As if the memorial to the Victims of Communism wasn’t bad enough. Communists in Ukraine and Russia have decided to enter the battle over memory. In response to the Victims of Communism groundbreaking last week, Leonid Grach from the Ukrainian Communist Party has proposed “establishing a museum commemorating victims of U.S. imperialism.” “American imperialism, from the extermination of native Americans to war crimes in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq,” Grach added, “has caused substantially more deaths than the ‘orange forces,’ along with their masters over the ocean, blame Communism for.” Grach also asserted that the the Victims of Communism Memorial would certainly please the U.S.’s “vassal” Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, whose government has sought to have the 1932-33 Ukrainian Famine declared a genocide.
Grach’s hasn’t been the only response to the Victims of Communism Memorial. Russian Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called President Bush “a symbol of state terror” and the memorial “attempt to distract the attention of world opinion from the bloody evils of American imperialism as a whole.” That wasn’t all. Zyuganov also claimed former President George H. W. Bush was responsible for the shock therapy economic policies of the 1990s, which according to Zyuganov, “10 million people, 9 million of them ethnic Russians.”
Nothing like burnt out Communists to push the limits of absurdity. I’m sure all the massacred Native Americans will rest well knowing that they have Grach and Zyuganov fighting to preserve their memory.
Thanks to Wally Shedd for alerting me of the article.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
The US State Department has released its Trafficking in Persons Report 2007 which details the global slave trade in mostly women and children for labor and sex. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave trade (but not legalized slavery) and this ghastly system continues. The report seeks to “to raise global awareness, to highlight efforts of the international community, and to encourage foreign governments to take effective actions to counter all forms of trafficking in persons.” Getting governments to take serious interest in stopping the trafficking of human beings is a tall order. Few nations where the practice persists are interested in devoting the resources necessary to protect the globes most vulnerable victims.
The Report defines human trafficking as:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The scope of global human trafficking can only be estimated. According to US government research, about 800,000 people are trafficked across borders (internal trafficking is not calculated) and about 80 percent of trafficked persons are women and girls and around 50 percent are minors.
The Report categorizes countries into tiers according to their compliance with the minimum standards for combating human trafficking. Teir 1 are those who fully comply, Teir 2 are those countries making significant efforts to comply, and Tier 3 are those who don’t really try to comply at all. In addition there is a “Tier 2 Watch List” which includes countries that verge on slipping down to Tier 3.
The Government of Russia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Russia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year for its continued failure to show evidence of increasing its overall efforts to combat trafficking, particularly in providing trafficking victims with protection. Specific trafficking victim assistance legislation, pending before the Duma, was neither passed nor enacted in 2006. Russia continued modest progress in its law enforcement efforts, particularly in its trafficking investigation efforts. In early 2007, the Ministry of Interior created the federal-level Counter Human Trafficking Unit to further strengthen anti-trafficking law enforcement coordination. In July 2006, the Duma passed asset forfeiture legislation that permits prosecutors to seek the forfeiture of the assets of convicted persons, including traffickers. In January, the Public Chamber of the national government provided grants to three anti-trafficking NGOs. Two local governments signed agreements with NGOs that establish a mechanism for victim referral. Although these are positive developments, Russia has yet to provide comprehensive human trafficking victim protections, covering the entire process from victim identification through reintegration and support. Overall, victim protection and assistance remains the weakest component of Russia’s anti-trafficking efforts.Post Views: 399
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Name of Russia votes are in. The project, which started on June 12, allowed voters to decide who are the most important political, cultural, and historical figures. According to the Name of Russia website, 44,569,665 people voted. Here are the top ten Heroes of Russia:
1. Aleksandr Nevsky 2,011,766 votes.
The great Novgorodian prince who successfully repelled German and Swedish invaders in the 13th century. Could there be a better indicator of the Russian political unconscious? Once again Russia feels embattled by Western invaders and its people look for a defender of nationality (even before nationalism and Russia as a unified political entity existed) by going old school.
