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Katyn 1943 exhumation. Photo by International Red Cross delegation.

War crimes perpetrated by the armed forces of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1991[citation needed] include acts committed by the Red Army (later called the Soviet Army) as well as the NKVD, including the NKVD's Internal Troops. In some cases, these crimes may have been committed on express orders of the early Soviet government's policy of Red Terror. In other instances, they were committed without orders by regular army troops as retribution against the military or civilian personnel of countries that had been in conflict with – or had invaded – the USSR (for example as revenge for Nazi war crimes), or during partisan warfare.[1]

Many of these incidents occurred in Northern and Eastern Europe before and during World War II, and involved summary executions and mass murder of prisoners of war (such as the Katyn massacre) and mistreatment of civilians in Soviet-occupied territories. Although there are numerous documented cases of such incidents, very few members of the Soviet armed forces (for example, Vassili Kononov), have ever been charged with war crimes and none of them by the International Criminal Court or Soviet or Russian tribunal.


The Soviet Union did not recognize Imperial Russia's signing of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 as binding, and refused to recognize them until 1955.[2] This created a situation in which war crimes by the Soviet armed forces could be eventually rationalized. The Soviet refusal to recognize the Hague Conventions also gave Nazi Germany the rationale for inhuman treatment of captured Soviet military personnel.[3]

Russian Civil War

During the Russian Civil War, an estimated 100,000 Jews perished in pogroms perpetrated by Symon Petlyura's Ukrainian nationalist separatists and the White forces led by Anton Denikin.[4] The only armed force in the Russian Civil War that did not systematically terrorize the Jews was the Red Army of the Soviet government. Jews came to regard the Red Army as their protector; young Jews joined it in order to avenge crimes against their families.[5]

Although early Soviet leaders treated anti-Semitism with "utter contempt"[6] and strong efforts were made by Soviet authorities to contain anti-Jewish bigotry,[6] some Red Army units perpetrated pogroms during the Russian civil war[7][8] and the Soviet-Polish War of 1919–1920, notably at Baranovichi.[9][10][11] These abuses were committed by the Boguny and Tarashchany regiments, which had earlier belonged to Petlyura's Ukrainian nationalist army and had only recently switched sides to join Semyon Budyonny's Red Army forces.[12]

However, only a small number of pogroms are attributed to the Red Army, with the vast majority of 'collectively violent' acts in the period having been committed by anti-Communist and nationalist forces.[13] The pogroms were vigorously condemned by the Red Army high command and guilty units were disarmed, while individual pogromists were court-martialed.[6] Those found guilty were executed.[14][15]

The Red Army and the NKVD

The Red Army often gave support to the NKVD, which had as one of its functions the implementation of political repression. The main function of the NKVD was to protect the state security of the Soviet Union, which was accomplished by large scale political repression of "class enemies". As an internal security force and prison guard contingent of the Gulag, the Internal Troops both repressed political dissidents and engaged in war crimes during periods of military hostilities throughout Soviet history. They were specifically responsible for maintaining the political regime in the Gulag and for conducting mass deportations and forced resettlement. The latter targeted a number of ethnic groups that the Soviet authorities presumed to be hostile to its policies and likely to collaborate with the enemy, including Chechens, Crimean Tatars, and Koreans.

During World War II, series of mass executions were committed by the Soviet NKVD against prisoners in Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, the Baltic states, Romania, Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union as the Red Army withdrew after the German invasion in 1941 (see Operation Barbarossa). The overall death toll is estimated at around 100,000. There were numerous reports of war crimes committed by Soviet armed forces, against captured German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe soldiers from the very beginning of the war, documented in thousands of files of the The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945, an office established in September 1939 to investigate violations of the Hague and Geneva conventions by Germany's enemies. Among the better documented massacres are those at Broniki (June 1941), Feodosiya (December 1941) and Grishino (1943).[16] NKVD Internal Troops were engaged alongside Red Army forces in combat and NKVD units were used for rear area security, including as blocking units. In the occupied territory, the NKVD carried out mass arrests, deportations and executions. The targets included both collaborators with Germany and the members of anti-Communist resistance movements such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in Ukraine, the Forest Brothers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and the Polish Armia Krajowa. The NKVD also conducted the Katyn massacre, summarily executing over 20,000 Polish military officer prisoners in April and May 1940.

