Latvian political scientist and researcher Edvins Snore (Edvīns Šnore), director of the documentary film, The Soviet Story, gave a talk on the phenomenon of Soviet Communism at an event organised by the Finnish organisation, Pro Karelia, in Helsinki on 6 June 2011. Below, the full text of Mr Snore’s talk:
I want to thank the organisers of this event for inviting me to take part. I am delighted to be here in Finland and to speak about a subject, which is important to the Baltic people, which is known in Finland also, but which is less known in the rest of Western Europe. That subject is Soviet Communism and its legacy today.For decades, Soviet crimes were taboo. No research of this issue was permitted behind the Iron Curtain, and rather limited research was done in the West. I am often asked, why did I make this film, The Soviet Story? Because I wanted to show to the Western world the history of those nations who lived behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviet Story was filmed over two years using materials that I had been collecting for about ten years. Most of the material in The Soviet Story comes from European archives, from archives in Germany (Bundesarchiv), Britain, Latvia, and other countries. We found very interesting historical material in the British ITN archive. Altogether the documentary was filmed in seven countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, France, and Britain. We interviewed a number of world-renowned experts of Soviet history at various European universities, including Cambridge and the Sorbonne as well as universities in Moscow and Ukraine. As a result, we were fortunate to be able to secure some very interesting interviews with very interesting people — historians, politicians, former Soviet officials, as well as people who had suffered from the Soviet regime themselves. A large part in our film is devoted to Soviet and Nazi collaboration. When I did the research in the archives, I was amazed to discover not only documents detailing that collaboration, but also to see how similar the Nazi and Soviet imagery was — the art and posters. Today, many people believe that while the Nazi ideology was evil in itself, the Communist ideology was not because its ultimate aim was universal equality. The reason why the Communists also committed mass crimes and left millions of people dead was that the theory was wrongly applied, they argue. Not many people, however, are aware of the complete teachings of the Communist preachers, according to whom, in order to create the “socialist paradise” where everyone is equal, one must get rid of the parasite classes. Interestingly, this was Hitler’s approach as well. He believed that Jews, as a parasite class, must perish from the socialist — national socialist — society. Initially, the goal was just to drive the Jews out, and then it was outright physical extermination. The same method — the method of physical extermination of the so-called class enemies — was in use in Russia, ever since the Communists seized power in 1917. Since that time the world witnessed the first concentration camps, industrial manslaughter, and artificial famine. It is important to understand that it was not an unfortunate misuse of the Communist theory, it was Communism in its purest form. One should also point out that, during the 1930s, it could be observed that the same people who praised Stalin, praised Hitler also. The best example is George Bernard Shaw. We managed to obtain unique video where Shaw praises Hitler on camera. This rhetoric, however, changed when Hitler was defeated in 1945, when Auschwitz and other Nazi crimes were discovered. This shift happened not only in the West, but also in the Soviet Union, which initially collaborated with the Nazi Germany, delivered Jews to the Nazis, and supplied the Nazi war machine with resources. Once the Nazis invaded its former Soviet ally, the subject of Nazi-Soviet collaboration suddenly became a taboo. When I researched old Soviet newspapers, in the Library of Riga in Latvia, it was interesting to see how the post-war Soviet authorities had clipped out certain articles from the newspapers of 1939-1940. If today in Russia and some voices in Finland are talking of falsification of history, then there is no better example than the Soviet Union itself. Today Kremlin has declared a war on the so-called falsifiers of history, who distort the heroic Soviet past, including this film. Yet it is forgotten that it was the Soviet Union who financed and carried out the world’s largest state-sponsored programme of falsification, which culminated in 1945, when the Soviet Union produced and supplied falsified documents to the Nuremberg trial, wanting to put the blame for the Katyn massacre on the Germans. When I was making The Soviet Story, I knew Russia would not like it. However, I did not expect that they would hang and burn my effigy in the streets of Moscow after the film was released. The crowd was shouting: “We will not let rewrite our history!” Indeed, the film shows the Soviet history in a different light than the current Russian textbooks, which call Stalin a succesful manager, ignoring the fact that under his “successful management” seven million Ukrainians were starved to death. I had a chance to talk to some of those who survived. They were small children at the time, and during their long lives they had gone through many horrible things, including World War II, the Nazi occupation, and the Soviet terror. But they all told me that nothing compared to what they experienced in 1933. They told me that it was the single most horrific thing in their life. It was not only the Ukrainians who experienced the Soviet experiment. During the Soviet rule, whole nations and ethnic groups were wiped off the map. Today, watching the news, people sometimes wonder why the Chechen people so fiercely oppose Russian rule. Not many people know that, in 1944, the whole Chechen nation — men, women, and children — were rounded up, loaded into cattle trucks, and deported to Central Asia. This operation was carried out over one day, 23 February 1944, and 20% died en route. But the people who probably suffered the most from the Communists were the Russians themselves. Especially in the early phase of Soviet rule, in 1920s, there were these absolutely massive resistance movements of epic scale, the so-called peasant wars, such as in Tambov and other places. A good example is the Kronstadt uprising, after which several thousand Russians fled from the Communists to Finland. In the 1930s, during the Great Terror, not only Poles and Latvians were targeted in the Soviet Union. The largest number of those killed were Russians. Millions of them were deported, millions were exterminated. Most of their intelligentsia: writers, teachers, doctors were killed. Killed by the NKVD and the KGB. Yet nobody has been tried in Russia for these crimes against their own people. I am sure there are thousands of the KGB concentration camp veterans alive today. I am sure many of these KGB murderers take part in the Victory Parade in Moscow and pose as war veterans, by that, I believe, desecrating the whole event. But the Russian society, it seems, does not bother about this too much. Why is there no public outcry? I believe there are two reasons. One is the fact that Communists largely succeeded with their experiment in social engineering in Russia. Seventy years were enough to do it, to kill the resistance, and to a breed a new generation, which even today — 20 years after the Communism collapsed — keeps the corpse of Lenin in the Red Square and cannot part with it. I can very well understand them. Because when I was a small child I also believed in Lenin. My parents were in horror when I came back from the Russian kindergarten, which I attended, and declared: “Long live October Revolution.” So I understand Russians, I understand what they feel in their hearts. And I pity them. I am sorry for them. The other reason why things do not change for the better in Russia is their leadership, the regime in the Kremlin, Putin’s regime — despite the fact that for the time being the president is not Putin. I believe this regime combines the worst from the Soviet times and the worst from today. As a result, we see a ruling class composed of former KGB people who have hijacked the world’s largest energy resources and exploit them to extend their personal power and wealth, at the expense of ordinary Russians. It is a completely corrupt state, with no rule of law and, what is most important, with no ideology or moral principles that might hold it together and mobilise people. So they find enemies and use hate instead. This is why we see Fascist and racists ideology gaining massive popularity in Russia. We see xenophobia and racially motivated violence in Russia every day. To my knowledge, there is not a single African diplomat in Moscow who would not have been beaten up by skinheads. What is not clear is why various “Anti-Fascist” committees, which you have here in Finland also, do not react to this. The problem is also that Russian-speaking neo-fascism is being exported to neighboring countries as well. Quite recently, a Jewish cemetary was vandalised by Russian neo-Nazis in Riga. The police caught them and found extensive neo-Nazi and anti-semitic literature imported from Moscow. This incident was ignored by the so called “anti-fascist” committee of Latvia. Fascism, as we all know, is a very dangerous ideology and it might lead states to disaster. I wish the Russian people find the strenght to resist these movements, to come to terms with their past, and to establish true democracy, rule of law, and common sense in their country.