Author Topic: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?  (Read 17906 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« on: May 03, 2009, 06:35:27 PM »
The historian Alan Bullock has argued that there was much in common between Nazism and Stalinism:

The Hitler of the table talk in the 1940s is recognizably the same man who wrote 'Mein Kampf' in the 1920s.... The struggle for existence is a law of nature; hardness is the supreme virtue; the key to history lies in race; power is the prerogative of a racial elite; the masses are capable only of carrying out orders; the individual exists only for the 'Volk'; force is the only means by which anything lasting is accomplished; 'world-historical figures' acting as the agents of Providence cannot be bound or judged by the standards of ordinary morality. Hitler not only believed what he said; he acted on it. Substitute 'class' for 'race,' the Communist party exercising dictatorship in the name of the proletariat for a racial elite; 'the individual exists only for the state' instead of 'only for the Volk'; 'agents of history' for 'agents of Providence' - and Stalin would have found little to disagree with. Together they represent the twentieth century's most formidable examples of those 'simplificateurs terribles' whom the nineteenth-century historian Jakob Burckhardt foresaw as characteristic of the century to follow.

(Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, p. 726)

Do you agree or disagree with Bullock's argument that there were inherent commonalities between Nazism and Stalinism? Do you think there were any significant differences? Another question for discussion is, to what degree did Lenin differ in his political views from Stalin, and with this question in mind, was Stalinism inevitable in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death? More importantly, why this seemingly strange convergence of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in Europe from the first decades of the 20th century to its midpoint? To expand on the question first posed by the historian Theodore Von Laue: why Lenin, why Stalin, why Hitler? What particular forces or circumstances brought these men to power, what particular forces or circumstances influenced the way they viewed and exercised political power? What do you think?

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Offline Zvezda

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2009, 01:00:20 PM »
Fascism and its variations in Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, etc share more in common with with liberal capitalist regimes than with socialist ones. For example, the "Federal Republic of Germany" to a large extent been a revived form of the Third Reich in which many "former" Nazi elites have played a prominent role (Spiedel, Gehlen, Globke, etc). But this attempt by apologists for liberal capitalist regimes to falsify history and demonize Russia by likening it to the Nazis is a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their failed and discredited system.

It's especially puzzling how Lenin can be equated to Hitler. Looking at the Civil War in Russia, for example, the ones that perpetrated thousands of Nazi-like pogroms in which over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered were the White Guard hordes of Denikin and the Ukrainian nationalist gangs of Petliura. Many of the counterrevolutionary Russian leaders such as Krasnov, Shkuro, and Gajda went on to become Nazi collaborators during the Fatherland War.

Concerning Bullock, his work on Germany is valuable because he is an expert on the subject. But the same cannot be said about Russia because Bullock is not an authority on the country's politics.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2009, 01:06:38 PM by Zvezda »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2009, 12:07:52 PM »
Fascism and its variations in Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, etc share more in common with with liberal capitalist regimes than with socialist ones. For example, the "Federal Republic of Germany" to a large extent been a revived form of the Third Reich in which many "former" Nazi elites have played a prominent role (Spiedel, Gehlen, Globke, etc). But this attempt by apologists for liberal capitalist regimes to falsify history and demonize Russia by likening it to the Nazis is a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their failed and discredited system.

It's especially puzzling how Lenin can be equated to Hitler. Looking at the Civil War in Russia, for example, the ones that perpetrated thousands of Nazi-like pogroms in which over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered were the White Guard hordes of Denikin and the Ukrainian nationalist gangs of Petliura. Many of the counterrevolutionary Russian leaders such as Krasnov, Shkuro, and Gajda went on to become Nazi collaborators during the Fatherland War.

Concerning Bullock, his work on Germany is valuable because he is an expert on the subject. But the same cannot be said about Russia because Bullock is not an authority on the country's politics.

Well, Zvezda, your logic would certainly NOT explain why a die-hard communist like Benito Mussolini would later became a fascist, one of the most famous fascists in the world in fact.  I think you're one of the least informed and most politically biased posters here, Zvezda, and to be honest, I would like to hear from other people on this subject much more.
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Offline Zvezda

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2009, 12:48:12 PM »
Quote
die-hard communist like Benito Mussolini would later became a fascist, one of the most famous fascists in the world in fact.

