Arch Getty is a Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA where he seeks to understand how the greatest experiment of the 20th century, led by a movement that grew out of rational, enlightened, egalitarian, and democratic traditions resulted in dictatorship and the deaths of millions of its own people. He’s the author of several books and articles on the Great Terror, political violence, and Stalinism. His most recent book is Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition published by Yale University Press.
Muddy Waters, “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” Gold Collection, 1992.
You Might also like
By Sean — 2 years ago
Back in 2013, I wrote a post examining at the numbers of people in the Stalinist gulag compared to the US prison industrial complex. The post was in response to the Adam Gopnik’s and Fareed Zakaria’s claim that the over 6 million people in the US are under “correctional supervision” was higher than in the Stalinist gulag. Following a series of charts that broke down the prison population under Stalin, I concluded:
[There was an] estimated 7.4 million people were under Stalinist correctional supervision in 1953, exceeding Zakaria’s and Gopnik’s 6 million for the United States. Again the numbers are probably higher since these they don’t include everyone in the Stalinist penal system.
Things get even more complicated when you consider the gulag population per 100,000 citizens. According to Eugenia Belova and Paul Gregory, the Soviet institutionalized population in 1953 was 2,621,000 or 1,558 per 100,000. When you include special settlements, the numbers jump to 4,301,000 or 2,605 per 100,000. This puts the 760 per 100,000 in the United States into perspective.
I’ve come back to this issue because I ran across Burckina-Faso’s LiveJournal post that compares the numbers of prisoners per 100,000 people in the USSR from 1930 to 1940 to that of the Russian Federation and the United States from 1992 to 2002. I don’t know the source for these numbers, but assuming they’re correct, they once again raise questions about the USSR, the Russian Federation, and the United States as carceral states. And politically important for the current Presidential race in the US, politically considering the US numbers cover the tenure of Bill Clinton and now candidate Hillary Clinton’s “superpredator” comment in 1996.
While Burckina-Faso is attempting to suggest the idea of “ghastly” Stalinist repression as “hysterical,” I honestly don’t understand how it wasn’t ghastly when the prisoner population per 100,000 in the Soviet Union increased 1125 percent (114.7 in 1930 to 1126.7 in 1938) during some of the most repressive periods of Stalin’s rule. Part of this steep rise is due to falling mortality rates—population fell while prison population rose—during those years. But, even those excess deaths can be mostly attributed to repression: collectivization, famine, forced population transfer, prisoner deaths, and executions.
Okay, sure, Burckina-Faso’s point is that the average prisoner population per 100,000 persons during these years are comparable: 564 in the Soviet Union, 647.5 in the Russian Federation, and 623 in the United States. This is indeed ghastly as is the sheer ghastliness of the fact that when you compare the US prison population with the Stalinist, it makes you go, “Hmmm . . .” Though the increase in the US prison population in the 1990s was in no way as drastic as in the USSR in the 1930s, it still went up by 34 percent under Mr. Clinton.
And what about the prisoner population in the Russian Federation in the 1990s? Surely some of this was inherited from the Soviet system. Still, the prisoner population per 100,000 increased by 16 percent in the 1990s. Still awful, for sure.
So perhaps the best way to take all this is not try to argue which state was just as or more repressive, but that they are all repressive but for different reasons, in different ways, using different methods. Ghastliness doesn’t require equivalence.Post Views: 573
By Sean — 2 years ago
Anne Garrels is a former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio and the author of Naked in Baghdad which chronicled the events surrounding the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her most recent book is Putin’s Country: A Journey into the Real Russia.
Aesop Rock, “No Regrets,” Labor Days, 2001.Post Views: 683
By Sean — 13 years ago
So they turned off the hot water in my apartment. “They” are the mysterious maintenance people who run the five buildings of my apartment complex. Though I never seen “them”, “they” seem to have their base of operations in a building across from me. Anyway, every summer the hot water in Russian apartments are shut off for repairs. It can last from a few days to two weeks. It’s really the only time they can do this because of the winter. Hot water is centralized throughout Russian apartments, so unless you’ve installed a hot water heater, you’re pretty much showering cold. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all.
The unpleasantries don’t stop there. The people who live above me must be either, a) drunks, b) crazy, or c) both. Natasha told me that they are drunks. But your run of the mill drunk does not constantly move furniture and bang on the floor. Normal drunks just drink. They may scream. But mostly they just drink. I don’t know what is going on up there, but the apartment must be in perpetual remont. In the several months I’ve been here, they must have rearranged the whole apartment 100 times. Sometimes this continues well into the early morning, like until 2 or 3 am. To make matters worse, they like to throw shit out the window. They other day I heard water splashing on the ground outside my window. Now water isn’t anything to complain about. My fear is that it wasn’t water from a faucet, if ya know what I mean.
Yesterday, I went with a few friends to Novodeviche Cemetery to look at all the old Communist graves. There are some important notables buried there, the most famous being Nikita Khrushchev. It also has the graves of the novelist and essayist Nikolai Gogol, the playwright Anton Chekov, long time Politburo and Stalin confidant Viacheslav Molotov, the famous Socialist Realist writer, Nikolai Ostrovskii, avant-garde poet Vladimir Mayakovskii, Bolshevik-feminist Alexandra Kollontai, Stalin’s wife (who committed suicide) Nadezhda Allilueva-Stalina, among other revolutionary and war heroes, academics and scientists, artists, composers, writers, directors, opera singers, actresses and actors. Even circus performers. That’s right circus performers. Just take a look at the photo of Vladimir Durov, the famous clown. His statue makes him into an image of a revolutionary hero. You wouldn’t even know he was a clown without the monkey on his shoulder and ruffle shirt. The grave stones for these people are truly out of this world. Some are just massive with fully statutes or busts of the dead. Others, like Khrushchev’s are works of abstract art. There is sometime to be said for how the Russians remember the dead, and especially how they remember the heroic. I can’t think of a cemetery in the states that honors intellectuals and academics to the extent that the Soviet Union did. The place is truly amazing. It would take two days to look at all the graves. It is one of my favorite tourist places in Moscow. (See below for pictures).Post Views: 127