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"The Art of Remembering the Crimes of Stalin Against the People of Ukraine"

Joseph Stalin Died 50 Years Ago Today, March 5, 1953 "He was nothing more than a tyrant, nothing less than evil"


"Ukraine Report 2003," Number 10
Ukraine Market Reform Group
Kyiv, Ukraine; Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, March 5, 2003



    1. FIFTY YEARS AFTER STALIN Become conscious of the enormity of the national tragedy suffered and damage done Ukrainians as a nation. By Professor James Mace, The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine, March 4, 2003

    2. ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE On March 5th, I intend to say a prayer for Stalin's victims. Perspectives, by Andrew Fedynsky, The Ukrainian Weekly Parsippany, New Jersey, Sunday, March 2, 2003

    3. THE SPRING OF OUR MOURNING A pastoral address by Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko) of Kharkiv and Poltava in March of 2003 to the God-loving pastors and devout laity of the Kharkiv and Poltava eparchy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the man-made famine in 1932-1933

    4. LUNCH WITH THE FT: ROBERT CONQUEST It is 35 years since Conquest's ground-breaking book, The Great Terror, revealed the full depth of Joseph Stalin's crimes to the world. By Richard Waters, Financial Times, London, UK, February 28, 2003

    5.THE DUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED: STALIN AND HIS MURDERS Lena Stuyrcevich. Teacher from the Ukraine. 1929 sent to Solovki. 1930 shot. Solovki basics. By Harriet Crawley, The Telegraph, London, UK Sunday, March 2, 2003

    6. STILL MOURNING STALIN? So many people suffered in so many ways, by starvation, deportation, and execution, that it is hard to give a complete tally of the human cost of the three decades when Stalin ran the Soviet Union. Story from Moscow, Russia, by The Economist, London, UK, March 1-7, 2003


    8. STALIN'S FORGOTTEN VICTIMS STUCK IN THE GULAG In 1945 Galina Doll was seized in Ukraine. Mrs. Bugaenko is less forgiving. "When Stalin died in 1953 one of my workmates asked why I was not crying. I replied, 'I cried for years in the gulag because of that monster' I had no tears left," By Tom Parfitt, The Telegraph, London, UK, March 2, 2003

    9. WORLD WRESTLES WITH STALIN LEGACY, 50 YEARS ON Millions died in his mass purges and millions more in famine "He was always playing these games with nationalities. He moved peoples around so that they would lose any sense of their own nationhood," Radzinsky told Reuters. "He followed a single formula: a day without repression was wasted for the country." By Richard Balmforth, Reuters, Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 4, 2003

    10. 50 YEARS ON, STALIN CASTS A SHADOW OVER RUSSIA Agence France-Presse (AFP), Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2003

    11. IN RUSSIA, STALIN STILL CARRIES CLOUT March 5, 1953-is just a brief entry: "Comrade I.V. Stalin died.'' By Steve Gutterman, Associated Press, Moscow, March 2, 2003

    12. REMEMBERING A MONSTER By Geert Groot Koerkamp, Radio Netherlands, The Netherlands Tuesday, 04 March, 2003

    13. MAN OF STEEL, HEART OF STONE "He was nothing more than a tyrant, nothing less than evil." By Robert Manne, Professor of politics at La Trobe University, The, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, March 5, 2003


Become conscious of the enormity of the national tragedy suffered and damage done Ukrainians as a nation

Professor James Mace, Consultant to The Day
The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine, March 4, 2003


Kyiv, Ukraine.........................Ivan Dziuba - once a model for the movement to defend human and national rights in the Ukrainian SSR, now full member of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, and still the conscience of his nation - wrote in Dzerkalo tyzhnia that fifty years after Stalin is not the same thing as being without Stalin.

As Dziuba rightly pointed out, today's Ukraine is still with Stalin in the sense that it continues to bear the attributes that he forced upon it.

Khrushchev might have removed the deceased dictator's mummy from its place next Lenin's, but he could only ameliorate the system he had inherited from his predecessor, not fundamentally alter its essence.

For all the worship with which Stalin liked to surround himself, he remained fond of modestly portraying himself as Lenin's pupil. He was a follower of the Lenin of 1919 when the state first tried to control everything: taking over industry, forcing peasants into communes (Stalin ameliorated this at least in name to collective farms), viewing all who wanted to exercise their officially proclaimed right of national self- determination as class enemies, and keeping the whole thing going by means of the Red Terror, which Stalin adapted as what one scholar once called a permanent purge.

Of course, it is impossible to control everything, and the system evolved into one whose demands could not be met without breaking the rules of the system itself. People evolved the survival strategy of thinking one thing, saying another, and doing yet a third.

Law was rehabilitated in name and destroyed in fact. For what is law, if not a set of rules compulsory on everybody and backed by the punishment of those who violate these rules by the state?

Yet, when everyone is forced to be guilty of something and in theory deserves punishment, who gets punished in reality (at least at the top) ceases to be a matter of enforcing rules and becomes a matter of sheer arbitrariness. Once Khrushchev stopped Stalinist mass terror and the resultant universal fear, the structures and interests molded within the confines of the system Stalin created could congeal into powers immune to any official injunctions.

Under such circumstances it becomes misleading to even speak of corruption and criminality, for when practically everybody breaks the rules, the rules themselves lose any reality. In this way Stalin accomplished what Lenin in 1919 could not.

Stalin's success in creating a Soviet people to supplant individual nations has also left the Ukrainians (and not only them) with a deep crisis of identity. Last week I took part in a memorial soiree marking seventy years since the Great Manmade Famine. More and more are beginning to become conscious of the enormity of the national tragedy suffered and damage done Ukrainians as a nation.

Still, most Western scholarship of the period continues to view the period of a single Soviet history just as nineteenth century German nationalists condemned the Czechs and other "small" nations as being without histories and thus without any future. In the Soviet context, this was called the great friendship of peoples. Friendship is fine, of course, but when it involves the loss of one's own identity it becomes transformed into something else.

In short, while Stalin has long since ceased to be canonized and his corpse gone from the Lenin Mausoleum, his legacy is still very much a part of postcommunist reality, and the period of convalescence will remain long and painful.


On March 5th, I intend to say a prayer for Stalin's victims

PERSPECTIVES, by Andrew Fedynsky
The Ukrainian Weekly, Ukrainian National Association
Parsippany, New Jersey, Sunday, March 2, 2003


Danylo Shumuk, now nearly 90 years old, was 19 when he was first arrested and imprisoned in 1934. Eventually, he became the longest-serving prisoner of conscience in the former Soviet Union, spending 42 years in prison or exile. I met him for dinner in Cleveland in 1988, soon after his ultimate release. He told stories and rendered opinions in a straightforward, unsentimental way. Shumuk is one steely individual.

Having listened to several accounts of how resolute principle confronted cruelty in the prisons and the camps, our host asked Mr. Shumuk if there was any one moment that was worse than all the others.

That's easy, Shumuk said. It was in the Norilsk labor camp north of the Arctic Circle in 1945. In the early morning darkness of the Siberian winter, he and his newly-arrived fellows were mustered to watch as the guards dragged two bodies from the disciplinary cell, deposited them in front of the assembled prisoners and sank their bayonets into the half-frozen corpses.

"Smotriti!-Watch well," the commandant shouted at the inmates, who ached from weariness and cold. "This is the only way you'll ever get out of this place!" That, Shumuk said, was the low point of his life. Understood.

Memories of that conversation come back to me as March 5th approaches, the 50th anniversary of Joseph Stalin's death. It was Stalin, really, who perfected the political system that Lenin invented, although actually Lenin got the idea from observing how a narrow class of aristocrats numbering no more than a quarter million, controlled the Russian Empire with its 125 million peasants and workers. A disciplined corps of Communist Party members could do the same, he reasoned.

Lenin's Bolsheviks styled themselves as the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and promised "the people" a future of brotherhood and bounty, but first, they said they had to eliminate all opposition-so-called "enemies of the people," otherwise known as "vermin." There were millions of them.

To deal with those, Lenin created a secret police force to identify and arrest them. He called it the "All-Russia Extraordinary Commission for the Struggle Against Counterrevolution and Sabotage-CHEKA" for short. The CHEKA build lots of prisons and labor camps to accommodate all the "enemies;" except, obviously, those who were executed or died under torture.

Once the "enemies" were eliminated, the state could move forward to the "perfect society," where poverty and inequality would be banished. So was God, by the way. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" took His place, using force to shape the future according to their utopian vision.

In the mid-1920s, Joseph Stalin assumed control of this diabolical system. He had started his career in the Caucasus organizing bank robberies and strikes. Lenin, who called him that "wonderful Georgian," was so impressed with Stalin's understanding of the hundred or more peoples of the Soviet Union, that he made him Commissar for the Affairs of Nationalities. Then, while others grappled for power within the walls of the Kremlin, Stalin used his office to develop a broad network of activists loyal to him.

This proved decisive after Lenin's death.

Once he became dictator, Stalin saw "enemies of the people" everywhere he looked. Some, like his rival, Leon Trotsky, or the Ukrainian nationalist, Evhen Konovalets, were assassinated. Vast populations, like the "kulaks" in Ukraine, he dealt with on a macro-political scale. They were to be "liquidated as a class"-Stalin's euphemism for genocide. Millions of farmers were starved to death; millions more arrested and sent to Siberia, along with purged Party members, military officers, nationalists of all stripes, suspected saboteurs, dissident intellectuals, ordinary criminals and many who were swept up just to meet arrest quotas.

The enormous labor camp population suited Stalin's larger purposes. The Party had promised "the people" a future of prosperity and happiness.

Failure to achieve that was blamed on the "enemies of the people," who were then put to work building Siberia's infrastructure, where much of the country's lumber, coal, copper, gold and other minerals were located.

Stalin's slaves dug the White Sea-Baltic and the Moscow-Volga Canals, laid railroad track, constructed strategic roads, factories and hydroelectric stations. Danylo Shumuk was in Norilsk to work in the mines, which were supplying the Soviet arms industry with nickel, molybdenum and chrome.

