What Is Genocide And Why Does Stalin Get A Free Pass?
    By News Staff | September 26th 2010 12:10 AM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Hitler gets a bad rap universally for his genocide but a startling subset of progressives in America view Joseph Stalin favorably despite his killing more people.  Time magazine put Stalin on its cover 11 times.  Then Rwanda, Cambodia and Darfur were essentially ignored while Bosnia was labeled genocide and became a war crime issue despite only a few thousand actual deaths known.

    Nations have tugs of war over the official definition of the word 'genocide' itself – which mentions only national, ethnic, racial and religious groups. The definition can determine international relations, foreign aid and national morale. Look at the annual international tussle over whether the 1915 Turkish massacre and deportation of the Armenians counts as 'genocide'.

    Stanford history Professor Norman Naimark, author of the book Stalin's Genocides, argues that we need a much broader definition of genocide, one that includes nations killing social classes and political groups. His case in point: Stalin.

    The book's title is plural for a reason: He argues that the Soviet elimination of a social class, the kulaks (who were higher-income farmers), and the subsequent killer famine among all Ukrainian peasants – as well as the notorious 1937 order No. 00447 that called for the mass execution and exile of "socially harmful elements" as "enemies of the people" – were, in fact, genocide.

    Historically, exemptions for both Mao and Stalin seemed to be the distinction that it wasn't genocide if you did it to your own people - both of those leaders killed far more than Hitler - or it was simple politics and no one wanted to try and arrest the powerful communist leaders of the USSR and China.   Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic killed Bosnians, but they were Muslims, and Hitler killed, well, everyone, so they got lumped together as genocide despite a huge disparity in the deaths involved.

    Stalin had nearly a million of his own citizens executed, beginning in the 1930s, and millions more fell victim to forced labor, deportation, famine, massacres, and detention and interrogation by Stalin's henchmen.

    "In some cases, a quota was established for the number to be executed, the number to be arrested," said Naimark. "Some officials overfulfilled as a way of showing their exuberance."

    The term 'genocide' was defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention's work was shaped by the Holocaust – "that was considered the genocide," said Naimark.  "A catastrophe had just happened, and everyone was still thinking about the war that had just ended. This always occurs with international law – they outlaw what happened in the immediate past, not what's going to happen in the future."

    In his book, he concludes that there was more similarity between Hitler and Stalin than usually acknowledged: "Both chewed up the lives of human beings in the name of a transformative vision of Utopia. Both destroyed their countries and societies, as well as vast numbers of people inside and outside their own states. Both, in the end, were genocidaires."

    But at the U.N. genocide convention the Soviet delegation vetoed any definition of genocide that might include the actions of its leader, Joseph Stalin. The Allies, exhausted by war, were loyal to their Soviet allies – to the detriment of subsequent generations.  Naimark argues that that the narrow definition of genocide is the dictator's unacknowledged legacy to us today.

    Accounts "gloss over the genocidal character of the Soviet regime in the 1930s, which killed systematically rather than episodically," said Naimark. In the process of collectivization, for example, 30,000 kulaks were killed directly, mostly shot on the spot. About 2 million were forcibly deported to the Far North and Siberia.

    They were called 'enemies of the people' as well as swine, dogs, cockroaches, scum, vermin, filth, garbage, half animals, apes. Activists promoted murderous slogans: "We will exile the kulak by the thousand when necessary – shoot the kulak breed." "We will make soap of kulaks." "Our class enemies must be wiped off the face of the earth."

    One Soviet report noted that gangs "drove the dekulakized naked in the streets, beat them, organized drinking bouts in their houses, shot over their heads, forced them to dig their own graves, undressed women and searched them, stole valuables, money, etc."

    The destruction of the kulak class then triggered the Ukrainian famine which resulted in 3 to 5 million peasants dying of starvation.

    We will never know for sure how many millions Stalin killed. "And yet somehow Stalin gets a pass," Ian Frazier wrote in a recent New Yorker article about the gulags. "People know he was horrible, but he has not yet been declared horrible officially."

    Russian public opinion polls still rank him near the top of the greatest leaders of Russian history, as if he were just another one of the powerful but bloodthirsty czars.   There's a reason for Russian obliviousness - namely that every family had not only victims but perpetrators. 

    "How much can you move on? Can you put it in your past? How is a national identity formed when a central part of it is a crime?" Naimark asked. "The Germans have gone about it the right way," he said, pointing out that the Germany has pioneered research about the Holocaust and the crimes of the Nazi regime. "Through denial and obfuscation, the Turks have gone about it the wrong way."

    Toward the end of his life, Stalin may have had another genocide in his crosshairs. We'll never know whether the concocted conspiracy of Jewish Kremlin doctors in 1952 would have resulted in the internal exile of the entire Jewish population. Whatever plans existed ended abruptly with Stalin's death in March 1953, as rumors of Jewish deportations were swirling.

    One of Stalin's colleagues recalled the dictator reviewing an arrest list (i.e., a death list) and muttering to himself: "Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years' time? No one. … Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one. … The people had to know he was getting rid of all his enemies. In the end, they all got what they deserved."

    Who remembers? If Naimark has his way, perhaps we all will: "Every family had people who died. I'm convinced that they need to learn about their own past. There'll never be closure, but there will be a reckoning with the past."


    "Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic killed Bosnians, but they were Muslims,...."
    What does a reviewer or the author (if this sentence is taken from his book) mean by this? The Bosnian Muslims just because they are the Muslims could have been exterminated. More than one hundred thousand unarmed civilians killed, tens thousand women and small girls raped, five hundred thousand expelled from their home, out of 2.3 million Muslims. And not to speak about their cultural heritage, their property, religious building - all this is not genocide?

    "Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic killed Bosnians, but they were Muslims,...."
    What does a reviewer or the author (if this sentence is taken from his book) mean by this?
    In contrast to Stalin, who killed millions of his own people, the Serbs considered the Muslims 'outsiders' and some of the distinction for genocide has been that outsiders were killed.

    There are no 100,000 dead, there are instead estimates of 25,000, likely low, to 329,000, wildly overstated, so estimates settled on 100,000.   66% of bodies found were Bosnians, regardless of religion.    Rape and displacement figures, though estimates, are more accurate estimates (I thought the displacement was much higher than the figure you cite), yet those events are not genocide.  Rapists are not convicted of genocide, they are convicted of rape.  And the numbers killed even the high end are less than 1% of Russia and Germany and 1/3 of 1% for China but Germany is still called 'genocide' whereas China and Russia are not.   

    Bosnian 'genocide' seems to have been a PR campaign, much like Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.   If Bosnia had been on the UN Security Council, like China and Russia when their genocides were happening, they wouldn't have been criticized at all - and that is the point.
    Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.
    So,in Mr. Hank Campel's opinion, small peoples do not count? They are “outsiders“!
    Mr. Campbell, not Serbs, has converted a small Muslim people who has lived in Bosnia for 1000 years into 'outsiders', what a racist statement!. And in particular, his figures of 25 thousand of killed civilians, and 66% bodies found are Bosnians? You are extremely wrong, you data are uncorroborated. When you write something you have to refer to the source with exact data rather than write tittle-tattle. Refer to the ICTY ruling. Also your allegations on Stalin are tittle-tattle without any scientific evidence.

    So,in Mr. Hank Campel's opinion, small peoples do not count? They are “outsiders“!
    Your desire to be outraged has damaged your reading comprehension.   I never said anything of the kind.  The definition of genocide was formed by the UN.   You can make it a personal subjective one but why stop at 100,00 deaths?  Why not choose 1 death?

    Data are data.  I provided the range of estimates and how the 100,000 number became popular.   If numbers you don't like are "uncorroborated" but ones you do like are just fine, that says you simply pick and choose data based on what you want to believe.    Claiming Bosnia was genocide despite numbers nowhere close to the USSR deaths but then saying Stalin's deaths have 'no scientific evidence' means you lack a clue.
    يا هارون ،

    I think Hank's main point is that the UN definition of genocide was formulated so as not to upset Stalin.

    Perhaps this fudging of the definition of genocide may have something to do with the fact that since then UN forces seem not just incompetent, but beyond incompetence, when they are in places where genocidal campaigns have been in process.

    Otherwise, how could they have proved so useless in preventing or even restricting the scope of the massacre at Srebrenica?
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    It is very difficult to assess Stalin fairly. Most of what passes for "evidence" employed against Stalinism is itself highly suspect; the result of many decades of frenzied anti-Stalinism. Much of what we know of the so-called "Holdomor," for example, is based upon the embellishments (and outright fabrications) of Ukrainian emigres, ie., those who lost out in the various internecine struggles for power and were forced to quit the country. There is little evidence that Stalin or those around him deliberately starved to death millions of peasants. Rather, the attitude was much akin to that of various Washington administrations as regards the removal of "unprofitable" and "dangerous" Native Americans in the 19th century. It was simply accepted that many would die to achieve an otherwise desirable policy end. Similar attitudes prevailed in British India during the numerous famines (whose victims were many times far greater in number than those credibly attributed to Stalin). Agriculture had to be collectivized in a country where famine had been the rule, rather than the exception, for many centuries. Rich kulaks were hoarding grain and thereby contributing mightily to the crisis; the Stalin response, though in hindsight "excessive" and perhaps brutal in places, was a perfectly reasonable one, especially in light of the growing fascist danger from the West. A brief word about the use (and abuse) of the word "genocide." It resonates little outside of ruling circles in the West, because the bulk of humanity knows that it is mainly propaganda employed to excite popular indignation and hostility toward Communism. Its purpose in the post-Soviet era is also to legitimate new (and scarcely popular) regimes formerly within Moscow's sphere which are now selling themselves to the West. *That* development should be of real concern to the people's of New Europe.

