Hello, my name is Anatole Konstantin. You can click here and here to read my previous AMAs about growing up under Stalin, what life was like fleeing from the Communists, and coming to America as an immigrant. After the killing of my father and my escape from the U.S.S.R. I am here to bear witness to the cruelties perpetrated in the name of the Communist ideology.

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Communist Revolution in Russia. My latest book, "A Brief History of Communism: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire" is the story of the men who believed they knew how to create an ideal world, and in its name did not hesitate to sacrifice millions of innocent lives.

The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has said that the demise of the Soviet Empire in 1991 was the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. My book aims to show that the greatest tragedy of the century was the creation of this Empire in 1917.

My grandson, Miles, is typing my replies for me.

Here is my proof.

Visit my website anatolekonstantin.com to learn more about my story and my books.

Update (4:22pm Eastern): Thank you for your insightful questions. You can read more about my time in the Soviet Union in my first book, "A Red Boyhood: Growing Up Under Stalin", and you can read about my experience as an immigrant in my second book, "Through the Eyes of an Immigrant". My latest book, "A Brief History of Communism: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire", is available from Amazon. I hope to get a chance to answer more of your questions in the future.

Comments: 17400 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

Just_another_gamer_6968 karma

What is your opinion on educated people in America who openly support communism, as well as dictators and their dictatorship?

As the son of a Cuban whose family was prosecuted and killed in Cuba, it infuriates me to hear people who praise those like Castro. So many people see only what they want to see.

Edit: after some responses and questions I went to talk to my father about the family history. Turns out my direct family (grandfather, pregnant grandmother) left Cuba because my grandfather, a doctor, helped both Batista's men and the men they were fighting during a shootout. Batista put 500,000$ on my grandfather's head for aiding the others. They also disagreed with Batista and later Castro, who ran the rest of my family out of Cuba.

My father said to relay a few things, first that Batista was bad, no denying that, but Castro was worse in his opinion. Batista was a murderer, but he mostly just messed with the political class and left the rest alone if they didn't interfere with the money. Castro messed with everyone, and ran the country into the ground.

My grandfather, Maximo/Luly Viera, was smuggled out, while his cousin Mingolo was not. Mingolo was on Batista's bad side, so he was caught, shot 150 times, and thrown on his mother's front porch.

Edit 2: My father said to post, if communism was so good they wouldn't need fences and walls and machine guns to keep people in.

AnatoleKonstantin11144 karma

I think these people are not sufficiently educated because schools are not doing a good job teaching history. I wish history teachers themselves knew more about what went on. Those who don't know the past are liable to repeat it.

nypvtt2560 karma

How do you feel when those same people claim that communism has never been "done right"?

somkoala3703 karma

I also come from a post-communist country, even thought less severe than USSR and I was just a kid when it fell. I've thought a lot about the answer to this question. And my counter-question is - can it be done right in the end? Data doesn't support it (and Nordic EU countries are not real communism - note I say this because some people use them as an example, not because I would think they are communism). Every attempt at implementing communism started out with good intentions and failed. Maybe it can at some point in time, but looking at what's happening around the world (events that are based on bringing out the worst in people, like Brexit, or how The Arab Spring turned into an Arab Winter) I don't think much has changed.

AnatoleKonstantin2536 karma

This is a good answer.

slooots5620 karma

Hi Anatole, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. What would you say surprised you most about American culture when you came here, vs. what you had heard while you were in the USSR?

AnatoleKonstantin9750 karma

The Soviet propaganda painted the United States as an almost fascist country where everyone was being exploited by the capitalists and wished they lived in a Communist country. One couldn't read Western newspapers or books and did not have any information about real life in the West. The fact that no information was available from the West did not give us an opportunity to compare the two systems. I did not believe them and, having studied in West Germany after fleeing the Soviet Union, already knew what democracy was all about.

realtiernan4756 karma

What was the status (class) of your dad before the October revolution? What were the contents of the messages he sent to people on the outside?

AnatoleKonstantin5585 karma

My father was a photographer which would be middle class. The messages he sent to his parents were about his wife and children - the usual stuff discussed between parents and children. He was never involved in politics which meant that he was not a member of the Communist Party.

PriestWithTourettes3379 karma

What if any parallels do you see in Putin's increasingly autocratic government and the Soviet government?

AnatoleKonstantin5938 karma

The fact that he is approved by 80% of the Russian population shows that because Russia never had a real democracy, an autocratic government is acceptable to a majority there and so is Putin's objective of restoring military power and influence in the world.

LuminousEntrepreneur4097 karma

Russia has never survived under a “democracy.” Without an authoritarian leader like Vladimir Putin, Russia would cease to exist and would split into several impoverished republics. It’s a nation that needs strong federal unified rule.

