The Great Terror


The three Strands of the Great Terror

1. Three Moscow Show Trials, remove older high-profile communists

2. NKVD reorganised, Yagoda replaced by Yezhov as people's commisar for interal affairs

3. Mass murder intially Party and Amry, then extended to society in general

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Show Trials: Getting Rid of Old Bolsheviks

Judicial authority already determined guilt

Goal of trial to preset accused and accuation with the verdict to the public to make an example and to warn others

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The Trial of the Sixteen (1936) The First Trial

Main Participants: Zinoviev and Kamenev, along with fourteen others

Charged with: -Kirovs Murder, -Plotting to disrupt FYP's, -Conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow government

Zinoviev and Kamenev pleaded innocent, Zinoviev even wrote letter to Stalin 'in no way, am I guilty before the party'

Stalin promised that Zinoviev and Kamenev would be pardoned following full confession... but he broke this, neither were pardoned

Zinoviev and Kamenev were both shot, also 43 other high ranked communists and allies of the pair disappeared without trial

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The Trial of the Seventeen (1937) The Second Trial

Dealt with Trotsky's former Allies

Charged with: -Plotting with foreign power, - terrorism, -sabotage, -contact with Trotsky

First product of Nicolai Yezhov's 'conveyor belt' system in which defendents were tortured, sleep deprived and questioned continually until confession.

13/17 were executed, remainig 4 sent to gulags

Evidence conccoted and forged by NKVD, one defendent 'confessed' to murder all though he was in prison at the time.

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The Doctrine of 'Sharpening Class Struggle'

Many within party were reluctant to try Zinoviev and Kamenev, reluctance turned to anger when Stalin's next victim was revealed to be Bukharin.Stalin dealt with this by persuading he was not a defendent

10th September 1937, Pravda published article stating Vishinsky had losed investigation into Bukharin

Stalin still planned Bukharin's trial and execution, in order to persuade party that further terror was necessary, arguing as socialism advanced, the class struggle intensified. This provided ideological justification for ever-increasing terroe

Communist party official adopted this doctorine of 'sharpenng class struggle' in Feb-March Centre Committee 1937

Despite loyalty, 70% of those present at meeting were executed within three months

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The Trial of the Twenty One (1938) The Third Trial

Dealt with Bukharin, Rykov and their 'accomplices' 

They were accused of attempting to overthrown socialism and the murder of Kirov

Bukharin confessed to 'political responsibilty of the crimes but he refused to acknowledge guilt for any actual events

Bukharin never confessed to trying to assassinate Lenin

Bukharin and Rykov were both shot

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