    It is very difficult to assess Stalin fairly. Most of what passes for "evidence" employed against Stalinism is itself highly suspect; the result of many decades of frenzied anti-Stalinism.
    All evidence is suspect when it comes to large numbers of murders.    Stalin was on the cover of Time magazine 11 times so it isn't like America was against him, then or now; idiots in San Francisco still wear USSR clothing today.  It's actually the opposite of what you want to believe - Stalin and Mao have been irrationally favored in ways Pol Pot and Hitler were not.    On a smaller scale, Che Guevara is a mass murderering sociopath who still seems to be adored in a way that makes no sense.
    Wait what? The entire mass of Russian and Ukranes were ready to rise up with the Nazis against Stalin during the initial surge of Operation Barbarossa. Except that they found out that the Nazis were even worse than Stalin. Had the Nazis focused the rage of these people at Stalin, Europe would be speaking German today.

    Stalin was so paranoid about dissidence and betrayal that he shipped millions of Soviet POWs to the gulags in Siberia because he did not trust anyone who survived the Nazi campaign. He casually murdered dozens of his best officers for no reason at all. He starved his population by adopting absurd agricultural practices (Lysenkism) It's not white-washing, it's just how it is. The only reason people still idolize or adore him is that he single-handedly beat the Nazi war machine. No Stalin = No Allied Victory. His inner circle was ready to surrender when German artillery was pounding Moscow in '41, of which he promptly executed 75% of for failure to defend the Motherland.

    Stalin murdered those people, but should not be held accountable for genocide. He should not be compared to Hitler since Hitler killed people based on race and ethnicity. Stalin just starved a bunch of people as a political statement, not because they were Ukrianian, he also wasn't trying to kill every single Ukrinain either! I mean come on, he's racially and ethincally mixed, what makes you think he gives a damn about race anyways? I mean we're talking about a guy that did not like Jews but at the same time loved Jewish women for some strange reason that I'll never know.

    This book is crap therefore I'm not going to read it nor will consider to read it!

    As for Mao, he was not a genocidel maniac either! What made Mao evil is that he unintentually killed a lot of people and took no responsiblitiy for their deaths, nor did he care or show any remorse, that is what made him evil.

    It doesn't matter who was more evil than who, they were evil in different ways!

    As for the Armenians, yes they were decived and they were murdered because of their ethinicity and most of the vicitms of the genocide were in fact women and children, therefore there is no way in heck they could have been held accountable for killing random Turks. Also I have a feeling that one of these days Turkey will have to speak up about the incident or suffer the consenquences. I'm not ok with Turkey trying to eliminate the Armenians nor any other group that was un-Turkish! Nobody should be ok with that, it doesn't matter if it happened 95 years ago, its still genocide and should have been greatly looked at!

    Gerhard Adam
    Stalin murdered those people, but should not be held accountable for genocide. He should not be compared to Hitler since Hitler killed people based on race and ethnicity.
    Well, I'm certainly glad that was cleared up.  I'm sure most of the people that suffered, as well as those that experienced the famines were quite reassured to know that "it was nothing personal".
    Mundus vult decipi
    My father used to have a book The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities by Robert Conquest.  I was searching the web for information about this book, and came upon this, from the New York Times.


    Read it: further comment by myself would be superfluous.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I'm not surprised most people haven't read the many works on this to know all the details but I am surprised people still deny it.  They are, quite literally, Holocaust deniers who seem to have a need to puff up the reputation of a mass murderer.
    Quite simply, the ethnicity of most of Stalin's victims rendered them ineligible for Favored Victim Status.

    Somewhat related -- to put it mildly -- to why Lazar Kaganovich is still a virtual nobody.

    This is also true. Stalin killed people that the international community doesn't really care about. Same with Turkey. Hitler learned many things about killing the Jews from the Armenian genocide. The Armenians simply don't have a good PR wing.

    Favored Victim Status is absolutely a major reason why certain genocides get more attention than others. In addition, leaving enough people alive to bring charges is another factor. If Hitler had 6 more months, then there wouldn't have been enough Jews left alive to make a genocide charge matter anymore. Look at what happened to the Native peoples in North and South America. Settlers wiped out more than 99% of them, leaving an extremely small voice to bring charges. Charges that have been effectively ignored for 200 years.

    What Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot did is called democide, not genocide.

    Gerhard Adam
    Don 't you just hate it when mass murderers are described by the wrong terminology ???
    Mundus vult decipi