2. Aleksandr Pushkin 1,781,863 votes.
3. Fedor Dostoevskii 1,678,083 votes.
4. Peter I 1,511,367 votes
5. Vladimir Lenin 1,356,281 votes
6. Aleksandr Suvorov 1,271,345 votes
7. Catherine II 1,365,784 votes
8. Ivan IV 1,216,812 votes
9. Petr Stolypin 1,165,377 votes
10. Aleksandr II 1,066,896 votes
11. Dmitrii Mendeleev 1,044,897 votes
12. Iosif Stalin 1,039,488
Update: Well, the Name of Russia was not without controversy. Especially when it came to Comrade Stalin’s place on the list. Organizers, human rights activists and intellectuals freaked when Stalin quickly shot to the top spot when voting began. The dictator fell from his perch only after a campaign to boost Nicholas II, reports the Wall Street Journal. But Stalin, tenacious in memory as he was in life, still hung around in second place. That is until the Name of Russia organizers practiced some Stalinism of their own:
Stalin kept his high position, dismaying human-rights activists and delighting Russia’s enfeebled Communist party.
That changed Wednesday when organizers announced the 12 finalists, from an original list of 500. They said Stalin had fallen from second to twelfth place after they had “adjusted” his tally because of what they called “an information war” by malicious hackers. In mid-August, the contest’s site gave Stalin just over two million votes; Wednesday he had just over one million.
One of the organizers, Alexander Lyubimov, told reporters that hackers chose Stalin as a mascot to stir up trouble.
“It caused a reaction in the press, the intelligentsia sighed, and the international media said that the Russian people had chosen Stalin,” as their favorite figure, he said. “Obviously hackers liked this.”
With those “just over two million” votes would have put Stalin second or maybe first. In the end, Stalin still made the cut of the Twelve Heroes of Russia by coming in twelfth place.
As Comrade Stalin was famous for saying, “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” Indeed.Post Views: 576
By Sean — 12 years ago
The 50th Anniversary of Khrushchev’s speech has passed but not unnoticed. There was lots of commentary over the week in English and Russia media. Below you’ll find links to English and Russian language articles that have been published in the last few days. The list is far from complete. I won’t provide any detailed commentary on them.
Khrushchev’s Secret Speech & End Of Communism
1956: Khrushchev Lashes Out At Stalin
Khrushchev: The Man Who Stood Up To Stalinism
Russia Turns Its Back On The Man Who Denounced Stalin
Stalin Nostalgia Growing in Russia
1959: Macmillan And Khrushchev Talk Peace
‘The First Nail In The Coffin Of Communism’
The Speech Russia Wants To Forget
Instead I would like to concentrate on a recent poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Social Opinion (VTsIOM) on “Repression, the Repressed and ‘the Strong Hand’” released this week in conjunction with the anniversary of de-Stalinization. An analysis of the poll can be found here. Such polls are common in Post-Soviet Russia. Many people see them as a gauge to the Russian population’s “transition” to democracy. In fact, I was at a conference on Stalin at USC last week and one presenter used statistics from VTsIOM as evidence of Stalin’s “reemergence” in Russia. I personally don’t put much stock in these polls as a representation of how Russian’s view Stalin. Instead I see them as interesting indicators to how Russians remember and understand Stalin’s Terror. Here are some of the polls statistics.
Who in your opinion carries the primary responsibility for mass repression in the country after the Revolution up to the 20th Party Congress? (in percent)
Leaders of the NKVD –Iagoda, Ezhov, Beria.
The upper Party leadership – Khrushchev, Malenkov, Molotov, Kaganovich, and others.
In the conditions of enemy encirclement and the threat of war, repression was inevitable.
Difficult to answer.
