on prison lists”.

When the NKVD Troika Courts acquitted the accused

And yet not everyone who played the role of an accused in the "triple-court" of the NKVD was repressed or shot. There were cases when the defendants in the cases were fully acquitted. However, this did not mean that the members of the "triplets" diligently studied the case, or found the real perpetrators of this or that crime during the trial. In fact, the accused could escape from repression or execution only in two cases - because of bureaucratic mistakes or haste in "concocting" the case.

Soviet court announces the verdict

Sometimes in the “summons” certain information or personal data of the accused were frankly inaccurate. Some particularly meticulous secretaries or prosecutors simply could not close their eyes to such "bloopers". In such cases, quite often the dubious cases of the "troika" were redirected to ordinary courts. And the accused had very good chances to get an acquittal in these courts (especially if the case was openly “sewn with white thread”).

In some cases, the "troikas" themselves acquitted the suspects. However, this happened very, very rarely. According to one of the declassified certificates of the 1st special department of the NKVD, in the period from October 1, 1937 to November 1, 1938, 702 thousand 656 people were arrested in the USSR in the order of execution of "Yezhov's order" No. 00447. Of all the sentences handed down to these citizens, about 0.03% were acquitted. This means that for every 10 thousand convicts, only 3 people could count on the leniency of the “NKVD Themis”.

An end to extrajudicial arbitrariness

Fortunately for the citizens of the USSR, the “extrajudicial system” existed in the country for a short time. Already in January 1938, the first reports began to fall on Stalin's table that Yezhov's idea of ​​promptly identifying, trial and liquidating “anti-Soviet elements” had failed and led to mass outrage.On the initiative of the leader, large-scale checks began in all subjects of the Union, which revealed terrible details of the activities of the "troikas".

Stalin was the initiator of inspections of the activities of the "troikas" of the NKVD

Since April 1938, state inspections have resulted in the arrests, first of rank-and-file employees of the NKVD, and later of the leadership of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs. The "repressive machine" also reached one of its ideologists, Nikolai Yezhov. Already at the end of November 1938, Lavrenty Beria was appointed head of the NKVD. It was he who, by his decree, finally liquidated the notorious "triple courts".

It is noteworthy that 15 years later, in November 1953, Beria himself was convicted and sentenced to death at a secret court hearing similar to "troikas". The only difference is that he himself was present at the hearings in his case. And the verdict was announced not 5 minutes after the start of the trial, but 5 days later. Although, as in the case with the "triple-court", Lavrenty Pavlovich could not appeal against it either.

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