Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization: Ideas, Power, and Terror in Inter-War Russia

Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization: Ideas, Power, and Terror in Inter-War Russia

Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization: Ideas, Power, and Terror in Inter-War Russia

Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization: Ideas, Power, and Terror in Inter-War Russia

Synopsis

Stalin's Terror of 1937-8 is one of the most extraordinary events of the twentieth century. His seemingly irrational attack on the military, technical, and political elite on the eve of war, precisely the time when he needed them most, remains difficult to understand. Stalinism and the Politics of Terror provides a new explanation of the political violence of the late 1930s by examining the thinking of Stalin and his allies, and placing it in the broader context of Bolshevik ideas since 1917."

Excerpt

Between 1936 and 1938, hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Soviet Union, many of them communist party members, were accused of a series of bizarre crimes. They were alleged to have participated in conspiracies against the Soviet state, in league with foreign intelligence agencies and oppositionist Trotskyist groups abroad. the conspirators had, it was claimed, attempted to sabotage the economy and assassinate leaders, including Stalin himself, in pursuit of their ultimate objective—the restoration of capitalism. the accused were arrested and given summary trials; many were executed and many more imprisoned. These were extraordinary events but they were not entirely unprecedented. in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Stalinist leadership had also organized purges of officials and staged a series of show trials, claiming that officials were conspiring with hostile forces against it.

These repressions were all carried out in the name of socialism, and it is not surprising that the question of the Stalinist ‘Great Terror’ and its causes has been at the centre of political and historical debate ever since. the Terror seriously affected the standing of the Soviet model of socialism, and the admission by Khrushchev in

According to official nkvd figures, 681,692 people were shot in 1937–8, although this includes people shot for non-political offences. 1,575,259 were arrested by the nkvd in the same period, 87 per cent of whom were accused of political offences, and 85 per cent were convicted. But this figure does not include arrests made by authorities other than the nkvd. See V. P. Popov, ‘Gosudarstvennyi terror v sovetskoi Rossii, 1923–1953 gg. (istochniki I ikh interpretatsiia)’, Otechestvennye arkhivy, 2 (1992), 20–32. the accuracy of these figures is still the subject of controversy. For the debate, see J. A. Getty and O. V. Naumov, The Road to Terror. Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932–1939 (New Haven and London, 1999), 587–94; J. A. Getty, G. T. Rittersporn, and V. N. Zemskov, ‘Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Prewar Years: a First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence’, ahr, 98 (1993), 1017–49; S. Rosefielde, ‘Stalinism in Post-Communist Perspective. New Evidence on Killings, Forced Labour and Economic Growth in the 1930s’, E-AS, 46 (1996), 959–87.

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