Mussolini was never a communist. In fact, there were no communists in Italy when Mussolini was a member of the Socialist Party. Mussolini would be expelled from the Party shortly after the war broke out because of his chauvinism. It was only in the period 1918-20 when communist parties were formed outside of Russia.

In any case, I totally reject any attempt to liken fascists to communists.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2009, 12:51:21 PM by Zvezda »

Offline RichC

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2009, 04:55:04 PM »
The historian Alan Bullock has argued that there was much in common between Nazism and Stalinism:

The Hitler of the table talk in the 1940s is recognizably the same man who wrote 'Mein Kampf' in the 1920s.... The struggle for existence is a law of nature; hardness is the supreme virtue; the key to history lies in race; power is the prerogative of a racial elite; the masses are capable only of carrying out orders; the individual exists only for the 'Volk'; force is the only means by which anything lasting is accomplished; 'world-historical figures' acting as the agents of Providence cannot be bound or judged by the standards of ordinary morality. Hitler not only believed what he said; he acted on it. Substitute 'class' for 'race,' the Communist party exercising dictatorship in the name of the proletariat for a racial elite; 'the individual exists only for the state' instead of 'only for the Volk'; 'agents of history' for 'agents of Providence' - and Stalin would have found little to disagree with. Together they represent the twentieth century's most formidable examples of those 'simplificateurs terribles' whom the nineteenth-century historian Jakob Burckhardt foresaw as characteristic of the century to follow.

(Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, p. 726)

Do you agree or disagree with Bullock's argument that there were inherent commonalities between Nazism and Stalinism? Do you think there were any significant differences? Another question for discussion is, to what degree did Lenin differ in his political views from Stalin, and with this question in mind, was Stalinism inevitable in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death? More importantly, why this seemingly strange convergence of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in Europe from the first decades of the 20th century to its midpoint? To expand on the question first posed by the historian Theodore Von Laue: why Lenin, why Stalin, why Hitler? What particular forces or circumstances brought these men to power, what particular forces or circumstances influenced the way they viewed and exercised political power? What do you think?



I got half-way through a post yesterday, Elisabeth, but decided not to proceed because this is such a tough question.  I agree it would be great if some of the other "brains of the board" could weigh in too.

I guess what I was thinking was could we compare Lenin, Stalin and Hitler to European world leaders (and American leaders too) who preceded them and figure out what changed.  Did the people change?  Or did they stay the same and times changed, or the rules changed?  Or is it just that the scale of the killing increased dramatically?

In the 19th century we saw hundreds of thousands of Muslims deported from Russia to the Ottoman Empire in what was called the Muhajir.  We also saw the Trail of Tears under the leadership of Andrew Jackson. 

And then, of course, there's Leopold II of Belgium who easily gives both Hitler and Stalin a run for their money in the death department.  By most reliable figures, Leopold II was responsible for the deaths of over 10 million Africans in the late 1800's. 

For me, I want to see if we can really separate Hitler, Stalin and Lenin (and Mao), from everybody who came before them.  Or were they really just more of the same albeit more efficient?

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2009, 09:47:10 PM »
Elizabeth - WOW - What a complex and convoluted question!

Do we need to take into consideration Marx and Engels and Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto before we take on Lenin, Stalin and Hitler?

All three men existed in the same time frame.

Lenin- born 22 April 1970
Stalin - born 12 December 1879
Hitler - born 20 April 1889  (He was five years old on the day that Nicholas and Alix became engaged.)

Alexander II was assassinated on 13 March 1881, so the only Lenin and Stalin were alive at that time being 11 and 2.

Did these three men see more mass murder and/or forced emigration during their lifetimes than others prior to them had?  Was Europe a more discontented place because of the Industrial Revolution?

The forces of what was considered a total "world war" influenced all three.  The unimaginable loss of life during the age of "death before dishonor" and the inability of their respective leaders to actually lead the countries that they were born into.

Hitler is the only one to have served in his country's armed forces.  I believe that his "15 minutes of fame" when he received his Iron Cross left him wanting more and feeling lost when the war was over and he was again just a face in the crowd.

For a Romanov researcher, I actually know less about Lenin and Stalin than I do Hitler.

Offline RichC

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2009, 10:32:37 PM »

In any case, I totally reject any attempt to liken fascists to communists.

That's why your arguments are so easy to refute.  The fascist regimes of Italy and Germany, and the communist regime of Russia were all totalitarian regimes which is why we can lump them all together for this discussion.