Life outside the camps was better only by degree. Soviet citizens suffered from crowded living quarters, a shortage of consumer goods, oppressive and dangerous labor conditions, and no freedom whatsoever. Social discourse, artistic expression, everything was monitored by the state. Even children were taught to inform on their parents. The CHEKA morphed into the GPU, then the NKVD and finally, the KGB, but it was always the same organization, which existed to terrorize and control.

To complete the monstrous system, Stalin encouraged people to worship him:

Today and forever, Oh Stalin be praised
For the light that the planets and fields emit.
Thou art the heart of the people, the truth and the faith
We're thankful to Thee for the sun Thou hast lit!

A collective of 13 writers composed, "To the Great Stalin from the Ukrainian People," in 1944. It was delivered over the signatures of nine million people.

Shumuk didn't sign it, I'll tell you that. When Stalin died in 1953, Shumuk was one of the leaders of prison uprisings in Norilsk. Outbreaks like those throughout the GULAG led to a wide-ranging release of prisoners; except for those who remained defiant and therefore free, barbed wire notwithstanding.

That included Danylo Shumuk.

On March 5th, I intend to say a prayer for Stalin's victims: for those like Shumuk who survived and those like my Uncle Slavko, who died; no one knows where or when exactly. For all we know, he might have been one of the unfortunate victims who froze to death so the Norilsk commandant could make an impression on that morning in 1945.

Slavko Fedynsky, my father's brother, was studying for the priesthood. That made him an "enemy of the people," but it's a title he didn't deserve.

Instead, let's give it to those who actually earned it: Lenin, Stalin and all their Politburo comrades.

Joseph Stalin has been dead for fifty years. The nations that once constituted the Soviet Union are still trying to overcome his legacy. May we never see his like again.

Andrew Fedynsky is director of the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland, Ohio. The museum's website:

The Ukrainian Weekly, is an English-language newspaper published by the Ukrainian National Association, 2200 Route 10, P. O. Box 280, Parsippany, New Jersey 07054. Roma Hadzewycz is the Editor-in-chief.




A pastoral address of Archbishop Ihor (Isichenko) of Kharkiv and Poltava to the God-loving pastors and devout laity of the Kharkiv and Poltava eparchy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the man-made famine in 1932-1933


Most honourable Fathers! Dear brethren!


Each year at this time of approaching spring we are reminded of the traditional seasonal concerns of farmers: Is there enough snow to water the fields? Did the frost spare the winter crops? Will the orchards survive the winter all right? Even though the last few generations of our ancestors have lived in the city and have never thrown a grain into a ploughed field, millennia of diligent Ukrainian farmers are still alive in our genetic memory, making us feel our close connection with the land, the plough, grain.


What must have been the feelings of our grandparents who were robbed that sad spring of 1933! That spring the tragic images of righteous Job's visions seemed to return to life: "Haggard from want and hunger, they roamed the parched land in desolate wastelands at night. In the bush they gathered salt herbs, and their food was the root of the broom tree." (Job 30:6). Will we ever be able to comprehend the sense of universal catastrophe when one's property, land, reserve grain for sowing-- when all these things become shadows? When the neighbors whom you helped to cope with the harvest just last year rob you of the last handful of chaff and when sluggards and idlers doom a hard-working family to death?


The famine in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 was not only an act of genocide targeted by the Bolshevik administration against the intractable Ukrainian peasants. The horrors survived by Ukraine 70 years ago also were the culmination of the humiliations and defeats that the Ukrainian nation suffered during the national revolution from 1917 to 1921.The famine killed those who deserted from the Ukrainian army in their reluctance to take up arms against the enemy, those who indifferently watched the executions of clergy and intelligentsia, those who gave their tacit consent to the imposition of Bolshevist ideology, the establishment of collective farms and destruction of churches. Passivity did not save millions of ordinary people from destruction. Their abandonment and helplessness before the recurrent wave of red terror was conditioned by their apathetic complicity in the establishment of the godless regime.


There is no neutrality in the struggle against the king of this world. "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters" (Lk. 11:23), Christ teaches. The right to a peaceful Christian life should be always protected. We should be vigilant about the intrigues of perpetual enemies whose seductive voice even today can be heard from corrupted TV channels, leftist newspapers and speeches of foreign preachers.


Similarly, once from the thicket in paradise the sweet voice of the serpent called out to the deceived mother of all the living. It is not by chance that during the first weeks of "the year of Russia in Ukraine" Ukrainian churches in Kharkiv and Poltava were vandalized and the commercial Kharkiv channel "Simon" telecast an anti-Ukrainian propaganda film. Attempts are being made to undermine our faith, stir up discord among us, and strip us of active social life in order to make us an easy tool for deception and exploitation. Someone is trying to trap us again in the same manner as they trapped our ancestors 85 years ago.


March is the month of the beginning of the Great Fast, the time of spiritual renewal and reconciliation with God. It is also the month that, since the end of World War II, has been dedicated by the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church to prayer in memory of the famine victims, prayer for the repose of their souls. At every requiem during this month we will remember the innocent victims of the worst genocide of the last century, our parents, brothers and sisters who died in the famine of 1932-1933. At the same time, we will pray that the Lord will give our nation wisdom and a sense of responsibility to learn the severe lessons of the tragedy of 70 years ago.


Let us ask God for the strength to resist evil, for discernment of the deceitful whispers of the enemy, for the gift of love for our neighbour, our native state and our freedom.


As we approach the time of the Great Fast, let us ponder the words of Isaiah the Prophet: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard." (Is. 58:6-8).


Let the coming fast also be for us such a shining, victorious time; let it become the time of victory over our own weakness, apathy and national amnesia. And let our gracious God be merciful to all the victims of the beastly social experiment who died of hunger and suffering, and may He receive their souls in His heavenly mansions.


May the memory of the deceased live forever.


Ihor (Isichenko)
Archbishop of Kharkiv and Poltava, Ukraine

February 16 (March 1 Gregorian Calendar), 2003
All-Souls Saturday of Meatfare Week


English translation by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine,;


It is 35 years since Conquest's ground-breaking book, The Great Terror, revealed the full depth of Joseph Stalin's crimes to the world

By Richard Waters from San Francisco
For the Financial Times, London, UK
February 28, 2003


It is a bright Californian spring morning as I arrive at Robert Conquest's apartment for lunch. The eminent Soviet historian and Stalinologist has lived on this grassy edge of the Stanford University campus for two decades. In the placid suburban setting, workmen groom the lawns. A young mother stands by her front door, near an abandoned child's bike.

Inside Conquest fusses about, a courteous host. He has the quaintly antiquated mannerisms of the distinguished English man of letters. It is easy to see here the close friend of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin: precise in his words, an eclectic interest and love of talking, a subversive wit that breaks through frequently. At 85, he still writes poetry and is only too eager to discuss other poets and show off his own work. He promises his next-but-one book will be his memoirs.

The tranquil Californian morning and the English manners add to the incongruity, a sense of unreality that develops as Conquest warms to his subject. In the sitting room before lunch, talk has turned quickly to the subject that has preoccupied him for so many years. "Why did he want to shoot so many people? You could understand why he would want to shoot his colleagues - they were rivals. But why did he shoot so many?"

It is 35 years since Conquest's ground-breaking book, The Great Terror, revealed the full depth of Joseph Stalin's crimes to the world. If he is still apparently absorbed by the subject, it seems to have two sources: a powerful sense of vindication and an abiding fascination with one of the 20th century's darkest episodes.

Conquest's right-wing political leanings - he still drops in on Margaret Thatcher, an admirer, on annual trips to the UK - have long made his work a target of criticism on the left. Dubbed the "witch-finder general of anti-Sovietism" by the Morning Star, the British communist newspaper, his work still arouses strong passions.

Yet even the opposition from the left that persisted in the years after The Great Terror was published has dissipated in the face of the mass of evidence.

According to Martin Amis, Conquest had a tart answer for his publishers when it came to picking a title for an updated version of his classic work: I Told You So, You Fucking Fools. ("I may have said that," the historian concedes, "but I didn't say that to my publisher.")

Lunch is smoked salmon, brown bread and boiled eggs, eaten around the dining table in the small apartment. Conquest's wife - his fourth, Elizabeth - is away with her grandchildren and the eminent writer affects a degree of elderly helplessness. But the apartment is well organised and clean and he has cleared the table of books - they sit on side tables and on the floor, hand-written notes protruding.

He eats carefully, picking pieces of salmon to drop into his mouth and wiping his fingers on a napkin tucked into the pocket of his bright yellow shirt.

In this genteel retirement, Conquest can allow himself the satisfaction of having outlasted most of the doubters and the Soviet apologists.

"They've given up on what you might call 'Gulag denial'," he says of his critics. But he adds: "They're still working on keeping the numbers as low as possible."

The numbers, in this context, concern the dead. Adding those who died from Stalin's purges and the famines of the 1930s, Conquest came up with a figure of 20 million.

Like the elder Amis, Conquest dabbled in left-wing politics in his youth before swinging to the right. It is a surprise when he reveals he was once a member of the Communist party: his writing shows a barely-suppressed contempt for an ideology he considers an intellectually inferior form of Utopianism. With a shrug, he says now he was never politically active and felt only a brief interest in Marxism.

Vindication seems to be only part of what drives him now. To Conquest, the depravities of the Stalin era and the wreckage of the Soviet Union resonate like some terrible comedy. He dwells with relish on new anecdotes that have emerged recently - he keeps a close watch on the new research, much of it being published in Russia and Italy - as if discovering afresh the abominations of Stalin's rule.

"It's a curious thing: Stalin comes out worse than we thought," he says. "You wouldn't think it possible."

The way he sees it, it is hardly surprising that the Soviet empire after Stalin should have disintegrated under a succession of mediocrities. "They had got rid of such a lot of the bright guys. They shot everyone. It was absolutely unbelievable."

But this horror also had its comedy. He chortles over the aberrations of Soviet mismanagement: the way, for instance, that excessive irrigation caused a large part of the Aral Sea - once the world's fourth largest lake - to dry up. "When your seas start drying up, there's something wrong with your planning," he says, the mirth making his face wrinkle.

His scorn is reserved for the incompetent and the stupid. Academics take much of the baiting - a reflection, perhaps, of the lasting resistance in some parts of academia to his work. He lays the blame on Vietnam-era students whose lost faith in America manifested itself, when they grew into positions of power, in an unthinking leftist politics.

