Asked in History of RussiaJoseph Stalin
How many people did Stalin kill?
February 05, 2018 5:15AM
The most widely accepted figure is that Stalin killed around 20 million.
But there is no argument, both Hitler and Stalin where ruthless and blood letting rulers of nations, where the people of those nations were just to frightened to do anything it. Both leaders led a reign of terror over many. Jews, Muslims, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, even Gays. (There are many other groups that I have not mentioned). Or anyone who tried to stand up against them.
According to the documentary, "Stalin, Portrait of a Monster in Blood." He is estimated to have been responsible for possibly 60 Million Deaths. This is likely an exaggeration, but millions did suffer under his repression.
Look to "Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy" for an excellent portrait of the man by Volkogonov. J Arch Getty's works on Stalin's purges are also an excellent source of information.
There is a vast difference between the number of people Stalin killed in purges and the number that died of neglect and poor conditions in his horrendous network of labor camps which stretched across all of the USSR's 12 time zones. These prisoners of Stalin are largely forgotten in most accounts of Stalin. "Gulag" by Anne Applebaum is the definitive guide on the subject due to her detailed research into both memoirs of prisoners and the NKVD records from the time. If a dictator has people imprisoned or sent to camps, then he's ultimately responsible for their fate, so there is little distinction between killing people and deliberately letting them die of neglect.
The gap between high and low estimates is enormous. At the upper end one gets estimates ranging from about 40-60 million or even 100 million, at the lower end about 10-20 million. Clearly, there's ideological 'monkey business' at work. Until someone can reconcile these amazing discrepancies satisfactorily, and provide a very clear explanation of how the new figure is arrived at, it's impossible to say how many people Stalin had killed. During WWII he encouraged tactics which led to the deaths of about 8,000,000 of his own soldiers. Additionally about 2,800,000 German, Hungarian, Romanian, and Finnish troops were killed by his armies. Stalin's policies meant no mercy to prisoners, and huge numbers died after being taken captive during the war. Perhaps 30,000,000 persons of various nations died. Following WWII, Stalin instigated a policy of terror on the German people. This led to about 2,000,000 German civilians being murdered outright and thousands more committing suicide. Stalin enforced brutal police states on all the peoples of eastern Europe which he overran with his armies. Tens of thousands died in these takeovers. German POWs were kept in horrible conditions for as long as ten years after the war, leading to the deaths of at least 1,000,000. In 1945 he launched an unprovoked war with Japan, killing many tens of thousands of Japanese troops and capturing many others.
[Poor military tactics are usually put in a different category. After all, it is not common to regard the generals of World War 1 as mass murderers on the grounds that they lacked the imagination to break out of trench warfare].
All accounts agree that it is in the millions, perhaps even more than Hitler.
Stalin caused the deaths of people of certain races and nationalities (Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, etc.), people of certain economic status (wealthy farm owners called "kulaks") by relocating them to the gulags (concentration camps) in Siberia where they died of malnutrition, overwork and exposure. He murdered political opponents, actual and suspected, in the thousands usually by a single gunshot to the back of the head. He forced the repatriation of all Russian soldiers taken prisoner during World War 2 and treated them as virtual traitors, sending [many of] them to the gulags as well. Most accurately, Stalin caused the deaths of at least 20,000,000 people. Obviously, though, he did not kill that many himself. With his faulty tactics and failed techniques on the battlefield, he cause at least 25,000,000 Red Army soldiers. He had several million executed or worked to death in Russia as well.
Some estimates will reach over 60 million, but Stalin is actually only a direct cause of 15-20 million deaths. The 5 million difference is from varying estimates due to how many people there were and the secrecy of the USSR.
Well, some "historians" blame Stalin for all deaths of Russian people that happened from 1924 to 1953. The actual victims of Stalin were a few thousand people who were imprisoned or killed during "purges" or died in prison.
Some "military experts" talk about "faulty tactics" during WWII. If we see total military losses at Eastern front - Russia lost about 9 million soldiers, Germans lost about 6.5 million and German allies lost more than 1.5 million. Losses of both sides are comparable given the forces involved. The militarily-experienced Germans prevailed during the first year of war, but then were beaten, much as Napoleon was, by the combination of Soviet determination and Russian weather.
The actual number of persons killed may never be known, because in the aftermath of World War II, there was no "official" record kept of those who Stalin disposed of, which certainly included anybody he saw as a threat to his rule. His henchman, Lavrentiy Beria (Beriya), was more intimately involved in the killing process than Stalin himself.
The higher end of figures are likely exaggerated, however, because those with no actual power would have been needed for labor camps, rather than killed.