I’ve studied this subject for several years and I’ve written multiple papers about it. It’s evident in Russia’s history. The stark demographic and cultural differences that exist among her people makes the principle of “democracy” nearly impossible to implement and sustain.

AnatoleKonstantin3870 karma

This is an accurate representation of the state of Russia.

Mintyboy42949 karma

How prevalent was petty theft in day to day life growing up within the Soviet Union. Not necessarily stealing from each other, but trying to steal from the regime? Did people often steal from each other, or was there more of a group mentality, of we're all in this together? Was there an element of needing to steal to survive, or live in otherwise unbearable conditions? Any information or perspectives you could give on the world of petty crimes would be interesting to me.

AnatoleKonstantin5126 karma

It depends on how you define "petty crimes". During the collectivization of farmers, theft from the collective farm of a handful of grain stalks needed for survival was considered a crime punishable by years of imprisonment. People stole because there were shortages of everything and among the population, stealing from the government was not viewed as a real crime. In general, petty crime was common.

Edit: People had to remove windshield wipers when they parked their cars for fear of them being stolen.

dottmatrix2168 karma

As a survivor of Stalin's regime, what would you say to demonstrate how bad it really was to someone who's romanticizing the communist ideology?

AnatoleKonstantin4770 karma

Stalin's regime caused the death of over 24,000,000 of his citizens. They killed my father and many others just for writing a letter to their family abroad. They starved millions of people during artificially created famines in order to force farmers into collective farms.

I would recommend reading "Gulag: A History" by Anne Applebaum.

4Klan2120 karma

Can you describe an average day of yours while you lived there?

SpeakLikeAChild046327 karma

Woke up, rolled out of couch, poured some vodka in my mouth

Went out in cold to have smoke, and looking up I see grey another day

Found my coat, and my mink hat, walked out of my dingy flat

Government don't care that I am broke, last time I spoke, they say they make me scream


I read the news today, oy mal'chick

Four thousand fox holes still in Stalingrad

And though the holes were rather small

Now KGB know how many moles and spies it takes for evil West to faaaaaalllllll

They'd love to tuuuuuurrrrn, yooooooooouuuuuu, aaaaaalllllll

AnatoleKonstantin5316 karma

I couldn't have answered better.

Secuter1951 karma

As a history student, I've learned that there's many different explanations to why the Soviet union eventually collapsed. Whilst they probably all contributed, which do you find was the most decisive?

AnatoleKonstantin3394 karma

I think it was the spiritual crisis caused by discrepancy between the rosy propaganda and totalitarian reality that made the Soviet people lose faith in the system. I think there is a lesson in this for us.

Druid001767 karma

What is your favorite book from that giant shelf behind you in that picture?

AnatoleKonstantin2253 karma

"The Black Book of Communism", Harvard University Press, 1999

shoaibnasiri1425 karma

What would be your ideal method of governance?

AnatoleKonstantin3129 karma

A civilized democracy.

ilikeyoohoo1418 karma

What party/ideology do you identify with in the US? What do you think about Bernie Sanders being painted as a communist for wanting to incorporate socialistic programs into our capitalist society?

AnatoleKonstantin4907 karma

I am in the middle of the road between the republicans and democrats.

We should differentiate between Communism and Socialism. Bernie Sanders is not a Communist. I think he would like to see a system more like what they have in Sweden, which is a monolithic society and would not work here.

l3dg3r966 karma

As a Swede, I would like to know what you mean by monolithic society and why that wouldn't work for the US?

_Mendicus_2445 karma

I’m assuming that he’s referring to the fact that the Nordic countries as a whole have very homogenous populations in terms of race, culture, class, and political views. This contrasts with the US, where class, race, and political ideology are much more varied and make implementing certain systems much harder.

AnatoleKonstantin1753 karma

I agree with this response.

Book81346 karma

Why wasn't Stalin assassinated?

What do you think of the Russian War effort in WW2

What do you think of Putin and his role in Syria?

What is a good book that provided a fair analysis of Communist Russia

AnatoleKonstantin2051 karma

According to rumors, Stalin was assassinated by Lavrenty Beria who arranged for a larger than normal dose of blood thinning medication be given to him. Beria felt his life was threatened when Stalin was preparing another purge of the leadership.

I am not an expert in matters of the war.

As for the book question, my new book "A Brief History of Communism" analyzes life in Communist Russia.

Intensityintensifies1265 karma

Do you think that the hardships you endured are related to an inherent evil in Communism? Or is it that the people in power were corrupt?

What I mean is, do you think in a perfect world Communism would work and the problem is we are imperfect creatures, or is Communism evil even if it is implemented perfectly?

