The Lesser Terror

Soviet State Security, 1939-1953

by Michael Parrish


The documented history of Soviet terror from 1939 to 1953.

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May 1996


Pages 456
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/General

This is the first major study based on Soviet documents and revelations of the Soviet state security during the period 1939-1953—a period about which relatively little is known. The book documents the role of Stalin and the major players in massive crimes carried out during this period against the Soviet people. It also provides the first detailed biography of V. S. Abakumov, Minister of State Security, 1946-1951.

Based on Glasnost revelations and recently released archival material, this study covers the operations of Soviet state security from Beriia's appointment in 1938 until Stalin's death. The book pays particular attention to the career of V. S. Abakumov, head of SMERSH counterintelligence during the war and minister in charge of the MGB (the predecessor of the KGB) from 1946 until his removal and arrest in July 1951.

The author argues that terror remained the central feature of Stalin's rule even after the Great Terror and he provides examples of how he micromanaged the repressions. The book catalogs the major crimes committed by the security organs and the leading perpetrators and provides evidence that the crimes were similar to those for which the Nazi leaders were punished after the war. Subjects covered include Katyn and its aftermath, the arrest and execution of senior military officers, the killing of political prisoners near Orel in September 1941, and the deportations of various nationalities during the war. The post-war period saw the Aviator and Leningrad affairs as well as the anti-cosmopolitan campaign whose target was mainly Jewish intellectuals. Later chapters cover Abakumov's downfall, the hatching of the Mingrelian and Doctors plots and the events that followed Stalin's death. Finally, there are chapters on the fate of those who ran Stalin's machinery of terror in the last 13 years of his rule. These and other topics will be of concern to all students and scholars of Soviet history and those interested in secret police and intelligence operations.

Table of Contents

PrefaceBeriia Takes OverMass Killings of Polish POW OfficersThe Orel Massacres; The Killings of Senior Military Officers and War Time DeportationsSMERSH and AbakumovThe Vlasov Movement and Other CollaboratorsAbakumov as Head of MGBPost War Campaigns against the MilitaryThe Anti-Semitic CampaignsThe "Leningrad Affair"Intelligence, Counterintelligence and Terror Campaigns in East EuropeDownfallThe AftermathLegacyAppendix I: General Officers of NKVD/NKGB(MVD/MGB), SMERSHAppendix II: Principle Victims of Stalinist Repression during the Abakumov Regime, March 1946 - July 1951BibliographyIndex



Parrish demonstrates that terror in Stalin's Russia did not abate after the great terror of the 1930s, but continued beyond the death of Stalin. The work is mainly a study of Stalin's apparatus of repression during the 1940s, i.e., during the decade follwing the great terror....Recommended for all college and public libraries.—Choice

there remains much to recommened in this book,... For any student of terrorism and conflict, particularly students focusing on the potential use of weapons of mas destruction, Holy Terror provides a most palatable way of understanding what happened that fateful day in Tokyo's subway system and how it came to be.—^X^BTerrorism and Political Violence^R


Michael Parrish has given us a broad overview of a period which has not previously been so massively treated. A very useful and detailed work on an important theme.—Robert Conquest, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

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