If only we could get rid of God, then the world would be so much better

According to the evidence released from secret archives since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, during 1937 and 1938, when the Great Terror was at its height, the security organs detained for alleged “anti-Soviet activities” 1,548,366 persons, of whom 681,692 were shot–an average of 1,000 executions a day. (For comparison, the tsarist regime between 1825 and 1910 executed for political crimes 3,922 persons.) In 1941, when Germany invaded the USSR, camps run by the Gulag, their main administrative body, held 2,350,000 inmates, or 1.4 percent of the country’s population. The slave laborers performed important economic functions, being employed on large construction projects and forced to cut timber in the far north. No one responsible for these crimes against innocent people was tried after the Soviet Union collapsed; indeed, they did not even suffer exposure or moral opprobrium but continued to lead normal lives. Censuses revealed that between 1932 and 1939 – that is, after collectivization but before World War II – the population of the Soviet Union decreased by 9 to 10 million people. This orgy of destruction defied rational explanation. Black humor told of a new prisoner arriving at a hard labor camp. Asked how long a term he had drawn, he replies, ‘Twenty-five years.’ ‘For what?’ ‘For nothing.’ ‘Impossible,’ he is told, ‘For nothing you get ten years.’

Richard Pipes, Communism: A History, New York: Modern Library, 2001, p. 66-7

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