Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Cannabilism in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China *

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Cannabilism in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China *

Article excerpt

We have already published a number of scholarly studies about the horrors of the slave labor camps in the Soviet Gulag. (1) We have also written several newspaper articles on this topic for various Hungarian and Hungarian-American publications. (2) But we have not as yet explored specifically the presence of cannibalism in these slave labor camps, which appears to have been a rather widespread phenomenon.

Development of the Soviet Gulag

The roots of the Soviet Gulag reach back to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and more specifically to the secret police organization, the Cheka, established and directed until his death by the Polish renegade, Felix Dzerzhinski (1877-1926). The first of such camps was established in 1918 in the Solovesky Monastery on the Solovki Island of the White Sea, when that remote monastery and much of that small island was transformed into a slave labor camp. The goal was to collect the representatives of the old Czarist regime, and either "reeducate" or exterminate them as potential opponents to the Soviet regime. In this monastery, and in the scores of temporary shelters established after 1918 on that island, about twenty thousand political prisoners perished during the 1920s under the most gruesome circumstances.

The creation of this "death camp" on Solovki Island in 1918 was soon followed by the establishment of many hundreds, and later many thousands of such camps throughout the Soviet Union. In 1934 a special organization, the Glavnoy Upravneliye LAGerey [GULAG] (Chief Administration of Labor Camps), was established specifically to administer this network of forced labor camps. In common usage, the acronym of this organization became the name of the whole system of slave labor camps in the Soviet Empire.

These Gulag camps had two goals: to weed out from Soviet society everyone who in any way represented a threat to the Stalinist system of socialist terror, and to utilize the unpaid labor of the prisoners for the rapid industrialization and modernization of the Soviet state. In this sprawling system of forced labor camps, human life meant nothing. In order to achieve the exorbitant goals of the Five Year Plans, everything and everyone was dispensable--both inside and outside the camps.

Within these camps, life and work was regulated according a method worked out by the Istanbul-born Naftaly Aronovich Frenkel (1883-after 1945), which made the prisoner's daily food ration dependent upon his work. (3) If he was unable to fulfill the norm, his daily ration was reduced. Naturally, this made the inmates even weaker and even less able to fulfill the requirements. This continued for weeks, or perhaps for months, until finally the prisoners were so weak and feeble that they simply dropped out of ranks and died. Some of them fell into latrines, where they suffocated in human excrement. In other instances, the authorities would not even wait for this "natural death" to take place. They took care of the weakened prisoners by shooting those who had fallen behind during the morning muster, or while on the march to the work place.

The Great Famine and Cannibalism

Outside the camps, in the so-called "free society," many millions fell victim to the artificial famine created by Stalin's decision to export exorbitant amounts of grain and other food stuffs to Western Europe, and thus deprived the villages of all food supplies. This is what happened in Ukraine in the early 1930s, where six to seven million peasants died in consequence of Stalin's mania of forced industrialization and collectivization. To secure the needed machinery and technology necessary for the attainment of the goals of the Five Year Plans, the export of grain was increased beyond reason. Thus, whereas in 1928 less than one metric centner (100,000 metric tons) of grain was exported, by 1930 this sum shot up to 48.4 metric centner (4.84 million metric tons), and in 1931 to 51. …

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