Joseph Stalin wanted to see himself as the incarnation of all virtues — and of all genius ever appreciated on earth. Said a poem about Stalin:
“When the Sun in the East begins to rise,
“All stars pale and melt like ice.
“What all the greatest in the world have done
“Is like the stars at dawn, compared with the rising Sun!”
Stalin’s industrial-military development (industrialization) of Russia was based on his spending as little as possible on the population, to be able to invest as much as possible in the industrialization. Thus, Stalin’s workers and low-level clerks were living in “barracks,” the cheapest to build per inhabitant, and Stalin’s peasants were living in the same huts in which they and their ancestors had been living. Of course, now they were not called peasants, but rather, “collective farmers,” since they worked for “collective farms,” and in exchange they were permitted to grow food for themselves on their little plots of land close to their huts.
What kind of tenants lived in an ordinary Moscow apartment? Before 1917, one small family occupied our six-room Moscow apartment. But in the 1930s, six families occupied it: a lawyer and his wife; a physician with his wife and their child; a writer (my father) and his wife, a physician (my mother); a bookkeeper and his family; and a car driver of an important official, the car driver’s wife, their many children, and her mother.
Built for top Soviet officials was a huge apartment building, in which every family had an apartment of its own, a unique luxury. My aunt, her high-placed husband, their 9-year-old daughter (my cousin, two years younger than myself), and their housekeeper had their own rooms, until one day my cousin’s father was arrested and shot. What for? Stalin was destroying the Communist Party, since he was the Communist Party, the “Soviet government,” and all organizations that did what he ordered them to do. My cousin’s father praised some communist to another communist, who got scared and “informed” on him.
The next morning, after her father’s arrest, my cousin and an adult who accompanied her appeared in our room. “My father had been arrested,” she told me. “But he is innocent. He has committed no crime.”
Known all over the world is an independent periodical The Epoch Times, published outside China by the freedom-loving Chinese. It devoted a recent article to the Chinese economy, and it is amazing to what extent the picture coincides with what I had observed in Stalin’s Russia. Amazing but not surprising.
Stalin discovered that a modern army able to rout Adolf Hitler’s German army could be created in Russia by robbing that same population stratum the Soviet propaganda contended that Hitler robbed in Germany.
Mao Zedong, who came to power in 1949, followed Stalin’s recipe, except that now, with China’s population at nearly 1.35 billion, its rulers are expected to create, by Stalin’s recipe, an army able to rout not only a German army but also the U.S. army as well, to be followed by routing whoever still remains to resist their world power.
Mao was different. He was a son of a fairly rich peasant. From 1949 to 1975, he is believed to have killed close to 70 million people. Why not? On his photograph at the end of his stay in power, that is, his stay in life, his face is fat, his forehead small, and his smile without parting his lips expresses his general satisfaction with life.
Google supplies the references to Mao’s ritual, according to which it was stated whether the death sentence meant death only or torture as well. Different kinds of torture had different names, and so the kind of torture could be specified: “sitting in a sedan chair,” “airplane ride,” “toad drinking water,” and “monkey pulling reins.”
Mao seemed to have failed to understand what was wrong in his murders, with or without torture. His face in old age is as innocent as that of a docile domestic animal.
In the final period of Stalin’s rule, when his glory was still unblemished, he was preparing to enter a new, splendid phase of his life, as I learned from his close subordinate, who had a villa not far from ours, in the countryside. In his youth, Stalin was studying to become an Orthodox priest (Orthodox Christianity was practiced in his native Georgia, as it was in Russian Russia).
Now, Stalin was planning to be God, according to Stalin, in Orthodox Christianity, and his sculptured holy image was to be ensconced in the important Orthodox churches, to be then spread all over the country.
“Of course!” ironically said our neighbor Alisa Poret, an artist and the widow of a writer, “Remember the song: ‘Stalin is our glory in all battles, Stalin is our youth and our flight’? Obviously, such words do not express divinity or eternity, but this is what they called for.”
To Stalin, all that occurred in Russia since 1917 had been Stalin, and to Mao, all that occurred in China since 1949 had been Mao. All that was needed was to stretch their greatness to eternity. But that did not happen. Stalin died before he became God. Mao died without sanctification, because religion in China occupied a lesser emotional space than Christianity in Russia.
Both Stalin and Mao went through “the criticism” after their infinite power (and life) were gone. Possibly, they will be remembered no more and no less than Ivan the Stern in Russia. Outside Russia, he is not Ivan the Stern but Ivan the Terrible, and terrible is terrible. Perhaps Stalin and Mao should be recalled everywhere not as the terrible, but as the horrible. Stalin the Horrible and Mao the Horrible, who dragged the history of the 20th century to the prehistoric horror, into which the entire mankind may yet sink as to its eternal live grave, with or without total extinction.
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