No sooner had I finished reading Martin Gilbert’s disappointing and lengthy account of letters between Winston Churchill and his family, colleagues and peers from 1945 to his death in 1965 had I barely begun to grasp the full extent of the horrors of former Soviet Union dictator, Josef Stalin which is recalled in Donald Rayfield’s grim and descriptive narrative accounts in Stalin and His Hangmen.
The book is published by Penguin Viking and its blurb is captive enough, describing Rayfleid’s work as an “authoritative portrait of a tyrant and those who served him.”
To distinguish between the two evils of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists and Stalin’s Soviet is not an easy task. Nevertheless, what the two tyrants had in common is easy enough to account for. This brings me to the one disappointing aspect of Rayfield’s historical account of how Stalin systematically, coolly and with great precision proceeded to exterminate not just millions of Russians from all classes and origin, but also how he manipulated, tortured and arranged procedural executions of those who he deemed his enemies and untrustworthy within the very Soviet that he and Lenin had designed.
The mass execution, and the pogroms that led to it, of thousands of indigenous Jews are left untold in this historical account of Stalin’s methods and perceived leadership acumen. But having said that Rayfield’s priority is on the intellect, revolutionary bent and strong desires of lust and murder of the Soviet Union’s Supreme Commander in Chief. But Rayfield does rather well in exposing Stalin’s weaknesses, both physical and psychological. The dictator’s insecure comradeship of his henchmen precedes his justified execution of them.
No motive nor understanding can be found, however well explained in the narrative, for the reasons behind Stalin’s cruel and vindictive behaviour. Clear similarities to the Nazi Führer do present itself. Both Hitler and Stalin adored their mothers and hated their fathers from a young age. They loathed the Jews, and ruthlessly promoted and acted on their interpretations, however distorted, of Darwinian theories of the origin of species and the survival of the fittest.
Proceeding to contextualise this biographical account of leadership of Mother Russia with the present, it seems to justify my loathing for Russian President, Vladimir Putin, whose rise to power started with his place within Khrushchev’s KGB. Khrushchev was, needless to say, one of Stalin’s ‘loyal’ acolytes, skillfully hiding his own disagreement and hate for the so-called man of steel. Today, Putin has been similarly branded, and his brutal leadership is carefully disguised under the parody of democracy.
Eagerness to confront, and not to seek solutions, seems to be part of Putin’s persona. He instills fear in any who face him, or attempt to engage with him. Curiously, when reading body language, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat, likely to be re-elected to another successful term of office, and with grave concerns to measure so close to her nation’s borders, seemed calm and composed when encountering the Russian leader.
When on those rare occasions, Vladimir Putin attempts to engage himself publicly, his smile looks more like a pained, strained grimace. He seems much more enthralled with natural surroundings and the beasts that are allowed to roam in its meadows, much like Hitler at his Berghof, adoring his Alsatians, Blondi and Wolf.
It was Winston Churchill, a self-declared and proud Zionist, who coined the phrase, “The Iron Curtain” when warning the Western World of its consequences. And it seems that as the sabres begin to rattle along the borders of the Ukraine in which untold numbers of nuclear arsenals are kept, that the world as we know it today, is on the brink of another cold war.
While Western nations attempt to counter the brutality of Assad’s regime in Syria, Putin and his acolytes pledge their support. While Obama and Cameron, attempting to replicate uneasy unions of Bush and Blair, and Churchill and Roosevelt, failing to call their nations to arms, Putin mobilizes his forces with relative ease, much like Stalin did.
Will the fear and loathing of the world’s Jews be extended to within sight of the borders of the Zionists’ Israel? Will the Iron Curtain descend upon us once more?