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March 28, 2005 by AK

From Marxism to Stalinism, last post for now

Skipping two decades and a few years, fast forward to 1940. For Stalin’s retinue, killing off two dozen thousand Polish reservists may have seemed another climax of worldwide class struggle, but something tells me Stalin had a different view of history, if only subconsciously. To kill the best — read the strongest, ablest, smartest, richest, most respected — men and enslave the women and children of a captured city or country is an ancient practice. (I’d call it decapitation of a nation/polity/city — sorry, equal righters.) At one point, Athenians came close to massacring every man in Mytilene and selling everybody else. I am sure a historian could come up with a hundred examples from the Orient and a few dozen from the Occident, too.

I can’t say for sure whether Russian history can supply suitable examples but what it does provide (and it’s something relevant to Stalin’s policies) is population transfers. Namely, Ivan III and Vasily III (Ivan the Terrible’s grandfather and father) forcibly resettled a good deal of Novgorod boyars and other “best people” in other Russian cities, replacing them with out-of-town arrivals. Novgorod was not the only victim of this policy; Ivan IV the Terrible turned to resettlement with a vengeance during the Oprichnina. But the Old Testament speaks of resettlements far more impressive; Stalin trained to become a priest and was a good student. Compared with the first tsars of Moscow, Nebuchadnezzar might have been a more attractive role model for Stalin, who, according to a legend, called Ivan the Terrible a milksop for the latter’s fits of remorse and repentance.


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