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Stalin and the Great Purge

Stalin and the Great Purge

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Stalin and the Great Purge

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  1. Stalin and the Great Purge

  2. Stalin “Man of Steel” • Ruthless and calculating, Stalin knew how to feign peace until the moment was right • With him, there was no restraint to use violence • Unlike flamboyant Lenin and Trotsky, Stalin was silent, observant and quietly deadly • He was one to settle the score no matter how many years passed: • Every embarrassment would eventually be avenged

  3. Polish-Soviet War 1920 • City of Lviv contested between Poland and Ukraine for centuries, it remained Polish-dominated. • After the Civil War, the Bolsheviks immediately pressed on to dominate central Europe: first was Poland • Stalin wanted Lviv but Lenin & Trotsky felt that Warsaw was the priority. • While Trotsky attacked Warsaw, Stalin refused to leave Lviv

  4. Trotsky with Soviet Red Army forces in Poland

  5. Polish-Soviet War 1920 • Because of Stalin’s actions, the Red Army was defeated in both cities. Stalin was blamed and resigned his military commission. • Trotsky openly criticized Stalin and was bitterly opposed to his hard-line tactics to the point where it irritated Lenin • Later in his career, Stalin was to compensate for the disaster of 1920: • He would ensure the death of Trotsky, • secure Lviv in the Nazi-Soviet pact, • execute Polish veterans of the Polish-Soviet War in the Katyn massacre; • ensure the failure of the Warsaw Uprising with a loss of around 250,000 Polish lives; • establish the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe; • at Yalta, demand that Lviv be ceded by Poland to the Soviet Union.

  6. Lenin’s Successor?

  7. Invasion of Caucasus • To compensate for his failure, Stalin engaged in ruthless campaign to ‘Sovietize’ Caucasus • Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG) was a Menshevik government located on Black Sea between Russia and Turkey • Declared its independence in 1918, strong nationalism • Treaty of Moscow 1920 provided Soviet recognition of DRG independence in exchange for agreement that Georgia would not harbor forces hostile to Soviet Russia. It was a ruse. • Despite the treaty, invasion was both intended and planned; Stalin obtained permission from Lenin to invade his homeland on Feb 14, 1921

  8. Invasion of Caucasus • In Moscow, there was disagreement on this decision • Trotsky described it as “premature intervention” claiming Caucasus could carry out their own revolution • Some Bolsheviks wanted revenge because of the Menshevik anti-Bolshevik propaganda • Claiming Georgia violated the treaty by arresting Georgian Bolsheviks and aiding armed rebels, the Red Army invaded under the guise of being rebels not under command of Moscow. • Appeals by the Georgian Premier to the West went largely unheeded and unnoticed in the headlines. The Georgian Mensheviks were silenced.

  9. History Repeats Itself • Modern Georgian politicians and some observers have repeatedly drawn parallels between the 1921 events and Russia’s policy towards Georgia and Western Europe’s reluctance to confront Russia over Georgia in the 2000s, especially during the August 2008 war

  10. Georgia Affair • By now it was clear Stalin had his own agenda • This contributed to final break between Lenin & Stalin • Lenin figured Ordzhonikidze and Stalin were guilty of imposing of Soviet Russian nationalism upon non-Russian nationalities. • In Dec 1922, he considered Stalin and his forceful centralizing policy increasingly dangerous & decided to dissociate himself at once from his protégé. • Lenin’s health declining, he suffered stroke in 1922

  11. Reorganization in 1922 • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics • Under Bolsheviks, ‘Soviet’ extended into hierarchy of government. Soviets exist at many levels but at the national level equates to the government • Communist Party • Final product of Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, consisted almost exclusively of Bolsheviks • Congress of Communist Party • Gathering of all delegates of the Communist Party. Frequency varied: almost annually in 1920’s • According to Party Statute, it is ruling body but in reality rubber-stamped what the Central Committee dictated • Central Committee • Responsible for directing Party activity between congresses • Members were elected during Party Congress, served 5 years • Politburo • Main body of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Most influential members of Central Committee • originally consisted of 5 full members: Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Lev Kamenev and Nikolai Krestinsky. The expanded Politburo (added Rykov, Bucharin and Tomsky) in 1924 • General Secretary • Intended as an administrative position for the Communist Party, under Stalin, became analogous to the leader of the Communist Party and the USSR • NKVD and GPU started off as the Cheka, the secret police for internal security. This function then was delegated to the GPU which had the authority to undertake quick non-judicial trials and executions, in order to "protect the revolution". GPU was subset of NKVD which includes local police, military intelligence functions GRU and labor camps GuLAG

