Sunday, April 26, 2015

Some allegorical thoughts on the anniversary of the massacre of Armenians that may or may not be a genocide, depending on whom you ask

Scene: Kiev, 1933. It is the height of the Holodomor. Two Ukranian men, Aleksandr and Dmitriy, both lie hopelessly prone on the side of a road. They are emaciated to the point of looking like skin-covered skeletons. They are, in the words Solzhenitsyn used to describe many similar people in Russian prison camps over those and subsequent years, 'last-leggers'.

Aleksandr: Dima, I don't think we have long for this world.

Dimitriy: I suspect you are right, my friend. I can scarcely move, and haven't eaten for weeks. I fear this is the end.

Aleksandr: Before we go, there is one question I have been pondering in my delirious state, and it will sadden me if we die before we get an answer. Might you help me puzzle over it a while?

Dimitriy: Of course, Sasha. What breath I have, I give to you.

Aleksandr: I have been trying to figure something out. Why did Stalin do this to us?

Dimitriy: Do you mean how can such evil exist in the hearts of men, and how can God let such misery go on?

Aleksandr: No, not that specifically. I mean, what precise feelings and motivations do you think Stalin had in his heart of hearts at the time he issued his orders to murder us? Do you think his aim in this massacre might have been one of... racism?

Dimitriy: Perish the thought, Sasha! We are all Slavs, so there is clearly no racial component to the mass murder by Russia of three million odd Ukranian souls.

Aleksandr: But there surely is at least a national angle to it, which makes it racism in the loose sense that people use the word these days, no? The murders show a clear intent to kill a large part of our nation, for no motivation other than hatred of us as a people.

Dimitriy: You worry too much, my friend. Stalin's policies of deliberate farm collectivisation and punishing reduction in rations to targeted areas, which will clearly result in mass starvation as predictably as the laws of thermodynamics continue to operate, do indeed cause our bellies to be distended in a grotesque manner as we rapidly approach a miserable death. But assuredly Stalin's actions are merely due to a desire to stamp out excessive civil unrest in Ukraine, and to stem potential protests aimed at the continuation of his unjust and barbarous rule. While there is a related question as to whether these actions may indirectly constitute racism if the uprisings he is crushing can be described as being due to Ukranian nationalism, I feel this is merely misdirection. Stalin would have gladly done the same thing to groups of Russians who acted the same way. Not only would, come to think of it, but did! It's all in the Gulag Archipelago. Exactly this same kind of starvation is going on as we speak in the gulags all over Russia for all sorts of people of many nationalities who may or may not have posed a similar remote threat to Stalin's rule. Given such context, this makes his actions here in Ukraine merely mass murder, and nothing more.

Aleksandr: Oh, thank goodness for that! Because if I thought that this agony I am experiencing were due to sufficiently racist motives that historians of the future might label it as genocide, I sure would feel a lot worse right now.

Dimitriy didn't answer, as he was dead.

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