What is interesting about these answers is not that 41% named Stalin. It is that fact that 59% said that it something else besides Stalin was responsible for mass repression? Now, does this mean that Russians are more favorable to Stalin? I would say no. What it tells me is that given a set of explanations, many Russians understand mass repression as a phenomenon conducted by individuals. This is perhaps because of the canonizing effect of Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, which was very popularity when it was translated into Russian in the 1990s. Conquest portrays the Terror as part of a master plan executed flawlessly by Stalin.
What is conspicuously missing in the list of answers are the Russian people themselves. There is no space for collective responsibility. This could be simply explained by the fact that the questionnaire did not provide an answer for some sort of collective responsibility. This in and of itself is suggestive of how such polls construct the memory of such events. They reduce a potentially diverse set of viewpoints into a few. They create a narrative for how events are represented and remembered. It however makes one wonder whether Russians see any collective responsibility at all for the horrors of the Soviet regime. My guess is that there continues to be little sense of this, and as a result a failure to come to terms with living and participating in an authoritarian society.
The lack of recognition of a collective responsibility about mass repression in Russia has always stuck me. After all, the term “mass repression” is not only one that denotes scope; it also suggests a process that goes beyond one man or a group of leaders. Essentially, this survey hides the fact that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of rank and file Party members, secretaries, local leaders, and regular people participated in the execution of this “mass repression.” Without them, I doubt it could ever have become mass. Take for example, this denunciation written by a student of the Leningrad Technical Institute and Komsomol member in 1936 to the editor of Pravda, Lev Mekhlis about one N. V. Kitaev:
How can a parasite WHO ALWAYS SOBS WHEN HE HEARS LENIN’S NAME AND GROANS WHEN HE HEARS STALIN’S (those are not just words, comrade Mekhlis, but the appalling truth), how can such a person be allowed to remain within the walls of the institute, how can we, comrade Mekhlis, shelter such a snake in our bosom?
The letter went on to state how the denunciation of Kitaev was not out of personal malice toward him.
No comrade Mekhlis, it’s much worse—for four years, until February 1935, we venerated him as a “real party man,” politically highly developed, an activist, someone who always spoke up at every meeting and assembly, who could quote Lenin and Stalin and in our (Komsomol members’) eyes was the INCARNATION OF PARTY CONSCIENCE, ethics, and PARTY SPIRIT.
Since Kirov’s murder, [Kitaev] arouses an animal fear in me, an organic disgust. Just as I previously venerated him and respected him, now I fear him and expect him to do something terribly evil, some irreparable harm to the whole country. If you could have seen the unfeigned joy we all felt . . . when we learned of his expulsion [later revoked] from the Institute after the execution of Zinoviev and Kamenev . . . It is impossible and criminal to allow him to finish his studies at the Institute, because comrade Mekhlis even THE CAMPS OF THE NKVD WILL NOT REFORM HIM . . . I am terribly sorry now that he was not sitting next to his hero Zinoviev and Kamenev [in the court that ordered their execution.](cited in Shelia Fitzpatrick, Tear Off the Masks, 213.)
The fate of Kitaev is unclear. What is clear is that many more similar denunciations can be found in the archives as well as incidents where people participated in the public denunciation of others in local show trials.
None of this would be found in the survey. It only recreates the idea that history is the work of great individuals rather than the multitude of actions carried out by regular people.
The memory of the “mass repression” is inscribed in other parts of the survey. Here it is the memory of victims rather than perpetrators is formed.
Were any of your relatives repressed in the 1930s and 1940s? (in percent)
Of all Respondents
60 and older
Yes, I know much about their fate from stories of close relatives and family archives (letters, photos, etc)
I know that my relatives were repressed but the details aren’t known to me.
None of my relatives were repressed.
I don’t know if any of my relatives were repressed or not.
Difficult to answer.
According to the survey one in four respondents were “repressed.” But what does repressed mean? Does it mean execution, arrest and imprisonment, deportation, or dispossession? Or does it also include much more? Does this include all soldiers imprisoned after the war? War collaborators? It is difficult to say because the survey doesn’t give a definition. This says to me that there is a question as to what repression means, and how it is defined and remembered by the respondent. I think that what exactly “repression” means is an important question because the trend has been to think that everyone imprisoned under Stalin was “repressed.”
