4 February 1938* (No 95/III) Great Terror

Encrypted telegram to STALIN and YEZHOV from YULY KAGANOVICH: a request to increase the quota for executions and arrests in the Gorky Region and extend the deadline until 20 March. [Russian: 4 February 1938, No 95-III]


[page one of one]


[Central Committee Politburo Resolution, 5 May 1927, order No 100, item 5, see Note [1]


… forbidden

To Comrades Stalin, Yezhov and Sector 2



Sent: 10.11 pm, 4 February 1938. Reached VKP(b) Central Committee on 4 February 1938, 11.50 pm

Ref. No. 95/III

To: Comrade STALIN, VKP (b) Central Committee, Moscow

The work of the troika is completed. Within the quota for this Region 9,600 kulaks, SRs, rebels and other anti-Soviet elements have been sentenced. In addition, some kulak and White Army elements conducting subversive activities have been discovered [2]. In total, up to nine thousand kulak anti-Soviet elements are registered in the Region.

The regional Party committee requests additional quotas of 3,000 for 1st category arrests [executions] and 2,000 2nd category arrests, and to extend the deadline until 20 March.

Yu. Kaganovich [3], secretary of the VKP(b) Regional committee

Printed 5 February 1938, 11.15 am, [indecipherable] Chechulin



[instructions as to distribution, copying, etc, see note 1, below]



Why did the local Party bosses and NKVD ask for an increase in their quotas for arrests and executions?

“When the Republics and Regions of the USSR met their target for Enemies of the People they reported back to Moscow, just as they did about grain harvests or milk production,” writes Bukovsky in Judgement in Moscow. “Then, as was the custom under Socialism, they asked permission to demonstrate their ardour by ‘over-fulfilling’ the plan.”


[1] This 1927 Politburo decree evidently defined who could read any document within the upper echelons of the Party and for how long (this line of text is legible in the document dated 15 September 1938, Pb 64/22). For a  June 1976 decree imposing similar restrictions in Brezhnev’s time, see 5 October 1979*, St 179/32, page 2.

[2] SR refers to the Socialist Revolutionary Party, the main left-wing rival to the Bolsheviks  before and after the 1917 October Revolution. With arbitrary quotas handed down from Moscow, and the rapid “justice” dispensed by the troika or the NKVD Special Board there is no certainty that those convicted and sent to the camps or shot were actually members of pre-Revolutionary parties, “wealthy” peasants or kulaks, or that they had fought against the Bolsheviks during the Civil War.

[3] One of three Bolshevik brothers, Yuly Kaganovich was head of the Gorky Region Party organisation when he sent this telegram. Lazar Kaganovich, a close colleague of Stalin, was a member of the Politburo from 1930 to 1957: until the late 1950s the Moscow metro was named after him (not Lenin).


  • 1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
  • 2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;
  • 3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted in a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.

Translation, PS