From Bad to Worse: Stalinist Policy in the Kresy to 1935

Reading through chapters 3-5 of “A Bureaucracy of No Place”, it quickly becomes clear to the reader that the Soviet bureaucracy’s handling of the Kresy zone was wildly inconsistent and seemed to have only made things worse with every measure it took. Economically, the issues started with the New Economic Plan, where (among other issues) peasants found that they were having an immense amount of difficulty producing enough crops to support themselves. The economic issues were further compounded by the Soviet crash implementation of mass collectivization, which produced an immense amount of pressure on the peasants. Conditions got so bad that this region eventually went into a state of open revolt against the Soviet government. The fallout from this debacle earned the Soviet authorities the resentment of many of the border peoples, which they responded to initially by imprisoning many suspected “nationalists” and “foreign agents” before settling on the mass deportation of ethnic Poles and Germans to other parts of the Soviet Union.

What really struck me while reading this section of the book was simply how inconsistent and uncoordinated the Soviet administration was during this episode. This can be seen in instances such as the logistical difficulties Zborovskii faced while overseeing the deportations, which were the result of poor upper level communication and administration. One other particularly bizarre example was a section of the main Soviet Presidium declaring the scattered Polish cultural measures a rousing success and ordering more teachers into the Kresy. The situation became even stranger when 40% of those teachers were arrested by the Ukrainian NKVD on charges of “nationalist activity”.

All in all, this whole affair was a debacle for the Soviet government, and is an accurate reflection of the atmosphere of paranoia and inconsistency that dominated Soviet thinking during this time.

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