The Great Purges Essay

The Great Purges Essay-29
Shortly thereafter, on November 8, 1932, Nadezhda shot herself.

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.

In the early 1930s, a famine developed in the Ukraine; learning of the suffering there, Stalin's wife Nadezhda confronted him, demanding that he remedy the situation.

The couple had a tremendous fight, and Stalin ordered the arrest of the students who had informed his wife of the disaster.

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.For in his mind, there was no question of his primacy: he was to be first, period; there was no room for dissent in his regime.Thus Stalin made Kirov the scapegoat, and it was Kirov who was assassinated on December 1, 1934.The generals were convicted and executed in secret, but Yagoda received his death sentence at the Show Trials, in March 1938, as did Bukharin, Rykov, and their supporters.The Terror finally burnt itself out late in 1938, and at the Party Congress in March of the following year Stalin announced the end of the era of mass purges.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.This brief swell of dissent only shows how egregiously people still misunderstood the nature of Stalin's rule.A series of NKVD operations affected a number of national minorities, accused of being “fifth column” communities.A number of purges were officially explained as an elimination of the possibilities of sabotage and espionage, mostly by a fictitious “Polish Military Organisation” and, consequently, many victims of the purge were ordinary Soviet citizens of Polish origin.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.


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