Late Russia 1924-2000


Lenins Legacy 1921-1924



Ended Civil War (won)

Mass use of terror- cheka, camps,

The economy was brought back from the brink- NEP

One- party state


War Communism- famine

Got rid of Bourgeoisie

Huge loss of life + suffering

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Who would rule Russia after Lenin's Death?

Possible contenders for rule:

  • Stalin- 
  • Trotsky
  • Bukharin
  • Pyatakov
  • Zinoviev
  • Kamenev 

What are his main criticisms of Trotsky and Stalin?Stalinhas unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution.Trotsky was Very capable

What does he mean by the October Episode?

  • Zinoviev and Kamenev
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Lenin's Death 1924

  • His body lay in state in Moscow. Over the next three days, around a million mourners came to see the body, many queuing for hours in the freezing conditions.  Despite the freezing temperatures, tens of thousands attended his funeral in Red Square.
  • Against Krupskaya's protestations, Lenin's body was embalmed to preserve it for long-term public display in the Red Square mausoleum.  During this process, Lenin's brain was removed; in 1925 an institute was established to dissect it, revealing that Lenin had suffered from severe sclerosis.
  •  From 1941 to 1945 the body was moved from Moscow and stored in Tyumen for safety amid the Second World War. As of 2017 the body remains on public display in Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square.
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Communist Party 1924

Party Membership:

  • Before 1917 middle-class, professional revolutionaries had led the 10,000 Bolsheviks
  • The party was much changed by 1924
  • Many of the new recruits were not workers but bureaucrats and managers
  • Some of the recruits were what Trotsky called openly 'red' but retaining 'white' loyalties under the skin
  • It brought benefits
    • Improved rations and health care
    • Access to foreign goods, holidays, superior accommodation etc
  • After Lenin's death there was a huge recruitment drive- the Lenin Enrolment
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Communist Party 1924

Disputes in the party before Lenin's Death:

  • The Civil War years had created a party that had grown accustomed to the need for accepting orders from above. Orders from Moscow had to be obeyed if the Bolsheviks were to stay in power
  • This had not prevented important disagreements between the members
  • In 1918 Left Communists, including Bukharin, had denounced the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
  • In 1920 Democratic Centralists demanded more open debate within the party and more democratic control by ordinary members of the party leadership and its decisions.
  • In 1920 The Workers Opposition campaigned for greater involvement by trade unions in the running of the economy.
  • In 1921 Lenin persuaded the party to accept The Decree on Party Unity. He hoped it would bring to an end the debates within the party. It failed to do so.
  • In 1923 Trotsky spoke out for a greater emphasis on industrializations and changes in the NEP
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Communist Party 1924

Decision-making in the party:

  • In theory, the communist party was democratic
  • Ordinary party members elected local committees
  • They in turn elected regional party groups, who chose delegates to the national party congress.
  • This congress elected a Central Committee, which then chose the leaders, who sat in the Political Bureau and decided matters of policy
  • They also elected the Orgburo, which supervised the administration of the party
  • The party now worked through an elaborate system of patronage.
  • Party officials at all levels made appointments and built up clients on whose support they would rely in elections
  • At the 12th Party Congress 85% of the delegates were party employees, so their jobs and privileges were dependent on their loyalty to the party line or their party patron
  • Stalin, as head of the party secretariat, was best positioned to influence party appointments and build up a base of support throughout the party.
  • In practice, after 1919, important party and government decisions were made in the Politburo of the party. Ministers often did not attend Sovnarkom (cabinet) meetings in person, but they rarely missed Politburo meetings.
  • Lenin often signed decrees without consulting even the Politburo, and many others followed his example
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Principal Contenders for Power in 1924


  • Born into a Jewish farming family, he was a passionate orator
  • He joined the RSDLP in 1901 and remained close to Lenin after the party split in 1903
  • He spent the next 14 years in exile with Lenin working on the party newspapers
  • On his return to Petrograd he opposed the October Coup, co-writing an article in  the press criticizing the coup before it had happened.
  • He then resigned from the Bolshevik government when Lenin refused to coalesce with other socialist parties
  • He was quickly rehabilitated and was the first Chairman of Cominterm in 1919
  • In 1922 he formed the triumvirate to combat Trotsky's influence in the party and was Chairman of the Petrograd Party


