I am surprised Professor Stephen Kotkin has concluded that “Stalin’s rule will never be seen as irredeemable like Hitler’s” (Life of the Mind, March 4). He compares Stalin’s killing 10 million in a famine, 1 million innocents for crimes, and several million more in the Gulag to Hitler’s Holocaust that killed 11 million. He exonerates Stalin for bearing the heaviest burden in fighting the Nazis and for transforming the Soviet Union “from poor peasant land to nuclear-armed superpower.”
Estimates of those Stalin killed by famine, the Gulag, etc. range from 20 million in The Black Book of Communism up to 61,911,000 in R.J. Rummel’s Lethal Politics. Stalin also prodded North Korea to invade South Korea, leading to the deaths of 2 million Koreans, 33,667 Americans, and unknown numbers of Chinese.
Worse, Stalin made Hitler chancellor of Germany by ordering the German Communist Party not to join an election united front against the Nazis. Stalin figured Hitler would invade France, starting a general European war that would allow Stalin to invade Germany when it was exhausted. Soviet armies were easily destroyed because they were arrayed in offensive columns, not behind defensive lines.
Russia enjoyed an average rate of 5 percent economic growth under the czars from 1885 to 1914. Under Stalin, the highest growth rate was only 3.5 percent in the 1930s when it stamped out weapons.
Parenthetically, Germany’s work-to-death Holocaust camps copied the designs of the 800 Gulag work-to-death camps built by Stalin.