How Far Do You Agree That the Murder of Kirov in 1934 Was the Most Important Cause of the Great Terror?

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‘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. The murder of Kirov in Leningrad on 1st December 1934 played an important role in giving Stalin a justified reason to initiate the Great Terror. Publicly, Stalin and Kirov appeared to have a strong friendship, and Kirov was viewed by both the public and the Party as a loyal member and adherent to Stalin. In private however, Kirov was fairly critical of some of Stalin’s policies, particularly the Five-Year Plans and collectivisation. Kirov was also a potential threat to Stalin’s leadership as he possessed qualities that Stalin didn’t have, such as charisma and popularity within the Party, and a number of Party members saw him as a possible alternative to Stalin. Not to mention that he was, unlike Stalin, Russian. If Kirov were to be murdered, Stalin could effectively kill two birds with one stone. He could eradicate

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