20 Oct 2003 Up Next for Casting: Pol Pot
Thoughts from our Ed Haislmaier:
“Well, you know something, they’ve played Hitler, nobody has ever really touched Stalin, it just occurred to me. It’s not because I am a liberal or anything like that. Stalin is one big d— mystery, I wonder why nobody has tried it? Many people, you know, speak of the fact that he killed more people than Hitler – why does nobody touch him? It’s strange. So, and he was about my size, my height – with a wig I probably could do it.”-Ed Asner, as quoted by columnist and talk show host Kevin McCullough on October 15 (a column correcting an earlier verion in which Asner was misquoted)
Coincidently, the next day The Heritage Foundation published a lecture by Anne Applebaum, columnist and editorial board member at the Washington Post, on her new book, Gulag: A History, in which she notes:“Thanks to archives, we now know that there were at least 476 camp systems, each one made up of hundreds, even thousands of individual camps or lagpunkts, sometimes spread out over thousands of square miles of otherwise empty tundra. We know that the vast majority of prisoners in them were peasants and workers, not the intellectuals who later wrote memoirs and books. We know that, with a few exceptions, the camps were not constructed in order to kill people — Stalin preferred to use firing squads to conduct mass executions.
Nevertheless they were, at times, very lethal: Nearly one-quarter of the Gulag’s prisoners died during the war years. They were also very fluid: Prisoners left because they died, because they escaped, because they had short sentences, because they were being released into the Red Army, or because they had been promoted from prisoner to guard. There were also frequent amnesties for the old, the ill, pregnant women, and anyone else no longer useful to the forced labor system. These releases were invariably followed by new waves of arrests.
As a result, between 1929, when they first became a mass phenomenon, and 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, some 18 million people passed through them. In addition, a further 6 or 7 million people were deported, not to camps but to exile villages. In total, that means the number of people with some experience of imprisonment in Stalin’s Soviet Union could have run as high as 25 million, about 15 percent of the population.”
Someone should turn Ms. Applebaum’s new book into a movie and cast Mr. Asner as Stalin.