The Great Purges Essay

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But while his rivals from the '20s had suffered defeat, they were still alive and in the Party.Then, in August of 1936, Stalin engineered the first of what came to be known as the Show Trials, in which he accused Zinoviev, Kamenev and their associates of conspiring (with the exiled Trotsky) against Stalin and the government.In an amazing scene that was broadcast around the world--and which played a large role in exposing the true nature of the Soviet regime--every one of the accused Bolsheviks confessed their supposed crimes.This was, not coincidentally, the era when Stalin's "cult of personality" rose to overwhelming prominence in the Soviet Union, as history was rewritten to make him the hero of every circumstance, his writings were handed out to schoolchildren with a reverence once reserved for the Bible, his childhood was mythologized and every reference to his name accompanied by phrases like "Leader of Genius of the Proletarian Revolution," "Supreme Genius of Humanity," and so on: fear had conditioned the Russians to forego all independent though.It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of peasants and the Red Army leadership, widespread police surveillance, suspicion of “saboteurs”, “counter-revolutionaries”, imprisonment, and arbitrary executions.Meanwhile, members of Stalin's loyal, personally appointed Politburo were beginning to wonder if their leader, who had guided them through the turmoil of collectivization and the Five-Year Plan, could now also prove effective in a relatively peaceful era.Talk circulated about electing a new General Secretary, and Sergei Kirov, a member of the Politburo, was put forth as a possible candidate.For in his mind, there was no question of his primacy: he was to be first, period; there was no room for dissent in his regime.Thus Stalin made Kirov the scapegoat, and it was Kirov who was assassinated on December 1, 1934.The generals were convicted and executed in secret, but Yagoda received his death sentence at the Show Trials, in March 1938, as did Bukharin, Rykov, and their supporters.The Terror finally burnt itself out late in 1938, and at the Party Congress in March of the following year Stalin announced the end of the era of mass purges.


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