How the USSR persecuted "social parasites": who was included in this category

Yulia PoteriankoNews
Soviet intellectuals were sent into exile and their property was taken away because of the repressive law on social parasitism. Source: Created with the help of AI

The Soviet government liked to boast to foreign visitors that there was no unemployment in the country. However, they did not tell at what cost this was achieved. This was done, in particular, through repressive measures.

The basis for the persecution was the law "On Strengthening the Fight Against Persons Evading Socially Useful Labor and Leading an Anti-Social Parasitic Lifestyle." It was adopted by the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet in 1961. OBOZ.UA tells in more detail what punishments it provided for and how it was applied.

Who was considered a social parasite

According to the provisions of the law, people who did not work for four months a year or more were prosecuted. This was defined as "systematic vagrancy or begging, as well as leading a parasitic lifestyle for a long time." Only housewives who took care of minor children were exempted. If a woman was unmarried or childless, she was still subject to the law.

For violation of this law, she could be sent into exile for many years with forced labor. Confiscation of property allegedly acquired by dishonest means was also practiced.

It is noteworthy that any people who did not work for hire, but, for example, were engaged in private business (it was prohibited in the USSR) or those who worked on a fee basis, such as writers or musicians, were considered social parasites. Thus, this law could be applied to intellectuals. It was under this law that the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was convicted and later forced to leave the Soviet Union.

The fight against dissidents

From the point of view of international law, the law on social parasites contradicted international agreements on the prohibition of forced labor. In addition, its broad wording allowed its provisions to be interpreted very freely. As a result, highly qualified specialists in the USSR were forced by local authorities to engage in hard physical labor just to give such a "social parasite" an official job. Thus, journalists, scientists, and engineers who worked on individual projects and were engaged in education ended up in mines, factories, and boiler rooms. In fact, the law became a convenient tool for fighting dissidents.

The Week's Mirror newspaper cites several examples of affected Ukrainians. For example, physicist Yuriy Mniukh, who eventually emigrated to the United States, worked as an elevator operator for a long time. He also had to register his job in his wife's name to avoid trouble. And Volodymyr Kyslyk, a candidate of physical and mathematical sciences, had to find a job as a bookbinder in Kharkiv. For many years after his exile, Kostiantyn Babytskyi, a highly qualified linguist and author of scientific works, could not find a job in his specialty and worked as a carpenter and handyman.

One of the most famous victims of the law on social parasitism of Ukrainian dissidents was Crimean Tatar politician Mustafa Dzhemilev. After he was released from the camp, the police in Tashkent gave him a warning for embezzlement. He had to get a job as an engineer at a state farm.

The abolition of the law

The law on combating social parasites was in effect in the USSR from the time of Khrushchev until the very end of the state's existence. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that the newly created states began to abolish their responsibility for it.

In Ukraine, unemployment was legalized in 1991, when the law "On Employment of the Population" was adopted. And the odious resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR "On the Procedure for the Application of Article 214 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR" became invalid under the Law of Ukraine of July 7, 1992, No. 2547-XII. Adopted in June 1996, the Constitution of Ukraine finally removed the existence of forced labor from the legal framework.

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