The deportations of 25 March 1949

The deportations of 25 March 1949
In autumn 1948 the USSR leadership started to prepare for mass deportations in the western republics in order to implement the collectivisation of agriculture and to eliminate the support base for the national partisans, i.e. the well-to-do farmers. On 29 January 1949 the USSR Council of Ministers issued a secret decree that identified two deportee categories – „kulak" families and „nationalist" families. „Kulaks" were deemed to be those well-to-do farmers who, prior to the Soviet occupation, had owned more than 30 ha land and who had used hired help. „Nationalists" were former partisans, supporters of partisans, and relatives of those already sentenced.

The planned deportations in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were given the code name „Priboi" (Coastal Surf). The armed forces of the USSR State Security Ministry and the interior and security agencies of the republics were assigned to carry out the deportations.

Starting in February 1949, staff of the State Security Ministry of the Latvian SSR prepared lists and inventories of the families to be deported. They used 1939 national economy data that mostly did not reflect the post-war reality. The lists were approved by chairpersons of the county executive committees. On 17 March 1949 Vilis Lācis, Chairman of the Latvian SSR Council of Ministers, signed the decree to deport 10,000 „kulak" families. The decree to deport the families of partisans and „nationalists" was approved by Alfons Noviks, State Security Minister of the Latvian SSR.

Actual deportations were carried out by groups comprising staff of the State Security Ministry, soldiers, policemen, members of the destroyer battalions, and local Soviet activists. A group would arrive at the home of those to be deported and order them to be ready in one hour. In theory each family was allowed to bring with them 1,500 kg of belongings and food. All other property was confiscated. Many did not take the full weight allowed. Others were deported from schools and work places. The deportees were transported to a railway station and put in freight cars.

In contrast to the 14 June 1941 deportations, people this time were morally better prepared. Some expected to be deported all the post-war years. Others prepared themselves when rumours spread in spring 1949. A significant number of people went into hiding, becoming illegals, and even joining the national partisans. In cases where the family to be deported was not at the specified address, the arresters often deported neighbours who were not on the deportation lists. This time it was important to fulfil the plan and deport the specified number of families.

In the 25 March 1949 deportations men were not separated from women and children, but all were sent to forced resettlement locations in the Omsk, Tomsk and Amur Regions. Upon arrival at the places of forced resettlement, the deportees were told that they had been deported for life. Nevertheless,  after the death of Stalin the deportees were gradually released and were able to return to Latvia in the second half of the 1950s.