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Introduction: Stalin's Hell on Earth

by Ludwik Kowalski


In memory of my father, Marek (Mark Isakovich) Kowalski, a naive idealist deceived by propaganda.

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He was one of millions of victims of Stalinism.


The idea of writing about Stalinism sprang from an accidental encounter. In July of 2000, while vacationing in Alaska, I noticed a plaque with the name of the Russian town Magadan in an Anchorage souvenir store. That name had been engraved in my memory since 1939, when I was eight years old, living in Russia. The address: "Kolyma, Magadan, Buchta Nagayevo" was where my father, arrested one year earlier, had died in a concentration camp at the age of 36.

Not too many Americans know that the number of lives lost in Stalin's death camps in the Magadan area (between 1930 and 1960) was comparable to the number of those wasted in Hitler's Auschwitz. My wife and I purchased the plaque. Oval in shape, it has a white carving of a jumping reindeer against a black background. The young lady who sold us the plaque happened to be from Magadan. She told us that "it is a rapidly growing industrial town. It has a great future. Buchta Nagayevo now has tall buildings and discotheques." At that point I told her why I was interested.

She immediately knew what I was referring to and expressed sympathy by giving me a celebratory T-shirt on which "Magadan 1939-1994 Anniversary" was printed. She also told us that Magadan was a sister city of Anchorage, and suggested I contact City Hall for details. There I found a description of Magadan as a modern town which used to be a "peaceful village" at the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. The horrible Stalinist history of the town was not mentioned. This disturbed me.

One week later we were in Fairbanks, where The University of Alaska library has a large archive of materials (books, maps, interviews, photographs, etc.) devoted to the polar regions. I quickly found books about Magadan, some in English, others in Russian. This book is based on materials found in Fairbanks, and later in other libraries. An inner voice told me that I had to share what I learned, in the name of the victims of Stalinism. I called my compilation "Alaska Notes." My fellow professors at Montclair State University, in New Jersey, were the first to read Alaska Notes.

A discussion that followed guided me toward the second part of this book. Starting with the Chapter entitled, Gruesome Soviet Ideology, it provides additional testimonies and focuses on the ideology of the Soviet state of proletarian dictatorship. That ideology must be studied to understand the tragic history of the Soviet Union. Referring to the prevailing attitude toward Stalinism, Vladimir Putin said, on May 5, 2005, "people in Russia say that those who do not regret the collapse of the Soviet Union have no heart, and those that do regret it have no brain." I can understand this. Is it not ironic that the President of Russia had been a Soviet KGB officer. Equally ironic is the fact that the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted from initiatives of M. Gorbachev and B. Yeltsin - both high officials of the Soviet Communist Party. They knew what was going on.

Figure 2 shows the plaque we purchased in Anchorage. I interpret the jumping reindeer as the Russian people who suffered so much and who are trying to escape the legacy of their tragic past. Let them never again live under proletarian dictatorship.

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Figure 2: Magadan plaque


Please be aware that this is an abbreviated version (about 80%) of the already published paper version of the book.

Links to named chapters are below.

Chapter 01 Alaska Notes: Brutality and Violence click
Chapter 02 Reflections click
Chapter 03 More Food For Thought click
Chapter 04 Gruesome Soviet Reality click

Chapter 05 Marxist Ideology in The Soviet Union click
Chapter 06 Closing Observations click
Chapter 07 Contributions click

Chapter 08 Glossary click
Chapter 09 References click