“This factual approach puts Communism in what is, after all, its basic human perspective. For it was in truth a “tragedy of planetary dimensions” (in the French publisher’s characterization), with a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million. Either way, the Communist record offers the most colossal case of political carnage in history. And when this fact began to sink in with the French public, an apparently dry academic work became a publishing sensation, the focus of impassioned political and intellectual debate.
The shocking dimensions of the Communist tragedy, however, are hardlv news to any serious student of twentieth-century history, at least when the different Leninist regimes are taken individually The real news is that at this late date the truth should come as such a shock to the public at large. To be sure, each major episode of the tragedy— Stalin’s Gulag, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and his Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge — had its moment of notoriety. But these horrors soon faded away into “history”; nor did anyone trouble to add up the total and set it before the public. The surprising size of this total, then, partly explains the shock the volume provoked.” – Stephane Courtois – From the Foreword to the English edition of The Black Book of Communism