On 1 October 1939, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty and soon to be the UK’s wartime leader, described Russia as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. The same can certainly be said of Stalin. How can this paradox of a man, who on the one hand had once exhibited great tenderness and kindness to his daughter Svetlana, and on the other sent millions – including members of his own family - to their deaths, be explained?
It is impossible to quantify the total number of deaths attributable to the policies of Stalin, but the ‘Excess Mortality’ (i.e., deaths over and above what would normally have been expected during the period in question) gives an approximate figure in excess of 40 million.
However, this is only part of the story of the amount of misery inflicted by the Stalin regime through torture, deliberate starvation, neglect, separation from loved ones, cold and hypothermia (e.g. in the prisons of Siberia), which is unquantifiable and unimaginable.
Svetlana confessed that she ‘would never undertake to “explain” what motivated all my father’s actions, simply because I do not possess the psychological genius of [Russian novelist] Dostoevsky, who knew how to “penetrate” into another man’s soul and “examine it from within”’.