The most terrible punishment for anyone who has committed a crime is the death pen alty. Indeed, in a long imprisonment, a person’s hope for the mercy of fate shines through. And the convict is given the opportunity to die naturally. While the rest of life, spent in the daily expectation of death, turns a person inside out. If death were better than life sentences, then prisons would regularly give out news about the suicides of convicts. Even with security measures.
The offender begins to fully realize the essence of his last sentence only days after being transferred to death row. The vague, agonizing wait lasts for months. At all times during this period, the convict hoped for pardon. And it didn't happen that often.
In the Russian Federation, the death pen alty is currently prohibited. She has been under a moratorium since her last death sentence on September 2, 1996. However, as a punishment measure, execution in the USSR was organized throughout the history of the country forspecial gravity crimes.
Execution after Tsarist times
In tsarist times, execution was carried out by hanging or shooting. With the advent of the Bolsheviks to power, only the second was applied - it was faster and more convenient for mass executions in the USSR. Until the 1920s, there were no laws in the country that would regulate this. Therefore, there were a whole lot of variations of this action. The sentence of execution in the USSR of those times was passed and carried out, including publicly. So they shot the tsarist ministers in 1918. The execution of the terrorist Fanny Kaplan was carried out in the Kremlin without subsequent burial. Her body was burned in an iron barrel on the spot.
How did the shootings happen in the USSR?
The state killed its citizens only for committing particularly serious crimes. There were special firing squads in the country that carried out executions. Most often it was about 15 people, including executors, a doctor, a supervising prosecutor. The doctor declared death, the prosecutor made sure that the convict was executed. He was convinced that the perpetrators did not kill another person, releasing the criminal for a fabulous sum. All duties were strictly divided into this narrow circle of people.
The execution of people in the USSR was always carried out by physically strong and morally stable males. They executed several people at a time, which made it possible to carry out executions with less frequency. In the USSR, the technology of execution was not distinguished by intricacy. After the issuance of service weapons to each performer,briefing. Then they split in half. The first took the convicts out of the cell and organized the transfer to the final destination. The second was already in place.
There was an instruction when attacking a convoy of suicide bombers, the first thing to do was to shoot the convicts. However, no such cases have ever been reported. So it never came in handy.
Upon arrival at the final destination, the criminals were placed in a special cell. In the adjoining room were the prosecutor and the detachment commander. They laid out the prisoner's personal file in front of them.
The suicide bombers were brought into the room strictly one at a time. Their personal data were clarified, they were reconciled with data from the personal file. The important point was to make sure that the right person was executed. The prosecutor then announced that the pardon requests had been rejected and the hour of sentencing had arrived.
Further, the convict was moved to the immediate place of the execution of the death pen alty. There, an impenetrable bandage was put on his eyes and led into a room in which there was a ready performer with a service weapon. Hands were held on both sides of the suicide bomber, putting him on his knees. And there was a shot. The doctor pronounced him dead. Burial certificates were collected, and the body in a bag was buried in a secret place.
Technologies of this process were concealed with special care from the citizens of the country. During the civil war, however, the advertisements only talked about counter-revolutionaries for intimidation. Relatives were never allowed to receive documents about the execution. On the highest measure of execution in the USSR of the early periodannounced only verbally.
According to the documents of 1927, executions for banditry were not announced at all. Even after writing appeals, the relatives could not get any information about these people.
Mystery has always shrouded the executions of triplets in the 1930s. Since 1937, mass executions in the USSR, also called mass operations, have been carried out in an atmosphere of complete secrecy. Even those who were convicted in a couple were never sentenced, so that people would not have a chance to resist. The fact that they were brought to the execution, they realized only when they were on the spot. In the earliest period, the condemned were not sentenced at all.
