George Will writes about Robert Conquest, the writer who exposed the evil of the Soviet Union.
…In 1986, Conquest published The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, his unsparing account of the deliberate starvation of Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, which killed, at a minimum, 7 million people, more than half of them children. At one point, more Ukrainians were dying each day than Jews were to be murdered at Auschwitz at the peak of extermination in the spring of 1944.
Conquest’s work is pertinent to understanding Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Conquest’s thesis was not that Soviet leaders studied Lenin’s turgid writings but that they were thoroughly marinated in the morals of the regime Lenin founded and that produced the repression machinery that produced Putin.
Conquest’s death follows that in June of another servant of intellectual integrity, Allen Weinstein. In 1978, the 30-year war against the truth waged by Alger Hiss, the U.S. diplomat and traitor, was ended when Weinstein published Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case. This definitively dismantled the edifice of mendacity that Hiss and his supporters had erected to assert the injustice of his imprisonment for perjury — for lying about his espionage for the Soviets. Hiss still has a ragtag remnant of defenders, historical illiterates who are disproportionately academics. They often are the last to learn things because they have gone to earth in the groves of academe in order to live in an alternative reality.
Conquest lived to see a current U.S. presidential candidate, a senator, who had chosen, surely as an ideological gesture, to spend his honeymoon in the Soviet Union in 1988. Gulags still functioned, probably including some of the “cold Auschwitzes” in Siberia, described in Conquest’s “Kolyma.” The honeymooner did not mind that in 1988 political prisoners were — as may still be the case — being tortured in psychiatric “hospitals.” Thanks to the unblinking honesty of people like Conquest, the Soviet Union now is such a receding memory that Bernie Sanders’ moral obtuseness — the obverse of Conquest’s character — is considered an amusing eccentricity.