And how many of those met their demise as a result of Komrade Putin's defense of the state?
Darkness is falling in Vladimir Putin's Russia
Soaring oil prices have made the country a power again - but its ruler's grip on politics, the media and economy has sinister implications for democracy.
Russian experts estimate that seven million people perished in the Gulags, and ordinary families are still struggling to come to terms with the horrors they suffered under the Soviet era.
Even Russian president Vladimir Putin, a former senior KGB officer, appears to understand the necessity of acknowledging the appalling repression of the Soviet era. Later in the day he would make his first visit to a memorial and church built at a site on the outskirts of Moscow where thousands of people were executed by firing squad.
This year is the 70th anniversary of Stalin's Great Terror. It is also an election year in Moscow, and ever-eager to consolidate his popularity (Putin has an 80 per cent approval rating), the Russian leader paid a fulsome tribute to the millions of victims.The words of a true democrat never rang so clearly.
"As a rule these were people with their own opinions," said Putin. "These were people who were not afraid to speak their mind. They were the most capable people. They were the pride of the nation. And, of course, over many years we still remember this tragedy. We need to do a great deal to ensure that this is never forgotten."
The implication, of course, was that nothing like this could happen in Putin's Russia, a truly democratic state where the rule of law is supreme.Democracy in action, progressive style.
Well, tell that to Mikhail Khordokovsky, the former oil tycoon who only six years ago had a personal fortune worth an estimated $10 billion (£4.8 billion). But then he made the cardinal error of publicly criticising Putin's decidedly autocratic style of government.
He now spends his days breaking rocks at a remote Siberian penal colony, where he is halfway through an eight-year jail term on what many of his supporters believe are politically motivated fraud charges.
There is much, much more.