The Real Stalin Series: Anticommunist fairy-tales about Stalin
RUMOR, GOSSIP, AND HEARSAY DOMINATE ANTI-STALIN PROPAGANDA WRITINGS
History cannot be written unless the historian can achieve some kind of contact with the mind of those about whom he is writing. [TOO BAD MANY IGNORED THIS ADVICE]
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 5
Estimates of those who perished under Stalin's rule--based principally on speculations by writers who never reveal how they arrive at such figures--vary widely.
Parenti, Michael. Blackshirts and Reds, San Francisco: City Light Books, 1997, p. 77
My collaboration with the people I have mentioned was based exclusively on personal initiative and trust. I did not make use of or have access to any closed archives, "special collections," or any other limited-access depositories and I am not familiar with any.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. xviii
In the nature of things there could not be a published source for much of the information in this book; it was passed on by the victims of repression or their friends or relatives.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. xx
In some western newspapers after Stalin's death as well as in the Russian emigre press of the '20s there were various speculations on the subject of Stalin and women. One author, hiding under the pseudonym Essad-Bey, claimed that Stalin, like an Oriental sheik, kept his beautiful wife locked up at his Kremlin apartment or at his dacha and forbade her to show herself to other men, so that even his Kremlin colleagues never saw her face. Others asserted that Stalin married secretly after Alliluyeva's death or that he held orgies at his dachas or in his Kremlin apartment. All this is the product of unfounded rumor or deliberate fabrication.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 55
To this very day allegations occasionally appear in the foreign press that Lenin did not die a natural death but was killed by Stalin. For example, in 1976 the journal Veremya i my ran such an article by Lydia Shatunovskaya entitled "The Secret of One Arrest," in which she repeats a story supposedly told to her by Ivan Gronsky, a former editor of Izvestia and Novy mir, to the effect that Stalin murdered Lenin. As the story goes, Stalin was visiting at Gronsky's apartment, drank so much that he lost all self-control, and had to stay overnight; during this drinking bout Stalin told his host about the murder. This is all pure fantasy, though probably Gronsky's rather than Shatunovskaya's. It is true that Gronsky was a well-known figure in the literary world in the early 30s. He was the editor in chief of Novy mir and took part in preparations for the First Congress of Soviet Writers, but he was not elected even as a delegate. Stalin knew Gronsky, but to say that he was "Stalin's most trusted man on literary questions" or that he "can go and see Stalin any time without a report to give"--these assertions were made up by Gronsky. In 1937 Gronsky was arrested and 16 years later returned from prison with a highly tarnished reputation. In order to win people's confidence again, or at least to attract their attention, he was capable of making up the most unlikely stories about his life before and after his arrest.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 77
To this day, in works published outside the Soviet Union, one can still occasionally encounter the allegation that Lenin did not die a natural death but was actually killed by Stalin. For example, in 1976 Time and We published an article by Lydia Shatunovskaya, entitled "The Secret of One Arrest." Claiming that Stalin murdered Lenin, she repeats a story said to have been told by Ivan Gronsky, the former editor of Izvestia and Novy Mir. According to this story, Stalin once visited Gronsky in his apartment in the mid-1930s, got drunk beyond all self-control, and talked about the murder to his host. All this is pure fantasy, invented either by Shatunovskaya or by Gronsky himself.
Medvedev, Roy. On Stalin and Stalinism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 32
Trotsky, too, spread similar stories in the last years of his life. His version was so unbelievable that Life magazine, which had contracted with Trotsky for an article on Lenin, refused to print it. Several other American magazines rejected the article, and it did not appear until August 10, 1940, in the Hearst publication Liberty. Trotsky's arguments in support of his version were highly unconvincing. He recalled that at the end of February 1923 Lenin asked for some strong poison he could take if he felt another stroke coming on. Trotsky remembers that the Politburo refused to give Lenin any poison, but in Trotsky's opinion Stalin might have done so.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 78
On Dec. 22, he [Lenin] requested Fotieva to provide him with cyanide in the event he lost the capacity to speak. He had made a similar request of Stalin as early as May, a fact in which Maria Ulianova saw proof of Lenin's special confidence in Stalin.
[Footnote]: In 1939, shortly before he was murdered, Trotsky recalled an incident at the Politburo meeting in February 1923, at which Stalin, with a sinister leer, reported that Lenin had asked him for poison to end his hopeless condition. Trotsky to the end of his life believed it likely that Lenin died from toxin supplied by the General Secretary: There was something disingenuous about Trotsky's claim, because he was in possession of a cable from Dzerzhinsky, dated February 1, 1924, that advise him that the autopsy had revealed no traces of poison in Lenin's blood: according to Fotieva, Stalin never supplied Lenin with poison.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 469
Volkogonov promised to support my rehabilitation in exchange for my cooperation. When we met on November 4th, 1989, I suggested that Volkogonov correct his account of the Stamenov episode, which had just appeared in a literary journal. He claimed in the article that Stalin had personally met Stamenov, which I knew was untrue. I myself had handled the probe to plant disinformation among Nazi diplomats, feeling out the Germans' desire for a peace settlement in 1941. When Volkogonov's book appeared, the episode was not corrected. He sticks to the version that Stalin and Molotov planned a separate Brest-Litovsk type peace treaty with Hitler,...
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 429
For no other period [the Great Purges of the 1930s] or topic have historians been so eager to write and accept history-by-anecdote. Grand analytical generalizations have come from secondhand bits of overheard corridor gossip. Prison camp stories ("My friend met Bukharin's wife in a camp and she said...") have become primary sources on central political decision making. The need to generalize from isolated and unverified particulars has transformed rumors into sources and has equated repetition of stories with confirmation. Indeed, the leading expert on the Great Purges [Conquest] has written that "truth can thus only percolate in the form of hearsay" and that “basically the best, though not infallible, source is rumor." [The Great Terror, 754]
[Footnote: Such statements would be astonishing in any other field of history. Of course, historians do not accept hearsay and rumor as evidence. Conquest goes on to say that the best way to check rumors is to compare them with one another. This procedure would be sound only if rumors were not repeated and if memoirists did not read each other's works.]
As long as the unexplored classes of sources include archival and press material, it is neither safe nor necessary to rely on rumor and anecdote.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 5
1[Footnote on page 265: The basic works on the Great Purges are uniformly based on memoir sources. Conquest, Terror, Medvedev, History: and Solzhenitsyn, the Gulag Archipelago, all rely almost exclusively on personal accounts.]
Soviet history has no tradition of responsible source criticism. Scholars have taken few pains to evaluate bias, authenticity, or authorship. Specialists have accepted "sources" that, for understandable reasons, are anonymously attributed ("Unpublished memoir of"), and treat them as primary.2
2[Footnote on Page 265: Much of the documentation in Medvedev's and Solzhenitsyn's works is of this form, as is much of the samizdat material. Such documentation is methodically unacceptable in other fields of history. One would be dubious about a footnote to the "unpublished memoir of the Duc de" in a work on the French revolutionary terror.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 211
Each of the emigre and defector sources represents a variant on the vast pool of such rumors and stories [regarding the Kirov assassination], but clearly none of them was in a position to know anything about their veracity. The authors seemed to pick the stories that fit together into particular schemes, and subsequent historians followed suit.
Indeed, in the rush to support a particular scenario, scholars have been strangely selective in their use of emigre memoirs. They have accepted and used those that supported their preconceptions and ignored those that did not. Students have embraced the rumors and flawed stories of Orlov, Barmine, and Nicolaevsky while ignoring accounts that call Kirov a "conservative," describe underground oppositionist plots in the '30s, and argue for the existence of a planned military coup against Stalin. The point is not that these unused memoirs are any more credible than the familiar ones, but that all memoir accounts should be subjected to intense critical attention that takes contradictions into account. All claims or hypotheses based solely on secondhand gossip or rumor should be rejected according to the elementary rules of evidence.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 216
One such work, however, was never published in the Soviet Union--Medvedev's Let History Judge.... It is a completely and uniformly bitter condemnation of Stalin by a former communist.
Nearly all Medvedev's work is based on the post-1956 recollections of surviving party members. Many such reminiscences appeared in the press in 1956-64, usually in connection with obituaries or anniversaries, and Medvedev apparently collected such statements and interviews as the basis of his work. He made virtually no use of central or local press sources, published material, or contemporary documentation. However, his introduction shows that he was familiar with the vast corpus of Western scholarship about Stalin, and in some places where Old Bolshevik circumstantial testimony is lacking (Stalin's hand in Kirov's death, for example), he seems to rely on Western versions.
Medvedev's is probably the most useful account of the fates of various people.... Like the previously cited works, however, its problem is the distance between his sources and central events. Like all the above sources, none of Medvedev's often anonymous informants was close enough to the center of power to tell why things were happening or indeed exactly what was happening. Medvedev is able to catalog events better than other writers, but he is not able to chronicle or analyze Moscow's decisions or attitudes with first-hand evidence. All his informants were on the "outside," and their first-hand experience extended only to themselves and their associates. Their speculations about why this happened or about Stalin's position are little better than ours.
A work that deserves passing mention because of its current popularity is the Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn.... The work is of limited value to the serious student of the 1930s for it provides no important new information or original analytical framework.
Many of the linchpins of the Western interpretation are based almost solely on an uncritical acceptance of rumors from persons not in a position to know. This is not to say that these works are worthless lies bearing no relation to the truth. They are quite valuable descriptions of personal experiments and should be taken as such. But they are not primary sources that cast light on central decision making, or even on events of a national scale. Because many of these writers were victims or opponents, they may have known less about high policy than we do.