After the final repulse of German forces in the Soviet Union, Red Army troops entered Germany, Romania and Hungary in late 1944. Soviet soldiers were by then aware of the German war crimes and often executed surrendering or captured German soldiers in retaliation. There were numerous accounts of war crimes by Soviet armed forces – plunder, the murder of civilians and rape. In both Soviet-era and current Russian history books on the "Great Patriotic War" these war crimes are rarely mentioned.[17][18]

War crimes by Soviet armed forces against civilians and prisoners of war in the territories occupied by the USSR between 1939 and 1941 in regions including the Western Ukraine, the Baltic states and Bessarabia in Romania, along with war crimes in 1944–1945, have been ongoing issues within these countries. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a more systematic, locally-controlled discussion of these events has taken place.[19]

The Soviets deployed mustard gas bombs during the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang. Some civilians were killed by conventional bombs during the invasion.[20][21]

World War II


Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union on August 6, 1940 and renamed the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.[22] In 1941, some 34,000 Estonians were drafted into the Red Army, of whom less than 30% survived the war. No more than half of those men were used for military service, the rest perished in Gulag concentration camps and labour battalions, mainly in the early months of the war.[citation needed] After it became clear that the German invasion of Estonia would be successful, political prisoners who could not be evacuated were executed by the NKVD, so that they would not be able to make contact with the Nazi government.[23] More than 300,000 citizens of Estonia, almost a third of the population at the time, were affected by deportations, arrests, execution and other acts of repression.[24] As a result of the Soviet takeover, Estonia permanently lost at least 200,000 people or 20% of its population to repression, exodus and war.[citation needed]

Soviet political repressions in Estonia were met by an armed resistance by the Forest Brothers, mostly Estonian veterans of the Waffen-SS, Omakaitse militia and volunteers in the Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 who fought a guerrilla war, which was not completely suppressed until the late 1950s.[25] In addition to the expected human and material losses suffered due to the fighting, until its end this conflict led to the deportation of tens of thousands of people, along with hundreds of political prisoners and thousands of civilians lost their lives.[citation needed]

Mass deportations

Tens of thousands of Estonian citizens underwent deportation during the Soviet occupation. Deportations were predominantly to Siberia and Kazakhstan by means of railroad cattle cars, without prior announcement, while deported were given few night hours at best to pack their belongings and separated from their families, usually also sent to the east. The procedure was established by the Serov Instructions. Estonians residing in Leningrad Oblast had already been subjected to deportation since 1935.[26]

Destruction battalions

In 1941, to implement the Stalin's scorched earth policy, destruction battalions were formed in the western regions of the Soviet Union. In Estonia, they killed thousands of people including a large proportion of women and children, while burning down dozens of villages, schools and public buildings. A school boy Tullio Lindsaar had all bones in his hands broken then was bayoneted for hoisting the flag of Estonia. Mauricius Parts, son of the Estonian War of Independence veteran Karl Parts, was doused in acid. In August 1941, all residents of the village of Viru-Kabala were killed including a two-year old child and a six-day old infant. A partisan war broke out in response to the atrocities of the destruction battalions, with tens of thousands of men forming the Forest Brothers to protect the local population from these battalions. Occasionally, the battalions burned people alive.[27] The destruction battalions murdered 1,850 people in Estonia. Almost all of them were partisans or unarmed civilians.[28]

Another example of the destruction battalions' actions is the Kautla massacre, where twenty civilians were murdered and tens of farms destroyed. Many of the people were killed after torture. The low toll of human deaths in comparison with the number of burned farms is due to the Erna long-range reconnaissance group breaking the Red Army blockade on the area, allowing many civilians to escape.[29][30]


