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Rehabilitation ( ) in the context of the former Soviet Unionmarker, and the Post-Soviet states, was the restoration of a person who was criminally prosecuted without due basis, to the state of acquittal. A form of political rehabilitation as relates to the Soviet Unionmarker.

Rehabilitation used in this way is a linguistic false cognate for the Russian term reabilitatsiya.

Rehabilitation of the victims of Soviet repressions

Mass amnesty of the victims of Soviet repressions started after the death of Joseph Stalin. Initially, in 1953, this did not entail any form of exoneration, and the amnestees were released into internal exile in remote areas, without any right to return to their original places of settlement. The amnesty was applied first for those who had been sentenced for a term of at most 5 years prosecuted for those articles in the Soviet Criminal Code that were not political (for example children of those repressed on political grounds were often prosecuted as "antisocial elements", i.e. on the same grounds as prostitutes). The regular release of political prisoners from Gulag labor camps started in 1954. This release became coupled with rehabilitations after Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalinism in his 1956 speech On the Personality Cult and its Consequences.

In most cases, the persons were released with the phrases "due to the lack of a criminal matter" and "based on previously unavailable information". Some were released "due to the lack of a proof of guilt". Many rehabilitations occurred posthumously. Many cases were subject to amnesty only, but not to rehabilitation (in particular those who were prosecuted for "belonging to Trotskyite Opposition").

Both the modern Russian Federationmarker and Ukrainemarker have enacted laws "On the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repressions", which provide the basis for the continued post-Stalinist rehabilitation of victims.

However those Polish officers and civilians who died at the Katyn Massacremarker have still received no rehabilitation, even though the Russian Federation has admitted the happening.

An inconsistency in this policy was the unwillingness of the Soviet government to rehabilitate Leon Trotsky despite most of his compatriots and collaborators having received amnesty.


  1. Law of Ukraine on "Rehabilitiona of victims of political repressions in Ukraine"

Further reading

  • Adler, N. The Gulag Survivor: Beyond the Soviet System. New Brunswick, USA/London: Transaction Publishers, 2002.
  • Iakovlev, A. (ed.) Reabilitatsiia: politicheskie protsessy 30-50-kh godov. Moscow: Politizdat, 1991.
  • Smith, K. Remembering Stalin’s Victims: Popular Memory and the End of the USSR. Cornell University Press, 1996.

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