]]]]]]]]]]]       COMING TO TERMS WITH THE PAST     [[[[[[[[[[[
                      By Robert Conquest
(Robert Conquest, a historian, is Senior Research Fellow at the
            Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

       From National Review, 10 March 1989, pp. 14:2-16:1

            [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   The extent of the long-drawn-out  Stalin terror is now at last
being  fully  and  irrefutably  demonstrated.   The  key question
remains, how many suffered?
   The Soviet press has lately --  so far in piecemeal fashion --
been giving figures for those killed, imprisoned, and deported in
Stalin's time which  match those long since  deduced in the West,
but  denied  in  Moscow  and   often  rejected  as  excessive  or
incredible by  some in  the West  as well.   In a  book published
twenty years ago  [The Great Terror  (1968)], I was  able, by the
careful handling of a variety of  sources, to reach a rough total
of twenty million deaths  -- with the proviso  that this might be
an underestimate by as much as 50 per cent.
   There  is  now   talk  in  Moscow   of  high-placed,  official
demographers and  statisticians having  used unpublished material
to produce a set of figures  for terror deaths in the same range.
They hope to be able to publish these in the fairly near future.
   In Stalin's time,  little of this was  fully known abroad.  It
was even possible  to distort the  facts of the  terror famine of
1932-33, which  took place  over a  huge area  penetrated by many
foreigners.   As  to the  mass  executions, and  the  even larger
numbers sent to --  and dying in --  the forced-labor camps, they
were kept  even more secret.   The official line  was that Stalin
killed very few people, and sent only a small number of others to
humanely  run ``corrective  labor camps.''   Some truth  came out
officially in  Khrushchev's time --  but no figures;  and for two
decades thereafter nothing or  less (``less'' being, for example,
the de-rehabilitation of some rehabilitated under Khrushchev).
   The  scent  had been  confused  by  the Soviet  census  of the
period.   The results  of  a census  taken  in January  1937 were
suppressed  and members  of  the Census  Board  were shot  as ``a
serpent's   nest  of   traitors  in   the  apparatus   of  Soviet
statistics,''  who  had  ``exerted  themselves  to  diminish  the
numbers of the population of the  USSR.''  A new census was taken
in 1939.  It naturally failed to  carry much conviction -- but it
has even now been used as authentic by some Western ``scholars.''
Soviet   statisticians   have,  indeed,   lately   rebuked  them,
explaining that there were two reasons for rejecting the figures:
first, that Stalin had announced them before the Census Board had
examined the data;  second, that deaths in  prison or labor camps
had not been included.  Such were  the problems, or some of them,
that bedeviled the research.
   Reasonably accurate estimates of the numbers sent to the labor
camps have  been available  for forty  years at  least.  But they
were based on  evidence that, though  varied and cumulative, came
from defectors, escapees,  Poles, and others  ill-affected to the
regime: so they were rejected.  They  still are, by a few Western
(mostly American) academics.   This year, Soviet  accounts by the
dozen confirm them.
   A Moscow scholar  prominent in the  field estimates 15 million
peasants were  deported to the  Arctic in 1930-2,  two million of
the able-bodies males among them  to the forced-labor camps.  (My
deportation estimate in  The Harvest of Sorrow,  1986, was ten to
12  million.)  At  least a  third  of them  are believed  to have
perished.  Then  Moscow has published  the figure  of six million
dead (I made  it around seven  million) for the  terror famine of
1933,   now   referred  to   bluntly   as   a  ``murder-famine,''
``artificial,'' and ``consciously''  planned.  Figures indicating
seven to eight million arrests  in 1937-38 have also appeared; 17
million in the  labor camps over  the whole period  have been put
forward;  16   million  post-Stalin   rehabilitations  have  been
mentioned  publicly.   And  at  least  a  million  executions for
1937-38 (not counting executions inside camps) have been given --
the same figure  as my own,  reached in 1968.   But in now looks,
from other Soviet evidence, that this may be an underestimate.
   For  the  Kuropaty  NRVD execution  site  has  been discovered
outside the Byelorussian capital,  Minsk.  The Soviet estimate of
the  bodies  in mass  graves  in  the area  already  examined was
102,000;  but  the  chief  investigator  has  just  published  an
estimate of 250,000 to 300,000 for  the whole site.  And this for
the capital of a  minor Soviet republic --  with five other sites
around  still   awaiting  investigation,  and   others  near  the
Byelorussian  provincial capitals!   Even  allowing for  the fact
that these  executions include, after  1939, many  from the newly
annexed Western Byelorussia,  the numbers imply  a slaughter on a
rather larger scale than any of us imagined.  But there are still
men   in   Western   ``Sovietological''   posts   writing  books,
misleading students,  even writing  Op-Ed pages  in the  New York
Times, who have claimed, and  continue to claim, that Stalin only
killed a few thousand, or a  few ten thousand: numbers that would
fit into a  single corner of the  single Kuropaty mass gravesite.
As  for  total  victims  of   the  whole  Stalin  period,  Soviet
assessments in the last few months  are giving a figure of twenty
million killed and at least as many imprisoned and deported.
   The Russian poet  and Nobel Prize  winner, Joseph Brodsky, has
written that Westerners  simply cannot face the  idea of a regime
(a  ``socialist''  one  too)  that  killed  tens  of  millions of
innocents,   so   they  turn   their   indignation   against  the
``mustachioed  colonels'' and  other comprehensible  targets.  In
fact, the main reason Westerners  -- including alleged experts --
failed to  understand the Soviet  phenomenon was  that they could
not believe  Stalin's acts  were possible.   That is  to say they
made  unconscious or  conscious  assumptions that  did  not admit
certain types of reality. Their minds were, in fact, irremediably
parochial.  As Orwell said, it  took an effort of the imagination
as well as of the intellect to grasp Stalinism.
   It  does  indeed  require such  an  effort  to  understand the
enormity of the blow to  the consciousness of the Soviet peoples,
the hideous effect of  the vast slaughter, of  year after year of
fear,  of forced  falsification,  of denunciation  and treachery.
For when we  register the millions  of dead, we  must also recall
that even larger  numbers underwent various  phases of the terror
and just  survived.  One Soviet  article, in  a government organ,
has already stated  that in the terror  against the peasantry, in
1930-33, 25 million  people were ``dead  or half-alive'' and that
``no fewer'' suffered in the  post-1937 phases.  Another tells us
that even  for the ``few''  who did not  have relatives arrested,
extreme fear  penetrated their  whole existence.   The effect has
not yet worn off.
   If we do not fully grasp  the Soviet past we cannot understand
the  Soviet present,  and  so cannot  understand  the present-day
world.

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