It would be difficult to verify if the 25 percent figure in the survey is correct. The difficultly is not simply that “repressed” is not defined, neither is “relative.” Does this mean close relative—mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, etc? Or does it mean great uncle, cousin, third cousin etc? On this, the survey is potentially misleading in demonstrating the scope of repression among the population because when reading the one in four statistic, one assumes that one in four soviet citizens in the 1930s and 1940s were “repressed.”
Thanks to the opening of the archives, we now have a better sense of the numbers of executions, Gulag inmates, arrests, etc. Some of them are considered accurate; others are based on estimates when set against demographic materials. Some of the numbers are for specific periods, like 1936-1937, or for the whole Stalin period 1930-1953. Some include NKVD victims, other numbers include famine, and still others even include war deaths. The point is how you frame the figures, what you include in the count, and what you don’t. Most importantly when evaluating numbers on the victims of Stalin, what you mean by “repression” and what you think Stalin is responsible for is of utmost importance.
Here part of what we now know. And I should first preface this by stating that all of these figures are from scholarly studies, most of which are based on archival documents. But as many scholars freely admit, the numbers from archival documents and census data also contain inaccuracies. All in all, they act more as a guide than a way to posit completely accurate figures. The population of the Soviet Union in 1937 was 162 million. In 1939 was 167.3 million. Population growth was estimated to be around an average of 3 million per annum.
1921-1953 total arrests
1938 camp population
1938 prison and camp population
1952 camp population
1937-38 camp deaths
Source: J. Arch Getty, Gabor T. Rittersporn and Viktor N. Zemskov, “Vitcims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-War Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence,” American Historical Review, 98:4, 1993, 1022.
Grated these figures don’t give us a sense of the percentage of people repressed in the Stalin period in terms of overall population. Most the above figures are for a narrow period of time that coincides with the Great Purge, 1937-1938. These also don’t include deportations of ethnic groups or kulaks (razkulachivanie). There are estimate figures for these too, but I will only state one since it coincides with not only the anniversary, but also Russia’s Men’s Day holiday that was on February 23.
On February 23, 1944 the NKVD began the deportation of Chechens to Kazakhstan. I won’t go into the history of it because I am not an expert on this. But according to figures in the archives, 400,478 Chechens and Ingushes were recorded in special settlements (spetsposeleniia). This is not the number of those deported, only those who arrived. Some estimate that over 100,000 died in transit to Kazakhstan.
Suffice to say and attempt on producing numbers on the victims of Stalinism will remain only estimates. And like I mentioned above, it depends on what you mean by “repression” and to a certain extent “victim.” But complexity hasn’t stopped scholars from trying. But the more sophisticated scholars who are armed with minutia of demography tend to be inconclusive on total numbers, but have offered numbers in specific areas: executions, deportations, sentences, Gulag populations etc more as a way to disprove previously offered guesstimates that were often steeped in Cold War ideology and misconceptions about how the Soviet Union functioned. As one can imagine the battle over figures has caused fierce academic debates. Even though most scholars agree that we have a much better picture of the scope of repression, the ability to come up with a best estimate on the total of victims under Stalin continues to be marred in politics, definition, inaccurate data, not to mention academic nit-picking over tables, calculations, and figures.
Personally, I don’t have much of an intellectual interest in numbers. I can’t comprehend the mass slaughter of a 100 people let alone millions. Plus at some point the humanity in all of it gets lost. The human gravity in the difference between one million and two million gets erased by the short abstract distance between one and two. After all, whether the estimate on the total number is 20 or 30 million, does 20 million make the Stalin period less repressive than 30 million? Or does 30 million make it more repressive than 20 million? Less or more inhuman? Hardly.Post Views: 1,202