At one point, as I flick through a volume of his poetry, Conquest points out a scathing piece ridiculing academics. One line reads: "Where education and psychology meet/A terrible bullshit is born." The parody of Yeats clearly gives him pleasure. "Philip Larkin laughed at that," he says, proudly. But along with the mirth, Conquest is still struggling to come up with an explanation for the appalling events of the Stalin era.

He brushes off a question about whether Stalin can be described as evil: such metaphysical classification has little value. And he resists easy psychoanalysis, at one stage describing the Soviet leader as paranoid before disparaging his own pop-psychology.

In conversation and in his books, Conquest turns repeatedly to the question of Stalin's character and motivation. His conclusion: a "profound mediocrity" combined with a supercharged will-power created a monster.

Having invested his faith in a half-baked ideology, only to see it fail before his eyes, Stalin distorted the reality of the entire Soviet empire to make it seem a success. "They all had to confess they were agents of Hitler," Conquest says of Stalin's supposed enemies. "Why did he have to do that? He wanted to create all this detail. Now you had a different reality. He managed to produce a new reality contrary to what was really going on."

To Churchill's description of Stalin as unnatural, Conquest adds his own: unreal. His will-power proved strong enough to project the illusion around the world, blinding the west to the true situation. It also created a habit of self-denial that came to characterise - and eventually help to undermine - the Soviet Union.

In the end, it is Stalin's almost pointless cruelty, and the stupidity of his apologists in the west, that lingers.

Conquest recounts a recently-attributed comment in which Stalin explained why he had lowered the age for the death penalty to just 12. "He said it was to discourage adults running children's gangs," he says, the incredulity making his eyes widen. At the time, he adds, French communists justified capital punishment for children "because in Russia, they said people mature so much quicker".

As I leave, the great writer is solicitous. Do I have everything I need? Surely there is something more he can do for me?

Three hours have gone by. It is a relief to be out in the sunlight again. The mother has gone, but the child's bike still lies on the bright grass, abandoned, as I head back to my car.


Lena Stuyrcevich. Teacher from the Ukraine. 1929 sent to Solovki. 1930 shot. Solovki basics..

By Harriet Crawley
The Telegraph, London, UK
Sunday, March 2, 2003


There are parts of Russia that few visitors get to - or, under Stalin, came back from. Harriet Crawley takes her Russian aunt to a monastery with a terrible history and together they confront a nation's ghosts in a story published on The Travel Site of the Telegraph in London on Sunday, March 2, 2003.

Strashna [ghastly]," Galia murmurs periodically as we look at photographs of the victims; below the alert sensitive faces their fate is typewritten: Lena Stuyrcevich. Teacher from the Ukraine. 1929 sent to Solovki. 1930 shot. Solovki basics.

Mist rises from the White Sea, revealing a skyline of extraordinary beauty and lightness. The onion-shaped domes of the Solovetsky monastery gleam silver through the watery sunlight, jostling for space next to the pointed round towers and turrets of the Kremlin walls built by monks and anchorites in the 16th century. This jumble of medieval shapes is flanked on all sides by a black pine forest stretching to infinity. The sun comes out and the massive fortress monastery turns gold. It is perfect. It is diabolical. Solovki was the most beautiful and the most damnable of Stalin's gulags.

As the ship docks I can't help thinking what a cruel deception this ethereal sight must have been for those hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners who, in the 1920s and 1930s, were sent to this remote archipelago, strewn across the Bay of Onega in the White Sea just south of the Arctic Circle, to be shot, tortured, or worked to death. No one knows how many people perished. Walk through the pine forest of the Solovki islands and you walk on bones.

It is a precious moment for my Russian aunt, Galia, diminutive with bright brown eyes and a bird-like face, who has dreamt of coming to the Russian north and standing on the shores of the White Sea for more than 30 years. She set her heart on Solovki in 1996 when President Yeltsin declared this desolate archipelago with its great monastery and dozens of smaller churches built in stone and wood to be a historical and cultural area of Grade A national importance.

His successor, Vladimir Putin, came here in 2000 and the Russian tourist office stepped up its campaign to promote this wonder of the White Sea, although getting there has never been easy.

By Russian standards it is a short train trip from Moscow: only 20 hours, not even a coutki (24 hours). I pick up some Russian bubbly for 2 a bottle, while Galia produces a copious picnic of smoked salmon, pickled cucumbers and jam jars of red caviar. The daughter of a Jewish army officer and an iron-willed mother, Galia trained as a chemist, then switched to Russian art and culture, which she teaches with relentless enthusiasm in Moscow. Her whole youth was overshadowed by Stalin; he died when she was 16 and she remembers vividly her despair.

Daylight stretches across the sky as the train rumbles north through a white night of midsummer until it can go no farther: we have reached the White Sea.

Archangel - such a beautiful name for such a forlorn place; there's one skyscraper, one espresso bar, a White Sea that is slate grey, and in the wide, empty streets no sign of the raw richness of Moscow: no blacked out Mercedes with blue flashing lights, just banged-up Ladas and Nivas and battered buses.

Severodvinsk is worse. I've never been to a "closed" city before, but as we approach the port in a bus held together by safety pins we and the other 60 Russian tourists who are also heading for Solovki must hand over all cameras and mobile phones to a woman naval officer with a strong, chiselled face.

Hearing my Russian, she asks to see my passport, explaining that this area is banned to foreigners. I produce a smart red passport of the Russian Federation (the legacy of a failed marriage to Galia's nephew) and my aunt purrs and says those words that give me so much pleasure: "Ana nasha" (She is one of us).

None of us can work out what we were not supposed to photograph. The derelict docks with rusting cranes? The black submarines half submerged in water like basking whales? The absence of any sign of life? None the wiser, we board the converted frigate that will be our home for the next three days and steam north all night through the White Sea into the Bay of Onega. It is a long, long way to Solovki.

Amazonian Olga with heavy bags under her sad eyes is in charge of Keeping the Tourists Happy. She wakes us via the Tannoy that is relayed to every cabin and broadcasts in excited gulps the day's menu. Breakfast, she announces, is better than in any restaurant and consists of no fewer than 10 dishes.

Eventually I find her. Olga, I say, the prisoners in the gulag got no bread, no butter and no honey. Why don't you tell us about that? And I hold up the book that has kept me awake for most of the night, the autobiography of Dmitry Likhachev, a Russian scholar who rotted at Solovki for four-and-a-half years. "Read this. He'll tell you what it was like."

"That is a very good book," Olga says quietly; her tone throws me. "An important book. There's more about him in the museum."

But as far as I am concerned, he is everywhere, this young, intellectual prisoner who came here in 1928, aged 21. His memoirs are my guide, and I hardly listen to the solemn-faced young woman with a scarf tightly wrapped around her head - she is pravoslavnoya, Russian Orthodox - who leads us past wooden dachas, television antennae and kitchen gardens, and talks about the British bombardment of the monastery during the Crimea War. I whisper to Galia that I might hive off.

"Nelzya," she snaps. Wandering about unaccompanied on Solovki is not allowed. Solovetsky is more than a monastery, it's a fortress: several churches, two cathedrals, cookhouses, a refectory, dormitories, a laundry, tailor's shop, a mill, in fact all the paraphernalia of the Russian Orthodox medieval world is encased inside massive kremlin walls, more than 25 feet thick, made of enormous white and grey stones now dusted with a red moss, punctuated by bulky round towers with grey wooden roofs that point to a sullen sky.

The size of the local boulders that make up the kremlin walls is astonishing and at this moment I wish I had listened to our pious guide: how on earth did men move these stones more than 500 years ago? I pass under the one entrance gate, the only way in and the only way out; executions were carried out near the lake in the monastery cemetery, a bullet in the back of the head.

Inside, the atmosphere feels oppressive. I am in a small village that has gone to sleep. No one is about; there's a line of dirty white buildings with red tin roofs, stone churches made from blackened boulders, broken flagstones slicing through patches of unhealthy grass.

Most of the gulag buildings have gone (Likhachev went back in 1966 and already they had disappeared) but there's still the trapeznaya, the dining hall which, he says, was crammed with not hundreds but thousands of prisoners sleeping on the floor, in lice-ridden filth, with no heating. Now it's empty, whitewashed; the cool lines of a vaulted ceiling have a defiant elegance.

Finally we get to where I want to be: the gulag museum; it's housed near a monk's dormitory and the laundry. There are hundreds of photographs of inmates with the barest of information: name, profession and date of death (almost always "shot"). Now and then a relation has placed a flower beneath the photograph.

It was Lenin who turned Solovki into a prison camp in 1922 for "undesirables" - political opponents such as mensheviks and socialist revolutionaries, as well as Jews, gipsies and ethnic minorities.

But it was Stalin who gave Solovki the status of gulag, filling it with kulaks, peasants and the intelligentsia of post-revolutionary Russia. The brightest and the best were sent to Solovki - scientists, engineers, teachers, writers, painters and poets. All summer typhus raged in the mosquito-infested swamps where the prisoners cut logs and peat; all winter, when the sea froze solid, half-starving men and women battled against blizzards in temperatures of -50c.

"Strashna [ghastly]," Galia murmurs periodically as we look at photographs of the victims; below the alert sensitive faces their fate is typewritten: Lena Stuyrcevich. Teacher from the Ukraine. 1929 sent to Solovki. 1930 shot.

I couldn't help noticing the photographs of Likhachev's camp commander, the proud Degtyarev who rode about on a white horse and was followed everywhere by a dog called Black that sniffed out runaways and barked enthusiastically when the executions started. In the 1930s it was Degtyarev's turn to be arrested and shot.

That evening on the boat I can hardly eat supper. Galia reads my thoughts. "You must understand that many people believed absolutely in the revolution. My father said it gave him everything. He was Jewish, and when the anti-semitic purges started he expected to die, but he always remained a communist." "How could he support such inhumanity?" I protested. "He must have known." Galia looks at me steadily. "Of course he knew that something was terribly wrong." "And he did nothing," I say aggressively. "What could he do? I told you he expected to die."

