By: Bogdan Sajovic
Count Nikolai Tolstoy has been investigating the forced repatriations of anti-communists in 1945 for more than four decades – an outrageous crime that affected millions of people. In his latest book, he focused on the repatriation of Russian anti-communists, but in the past, he also wrote about the criminal fraud that caused the deaths of more than ten thousand Slovene home guards.
DEMOKRACIJA: Mr. Count, what prompted you to start exploring the post-war so-called repatriation of anti-communists into the hands of communist butchers?
Tolstoy: My serious investigation into the betrayal of Cossacks and refugees from Yugoslavia by British forces in Austria in 1945 began in the mid-1970s, when the British government published documents on the British extradition of Russian prisoners of war and refugees to Stalin and his regime killed or sent them to slavery labour camps. Based on this, my book Victims of Yalta was published in 1978. The book did not mention the parallel extradition of the victims to Tito for the simple reason that I was not yet aware of this crime.
DEMOKRACIJA: The numbers of those forcibly or fraudulently returned vary depending on the source. In your opinion, how many anti-communists were returned to the hands of the Soviets or the Yugoslavs?
Tolstoy: More than a million former Soviet citizens were extradited to Stalin. Almost all were killed on arrival or sent to Soviet slave labour camps. The number of returned Yugoslav citizens was much smaller, about 30,000 people. Before that, in May 1945, about 200,000 Croats were returned, awaiting a grim fate in Yugoslavia. However, they fall into a special category as the British did not accept their extradition. My main concern has always been connected to the betrayal of people who, under international law and the strict orders of Allied High Command, should never be extradited. Although the fate of both categories was equally grim, this last category underscores the shameful Machiavellian conduct of those responsible.
DEMOKRACIJA: As far as I know, forced return was contrary to international conventions. So why did the Western Allies, primarily the British, do this?
Tolstoy: As my new book Stalin’s Revenge proves beyond doubt, extradition had violated international law, in particular the 1929 Geneva Convention relative to Prisoners of War. In addition, as this violation was committed in direct violation of successive orders coming from Allied Command, a complex conspiracy was required to participate in Stalin’s and Tito’s assassination plans.
DEMOKRACIJA: The return seems to have been selective in a way, for example, those who took refuge in Italy were not returned. They also did not return the Baltic SS members… How come, was it the discretion of the Allied commanders on the ground, arbitrariness or something else?
Tolstoy: The Allied detention of Yugoslav citizens (especially General Damjanović’s Chetniks in Italy) illustrates the conspiratorial nature of the extradition from Austria. The Allied policy towards the Chetniks and others was consistent throughout: under no circumstances should they be forced to return to Yugoslavia. By no means can it be said that Allied commanders on the ground had their hands free when making brutal decisions. On the contrary, the British and American official policy that no one should be forcibly returned to Yugoslavia was in force throughout this dark period. Most British soldiers of all ranks on the ground were appalled by the treacherous policy of conspiracy to carry out a mass murder.
DEMOKRACIJA: What was the role of the British political leadership in this return? Did Churchill give the order to return or was he misled?
Tolstoy: Contrary to some public speculation, Winston Churchill played no part in these conspiratorial activities. In fact, they deliberately kept him in the dark. As my new book shows for the first time, Churchill, Eisenhower, and Alexander organised Operation Coldstream to safely evacuate the Cossacks to American territory in Germany. By the way, it is interesting that the state documents relating to this operation were practically completely removed from the British Office of Public Records during the infamous trial (on Lord Aldington’s responsibility) in 1989. If these documents were available to the defence, it would be almost impossible even for a corrupt judge to rule in favour of Lord Aldington.
DEMOKRACIJA: It seems that the British historical profession as well as the media and even the judiciary are still protecting the British who were involved in this crime. You also felt this on your own skin when you were even convicted for writing down the truth…
Tolstoy: Yes, I am afraid that British historians of this period are not too brave in dealing with these horrific atrocities, which were committed on a gigantic scale. A similar tacit sympathy with the perpetrators, if carried out by German historians in connection with Nazi crimes, would be immediately condemned throughout the world. I myself suspect that this attitude is only partially racist (although it certainly includes it), as it largely stems from a desire to be “respectable” in the eyes of the establishment.
DEMOKRACIJA: Do you not think that today’s Western historiography is generally very lukewarm when it comes to investigating communist crimes? Why such an attitude?
Tolstoy: It is an indisputable fact that Western historians generally handle even the worst crimes committed by communists with kid gloves compared to the piously repeated condemnations of Nazi crimes. That this is partly racist can certainly not be denied. How can the murder of a Cossack or a Slovene under Stalin or Tito be less horrific than the murder of a Polish Jew or a Russian prisoner of war in war Germany? I must point out, however, that there are excellent historians who challenge this shameful majority opinion. Of course, another factor of this undoubted double standard is the fact that Nazi Germany is safely buried in the past, while the crimes committed by the Communists are still largely pushed to the side-lines or even rejected.