In August 1937, a decision was made to execute ten criminals. At the same time, it was decided to carry out the action without announcing it. In the Supreme Court, the words "death pen alty" were disguised as "the sentence will be announced to you." Some of the accused were told that the verdict would be announced in the cell. Sentences to NKVD officers
A special procedure was carried out during the execution of NKVD workers in the USSR, even if they had already retired. There was a special procedure for them, there were no documents on the investigation, no sentences. Without trial, by decision of Stalin and his entourage, the victim was transferred to the military board of the Armed Forces with a note of execution. Everything was extremely secret, so the notes were made by hand. The reason for the execution was a note in the certificate, which was in the case, indicating the volume and sheet. Later, when studying Stalin's volumes, it turned out that the number of each volume and sheet coincides withthe number of the volume and page of the list with the names of the sentenced.
What was announced to relatives?
The fate of a man sentenced to death in the USSR was announced to his relatives with the wording "10 years in a camp without the right to correspond." In 1940, this was harshly criticized by Zakharov for the fact that such a method would discredit the prosecutor's office. Many relatives made inquiries to the camps, and then answered that their relative was not registered with them. Then they came with scandals to the prosecutor's office, seeking confessions from the NKVD about the execution and subsequent deception of them.
Who was present at the execution?
Usually the prosecutor, the judge and the doctor were absent when the execution was carried out without trial. But when a court decision on execution was made, the presence of a prosecutor was obligatory. They had to be sure to monitor the murder of major figures. So, sometimes they were entrusted with the task of monitoring whether he would make a confession about divulging state secrets before death. The presence of an NKVD officer was not uncommon.
In the Tatar Republic, since 1937, convicts were photographed and without fail happened after the execution with a photo. However, many documents from that era have no photos and are confused.
The law established humane conditions for the execution of the sentence. However, evidence has been preserved of how the execution in the USSR actually took place. Although according to the law the fact of death was established by the doctor, in reality this was often carried out by the perpetrators. There is a lot of information thatdespite the strict regulation of the procedure in order to kill the condemned instantly, the survivability of those killed was often manifested. In the absence of a doctor, at executions, still living people were sometimes buried, who seemed killed only at first glance. For example, Yakovlev's letters describing the execution of those who refused military service contain a description of a truly terrible execution. Then 14 Baptists, still wounded, threw themselves into the ground, they were buried alive, one escaped and confirmed this personally.
In the document of 1935 about the execution of Ovotov, there is evidence that the convict died only 3 minutes after the shot. There was a regulation to shoot from a certain angle so that death was instantaneous. However, the shots might not result in a painless death.
Those involved in the executions used evasive names for this action. It was not suitable for wide publicity among the population, it took place in an atmosphere of secrecy. Executions were called "the highest measure of punishment or social protection." Among the Chekists, the names of military massacres were “exchange”, “departure to Kolchak’s headquarters”, “put into consumption”. And since the 1920s, executions have been completely dubbed with a cynical term for conspiratorial purposes - “wedding”. Probably, the name was chosen because of the analogy with the expression "marry with death." Sometimes performers allowed themselves florid names like "transfer to the state of non-existence."
From the 30s, executions were called both departures in the first category, and ten years without the right to correspond, andspecial operations. The explanations, written by the hands of the perpetrators themselves, were full of the phrases “I brought the verdict”, which sounded so veiled and evasive. The main words were always omitted. The same was true in the ranks of the SS. Such words as murders, executions were always masked there. Instead, the expressions "special actions", "purges", "exclusions", "resettlement" were popular.
Features of the procedure
In different periods of the existence of the Soviet state, the procedure for carrying out the sentence was very different, passing through military regimes, toughening and softening the dictatorship. The bloodiest years were 1935-1937, when death sentences became very common. Over 600,000 people were executed during that period. The execution was carried out on the day of the announcement of the verdict, immediately. There were no sentiments, rituals, there was no right to last requests and last meals, which were accepted even in the Middle Ages.
The condemned was taken to the basement and quickly executed the predestined.
The pace slowed down when Khrushchev and Brezhnev came to power. The sentenced received the right to write complaints, requests for pardon. They have time for this. The sentenced were placed in a special purpose cell, but the convict did not know the date of the execution of the sentence until the last moment. This was announced on the day when he was taken to a room in which everything was already ready for execution. There, the rejection of requests for pardon was announced, and execution was carried out. And even then there was no talk of the last meals and other rituals.The sentenced ate the same as all the other convicts, and did not know that this meal would be their last. The conditions of detention, despite the norms established by law, were frankly bad in reality.
