Professor Davies asks me to withdraw estimates of the casualties under Stalinism which I advanced over a quarter of a century ago.footnote1 I am happy to do so—having done so already on several occasions; but I must also reply to his own re-misstating of those estimates.
My early prisoner estimates were based on accepting too high a figure for those in nkvd hands at the beginning of 1937 (it should be about 2,750,000 rather than 5 million); and on deducing an arrest figure for 1937–38 of about 7 million, when it should probably be 4.5 to 5 million; but also by underestimating the execution figure.
Davies writes that: in ‘The Great Terror, London 1960’ (it should be 1968) my (then ill-informed) estimate for the victims of collectivization ‘obviously’ excluded the famine. No, it ‘obviously’ did not, since the famine would otherwise not have featured at all in my gross total. Then Davies writes that (eighteen years later) I said that a minimum of 14 million peasants died prematurely in the 1930s. I did not. I wrote that 11 million died in 1930–37 and 3.5 million ‘later’, that is, over the rest of the Stalin period: moreover, those who died in 1937–38 were included in my gross figure for those years, and must not be counted twice! (I was wrong to say that the 1930–37 figure of 11 million can be ‘readily’ deduced from the long suppressed 1937 Census: but it can be reasonably deduced and is supported by recent Russian demographers). And Davies’s extraction of totals from two different sets of estimates made a quarter of a century apart only confuses everything further!
It might be added that the figure of 5 million detainees for the beginning of 1937 might not be too low if peasants in ssylka-exile were included. And as to executions, Davies has confused my current views on the whole Stalinist total with that of 1937–38. Of course, many were killed without being formally ‘executed’—just as many were detained without being ‘arrested’. And we learn that the deaths of those sentenced to ‘ten years without the right of correspondence’, which in fact meant immediate shooting, were not registered until 1945—and then as dying in imprisonment at falsified dates.footnote2
More to the point is Davies’s continued attachment to the Shvernik Report figures. He now claims that the 9.8 million given by Zemskov as entering Gulag camps in 1939–52 (omitting the rough figure of 3 million more going to Gulag ‘colonies’) are compatible with the 1.1 million figure of arrests, minus executions, the Report gives for this period. To support this, he takes the Report as covering only those sentenced for ‘political’ offences, omitting those dealt with by ‘ordinary’ courts. This cannot stand up—any more, as he now concedes, than the Report’s 1939–40 executions figure can. Zemskov gives the proportions of ‘counter-revolutionary’ prisoners in Gulag camps over the period. Omitting 1950—on which this proportion does not appear—the percentage of ‘counter-revolutionaries’ varies from 28.1 to 59.2 per cent, with an average of 37.7 per cent. Even assuming that ‘politicals’ had longer sentences will not save the Report here: especially with the countervailing point that ‘politicals’, especially if labelled Trotskyist, also died off more quickly.