Hundreds of thousands of people were arrested during the great purges instigated by Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. These people were generally executed fairly quickly, or sent to a labor camp, which was generally just a slower form of death. The arrests were carried out by the NKVD, a precursor to the dreaded KGB of later years.
Many of these people were "rehabilitated" in the 1950s and 1980s, although a posthumous pardon doesn't do much for the victims.
The NKVD left a paper trail with substantial information about the arrests, trials, and sentences. These files were passed to the KGB. In recent years in Ukraine, the relevant KGB files have been placed in the oblast branches of the state archive. Not surprisingly, ease of access varies. Some of the archives are preparing to publish guides to their holdings.
The people arrested and tried in the 1930s were generally charged under Article 54 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, which deals with counter-revolutionary crimes designed to overthrow, undermine or weaken Soviet power.
Article 54 had 14 basic components:
o Article 54-1: high treason
o Article 54-2: bourgeois separatism and nationalism
o Article 54-3: being an accomplice to the enemy
o Article 54-4: being an agent of the world bourgeoisie
o Article 54-5: inciting a foreign state to declare war on the USSR
o Article 54-6: espionage
o Article 54-7: conducting subversive activities
o Article 54-8: terrorism
o Article 54-9: committing acts of sabotage of the transport, communications or water supply system
o Article 54-10: conducting anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation
o Article 54-11: being a member of an anti-Soviet organization
o Article 54-12: not informing the Soviet authorities about the forthcoming or already perpetrated counter-revolutionary crimes
o Article 54-13: committing crimes against the working class or revolution movement
o Article 54-14: committing sabotage and not fulfilling the duties in order to weaken the Soviet power.
The Russian federation had a similar criminal code, although the above section was article 58 in Russia, rather than article 54.
My feature article on the arrest records of the 1930s appeared by the 2002 issue of the FEEFHS Journal. A copy of the article, in Acrobat PDF format, is available on the FEEFHS web site.
Other important links:
Odessa Province Executions 1937-1938
Odessa Mass Executions 1937-1938
Under Arrest book -- Don Miller's summary of what happened in the Zhitomir area