Russia’s Stalin vs Nigeria & The Featherless Chickens – “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
There are numerous anecdotes illustrating the cruelty and carelessness of Joseph Stalin. One of these holds that the dictator once plucked a live chicken to show how easy it was to control subjugated people. Assessing the validity of this story, like many others, warrants a crash course in Soviet history.
Share Did Stalin really pluck a live chicken to show how he controlled the masses?
There’s a popular anecdote about Joseph Stalin that goes as follows. One day, the dictator of the Soviet Union told his closest advisors that he would show them how easy it was to control a person that had already been subjugated. He brought in a live chicken, which he then proceeded to pluck until it was naked and bleeding.
“Now, watch where the chicken goes,” Stalin said as he put it on the ground. Finally freed from its torturer’s grasp, the chicken wasted no time getting away. However, when it failed to find an exit, it readily returned to Stalin and attempted to warm itself between the dictator’s legs. Stalin then took out some grain from his pocket, which he fed to the chicken.
The chicken ate the grain despite the pain. When Stalin started to walk around the room, the chicken timidly followed, leaving a small trail of blood wherever it went. “So, you see,” Stalin said to his advisors, smiling. “People are like chickens. You pluck them, and then let them go. Then you can control them.”
This simple, sinister anecdote has been around for many years. During the Cold War, it was frequently cited by journalists as proof that the Soviet government relied on fear to keep their population under control. Today, conservatives sometimes share the same story on social media as part of a more questionable effort to warn against the dangers of socialism.
However, like many things shared on social media, there is little to no evidence that the events described in this anecdote actually happened. Consequently, the anecdote should be interpreted not as an example of Stalin’s cruelty, but a testament to how difficult it is to distinguish fact from fiction when you’re talking about controversial periods or people.
Fact or fiction: Joseph Stalin
Given all the other anecdotes we have been told about Joseph Stalin, the chicken story seems perfectly plausible. When questioned about the Holodomor, a state-sanctioned famine that led to the deaths of nearly four million Ukrainians, Stalin is believed to have said: “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
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