Genocide: A World History- Chapter 6

In the sixth chapter of Genocide: A World History by Naimark, the author touches on the Great Terror in the Soviet Union, the Great Leap Forward in China, and the Cambodian Genocide. All three of these events have connections to each other because Mao was inspired by Stalin and Pol Pot was inspired by Mao, which is an interesting concept that I had never thought about. Since I had read the first five chapters of Bloodlands right before this chapter, the first section about Stalin and the Great Terror provided a nice summarization of events to further reinforce what I had read in greater detail. Again, this book has connected to topics that other readings in this class have covered, which makes it easier to ensure that I did not miss any main points while reading other books.

One thing that I noticed about this chapter was that it failed to fully explain key concepts that the average person would not have known prior to reading. For example, it brought up the failure of collectivization in the Soviet Union, but never defined it. Even though I understood it because of Bloodlands, I would not have known what it was without reading the other book. Naimark presents historical information without analyzing it, so it is a nice way to read a concise history of different genocides, but sometimes the small amount of detail is not enough.

I think that it was a wise choice to group Stalin’s mass murders with the other two genocides. Although they did not occur at the same exact time in history, there is enough overlap and enough of a political connection between the three that it makes for an interesting read to group them together. I had no idea that Stalin’s extermination of those thought to be a political threat to communism’s success was as extensive as it actually is. In history classes that I have taken, none have ever given light to the detailed nature of Stalin’s mass murder of his own citizens. Even though Stalin tried to keep it hidden from the world, there is a great deal of information that is known today that I would like to look into on my own.

1. Should the definition of genocide be changed to include the targeting of political and social groups, seeing that at least three major ones belong to that category?

2. Why did Khmer Rouge feel threatened by intellectuals within Cambodia?

3. The Great Terror within the Soviet Union is regarded as the purging of political threats to Stalin’s government. Yet, is there enough evidence to argue that the killing also targeted ethnic groups?

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