  12. Stalin’s Rise to Power • Lenin appointed Stalin General Secretary of Central Committee in 1922 in a move to isolate Trotsky • He later regretted that fateful decision and wrote his testament intending to have Stalin removed • Another besetting stroke prevented him from carrying out Lenin’s testament and Stalin became Lenin’s self-appointed intermediary • Stalin allied with Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev in the politburo against Trotsky • After Lenin’s death January 21, 1924, Stalin turned on Zinoviev and Kamenev and allied with Nikolai Bucharin

  13. Stalin’s Rise to Power • Trotsky, Kamenev, & Zinoviev were ejected from the Central Committee and then expelled from the Party • Kamenev & Zinoviev were later exonerated but Trotsky was exiled from the Soviet Union never to return • Continuing his agenda, Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization and centralization of the economy. Bukharin criticized these policies and advocated return to Lenin’s NEP. Stalin swayed the politburo in his favor and ousted Bukharin in 1929.

  14. A “New Era” • 1929 was described by Stalin as “the year of the great turning point.” • The economic crisis was worldwide • Conditions for the laborer were little different under the Bolsheviks • Kulaks were wealthier farmers who were allowed private property under NEP • Unrest and strikes and mass demonstrations started

  15. Dekulakization • Stalin’s policy of “Dekulakization” pitted the peasants against them, resulted in deportation and execution • Who exactly was a Kulak was subject to the whim of Soviet authorities • 5 million kulaks deported • 1 million were killed • Land was absorbed by the state and formed collective farms “kolhozi”

  16. Beginning of Sorrows • Impact on agrarian production and livestock was so profound, it nearly bankrupted the Soviet Union • Stalin’s rigid censorship kept it from the masses • Stalin's own wife committed suicide in protest • Dealt a shocking blow, he offered politburo his resignation but • Molotov sprang to his feet shouting, “Stop it! Stop it! You have the Party’s confidence”

  17. Holodomor (Murder by Hunger) • Despite bumper crop 1932, Ukraine SSR suffered horrible famine as result of economic & trade policies of Stalin • Deaths range from 2.6 million to 10 million • Soviet propaganda denied Holodomor, free world liberals passed it off as unfortunate consequence of industrialization • Evidence suggest it was result of Stalin’s desire to retaliate against Ukrainian nationalism & remove the cultural identity Ukrainians enjoy • March 2008, Ukraine and 19 other governments recognize it as ‘genocide’ • October 2008, European Parliament called it “crime against humanity” • November 13, 2009 Pres. Obama established Ukrainian Holodomor Remembrance Day. In which he said that "remembering the victims of the man-made catastrophe of Holodomor provides us an opportunity to reflect upon the plight of all those who have suffered the consequences of extremism and tyranny around the world".

  18. The Great Purge • !7th Party Congress vote for Politburo shows Kirov most popular member, Stalin least popular. • With the assassination of politburo member Sergei Kirov in 1934, Stalin grew paranoid • Set in motion a search for conspirators throughout Russia • The Cheka (later GPU) arrested members of the Central Committee and his own body guard • A simple condemnation of “enemy of the people” • A giant wave of arrests spread across the country • Some 8-9 million Russians were tried in the field by Cheka agents • Two million were “guilty” of trumped-up charges and executed

  19. The Great Purge • The Red Army was not exempt: • According to well-informed sources, 75 percent of the members of the Supreme War Council, three out of five marshals, thirteen out of fifteen generals, sixty-two out of eighty-five corps commanders, 110 out of 195 divisional commanders and 229 out of 406 brigade commanders were liquidated during 1937 and 1938. Perhaps 85 percent of the upper echelon (from colonel on up) and ten percent of the lower echelons (all together twenty thousand officers) were arrested. Of the six thousand high ranking officers alone, 1,500 were executed. The others disappeared, at least temporarily, into prison and labor camps.”11

