Stalin -his terror and WW2


The Totalitarian Regime

Causes of the Great Terror

  • Lenin's police state – The Great Terror was carried out by the NKVD. Lenin had used the secret police against his political enemies. Stalin gave them a new role: he turned the NKVD against the communist party, the last institution to impose his rule.

  • Stalins Paranoia – Stalin was aware that Trotsky, Bukarin, Kamenev and Zionev had all held leading positions in the communist party before falling from power. Stalin was worried that he would suffer the same fate. He feared opposition from groups loyal to his former rivals. Many soldiers were loyal to Trotsky. Moscow and Leningrad had been powerbases for Kamenev and Zionev and Yagoda (head of NKVD) had sided with Bukarin in 1928.

  • Economics – Stalin needed a scapegoat for the failings of the 5 year plans. He blamed wreckers who were publicly tried and punished. Stalin needed a large labour force to construct projects such as Magnitogorsk. Those arrested during the Terror were sent to Gulags where they worked as slaves.

  • Congress of Victors 1934 – The 17th party congress was held in 1934. The vote taken at the end of the congress to elect the new central committee was a massive upset for Stalin. Stalin came second to Kirov. Stalin was already concerned about Kirov because he had forced Stalin to change his economic policy during the 2nd five year plan. Kirov refused to stand against Stalin as General Secretary...However, this made Stalin suspicious that the party wanted a new leader.

  • Kirov's Murder – Kirov was assassinated by a lone gunman. Stalin used this as pretext to arrest his former rivals. Stalin argued that Kirov's murder was evidence of a conspiracy within the communist party to overthrow the government and replace it with capitalism.

The Show Trials

Trial of the 16

Kamenev & Zionev

They were charged with the murder of Kirov, plotting to disrupt Stalins economic policy, working with foreign powers, plotting to murder Stalin and conspiring with Trotsky to replace communism with capitalism. They confessed believing Stalin would pardon them once the trial was over but they were executed.

Trial of the 17


Trotsky and his supporters were charged with same crimes as Zionev and Kamenev. Following torture, all his defendants confessed. Most of the confessions made no sense, one defendant confessed to murdering Kirov although he was in prison at the time. The majority of defendants were executed, four were sent to labour camps. Trotsky was sentenced to death but was in exile in Mexico.

Trial of the 21

Bukarin & Yagoda

Same charges. Bukarin was charged with crime of plotting to murder Lenin. Bukarin confessed to crimes as Stalin threatened to kill his family. The defendants, including Bukarin, were executed.

  • The secret trial of 1937: The trial of 8 generals in 1937 was kept top secret. Stalin did not trust the leadership of the red army, but with the war looming, Stalin didn't want to scare the public. The 8


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