In Response to: Faculty Book: Stephen Kotkin [6]

The April 1 letter by Carl Middleton ’60 mischaracterized what I said. My statement that “Stalin’s rule will never be seen as irredeemable like Hitler’s” (Life of the Mind, March 4) was obviously not a statement of my own judgment on Stalin’s rule. I do not “exonerate” the Soviet despot. I am no less aware than Mr. Middleton of Stalin’s crimes, having studied his personal archive as well as Soviet police and labor camp archives exhaustively.

How does Mr. Middleton explain Stalin’s continuing popularity? It is a fact that Stalin’s rule, unlike Hitler’s, is treated as redeemable by very many people. Citing death statistics will not make this go away. Citing comparative economic-growth rates will not make this go away. Even if we as historians give Stalin no credit for the victory in World War II, he was in power when it happened. Even if we give Stalin no credit for the rise of the USSR to a nuclear-armed superpower, it happened on his watch. What would Hitler’s standing be today had he presided over a great victory in World War II?