I go out on deck, take deep breaths, curse the horrible white night with its sickly, half-hearted daylight, and wonder if my 21st-century rage is justified. I was not there. I did not have to make those terrible choices. I meet a gangly teenage boy who is brandishing the latest digital camcorder.

I ask him what he thought about the museum. He shrugs his shoulders and says nothing. Does he know about Stalin? Of course, he says coming to life. Stalin beat the Nazis. Russia saved the world from fascism.

The boy's father, overweight and smoking, joins us on deck, looking at me suspiciously. I am wondering what a gulag means to the young, I explain. It means to them what it means to us, the father snapped. "Strashna." Is that why you are here? I ask. To teach them? "My grandfather died in a camp," the father says firmly, stubbing out his cigarette. "We came for a holiday."

That evening on our boat, Misha, a bald singer from Archangel, plays his guitar and sings beautiful, sad songs. Over late-night vodkas he tells me that his grandfather was a priest who did three years' hard labour on Solovki. He tried to help the hundreds of children who somehow got trapped there, non-persons with no rations who scavenged like rats.

The priest survived the camp, only to die from hunger in the first years of the war when a sixth of the population of Archangel starved to death. Horror piled upon horror, but nothing makes such a deep impression as our afternoon excusion to Sekirka hill.

We are ushered on to a bus by our guide, Andrei, a bespectacled man in his early thirties who lives on the island. We bump along a dirt road for more than five miles, past lakes and forest, now and then glimpsing the sea. Eventually we leave the bus and head for a small white church on a hill. The stillness is broken by beautiful Orthodox chanting.

From the church a priest emerges in full black robes, followed by a choir of men and women who follow him down a steep flight of wooden steps, singing all the way.

Inside the church, surrounded by bare walls, a cross and flickering candles, Andrei explains that in the late 1920s and 1930s this church was a punishment block, a torture chamber, where people were beaten and slowly killed. No one survived for more than three months. Solemnly he invites us to light candles to the dead. With tears in his eyes, Misha places his candle in a holder.

Outside the church we have a magnificent view over the forest and a distant sea. Andrei points to the wooden steps. "That used to be a wooden chute for logs. When a prisoner could no longer work he was tied to a log and pushed down the chute."

A pretty young woman from Moscow who had been reading Russian Vogue muttered something in disbelief. Andrei swivelled and faced her. "It is absolutely true, and you should know it, and everything else that happened here. We all have to know. It is part of our strashnaya historia (terrible history)."

Someone mentions another death in another camp and suddenly people are talking to each other, sharing family histories, swapping stories of starvation, deportation and death. I look at the eyes of the young; they are listening.

At the bottom of the wooden steps is a large wooden cross with boulders at its base. This, says Andrei, is the monument to the victims of the gulag. "Why no headstone, no plaque?" I ask. Andrei sighs. "We shall raise the matter with Patriarch when he comes here next year."

Still I cannot shake off the terrible sense of gloom until Galia points out that at least Russian tourists have not turned their back on Solovki; they are here when they could be on a beach in Cyprus or Turkey.

More than 300 people live here permanently while young students get paid work as guides and go on bicycle trips round the island. Tourism brings revenue, and there's even an airport, so no one is imprisoned either by ice or by ideology.

We pass the teenager with the camcorder. He shouts out to a young man who is plunging a spade into the soft earth of his kitchen garden: "Do you have a television?" The gardener looks up and nods. "Can I watch the football?"



Story from Moscow, Russia
The Economist, London, UK
March 1-7, 2003


So many people suffered in so many ways, by starvation, deportation, and execution, that it is hard to give a complete tally of the human cost of the three decades when Stalin ran the Soviet Union.

Anne Applebaum, author of an encyclopaedic new study of the Gulag (and former Economist writer), reckons 18 million people passed through the camp system, a further 6 million were exiled, and 6-7 million died in the artificial famines of the 1930s.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, legendary chronicler of Soviet tyranny, puts the death toll at 20 million-plus and reckons that Stalin's brutality deprived the Soviet Union of 100 million people who would otherwise have been born in conditions of normality. Yet, extraordinarily, many Russians still look back on the Stalin years as a golden era.

One reason is that much of the period is still cloaked in mystery. After a brief period following the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s, journalists and historians were able to get into the KGB archives. But since then it has become increasingly hard for outsiders to gain access to them.

While most Russians accept that Stalin, who died on March 5th 1953, was a blood-stained oppressor, many still admire him for making their country great. Did he not fulfill the dream of another magnificent tyrant, Peter the Great, by dragging a country of peasants into the industrial and even space age? Some nostalgists even cite the White Sea canal, linking Russia's Arctic coast to the Baltic Sea and built in just 20 months, as a monument to his genius--even though more than 100,000 people perished in the effort.

Viktor Anpilov, head of an avowedly Stalinist party, says that foreigners used to treat Russia with the respect it deserved. It was--he proclaims--the first country to put a man into space, the first where doctors performed open heart surgery, the top of the league of mathematicians and physicists. Now, he moans, outsiders are only interested in Russia's mineral wealth. "They are laughing at us and despise us for our fall," he says.

Such views, and the xenophobia they reflect, are still common, in public attitudes and protectionist, inward-looking laws and rules on everything from foreign ownership to visas. Other surviving features of the Stalin era include the presumption of guilt in the legal system. Reform is painfully slow. Russia's top prosecutor recently boasted that last year the acquittal rate had doubled--to the grand total of 0.8% of those on trial.

After stalling for 12 years, in January Russia's parliament passed a law granting Stalin's victims and their children compensation, albeit of a symbolic kind: 92 roubles ($2.9) a month, one free train ride a year, half-price medicine, and free false teeth. Recently, in Warsaw, Russia's prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, took a more daring step and floated the idea of paying compensation to Stalin's Polish victims.

But there has still been nothing like the Germans' painful and candid acknowledgement of the enormity both of crimes committed then and of collective responsibility now. It may be years yet before Russians face up to the full horrors of the Stalin era, both inflicted and suffered.


Editor: It may also be years yet before Ukrainians in Ukraine face up to the full horrors of the Stalin era, both inflicted and suffered.




On February 12 (2003) the Verkhovna Rada held special hearings commemorating the Manmade Famine of 1932-33, here called the Holodomor. This year, marking the seventieth anniversary of the tragedy, the Ukrainian public remembers millions of fellow citizens that fell prey to a premeditated genocidal policy by Stalin's Kremlin and carried out by the Communist leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.


The parliamentary hearings are intended to spur international bodies, primarily the United Nations, to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide.


This time The Day presents an article written by one who stood by the cradle of modern studies of the Holodomor. In the late 1980s, Prof. James Mace was executive director of the US commission that collected evidence and eyewitness accounts from survivors, who survived the Golgotha of Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s.


Article By Prof. James Mace, The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine Tuesday, February 18, 2003

In 1981, as I embarked on studies of the Great Famine in Ukraine, there were still many unpublished Party documents. After studying national communism within the context of the Ukrainian history of the period, along with documents, speeches, and editorials carried literally every day by the official press of Soviet Ukraine, the main features of the Soviet official policy toward Ukraine became completely clear to me.

At this point a digression is in order. Why should I, a born and bred American, take up such a topic? What did I need it for? I have been asked this question very often and I have often been tempted to ask in turn: Why should millions of Russians, Jews, Armenians, and Ukrainians travel across the ocean to that faraway godforsaken country, my America? I did it because Ukrainian Americans required such research, and fate decreed that the victims chose me. Just as one cannot study the Holocaust without becoming half Jewish in spirit, one cannot study the Famine and not become at least half Ukrainian. I have spent too many years for Ukraine not to have become the greater part of my life. After all, Martin Luther said, "Here I stand, I can do no other."

The perpetrators' motive was simple, and all the documents and later research have not changed the overall portrait of the events I first presented in 1982 International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide in Tel Aviv. I remain convinced that, for Stalin to have complete centralized power in his hands, he found it necessary to physically destroy the second largest Soviet republic, meaning the annihilation of the Ukrainian peasantry, Ukrainian intelligentsia, Ukrainian language, and history as understood by the people; to do away with Ukraine and things Ukrainian as such. The calculation was very simple, very primitive: no people, therefore, no separate country, and thus no problem. Such a policy is GENOCIDE in the classic sense of the word.

Until the end of war communism in 1921, the Bolsheviks cultivated an almost pathological hatred what they called bourgeois nationalism. The essence of Lenin's formula, "rapprochement and merger of nations," can itself be interpreted as progenocidal, since imposing a single national pattern was proclaimed "historically progressive." During the first Soviet occupation of Kyiv, Bolshevik forces shot anyone they found in the streets speaking Ukrainian. The famine of 1921-23, killing millions in Ukraine, was obviously exacerbated by Moscow's economic policy with regard to Ukraine. Food was pumped out of that country in an openly discriminatory manner. In 1919 the head of the second Soviet Ukrainian government, Khristian Rakovsky, in 1919 formally branded Ukrainian a counterrevolutionary language. In 1921, the Council of People's Commissars of the Russian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic (RFSSR) asked for help only for the starving populace in Volga Basin and the New Economic Policy (NEP) that ended the forced seizure of foodstuffs delayed in Ukraine six months to prolong the prodrazverstka campaign of requisitioning farm produce. It was only with the start of NEP in 1921 that an attempt was made to have Soviet power coexist with non-Russian languages and cultures (resolution On the National Question of the Tenth RKP{b} Congress). In the course of Ukrainization (or "indigenization" proclaimed by the Twelfth Party Congress), in 1923-32, Communists in Ukraine attempted to gain control of the Ukrainian national cultural process by directly participating in it. Halting this policy during the Holodomor of 1932-33 had all the hallmarks of genocide. To enforce his direct rule in Ukraine, Stalin restored to terrible repression and, finally to famine. In late October 1932, the All-Union Communist Party (VKP{b}) took the grain procurements campaign under its direct control through Vyacheslav Molotov, Chairman of the USSR Council of People's Commissars, who was appointed chairman of the grain procurements commission in the Ukrainian SSR. (Lazar Kaganovich headed an analogous commission in what was then the South Caucasus Territory, including the heavily Ukrainian Kuban.) On November 18 the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine (KP{b}U) , presided over by Molotov, instituted a system of fines payable in kind. This was actually a directive aimed at making collective farmers return to the state grain received as advance payments on crops, and confiscating other foodstuffs in the absence of grain. All this could only be interpreted as a policy meant to cause a famine, the Holodomor.

