For those hoping that Russians will gradually reject the authoritarian rule by Vladimir Putin, a new poll will be a disappointment. Russians have long favored the strongman leader and that taste for authoritarianism has not greatly diminished. A new poll shows that Russians place Stalin at the top of the list of the greatest historical figures of all time. Putin tied with poet Alexander Pushkin for second place. The poll was conducted by the Levada Centre.
Stalin of course murdered millions in political purges and repression. His grossly negligent conduct before and during World War II contributed to the deaths of tens of millions. The Russians often brush over the fact that Russia was an ally of Adolph Hitler and carved up Eastern Europe with Hitler in a non-aggression pact. Hitler would later break the infamous treaty with Russia, but Stalin was perfectly willing to assist Hitler in his global conquest while invading other nations in a spasm of bloodshed. Like the Nazis, Stalin ordered the rounding up of intellectuals and opponents. For example, thousands of military officers and intellectuals were killed under Stalin in Poland in the Katyn Massacre.
Judging from the Soviet records we now have, the number of people who died in the Gulag between 1933 and 1945, while both Stalin and Hitler were in power, was on the order of a million, perhaps a bit more. The total figure for the entire Stalinist period is likely between two million and three million. The Great Terror and other shooting actions killed no more than a million people, probably a bit fewer. The largest human catastrophe of Stalinism was the famine of 1930–1933, in which more than five million people died. Of those who starved, the 3.3 million or so inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine who died in 1932 and 1933 were victims of a deliberate killing policy related to nationality. In early 1930, Stalin had announced his intention to “liquidate” prosperous peasants (“kulaks”) as a class so that the state could control agriculture and use capital extracted from the countryside to build industry. Tens of thousands of people were shot by Soviet state police and hundreds of thousands deported. Those who remained lost their land and often went hungry as the state requisitioned food for export. The first victims of starvation were the nomads of Soviet Kazakhstan, where about 1.3 million people died. The famine spread to Soviet Russia and peaked in Soviet Ukraine. Stalin requisitioned grain in Soviet Ukraine knowing that such a policy would kill millions. Blaming Ukrainians for the failure of his own policy, he ordered a series of measures—such as sealing the borders of that Soviet republic—that ensured mass death. In 1937, as his vision of modernization faltered, Stalin ordered the Great Terror. Because we now have the killing orders and the death quotas, inaccessible so long as the Soviet Union existed, we now know that the number of victims was not in the millions. We also know that, as in the early 1930s, the main victims were the peasants, many of them survivors of hunger and of concentration camps. The highest Soviet authorities ordered 386,798 people shot in the “Kulak Operation” of 1937–1938. The other major “enemies” during these years were people belonging to national minorities who could be associated with states bordering the Soviet Union: some 247,157 Soviet citizens were killed by the NKVD in ethnic shooting actions. In the largest of these, the “Polish Operation” that began in August 1937, 111,091 people accused of espionage for Poland were shot. In all, 682,691 people were killed during the Great Terror, to which might be added a few hundred thousand more Soviet citizens shot in smaller actions. The total figure of civilians deliberately killed under Stalinism, around six million, is of course horribly high. But it is far lower than the estimates of twenty million or more made before we had access to Soviet sources. At the same time, we see that the motives of these killing actions were sometimes far more often national, or even ethnic, than we had assumed. Indeed it was Stalin, not Hitler, who initiated the first ethnic killing campaigns in interwar Europe.
Roughly 2-3 million Russians would die in Stalin’s Gulag prisons. His moronic communist policies led to the famine of 1930-33 in which five million died. Millions starved as result of official policies targeting them due to nationality. Tens of thousands were shot by Stalin’s secret police. Stalin’s purging of the military before World War II destroyed the officer corp and contributed to the massive defeats against the Germans after their invasion.
Despite this history, Stalin received 38 percent of the votes while Putin tied with poet Pushkin with 34 percent.