761.00/1–1350: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

101. January 13 Soviet press carries following decree Presidium Supreme Soviet USSR: “Concerning application death penalty to traitors, spies, sapper-saboteurs.

In view statements received from national republics, trade-unions, peasant organizations, cultural workers concerning necessity changing decree on abolition death penalty so that decree does not apply traitors, spies, sapper-saboteurs, Presidium Supreme Soviet USSR decrees:

As exception to decree Presidium Supreme Soviet USSR of May 26, 1947 concerning abolition death penalty,1 to permit death penalty as highest form punishment for traitors, spies, sapper-saboteurs.
Present decree effective from day publication.”2

  1. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, p. 564.
  2. In despatch 173 from Moscow on February 17, 1950, not printed, the remark was made that “the restoration of the death penalty fits very readily into the vigilance campaign.” In this regard “the current vigilance campaign is only a new peak in a continuing effort to minimize Soviet citizens’ contacts with foreigners that has been going on for years. Among earlier landmarks in this field are the 1947 decrees on divulging state secrets and dealing with foreigners. It is perhaps more than a coincidence that 1947 also witnessed the launching of the Cominform and other indications of a general revolutionary offensive.” (861.56/2–1750)