Norman M. Naimark

Stalin’s Genocides

Original English edition published by Princeton UP, 2010
(German title: Stalin und der Genozid)
ca. 157 pages
Norman M. Naimark
Foto: Norman M. Naimark

Norman M. Naimark is Professor for History at the Institute for East European Studies at the University of Stanford, California and expert for East European and Russian History. His central research focus is Soviet politics in Europe after the Second World War and the comparative history of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the 20th century.

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France (L'Arche Editeur), Japan (Misuzu Shobo), Poland (Instytut Pileckiego), Estonia (Tänapäev), Ukraine (Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Publishing House)


Many millions of innocent people died under Stalin’s rule. They were shot, starved or died during imprisonment or exile. In his extended essay, Norman M. Naimark narrates the devastating stories of systematic destruction.

Under Stalin in the 1930s, more than a million Soviet citizens were murdered. Millions more died from forced labour, deportation, starvation, and labour camps or during torture interrogations. These crimes were not classified as genocide during the era of the Cold War. The high ideals that Stalin supposedly fought for impeded a discussion. Furthermore, this persecution of his own population was a part of preparing to go to war: the result of the Second World War appeared to justify this procedure. Even according to international law, the murder of social or political minorities was not classified as genocide.

Norman Naimark extends the criteria for genocide – the UN conventions of 1948 were created with great influence from the Soviets – and can thereby demonstrate that the mass murders ordered by Stalin were genocide. He considers the subjugation and extinction of so-called kulaks, the Holodomor or famine-massacre in the Ukraine, the repression and murder of so-called enemies of the state and the Great Purge between 1936 and 1938. And finally, he comes to the conclusion that the genocide, similarly to the Holocaust, would not have been possible without the figure of the charismatic dictator.


»Naimark's short book is a polemical contribution to this debate. Though he acknowledges the dubious political history of the UN convention, he goes on to argue that even under the current definition, Stalin's attack on the kulaks and on the Ukrainian peasants should count as genocide. […] Perhaps we need a new word, one that is broader than the current definition of genocide and means, simply, ›mass murder carried out for political reasons.‹« Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books

»Stalin's Genocides is compellingly written, nuanced and powerfully argued.« Times Literary Supplement

»This is a small book that places a large exclamation point on the most incriminatingly tragic dimension of Soviet history.« Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs