Such procedures ought to be applied to any other Sovietologists, starting with Robert Conquest (1917-2015). Appelbaum refers to Conquest's "ground-breaking" work (and so do other contemporary authors such as genocide-scholar Adam Jones by repeating exactly the same adjective.6) But considering that Conquest advocated hearsay as a valid source of historical information, and that there is much that has been questioned and shown to be incorrect about his work (notwithstanding his career with institutions such as the British Information Research Department and the American Hoover Institution, both openly concerned with creating and disseminating anti-Soviet and anti-Russian propaganda), the only "ground-breaking" quality of his work is to have kick-started the grand project of Anglo-American pulp scholarship in "Sovietology" which started flooding the West and the world throughout the Cold War and for a time even gained some acceptance and recognition in post-Soviet-Union Russia. No other ethnic group in the world ever embarked on such an organized and systematic effort to discredit another ethnic group. Conquest's books, just like the works of Kotkin, Snyder, Appelbaum and many others, were meant to establish "reference" for subsequent authors and for the whole mainstream of Western societies, and indeed they did just that.
I hope the reader will acknowledge that what I have discussed above is the value and accuracy of a specific linguistic issue – the mistranslation of the word "limits" with the word "quotas". I have also indirectly hinted at an all-important issue: whether certain symbols (words) actually have any matching referents (things, people, events) in reality. The two passages quoted from Anne Appelbaum's and Stephen Kotkin's books can be defined as containing mainly words that are semantically "empty of meaning". Ironically, the only word that has a correct symbol-to-referent relationship is the word "Stalin".
Here is an important point: without a degree in linguistics or in political sciences, anyone can form a correct judgment about the truth value of virtually any verbal statement. Anyone has the faculty of establishing whether a symbol is linked to an actual referent, whether a word or a phrase or a sentence has a real meaning linked to an object, a place, a person or an event existing in the world. Whatever we may be saying or hearing about Stalin, we know that the word "Stalin" does indicate the actual person who bore that name. The phrase "a major Soviet leader" already loses that precise, exclusive connotation. The attribute "tyrant" (or "dictator" or "despot") has no meaning whatsoever unless its meaning can be proven. Simply to utter a word is, by itself and without a surrounding context, at best irrelevant and at worst fraudulent.
The context, too, must satisfy the same criteria. When the BBC says, as it did months ago at the time of the battle of Bakhmut, that "Russian soldiers could be fighting with shovels," not only proof of that statement was unavailable in any form, but proof of linguistic treachery became apparent, if not certain, due to other "facts": the BBC is known to have often lied in the past, and Russian soldiers are actually using a range of extremely sophisticated and lethal weapons and no shovels; but there is especially the essential grammatical fact that the headline used the conditional "could" rather than the indicative "are". Things that "are", are; things that "could" are not unless proof is given that they "are." In any event "are" and "could" are mutually exclusive. "Are" entails a single and hopefully correct meaning; "could" is an empty signifier that can be filled at will with all kinds of suppositional, "possible" (but unproven) meanings.
Similarly, when former British Prime Minister Liz Truss early in February 2022 boldly declared to Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrov that "the U.K. will never recognize Russian sovereignty over these regions," referring to Voronezh and Rostov in the belief that they were Donetsk and Luhansk, she inadvertently overlooked the "fact" that Voronezh and Rostov already were and always had been Russian. Not only referents must be provided; they should also not be mixed up. In this case lack of knowledge about the other side's language and geography proved to be linguistically fatal.
All that I have said in the foregoing paragraphs goes beyond the range of beliefs, opinions, and ideologies. The two words discussed earlier, "limits" and "quotas", are simply different and have distinct meanings. Was that chronic mistranslation intentional? It is really difficult to believe that, at source, it "just happened." Then it is easy to realize that hundreds of later commentators will have just repeated unquestioningly and matter-of-factly what they had previously heard and read and that they believed or wanted to believe, links in an endless chain which by now has no beginning and no end.
Indeed, we can think of a ubiquitous two-word phrase, the "Great Terror", which has now become standard within the Collective West and beyond. That phrase is Robert Conquest's own invention. Wikipedia gives the game away by telling us this: "The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties is a book by British historian Robert Conquest which was published in 1968. It gave rise to an alternative title of the period in Soviet history known as the Great Purge."
So, it follows that the "Great Terror" is a phrase of formidable effect, but it is also a spurious, possibly false, and certainly questionable concept. (Indeed, without the concept it is technically more difficult to discuss the issue and that is why the concept is necessary: not only it discusses the issue but, most importantly, it creates it.) Yet again, such a concept negatively mythologizes certain entities (Stalin, the Soviet Union, the Communists) but as it stands is no proof that the link between the symbol and its referents is true.
But note that even the phrase "Great Purge(s)" is to some extent a Western invention. It is extremely interesting to read what Arch Getty writes at the beginning of the chapter "What was a purge?" from his book Origins of the Great Purges:
"Western students have applied the word "purge" to everything from political trials to police terror to nonpolitical expulsions from the party. The label "Great Purges," which encompasses practically all party activities between 1933 and 1939, is an example of such broad usage. Yet the Communist Party defined and used the word quite specifically. The term "purge" (ckistka - a sweeping or cleaning) only applied to the periodic membership screenings of the ranks of the party. These membership operations were designed to weed the party of hangers-on, nonparticipants, drunken officials, and people with false identification papers, as well as ideological "enemies" or "aliens." In the majority of purges, political crimes or deviations pertained to a minority of those expelled.
No Soviet source or usage ever referred to the Ezhovshchina (the height of police arrests and terror in 1937) as a purge, and party leaders discussed that event and purges in entirely separate contexts. No political or nonpolitical trial was ever called a purge, and under no circumstances were operations, arrests, or terror involving nonparty citizens referred to as purges. A party member at the time would have been mystified by such a label." 7
What am I trying to say? I am trying to highlight the no small issue that such words and phrases (and their meanings) are non-Russian (i.e. English or American) terms and concepts which were coined outside Russia (in Great Britain or in the United States) and were then taken to have universal value within the Collective West. In actuality, such terms were the fruit at best of genuine languacultural confusion and at worst of organized propaganda, and never had any currency in the place and culture to which they were meant to apply: the Soviet Union and its (Russian) culture.
But since words are all-important, using wrong words is a dangerous practice which contradicts the very purpose in using language: it does not lead to good thinking. The casualty, inevitably and predictably, will be the truth. A sane person and a sane society would feel that life without truth is impossible and unthinkable. The problem that plagues the advanced societies of the Collective West is linguistic: language is no longer the natural and indispensable vehicle for finding and expressing truth.
The problem is not limited to those who consciously manipulate language for specific political goals. There have been legions of foreign commentators on the Soviet Union, on Stalin, on Communism, on contemporary Russia, who were seemingly linguistically and culturally impaired by not knowing well or at all the other side's language and culture. Many truly believed (and many more still believe) in several official narratives and, to be fair, apart from the specifically linguistic problem (personal knowledge of Russian or lack thereof) up until the dissolution of the USSR they did not have the advantage of later scholars and researchers who after the dissolution of the Soviet Union started researching and studying the Soviet archives that were made available.
The way to arrive at the truth, if the truth still is the ultimate goal of study and research, is through language. When Westerners study Soviet and Russian history and culture the problem of the truth is doubled: not only should a researcher be committed as much as possible to historical evidence and truthful language, but they should also be totally conversant in Russian – or at the very least they should be acutely aware of the issue - so as to push aside hearsay, secondary sources, vagueness, abstractions, generalizations, interpretations and falsifications, and go straight to the most authentic sources, from Russia and in Russian.