MOSCOW — The Soviet Union today officially rehabilitated 20 victims of Josef Stalin's 1938 show trials, including Nikolai Bukharin, who had opposed the brutal collectivization of the peasants.
"The trial was falsified and all the material was obtained unlawfully," Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov said in announcing the decision of the courts.
All 20 had been sent to their deaths after trials in 1938 in which they were accused of a "rightist Troskyite" plot involving charges of subversion and working for foreign intelligence agencies.
"All of them were rehabilitated," Gerasimov told a hastily called news conference. "They were fully restored in their civil rights, unfortunately posthumously."
Can Publish Writings
In a reference particularly applicable to Bukharin, Gerasimov said, "Of course if their works are of interest, they can be published, but that is the decision of an editor."
The decision had been foreshadowed by the publication this week of a speech Bukharin delivered in 1929 opposing Stalin's plans for forcing the nation's peasants into collective, state-controlled farms.
Underlining the condemnation of Stalin's purges, authorities also studied the case of the head of the secret police who directed the purges from 1936 but was subsequently consumed himself, N. I. Yezhov. Gerasimov said Yezhov, also killed in 1938 when he was succeeded by the infamous Lavrenti P. Beria, was not rehabilitated by the courts.
Historic Gaps Filled
It was the most dramatic step so far in Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's campaign to fill in the "blank spaces" in the nation's history under communism.
"One must turn from this dark period of history to proceed further," Gerasimov said.
The rehabilitation of 20 people at the same time was the largest number since the de-Stalinization movement under the late leader Nikita S. Khrushchev in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gerasimov said.
He said large numbers of Stalin's victims were rehabilitated in the provinces at that time, but under the following leader, Leonid I. Brezhnev, the process came to a halt.
More Cases Studied
Gerasimov said further cases were under study by a committee that includes the Supreme Court, the prosecutor's office and a commission on rehabilitation set up by Gorbachev.
Bukharin had opposed forced collectivization, warning that it would be counterproductive. More than 6 million people are believed to have died because of Stalin's policy, and food production per capita did not reach the 1928 level for another quarter of a century.
Rather than the heavy industry that Stalin created regardless of human cost, Bukharin had advocated light industry that would produce goods needed by the peasants to draw them naturally into the national economy.
"Whether he was right or wrong was not considered by the commission and it did not intend to pass this judgment," Gerasimov said of Bukharin's theories.