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State Violence: The Moscow Census of 1937

I'm reading the book Moscow 1937 by German historian Karl Schlogel.  It is about Stalin's purges and the terror unleashed upon Soviet society, which cannabilized those who had participated in the Revolution and were part of creating the new socialist dream.  The overall book is demonstrating the irrationality of the terror.

One chapter is on the census of 1937.  When the total population figures ended up being below what the government thought they would be -- by around 8 million -- they reacted by arresting and executing the people in charge of the census.  The numbers were low because the five year plans, the civil war, and other purges had resulted in millions dead, but rather than face reality, they eliminated those in charge of the census and accused them of being Trotskyist traitors.  

Here is a revealing section of Schlogel's analysis:

Since the census was the most ambitious, most complex and expensive attempt to draw up a balance sheet of society and to conduct a process of self-diagnosis twenty years after the Revolution--'The census was a pioneering enterprise intended to provide the fullest possible picture of Soviet life'--the suppression of its findings and the murder of those who organized it was noting less than the obliteration of the capacity for social self-analysis.  An authoritarian society, however, that is unable to form an idea of itself, whatever social engineering its leadership may have in mind, is doomed to the blind exercise of state violence.  Blindness resulting from the destruction of a society's knowledge of itself inevitably turns into blind terror.


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