Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Answer to Stalinist Revisionists

Apparently the new Stalinist line is that ethnic Russians suffered just as much during WWII as the Russian-Germans and therefore Stalin did nothing wrong by deporting the population to special settlement restrictions in Siberia and Kazakhstan and then mobilizing them into the labor army. First of all it is simply not true that the losses are comparable. This has a quantitative element. The percentage of ethnic Germans and others to die due to deliberate policies of the Soviet government of sending them to areas with poor climatic conditions, using them for inhumane labor, and refusing to provide them with adequate material goods was higher than the overall death rate of the USSR during the war by a significant margin. As Viktor Krieger notes the demographic losses of the Russian-Germans from 1941-1945 were between 316,000 and 350,000 people or 22-25% (Krieger, p. 150). Ediev estimates that a full 228,000 of this loss consisted of excess deaths or 19.17% of the Russian-German population. For other deported nationalities such as the Chechens the number was considerably greater. The deportations and poor conditions in special settlements killed over 125,000 or 30.76% of the Chechen population (Ediev, table 104, p. 294). In comparison only 14% of the total Soviet population died during the war and this figure includes over three million people who like the Russian-Germans and Chechens died as a direct result of Soviet repression not the war with Germany.

Second and more importantly is the qualitative element. The Stalinist line that the Russian-Germans did not suffer any more than ethnic Russians is literally the moral equivalent of noting that six million Germans died during WWII so their suffering was equal to that of the Jews. It completely ignores the fact that war deaths and the death of civilians due to deportation and forced labor are not at all comparable. The Soviet government not the German government was wholly and 100% responsible for every single death that occurred in its camps and areas of internal exile. Trying to say otherwise is no different from those Holocaust deniers who blame the death of Jews from typhus in Nazi camps on the Allies. The special settlers and labor army conscripts were wards of the NKVD and the Soviet state had an obligation to provide for their material needs. The death of special settlers, labor army conscripts, and GULag prisoners in the USSR was morally no different from the almost identical deaths from malnutrition, disease, and exhaustion in Nazi ghettos and camps.


D. Ediev, Demograficheskie poteri deportirovannykh narodov SSSR (Stavropol': ARGUS, 2003).

V. Krieger, Rein, Volga, Irtysh: Iz istorii nemtsev Tsentral'noi Azii (Almaty: DAIK-Press, 2006).


Dean said...

It's truly amazing to me that 70 years later we must still defend history that is so well documented. I just hope there is a special place in hell for people that again victimize those who suffered and died by their denials.

Leo Tolstoy said...

Who are some of the people spouting this rubbish? I might include one of them in the genocide denial section of my course next semester.

J. Otto Pohl said...

The comment by Peter T. today on my Russian-German mortality calculations post is what inspired this post. I believe he is a Russian living in Ukraine, but he was clearly trying to claim that the deported Germans did not have it any worse and maybe were better off than the Soviet population as a whole. His whole argument being that the official recorded losses by the NKVD were less than the demographic estimates of the Soviet population as a whole during WWII in terms of percentages. Soviet people love to compare apples with oranges.