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Three Famous Russians

“One wonders whether Stalin’s hatred of Trotsky, one of the most passionate in history (with three floors of the Lubyanka [KGB headquarters] devoted to his destruction), was to some extent ‘racial.’ It is, anyway, all of a piece. Anti-Semitism is an announcement of inferiority and a protest against a level playing field – a protest against talent. And this is true, too, of the most hysterical, demonizing, millenarian versions of the cult, according to which a tiny minority, the Jews, planned to achieve world domination. Now how would they manage that, without inordinate gifts? It is said that anti-Semitism differs from other prejudices because it is also a ‘philosophy.’ It is also a religion – the religion of the inadequate. When tracing the fateful synergy between Russia and Germany, we may recall that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the ‘warrant for genocide’ as it is called in Norman Cohn’s book of that name, was a fiction composed by the Tsarist secret police. […]

The proximate cause of [Stalin’s] final delirium was evidently the emergence of the state of Israel in 1948 and the arrival, later that year, of the new ambassador, Golda Meir, who attracted a crowd of 50,000 Jews outside the Moscow synagogue. This was a shocking display of ‘spontaneity’; it also confronted Stalin with an active minority who owed an allegiance other than to ‘the Soviet power’. He is supposed to have said: ‘I can’t swallow them, I can’t spit them out.’ In the end, it seems, he decided to do both. The Jews who survived the gauntlet were meant to end up in Birobidzhan on the Chinese border and in other parts of Siberia where, according to Solzhenitsyn, ‘barracks had already been prepared for them’… Solzhenitsyn believes that the pogrom was to be launched at the beginning of March by the hanging of the ‘doctor-murderers’ in Red Square. But then, too, at the beginning of March something else happened: Stalin died.

It is perhaps controversial to suggest that Iosif Stalin in his last years was capable of further spiritual decline. But one is struck by the loss, the utter evaporation, of his historical self-consciousness, suggesting some sort of erasure in a reasonably important part of Stalin’s brain. ‘Anti-Semitism is counterrevolution,’ Lenin once claimed. Anti-Semitism was the creed of the Whites, of the Tsarists… against whom the young Stalin might have stood in line on the streets of Russia’s cities. Anti-Semitism was for the rabble and the Right. In turning to it, the world’s premier statesman, as he then was, also squandered the vast moral capital that the USSR had accumulated during the war: Hitler’s conqueror, incredibly, became Hitler’s protégé.”

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Pulled from Martin Amis’s engrossing short history of Stalin and the origins of the Soviet Union Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million.

Among the most renowned Anglo-American historians of the Soviet Union is 98-year-old Hoover Institute fellow Robert Conquest, a familial friend of Amis and the first Western scholar to describe Stalin’s terror-famine as a purposeful, premeditated genocide. The book in which he makes that claim, The Harvest of Sorrow, opens with the following:

We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book.

That single sentence is 3,040 lives. His book runs over 400 pages.

Pictured: Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky at the Eighth Bolshevik Conference in March, 1919.

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