Stalin Recognized As 'Most Criminal Monster Of All'
Almost always, the same answer comes up: Hitler. Sustained brainwashing has done its job...Der Fuhrer still towers above all rivals as modern history's greatest demon. But increasingly, research proves that we have been persuaded to fixate on the wrong dictator. History's airbrush has worked overtime on the most criminal monster of them all: Josef Stalin.
Stalin's murderous ruthlessness was, by any standard, far more horrible than Hitler's. A psychopath who modelled himself on Ivan the Terrible, Stalin instituted a reign of terror without parallel, exterminating opponents or perceived opponents by the multi-million.
How many died in his murderous stranglehold?
Only in recent years have the Russians themselves learnt just how hideous their history is. Their first glimpse of the reality came in February, 1956, when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's mass terror and unmasked the prison Gulag system. That was met with widespread disbelief in the West. There can now be no doubt that Stalin, as a matter of policy, killed and killed and killed.
* In 1989, the KGB itself set the death toll in Stalin's 26-year reign of terror (1927-53) at 36 MILLION. But that figure included ONLY the victims of Stalin's liquidations of individuals and groups. Serious research began stepping up with Gorbachev's policy of 'Glasnost.'
* Norman Davis, in his celebrated History of Europe suggested a figure of 54 MILLION.
* The University of Moscow, in association with the University of Madrid, put the figure at 57 MILLION.
Those figures are ten to 15 times higher than the numbers allegedly killed by the Fuhrer and makes him look like an amateur. Such imposed slaughter on countless millions simply freezes belief. It represents the most appalling terror ever inflicted on human kind, rivalled only by Mao's China. Only under a regime which deliberately allowed the extermination of millions of its own citizens could such unimaginable figures be achieved.
On one day alone, December 8, 1938, Stalin signed 30 death lists, containing thousands of names. He then went to the Kremlin cinema to watch a comedy called 'Happy Guys.' It is this viper's ghost that should worry us rather than Hitler's. Yet no Nuremberg trials have ever been conducted into Soviet atrocities. There have never been any Soviet war crimes trials.
As for Stalin's victims, who is interested? They are so much dust blowing in the Siberian winds. No Spielberg conjures them to life. There are many reasons why Stalin's Great Terror remains the most underreported event of the 20th Century.
First, Hitler lost, Stalin - ally of the West - won. Stalin believed (correctly) that he could get away with mass murder. As he told Mao Tse-tung when the Red Chinese leader, visited Moscow in 1949: "Victors are not judged." Perhaps the whole of modern history is summed up in those four words.
Many anti-Stalinists knew, and published, the truth: men such as Malcolm Muggeridge, George Orwell, and Arthur Koestler. But their reports were overwhelmed from the start by the pro-Stalinists. Way back in the mid 1930s, the father of all fellow travellers, George Bernard Shaw, dismissed reports of a Moscow-engineered famine killing millions as "pure invention." Shaw knew better, of course. Stalin had given him the details.
As he did to New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, a prince of liars, who gained the Pulitzer Prize for his fictional accounts of Stalin's "new civilisation" and of "the great Soviet miracle." Duranty played a key role in perpetrating one of the greatest cover-ups in history.
Western illusions did not stop there. Bizarre as it now seems, many at the highest level, up to and including US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, revered Stalin and were consciously partisan in their support of this butcher.
Further, in an astounding example of mankind's infinite capacity for self-deception, millions of Western intellectuals, academics, communists, socialists, liberals, fellow travellers, trade unionists, journalists and clergy forcefully rejected reports of mass atrocities in the old USSR and in China, just as they did later of events in Cuba
The truth is that vast numbers in the West worshipped Stalin as almost a demigod, and nursed an almost religious faith that the USSR represented the great new hope of all mankind. Stalin fondly referred to such useful idiots as his "maggots."
Above all, until quite recently, we have had little real access to communist archives. Even today the most sensitive are still closed. So we still do not know the full answers: Was it one tenth or one-twentieth of the entire adult Soviet population who served time in Stalin's prison camps? Did 3 million die in the Gulag, or was the figure closer to ten? We may never know but the effort to break through the Great Amnesia is picking up speed.
