Confessions Of A Man Who Lived Through Stalin’s Communist Dictatorship

January 8, 2018 | 5 Comments » | Topics: Life Experiences, TRUTH

How did Russians generally feel about Stalin during the time? Was support mostly fear based, or did propaganda play a bigger role?

He was supported by fear because any indication of disagreement with his line would lead to exile in the best case and to execution in the worst.

I’ve always wondered how omnipresent the state surveillance apparatus was. Was there such a thing as a normal daily life or could you feel the state breathing down your neck at all times? Could you afford to be more relaxed outside of urban centres or was it just impossible to avoid?

It was impossible to avoid, but people tried to ignore it because any appearance of fear would only increase their suspicion. This doesn’t mean that every single person was followed, but the possibility of it was enough to terrorize the population. It was more intense in towns and cities than in villages.

What do you think about the rise of the omnipresent surveillance apparatus of the state in modern Western nations? 

This surveillance in Western nations was not instituted just for its own sake. It was the need for it brought by 9/11 and we really do not know how much of it will be sufficient to protect us from people who are willing to die for their cause. Our judiciary system is based on punishing deeds, but now we are forced to prevent the evildoers from committing these deeds and this requires knowledge of intent.

How was the daily life in USSR when it comes to personal comfort and also the possibilities to climb the social ranks? Were men and women more equal than in the west in term of careers?

The standard of living in the USSR was very low and people had to stand in long lines to obtain food. To climb the social ranks, one had to be a member of the Communist Party. Women had equal opportunity in some jobs including digging ditches and shoveling snow.

How prevalent was petty theft in day to day life growing up within the Soviet Union. Not necessarily stealing from each other, but trying to steal from the regime? Did people often steal from each other, or was there more of a group mentality, of we’re all in this together?

It depends on how you define “petty crimes”. During the collectivization of farmers, theft from the collective farm of a handful of grain stalks needed for survival was considered a crime punishable by years of imprisonment. People stole because there were shortages of everything and among the population, stealing from the government was not viewed as a real crime. In general, petty crime was common.

Is it true that things like possession of bubblegum and blue jeans would land you in jail for smuggling?

Possession of bubblegum and blue jeans could create suspicion of being a black marketeer, but it wasn’t really dangerous.

While you were still in the USSR, how much propaganda was actually present, and how did people react to it?

The propaganda was ever-present beginning with kindergarten. It came through books, radio, songs, and school. People pretended to believe it in order to avoid suspicion of being disloyal.

The Soviet propaganda was hammering into us that life in the Soviet Union was incomparably better than it is in Capitalist countries. At that time, there was the Great Depression in the West and they showed us news reels featuring lines of the unemployed. We were not aware of the real situation in the West. In countries like the Soviet Union or North Korea, their leader is considered to be omniscient, omnipotent, and benign. Considering the police terror, people were afraid even to think about any deficiencies because a careless word could bring disaster.

There’s many different explanations to why the Soviet union eventually collapsed. Whilst they probably all contributed, which do you find was the most decisive?

I think it was the spiritual crisis caused by discrepancy between the rosy propaganda and totalitarian reality that made the Soviet people lose faith in the system. I think there is a lesson in this for us.

What were the most important lessons you’ve learned while being persecuted by Stalin?

The most important lesson was that you have to compare propaganda with the actual situation. We were being constantly told that life in the Soviet Union is better than in the capitalist countries, but as soon as the contact with the West showed that this wasn’t true, people lost faith in the Soviet government.

What were your reactions after his death and the fall of Stalinism?

I was overjoyed when Stalin died because he is from Georgia and many people there lived to a hundred years old which would have meant another quarter century of his rule.

After growing up under Stalin, what is your opinion of communism, socialism, etc? 

My opinion of communism and socialism is that it is not a workable system because it eliminates individual incentives.

Do you feel like communism is inherently wrong/bad/evil?

The reason I think it is inherently evil is because in China there was Mao and in Cambodia there was Pol Pot so that it wasn’t only the Soviet Union that was evil.

What are some misconceptions people (mainly from the West) have about life in the Soviet Union or during Stalin’s rule that you would like to clear up?

