As I mentioned in the previous feuilleton, I will dedicate the following ones to the impact of Disease on our modern world. Before discussing its imprint on a social and national scale, I decided to show how Disease can transform a human being into a monster and how it can impact the world. Initially, I thought of using Donald Trump as a model, but, after some contemplating, I concluded he is not worth too much attention. Just an insecure, 74 years old brat of the mentality of 6 years old would stay hardly known, if not that, by the extraordinary, unusual circumstances, he became the president of the USA. Yes, he did a lot of damage, but it is nothing compared to such extreme victims of Disea’s like Hitler, Stalin or Mao. You may object to calling them victims, but I use this term purposefully to show how Disease can impact a human being.
Then I faced a problem: which one of the above three chose as the subject of this mental forensic investigation. Hitler is too well known (type Hitler at Google, and you will get 23 million hits. Consequently, such a person may not invoke too much interest. So, if no Hitler, then what about Mao? He is a fascinating character, but unfortunately, we do not know much about him: the Chinese sources are famously unreliable, and westerners know mostly anecdotes (only1,3 million of Goggle hits). So only Stalin (10 million hits) remains left to investigate. He also epitomizes the system of the Soviet Union, which, even after his death, more or less followed his policies.
An additional reason I have chosen Stalin as the hero of this feuilleton because I personally experienced his rule’s effects. I lived for 22 years in Poland, which, at those times, was a satellite of the Soviet Union under its total control. Also, I had a rare opportunity to visit it twice. Thanks to that, I can provide some first-hand testimony about what was going on there.
Stalin ethnically was not Russian but Georgian, and his real name is Iossif Vissarionovich Djougachvili. He was an intelligent child but a somewhat physically challenged and small. With his mother’s help and under her pressure, he continued his education and enrolled in the Georgian Orthodox seminary for future priests.
However, he had not followed a priesthood career. Instead, after studying some Marxist ideas, he got involved in politics. Let us jump a few dozens of years and find Stalin (“stal” in Russian means “steel, so Stalin can be loosely translated as “Steelman”) in 1922 as the all-powerful First Secretary of the Russian communist party.
It would not have happened if not for his insatiable desire for power. He took advantage of the mortally sick Lenin’s weakness, and despite Lenin’s warning of Stalin’s ruthless character, he became the Secretary of the central the Community of the Communist party. After Lenin’s death, Stalin managed to reach the total and exclusive rulership of the vast Soviet empire.
After eliminating (all sentenced to death and executed) all potential or imaginary competitors in 1936 -1938 during the Great Purge, he continued his rule without any opposition. He did not forget about his ex ally, and later the arch-enemy, Leon Trotsky, and ordered his assassination in Mexico in 1940.
Stalin created such an atmosphere of fear and paranoia that, while gravely ill, no doctor dared to attend him, being afraid of the accusation of an attempt on his life. So he died alone in the bed soaked in his urine in 1953. The disastrous economic system he imposed, 37 years after his death, largely contributed to the Soviet Union’s fall.
We usually associate the possessiveness of rulers with a drive to acquire something material. For example, the current king Saudi Arabia possesses 22 wives, enormous wealth, several palaces worldwide, etc. It was not the case of Stalin, who was not excessively interested in material possessions. Though he enjoyed food, drink and a very comfortable living and was getting all whatever he required., he has not had any fortune, expensive collection of art, jewellery, etc. Instead, he possessed something far more significant: complete control over the whole enormous Soviet Union. Fortunately, his present successor Vladimir Putin has somewhat lesser ambition and hopefully will be satisfied with his recently discovered palace.
Stalin created a system, which he used to define and control every aspect of his domain. He made the Communist Party into the tool to create a vast propaganda machine to remake millions of subjects’ mindset. For that purpose was developed and widely used new forms of art, literature, history, view of the world and even architecture, called social realism.
Typical Social -realism painting
Its goal was to present the glory, power and happiness of life in his empire in contrast to the capitalist world’s misery. I remember popular drawings of people dying of hunger under the New York bridges (unfortunately, I cannot find it on the Internet), but here is a replacement:
A lack of adherence to the rules was tolerant unless personally approved by Stalin. He has a taste for monumentalism to show the accomplishment and power of the Soviet Union.
Here a few the Stalin’s era architecture accomplishments:
Metro station in Moscow
That was intended to cover up the grim realit+y, where the great majority of citizens plagued the everyday life plagued by notorious lack of living space, other everyday items. But he has not ended there. According to his order, there introduced a so-called planned economy. For that purpose, a huge bureaucratic machine was created, deciding what was supposed to produce years ahead. The results were disastrous, manifesting as a permanent shortage of food, clothing, and the majority of other everyday commodities.
The most disastrous was the situation of living space. While enormous, expensive monumental buildings and the Moscow metro (see below) \ Lenin’s palace
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
were built, the vast majority lived in conditions difficult to imagine for the western audience. Yo illustrates I provide two vignettes of my personal experience during my two stays in Moscow in the early 60-ties of the last century. The first one was my visit to some far removed relatives. The whole family of 5 persons (parents-teacher in the Moscow Music Academy, their son, his wife – both Ph.D. students and their baby) lived in one room, while the bathroom and kitchen were shared with several other families. It was a typical living situation in central Moscow, where pre-revolution large apartments were divided into several – each room a family. Another experience happened while I was visiting a young lady whom I met in the metro. I entered the floor where her apartment was situated and noticed quite a few older men playing chess sitting at little tables in the corridor. Everyone stared at me because of my slightly more western looking Polish clothing, impossible to get in the Soviet Union attracted attention. Finally, I reached the young lady apartment consisting of a single room of large bathroom size. I asked her why all these people play chess in the corridor, and she answered: “because inside there no room, the table there is occupied by children doing homework”. I remember a shock: even in a satellite country such as Poland, such a situation was utterly unthinkable.
