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

Before being sent to their death or to the forced labor camps, tens of thousands would be interrogated and cruelly tortured for confessions of non-existent crimes, imaginary anti-Soviet conspiracies, and false accusations against others.

Stalin personally sent instructions to the Soviet secret police that stated that to obtain confessions from the accused, “the NKVD was given permission by the Central Committee [of the Communist Party] to use physical influence … as a completely correct and expedient method” of interrogation.

When Stalin was told that this method was bringing forth the desired results, he told the NKVD interrogators, “Give them the works until they come crawling to you on their bellies with confessions in their teeth.” Then, in another purge, this one after World War II, Stalin simplified the instructions even more: “Beat, beat and, once again, beat.”

Thousands of the victims wrote letters to Stalin from their exile and hardships in the labor camps, all of them were persuaded that it had all been a terrible mistake. If only the great and good Comrade Stalin knew, he would set it all right and they would be freed and restored as good, loyal Soviet citizens ready to once again work to “build socialism.”

Stalin’s Personal Hand in Building Socialism through Blood

But Stalin knew. He personally signed off on tens of thousands of death warrants and orders for tens of thousands more to be sent to their horrifying fate in the Gulag camps.

Dmitri Volkogonov, a Soviet general-turned-historian, gained access to many of the closed Soviet archives in the 1980s and wrote a biography of Stalin, titled Triumph and Tragedy (1991), meaning Stalin’s “triumph” to power and the resulting “tragedy” for the Soviet people. Volkogonov told a Western correspondent at the time:

I would come home from working in Stalin’s archives, and I would be deeply shaken. I remember coming home after reading through the day of December 12, 1938. He signed thirty lists of death sentences that day, altogether about five thousand people, including many he personally knew, his friends …

This is not what shook me. It turned out that, having signed these documents, he went to his personal theater very late that night and watched two movies, including “Happy Guys,” a popular comedy of the time. I simply could not understand how, after deciding the fate of several thousand lives, he could watch such a movie.

But I was beginning to realize that morality plays no role for dictators. That’s when I understood why my father was shot, why my mother died in exile, why millions of people died.

Soviet central planning even had quotas for the number of such enemies of the people to be killed in each region of the Soviet Union, as well as the required numbers to be rounded up to be sent to work in the labor camps in the frigid wastelands of the Siberia and the Arctic Circle or the scorching deserts of Soviet Central Asia.

A Russian lawyer who had access to some of the formerly closed Soviet archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the 1990s said at the time,

Recently I read a Central Committee document from 1937 that said the Voronezh secret police, according to the ‘regional plan,’ repressed in the ‘first category,’ nine thousand people – which means these people were executed. And for no reason, of course.

Twenty-nine thousand were repressed in the ‘second category – meaning they were sent to labor camps. The local first secretary [of the Communist Party], however, writes that there are still more Trotskyites and kulaks who remain ‘unrepressed.’

He is saying that the plan was fulfilled but the plan was not enough! And so he asked that it be increased by eight thousand. Stalin writes back, ‘No increase to nine thousand!’ The sickness of it. Its’ as if they were playing poking [and upping the ante in tragic human lives].

The Victims of Socialism Literally Reduced to Burnt Ash

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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