KGB Documents

Persecution and repression

One of the most significant changes in the repressive policy after 1954 was a refusal of mass repressions. They became selective, that is, the punishment was imposed for specific activities provided for in the Criminal Code. Now it was important not to use terror but allow the public to understand that the punishment will be imposed for the activities directed against the authorities, and to seek that the public should constantly feel fair. Repressions were resorted to only when, having assessed dangerousness of a specific anti-Soviet activity, the measures adopted – the possibility to use the person for agency campaigns, against the like-minded and others (prophylaxis, official warning issued by the KGB and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, dismissal, expulsion from the educational institution, smear and defamation campaigns and other) – were of no use. Arrests and trials were avoided due to other reasons as well. The authorities sought to avoid attention and did not want society to extol the detained person, that his/her image as a martyr that could encourage others to follow him/her should be created.  Moreover, the authorities understood that imprisonment was no longer an effective punishment because it did not deter people from the anti-Soviet activities: the most active dissidents, priests, after serving their sentence, became engaged in these activities again. Besides, both the authorities and the KGB saw that often it was simply difficult to adapt an Article of the Criminal Code to a certain activity because it was sought to act in legal forms. This made the work of the KGB more difficult, made it expand the judicial base and look for other methods. Since the Soviet authorities sought to avoid public anti-Soviet campaigns which discredited it, the KGB, respectively, was inclined to impose a more severe punishment for the organised public anti-Soviet activity. Attempts were made to avoid instituting legal proceedings in respect of political resistance because it was stated that there were no political prisoners in the USSR.

Since, according to Nikita Khrushchev, there were no political prisoners in the USSR, repressive structures resorted to new tactic: criminal accusations were brought against the dissidents – thefts, embezzlement, etc. It was sought to form an impression that they were prosecuted not for their activities or convictions. Furthermore, that was the way to slander, to discredit dissidents and priests, to show that their activities were criminal rather than politically motivated. Thereby such methods the KGB sought to persuade the public that the authorities punished people for committing criminal offences rather than for taking part in the activities of organisations and movements or for defending human rights. The KGB sought to break down resistance of the public to repressions and to create a negative image of defenders of human rights and dissidents showing them as criminal offenders.

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