‘Has There Ever Been a Country Other than Russia that has Killed More of Its Own Citizens than Aggressors have?’

Paul Goble 

Staunton, January 28 – As the Russian Federation moves toward the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Russian officials and commentators are ever more frequently pointing to the enormous human losses the Soviet population suffered as a result of the German invasion.


            But the question that Russians should be focusing on now, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, is a different one and it is this: “is there any country in the world [which more than Russia] in which its own authorities have inflicted demographic losses on its population orders of magnitude greater than any outside forces?” (echo.msk.ru/blog/v_inozemcev/2578170-echo/).


            The losses Russia suffered in wars are truly grievous but the losses its own government inflicted on the population both directly through police actions and indirectly through policies causing mass starvation were much larger in the horrific 20th century through which the country has passed, the Russian economist says.

     In World War I, for example, the Russian army lost some 2.2 million people, but in the Russian Civil War that followed, the country suffered at least eight million dead. And one must add to that the famine of 1921-1923 which carried off an additional two to three million lives and collectivization and the Holodomor which cost “no less than three million,” Inozemtsev says.


            Moreover, during the year of the Great Terror, at least 700,000 Soviet citizens were shot and “up to two million” sent to the GULAG from which many did not return alive. And that process continued right up to the death of Stalin, adding millions of additional victims.


            The Soviet army and population lost millions of lives during World War II but not all of those are attributable to the invaders. Many were the result of Soviet state policies. And as the Soviet military moved westward, the Soviet secret police deported those who resisted their advance by executions and deportations, adding to the deported peoples from the Caucasus.


            “the question which ought to be raised in connection with this is not how good or bad Stalin was or who unleashed the horrific conflict of 1939-1945. Instead, it is whether there is in the world any country in which its own rulers inflicted demographic losses on its own people orders of magnitude more … than any outside force?”


            Those losses include both “direct” ones via political repression, genocide for class, religious or nationality reasons, and famine by mistake or by intension as well as “indirect” ones like unjust distribution of resources, the unleashing of unnecessary wars, and the misallocation of resources to the population.


            Some may insist that China has killed even more of its own people, Inozemtsev says; but the record suggests that even its mass murders paled in comparison with the losses the Chinese people suffered during the war with Japan. But however that may be, Russia certainly has had regimes that have killed more people than any invaders have.


            And that reality is something Russians need to remember “every time we hear about the need ‘to strengthen the state and its institutions.’ Because however dangerous have been foreign enemies, their own state and its ‘individual representatives’ were for Russia (at least over the course of the last century) much more horrible.”

(c) Window on eurasia

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