Monday, April 04, 2011

Monday Afternoon Cigar

Romeo Y Julieta Habana Reserve.

We are making fast progress through Robert Conquest's The Dragons of Expectations. Unlike his other books, which seem to take as long as the USSR to collapse, this one is fun and fast. This brilliant scholar uses this 2005 book to sum up his vast work from previous decades. We are enjoying his input of recently uncovered facts as he reviews the major events that were Communism. One example from page 116: the total of signed death orders by Stalin - 44,000. He also quotes - liberally - from Orwell. Good stuff!

A couple paragraphs that stood out, from page 120:

Dead bodies were a common product of the Stalinist system. But minds did not do well either. They had to endure a continuous barrage of untruth. It can be argued that the Soviet Union's main negative characteristic - with plenty to choose from - was falsification. One finds it right from the start. But in the 1930's, after the disastrous failure of collectivization, the disjunction was complete. Henceforth, two different Soviet Unions existed - the official one, a flourishing and happy country (beset, though, by traitors), and the real one, overrun by poverty, squalor, and terror, and with a crushed population.

The prettier of these pictures was not only compulsory in all Soviet media and deniable by citizens at the cost of their liberty or lives. It was also, as far as possible, conveyed to the outer world and especially (as we have said) to a stratum of the Western intelligentsia, many of whom were even taken in by, for example, the official denials issued by Soviet representatives in the West of the very existence of the 1933 famine, let alone its causes.

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