Approximately 542 people are reported to have been hospitalized due to extremely cold temperatures in Russia. Dozens have been killed and an additional 266 people have been admitted to hospitals due to temperatures plunging to -56°F in some regions. The temperature in Moscow has stayed around 0°F for days.
These are the coldest winter temperatures Russians have faced in over 70 years. Not since 1938 have temperatures dropped so low and stayed at such extremes for so long. The Russian winter of 1938 was the year of then-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge.
That winter’s cold temperatures were used as a weapon and political enforcement tool by Stalin against his political enemies and countrymen that he and his Communist Party deemed either a threat or an “undesirable.” He purged his nation through murders and starvation and sent his enemies to Siberia to freeze to death.
It wasn’t until February 26, 1958 that the world realized just how severe the Great Purge had been. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences” that revealed both the horrors of the Great Purge of ’38 and that led to the realization that a New York Times reporter had been instrumental in covering up the murders on Stalin’s behalf, allowing him to prolong the purge and increase the numbers killed.
An estimated 680,000 to 2,000,000 people were executed or killed during the Great Purge of ’38. Stalin and the Soviet regime went on to kill tens-of-millions more. Some estimates place the death toll at 16,500,000, while others postulate the casualties were as high as 47,000,000 and 60,000,000, most of whom were Soviet citizens.