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Flashcards in Stalin's Terror Deck (10):

Explain why Stalin believed Kirov was a threat to his own position. (12 marks)

- Stalin saw any leading Communist as a possible threat to his leadership position and many already saw him as a rival/successor.
- Kirov was very important as the leader of the Leningrad party organisation since 1926.
- Kirov was prepared to argue with Stalin eg. opposing his attempt to execute Riutin in 1932.
- Kirov stood against Stalin in 1934 at 17th Party Congress and probably won the ballot until Stalin intervened.
(Stalin's paranoia, and perception of 'threats' to himself)


‘The Great Terror weakened the USSR in the years 1936 to 1941.’ (24 marks)

- The purge of army meant a loss of experienced officers and a disruption to the army.
- Fear of terror stiffled initiative and fear of innovation eg. among enterprise managers.
- The Terror meant the loss of valuable specialists in all walks of life.
- the regime used large amounts of resources trying to control its own population.

- By 1941, many purged army members had been rehabilitated and it had recovered.
- Some did speak out against injustices even during Terror.
- Some stability and improvements in economic and social conditions after 1938 and Stalin's dictatorship provided stability.
- The 'siege mentality' meant Stalinism served the USSR well when war came in 1941.


‘Stalin’s power in the 1930s relied on his use of terror.’ (24 marks)

- Terror was an important part of Stalin's regime - collectivisation in the 1930s liquidising kulaks and the man-made famine in Ukraine.
- Kirov's assassination marked the start of the Great Terror, the extension of gulags and purges in all area of society: particularly the Party, armed forces and NKVD itself.
- Stalin used it to reinforce his power within the Party and therefore whole of USSR.

- Some historians question whether the Terror was as persuasive as claimed - in the 1930s ordinary people didn't always live in fear and some were still prepared to criticise aspects of daily life.
- Stalin relied on other aspects to reinforce his regime: the successes of FYP in modernising and strengthening the economy, persuasive propaganda, control over cultural expression.


Explain why, in the years 1936 to 1938, Stalin held show trials of leading Bolsheviks.
(12 marks)

- By 1936 the Terror was under way , due to Stalin's paranoia about opposition, desire to cement his power and eliminate possible rivals, find scapegoats for problems, force people into a siege mentality to enforce economic policies.
- Show trials justified Stalin's policies to the world and his own people so it intensified the population's vigilance and loyalty.
- Old Bolsheviks in particular were trialled because Stalin was vengeful of the opposition to him in 1920s by men like Kamenev and Zinoviev.

(Should include specific information about the show trials not just causes of Terror)


How was Kirov a threat to Stalin

- He opposed Stalin's attempt to have Ryutin executed in 1932.
- Stood against Stalin at the 17th Party Congress as General Secretary and probably won until Stalin intervened.
- A group of Old Bolsheviks aware of Lenin's testament tried to persuade Kirov to stand against Stalin, and Kirov supposedly told Stalin this.


Motives for the terror

- Stalin's personality was suspicious, vindictive and paranoid. He was obsessed with reinforcing his own position, eliminating rivals and and revenge on Old Bolsheviks who were rivals in 1920s.
- It was an integral part of commnist system but on a bigger scale - it was born in terror and Lenin used Cheka and labour camps etc.
- Necessary part of the process of economic change: forcing unwilling groups like the kulaks, slave labour used to raise production, scapegoats purged.
- Over-enthusiastic party officials sometimes were ruthless and acted upon own agenda independently of Moscow.
- Stalin genuinely believed there was a military plot against him probably involving Germans which historians believe they deliberately fed so Stalin would act against his generals - they had been working together to talk tactics.


The impact of the terror on the Communist Party



Impact of the terror on the armed forces

- Up to 23,000 officers shot or dismissed (but many reinstated).
- 1/4 of a million new troops recruited in this period, the inexperience evident in the shortcomings of the first months of the way 1941.
- Tukhachevsky and and seven other generals tried and shot in 1937, accused of spying and treason.
- Overy: 'the crisis was used to restore political domination over the Soviet armed forces at the expense of military modernisers.


Impact of terror on society

- 10-15 million died 1936-39 just from torture, exile and labour camps.
- During Yezhov years over 7 mil arrested and over 1 mil executed.
- Conquest: less than 10% of arrested/sent to camps in 1936-8 survived.
- J. Scott believes ordinary people were less traumatised than commonly imagined


Experience of victims

- Used widely by lower ranks of NKVD to extract confessions.
- psychological and physical.
- Poorly educated and trained, took matters into their own hands.
- Beria took part in personally torturing suspects and was feared as least as much as Stalin.

- Many people arrested because they were relatives, workmates or friends.
- Many arrests rose from denunciations and personal tensions.
- Many examples of people successfully defending themselves, or friends/colleagues defending them and charges dropped.

Labour camps:
- Forced labour a punishment since 1918.
- Applebaum: 1937 camps changed from managed prisons to deadly camps where prisoners were deliberately worked to death or murdered in large numbers.
- Kolyma camps: temperatures as low as -45 Celsius