OK, while we’re on the

OK, while we’re on the subject, here is my favorite example of vindication in one’s own lifetime. Robert Conquest wrote the definitive history of Stalinism, titled The Great Terror. Based in part on the then-underground accounts of anti-Communist Russians, Conquest estimated that Stalin had killed about 20 million people. This calculation was almost universally deried by academic historians–Conquest is a poet, not a university historian. Liberals at that time viewed anti-Communist Russians the same way they view anti-Communist Cubans today. Anyway, for many years Conquest’s book was one of the few that told the whole truth about Stalin. After the Communist government fell and Soviet archives were opened, it turned out that Conquest’s numbers had been close, but actually a bit low. He prepared a new edition of The Great Terror that incorporated the newly-available archival material. While the revised book was being readied for publication, Conquest was talking to his agent on the phone; the agent asked whether Conquest wanted to give the new edition a new title. Conquest thought for a moment and then said, “Yeah. Let’s call it, ‘I Was Right All Along, You Assholes.’” He didn’t, though; it’s still called The Great Terror and it’s still the definitive work on Stalin.

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