Stories From Victims Of Stalin's Terror with Stephen F. Cohen

Historians in the News

Stephen F. Cohen wrote his new book, The Victims Return, which tells the stories of survivors of Stalin's Terror, more than two decades after he first outlined it. He began research in the 1970s, while living in Russia and befriending former Gulag inmates, but then put the project aside. In 2007, the year his friend the historian Robert Conquest turned 90, Cohen picked up where he left off. In the opinion of Anna Larina, the widow of the prominent Stalin victim Nikolai Bukharin, recounting this history was Cohen's "fate."

"It was a duty unfulfilled, a debt unpaid," Cohen told HuffPost. "People had taken risks for me, and I hadn't done what I said I was going to do. And then I did it -- late, but I did it."

HP: The atrocities committed under Stalin, as you say in the book, have been called the "other Holocaust." Why does it have to be called the "other" anything?

SC: The point that I wanted to make was we know quite a bit about people who survived Hitler's Holocaust, but almost nothing is known about the people who survived Stalin's Terror. And there were millions of them. When they were released in the '50s and '60s, what happened to them? Did they go home? And what did they find?

In that sense, why not just say "Stalin's Terror"? But when you do, even educated people think it was only that intense three-year period in the late 1930s with the show trials. But in fact, for Russians and other Soviet citizens who lived through it, it lasted throughout Stalin's rule. And even today, we're not sure exactly about the total number of casualties. I use the figure 20 million....

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