1953 saw the death of Soviet Russia’s greatest leader, in a never-ending atmosphere of anxiety, betrayal and paranoia. Stalin had become the state, not through the path of diplomacy, but through tumultuous bloodshed and trickery. He held absolute power and anyone foolish enough to protest against him and his path to the ultimate communist Utopia would find them selves dead or in a forced labor camp. The roots of this ultimate power lie in the years 1929-39, where Stalin employed the ‘Great Terror’, with the purges to secure political and economic control over the Soviet state. This essay will deduce how effective the ‘terror’ was employed to secure these corner stones.
How did Stalin's dictatorship develop? Stalin made his way into becoming dictator by a series of manipulative and clever tactics he would use to aid his influence. After Lenin and his party took over the election of the Provisional government which had been elected after the fall of the tsarist regime through a series of well-aimed political hits and armed threats; Stalin ascended the ranks of the government through extensive manipulation and threats as well as gaining the strong loyalty of some socialist idealists. In 1922 Stalin received the majority vote to become the General Secretary of the Communist party; a role that really no one else in the party really wanted as they deemed it unimportant and much like “House-chores”. What the other members of the soviet party such as Trotsky did not realize however; was that Stalin would use the position to gain a mass of followers for his socialist ideals and would use it as a stepping stone to achieve greater political influence and manipulate his way even further in the ranks.
The purges and show trials aimed to terrorise Soviet society into compliance with Stalin’s regime, and ‘remove potential enemies,’ to allow Stalin to found an almost entirely ‘new’ Communist party, which comprised of ‘more dependable’ members. The Terror fundamentally had the impact of manipulating and destroying social norms, and disarranging the political and military structure which had formed in Russia following the Bolshevik revolution. During the purges and show trials which comprised the Terror, the Communist Party were forced into submission, which essentially impacted the party in an adverse manner. 90 per cent of the once established Bolshevik party members were purged, including Bukharin, Yagoda and Rykov at show trials, and the remaining members were exhausted of any power. The removal of these skilled and able members was detrimental for the Communist party, as it weakened them industrially and economically, and resulted in an endemic lack of experience across the party.
Why did Stalin instigate the great purges? Stalin is a man known for the ruthless methods he adopted to counteract oppositions, the harsh plans he set in order to industrialize Russia and also the way he shamelessly consolidated his power to secure his position in USSR. He’s infamous for his manipulative behavior, his temperamental ways and historically, the reign of terror (also referenced to as the great purges) he had initiated and allowed to unfurled upon the USSR. Stalin endeavored to: Secure his position within the party as well as a prominent ﬁgure in the USSR; build a strong and independent Russia made so by the ﬁve year plans he had developed;to have complete and total control of Russia, its people and industries; And he believed that the relentless terror he descended upon russia was the perfect medium which would allow him to achieve his goals. Stalin was engulfed by a sort-of paranoia, which didn’t always work against him but it did generally mean he was constantly worried by the thought of being thrown out of power, especially by those within his party.
‘How far do you agree with the view that the most important cause of the Great Terror was the murder of Kirov in 1934?’ Sergey Kirov’s murder in 1934 was undoubtedly a decisive factor in the outbreak of the Great Terror in 1936. Stalin’s claim that Kirov’s murder was part of a widespread conspiracy against the government gave him a convenient excuse to begin arresting and executing several enemies within the Communist Party whom he deemed ‘suspicious’, despite several people believing Stalin himself was responsible due to the threat that Kirov posed to his leadership. There are however other factors, such as Stalin’s paranoia, Stalin’s personal ambitions, and the ever-increasing likelihood of war between the USSR and Nazi Germany, that can also be considered potential decisive factors in Stalin’s decision to implement the Purges. This essay shall explore the aforementioned factors and attempt to evaluate their significance. It shall eventually be concluded that Kirov’s murder was a significant, but not a solely responsible, cause of the Great Terror.
One reason why Stalin won the power struggle was through his positioning within the party. He was the General Secretary of the party, which meant that he organised most events and positions within the party – he relayed all the important information. Many people saw this role as unimportant and useless as you did not appear to directly influence anyone or anything and could not make decisions. However, Stalin took this role as he saw it’s true potential, where he could see just about anything he wanted within the party, such as Lenin’s testament and he could also pass on information or not, as he does. This meant that he had a lot of control in the power struggle situation as he could ruin what other people know about and certain times of events.
Furthermore, Stalin’s use of devious tactics also played a large role in securing his position in the party, as they allowed him to undermine his opponents and strengthen his position by reducing support for them. Overall, although the main reason that Stalin was able to succeed in the leadership struggle was his ability to manipulate the party machine, Stalin’s devious tactics and his alliances were also vital in securing his position as leader. Stalin’s ability to manipulate the party machine was extremely vital in securing him success in the leadership struggle, as it allowed him to eliminate Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev from the struggle. As General Secretary, Stalin was able to control who sat in Party Congress. By placing his supporters in Party congress, Stalin was able to ensure that his opponents could not gain any power or support, therefore ensuring that these opponents could be ruled out of the struggle.
Stalin had many powerful positions within the communist party, including head of the Central Committee and head of the Secretariat. As head of the central committee he had the power to investigate and discipline members of the party. He abused this power by expelling members of the party that were suspected of disagreeing with his ideology. The party members obeyed Stalin because if they didn’t they would lose their jobs and knew that supporting Stalin would gain them promotions. Being head of Secretariat was considered an unimportant role by senior members of the communist party, but this made Stalin responsible for various branches of the Party bureaucracy, this included interpreting and implementing the politburo decisions.
When the revolution was going to its peak Trujillo's regime started to imprison people who were part of the revolution along with jailing revolutionaries were killed and suffered forms of torture. In the book it shows how he got to power and stayed in power. He did it by having a radar on nearly every person in his country. People would be scared to talk bad about him anywhere they went beyond their home. Even then Trujillos secret police could send his men to spy on a specific family or neighborhood.
During his rule as General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Stalin was able to create a highly totalitarian regime. This was achieved by the dictator’s notorious use of terror, by controlling information and mass media and Stalin’s prominent cult of personality. However, the extent of the totalitarian rule didn’t achieve similar levels throughout the whole state. Stalin’s use of terror as a method of eliminating opposition was a key factor in the establishment of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. In the early 1930’s Stalin felt threatened by his growing opposition and was determined to bring the party under his total control.