As America begins preparations for Sunday’s New Year’s Eve festivities, some might be celebrating another holiday — that of the formation of the Soviet Union.
The USSR, established Dec. 30, 1922 by Vladimir Lenin, was born out of the same needless bloodshed that would later define it. Five years prior in 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution began, sparking a civil war that would leave millions dead, many by sheer acts of murder committed by competing factions.
Estimates state that up to 9 million individuals perished during the Russian Revolution — mostly needlessly through famine and various outbreaks of disease. Bolshevik violence became so pervasive that the term “Red Terror” is now scarred into the psyche of many Russians. The secret police of the proto-USSR, the Cheka, are estimated to have murdered 100,000 to 500,000 individuals through forced labor or mass executions from 1917 to 1922.
Things didn’t get much better once the Soviet republic was finally established. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin took the reigns and left his bloody mark on history.
According to “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression,” a text considered the standard recollection of the USSR’s atrocities, 20 million perished as a result of Stalin’s targeted killings, forced labor, famine, and collectivization. These numbers were confirmed by a major Soviet newspaper in 1989 and, according to The New York Times, “is about equal to the number of Soviet soldiers and civilians believed killed in World War II.”
Of course, those are just the individuals who died. That same article circulated in a Soviet paper estimated that 40 million people in total were negatively affected by Stalin’s terror, either by being unjustly arrested or having land confiscated.
Focusing on just the USSR wouldn’t do justice to all those who died or suffered in other countries by tyrants inspired by the same poisonous ideology that motivated the Bolsheviks in 1917.
An estimate cited by the libertarian magazine Reason puts the total number of people killed because of communism from 1900 to 2000 at a staggering 94 million — making it by far the bloodiest ideology in recent history. In comparison, the same study put fascism as responsible for 28 million deaths.
While the road to serfdom is long and sometimes paved with good intentions, these numbers serve as a reminder of just how evil individuals supposedly devoted to inequality can act. With a rising number of Americans (and a large plurality of millennials) looking at socialism favorably, an annual history lesson can hopefully convince them otherwise.
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