One need only scan the footnotes of any standard account of the Great Purges to see how much of the basic material of this view comes from the speculations of these contradictory and self-serving sources, who were in no position to report anything but gossip. Most Western accounts were written during the post-World War II period, and their authors relied on emigre and defector accounts for the vital underpinnings of their view. The inaccessibility of Soviet archives on these events compounded this tendency. Yet if one applies strict rules of evidence and of source criticism to these works, accepting only that which the informant can report firsthand, several aspects of the Western interpretation collapse.
[Footnote: In Conquest's, Terror, half the notes in the chapters "Stalin Prepares" and "The Kirov Murder" are to emigre and defector raconteurs who were not close to the events they describe. Two-thirds of the references in the chapter "Architect of Terror" are to such secondhand accounts, which can in no way be tested for an account of the "architect."]
Although the main weakness of the sources is their removal from the events they so freely judge, the question of political bias is also worth considering, as it is in other areas of historical inquiry. Orlov, Trotsky, the Mensheviks, and Khrushchev were all self-interested political actors and had little incentive to produce an objective view....
...a generation of Cold War attitudes have contributed to what would be considered sloppy and methodically bankrupt scholarship in any other area of inquiry. Historians of modern Europe would not try to study the politics of World War I by relying on the memoirs of soldiers from the trenches without exhausting the available press, documentary, and archival materials.
Getty, A. Origins of the Great Purges. Cambridge, N. Y.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985, p. 218-219
Joel Carmichael writes:
"One of the principal oddities throughout this strange interval of hesitation [the period from the end of August through the end of October 1917] was that since Lenin was in hiding his place as the most authoritative Bolshevik was occupied by Trotsky, at least as far as the public was concerned. In effect this turned a man who had been an implacable opponent of the Bolsheviks for 15 years into their most authoritative spokesman...."
Such assertions are mistaken; they fly in the face of generally known facts. Trotsky's name certainly did appear side-by-side with Lenin's during the October days, but side-by-side does not mean equal. Even the broad public understood the different political weight of the two men. This was no secret to the enemies of the Bolshevik Party either. As for the "consciousness of the party," there the names of Lenin and Trotsky were not at all equal. The party had only one leader, Lenin, and he alone was the inspirer and organizer of the October Revolution. It was not accidental that, while praising Trotsky, Lenin noted that the Mezhraiontsy had "hardly been tested in proletarian work in the spirit of our party."
Carmichael 's assertions are absolutely wrong.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 101
The question of Frunze's death was not discussed at the party congress after all, but in 1926 the fifth issue of the literary monthly Novy Mir appeared with a story--Pilnyak's "Tale of the Unextinguished Moon"--that clearly implicated Stalin in Frunze's death, although the preface gave the following disclaimer:
“The plot of this story may suggest to the reader that Frunze’s death inspired it an provided the material for it. Personally I hardly knew Frunze, I was barely acquainted with him, maybe met him twice.... I find it necessary to inform the reader of this, so that the reader will not look in this sotry for real persons or events.”
Pilnyak displayed detailed knowledge of many circumstances surrounding the operation [for Frunze's stomach ulcer] and Frunze's death and stated bluntly that the "order" for the operation came from "Number One, the unbending man," who "headed the triumvirate".... It is not surprising that the entire printing of the magazine was quickly confiscated.... In the next issue of Novy Mir the editors admitted that publication of Pilnyak's story had been an "obvious and flagrant mistake."
Antonov-Ovseyenko has no doubt that Frunze's death was a political act of elimination organized by Stalin. Adam Ulam, the American historian and Sovietologist, in his book on Stalin emphatically rejects this version. He feels that the whole problem had to do with the poor organization of medical service in the Soviet Union in 1925. As early as Lenin's time the practice of party intervention in medical affairs had been introduced; obligatory rest or treatment was prescribed for many party leaders. Thus the Politburo's decision about Frunze's operation was not a rare exception. Ulam considers Pilnyak's story unquestionable slander and comments:
"It is probably that Pilnyak was put up to it by somebody who wanted to strike at Stalin. The remarkable thing is that nothing happened at the time to Pilnyak or to the editor.... Whether out of contempt for the slander or a calculated restraint, or both, Stalin chose not to react to a libel which even in a [bourgeois] democratic society would have provided ample grounds for criminal proceedings against its author and publisher."
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 158
Frunze died in October 1925 at the height of the Stalin versus Zinoviev-Kamenev contest. He himself had taken no position in the struggle. His successor as War Commissar was Voroshilov. And so rumors began to circulate that his death had been more than simply another case of medical malpractice. The story exploded in the May 1926 issue of Novy Mir (New World), then as now the leading Soviet literary journal, in an all too transparent fiction about an "army commander" whom "Number One, the unbending man," forces to submit to an unnecessary operation, during which he is medically murdered. The story, "The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon," was by the noted Soviet writer Boris Pilnyak. The issue was, of course, immediately confiscated, and the substitute number of Novy Mir carried the editorial board's frightened apology for printing anti-party slander....
This was slander, and it is probable that Pilnyak was put up to it by somebody who wanted to strike at Stalin. The remarkable thing is that nothing happened at the time to Pilnyak or to the editor. In 1937 [11 years later] they were both arrested, but on other charges,...
Whether out of contempt for the slander or a calculated restraint, or both, Stalin chose not to react to a libel which even in a democratic society would have provided ample grounds for criminal proceedings against its author and publisher.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 260-261
The opposition leaders were able to speak out as late as the autumn of 1927 through 'discussion sheets' which Pravda carried in preparation for the 15th Party Congress in December, and Trotsky was able to publish a statement in Pravda as late as August 1927. The boldest attempt of the opposition to use the open press was the publication in the literary journal The New World of 'The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon' by Boris Pilniak in May 1926. This was a barely disguised version of the death on 31 October 1926 of Trotsky's successor in the post of narkom of defense, Frunze. He had been operated on for a gastric ailment, began to recover, then died. Frunze and Stalin were supposed to have been on good terms and the General Secretary made much of his attempt to visit the patient in the hospital shortly after the operation. The deceased, an old Bolshevik turned military man, received the fullest possible honors, including an eulogy from Stalin and burial near the Lenin mausoleum. But there was a rumor that it was a case of medical murder. Frunze supposedly had been Zinoviev's candidate for narkom, while Stalin backed Voroshilov, who in fact succeeded Frunze in the post. Allegedly, the General Secretary had arranged a Politburo order to the unwilling Frunze to have the operation, during which he received an overdose of an anesthetic known to be bad for his heart, although he apparently survived the actual operation for several days.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 102
It is impossible in the nature of the case to exculpate Stalin. One might even speculate that he did not feel able to oust Zinoviev from Leningrad, while Frunze headed the armed forces. On the other hand, the evidence against Stalin is not strong, and it seems unlikely that he would have risked murder of such an important personage at this stage in his career. But the rumors that Stalin had murdered Frunze obviously served the opposition.... It was in any case, a demonstration that the absence of a reign of terror in the Soviet Union in 1926 that a writer, even a brash eccentric like Pilniak, would dream of publishing a novel that virtually accused of murder, the man whom the writer called 'Number One' and 'the unbending man'. Or that a literary journal would accept it. In fact, one journal rejected it, and Pilniak cheekily dedicated the story to the rejecting editor when it was published, adding a preposterous denial that the plot was based on Frunze's death. This was going too far. The offending issue of the journal was withdrawn, and apologies for such 'error' and 'slander', which could 'play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary', were forthcoming from both editors who were involved and the author. But the whole scandal served as much to advertise Pilniak's tale as to suppress it, and the matter was common knowledge.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 102
(J. Arch Getty)
Frustrating to historians and journalists, this strange situation has inevitably spawned a heterogeneous collection of purportedly serious writings on Stalin. In the absence of reliable first-hand testimony or revealing written evidence, and in their desperation to understand the man, writers on Stalin and his period have offered the specialized and general public a diverse but sometimes troubling bill of fare.
Although there have been some outright forgeries, the more common tradition has been to infer the details of his personal life and actions. Novelists (and novelists pretending to be historians) have presented fictitious dialogs and purported soliloquies by the dictator. Others have made dubious claims of having known him closely and many memorists have reported scenes with Stalin that they did not witness. We also now have published collections of myths about Stalin.
Consider for example the famous "Letter of an Old Bolshevik." First published in a Menshevik journal in 1936, the text reports to be the record of a conversation between Bukharin and Nicolaevsky in Paris and is the original source for several key points about Stalin. Internal inconsistencies and other problems cast grave doubt on its accuracy and even its authenticity. Nevertheless, scholars continue to cite it as evidence. Similarly, Orlov's Secret History of Stalin's Crimes has provided the bedrock evidence for another set of historical assertions. We learn here the "insiders" account of Stalin's relations with the NKVD chief Yezhov and other nefarious personalities. Yet, it turns out that Orlov was abroad during the 1930s and picked up his tantalizing tidbits as second and third hand corridor gossip.
It may well be that some of what Nicolaevsky & Orlov report is true. But the dubious origins of the works must cast doubt on their claims. How does one know what is true and what is not? Does one accept what one likes and believes and reject the rest? In most other fields of historical research, such flimsy tales would be rejected as sources out of hand. Were we to do this here, we would discover that we no longer have evidence of Kirov's moderation or Stalin's conspiracy to kill him....
In addition to suspicious memoirs and pretended letters, there is a large corpus of historical fiction and fictional history. The problems with such literary sources have been analyzed in print. They tend toward fictionalization, are tailored to produce emotional responses, and try to make moral points. Despite apparent similarities between historical and literary works as texts, they are different genres. Historians conduct research and handle data differently than do creative writers. Hypotheses are tested, discrete interpretations are discussed and documented, and evidence is carefully weighed. For example, Rybakov's Children of the Arbat, which has played a key role in anti-Stalin shock work and is even hailed as a historical source, contains numerous factual errors and flights of literary fancy. Even Volkogonov's more scholarly Triumph and Tragedy contains invented dialogue between Stalin and his clique.