  • Born in 1881 into a peasant family, he was regarded as a moderate in the party
  • He spent the year before 1914 in Russia, escaping from Siberia seven times
  • With a reputation as a good administrator, he acted as People's commissar of the Interior 1917-1918 and Chairman of the Supreme Council of the National Economy in 1918-1920 and 1923-1924
  • He was elected to succeed Lenin as the Chairman of Sovnarkom and Prime Minister of the USSR
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Principal Contenders for Power in 1924


  • Born in 1888
  • He was the youngest member of the Politburo
  • A candidate member of Politburo in March 1919 and a full member in 1924 after Lenin's death
  • He joined the Bolsheviks in 1906 when still a teenager
  • Arrested and exiled to the Arctic Circle, but escaped and lived abroad until Feb 1917
  • He played a major part in the October Revolution in Moscow
  • Though he was close to Lenin, he had opposed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, believing revolution would spread if the war continued
  • Became an enthusiastic member of the NEP when he realized that international revolution was not imminent
  • As editor of Pravda from 1919 he had control over the whole Soviet press
  • Lenin called him 'the party's best theoretician'
  • Became Chairman of Cominterm in 1925
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Principal Contenders for Power in 1924


  • Born in 1883 into a Jewish Family
  • He married Trotsky's sister
  • Before WW1 he was in exile with Lenin, with whom he edited Bolshevik publications
  • Returned to St Petersburg in 1914 and was arrested
  • Released after the Feb Revolution, he was one of the first Bolshevik leaders to return to the capital
  • There he urged co-operation with the Provisional Government and a closer working relationship with the Mensheviks
  • He believed that Russia was not ready for a socialist revolution and criticised Lenin's April Theses
  • When the party took the decision to plan a coup d'état, he openly criticised the decision in the newspapers!
  • After October Revolution he resigned his chairmanship of the Central Executive Committee of Soviets when Lenin refused to form a broad left coalition, though he kept his control of the Moscow Soviet.
  • However, he soon found himself deputizing for Lenin at meetings of Sovnarkom
  • In 1922 he formed a triumvirate with Zinoviev and Stalin to prevent Trotsky becoming more powerful
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Principal Contenders for Power in 1924


Born into a poor family in Georgia in 1879, he was sent to a school for training priests He joined the RSDLP and worked as an agitator and fundraiser. This meant robbing banks, including a famous raid in Tiflis in 1907. He was sent to Siberia many times, escaping each time. Lenin personally asked that 'that wonderful Georgian' be elected to the party Central Committee in April in 1917. He was made Commissar for Nationalities after the Revolution. This was not a glamourous post for the Communist Party, since it involved supervising the 'backward' peoples of the RSFSR. It did give wide powers to appoint people to senior positions within the regions of Russia. He supported Lenin's line on most matters. During the Civil War he organized food supplies in the south, and had conflicts with Trotsky

  • In 1919 he was made head of Rabkrin . This organization was set up to check on the work of those in the government service.
  • It gave Stalin powers to inspect all government departments.
  • He was the only Politburo member to be also a member of the Orgburo, which supervised party affairs.
  • In 1922 he was asked to become General Secretary of the Party, though he tried to decline the offer at first.
  • The post of General secretary gave Stalin the responsibility of administering the whole Communist party, another position carrying great powers of patronage.
  • When Lenin had his first stroke he was part of the unofficial 'triumvirate'. Because of his many posts in the bureaucracy, he was nicknamed 'Comrade Card Index' in the party
  • He did not have a reputation as a great Marxist theoretician
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Principal Contenders for Power in 1924


  • Born in 1883 he was a gifted Jewish writer and creator
  • He criticized Lenin's centralization of the party, and set up his own group Mezhraionka
  • He was Chairman of the St Petersburg Soviet in 1905, after which he was arrested many times.
  • He returned to Petrograd in May 1917 and soon merged his group with the Bolsheviks. He chaired the Military revolutionary committee of the Petrograd Soviet, which seized power in October
  • As commissar for Foreign affairs he negotiated the Treaty of Brest- Litovsk, though he disagreed strongly with Lenin
  • In March 1918 he was made Commissar for war, creating the Red Army from virtually nothing
  • His determination and energy played an important role in the defeat of the Whites. He was elected to the Politburo in 1919
  • Always a reluctant supporter of the NEP, in 1923 he spoke out openly against it
  • He also urged the party to concentrate more on international revolution
  • He had had bitter disputes with Stalin, though he acknowledged to a colleague in 1924 that he thought Stalin would emerge as 'the dictator of the USSR' 
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The Power Struggle

