Operations - NKVD (Soviet Union), People's Commisariat for Internal Affairs, Narodny Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del.
Repressions and executions
Implementing Soviet internal politics with respect to perceived enemies of the state ("enemies of the people"), the agency conducted arrests and executions of Soviet and foreign citizens. Millions were rounded up and sent to GULAG camps and hundreds of thousands were executed by the NKVD. Formally, most of these people were convicted by NKVD troikas ("triplets") - special courts martial. Evidential standards were very low; a tip off by an anonymous informer was considered sufficient grounds for arrest. Usage of "physical means of persuasion" (torture) was sanctioned by a special decree of the state, which opened the door to numerous abuses, documented in recollections of victims and members of the NKVD itself. Hundreds of mass graves resulting from such operations were later discovered throughout the country. Documented evidence exists that the NKVD committed mass extrajudicial executions, guided by secret "plans". Those plans established the number and proportion of victims (officially "public enemies") in a given region (e.g. the quotas for clergy, former nobles etc., regardless of identity). The families of the repressed, including children, were also automatically repressed according to NKVD Order no. 00486.
The purges were organized in a number of waves according to the decisions of the Politburo of the Communist Party (e.g. the campaigns among engineers ("Shakhty Case"), party and military elite ("fascist plots"), and medical staff ("Doctors Plot"). Distinctive and permanent purging campaigns were conducted against non-Russian nationalities (including Ukrainians, Tatars, Germans and many others, who were accused of "bourgeois nationalism", "fascism", etc.) and religious activists. A number of mass operations of the NKVD were related to the prosecution of whole ethnic categories. Whole populations of certain ethnicities were forcibly resettled. Despite this, it is important to note that Russians still formed the majority of NKVD victims.
NKVD agents became not only executioners, but also one of the largest groups of victims. The majority of 1930s agency staff (hundreds of thousands), including all commanders, were executed.
During the Spanish Civil War, NKVD agents, acting in conjunction with the Communist Party of Spain, exercised substantial control over the Republican government, using Soviet military aid to help further Soviet influence. The NKVD established numerous secret prisons around Madrid, which were used to detain, torture and kill hundreds of the NKVD's enemies. In June 1937, Andres Nin, the secretary of the anti-Stalinist POUM, was tortured and killed in an NKVD prison. Cooperation of NKVD and Gestapo: In March 1940 representatives of NKVD and Gestapo meet for one week in Zakopane, for the coordination of the pacification of resistance in Poland. The Soviet Union delivered hundreds of German and Austrian communists to Gestapo, as unwanted foreigners, together with their documents.
During World War II, NKVD units were used for rear area security, including stopping desertion. In liberated territory, the NKVD and later NKGB carried out mass arrests, deportations and executions, including prosecutions of anti-Nazi resistance movements like the Polish Armia Krajowa. They were also responsible for executing thousands of Polish politicial prisoners.
The NKVD's intelligence and special operations (Inostrannyi Otdel) unit organized overseas assassinations of ex-Soviet citizens and foreigners who were regarded as enemies of the USSR by Joseph Stalin. Among the officially confirmed victims of such plots were:
Leon Trotsky - a personal political enemy of Joseph Stalin and his most bitter international critic;
Boris Savinkov - Russian revolutionary and terrorist (Trust Operation of the GPU);
Yevhen Konovalets - prominent Ukrainian political and military leader.
Guy Leland - French Anti-Soviet underground poet
After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev began a campaign against the NKVD purges. Between the 1950s and 1980s, thousands of victims were legally "rehabilitated" (i.e. acquitted and had their rights restored). Many of the victims and their relatives refused to apply for rehabilitation due to fear or lack of documents. Still, the rehabilitation was ineffective: in most cases the formulation was "due to lack of evidence of the case of crime", a Soviet legal jargon that effectively said "there was a crime, but unfortunately we cannot prove it". Only a limited number of persons were rehabilitated with the formulation "cleared of all charges".
Very few NKVD agents were ever officially convicted of the particular violation of anybody's rights. Legally, those agents executed in the 1930s were also "purged" without legitimate criminal investigation and court decision. In the 1990s and 2000s, a small number of ex-NKVD agents living in the Baltic states were convicted of crimes against the local population.
At present, living former agents receive generous pensions and privileges established by the government of the USSR and later confirmed by all the CIS countries. They are not persecuted in any way, although some have been identified by their victims.
Establishment of a widespread spy network within the Comintern;
Successful infiltration of Richard Sorge, the "Red Orchestra" and other agents who alerted Stalin of the forthcoming Nazi invasion of the USSR and later assisted the Red Army during World War II;
Recruitment of dozens of other agents who showed their worth in the Cold War intelligence operations of the MGB-KGB;
Spying the nuclear-bomb activities of the US and Great Britain (Project Manhattan)
Averting of several confirmed plots to assassinate Joseph Stalin.
The NKVD and the Soviet economy
The extensive system of labor exploitation in the Gulag made a notable contribution to the Soviet economy and the development of remote areas. Colonization of Siberia, the North and Far East was among the explicitly stated goals in the very first laws concerning Soviet labor camps. Mining, construction works (roads, railways, canals, dams, and factories), logging, and other functions of the labor camps were part of the Soviet planned economy, and the NKVD had its own production plans.
The most unusual part of the NKVD's achievements was its role in Soviet scientific and arms development. Many researchers and engineers which were arrested and tried for political crimes, were placed in privileged prisons (much more comfortable than GULAG), which were colloquially known as sharashkas, where they were forced to work within their speciality. Continuing their studies there and later released, some of them became world leaders in science and technology. Among such sharashka members were Sergey Korolev, the head designer of the Soviet rocket program and first human space flight mission in 1961, and Andrei Tupolev, the famous airplane designer.
After the world war NKVD coordinated work on Soviet nuclear weaponry, under the direction of General Pavel Sudoplatov. Scientists were not prisoners, but the work was coordinated by NKVD because it was closely connected with intelligence service and it was needed to ensure security and secrecy of the works.