It is estimated that between 20 million to 40 million Russians were killed during Josef Stalin’s dictatorship (1924-1953). Stalin not only exterminated purported “enemies of the peoples,” but also liquidated almost the entire slate of communist Bolshevik leaders, who had been his and Vladimir Lenin’s friends.
The “Great Leader,” Stalin, 1879-1953, killed more communists of all nationalities, than all his fascist, Nazi, and Western democratic enemies combined. But for Stalin, “One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.”
Old Bolsheviks Cadres
After kangaroo trials, Stalin purged and had the great Bolshevik leaders, Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev and Ivan Smirnov, accused of being “leftist” Trotskyites shot in 1936 by his dreaded secret police, the NKVD, a precursor to the KGB.
Then the “right-wing” communists were also arrested in 1936, and so Nikolai Bukharin and his followers, Alexei Rykov, Nikolay Krestinsky and Christian Rakovsky, were also executed as members of the “rightist Trotskyite Bloc.”
Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko (1883-1938): Leader of the Bolsheviks who actually “stormed” the Winter Palace during the October Revolution, was purged as a Trotskyite in 1938 and executed.
Mariya Spiridonova: Left Socialist Revolutionary leader, was jailed in the summer of 1918 after the failed LSR uprising of July 1918; 20 SR hostages were shot, and the rest of them were hunted down thereafter and virtually exterminated by both Lenin and Stalin. She was sent to the gulag and shot in 1941 on Stalin’s order.
We all remember from history and from reading Pavel Sudoplatov’s remarkable book, “Special Tasks,” how he, an NKVD general, and his trusted lieutenant, Leonid Eitingon, tracked down Leon Trotsky to Mexico. After stalking Trotsky for some time and befriending him, Ramon Mercader, a Spanish communist, assassinated Trotsky with a pick ax on Stalin’s order in 1940.
The Purge of the Red Army
All students of Russian military history know of the purge and execution of the most distinguished general in the Red Army, Marshal of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, in 1937. According to Stalin and the NKVD, Tukhachevsky was a traitor to the motherland, a member of the Trostkyite-Bukharinite-Fascist counter-revolutionary conspiracy. Along with Tukhachevsky, 40,000 Red Army personnel were eliminated during the Great Terror of 1937-1938. Consider the fact that all five generals in the Defense Council of the Red Army were shot within six months after the trial and execution of Tukhachevsky.
When the war came only two years later in 1941, and the German Panzers were rolling over the western expanse of the Soviet Union, the Red Army was not ready. It had been preemptively decapitated by Stalin.
NKVD and Security Services
Stalin purged his dreaded security services (secret police). Genrikh Yagoda, head of the NKVD, was purged and executed in 1936 for his failure to promptly falsify evidence to convict the right-wing Bolshevik leader, Nikolai Bukharin. Yagoda’s successor, the blood-drenched Nikolai Yezhov, was also purged and executed after he had exterminated what remained of the old Bolsheviks during the Great Terror.
Martin Latsis (1883-1938): Bolshevik, assistant to Feliks Dzherzhinsky, “Iron Feliks,” founder and first chief of the Cheka (i.e, the first Soviet secret police authorized by Lenin to spread terror and eliminate enemies of the people “without bourgeoise moral prejudices”), was executed by Stalin in 1938.
Gleb I. Boky: deputy head of Cheka under Dzherzhinsky, was purged in 1937 and died in the gulag in 1941.
Yakov Ganetsky: Polish communist; Lenin’s liaison with the German High Command during the Great War; he was purged and shot in 1937.
Fritz Platten: Swiss Social Democrat and guarantor of the sealed train affair that brought Lenin and his Bolsheviks through Germany to Russia in 1917; the man who had saved Lenin’s life during an assassination attempt was purged by Stalin and died in a labor camp in the gulag.
Karl Radek: Polish communist, Bolshevik, and Internationalist (Comintern). He was purged in the 1937 and sent to the gulag, where he was shot by an NKVD operative in 1939.