The CC VKP(b) Politburo resolution of December 14, 1932, signed by Stalin and Molotov, accusing the Ukrainian SSR government and leadership of the North Caucasus Territory of Ukrainian nationalism, this being allegedly the main reason for the unwillingness or inability of the local Communists to comply with the procurements quotas for mythical grain, along with a January 24, 1933 VKP(b) reprimand of the entire KP(b)U, were graphic evidence that the leadership in Moscow sought to end any independent activity by the KP(b)U and Soviet Ukrainian government. The mass terror unleashed against Ukrainian culture in 1933 was additional evidence that Moscow wanted to destroy Ukrainian national identity as the basis of such independent activity. In 1988, the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine, relying on such evidence, determined that the Holodomor was an act of genocide. In 1990, an international commission to study the 1932-33 Holodomor in Ukraine, set up by the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, failed to arrive at an unequivocal conclusion because certain members erroneously considered genocide a matter of legislation (droit) rather than unchanging law (loi), contrary to the basic international instruments. The commission explained its decision, saying the Manmade Famine in Ukraine was organized 15 years before the said documents were adopted, and that an act of genocide could be claimed only the then Soviet government; that none of the actual organizers of the Holodomor were among the living, except Lazar Kaganovich. The nature and scope of the Holodomor in Ukraine remain subject to dispute by foreign experts.

We investigated the issue as best be could. It seems to me that the documents we collected, including eyewitness accounts and our Report to Congress, have played their role. The further work with this material we leave to posterity. We simply could not endure the pain and horror. Stalin's sociological scorched earth policy maimed Ukraine to such an extent that it created a discontinuity in the normal development of the Ukrainian people, producing a unique situation. While in countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, etc., the collapse of communism could and did result in the restoration of independence lost by the previous states, in Ukraine, except for its western territories, the Ukrainian nation - as a community possessing a broad consensus regarding its identity, history, and cultural values - has remained in a sense a national minority in its own country. In other words, the people as such was so deformed that when Ukraine finally became independent there was no broad consensus concerning its future. All that remained was the surviving structures of Soviet Ukraine. In 1991, all of us made a fundamental albeit unconscious error in assuming that the newly independent states were new independent states. Now it is clear that in fact hitherto extant but dependent states merely became independent with the same people remaining in basically the same positions, doing basically the same things, and the course of events evolved from there. Postcommunist Ukraine already no longer just an independent Ukrainian SSR, but it is also not a Ukrainian Ukraine, in the subjective sense - with people sharing the same national values and understanding of their identity - in the sense in which Poland is Polish and the Czech Republic is Czech.

All broad historical narratives are to some extent artificial, yet this is a natural process of self-understanding for any given people. In the case of the Soviet Union, there was the artificial incorporation of Ukrainian history and those of other peoples, imposing a different national identity, as seen fit by those in power at the time. In 1950, the late Anna Pankratova made a discovery in the nineteenth edition of her History of the USSR, writing that the Cossack revolution, which began in 1649, was the "Ukrainian war of national liberation war led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky." The apparent subtext was that for Ukrainians "national liberation" meant "reunification" with the big brother, Russia; they were to distinguish between the "Great Patriotic War" from World War II, meaning that they won that war as a "little brother" under the big one's able guidance and not as a full-fledged member of the United Nations taking part in a world struggle against Nazism.

Works in Russian by, say, Mikhail Bulgakov were generally available, but a whole generation of Ukrainian literati known as the rozstriliane vidrodzhennia, the renaissance that was executed, was "erased," although its representatives were as talented as all those representing Russia's coterminous silver age (Mykola Khvyliovy, Yury Yanovsky, young Sosiura and Tychyna, along with Mykola Zerov's neoclassicist poetry and translations from ancient literature). The Soviet regime did its best to "root out and destroy nationalism" (Bilshovyk Ukrayiny, 1933, No. 7) in the language itself, purging the very vocabulary of the language as the intellectual building blocks of the cultural development in any human community. What was left remained too little to make Ukraine an equal member of the world community of nations.

As I have often said, the late émigré Prof. Ivan L. Rudnytsky saw the roots of what would grow as today's Ukraine as early as 1962: the republic nomenklatura and those beginning to look for and sow the seeds of current national values. Previously, I have referred to these forces as Ukraine's territorial and the national elites. The tragedy of independent Ukraine is that the territorial, rather than the national elite became the dominant force, its members retaining all the hallmarks of the traditional nomenklatura (think one thing, say another, and do yet a third). The actual Ukrainian economic model remains triangular. This triangle was discernible even in the 1970s: corrupt members of the nomenklatura illegal entrepreneurs criminal organizations. Except that narrow professionals were now the hitherto illegal entrepreneurs are being replaced by "businessmen" who are more interested in politics than business, while the other sides of the triangle could always be used to get the better of the more productive competitors, causing the productivity of labor to remain low and the people poor. In fact, the situation is the same in Russia. So long as this situation remains, all talk about Ukraine's European choice will remain just so much empty talk, for the European Union is an above all an economic organization, and this post-Soviet economic model is incompatible with the European one, while all the fine phrases about zlahoda (harmony or accord) actually serve to conceal the absence of any national convictions in most of those who wield power in Ukraine. Members of the territorial elite will do provide everything asked of them in the national sphere, because they themselves have nothing to lose here, no national values, nor do they have any real state ones. Much has been written about the inferiority and lack of competitiveness among Ukrainian-language print and other media outlets. Yet who wants to read a hundred times over how much we love Ukraine - and this using slang rather than literary Ukrainian, when most translations of foreign authors read better and are more interesting in Russian?

Only the Ukrainians themselves can decide how they should speak and write. Yet how can they decide this, not knowing the words once banned (again, see Bilshovyk Ukrayiny, 1933, No 7!)? I wish that someday someone would sit, as I have done, over the suppressed works from the 1920s of the Academy of Sciences Institutes of Scientific Language and Living Language. When will the results of their work will be published, so that one all can examine what was done by that lost generation and then be able to make the most basic building blocks of the nation's thought?

The main thing is that Ukrainians will never become a full-fledged people and an equal member of European civilization until power flows from the state to a self-organized people able to force those in power to do what the people want. This is precisely what makes us often fail to understand the actual meaning of the concept, civil society. It is not an ideal system, not always completely democratic, but no one has discovered anything better thus far. No state will ever make Ukraine Ukrainian. Only self-organized Ukrainians can do this, and I am deeply convinced that they will.

The Day's Reference

Prof. James Mace, author of numerous scholarly works and one of the first serious researchers of the 1933 Holodomor, was born February 18, 1952, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1973, he graduated from Oklahoma State University and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at the University of Michigan, in 1981defending his dissertation, "Communism and the Dilemmas of National Liberation: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-33," later published in book form (Harvard, 1983). Upon completing his graduate studies Dr. Mace was invited to join the famine project at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute where he collected material for Robert Conquest's Harvest of Despair.

In 1986-90, James Mace served as executive director of the US Ukraine Famine Commission, a hybrid body subject to Congress and the president, supervising its daily work and drafting its findings for approval by the full commission. After 1990, he held fellowships at Columbia and Illinois Universities. In 1993, Prof. Mace moved to Ukraine, working first as a supervisory research fellow at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Institute of Ethnic and Political Studies, then teaching politics at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy National University and International Christian University. Since 1998, Prof. Mace has been consultant to our English digest, The Day.


In 1945 Galina Doll was seized in Ukraine

Mrs. Bugaenko is less forgiving. "When Stalin died in 1953 one of my workmates asked why I was not crying. I replied, 'I cried for years in the gulag because of that monster'. I had no tears left."

By Tom Parfitt, The Telegraph
London, UK, March 2, 2003


LONDON.......Fifty years to the week after Stalin died, gulag survivors remain stuck in bleak outposts of the former Soviet Union.

As Russians debate the legacy of the man who ruled for a generation, former prisoners in towns such as Vorkuta have little to celebrate.

Twelve-hundred miles north-east of Moscow, train No 42 crosses the Arctic Circle and bursts from the forest into the blizzard-swept wasteland of this mining town - a huddle of smokestacks and apartment blocks - where the winter temperature falls to minus 50C.

It was once the heart of Stalin's gulags, built by men and women banished for "crimes against Soviet power". Today, a few hundred gulag survivors live among miners and engineers, forgotten by the authorities.

An estimated 18 million Soviet citizens entered the gulags during the 50 years they flourished; a network of about 500 camps where at least seven million died.

Coal was found in Vorkuta in the 1920s and by 1934 prisoners from all over the USSR (including Ukraine) were sucked into its pits and factories. Scattered on the town's fringes are the smashed remains of barracks, isolation cells and watchtowers.

Thousands died here from disease, starvation and hypothermia. Those who survived their sentences were often too poor to return home.

Most of the few still marooned have given up hope of return. "I think I will never see my motherland again," said Anastasia Bugaenko, 76, a former prisoner from western Ukraine. "I grew up in green countryside but I will die here in the snow."

Like many, Mrs. Bugaenko was a victim of Soviet paranoia. She was sentenced to six years' hard labour in 1949 after young communists denounced her brother for wearing a black armband. He was mourning his father, killed in Auschwitz.

"All my life, I had never so much as swatted a fly," she said. "From the moment I was sent to the gulag, I burned with desire to kill Stalin."

Her life was consumed by a daily struggle for survival. Prisoners toiled all day underground and at night huddled in wooden barracks or zemlyanka - moss-lined bunkers carved from the permafrost.

Rations were limited to soup and 14 ounces of bread a day, a quantity increased by two ounces if production targets were met. "It was almost unendurable," said Olga Olshevskaya, 93, from St Petersburg, who was arrested for political agitation at the height of Stalin's terror in 1937. He died on March 5, 1953.

The survivors were mostly women, said Mrs. Olshevskaya. "The food was enough for women but men lacked the nourishment they needed."

