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Stalin's Crimes 'Enormous, Unforgivable': Gorbachev : Stops Short on Details of Purges

November 02, 1987|From Times Wire Services

MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev today accused Josef Stalin of "enormous and unforgivable" crimes and announced formation of a commission to resume the rehabilitation of Stalin's victims.

However, in a nationally televised address marking the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution that brought the Communists to power, the 56-year-old Communist Party chief stopped short of a full denunciation of the late dictator and did not spell out the extent of his repressive rule.

Under Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953, millions perished in the forced collectivization of agriculture or were shot or sent to labor camps as "enemies of the people."

Disgraced Figures Named

Gorbachev broke fresh ground by publicly mentioning political leaders whom Stalin executed and then expunged from official history.

But he did not tell his listeners that the leaders, including Nikolai Bukharin, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, had been shot between 1936 and 1938 after show trials on trumped-up charges of espionage and terrorism.

Nor did Gorbachev confirm that millions of people were arrested, deported to labor camps and killed during Stalin's forced collectivization of farms in the early 1930s and in his political purges toward the end of the decade.

"Many thousands of people inside and outside the party were subjected to wholesale repressive measures. Such, comrades, is the bitter truth. Serious damage was done to the cause of socialism and to the authority of the party," he said.

Good Points and Bad

"To remain faithful to historical truth, we have to see both Stalin's incontestable contribution to the struggle for socialism, to the defense of its gains, and the gross political errors and the abuses committed by him and those around him."

Gorbachev's 2-hour, 41-minute speech to an assembly of Soviet and international socialist figures was his first appearance since the disclosure last week that Moscow party boss Boris N. Yeltsin had offered to resign Oct. 21 over the slow pace of Gorbachev's economic and social reforms.

In what appeared to be a reference to the dispute, Gorbachev said a taste for independence and responsibility should be inculcated in people who are hesitant about reform. "Nor should we succumb to the pressure of the overly zealous and impatient," he added.

Slim Applause for Criticism

The party general secretary said the truth about Stalin had to be known.

Those seated in the hall listened in silence to Gorbachev's condemnation of Stalin, then applauded briefly. In contrast, they clapped loudly when Gorbachev lauded the successes of Stalin's industrialization and collectivization drives.

"It is sometimes said that Stalin did not know of . . . the lawlessness," Gorbachev said. "Documents at our disposal show that this is not so."

"This is something we have to do," he said of re-examining Stalin's rule. "Even now, there are some attempts to turn away from painful matters . . . to make believe that nothing special happened. We cannot approve of this."

In line with a Central Committee decision last month, Gorbachev said, the Politburo had set up a commission to re-examine Stalinism and said that its findings would be taken into account by a special commission writing a new treatise on the history of the party.

"The guilt of Stalin . . . is enormous and unforgivable," he said, adding that the "cult of personality" that grew up around him had no justification.

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