Equating evils in the year 2009
“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
– Joseph Stalin
Today, many younger generations in the Western world have little concept of the horrors and injustices of the former Soviet Union.
Throughout the 20th century, as the Soviets secured themselves the position of vilified other in the world order, the face of Russian humanity was never recognized.
Behind the shield of the Iron Curtain, in what Ronald Regan called an “evil empire”, the leadership preached Communist ideology, nurtured mass industrialization and championed scientific advancement while terrorizing the free world – not to mention, its own people.
In Edward Lucas’s The New Cold War, Lucas remarks that during World War II, Polish Jews in the country’s east chose to take their chances with the Nazi’s rather than face Soviet forces, which meant a certain death.
This subtle reality speaks volumes.
Today, similar comparisons between Soviet and Nazi forces lead to outright denial as controversial history is buried rather than discussed and debated.
Time and time again, Russia Today reports on foreign bodies accusing the current Medvedev Administration of “glorifying the Soviet past” and selectively rewriting or “whitewashing history.”
Many Russian history textbooks ignore large portions of incriminating and less than flattering Soviet-era history.
Such a selective memory when it comes to their history has spilt over into the Russian education system.
Today, Russian students do not study the Second World War, but instead, learn of the Great Patriotic War.
Furthermore, Russian students only know of fighting between the years of 1941 and 1945. This timeframe allows for the always controversial Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 to be omitted from history texts altogether.
Despite the denials, holes are gradually being cut in the Iron Curtain and realities are emerging that are even worse than most imagined. The archives hold the real truths: startling death tolls, Stalin’s murderous Purges, the Great Terror, death by famine, and the Gulags.
The question of equating Nazi and Stalinist evils is a touchy subject to say the least.
This is because drawing comparisons between one atrocity and another is never without repercussions or offense to some party.
Comparisons necessitate systematically dissecting some tragedy, defining markers for how “bad” or “not so bad” it really was, and assigning a ranking system to evil.
Most families of victims will tell you evil should be evil regardless of the death toll. Therefore, the question of whether it is right to say someone is more or less evil than another remains a subject most politically correct governments of the free world are not willing to weigh in on.
However, in July 2009, the Parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did just that.
Nearly 70 years after the Second World War, the European assembly passed a resolution equating the evils of Joseph Stalin with those of Adolf Hitler. The OSCE deemed that Nazism and Stalinism regimes “brought about genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Lithuania and Slovenia spearheaded the original motion to indict Stalin and predictably, the Ukraine and other Baltic States followed suit. All countries loudly supported equating their former aggressor with the evils of Nazi Germany. However, not all are backing this cause.
For one, Russia has officially condemned such a parallel between their former Soviet leader and that of Hitler. According to Russia Today, “many see the document as blatant attack on Russia.”
Additionally, a number of Russian officials have denounced the comparison outright, categorizing the resolution as yet another Western-grown anti-Russian doctrine.
However, reluctance to admit Stalin’s evil or to acknowledge a shameful past is nothing new.
In a 2007 interview, then-Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded, “Problematic pages in our history exist.”
However, he explained, “We have less than some countries. And ours are not as terrible as those of some others.”
Similarly, when pressed on the issue in 2005, Putin remarked, “I cannot agree with equating Stalin with Hitler. Yes, Stalin was certainly a tyrant and many call him a criminal, but he was not a Nazi.”
Whatever the case, the OSCE ruling was final.
In addition to officially equating Stalinism with Nazism, Aug. 23 was decided as the day on which to commemorate the victims of both the Nazi regime and Soviet Stalinism.
This date will be remembered as the first ever Europe-wide condemnation of totalitarianism in all forms.