Unlike historians, literateurs are generally unconcerned about verifying their sources. Consider two recent examples. First, Shatrov in his play Dal'she, Dal'she, Dal'she tells the story of Zinoviev and Kamenev being brought from prison to the Kremlin in order to be persuaded to confess. His account of this alleged event in fact closely paraphrases the first account of this tale in the spurious Secret History of Stalin's Crimes, published in the West decades after the event. It is also noteworthy that no evidence to support this tale was found in the Party Central Committee's recent exhaustive archival examination and documentary publication on the interrogation and trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev.
Second, there is the currently popular story that Lenin's Testament was never discussed at a party congress and that, if it had been, Stalinism could have been prevented. In fact, the document was considered by the Party Central Committee shortly after Lenin's death and again in a closed session at the congress in 1927. At that time, Pravda published a Stalin speech which included excerpts from it, including the part in which Lenin criticized Stalin's rudeness and called for his removal from the post of General Secretary. It was (like Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" to the 20th party congress in 1956) not published until recently. But the congress delegates who heard the Testament consisted of virtually all key party leaders and even a scattering of common folk from across the country....
The results of historical investigations into the Stalin period have in many cases been colored by two factors inherent in the subject itself. First, as we have seen, the paucity of reliable and creditable sources on the man (and even on the basic functioning of the system) has given rise to a most diverse and free-wheeling literature that often bears weak allegiance to basic rules of historical investigation. Secondly, nearly all studies have reflected the moral and political agendas of the authors. We have sometimes seen the eclipse of detailed scholarship by didactic preaching and political advocacy.
Nove, Alec, Ed. The Stalin Phenomenon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993, p. 101-103
The tale wags the dog: the critical use of sources, validity of scientific deduction, and strength of argument--the traditional measures of scholarly worth--take second place to the perceived values of the author. Reviewers worry more about the intentions of the author than about the sources or methodology involved and scholarship is transformed into a rite of exorcism. As we shall see below, this attitude is as prevalent in the former Soviet Union as it is in the West.
Politically, writing about Stalinism has meant taking a stance. Alec Nove has clearly shown how attitudes toward Stalin flow from the political agendas of the authors. The overarching importance of the Soviet Union and socialism to twentieth century political history, the strong communist, anti-Communist, and patriotic passions they have inspired, and the tendency of revolutions to create camps of winners and losers have guaranteed a partisan field of study from the beginning.
Nove, Alec, Ed. The Stalin Phenomenon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993, p. 105
But without the participation of professional historians, the process of glasnost will remain dangerously inchoate. Unevaluated and undocumented rumors, contradictory claims, and false information will continue to cloud the historical and literary air in the former USSR as they have in the West for decades.
Nove, Alec, Ed. The Stalin Phenomenon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993, p. 110
Although the "shock work" of publicist is important, it does not generally represent serious historical research. Professional historians in the former Soviet Union privately express dismay at the ability of journalists and publicists to monopolize the discourse, and many of them are appalled at statements emphasizing the primacy of political utility over objective research. Such unfortunately utilitarian approaches to scholarship sometimes even come from leading scholars.
Nove, Alec, Ed. The Stalin Phenomenon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993, p. 111
Finally, I wish I could be as "crystal clear" about what happened in the 1930s as Sergo Mikoyan is, but we still have few sources and a lot of work to do.
Nove, Alec, Ed. The Stalin Phenomenon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993, p. 140
Stories about Stalin have circulated at least since the 1920s and include aspects of his genealogy (he was said to be descended from Georgian or Ossetian princes), personal life (secret wives, amorous ballerinas, and illegitimate children in the Kremlin), and the circumstances of his youth and death. Even at this writing, characterizations of Bolshevism as a Jewish conspiracy are routinely heard even in educated circles in Moscow.
Given Russian cultural traditions, there is nothing particularly unusual about such folklore. What should be surprising is that so much of the oral tradition has found its way into the corpus of scholarly literature. Secondhand personal memoirs, gossip, novels, and lurid accounts by defecting spies eager to earn a living in the West are soberly reviewed in scholarly journals, cited in footnotes, and recommended to graduate students. Fictionalized "letters of old Bolsheviks," political histories with invented Stalin soliloquies, and even dramatic plays are routinely incorporated into academic treatments in ways that would be laughable in other national historical studies.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 40
In other words, Rittersporn is saying: “Look, I can prove that most of the current ideas about Stalin are absolutely false.’ But to say this requires a giant hurdle. If you state, even timidly, certain undeniable truths about the Soviet Union in the thirties, you are immediately labeled `Stalinist'. Bourgeois propaganda has spread a false but very powerful image of Stalin, an image that is almost impossible to correct, since emotions run so high as soon as the subject is broached. The books about the purges written by great Western specialists, such as Conquest, Deutscher, Schapiro and Fainsod, are worthless, superficial, and written with the utmost contempt for the most elementary rules learnt by a first-year history student. In fact, these works are written to give an academic and scientific cover for the anti-Communist policies of the Western leaders. They present under a scientific cover the defence of capitalist interests and values and the ideological preconceptions of the big bourgeoisie.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 127 [p. 110 on the NET]
Most of the new material seems presented to make two points long accepted in the West: the terror was widespread and that Stalin had a personal role in it. Virtually all of the latest historical revelations are aimed at illustrating these points and the documents presented seem chosen for this in mind.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 42
It is easier to reject contradictory evidence with the deus ex machina [any unconvincing character or event brought artificially into the plot of a story to settle an involved situation] of Stalin's supposed cleverness: All twists and turns, hesitations and contradictions are thus the result of his incredible deviousness, sadism, or calculating shrewdness. There is really no counter to such ahistorical assertions, except that they are based on faith: the a priori presumption of a plan and the belief that anomalies were intentionally part of it. Such elaborate constructs are unnecessary to explain events; the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions and consistent with the evidence is usually the best.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 62
Although there is a role for literary and propagandist works to force a process of rethinking upon closed minds, there is also a need for serious historical work to produce an unemotional and accurate portrayal of reality. So far we have seen relatively few serious historical works on this subject. Such work will require more than literary creativity; you'll need a professional, objective evaluation of evidence which until recently has not been available for examination.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 275
I heard, when I was still in the USSR, all kinds of stories about how my father had "killed people in moments of temporary insanity." Repeatedly people tried to make me confirm one highly improbable story about Stalin walking at his dacha--this was in winter--and seeing footprints in the snow. Calling a guard, he asked whose footprints they were. The guard did not know--he was seeing them for the first time. Stalin then drew out his revolver and shot the guard on the spot, remarking that the man "wasn't guarding him properly." No matter how many times I tried to prove that the story was out of keeping with my father's character, people did not believe me and tried to convince me that the story was true.
Alliluyeva, Svetlana. Only One Year. New York: Harper & Row, 1969, p. 364
We have been considering Stalin's psychological attitudes.
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 319
[Footnote:] Trotsky suggests that Stalin may have poisoned Lenin. But this is no more than a vague surmise, as Trotsky himself states; and it sounds unreal in view of the fact that Trotsky never leveled that charge, or even hinted at it, during the many years of his struggle against Stalin up to 1939-40, when he raised it for the first time. Apparently, Trotsky projected the experience of the great purges of the late 30s back to 1924. Yet such a projection contradicts Trotsky's own characterization of Stalin. “If Stalin could have foreseen”, says Trotsky, “at the very beginning where his fight against Trotskyism would lead, he undoubtedly would have stopped short, in spite of the prospect of victory over all his opponents. But he did not foresee anything”. Thus even after he had charged Stalin with poisoning Lenin, Trotsky still treated the Stalin of 1924 as an essentially honest but short-sighted man, a characterization that can hardly be squared with the accusation. There is also the fact that Stalin did not dispose of Trotsky himself in a similar manner, while the latter was in Russia, an act of which he would certainly have been capable if he had been capable of assassinating Lenin.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 253
Trotsky, relating the foregoing [accusing Stalin of giving him the wrong date for Lenin's funeral], added, "Stalin... might have feared that I would connect Lenin's death with last year's conversation about poison...and demand a special autopsy. It was, therefore, safer to keep me away until after the body had been embalmed, the viscera cremated and a post mortem inspired by such suspicions no longer feasible." But if Trotsky thought that at the time, he could have called for a post mortem from Sukhumi. Once more he mysteriously failed to act on his suspicions. Perhaps he only firmed up his suspicions in retrospect, when later he wanted to revenge himself on Stalin, for no other competent source thought Stalin might have poisoned Lenin.
Bazhanov, Boris. Bazhanov and the Damnation of Stalin. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, c1990, p. 255
In the intrigues following Lenin's death, he [Trotsky] was by no means straightforward, but at once "devious and faint-hearted," and his own account is "pathetic in its half-truths and attempts to gloss over the facts." [from The Bolsheviks by Adam Ulam, NY, 1965, pp. 573-575]... But Trotsky had never failed in his duty to suppress or misrepresent facts in the interests of politics. And his general reliability on the period in question could have been considered in the light of his accusation that Stalin poisoned Lenin. There is no evidence whatever that this is true, and Trotsky himself only brought it up many years later--in 1939....
