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If they wanted to build socialism on earth, he said, they needed to smash the peasants.
How, after all, could they have a truly socialist society if they still allowed people to farm for themselves and make money? As Stalin’s thugs roamed the fertile Ukrainian countryside, seizing grain that he could sell abroad — which would allow him to buy the industrial machinery he desperately wanted — reports of growing hardship began to trickle back to Moscow.
A different Soviet leader might have proceeded more cautiously, and indeed some Bolsheviks thought he was going too far, too fast.
But Stalin argued that collectivisation was simply good Marxism.
In part, this demonstrated his morbid suspicion of Ukraine’s independence aspirations — something he had in common with his Tsarist predecessors and, indeed, today’s Russian leadership.
But it also reflected his Marxist mentality, which saw class enemies everywhere and treated ordinary people as pawns in his callous ideological game.
So it was that as 1932 gave way to 1933, with Stalin continuing to order relentless grain requisitioning, hunger became starvation.
Applebaum describes the process in chilling detail.
The collectivisation drive had Stalin’s fingerprints all over it.The roots of the famine lay in the tortured, blood-stained relationship between Russia and Ukraine, a source of international tension and human suffering to this day. Once, much of it belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but then it was conquered by the emerging Russian Empire.Ever since, Russian nationalists have seen it as an integral part of their Eurasian dominion: even today, Mr Putin’s apologists often call it ‘New Russia’ or ‘Little Russia’.There were even tales of people reduced to cannibalism.In one village, the police arrested a man who had gone mad after his wife died.
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A few years ago, Mr Putin even told a press conference there was nothing wrong with restoring the statues of a man who claimed millions of lives.