Robert Conquest – who, more than any other man in the West, documented the scale and gravity of Stalin’s crimes – has passed. What he accomplished is nothing short of scholarly proof that the Soviet Union was indeed an Evil Empire.
His greatest works, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (1968) and The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror-Famine (1986), were written before the opening of the Soviet archives. A look at the footnotes of these books reveal a remarkable array of sources consisting mostly of official Soviet publications. By reading between the lines, he discovered the hidden details of Soviet tyranny at its hight – horrors so monstrous that even the “Glasnost” regimes of Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev wanted to keep them secret.
There were those who refused to believe him and fought his accuracy for decades of end. There was even a refusal by three major television networks to air a documentary based on The Harvest of Sorrow (William F. Buckley, Jr., in response, had it aired on Firing Line). When the Soviet archives were opened, all who doubted this man were put to shame.
When President George W. Bush presented Conquest with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, his remarks were as follows:
The conflicts of this young century demand a clear-eyed understanding of the great dramas and tragedies of the 20th century. And perhaps no scholar has studied that time with as much diligence or intellectual courage as Robert Conquest. His life began in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, whose evil consequences he would so thoroughly and faithfully detail in “The Great Terror” and other memorable writings. The truths he told were not always in fashion, but the cautionary lessons he taught about murderous ideologies and the men who served them will always be relevant. His books have been translated into 20 languages, and there have been times and places when those books were carefully hidden.
Today, the empire he revealed is gone forever, and the works of Robert Conquest are an enduring testament of the truth. This wise and eloquent man is greatly admired by his fellow Americans and by all who love freedom.
Or, as it says in the Bible: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)