The misconception during that time was that life in the Soviet Union was the way it was depicted in their propaganda. Currently, a misconception is that the health system was working when in reality you had to bribe the nurses to get the bed sheets changed.

What if any parallels do you see in Putin’s increasingly autocratic government and the Soviet government?

The fact that he is approved by 80% of the Russian population shows that because Russia never had a real democracy, an autocratic government is acceptable to a majority there and so is Putin’s objective of restoring military power and influence in the world.

Do you think that Putin is dangerous?

Putin is trying to restore Russia to its previous power and influence in the neighboring countries. It is difficult to predict how far he would go. It all depends on the reaction of the world. Many Russians agree with him and he is still very popular. He is trying to replace the ideas of communism with the ideas of nationalism.

What do you think about the bloggers law in Russia?

Putin is trying to introduce censorship and the bloggers law is a part of this attempt to control communication and news. He already controls the nationwide channels on television and nationwide newspapers. Even though he still does not control local newspapers, they censor themselves and follow his line if they know what is good for them.

What would you say surprised you most about American culture when you came here, vs. what you had heard while you were in the USSR?

The Soviet propaganda painted the United States as an almost fascist country where everyone was being exploited by the capitalists and wished they lived in a Communist country. One couldn’t read Western newspapers or books and did not have any information about real life in the West. The fact that no information was available from the West did not give us an opportunity to compare the two systems. I did not believe them and, having studied in West Germany after fleeing the Soviet Union, already knew what democracy was all about.

Anything else surprise you?

It was the availability of books on different philosophies and points of view. When I went to the library I didn’t know which book to read first and I just stood there.

What was the most unexpected thing you experienced when moving to the US after living under an oppressive, communist regime?

The biggest thing was that people were saying whatever they wanted and no one was censoring them. The most humorous was that I couldn’t understand why the tags on hotel pillows threatened people if the tags were removed.

What do you think of how socialism is influencing the younger generation?

Well Socialism is a very comforting idea that someone is going to take care of you. It is not compatible with the American idea of meritocracy and does not encourage initiative and effort.

What is your opinion on educated people in America who openly support communism, as well as dictators and their dictatorship?

I think these people are not sufficiently educated because schools are not doing a good job teaching history. I wish history teachers themselves knew more about what went on. Those who don’t know the past are liable to repeat it.

As a survivor of Stalin’s regime, what would you say to demonstrate how bad it really was to someone who’s romanticizing the communist ideology?

Stalin’s regime caused the death of over 24,000,000 of his citizens. They killed my father and many others just for writing a letter to their family abroad. They starved millions of people during artificially created famines in order to force farmers into collective farms.

I would recommend reading "Gulag: A History" by Anne Applebaum

Do you see any parallels between what we call political correctness today, and the sort of dogma enforced by political commissars back in the day?

Yes, every time I hear the phrase “political correctness” I think of the people in the Soviet Union who were killed because they said something that was not politically correct.

What party/ideology do you identify with in the US? What do you think about Bernie Sanders being painted as a communist for wanting to incorporate socialistic programs into our capitalist society?

I am in the middle of the road between the republicans and democrats.

We should differentiate between Communism and Socialism. Bernie Sanders is not a Communist. I think he would like to see a system more like what they have in Sweden, which is a monolithic society and would not work here.

What would be your ideal method of governance?

A civilized democracy.

Do you think there are any artistic/fictional representations of life under Stalin’s regime that have a particular resonance with your experiences?

Yes, there is a Russian movie with english subtitles that is called “Burnt by the Sun” which is available on Amazon.

Would you say there are any similarities between the propaganda you experienced back then and what’s being shown today?

The propaganda there aimed to make one a slave while the propaganda here aims to make one a fool.

 

Check out Anatole Konstantin book "A Brief History of Communism: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire"

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  • Grover Furr

    Garbage fake bourgeois propaganda. Liar.

  • Tingle

    Feel the beeeeeeern.

  • YUGE

    Trump wishes he was a DICKtator like Stalin, but he doesn’t know who Stalin is.

    • Bob Frapples

      Instead, he’s your daddy.

      • bobcollum

        That can’t be true. Yuge, do you have a job in the Trump administration?