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Chapter 7 Contributions from Professors
Material presented in previous six chapters is likely to be known to most historians and social scientists. This chapter, on the other hand, is rather different. It contains messages from an e-mail thread on Stalinism on the Discuss list at Montclair
State University (starting in October, 2000) Quite unexpectedly, it turned out to be a sample of attitudes of Montclair State University professors toward Stalinism. I am not aware of other samples of that kind. I was pleased to hear that several people found
the unintended sample useful.
FIRST SET OF MESSAGES
Your web pages on Soviet labor camps and the number of deaths in them and in the USSR during the '30s generally are a gross distortion of reality. There has been a great deal of research on these subjects in the past 20 years. Your web pages show zero familiarity with it.
I say this not in any way to extenuate or excuse wrongful deaths in the USSR during the '30s, which were many, but to point out that your statements on that subject are in the same category as is your characterization of my opinions -- wrong.
Those who quote numbers about Stalin camp deaths should back up their claims by providing references.
Whatever the literature says or does not say, it (USSR) was not a nice place to be. Right after 1991 the KGB made a statement that during its operation (and maybe even the Cheka's before that) they executed about 712,000 people. That does not include those that died in
prisons, that died during deportations, exile, or in camps.
My father was in jail in the 1930s, and so was his father. His brothers were in the military. Two of them died fighting in the Red Army. A third fell prisoner and was sentenced to eight years in Siberia. Another was wounded 7 times during WWII and decorated many times.
And yet while he was fighting in the Red Army his whole family (along with about 1 million Karachays, Balkars, Chechens, Ingush) was deported to Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan.
Aside from couple of brothers that my mother lost in the Red Army, a very large part of her family (14 people) were killed during the deportations and from disease and famine in their place of deportation. Brothers and sisters who were assigned to separate camps only a few
miles away from each other were forbidden to see each other for years. These are only people who are in my immediate family. There were countless others.
It was not a nice place to be. I don't think the numbers lie. I know others who were also in prison in the 1930s, some who were even tortured there, and others yet who were sent to Siberia before the deportations. An old women who died here about 15 years ago was sent to
Siberia when she was 14 years old and spent 8 years there. A record like this is nothing to be proud of. It was wave of bloodletting hard to find in human history. And this mentality is still not gone completely.
What an unexpected testimony from a colleague I have known for so many years. And what a chance to learn what others think about Stalinism.
1) Professor 1 said that the number of victims of Bolshevism is exaggerated on my web site. This is possible. The largest number I saw was 60 million but most authors refer to numbers ranging from 20 to 40 million. So I accepted 12-20 (at the end of Section C of Alaska
Notes). What number would be correct, according to his sources?
2) He wrote: "Your web pages on Soviet labor camps and the number of deaths in them and in the USSR during the '30s generally are a gross distortion of reality. There has been a great deal of research on these subjects in the past 20 years."
I saw similar statements about Nazi camps recently. Two genocidal machines were implanted in two very different cultures but there are so many similarities. Why is it so? I notice you prefer to say "labor camps" rather than "death camps" or
"extermination camps". Hmm, another similarity? But why should we start arguing about terminology now? He also wrote:
"Your web pages show zero familiarity with it. I say this not in any way to extenuate or excuse wrongful deaths in the USSR during the '30s, which were many, but to point out that your statements on that subject are in the same category as is your characterization
of my opinions - wrong."
Why do you limit yourself to 1930s? Why should we ignore killings between 1917 and 1930, when comrade Dzierzhinsky was in charge of operations? Why should 1940s and 1950s be excluded? I would strongly recommend Orlov's interesting autobiography, in case you want to know
what was still going on in late 1960s.
3) How do you explain Gulag? How do you explain Kolyma? What did these historical events, plus similar events in other countries, do to the Marxist theory of proletarian dictatorship? Was it modified or is it the same as it was when Stalin was alive?
Professor 1 wrote: "It was hardly hopeless. According to the NKVD archives, in every year between 1934 and 1953 more inmates were released from the hard regime camps than died there, usually 2-5 times as many." Does the "died there" include only
those that were shot or all that died? And releasing twice as many as those that died could mean that as many as 33% of the prisoners died and 67% got released. If millions were sent to the camps, millions died.
