Max Shachtman

Dipping Into Ancient Sewers of Czarist Anti-Semitism

Stalin Finds a New “Hero”
for Russia

(November 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 46, 15 November 1943, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Stalin has created a new idol for the Russian army, a new “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

His name is Bogdan Khmelnitsky, and you ought to know more about him.

Several weeks ago the Russian army recaptured the town of Pereyaslav, in the Ukraine. On October 10, no less a body than the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union decided to strike a new medal for its war heroes in celebration of the Pereyaslav victory, the Khmelnitsky Medal. A couple of days later, by order of the same august body, the town itself was renamed Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky.

Who Is the Hero?

Who was Khmelnitsky, the new hero of Stalin?

Bogdan Khmelnitsky was a Hetman, or chieftain, who ruled over a group of Dnieper Cossacks and Tartars in the years between 1648 and 1653. He is not well known in this country. But the Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish people know him well.

Hetman Khmelnitsky was one of the most savage brutes in history. His unspeakable atrocities against Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Jews fill the darkest pages of the history of these peoples.

Wherever his hordes went, blood flowed like water and dreadful terror reigned. The lands he conquered were devastated. Poles were hunted like dogs and mercilessly tortured and destroyed. Catholic priests were hanged before their own altars, with a Jew and a dog alongside of them.

A Beast at Work

Khmelnitsky’s treatment of the Jews was the most bestial of all. The hands and feet of Jewish women and children were cut off and strewn along the open roads. Many Jews were drawn and quartered, and .their flesh thrown to dogs and swine. Pregnant women were ripped open so that their still-born fruit might be cut to bits before their very eyes. Others had their bellies cut open and live cats sewed up inside of them. Young children were roasted over fires on the end of Cossack spears. The rape of Jewish women and girls was a commonplace.

In the town of Nemirov alone, Khmelnitsky wiped out six thousand Jews, chopping off the heads of Jewish women with Cossack swords until the river ran red. When the Hetman made peace, he demanded that not a single Jew must be left alive in the territory over which he ruled.

In the siege of Lemberg (Lwow), he demanded that all the Jews in the town be delivered to him for a massacre, and was only dissuaded by the gift of a great sum of money.

All told, some 300,000 Jews perished at the hand and sword of Khmelnitsky’s Cossack and Tartar troops. The Jewish people still commemorate those days in their calendar with fearful sorrow in their hearts. Khmelnitsky was the Hitler of his day, so far as the Jews were concerned, with only the difference that he was even more barbarous.

The official Great Soviet Encyclopedia, published in Moscow in 1935, acknowledged that he was “a betrayer and a base foe of the rebelling Ukrainian peasantry;” “a representative of the upper strata of the Ukrainian-feudal-Cossack lords who strove to equalize their rights with the feudalists of Poland – with the Polish Shlyakhta,” that is, with the Polish landed nobles; that he “inspired uprisings only in order to strangle them.”

The Encyclopedia tells of how he wiped out tens of thousands of peasants and poor Cossacks because they really fought against the Polish and Ukrainian feudal lords.

That was Khmelnitsky.

It was in Pereyaslav that Khmelnitsky in 1654 pledged his allegiance to the Russian Czar and to the Empire of Russia, and abjured the King of Poland, the Sultan of Turkey and the Khan of the Crimea.

But it was in Pereyaslav, too, that Khmelnitsky started the series of bloody massacres which is forever associated with horror and infamy.

It is this very town that Stalin has now seen fit to rename Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, in honor of one of the goriest butchers in history.

In honor of the same butcher the new Khmelnitsky Medal has been struck.

New Stalinist “Idol”

What more contemptuous gesture could Stalin make toward the feelings of the Polish and Ukrainian peoples than to flaunt the hated name of Khmelnitsky in their faces?

What more cynical and studied insult could Stalin fling at the suffering Jewish people than the two official honors bestowed upon this hideous forerunner of Hitlerism?

What badge of shame could more thoroughly dishonor the breast of a valiant Russian soldier than a Khmelnitsky Medal?

First Stalin revived General Suvorov as a “Soviet” idol and model – the Czarist reactionary who drowned the Polish revolution in its own blood. Now he has dug even deeper into the slime of history to disinter and sanctify Khmelnitsky.

Fitting idols! Fitting models! Fitting traditions! They suit the Stalinist reaction, the Stalinist barbarism, to perfection.

It is Stalin himself who admits it.

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Last updated on 11 July 2015