My mom always told me to use my words and not my fists to settle fights and arguments… apparently Stalin’s mom did not teach him this lesson. The Great Purge is the darkest point in Russian history, “Its goal was to sweep away all of Stalin’s real and imaginary enemies and to infuse all levels of Soviet society, especially upper echelons, with a sense of insecurity and abject dependence on and obedience to the “Great Leader,” (Orest).There was no loyalty or citizenship in Russia during the bleak years of 1936 through 1938. Survival of the most well connected/I hope stalin likes me, was the name of the game. Now to be fair to the Russian historians who like to think of these crimes as prudent action, the Politburo stated that these “purges” were in response to terror threats and attacks against the state. Now anyone that can read and has read a bit of history around this time knows that Stalin was not a sane man in the slightest degree. Terror and more terror were his weapons against his own people to crush any opposition that might challenge him for power.
Stalin however did not oversee the entire operation he just told, Genrikh Iagoda the first People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs to oversee the first of three waves of “trials.” In the first wave of show trials, “July-August 1936 Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, and fourteen others were convicted of having organized a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center that allegedly had been formed in 1932 and was held responsible for the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934,” (SMSH) however these were just a few men in comparison to the thousands who also were executed. Soon after the first rials Stalin replaces Iagoda due to lack of “numbers” in the trials and in his place appointed Nikolai Ezhov. He would oversee the remaining two sets of “trials.” These next two trials would be focused on the leaders of the industrial sector, and members of the reigning party’s Central Committee who were supposedly connected to the Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center. Even the Red Army was hit my these purges and the upper levels of the army were riddled with summary arrests and executions. Soon enough Ezhov set up quotas for each tribunal of judges to meet. Now that basically means they were just looking for people to call traitors and execute them without any form of fair trail. Ezhov, “projected totals of 177,500 exiled and 72,950 executed were eventually exceeded,” (SMSH). These trails decimated the entire political structure of the state and the command structure of the Red Army, all because Stalin was afraid of opposition. The country tore itself apart and only due to the Nazi invasion was it able to put itself back together.
Seventeen Moments in Soviets History (SMSH) -http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1936terror&Year=1936&navi=byYear
Orest Subtelny -http://www.brama.com/ukraine/history/terror/
Picture: Isaac Deutscher: The Great Purges. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1984.