According to some scholars, a totalitarian society is a required precondition for genocide to take place.

Offline Zvezda

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2009, 12:18:16 PM »
Quote
The fascist regimes of Italy and Germany, and the communist regime of Russia were all totalitarian regimes which is why we can lump them all together for this discussion.
Actually, totalitarianism is an advanced form of monopoly capitalism. The notions you are citing are circulated in revisionist western propaganda seeking to equate Russia to Nazis.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2009, 05:59:28 PM »
Quote
die-hard communist like Benito Mussolini would later became a fascist, one of the most famous fascists in the world in fact.

Mussolini was never a communist. In fact, there were no communists in Italy when Mussolini was a member of the Socialist Party. Mussolini would be expelled from the Party shortly after the war broke out because of his chauvinism. It was only in the period 1918-20 when communist parties were formed outside of Russia.

In any case, I totally reject any attempt to liken fascists to communists.

Your last statement is utterly predictable, Zvezda. Do you ever wonder why other members of this forum can predict your thoughts with unerring accuracy even before you post them? Do you think that perhaps this has something to do with your own ideology, which follows certain set patterns, easily read by outsiders to your world view?

At any rate, it's an established fact that Mussolini was a revolutionary Marxist in the 1910s. He attended Marxist congresses and in 1909 "threatened he would secede if the party did not adopt a more intransigent stance - he feared that the main body of reformists was drawing closer to the parliamentary system and to the liberal coalition.... In April 1911 he decided to act on this threat and go it alone. His was a coolly calculated step based on the hope of creating a new and more revolutionary party (in something of the same way as the bolsheviks subsequently broke away from the socialists in Russia" (Denis Mack Smith, Mussolini, London: Panther Books, 1985, p. 21).

So it's pretty obvious that Mussolini was a communist at this stage in his life. (To borrow rather freely from Gertrude Stein, a communist is a communist is a communist.) Mussolini believed in the armed revolution of the proletariat against the corrupt, privileged middle and upper classes. He was not exactly what we would describe as a follower of Plekhanov or the Mensheviks or the Social Democrats. He was a radical socialist with a big agenda. Even before the first world war!
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2009, 06:18:47 PM »
Dear RichC and AlixZ, thank your for your very thoughtful posts in this thread. I think both of you have much to offer intellectually, and the majority of those whom Rich terms "big brains" in the forum are already present and accounted for, right? So let's proceed with the discussion.

Alix, I think it's highly interesting in light of your remarks that Hitler apparently experienced hysterical blindness after the defeat of Germany in World War I. He couldn't accept defeat on any level. It literally made him crazy for a rather extended period of time. (This reminds me of stories about the child Napoleon, who could not bear to be punished, and out of pride would actually resist such punishments to the point of fainting in order to avoid them. I think Hitler was very much like this - but mainly where his German nationalism and chauvinism were concerned.) By the way, Hitler was very brave during the first world war, he had one of the worst assignments as a soldier imaginable, running back and forth between enemy lines as a courier - the vast majority of these poor men suffered death in the fulfillment of their duties. The young Hitler was repeatedly commended for his bravery. In other words, unlike other tyrants, he was not a physical coward. He knew what death was like, up close and personal. Whereas someone like Stalin only dealt with death second and even third-hand, throughout his life, as far as I can tell. I think this is an interesting difference between the two dictators.

I do believe that the vast trauma of World War I, inflicted on millions of very young Western and Eastern European men, on both the physical and psychological levels, contributed to the brutalization we see so evident in subsequent European and Russian history. I honestly don't think that the Holocaust could have happened without World War I - it's even possible that Stalin's collectivization campaign couldn't have been implemented as horribly or effectively as it was without World War I. Then there's the added element of "improved" technology (e.g., trains, the better to deport you with)... As RichC points out in his latest post here, genocide had already occurred in the "civilized" world in the nineteenth century. Indeed, as I'm discovering, the reality of genocide seems to be as old as humanity itself.

 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 06:20:26 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2009, 07:13:32 PM »
I've just finished reading an unusually excellent and engrossing novel, The Exception by the Danish author Christian Jungerson. The book concerns four women who work at the Danish Center for Information on Genocide (DCIG), which in reality is the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The plot of this truly exceptional novel revolves around anonymous emails threatening death to two of the employees, who, instead of fixing their suspicions on the most likely candidate for making such death threats, an escaped Serbian war criminal, concentrate their fear and hatred on an older coworker and, in the not-so-subtle campaign of psychological persecution they conduct against her on a daily basis, nearly drive her to madness.

