Cicero once said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you
were born is to remain always a child.”
In light of those words, consider the sparse knowledge shared by
today's young adults--many of whom are also young parents--
about a system of horrors that predated their births by less than a
century. There is a generation coming of age who knows almost
nothing about communism.
The horrors are easily sketched. The system has led to the deaths
of some 80-to-100 million people, even excluding military
deaths. Of the victims, we find bones that form roadbeds in the
Arctic Circle (Soviet Union ). There are victims whose corpses
were ingested by starving relatives driven to cannibalism
(Cambodia, China, North Korea, Soviet Union ). Some people
have served as pig food (Bulgaria ), while others have served
as fertilizer to nourish the crops (Cambodia, China ). Communism's
horrors are not difficult to detail--it's the magnitude of the horror
that is difficult to convey. Unfortunately, Stalin was all too
correct when he stated "one death is a tragedy; one million is a
statistic." It is difficult to conceive of 100 million deaths.
The goal of this site is to provide a different kind of sketch
in hopes of conveying more information in fewer words. The
method is to make the magnitude palpable by breaking down
numbers that are nearly impossible to comprehend in their
totality, while providing demographic information that attaches
something akin to a human face to each number.
For our purpose, atrocities are broken into demographics
such as "the villager"; "the religious"; "the homosexual"; etc.
Meticulous care has been given to ensure that these numbers
do not include military or war-related deaths; therefore, we are
seeing communism's brutality as it truly relates to its citizens
apart from its expansionist ideals.
The one exception concerns Peru. The communists (Luminosa)
lost the civil war, so by definition, any communist atrocities in
Peru were war-related. However, the numbers for Peru were
relatively small, while Peru comprised an important part of
communism's Latin American footprint. Since Peru is an impor-
tant part of the overall narrative, the country's statistical data have
been included here although it is made abundantly clear that Peru's
numbers are war-related and constitute an exception to the
overall methods of calculation.
Additionally, meticulous care has been given to categorize
victims in each country without double-counting them: a
daunting task since many victims fall into more than one
category (e.g., most Soviet landowners fall into both the
kulak and the villager categories). When such a situation
arises, the victim is placed into one category or the other
but not both.
Admittedly, there is a risk of appearing to dehumanize victims
when presenting them as members of a category--but through
categories we see the raised imprint of a culture, a society, and
a people. Ultimately, in keeping with the goals of the site,
categories at least come closer to conjuring human faces than
do the sheer, abstract numbers that are nearly impossible to
Jim McCachren served in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan in 1994-1995,
three years after the Central Asian country seceded from the USSR.
He has an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Florida
and is currently an English instructor at Halifax Community College in Weldon, NC.