Recently, an associate professor at Cornell took umbrage at our chiding her for making one reference to Stalin’s death count in an article on the Soviet dictator that seemed to downplay his casualties.
“In 1934 a high-ranking member of the Communist Party, Sergei Kirov, was assassinated,” Cornell historian Holly Case wrote in The Chronicle Review. “His death, likely orchestrated by Stalin himself, was used to initiate a mass persecution that would result in over a million imprisoned and hundreds of thousands killed.”
“Actually, she’s a bit off on the casualty count,” we observed. We then went on to quote a scholar whose conclusions differ radically from hers.
“The late Alexander Yakovlev, the lifelong Soviet apparatchik who in the 1980s became the chief reformer and close aide to Mikhail Gorbachev, and who, in the post-Soviet 1990s, was tasked with the grisly assignment of trying to total the victims of Soviet repression, estimated that Stalin alone was responsible for the deaths of 60 to 70 million, a stunning number two to three times higher than estimates in The Black Book of Communism,” Grove City College historian Paul Kengor has noted.
“In the passage you refer to in my article, I was speaking of the post-1934 Great Purge,” Case wrote in a letter to us. “Many of Stalin’s victims came before that due to collectivization and dekulakization, which was likely why he initiated the Purge in the first place (to create scapegoats for those atrocities). I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge your mistake and withdraw your post, otherwise I will simply conclude that you are ideologically motivated rather than interested in the truth…not unlike Stalin, in fact. “
First, about that collectivization, the UN, never a virulently anti-Soviet source, has noted that during the Ukrainian famine (1932-1933), “It was estimated that about 25,000 Ukrainians were dying every day during the Famine. Desperation and extreme hunger even lead to cases of cannibalism and consequentially thousands were arrested for this act.”
As to her allegation that “In the passage you refer to in my article, I was speaking of the post-1934 Great Purge. Many of Stalin’s victims came before that,” we have some interesting information from the Russian Archives themselves, by way of the Library of Congress: “Stalin had eliminated all likely potential opposition to his leadership by late 1934 and was the unchallenged leader of both party and state. Nevertheless, he proceeded to purge the party rank and file and to terrorize the entire country with widespread arrests and executions. During the ensuing Great Terror, which included the notorious show trials of Stalin’s former Bolshevik opponents in 1936-1938 and reached its peak in 1937 and 1938, millions of innocent Soviet citizens were sent off to labor camps or killed in prison.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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