Rapes were committed by Red Army forces against women and girls during the Baltic Offensive.[31][need quotation to verify] For example, a mass rape took place after the Battle of Porkuni when Soviet troops encountered a column of fleeing Estonian civilians.[32][need quotation to verify]


Lithuania, and the other Baltic States, fell victim to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. This agreement was signed between the USSR and Nazi Germany in August 1939, leading first to Lithuania being invaded by the Red Army on 15 June 1940 and to its annexation and incorporation into the Soviet Union on 3 August 1940.[33] The Soviet annexation resulted in mass terror, the destruction of civil liberties, the economic system and Lithuanian culture. Between 1940–1941, thousands of Lithuanians were arrested and hundreds of political prisoners were arbitrarily executed. More than 17,000 people were deported to Siberia in June 1941. After the German attack on the Soviet Union, the incipient Soviet political apparatus was either destroyed or retreated eastward. Lithuania was then occupied by Nazi Germany for a little over three years. In 1944, the Soviet occupation of Lithuania resumed following the German army being expelled. Following World War II and the subsequent suppression of the Lithuanian Forest Brothers, Soviet authorities executed thousands of resistance fighters and civilians accused of aiding them. Some 300,000 Lithuanians were deported or sentenced to prison camps on political grounds. It is estimated that Lithuania lost almost 780,000 citizens as a result of Soviet occupation, of which around 440,000 were war refugees.[34]

The estimated death toll in Soviet prisons and camps between 1944 and 1953 was at least 14,000.[35] The estimated death toll among deportees between 1945 and 1958 was 20,000, including 5,000 children.[36]

During the Lithuanian restoration of independence in 1990, the Soviet army killed 13 demonstrators in Vilnius.[37]



In September 1939, the Red Army invaded eastern Poland and occupied it in accordance with the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviets later forcefully occupied the Baltic States and parts of Romania, including Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina.

One of the mass graves at Katyn where the NKVD massacred thousands of Polish Officers, policemen, intellectuals and civilian prisoners of war.[38]

Soviet policy in all of these areas was harsh towards the people under its control, showing strong elements of ethnic cleansing. NKVD task forces followed the Red Army to remove "Soviet-hostile elements" from the conquered territories.[citation needed] Polish historian Tomasz Strzembosz has noted parallels between the Nazi Einsatzgruppen and these Soviet units.[39] Many tried to escape from the Soviet NKVD; those who failed were taken into custody and afterwards deported to Siberia and vanished into the Gulag.[40][need quotation to verify]

Torture was used on a wide scale in various prisons, especially those in small towns. Prisoners were scalded with boiling water in Bobrka; in Przemyslany, people had their noses, ears, and fingers cut off and eyes put out; in Czortkow, female inmates had their breasts cut off; and in Drohobycz, victims were bound together with barbed wire.[citation needed] Similar atrocities occurred in Sambor, Stanislawow, Stryj, and Zloczow.[41] According to historian Jan T. Gross:

"We cannot escape the conclusion: Soviet state security organs tortured their prisoners not only to extract confessions but also to put them to death. Not that the NKVD had sadists in its ranks who had run amok; rather, this was a wide and systematic procedure."[41]

During the years 1939–41, nearly 1.5 million inhabitants of the Soviet-controlled areas of former eastern Poland were deported, of whom 63.1% were Poles or other nationalities and 7.4% were Jews. Only a small number of these deportees survived the war.[42][need quotation to verify] According to American professor Carroll Quigley, at least one third of the 320,000 Polish prisoners of war captured by the Red Army in 1939 were murdered.[43]


In Poland, Nazi atrocities ended by late 1944, but they were replaced by Soviet oppression with the advance of Red Army forces. Soviet soldiers often engaged in plunder, rape and other crimes against the Poles, causing the population to fear and hate the regime.[44][45][46][47]

Soldiers of Poland's Home Army (Armia Krajowa) were persecuted, sometimes imprisoned and in many cases, executed, following staged trials. An example of this was the case of Witold Pilecki, the organizer of Auschwitz resistance.[citation needed]