Interspersed with the fictional events at the Center are up-to-date accounts of actual, recent research into genocide studies. One of the alarming studies done by the real-life Danish researcher Torben Jorgensen found as follows:

"10-20 percent of perpetrators try to obtain transfer to other duties;
50-80 percent do as they are told;
10-30 percent develop into eager killers and run riot, intoxicated by torture, rape, and murder"

(Jorgensen's statistics, cited in Christian Jungersen, The Exception, New York: Doubleday, 2004, translation by Anna Paterson.)

Apparently the number of would-be perpetrators who actually have the nerve to stand up and say "no, this is evil, stop it now," to their immediate superiors, is so infinitesimal that it cannot even be scientifically measured.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 07:27:42 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2009, 07:18:50 AM »
I honestly don't think that the Holocaust could have happened without World War I . . . .

I have often wondered about this myself, Elisabeth.  One means of testing the premise is to examine the treatment of Jews by modern general populations in Europe prior to World War I, and the best place to go for that is to Russia in the last 50 or so years of the imperial era.  (This assumes, of course, that Russians can be viewed as a European population roughly equivalent to the German population on this score, and there is plenty of room to debate that one.)

In examining the recurrent waves of pogroms in that period, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that nascent anti-semitism ran deep and strong and could be brought to the surface at slight provocation, even without government encouragement, and certainly very quickly and violently with government orchestration.

Consider the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, in which about 50 Jews were killed, almost 600 wounded, and around 700 Jewish homes and businesses were looted and destroyed . . . in one  town.  While there is some debate around whether the government was directly involved, it is clear that local Orthodox authorities helped work the crowd into a violent frenzy, building on a weeks-long press campaign (with some evidence to indicate indirect funding by the government) meant to lay the blame for the murder of a local Christian boy at the doorstep of the Jewish community and its supposed secret blood rituals.  This pogrom went on for three days before the government finally sent in forces to quell it.

This -- and many other serious pogroms of the era -- occured with certainly no overt government sponsorship.  At most, the government either worked subtly behind the scenes to instigate them and/or proved impassive in trying to forestall and then suppress them.

Had there been sustained, overt government actions taken to whip up anti-semitic fury and unleash it violently on a large scale -- as there was in Germany in the 1930's -- I see no reason to think those actions would not have succeeded prior to World War I.

Had the tsarist government wanted to eradicate its Jewish population instead of merely harass it as a means of generating pro-government sympathy, I do not doubt it could have had the success prior to World War I that Germany had afterward.  Put another way, I think the difference in the outcome does not have to do with World War I, but with the fact that Hitler had a personal taste for genocide and Alexander III and Nicholas II did not.

The only remaining question to me is whether the anti-semitic tendencies of the German population prior to World War I were less intense than those of the Russian population.  Personally, I do not think they were.  I simply think other elements of German society kept it more repressed than in Russia.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2009, 07:35:36 AM »
Apparently the number of would-be perpetrators who actually have the nerve to stand up and say "no, this is evil, stop it now," to their immediate superiors, is so infinitesimal that it cannot even be scientifically measured.

There might be a phenomenon of adverse selection generating this horribly depressing number.  Remember that most of these tasks were assigned to organizations that were expressly chartered to carry out the more nefarious government policies -- for instance, the Gestapo instead of the regular police, and the SS instead of regular military units.  The people who elected to join these organizations were therefore more likely to be disposed to participating in such missions.

I don't think it surprising that almost no one in these organizations objected to his assigned tasks.  When one moves into the general population, the picture is still depressing.  But the number of people who did seek to mitigate the worst horrors (such as hiding fugitives, covering where they could, joining resistance movements, resisting passively where they could) was not quite infinitesmally small.

Hitler and Stalin were obsessed with domestic spying for a reason.


Alixz

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2009, 09:19:58 AM »
Quote Tsarfan

Consider the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, in which about 50 Jews were killed, almost 600 wounded, and around 700 Jewish homes and businesses were looted and destroyed . . . in one  town.  While there is some debate around whether the government was directly involved, it is clear that local Orthodox authorities helped work the crowd into a violent frenzy, building on a weeks-long press campaign (with some evidence to indicate indirect funding by the government) meant to lay the blame for the murder of a local Christian boy at the doorstep of the Jewish community and its supposed secret blood rituals.  This pogrom went on for three days before the government finally sent in forces to quell it.

