Stalin Was Simply A Moscow Coffee House Jew
Stalin, and his fellow Jewish Bolsheviks, killed tens of millions.
Roosevel and Churchill Referred To Him As "Uncle Joe"
- Russian Civil War (1917-22): 9 000 000
- Eckhardt: 500,000 civ. + 300,000 mil. = 800,000
- Readers Companion to Military History, Cowley and Parker, eds. (1996) [http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/mil/html/mh_045400_russiancivil.htm]:
- Combat deaths: 825,000
- Ancillary deaths: 2,000,000
- TOTAL: 2,825,000
- Davies, Norman (Europe A History, 1998)
- Civil War and Volga Famine (1918-22): 3,000,000 to 5,000,000
- Brzezinski, Z:
- 6 to 8 million people died under Lenin from war, famine etc.
- Mastering Twentieth Century Russian History by Norman Lowe (2002)
- TOTAL: 7,000,000 to 10,000,000
- Red Army
- Battle: 632,000
- Disease: 581,000
- Whites: 1,290,000 battle + disease
- White Terror: "tens of thousands"
- Red Terror
- Executed: 50-200,000
- Died in prison or killed in revolts: 400,000
- Typhoid + typhus
- 1919: 890,000
- 1920: >1M
- Military deaths: 800,000
- Battle deaths, all sides: 300,000
- Dead of wounds: 50,000
- Disease: 450,000
- Civilians: 8,000,000
- TOTAL: 8,800,000
- Military deaths: 800,000
- Dyadkin, I.G. (cited in Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993)
- 9 million unnatural deaths from terror, famine and disease, 1918-23
- Civil War (1917-22)
- War: 1,410,000 (includes 500,000 civilian)
- Famine: 5,000,000 (50% democidal)
- Other democide: 784,000
- Epidemics: 2,300,000
- Total: 9,494,000
- Lenin's Regime (1917-24)
- Rummel blames Lenin for a lifetime total of 4,017,000 democides.
- Civil War (1917-22)
- Figes, Orlando (A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, 1997)
- 10 million deaths from war, terror, famine and disease.
- Famine (1921-22): 5 million
- Killed in fighting, both military and civilian: 1M
- Jews killed in pogroms: 150,000
- Not including...
- Demographic effects of a hugely reduced birth-rate: 10M
- Emmigration: 2M
- 10 million deaths from war, terror, famine and disease.
- McEvedy, Colin (Atlas of World Population History, 1978)
- War deaths: 2M
- Other excess deaths: 14M
- Reduced births: 10M
- Emmigration: 2M
- MEDIAN: Of these ten estimates that claim to be complete, the median is 8.8M-9.0M.
- Small & Singer (battle deaths, 1917-21)
- Russian Civil War (Dec.1917-Oct.1920)
- Russians: 500,000
- Allied Intervention:
- Japan: 1,500
- UK: 350
- USA: 275
- France: 50
- Finland: 50
- Russian Nationalities War (Dec.1917-Mar.1921)
- USSR: 50,000
- Russian Civil War (Dec.1917-Oct.1920)
- Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: a History of the Russian Civil War 1918-1921
- Death sentences by the Cheka: ca. 100,000
- Pogroms: as many as one in 13 Jews k. out of 1.5M in Ukraine [i.e. ca. 115,000] (citing Heifetz)
- Nevins, citing Heifetz and the Red Cross: 120,000 Jews killed in 1919 pogroms [http://www.west.net/~jazz/felshtin/redcross.html]
- Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): Cheka responsible for maybe 250,000+ violent deaths.
- Paul Johnson
- 50,000 death sentences imposed by the Cheka by 12/20
- 100,000 Jews killed in 1919
- Green, Barbara (in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?)
- 4 to 5 million deaths in the famine of 1921-23
- Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace
- North Russia: 244 USAns d. incl. 144 k.battle
- Siberia: 160 USAns KIA + 168 other d.
- [US Total: 304 KIA + 268 other = 572 d.]
- Czech Legion: 13,000 dead.
The Artificial Famine/Genocide in Ukraine 1932-33
- Small & Singer (battle deaths, 1917-21)
- Soviet Union, Stalin's regime (1924-53): 20 000 000
- There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to the number who died at Stalin's hands. There's the "Why doesn't anyone realize that communism is the absolutely worst thing ever to hit the human race, without exception, even worse than both world wars, the slave trade and bubonic plague all put together?" school, and there's the "Come on, stop exaggerating. The truth is horrifying enough without you pulling numbers out of thin air" school. The two schools are generally associated with the right and left wings of the political spectrum, and they often accuse each other of being blinded by prejudice, stubbornly refusing to admit the truth, and maybe even having a hidden agenda. Also, both sides claim that recent access to former Soviet archives has proven that their side is right.
