Daniel Davies: "as always the economists are the most romantic and least realistic of characters, persisting... with the dream that the underlying model is basically sound, and a few technical changes will make it possible…"
Lawrence Summers: What Do We Need? More Fiscal Expansion in the Credit-Worthy Core! When Do We Need It? Now!!

Soviet History: No, the Kirov Murder Was in No Sense a Turning Point

Daniel Davies:

[The Soviet system] killed quite a lot more people than Nazism but (for the most part, and after the 1920s) in a less obviously criminally insane way…

Chris Bertram:

I think I can’t be parsing this sentence correctly. The really criminally insane killing in the USSR happened after the Kirov assassination, which is 1934…

Marcel:

I think I can’t be parsing this sentence correctly. "The really criminally insane killing in the USSR happened after the Kirov assassination, which is 1934…" What about the “destruction of the kulaks” and associated “famine” in the Ukraine starting after 1929? Millions died in that, 3 million I think. So I agree that the dates are not quite right either, but I think bad things started before 1934…

J. Otto Pohl:

There was a lot violence in the Civil War 1918-1920, but it was on a much smaller scale than what happened later in the 1930s and 1940s. It is hard to come up with good estimates, but excluding the massive famine of 1921-1922, the Bolsheviks might be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths during this time.

The mass waves of repression in the USSR were concentrated between 1928 and 1953 under Stalin. There were three big ones.

The first was the 1930-1931 “dekulakization” followed by the 1932-1933 famine. Officially recorded deaths by the OGPU for kulak special setters during the 1930s are just under 400,000, but they don’t include the years 1930 and 1931. Oleg Khlevniuk estimates that the real number including these first two years is closer to 600,000. The three million figure for famine deaths is too low and would only be excess deaths in Ukraine. If you include the losses in the Volga, Kuban, Kazakhstan, Crimea (which was part of the RSFSR not Ukraine then), and other areas it is around five million.

Then there was the Great Terror of 1937-1938. The recorded number of death sentences is a little under 700,000.

Finally there were the mass deportations of nationalities during WWII. The Russian-Germans in 1941 constituting about half of this number followed by various North Caucasian groups, the Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks in 1943-1944. The best estimates of excess deaths here comes from Dalkhat Ediev and is close to 500,000. The official GULag death toll including both Corrective Labor Colonies (ITK) and Corrective Labor Camps (ITL) is a little over 1.6 million for 1934-1956. One often sees figures that only include ITL deaths from 1934-1953 which bring down the number significantly to less than 1.1 million. But these figures are incomplete and do not include transit deaths or deaths after release and release of prisoners about to die was an official policy. GUPVI the other camp archipelago (POWs and foreign internees) recorded in excess of another 500,000 deaths. But only people who actually survived transit from the Front Camps to the GUPVI camps were ever registered. Those that died before arriving were never registered.

Given the existing gaps in the data is quite probable that the number of excess deaths due to communism in the USSR probably over 10 million. That puts it numerically in the same ball park as the Nazis. But, I wouldn’t argue that it was a lot more.

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