Operation Priboi (Russian: Операция «Прибой» – "Operation 'Coastal Surf'") was the code name for the Soviet mass deportation from the Baltic states on 25–28 March 1949. The action is also known as the March deportation (Estonian: Märtsiküüditamine; Latvian: Marta deportācijas; Russian: Мартовская депортация) by Baltic historians. More than 90,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, labeled as "enemies of the people", were deported to forced settlements in inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union. Over 70% of the deportees were either women or children under the age of 16.
Portrayed as a "dekulakization" campaign, the operation was intended to facilitate collectivisation and to eliminate the support base for the armed resistance of the Forest Brothers against the illegal Soviet occupation. The deportation fulfilled its purposes: by the end of 1949, 93% and 80% of the farms were collectivized in Latvia and Estonia. In Lithuania, the progress was slower and the Soviets organized another large deportation known as Operation Osen in late 1951. The deportations were for "eternity" with no way to return. During the de-Stalinization and Khrushchev Thaw, deportees were gradually released and some of them managed to return, though many of their descendants still live in Siberian towns and villages to this day.
Since the general situation in the Soviet Union had improved since the end of the war, this mass deportation did not result in as many casualties as previous deportations, with a reported mortality rate of less than 15 percent. Due to the high death rate of deportees during the first few years of their Siberian exile, caused by the failure of Soviet authorities to provide suitable living conditions at the destinations, whether through neglect or premeditation, some sources consider these deportations an act of genocide. Based on the Martens Clause and the principles of the Nuremberg Charter, the European Court of Human Rights has held that the March deportation constituted a crime against humanity.