Mrs Bugaenko was freed in 1952 but had nowhere to go. "They gave me 200 roubles [now worth less than 4] and pushed me into the tundra." She found a job on the local railway, married, and saved enough money for a short trip to Ukraine five years later.

Under Soviet law she had to return to Vorkuta. It was the last time she saw her family. She is now free to travel but can't afford it on her pension.

Although Vorkuta's last camps closed in the early 1960s, more than 300 surviving former political prisoners are stranded in the town, shackled by their pensions from the local authority.

As Vorkuta dies a slow death - half its mines have closed - thousands of inhabitants are clamouring for homes elsewhere in Russia but victims of political repression do not get preferential treatment.

One gulag survivor, however, is convinced she will finally leave soon.

Galina Dall lives alone in a two-room apartment decorated with trinkets from her native Germany. In 1945 she was seized in Ukraine - where her family had fled on the outbreak of war - and sentenced to 10 years because she had bowed to pressure to work as a translator for Nazi troops. "Now the sound of my language calls to me," she said.

She cultivated condemned artists and singers in the Vorkuta camp and since her release in 1955 has been reading Shakespeare and Goethe.

Mrs Dall's two sons worked as miners and have raised enough money to take her to Stuttgart. "I want to see museums, discuss religion and talk with cultured people in my native tongue," she said. "I want to go home."

Like many in Russia, she refuses to blame Stalin for her suffering. "He didn't know about my imprisonment. The system was to blame, not Stalin. He did the right thing for the Soviet Union."

Mrs Bugaenko is less forgiving. "When Stalin died in 1953 one of my workmates asked why I was not crying. I replied, 'I cried for years in the gulag because of that monster'. I had no tears left."


Millions died in his mass purges and millions more in famine

"He was always playing these games with nationalities. He moved peoples around so that they would lose any sense of their own nationhood," Radzinsky told Reuters. "He followed a single formula: a day without repression was wasted for the country."

By Richard Balmforth
Reuters, Moscow, Russia
Tuesday, March 4, 2003


MOSCOW (Reuters) - He died half a century ago, but the world is still trying to defuse the time-bombs Soviet dictator Josef Stalin left behind.

Almost every Russian past retirement age recalls where he was when news broke on March 5, 1953, that the Soviet Union's "man of steel" had breathed his last.

His death ended nearly 30 years of iron-fisted rule, unparalleled in 20th century European history, marked by mass purges, arbitrary arrests by the secret police, executions and deportation.

"It meant for us that my father might be coming home," said 64-year-old Olga Trifonova, referring to Roman Khiroshychenko who was later freed after eight years in the camps.

Later "de-Stalinization" drives only partly dismantled the myth of the mustachioed Georgian who enjoyed god-like status thanks to a huge personality cult whipped up by his henchmen.

Even today, many Russians of the older generation, marginalized in the new capitalist Russia and with rosy memories of a well-structured, if bleak, childhood, react ambivalently to mention of his name.

They argue that his role in leading Soviet forces to victory over Nazism and turning Russia into an industrial world power outweigh the terror he waged against the Soviet population.

"He was the greatest statesman not only of the 20th century but of all Russian history," declared Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

But as the drama of Chechnya and unresolved conflicts elsewhere in the former Soviet Union show, history is still picking up the pieces.

Russia's planners bump up against his legacy daily in their attempts to restructure industrial behemoths left over from a world of five-year plans and well-massaged production statistics.

His forced collectivization ripped the peasant heart out of Russia. Small wonder that President Vladimir Putin's reformers find little rural tradition to tap into as they seek to turn the clock back to land ownership.


Stalin was born Josef Dzhugashvili in Georgia in 1879 and trained briefly for the priesthood before joining underground revolutionary movements. He took over the communist leadership on the death of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in 1924.

In the years following, millions died in his mass purges and millions more in famine and the forced collectivization of farm lands. Arbitrary arrests and mass deportations of ethnic groups to distant reaches of the Soviet Union turned lives upside down.

Stalin surrounded himself with the immoral and the weak.

Take for instance Lavrenty Beria, Stalin's dreaded secret police lieutenant and a serial rapist who preyed on young women snatched from the streets of Moscow.

There was Mikhail Kalinin, nominal head of state from 1919 to 1946 whose face beams from thousands of photographs alongside Stalin. He stood by as the dictator sent his wife to a Siberian labor camp.

Despite the havoc wrought by Stalin, his long period in power and reputation as a strong wartime leader meant many Soviet citizens genuinely felt the loss of a father-figure when he died.

At his lying-in-state in central Moscow there were scenes of near hysteria. Stampedes, caused by bad policing, led to hundreds being killed in the crush, city residents say.

As a teen-ager, Trifonova took the advice of a kindly stranger on the streets and turned back home that day. "The police caused the deaths by trying to channel people," she said.

But Trifonova, author of a book on Stalin's luckless second wife who died in a bizarre shooting incident in the Kremlin in 1932, disputes accounts of universal grief.

"My mother was a teacher. She said she cried just like everyone else at school. When I asked 'Why?' she said 'Because I knew others were watching me'."

A Moscow exhibition shows the aura that surrounded him. One exhibit is a set of large dolls presented to him by factory workers in 1949. The dolls -- all radiating chubby-cheeked health that jars with the deprivation of the post-war years -- hold aloft a banner thanking Stalin for a happy childhood.


Hundreds of public monuments and busts of the dictator were destroyed after his successor Nikita Khrushchev launched the first tentative moves to "de-Stalinize" society.

But his mark is still plain to see on the streets of the old Soviet Union.

When it came to buildings, big was beautiful. Gargantuan structures still dominate the skyline of many Russian cities. The distinctive "wedding cake" skyscrapers make night-time Moscow look like Batman's Gotham City to an outsider.

The wide multi-laned highways of today were built by Stalin when virtually no Soviet citizens had cars, but they were perfect channels for communist demonstrations. His mark can be seen too in the ornate Moscow metro stations, decorated with stone reliefs of epic communist moments.

But there is a more intangible legacy in Russia today.

In the provinces, a suspicion of foreigners lingers on in the older generation, a hangover from a time when to know outsiders was dangerous and to be "cosmopolitan" meant you were selling out the Motherland to the West.

"The main aim of Stalinism was to surround the country with a wall not to allow in foreign influence," said Eduard Radzinsky, a historical commentator on the period, arguing this struck a natural chord among many Russians.

The survival instincts from an often cruel age translate today into a subservience to hierarchy and officialdom, and a respect verging on obsession for bureaucratic red-tape that foreign investors find maddening.

Many older Russians hanker after the "poryadok," or order, a virtue fostered by Stalin's regimented society but which often had a sinister sub-text of repression.


Meanwhile, the world wrestles with the fall-out from his ruthless re-engineering of the Soviet map.

He played a hand in giving the Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan in the early 1920s in a gesture motivated at the time by a desire to appease Turkey.

It was Stalin too who sowed the seeds of the secessionist crisis in Georgia's Abkhazia region, by transporting thousands of Abkhazians to Siberia in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Both breakaway regions now have de facto independence after wars in which tens of thousands were killed, but both conflicts defy a long-term solution despite big power mediation efforts.

And then there is Chechnya, the bugbear of the Kremlin.

The mass deportation of Chechens to Kazakhstan in February 1944 by Stalin who saw them as Nazi collaborators lighted the fuse in the separatist dispute that haunts Russia to this day.

The Chechens were not alone. Among other ethnic groups, he deported Crimean Tatars, Ingushis, Volga Germans. Many such groups have been able to return but some, like the Meskhetian Turks, are still in exile.

"He was always playing these games with nationalities. He moved peoples around so that they would lose any sense of their own nationhood," Radzinsky told Reuters. "He followed a single formula: a day without repression was wasted for the country."



Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2003


Fifty years have passed since Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953, but many Russians still revere him as a great leader who defeated Hitler and made the Soviet Union a superpower, despite his devastating purges which killed millions of people.

Opposite Moscow's Lubyanka, the headquarters of Stalin's secret police where political prisoners were tortured and interrogated before being herded like cattle onto trains to labour camps in Siberia and the far north, stands a small black-stone memorial to his victims.

But Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov provoked liberal fury last year by proposing to restore in the same place a huge statue to Lenin's secret police chief, Felix Dzerzhinsky, who also carried out mass executions, which was torn down by pro-democracy crowds in 1991.

Inside the Kremlin walls, President Vladimir Putin, a career officer in the KGB who later headed its present-day successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB), has spent the last three years trying to bring back his ideal of a strong state inspired by the Soviet past.

"Putin has sympathy for the view that Stalin made this country great although the repressions were unfair," said Arseny Roginsky, whose father was shot under Stalin and who now heads the Russian human rights organization, Memorial.

"Russia will not be able to reconcile itself to this period of history anytime in the near future. It will take decades in the best-case scenario," he added.

A dictator who cast a shadow over the 20th century comparable to Hitler in world history books, Stalin's nearly 30-year reign of terror reached a peak in the late 1930s, when mass trials were held to liquidate all opposition.

There were 800,000 people officially recorded as shot during the Soviet period.

But up to 30 million people are estimated by Western historians to have died between 1918 and 1956 in Stalinist repression, civil war, famine and collectivization, although the true figure may never be known.

Yet today in Russia, the "father of the people" is widely remembered not for the staggering human cost of his brutal methods but for making Moscow a leading world power through rapid industrialization and victory in World War II.

Stalin should be praised for pulling off a monumental task in dragging his vast backward country into the modern era, said Communist historian Alexander Senyavsky, who pointed out that at the start of the 20th century in Russia, 85 percent of the population were illiterate peasants.

"Without collectivization and industrialization at this forced pace, we couldn't have defeated Hitler. You cannot equate Nazism, which tried to make one race dominate the entire world, with a regime which pursued, even with harsh methods, justifiable aims," he said.

After a decade of turmoil and economic hardship since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Stalin's time also represents a nostalgic memory, according to sociologist Boris Dubin.

Russia's Public Opinion Foundation found in a recent poll that 36 percent of Russians thought Stalin "did more good than bad for the country," while just 29 percent disagreed with the statement.

Another poll conducted in 1994 showed that only 26 percent had a favourable impression of the Soviet leader.

"If you go away from Moscow and Saint Petersburg to the provinces, you will hear only good things about Stalin," said Yury Zhukov, a historian from the Moscow Institute of Russian History.