- Here are a few illustrative estimates from the Big Numbers school:
- Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993 cites these:
- Chistyakovoy, V. (Neva, no.10): 20 million killed during the 1930s.
- Dyadkin, I.G. (Demograficheskaya statistika neyestestvennoy smertnosti v SSSR 1918-1956 ): 56 to 62 million "unnatural deaths" for the USSR overall, with 34 to 49 million under Stalin.
- Gold, John.: 50-60 million.
- Davies, Norman (Europe A History, 1998): c. 50 million killed 1924-53, excluding WW2 war losses. This would divide (more or less) into 33M pre-war and 17M after 1939.
- Rummel, 1990: 61,911,000 democides in the USSR 1917-87, of which 51,755,000 occurred during the Stalin years. This divides up into:
- 1923-29: 2,200,000 (plus 1M non-democidal famine deaths)
- 1929-39: 15,785,000 (plus 2M non-democidal famine)
- 1939-45: 18,157,000
- 1946-54: 15,613,000 (plus 333,000 non-democidal famine)
- TOTAL: 51,755,000 democides and 3,333,000 non-demo. famine
- William Cockerham, Health and Social Change in Russia and Eastern Europe: 50M+
- Wallechinsky: 13M (1930-32) + 7M (1934-38)
- Cited by Wallechinsky:
- Medvedev, Roy (Let History Judge): 40 million.
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: 60 million.
- Cited by Wallechinsky:
- MEDIAN: 51 million for the entire Stalin Era; 20M during the 1930s.
- Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993 cites these:
- And from the Lower Numbers school:
- Nove, Alec ("Victims of Stalinism: How Many?" in J. Arch Getty (ed.) Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives, 1993): 9,500,000 "surplus deaths" during the 1930s.
- Cited in Nove:
- Maksudov, S. (Poteri naseleniya SSSR, 1989): 9.8 million abnormal deaths between 1926 and 1937.
- Tsaplin, V.V. ("Statistika zherty naseleniya v 30e gody" 1989): 6,600,000 deaths (hunger, camps and prisons) between the 1926 and 1937 censuses.
- Dugin, A. ("Stalinizm: legendy i fakty" 1989): 642,980 counterrevolutionaries shot 1921-53.
- Muskovsky Novosti (4 March 1990): 786,098 state prisoners shot, 1931-53.
- Gordon, A. (What Happened in That Time?, 1989, cited in Adler, N., Victims of Soviet Terror, 1993): 8-9 million during the 1930s.
- Ponton, G. (The Soviet Era, 1994): cites an 1990 article by Milne, et al., that excess deaths 1926-39 were likely 3.5 million and at most 8 million.
- MEDIAN: 8.5 Million during the 1930s.
- As you can see, there's no easy compromise between the two schools. The Big Numbers are so high that picking the midpoint between the two schools would still give us a Big Number. It may appear to be a rather pointless argument -- whether it's fifteen or fifty million, it's still a huge number of killings -- but keep in mind that the population of the Soviet Union was 164 million in 1937, so the upper estimates accuse Stalin of killing nearly 1 out of every 3 of his people, an extremely Polpotian level of savagery. The lower numbers, on the other hand, leave Stalin with plenty of people still alive to fight off the German invasion.
- Although it's too early to be taking sides with absolute certainty, a consensus seems to be forming around a death toll of 20 million. This would adequately account for all documented nastiness without straining credulity:
- In The Great Terror (1969), Robert Conquest suggested that the overall death toll was 20 million at minimum -- and very likely 50% higher, or 30 million. This would divide roughly as follows: 7M in 1930-36; 3M in 1937-38; 10M in 1939-53. By the time he wrote The Great Terror: A Re-assessment (1992), Conquest was much more confident that 20 million was the likeliest death toll.
- Britannica, "Stalinism": 20M died in camps, of famine, executions, etc., citing Medvedev
- Brzezinski: 20-25 million, dividing roughly as follows: 7M destroying the peasantry; 12M in labor camps; 1M excuted during and after WW2.
- Daniel Chirot:
- "Lowest credible" estimate: 20M
- "Highest": 40M
- Conquest: 20M
- Antonov-Ovseyenko: 30M
- Medvedev: 40M
- Courtois, Stephane, Black Book of Communism (Le Livre Noir du Communism): 20M for the whole history of Soviet Union, 1917-91.
