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Stalin and the opponents


USSR economy
USSR economy

The mid- to late 1930s were marked by Stalin’s campaign to eliminate all elements alleged to have reservations about his policies. The process was touched off in December 1934 when a disgruntled party member assassinated Sergey Kirov, a popular and high-ranking party official. Although it remains unknown whether Kirov himself harbored doubts about Stalin’s line, the event served as Stalin’s justification to initiate a vicious purge of the party and of all Soviet institutions.

Stalin had any person he or his assistants distrusted removed from posts of authority; many were jailed, sent to the forced-labor camps of Gulag (Chief Administration for Corrective Labor Camps), or executed. In a series of three show trials in Moscow between 1936 and 1938, a number of once prominent Soviet leaders, including Grigory Zinovyev, Bukharin, and Rykov, were convicted and executed on concocted charges of conspiring with Germany and Japan to overthrow Stalin’s government. In a closed-door trial in June 1937, the topmost commanders of the army, including Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, were found guilty of similar charges and shot.

Two-thirds of the 1934 Central Committee of the party was executed, as were more than half of the senior officers of the army. Furthermore, the political police, or NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), had license to extend the purges to lower-level officials and rank-and-file citizens. In the darkest years of the terror, from 1937 to 1938, the NKVD under Nikolay Yezhov rounded up several million people; as many as 1 million people were shot, while another 2 million are estimated to have died in the camps. In December 1938 Stalin’s appointment of a new NKVD chief, Lavrenty Beria, signaled the end of the mass terror, although some arrests and executions continued into 1939. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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