How about the millions that "died" as a result of forced collectivization and the resulting famine? Where do they get counted? Ukraine, the breadbasket of the USSR, had millions of peasants dying due to famine. During the 1930s when they were dying of starvation,
New Zealand and Australia (or only one of them) complained to the UK about wheat-dumping by Stalin on the world markets causing great losses for them. What is this called? Is this included in the "dying"? How can millions be starving while the wheat that would
have saved them was being dumped at low prices on the world markets? It was not only the Ukrainians that suffered either. Kazakhs lost about 50% of their population.
Professor 5 (also referring to Professor 1):
Come on, defending Stalin? You are obsolete. I guess that next you will argue that the Cultural Revolution in China was just a democratic exercise by Chinese Boy Scouts and that the Cambodian Killing Fields were just popular picnic sites.
Maybe we need to ask the progressive intellectuals in Russia to come up with a figure of those murdered in the Soviet Union from '17 through '60's if they have not already. The Russian people who really care about freedom and democracy should demand an investigation on
the Gulags. It is only a Cold War fantasy because we never lived through the reality. However, whether it is 20 million or 100,000 or 1 life, no one should be executed or sent to a labor camp because they want freedom to think differently.
Professor 1 (responding to Professor 3):
Thank you for your note. But you have utterly misread what I wrote. In my reply to Ludwik I'm defending, not Stalin, but "the truth" as we can know it -- that is, I'm defending the position that we come to conclusions about, in this case, the history of the USSR
through a thorough knowledge of the best recent research. That is what is lacking in Ludwik's pages -- something that, to his credit, he does not deny in his latest posts.
As I pointed out, the Cold War has so poisoned academic discourse -- and, for that matter, academic -thinking - , in the West that simply to insist upon the best research brings charges of "Stalinism" on one's head. That has been the fate of researchers like
Getty and Thurston, even though they are all very anti-communist and anti-Stalin in their views.
Professor 1: It is simply intellectually irresponsible to do this. Ludwik -- an honorable, and very intelligent colleague -- would never, I think, presume to make a judgment about some area of science without doing the requisite research. But somehow he composed
some web pages and made some broad generalizations about the USSR in the 1930s without a careful study of recent research. I could blame Ludwik, and in part do blame him.
Professor 4 (referring to Professor 1):
I am surprised to hear this from a professor of literature. Why should every poet and every writer show a formal proof validating his or her feelings? Why should literature become political science? What is wrong with an amateur writer expressing a personal opinion on the
subject which played an important role in his life? What is wrong with trying to share it with others? Stalin wanted all writers to support the party line and not dare to ask forbidden questions. A system called "socialist realism" was established to make sure
this happened -- and another system to get rid of those who did not obey.
I kept quiet for many years; now I want to reflect on what I experienced. I do this in Alaska Notes. Why do you want me to be ashamed of doing this? I do not expect you to agree with me. In fact I welcome your criticism. By the way, I have another question. The name Chomsky
was mentioned by you again. Do you know whether he expressed himself on the Soviet experience with proletarian dictatorship? I know you do not like the term Stalinism; use my alternative, or any other phrase, if you prefer. A reference, once again, would be appreciated. I did
borrow Thurston's book from the library last night.
Ludwik, when you or anyone make statements concerning historical events, evidence and accuracy is of overwhelming importance. Why not read him [Chomsky] yourself? And what do his views on the Soviet Union have to do with his views on Israeli brutality against Palestinians?
You yourself may make accurate statements about physics but inaccurate ones about Soviet history. So may we all. Could not Chomsky as well?
I was asking for a reference because I honestly wanted to know whether or not Chomsky wrote something on the topic. You are implying that he did, and that you do not necessary agree with him. Is this correct? I would very much appreciate, if somebody could provide me with a
reference or references. It is important to me; I am still trying to understand Kolyma and Gulag. It is far from being simple.
Yes, evidence and accuracy are important But they are much more important for a political scientist than for a poet, for example. Right? Alaska Notes is "my poetry," so to speak. Actually it is a compilation of quotes and references. I cannot stop thinking about
the descriptions of camps, especially in autobiographies of those who lived through them.
Tonight I am reading, and meditating about, a Kolyma tale of Varlam Shalamov. It is called "A Piece of Meat"; did you read it? It does deal with the issue of surviving in a camp. But it is not a political science essay. The story of Golubev may have been invented but
it makes me think, and it makes me cry. Was Shalamov also part of the Cold War propaganda? Not too many people know that Solzhenitsyn asked Shalamov to co-author The Gulag Archipelago and that the great writer refused. Literature and political science are two different things.