- Essay by Nicolas Werth: 15M
- [Ironic observation: The Black Book of Communism seems to vote for Hitler as the answer to the question of who's worse, Hitler (25M) or Stalin (20M).]
- John Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen (2001): 20M, incl.
- Kulaks: 7M
- Gulag: 12M
- Purge: 1.2M (minus 50,000 survivors)
- Adam Hochschild, The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin: directly responsible for 20 million deaths.
- Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land: Facing Europes Ghosts After Communism (1995): upwards of 25M
- Time Magazine (13 April 1998): 15-20 million.
- AVERAGE: Of the 17 estimates of the total number of victims of Stalin, the median is 30 million.
- Individual Gulags etc.
- Famine, 1926-38
- Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): 4.2M in Ukraine + 1.7M in Kazakhstan
- Green, Barbara ("Stalinist Terror and the Question of Genocide: the Great Famine" in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?) cites these sources for the number who died in the famine:
- Nove: 3.1-3.2M in Ukraine, 1933
- Maksudov: 4.4M in Ukraine, 1927-38
- Mace: 5-7M in Ukraine
- Osokin: 3.35M in USSR, 1933
- Wheatcraft: 4-5M in USSR, 1932-33
- Total, USSR, 1926-37: 11M
- 1932-33: 7M
- Ukraine: 5M
Under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, tens of millions of ordinary individuals were executed or imprisoned in labour camps that were little more than death camps. Perceived political orientation was the key variable in these mass atrocities. But gender played an important role, and in many respects the Purge period of Soviet history can be considered the worst gendercide of the twentieth century.
According to the historian Robert Conquest, Joseph Stalin "gives the impression of a large and crude claylike figure, a golem, into which a demonic spark has been instilled." He was nonetheless "a man who perhaps more than any other determined the course of the twentieth century."
Stalin was born Joseph Dzhugashvili in the Georgian town of Gori in 1879. In his youth he imbibed both the seminary training and the Great Russian nationalism that many would later link to his tyrannical exercise of power. He was an early activist in the Bolshevik movement, where he first assumed the pseudonym Stalin (which means "man of steel"), and was twice exiled to Siberia by the Tsarist authorities. When the Russian Revolution triumphed in October 1917, Stalin returned from exile, and was named General Secretary in 1922. The post was largely an undistinguished administrative one, but Stalin used it to fortify his power base and control over the bureaucracy of the ruling Communist Party. When the communist leader, Vladimir Lenin, died in 1924, a struggle for control broke out that pitted Stalin against his nemesis, Leon Trotsky, and a host of lesser party figures. Stalin's victory was slow and hard-fought, but by 1927 he had succeeded in having Trotsky expelled from the party and, in 1929, from the country (Trotsky was tracked down and killed by Stalin's agents in Mexico City in 1940).
By 1928, Stalin was entrenched as supreme Soviet leader, and he wasted little time in launching a series of national campaigns (the so-called Five-Year Plans) aimed at "collectivizing" the peasantry and turning the USSR into a powerful industrial state. Both campaigns featured murder on a massive scale. Collectivization especially targeted Ukraine, "the breadbasket of the Soviet Union," which clung stubbornly to its own national identity and preference for village-level communal landholdings. In 1932-33, Stalin engineered a famine (by massively raising the grain quota that the peasantry had to turn over to the state); this killed between six and seven million people and broke the back of Ukrainian resistance. The Ukrainian famine has only recently been recognized as one of the most destructive genocides of the twentieth century (see Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow, and the Web resources compiled by The Ukrainian Weekly). The Five-Year Plans for industry, too, were implemented in an extraordinarily brutal fashion, leading to the deaths of millions of convict labourers, overwhelmingly men. These atrocities are described in the corvée (forced) labour case study. The millions of deaths in Stalin's "Gulag Archipelago" (the network of labour camps [gulags] scattered across the length and breath of Russia) are dealt with in the incarceration/death penalty case study.