Units of the Red Army carried out campaigns against Polish partisans and civilians. During the Augustów chase in 1945, more than 2,000 Poles were captured and about 600 of them were killed. For more about this subject, see Cursed soldiers.[citation needed]

There were cases of mass rapes in numerous Polish cities taken by the Red Army, (see Rape during the liberation of Poland). In Kraków, the Soviet entry into the city was accompanied by mass rapes of Polish women and girls, as well as the plunder of private property by Red Army soldiers.[citation needed] This behavior reached such a scale that even Polish communists installed by the Soviet Union were preparing to send a letter of protest to Joseph Stalin himself, while church masses were held in expectation of a Soviet withdrawal.[48][need quotation to verify]

In October 2013 a 26 year-old Polish art student Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk erected a statue next to a Soviet WWII memorial in the Polish city of Gdansk. The statue shows a Soviet soldier attempting to rape a pregnant woman; he is pulling her hair whilst he pushes a gun into her mouth. Authorities removed the artwork because it had been erected without an official permit, but there was widespread interest in many online publications. The act promoted an angry reaction from the Russian ambassador in Poland.[49][50][51]


Finnish children killed by Soviet partisans at Seitajärvi in Finnish Lapland 1942.

Between 1941–1944, Soviet partisan units conducted raids deep inside Finnish territory, attacking villages and other civilian targets. In November 2006, photographs showing atrocities were declassified by the Finnish authorities. These include images of slain women and children.[52][53][54] The partisans usually executed their soldier and civilian prisoners after a minor interrogation.[55]

Around 3,500 Finnish prisoners of war, of whom five were women, were captured by the Red Army. Their mortality rate is estimated about 40 percent. Most common causes of deaths were hunger, cold and oppressive transportation.[56]

Soviet Union

Retreat by Soviet forces in 1941

Deportations, summary executions of political prisoners and the burning of foodstocks and villages took place when the Red Army retreated before the advancing Axis forces in 1941. In the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, and Bessarabia, the NKVD and attached units of the Red Army massacred prisoners and political opponents before fleeing from the advancing Axis forces.[57][58]


After the Battle of Stalingrad, a major turning point in the war, the Red Army steadily regained lost territory on the Eastern Front. This resulted in action against any person accused of being a collaborator during the German occupation. Civilians opposing Soviet occupation and repression were considered "collaborators". While in France this part of its history is generally well-documented, debated, and is the subject of academic review, very little is known or discussed about what happened in the path of the Red Army.[citation needed]


According to historian Norman Naimark, statements in Soviet military newspapers and the orders of the Soviet high command were jointly responsible for the excesses of the Red Army. Propaganda proclaimed that the Red Army had entered Germany as an avenger to punish all Germans.[59] Soviet author Ilya Ehrenburg wrote on January 31, 1945:

The Germans have been punished in Oppeln, in Königsberg, and in Breslau. They have been punished, but yet not enough! Some have been punished, but not yet all of them.[60]

American historian Alfred de Zayas documents in his "Nemesis at Potsdam" (Routledge 1977, 7th edition Picton Press, Rockland Maine) and "A Terrible Revenge" (Palgrave/Macmillan 2006) the high level of rapes and shootings of German civilians in Nemmersdorf, Gumbinnen, Goldat and Methgethen.[citation needed]

Some historians dispute this, referring to an order issued on January 19, 1945, which required the prevention of mistreatment of civilians. An order of the military council of the First Byelorussian Front, signed by Marshal Rokossovsky, ordered the shooting of looters and rapists at the scene of the crime. An order issued by Stavka on 20 April 1945 said that there was a need to maintain good relations with German civilians in order to decrease resistance and bring a quicker end to hostilities.[61][62][63]

Murders of civilians

On several occasions during World War II, Soviet soldiers set fire to buildings, villages, or parts of cities, and used deadly force against locals attempting to put out the fires. For example, on May 1, 1945, Soviet soldiers set fire to the city centre of Demmin and prevented the inhabitants from extinguishing the blaze. Of the historic buildings around the market place, only a steeple survived the inferno.[64] Most Red Army atrocities took place only in what was regarded as hostile territory (see also Przyszowice massacre). Soldiers of the Red Army, together with members of the NKVD, frequently looted German transport trains in 1944 and 1945 in Poland.[40]