DEMOKRACIJA: Is it true that the Yugoslavs killed the returned anti-communists mostly immediately, while the Soviets used them for decades as slave labour in the gulags?
Tolstoy: It is true that Tito’s policy meant the massacre of hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens, who were handed over by the British in Austria into the hands of his personal Gestapo, Ozna. Meanwhile, Stalin decided to kill as many people as he liked and kept most of the millions of unfortunates extradited by the Allies or captured by the Soviets themselves as slaves in a giant prison that was the Soviet Union.
DEMOKRACIJA: You have written a new book on post-war “repatriations”. Can you tell us what it refers to and what findings you have come to?
Tolstoy: My new book, Stalin’s Revenge, has finally penetrated the heart of the conspiracy activities lurking behind the great betrayal. Largely because of President Yeltsin’s active support, my book made it possible, for the first time, to publish secret Soviet documents that clearly show, first, that there was indeed a sinister and far-reaching conspiracy, and second, that they were responsible for it. The evidence I can publish for the first time further proves indisputably that Harold Macmillan, who was then political adviser (resident minister) to the Allied Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, Field Marshal Alexander, was a cold-blooded conspirator who was primarily responsible for the terrible tragedy that followed.
DEMOKRACIJA: You have also researched in many state archives, in the UK, in Russia… Can you tell us how much material is in these archives and how much is available at all?
Tolstoy: Yes, for almost half a century I did extensive research in the archives – mainly in the UK, the United States and later in Russia. The United States seemed to me undoubtedly the most free and fair country to work on such an extremely sensitive topic – although ironically it turned out that the Russian government was infinitely more cooperative than the British! Soon after the events, the British government destroyed many sensitive documents, and it kept even more in a lengthy secret campaign in order to silence me. As I say, all of this is fully documented in my book. Although I cannot speak on the basis of direct knowledge, I have been told that many of the documents issued to me on the instructions of President Yeltsin have since been withdrawn. Fortunately, I have photocopies of thousands of important documents. As I am well aware of the opinion the British government still holds of my writing, and its ruthlessness in suppressing the truth, I have made sure to copy everything to computer resources that are widespread enough that they cannot be destroyed.
DEMOKRACIJA: Did you find any material related to “repatriations” and the massacre of Slovenian anti-communists?
Tolstoy: I documented the horrors of Yugoslav “repatriations” in my latest book on the subject, Minister and Massacres. As in the book Victims of Yalta, I was able to rely on the testimonies of many survivors on both sides. The evidence of British collaboration with Tito’s assassins are so clear and convincing that I did not find it necessary to delve into the same field in this book. (Unfortunately, not even the space would allow for an exhaustive discussion.) However, the weight of evidence for conspiracy (as opposed to error or oversight) is now so clear from previously secret evidence first published in my last book that it is inconceivable that there would be documents that could seriously challenge my reconstruction of events.
DEMOKRACIJA: As an expert, can you clarify the dilemma of why the British returned the Slovene anti-communists to Yugoslavia in the first place, and above all why they used deception to do so, as they could have forcibly put them on trains or trucks, just like they did with the Cossacks?
Tolstoy: The return of the anti-communist Slovenes was carried out in complete contradiction with the established Allied policy and all the orders of the British 5th Corps in Austria. As my new book shows, Harold Macmillan was undoubtedly responsible for the British cover-up of the horrific atrocities that followed. As Macmillan as Conservative Prime Minister still remains a respected idol of the majority of the Conservative leadership today, it seems likely that the authorities feel they must not allow his treacherous activities from 1945 to shine.
Finally, I am sure many readers will want to know my opinion on why Macmillan became so heavily involved in these shameful activities. I have to admit that even though I have my suspicions, I still do not have clear evidence of his motive. My book, however, shows that he was responsible for the torturous deaths of thousands of innocent victims, for whom he never showed the slightest remorse.
Count Nikolai Tolstoy was born in 1935 in London. His father was a Russian aristocrat who emigrated due to the Bolshevik revolution, and his mother is British. He was baptised in the Orthodox faith and had a “Russian upbringing” as a child. He was educated at Sandhurs Military Academy and Trinity College Dublin. As a historian and writer, he is the author of several works on Celtic culture, and in the late 1970s he devoted himself to research into “repatriations” – the forced Anglo-American return of anti-communists to communists and thus to suffering and death. The revelation of this taboo, in which some later important British politicians were involved, led to the infamous Aldington trial, when Lord Aldington sued Tolstoy for defamation and received 2 million in damages. The verdict was later handed down to the ECHR, where it turned out that some key documents had been concealed and Aldington lied, but nevertheless walked away without consequences. Despite being 86 years old, Tolstoy continues his research on the “repatriations” of anti-communists. Count Nikolai is married and the father of four children. He is the head of the Tolstoy family and chancellor of the International Monarchist League. After the fall of communism, he visited Russia and acquired Russian citizenship in addition to British citizenship.