I am sure you will not deny this. How can you? It is your specialty.
SECOND SET OF MESSAGES
Chomsky has always defended freedom and human rights and he is fiercely anti-totalitarian and anti-authoritarian. ... I think his statement that "Bolshevism, fascism and modern corporations all emerged around the same time and have the same Hegelian roots," clearly
expresses what he thinks about Stalinism and communism.
I think this hits the spot. Chomsky is going for big time and big distance. After all the political problems of the day and century are solved, the timeless truths will remain. And those timeless truths are told by Chomsky. Long after we are gone, and this century is gone,
people will be reading Chomsky, the way we read Plato and Aristotle. It is not surprising that Chomsky is being thrashed and trashed today. That is normal for great people. He is lucky he does not have to drink a cup of hemlock :-)
Professor 14 (referring to Professor 4):
I like the way you introduce the word 'poetry.' I think what you are trying to do is what poets (and other humanists) have always done--come to some understanding of the human experience. In particular, in a case that engages you emotionally, you are attempting to come to grips
with the problem of human suffering and the painful truth that, although we all suffer to some extent, we can never really comprehend the suffering of others. Each person suffers, and dies, alone. And yet, when we see another person cry, the tears well up.
The problem (for others on this list, if not for you) is that, as a scientifically trained person, in your attempt to comprehend some of the suffering you look for data, facts and numbers. The minute you begin to do this, you are getting away from 'poetry' and into the realm of
historical accuracy, and people rightly criticize your dissemination of unfounded information. You have to decide. Is your 'Alaska Notes' really poetry or is it history? I can understand why you might be feeling puzzled and hurt, because you do ask people to help you. The people
(including myself) who have jumped on you have done so because our concern right now is not poetry. We leave it to individuals to cope with the problems of the human condition--and indeed we talk with our students every day on aspects of this topic. What we are trying to do is
shape the future, trying to do our best to see that from this point on, regardless of the sufferings and injustices of the past, the best possible decisions are made and the best possible actions are taken. ...
I do not think that "Alaska Notes" is "dissemination of unfounded information." Those who try "to shape the future" must study history and learn from it first. Otherwise "the best possible action" may again become the worst possible
action. This is much more serious than you think.
Sharing what I know with others is a privilege. I appreciate your input. It is too late for me to become a sociologist but I will be happy to learn from others. Please be aware that the following paragraph was added at the end of Section C of Alaska Notes. "Not all historians
agree on the number of victims of Stalinism. According to Thurston (43), 'Certainly there were millions of victims, though recent evidence from Russian archives indicates that many accepted orthodox estimates of the toll were much too high'. "
Professor 1 (responding to Professor 4):
It is revealing that you lump together Hitler, Stalin and Mao. This is a relic of Cold War disinformation. Stalin did not "kill tens of millions"; neither did Mao.
And some claim that Nazis did not kill millions either. What can I say? I am quoting numbers which are available to me; I am not inventing them. What number is acceptable to you as far as Mao is concerned? I do not know enough to make a suggestion. But I did hear people from
China saying that what happened in the Soviet Union also happened in their country. I would be happy to correct my statement if I am convinced that it was wrong.
After reading Thurston's book (suggested by you) I do not see any contradiction between his book and the statement quoted in Alaska Notes (12 to 20 million deaths). On page 137 Thurston writes: "Stalin, or rather Stalin with a great deal of help, killed millions or facilitated
their ultimate deaths. He was one of the history's leading murderers, and his crimes were truly grotesque."
Thurston's numerical references are always qualified as "according to Soviet archives." I already wrote why I do not trust Soviet data. The author believes that "after Stalin's death no reasons existed to minimize the toll in an internal, top-secret report." How
naive this is ! Those responsible for crimes were certainly interested in hiding and destroying orders they signed or executed. They knew what happened to Beria and his close associates in December of 1953. A Soviet version of Nuremberg?
I am not saying that Soviet archives should not be studied. On the contrary, every piece of evidence (negative as well as positive) should be preserved and every witness should be asked for testimony. This is very important if we want to be honest about "it will not happen next
time" declarations. Learning from history is important.