Solomon Mikhaels: Leader of the Jewish Antifascist Committee was assassinated on Stalin’s direct order in Minsk, 1948.
We tend to remember the Great Terror (1937-1938) when so many old Bolsheviks and communist party functionaries were eliminated by Stalin during the Great Purge. But the Soviet state continued to grind down upon the very citizens whom the Revolution had sworn to liberate and protect. And it began with Lenin, from the end of 1917 to the end of the Soviet era. Stalin only intensified the repression to unimaginable limits.
Millions of Kulaks and Russian peasants who owned their own land were killed during the forced establishment of collective farms. Peasants fought requisition and collectivization by killing farm animals, hoarding or burning crops. Stalin’s militia and secret police fought back, drowning, shooting and starving the peasants. Others were sent to the gulag for slave labor used in the construction of the White Sea and Volga canals, timber and lumber projects in the tundra and taiga, etc., so that the lifespan of peasant and workers (the proletariat in chains) was barely three months in the labor camps.
Commissars of Death: The Killers of the Czar and His Family
Yakov Sverdlov (1885-1919) was a hard-working Bolshevik, confidante and closest advisor to Lenin, and probably after Lenin, the person most responsible for authorizing the execution of Czar Nicholas II and the Imperial family at the Ipatiev House in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg (which subsequently was renamed after him, Sverdlovsk).
This commissar died a natural death in 1919, but in what can only be conceptualized as eye for an eye justice, consider the fate of the actual murderers of the Imperial family, the Czar, the Czarina Alexandra, the Grand Duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, the Tsarevitch Alexei, and four of their servants.
Other than Sverdlov and Lenin himself, no other people were more directly responsible for the murder of the Imperial family, by either insisting on their execution or carrying it out, than the following bloodthirsty trio:
Yakov Yurovsky: Urals Cheka chief; he actually took his chekists to the Ipatiev, armed them and led the shooting of the captive family; Yurovsky was purged and shot by Stalin as a Trotskyite in 1937 or 1938 along with the other two men most responsible for the cold-blooded murder of the Imperial Family.
Aleksandr Beloborodov: Urals Soviet district chief, who kept urging Moscow for the execution; he was himself purged and shot in 1938.
F.I. Goloshchekin: Commissar of the Urals; like his comrade Beloborodov, he urged for execution of the Tsar; and like his Soviet district chief counterpart, he was purged and died in the gulag, 1941.
“The Greatest Russian”
In 2008 a widely conducted poll in Russia found that the number one spot for “the Greatest Russian” went to the greatest mass murderer, not only of Russians but of his communist comrades, Joseph Stalin. Distant second and third places went to the legendary Aleksandr Nevsky, and surprisingly, the assassinated Prime Minister, Pyotr Stolypin (1911), who served under Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia.
Let’s repeat that between 20 million to 40 million sons and daughters of Russia were killed by Stalin and Soviet communism. Let us hope Russia prospers, but that it never again has a man like Stalin ascend the reins of power by hook or by crook.
This article was edited from two longer articles on the subject. I have also recently published an article in a peer-reviewed, medical scientific journal on the clinical death of Stalin, which concludes that within the highest medical certainty Stalin did not die a natural death but was poisoned with warfarin, a compound then widely used as a rat poison, but now more frequently used as a medical anticoagulant (blood thinner). Warfarin caused Stalin’s “stroke.” This silent assassination was an act of desperation on the part of his inner circle, cowed men who feared for their own lives.
This discussion is beyond the scope of this column. Readers interested in the article on Stalin’s death can find the complete article at: www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/stalins-mysterious-death
At that site, I would be happy to read your comments, provide primary and secondary sources, or answer any questions you might have in the comment section. A full-lenght version of this article with illustrations is found at:
Dr. Miguel Faria is the author of “Cuba in Revolution -- Escape from a Lost Paradise (2002)”; he has presently completed a medical study on Josef Stalin’s death, written about Stalin’s legacy, and the lingering influence of Stalinism in Russia today.
This commentary was published in The Macon Telegraph on January 8, 2012. Copyright ©2012 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.