World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Operation Priboi

Estonian deportees in Siberia — 72% of deportees were women and children under 16.

Operation Priboi ("Coastal Surf") was the code name for the Soviet mass deportation from the Baltic states on March 25–28, 1949, called March deportation by Baltic historians. Some 90,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, labeled as enemies of the people, were deported to inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union. It was one of the most complex deportation operations engineered by the Soviets in the Cold war era.[1]

While portrayed as "kolkhozes (collective farms).

Due to the high death rate of deportees during the first few years of their Siberian exile, caused by the failure of Soviet authorities to provide suitable clothing or housing at the destination, whether through neglect or premeditation, some sources consider these deportations an act of genocide.[3][4][5] Based on the Martens Clause and the principles of the Nuremberg Charter, the European Court of Human Rights has held that the March deportation constituted a crime against humanity.[6][7]


  • Decision 1
  • Planning 2
  • Execution 3
  • Results 4
  • Aftermath 5
    • Awards 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8


In response to the activities of various resistance groups such as the Forest Brothers and their supporters, Alexsandr Mishutin, Procurator of the Latvian SSR wrote a secret report to Moscow on September 21, 1948, in which he reported that "counter-revolutionary" elements—including "kulaks", underground resistance groups, and other "enemies of the people"—were rife in Soviet Latvian society. The top secret decision, No. 390-1388ss,[8] was taken by the USSR Council of Ministers on January 29, 1949, approving the deportation of "kulaks", "nationalists", "bandits", their supporters, and their families from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. On February 28, 1949, Viktor Abakumov, the minister of State Security (MGB), signed the USSR MGB order No. 0068 for the preparation and execution of the mass deportations by the USSR MGB Interior Forces under Lieutenant-General Burmak's command. From this, additional orders were drafted—USSR MGB order No. 00225 that ordered various branches of the USSR Interior Ministry (MVD) to assist the MGB, as well as republic level orders, for example, the Latvian SSR Council of Ministry decision No. 282ss and 297ss of March 24 (one day before the deportations began) authorizing the confiscation of the properties of the deportees.


Due to the immense scale of Operation Priboi, which spanned three Soviet republics, considerable resources were involved. The following command staff were assigned with the task of deporting 30,000 families from the Baltic states:

  1. Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Burmak (head of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration);
  2. Lieutenant-General Golovko (head of Interior Forces Baltic District);
  3. Major-General Leont'ev (commander of Interior Forces stationed in Riga);
  4. Head of Communications Lieutenant-Colonel Kotov;
  5. Head of Transportation Lieutenant-Colonel Spektor;
  6. Quartermaster Colonel Sakharov;
  7. Colonel Rizhov (special representative of the USSR MGB Interior Forces Chief Administration).
In addition to the troops already stationed in Latvia and Estonia, an additional 8850 soldiers were deployed to Estonia and Latvia from other parts of the Soviet Union to take part in the operation, 4350 to Estonia:
Additional MGB Interior troops[1]
USSR MGB Interior Forces Unit To Estonia To Latvia
1st Motorised Infantry Division (Moscow) 850 2,000
13th Motorised Infantry Division (Leningrad), one regiment 700
7th Division (Minsk), one regiment 1,000  
4th Division (Lithuania), one regiment   1,000
Officers' Corp Training School (Sortavala, Karelia) 400  
Military Specialised Secondary School (Saratov)   1,000
Security Corps sergeants 1,400 500
Total 4,350 4,500

Telecommunications was a vital component to ensure smooth running of the operation, thus the MGB commandeered all civilian telephone exchanges for the duration. Due to the scope of the operation an extra 2,210 MGB communications personnel were brought in. A total of 8,422 trucks were organised. 5,010 civilian trucks were commandeered and the remaining vehicles were military origin, including 1,202 imported from the Leningrad Military District, 210 from the Byelorussian Military District and 700 from MGB Interior Forces. Some 1,250 tons of fuel was stockpiled for use in the operation. These additional vehicles were stationed just outside the border of the Baltic Republics in advance so as not to raise suspicion and sent in at the start of the operation.[1]


Personnel involved[1] Number Proportion (%)
State security personnel 8,215 10.8
USSR MGB Interior Forces troops 21,206 27.8
Republican MGB Destruction Battalion troops 18,387 24.1
Communist Party activists 28,404 37.1
Total 76,212 100.0

Deportation was to be physically performed by small nine–ten man operative teams, which included three USSR MGB agents ("troika"), two republican MGB Extermination Battalion soldiers and four or five local Communist Party activists who were armed by the MGB.

