The 25th Anniversary of the End of the Soviet Union

The 25th Anniversary of the End of the Soviet Union

Reflections on the empire before its demise

December 24, 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the formal end of the Soviet Union as a political entity on the map of the world. A quarter of a century ago, the curtain was lowered on the 75-year experiment in “building socialism” in the country where it all began following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, led by Vladimir Lenin in November 1917.

Some historians have estimated that as many as 200 million people worldwide may have died as part of the 20th century dream of creating a collectivist “paradise on earth.” The attempt to establish a comprehensive socialist system in many parts of the world over the last 100 years has been one of the cruelest and most brutal episodes in human history. Making a new “better world” was taken to mean the extermination, liquidation, and mass murder of all those who the socialist revolutionary leaders declared to be “class enemies,” including the families and even the children of “enemies of the people.”

The Bloody Road to Making a New Socialist Man

The evil of the Soviet system is that it was cruelty for a purpose.It has been calculated by Russian and Western historians who had limited access to the secret archives of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the KGB (the Soviet secret police) in the 1990s that as many as 68 million innocent, unarmed men, women, and children may have been killed in Soviet Russia alone over those nearly 75 years of communist rule in the Soviet Union.

The evil of the Soviet system is that it was not cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Rather, it was cruelty for a purpose – to make a new Soviet man and a new Soviet society. This required the destruction of everything that had gone before and entailed the forced creation of a new civilization, as conjured up in the minds of those who had appointed themselves the creators of this brave new world.

In the minds of those like Felix Dzerzhinsky, Lenin’s close associate and founder of the Soviet secret police, violence was an act of love. So much did they love the vision of the blissful communist future to come that they were willing to sacrifice all the traditional conceptions of humanity and morality to bring their utopia to fruition.

Thus, in a publication issued in 1919 by the newly formed Soviet secret police, the Cheka (later the NKVD and then the KGB), it was proclaimed:

We reject the old systems of morality and ‘humanity’ invented by the bourgeoisie to oppress and exploit the ‘lower classes.’ Our morality has no precedent, and our humanity is absolute because it rests on a new ideal. Our aim is to destroy all forms of oppression and violence. To so, everything is permitted, for we are the first to raise the sword not to oppress races and reduce them to slavery, but to liberate humanity from its shackles …

Blood? Let blood flow like water! Let blood stain forever the black pirate’s flag flown by the bourgeoisie, and let our flag be blood-red forever! For only through the death of the old world can we liberate ourselves from the return of those jackals.

Death and Torture as Tools of Winning Socialism

The famous sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin was a young professor in Petrograd (later Leningrad, and now St. Petersburg) in 1920, as the Russian Civil War that firmly established communist rule in Russia was coming to its end. He kept an account of daily life during those years, which he published many years later under the title Leaves from a Russian Diary – and Thirty Years After (1950).

Here is one of his entries from 1920:

The machine of the Red Terror works incessantly. Every day and every night, in Petrograd, Moscow, and all over the country the mountain of the dead grows higher … Everywhere people are shot, mutilated, wiped out of existence …

Every night we hear the rattle of trucks bearing new victims. Every night we hear the rifle fire of executions, and often some of us hear from the ditches, where the bodies are flung, faint groans and cries of those who did not die at once under the guns. People living near these places begin to move away. They cannot sleep …

Getting up in the morning, no man or woman knows whether he will be free that night. Leaving one’s home, one never knows whether he will return. Sometimes a neighborhood is surrounded and everyone caught out of his house without a certificate is arrested … Life these days depends entirely on luck.

This murderous madness never ended. In the 1930s, during the time of the Great Purges instituted by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to wipe out all “enemies of the revolution” through mass executions, millions were sent to the Gulag prisons that stretched across all of the Soviet Union to be worked to death as slave labor to “build socialism.”

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richard-m-ebeling
Richard M. Ebeling

Richard M. Ebeling is BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He was president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) from 2003 to 2008.

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