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 413
...a few Western Sovietologists began to assert that the Terror had claimed far fewer victims, and that ordinary life was not affected. The writer of a Western Sovietological textbook concerned to reduce the estimates to, as he put it, a few hundred thousand or even a few tens of thousands, wrote, "Surely we don't want to hypothesize 3 million executions or prison deaths in 1937-1938 or anything like this figure, or we are assuming most improbable percentages of men dying." The key word here is "improbable." The Stalin epoch is replete with what appear as improbabilities to minds unfitted to deal with the phenomena. Similarly the argument that Stalin could not have killed millions of peasants, since that would have been "economically counterproductive." Following such leads, a new group of Westerners came forward, with singularly bad timing, in the mid-1980s and told us (in the words of one of them) that the terror had only killed "thousands" and imprisoned "many thousands." Such views could only be formed by ignoring or actively rejecting, the earlier evidence [WHAT EARLIER EVIDENCE]. This was accomplished by saying that those who produced it were opposed to Stalin and Stalinism, and therefore prejudiced, and that some of the material was secondhand. Thus it was not merely a matter of mistaken assessment of the evidence. It was, contrary to the duties of a historian, a refusal to face it.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 486
With any of these authors [Western Sovietologists and Russian dissidents], it is not difficult to find many factual errors, in exact formulations, juggling of facts, and outright distortions. This can be explained on the whole by two reasons. The first is the limited nature of the historical sources which these authors had at their disposal. Thus, the basic research for Conquest's The Great Terror consists of an analysis of Soviet newspapers and other official publications, to which are added references to the memoir accounts of several people who managed to escape from the USSR. The second reason is that the majority of Sovietologists and dissidents served a definite social and political purpose--they used this enormous historical tragedy to show that its fatal premise was the "utopian" communist idea and revolutionary practice of Bolshevism. This prompted the researchers concerned to ignore those historical sources which contradict their conceptual schemes and paradigms.
... Solzhenitsyn's book, Gulag Archipelago, contains no references whatsoever to Trotsky's works. Solzhenitsyn's work, much like the more objective works of Medvedev, belongs to the genre which the West calls "oral history," i.e., research which is based almost exclusively on eyewitness [actually secondhand--me] accounts of participants in the events being described. Moreover, using the circumstance that the memoirs from prisoners in Stalin's camps which had been given to him to read had never been published, Solzhenitsyn took plenty of license in outlining their contents and interpreting them.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. xx
However, very soon it became clear that the themes of the Great Terror and Stalinism were being used by many authors and organs of the press in order to compromise or discredit the idea of socialism. This anti-communist and anti-Bolshevik approach had largely been prepared by the activity of Western Sovietologists and Soviet dissidents from the 1960s through the 1980s, who had put into circulation a whole number of historical myths.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. xxv
Bourgeois historiography, despite its superficial objectivity and respectability, is politicized and tendentious.... This becomes abundantly clear upon reading the most substantive work devoted to the history of the great purge, Robert Conquest's book The Great Terror. Without touching on the numerous other mistakes and juggling of facts which we have found in this work, let us stop to examine the contents of the three pages (and no more) which the author felt were sufficient to illustrate Trotsky's views and activities. On these pages, Conquest managed to present no less than ten theses which remain unsupported by citations or by any other evidence, and which do not withstand criticism if they are juxtaposed with actual historical facts. Let us name several of these theses, after arranging them, so to speak, according to the chronological framework of the falsifications.
FROM HERE ON I AGREE WITH CONQUEST AND DISAGREE WITH THE TROT ROGIVIN
1. Trotsky "firmly crushed the democratic opposition within the party."
2. Trotsky was a "leading figure among the 'Leftist' Old Bolsheviks, that is, those doctrinaires who could not agree with Lenin's concessions to the peasantry. These people, and Trotsky in particular, preferred a more rigorous regime even before Stalin began to carry out such a line."
3. Trotsky "never expressed a word of sympathy for the deaths of millions during collectivization."
4. "Even in exile during the 1930s, Trotsky was not by any means a forthright revolutionary out to destroy a tyranny."
5. Trotsky did not oppose Stalin ideologically, nor did he expose him as the gravedigger of the revolution, but "simply quarreled with Stalin about which 'phase' of evolution toward socialism had been attained" in the Soviet Union.
6. Trotsky "stood, in fact, not for the destruction of the Stalinist system, but for its takeover and patching up by an alternative group of leaders."
7. Trotsky's political judgment was "unbelievably inept."
8. Trotsky's influence in the USSR during the '30s "was practically nil."
9. All these points are logically crowned with "an alternative prognosis" or "a prognosis aided by hindsight": if Trotsky had come to power, then he would have ruled only "less ruthlessly or, to be more precise, less crudely, than Stalin."...
In turn, Conquest did not think up the argument cited above, which bear the stamp of lightweight journalistic escapades. Rather he copied them from the works of anti-communist ideologues of the 1930s.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 310
But in 1950 a book appeared by the French journalist Delbar, The Real Stalin. I didn't know Delbar, but I recalled that he'd collaborated with Bessedovsky. I was interested and read the book. It was full of lies and inventions. I realized at once that it was Bessedovsky's work. Things I'd told him earlier about Stalin and other Party leaders figured in the book, but completely distorted, full of lies, and in effect an insult to the reader. In addition there was frequent mention that such and such a detail (usually false or invented) had been given to the author by a former member of Stalin's secretariat. This cast a shadow on me, since there were no other former members of Stalin's secretariat in exile. Reading the book, a specialist in Soviet affairs could be led to believe I was the source of Bessedovsky's documents.
I requested an explanation. He didn't deny having written it all and having mocked his readers. When I threatened to denounce his fabrications in the press, he replied that the book was signed by Delbar, and Bessedovsky was not officially involved: if I attacked him, I could be charged with defamation.
Bazhanov, Boris. Bazhanov and the Damnation of Stalin. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, c1990, p. 207
[At the 28th Party Congress in the summer of 1990] I was a candidate for the program commission of that Congress, but I was voted out by the orthodox Bolsheviks.
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Autopsy for an Empire. New York: Free Press, c1998, p. 474
I first met Yeltsin in 1989, and had many private conversations with him. After I was sacked from the Main Political Administration and, in June 1991, from the Institute of Military History, I became one of his advisers....
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Autopsy for an Empire. New York: Free Press, c1998, p. 503
Not everything written in the Soviet Union about Stalin and Stalinism under glasnost exuded great wisdom. Some was plainly wrong, and some writers repeated ideas and arguments that had been voiced decades earlier in the West; even the Nazi literature on the Soviet Union found some latter-day emulators.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 4
According to the new mythology that made its appearance under glasnost, much of the blame for the terror, the show trials, and the purges has to go to Trotsky because he called for the physical elimination of Stalin. Thus, Volkogonov: Trotsky's book The Revolution Betrayed, which was handed to Stalin in early 1937, was one of the last straws that broke the camel's back. An earlier version of this farfetched theory can be found in Roy Medvedev's Let History Judge, published in the Soviet Union in 1988....
What should one make of assertions of this kind? To begin with, the chronology does not fit. The first copies of The Revolution Betrayed appeared in May 1937, and even if the NKVD had worked day and night translating the book, they could not possibly have handed it to Stalin in 1936 at the time of the first trials. Indeed, in an earlier publication, Volkogonov had written that Stalin had received the translated manuscript only in late 1937.
We do not know what made him change the chronology; but whatever the reason, Trotsky's book could not possibly had driven Stalin to his "desperate decision."
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 50
Biographers of Stalin, Trotsky, and other political leaders are frequently tempted to engage in descriptions and explanations beyond what the evidence will bear out. Doing so is sometimes inevitable in view of the lack of evidence, and a good case can be made for informed guesses, as long as they are not presented as fact and certitude.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 52
Stalin might have said in a small circle that it had been a mistake to let Trotsky go in 1929 in the first place, even though there is no evidence to this effect.
But even now, after all the revelations, we cannot possibly know what Stalin thought when he read Trotsky's books or articles or when he received reports about Trotsky's activities in exile, for there is no evidence.
... If Stalin really believed that Trotsky was a deadly threat, there would have been a change in his behavior once Trotsky had been killed. But that did not transpire; Stalin's behavior in 1950 was essentially the same as it had been in the 1930s.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 53
We owe the revelations under glasnost about the arrests, interrogations, and the executions to a small number of indefatigable investigators.... Like Solzhenitsyn, they [Medvedev and Antonov-Ovseenko] relied almost entirely on oral history, that is, the recollections of prominent and not so prominent survivors.
The greatest single quantitative contribution to our knowledge was made, however, by a student in his 20s, Dmitri Yurasov.... At the age of 16 (in 1981), he installed himself in the state archives as a "palaeographer, second rank."
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 127
A retired Kharkov prosecutor named Ivan Shekhovtsov tried 17 times to bring court actions to restore the honor and good name of Joseph Stalin. The 18th time, he almost succeeded inasmuch the Sverdlovsk regional court in the city of Moscow agreed to deal with Shekhovtsov's action against the well-known White Russian writer Adamovich, who (he claimed in an article in Sovetskaia Kultura) had been guilty of criminal libel. The line taken by Shekhovtsov during the trial was that because there were no documents proving that Stalin had ever committed a crime, he must not be vilified. On the other hand, the victims of the Stalinist period from Bukharin to the academician Vavilov, had all admitted their guilt. According to Shekhovtsov, anti-Stalin hysteria was engulfing the country, and with the help of foreign radio stations, the anti-Stalinists were systematically undermining the prestige of the Soviet system....