Additional 5,025 submachine guns and 1,900 rifles were brought in to ensure that these operative teams were sufficiently armed to carry out the operation. Unlike the

  • Eesti rahva inimohvrid Nõukogude ja Saksa okupatsioonide ajal 1940–1953 by Peep Varju. Tartu, 1997.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rudolph J. Rummel, Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917, Transaction Publishers 1990, ISBN 1-56000-887-3
  4. ^ J. Pohl, Stalin’s genocide against the “Repressed Peoples”, Journal of Genocide Research, Volume 2, Number 2, 1 June 2000 , pp. 267–293
  5. ^ Lauri Mälksoo, Soviet Genocide? Communist Mass Deportations in the Baltic States and International Law, Leiden Journal of International Law (2001), 14: pp757-787 Cambridge University Press
  6. ^ Postimees 31 March 2009: Martin Arpo: kommunismiaja kuritegude tee Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohtuni
  7. ^ Full text of European Court of Human Rights Decision on the case Kolk and Kislyiy v. Estonia: Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to Crimes against Humanity
  8. ^ The title of the deportation order: "O vyselenii s territorii Litvi, Latvii i Èstonii kulakov s sem'iami, semei banditov i natsionalistov, nakhodiashchikhsia na nelegal'nom polozhenii, ubitykh pri vooruzhennykh stolknoveniiakh i osuzhdennykh, legalizovannykh banditov, prodolzhaiushchikh vesti vrazheskuiu rabotu, i ikh semei, a takzhe semei repressirovannykh posobnikov banditov"
  9. ^ History of Latvia the 20th Century. Jumava. Rīga. 2006 ISBN 9984-38-038-6 p.354–355
  10. ^
  11. ^ A facsimile of the lists published in Pravda on 25 and 26 August 1949 is reproduced in the 1999 issue of the Yearbook of the Occupation Museum of Latvia


See also

By decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, orders and medals for the successful completion of Operation Priboi were to be granted. 75 people were awarded the Order of the Red Banner, their names published in Pravda on 25 August 1949. On 26 August, Pravda published the names of 17 people awarded the Order of the Great Patriotic War, First Class for courage and heroism displayed during the operation.[11]


Location of "special settlements" for deported Balts[1]
Region of USSR Number of families Number of people Average family size % of total deportees
Amur Oblast 2,028 5,451 2.7 5.8
Irkutsk Oblast 8,475 25,834 3.0 27.3
Krasnoyarsk Krai 3,671 13,823 3.8 14.6
Novosibirsk Oblast 3,152 10,064 3.2 10.6
Omsk Oblast 7,944 22,542 2.8 23.8
Tomsk Oblast 5,360 16,065 3.0 16.9
Total 30,630 93,779 3.1 99.0

The deportees were required to sign a document upon their arrival, officially designating them with the status of "special settlers" with no right of return to their home, with the penalty of twenty years' hard labour for attempted escapes. Deportees were not permitted to leave their designated area and were required to report to the local MVD commandant once a month, failure of which was a punishable offense. The following table shows the locations the deportees were sent.


Summary of results of Operation "Priboi"[1]
Republic Families People Freight trains
Estonian SSR 7,702 19,827 15
Latvian SSR 13,537 41,811 31
Lithuanian SSR 8,012 25,951 20
Total 29,251 87,589 66
Gender and age of deportees[1]
Absolute number Proportion (%)
Men 25,708 27.1
Women 41,987 44.3
Children (16 or under) 27,084 28.6
Total 94,779 100.0
, the USSR Interior Minister, reported to Stalin on May 18 that 2,850 were "decrepit solitary old people", 1,785 children without parents to support them and 146 disabled. KruglovSome 72% of the 94,000 deportees were women and children under the age of 16.



This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.