The Victims of Communism Foundation's Blog

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1928-2017
Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski (left), with President Jimmy Carter (middle) and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (right).

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1928-2017

It is with deep sorrow that the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation marks the passing of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a renowned academic, an implacable foe of tyranny, and an important advisor to our foundation at its beginning.

Zbigniew Brzezinski spent his early childhood in Germany in the 1930s, witnessing firsthand the rise of fascism. Serendipitously escaping the Nazi invasion of Poland due to his father’s diplomatic posting to Canada, the Brzezinski family emerged from World War II to discover that the Soviets had used the family’s aristocratic lineage as an excuse to expropriate their property in Poland.

Brzezinski became a United States citizen in 1958. He subsequently pursued a career in academia, where he became one of the first historians to offer a formal definition of totalitarianism, especially in regard to the USSR. Later, he became a foreign policy advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter. During his tenure as National Security Advisor, Brzezinski broke with the majority of his party by being a vocal supporter of anticommunist dissidents.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Brzezinski lobbied for the United States government to provide arms and support to the mujahideen freedom fighters who opposed the USSR and their Afghan communist allies. This policy of covert support begun by Brzezinski was continued by the Reagan administration and eventually led to the Soviets’ expulsion from Afghanistan in 1989. Many scholars note that the breakup of the Soviet Union was caused in some part by the stresses laid on Soviet society as a result of this invasion. “Indeed,” Brzezinski later said, “for almost ten years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

After the liberation of Eastern Europe and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Brzezinski’s hard line against the communist empire was vindicated. While the free world basked in the success of the Cold War, Brzezinski and others keenly understood the importance of commemorating the victims of ninety years of totalitarianism and educating the world so that such regimes would not mar the new twenty-first century as they had the twentieth.

In 1994, Dr. Lee Edwards and Ambassador Lev Dobriansky established the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to commemorate the hundred million victims of communist tyranny. Brzezinski, alongside the eminent scholars Richard Pipes and Robert Conquest, played a key role in VOC’s early years as a founding member of VOC’s National Advisory Council. The guidance of Brzezinski and other leading figures of the anticommunist movement was instrumental in shaping VOC’s mission and forming our vision of a world finally free of communist totalitarianism.