 - Everybody agreed on the need to industrialise- it was the key to creating a large class of proletarian workers to build socialism

  • In 1920s many party members disliked NEP, there was high unemployment amongst workers, wages for those in work didn't keep pace with the rising prices of consumer goods and food shortages began to reappear
  • NEP only ever meant as a temporary measure, party members couldn't agree on when and how it should be ended
  • Left wing of party (led by Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev) wanted to end NEP and go for rapid industrialisation, taking control of labour and getting more grain out of the peasants to pay for industrialisation
  • Right wing led by Bukharin wanted to keep NEP going, wanted to encourage the peasants to become richer so they would spend more on consumer goods which would lead to the growth of manufacturing industry. Believed conflict with the people might lead to economic collapse and threaten the communist state 
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The Power Struggle

'Left' Communists vs 'Right' Communists:

  • 'Right' communists
    • Believed that, after the economic collapse of the war years, Russia needed time to recover and consolidate.
    • For them any talk of achieving socialism in the foreseeable future was out of the question. Bukharin talked of decades. He believed that the best way to socialism was by allowing the peasants to improve their farms
    • This would not only provide more crops, such as cotton, for industry, but also more and cheaper food for the cities. Surpluses would also provide food exports abroad. With the foreign currency this earned, and rising taxes from successful farmers and Nepmen, there would be capital to invest in industrial expansion. In this way Russia would become a modern industrialized country.
  • 'Left' Communists
    • These believed that the NEP was an obstacle to socialism. If it had been necessary in 1921, it was now time for a change. They thought the NEP was creating a new bourgeoisie in the countryside, the so called kulaks, and in the towns of the form of Nepmen. The USSR was also becoming an industrialized society far too slowly. 
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The Power Struggle

'Primitive Socialist accumulation'

  • Was the policy desired by many on the left. Preobrazhensky, a friend of Trotsky, thought the price of grain paid to the peasants should be reduced and as much grain as possible should be sold abroad to raise the capital to buy machines and machine tools. A national economic plan should be made to achieve rapid industrialization.
  • The peasants would have to bear the burden of this transformation. This would mean turning way from Lenin's smychka

 Economic Planning:

  • Vesenkha was set up to plan the economy in 1917. In 1926 a new head was appointed, Kuibyshev, who wanted to expand industry more quickly. In 1921 Vesenkha set up Gosplan to collect statistics. Gosplan also produced a plan to industrialize Russia. At the end of the 1920s these two organizations produced ambitious targets for the economy.
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Why was Stalin able to defeat his rivals 1922-1929

Power Politics

Historians such as Robert Conquest sees Stalin's rise as a deliberate manipulation of genuine political and ideological differences amongst the Bolshevik leaders, either simply to gain supreme power for himself by crushing all other factions or, as Robert. C. Tucker suggests, to make himself into a revolutionary hero as important and famous as Lenin.


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Why was Stalin able to defeat his rivals 1922-1929


There are several different structuralist explanations- so called because they are based on the economic and/ or political structures of the past and present, rather than on individuals- they have one theme in common: that Stalin was a product of Russian history and the administrative system set up after 1917. Some Historians, such as S.S. Montefiore, seen Stalin as essentially a ruler in the long Tsarist tradition of absolutist rule- the 'Red Tsar'. Others point to the impact of emergencies such as the Civil War which led to the development of appointment rather than election for party and state positions- what R. Daniels called a circular flow of power. 