Prisoners of that era, eyewitnesses of executions in the prisons of the USSR, recalled that their food could be rotten, with worms. Everywhere there were numerous violations of humane norms established by law. And those sentenced to death in the USSR could not receive programs from relatives who would be able to somehow brighten up their last days on this Earth.
The only mercy from the firing squads was the tradition of giving a person before execution a cigarette or a cigarette that the person smoked for the last time. According to rumors, sometimes the perpetrators made the convict drink tea with sugar.
Remained in history and cases of massacres in the country. So, a loud shooting of a demonstration in the USSR took place in 1962 in Novocherkassk. Then the Soviet authorities shot 26 workers who had gathered as part of thousands of demonstrators for a spontaneous rally due to higher prices and lower wages. 87 people were wounded, the dead were secretly buried in the cemeteries of different cities. About a hundred demonstrators were convicted, some were sentenced to death. Like many things in the USSR, the execution of workers was carefully concealed. Some pages of that story are still classified.
This execution of a demonstration in the USSR is considered a real crime, but no one was punished for it. The authorities did not make a single attempt to disperse the crowd with either water or clubs. In response tolegitimate demands to improve the oppressive, miserable situation of tens of thousands of workers, the authorities opened fire with machine guns, committing one of the most mass executions of workers known in the USSR.
This was just one of the most notorious cases, despite all efforts to classify, mass shootings of that era.
The shooting of women in the USSR
Of course, cruel sentences extended to the beautiful half of humanity as well. There was no ban on the execution of women, with the exception of pregnant women, and even then not in all periods. From 1962 to 1989, more than 24,000 people were executed, almost all males. The most widely publicized were 3 executions of women in the USSR of that period. This is the execution of "Tonka the machine-gunner", who personally shot the Soviet partisans in the Great Patriotic War, the speculator Borodkina, the poisoner Inyutina. Many cases were classified.
The shooting of minors in the USSR was also practiced. But here it is important to note that it was the Soviet state that made the law regarding children more humane compared to what existed in tsarist times. So, in the time of Peter I, children were executed from the age of 7. Before the Bolsheviks came to power, the criminal prosecution of children continued to be carried out. Since 1918, commissions for juvenile affairs were established and executions for children were prohibited. They ruled on the application of measures against children. Usually these were attempts not to imprison them, but to re-educate them.
In the 1930s, the state experienced an intensification of the criminal situation, and cases of sabotage by foreign states became more frequent.There has been an increase in the number of crimes committed by juveniles. Then in 1935 capital punishment for minors was introduced. The shooting of children in the USSR in this way was again legalized.
However, the only such documented case was the shooting of a 15-year-old teenager in the USSR during the Khrushchev era, in 1964. Then a guy who grew up in a boarding school, previously caught on theft and petty hooliganism, brutally killed a woman with her young child. With the intention of taking pornographic pictures with a view to their further sale, he stole the necessary equipment for this and photographed the corpse, placing it in obscene poses. Then he set fire to the crime scene and fled, and was caught three days later.
The teenager until the last believed that he was not in danger of death, cooperated with the investigation. However, under the influence of the cynicism that accompanied his actions, the Presidium of the Supreme Court published a regulation that allowed the use of execution for juvenile delinquents.
Despite the mass indignation caused by this decision, the Soviet authorities remained quite humane in relation to juvenile delinquents. As before, the decision to re-educate teenagers was a priority. There were really few sentences for this category of citizens. Indeed, in the United States, for example, until 1988, executions of adolescents were widely practiced. There are cases of death sentences for people as young as 13.
Memories of performers
According to the memoirs of the members of the firing squad, Soviet methods of execution were stillcruel. Especially unworked at first. Cases of appeals from them to the Ministry of Internal Affairs about this have been documented. The execution was carried out at night, after 12 hours. In fact, there were practically no deputies for the performers, although, according to the law, they had to change to distract the performer from the horror he had experienced. So, one of the members of the firing squad testified already in our time that after killing 35 convicts in 3 years, he was never replaced by anyone.
