Tag archives: Stalin

March 5, 1953: Stalin Dies

by Robert Morrison

March 5, 2013

Israeli political leader Natan Scharansky remembers this day sixty years ago vividly. He was a kindergartener living in a crowded Moscow apartment then. His father woke him up to hear the news: Stalin was dead. The man who ruled twelve times zone with an iron grip for twenty-five years had died in his Kremlin apartments. Scharansky’s father whispered to him that when the children in school cry, you cry. When they compose songs and poems to the Communist leader, you join in. But remember this: Stalin was going to send all of us Jews to Siberia.

It was necessary for that father to whisper those words to his little boy because he could not be sure that the other apartment dwellers, with whom the Scharanskys shared a kitchen and a bathroom, would not turn him in to the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police predecessor of the KGB.

I grew up in the shadow of the USSR. As a young boy, I envisioned an Iron Curtain looking like a venetian blind, closing off an entire people. There was much to fear in those days. Even as a grade school student, I had heard about the concerns of my parents, our relatives. Stalin had gotten the atomic bomb, we were told, by stealing America’s secrets. Our Polish-American relatives were especially concerned about Poland under Stalin’s rule. World War II, fought for such high ideals by America and Britain, had “liberated” the Poles from Nazi rule, only to see them slip behind that Iron Curtain.

My dad woke me up, too, to hear the CBS World News Roundup relating the news of Stalin’s death. My father had been to the USSR as an American merchant seaman. He told me that the American crew of his ship that docked in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) were held on a bus before being allowed to visit the famous Hermitage. This tsarist palace had been converted to an art museum.

The Soviets went through the list of American seamen. Anyone with a German-sounding name was taken off the bus and ordered back on board his ship. For the rest, they were conveyed in a bus with windows papered over. My father described the long hallways of the Hermitage. The floors were parquet and the walls were plastered white with real gold decorations. The paintings on the walls were priceless canvases by Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian and other Renaissance artists.

Afterward, the Americans were taken to a canteen, where they got to dance with uniformed Russian women. My dad said none of them spoke English and they seemed afraid to be seen with foreigners.

Those women had good reason to fear. No one knew in the USSR when Stalin might decide to have everyone shot who had consorted with Americans—even though he had ordered them to do it.

Hollywood then and now made a joke of Stalin’s purges. “We will have fewer, but better, Russians,” says famed actress Greta Garbo in the hit 1939 comedy “Ninotchka.” The movie posters said: “Garbo laughs!” Few Russians off the screen laughed in those days.

Historian Timothy Snyder’s grim volume, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, tells why. This book tells the story of millions of people being killed by their own governments. Stalin’s purges in the 1930s destroyed millions of Byelorussians, Ukrainians, and Russians. He deported whole peoples to Siberia, including Volga Germans who had farmed peacefully along that river for two hundred years, including Crimean Tartars. Snyder puts the death toll in these Bloodlands at fourteen million.

The history of the Holocaust is well known, and should be. The fate of six million Jews was a singular horror of Hitler’s Third Reich. But less well known is Stalin’s Gulag, where uncounted millions also died. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recorded the story of the Gulag Archipelago in three massive volumes. Some of the “islands” in this allegorical chain of islands—Stalin’s slave labor camps—were as small as a telephone booth at a railway station. Big enough to shove you in to arrest you. Other islands were larger than metropolitan France. Freezing, starving, this is how most of Stalin’s victims died. But there were also the Killing Fields of Kiev. Day and night, for more than ten years, trucks would bring Stalin’s prisoners to be shot outside this Ukrainian capital city.

Stalin’s vast empire stretched from Vladivostok in the East to the borders of West Germany. He also had millions of sympathizers in the West, people who admired his project of building socialism in his sphere and wanted to bring the decadent democracies under his control. In the French National Assembly, when a debate resulted in fistfights, a left wing delegate denounced the many Communists who had been freely elected, he yelled: “You are not of the left, but of the East!” He meant, you are not real socialists, but Stalinists.

Why recall all this now? What has Stalin to do with us in 2013? President Roosevelt hoped that Stalin’s early training as an Orthodox Priest might make him behave “as a Christian gentleman ought to behave.” FDR was spectacularly wrong in that assessment.

But was he any more wrong than Secretary of State John Kerry is today? Kerry went to Egypt and doled out another $250 million in foreign aid to Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood cohorts. These people run U.S.-supplied armored personnel carriers over unarmed demonstrators. Muslims who protest the new jihadist government are being suppressed. So are millions of Coptic Christians.

