Staunton, September 27 – Many in Russia and the West believe that Lenin’s “red terror” was directed at real enemies of the Soviet regime, while Stalin’s was directed at imaginary ones and designed only to intimidate or boost the careers of those who carried out the Kremlin ruler’s orders.
But, in fact, St. Petersburg historian Konstantin Boguslavsky says, the archives show that during the red terror in Crimea, the majority of those shot were not White officers but ordinary soldiers sympathetic to the Soviets and that many in the Cheka doing the shooting were animated not by ideology but by careerist motivations.
Consequently, he suggests, there is a direct line between what the chekists did in 1920 and what they did in the late 1930s, when a majority of those executed were in fact innocent and many of those doing the executions were ordinary careerists (newizv.ru/news/society/21-09-2020/bey-svoih-bolsheviki-unichtozhali-ne-stolko-klassovyh-vragov-skolko-storonnikov).
The historian says that “when there weren’t enough real ‘Whites,’ the chekists killed workers and peasants who sympathized with Soviet power.” They fulfilled the plan and boosted their own careers in the process, harming most seriously precisely those they claimed to be defending in both cases.
Boguslavsky shows that Stalin and his Chekists were exactly what they claimed to be, the genuine “continuers of Lenin’s program,” a program that was evil and careerist at the outset rather than one that as some would have it initially gave great promise but was then perverted by Stalin.
This is a real continuity in Russian history, albeit it is not one that Vladimir Putin with his obsession about “a single stream” of his nation’s past really wants to stress given that it represents just as much an attack on his favored Stalin as on Lenin who the current Kremlin ruler believes put in place the basis for the demise of the USSR in 1991.