Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Koba the Dread

(a follow up to this post.)

I think sixth grade was the last time i read a book while walking from some place to some other place. I read Martin Amis's Koba the Dread that way.

This isn't so much a review of the book as a shotgun summary.
(Review: the book is absolutely top-shelf and you should read it.)

The essential aims of Koba the Dread are primarily to draw attention to the massive scale of Stalin's terror and only barely secondarily to distribute some shame to the rest of us for the laughter with which we often meet tales of the Soviet Tradgedy.

In high school my two best friends and i referred to each other with the cognomens Mither, Dinvaldûr and WereDragon. As in "Hey Dinvaldûr do you know how WereDragon beat level five?". I think our motivation was simply expanding ourselves thru alter egos. Altho we still use them very occasionally amongst ourselves, we pretty much left them behind in early college. Stalin was also fond of cognomens. 'Koba' is one of many. I've since lent out the book but i think it was a reference to some sort of comic-book superhero. 'Stalin' is another self-made nickname. It means 'Man of Steel', 'Steellike', etc. I didn't know this. Stalin obviously did not get over the name and went ludicrously beyond using it amongst friends.

In his spasmodic effort to actualize himself as a man of steel, Stalin is commonly attributed with killing 20,000,000 russians.

Some historians make this number as high as 51,000,00.

Not counting deaths due to WWII.

Stalin invented the WWII tool of "Blocking Units", which are lines of troops who stand behind the front line and shoot anyone who runs away.

Stalin expanded on Lenin's invention of Famine as Weapon. The soviet famine of
1926-38 was a specifically administered famine. The Ukraine suffered the most deaths (5,000,000) and also produced the most grain during the same period.

The average life expectancy in a labor Gulag for a healthy person was three months. The gulags were packed.

Every one of Stalin's cabinet had at least one and usually several family members (wives, children) killed by Stalin, usually followed by themselves. The state of terror he exerted was so great however that they remained in his cabinet. There was nowhere else to go.

It was not until some time after Stalin was informed that Hitler was dropping bombs on Soviet cities that Stalin apparently even considered the idea that Germany might possibly be a threat to the USSR. Up until then, anyone who had presented the idea was lucky to escape with his life.

I've realized that Orwell invented nothing for 1984. It was a simple chronicle of Soviet Russia; if anything he understated the terror and societal madness.

This madness, Amis persuasively argues, was just that. Madness. Madness primarily of Stalin, but a matching insanity induced in those around him. In countless cases it was simple spite. If you were smarter or more handsome than Stalin, you would be shot. It sounds unbelievable but it was that simple.

numbers in this post come from http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm


  • what a good review! I especially liked the part about nicknames. Very interesting, o.

    By Blogger The Sensualist, at 6:44 PM  

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