"For ordinary people, the 1930s is a period when life began to improve. They don't think about the victims of repression. It didn't affect them," he added.

The Russian government has shown a reluctance to condemn Stalinism, despite his successor Nikita Khrushchev's famous speech in 1956 before the 20th Party Congress criticizing the excesses of Stalin's rule and the free-wheeling public debate during Glasnost in the late 1980s.

It has never granted any proper compensation to the surviving victims of Stalinism and relatives of those who died in the repression, although Russians who served as slave labour under Nazi Germany have got payouts under a German compensation fund.

And under Putin, the attitude towards the Stalinist past has taken a step backwards.

He has restored a number of Soviet symbols, including Stalin's national anthem set to new lyrics -- the tune was played to wake up prisoners in Stalinist labour camps.

If Russia is to overcome its ambivalence about the crimes of Stalin, the government must lead the way by publicly condemning Stalinism, making schools teach about it, funding nationwide exhibitions and erecting memorials to the victims across the country, said Memorial's Roginsky.

Until this is done, the damaging legacy of Stalin will continue to haunt Russians and keep them submissive towards a state which cynically disregards its citizens' rights, he warned, pointing to the authorities' handling of the Moscow hostage crisis last October.

Of the 800 hostages seized by Chechen guerrillas in a Moscow theatre, 129 died during the three-day siege, all but two killed by a powerful sleeping gas used by Russian special forces in a rescue operation hailed as a success.

"Stalin and the Stalinist mentality is everywhere. The idea that the state is everything and the individual nothing is still all-pervasive," said Roginsky.

Susana Pechuro, 69, who spent five years in prisons and labour camps, says the lesson of totalitarianism is that the individual has to earn his own freedoms.

"I think that Stalin was unavoidable for us, like Hitler in Germany. It wasn't some external evil, it was a reflection of our system and mentality.

"People say Stalin was guilty for everything but that takes away society's responsibility. There's no point in demonizing him. You have to think about how to change this country," she said.


NOTE: The above is one of the many major news stories about the death of Stalin published this week that does not mention the word Ukraine or Ukrainians. Most of the major writers for the major news services out of Moscow seem to have forgotten all about the major crimes Stalin committed against Ukraine and millions of Ukrainians.


March 5, 1953-is just a brief entry: "Comrade I. V. Stalin died."

By Steve Gutterman, Associated Press
Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2003


MOSCOW (AP) - The typewritten letters on a yellowing page spell out the end of an era in striking shorthand. Next to the time - 9:50 p.m., March 5, 1953 - is just a brief entry: ``Comrade I.V. Stalin died.''

So ends a medical report detailing Josef Stalin's last four days, as he lay dying in his Moscow dacha. It is part of a new exhibit at Russia's federal archives, whose officials hope it will help dispel decades of speculation that the Soviet dictator was done in by a Kremlin intrigue.

If mysteries about Stalin's demise persist, they are dwarfed by the conflicting views and emotions that surround his life - and his role in the troubled history of a country that seems unable to break his spell 50 years after his death.

"There may be no other figure in Russian history of the last century who has provoked such different evaluations, from fierce hatred to consecration," said historian Yuri Polyakov, a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences.

For some, Stalin was a giant who bore the Soviet Union on his shoulders to victory in World War II, hauled it onto the front line of the industrial age and kept ironclad order at home while turning the country into a superpower with the clout to make its Cold War foes shudder.

"He was the best - as a chief, as a leader. He lifted the country out of the ruins," said Natalya Vekshina, 64, who took her grandson to a separate exhibit, across town, focusing on Stalin's cult of personality - the propaganda that portrayed him simultaneously as a god and a good guy.

"We need a leader like him now,'' Vekshina said.

Larisa Tsvizhba, at the archive exhibit, disagreed. She said Stalin left a "sinister markz"' on the Soviet Union and stunted its growth by decimating a generation. "When millions of people die for no apparent reason - the best people - what kind of progress can there be?"

Stalin's repressions "touched if not every person, then every other person in the country," said Tsvizhba.

Russian officials have said they believe more than 20 million people were victims of communist purges before Stalin's death. More than 10 million are said to have died.

Like many of Stalin's ardent admirers, Vekshina is from a generation that mostly suffered from the Soviet collapse. She lost her engineering job, while her scientist husband is "a big man in his field - but now he's impoverished."

But it's not only the elderly who yearn for Stalin's strong hand.

"He is the symbol of a healthy nation,'' said Alexei Fedyakin, 27, a political science graduate student who came to see the "Stalin: Man and Symbol" exhibit and wrote a diatribe in the visitors' book complaining about material showing Stalin in a bad light.

Those items - records of executions, and artwork depicting Stalin holding the keys to a prison cell stretching across the Soviet Union - reflect the backlash that came in two waves, one soon after his death and another in the late 1980s, with Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost.

In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's cult of personality, and his body was removed from its place next to Lenin in the Red Square mausoleum in 1961. But it was buried nearby, alongside the Kremlin wall, and much of the truth about Stalin's excesses did not emerge until the Gorbachev era.

The sharp criticism of Stalin that held sway as the Soviet Union collapsed waned along with the euphoria of Russians hoping for a swift, smooth transition to democracy. Stalin's star has brightened for those angered by lawlessness, economic uncertainty and their country's decline on the world stage.

Oleg Orlov, head of the human rights organization Memorial, said that frustration helped fuel the rise of President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel who has restored some Soviet-era symbols and has been careful in his criticism of Stalin.

"Putin arrived on this wave - on promises of stability and pride for one's country as a great power, and of a restoration of order - and a major part of this ideology was pride in the past," Orlov said.

According to poll results by the Public Opinion Foundation last week, 37 percent said Stalin did more good than bad for the country - compared to 29 percent who believe the opposite. The organization contacted 1,500 respondents across Russia on Feb. 22-23. No margin of error was given.

In the visitors' book at the ``Man and Symbol'' exhibit, one person mused: "I wonder, will our country live to see the moment when Stalin is perceived as an ordinary person, instead of as either the devil incarnate or the Father of the Peoples?"

The power of Stalin's personality and the scale of the suffering that marked his rule suggest that's unlikely to happen anytime soon.

On one wall in the exhibit stands a large diorama presented to Stalin on his 70th birthday, in 1949. Inside, a row of dolls marches in Red Square, bearing a banner reading "Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood."

Under glass in another room is a book listing victims of Stalin's terror. Many names are matched with photographs, and each brief biography notes the date and cause of death: shot July 28, 1938; shot Oct. 18, 1937; shot Sept. 1, 1938.

Polyakov, the historian, said there is one thing he has never really figured out about Stalin: why he killed so many people. "There's no answer," he said.



By Geert Groot Koerkamp
Radio Netherlands, The Netherlands
Tuesday, 04 March, 2003


Opinion polls in Russia show that 50 years after his death, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is more often remembered for the good things he supposedly did for his country than for the fact that he is personally responsible for the death of millions of people. On March 5th, half a century has passed since he died after 30 brutal years in power.

Soviet people were stunned to hear the news of Stalin's death on the 5th of March, 1953. The announcement came after three decades of a regime that had cost millions of innocent lives, a regime which had set up a network of concentration camps on a scale never seen before: the Gulag.

Maya Kukharskaya, now 78, heard the announcement in a labour camp somewhere in the steppe of Kazakhstan, during the final part of a ten-year sentence.

"There was some sort of a projector," she recalls. "They switched it on. Many cried, because he had been in power for so many years. Others thought differently. I listened and watched. But there were those who cried a lot. I did not cry."


In 1942 she and her sister were deported from Kiev to Germany by the advancing Nazi troops. For three years they were forced to work for the Germans. But the victory over Hitler's Germany brought no relief: when the girls returned to Kiev, they were arrested, severely beaten up, and sent to the Gulag.

"I was 20 years old. I was considered an enemy of the people and a traitor of my country, a German spy. They accused me of everything, arrested me and put me in prison for ten years," says Maya Kukharskaya.

Today, she is one of 3,000 patients at the Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Kiev. The centre was set up six years ago to give medical and other assistance to victims of the totalitarian regime. Semyon Gluzman, the director and one of the founders, spent ten years in prison during the rule of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The centre, he says, is unique. But it may soon have to close down, when financing by the European Union stops.

"I cannot demand from the West to help these old people. They are not victims of the West, they are victims of Stalin," says Mr Gluzman. "But unfortunately they still remain victims. They have not been rehabilitated, they are poor, they cannot afford normal medical care. This is the only place where these 3,000 people can get help."


One of the oldest patients at the centre is Nina Rudik. Born in 1906, she is still active as a translator of Russian texts into Ukrainian.

In the early 1930s, Mrs Rudik witnessed the results of the terrible famine that Stalin forced upon Ukraine in an attempt to quell Ukrainian nationalism. At least seven million people died, a catastrophe that is still remembered in Ukraine as a clear act of genocide.

"In the early morning, trucks would drive around the city to collect the bodies. I didn't see them when I went to university to work, because at dawn they were taken away. Such terrible famine. It is even difficult to remember it," says Nina Rudik.

For her, the worst was still to come. In 1937, at the height of Stalin's regime of terror, her husband, a writer, was arrested and disappeared. Soon, Mrs Rudnik also found herself in a Kiev prison, as the wife of a so-called 'enemy of the people'. She was put on a train and sent to a camp in Kazakhstan, with 6,000 other women. It was an attempt by the Kremlin to eradicate the Ukrainian intelligentsia, says Nina Rudik.

"I believe there hasn't been a family in which somebody was not killed, shot, arrested, or whose life was ruined," she says. "I myself lost everything, my family, my beloved profession. Everything was smashed at once, just like that."


She lost her husband and her father. Her only daughter died when she was just one year old. The death of Joseph Stalin, in 1953, was a relief, but at the time it was still dangerous to show that.

"He was a tyrant. I cannot find any other words to describe this monster," says Nina Rudik. "He has destroyed so many people, so many. If I only look in my own circle, that of writers. He has killed the flower of the nation."

