Harvest of Despair



b. 18 September 1887, Vladimir gubernia, Russia, d. 26 February 1939, Kuibyshev, Russia.

Postyshev was a close ally of Josef Stalin and in the 1930s headed a Terror in Ukraine that earned him the sobriquet “hangman of Ukraine.” In 1925 Postyshev became secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine [CP(b)U] and secretary of the Kharkiv (which at that time was the capital of Soviet Ukraine) district and city Party committees. In this position he played a leading role in the purge of Trotskyites and Ukrainian national communists.

In 1930, Postyshev became a secretary of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (CPSU) and put in charge of propaganda and organization. He served Stalin loyally as the latter was destroying all intra-Party opposition to his rule. In January 1933 he was sent back to Ukraine with thousands of Russian party cadres with the task of stamping out the last remaining opposition to Stalin’s rule in the republic. He was elected second secretary of the CC of the CP(b)U and as Stalin’s emissary, was the real power behind the Ukrainian Party, overshadowing first secretary Stanislav Kosior.

As the Famine raged in Ukraine, Postyshev was charged with eliminating all opposition to collectivization within the CP(b)U As part of this role, he oversaw the Russification of both the Party and cultural and educational institutions in Ukraine. In the terror organized by Postyshev, more than 100 000 members of the CP(b)U were purged – many of these were arrested and executed.

Postyshev, however, soon ran afoul of Stalin. He attempted to build up his own power base in Ukraine in 1935-36 by making some concessions to Ukrainian national sentiments. As a result, in January 1937 he was removed from Ukraine and appointed first secretary of the Kuibyshev Oblast Party Committee. He was arrested in January 1938 during the Great Terror and shot a year later, meeting the same fate to which he had condemned many thousands of others.