  20. The Great Purge • The Great Purge was in the most literal sense, a massacre.1 • The perpetuation of “dead wood” constantly presents the Party a bureaucratic problem which it has solved in the past with periodic purges or Chistka2. Chistka (Чистка) means “housecleaning” is a permanent feature of Communist life.3 • All told, a minimum of around 10 million deaths—6 million from famine and 4 million from other causes—are attributable to Stalin’s regime, with a number of recent historians suggesting a likely total of around 20 million, citing much higher victim totals from executions, gulags, deportations and other causes12. By 1942 an additional 10 million Russians were in slave labor camps.

  21. Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 • As pretext of protecting Communist Party members from fascist aggression: but the Soviets used it for training and received payment too! • Comintern “volunteers” fought in Spanish Civil War • 30,000 from 53 countries • Stalin supplied arms secretly in violation of LON “Non-Intervention Agreement” he signed • Soviet volunteers operated the tanks, aircraft • The Republic had to pay for Soviet arms with the official gold reserves of the Bank of Spain, in an affair that would become a frequent subject of Francoist propaganda afterward The cost to the Republic of Spain of Soviet arms was more than US $500 million, two-thirds of the gold reserves that Spain had at the beginning of the war.

  22. Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact • With Nazi war clouds looming on the horizon, Stalin hastily abandoned the purges. Stalin carefully weighed the consequences of alignment with Britain and France against Hitler’s war machine and concluded that the Soviet Union was in no position to enter into war with Germany. • Furthermore, by allowing the Western allies to wear themselves down against Hitler, the Soviet Union could play both sides of the conflict, recoup its losses and be in a better position for world dominance. • In 1939, the Soviet Union entered into a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

  23. Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact • Touted publicly as a “peace agreement”, the Soviet foreign minister Molotov and the German foreign minister Ribbentrop secretly plotted to divide central Europe. • On September 1, 1939, the Germans invaded the agreed portion of Poland starting World War II. Later the Soviets occupied the assigned portion of Eastern Poland as well as ceding the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and most of the Lithuania into the Soviet Socialist Republics. • In so doing the Soviets blatantly violated Litvinov’s Pact signed in 1929 by the Soviet Union, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Romania in which those countries promised not to use force to settle their disputes.

  24. World War II Operation Barbarossa • Despite Churchill’s warning of impending attack by the Germans, Stalin refused to take him seriously, convinced that that the Germans would not turn on Russia until they had defeated Britain. • On June 22, 1941, Hitler unexpectedly invaded the Soviet Union by launching Operation Barbarossa.

  25. World War II Operation Barbarossa • Largest military campaign in history involving 4.5 million axis troops, 600,000 vehicles • The Soviets were by no means weak: in 1941 had 5.7 million troops in addition to having a larger number of superior tanks (T-34) • By the end of 1941, the Germans had advanced to within 20 miles of the Moscow and inflicted over 4.3 million casualties in the Soviet military. • Despite this ended in failure due to bad weather, poor logistics and underestimation of strength of Soviet forces

  26. World War II and Lend-Lease • Stalin told British diplomats he wanted mutual assistance and recognition that after the war that the Soviet Union would retain the states it had taken during the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. • Churchill wisely refused the latter request but agreed to mutual aid. • June 1941, the Soviet Union was included in the Lend-Lease Act during which 400,000 trucks, 2,000 locomotives, 11,000 rail cars, 18,700 aircraft and tons of telephone cable, ammunition, aluminum, canned rations and clothing were supplied to Russia • By 1945 fully two-thirds of Soviet Army trucks were US made. • Hitler cited the Lend-Lease Act as the single reason for declaring war on the United States on December 11, 194114. • By the end of World War II Soviet military losses topped 14.7 million killed, captured or missing while civilian deaths reached 20 million13 American and British sailors braved the Nazi Luftwaffe & U-boats at the cost of over 85 merchant ships and 15 escorts.