"Death solves all problems --- no man, no problem," declared Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) who consolidated his infamous reign of terror by executing political rivals and shipping opponents to forced labor camps.
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent and vocal critics, Boris Nemtsov, previously the Russian deputy Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin, was murdered near the Kremlin on February 27 by way of four shots to the back while walking on a bridge with his girlfriend, a Ukrainian citizen.
Recently challenging Putin's excuses regarding problems in the Russian economy, Nemtsov said the weaknesses in Russia's economy were caused by Putin's misguided policies rather than by any supposed American conspiracy of economic sabotage that Putin repeatedly pointed to as the cause of Russia's economic failures, mirroring the perpetual excuse that Fidel Castro used for five decades to account for the continual deterioration of the Cuban economy.
Speaking a few days before he was killed about the economic squeeze on Russian workers due to stagnant wages and rising inflation, not unlike in the U.S. economy, Nemtsov put the blame squarely on Putin: "They believed that the embargo on imported foods is America's fault and they were surprised when I told them, 'No, that was not Obama, it was Putin.' This is what we need to make people aware of -- the crisis, that's Putin."
Ominously, during an interview in Russia with the Sobesednik news website not long before he was killed, Nemtsov, preparing a case he said would reveal Putin's direct role in provoking pro-Russian insurgencies in Ukraine and unleashing a war, publicly expressed the worry that Putin would silence him: "I'm afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in the Ukraine. I couldn't dislike him more."
Nemtsov's final tweet: "If you support stopping Russia's war with Ukraine, if you support stopping Putin's aggression, come to the Spring March in Maryino on March 1."
Boris Nemtsov's daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, 30, told the BBC that Putin was "politically" to blame for her father's murder.
"There is a clear motive," she said, regarding her father's political importance and Putin's incentive. "For one decade, he was the most prominent critic of Putin. He was the most powerful leader of the opposition in Russia. After his death, the opposition is beheaded and everybody is frightened. Now we do not have any other figure so powerful, with so much expertise and experience to confront the officials."
Replying to a resolution issued by the European Parliament calling for an international investigation into Nemtsov's death, Irina Yarovaya, head of the security committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, called the European resolution "bombastic hysteria" and a "political farce, that unfortunately, confirms that the killing of Nemtsov was cynically choreographed by the West."
Putin declared that he would personally oversee the investigation into Nemtsov's murder. Indeed, as Stalin notably stated, "Death solves all problems --- no man, no problem."
More broadly, the estimated cost in human lives within the Soviet Union, eradicated by the dictatorship of Soviet Marxism-Leninism in order to forcibly impose a failed communist system via firing squads, gassing, forced labor camps, man-made famine, deportation, genocide, the slaughter of rebellious workers, and the forced collectivization and starvation of the peasantry was in excess of 20 million people.
"The death of one man is a tragedy," stated Stalin. "The death of millions is a statistic."
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland