From the 1917 Revolution and till the death of Stalin in 1953 in the Soviet Union there were two parallel systems of sentencing people: a non-judicial one and the courts system and its departments, including tribunals. This is a very formal distinction because court trials these days can definitely be referred to as non-judicial.
Here was the location of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR (VKVC), During the Great Terror years, when the Supreme Court had an exceptional workload, it was headed by Vasily Ulrikh. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens were accused here of preposterous, absurd crimes, as well as purported participation in counter-revolutionary conspiracies, terrorist organizations or espionage. Between 1934 and 1955 47,549 people from all over the Union were sentenced by the VKVC. 31,456 of these were sentenced to death, others – to prisons and camps. Among these 50 thousands were people who were arrested through so-called “Stalin’s Shooting Lists”. The process was conducted without letting the accused any defence, and without providing the accused any possibility of appeal. In the vast majority cases the members of the Collegium had never seen the accused. Among those sentenced to death here were the famous theatre director Vselovod Meyerhold, the writer Isaac Babel, the old Bolshevik, Grigory Zinoviev and other famous people.
Previously, from 1931 to 1934, the Economical Department of the OGPU NKVD was located here. Among its other functions it was in charge of the closed experimental technical design bureaus which employed the imprisoned intellectual professionals. These kind of special projects bureaus were called sharashkis or special prisons.