On this day........134 years ago, Joseph Stalin was born. The Russian Communist dictator went on to be one of the greatest mass murderers in history, being responsible for the deaths of perhaps 30 million people.
In 1928, he embarked on a forced collectivisation of Soviet agriculture, but millions of peasants would have nothing to do with it, often slaughtering their animals rather than hand them over to the state. Hundreds of thousands of villagers died as they were marched off to Siberia.
Even when famine swept through the Ukraine in 1932, the government carried on seizing grain from farmers. How many died? ‘No one was counting’, shrugged Khrushchev, then one of Stalin’s aides. An official estimate in 1990 put the number at four million, but many believe it was far more.
Then came the purges - intellectuals, artists, engineers, army officers, police chiefs, communist officials, people who had made an unwise comment. Millions were sent to the gulags, where the commandants were given a quota of inmates - 28% - who had to be shot or otherwise punished for anti-state agitation.
For more, see A Disastrous History of the World.