Author Topic: Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield  (Read 21363 times)

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Offline C.J._Griffin

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Re: Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield
« Reply #45 on: December 05, 2004, 08:09:01 PM »
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C.J., I've enjoyed your posts tremendously and I know there are many others out there who feel the same. Do not pay any attention to those who have made comments to the contrary. This forum is open to everyone with an opinion and facts to share and you have provided both in laudable abundance. Thank you!


You're quite welcome. And thank you for the kind words.

:)

Offline C.J._Griffin

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Re: Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield
« Reply #46 on: December 05, 2004, 08:20:10 PM »
Oh, and speaking of books, does anyone know if Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko's Beria is ever going to be published in English? It was first published in Moscow back in 1999, in Russian of course.

Offline C.J._Griffin

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Re: Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield
« Reply #47 on: January 11, 2005, 05:24:16 PM »
My review of Stalin and His Hangmen:


Crimes of the Century

This is an interesting and well researched work (which uses a large range of sources - recently released archives, private letters, memoirs, etc.) that focuses more on Stalin's "hangmen" than the dictator himself. Feliks Dzierzynski, Viacheslav Menzhinsky, Genrikh Iagoda, Nikolai Ezhov, and Lavrenti Beria were the five heads of the secret police that propped up Stalin's criminal regime.

This book, like many other recent books on Soviet terror (Koba the Dread, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, The Black Book of Communism, The Unknown Lenin, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, etc.), makes clear that the campaign of torture and mass murder that ravaged Russia started well before Stalin was in charge (Lenin himself had argued for the hangings of rich peasants, priests and landowners, so that the public could better contemplate the corpses). Dzierzynski formed the bloody Cheka immediately after the Bolshevik coup detat in 1917. This ruthless machine of terror unleashed a holocaust that destroyed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives during the Red Terror and Russian civil war. The atrocities recounted are indeed horrific, ranging from the shooting of all Moscow's Boy Scouts and the members of the lawn tennis club to the genocidal extermination of the Don Cossacks and the use of flamethrowers and machine guns on women and children. Not surprisingly, many Chekists went insane after torturing and killing so many people (similar to the Ensatzgruppen killers who went mad carrying out Hitler's "war of extermination" in the East during "Operation Barbarossa"). Saenko, a notorious sadist who worked in a special torture chamber in Kharkov, attacked his superiors and was shot. A Hungarian woman in the Kiev Cheka was consigned to a psychiatric ward after she began shooting not just prisoners but witnesses. While Dzierzynski himself had no problem ordering thousands to be executed, he didn't like killing people personally. He only did once - shooting a drunken sailor who was swearing at him. He had a convulsive fit afterwards (this reminds me of Hitler's hangman Heinrich Himmler nearly fainting after witnessing a mass execution).

Menzhinsky, although not quite as notorious as the other four, was responsible for more deaths than any of them (ironic considering he never held a revolver or watched an execution). He was in charge of the OGPU and enforced Stalin's brutal policies of collectivization, dekulakization and forced famine in the early 30's, which obliterated an estimated 7.2 to 10.8 million human lives. At Stalin's behest he confiscated grain from starving regions and excess piles were left rotting in the rain. Thanks to Stalin's draconian "of five ears of corn" law, starving peasants caught taking even a handful of grain were imprisoned or shot by the OGPU. Within a year 6,000 had been executed and tens of thousands imprisoned.

The other three hangmen are somewhat better known. Iagoda, who came from a Polish Jewish family, called himself "a guard dog on a chain." It was on his initiative that the White Sea canal was constructed with the OGPU's political prisoners (forced laborers); the death toll was well over 100,000. Ezhov (aka "the Bloody Dwarf," "Blackberry") carried out the bloodbath known as the "Great Terror" of 1937-38, in which around 750,000 were executed and twice as many were sentenced to slow death in the camps. During this dark time the NKVD ran out of paper to record sentences and executions. Beria (aka "Stalin's Himmler") was a depraved sadist who personally tortured and killed many people. He was also a sexual predator who was guilty of many rapes and of violating young girls. Surprisingly, as head of the NKVD from 1938-53 executions were reduced from the chaotic Ezhov years, but he still carried out some of Stalin's worst crimes: the deportations and massacres in the Baltic States, Western Ukraine and Poland during the Nazi-Soviet pact and the ethnic cleansing of minorities in the USSR - Volga Germans, Kalmyks, Karachai, Ingush, Crimean Taters, Chechens - accused of "collaboration" with the Germans. When the population couldn't be deported, they were sometimes killed. In one incident at Khainakh, one of Beria's henchmen, Mikeil Gvishiani, locked several hundred villagers, from newborn babies to men over 100, in stables and set fire to them, gunning down those who broke out.

