Pipes Discusses Russian History at Book-Signing
Prof. Says Lenin Was Crueler Than Stalin
Lenin was a ruthless misanthrope, perhaps crueler than Stalin, according to Emeritus Professor of Russian History Richard Pipes, editor of The Unknown Lenin, a collection of newly-released Soviet documents.
Yesterday Pipes discussed the book at Harvard Book Store and autographed copies of the collection.
"[Lenin's] driving force was hatred," Pipes said of the man considered by some historians as a visionary. "There's a complete lack of idealism [in the documents]."
The documents, made public by the Lenin archives in Moscow, reveal that Lenin favored suppressing the Church, the Jews and dissident intellectuals.
And in a letter written in August, 1918, Lenin urged his followers to use mass murder and the display of victims' bodies to intimidate the Soviet people, Pipes discovered.
"Comrades!" Lenin wrote. "The uprising of the five kulak districts should be mercilessly suppressed....Hurry (hurry without fail, so the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks."
Scholars of Soviet history have said Lenin used the term kulak to refer to so-called "rich" peasants in order to create class conflict among the farmers.
But not all those present agreed with Pipes' conclusions.
"You're a very important man, but you talk like midwives in a sewing circle," said Dr. Samuel Klauber, who grew up in Russia shortly after the revolution.
Pipes appeared slightly disconcerted by his listener's response and repeatedly asked Klauber to sit down.
Klauber said that at the age of 10 he had no formal schooling. He credited Lenin with bringing schools, work, and cars to his village. Klauber said Lenin's accomplishments outweighed his faults.
"There are some people who believe in Lenin [and their minds can't be changed]," Pipes said in response to Klauber's statements.
Other audience members apparently accepted Pipes' interpretation.
William M. Runyan, a professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley, said he agreed for the most part.
"Maybe he somewhat selectively quotes those things. [But] it's certainly possible that he's right," Runyan said.
Other audience members included students from Pipes' freshman seminar one year ago, a man whose grandmother knew Lenin and an Israeli woman who grew up on a kibutz indoctrinated with socialist philosophy.
Pipes said he was pleasantly surprised at the wide range of interest in his book, citing reviews in the L.A. Times and the New York Times Book Review.
"I thought I'd be writing a very scholarly book that interested only specialists," said Pipes.
Pipes said the Russian government made it difficult to obtain the documents and that he did not have the opportunity to explore them all.
"I do not know what they contain," said Pipes. "It is possible they are even more explosive than the ones in this volume."