Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Red Terror Began 100 Years Ago Today

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 5 – On September 5, 1918, the Bolshevik government issued its infamous decree “On the Red Terror,” which effectively legitimized the extra-judicial killing of anyone deemed to be an opponent of the Soviet authorities.  Over the next four years, the Red Terror claimed as many as two million victims.

            The Soviets justified this action because of the assassination of one Bolshevik leader and the attempted assassination of Lenin himself by anti-Bolshevik groups; but by formalizing what they had already practiced, they broke down one of the last barriers to the rise of the totalitarian state that was to destroy even more lives than the Red Terror did.

            This anniversary has attracted relatively little attention in the Moscow media. (For some exceptions, see 945 821.shtml?updated, and

            That inattention likely reflects two things. On the one hand, as Moscow commentator Vasily Yeremin says, the consensus of historians about the Red Terror is at odds with the Putin regime’s view. Most historians point out that “the Red Terror began earlier than the White and was inevitable since Bolshevik power” (

                And on the other, again as Yeremin says, the Bolshevik regime was directing its violence “not against real opposition but against ‘hostile’ strata of society: officers, members of the nobility, landowners, priests, ‘kulaks,’ Cossacks, members of the intelligentsia, entrepreneurs, and so on.”

                Such thinking in categories not only informed Soviet policy about such groups as “enemies of the people” but also lies behind the approach of the current Russian powers that be against “extremists,” including those who post or repost online articles the current regime finds objectionable.

            In that sense, one can understand why Putin et al would not want to call attention to this anniversary because in a critical way, the Red Terror may have begun 100 years ago; but the kind of thinking that made it possible is still in place in the Kremlin to this day.

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