Why did Soviet interrogators care if prisoners sign confessions?

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,387
Dispargum
#21
Bureaucracy loves paperwork. A confession is a form of paperwork. The worst thing that can happen to a bureaucrat is to be embarrassed. If anyone in a position of power was to ask, 'Why is this person in the gulag?' the bureaucrat policeman must have paperwork justifying that action. 'The prisoner is in the gulag because he is a criminal. Here is his confession to prove it.'
 
Jan 2019
8
US
#22
Re Chlodio, that's interesting, a sort of interrogator CYA. I was thinking that the Soviet interrogation system was really based on first deciding guilt and then extracting a confession, which seems weird. Though by doing it this way, one avoids having to document the reasons for the initial decision to interrogate, e.g. maybe one wants to steal that person's things, and can instead refer to the confession. That still doesn't explain why forged signatures wouldn't do, but it's an interesting thought. Maybe they DID forge signatures some times!
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,530
Australia
#23
Bureaucracy loves paperwork. A confession is a form of paperwork. The worst thing that can happen to a bureaucrat is to be embarrassed. If anyone in a position of power was to ask, 'Why is this person in the gulag?' the bureaucrat policeman must have paperwork justifying that action. 'The prisoner is in the gulag because he is a criminal. Here is his confession to prove it.'
Yes, a bureaucracy, especially a totalitarian one, needs to have its legitimacy confirmed by paperwork. A confession was written proof that a crime had been committed and the correct person punished. This was to appease both superiors and those bothersome human rights activists or international organisations who complained about your justice system. There was the paperwork to prove the system was fair.
 
Jan 2019
8
US
#24
Another possible motivation might be as a sort of "honest" measure of interrogator productivity. If the confession wasn't signed, or it was forged, then that meant the interrogator wasn't really doing his job.
 
#25
If you take a look at what naive, Western socialists said at the time, you have your explanation: “Sure, it seems crazy that an old Bolshevik like Kamenev or Zinoviev would betray the revolution. “But yet! They signed the confession! They must be guilty then, even if it seems absurd!”

Even some of Stalins colleagues used that flawed logic. Molotov or Kaganovich said at the time (and even later on as I recall) that surely an Old Bolshevik wouldn’t have signed a confession if they weren’t guilty.
 
Likes: rakh
Jul 2016
266
riverside
#26
"The question is why, in addition to all this other stuff, they really cared about getting these signatures, to the point that the interrogations would focus on that. Not why the interrogator cared, but why the Soviet system found this to be important "

perhaps ... because it was easy to do.
 
Likes: rakh
Jan 2019
8
US
#27
I've gotten a bit further through the book, and something that is mentioned is that even soldiers in prison for simply being captured alive by the Germans, and then returning to the motherland, only to get 10 years in gulag and 5 years mussled (not sure what that means), would think that, while they knew that the soldiers in the Gulag probably didn't deserve it, surely the wreckers were real criminals and deserved it. The engineers accused of being wreckers would think the same of themselves and the soldiers. And so on for each group. It would appear that to the Soviet population, even being personally subjected to these interrogations did not make too many of them doubt the accuracy of the Soviet justice system. That's mind-boggling to me, but I suppose xander.XVII's point that people just simply didn't have access to good information at the time must be the explanation.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,387
Dispargum
#28
... even soldiers in prison for simply being captured alive by the Germans, and then returning to the motherland, only to get 10 years in gulag and 5 years mussled (not sure what that means), would think that, while they knew that the soldiers in the Gulag probably didn't deserve it, surely the wreckers were real criminals and deserved it. The engineers accused of being wreckers would think the same of themselves and the soldiers. And so on for each group. It would appear that to the Soviet population, even being personally subjected to these interrogations did not make too many of them doubt the accuracy of the Soviet justice system.
Divide and conquer is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Those in power convince everyone at the bottom of the pyramid to hate and fear everyone else at the bottom so that no one even thinks about blaming or questioning those in power.