MOSCOW — Josef Stalin had the wives of two Soviet leaders arrested and sent to prison camps while their husbands continued to be loyal servants of the Soviet dictator, a magazine told Soviet readers Monday.
Although long known in the West, the disclosure in the April issue Ogonyek, represented another effort in Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's campaign to fill in the "blank pages" of Soviet history.
It was also apparently the first time a Soviet publication mentioned "gulag," the Russian-language acronym for the State Administration of Camps, overseers of the prisons that housed millions during the Stalin era.
Soviet President Mikhail I. Kalinin's wife, Yekaterina, languished for a decade in a prison camp as an enemy of the people. Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov's wife, Paulina, was held for nearly five years, the magazine reported.
Voted to Arrest Her
Molotov, who voted for the arrest of his wife during a Politburo meeting in 1949, never mentioned her again and had to wait until after Stalin's death in 1953 to be reunited with her, the magazine said.
"But Kalinin never stopped appealing for his wife's release. It was terrible to hear how often Kalinin asked Stalin to have mercy for his wife, to free his 'friend of life,' to give him a chance to be with her before his death.
"Stalin got so sick and tired of the pleas that he promised to release her after World War II was over."
Stalin kept his word, freeing Kalinin's wife a month after the end of the war, but then gave her a "dog's passport," barring her from living in Moscow and 270 other Soviet cities, the magazine said.
Kalinin, by then old and dying, was forced to take a train to visit his wife, whose Estonian nationality had apparently aroused Stalin's paranoia.
The magazine also described the arrest of Kalinin's wife, in the late 1930s.
"Kalinin's wife was arrested in a rather banal way without any theatrical performance," it said. "She was called to the Kremlin's fashion house for a fitting for a dress. In the fashion house they were waiting for her."
Yekaterina Kalinin was charged with terror, "the most terrible clause in the criminal code, the dreaded Article 58-8," the magazine said.
"Her arrest card bore the sign of a cross meaning she must always be kept under guard and should do the most difficult work in the camp. . . ."