For the Germans, the organized evacuation of civilians before the advancing Red Army was delayed by the Nazi government, so as not to demoralize the troops, who were by now defending their own country. However, German civilians were well aware that the Red Army was attacking noncombatants from reports by their friends and relatives who had served on the Eastern front. Furthermore, Nazi propaganda — originally meant to stiffen civil resistance by describing in gory and embellished detail Red Army atrocities such as the Nemmersdorf massacre — often backfired and created panic. Whenever possible, as soon as Nazi officials left, civilians began to flee westward on their own initiative.[citation needed]

Fleeing before the advancing Red Army, large numbers of the inhabitants of the German provinces of East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania died during the evacuations, some from cold and starvation, some during combat operations. A significant percentage of this death toll, however, occurred when evacuation columns encountered units of the Red Army. Civilians were run over by tanks, shot, or otherwise murdered. Women and young girls were raped and left to die (as is explored firsthand in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Prussian Nights).[64][65][66] In addition, fighter bombers of the Soviet air force penetrated far behind the front lines and often attacked columns of evacuees.[64][65]

Soviet order, January, 1945:"Some servicemen have caused enormous material damage by their behavior, because they destroy valuable property in the cities and villages of East Prussia, burning down buildings and whole villages which belong to the Soviet state now.(..) Furthermore cases were determined where army members used weapons against the German civilian population, particularly against women and the elderly. Numerous cases were determined where prisoners of war were shot under circumstances in which shooting was not necessary but came only from bad will." The order goes on to specify measures against such occurrences, defining the occurrences as unjustified and inadmissible. Specifically, the order proposes to conduct "one-two" demonstrative punishments of Soviet soldiers accused of war crimes and to initiate a struggle against intemperance in the Red Army.

The Red Army's violence against the local German population during the occupation of eastern Germany often led to incidents like that in Demmin, a small city conquered by the Soviets in the spring of 1945. Despite its surrender, nearly 900 civilians committed suicide, fueled by instances of pillaging, rape, and executions.[citation needed]

Although mass executions of civilians by the Red Army were seldom publicly reported, there is a known incident in Treuenbrietzen, where at least 88 male inhabitants were rounded up and shot on May 1, 1945. The incident took place after a victory celebration at which numerous girls from Treuenbrietzen were raped and a Red Army lieutenant-colonel was shot by an unknown assailant. Some sources claim as many as 1,000 civilians may have been executed during the incident.[notes 1][67][68]

Walter Kilian, the first mayor of the Charlottenburg district in Berlin after the war, who was himself placed in office by the Soviets, reported extensive looting by Red Army soldiers in the area:

Individuals, department stores, shops, apartments ... all were robbed blind.[69]

In the Soviet occupation zone, members of the SED reported to Stalin that looting and rape by Soviet soldiers could result in a negative reaction by the German population towards the Soviet Union and towards the future of socialism in East Germany. Stalin reacted angrily: "I shall not tolerate anybody dragging the honour of the Red Army through the mud."[70][71]

Accordingly, all evidence—such as reports, photos, and other documents of looting, rape, the burning down of farms and villages by the Red Army—was deleted from all archives in the future GDR.[70]

A study published by the German government in 1989 estimated the death toll of German civilians in eastern Europe at 635,000. With 270,000 dying as the result of Soviet war crimes, 160,000 deaths occurring at the hands of various nationalities during the expulsion of Germans after World War II and 205,000 deaths in the forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union.[72] These figures do not include at least 125,000 civilian deaths in the Battle of Berlin.[73]