Thurston claims that the opposition against Stalin was not a product of his imagination. It was not invented to justify terror. Stalin reacted to events to protect his dictatorship. A document supporting this point of view is the so-called Riutin Memorandum. Published in 1991,this
1932 document states: "The most evil enemy of the party and of the proletarian dictatorship, the most evil counterrevolutionary and provocateur, could not have carried out the work of destroying the party and socialist construction better than Stalin has done."
This accusation begs the old question. Can what happened be explained by the evil nature of one leader or is it testimony that the ideology he served was at fault? The answer is complicated by the fact that what happened in the USSR also happened in other communist countries. Please
be aware, those who are interested, that reading Thurston prompted me to add two paragraphs at the end of Reflection 13 of Alaska Notes. The reflection was about morality; the added paragraphs are about convictions. As always, comments will be appreciated, either in public or in private.
Professor 8 (Mathematical Sciences), in another thread:
American Jews have been on the front line demanding human rights for the oppressed in the world. That is why I am always surprised that some Jews brought up in a most ethical and righteous religion seem to have absolutely no compassion for the plight of the Palestinians. I wish it
was not so. ...
Thinking that "my religion is good" is OK but thinking that it is "better than others" is not good, in my opinion. Such thinking can easily lead to extremism, as we learn from history. Stalin wanted to be a god of a new religion and he believed it was the best.
Some extremists on both sides of current clashes are guided by unacceptable interpretations of "their best" religions. I am certain that the above message from a colleague was not an attempt to promote one religion over another.
Professor 9 (on another thread):
... I prefer to align with a Jewish heritage and tradition that is represented by armed resistance against the Nazis, participation in labor union organizing, the active struggles in civil rights ...
Is he aware that many people from that tradition (I am referring to 1930s) believed that Stalin's religion was the best? I think that the heritage and tradition to which Professor 9 refers, should be examined in light of what actually happened after the wishes of those who
accepted the ideas became reality. Closing eyes is not reasonable.
SELECTED MESSAGES FROM LATER SETS
A neighbor of mine in Nutley told me that Stalin had killed 18 million white Russians. When she was too young to remember, her father was taken away one night, never to be heard of again. Her mother set forth with he and her sister, who was five years older. By the end of WW II
they had reached the Atlantic coast ALIVE (!!!) and came to this country as displaced persons, the culmination of several years' walking across war-torn Europe.
This was the only information I had about Stalin's massive killings until I read Ludwik's accounts recently. This in itself is interesting since I went though the Nutley public schools, mostly while Stalin was in power and very unpopular. We were taught that the SYSTEM of
Communism was bad, but not about the human massacres, which can happen under many types of systems.
Professor 1 wrote: Zyuganov's 'Communist Party' is only one of several communist groups. It has been repudiated by all the working-class movements, socialist and communist, of which I'm aware.
o I did not know about this. What is his party accused of?
o What is the status of the "proletarian dictatorship" in the working-class movements today?
o How do leaders of these movements plan to avoid "errors committed in the Soviet Union?"
1) Basically, his party is accused of being racist and aggressively nationalistic.
2) The better parties still advocate it [the idea of "proletarian dictatorship"]. It's an essential concept of Marxism and should not be dropped, IMO. It is completely clear, from the plight of the Russian working class, that there is a "bourgeois dictatorship"
at present. Marx's and Lenin's concepts have been fully borne out!
3) How do leaders of these movements plan to avoid "errors committed in the Soviet Union?" They differ. The larger and more conservative ones would like to re-established the old USSR. From a reform -- as opposed to a revolutionary -- point of view, the old USSR was
much, much better than the present day, with millions of workers not getting paid for years at a time, the country run by a political-mafia group exporting billions of dollars in capital, a catastrophic decline in life expectancy, and so on. The better communist movements, still
very small, are involved in the working-class strikes.
There is no unanimity at all on the question of "What went wrong." I assume you read Russian, but even if you do not, there are a few English-language (as well as Russian-language) mailing lists which you could monitor if you are interested. The Russian working-class and
communist movements are all over the Internet. But you can't tell which movements are significant, and which are not, or not yet, by their web pages, of course.
Professor 13 asked: Why is it that communism continues to be such a frightening ideology? In my opinion people who are sensitive to human suffering are worth admiring, especially when they are sacrificing their personal comfort. But that does not mean that their
ideology is always good. My father decided not to join his older sister in America (after becoming a hydraulic engineer in Poland). He responded to a call from those who were building "a better world" in Dniepropetrovsk and in Magnitogorsk. And you know what happened to
him several years later.
