In our recent podcast episode Evil Men, from the Never Again…Again – Continuous History of Genocide series, we looked at Mao and Stalin. If evil is measured by a ruler’s death count, no one in history comes close to comparison to the sociopaths Mao and Stalin. Stallin’s mass murders set him apart as uniquely and historically evil.
Stalin did not document his murder with the level of bureaucratic effectiveness that Hitler and the Nazis did. To that end, there is debate on the number killed. The exiled and award-winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn estimated total deaths under Stalin could be as high as 60 million. In the book “Unnatural Deaths in the U.S.S.R.: 1928-1954,” author I.G. Dyadkin estimated the USSR suffered 56 to 62 million “unnatural deaths” during that period, with 34 to 49 million directly linked to Stalin.
Across the Soviet Union, mass graves hold the remains of populations who disappeared during the brutal reign of Stalin. Those who escaped execution were often transported to brutal slave camps where they faced death from exposure, starvation, disease, or new rounds of execution.
Stalin assigned political identities to people and then sought to wipe those political classes out. As time went by, the political identities became fluid and easily transitioned to any individual or group that Stalin saw as his enemy.
These numbers do not account for the 20 million dead in the Soviet fight during World War II.
|1929-32||Collectivization and De-Kulakization||11 million deaths||As Stalin reshaped the Soviet economy and society, he did so with executions as his primary tool. Additionally, he invented a political class called “Kulaks.” The kulaks were the enemies of the Soviet Union, according to Stalin. Who or what was a Kulak? That depended on who Stalin needed to eliminate.|
|1932-33||Political Famines||7 million deaths||To industrialize the Soviet Union, Stalin crashed the agriculture system initiating a massive famine. He then punished the peasants for allowing the famine. Stalin effectively refashioned the nation of Ukraine to a death camp.|
|1937-38||The Great Terror||1 million deaths||To purge the communist party and military of any possible oppositions to Stalin, the evil dictator unleashed the Great Terror. Ironically, many of the leaders and military minds that could have helped when Germany invaded the Soviet Union a short time later were killed by Stalin in the Great Terror.|
|1939-45||World War II Massacres||Exact numbers not known, estimates in hundreds of thousands range||While the Soviets experienced enormous losses of life in World War II, there were massacres, far above and beyond ordinary warfare that Stalin also directed.|