The Death of Stalin,” the new film by Armando Iannucci, the creator of “Veep,” starts with the sudden demise of one of history’s greatest monsters. A lot of wheeling and dealing, backstabbing, and backbiting ensues, along with hilarity. Only someone who could sell a Hillary Clinton-type character as the center of an HBO comedy could create a satire that takes down the Soviet Union at the height of its ferocity and terror. No wonder the modern Russian leader. Vladimir Putin, hates the movie.

Stalin a bigger monster than Adolf Hitler?

When one points to who is the evilest person in world history, Adolf Hitler almost always winds up at the top of the list.

Hitler carried out an extermination program against entire groups of people he wanted dead, including European Jews. He launched a world war that killed tens of millions of people, wrecked Europe for a generation, and set up the Cold War that more than once almost went nuclear, a development that would have ended civilization.

However, Stalin gives Hitler a good run for his money. He lasted over twice as long as his German counterpart and thus had more opportunity for mass slaughter, including the mass starvation of Ukrainians in the 1920s and the purges of the 1930s. Stalin ran a system of labor camps called the Gulag that rivaled anything Hitler did, with the exception that there were no gas chambers and ovens.

The victims of the Gulag were worked and starved to death.

Stalin’s non-aggression pact with Hitler made World War II possible and set the stage for the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union that nearly ended that empire fifty years before it finally was consigned to the ash heap of history. Stalin was killing people willy-nilly right up to his death in 1953.

His departure from this mortal coil was a relief, to say the least.

The reason that Stalin usually plays second fiddle to Hitler is that the depths of his evil were never on display in the media. No one liberated the Gulag camps as had been Hitler’s death factories at Dachau and Auschwitz. Besides, for a time, Stalin was an ally, and it suited Great Britain and the United States to paper over his depredations.

A comedy about Stalin?

Mel Brooks, the creator of such hit films as “The Producers” and “To Be or Not to Be,” is quoted as saying that the one way to deflate evil was to make light of it. He certainly did Nazi Germany that service in his play within a play, “Springtime for Hitler,” and his later remake of a wartime comedy set in occupied Poland. “The Death of Stalin,” by all accounts, does the same thing to Soviet communism. The film deserves to be a sleeper hit.