Till the late 1980s, hardly anyone but local villagers knew where the bones were buried. For the past 13 years the Russians have been slowly recovering their past, with new mass graves being uncovered at regular intervals. And, as soon as the existence of the first Stalinist mass graves were made known, people began to come forward with revelations of the death camps. In one, Kolyma, the huge prison complex in the Russian Arctic, so many bones lay around that in the summer children used the skulls to gather blueberries. Now memorials are being built.
The misery came early. In Russia, uniquely, there exists hardly any memory of the 1914-18 War, such a watershed for the rest of Europe. There exist no Soviet national monuments to WWI. The reason is simple. In the civil wars which followed the revolution of 1917 and brought the Bolsheviks to power, between nine and 14 million Russians died: starving, cold, racked with disease, or tortured and killed in bitter fighting.
Next came the Ukraine. Robert Conquest in his 'Harvest of Sorrow' suggests that when, on Stalin's direct orders, the entire grain crop of the Ukraine was seized for export, the number of resulting deaths was probably about 1.5 million, equalling the total dead of WWl.
We will now turn to a brilliant but deeply disturbing new book by a young British historian, 'Night of Stone: Death & Memory in Russia' by Catherine Merridale, published by Granta. Dr. Merridale is one of a growing army of scientists dedicated to uncovering the truth about Soviet-era crimes, the legacy of Josef Stalin and the society he created.
She spent two years in Russia and the Ukraine, researching documents from the Stalinist era only now coming to light: and talking to ordinary Russians about what it is like to live in a country haunted by the all-pervasive presence of death. Her book, an excellent work of scholarship, attempts to explain how the Russian people lived through some of the greatest horrors of a singularly bloody 20th century: and how, at long last, they are coming to terms with their shocking past and themselves.
Merridale does not attempt to put a precise figure on how many Russians lives were lost to violence between 1914 and Stalin's death in 1953, but suggests a total well in excess of 50 MILLION. All of it planned.
Epidemics of flu and cholera, and the 1921-22 famines in grain-producing areas of southern Russia, killed many millions. People ate earth, grass, carrion and human flesh. In some districts, in the winter of 1921, local officials had to ban the sale of processed meat to stop the trade in human flesh.
Stalin's own signature is on thousands of death warrants. Millions more were denounced as enemies of the state for no other reason than they wished to think for themsetves.
Crematoria, with which the state had been experimenting since Lenin's time, were now running more efficiently. The bodies arrived in batches, accompanied by stamped forms in triplicate.
"They were such handsome men," one crematorium worker told Dr Merridale. "Some of them were still warm. Some of them were not even dead when we threw them into the furnace....."
The death rate in the gulags peaked in 1942-3. Without doubt, the brutalisation of millions of Russians over the previous quarter century contributed to the grim reputation of the Red Army in WW2. Soldiers were treated like livestock. At Stalingrad, there was no one left to dig the graves.
At last came victory in the Great Patriotic War, as it was known, the only occasion for real celebrations that many of those Merridale interviewed, had known in all their lives. After Stalin's death in 1953, the repression gradually eased. "A human being survives only by his ability to forget," wrote a survivor of the Kolyma Camp. In recent years, many of the anonymous Gulag death camps have quietly disappeared.
Stalin himself spelt it out. His Short Course Into The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union contains references to the liquidation of his political opponents. He wrote: "The Soviet Government had only to raise its little finger for them to vanish without trace." How true.
For an intelligent person today to be ignorant of the manner of Soviet rule can only be seen as an act of wilful political bias. The whole record of the terrible era is one of naked human power and inhuman cruelty. It is a sad fact that many in South Africa's present ruling ANC/SACP glory in their self-designation as "Stalinists"...
There is little danger of the world ever running out of imbeciles.
Thought for the Day: "A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are a statistic." - Joseph Stalin
Copyright (c) 2001