One hundred years ago, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia launched the world’s first communist state. Many others followed, treating human beings as tools with which to fashion “utopian” societies. In the process, more than 100 million innocent people died over the years. The United States marked the anniversary of the original Communist revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism this month.

“We remember those who have died and all who continue to suffer under communism. In their memory … our nation reaffirms its steadfast resolve to shine the light of liberty for all who yearn for a brighter, freer future,” President Trump said in a statement.

In November 1917, the Bolsheviks, a minority faction led by Vladimir Lenin, ousted the more moderate government that had ended centuries of Russian imperial rule by overthrowing Russia’s Czar Nicholas II. In 1922, after a civil war, the Bolsheviks created a new nation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Men, women and children in rude clothing marching as group, holding farm implements and banner (© Bettmann/Getty)
Collective farmers march to the fields in a Russian town in 1931. (© Bettmann/Getty)

From the beginning in the new Soviet Union, the secret police implemented a campaign of mass executions against the opposition as they sought to tamp down independence and rid society of different classes. The killings continued under Joseph Stalin, who followed Lenin as the Soviet leader. He executed hundreds of thousands of farmers and nationalized their property to create state-run farms. Millions more citizens died during a famine engineered by Stalin to bring about submission in the people.

Stalin’s secret police killed citizens and his potential political rivals, resulting in more than 600,000 slayings. Stalin also deported or imprisoned millions more in forced-labor camps called gulags.

Communism spreads

After the Bolshevik Revolution, more communist regimes were established in China, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. Many European nations liberated from Nazi rule by the Red Army in World War II were forced to adopt a communist regime.

Over the last century, citizens of communist states suffered from mass deportations, forced-labor camps, police-state terror and starvation as the regimes clamped down on freedoms and repressed individuality.

Large pile of bones with blindfolded skull on top (© Alex Bowie/Getty Images)
Remains excavated from the killing fields outside Phnom Penh, where Cambodians were executed by the Khmer Rouge and buried in mass graves. (© Alex Bowie/Getty Images)

“These movements, under the false pretense of liberation, systematically robbed innocent people of the God-given rights of free worship, freedom of association, and countless other rights we hold sacrosanct,” Trump said in the statement declaring November 7 as the National Day for the Victims of Communism.

“Citizens yearning for freedom were subjugated by the state through the use of coercion, violence, and fear,” he said.


Soldiers and other people standing around opening in concrete wall (© AP Images)
Border guards from East Germany look through a hole in the Berlin Wall after demonstrators pulled down one of its segments at the Brandenburg Gate in 1989. (© AP Images)

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation recently presented a Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, named after former U.S. Presidents Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. The annual award honors individuals and institutions that have promoted freedom and democracy and that continue to fight communism and other forms of tyranny.

“Happily, tonight we can also celebrate that in 1989, the Iron Curtain was pulled down and hundreds of millions of people — entire nations — were made free,” said Marion Smith, executive director of the foundation, referring to the barrier between the West and the communist countries of central and eastern Europe. “The Americans and others in the free world can be proud that our countries played an indispensable role in confronting, containing and then rolling back communist imperialism.”

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.