Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Purges and Guilt

Owen Matthews' grandfather was Boris Lvovich Bibikov, a solid member of the Soviet Communist Part throughout the 1920s and 1930s. He was murdered by the NKVD in summer 1937.

Matthews describes how
Bibikov was no innocent caught by an evil and alien force beyond his comprehension. On the contrary, he was a propagandist, a fanatic of the new morality - the morality that now demanded his life, however pointlessly, for the greater good.
The men drawn to serve in the NKVD, in the famous phrase of its founder, Felix Dzerzhinsky, could either be saints or scoundrels. But they were not aliens, not foreigners, but men, Russian men, made of the same tissue and fed by the same blood as their victims. "Where did this wolf-tribe appear from among our own people?" asked Solzhenitsyn. "Does it really stem from our own roots? Our own blood? It is ours."

This was the true, dark genius behind the purge. Not simply to put two strangers into a room, one a victim, one an executioner, and convince one to kill the other, but to convince both that this murder served some higher purpose. This can happen only when a man becomes a political commodity, a unit in a cold calculation, his life and death to be planned and disposed of just like a ton of steel or a truckload of bricks. This, without doubt, was Bibikov's belief. He lived by it and died by it.
And so it goes. And so it goes. For the greater glory ...

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