Although the condemned were not told where they were being taken, they usually understood what was going on. Even full of inner strength in the face of death cried out farewell words, chanted slogans. There were those who sat down in an instant. One of the most terrible memories of a participant in the execution is how a person who understands where he was brought refuses to cross the threshold of the last room in his life. Someone tearfully begged not to kill, escaping, clinging to the threshold. That is why people were not told where they were being taken.
Usually it was a closed office with a small window. Someone who did not have the will and character fell right there, entering the room. There were cases of death from heart failure minutes before the actual execution. Someone resisted - they were knocked down and twisted. They shot at point-blank range in the back of the head, slightly to the left, in order to hit a vital organ, and the convict immediately died. Understanding where he was brought, the condemned could ask for the last request. But, of course, there has never been a fulfillment of unrealistic wishes like a feast. The maximum was a cigarette.
Before waiting timeexecution, suicide bombers could not communicate with the outside world in any way, they were forbidden to take them out for walks, they were only allowed to use the toilet once a day.
The charter for the performers included a clause according to which, after each execution, they were supposed to have 250 grams of alcohol. They were also en titled to a salary increase, which was significant at that time.
Usually performers were paid about two hundred rubles a month. During the entire existence of the Soviet state since 1960, not one of the executioners was dismissed by his own decision. There were no cases of suicide in their ranks. The selection for this role was carefully selected.
Reminiscences of eyewitnesses about the tricks used by the executioners to soften the blow to the convict have been preserved. So, he was informed that he was being led to write a request for pardon. This had to be done in another room with the deputies. Then the sentenced man walked into the room with a brisk step, and when he entered, he found only the executor. He immediately shot in the area of the left ear according to the instructions. After the fall of the condemned, a second control shot was fired.
No more than a few people included in the leadership knew about the occupation of the performers themselves. On trips to perform "secret assignments," officers took other people's names. When traveling to other cities for execution, they immediately went back after the execution of the sentence. Before the start of the "execution", each performer without fail got acquainted with the case of the convict, then read the guilty verdict. Such a procedure was envisaged in order to exclude any pangs of conscience from the officers. Each of the firing squad realized that he was deliveringsociety from the most dangerous persons, leaving them alive, he would untie their hands for further atrocities.
Participants in the execution in the USSR often became drunkards. There were cases of their getting into psychiatric hospitals. Sometimes sentences piled up, and dozens of people had to be shot.
With the publication of the "Order of executions" in 1924, it becomes clearer what violations could have occurred during the execution of the sentence. So, the document prohibited publicity, publicity of the execution. No painful methods of killing were allowed, there was a ban on removing parts of clothing and shoes from the body. It was forbidden to give the body to anyone. The burial was carried out in the absence of rituals and signs of the grave. There were special cemeteries where the condemned were buried under plates with numbers.
In what year was the shooting canceled in the USSR
The last execution by firing squad was the execution of Sergei Golovkin, the murderer of more than a dozen people. This was in August 1996. Then a moratorium on the death pen alty was introduced, and since then they have not been practiced on the territory of the Russian Federation. However, discussions about the return of this procedure continue to periodically flare up in the country.
However, the system of administration of justice since the Soviet Union has already undergone many changes. There are more opportunities for corruption than in that era. The execution of the death pen alty may simply turn into a means of massacring enemies over each other. There are many cases of miscarriage of justice.
Despitethe fact that decades have passed since the collapse of the Soviet state, the topic of mass executions, the execution of death sentences still remains full of secrets and mysteries. Many direct participants have passed away, much has remained classified as "top secret" to this day. Nevertheless, from the stories of eyewitnesses, one can trace how the execution of criminals actually took place. And, it should be noted, in comparison with other civilized states, humane considerations in the actions of the authorities can be clearly seen. Contrary to the popular opinion today about the inhumanity of the USSR authorities.