The Big and Ugly


Oh, what the heck.  How about a little Russian history?  I like Russia.  Not everything about it… but a lot.  It has an incredible story, which continues today.   Not to mention, these little meat pies they have there.  If someone said, right now… let’s get on a plane, hop over to St. Petersburg, and pick up a few of those yummo meat pies… I’d be in.

But it isn’t going to happen tonight.  So I’ll write, instead.

Let’s jump back to 1934.  In the U.S., the Great Depression was rolling along at a pretty good clip.  In fact, the entire world seemed a bit off balance.  We had just finished one World War, and we were on our way to the next.

But over in Russia, there were a bunch of folks who were NOT happy with the likes of Joseph Stalin.  In case you haven’t heard, Stalin was one of the bad-nastiest people in all of history.

Under Stalin’s rule….. the concept of “Socialism in One Country” became a central tenet of Soviet society.   His view was very much at odds with  Leon Trotsky’s view.  And THAT was…..  that socialism must be spread through continuous international revolutions.

So Stalin became pretty good at expanding his own power… all the while eliminating any opposition.

I’ll give you a little rundown.  Shortly before… during… and immediately after World War II… Stalin conducted a series of “deportations” on a huge scale.  These “relocations” profoundly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union.

The numbers run a bit like this.

It is estimated that between 1941 and 1949 nearly 3.3 million people  were deported to Siberia and the Central Asian republics.   It is freaking cold and barren in both those places.   By some estimates up to 43% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.  And freezer burn, I’ll bet you.

These numbers don’t even account for the 40,000 people he just ordered executed.  Stalin once said this….  “Who’s going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years’ time? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one.”

Great.  Who’s going to remember?

Back to 1934. The thick of it.

There was a guy.  Sergey Kirov.  Sergey was a leader of the Russian Revolution and a high-ranking member of the Politburo.  He opposed Stalin.  Heavily.  Sergey Kirov was Stalin’s political rival… and was making gains.

Well… it did not turn out so well for Sergey.  He was shot to death at his Leningrad office by Communist Party member Leonid Nikolayev …. at the instigation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

It gets worse … here is the deal.

Kirov’s assassination served as the basis for seven separate trials and the arrest and execution of hundreds of notable figures in Soviet political, military, and cultural life.

It was a bit of a mess.  Each trial contradicted the others in fundamental details.   And then….. different individuals were found guilty of organizing the murder of Kirov by different means and for varying political motives.

This did not make Stalin happy.
And….  it had a ripple.  The Kirov assassination trials marked the beginning of Stalin’s massive four-year purge of Soviet society…. that one….. in which millions of people were imprisoned, exiled, or killed.

So.  Just a little piece of happy history, to jump start your Friday.  But.  Stalin asked an important question in all of this. “Who will remember?”

Well.  I’ll tell you.

I’ll remember.
And I know there are more…. who remember.
Those of us who remember, might have to remind others… that this world can turn quite dark and dangerous…. on a dime.

We can never again fall silent to the Stalins, and the Hitlers.  We cannot let hatred rule.

And.  We can’t forget.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. — Thomas Jefferson
Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.   —  Plato

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech. — Benjamin Franklin