By Eric Margolis
Sun, November 4, 2007
Time to hear an apology for the Great Terror in the Soviet Union
This seems to be historic guilt month. Germany just opened a new memorial to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Armenians demand Turkey admit Ottoman-era massacres were genocide. Japan is being blasted anew for denying wartime atrocities.
Yet the greatest crime in modern history, and bloodiest genocide, have almost vanished from our collective memory. Last week marked the 70th anniversary of the Great Terror in the Soviet Union in which tens of millions were murdered or imprisoned.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at least commemorated for the first time what he termed “colossal” Soviet crimes by attending a memorial this week for its victims.
It was interesting watching Putin, former head of the FSB security service, denouncing crimes of its direct predecessors, KGB and NKVD. The same Putin who recently called the Soviet Union’s collapse a “tragedy.” Still, we applaud his long-overdue recognition of Communist-era crimes.
The Soviet terror began in the 1920s when Lenin ordered the extermination of Cossacks and opponents of the Bolsheviks. Next came Catholics of White Russia, and resisters to communism in the Baltic states and Moldova. Stalin then ordered liquidation of two million small farmers, known as “Kulaks.”
In 1932-33, Stalin unleashed genocide against Ukraine’s independent-minded farmers.
Six to seven million Ukrainians were shot or purposely starved to death. The man who directed this genocide, Lazar Kaganovich was made Hero of the Soviet Union and died in Moscow in 1991.
When Communist Party bureaucrats delayed Stalin’s plans to transform the Soviet Union from a backward rural society into a modern industrial powerhouse, “Koba,” as he was called, had NKVD shoot 700,000 party members. Thereafter, his orders were promptly obeyed.
Almost all the party and military hierarchy were executed during the Great Purges of 1937-38, which culminated in the Moscow Show Trials.
From 1934-1941 alone, some seven million victims were sent to the system of concentration camps known as the “gulag,” including one million Poles, hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, and half the entire Chechen and Ingush people. Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Bashkirs, Kalmyks followed. Stalin’s gulag did not need gas chambers: Cold, disease and overwork killed 30% of inmates yearly.
To this day, Russian and foreign historians are unsure of the full number of Lenin and Stalin’s victims. Estimates range from 20-40 million total deaths from 1922 to 1953.
Stalin committed his worst crimes well before Hitler’s major atrocities got under way.
We have forgotten that Germany alone did not spark the Second World War. Germany and the U.S.S.R. jointly invaded Poland in 1939; Stalin then attacked Finland. Two years later, Britain and the U.S.S.R. invaded neutral Iran. History indeed remains the propaganda of the victors.
If we keep hectoring Germany and Japan to admit guilt for events of the 1940s, is it not time the United States, Britain and Canada admit their own culpability in allying themselves to Stalin, a monster who killed over four times the number of Hitler’s victims?
After all, Stalin’s concentration camps were up and running a decade ahead of Germany’s. The murder of millions of Ukrainians and Balts took place before the world’s gaze — six or seven years before the Second World War.
The foolish Roosevelt, who hailed Stalin as “Uncle Joe,” and the cannier Winston Churchill both knew they were allied to the biggest mass murderer since Genghis Khan.
They used a larger devil to fight a smaller, less dangerous one — then paid his price by handing over half of Europe to Moscow.
Remember this when today’s warmongers wax poetic about the glories of World War II — and call for WW III.
Western powers should practise what they piously preach to Germany, Japan and, lately, Turkey, by at least apologizing for their sordid deal with Stalin, which was every bit as immoral as if they had made a deal with Hitler, as Stalin long feared they would, to destroy the Soviet Union.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.