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Russia 3: The Enemies of the People: Purges: 1935-45

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The Great Purge or the Great Terror (Russian: Большой террор] was a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union which occurred from 1936 to 1938. It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of kulak (wealthy landlords) and the Red Army leadership, widespread police surveillance, suspicion of saboteurs, counter-revolutionaries, imprisonment, and arbitrary executions. Historians estimate the total number of deaths due to Stalinist repression in 1937–38 to be between 680.000 and 1,200,000.

In the Western world, Robert Conquest's 1968 book The Great Terror popularized that phrase. Conquest's title was in turn an allusion to the period called the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution (French: la Terreur, and, from June to July 1794, la Grande Terreur, the Great Terror).

People looking for relatives among repressed in Vinnytsia

NKVD chiefs responsible for conducting mass repressions: From l. to r.: Yakov Agranov; Genrikh Yagoda; unknown; Stanislav Redens. All three were themselves eventually arrested and executed.

Pianist Khadija Gayibova, executed in 1938.

Introduction

Excerpt of NKVD Order No. 00447

A list from the Great Purge signed by Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Mikoyan, and Chubar.

The term "repression" was officially used to describe the prosecution of people considered counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people by the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, Joseph Stalin. Historians debate the causes of the purge, such as Stalin's paranoia, or his desire to remove dissenters from the Communist Party or to consolidate his authority. The purges began in the Red Army, and the techniques developed there were quickly adapted to purges in other sectors. Most public attention was focused on the purge of certain parts of the leadership of the Communist Party, as well as of government bureaucrats and leaders of the armed forces, most of whom were Party members. The campaigns also affected many other categories of the society: intelligentsia, peasants and especially those branded as "too rich for a peasant" (kulaks), and professionals. 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, by the Polish Military Organisation and, consequently, many victims of the purge were ordinary Soviet citizens of Polish origin.

According to Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 speech, "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences", and historian Robert Conquest, a great number of accusations, notably those presented at the Moscow show trials, were based on forced confessions, often obtained through torture, and on loose interpretations of Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code, which dealt with counter-revolutionary crimes. Due legal process, as defined by Soviet law in force at the time, was often largely replaced with summary proceedings by NKVD troikas.

Hundreds of thousands of victims were accused of various political crimes (espionage, wrecking, sabotage, anti-Soviet agitation, conspiracies to prepare uprisings and coups); they were quickly executed by shooting, or sent to the Gulag labor camps. Many died at the penal labor camps of starvation, disease, exposure, and overwork. Other methods of dispatching victims were used on an experimental basis. In Moscow, the use of gas vans used to kill the victims during their transportation to the Butovo firing range was documented.

The Great Purge began under NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, but reached its peak between September 1936 and August 1938 under the leadership of Nikolai Yezhov, hence the name Yezhovshchina. The campaigns were carried out according to the general line, often by direct orders of the Party Politburo headed by Stalin.

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Only the police state and the military should have guns. 

A list from the Great Purge signed by Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Mikoyan, and Chubar.

Posted by George Freund on July 30, 2019 at 9:13 PM 89 Views