No, I am not trying to squeeze another "I am sorry for you" phrase. I am trying to illustrate that what seems to be a right thing to do is not necessary right, objectively. Many believed that they were building a better world but that was a great illusion. Russia one
hundred years ago was not very different from some other European countries. Agriculture was primitive, workers were poor, industry was only a decade behind that in France, Italy or Germany. There was an educated elite, good universities and a solid scientific tradition.
It seems to me that the "amount of suffering" would be much smaller (if we could express it in numbers) without Lenin's revolution. But, as history teachers tell us, it is not productive to speculate about "what if" situations. What was not obvious then is
absolutely obvious today. That is why the ideology of communism is frightening to me. Those who believe that the "proletarian dictatorship" is the first necessary step toward a better world must take an honest objective look at what happened in the Soviet Union, China,
and many smaller countries.
Saying, "oh yes, some errors were made", but the idea of elimination of class enemies (such as productive peasants) was "mainly correct". Those who want to forge ahead and ignore the past are indeed "frightening".
For Bukharin's conspiring to kill Lenin -- well, no one disagrees with this statement, to my knowledge. For Bukharin's involvement in the conspiracy to overthrow the Soviet government in conjunction with the Nazis and Japan, there is not only the testimony at the 1938 Moscow Trial,
but also the transcripts of the pre-trial interrogations of some of the defendants. The charges against the defendants at the three Moscow Trials seem to have been _mainly_ true, and their confessions even more so. We now even have private letters from, for example, Stalin to Lazar
Kaganovich discussing these confessions with interest. There is simply no evidence whatsoever that these confessions were false. And for the involvement of Trotsky and Tukhachevsky with the Japanese, there is even some corroborating documentary evidence. Very interesting stuff!
Arch Getty of UCLA -- by far the premier US researcher on this period, and certainly one of the two or three top in the world (and no leftist or fan of Stalin et al.) -- has been quoted as saying that "the history of the USSR has to be totally rewritten from the beginning".
The "Cold War" versions are simply lies, 'disinformation'. I would not be surprised if this turned out to be the case with the Katyn massacres as well. Mukhin's book makes a good case that the Nazis, not the Soviets, killed the Polish officers. But to decide this firmly
would require a lengthy study, and I'm not going to do that, at least not now. I don't have any personal stake on any side. If Stalin "murdered" 50 million, or X million, people, I'd like to know about it, of course. Likewise with Katyn -- I'd like to know "who did
it." Whatever the truth turns out to be, it would not change my life, or the way I look at the world. I don't feel threatened by the thought of pursuing the truth here. No doubt that's because I haven't devoted any part of my life to championing one position or another. It's
very helpful, in trying to be objective, not to have these personal loyalties entangled with the historical research. I understand how this is much more difficult for you.
Professor 1 wrote: The USSR, with all its great weaknesses at the time, was the most progressive state in the world. The communist parties in all countries, including the USA, led in organizing unions, fighting for the rights of working people, and opposing racism. The
communist movement world-wide was the single greatest force fighting against imperialism in the colonies, too. Instead of arguing "in general" let me put you into a particular situation. You are a German communist fighting for your ideology. After the assassination
of Rosa Luxemburg you go into hiding and fight Hitler as long as you can. Then you escape to " the most progressive state in the world." The Comintern sends you to Spain and you fight there to the very end. Once again you return to Moscow in order to continue serving the
But in 1938 you are arrested and accused of being a German spy. You are lucky not to be executed at once; they keep you in the Lublianka. A year later, after the Soviet-German pact was signed, they send you to the border and hand you to the Gestapo as "an act of goodwill".
This happens at the same time as the order to stop the antifascist propaganda is issued. Would you still claim that USSR is "the most progressive state in the world"? Wouldn't you hope your son would survive to tell the world about the horrors you experienced?
No, I am not referring to my father; he was not a political person. He was an engineer who died in Kolyma. I am referring to several hundred political refugees who were returned to Germany in 1939. One of the refugees happened to be a physicist who survived the war and wrote about
this in "Physics Today," two or three years ago. In addition, I have a book reference from which the phrase "several hundred" was taken.
I agree that a book written by a scholar is not as convincing as a real signed document. But who am I to get such documents? By the way, I would not be surprised to learn that documents of that nature were
destroyed when Stalin was alive. Those who deny horrors of Hitlerism often point out that not a single document ordering the extermination of Jews by Hitler has ever been found. Leaders want to be remembered as good people.
