On 10 January 1939, Stalin wrote that the Central Committee of the Communist Party had permitted the use of what was euphemistically called “the application of physical measures of persuasion” in interrogations from 1937. To date, there is no extant written order on the use of torture during the Great Terror. Stalin’s admission demonstrates conclusively that directives on torture came from the top.
Between the summer of 1937 and November 1938, the Stalinist regime arrested over 1.5 million people for “counterrevolutionary” and “antisoviet” activity and either summarily executed or exiled them to the Gulag. This was Stalin’s “Great Terror” and, contrary to popular belief, the largest number of victims were not elites or “Old Bolsheviks,” but common people. Below is a timeline of The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine.