Novocherkassk massacre

Deaths 26 (officially) 70-80 (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
Location Novocherkassk, Rostov Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died Unknown
Date June 2, 1962; 59 years ago (1962-06-02)
Criminal penalty Unknown


The strike was caused by discontent over an increase of production quotas coinciding with a nationwide increase in dairy and meat prices. Some protestors called Nikita Khrushchev a "False Leninist" and compared him unfavorably with the annual price-reduction regime of Joseph Stalin. The protesters failed to heed a warning from the general in charge of the troops stationed in and around the administration building in the center of city and, as such, the events turned violent which ended in the protesters being dispersed by gunfire. According to official figures, 26 were killed by troops, and 87 were wounded. According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago (page 449 in the abridged version), "Information from a variety of sources is more or less unanimous that some seventy or eighty people were killed".

Arrests, show trials and cover-ups ensued: more than 200 were arrested, seven people were convicted and sentenced to death over various crimes such as "mass disorder" and approximately hundreds of others were imprisoned up to 15 years (terms of some of which were later reduced); news about the events never appeared in the state-controlled press and they were kept secret up until 1992. The 26 dead were secretly buried by KGB operatives in false graves which were not disclosed to relatives until June 2, 1994 when all bodies were discovered and reburied at the official memorial.

In 1992, shortly after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, the events were investigated by the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office. Major suspects among the highest Soviet officials such as Nikita Khrushchev, Anastas Mikoyan, Frol Kozlov and several others who were deemed responsible for the massacre were never held accountable due to their deaths by the time the investigation had started. The massacre is commemorated each year on the anniversary of the massacre by a group of surviving participants of the protests.



  • May 1–7: According to V. A. Kozlov, the first signs of discontent among workers were expressed long before the massacre happened. The first isolated cases of individual strikes at the NEBF were recorded. It was claimed that among the strikers were many experienced political prisoners who were previously repressed by the Soviet regime, but this is not supported by any evidence.
  • May 17: The Council of Ministers issued decree No. 456, which declared a nationwide increase in the price of various items planned to come into effect on June 1.
  • May 31: The first news of the No. 456 decree appeared in the Soviet press.


  • June 1: The protests grew. At this time the strikers were harassed by Soviet army personnel, soviet militsiya with various clashes between them and the protesters, who attempted to spark strikes in other factories around NEBF.
  • June 2: The strike over the NEBF continued overnight. In the early morning thousands marched from NEBF toward Novocherkassk's centre carrying portraits of Lenin and red flags; they were heading toward buildings of the city's council and executive committee; though disorganised at this point the crowd was calm and peaceful. The crowd crossed the bridge spanning the Tuzlov river and was met by tanks commanded by Colonel Matvey Shaposhnikov who refused to open fire at the people; at the time many members of the CC of the CPSU, KGB, MIA and other high officials had already arrived and were present in the city. By the time the crowd reached the centre of the city authorities learned that they had passed the bridge unopposed – consequently deciding to quickly retreat into safety. As the march continued to advance toward the centre, more people started to join the crowd, frightening the authorities further. The crowd attacked and looted several administrative buildings and police stations, sparking brief violence; demands to Mikoyan to come out and speak to people followed. At midday the army attempted to disperse the crowd using soldiers and armoured personnel carriers but failed and shortly after fired at the people, claiming the lives of 22 and wounding many others, including soldiers. On the evening of the same day, two protesters were killed according to officials.
  • June 2–3: A curfew was imposed and lasted more than a week; Protests continued though at smaller scale.


  • July 19: Some of the protesters were sentenced to ten years in prison.


  • October 19: A report about rumours of the massacre appeared in Time Magazine.


The riots were a direct result of shortages of food and provisions, as well as the poor working conditions in the factory. The protest began on June 1 in the Budyonny Electric Locomotive Factory, when workers from the foundry and forge shops stopped work after factory management refused to hear their complaints. The strike and attendant discussions had spread throughout the whole factory by noon.

The unrest began when Nikita Khrushchev raised the prices of meat and butter throughout the Soviet Union on June 1. On the same day, as required by a separate economic plan, the minimum production quotas for each worker at the factory were increased, thereby effectively reducing pay rates. This culminated in a march on the town hall and police headquarters, and the strike spread to other enterprises after police arrested thirty workers.

According to documents declassified in 90's, motorised infantry units were called to suppress the protesters, but they fired in the air, and the lethal fire came from a unit of Internal troops, from Rostov-on-Don composed of 10 snipers and 2 machine guns, who were set up at the "Don" hotel. Orders to kill were approved through the whole chain of command, from Khrushchev, through the ministry of defense.

The Commander of the North-Caucasian Troops, general Matvey Kuzmich Shapochnikov, refused to execute an order to attack peaceful demonstrators with tanks (he reportedly said, "I don't see any enemy that we could turn our weapons against"), for which he was later degraded and arrested.

Commemorating plate. The writing reads: ″In the memory of Novocherkassk tragedy 1962″.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin lays flowers, on 1 February 2008, at the memorial to the victims of the massacre.


According to now available official sources, 26 protesters were machine-gunned and killed by Soviet troops. An additional 87 protesters were wounded, three of them mortally. Due to Soviet propaganda at that time the protesters trusted the Soviet army, and many did not expect them to fire live ammunition at unarmed citizens. After the initial demonstrations a curfew was imposed on the city. The dead were secretly buried in cemeteries scattered across the Rostov Oblast. However, the following morning a group of several hundred demonstrators again gathered in the square. One hundred sixteen were arrested, and fourteen were convicted in show trials. Seven of those convicted received a death sentence. The others were sentenced to prison terms of ten to fifteen years.

Following the incident, the Soviet government directed extra food supplies to the region and began an investigation. Additional workers were arrested, and several military officials involved in the incident were court martialed. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn claimed that other individuals wounded in the unrest and their families were exiled to Siberia.

The story was hushed-up by Soviet media and remained an official secret until 1992, a year after the fall of the Soviet Union. At that time the remains of 20 protesters were recovered, identified, and buried in the Novoshakhtinsk cemetery.

In media

During a Politburo scene in The Devil's Alternative (1979) by author Frederick Forsyth, the KGB chief, asked if he could suppress riots during famine, responds that the KGB could suppress ten, even twenty Novocherkassks, but not fifty – intentionally using the example to highlight how serious the difficulties would be that the Soviet Union finds itself in the novel.

The massacre is dramatised in Francis Spufford's 2010 novel Red Plenty.

Films Once upon a time in Rostov (2012) and Dear Comrades (2020) offer depictions of the massacre.