Rayfield points to a disturbing trend in Russia today. Unlike in Germany, where Nazi hangmen are universally condemned and even denying the Holocaust is punishable by prison time, Russia seems to be glorifying its genocidal killers. The mayor of Moscow has proposed restoring the statue of Feliks Dzierzynski in front of the Lubianka. In 2002 the Russian post office issued a set of stamps: "The 80th Anniversary of Soviet counterintelligence." The stamps include portraits of Sergei Puzitsky, who organized the mass murder of 500,000 Cossacks in 1931; Vladimir Styrne, who butchered thousands of Uzbeks in the 1920's; Vsevolod Balitsky, a torturer and rapist who purged the Ukraine and enslaved the peasantry. This received little comment abroad. World reaction would have been much different had Germany issued stamps of Heinrich Himmler's or Reinhard Heydrich's minions. It's because of this shameless double standard in atrocity that books such as this one are so important. Otherwise the crimes against humanity committed by Stalin and his hangmen, which are indeed some of the worst in human existence, might vanish into history's black hole. Somebody once said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Looking at Putin's actions in Russia and Chechnya today it seems that's exactly what's happening.

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield
« Reply #48 on: January 12, 2005, 12:49:33 PM »
C.J. Griffon,

Thanks for recommending the book.  I will order it tomorrow.

It apears you have a few pro-communist in a snit because of few "truths" which you've already given from the book.  

AGRBear

"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline Zvezda

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Re: Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield
« Reply #49 on: March 18, 2008, 08:41:43 PM »
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Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield
This sensational tabloid by Donald Rayfield, who is not even a historian, is not taken seriously be the scholarly community. Rayfield does not have the competence to write anything about Russian history and he demonstrates it in this semi-fictional work.

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"The size of these numbers alone - between 10,000 and 15,000 summary executions in two months - marked a radical break with the practices of the tsarist regime. For the whole period 1825-1917 the number of death sentences passed by tsarist courts (including courts-martial) "relating to political matters" came to only 6,321, with the highest figure of 1,310 recorded in 1906, the year of reaction against the 1905 revolution. Moreover, not all death sentences were carried out; a good number were converted to forced labor. In the space of a few weeks the Cheka alone had executed two to three times the total number of people condemned to death by the tsarist regime over ninety-two years."

The statistics cited above are arbitrary, selective, and misleading. During the people's revolution of 1905-07, some 15,000 people were murdered by punitive detachments while another 80,000 were tossed into jails. Soviet retaliation against the terror of the SRs and anarchists and the aggression by the White Guard and interventionists was much more limited compared to the comprehensive Tsarist terror against the Russian people in the 1905-07 period. An explanation by the Procuracy and KGB of the USSR, published in Izvestiia TsK KPSS, maintains that "the implementation of the Red terror was limited in character. In essence, throughout most of the country, this terror ended in the months of September-October 1918." Up to September 1918, some 10,000 Soviet state officials and workers had been murdered by terrorists, including Moisei Uritsky. In the Don province, the Krasnov regime meted out 25,000 death sentences in 1918. In Ekaterinburg province alone, Kolchak's forces shot 25,000 people. In Finland, some 20,000 workers were either shot or killed in concentration camps. In the Ukraine 100,000 poor Jews were murdered by the bands of Denikin and Petliura. But in the entire RSFSR throughout 1918, about 6000 people were shot in retaliation for the crimes committed by petit bourgeois political groups, the White Guard, and the interventionists.

One could just as easily say that more people were murdered by the war criminal Yeltsin in Chechnya in 1995 alone than were killed in the entire post-war period of the Soviet Union.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2008, 08:45:30 PM by Zvezda »