the great terror

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Stalin's Terror
The most famous aspect of Stalin's Russia was the Terror. This grew from his
paranoia and his desire to be absolute autocrat, and was enforced via the NKVD and
public 'show trials'. It developed into a centrallyenforced 'cult of Stalinworship', and
a terrifying system of labour camps 'the gulag'.
Reasons for the Terror
(Why Unnecessary Purges?)
1. Whole Country
Stalin believed that Russia had to be united ­ with him as leader ­ if it was
to be strong.
2. Urgency
Stalin believed Russia had 10 years to catch up with the western world
before Germany invaded.
3. Paranoia
Stalin became increasingly paranoid (seeing plots everywhere) and
power-mad (he demanded continuous praise and applause). In 1935, his
wife killed herself.
The Apparatus of Terror
(Stalin Takes Total Control)
1. Secret Police
The CHEKA became the OGPU (1922), then the NKVD (1934).
2. The First Purges, 1930­33
Including anybody who opposed industrialisation, and the kulaks
who opposed collectivisation.
3. The Great Purges, 1934­39
Political Opponents
1934: Kirov, a rival to Stalin, was murdered. Although he
probably ordered the assassination, Stalin used it as a chance to
arrest thousands of his opponents.
1934­1939, Stalin's political opponents were put on `Show
trials', where they pleaded guilty to impossible charges of
treason (e.g. Zinoviev and Kamenev 1936/ Bukharin, Tomsky &
Rykov 1938).

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The Army
In 1937, the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army and 7 leading
generals were shot. In 1938­39, all the admirals and half the
Army's officers were executed or imprisoned.
The Church
Religious leaders imprisoned; churches closed down.
Ethnic groups
Stalin enforced `Russification' of all the Soviet Union.
Ordinary people
Were denounced/ arrested/ sent to the Gulag (the system of
labour camps). 20 million Russians were sent to the camps,
where perhaps half of them died. People lived in fear.…read more


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