On Stalin’s Crimes

I was reading some crazy Holocaust denier in the UK Daily Telegraph comment column the other day and debating whether to join the fray in the comment column. His ranting raised an interesting question for me: if you lost loved ones in mass killing, is it better that the history of the mass killings is very widely known, is taught in schools in many countries but that there are a handful of discredited Neo-Nazis ranting against it and losing libel trial like David Irving? Or is it better that no one any more talks about the mass killing, there is no mention of it in most countries of the world and certainly no movies about it, and the books about it are not best sellers. I don’t raise this issue in any way to detract from the mass killing of Jews, Poles, Romanies, Yugoslavs, Russian prisoners of war so well described in Timothy Snyder’s book ‘Bloodlands.’ That we teach about this is absolutely appropriate lest we forget and lest in forgetting we allow history to repeat itself.

But given these imperatives to avoid repetition, why do we make no mention of Stalin’s crimes that were statistically comparable? As Wikipedia comments at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#Calculating_the_number_of_victims

Accordingly, if famine victims are included, a minimum of around 10 million deaths—6 million from famine and 4 million from other causes—are attributable to the regime,[108] with a number of recent historians suggesting a likely total of around 20 million, citing much higher victim totals from executions, gulags, deportations and other causes.[109] Adding 6–8 million famine victims to Erlikman’s estimates above, for example, would yield a total of between 15 and 17 million victims. Researcher Robert Conquest, meanwhile, has revised his original estimate of up to 30 million victims down to 20 million.[110] In his most recent edition of The Great Terror (2007), Conquest states that while exact numbers may never be known with complete certainty, the various terror campaigns launched by the Soviet government claimed no fewer than 15 million lives.[111] Others maintain that their earlier higher victim total estimates are correct.[112][113]

So I just want to wonder why this is the case? What interests are served by this amnesia? Don’t we owe it to the victims to make the details known as we have with the Holocaust? To try to understand what happened and why, so we can avoid repetition? I will post on the similar conundrum on Mao’s mass killing in a separate post in the future.

Hitler’s rival mass killer: Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) whose name is probably largely unknown to most people under 50 in the West, and they probably wouldn’t recognize his photo

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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