"Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives"

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Mon Feb 12 15:20:08 MST 1996

I have refrained from participating in the discussion with Stalin's
defenders, and I still decline to debate with flat-earthers. But since
Chris brought up my endorsement of Getty's work, which suggests lower
"excess mortality" than normally attributed to Stalin and his policies, I
feel obliged to reiterate that I do not think this this research
execulpates Stalin. It just shows that he was a less terrific
mass-murderer than we had thought. But a mass-murderer he remains, as well
as a brutal tyrant and savage dictator, someone who set back our cause far
more than many of his capitalist opponents. --Justin Schwartz

On 12 Feb 1996, Chris, London wrote:

> I was glad that earlier Justin and Matt D endorsed my recommendation of
> this book edited by Getty and Manning, CUP 1993 pb.
> I had quoted in a previous post their summary of what they call the
> "totalitarian" paradigm of the history of the Soviet system under Stalin.
> This is what they are criticising on the basis of new material and
> scholarly re-examination of old material.
> Broadly their findings are of somewhat fewer though substantial deaths and a
> process that was not just due to the decision making of one man, though
> Stalin's contribution is clear enough at times.
> Here I will quote the conclusion of the final article. If time permits I
> will send conclusions from other sections.
> Chris,
> London.
> "More light on the scale of repression and excess mortality in the
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> Soviet Union in the 1930's" by Stephen G. Wheatcroft
> -----------------------------------------------------
> "The new material on labour camps and other repressed groups has tended
> to confirm my arguments that the level of population in the Gulag system
> in the late 1930's was below 4 to 5 million. Zemskov's figures indicate
> that the Gulag population (excluding colonies) reached an early peak of
> 1.5 million in January 1941, and this can be reconciled with Nekrasov's
> figures of 2.3 million at the beginning of the war, if we include
> prisoners in labour colonies and jail.
> There were also at this time a large number of *spetsposelentsy*
> [settlements]. By 1939, according to both Ivnitsky ans Zemskov, there
> were only 0.9 million of the original 5 or so million former kulaks in
> their place of exile.
> Even if we allow another 1.5 million for Baltic and other mass groups in
> *spetsposelentsy*, there would still be in the order of about 4 million.
> Although this represents to my mind a sufficiently large and disgraceful
> scale of inhumanity, these are very much smaller figures than have been
> proposed by Conquest and Rosefelde in the West and by
> Roy Medvedev and Antonov-Ovseenko in the USSR.
> Concerning the scale of the famine in 1932/3, we now have much better
> information on its chronology and regional coverage amongst the civilian
> registered population. The level of excess mortality registered by the
> civilian population was in the order of 3 to 4 million. If we correct
> this for the non-civilian and non-registered population, the scale of
> excess mortality might well reach 4 to 5 million, which is somewhat
> larger than I had earlier supposed, but which is still much lower
> than the figures claimed by Conquest and Rosefelde and by Roy Medvedev.
> Much more serious work is needed before we approach a definitive answer to
> the problem of the scale of repression and excess mortality, but I hope
> that we will finally be done with some of the unrealistic figures
> that so often haunted this subject."
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