The project of translating Alexandr Solzhenitisyn’s 200 Years Together into English continues apace. The 18,000-word Chapter 19, “In the 1930s” is now available (see here). The decade of the 1930s was tragic almost beyond description. The main idea advanced by Solzhenitsyn is that all segments of Soviet society suffered, including Jews who had been members of the elite. However, the suffering of Jews pales in comparison to the suffering of the Ukrainian and Russian farmers undergoing forced collectivization. Moreover, Jews were never targeted as Jews, and in general Jews remained vastly overrepresented in elite positions throughout the period, even after the purges.
Solzhenitsyn emphasizes the culpability of the West. The brutal process of industrialization was carried out with the cooperation of Western merchants and bankers eager to do business with the Soviet Union. Such commercial cooperation had been prohibited under the Czars because Jewish activist organizations had pressured governments not to do business with Russia because of its treatment of Jews — much as there are now sanctions against trading with Iran because of the concerns of the Israel Lobby. As we also see today, financial and commercial interests were not concerned with ideological commitment to capitalism or with human rights but simply sought to expand their profits. Trade was allowed because there was the perception in the West that “Soviet power would not oppress the Jews, but on the contrary, that many of them would remain at the levers of power.” Read more