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Why was Stalin able to defeat his rivals 1922-1929


Several Historians stress the genuine nature of the political differences among the communist leaders of the 1920s, especially over the NEP. The Left, basing itself on Marxism, stressed the danger inherent in the NEP, namely the stimulation of capitalist tendencies which might eventually lead to the restoration of capitalism if the state sector was not strengthened at the same time. These fears were strengthened by the socio-cultural developments referred to above, as many of the new groups (whether former Tsarist bureaucrats or former peasants) tended to favour capitalist rather than socialist policies.

Stalin's rise can be seen as a genuine political response by the Centre to steer a midway policy course. At the beginning, the Centre believed that the NEP was essential for recovery, and so opposed to the left which seemed to endanger it. But, later, the Centre came to see that a change was necessary- it became necessary to attack the policies of the Right which wished the NEP to continue virtually unchanged.

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Why was Stalin able to defeat his rivals 1922-1929


S.Fitzpatrick suggests that social issues are closely linked to structuralist explanations, and emphasise the impact of the social structure on the politics and development of the Communist party and the Soviet state. During the Civil War, for instance, the Bolsheviks attracted Russian patriots who resented foreign intervention. Then, when it looked as if the Bolsheviks were winning, a large number of careerists (often formed Tsarist bureaucrats) flocked to join the winning side in order to secure jobs. This became worse after 1921, when all opposition parties were banned. These new members were politically conservative, so were drawn to Stalin rather than revolutionary views of Trotsky. 


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Key Terms + Definitions- Power Struggle

Troika- Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin formed a triumvirate upon the death of Lenin, the 'Troika' to stop  Trotsky seizing power  

Permanent Revolution:

Trotsky believed in this. Thought communist revolution in Russia couldn't succeed as Russia was underdeveloped, it needed the support of socialist states in the more industrialized countries in Europe. Thought Russians should put energy and money into helping socialists in other countries to stage their own revolutions- should fight a 'permanent revolution' until a world communist revolution had been achieved

 Socialism in one country:

  • Stalin put forward this different view at the end of 1924. Now that the last attempt at revolution had failed in Germany in 1923, spreading revolution overseas looked more and more unlikely. Stalin, therefore, argued that the Soviet Union could achieve communists by its own efforts, without external help

Sovnarkom- The Council of Peoples' Commissars

Nepmen- private trade within cities       Kulaks- a group of wealthy peasants

Smychka- the alliance that Lenin called for between workers and peasants 

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Stalin's Rise to power

Stalin's positions in 1924: General Secretary, He was made Commissar for Nationalities after the Revolution, In 1919 he was made head of Rabkrin.

 Defeat of the right:Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov argued that the NEP must continue for many years. The symchka must be preserved

  • In 1927, there was a crisis of grain supplies- once again after a good harvest. The party, with Stalin's support, passed a number of new measures, including:
    • Soldiers were to be sent into the countryside to requisition
    • All hoarded grain was to be confiscated
    • Hoarding grain was made a crime
  • In 1928 Stalin took a special interest in the Shakhty affair, a trial of so-called saboteurs in Russian mines allegedly acting in league with foreign spies
  • Bukharin wrote a withering attack on the new policy to the peasants in Notes of an Economist in September 1928. Now it was those on the Right who were denounced as factionalists. They were slowly removed from their positions. In 1929 Bukharin lost his presidency of Cominterm, editorship of Pravda and his seat on the Politburo.
  • Tomsky was sacked as head of trade unions
  • In 1930 he and Rykov were removed from the Politburo. Stalin was now the dominant figure in the party and the Soviet Union 
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Stalin's Rise to power

Defeat of the left:

  • Once Trotsky's influence had been eclipsed, Zinoviev and Kamenev grew uneasy about the influence that increasingly had over the party. They were also unhappy about the conduct of policy to the peasants.
  • Kamenev criticized the idea that there should be 'one leader' and again attacked Stalin's authority in the party
  • In 1926, party meetings in Leningrad and Moscow were addressed by critics of Zinoviev and Kamenev
  • Elections to the city committees put new 'loyal' members in control of these two key cities- and Zinoviev and Kamenev were removed as secretaries of the local parties
  • The size of the Politburo was increased by adding close political allies of Stalin, Voroshilov, Rudzutak, Molotov and Kuibyshev
  • In 1926 Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev finally joined together in the 'United Opposition'. They attacked the NEP and the lack of free debate in the party. The party removed Zinoviev and Kamenev from the Politburo in 1926 and then, with Trotsky, from the party in 1927
  • In October 1927 the United Opposition, together with Krupskaya (Lenin's widow) held a demonstration in Moscow's red square. There were more police present than followers. It was the last organized effort by the left.
  • Stalin and Bukharin now appeared the twin giants of the party. In 1928 Trotsky was exiled to Kazakhstan, and then in January 1929 expelled from the USSR
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Stalin's Rise to power