Human rights expert Alfred-Maurice de Zayas estimates that about 2.2 million Germans were killed by the Red Army in 1944–1945. He explains that none of the "recent research" is professional or methodologically reliable and therefore recommends to rely on the demographic studies of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. Although, according to a study at the German Federal Archives of 1974, at least half a million were murdered directly, succumbing to beatings, dying of rape, shooting etc., a million and a half died as a direct consequence of the expulsions, since these were brutal and disorderly and Germany was in a state of total collapse upon their arrival. Moreover, nearly two million East Germans were carted off to slave labour in the Soviet Union and some 40% of them perished on the way to the Urals and Siberia, during slave labour, or during their repatriation.[74]

Mass rapes

Following the Red Army's capture of Berlin in 1945, Soviet troops raped German women and girls as young as eight years old.[75] Estimates of the total number of victims range from tens of thousands to two million.[76]

After the summer of 1945, Soviet soldiers caught raping civilians were usually punished to some degree, ranging from arrest to execution.[77] The rapes continued, however, until the winter of 1947–48, when Soviet occupation authorities finally confined troops to strictly guarded posts and camps.[78]

Prisoners of war

According to figures of the NKVD secret service, 3,127,380 German prisoners were registered by Soviet forces and kept in or sent to the Soviet Union to be used as forced labor. Of those, 474,967 were reported to have died in Soviet captivity.[79]


In The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949, Norman Naimark wrote that not only did each victim have to carry the trauma for the rest of their days, but it also inflicted a massive collective trauma on the former East Germany (the German Democratic Republic). Naimark concluded that "The social psychology of women and men in the Soviet zone of occupation was marked by the crime of rape from the first days of occupation, through the founding of the GDR in the fall of 1949, until, one could argue, the present."[80]


During the Siege of Budapest in Hungary, some 40,000 civilians were killed, with an unknown number dying from starvation and diseases. During the siege, an estimated 50,000 women and girls were raped,[81][82]:348–350[notes 2] although estimates vary from 5,000 to 200,000.[83]:129 Hungarian girls were kidnapped and taken to Red Army quarters, where they were imprisoned, repeatedly raped and sometimes murdered.[84]:70–71 Even embassy staff from neutral countries were captured and raped, as documented when Soviet soldiers attacked the Swedish legation in Germany.[85]

Although a written order does not exist, there are several documents which describe the Red Army’s behavior. One of them is a report by the Swiss legation in Budapest, describing the Red Army's entry into the city in 1945. It states:

During the siege of Budapest and also during the following weeks, Russian troops looted the city freely. They entered practically every habitation, the very poorest as well as the richest. They took away everything they wanted, especially food, clothing and valuables... every apartment, shop, bank, etc. was looted several times. Furniture and larger objects of art, etc. that could not be taken away were frequently simply destroyed. In many cases, after looting, the homes were also put on fire, causing a vast total loss.... Bank safes were emptied without exception—even the British and American safes—and whatever was found was taken.[86]


Although the Red Army crossed only a very small part of Yugoslavia in 1944, its activities there caused great concern for the Yugoslav communist partisans, who feared that the rapes and plundering by their Soviet allies would weaken their standing with the population.[87] At least 121 cases of rape were documented later, 111 of which also involved murder.[87] A total of 1,204 cases of looting with assault were documented.[87] Stalin responded to a Yugoslav partisan leader's complaints about the Red Army's conduct by saying, "Can't he understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometers through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle?"[87]

Czechoslovakia (1945)

Slovak communist leader Vlado Clementis complained to Marshal Ivan Konev about the behavior of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia.[87] Konev's response was to claim it was done mainly by Red Army deserters.[87]


On August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union declared a war on Japan and launched an invasion of Japanese puppet state Manchukuo (Manchuria). Upon occupation of this territory, the Soviets laid claim to Japanese valuable materials and industrial equipment in the region.[88] A foreigner witnessed Soviet troops, formerly stationed in Berlin, who were allowed by the Soviet military to go at the city "for three days of rape and pillage." Most of Mukden was gone. Convict soldiers were then used to replace them; it was testified that they "stole everything in sight, broke up bathtubs and toilets with hammers, pulled electric-light wiring out of the plaster, built fires on the floor and either burned down the house or at least a big hole in the floor, and in general behaved completely like savages."[89]