Photo One: A nameplate at the burial site, near Kiev, of 6,000 people killed by Stalin's regime. (Arkadi Visnevski, born 1891, shot 1937)
Photo Two: Memorial to Stalin's victims at Bykovnja, near Kiev
Photo Three: Grand old monster: Josef Stalin killed millions
Link to the story:



By Robert Manne
Professor of politics at La Trobe University
The, Melbourne, Australia
Wednesday, March 5, 2003


He was nothing more than a tyrant, nothing less than evil. Robert Manne examines the legacy of Joseph Stalin, who died 50 years ago today. In November 1940, during the period of the Nazi-Soviet pact, Soviet foreign minister Molotov visited Berlin. "I know that history will remember Stalin," Hitler told him, "but it will also remember me."

Hitler was right. Both he and Stalin were destined to be remembered as the 20th century's two most consequential political figures and the two most terrible tyrants known to history.

Stalin died 50 years ago today. He was born, as Iosif Dzugashvili, of poorest Georgian peasant stock. The family was not close. Stalin's father was a cobbler, a wife beater and a drunk. From the time he left the Orthodox seminary to join the Bolshevik party in 1904 to the year of her death in 1937, Stalin met his mother on no more than four occasions. With the partial exception of his first wife, who died in 1907, Stalin appears to have experienced throughout his life no attachment to any human being.

The Bolshevik party was the most extreme tendency of Russian Marxism. Before the abdication of the tsar in February 1917, Stalin worked as a professional revolutionary, and he was arrested and exiled several times. By the time he was voted onto the Bolshevik Central Committee in 1912, he had become the party's expert on the problem of the empire's non- Russian minority nationalities.

While Stalin's personal role in the almost bloodless seizure of power in Russia in October 1917 was considerably less glorious than he would later pretend, he did play a significant part in the military victory over the White Armies in the unbelievably savage civil war of 1918-20.

Yet, at that stage, even his more brilliant comrades continued to look down on him as a nonentity, as the "grey blur", or as Leon Trotsky put it, the "outstanding mediocrity". Stalin never forgot a slight. For their condescension, Stalin's comrades would later pay a high price.

Lenin suffered a series of strokes between November 1922 and his death in January 1924. During these months his misgivings about Stalin grew, because of his brutal administrative style, and the unheard of insolence he displayed towards Krupskaya, Lenin's wife.

In his final political will, Lenin suggested removing Stalin from the general secretaryship. Because they feared Trotsky and not Stalin, and because Lenin had been less than complimentary about all of them, Stalin's colleagues helped to suppress Lenin's will.

During the 1920s, the members of the post-Lenin Politburo became absorbed in a fierce and complex political struggle. The stakes were high - not merely the Lenin succession but the very future of the revolution, which all accepted was the most important historical event in the movement towards ending class oppression and emancipating humankind.

In the first phase of the struggle Trotsky was isolated and defeated by all his colleagues. In the second phase the "Right-Centre", led by Bukharin and Stalin, routed the Zinoviev-Kamenev "Left". In the third phase, Stalin detached himself from, and politically destroyed, the Bukharin "Right".

Why did Stalin triumph? In part, he triumphed because his opponents took each other far more seriously than they did Stalin, until it was too late; in part because Stalin had an unparalleled capacity to separate questions of power from questions of ideology; in part because, as general secretary, Stalin possessed vast resources of political patronage, which he dispensed with great skill; and in part, it must be said, because in his cunning and unscrupulousness, and also in the sensitivity of his antennae to the mood of the Bolshevik rank and file, Stalin proved to be far superior politically to his more theoretically gifted colleagues.

By the late 1920s Stalin's victory over his rivals was complete.

Stalin now lurched violently to the policies of the ultra-Left. In the space of a few months in 1929-30, in conditions of indescribable chaos, the Stalin leadership used an iron broom to sweep the entire peasantry from their ancestral communes onto vast state-controlled collective farms. As part of the collectivisation drive, millions of slightly more prosperous peasants, the so-called "kulaks", were either deported for resettlement to the remotest regions or transported, as forced labour, to the Soviet concentration camp system, the Gulag Archipelago.

Collectivisation coincided with Stalin's decision to industrialise the Soviet Union at breakneck speed. The most immediate purpose of collectivisation was to force peasants to deliver grain to the regime, either to feed the factory workers, or for the export income needed to pay for the imports of foreign machinery Soviet heavy industry required.

In the early 1930s, Stalin collected grain quotas even when there was nothing for the peasants to eat. In his "man-made famine" of 1933, perhaps five million Ukrainian peasants starved to death.

The Communist Party celebrated the economic achievements at the Congress of Victors in 1934. Stalin was acclaimed, not merely as the leader of the party, but as a towering, universal genius in every human sphere.

Beneath the surface, however, reality was more complex. At the congress, corridor discussions about removing Stalin from his post as general secretary took place. In the secret ballot for the Central Committee, more than 100 of the 2000 or so delegates crossed out Stalin's name. Only three had crossed out the name of the popular Leningrad party boss, Sergei Kirov.

The Congress of Victors marked a turning point in the history of the Soviet Union. Stalin no longer trusted the Communist Party. As an immediate measure he arranged for the assassination of Kirov, whose death he ostentatiously mourned. More important, he decided that there existed inside the Soviet Union a vast anti-socialist conspiracy. Stalin was convinced that the leader of this conspiracy was the man he most feared and loathed, Leon Trotsky.

Unfortunately, because he had been sent into foreign exile by Stalin, Trotsky was not available for arrest, trial and execution. However, Stalin was also convinced that the Trotsky conspiracy inside the Soviet Union was led by Zinoviev and Kamenev. Both were arrested and, in 1936, were put on public trial where they confessed abjectly to heinous crimes. They were executed without delay. Stalin soon came to the opinion that the conspiracy had spread to the Right. In 1938 the show trial of Bukharin and his supporters took place.

In an atmosphere of hysteria, a Soviet-wide drive to root out the entirely fictitious Trotskyite conspiracy began. In 1937 and 1938 - the most horrific years in Russia's long and terrible history - almost one million "counter-revolutionaries" were executed, while perhaps five million were dispatched to the Gulag Archipelago, where the vast majority died.

Stalin personally signed thousands of death warrants. He often took pleasure in taunting former comrades with hints about their impending deaths. In these years, more than half the delegates at the Congress of Victors disappeared.

Stalin believed that the conspiracy had reached the Soviet army. Three of the army's five marshals and 15 of its 16 army commanders were executed. As the Soviet dissident historian, Roy Medvedev, puts it: "The shocking truth can be stated quite simply: never did the officer staff of any army suffer such great losses in any war as the Soviet army suffered in the time of peace."

During the 1930s, Stalin became the champion of the international anti-fascist movement, and the withering critic of the appeasement of Nazi Germany by the democratic powers, Britain and France. It was because of this that many left-wing intellectuals joined communist parties at this time.

By mid-1939, as the German invasion of Poland loomed, Stalin was effectively offered a choice between a military alliance with Britain and France or acceptance of a non-aggression pact with Germany. The West offered Stalin participation in the front-line of a continental war, while Hitler offered him the mirage of peace, the occupation of eastern Poland and the Baltic states, and more time to arm. Stalin chose Germany.

Between August 1939 and June 1941, he was almost fanatical in his determination to do nothing that could be construed as a provocation to Germany. Consequently, when the massive German attack inevitably came, on June 22, 1941, the Soviet Army was militarily and psychologically unprepared. For the only time in his life Stalin's resolution broke. But it soon returned. According to his Russian biographer, General Dmitri Volkogonov, while Stalin was not a brilliant supreme commander of the Soviet armed forces he was highly competent. He listened to his talented generals; he developed a broad strategic grasp; he showed judgement in his refusal to evacuate Moscow and in his appeal to old-style Russian patriotism rather than proletarian solidarity.

On the basis of the 1930s industrialisation, the USSR became one of the world's great arsenals. In order to secure victory over Germany, Stalin was unconcerned about how many millions of his soldiers or civilians died. Nazi Germany was essentially conquered on the eastern front. This represents Stalin's one and only contribution to the improvement of mankind.

Soon after the defeat of Germany and Japan in 1945, the Soviet-British-American alliance began to fall apart. The British and Americans encouraged the Soviet Army into eastern Europe. Generally, they were sympathetic to Soviet border claims and demands for the creation of "friendly" governments in the lands between Germany and the USSR.

They found it impossible, however, to reconcile themselves to Soviet political methods or the gradual imposition of single-party dictatorship in the areas the Red Army occupied. By 1948 Europe was effectively divided between a Soviet East and an Anglo-American West. Eastern Europe was swiftly Stalinised. In response to the Soviet military threat, NATO formed. In Germany, a dangerous military stand-off over the Soviet blockade of West Berlin arose. The Cold War had arrived. A third world war seemed more likely than not.

As always, inside Stalin's mind, morbid suspicions, mirroring the situation in the external world, took hold. Stalin dispatched to the Gulag vast numbers of returned Soviet soldiers who were tainted by knowledge of another, non-Soviet, reality.

Then, following the creation of Israel, Stalin's thoughts turned to the Jews. In 1952, he brought the leaders of the wartime Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to trial. A vast anti-Semitic action was, most likely, being planned. As his health deteriorated, Stalin's gaze turned towards those around his bed. The organs of Beria's secret police began to investigate what was called "the doctors' plot". On March 5, 1953 - most likely to the genuine anguish of the Soviet people and the no less genuine relief of the members of his close entourage - Stalin finally died.

Stalin left after him nothing but the taste of ash in the mouth. He was not responsible for the creation of the brutal single-party dictatorship in Russia. Credit for that belongs to Lenin. Yet upon the Leninist foundations a number of possible futures - none that was likely to be democratic or prosperous - might have been built. That it was Stalin who succeeded Lenin, and not Trotsky or Bukharin or someone else, mattered a great deal.

For it was Stalin who was responsible for the needless deaths of perhaps 20 million human beings. And it was Stalin, more than anyone else, who cut the utopian 19th century idea of socialism from its humanitarian moorings and transformed it into a 20th century nightmare of economic irrationality and privation, mind-numbing ideological conformity and hypocrisy, barracks-style social regimentation, primeval leader worship, and universal fear.

UKRAINE REPORT 2003, No. 10, Wednesday, March 5, 2003
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