Would you say your son's story is a useless revival of Cold War propaganda? Would you prefer him to say that what happened to you was an episode of insignificant abuse in the middle of greatness? Or would you rather that he declare you a true spy, as proved by your own signed
confession in a document from Lublianka archives?
For whose sake are you trying to minimize the significance of testimonies about tragedies imposed on people by the ideology of proletarian dictatorship? How does this differ from attempts to minimize the ideology of Hitler? No, I am not saying that you are a Holocaust denier.
But I do think that exposing horrors of Stalinism is as important as exposing Hitlerism. Those who know should not remain quiet; they should use every occasion to expose the ideologies of extermination.
Unfortunately, the "objective and undeniable truth" about exact numbers of victims of Stalinism will never be known. Was it thirty million or only three million? In my opinion exaggerations about the effects of genocidal ideologies are less harmful than claims according
to which "yes, bad things did happen but overall it was not as horrible as they say."
Naturally, we should be as objective as possible. But minimizing the significance of horrors, under the cover of pseudo-objectivity, is not useful. A pseudo-objective scholar emphasizes everything supporting his or her ideas and denies, as much as possible, everything that contradicts
it. One can always find such "scholars" on both sides of a social controversy; it is an illustration of what today's New York Times (March 10, 2001, page B9) called "ideological bias." I have no interest in exaggerating horrors of Stalinism; I want to share what
I know about them. And I am trying to be as objective as possible.
Alaska Notes, published on my website was an essay about that aspect of Stalinism which profoundly affected my life. I did not expect to dig any deeper. But then I was accused of reviving Cold War propaganda and spreading misinformation. The numbers of victims I quoted were challenged.
This sent me back to the library and resulted in the Stalinism thread. The Alaska Notes were originally much shorter but this thread provided the motivation for additional reading, and for many new sections (called Reflections). I learned and I felt an urge to share my thoughts. What
is wrong with this? Many on this list are not experts in what they write about.
Yes, Alaska Notes was dedicated to my father. And I think about him every time I post a message on this thread. A new link between him and me was established in the last months of the 20th century. It has had a profound effect on me. But I strongly disagree that this disqualifies me
as a person trying to share reflections about Stalinism. Those who are affected by history (as victims or eyewitnesses) have the right to make judgements. These judgments are not equivalent to those of scholars, but they are nevertheless valid. The true scholars will put them in
The Magadan plaque, shown in Alaska Notes, hangs in our living room. Next to it is a large framed photograph of my old grandmother. How much dignity and internal beauty can be recognized from the portrait! Am I also disqualified from writing about the Holocaust because she, and
dozens of other close relatives, were killed in a gas chamber, most likely in Auschwitz? How can I avoid making comparisons between the most horrible tyrants of the century? How can I be objective about them?
You wrote: 'It was dedicated to my father, an innocent victim of Stalinism. There's no such thing as "Stalinism", any more than there is such a thing as, say, "Pilsudskiism" or "Bushism." I guess what you mean is that he was imprisoned for a
crime he did not commit. What was your dad charged with? I am preparing an article on Khrushchev's infamous "Secret Speech" of 1956. I reread it a few weeks ago. I had not done so for a very long time -- not carefully, at any rate. I reread it because I had the vague feeling
that some of the statements Khrushchev made in that speech have been contradicted by documents published since the end of the USSR in 1991. Guess what? Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" attacking Stalin is not only _partially_ lies. It is virtually ALL lies. There is scarcely a
statement in it that is not a deliberate, conscious falsehood! I am always prepared for a large dose of lying in anti-communist, and especially in anti-Stalin, writing. But I have to admit to you that I was unprepared for this. Almost nothing -- except for some very general
statements -- is true. But though I was surprised, I should not have been. Most anti-Stalin and anti-communist writing is largely lies. So why not Khrushchev? I was naive, and credulous. I should have expected this. Incidentally, I still plan on sending you that CD-Rom with all my
Katyn Massacre materials. But I am still awaiting the most recent book, from Russia. I should get it soon, and will scan it early next semester. I haven't forgotten. Enjoy your retirement, and the holidays!