A leader whose callous disregard for human life was matched only by his consuming paranoia, Stalin next turned his attention to the Communist Party itself. Various factions and networks opposed to his rule had managed to survive into the early 1930s; many in the party were now calling for reconciliation with the peasantry, a de-emphasizing of industrial production, and greater internal democracy. For Stalin, these dissident viewpoints represented an unacceptable threat. Anyone not unquestioningly loyal to him -- and many hundreds of thousands who were -- had to be "weeded out." The Communist Party would be rebuilt in the image of the "Great Leader." This was the origin of the "cult of personality" that permeated Soviet politics and culture, depicting Stalin as infallible, almost deity-like. (The cult lasted until his death in 1953, and provided George Orwell with the fuel for his satire Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which a Stalin-like figure appears as "Big Brother.") Stalin's drive for total control, and his pressing need for convict labour to fuel rapid industrialization, next spawned the series of immense internal purges -- beginning in 1935 -- that sent millions of party members and ordinary individuals to their deaths, either through summary executions or in the atrocious conditions of the "Gulag Archipelago."
By the time Stalin's wrath descended on his countrymen and women, the USSR had already suffered a devastating decline in its cohort of younger adult males. World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the subsequent civil war that pitted "Reds" against "Whites," had inflicted its "heaviest" losses "in the age group 16-49, particularly in its male contingent," writes Richard Pipes, "of which it had eradicated by August 1920 -- that is, before the famine [of 1922] had done its work -- 29 percent." The monstrous famines of the early 1920s and early 1930s were indiscriminate in their impact on the afflicted populations. But the campaign of mass executions launched against the kulaks -- designated "wealthier" peasants -- also overwhelmingly targeted males. "In Kiev jail they are reported at this time [1929-30] shooting 70-120 men a night," reports Robert Conquest; a typical story "is of the Ukrainian village of Velyki Solontsi where, after 52 men had been removed as kulaks, their women and children were taken, dumped on a sandy stretch along the Vorskla River and left there." (Excerpts from Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow.) The vast majority of "kulaks" imprisoned in the labour/death camps were also male (see the incarceration/death penalty case study). The gendered impact of the Purge period itself on Soviet society we now turn to consider.
Hello Papa I forgot how to write soon in School I will go through the first winter come quickly because it's bad we have no Papa mama says you are away on work or sick and what are you waiting for run away from that hospital here Olyeshenka ran away from hospital just in his shirt mama will sew you new pants and I will give you my belt all the same the boys are all afraid of me, and Olyeshenka is the only one I never beat up he also tells the truth he is also poor and I once lay in fever and wanted to die along with mother and she did not want to and I did not want to, oh, my hand is numb from write thats enough I kiss you lots of times ...
Igoryok 6 and one half years
- Letter to an imprisoned victim of Stalin's Purges, cited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), pp. 654-55.
The most prominent elements of Stalin's Purges, for most researchers, were the intensive campaigns waged within key Soviet institutions and sectors like the Communist Party, the Army, the NKVD (secret police), and scientists and engineers. In December 1934, the popular Leningrad party leader, Sergei Kirov, was assassinated, allegedly on Stalin's orders. This provided the spark for the escalating series of purges that Stalin launched almost immediately, under emergency "security" legislation "stat[ing] that in cases involving people accused of terrorist acts, investing authorities were to speed up their work, judicial authorities were not to allow appeals for clemency or other delays in which the sentence was death, and the NKVD was to execute those sentenced to death immediately." (Frank Smitha, "Terror in the Soviet Union".)
Nikolai Bukharin, Purge victim
The "Old Bolshevik" elite was targeted in three key "show trials" between 1936 and 1938, in which leaders such as Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin, and Grigori Zinoviev were accused of complicity in Kirov's murder and conspiring with Trotskyite and "rightist" elements to undermine communism in the USSR. The evidence presented against the accused was almost nonexistent, convictions relying on confessions extracted through torture and threats against family members. But convictions there were, and most of the Bolshevik "old guard" was sentenced to death or long terms of imprisonment. "Dumfounded, the world watched three plays in a row, three wide-ranging and expensive dramatic productions in which the powerful leaders of the fearless Communist Party, who had turned the entire world upside down and terrified it, now marched forth like doleful, obedient goats and bleated out everything they had been ordered to, vomited all over themselves, cringingly abased themselves and their convictions, and confessed to crimes they could not in any wise have committed." So writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn, adding: "This was uprecedented in remembered history." (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1, p. 408.)
When the "Old Bolsheviks" had been consigned to oblivion, their successors and replacements quickly followed them into the void: "The new generation of Stalinist careerists, who had adapted themselves completely to the new system, still found themselves arrested. ... They were succeeded by younger but similar characters, who again often fell quickly." (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, p. 224.) The purging of the army, meanwhile, saw about 35,000 military officers shot or imprisoned. The destruction of the officer corps, and in particular the execution of the brilliant chief-of-staff Marshal Tukhachevsky, is considered one of the major reasons for the spectacular Nazi successes in the early months of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.)