Shekhovtsov was a member of the legal profession, and as far as he was concerned, only documents counted; all the rest was hearsay.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 270
Is it possible that this Volkogonov did not know or hear about this speech [complementing Stalin] by Churchill? It would really be strange. But his main task was to heap abuse and calumny on Stalin and thus on the USSR, on socialism and on communism. That was his main task and the task of his backers who paid for his book to be published. I can say that Volkogonov spent his time without any truth in his diatribe. His main argument was the "Cult of Personality" and even Stalin's enemies gave him his due. We would have expected a little more objectivity from our historian.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 42
Those who now accuse Stalin of this and that, absolutely did not know him, did not see him personally--only saw him in photographs or in films, or they read about him from writers who also never saw him or met him, and wrote as they liked, made of him a person who was nowhere recognizable by people like me.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 53
But today, numerous books are written about this--all historical facts are turned topsy turvy, inside out and upside down. They describe him [Bukharin] as the theoretician of the party. Khrushchev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin all rehabilitated these enemies.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 75
In the last 30 years in the press, there were hundreds of articles and many versions of attempts on Stalin's life. These so-called "truths" are nothing but fairy tales. I and my comrades who were the bodyguards of Stalin know what happened and this will be history.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 93
After the liquidation of the assassins 'corps,' Trotsky then did not constitute any danger to Stalin or the Soviet Government. But today's press is full of all versions as to the assassination plots against Stalin. For example, "Pravda" (whose current owner is a Greek millionaire), writes that Kavtaradze tried to place a bomb in the Bolshoi Theatre where Stalin was sitting in the theater box. I was then the commandant of Bolshoi Theatre security and there was absolutely no such attempt. Not Rakov, or Tukov, or Krutashev [Stalin's bodyguards] ever heard of such an attempt.
The newspaper "Niedelia-Sunday," in an article about Beria, wrote that in the Ritsa Lake, there was an attempt on the life of Stalin, that Stalin remained alive only because Beria covered him with his own body. Tukov, who was there, said: "Beria would place anyone else in front of a bullet, but never himself. There was no attempt on the life of Stalin there. This is just yellow journalism by the newspapers. What really happened there was that Beria pushed me into the water when I caught a fish. Stalin was very upset with Beria and scolded him as he would a child for this act of stupidity."
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 96
The novel by Rybakov, "Children of the Arbat," stated that Stalin was afraid of people. That is why Rybakov states when Stalin was walking on the Arbat, the security closed all the entrances to the street. This is stupid and impossible to accomplish! It is physically impossible to close all the entrances since these are thoroughfares. Stalin's car never exceeded 30 kilometers an hour and often, went as slow as 10 kilometers an hour. Stalin was never afraid of people or of the dark, as I have already written.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 97
The following point is more serious. The modern "democratic journalists" have a field day with the personal life of Stalin, thinking up all sorts of stories, innuendos, and absolute falsifications.
The "Komsomolskaya Pravda" newspaper... basing itself on the dossier of J. Edgar Hoover, chief of the FBI in the USA, printed the item that on Oct. 17, 1938, in Lvov, there took place a meeting of Stalin and Hitler. At that time, I was head of the group that traveled with Stalin in Moscow and other cities or districts in the country. At that time, my assistants were always assigned to guard Stalin--Kykov, Starostin, Orlov, Krutshev, and Kirilin. We all state that this is a vile lie that Hitler and Stalin met in Lvov! In a detailed research of archival documents by the newspaper "Glasnost," it was learned that Stalin was in Moscow all that time and was welcoming workers of the country at an official reception.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 98
The magazine "Ogonyok" printed fragments from the book of Alexander Orlov "Secret History of Stalin's Crimes." Who is this Alexander Orlov? This is Lev Feldbin, twice in Lubyanka jail. He came from the Caucasus, where he commanded some border guards. During the 1930s, this Feldbin ran away across the border of the USSR and there, he wrote this fable.
He was never close to Stalin. He only met some of the heads of the OGPU such as Commissar Pauker. He is simply a complete liar. Is it at all possible for him to see Stalin meeting Hitler, while we, his personal bodyguards, were sleeping? Stalin never carried any pistols. He always wore his army clothes, plain and simple with no braids or medals or other decorations.
Feldbin states that a bodyguard of Stalin, Evdokimov, was a Trotskyite. This is an outright fabrication! From 1930, the personal guards of Stalin were Vlasik, Rumyantsev, and Bogdanov. Regarding Evdokimov, he was only a secretary in the North Caucasus Party demanding of Stalin that he give him permission to arrest Sholokhov. Stalin put him in his place.
This same Feldman writes that Stalin asked Pauker to gather for him pornographic photographs. We, his personal guards, living with him 24 hours a day, never ever saw any such trash. In his study, the only photographs that were seen were of Bedny, Sholokov, Gorky, and Mayakovsky. The other walls were practically bare. He lived very modestly.
This Feldbin states that on the road to his Dacha, Stalin had commanded that all house-cottages on the route be demolished. Anyone who knows the reconstruction of Moscow and the outskirts will laugh at such stupidity since these districts had large apartment houses, industries built along this highway!
"Stalin was guarded at his Dacha by over 1200 guards"! This is so ridiculous that anyone with a single brain cell would know that it's a lie.
I cannot continue to list the lies by this enemy, Feldbin.
Now, to touch upon the "new sensation" that Stalin always had a "double." The newspapers "Evening Donetsk" and "Crimean Pravda" went wild with the sensation that Stalin had a double--Evsei Liubitsky. After that, "Pravda" continued to spread this lie. Why was it necessary for these newspapers to spread such terrible lies? I do not understand. The Chief Editor of these newspapers, before printing such trash, should have looked into the archives of the Central Committee ACP[B], interview former members of the Central Committee CPSU.. But that was not in the interest of the newspaper "Pravda" as we mentioned before, now owned by a foreign millionaire.
My colleagues and I, being with Stalin practically 24 hours a day, years on end, surely, we would have noticed something if there really was a "double Stalin"!
For a "Stalin's double" to be in existence, you would need to have another auto, the exact kind Stalin rode in, the same chauffeur, the same bodyguards, the same timetable, the same conference materials, the same answers, and the same mannerisms! This is absolute rubbish!
Or how could you fool the top actors of the Bolshoi Theatre, like Reizen, Lisitsian, Golovanov, Samosud, or Barsov who would have immediately noticed a double, since they were in constant contacts and meetings with Stalin?
Here are the statements of bodyguards such as Starostin who stated: "Stalin never had a double. Never did I, through 1937-1953, ever see any 'double' or anyone that I did not recognize. I was with Stalin every day going to and from the Kremlin, his Dacha, Government's Dacha in the Crimea... and in all these years, if there was a double, surely we would have seen him at least once or twice"!
The same was stated by another bodyguard, Orlov.
Stalin looked after himself, never asked anyone to shave him and dressed himself and did all the other necessary things that a person does when performing his day to day work. After the death of Kirov, he was himself always in the steam bath. Maybe the newspaper "Pravda" thought that Mrs. Butuzova, the housekeeper who washed and pressed the clothes and did the cooking, maybe that was the "double of Stalin"? He was very courteous to her and even gave an autographed portrait of himself. No one else ever received such an honor.
During the Great Patriotic War, Marshal Zhukov was his constant adviser, whom he respected very highly for his bravery, honesty, and forthright nature. He had members of the Politburo to consult with, he did not have to have any "special consultants" since Stalin was a genius in tactics and had a phenomenal memory.... He was always rational, did not use words that had no meaning or reason to be said. He could be very funny, but never liked "yes men" and people with no thoughts of their own.
When discussing things with me, Stalin would think a moment and say: "Maybe you are correct. I'll think about it."
The nurse living in the nearest dacha, Valentina Istomina, former Commandant of the guards, Semenov, Captain of the first echelon of bodyguards, Krutashev--they all state that there was absolutely no truth to these lies that enemies of the Soviet Union and Stalin are peddling now about any "double" for Stalin!
If the late Goebbels would now hear all these tales and lies, he would turn over in his grave from envy! He, throughout the war, was not able to come up with such a fantastic tale. But history will surely sweep all the dirt off the grave of Stalin.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 99-102
As is known, Khrushchev, at the 20th Congress, from the tribunal, stated that Stalin was always sitting, scared, in his iron cage. Since that time, the doors of lies have been blown open along with all sorts of fantasies that have been heaped up and said about Stalin. There is even a version that the Dacha where he worked, had iron bars on the windows, bullet-proof glass--a virtual castle.
There is also a version now that Stalin secluded himself in his fortress, that members of the Politburo decided by themselves that they would have to use flame throwers in order to get Stalin out of there! That they finally got inside this fortress and found Stalin dead!
I again repeat, there were no iron doors, double doors, all doors were made of wood, his doors were never closed, since he wanted fresh air and needed this circulation of air to help him breathe better. When they had to be locked, the keys were always in the hands of the Commandant of security of the Dacha. There were no other keys, no secret doors, no iron doors or other hiding places, as the present falsifiers try to invent today.
I again and again strongly state this, since Khrushchev tells the world things that he absolutely has no idea about, no way of proving these accusations and outright falsehoods. Khrushchev said: "I was an eyewitness when Stalin went into the toilet where there were no doors and after that, he came out in order to berate his bodyguard about how he was guarding him, his place was to be near him all the time, etc., etc.!
This is absolutely absurd that we, his bodyguards, would be requested by Stalin to go right into the toilet to be with him while he was sitting on the toilet! That Stalin would be afraid to go into the toilet himself--these are thoughts of the very sick mind!
This is absolutely the thought of a sick mind--yes, of Khrushchev's very sick mind!
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 102, 104
Let us be truthful, at last!
This was the task that I placed before myself when I started to write this book. I did not embellish anything, did not try to color anything--I tried to tell the absolute truth about Stalin, with whom I was for more than 25 years.
You can judge for yourself the humility of Stalin and the opportunism, lies, sensationalism, and traitorous acts of the present "democrats" and former "Bolsheviks" who now write and write and still cannot dislodge the genius of Stalin, even after 43 years of trying.
This is why we, people who spent the best years of our lives working together with Stalin, write and struggle against the so-called "learned" who are trying to settle old scores or, if that is not possible, of trying to rewrite history irrespective of the time that was, or write according to the present weather that is blowing an ill wind. That is why we, together, are demonstrating and fighting against those who believe the thought-up sensationalism.
