In the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to travel to Russia, which was only the third time I had been overseas and the first time I had been outside a western democracy. At that time the Soviet Union had just collapsed and the former nation had splintered into what was temporarily termed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Visiting Russia was a very different experience, and a dangerous one; there was another Australian there at the same time on a similar sort of exchange program, and he was robbed and stabbed, and eventually died of his injuries.
On about the second or third weekend I was in Moscow, one of my Russian colleagues told me to meet her in the middle of a particular Metro station platform, which I did. We then went up to the surface, caught a trolley bus, hopped off near a park, and walked for some distance into the park. It was a pleasant, sunny day and as we rounded a stand of shrubs, I saw what my colleague had brought me to see: lying on the ground were the remains of statues which had been spattered with red paint and torn from their plinths in assorted public parks around Moscow. These were statues of some of the most murderous scum from the Communist regime which had blighted not only Russia, but much of eastern Europe and central Asia. They included Stalin, Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin and Sverdlov.
Everybody knows what a murderous psychopath Stalin was, who by some historians is considered to have killed more Soviet citizens than were killed in Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. However, the others are perhaps not as well known, but were just as guilty of murder.
Feliks Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926) was a favourite of Lenin, who appointed him to organise a force to counter internal threats. In December 1917, the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage (usually referred to as the Cheka) was established. It became known for ruthlessly dealing with any ‘counter-revolutionary’ elements. Its worst excesses were during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922), during which tens of thousands of political opponents were shot without trial1.
Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov (1885-1919) was an important planner of the October Revolution of 1917, and was chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, effectively being the head of state of the Russian SFSR, from 1917 until his death. He is considered to have been the person who signed the instructions to murder the entire Romanov family, including the children2.
Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin (1875-1946) succeeded Sverdlov as chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. He was a relatively unimportant part of the apparatus, but was part of Stalin’s inner circle3.
Do these scum deserve statues? Under no circumstances; except perhaps in a museum where their crimes are explained. Russia is a little more ambivalent towards Lenin, but he was a murderous bastard too; just as much to blame for the depredations perpetrated by any of the defaced statues of those listed above.