On the eve of June 22nd, we recall the tragic events of 1941 and, alas, we cannot do without speculation on the subject of the perpetrators of the outbreak of war, the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact“, and the helplessness of the Red Army in a sudden attack.
The main purpose of this discussion is not the search for truth, but the propaganda tasks of today: the maximal compromising of the Soviet Union and its leadership, putting sole responsibility on it for the outbreak of war and, as a result, revising the results of World War II as a whole. One of the techniques of this propaganda work is equating the Hitler regime to the Stalin leadership that it clashed in battle with, which gives current ideologists the opportunity to argue that Ukraine was just a battleground for two “equally disgusting dictators”, and that the regime of German occupation was replaced by the Soviet occupation after the victory of the USSR.
The cornerstone of this concept is the supposedly complete identity of German National Socialism and Soviet Bolshevism as two forms of identical, in essence, totalitarianism. And here lies the first semantic trap. To begin with, despite the use of these and other crude techniques of social engineering, the strategic tasks of the Bolsheviks and Nazis were diametrically opposite. The humanist slogans of the French Revolution “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity” were written on the banners of precisely the Bolsheviks, who sincerely considered themselves the ideological heirs of the Jacobins.
The Nazis did not think about any equality, freedom, or fraternity for other nations. Their ideology was based not on socialism, but on the racial question. The National Socialism declared by the NSDAP was only a form of some redistribution of state wealth to achieve certain strategic goals, there was no question of a complete socialisation of the means of production in Germany. In this regard, Hitler was no more a socialist than US President Roosevelt (whom conservative circles in the United States also called a “socialist” and even a “communist” for his large-scale social programs).
The most important thing in Hitler’s “socialism” was the preceding word “national”. I.e., the benefits were redistributed strictly in favour of the “titular nation”, which was understood only by true Germans. “Blood purity”, “Aryan origin”, detailed metrics, “correct” skull shape, and other indicators were evidence of the right of a particular German to receive material benefits and successful progress and regulated the features of personal life (for example, the right to marry people of “impure” blood). It was not necessary to talk about any fraternity or equality with other peoples of this self-proclaimed “caste of the chosen” initially.
On the contrary, in the Soviet Union, internationalism and friendship of peoples were strongly emphasised and encouraged. In Soviet ideology, most people were brothers-in-labour. And even representatives of the “exploitative classes” had the opportunity to “reforge”, to share the path of the people to a bright communist future. Recall, for example, the nobles Aleksey Tolstoy, Aleksey Ignatiev, Vasily Nemirovich-Danchenko, and many others. Actually, Lenin himself came from a noble family (like Dzerzhinsky, Bonch‑Bruyevich, etc.). But if the social situation could be “corrected”, how then to correct the “wrong blood”?
Hitler’s ideology originally implied an incorrigible, innate, and fatal inequality. “Dirty blood” could not be re-educated – it was necessary, at least, to distance oneself from it. At the same time, the Bolsheviks called for the worldwide unity of the “proletarians of all countries”, including the most backward and as if uncivilised nations of the European colonies, where even the proletariat did not really exist. Hitler’s “racial superiority” and the Soviet “fraternity of people of labour” are fundamentally different concepts.
Broad repressive practices bring the two systems of governance closer together, but when critics of the Soviet regime insist that “Hitler = Stalin”, they clearly distort things. Europe of the 30s was not a preserve of democracy at all. By the end of the 30s, not only Germany, but also Italy, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Finland, Turkey, Slovakia, and Bulgaria were dictatorial states to one degree or another… The practice of repression in these states (especially against communists) was used very widely. In some countries – such as Poland – political repression was exacerbated by the active suppression of national minorities, and severe racial segregation reigned in the United States. The so-called “Western democracies”, like Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, owned huge colonial empires, which were also not ruled in democratic ways at all.
Consequently, the question is not about the repression itself, but about its scope. And – yes, its scope in the Soviet Union was excessive, if not monstrous. Although the figures indicated by A. Solzhenitsyn (more than 60 million not counting military losses) is as close to the truth as the distance the from Earth to the Andromeda Nebula.
For example, a fragment of Solzhenitsyn’s conference in Paris on April 10th 1975. Question: “When you say 50-60 million dead Russians, this is only in camps or it includes military losses?” Answer: “More than 60 million dead are only internal losses of the USSR. No, I don’t mean war, internal losses.” Solzhenitsyn himself usually referred to the calculations of a certain professor Kurganov, a Hitler collaborator who fled to the American zone of occupation after the defeat of the Third Reich. Then Kurganov emigrated to the United States and became a prominent functionary of the anti-Soviet National Labour Union. As we understand it, it is difficult to find a more “objective” source of knowledge.
According to modern data, in particular, according to the special commission of academician Yu. A. Polyakov, the number of people convicted for political reasons (for “counter-revolutionary crimes”) in the USSR for the period from 1921 to 1953, i.e., 33 years, amounted to about 3.8 million people. As for the death sentences, according to the leading researcher of repression in the USSR, Doctor of Historical Sciences V.N. Zemskov, “for the entire Soviet period there were 828,000 of them, 682,000 (or over 82%) of which happened during these two years [1937-1938]”. The specific part of all those repressed for political reasons in the population that lived in 1918-1958 is 2.5% (about 10 million in relation to over 400 million of the country’s total population during the Soviet period), including the “dispossessed”. “This means that 97.5% of the population of the USSR was not subjected to political repression in any form” (V.N. Zemskov, “Stalin and the people”).
For a common understanding, the United States now contains about 2.2 million prisoners. As of January 1st 1939 in the USSR, 1,317,195 people were detained in camps, and in colonies and in prisons – 707,751; a total of 2,024,946 people. I.e., today in the democratic United States there are more prisoners than in the Stalin gulag of the “heyday” era.
The gulag was not the main driver of the Soviet economy, as some publicists are trying to argue. Thus, in 1952, camp production accounted for 2.5% of the total industrial production of the country (R.S. Dolzhikov, “The Role of the Gulag in the Economy of the USSR”). Another thing is that prisoners were often used in forced and difficult work, in remote places intended for development, where it was almost impossible to lure volunteer workers.
Next point. Without detracting from the suffering of prisoners, it must still be borne in mind that the Stalin camps were not specialised death factories, such as Auschwitz and other Hitler concentration camps, engaged in a systematic “solution to the Jewish question” or the extermination of prisoners of war. The tasks that were set for the camp authorities were determined not by the number of prisoners destroyed, but by the implementation of the economic plan, and therefore by a meaningful attitude to the available “labour”. For disrupting the planned plan, the boss himself could be held responsible as a “saboteur and spy” and take a low-ranking place in the number of prisoners or at the wall (which sometimes happened).
Mortality in the camps in 1937 and 1938 – i.e., in the era of the “Great Terror” – amounted to 2.4% (31,000 dead) and 3.5% (108,500 dead) prisoners, respectively. In total, 1,606,748 people died in Stalin’s camps from 1930 to 1956, according to the materials of the Gulag Department of Records and Distribution of Prisoners (State Archive of the Russian Federation. F. 9414). In Hitler’s Auschwitz camp alone, at least 1.5 million people were killed in five years, and there were dozens of such camps.
And for comparison: according to Canadian researcher James Bacque (book “Other Losses”), in just a couple of years about a million prisoners died in the American camps for German prisoners of war – yesterday’s soldiers of the German army, and this can be called targeted extermination. The difference in approaches is obvious, which, of course, does not detract from the bitterness of loss.
So, returning to the main topic: the idea of inequality of races and peoples, as well as the desire for mass physical destruction of the “untermensch”, are originally inherent in Hitler’s doctrine. Due to the fact that inequality is “innate”, it was not actually subject to correction (it is possible only through multiple and undesirable breeding with carriers of “correct” genes). In the German view of the new European order, the “Ordnung”, there was a leading German race and several younger ethnic groups serving it. Some of them (such as Czechs or Galicians, who were perceived as former subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) were supposed to be massively Germanised and turned into servants in the occupied territories. There could be no question of equality in the future.
The struggle of the Soviet Union was a liberation struggle not only in the sense of freeing the territories captured by the German occupation, but also in the sense of liberating nations from German ethnic “domination” – in the most direct sense of the word. The geopolitical dominance of the USSR in Eastern Europe was paid for by the blood of millions of Soviet soldiers who repelled the enemy invasion, but it was not racist and xenophobic in nature, and this can no longer be identical to the Hitler regime. It was not aimed at the physical subjugation of “lower” peoples, since such a task directly contradicted the ideology of Bolshevism.
The number of victims in the communised countries (and they certainly were victims) is immeasurably less than the millions of lives lost due to Hitler’s occupation. For example, the Institute of National Memory of Poland in 2009 estimated the country’s losses in World War II at 5.6-5.8 million people. For comparison, according to the same institute, 150,000 people suffered from Soviet repression, almost 40-fold less. We are not talking about the fact that the Soviet leadership never questioned the need for the development of Polish culture, education, science, which Hitler had never dreamed of. Do the Poles still not see the difference between the two systems of governance?
By the way, the topic of Stalinist deportations of “entire nations” loved by the public also needs to be taken into account in the context of the scale of events and general practice of that time. So, political analyst Vladimir Kornilov, responding to the latest note of American diplomacy on the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, wrote on his Facebook page: “I look at how Western diplomats and politicians stand together today concerning the terrible ‘Stalinist deportations of nations’. The tragedy, of course, is large. But this practice was common back then. For comparison: 183,000 Crimean Tatars were deported, up to 200 people died (according to the most incredible estimates – up to 8,000). Since 1945, 12-14 million Germans were deported in Europe, 500,000 to 1.5 million people (mainly women and children) of which died. Where is the moaning about the cruelty of the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks?”
Even if the “hyena of Europe” Poland, which poached Western Ukraine and captured the German Upper Silesia in 1921, the Lithuanian Vilnius in 1922, and the Czech Teschen region in 1938, is made to look like an innocent little lamb, what to expect from systematic anti-Russia propaganda, which has more significant strategic tasks.
There are still a lot of possible topics for understanding the legacy of the Second World War, but the obvious conclusion is simple and clear: with a different outcome of the duel between Hitler and Stalin, turncoats thirsty for “Bavarian beer” simply could not physically taste this beer — slaves are not treated to good beer.
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