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New Left Review I/225, September-October 1997

R.W. Davies


I have looked again at Robert Conquest’s writings of the 1960s and 1970s and I remain of the opinion that at that time he claimed figures for excess deaths amounting to at least 17 million in 1930–38. The section in The Great Terror headed ‘Death in the Camps’ refers to ‘3½ million who perished in the collectivization itself plus the similar number sent to camps where virtually all died in the following years’; in addition, he estimated that two million persons died in the camps in 1937–38 and 1 million were executed—ten million in all. [3] Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, London 1968, pp. 532–3. I must be pardoned for assuming that he did not intend this figure to include the famine. Earlier in his book (p. 23) he stated in relation to the famine that ‘about 5½ million deaths from hunger and from the diseases of hunger is the best estimate’, and there is no hint that this figure forms part of the 7 million (3½ + 3½) peasant deaths discussed on pp. 532–3. His alternative figures in Harvest of Sorrow lead to a similar conclusion: on his own present statement, we must add his estimate of non-peasant deaths in camps, the famine, and so forth in 1930–36 to the 11 million peasant deaths in 1930–36 and the 3 million total deaths in the purges of 1937–38. I must leave it to your readers to consult his publications of those years and make up their own minds.

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R. W. Davies, ‘Reply to Robert Conquest’, NLR I/225: £3

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