The United States must borrow that $250 million from Communist China—a regime that never disavowed its allegiance to Stalin. And for what? So that our fellow Christians might be murdered by an ideology of slavery and murder? All over North Africa and the Middle East, Christians are fleeing from the jihadis whom the Obama administration is supplying. Another $60 million has just been showered on the Syrian opposition to the tyrant in Damascus. But that opposition contains elements that are tied to al Qaeda.

One thing can be said for America’s victory in World War II. We took the unconditional surrender of our enemies. Perhaps that’s because we were only funding one side in that war.

Knowing something of the history of cruelty and oppression of the last century should make us all the more determined to preserve, protect and defend America—this last best hope of men on earth.

Remembering Orlando Zapata

by Robert Morrison

March 5, 2010

God bless the Wall Street Journals Mary Anastasia OGrady. Shes a defender of liberty. Her March 1st column, Viva Zapata, urges us to remember the Cuban human rights champion, Orlando Zapata. This humble stone mason died in a military prison in Havana last week. Zapata was only 42. He had gone on an 84-day hunger strike to protest Fidel Castros inhuman treatment of thousands of prisoners of conscience in Cuba, one of the last of the Stalinist regimes in the world.

I say one of the last in a spirit of hope. Surely China is a Stalinist regime. So is North Korea. What does it mean to call Castros island prison a Stalinist regime?

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin died on this day in 1953. Then, Fidel Castro was already planning an invasion of his homeland. The bearded revolutionary had not yet brought down his iron fist on Cuba, the pearl of the Antilles. Orlando Zapata had not even been born yet. Nor had any of todays tyrants in Beijing or Pyongyang.

Yet all of these latter-day Stalins look to him as their model. So did Saddam Hussein.

The Israeli political leader Natan Sharansky survived the Soviet Gulag that Stalin had done so much to build up and expand. In his memoir, Fear No Evil, Sharansky describes how his father brought him the news in the pre-dawn darkness of March 5, 1953, that Stalin was dead.

Poppa Sharansky whispered to kindergartener Anatoly (in Israel, he would later judaize his first name.) Stalin is dead! Listen to me. When the children in school cry, you cry. When the children write poems and sing songs to Stalin, you join them. But remember this, my son. Stalin was going to send all of us Jews to Siberia. This is a deliverance for our people.

How like the biblical story of Esther was Stalins death for the Sharanskys in their crowded Moscow apartment house. What must it have been like to have to put on a sad face even in the kitchen and bathroom your family shared with neighbors, while inside your own hearts you thanked the God of Israel for this miracle?

Ive always felt a bond with Natan Sharansky, a man Ive never met. My own father came to me in the pre-dawn darkness of March 5, 1953, to bring me the momentous news that Stalin was dead. Even though I was just a second-grader, my Pop could explain to me how important this news was. He had traveled to the Soviet Union as an American merchant sailor. He taught me what a brutal regime it was.

The world expected a thaw in the Cold War with the Soviet dictators death in 1953. But Mao Zedong in China was not giving in. Nor was Kim il-Sung (the current North Korean dictators equally despotic father). Nor were Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Communist guerillas plotting to take over Cuba.

The Leader of the Peoples, Josef Stalin, died that March 5th in his Kremlin apartments, choking and shaking his finger angrily at the ceiling. His daughter, Svetlana Allilueyeva, perhaps the only human being he ever loved, recorded his death in her memoirs. Its an old Russian proverb that you never point your finger upwards. Some might think you are angry with God. Stalin was angry with God.

It is deplorable that we still have little Stalins among us. Not just the Chinese dictators, the North Koreans and the Cubans. We have had little red czars in the White House. Our Presidents ex-communications director had a favorite political philosopher in Chairman Mao, Stalins loyal follower.

In todays Moscow, the State Security apparatus has reinstated a bust of Iron Felix Dzerzhinsky. Iron Felix had been the first chief of the Chekathe Communist regimes first secret police. In the heady days of 1991, when the Iron Curtain came down and when the USSR dissolved, many of us thought the new day had dawned for Russian freedom. But if Iron Felix is back, then the malevolent spirit of Joe Stalin lives.

Last week in Havana, Stalins minions helped to kill another victim. Orlando Zapata should be remembered. Castro has killed over 40,000 Cubans and yet he still gets a worshipful press among liberals here. The only doctors whom President Obama praises are Castros Cuban doctors, who spread the gospel of Marx throughout the Caribbean..

Do we have to learn again historys lessons from the Evil Empire? For Orlando Zapata, the choice for God and Liberty was clear. Another Cuban exile, Armando Valladares, has prayed for his beloved country Against All Hope. Lets remember these Christian patriots. Lets proclaim Liberty throughout the land.

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