Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Remembering the Soviet Union’s First Act of Genocide – Against the Cossacks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 24 – Those who are victims of genocide typically fall into one of three categories: Some like Hitler’s Holocaust of the Jews are almost universally recognized and condemned; others like those of the Circassians, the Armenians or the Ukrainians are politically contested; and still a third like those of the Cossacks and East Prussians remain almost unknown.

            This month includes the anniversaries of decisions launching one of each kind: the January 20, 1942 Wannsee conference which institutionalized Hitler’s “final solution,” Stalin’s January 30, 1930 dekulakization decree that led to the terror famine in Ukraine, and Lenin’s January 24, 1919 decree calling for the elimination of the Cossacks.

            The first has been the subject this year as in many years in the past of commentaries on the evils of Hitler’s system, the second will undoubtedly spark new condemnations of Moscow in Ukraine and among the friends of Ukraine, but the third, concerning the Cossacks, the anniversary of which is today, risks passing unnoticed beyond a narrow circle.

            But like all genocides it must be remembered and condemned, not only because of its inherent evils but also because the failure of all of us to recall and denounce such crimes raises the risks that either those who carried out these crimes or others will be tempted to commit additional ones.

            In a commentary on what he calls “Three Horrific Anniversaries,” Yevgeny Ikhlov compares the terms of the three documents that set these acts of genocide in motion to show “why in the civilized world, Nazism and Communism are put on a par with each other” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5881A20210B10).

            Not only did as many as 500,000 of the three million Cossacks die in the months following Lenin’s decree, an action the Bolshevik leader later sought to avoid any responsibility for by placing the blame on overly enthusiastic local activists, but hundreds of thousands of more Cossacks were killed as a result of the de-kulakization campaign 13 years later.

            “It is perfectly obvious,” Ikhlov says, “that in this case one is speaking about the destruction of the socio-cultural nucleus of the Cossacks as a sub-ethnic group” and that the Bolshevik regime used methods against them that had no analogies in Europe “before the Nazi crimes” of the 1930s and 1940s.

            Cossacks, both descendants of those who escaped this Soviet genocide and those who have chosen to affiliate with Cossackry since 1991 and both within the borders of the Russian Federation and around the world are making this anniversary in various ways as a day of mourning (rostovnews.net/2017/01/23/raskazachennyx-pokazali-rostovu/).

            It is up to all people of good will to do the same, not only to call attention to this evil action that so many have ignored or excused but also to ensure that no leader no matter where in the world can assume that such crimes will go unrecognized or unpunished.

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