- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

I started reading this semi-autobiographical book of Soviet horrors on a day the Christian Science Monitor was reporting that another mass grave of Joseph Stalin's victims this time perhaps 30,000 had been found in a forest glade near St. Petersburg. Scores of skulls, each with a bullet hole in its base, have been unearthed. Perhaps to make people forget about this past, in which perhaps as many as 20, 30, 40 million people nobody will ever know were killed by the Lenin-Stalin killing machine, usually after unspeakable tortures, ex-KGB Russian President Vladimir Putin has allowed a set of commemorative coins bearing Stalin's image to be struck by the Russian mint. Disgusting.

Alexander N. Yakovlev is no ordinary Russian writer-historian. He is a major figure in Russia who, I am sure wittingly, helped bring down the Soviet Union. As adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev, Mr. Yakovlev developed the concepts of perestroika and glasnost. He is a crippled veteran of World War II and still limps from his wounds. More recently, as one of the few Russians who has had unfettered access to the secret police archives, he has come to a lapidary conclusion: "We are still far from escaping our barbarism."

Everywhere you go in Russia or Ukraine, says Mr. Yakovlev, there are statues and monuments to V.I. Lenin, streets are still named after him, Lenin's portrait hangs in many government offices, hundreds of Bolshevik and Fascist newspapers, many of them viciously anti-Semitic, are being published, speeches defending Stalin are made in the Duma.

Mr. Yakovlev's book, based on archives, told me nothing I didn't know about the horrors of Bolshevism. What makes the book so gripping is that you see the nuts and bolts of the Great Terror, the simple inhumanity of the killers who did things to their fellow human beings, including children, babies, adolescents, pregnant women, grandmothers. Just as with Adolf Hitler, Jews, everybody, was Stalin's enemy, even the wife of his closest companion-in-arms, Vyacheslav Molotov. Stalin sent her to a concentration camp.

It is incredible that, while what Mr. Yakovlev calls Bolshevism's "bloodsoaked harvest" was going on, there were distinguished Western intellectuals who, willingly, either denied the Bolshevik atrocities. They said it was all capitalist propaganda, or else actually defended the trials, the executions, the Great Terror. A leading British intellectual, Harold Laski, speaking up for the "Moscow trials," found little difference between the Soviet and British legal systems, noting that "basically I did not observe much difference between the general character of a trial in Russia and in this country."

In Andrei Vishinsky, Stalin's infamous prosecutor who provided a legal luster to the villainous Moscow trials of the '30s, Mr. Laski saw "a man whose passion was law reform … He was doing what an ideal minister of justice would do if we had such a person in Great Britain forcing his colleagues to consider what is meant by actual experience of the law in action."

There were so many, many others, like Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, who defended Stalin's crimes and spoke in admiration of the man. And there were Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who described Stalin's accomplishment in a two-volume study as a "new civilization." They wrote about Stalin's genocidal collectivization program: "Strong must have been the faith and resolute the will of the men who, in the interest of what seemed to them the public good, could make so momentous a decision."

When you read the archives supplied textually by Mr. Yakovlev, you can only shake your head and marvel that there are American academics today who are writing in defense of Stalin. And you wonder about an American vice president, Henry A. Wallace, who was so carried away by the Soviet Union that he praised Stalin for having created what Wallace called "economic democracy" as against our pitiful political democracy.

As for Russia, its economy today may be improving and inflation may be under control but for Mr. Yakovlev there is little hope for Russia after a decade of freedom: "Without the de-Bolshevization of Russia there can be no question of the nation's recovery, its renascence and its resumption of its place in world civilization. Only when it has shaken free of Bolshevism can Russia hope to be healed."

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