“There was an old bastard named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old bastard Stalin did ten in.”
― Robert Conquest[->0]
According to the historian Robert Conquest, Joseph Stalin “gives the impression of a large and crude claylike figure, a golem, into which a demonic spark has been instilled.” He was nonetheless “a man who perhaps more than any other determined the course of the twentieth century.”
“Any adult inhabitant of this country, from a collective farmer up to a member of the Politburo, always knew that it would take only one careless word or gesture and he would fly off irrevocably into the abyss.” (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p
“Fear by night, and a feverish effort by day to pretend enthusiasm for a system of lies, was the permanent condition.” (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment,
“According to some reports, entire groups of men were taken in one swoop by the NKVD. ‘Almost all the male inhabitants of the little Greek community where I lived [in the lower Ukraine] had been arrested,’ recalled one émigré. Another reported that the NKVD took all males between the ages of seventeen and seventy from his village of German-Russians. … In some stories, the police clearly knew they were arresting innocent people.
For example, an order reportedly arrived in Tashkent to ‘Send 200 [prisoners]!’ The local NKVD was at its wits’ end about who else to arrest, having exhausted all the obvious possibilities, until it learned that a band of ‘gypsies’ (Romany) had just camped in town. Police surrounded them and charged every male from seventeen to sixty with sabotage.” In the city of Zherinka, “‘Ivan Ivanovich’ … had his wife sew rubles [Soviet currency] into his coat because the NKVD was taking all the men in his town.” (Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941