The Great Purges Essay

The Great Purges Essay-56
Kirov rejected this notion, but at the Fifteenth Party Congress in 1934 many members expressed disapproval of Stalin's tight control, and a small percentage of the delegates actually voted against re-electing him the Central Committee.

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commonly translated as “times of Yezhov” or “doings of Yezhov”), after Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, who was himself later killed in the purge.

Mobile gas vans were used to execute people without trial.

Only later did the world discover that these confessions were elicited after long months of psychological torture and physical abuse. The following year, another group of old Bolsheviks were subjected to the same treatment.

(It is important to note that Stalin stood directly behind these trials--he delegated responsibilities in other aspects of the Terror, but for the Show Trials he personally chose the list of "guilty" men, he deceived the accused into thinking their confessions would earn them leniency in sentencing, and he signed the death warrants.) Bukharin and the other "Rightists" could see the writing on the wall: Tomsky committed suicide, and for the rest of 1937, Stalin toyed with Bukharin and Rykov.

This was a turning point in Stalin's relationship with the rest of the Communist Party.

The assassin--who had been hired by the secret police, the NKVD--was shot, along with all his close relatives (this would become a typical Stalinist tactic).But the campaign had caused lasting devastation--the exact numbers may never be known, but most historians estimate that millions of Russians were either executed or shipped off to the dreaded Siberian gulags between 1936 and '38.Perhaps the Soviet psyche suffered just as much damage, as an entire nation and its attendant culture sank into a deep-seated paranoia and a frightened submission to the state--the effects of which are still being felt in Russia today.So began the "Great Terror," the aptly named period when Stalin effectively liquidated all traces of opposition to his rule.Large-scale purges struck the country, targeting all levels of society--including children: Stalin reasoned that parents were more likely to confess to trumped-up charges of subversion and disloyalty if they knew their children's lives were at risk.Meanwhile, Stalin remained the unquestioned master of the Soviet Union, with all his enemies vanquished and his position seemingly secure.But while his rivals from the '20s had suffered defeat, they were still alive and in the Party.This was, not coincidentally, the era when Stalin's "cult of personality" rose to overwhelming prominence in the Soviet Union, as history was rewritten to make him the hero of every circumstance, his writings were handed out to schoolchildren with a reverence once reserved for the Bible, his childhood was mythologized and every reference to his name accompanied by phrases like "Leader of Genius of the Proletarian Revolution," "Supreme Genius of Humanity," and so on: fear had conditioned the Russians to forego all independent though.It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of peasants and the Red Army leadership, widespread police surveillance, suspicion of “saboteurs”, “counter-revolutionaries”, imprisonment, and arbitrary executions.Then, in August of 1936, Stalin engineered the first of what came to be known as the Show Trials, in which he accused Zinoviev, Kamenev and their associates of conspiring (with the exiled Trotsky) against Stalin and the government.In an amazing scene that was broadcast around the world--and which played a large role in exposing the true nature of the Soviet regime--every one of the accused Bolsheviks confessed their supposed crimes.


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