The Russian triumvirate of political autocracy, nationalism and religious orthodoxy worked to every one's advantage in staging and carrying out pogroms.  In this case it worked from the bottom up.  The church incited it, the people who were deeply nationalistic carried it out and the government sat back and let it continue until Nicholas had do to do something about it. 

If Nicholas II was a true autocrat there truly was no 'local government" and any government involvement would have been his.  But I agree with Tsarfan that the harassment was essentially a way of generating pro government sympathy.

I was watching a program on the History Channel recently that explained that the anti Semite beliefs of Christian sects were brought about, not by the belief that Jews were "Christ Killers", but because those of the Jewish faith did not believe in the resurrection.

But back to topic and back to Lenin after I look some things up.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2009, 04:17:07 PM »
Apparently the number of would-be perpetrators who actually have the nerve to stand up and say "no, this is evil, stop it now," to their immediate superiors, is so infinitesimal that it cannot even be scientifically measured.

There might be a phenomenon of adverse selection generating this horribly depressing number.  Remember that most of these tasks were assigned to organizations that were expressly chartered to carry out the more nefarious government policies -- for instance, the Gestapo instead of the regular police, and the SS instead of regular military units.  The people who elected to join these organizations were therefore more likely to be disposed to participating in such missions.

I don't think it surprising that almost no one in these organizations objected to his assigned tasks.  When one moves into the general population, the picture is still depressing.  But the number of people who did seek to mitigate the worst horrors (such as hiding fugitives, covering where they could, joining resistance movements, resisting passively where they could) was not quite infinitesmally small.

Hitler and Stalin were obsessed with domestic spying for a reason.

You are probably right, Tsarfan, at least in part, about skewed statistics, except that certain studies of human behavior show that obedience to authority is engrained in the human personality. For example, look at the famous 1963 experiment by Professor Stanley Milgram (where student volunteers were asked, under the supervision of a leader, to give others electrical shocks in response to wrong answers to certain questions). As Jungersen summarizes, "two thirds of the subjects in the original experiement continued [delivering what they believed were electrical shocks to another human being], obeying the leader to the end. In other words, they increased the shock voltages up to the highest setting [450 volts, i.e., death], at which point the leader would call a halt" - The Exception, pp. 262-263.

Professor Christopher Browning's 1992 book about Holocaust perpetrators, Ordinary Men, has also been extremely influential in Holocaust/genocide studies. It concerns a battalion of five hundred reserve policemen serving in the German army in Poland who were asked in 1942 to help in the mass killing of Jews. It's a horrific story. Despite the fact that the majority of these soldiers were middle-aged men from Hamburg, not Nazi party members by any stretch of the imagination but on the contrary, for the most part probably Socialist Democrats or even Communists, only ten to thirteen (out of five hundred) men asked their commanding officer if they could be transferred to other duties (they were indeed transferred, with no penalties). After the first massacre in the town of Jozefow, "between 10 and 20 percent of the men had asked to be allowed off-duty for either physical or psychological reasons. The rest had obeyed orders. But this was only the beginning. Following their initiation in Jozefow, the men adapted and obeyed orders more willingly as, during the months to come, they surrounded one small Polish town after another to round up Jews. Their job was either to send the captives off to extermination camps or to execute them on the spot. In the course of the next ten months the battalion caused the deaths of at least 83,000 Jews. The men had learned to live with their consciences" (p.265).

I don't think we can relegate the genocidal impulse to eastern Europe or Russia. There is a distinct difference between anti-Semitism, racism, and other popular hatreds, which often spontaneously erupt in violence, and government-sponsored mass murder of the popularly hated Other. What perhaps distinguishes the twentieth century from preceding centuries (although only in part, if one considers the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth century in Europe), is that the government (whether in Nazi Germany, the USSR, Cambodia or Rwanda) has deliberately roused popular hatred with the precise intention of initiating and directing mass murder on an unprecedented scale. So could genocide have happened in imperial Russia? Perhaps. But it would have taken a very fanatically anti-Semitic tsar with intact autocratic powers (which doesn't exactly fit the description of Nicholas II after 1905).
« Last Edit: May 07, 2009, 04:31:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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