Professor 4 (not posted):
Hmm, that is interesting. Tell them, often enough, that Stalin was a good guy and they will accept it. Or tell them that ovens in the German concentration camps were used only as crematoria for people who died naturally, of old age, and they will accept it. Or tell them that
Moscow Trials of 1930's were justified, that Bucharin and Zinoviev were spies, that the number of Gulag deaths was below one million, etc. etc. and they will take it for granted. The idea of socialist realism was based on this kind of social engineering.
. . . It's all of a piece with your putting the USSR and Nazi Germany in the same bag, when in fact they were opposites, and the USSR defeated the Nazis. . . .
Oh yes, heroic sacrifices of Soviet people should never be forgotten.
You know Russian; here is a 1941 mobilization song that I remember:
Wstavaj strana ogromnaja (Arise great country)
Wsawaj na smertnyj boj. (Arise to a deadly fight.)
S faschistkoj siloj tiomonoju (With the dark fascist force)
S prokliatoju ordoj. (With the hated horde.)
Pust jarost blagorodnaja (Let our blessed fury)
Wskipajet kak wolna, (Splash like a wave,)
Idot wojna narodnaja, (The national war goes on,)
Swiaschennaja wojna. (The holy war.)
Yes, I know that a lot is lost in this translation; but at least people will know what is in the song. The song appeared when Stalin started addressing the army as "soldiers and officers." Before 1941, even during the winter war in Finland, red army fighters were called
"krasnoarmijcy." Up to that time pejorative words "soldiers" and "officers" were used in reference to white army fighters. Soldiers and officers used to be (in books we read), bad guys while krasnoarmijcy were good guys. The officer's insignia changed
suddenly at that time (replacement of collar marking by traditional epaulettes). The old (international) anthem was replaced by the new (national) anthem and the attitude toward the church was no longer the same. But the most exciting was that we, school boys, were learning how to
use grenades and rifles, when Germans were approaching.
I never put the USSR and Nazi Germany in the same bag. The two countries were very different in many respects and similar in other respects. That is how it is with everything. Only extremists tend to see everything as either black or white. Soviet people deserved better, much better,
for their great contributions to defeat Hitler. Just compare what happened to them after 1945 with what happened, at the same time, to people in Japan and in Germany. Stalin was the war leader but his role after the victory was mostly negative, as it was before the war. One may only
speculate what would have happened without the 1939 pact between Stalin and Hitler. Or what would have happened without the October revolution of 1917. I lived in the Soviet Union during the war, I suffered with Soviet people and I shared their glorious moments. Perhaps I will now
have time to learn more about their tragically manipulated history in the last one hundred years.
Is Professor 1's emphasis on research honest? When I shared results of my research, quoting Conquest, P1 said that research of this man can not be trusted; he is a CIA agent. When I quoted a Russian historian, Volkogonov, P1 said that he is not good either. P1
suggested that I read A. Getty. I did this but did not find anything convincing in the suggested book. And what is wrong with learning from those who experienced Stalinism? What is wrong with learning from personal experience? Or from autobiographies and novels? Why should
testimonies of Ginzburg, Sakharov, Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn be rejected? What is wrong with learning about Holocaust from those who survived it? My time is limited; I am not a sociologist.
Although I must agree with you [Professor 1] with respect to our country's inconsistent (to say the least) foreign policy, I must also suggest that you delve into some actual, as opposed to academic, history of the effects of communism on almost half of this world. I was born
and raised in the Eastern European country of Romania, host to one of the worst regimes of communism and, consequently, one of the best representations of what communism really meant to people living under it. It is absolutely mind-blowing to me to hear you say that communist
governments were the "best, most pro-working class governments in the history of the world!" The only explanation I could think of is that you are one of the unfortunately too many individuals who have had the luxury of experiencing communism from the US' cozy continent,
from READING its ideology rather than living it. It is absolutely impossible for me to describe to you in words what it is like to live under communism but I would ask you to reflect on just a couple of things:
1) if this were a communist country, and you were advocating that democracy is the best form of government in this post thread, you would be in jail or worse, within hours. Indeed, there would not even be a discussion thread! 2) if this were a communist country, you would be going
home to a house you do not own, eating food that was rationed according to what the government thought was appropriate for your family to eat, and would go to work in a school system that required its professors to regurgitate government dogma as opposed to educating independent and
solid thinking.. I doubt that you teach in that way in your classes... of course, it does sound like you would have no problem teaching communist dogma. 3) if you were in a communist country, you would have not one original thought in your mind, because if you did, it might land you
in jail, or worse.
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