The arrest was one of the most psychologically difficult moments along the way. Almost everyone who fell into the clutches of the Soviet punitive authorities had to go through it.

Here, everything was considered and executed to morally disarm a person, to suppress his will, his ability to think, to do everything so that the only feeling of the arrested person was paralyzing fear.

Imagine how this person feels, as you are being pulled out of your warm bed, in front of your wife and children, (and as an undressed person, they already feel ashamed), and then they search your apartment. They rudely dump your favorite books, clothes, photographs, underwear on the floor… There is only one thought in your head, ‘I’m innocent! They were wrong! They’ll figure it out!’ And then completely hopeless: “This is the end of everything, Chekists are never wrong!»

Who were those prisoners who replenished the GULAG?

Since 1918, there have been regular mass arrests and deportations: former officers, members of banned political parties and organizations, priests of all religions, nobles, landowners, large merchants and so on. In the early 1920s, there were political oppositionists and in the mid and late 20’s, there were engineers. In the early 1930s, there were mainly «kulaks».

In 1934, after the assassination of Kirov, the NKVD were given many rights with regards to arrests, torture and liquidation of the «Enemies of the People».

The victims were major political figures – Zinoviev and Kamenev, supporters of Trotsky, Bukharin. A huge wave of arrests and executions affected all sections of society. This could have affected former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Genrikh Yagoda, his wife, parents, sisters, nephews and nieces, up to an unknown shepherd from the farm, who had never been a member of any party.

Repression did not have mercy for anyone. This was probably Stalin’s plan. No one and no achievements could protect anyone from being arrested. The Great Terror that took place in 1937-1938, turned the Gulag from places of detention into real death camps where people were deliberately shot or killed by overworking in much larger quantities than before.

The methods of arrest also changed. Of course, the sudden arrest in the middle of the night remained a classic technique. But the internal affairs department diversified their methods.

On July 17th 1947, the Minister of State Security Abakumov, wrote a memorandum to Stalin, where he said that the authorities were trying to ensure the suddenness of arrest in order to: a) prevent escapes or suicides b) prevent attempts to notify accomplices c) prevent the destruction of evidence and data. In some cases, an arrest was made under some specially invented circumstances. Often, these circumstances were theatrical scenes and it was difficult to understand the director’s intention.

For example, on February 1st 1937, in the city of Kharkov, Alexander Schneider, who was a student in the 4th year of the medical institute, was going home after classes. There was a car on the road. The driver tried to start it and was turning the ignition handle and asked Alexander for help. Alexander put his briefcase aside, took the ignition handle, and was immediately arrested by employees who jumped out of the car. He was accused of preparing to blow up the car of Commander Yakir, who was supposed to arrive at the Kharkov station. A few months later, Iona Yakir was arrested and shot as an enemy of the people and Alexander Schneider spent 10 years in the Kolyma camps.

The Polish writer Alexander Wat was invited to a restaurant in Lviv to meet with his colleagues in writing. He asked, “What is this meeting about?” «you will see» they replied. A fight was staged in a restaurant and he was arrested right there.

Sofya Moskvina-Bokiy, the ex-wife of Chekist Gleb Bokiy, was told not to take a coat with her during her arrest. «Why? it’s warm outside. You’ll be back in an hour at the most.»

Evgenia Ginzburg, the mother of the writer Vasily Aksenov, was told after the search that she would be detained for 40 minutes, an hour at the most, and she did not even get to say goodbye to her children.

The writer Galina Serebryakova, the wife of the executed party leader Sokolnikov, was invited to Lubyanka every evening where they made her wait until 2 or 3 in the morning, interrogated her, and then let her go home at 5 o’clock. Near the house where she lived, agents in civilian clothes stood defiantly, and when she walked somewhere, a black car followed her. After several months of such a life, she was indeed arrested.
Other stories were simpler. Nina Hagen-Thorn talks about a woman who was arrested while she was taking clothes off a rope in the backyard of a house. She stepped out for a couple of minutes, leaving the child alone at home. No amount of begging helped her.

Alexander Isaevich Solzhenitsyn told about a woman who was invited to the theater by a Chekist who was dating her. And after the performance, he took her to the NKVD building, where she was arrested.

According to the memoirs of Zoya Feliksovna Zenchuk, her father Felix Ioch worked on the farm field on the day of his arrest. “So they went after him right into the field and took him away, and they didn’t even let him go home to change clothes. Sister Franya went the next day to Krivosheino to find out what was happening with our father and only saw a ship full of arrested people…”

Maria, daughter of Ivan Osipovich Kisel, explained the circumstances of the arrest. “A policeman from the district center came. Mom was told: “Sit down and don’t move!” And what were they digging for? What were they looking for? We didn’t have anything. My father couldn’t even read; he was illiterate. Mom could not understand anything; she was confused and could not really get my father ready to go. One policeman from the locals told her everything: “Miss, put bread, put fat and mug for your husband …” When my father was taken away, all the linen was being washed and dried in the yard. Father left wearing something very old and mother cannot forgive herself that father left wearing old clothes: “How could I let him go like this ! If I only knew, I would wrap it wet, and then he would dry it and put it on”. If I only knew!I remember my younger brother was running after our father and crying. Father turned around and said, «I will come back soon»…

While the methods of arrest varied and could sometimes seem almost eccentric, subsequent procedures were standard and completely impersonal. A person was registered, photographed, fingerprinted, went through a humiliating personal search, and all this happened long before it was explained to him why he was arrested and what awaited him.

And everyone was faced with an absolutely necessary process in which they had to overcome shock, fear, come to his senses, adapt to the new environment, and withstand the investigation. This decided how life in the camps would turn out.