But the impetus to "cleanse" the social body rapidly spilled beyond these elite boundaries, and the greatest impact of the Purge was felt in the wider society -- where millions of ordinary Soviet citizens assisted in "unmasking" their compatriots. Frank Smitha describes this mass hysteria well, writing that
A society that is intense in its struggle for change has a flip side to its idealism: intolerance. People saw enemies everywhere, enemies who wanted to destroy the revolution and diminish the results of their hard work and accomplishments, enemies who wanted to restore capitalism for selfish reasons against the collective interests of the nation. If those at the top of the Communist Party and an old revolutionary like Trotsky could join the enemy, what about lesser people? In factories and offices, mass meetings were held in which people were urged to be vigilant against sabotage. It was up to common folks to make the distinction between incompetence and intentional wrecking [i.e., sabotage], and any mishap might be blamed on wrecking. Denunciations became common. Neighbors denounced neighbors. Denunciations were a good way of striking against people one did not like, including one's parents, a way of eliminating people blocking one's promotion, and ... a means of proving one's patriotism. Many realized that some innocent people were being victimized, and the saying went around that "when you chop wood the chips fly." As with Lenin, it was believed that some who were innocent would have to be victimized if all of the guilty were to be apprehended.
Stalin, allegedly signing a death warrant.
"Blind chance rules a man's life in this country of ours," said one NKVD officer, who found himself suddenly placed under arrest. For ordinary citizens, "Fear by night, and a feverish effort by day to pretend enthusiasm for a system of lies, was the permanent condition." (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, p. 434.) Solzhenitsyn adds: "Any adult inhabitant of this country, from a collective farmer up to a member of the Politburo, always knew that it would take only one careless word or gesture and he would fly off irrevocably into the abyss." (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 633.)
Much has been written about the absurdly minor infractions for which individuals were sentenced to ten years in labour camps -- standardly a death sentence. "A tailor laying aside his needle stuck it into a newspaper on the wall so it wouldn't get lost and happened to stick it in the eye of a portrait of Kaganovich [a member of the Soviet Politburo]. A customer observed this. Article 58, ten years (terrorism). A saleswoman accepting merchandise from a forwarder noted it down on a sheet of newspaper. There was no other paper. The number of pieces of soap happened to fall on the forehead of Comrade Stalin. Article 58, ten years." (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 293.)
The gendering of the witch-hunt was cast into particularly sharp relief in those cases where most, sometimes almost all, adult males among a given population were rounded up for mass arrest and probable death. Writes Robert W. Thurston: "According to some reports, entire groups of men were taken in one swoop by the NKVD. 'Almost all the male inhabitants of the little Greek community where I lived [in the lower Ukraine] had been arrested,' recalled one émigré. Another reported that the NKVD took all males between the ages of seventeen and seventy from his village of German-Russians. ... In some stories, the police clearly knew they were arresting innocent people. For example, an order reportedly arrived in Tashkent to 'Send 200 [prisoners]!' The local NKVD was at its wits' end about who else to arrest, having exhausted all the obvious possibilities, until it learned that a band of 'gypsies' (Romany) had just camped in town. Police surrounded them and charged every male from seventeen to sixty with sabotage." In the city of Zherinka, "'Ivan Ivanovich' ... had his wife sew rubles [Soviet currency] into his coat because the NKVD was taking all the men in his town." (Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996], pp. 79-80, 150.)
Nikolai Yezhov crushes the traitors in
a Soviet propaganda cartoon.
