“We will destroy each and every enemy, even if he was an old Bolshevik; we will destroy all his kin, his family. We will mercilessly destroy anyone who, by his deeds or his thoughts—yes, his thoughts!—threatens the unity of the socialist state. To the complete destruction of all enemies, themselves and their kin!” . . .
Quotas were issued for each region—Baberowski concludes that more than a million people were killed by quota—and local officials often filled them either arbitrarily or with the homeless, the blind, and amputees. In March 1938 the nkvd (the secret police) executed 1,160 people in Moscow with physical disabilities. Kliment Voroshilov, who occupied many top positions, argued for arresting abandoned children. “Why don’t we have these rascals shot?” he asked. “Should we wait for them to become grown-up criminals?” . . .
When the original Politburo members Zinoviev and Kamenev did not immediately confess to treason, Stalin wrote to his secret police chief: “You are performing poorly, Genrikh Grigorievich. One must torture them so that they finally tell the truth and reveal all their ties.” Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin all referred to any squeamishness about such methods as (to use Trotsky’s phrase) “the most pathetic and miserable liberal prejudice.” Writing to the Kirghiz Party leader, Stalin threatened “extreme measures” if he did not immediately abandon “liberalism towards enemies of the people.”
Leonhard reports that some people would confess to palpably absurd crimes in the hope that Stalin would someday order a review of each case and recognize obvious innocence. One person confessed to trying to sink the Soviet navy by throwing rocks into Leningrad harbor, while a chemist admitted revealing an important formula to the Germans, H2SO4, or sulfuric acid. . . .
Long before Stalin came to power, Lenin explicitly instructed local Bolsheviks to “introduce mass terror” to forestall opposition. When the Turks approached Baku, Baberowski notes, Lenin ordered the city burned to the ground and “the fate of the civilian population was not considered.” Zinoviev remarked that it was necessary to kill ten million of Russia’s hundred million people. . . .
Baberowski concludes, “The civil war [of 1918–20] was a dress rehearsal for Stalinism” and “without the violent experience of the civil war there would have been no Stalinism.” By the same token, he tells us that Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture, which took the lives of millions, “was the last act in a drama that had begun in 1917.” If so, the conditions of Stalinism were already there for any unscrupulous leader to exploit.