A Brief History
On June 11, 1937, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had 8 of his top army generals executed as part of The Great Purge. From 1934 to 1940 Stalin had vast numbers of government, party, and army officials murdered to satisfy his paranoid delusions that everyone was out to get him. This purge left his military in bad shape when war came, stripped of many of its most capable officers, but just another day for “The Man of Steel.” Stalin was a bad person indeed, and although Hitler is generally regarded as the most evil man in history, Uncle Joe gives him a run for his money.
10. The Great Purge, 1934-1940.
As stated above, Stalin was a paranoid that ruthlessly clung to power. In order to upset any budding power bases or alliances that might work against him, he went on a spree of executing, imprisoning, and firing many officials at many levels, especially the highest levels. With the military, it is shocking to see the facts: Officers removed from office one way or another: 3 of 5 Marshalls, 8 of 9 Admirals, 13 of 15 Army Commanders, 50 of 57 Corps Commanders, 16 of 16 Army Commissars, and 25 of 28 Corps Commissars. His stripping of the military leadership cost the Soviets dearly when they tried to invade Finland and when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
9. Purge of Intelligentsia, 1920-1940.
Pianist Khadija Gayibova, executed in 1938, was one of among at least 2000 of the best and brightest minds in the Soviet Union who were sent to prisons where at least 1500 of them died. Writers, poets, philosophers and playwrights were jailed for producing anything other than pure propaganda, astronomers were jailed for studying sun spots, and weathermen were jailed for failing to make accurate predictions! Scientists and engineers that failed to solve problems according to Stalin’s schedule were also purged, especially during the war.
8. Wife’s Suicide/Murder, 1932.
Stalin was a bad father and a bad husband. One of his sons shot himself and lived, causing Stalin to complain, “He can’t even shoot.” When that son was captured by the Germans, Stalin refused a trade for a German general and his son died. At a dinner in 1932 where Stalin and his wife argued, Stalin was seen flicking cigarettes at her (quite classy) and later that night she either committed suicide or was murdered by Stalin. (Hitler’s wife committed suicide with him and Hitler’s previous lovers also committed suicide. What a coincidence!)
7. Self-Serving Relations with China, 1940-1953.
Stalin at first betrayed his fellow communists in China by supporting Chiang Kai Shek instead of Mao tse Tung and the communists, because he believed that Chiang had a better chance of keeping the Japanese from invading Siberia, and he ignored the mass murder of communists by Chiang. Stalin further hurt the Chinese communists by supporting the Turkic Muslims in their quest for an independent state. By 1950, when it was prudent to do so, Stalin became best buddies with China and now had a major ally in the Cold War. In a similar manner, Stalin at first supported the creation of Israel and then later withdrew his support. For the most part, Stalin was another anti-Semite at heart.
6. Scorched Earth Policy, 1941-1943.
Absolutely uncaring about his own population, Stalin ordered everything in the path of advancing Germans to be burned, leaving no food or useful supplies of any type for them. Of course, this policy was hard on the peasants who lost everything, and led to more starvation.
5. Shooting and Imprisoning Soldiers, 1941-1945.
Just as Hitler was killing his own people left and right for “defeatism,” Stalin gave orders to shoot deserting or unauthorized retreating troops on sight. He went so far as to set up “blocking detachments” to gun down troops fleeing from the front. In this time frame, well over 400,000 soldiers were sent to “penal battalions” where they would be deployed in areas almost certain to get them killed.
4. Katyn Massacre, 1940.
After stabbing Poland in the back by invading after the Polish military was completely engaged with the Nazi invasion, Stalin took his big chunk of Poland for himself. In early 1940 on Stalin’s personal orders, over 25,000 of Poland’s best military officers were executed. When the Soviets retook Poland in 1944 the Soviets pretended the Nazis had committed the atrocity. The Soviets finally admitted guilt in 1990.
3. Censorship and Propaganda, 1924-1953.
During the entire tenure of Stalin’s reign no free press or freedom of much of anything was enjoyed in the Soviet Union or any country controlled by it. People were bombarded with government propaganda and denied access to information or cultural influences from other (western) countries. Just as Hitler and the Nazis, Stalin and the Soviets jailed or killed anyone that spoke contrary to his preferred viewpoint.
2. The Iron Curtain, 1945-1991.
After World War II Stalin failed to live up to the understanding that European countries would have the right of self determination and he imposed the rule of the Soviet Union upon them. Making these countries have communist governments whether the people wanted it or not, and restricting movement in or out of the “communist bloc” made this mass of people little more than slaves, creating an even bigger Soviet empire than that of before the war.
1. Starvation of the Ukraine, 1932-1933.
Hitler is notorious for killing as many as 6 million Jews and another 5 million assorted people, but in the Holodomor, intentional starvation of the Ukraine Stalin killed as many as 7.5 million Ukrainians. (Added with his other murders and genocides this definitely puts him in Hitler’s class.) Although the Ukraine is considered the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union where the most productive farms are, the food produced was removed for residents of other parts of the country and Ukrainians were left to starve. The widespread and horrible scale of the starvation led people to eat the dead, and 2500 were convicted of cannibalism. The independence minded people of the Ukraine were starved into submission, pure and simple. Soviet propaganda denied the famine for many years, refusing to admit Stalin’s psychotic willingness to kill people or allow the world to think people in the “workers’ paradise” could possibly starve. Soviet propaganda also insidiously spread into western countries with false messages that the famine was natural and not planned. After the fall of the Soviet Union Russian and Ukrainian officials were somewhat more forthcoming, but the issue remains a hot topic between Russia and Ukraine.
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For more information, please see…
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. Vintage Books, 1993.