Soviet Union/Talk

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How can an "estimated" number of genocides determine the superlative "most genocidal" be given to a former nation? If this is the case, then some of the numbers reportedly killed during Mao's Regime, although obviously unconfirmed, are more than twice the supposed 62 million killed by the USSR. I would suggest a change:

The Soviet Union was reportedly one of the most genocidal regime in human history, murdering an estimated 62 million people.

This is a bit wordy and can be reduced, but I think you might get the gist. Make the same change on the Stalin page, if you so feel necessary. --Invictus

The average PRC estimate is around 40 million.

Tim, I've always been curious where such average estimates are gleaned from. And, if the numbers of the Former USSR are so much greater than that of the PRC, why then, do those who cry foul on issues of humanity and the mistreatment thereof, bemoan the misdeeds of the PRC over the USSR (or so it seems, from these eyes so jaded by an inadequate media)? I am no champion of either cause, however, for purposes of an encyclopedic project such as this, I hope we are more careful in our phraseology than those who have preceded us. The use of comparatives or superlatives where estimates, especially unconfirmed, are concerned seems a bit out of whack. --Invictus

This is a good source of data:

I think it is reliable because the methodology used to compile this data is revealed explicity and makes perfect sense, it is widely quoted by respectable sources, and so far as I know it is not contested by anyone who is taken seriously.

One reason the crimes of the USSR are ignored may be that for much of its history, American and western journalists were sympathetic to it. An American won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting how wonderful the Soviet Union was, reporting from Russia at the height of the Stalinist genocides in the 1930s. The American conservatives were most sternly anti-Soviet, and the magniude of the Soviet's crimes against humanity show that in this they were in the right; the leftist media might downplay these crimes to avoid admitting their political enemies were right all along.

Surely the media wasn't leftist during the cold war, when the government ended up instituting legislation against it being so? Huh! You learn something each a technical note, do the crimes of the USSR end up being counted as genocide per se? I was under the impression that genocide referred to the targeting of a particular ethnic group, whereas Stalin pretty much killed people randomly. I think it might be better to use most murderous or some other superlative like that.

Stalin killed in both manners. While his regime committed genocide, he also had people killed without concern to ethnicity, but almost always with some sort of maligned reason.

(Genocide is a technical term, but is commonly used in a non-technical way to mean political mass killing; democide may be the correct term for this but it is not in common usage; it is used in the Sovier Union article in the non-technical sense. - TS)

Unfortunately, my first-hand research of Stalin was limited to the period from 1915-1921. In 1997, I was translating telegrams and messages regarding the Czech Legion's anabasis across Revolutionary Russia after their defection from the Austro-Hungarian Army on the Eastern Front of World War I. Many of these documents were handwritten by Stalin, Lenin, Aralov, and Trotsky. I wikified all of this, because it has to do with the Soviet Union and I need to dig my notes out and write about that.

Larry, I still have many of my rough draft translations from that project, would that be considered encyclopedic (general education)? The professor is dead now and the project died with her (and I can't get the fellowship to continue the work!), but I know not the legalities on this. --Invictus

Well, this is a very good question. We've discussed a similar question on Nupedia: should original research be included in the encyclopedia? The answer for Nupedia is: generally speaking, no. An encyclopedia is a summation of what is known about a subject, not a place for original research. (This is a summary of the conclusion we, most of us, came to, not our reasoning.) Now, on Wikipedia, perhaps we would want to be more inclusive. One might ask what reason we might have for not being inclusive in this regard. I think there might be a reason; the purpose of an encyclopedia is not to put research under the careful scrutiny of experts, as with journal and academic book publishing.

So one might argue that, unless your research had already been reviewed in such a forum, it wouldn't be appropriate for Wikipedia (or Nupedia), because, for all we know, it might be really shoddy work. Of course, I'm not saying your work is shoddy work--probably it isn't. But that's not for Wikipedia to determine.

Here is another possible argument: if indeed your research were important enough to be included as the source for encyclopedically-imparted (alleged) fact, then (probably, only probably) it should and would already have been published and made more widely known to the world. On the other hand, if it's not important enough to have been published, then it's surely not important enough to be a source for encyclopedically-imparted (alleged) fact (I'm thinking I like that phrase; we can create an acronym: enimaf). And on a third hand, supposing that what you're translating is already widely-known and imparted in various sources about Stalin's Russia, then I have a question: shouldn't we consult such sources in conjunction with your work? Very often, historical examination of source material by non-historians is prone to all sorts of mistakes--just like examination of history of philosophy by non-philosophers, or examination of history of science by non-scientists, etc.

As to the legalities, I don't know, but I imagine they're worth considering, at least.

Anyway, I'd be interested to see what other people have to say about this. I think it's an interesting subject. Above, mainly I'm playing devil's advocate, but I am by no means strongly on this side of the debate.

--Larry Sanger

Tim, you gave several specific numbers re: Stalinist atrocities. Are these all accepted by historians and scholars of the Soviet Union? Frankly, I doubt it. If not, we should say so and we should say what the other views are. Otherwise, it makes us look like ideologues (as surely we aren't, right?). --LMS

Estimates vary. The Black Book of Communism claims 25 million. Britannica says 10s of millions. Rummel's data is or was the most thorough research that I've heard of - it was done before the Soviet collapse so better research may be available. We should probably hedge with "an estimated" or "approximately". --TS

Larry, I presume you know the Russian Language, so you know that context is of great importance to the proper and accurate translation thereof. Regarding the translation work I performed for the professor in question, She required that ALL of her assistants on this project read 18 different books in order to have a firm understanding of the history behind the project. So, many sources were consulted in conjunction with the work and the translations were reviewed by the senior Russian professor for accuracy.

There's so much to write upon and discover about the former USSR and its beginnings. IMHO, This debate - friendly, as it is - is excellent. I'm all for enimaf! --Invictus

Here's this from the CIA site in re: Russian history. I haven't added it--for the first time--because it seems overly simplistic, vague, and just short of propaganda. If you disagree, then by all means add it.  :-)

"The defeat of the Russian Empire in World War I led to the seizure of power by the communists and the formation of the USSR. The brutal rule of Josef Stalin (1924-53) strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 broke up the USSR into 15 independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the communist period."

I don't think this is propaganda. It may not be very well-written. I don't think the Russian Empire was defeated in WWI - they were overthrown by a domestic revolution, with the new government dropping out of the war. The economy did not stagnate "until" Gorbachev - it continued to stagnate throughout Gorbachev's rule. Whether society stagnated would be difficult to say, as it's not clear what this would mean. I'd say let's use the US State Deptartment histories instead of the CIA's, because they are much more thorough. TS

Disagree with the description of USSR as totalitarian for its entire history -- that is, 1917-1991. It was certainly so during Stalin's rule and after, but a case could be made that it was not so earlier. However, re: TS comment above -- IIRC, the Russian Empire did in fact surrender to Germany, and lost the Ukraine in the process. The revolution did not occur until after the Russian surrender. --RjLesch

Start date is wrong. It wasn't called 'Soviet Union' in the first few years. --Taw