Definition of Málenkij robot

Málenkij robot – the origin of this expression comes from the Russian malenkaja rabota, meaning a little work. In the course of World War II, members of Soviet military bodies arrived on Hungarian territory: the Red Army, the People’s Committee of Home Affairs (NKVD), the Committee of State Security (NKGB) and Soviet Military Intelligence (SZMERS). These bodies deported masses of civilians aged 13 to 62 to the Soviet Union to do forced labour lasting several years. By the frequent use of the expression a little work, and the promise of a few-minutes’ long identification procedure, they tricked hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. These lies were told in order to prevent potential protests, defiance, and attempts to flee. That is why these two words have become commonly known in Hungary and subsequently among historians, to designate the dragging away of masses of civilians and their long-term incarceration in forced-labour camps in the Soviet Union.

From the current territory of Hungary, about 150-170,000 civilians were deported to do málenkíj robot, in comparison with the 250-270,000 civilians deported from the former territory of 172,000 square kilometres.

Most of the kidnapped civilians were made prisoners of war, whilst a minority were placed in detention camps. The latter, including many women and girls, were taken there on the pretext that they were of German descent.

Most of the people taken for malenkij robot were made to work in mines, in factories, and on logging and construction sites; a minority were sent to collective and state farms in inhumane conditions.

As a result of famine, hardship, exhausting forced labour, and inhumane – and, indeed, anti-hygienic – conditions, 30-40% of deportees died. However, there were camps, where more than 60% of those who had been taken captive perished. Most of them were buried in undesignated graves, rarely in single graves, whilst a lesser number were interred by the railway lines on the way to or from home. The Soviet authorities never gave official notice of their deaths. There is still no information about the circumstances of the deaths of a substantial number of people.