 Formation of the triumvirate:

  • Many in the party saw Trotsky as the biggest threat to the future of communism in the RSFSR. All Bolsheviks were students of Marx, who had based many of his ideas on the events of the French Revolution. This had ended with a military government under Napoleon. In the troubled times of the early 1920s,  many Marxists dreaded the same happening in Russia- and as head of the Red Army Trotsky was the only figure in a position to establish such a military dictatorship.
  • In 1922, to prevent his taking power after Lenin's death, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin formed an informal alliance in the Politburo- the triumvirate or Troika.
  • Zinoviev was Chairman of the Petrograd Party, Kamenev chaired the Moscow Party, while Stalin was General secretary of the Party. Between them they hoped to control the decisions of the party.
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Stalin's Rise to power

Trotsky's failings:

  • He lacked a power-base in the party which Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin headed.
  • Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin were able to outvote Trotsky and his few supporters decisively in the Politburo, the central committee and the Party Congresses
  • He made difficulties for himself. In October 1923 he had criticized the central committee for their conduct of economic policy and complained of 'the incorrect and unhealthy regime in the party'
  • He complained that appointment had replaced election within the party 'a secretarial apparatus from above'
  • He was also accused of factionalism, since he had persuaded 45 other members of the party to sign his criticisms
  • At this crucial time Trotsky was continually ill. He failed to attend Lenin's funeral. He said afterwards that Stalin had told him the wrong day! Perhaps this failure illustrates Trotsky's lack of political insensitivity
  • Stalin in On the foundations of Leninism attacked Trotsky's criticisms of, and disloyalty to, Lenin. The arguments grew very bitter. Trotsky replied in Lessons of October with a detailed attack on Zinoviev and Kamenev for their actions in opposing Lenin in 1917. Kamenev, Stalin and Bukharin continued the attacks. Stalin published Comrade Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution. Denunciations of Trotsky at many party meetings became routine.
  • The result of these attacks was that Trotsky was replaced as Commissar for War by his deputy, Frunze, in January 1925. Trotsky made no moves to use his command of the Red Army to protect his position. Perhaps he accepted the fact that Stalin would become dominant in the party. 
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Stalin's Rise to power

The Crisis of 1927/28: The Grain harvest of 1927 was not as good as the bumper harvest of 1926, but it was still more than enough to feed the cities. However, by December the State had managed to buy from the peasants only half of what it had bought by the same month the previous year. The state lowered the prices offered to peasants. As a result they had less incentive to sell. Much of Russia's surplus grain before 1917 had come from the large estates, which produced for the market for profit. After the revolution these estates had been replaced by peasant farmers, who consumed a larger proportion of their produce themselves. There was a real shortage in the towns of goods for the peasant farmers to buy.The 1927 Party Congress agreed in December to encourage farmers to join collective farms to compete with private farms, though Molotov urged harsh controls for kulaks and 'large scale collectivization'. After the congress, party leaders went into the countryside to supervise grain collections. Stalin went to western Siberia, where requisitioning as in 1918 was used to collect grain. The party used force, rather than persuasion or higher prices, to encourage peasants to release surpluses. In 1928 State grain prices were raised by 20% to tempt farmers to sell their grain, but, despite an adequate harvest, food supplies to the government fell again. Private traders toured the countryside offering double the State prices for grain. Rationing had to be reintroduced into Moscow and Leningrad. All this meant a crisis in industry too. Instead of exporting grain, the government was forced to buy grain from abroad to feed the cities. This threatened the Five Year Plan for industrial development which had just been agreed. The NEP began a short period of easier relations with the West. In 1922 only Germany had good relations with the USSR, but in 1924 the British and Italian governments recognized the USSR. However, events took a turn for the worse when the Germany entered the League of Nations in 1926, leaving the USSR isolated again. In the same year in Poland. Pilsudski had led the forces that defeated the Red armies in Poland in 1920 and he was violently anti-Communist. In 1927 British Police raided the offices of the Soviet trade delegation in London, claiming to find documents which showed the USSR was working secretly to bring about a Marxist revolution in the UK. Britain broke off diplomatic relations with the USSR. Meanwhile in China, Communists were slaughtered by their former allies the Kuomintang. The international situation caused great anxiety, and Russia was seized by a war scare. These events had a profound effect on Russian politics. The party became convinced it was faced with enemies within and outside the USSR. The NEP, they believed, was not a solution either to the State's agricultural needs or to its need for rapid industrialization. It, therefore, abandoned private trading and began a whole-scale collectivization of peasant farms. This left turn did not go unopposed.