As the above examples suggest, the campaigns were further fuelled by the "denunciation quotas" established under the authority of Nikolai Yezhov, who took over as head of the NKVD in September 1936 and immediately widened the scope of secret-police persecutions. (Soviet citizens often referred to the Great Terror as the Yezhovshchina, "the times of Yezhov.") Relatives of those accused and arrested, including wives and children down to the age of twelve, were themselves often condemned under the "counter-terrorism" legislation: "Wives of enemies of the people" was one of four categories of those sentenced to execution or long prison terms. Women accounted for only a small minority of those executed and incarcerated on political grounds (perhaps 2 percent of the former and 5 percent of the latter). Conquest notes that "Women on the whole seem to have survived [incarceration] much better than men," although "in the mixed[-sex] camps, noncriminal [i.e., political-prisoner] women were frequently mass-raped by urkas [male criminals], or had to sell themselves for bread, or to get protection from camp officials.") But wives spared arrest or state-sanctioned murder nonetheless encountered extreme hardship. "For the wives ... life was very bad," writes Conquest. "... All reports agree that the women lost their jobs, their rooms, and their permits, had to sell possessions, and had to live on occasional work or on the few relatives who might help them. Ignorant of their husbands' fate, they faced a worsening future." (The Great Terror: A Reassessment, pp. 235, 264, 315) As Solzhenitsyn puts it:
There in that stinking damp world in which only executioners and the most blatant of betrayers flourished, where those who remained honest became drunkards, since they had no strength of will for anything else ... in which every night the gray-green hand reached out and collared someone in order to pop him into a box -- in that world millions of women wandered about lost and blinded, whose husbands, sons, or fathers had been torn from them and dispatched to the Archipelago. They were the most scared of all. They feared shiny nameplates, office doors, telephone rings, knocks on the door, the postman, the milkwoman, and the plumber. And everyone in whose path they stood drove them from their apartments, from their work, and from the city. ... And these women had children who grew up, and for each one there came a time of extreme need when they absolutely had to have their father back, before it was too late, but he never came. (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 664.)
By 1938, Conquest estimates that about 7 million Purge victims were in the labour/death camps, on top of the hundreds of thousands who had been slaughtered outright. In the worst camps, such as those of the Kolyma gold-mining region in the Arctic, the survival rate was just 2 or 3 percent (see the incarceration/death penalty case study). Alexander Solzhenitsyn calls the prison colonies in the Solovetsky Islands "the Arctic Auschwitz," and cites the edict of their commander, Naftaly Frenkel, which "became the supreme law of the Archipelago: 'We have to squeeze everything out of a prisoner in the first three months -- after that we don't need him anymore.'" (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 49.)
The main evidence for the gendercidal impact of the "Great Terror" lies in the Soviet census of 1959. In a fascinating addendum to the original edition of his work on the Purge period, The Great Terror, Robert Conquest uses the census figures to argue that the Soviet population "was some 20 million lower than Western observers had expected after making allowance for war losses." "But the main point," he notes, "arises from a consideration of the figures for males and females in the different age groups." He then unveils a striking table indicating that whereas age cohorts up to 25-29 displayed the usual 51-to-49 percent split of women to men, from 30-34 the gap widened to 55 to 45 percent. Thereafter, the disparity became massive, reflecting the generations of males caught up in the purges and the Great Patriotic War. From 35-39, women outnumbered men by 61 to 39 percent; from 40-54, the figure was 62 to 38 percent; in the 55-59 age group, 67 to 33 percent; from 60-69, 65 to 35 percent; and 70 or older, 68 to 32 percent. Conquest summarizes the findings as follows:
Many women died as a result of the war and the purges. But in both cases the great bulk of the victims was certainly male. From neither cause should there be much distinction in the figures for the sexes for the under-30 age groups in 1959. Nor is there. For the 30-34 block the[re] ... is a comparatively small difference, presumably indicating the losses of the young Army men in their late teens during the war. In the 35-39 group, which could have been expected to take the major war losses, we find figures of 391 to 609 women. One would have thought that these men, in their early twenties in the war, would have had the highest losses. But the proportion then gets worse still, and for the 40-44, 45-49 and 50-54 [cohorts] remains a set 384 to 616. Even more striking, the worst proportion of all comes for the 55-59 age group (334 to 666: in fact in this group alone there are almost exactly twice as many women as men). The figures for the 60-69 group (349 to 691) and for the 70 and over group (319 to 681) are also much worse than the soldiers' groups. Now all authorities agree that the Purge struck in the main at people "between thirty and fifty-five"; "generally, arrested people are all thirty or over. That's the dangerous age: you can remember things." There were few young or old, most of them being "in the prime of life." Add twenty years for the 1959 position.
Precise deductions are not possible. Older men died as soldiers in the war. But on the other hand, the mass dispatch to labour camps of prisoners of war returned from Nazi hands in 1945 must have led to an extra, and non-military, death rate among the younger males. So must the guerrilla fighting in the Baltic States and the Western Ukraine, which lasted for years after the war; and so must the deportations from the Caucasus and the general renewal of Purge activities in the post-war period. But in any case, the general effect of the figures is clear enough. The wastage of millions of males in the older age groups is too great to be masked, whatever saving assumptions we may make. We here have, frozen into the census figures, a striking indication of the magnitude of the losses inflicted in the Purge. (Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties [New York: The Macmillan Company, 1968], pp. 711-12. Emphasis added.)
