Great Purge

Great TerrorpurgesStalinist purgespurgedStalin's purgespurgeStalinist repressionsStalin's TerrorStalinist terrorthe Great Purge
The Great Purge or the Great Terror was a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union which occurred from 1936 to 1938.wikipedia
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NKVD

Soviet intelligenceSoviet secret policesecret police
In Russian historiography, the period of the most intense purge, 1937–1938, is called Yezhovshchina (literally, "Yezhov phenomenon", commonly translated as "times of Yezhov" or "doings of Yezhov"), after Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, who was executed a year after the purge.
The NKVD is known for its role in political repression and for carrying out the Great Purge under Joseph Stalin.

Nikolai Yezhov

YezhovN.I.YezhovNikolay Ivanovich Yezhov
In Russian historiography, the period of the most intense purge, 1937–1938, is called Yezhovshchina (literally, "Yezhov phenomenon", commonly translated as "times of Yezhov" or "doings of Yezhov"), after Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, who was executed a year after the purge. The Great Purge began under NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, but reached its peak between September 1936 and August 1938 under the leadership of Nikolai Yezhov, hence the name Yezhovshchina.
Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov, ; May 1, 1895 – February 4, 1940) was a Soviet secret police official under Joseph Stalin who was head of the NKVD from 1936 to 1938, during the most active period of the Great Purge.

The Great Terror

The Great Terror: A ReassessmentThe Great Terror: Stalin's Purges of the 1930s
In the Western world, Robert Conquest's 1968 book The Great Terror popularized that phrase.
It gave rise to an alternate title of the period in Soviet history known as the Great Purge.

Joseph Stalin

StalinJosef StalinJosif Stalin
The term "repression" was officially used to describe the prosecution of people considered counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people by the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, Joseph Stalin.
To eradicate accused "enemies of the working class", Stalin instituted the "Great Purge", in which over a million were imprisoned and at least 700,000 executed between 1934 and 1939.

Soviet Union

SovietUSSRSoviets
The term "repression" was officially used to describe the prosecution of people considered counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people by the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, Joseph Stalin.
During this period of totalitarian rule, political paranoia fermented and the late-1930s Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in over 600,000 deaths.

Nikita Khrushchev

KhrushchevNikita Sergeyevich KhrushchevKhruschev
According to Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 speech, "On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences," and Robert Conquest, a great number of accusations, notably those presented at the Moscow show trials, were based on forced confessions, often obtained through torture, and on loose interpretations of Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code, which dealt with counter-revolutionary crimes.
He supported Joseph Stalin's purges, and approved thousands of arrests.

Political repression in the Soviet Union

political repressionrepressedpolitical prisoners
The Great Purge or the Great Terror was a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union which occurred from 1936 to 1938.
Periods of the increased repression include Red Terror, Collectivisation, the Great Purges, the Doctor's Plot, and others.

Moscow Trials

Moscow Show TrialsMoscow Trialshow trials
According to Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 speech, "On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences," and Robert Conquest, a great number of accusations, notably those presented at the Moscow show trials, were based on forced confessions, often obtained through torture, and on loose interpretations of Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code, which dealt with counter-revolutionary crimes.
They are generally seen as part of Stalin's Great Purge, an attempt to rid the party of current or prior oppositionists, especially but not exclusively Trotskyists, and any leading Bolshevik cadre from the time of the Russian Revolution or earlier, who might even potentially become a figurehead for the growing discontent in the Soviet populace resulting from Stalin's mismanagement of the economy.

Butovo firing range

ButovoKommunarkaKommunarka'', Butovo
In Moscow, a usage of gas vans was documented; the vans were used kill the victims during their transportation to the Butovo firing range.
However, between 1937 and 1938, the height of Josef Stalin's Great Terror, 20,761 prisoners were transported to the site and executed, typically by gunshot to the back of the head.

NKVD troika

troikatroikasNKVD Troikas
Due legal process, as defined by Soviet law in force at the time, was often largely replaced with summary proceedings by NKVD troikas.
It began as an institution of the Cheka, then later became prominent again in the NKVD, when it was used during the Great Purge to execute many hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens.

Genrikh Yagoda

Yagoda
The Great Purge began under NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, but reached its peak between September 1936 and August 1938 under the leadership of Nikolai Yezhov, hence the name Yezhovshchina. Meant to be the culmination of previous trials, it included 21 defendants alleged to belong to the so-called "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites", led by Nikolai Bukharin, the former chairman of the Communist International, former premier Alexei Rykov, Christian Rakovsky, Nikolai Krestinsky and Genrikh Yagoda, recently disgraced head of the NKVD.
Appointed by Joseph Stalin, Yagoda supervised the arrest, show trial, and execution of the Old Bolsheviks Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev, climactic events of the Great Purge.

Béla Kun

Bela KunKun, BélaMarch Action
As the purges began, the government (through the NKVD) shot Bolshevik heroes, including Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Béla Kun, as well as the majority of Lenin's Politburo, for disagreements in policy.
During the Great Purge of the late 1930s, Kun was arrested, interrogated, tried, and executed in quick succession.

Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Communist PartyCPSUSoviet Communist Party
The purge was motivated by the desire to remove dissenters from the Communist Party and to consolidate the authority of Stalin.
Seeing potential enemies everywhere, leaders of the government security apparatuses began severe crackdowns known as the Great Purge.

Robert Conquest

Conquest, Robert
In the Western world, Robert Conquest's 1968 book The Great Terror popularized that phrase.
In 1968, Conquest published what became his best-known work, The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties, the first comprehensive research of the Great Purge, which took place in the Soviet Union between 1934 and 1939.

Sergey Kirov

KirovSergei KirovSergei Mironovich Kirov
In 1934, Stalin used the murder of Sergey Kirov as a pretext to launch the Great Purge, in which about a million people perished (see ).
Kirov's death was later used as a pretext for Stalin's escalation of repression against dissident elements of the Party, and disarming of the Party (every Party member was issued a revolver up to that time, when Stalin had them all taken away), culminating in the Great Purge of the late 1930s in which many of the Old Bolsheviks were arrested, expelled from the party, and executed.

Gulag

gulagslabor campsprison camps
Hundreds of thousands of victims were accused of various political crimes (espionage, wrecking, sabotage, anti-Soviet agitation, conspiracies to prepare uprisings and coups); they were quickly executed by shooting, or sent to the Gulag labor camps.
During the Great Purge of 1937–38, mass arrests caused another increase in inmate numbers.

Nikolai Bukharin

BukharinBukharin, NikolaiBukharinists
The political purge was primarily an effort by Stalin to eliminate challenge from past and potential opposition groups, including the left and right wings led by Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, respectively.
When the Great Purge began in 1936, Stalin looked for any pretext to liquidate his former allies and rivals for power, and some of Bukharin's letters, conversations and tapped phone-calls indicated disloyalty.

Leon Trotsky

TrotskyTrotskyistdefeat of Trotsky
The political purge was primarily an effort by Stalin to eliminate challenge from past and potential opposition groups, including the left and right wings led by Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, respectively.
Their mother Aleksandra disappeared in 1935 during the Great Purges in the Soviet Union under Stalin, and was murdered by Stalinist forces three years later.

Mikhail Tukhachevsky

TukhachevskyMarshal TukhachevskyM. N. Tukhachevsky
As the purges began, the government (through the NKVD) shot Bolshevik heroes, including Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Béla Kun, as well as the majority of Lenin's Politburo, for disagreements in policy.
The Soviet authorities accused him of treason and had him shot during the military purges of 1937–1938, but rehabilitated his reputation in the late 1950s.

Case of the Anti-Soviet "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites"

Trial of the Twenty OneTrial of the Twenty-OneCase of the Anti-Soviet "Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites"
The third and final trial, in March 1938, known as The Trial of the Twenty-One, is the most famous of the Soviet show trials, because of persons involved and the scope of charges which tied together all loose threads from earlier trials.
The Trial of the Twenty-One took place in Moscow in March 1938, towards the end of the Soviet Great Purge.

Red Army

Soviet ArmySovietSoviet troops
It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of wealthy landlords and the Red Army leadership, widespread police surveillance, suspicion of saboteurs, counter-revolutionaries, imprisonment, and arbitrary executions.
The Great Purge of 1937–1939 and the Purge of 1940–1942 removed many leading officers from the Red Army, including Tukhachevsky himself and many of his followers, and the doctrine was abandoned.

Poles in the Soviet Union

PolesPolishPolish minority
A number of purges were officially explained as an elimination of the possibilities of sabotage and espionage, by the Polish Military Organisation and, consequently, many victims of the purge were ordinary Soviet citizens of Polish origin.
Tens of thousands of ethnic Poles became victims of the Great Purge in 1937–1938 (see Polish operation of the NKVD).

Grigory Zinoviev

ZinovievGrigorii ZinovievZinovievite
The first trial was of 16 members of the so-called "Trotskyite-Kamenevite-Zinovievite-Leftist-Counter-Revolutionary Bloc", held in August 1936, at which the chief defendants were Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, two of the most prominent former party leaders. Among other accusations, they were incriminated with the assassination of Kirov and plotting to kill Stalin. After confessing to the charges, all were sentenced to death and executed.
Zinoviev was a chief defendant in a 1936 show trial, the Trial of the Sixteen, that marked the start of the so-called Great Terror in the USSR and resulted in his execution the day after his conviction in August 1936.

Darkness at Noon

Bukharin's confession in particular became subject of much debate among Western observers, inspiring Koestler's acclaimed novel Darkness at Noon and philosophical essay by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Humanism and Terror.
The novel is set in 1939 during the Stalinist Great Purge and Moscow show trials.

Nikolay Krestinsky

Nikolai KrestinskyKrestinsky, NN.N.Krestinsky
Meant to be the culmination of previous trials, it included 21 defendants alleged to belong to the so-called "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites", led by Nikolai Bukharin, the former chairman of the Communist International, former premier Alexei Rykov, Christian Rakovsky, Nikolai Krestinsky and Genrikh Yagoda, recently disgraced head of the NKVD.
Like most Old Bolsheviks, he did not survive the Great Purge.