  • Bukharin, Rykiv and Tomsky spoke out against it. They were denounced as 'factionalists' and were gradually removed from their positions of influence. Trotsky was expelled from the USSR. 
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Collectivization of Agriculture

Stalin forced through collectivisation at an incredibly rapid rate. This caused chaos in agriculture as well as suffering and misery on a large scale. At the end if the first wave of collectivisation he appeared to relent and called a halt. But at the end of the next year he restarted the programme with increasing vigour. Peasants attempts to resist were futile. By 1932, collectivization had resulted in an enormous drop in agricultural production and created famine in which millions died.

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Collectivization of Agriculture- why?

  • Many peasants were resistant to communism. This had a place in Stalin's Communist Russia. He wanted to create factory farms where agricultural workers would be no different to their industrial brothers, all part of the socialist utopia
  • Stalin wanted to rapidly industrialize Russia because he knew that she was much weaker than her European counterparts. In order to do this he needed a huge grain surplus to generate capital which could be invested in industry
  • Russia's backward agricultural system had created major problems whenever there was a bad harvest. Additionally peasants had proved resistant to selling surplus grain when there was a good harvest as consumer goods were in short supply. Stalin did not want his new socialist state to be at the mercy of the peasants
  • Stalin wanted to emerge as a leader of great importance, leading Russia into a period of rapid growth and improved living standards. He wanted to show the west that communism could offer working people a great life; even an enviable way of life to capitalism
  • Agriculture was still very backward, relying on traditional methods of farming. For example in 1927 over 50 million peasants still used wooden ploughs and 50% of the harvest was still cup by hand.
  • Mechanised agriculture would require fewer peasants to work the land. This would release labour for the new industries.
  • Collectivisation was the socialist solution for agriculture. You could not build a socialist state when the majority of the population were private landholders who sold their products on the market. Collectivisation would socialise the peasantry.
  • It would be much easier for the state to produce the grain it needed for the cities and export. There would be fewer collection points and each farm would have communist supporters who would know how much had been produced. 
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Collectivization of Agriculture

Types of collective farms:

Sovkhoz- which was owned and run by the state. The peasants who worked on this state farm were paid a regular wage, very much like factory workers.

Kolkhoz- where all the land was held in common and run by an elected committee. To form a Kolkhoz, between 50 and 100 households were put together. All land, tools and livestock had to be pooled. Under the direction of the committee, the peasants farmed the land as one unit. However, each household was allowed to keep its own private plot of up to one acre. They could use this to grow vegetables and keep a cow, a pig and fowl.

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Kirov Murder Mystery

  • Sergei Kirov was a member of the Politburo, and secretary of the Leningrad (1921) branch of the communist party
  • December 1st 1934, he was shot in the back by Leonid Nikolayev, a young communist waiting for him to come out of office.
  • Nikolayev had been caught 2 days before outside his offices with a gun, but the NKVD returned it and didn't arrest him
  • Kirov went everywhere with his bodyguard, but here the bodyguard was nowhere to be seen. Borisov, the security guard, died 2 days later in a car crash, where he was the only casualty.
  • Nikolayev was shot without trial
  • One of the great mysteries of Russian history in the 1930s
  • An important murder
    • Robert conquest argues that it was a turning point in history, which not only unleashed a terror that killed millions but also determined the future of soviet Russia
    • The mystery surrounds the motives for the murder and who arranged it
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Kirov Murder Mystery- impact on S.Union

What impact did the Kirov Murder have on the soviet Union?