A key analytical question is to what extent this gendered slaughter should be considered an actual gendercide -- that is, by our definition, a gender-selective killing. As noted in the "Summary" section above, it was imputed political orientation and alleged "wrecking" activities that generally governed the selection of victims, and many innocent women were swept up in the holocaust. But other variables always figure in gendercides, and are especially prominent in the case of men. In Bosnia-Herzegovina or Bangladesh in 1971, for example, it was not all men who were targeted, but those belonging to the targeted ethnic/political grouping. In the opinion of Gendercide Watch, the sheer overwhelming proportion of (innocent) males among the politically-targeted victims indeed qualifies Stalin's Purges as a gendercide.
The "gendering" of the slaughter may be extended further still. In a passage from her provocative study of the witch-hunts in early-modern England, Malevolent Nurture -- it is in fact the concluding passage of the book -- Deborah Willis develops her sophisticated gendering of the hunts with an important digression on "some of the most virulent of the twentieth-century 'witch-hunts,'" in which "violence has been directed against symbolic 'fathers' or other figures of authority." The trend is especially prominent "in countries where newly emergent but precarious ruling elites needed 'others' to blame for the serious economic or other problems they faced." The example she chooses is Stalin's Purges:
... During the 1930s and 1940s in Stalin's Soviet Union, leadership fractured at all levels, not only within Stalin's "inner circle" but also within local and regional party machines (paralleling in some ways the neighborly quarrels and religious controversies that divided early modern communities). As power oscillated between different factions, purges were carried out in the name of Stalin, "Father of the Country," "the Great and Wise Teacher," "the Friend of Mankind," against the antifathers and betraying sons who had perverted the socialist program, the "enemies with party cards." Underlying the psychology of the purges may have been, among other things, the magical beliefs of the Russian peasantry, still lively in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, translated after the Revolution into the language of "scientific socialism." Rather than the female witch, however, it was the male possessed by evil spirits who anticipated the typical target of persecutory violence -- the "evil spirits" of foreign, class-alien, or counterrevolutionary ideas. Demystified, secularized, stripped of his supernatural power, the great demonic adversary no longer needed to seduce a weaker [female] vessel but could walk among the elect as one of their own. (Deborah Willis, Malevolent Nurture: Witch-Hunting and Maternal Power in Early Modern England [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995], pp. 244-45; see also the discussion of Willis's findings in the European witch-hunt case study.)
Willis's comments are a rare treatment of the gendering of modern "witch-hunts," of which Stalin's Purges stand as the most prominent and destructive example. (Indonesia in 1965-66, East Pakistan/Bangladesh in 1971, Punjab/Kashmir, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and the Balkans wars of the 1990s [see also the Srebrenica and Kosovo case studies] are just a few of the contemporary gendercides that could be added to the list.) Willis's analysis also draws out a number of the key variables (social class, political affiliation) that typically combine with gender to produce gendercidal outcomes.
How many died?
In the original version of his book The Great Terror, Robert Conquest gave the following estimates of those arrested, executed, and incarcerated during the height of the Purge:
Arrests, 1937-1938 - about 7 million
Executed - about 1 million
Died in camps - about 2 million
In prison, late 1938 - about 1 million
In camps, late 1938 - about 8 million
Conquest concluded that "not more than 10 percent of those then in camp survived." Updating his figures in the late 1980s based on recently-released archival sources, he increased the number of "arrests" to 8 million, but reduced the number in camps to "7 million, or even a little less." This would give a total death toll for the main Purge period of just under ten million people. About 98 percent of the dead (Gendercide Watch's calculation) were male.
The estimates are "only approximations," Conquest notes, and "anything like complete accuracy on the casualty figures is probably unattainable." But "it now seems that further examination of the data will not go far from the estimates we now have except, perhaps, to show them to be understated"; and "in any case, the sheer magnitudes of the Stalin holocaust are now beyond doubt." He cites Joseph Berger's remark that the atrocities of Stalin's rule "left the Soviet Union in the condition of 'a country devastated by nuclear warfare.'" (All figures and quotes from Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, pp. 485-88.)
Who was responsible?
One of the enduring debates over this era of Soviet history is whether Stalin's despotism marked a decisive break with previous Bolshevik practice, or whether it was merely a continuation of the brutal and dictatorial system installed under his predecessor, Lenin. Scholarship has increasingly favoured the "continuity" thesis, articulated by Richard Pipes in his book Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime: "Stalin was a true Leninist in that he faithfully followed his patron's political philosophy and practices. Every ingredient of what has come to be known as Stalinism save one -- murdering fellow Communists -- he had learned from Lenin, and that includes the two actions for which he is most severely condemned: collectivization and mass terror. Stalin's megalomania, his vindictiveness, his morbid paranoia, and other odious personal qualities should not obscure the fact that his ideology and modus operandi were Lenin's. A man of meager education, he had no other source of ideas." (See the excerpts from Pipes' book.)
