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Is communism a force for good in the world?

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The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a 1997 book by Courtois, Paczkowski, Werth and some other European academics documenting a history of political repression by Communist states, including genocides, extrajudicial executions, deportations, killing populations in labor camps and artificially-created famines.

The number of people killed by the Communist governments amounts to more than 94 million. The statistics of victims include deaths through executions, man-made hunger, famine, war, deportations and forced labor. The breakdown of the number of deaths is given as follows:

  • 65 million in the People's Republic of China
  • 20 million in the Soviet Union
  • 2 million in Cambodia
  • 2 million in North Korea
  • 1.7 million in Ethiopia
  • 1.5 million in Afghanistan
  • 1 million in the Eastern Bloc
  • 1 million in Vietnam
  • 150,000 in Latin America
  • 10,000 deaths "resulting from actions of the international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power"

According to Courtois, the crimes by the Soviet Union included the following:

  • The execution of tens of thousands of hostages and prisoners
  • The murder of hundreds of thousands of rebellious workers and peasants from 1918 to 1922
  • The Russian famine of 1921 which caused the death of 5 million people
  • The Decossackization, a policy of systematic repression against the Don Cossacks between 1917 and 1933
  • The murder of tens of thousands in concentration camps in the period between 1918 and 1930
  • The Great Purge which killed almost 690,000 people
  • The Dekulakization, resulting in the deportation of 2 million so-called "kulaks" from 1930 to 1932
  • The death of 4 million Ukrainians (Holodomor) and 2 million others during the famine of 1932 and 1933
  • The deportations of Poles, Ukrainians, Moldovans and people from the Baltic states from 1939 to 1941 and from 1944 to 1945
  • The deportation of the Volga Germans in 1941
  • The deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1943
  • Operation Lentil and deportation of the Ingush in 1944

This and other Communist death tolls have been criticized by some historians and scholars, especially those based on the higher estimates of Rudolph Rummel and Benjamin Valentino, on which the book relies. Any attempt to estimate a total number of killings under Communist regimes depends greatly on definitions, ranging from a low of 10-20 millions to as high as 110 millions.

The criticism of some of the estimates are mostly focused on three aspects, namely that the estimates were based on sparse and incomplete data when significant errors are inevitable; that the figures were skewed to higher possible values; and that those dying at war and victims of civil wars, Holodomor and other famines under Communist regimes should not be counted.


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