Joseph Stalin was perhaps the most paranoid of absolute monarchs. Although he hated royalty and the bloodlines that bestowed power on people by happenstance, he was far more powerful than all the Tsars counted as one. During the 1930s, he wielded enough power to make life long enemies and decided to eliminate each of them.
In the Soviet Army, he culled out 43000 officers. Three of five marshals were killed. Fifteen out of sixteen army commanders were killed. Sixty out of sixty seven Army Corps Commanders were killed. One hundred and thirty six out of two hundred division commanders were killed. Many died in labor camps under the most horrific conditions, some were summarily shot, not unlike they disposition of rivals in Rome. The people killed in Stalin’s purges came from citizens to the Army to business leaders.
The NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) leader Grigory Yagodah, regularly poisoned political rivals of Josef Stalin for Josef Stalin. It helped that Yagodah’s primary career was a pharmacist. When he fell out of Stalin’s favor, the next chief, Nikolai Yezhov, killed him. Yezhov had seven million arrested, and three million executed. And when Stalin tired of him, Lavrebty Beria, the next NKVD leader axed him as well.
There were 2,000,00 corpses found in shallow graves near Bikivnia, near Kiev. There are 30,000 corpses in mass graves near Petersburg, 25,000 at Levasho, 25,000 corpses near Moscow, 100,000 bodies buried near Minsk, in fact hundreds under the Moscow Zoo.
Death on a large scale was a routine thing. When Russia invaded and occupied Poland, Red Guard operatives and party apparatchiks ,and 15,000 polish officers were shot in forests around Warsaw.
There was little forgiveness as well. Stalin was offended that a Russian would be captured by a Nazi. He felt that each Russian should fight to the death before losing or being taken prisoner. In fact, Stalin felt that people who were taken prisoner were cowards or had negotiated their life in return for incarceration. Soviet POWs were never welcomes back, and that meant the five million Soviets taken prisoner were either exiled or in prison or in a labor camp. It was just to the soldier POWs who earned the Communist party opprobrium, any citizen forced into labor was also an outcast. You were not much better off if the Russians took you prisoner. Of the 4,100,000 POWs taken by the Russian, 580,000 of them died in captivity.
In all 18,000,000 Soviet citizens died in World War II.
Source: The Great Big Book Of Horrible Things, Mathew White. Norton. 2012