Can Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany be Compared?

On a lesser part of the Internet, I have been led into argument with a Finn on the subject of his nation’s decisions during WWII.

He has said that Germany of that era was morally preferable to Russia. I would, if asked, take the opposite side.

But, can any real moral distinction be made between the two?

No. Nitpick: Its Stalins USSR with Russia being a part of that. They committed the same crimes and partnered to start WW2. Maybe Germany would have been a bit better because the average German lived better and freer than the average Soviet.

Can’t fault a Finn for feeling the Soviets were worse. When your the small country being invaded by a powerful military foe led by a murderous dictator it is going to be easy to think less of them then the powerful military led by a murderous dictator who is allied against the foe with you.

But no, overall the two regimes were pretty comparable. It is just the Nazis were trying to exterminate specific groups while conquering and the Soviets were less organized, less details and less specific in their mass murder. So it is easy to see the Nazis as more evil but in the end, they were both horrific.

Thank you. Forgive me if I shut up and listen on this thread. I am still noodling this over and value your thoughts very much.

IMHO the Nazis were worse due to the scope of their plans. Stalin was seemingly satisfied with having his sphere of influence. Hitler had grander ambitions and, from what I can gather, was less tethered to reality in his awareness of his limits in achieving those ambitions.

In other words, give Hitler the Bomb and he’d use it to try to conquer the whole world. Give Stalin the Bomb and he’d use it to maintain a tighter grip on what he considered the Soviet sphere of influence, but he (probably) wouldn’t use it to try to conquer the whole world.

I think the Holodomor easily qualifies as well organized and specific.

A really good history of eastern Europe can be had from The Great Courses, part of which covers Hitler/Stalin in detail. Both were murderous a-holes, with Stalin “winning” the body count by a significant amount, continuing to increase the numbers long after the war was over.

The Finns have reason to be touchy about their role in WWII.

They went from being considered heroes for their stand against the Soviet Union in the 1939-40 Winter War, to being viewed as Hitler’s lackeys for allowing HItler to station troops in Finland, and joining the Nazis in invading the Soviet Union later on in an attempt to win back territory lost in Karelia and elsewhere. Add in likely complicity in the mass murder of Jews by Finnish troops serving in a Waffen SS Panzer outfit, and the Finnish record during the war is mixed at best.

As to who was worse, Stalin or Hitler, this October 1939 David Low cartoon has a good perspective.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/imageserver/image/%2Fmethode%2Ftimes%2Fprod%2Fweb%2Fbin%2F90c165b4-1438-11eb-bca5-e85774a5f3b9.jpg?crop=3825%2C2152%2C141%2C258&resize=685

Both shits, but Hitler was trying to conquer the world.

Also “Stalin was worse” can be a trojan horse for “…so fascism isnt that bad” and “Marxist professors are worse than the KKK”

Idiots will say idiotic things, That would not be a good enough reason to avoiding stating the obvious that Stalin was probably the worse dictator.

Hitler, Stalin and Mao are all great examples of what happens when various flavours of political ideology are driven to, what the respective totalitatrian leaders believe, are their logical and extreme conclusions. Plenty of lessons to be learnt by all sides I think.

Though Stalin’s Soviet Union was certainly guilty of genocide and a great deal more, the Holocaust was an unprecedented genocide in two ways. First was the Nazis’ use of industrial methods to murder masses of people. Second was the Nazis’ ambition to exterminate a particular people not only on a given territory but everywhere in the world.

That said, there were some territories in Eastern Europe where the vast majority of the population experienced the Nazi occupation as preferable to the Soviet one.

Hitler never intended to conquer the world. He was after lebensraum in the western USSR.

Marxist professor is an oxymoron imo as Marxists have failed everywhere Marxism has been attempted, the Marxist bodycount is in the millions and Marxists dont believe in intellectual/ideological diversity.

Republicans are Fascists, so Hitler was worse.
Democrats are Communists, so Stalin is worse.

That’s gonna sum up every reply to this thread.

