The Soviet Union

According to evidence released from secret archives since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (which some experts consider understated), during 1937 and 1938, when the Great Terror was at its height, the security organs detained for alleged “anti-Soviet activities” 1,548,366 persons, of whom 681,692 were shot — an average of 1,000 executions a day. The majority of the survivors were sent to hard-labor camps.

Richard Pipes, Communism: A History (Modern Library 2003), p. 67

Thousands of ‘kulaks’ were evicted from their farms and sent to labour camps in Siberia. In Estonia as many as 80,000 people were deported in 1949 alone. The total numbers deported in 1944-52 have been estimated at 124,000 for Estonia, 136,000 for Latvia and 245,000 for Lithuania.

— John Hiden and Patrick Salmon, The Baltic Nations and Europe (Longman 1991), p. 129

On the Soviet side of the demarcation line the NKVD carried out an undisclosed number of summary executions followed by several waves of deportations, first in the eastern Polish provinces (kresy) and then in the Baltic States and Bessarabia. Stalin’s population policy was intended to be more ‘selective’. The aim was to destroy the old elites, but the implementation of this policy, as N. S. Lebedeva’s article demonstrates, turned out to be less discriminating. Estimates of the total number of former Polish citizens who were deported or recruited for labour in the Soviet Union range from Andrei Vyshinskii’s figure of just under 388,000 to the Polish government-in-exile’s total of 1.25 million. Over half of those deported were ethnic Poles and under 30 percent were Jews. The deportations were brutal and may have cost the lives of 300,000 civilians. The arrest and subsequent execution of some 4,500 Polish officers and police in the Katyn camps was a particularly severe loss to the ruling elite.

— Alfred J. Reiber, Forced migration in Central and Eastern Europe, 1939-1950 (Psychology Press 2000), p. 15

The result of Stalin’s policies was the Great Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-33 — a man-made demographic catastrophe unprecedented in peacetime. Of the estimated six to eight million people who died in the Soviet Union, about four to five million were Ukrainians. The famine was a direct assault on the Ukrainian peasantry, which had stubbornly continued to resist collectivization; indirectly, it was an attack on the Ukrainian village, which traditionally had been a key element of Ukrainian national culture. Its deliberate nature is underscored by the fact that no physical basis for famine existed in Ukraine. The Ukrainian grain harvest of 1932 had resulted in below-average yields (in part because of the chaos wreaked by the collectivization campaign), but it was more than sufficient to sustain the population. Nevertheless, Soviet authorities set requisition quotas for Ukraine at an impossibly high level. Brigades of special agents were dispatched to Ukraine to assist in procurement, and homes were routinely searched and foodstuffs confiscated. At the same time, a law was passed in August 1932 making the theft of socialist property a capital crime, leading to scenes in which peasants faced the firing squad for stealing as little as a sack of wheat from state storehouses. The rural population was left with insufficient food to feed itself. The ensuing starvation grew to a massive scale by the spring of 1933, but Moscow refused to provide relief. In fact, the Soviet Union exported more than a million tons of grain to the West during this period.

The famine subsided only after the 1933 harvest had been completed. The traditional Ukrainian village had been essentially destroyed, and settlers from Russia were brought in to repopulate the devastated countryside. Soviet authorities flatly denied the existence of the famine both at the time it was raging and after it was over. It was only in the late 1980s that officials made a guarded acknowledgement that something had been amiss in Ukraine at this time.

— Encyclopædia Britannica, Ukraine – The famine of 1932-33, available online:

A provisional balance sheet of statistics on the terror might run as follows:

  • 6 million dead as a result of the famine of 1932-33, a catastrophe that can be blamed largely on the policy of enforced collectivization and the predatory tactics of the central government in seizing the harvests of the kolkhozy.
  • 720,000 executions, 680,000 of which were carried out in 1937-38, usually after some travesty of justice by a special GPU or NKVD court.
  • 300,000 known deaths in the camps from 1934 to 1940. By extrapolating these figures back to 1930-1933 (years for which very few records are available), we can estimate that some 400,000 died during the decade, not counting the incalculable number of those who died between the moment of their arrest and their registration as prisoners in the one of the camps.
  • 600,000 registered deaths among the deportees, refugees, and “specially displaced”.
  • Approximately 2,200,000 deported, forcibly moved, or exiled as “specially displaced people”.
  • A cumulative figure of 7 million people who entered the camps and Gulag colonies from 1934 to 1941 (information for the years 1930-1933 remains imprecise).

— Stéphane Courtois, Nicholas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartošek, Jean-Louis Margolin (trans. Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer), Livre Noir du Communisme (Harvard University Press 1999), pp. 206-207

Part of this mass killing was genocide, as in the wholesale murder of hundreds of thousands of Don Cossacks in 1919, the intentional starving to death of about 5,000,000 Ukrainian peasants in 1932-33, or the deportation to mass death of 50,000 to 60,000 Estonians in 1949. Part was mass murder, as of the wholesale extermination of perhaps 6,500,000 kulaks (in effect, the better-off peasants and those resisting collectivization) from 1930 to 1937, the execution of perhaps a million party members in the Great Terror of 1937-38, and the massacre of all Trotskyites in the forced labor camps.

Moreover, part of the killing was so random and idiosyncratic that journalists and social scientists have no concept for it, as in hundreds of thousands of people being executed according to preset government quotas…

I call all this kind of killing, whether genocide or mass murder, democide. Throughout this book, democide will mean a government’s concentrated, systematic, and serial murder of a large part of its population.

In sum, the Soviets [between 1917 and 1987] have committed a democide of 61,911,000 people, 7,142,000 of them foreigners. This staggering total is beyond belief. But… it is only the most prudent, most probable tally, in a range from a highly unlikely low figure of 28,326,000 (4,263,000 foreigners); to an equally unlikely high of 126,891,000 (including 12,134,000 foreigners). This is a range of uncertainty in our democide estimates — an error range — of 97,808,000 human beings.

— Rudolph J. Rummel, Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917 (Transaction Publishers 1990), p. 3

“If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life.”

— George Galloway, in an interview published by The Guardian, 16th September 2002, available online:

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

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