SIX SURVIVORS' STORIES
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
These essays give historical context to the Six Lives under Communism. Explore here.
The German-speaking Mennonites had settled in Russia after 1789. By 1917, many were wealthier than their Russian neighbors, but communist rule would dismantle their community.
Costly Alliances in WWI
Relief Efforts: The MCC (1920)
To Stay or to Leave? Mennonite Immigration (1923-1926)
A Strange Alliance: The Mennonites & the Nazi Army
Germans in Russia under the Nazis: the Volksdeutsche
Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky and other revolutionaries overthrew the Tsar in a 5-year bloody struggle that culminated in battles, banditry, epidemic, and famine.
Russia on the Brink of War
The Typhus Epidemic (1919-1920)
The Great Famine (1921-22)
Lenin's policies created the secret police and the Gulag, and introduced rampant requisitioning and religious repression to the Soviet Union.
Early Communism Under Lenin (1917-1922)
The Birth of the Gulag (1918)
The Anti-Religious Campaign (1918-1928)
Nestor Makhno and his anarchist army fought for a stateless society, targeting the wealthy Mennonites for special brutality.
The Makhno Bandits (1918-1921)
A Mennonite Militia (1918-1919)
The Mennonite Massacres (1919)
Uncle Abe the Avenger (1919)
Stalin collectivized agriculture, industrialized the Soviet Union, dismantled his opposition, and won a world war...but at the cost of liberty and up to 20 million lives.
Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan (1928-1933)
The Holodomor Famine (1932-33)
The Great Purge (1936-38)
Ethnic Cleansing (1941-)
Under communism, factory owners and wealthy farmers had to give their property over to an in incompetent state. This process of "collectivization" was wrought with difficulties and opposition.
“Collectivization is a Success” (1934)
Wealthy and educated leaders opposed collectivization. They were deemed "enemies of the regime" and deported to Siberia.
Away With the Kulaks
In 1932-33, a year with an abundant harvest, 5 to 7 million people starved to death in Ukraine due to state policies. How did this happen?
Food From the Cupboards: How the Soviets Weaponized Food
Thousands of political prisoners spent decades working as slaves in Soviet prisoner camps, suffering terrible conditions and the brutality of guards and criminals.
Growth of the Gulag
Arrest & interrogation
Living Behind Barbed Wire
The Kolyma Gulag - Hein
The Life of a Zek in the 1940s
Life in the Kolyma Gulag: The Art of Nikolai Getman
A Prisoner in the Coal Mines
The Post-War Gulag
The End of Stalin’s Gulag (1953-1956)
The Gulag Archipelago: Solzhenitsyn’s Watershed Book
Political dissidents and ethnic minorities were forcibly relocated from their homes in the Soviet Union to remote places in Siberia. A look at exile in the Soviet Union.
Exile in the Soviet Union
Exile in the Urals
The USSR was an atheist state, and its attack on religion was overt and thorough. By the mid 1930s, most churches were closed and many church leaders had been exiled to Siberia.
Nazi Germany's attack on the USSR was swift and deadly, but gave the Mennonites a reprieve from communism and a chance to escape Soviet rule.
Soviet Scorched Earth Policy
Germans in Russia: the Volksdeutsche
German Occupation - Anni
Neuendorf Village Report, 1942
Nieder-Chortitza Village Report, 1942
Drafted: Isaac’s War (1942-43)
The Holocaust on the Eastern Front (1941-43)
The Great Trek (1943-44)
The Great Trek - Anna's Experience
German POWs in Soviet Captivity
Being a POW - Gerhard's Account
A Death March & Massacre (1945) - Anni's Account
Many families fled the Soviet Union during World War II, leaving their homes behind to seek freedom in the west. Years of poverty and hardship ensued.
A series of Soviet leaders, including Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Androponov continued repressive Soviet policies until Gorbachev came to power.
The End of Stalin’s Gulag (1953-1956)
Soviet Leaders After Stalin: De-Stalinization, Cold War, and Repression (1953-1985)
Our Muzzled Freedom: Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
Gorbachev & the End of the Soviet Union (1985-1991)
1920s, 1940s, 1990s
The repressive policies of the Soviet Union caused people to leave, first in the 1920s between Lenin and Stalin, then again during World War II, and finally after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Leaving Russia - Hein -