AnatoleKonstantin3680 karma

Considering that the same system in other countries like China, Cuba, and Cambodia led to the same results, it shows that it was the system that is incompatible with human nature. It couldn't be implemented in any other way. Powerful people in other ideologies are also corrupt and yet they did not murder millions of their own citizens.

Kwiatkowski1257 karma

How do you think things would have turned out if Trotsky had been able to succeed Lennin instead if Stalin rising to power?

giobbistar21920 karma

Anatole, what do you see is the most ideal and fair system of government, and which countries have implemented that system of government the most faithfully?

AnatoleKonstantin2369 karma

I think it is democracy in which the opponents are not considered to be enemies, as we had it in the second half of the 20th century.

bulabulabambam642 karma

What do you feel about the current state of the American hard left? And the polarization of the political landscape in general?

AnatoleKonstantin2392 karma

I think that the hard left is balanced by the hard right and neither are compatible with democracy as we know it. This is the most polarized time in our history and I think this too shall pass.

YourUgliness618 karma

Is it communism or dictatorship and lack of free speech that made life under Stalin so bad? Can you have a democratic communist country with free speech?

AnatoleKonstantin2073 karma

A Communist system cannot tolerate another political party or ideology. Therefore, perhaps only after they exterminate all of their opponents, they would accept "free speech" from their supporters.

99thpercentile476 karma

Do you think Troksky would have been able to bring about a more wholesome, successful, and supportive form of socialism than Lenin did?

AnatoleKonstantin1548 karma

Since Trotsky wrote, "The Red Terror is a weapon used against a class that, despite being doomed to destruction, does not wish to perish," I do not think that his rule would be any more benevolent than Lenin's.

malfight375 karma

Considering that the exteme ends of both political spectrums have resulted in millions of deaths, and that often time the horrendous nature of Hitler's Nazi Germany is measured by those deaths---why does the West focus on the death of 6 million Jews under fascism while almost ignoring the deaths of some estimated 85 million people under left-wing Communist leaders?

AnatoleKonstantin532 karma

Public opinion is influenced by the media and the educational system - neither of which are perfect. I write about this question in detail in my previous book, "Through the Eyes of an Immigrant". For example, the writer George Bernard Shaw said that it was alright with him if it took the lives of some Russian peasants to bring about a Communist revolution.

ThatOldGuy1895186 karma

Hi Mr. Konstantin,

Thank you for making yourself available for an AMA. I stumbled late onto your AMA last year and commented on how influential your book was to me while I was in high school. Your grandson Miles came across my message on that thread and reached out to me last week that you'll be doing an AMA and again reached out earlier today to let me know it was up - thank you, Miles! This actually reminded me the book would be a great gift for my sister who is interested in studying 20th century history - I found the last hardcopy on amazon at the moment :D

I have a few questions if you are able to answer:

  • Are you still speaking at local schools on life in the USSR? Do you have comments from speaking with students/teachers on your life? You comment on how education does not sufficiently emphasize lessons from history, and I think hearing and seeing someone speak, or writing personal accounts, will likely always be a lesson that finds more connection than watching an aged documentary or reading from a dry school textbook.

  • Apart from writing, do you have other hobbies?

  • Do you think communist or other harsh political ideologies would be harder or easier to find root today compared to the early 20th century?

Thank you - best of luck to you and your family in your business and personal endeavors!

AnatoleKonstantin389 karma

Thank you for your message.

I am no longer speaking in schools, but I am still being interviewed occasionally in local libraries. I found that most history teachers I met are not knowledgable about Communism and therefore their students are not familiar with it.

As for hobbies, I try to follow scientific developments in all areas.

I think that with jobs being lost to automation and artificial intelligence it may become easier in the future for these ideologies to take root.

robogbot109 karma

How do you feel about all the memes and jokes about Stalin, Hitler, and communism in general? Are they offensive?

AnatoleKonstantin351 karma

I am not familiar with memes, but I do not find these sorts of jokes offensive.

dreamofdandelions88 karma

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! Your insights are fascinating and I'm definitely hoping to pick up your book soon!

Do you think there are any artistic/fictional representations of life under Stalin's regime that have a particular resonance with your experiences?

AnatoleKonstantin195 karma

Yes, there is a Russian movie with english subtitles that is called "Burnt by the Sun" which is available on Amazon.

Mediocre_A_Tuin23 karma

What is your opinion on Americans arguing against European style Socialism with comparisons to Communism?

F22Rapture136 karma

"European-style socialism" isn't socialism. Americans look at European social democracy and think that because it's more regulated and generous than the US, it's socialism.

It isn't. Norway, Sweden, Denmark etc all have market capitalist economies and social democrat political systems.

Bernie Sanders is one of those people. There is no "Democratic Socialism" in Europe. How he describes it is nothing like the actual definition at all.

AnatoleKonstantin30 karma

This is an excellent answer.