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Russia’s perpetual culture of death

Soldiers stand in front of the cathedral of Basil the Blessed, during commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution.
Soldiers stand in front of the cathedral of Basil the Blessed, during commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. | Getty Images/Marc Garanger

“I feel only sympathy for the Russians. No people have suffered as much death.”

That was the response of a colleague of mine, Jan, a Polish professor and adviser to the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. Jan was a friend of Grove City College President John Moore. I had hosted Jan as a guest lecturer in one of my courses at Grove City College. He spoke about the Polish people’s suffering under the jackboot of Soviet communism. The ongoing assault upon his people by the beast to the east had gone for a long time, well before the post-WWII Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. In fact, Stalin’s USSR in August 1939 had struck a deal with Hitler that saw both the Soviets and Nazis invading the country in September 1939. And two decades before that, Lenin and his thugs had invaded Poland in 1920, stopped by the Polish military in an extraordinary effort known as the Miracle on the Vistula.

So, I asked Jan: “Do you hate the Russians because of all this?” His response: “Oh, no. No, no, no. I feel only sympathy for the Russians. No people have suffered as much death.”

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Jan is right. The Russians lost more men in combat than any nation in World War I, and though they had allied with the winning side, the Bolsheviks pulled them out in 1917, meaning they tasted no fruits of victory. Instead, they got a Russian civil war from 1918-21 that, according to historian W. Bruce Lincoln, left over seven million Russian men, women, and children dead.

The Russian people’s reward for that period of suffering? Seventy years of Bolshevism, which meant death, death, and more death. The Red Terror of Lenin, the Great Purge of Stalin, and more. The internal purges were interrupted only, and horrifically, by World War II, where the Russians/Soviets once again lost more men than any other country in the conflict — by far. Historians are still trying to figure out how many Russians/Soviets were killed in World War II, but the figure is likely 20-30 million. It might be as high as 40 times the combined wartime deaths of the United States and the United Kingdom.

And how many people perished under Marxism-Leninism in the USSR? Again, no one knows for sure. The Harvard University Press book, The Black Book of Communism, says only 20 million. Other authorities go higher. Alexander Yakovlev, in his 2002 Yale University Press work, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, claims that Joseph Stalin alone “annihilated 60 to 70 million people.”

And none of these figures include the ghastly number of abortions in the country. Lenin and his minions immediately legalized abortion as soon as they seized control of the Kremlin. By the 1970s, according to official Soviet Health Ministry statistics, the USSR was averaging an unbelievable 7-8 million abortions per year. History has never seen anything like it. Do the math: That’s potentially close to 80-100 million abortions in one decade.

Death, death, death.

I mention this now — and I’ve written about it before — because of two new sets of figures regarding Russia’s perpetual culture of death.

First, there are the staggering losses by Russia in Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine — devasting losses that I’ve repeatedly warned would happen, given that Russia always gets wiped out on the battlefield. Some current estimates are that Putin’s Russia may have experienced 250,000 casualties in Ukraine. That is devastating. For a sense of comparison, America lost about 58,000 men in Vietnam over a decade-plus of combat. The Russians have lost multiple times that number in a year in Ukraine.

For the American Putinists who oddly want to defend the Kremlin madman, blaming his invasion on Russia not being let into NATO or bizarrely buying his disinformation campaign about sparing Ukraine from a process of “Nazification” under Zelensky, those fatalities should be quite a wakeup call. The man they’re excusing has mercilessly fed hundreds of thousands of Russian boys into a meat grinder, in a war those boys don’t want.

Well, now there are added new reports on Russian death (click here and here, among others). They focus on something we Russia-watchers have known about for some time, namely: It’s population implosion. Russian sources are estimating that the country will need 1.1 million immigrants a year for the next 80 years simply to maintain its current population level, which is unlikely to happen, given that few foreigners are dashing to Moscow nowadays to take up residence in Putin-land, including the American Putinists prattling on about their courageous leader in the Kremlin.

This demographic crisis is no surprise. I could share with you figures from the World Health Organization and other organizations and media sources circa 2000 forecasting a Russian demographic implosion from about 140 or 150 million people in the year 2000 plummeting to under 110 million by 2050. The reasons for that were many, from a society of men drinking themselves to death to a vast demographic plague of abortion-induced infertility among Russian women butchered by repeated abortions.

The birth dearth is one of the reasons why Vladimir Putin in the year 2000 put the first major restrictions on abortion in the country in nearly 50 years, and why he has also restricted foreign adoptions of Russian children. He wants to keep kids in the country. He’s facing a population crash, which does not help his ambitions to expand the borders of his glorious Mother Russia.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened his nation’s long demographic winter. Not only have 250,000 healthy young Russian men died, been wounded, or gone missing in sacrifice to Putin’s bloodlust for Ukraine, but many more are bolting the country to avoid his forced conscription. Apparently, unlike Putin’s defenders in America, these young Russians see no good reason for invading their democratic neighbor. They’re getting out of Dodge.

Tragically, the Russian people remain mired in a perpetual culture of death. Mad Dog Putin is merely making things worse. Few people have suffered so much.

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College. His latest book (April 2017) is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. He is also the author of 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

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