It is impossible for Stalin not to be aware of such a situation if he wanted to find out – nobody would dare to lie to him because it was too dangerous. Like many other communist leaders, he most likely considers it unavoidable sacrifice in the name of the International Proletariat revolution. Besides, a gigantic spying system could provide accurate information (I will talk more about it in the Domination and Indoctrination sections).
The Soviet Union was vastly expanded after the Second World War. It happened due to the agreement reached during the Jalta conference in 1945, where Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to let the Soviet Union keep all territory occupied by the Soviet army. So Poland, Lituania, Latvia, Estonia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania and Eastern Germany became satellite countries under Stalin’s control.
But it was not enough to satisfy his insatiable desire to expand his possessions. With the Soviet Union’s financial support, in many Western European countries, there were established Communist Parties, which could be used as a so-called fifth column in the case of war conflict. They were especially successful in France and Italy.
The collage of photos of Stalin shown below, it is clear who was on the top of the domination hierarchy in Soviet Union.
However, it+ is easy to realize that Stalin’s system could not function without the powerful and effective domination system. The industry and commerce were nationalized, which agriculture function partially as a direct property of the state (Sovkhoz) and as a parody of cooperatives, *Kolkhoze). The latter ones initially encountered as strong resistance, which was brutally suppressed. The ruthlessly cruel form it took at Ukraina, where resistance was strongest. It led to the so-called Holodomor. Under Stalin’s direct command, in a large section of the agriculturally most prosperous Ukraina, food and seeds have been rigorously confiscated. The military surrounded the region, and the whole population was left to die from hunger. In this genocide, about eight to eleven million people perished (there no accurate statistics). As far as the numbers are concerned, it exceeded even the famous Holacost of Hitler. Below a few horrifying pictures.
Stalin created an incredibly powerful secret police system called NKVD, which acted under his direct or indirect command. It was instrumental in executing hundreds of thousands of people during the Great Purge 1936-1938. His suspiciousness and paranoia, combined with the drive for absolute power, led to eliminating many of his old comrades and allies during the Great Purge.
The purge also included the army and even NKVD itself. As a result, many of the most talented, top military generals were tortured till they confessed the fabricated accusations and killed. It nearly caused the defeat of the Soviet Union by Hitler’s Blizcrieg in 1942. Stalin’s paranoia included even NKVD itself. As a result, upon Stalin’s order, one chief had arranged trial and his predecessor’s execution. The scale of these horrors is challenging to imagine.
But the story of NKVD does not end at Stalin’s death. It continued when his near successor Beria was head of NKVD. Later on, one of USSR Andropov leaders was its chief while his successor, Chernenko, served in NKVD in his youth. Even now, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the current ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is an ex, NKVD operative.
Many of Stalin’s era crimes continued until the late 80-ties when all gulags were finally eliminated. After that, more facts concerning Stalin’s crimes were uncovered. However, we will never know precisely how many people have been murdered during Stalin and post-Stalin periods because the Soviet and now Russian Secret services are continually busy removing relevant documents.
However, those are only highlights. The most horrific, often overlooked part, was everyday life, filled with ongoing fear. It is described in detail in the book of Oliver Figes: The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia, which I highly recommend.
The Stalin drive to rule and dominate, as well as his paranoia, have not been limited to the Soviet Union alone. In 1948 -1850, he commanded the purge of the communist leaders in Albania (Nishani), Czechoslovakia (Rudolf Slansky), Hungary (Laszlo Rajk), and Bulgaria (Traïcho Kostov). Stalin, for a variety of reasons, has not trusted them and accused them of nationalism. Some were tortured into confessing and others just executed (with s single exception of Poland (Wladyslaw Gomulka), where they were t no executed). Only Jugoslavian leader Joseph Bronz Tito avoided this fate because Stalin hesitated to stage a war with Yougoslavia and its popular resistance hero Tito when Tito refused to participate in the Cold War. Stalin hated him from his heart’s depth, and Tito was a favourite object of Soviet propaganda portrayed as a “chained dog of imperialism.”
The drive to domination was not limited to Stalin alone. He created several other systemic hierarchies of domination. The most important ones were the Communist Party and NKVD. From the top (Stalin) to bottom (party secretaries everywhere, in industry culture, military, technology, science), they exercise their power. The youth were not forgotten: children were organized into Pioneers while older youth into Komsomol. The trade Unions were a parody of its official role, entirely controlled by the Party and NKVD.
Every segment of the society was saturated with secret agents of NKVD. Now a little persona; vignette. At the time around the early 60-ties, I hold the position of Deputy Director of Research in the Institute of Mathematical Machines of the Polish Academy of Sciences. During a friendly conversation with a colleague, the Director of Administration (a retired colonel of UB, the Polish version of NKVD), semi-joking mentioned: “do not talk too much to (I forgot the name.” I remember being incredibly surprised; I would never suspect that he was a high-level UB agent. To end this section, I would like to add that the monster of paranoia and fear which Satlin created finally devoured him. Soon before he died in 1953, Stalin imagined that the top Soviet doctors (usually Jewish) are part of a plot by international Jewry and the British Secret service to assassinate him. After that, his doctors were afraid to tell him about his unhealthy lifestyle and prescribes any drugs, fearing that they can become implicated. As a result, Stalin’s died alone in bed, saturated by his own urine.