As is always the case with mass atrocities, the Purge provided an opportunity for many career-minded individuals, overwhelmingly men, to move up the ladder and experience a taste of absolute power. "To know what it meant to be a bluecap [interrogator] one had to experience it!" writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn. "Anything you saw was yours! Any apartment you looked at was yours! Any woman was yours! Any enemy was struck from your path! The earth beneath your feet was yours! The heaven above you was yours -- it was, after all, like your cap, sky blue!" (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1 [New York: Harper & Row, 1973], pp. 151-52.) Solzhenitsyn likens the commanders of the death camps, meanwhile, to feudal lords: "Like the estate owner, the chief of the camp could take any slave to be his lackey, cook, barber, or jester (and he could also assemble a serf theater if he wished); he could take any slave woman as a housekeeper, a concubine, or a servant." (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 150.)
The impetus of the Purge waned at the end of 1938, by which time "the snowball system [of accusations] had reached a stage where half the urban population were down on the NKVD lists," and the proportion of the entire Soviet population arrested had reached one in every twenty. "One can virtually say that every other family in the country on average must have had one of its members in jail," proportions that were "far higher among the educated classes. ... Even from Stalin's point of view, the whole thing had become impossible. ... To have gone on would have been impossible economically, politically, and even physically, in that interrogators, prisons, and camps, already grotesquely overloaded, could not have managed it. And meanwhile, the work of the mass Purge had been done. The country was crushed." Stalin now eased the pressure, dismissing Yezhov from his post (he would subsequently be executed) and declaring that "grave mistakes" had occurred, though on balance the results of the Purge "were beneficial." (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, pp. 289-290, 440.)
But "terror was ... by no means abandoned as an instrument of political rule; indeed, four of the six executed members of Stalin's Politburo perished between 1939 and 1941." (Gerhard Rempel, "The Purge".) And overall, instead of subsiding, the Great Terror simply changed its choice of targets. After the Germans and Soviets divided up Poland between them in September 1939, nearly half a million Poles (almost exclusively male) and 200,000 Polish prisoners-of-war were sent to camps, where the vast majority died. When the tables turned and the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin pulled back, releasing many surviving prisoners to serve in the armed forces. But those hoping that the end of the Second World War, in which the USSR played the major role in defeating the Nazis and their allies, would mean a liberalization of society were sadly disillusioned. Instead, Stalin allowed his old paranoia to surface anew. Returning Soviet prisoners-of-war were sent to the labour camps as suspected "traitors," and fresh "plots" were discovered that swelled the camps' population to some 12 million people by the time Stalin finally died in March 1953.
The man who emerged as Soviet leader after a brief interregnum following Stalin's death, Nikita Khrushchev, acted swiftly to dismantle much of Stalin's legacy. Most of the camp inmates were released, and after Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" denouncing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress in 1956, many of the prominent victims of the Purge were posthumously rehabilitated. But the Khrushchev "thaw" ended even before his fall from power in 1964, and the subsequent regime of Leonid Brezhnev staged a limited rehabiliation of Stalin himself. The Nobel Prize-winning writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose massive work The Gulag Archipelago (published abroad) did so much to bring the horrors of Stalinism to light, was exiled for his pains in the 1970s. Only with the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 did Stalin's legacy begin to be seriously investigated and re-examined -- a process that led to a spiralling series of revelations, each more horrific than the last. With the fall of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet scholars like Edvard Radzinsky and Dmitri Volkogonov have published prominent exposés of Stalinist rule, based on newly-opened archives (see "Further Reading"). And the estimates of the death toll arrived at by Robert Conquest and others, long denounced as craven exaggerations, have been shown instead to be, if anything, understated.
| ||Years||Total killed|
|Civil War||From 1917|| 3,284,000 |
|Collectivization||1929|| 11,440,000 |
|Great Terror||1936|| 4,345,000 |
|Pre-WWII||1939|| 5,104,000 |
|World War II||1941|| 13,053,000 |
|Post-War||1946|| 15,613,000 |
|Post-Stalin||1954|| 6,872,000 |
(Figures from Rummel, Death By Government)