Dear readers, please, be vigilant!
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 108-109
In further discussion of the way that the plans for 1942 came to be formulated, Blumentritt [Chief of the German General Staff on the Western Front and Rundstedt's assistant] made some general observations that are worth inclusion as a sidelight. "My experience on the higher staffs showed me that the vital issues of war tended to be decided by political rather than by a strategical factors, and by mental tussles in the rear rather than by the fighting on the battlefield. Moreover, those tussles are not reflected in the operation orders. Documents are no safe guide for history--the men who sign orders often think quite differently from what they put on paper. It would be foolish to take documents that historians find in the archives as a reliable indication of what particular officers really thought.
Hart, Liddell. The German Generals Talk. New York: W. Morrow, 1948, p. 197
While the average person might understandably despair at this confusing tangle of documenting evidence, one justifiably expects historians to verify and authenticate source material.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 30
American historian Arch Getty has observed that for no other period or subject, except the study of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, have "historians been so eager to write and accept history-by-anecdote." He states:
"Grand analytical generalizations have come from second-hand bits of overheard corridor gossip. Prison camp stories ("My friend met Bukharin's wife in a camp and she said...") have become primary sources on (Soviet) central political decision-making...the need to generalize from isolated and unverified particulars has transformed rumors into sources and has equated repetition of stories with confirmation."
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 89
It is a revealing characteristic of Conquest's methodology pertaining to the Soviet Union, writes Getty, that he elevates rumor and hearsay to the level of historical fact. In fact, Conquest himself has stated: "Truth can thus only percolate in the form of hearsay" and, "on political matters basically the best, though not infallible source is rumor." Getty comments: "Such statements would be astonishing in any other field of history. Of course historians do not accept hearsay and rumor as evidence."
Having baptized hearsay and rumor into the realm of historical evidence in The Great Terror (the subject of Getty's criticism), Conquest proceeds to bestow upon them the rights of confirmation in Harvest of Sorrow.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 89
A vast lot of nonsense has been written about the GPU.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 548
Written stories, biographies of people who were close to Stalin in his last days, do not agree with each other.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 18
Ligachev, a conservative figure in the Politburo until his forced retirement in 1990, told me ruefully that when history was taken out of the hands of the Communist Party, when scholars, journalists, and witnesses began publishing and broadcasting their own version of the past, "it created a gloomy atmosphere in the country. It affected the emotions of the people, their mood, their work efficiency. From morning to night, everything negative from the past is being dumped on them. Patriotic topics have been squeezed out, shunted aside. People are longing for something positive, something shining, and yet our own cultural figures have published more lies and anti-Soviet things than our Western enemies ever did in the last 70 years combined."
Remnick, David. Lenin's Tomb. New York: Random House, c1993, p. 7
Afanasyev was determined to use his new post to help open up the study of the Soviet past. Exploiting his new access to at least some Party archives, he reviewed the letters of Olga Shatunovskaya, a woman who had been a member of the Communist Party Control Committee under Khrushchev. In those letters Shatunovskaya wrote that she had collected 64 folders of documents saying that according to KGB and Party data, between January 1935 and 1941 19,800,000 people have been arrested; and of these, 7 million were executed in prisons. Her statement was supported by specific data describing how many were shot and where and when. But the files Shatunovskaya described were declared "missing."
Remnick, David. Lenin's Tomb. New York: Random House, c1993, p. 115
He [ Frunze] suffered from a chronic stomach complaint that doctors insisted required surgery, despite his protests. Stalin visited him in the hospital, where he pressured the surgeon to operate. Frunze died shortly afterward. Foul play has never been proved.
Overy, R. J. Russia's War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 27
Extravagant invention of all kinds can be found in the essay "Flight Out Of the Night" by the 76-year-old Boris Bazhanov.... At present Bazhanov is working on a new book, and from the extracts that have already been published fact seems to be combined with fiction in and extremely whimsical manner.
Medvedev, Roy. On Stalin and Stalinism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 33
Towards the end of his [Volkogonov] life, seriously ill but possessing full access to the archives, Volkogonov was hastening to complete biographies of all seven Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev. However, his outlook had shifted considerably, and he was now mainly concentrating on the exposure of negative material, without aspiring to objectivity or analysis.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 74
A more detailed, although one-sided, negative biography of Stalin has been attempted by the well-known Soviet playwright Edward Radzinsky.... In short, the book does not contain any fundamentally new material.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 74
But some former prisoners began to write memoirs or works of fiction about the camps and the repressions. The first were Solzhenitsyn in Ryazan, Shalamov in Moscow and Yevgeny Ginsburg in Lvov.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 118
According to the historian Antonov-Ovseenko, author of, Stalin and his Time, Stalin was coarse and cynical about his mother and gave orders for her to be constantly watched, assigning that task to two trusted female communists. Although he refers to the testimony of several Georgian Bolsheviks and their relatives, this is nevertheless a perfect example of pure invention.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 310
The vast majority of books on Russia written during the last years of Stalin are "Cold War" books, in which angry anti-Russian and anti-Soviet propaganda holds an infinitely larger place than any search for historical facts. Thus, the "historical" value of a classic of the Cold War literature of the time, Victor Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom, though for several years a tremendously potent weapon of propaganda against Russia, with its clear implication that dropping an atom bomb on Moscow was the only possible solution to "the Russian problem," is precisely nil. Dozens of other books of the same kind were published in the West between 1945 and 1953, and practically all of them are worthless to the present-day historian as sources of solid information, though they are, of course, significant as manifestations of the war hysteria that existed among many (fortunately not all) people in the West in the immediate post-war years.
Werth, Alexander. Russia; The Post-War Years. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co.,1971, p. x
... he [Stalin] continually revised the basic elements of the "plot" until he found the right combination of elements to suit his political needs. [Look who's talking]
Naumov and Brent. Stalin's Last Crime. New York: HarperCollins, c2003, p. 133
Vaksberg has written that the trial of the doctors was planned for March 1953..... Like Sheinis, Vaksberg has produced no evidence to support the date of the trial, the reported barracks in Birobizhan, or the alleged reallocation of railroad facilities around Moscow. Any sort of change or movement gave rise instantly to such ideas. Rumor substantiated rumor and beliefs were taken as facts.... Vaksberg's description of the "reserve tracks around Moscow...filled with freight cars [prepared to deport Jews]," however, is undoubtedly another unnecessary embellishment.
Naumov and Brent. Stalin's Last Crime. New York: HarperCollins, c2003, p. 297
No one knows exactly how Stalin died....
In this vacuum of information and consistency rumors and myths have abounded for the last 50 years.
Naumov and Brent. Stalin's Last Crime. New York: HarperCollins, c2003, p. 313
Americans have been subjected to widespread propaganda, both red and white. On no subject in the world has this been so prolific as about communism and the Soviet Union.
Davis, Jerome. The New Russia. New York: The John Day company, c1933, p. 3
It is difficult to escape the impression that close reading and in some cases the taking account of easily available sources do not necessarily characterize the researches of authors who present the "traditional" version....
This is the "secret report" presented by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the CPSU, which has been widely drawn on in the literature. And yet the possibility has never been taken seriously into account that its contents might have more to do with the political issues at the time it was compiled and the tactical objectives of its authors, rather than the realities of Soviet history....
All the indications are that it was based on rumors which were current in the USSR, or even on the memoirs of emigres published abroad, and that it was produced for the very purpose of confirming and "canonizing" the best-known version of events and phenomena that had been highly compromising for the regime....
It would certainly be na•ve to imagine that even the most attentive reading of original source material could bring to light everything that happened during that troubled period of Soviet history, when the most important events took place far from the public eye. But it would be equally alien to the professional ethic of historians to refrain from examining the available documents and to rely only on those witnesses that are the most accessible, and the most likely to confirm one preconception or another. For instance we shall see how much precious information can be gleaned from the documentation of the February-March 1937 Plenary Session of the Central Committee and from analyzing how and when it was published. That being the case, nothing can justify the author of the lengthiest work on the "Great Purge", which is based mainly on sources like the "secret report" and emigres' memoirs, for only quoting the testimony of a Soviet refugee. All the more so when the refugee was not present at the crucial session and the tale he relates is one he heard in a concentration camp in 1940 from another detainee who was not there either but had been told about it at the time....
True, it would be unfair to claim that earlier writers have completely failed to analyze original sources. But it must be noted that when they have done so they have become engrossed in the intentions of the leaders of the Party-State and their supposed prime mover, uncertain and at times downright unfathomable though these may be. So much so that their tendency to seek irrefutable proof for these intentions has brought them close to arbitrariness and tendentiousness in their choice and interpretation of the documents. Thus for example one of the favorite sources for historians: a decree in March 1935 forbidding the possession of knives and other edged weapons, which is frequently presented as a harbinger of the intensification of the terror. The authors seem unaware that other measures were being taken at about the same period to combat brigandage, armed attacks, brawls and “hooliganism," phenomena which were all apparently on the increase at the time. Nor do they ever point out that the decree in question gave exemption from the ban to ethnic groups whose traditional livelihood or national costume entailed the carrying of knives. Furthermore one should add that another decree, only a few months afterwards, made it easier for private citizens to acquire small caliber weapons which could be bought without special license until February 1938....
The need to take into account the historical and documentary context of the sources quotes does not seem to be a strong point with some writers....
Although very keen to track down documents with which to demonstrate the escalation of terror and Stalin's murderous schemes, the authors of the "traditional" version are far less ready to take account of sources which do not tend to support their theses. However, when they do do so, the conclusions they draw reveal very clearly the preconceptions that govern their approach....