This isn’t accurate at all, and I’m a pretty ardent opponent of Marxist philosophy. Marxism is a really big school of philosophy and economic / political theory, there are plenty of Marxist schools of thought that operate just fine in societies with intellectual/ideological diversity, and the idea of a “Marxist body count” is fairly sensationalized and tends to ignore reality in many ways, it’s also just a lazy phrase used by far right people who don’t like to think too much about difficult subjects.

Please. How many opposing schools of economic/political theory operate/ed in Marxist countries. Please try to explain away the body counts in the USSR, China, Cambodia and to lesser extents Eastern Europe and Cuba. Please educate me on the realities im ignoring.

Already mistaken if you read the replies.

Modnote: NO, this thread is not for debating marxism. Reread the OP. If you want to debate marxism, take it to a new thread. Pretty simple concept and you do know better.


I also fixed the typo in the Title.

This topic was automatically opened after 13 minutes.

As to OP–I think you can meaningfully compare Hitler and Stalin. I think there’s some level of truth to the idea that "past a certain level of bad behavior, differentiating doesn’t mean that much, like both would be justifiable put to death if they had fallen into the hands of any kind of fair international tribunal. Since that is the ultimate punishment, the differences between their crimes in terms of severity and scope, while assessable, are probably not deeply meaningful.

However my position is Hitler was worse, with all the caveats I’ve given. To illustrate why let’s start first with the case against Stalin.

Stalin’s death count is estimated to be in the range of 3.3 million up to 9.8m depending on what you count. During the Cold War era Western scholarship frequently ascribed around 20m deaths to Stalin, which arguably trump Hitler’s unless you levy Hitler with the guilt of “general deaths from WWII due to him bearing the greatest individual culpability in starting the war.” However as Soviet archives got opened up in the 90s, and we had that 10 year gap where Russia was post-Soviet but pre-Putin, Western researchers got unprecedented levels of access to real data on the USSR and how it operated during the long Cold War.

What came out is that Stalin killed probably a good bit less than the 20m that was previously “presumed canon.” Stalin’s regime officially recorded 799,455 executions, 1.7m people who died in the Gulags, 390,000 deaths during dekulakization (forced resettlement) and 400,000 persons who died due to being deported from the USSR into bad circumstances.

That gets you to the 3.3m. But a huge wrinkle in that number is this includes both political prisoners and ordinary criminals, so the figures are a little less grim than they appear. Some of the figures like the Gulag deaths and deaths from resettlement and deportation are also difficult to assess because some % of those people likely died of conditions that would have killed them whether they had been put in the Gulag or not.

There is additionally 6.5m people who are estimated to have died in the Soviet famines, which some people also add to Stalin’s death count (there is a similar stance with Mao’s death count which includes a huge % of famine deaths.) How you want to weight those deaths and the level of moral guilt you assign for them is ultimately somewhat subjective. But I think the ~12m people who died in the concentration camps, which includes a very high % who were not guilty of any crime (including the 6m Jews who died in the Holocaust), and who were quite deliberately killed and thus we know they didn’t just have a heart condition that flared up in custody–seems to me to outweigh even the worst take on Stalin’s activity. The flipside is there’s an alternative take on Stalin’s crimes where you can argue he didn’t set out to cause a famine, perhaps you can blame his mismanagement for it occurring, but it would make little sense for a Soviet leader to do something that kills millions of his farmers and laborers. It is much more likely the famine was an unanticipated consequence and not deliberate. You can also argue that since the 3.3m “custodial deaths” of the Stalin era include common criminals, I think Stalin gets edged out by Hitler in terms of “bad behavior.” Refer back to my initial caveats that Stalin’s behavior even with the mitigating factors is still very bad, it would “max out” the punishment he would receive in any kind of just tribunal, so we’re talking about a differentiation that is not terribly meaningful philosophically.

There’s also question as to whether Stalin’s killings were primarily or significantly genocidal. Best evidence we have, the current definition of genocide which as a basic definition refers to group killing based on a group’s ethnicity, nationality, or religious beliefs, do not meaningfully line up with Stalin’s killings. There’s a Stanford history professor, Norman Naimark, who makes the argument that Stalin’s targeting of people based on their political beliefs and social class should be considered genocidal, and the definition of genocide should be broadened to include them. But as of now at least, there is not any sort of international consensus to calling such things genocide.