  • Gave Stalin an excuse to follow personal ambition and purge the party
  • The Stalinist leadership used Kirov's murder as pretext and justification for the Great Purges, which took place over the next four years
  • The murder was seen as evidence of a widespread conspiracy against the soviet state and its leaders. There were enemies everywhere and they needed to be rooted out.
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Kirov's Murder - why Kirov?

Why was Kirov Assassinated?

  • Some say the NKVD (secret police) were acting on Stalin's orders
  • But why Kirov?
    • Good public speaker
    • Handsome
    • Popular
  • Kirov received as much applause as Stalin at the 1934 17th Party congress
  • Kirov was a potential threat to Stalin!
  • Stalin claimed that the Kirov's murder was part of a conspiracy against the communists
  • Nikolayev had acted on orders of Leningrad Opposition Centre who had connections with Trotsky
  • As a result, Zinoviev, Kamenev and 17 others were arrested and given long prison sentences


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The Show Trials and Great Purges 1938

Did Stalin have reason to be paranoid about opposition from within the CPSU?

  • By 1930, all of the former members of Lenin’s Politburo other than Stalin had been squeezed out

  • They had all since recanted their former views and been to some extent rehabilitated.

  • On the face of it there seemed within the party than at any time since 1917

  • Since Trotsky’s exile in January 1929 he had not remained silent on Russian affairs

  • The bulletin was strongly critical of the regime and of Stalin, and was read by the Politburo.

  • In November 1932 the Bulletin carried a top secret Soviet report on the USSR economy.

  • In 1932 OGPU, the secret police, discovered another attack on the direction of policy and of Stalin in particular.

  • ‘The Riutin Platform’ was a 200 page document which was secretly passed around amongst some of the party leaders. In it Riutin, a former member of the Party central Committee, attacked the forced collectivization programme and demanded more openness and toleration in the party.

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The Show Trials and Great Purges 1938

Kirov Assassination: What evidence was there to suggest that Stalin was behind his death? Why would he have wanted him dead?

  • Kirov was an obstacle, and he represented a mood hostile to any increase in Stalin’s power

    • Stalin’s decision was that Kirov had to be killed

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The Show Trials and Great Purges 1938

The Years 1934-36 saw a ‘relaxation of tension’, including fewer arrests and executions. Why was this?

  • Executions had decreased from 20,201 in 1930 to 1,118 in 1936

  • The years 1934-36 were successful years economically for the USSR. Many of the new plants were now producing goods. Rationing of food was ended in 1935, which was a very popular measure. The rural famine was over. The 1934 Party congress was nicknamed ‘The Congress of Victors’, because so much progress toward socialism had been made

  • In 1935 the party decided to introduce a new constitution, one that was more fitting for a socialist society where there were no longer any class differences. The most prominent member of the committee drafting the constitution was Bukharin, now apparently completely rehabilitated.

  • The ‘Stalin Constitution’ introduced in November 1936, made the USSR appear the most democratic state in the world, giving all the right of employment at a time when millions were unemployed in Europe and the USA.

  • Freedom of religion, the press and assembly were all guaranteed. Even ex-kulaks and priests were given back the right to vote. This calmer period did not last long.

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  • Executions had decreased from 20,201 in 1930 to 1,118 in 1936
  • The years 1934-36 were successful years economically for the USSR. Many of the new plants were now producing goods. Rationing of food was ended in 1935, which was a very popular measure. The rural famine was over. The 1934 Party congress was nicknamed ‘The Congress of Victors’, because so much progress toward socialism had been made
  • In 1935 the party decided to introduce a new constitution, one that was more fitting for a socialist society where there were no longer any class differences. The most prominent member of the committee drafting the constitution was Bukharin, now apparently completely rehabilitated.
  • The ‘Stalin Constitution’ introduced in November 1936, made the USSR appear the most democratic state in the world, giving all the right of employment at a time when millions were unemployed in Europe and the USA.
  • Freedom of religion, the press and assembly were all guaranteed. Even ex-kulaks and priests were given back the right to vote. This calmer period did not last long.
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