In fact it is this burying of heads in the sand which is largely responsible for the tendentious quotation of source material and the ease with which authors have brought practically everything back to one single cause: Stalin. After all there's nothing easier than to attribute to him the design of virtually everything that happened over 20 years in a country covering a sixth of the earth's land-mass and home to 100 different ethnic groups. All one has to do is to set aside any possibility of a thorough examination of the social, political, and institutional context within which the regime operated and concentrate solely on the putative prime mover, refusing to touch the quite abundant material which would enable one to see the inner workings of the system.
This style of approach, instead of casting light on the origins, nature, and consequences of historical phenomena in all their complex variety, tends rather to put forward one-dimensional interpretations and over-simplified explanations which even at best have no more than a superficial documentary basis. At the same time it raises hypotheses which are really unverified, and at times frankly unverifiable, to the status of articles of faith. Thus, for example, the victims in high office who were dismissed and cruelly punished during this period: authors never tire of listing them at length and concluding from the mere fact of their fall that Stalin's murderous machinations were at work, without showing the slightest interest in what the people in question were doing, how the organizations they controlled were being run, or what disagreements they might have had with their superiors, colleagues, or subordinates....
This same very simplistic logic is in many ways what perpetuates the idea that almost all the old guard of Bolsheviks were exterminated during the "Great Purge," an allegation which is hardly borne out by the statistical facts. Certainly, since a large number of the victims of these turbulent years were officials of the Party and the state, they inevitably included a good many of the old elite who formed the backbone of the apparatus. But we should be aware that of the 24,000 party members in 1917 and the 430,000 or so militants at the beginning of 1920, there only remained 8000 and 135,000 respectively by 1927; this is but a small minority of the total membership which was estimated at over 1,200,000 by 1927 and at over 2,700,000 in 1934.... Out of more than 700,000 Party activists at the end of the Civil War there remained about 180,000 by 1934 and 125,000 at the beginning of 1939.
It therefore becomes somewhat difficult to state that the old guard of the Party had been reduced to naught, or that they were even the principal victims of the tumultuous events of 1934-1938,... As for the number of expulsions from the Party, it has been known for more than 20 years that this stood at nearly 279,000 in 1937-38 at the height of the "Great Purge." In 1933, however, more than 854,000 activists had been expelled, over 342,000 in 1934 and nearly 282,000 in 1935; these figures are all higher than in the years of the "Great Terror."
...Essentially he [Conquest] bases this on the memoirs of ex-prisoners who assert that between 4 and 5.5% of the Soviet population were incarcerated or deported during those years.
It seems improbable that men who are inside penal institutions would be able to form any exact idea either of the proportion of the population which is still at liberty or the numbers recently arrived in all the other camps and prisons, which they are not personally familiar with even though they had come to know a few by being moved around.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 7-12
In fact there is scarcely one of the writers of memoirs who can report from first-hand knowledge of affairs in the higher ranks of the Party-State, and yet it is these accounts that historians of the USSR quote most readily. It does not seem therefore entirely inappropriate to ask whether we are not dealing here with a series of rumors that were widespread as early as the 1930s, which then developed into an oral tradition and put down deep roots into the collective consciousness. These authors are cadres of the middle and lower levels of the hierarchy, persecuted intellectuals, Party activists with at best minimal responsibility, junior government officials or secret agents who defected after having passed the best part of their time abroad. They scarcely had access to the political bodies where the important decisions were made and where some of the crucial confrontations took place.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 16
In fact even the most cursory reading of the "classic" [anti-Stalin] works makes it hard to avoid the impression that in many respects these are often inspired more by the state of mind prevailing in some circles in the West, than by the reality of Soviet life under Stalin.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 23
We may gain some idea of Solzhenitsyn’s approach by checking how he uses some of the documents he refers to. He quotes for instance a decree from the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars on 7 April 1935 which, he says, "made children criminally responsible for any crime from the age of 12." It is interesting to note that he is not alone in giving an erroneous interpretation of this law, and that others too have been led to believe that it allowed children to be found guilty of political crimes; this was the general view of writers on the subject even before The Gulag Archipelago was published. A mere glance at the text in question, however, reveals that the power ofinvoking "all penal sanctions" related only to children guilty of "theft, violence, bodily harm, mutilation, murder, and attempted murder."
Solzhenitsyn is scarcely any more rigorous when he writes that the amnesty on 7 July 1945 freed "all those who had burgled apartments, stolen the clothes of passers-by, raped girls, corrupted minors, given consumers short weight, played the hoodlum, disfigured the defenseless, plundered forests and waters, committed bigamy, practiced extortion and blackmail, taken bribes, swindled, slandered, filed false enunciations...pimped or forced women into prostitution, whose carelessness or ignorance resulted in the loss of human life."... Apart from the fact that the amnesty decree expressly ruled out anyone who had been "convicted on more than one occasion of embezzlement, theft, robbery and
hooliganism" and all those guilty of "counter-revolutionary" crimes, appropriation of public property, organized crime, premeditated murder and armed robbery, in most of the cases listed by the author the clauses cited laid down penalties of more than three years imprisonment,... Similarly the terms of the amnesty of 27 March 1953, which according to Solzhenitsyn "submerged the whole country in a wave of murderers, bandits and thieves," actually did not permit the immediate release of the majority of thieves, and forbade that of almost all gangsters and murderers....
Solzhenitsyn is notorious for not liking thieves. It is no doubt this dislike which leads to his indignation at the pardon granted to those who plundered forests--mostly peasants who in certain circumstances could be sentenced to 10 years or more. This attitude also leads him to say that the penalty for stealing private property was not severe enough, when the minimum sentence from 1947 onwards was five years hard labor. He habitually contrasts political prisoners with common criminals to the point where he is prepared to state that, whereas the aggravating circumstance of having formed a "counter-revolutionary organization" was often used against "politicals," there were no special penalties for offenses committed by groups of common criminals. This view does not bear comparison with the penal code.
One might dwell at length on the inaccuracies discernible in Solzhenitsyn's work, many of which concern the fate of the leading actors in his Gulag. Thus for instance, the writer is unjust in accusing generals Egorov and Turovskii of being among the judges of the leaders of the Red Army at the famous secret trial in June 1937; their names do not appear on the list of tribunal members published at the time. But he is even more unjust when he makes people disappear in captivity and we find that, arrested though they may have been and sent to a prison camp, they sometimes did not stay there long. Thus he cites the arrest of Kuskova, Prokopovich and Kishkin, members of a famine relief committee in 1921. However, he omits to say that Kuskova and Prokopovich were expelled from the country in 1922 and Kishkin, who had already been tried on charges of conspiracy in 1919 and subsequently pardoned, benefited from a further amnesty and worked from 1923 until his death in the Commissariat of Health of the Russian Federation....
Our author [Solzhenitsyn] is equally mistaken in asserting that the biologist Lorkh was "dispatched" to Kazakhstan in the "stream" of agronomists in 1931 whose crime was to oppose the "directives" of Lysenko. We know that Lorkh was not a devoted follower of Lysenko's theories. But we also know that, before receiving the Stalin prize, he had worked from 1931 to 1941 in a research institute near Moscow. And in any case, in 1931 Lysenko was in no position to issue directives that could result in a "stream" of agronomists being sent to the camps. He was already a rising star, but his career did not really take off until 1933.
Elsewhere Solzhenitsyn talks of five historians arrested in 1929. Now the biographies of four of them are known, and we find that three of them had been exiled to work in far-away provincial institutions and the two others were free during most of the 1930s. One of the latter, Gote, was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1939. Another, Tarle, was awarded the Stalin Prize three times in the 1940s. In the same way, we can retrace the lives of eight people whom Solzhenitsyn lists among prisoners "preserved in the memory of the survivors," to find that although they had been imprisoned, with the exception of one who was forced into exile they were all pursuing scientific careers in the 1930s and 1940s.
...But we should not forget that all the while attaching little importance to faithfulness to source documents where Solzhenitsyn asserts he has consulted them--or else where he could have done so--the heart of his narrative is based on the evidence, often oral, of 227 people. Now it is by no means certain that he was more meticulous in checking them than he was in reading easily available material....
Obviously it is difficult to check the accuracy of the eye-witness accounts from which Solzhenitsyn draws so many details and conclusions.
It would be clearly unfair to jump to the conclusion that the whole Gulag Archipelago is merely a collection of legends arising from the bitter reality of a national tragedy, and from the collective struggle to resist ruthless efforts to suppress its memory by the very instigators of this catastrophe. But it would be difficult to avoid the impression that Solzhenitsyn's work is by no means an historical source unarguably exact in its every detail, but rather a mixture--and often an inextricable one--of indisputable facts and of their trace, sometimes very imprecise or distorted, preserved by a collective memory that has been more concerned about elevating a memorial to the martyrdom of its guardians than with the authenticity of its traditions. It is striking how many of Solzhenitsyn's errors support this hypothesis. Indeed every inaccuracy that we have traced shows how far he is inclined to give priority to vague reminiscences and hearsay, even when he might have checked his sources, and how far his narrative obeys the rules inherent in all oral tradition, the impulse that collective memory inevitably has towards selective bias.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 231-235
Thus even though one might say that the number of detainees committed for political reasons was considerable, Solzhenitsyn's assertion that half of the population of the camps and prisons was made up of people convicted under laws against "counter-revolutionary" crimes does not seem consistent with what we can discover from the development of penal policy and popular reactions.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 288
...the Gulag, while overestimating the number of those arrested as "counter-revolutionaries," retains very little trace of the actual reasons for their arrests or convictions but concentrates on the circumstances of their detention, on police brutality, or on the hardships of life inside the camps.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 293
Nicolas Werth, a well-regarded French specialist on the Soviet Union whose sections in the Black Book on the Soviet communists are sober and damning, told Le Monde, "Death camps did not exist in the Soviet Union."