According to some Western sources, the Soviets made it a policy to loot and rape civilians in Manchuria. The same Soviet troops from Germany had been sent to Manchuria and looted, killed and raped. In Harbin, the Chinese posted slogans such as "Down with Red Imperialism!" Soviet forces ignored protests from Chinese communist party leaders on their mass rape and loot policy.[90][91][92]

Russian historian Konstantin Asmolov argues that such Western accounts of Soviet violence against civilians in the Far East are exaggerations of isolated incidents and the documents of the time don't support the claims of mass crimes. Asmolov also points out that the Soviets, unlike the Germans and Japanese, prosecuted their soldiers and officers for such acts.[93]

Treatment of prisoners of war

Although the Soviet Union had not formally signed the Hague Convention, it considered itself bound by the Convention's provisions.[94][95] Torture, mutilation and murder were also frequently carried out.[96][97][need quotation to verify] During the winter of 1941–42, the Red Army captured approximately 10,000 German soldiers each month, but the death rate became so high that the absolute number of prisoners decreased (or was bureaucratically reduced).[98] Soviet soldiers rarely bothered to take wounded Germans prisoner, instead shooting or clubbing them to death; Red Army hospitals would not treat injured prisoners. German prisoners were not released after the war but many were kept in captivity until as late as 1956 under terrible conditions as part of the Gulag. Soviet sources list the deaths of 474,967 of the 2,652,672 German Armed Forces taken prisoner in the War.[99] Dr. Rüdiger Overmans believes that it seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that an additional German military personnel listed as missing actually died in Soviet custody as POWs, putting the estimates of the actual death toll of German POW in the USSR at about 1.0 million.[100]

After World War II

Hungarian Revolution (1956)

According to the United Nations Report of the Special Committee on the problem of Hungary (1957):

Soviet tanks fired indiscriminately at every building from which they believed themselves to be under fire.[101]

The UN commission received numerous reports of Soviet mortar and artillery fire into inhabited quarters in the Buda section of the city despite no return fire and of "haphazard shooting at defenseless passers-by."

According to many witnesses, Soviet troops fired upon people queueing outside stores. Most of the victims were said to be women and children.

Czechoslovakia (1968)

During the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed (19 of those in Slovakia), 266 severely wounded and another 436 slightly injured.[102][103]

Afghanistan (1979–1989)

Discussion by historians

For decades, Western scholars have generally excused these atrocities in Germany and Hungary as revenge for German atrocities in the territory of the Soviet Union and for the mass killing of Soviet POWs (3.6 million dead out of total a 5.2 million POWs) by German armed forces.[need quotation to verify] This explanation is now disputed by military writers such as Antony Beevor, at least with regard to the mass rapes. Beevor claims that Red Army soldiers also raped Russian and Polish women liberated from concentration camps, and contends that this undermines the revenge explanation.[104] Beevor's claims have encountered vast criticism from historians in Russia and the Russian government.[105] The Russian ambassador to the UK said "It is a disgrace to have anything to do with this clear case of slander against the people who saved the world from Nazism."[106]

O.A. Rzheshevsky, a professor and President of the Russian Association of World War II Historians, has charged that Beevor is merely resurrecting the discredited and racist views of Neo-Nazi historians, who depicted Soviet troops as subhuman "Asiatic hordes".[107] Other prominent historians, such as Richard Overy, have criticized Russian outrage at the book and defended Beevor. Overy accused the Russians of refusing to acknowledge Soviet war crimes, "Partly this is because they felt that much of it was justified vengeance against an enemy who committed much worse, and partly it was because they were writing the victors' history".[108]

In media

  • A movie A Woman in Berlin about war rapes in Berlin was made based on the diary by Marta Hillers.[109]
  • The Beast (1988) about the War of Afghanistan
  • Katyń (2007) about the Katyn massacre

