Lecture 8--Stalinist Terror
The Red Terror (1917-1921)
● Terror during the Bolsheviks during the Civil War
● Response to opposition to Soviet rule
○ Cheka (predecessor of the KGB and secret police) formed in response to strikes
from the opposition
○ Attempted assassination of Lenin, which made the Bolshevik party more
● Lenin never predicted or wanted a secret police. He predicted the state to dissolve with
the rise of socialism
● Targeted at whole classes--taking power away from the upper class. Equated
bourgeoisie as the capitalist class
● Promoted by Bolsheviks as “social revenge” against bourgeoisie
● 10,000s of people died
Bolshevik Cycle of Paranoia
● A regime that is very isolated
○ Internationally: Western capitalist powers intervene on communism
○ Domestically: Power based on very small working class
● Fear for survival → Rely heavily on coercion → Increased opposition → Fear for survival
End of Civil War
● The end of the war didn’t give immediate peace
● The Kronstadt Rebellion (the Sailor’s Rebellion) was distinctive because they were the
working class, the Vanguard, helped the Bolsheviks gain power originally.
○ Their own social class was fighting against them!
○ The Civil War was brutal (Red Terror) and the Bolsheviks lost many of their
● Increased sense of importance of party discipline
○ 10th Party Congress -- banned factions in the party
■ No oppositions outside of the party and no oppositions WITHIN the party
The Mystery of the Great Terror
● Great Terror refers to the late 1930s where the top elite goes after ITSELF. Whaaaat?
○ Millions were killed!
Rise of Stalin
● He had a great ability to get things done, Lenin trusted him to organize the party etc. He was known as Comrade Notecard.
● People didn’t even know him. They only know Trotsky, the hero of the Bolshevik
revolution. People feared Trotsky, so they formed an alliance against Trotsky. Ousts
Trotsky/Left by aligning with Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev
● Stalin takes firm control in 1929
Stalin’s Revolution: Industrialization as War
● Problem of NEP
○ In order to get communism, they must industrialize
○ When you steal grain from the peasants, they stop producing. The Bolsheviks
lightened up on this rule and stopped seizing as much grain. Allow them to sell
their products at the prices they dictate.
○ Leaves resources in the countryside. But didn’t give enough resources to actually
allow for industrialization.
● Stalin gets frustrated and shifts course! He wants rapid industrialization!
○ Collectivization: Forced resettlement of villagers
■ Take control of countryside
■ Extract resources from peasantry for use in industrialization.
● State collective farms (synonymous with central state controlling
entire countryside), where they go into a village and asks, “Who
wants to join our collective farm? :D” and points a gun to their
head. Many villagers would simply leave, which essentially ended
○ The Great Famine (SECOND TERROR): Stalin took so much grain for the sake
of industrialization, that the peasants couldn’t feed themselves.
■ 3-4 million people die from a man made famine (especially Ukraine)
● Forced Labour Camps (Gulag)
○ Extensive system
■ 53 camps and 423 labour colonies
○ Major source of industrialization
■ Raw material extraction -- nickel, iron, ore, cobalt
■ Massive projects: Moscow metro, Belomorkanal (White Sea Canal, which
connected Soviet Union to White Sea)
● 12,000 people die in construction of the Belomorkanal
● Forced, quick labour is is shoddy work. Dams threaten to break
● Work to death or starve to death
○ Massive death toll. 20,595 die in 1936. 90,546 die in 1938.
■ Different from Nazi Germany because they weren’t technically trying to
Massive Social Change!
● Rapid Industrialization
○ Industry expands by 80% in 6 years (1929-1934) ○ Quantity over Quality
● Rapid Urbanization
○ Urban Population increases by 12 million (1928-1932)
● Stalin: “To make an omelette you have to break some eggs.” The hell.
The Great Terror (1934-1937)
● In this regime, nothing was considered accidental. If there was an industrial accident, in
their mind, it is a result of a conspiracy of the bourgeoisie class who was trying to
overthrow government. Actively demolish our process! Sabotage our process!
● Early purges of foreign experts in 1928
○ Shakhty Trials: Foreign experts charged with active sabotage
● Assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934
○ Was predicted to be Stalin’s successor, seen as an ally, seen to be able to end
○ Normally should be an investigation or something. Stalin is convinced that it must
be Trotsky, Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev who killed his friend! At this point Stalin
had total control, Trotsky was in exile, there was no active organized opposition.
○ There was never a serious attempt to kill Stalin. Ever.
○ They still had to find SOME sort of “opposition”. They poured through records
and ended up attributing simple offenses (stealing a stapler or something) to
being against the Soviet state!
● Show Trials -- accused people who really helped the Soviets as spies for the British,
Japanese, and Germans, accuse