Today’s book tells the story of the forcible repatriation of Soviet citizens and former subjects of the Russian Empire by the British Army at the end of the Second World War. Some of these were Soviet prisoners of war who had joined General Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army, which fought alongside the Germans. Others were Cossacks (and their families) who were veterans of the White armies who had fled Russia after the end of the Civil War. Many of these had fought with the German-backed Russian Corps in Yugoslavia.
At the time, the British view was that all these people – including the non-Soviet Cossacks – were ‘traitors’. The British government felt no obligation towards them, and considered good relations with the Soviets more important than protecting people who had fought on the side of Britain’s enemies. British opinion later shifted and began to consider the repatriations as a ‘betrayal’ of people who had either acted under duress or, as long-term opponents of Bolshevism, had some understandable reasons for acting as they did. The episode came to be seen as a shameful sacrifice of human lives to a brutal dictatorship.
As a result of this book, originally published in 1974, and of a 1978 work on the same subject by Nicholas Tolstoy, a monument dedicated to those handed over to the Soviets in 1945 was unveiled in Cromwell Gardens, London, in 1986.