The Great Terror

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What do we mean by the great purges?

The word ‘purge’ can be defined as cleansing something of its impurities.

There had been periodic ‘cleansings’, or CHISTKA/CHISTKI throughout the 1920s.

The party/Lenin had sought to rid itself of certain members when it was popular and to gain members during periods of crisis, e.g. Civil war

This was always done peacefully and through the process of renewing/cancelling membership cards.

What were the purges?

Robert Conquest referred to this period as The Great Terror. He puts the death toll at approximately 10-25 million (more than in the holocaust) and identifies 3 main phases:

1.       1932-35 The Chistka, in which 20% of the party were non-violently expelled.

2.       1936-39 The show trials,  in which leading old Bolsheviks were publically tried and executed.

3.       1937-38 The Yezhovshchina, named after the head of the NKVD, Yezhov, who led the period of mass terror in which many were executed.

What triggered the great terror?

Stalin’s paranoia

17th party ‘congress of victors’

Kirov’s Murder


What was stalin’s constitution?

In 1936 Stalin published the most democratic constitution on the world:



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