Norman M. Naimark

 

On his book Stalin’s Genocides

Cover Interview of November 03, 2010

A close-up

Some of the newest and most interesting material in the book illuminates the issue of Stalin’s use of the “special settlements” to punish his alleged opponents and to eliminate groups of Soviet citizens from the “body politic.”

Special settlement were a little-known part of the Gulag, the punitive system of works camps and places of exile set up all over the Soviet North, Siberia, and parts of Central Asia. This is where most of the so-called “kulaks,” supposedly rich peasants, were sent into exile.

The victims of Order no. 00447 who were not shot right away were also sent to these camps, to languish without food, shelter, or medical care, and often to die in abysmal conditions.

Too often these camps and others in the Gulag, like the notorious camps of Kolyma, are considered simply another form of prison life.

But the sheer barbarism of these camps—the widespread cannibalism and the inhuman treatment of men, women, and children—is an important dimension of the story of Stalin’s genocides.