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Joseph Stalin


  • Originally published 09/05/2013

    Putin's No Stalin

    Sure, he's a repressive autocrat, but Putin hasn't killed millions of people.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Stephen F. Cohen: Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, Truth-Teller Who Exposed Stalin’s Crimes

    Stephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University. His Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War and his The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin are now in paperback. One of the last and irrepressible truth-tellers about the Stalin era, who themselves experienced the horror of those years, has died. Having lost both his mother and father in the 1930s, in the tyrant’s prisons of torture and execution, Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko was arrested three times (in 1940, 1941 and 1948) and spent nearly thirteen years in Gulag forced-labor camps, including the infamous complexes at Pechora and Vorkuta.Anton had one mission, as he passionately declared in my presence many times during our thirty-seven-year friendship: “To unmask Stalin, his henchmen and their heirs.” The first major result was Anton’s book Portret tirana (Portrait of A Tyrant), written in the 1960s and 1970s, long before it could be published in Russia, but published in English in New York in 1981 as The Time of Stalin. It remains one of the monumental works of historical truth-telling of the pre-Gorbachev and pre-glasnost era, along with Roy Medvedev’s Let History Judge and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Anton Antonov Ovseyenko, Who Exposed Stalin Terror, Dies at 93

    “It is the duty of every honest person to write the truth about Stalin,” Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, a Soviet historian and dissident, wrote in the preface of his seminal book “The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny,” published illegally in 1981.A survivor of the gulag whose parents died in Stalin’s purges, Mr. Antonov-Ovseyenko spent a lifetime in almost fanatical devotion to that duty, working until his death on Tuesday in Moscow at 93 to expose the darkest truths of the Soviet era.His books cracked through the shell of Soviet censorship that surrounded much of the Stalin-era brutality, offering readers at home and in the West a vivid portrait of tyranny and violence....

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Facing a dark past in Russia

    IN SOVIET times, it was the ideological caprice of the moment, rather than any open-ended research into the past, that determined how people were taught to view the different phases of their country's history. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution, official history lessons denounced the Tsars for their cruel treatment of smaller nations. Then the Russian empire was rehabilitated as a "lesser evil" than its weaker neighbours; and as Stalin's repression reached its height, his regime and its ideological masters began to find merit in the savageries of Ivan the Terrible. There was a sardonic saying that summed up these dizzying fluctuations: "The future is known—it's always bright—but the past keeps changing."  

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    Ward Wilson: The Bomb Didn't Beat Japan... Stalin Did

    Ward Wilson is a senior fellow at the British American Security Information Council and the author of Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons, from which this article was adapted.The U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Japan during World War II has long been a subject of emotional debate. Initially, few questioned President Truman's decision to drop two atomic bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, in 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that, although the bombs did force an immediate end to the war, Japan's leaders had wanted to surrender anyway and likely would have done so before the American invasion planned for November 1. Their use was, therefore, unnecessary. Obviously, if the bombings weren't necessary to win the war, then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. In the 48 years since, many others have joined the fray: some echoing Alperovitz and denouncing the bombings, others rejoining hotly that the bombings were moral, necessary, and life-saving.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Debate rages in Russia over history textbooks

    As part of his effort to promote patriotism among younger generations of Russians, President Vladimir Putin has proposed creating a single set of history textbooks for schoolchildren, arguing that there should be more consistency in what students are taught and that textbooks should be free of internal contradictions and ambiguities.Speaking at a meeting of the Kremlin council on interethnic relations in February, Putin said textbooks must be "designed for different ages but built around a single concept, with the logical continuity of Russian history, the relationship between the different stages in history, and respect for all the pages of our past." He called for specific proposals to be prepared by November.Advocates of the new textbooks say discord in the historical narrative has brought about a lack of patriotism in the country, while opponents say they fear that failures of state policies will be omitted to promote a more positive image of the country, with the emphasis exclusively on victories and achievements....

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Georgia's On Again/Off Again Relationship with Joseph Stalin

    Stalin in 1945.During the 1990s, post-Soviet Georgia initially struggled to foster democracy. Its government was marked by former Soviet bureaucrats and widespread corruption. However, after the largely peaceful, pro-democratic Rose Revolution of 2003, Western educated Mikhail Saakashvili became president and rekindled hopes for democracy in post-Soviet Georgia. Since his inception, the new president has initiated a wave of reforms in order to bring Georgia out of Russia’s shadow and into the Western spotlight. Saakashvili’s reforms included restructuring of Georgia’s police forces, streamlining the bureaucracy, and facilitating economic growth, but also crackdowns on the separatist regions of Svaneti, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Though the latter endeavor eventually failed, Georgia under the tenure of Saakashvili accomplished a substantial rapprochement with the United States and Europe in a bid to include his country into NATO and the European Union.

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Home towns struggle with legacy of Stalin and Hitler

    The birth towns of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler are divided on the issue of how to deal with the legacy of the dictators who slaughtered millions.In some ways it would be hard to imagine two more different places than Gori in Georgia and Braunau am Inn in Austria.Gori, with its crumbling Soviet-era apartment blocks, is set in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains.You can still see scars from the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, when Russian troops entered the town.It is poor. Even in winter, pensioners try to earn a few pennies, helping cars to park.Braunau, by contrast, is a comfortable little Austrian town, with a beautifully preserved medieval centre.Cross the bridge over the Inn river, close to the main square, and you find yourself in Germany, in Bavaria - one of the wealthiest parts of Europe....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Samuel Rachlin: Stalin’s Long Shadow

    Samuel Rachlin, a Danish journalist based in Washington, was born in Siberia, where his family lived in exile for 16 years, and came to Denmark at age 10. A collection of his essays, “Me and Stalin,” was published in Danish in 2011. SIXTY years after Josef Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, Russia is still struggling whether to view him as mass murderer or a national hero. Although his name and statues have been almost absent from Russia since the de-Stalinization campaign that followed his death, he continues to impose himself onto Russia’s political discourse far more prominently than Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state whose body still lies in the mausoleum on Red Square.Although Russians know more about Stalin’s crimes than they did ever before, many politicians and historians want to pull him out of the shadows and celebrate him for his role in the industrialization of the young Soviet state and the victory over Nazi Germany.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    60 years after Stalin's death, Russia still divided on legacy

    MOSCOW — Devotees of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, whose brutal purges killed millions of innocent citizens and made his name a byword for totalitarian terror, flocked to the Kremlin to praise him for making his country a world power Tuesday, while experts and politicians puzzled and despaired over his enduring popularity.Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov led some 1,000 zealots who laid carnations at Stalin’s grave by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, praising him as a symbol of the nation’s “great victories” and saying that Russia needs to rely on this “unique experience” to overcome its problems....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Stalin theatre show sparks controversy

    A theatrical show at Moscow's Andrei Sakharov Museum about Joseph Stalin — who died 60 years ago today — has sparked criticism from relatives of those who died in the Communist leader's prison camps.Stalin, who led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953, is being remembered in the exhibition, which features testimony by descendants of officials who were part of his regime. The officials' personal, anonymous accounts are read by actors, and identified only by numbers."My grandfather was in charge of the construction of the Moscow-Volga Canal," reads number 13, alluding to Stalin's giant project in the 1930s built by Gulag prisoners, tens of thousands of whom died in inhumane conditions."It is not good to be a head of a (labour) camp. But my grandfather sincerely believed in his mission . . . In the end, I am not ashamed," the testimony concludes....