See also


  1. "Der Umgang mit den Denkmälern." Brandenburgische Landeszentrale für politische Bildung/Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur des Landes Brandenburg. Regina Scheer: Documentation of State headquarters for political education / ministry for science, research and culture of the State of Brandenburg, p. 89/90 [1]
  2. "The worst suffering of the Hungarian population is due to the rape of women. Rapes—affecting all age groups from ten to seventy are so common that very few women in Hungary have been spared." Swiss embassy report cited in Ungváry 2005, p.350. (Krisztian Ungvary The Siege of Budapest 2005)


  1. Statiev, Alexander (2010). The Soviet Counterinsurgency in the Western Borderlands. Cambridge University Press. p. 277. 
  2. Hannikainen, Lauri; Raija Hanski, Allan Rosas (1992). Implementing humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts: the case of Finland. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-7923-1611-4. 
  3. Grenkevich, Leonid D.; Glantz, David M. (1999). Glantz, David M.. ed. The Soviet partisan movement, 1941-1944: a critical historiographical analysis. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-7146-4874-3. 
  4. McGraw-Hill encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union By Michael T. Florinsky. 2009-03-11.,000+jews+denikin++Petlyura+Florinsky. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  5. A century of ambivalence: the Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the present. Zvi Y. Gitelman. Indiana University Press, 2001
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 William Korey. The Origins and Development of Soviet Anti-Semitism: An Analysis. Slavic Review, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar., 1972), pp. 111–135
  7. John Doyle Klier (2004). Pogroms. Shlomo Lambroza. Cambridge University Press. p. 294. 
  8. "Pogroms". United States Holocaust Museum. 
  11. Статья «Евреи Украины в 1914–1920 гг.» в Электронной еврейской энциклопедии
  12. Russian Jewry, 1917–1967, ed. Jacob G. Frumkin, T. Yoseloff, 1969
  13. Henry Abramson, Jewish Representation in the Independent Ukrainian Governments of 1917–1920, Slavic review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 542–550
  14. Nora Levin The Jews in the Soviet Union Since 1917: Paradox of Survival NYU Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8147-5051-6, ISBN 978-0-8147-5051-3, p.43
  15. "Pogroms". The Jewish Virtual Library. 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  16. de Zayas, Alfred M., The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939–1945, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1989, 3rd revised edition Picton Press, Rockland, Maine 2003
  17. "Order No 270 in Russian language at" (in Russian). 
  18. "Russians angry at war rape claims". 2002-01-25. 
  19. "The Progress Report". Latvia's History Commission. 
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  38. Sanford, George. "Katyn And The Soviet Massacre Of 1940: Truth, Justice And Memory". Routledge, 2005.
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External links


  • Marta Hillers, A Woman in Berlin: Six Weeks in the Conquered City Translated by Anthes Bell, ISBN 0-8050-7540-2
  • Antony Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
  • Bergstrom, Christer (2007). Barbarossa – The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2. Bergstrom does make a point of noting that crimes against PoWs, and specifically against captured aircrew, were pretty universal in World War II.
  • Hall and Quinlan (2000). KG55. Red Kite. ISBN 0-9538061-0-3
  • Max Hastings, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944–1945, Chapter 10: Blood and Ice: East Prussia ISBN 0-375-41433-9
  • Fisch, Bernhard, Nemmersdorf, Oktober 1944. Was in Ostpreußen tatsächlich geschah. Berlin: 1997. ISBN 3-932180-26-7. (about most of the Nemmersdorf atrocity having been set up by Goebbels)
  • John Toland, The Last 100 Days, Chapter Two: Five Minutes before Midnight ISBN 0-8129-6859-X
  • Norman M. Naimark, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949. Harvard University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-674-78405-7
  • Catherine Merridale, Ivan's War, the Red Army 1939–1945, London: Faber and Faber, 2005, ISBN 0-571-21808-3
  • Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939–1945. Preface by Professor Howard Levie. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8032-9908-7. New revised edition with Picton Press, Rockland, Maine, ISBN 0-89725-421-X
  • Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, A Terrible Revenge. The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944–1950, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1994, ISBN 0-312-12159-8
  • Elizabeth B. Walter, Barefoot in the Rubble 1997, ISBN 0-9657793-0-0

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