The Future Did Not Work by J. Arch Getty, Book Review of The Passing of an Illusion by Franois Furet [March 2000 Atlantic Monthly]
...it is understandable that those who safeguarded the memory of repression concentrated their efforts on compiling a full inventory of affronts and cruelties, down to the finest detail. But we should not lose sight of the fact that they collected evidence that is often extremely hard to verify....
It is worth noting that as the witnesses of the camps in the 1930s gradually became fewer, stories began to circulate which are uncorroborated by the known accounts of their experiences, let alone what can be gleaned from consulting other sources.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 294
The equation "concentration camps = Gulag = Soviet regime" cannot be accepted therefore as an explanatory model for the highly complex realities of the Soviet Union's past. The collective memory and the literary work which form its basis cannot be taken as entirely reliable sources for our knowledge of the world of the camps or penal policy, nor apparently can that policy alone provide a sufficient explanation for the historical processes at work within the Soviet Union.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 300
What our experiences show is above all the extremely precarious state of almost all our knowledge of the social-political history of these years, as soon as we set it against a systematic and critical study of the original sources which until recent years have been greatly neglected by research.
Rittersporn, Gabor. Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications, 1933-1953. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991, p. 319
(Robert Service’s many unproven accusations)
He [Stalin] ordered the systematic killing of people on a massive scale
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 3
In applying physical and mental torment to his victims, he degraded them in the most humiliating fashion. He derived a deep satisfaction from this.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 5
Stalin had a gross personality disorder.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 10
In fact he was very far from being 'normal.' He had a vast desire to dominate, punish, and butcher.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 12
He had killed innumerable innocents in the Civil War.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 12
But his sense of traditional honor was non-existent.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 27
The Party General Secretary ordered the arrested individuals [engineers and industrial specialists] to be beaten into confessing to imaginary crimes.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 259
A succession of such trials occurred in 1929-30 Outside the RSFSR. there were trials of nationalists Torture, outlandish charges and learned-by-rote confessions became the norm. Hundreds of defendants were either shot or sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment.
[This is one of those statements which has a source but how do you know the source has any validity]
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 268
He demanded complete obedience and often interfered in their private lives.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 277
His [Vyshinsky] basic proposition that confession (which could be obtained by torture) was the queen of the modalities of judicial proof was music to Stalin’s ears.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 281
His memory was extraordinary, and he had his future victims marked down in a very long list.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 285
Yet his maladjusted personality was not the only factor at work.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 285
Quite possibly Stalin continued to have the odd fling with young communists; and, even if he was faithful to Nadya, she did not always believe him and was driven mad with jealousy.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 289
Stalin’s cultural program was an unstable mixture. He could kill artists at will and yet his policies were incapable of producing great art
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 305
At a time when peasants in several regions were so desperate that some turn to cannibalism,
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 311
They eat berries, fungi, rats and mice; and, when these had been consumed, peasants ate grass and bark.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 312
The verdict was execution by shooting. Zinoviev and Kamenev had been told that, if they confessed to involvement in the Kirov “conspiracy’ in 1934, their sentences would be commuted. But Stalin had tricked them.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 320
He never got over them: the beatings in his childhood,
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 344
Solitary again, Stalin had no peace of mind. He was a human explosion waiting to happen.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 345
His was a mind that found terror on a grand scale deeply congenial.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 345
Meanwhile Ordjonikidze’s brother had been shot on Stalin’s instructions.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 349
Tukhachevsky was shot on 11 June; he had signed a confession with a bloodstained hand after a horrific beating.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 349
Nearly all the accused [at the Bukharin trial] had been savagely beaten.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 355
Two days later [after the Bukharin trial] Stalin approved a further operation to purge “anti-Soviet elements.’ This time he wanted 57,200 people to be arrested across the USSR. Of these, he and Yezhov had agreed, fully 48,000 were to be rapidly tried by troiki and executed.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 355
He [Stalin] had killed Kaganovich’s brother Moisei
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 374
Stalin the Leader was multifaceted. He was a mass killer with psychological obsessions.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 379
Stalin had Maria Svanidze arrested in 1939 and sent to a labor camp. Her husband Alexander Svanidze also fell victim to the NKVD: he had been arrested in 1937 and was shot in 1941. Alexander behaved with extraordinary courage under torture and refused to confess or beg for mercy.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 434
Tortures previously reserved for non-communists were applied to Rajk, Pauker, and Slansky. The beatings were horrific.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 520
An administrative behemoth ran the USSR whose master was the pockmarked little psychopath.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 538
Mikhoels was killed in a car crash on Stalin’s orders in 1948.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 577
As is not unusual in such a situation, proof is lacking; but circumstantial evidence filled the gap for the gossip-mongers.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 17
There is hardly any possibility of verifying that story, which comes, we must not forget, from Stalin's bitterest opponents.
Trotsky , Leon , Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 29
[Footnote]: In general, the testimony of this police defector [Orlov] should be treated with reserve. He was out of the Soviet Union during most of the period he wrote about and must have relied mainly on gossip that was making the rounds in the police. Some of this probably was based on fact, but Orlov does not appear to have been able, or perhaps willing, to make a serious effort to discriminate between the more reliable stories and the less probable. Although he claimed that he took with him from Russia 'secret data' on Stalin, none of this has ever appeared. Rarely can his assertions be verified from other sources, but it is reasonably safe to describe as imaginary his assertion that Stalin once explained to foreign 'writers' why there was no documentary evidence in the purge trials. In fact, Stalin's few press interviews are well established, and none deal with any such thing.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 360
DURANTY IS A FAIR SOVIET CRITIC
DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE SHOULD BE A MAIN SOURCE FOR FACTS
CONQUEST ADMITS HIS FIGURES LACK PRECISION
...But of course not all hearsay and not all rumour is true [which implies most is]. On political matters basically the best, though not infallible, source is rumour at a high political or police level.
MEMORIAL SHOULD BE BUILT FOR THOSE FIGHTING FOR SOCIALISM NOT AGAINST IT
ANTI-STALIN WRITERS ADMIT THEIR BIAS AND PREJUDICE
SUMMARY OF CONQUESTS DECEPTIONS IN THE GREAT TERROR
MEDVEDEV MAKES ONE STATEMENT AFTER ANOTHER WITHOUT A SHRED OF EVIDENCE
THE IMAGE PEOPLE ARE GIVEN OF STALIN HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH REALITY
MEDVEDEV SAYS SOLZHENITSYN’S GULAG BOOK IS VERY CONTRADICTORY
STUPID COMMENTS BY ROBERT SERVICE
LOTS OF LIES BEING WRITTEN ABOUT STALIN BY PEOPLE WHO NEVER MET OR KNEW HIM
THE SKILLFUL TRICKS AND DECEPTIONS OF CAPITALIST PROPAGANDA
IT IS BETTER TO BE CURSED THAN PRAISED BY CAPITALISTS
KHRUSHCHOV IGNORES STALIN’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS & GIVES THE BOURGEOIS DESCRIPTION
CONQUEST IS A PAID PROPAGANDA AGENT AND LIED ABOUT STALIN
We would like to open a brief parenthesis for Solzhenitsyn. This man became the official voice for the five per cent of Tsarists, bourgeois, speculators, kulaks, pimps, maffiosi and Vlasovites, all justifiably repressed by the socialist state.
Solzhenitsyn the literary hack lived through a cruel dilemna during the Nazi occupation. Chauvinist, he hated the German invaders. But he hated socialism even more passionately. So he had a soft spot for General Vlasov, the most famous of the Nazi collaborators. Although Solzhenitsyn did not approve of Vlasov's flirt with Hitler, he was laudatory about his hatred of Bolshevism.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 178-179 [p. 156 on the NET]
Solzhenitsyn's politics are those of the extreme right in the West. He is opposed to detente, to wars of national liberation, to multiparty parliamentary forms. He advocates an active and aggressive Western offensive against the Soviet Union and the abandonment of detente.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 288
BEFORE HITLER BRITAIN LED THE ANTI-SOVIET CRUSADE
Until Hitler's coming to power, Great Britain had led the crusade against the Soviet Union. In 1918, Churchill was the main instigator of the military invervention that mobilized fourteen countries. In 1927, Great Britain broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and imposed an embargo on its exports.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 196 [p. 184 on the NET]
MEDVEDEV IS A BOGUS SCHOLAR WHO RELIES ON GOSSIP RATHER THAN DOCUMENTATION
On the question of socialism, as indeed on other questions, the attacks on Stalin and 'Stalinism' are almost always attacks on Lenin and Leninism. In order to show the correctness of this statement it would be useful to look at a book called Let History Judge written by a Soviet bourgeois intellectual by the name of Roy Medvedev. Medvedev attacks Stalin but 'praises' Lenin. Medvedev's attack on Stalin is not based on any facts or documentation, but on mere gossip and the fertile imagination of a bourgeois brain whose input in terms of fabrication is unlimited. Even the reactionary anti-communist columnist Edward Crankshaw, one of the reviewer's of this book in the Observer of March 26, 1972 had to admit that Medvedev was "denied access to all official archives". This however, does not prevent Crankshaw from agreeing with, and admiring, Medvedev's attack on Stalin, the reason for this being that "this book is high drama of a gifted intellectual wrestling for the truth, guided only by his inner light." This is how 'truth' is established by the bourgeois mind, i.e., by completely ignoring the facts and relying on one's "inner light."
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 163
FOR GOOD REASON STALIN WAS AMONG THE MOST HATED OF BOURGEOIS ENEMIES
PARES COMPLIMENTS THE SYSTEM BUT IT NOT AN ADMIRER OF IT
ANTI-STALIN WRITERS HAD AN AX TO GRIND AND WERE BIASED