1922-1928 1939-1945

Domestic Policy : Party Purges, Kulak Famine and the Gulag

J.V. Stalin, as GENERAL SECRETARY of the Communist Party, with BERIA, head of the secret police, closely cooperating, was the most powerful person in the Soviet Union. Yet the office of general secretary was not defined as such; it had been Stalin who had filled the office with this power. In order to secure the power against actual or potential political rivals, Stalin had them, one by one, over a period of several years, arrested, accused of counterrevolutionary activities or conspiracy in SHOW TRIALS, sentenced and eiled to Siberia or executed : KAMENEV and SINOVEV in 1934 (Siberia) and 1936 (shot), TUKHACHEVSKY (1937, shot), BUKHANIN (1938) etc.
The persecution was not limited to the top level; supporters of those sentenced in show trials were eliminated in PARTY PURGES conducted again and again. Anybody suspected of having supported one of those deemed counterrevolutionaries or dissidents were in danger of being deported, down to school children who had written essays on the history of the revolution. The minimum age for the death penalty in 1935 was lowered to 12 years. The Siberian prison system, referred to as the GULAG, in 1938 had an estimated 3 to 5 million inmates, mostly political prisoners; conditions were horrible, many did not return (here lack of nutrition and exposure to the extreme climatic conditions, as well as lack of medical care were the main killers).

The KULAKS, landowning peasants reluctant to give up their farmland and join a Kolkhoze, were expropriated, but excluded from the kolkhoze. Thus deprived of their livelihood, the authorities at Stalin's order, did nothing to prevent the KULAK FAMINE of 1933, a mass starvation neither caused by war nor by misharvest. Stalin prohibited any food shipment into the affected areas (mainly UKRAINE). When western relief organizations offered help, Stalin refused, denying the problem to exist. Some refugees reached the west, though. The number of victims is estimated at over 6 million.
With some legitimation Stalin could claim that the living standard of the Soviet industrial worker had risen ("life has become merry", 1935). Yet shared housing was still normal, a bicycle a valued possession; the demand for personal privacy was condemned by the Communist Party as "petit-bourgeois mentality", and rejected.

In 1936 the TRANSCAUCASIAN REPUBLIC was dissolved into the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani SSR. The Soviet Union declared to be against IMPERIALISM, and established numerous autonomous repuublics (ASSRs) for ethnic minorities, for instance the KARELIAN ASSR in 1935, the KOMI ASSR in 1936, the MORDOVIAN or MORDVINIAN ASSR in 1934 etc.; later in the 1930es, however, a RUSSIFICATION policy was pursued. Certain ethnicities, such as the Crimean Tatars, became the object of MASS DEPORTATION.

From Five Year Plan to the Purges, Part III of Russia : from Revolution to Counterrevolution, by Ted Grant (151 K)
The First Five Year Plan (1929-1932), The Great Purges (1933-1939), chronological tables from Soviet Literature, 1917-1953 at Pitt;
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Soviet Union, by Ants Viires
Russian Art History - Socialist Realism in the former Soviet Union, from NY Arts
DOCUMENTS KGB-OGPU-NKVD GULAG Currency, from Wad Nensberg's Home Page (Russian banknotes)
Central Committee Resolution on the forced collectivization of livestock, 1931, from the Library of Congress Soviet Archives Exhibit
Letter from Feigin, on the situation of farms/kolkhozes/livestock in the Novosibirsk region 1932, from Library of Congress Soviet Archives Exhibit
REFERENCE Stalin's Revolution, pp.431-464 in : Melvin K. Wren, The Course of Russian History, Prospect Heights 1994
Chapters XXXVII : Stalin, pp.516-535; XXXVIII : Men Around Stalin, pp.536-551; XXXIX : The Russian Trials, pp.552-561, XL : Duranty's Inferno, pp.562-575, in : John Gunther, Inside Europe 1940 war edition, NY : Harper & Bros. 1940 [G]
Article Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1929 pp.1221-1250, 1932 pp.1240-1271, 1937 pp.1274-1305 [G]
Article : Russia, in : Americana Annual 1930 pp.691-697, 1931 pp.682-693, 1932 pp.643-649, 1933 pp.692-700, 1934 pp.532-538 [G]
Article : Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in : Americana Annual 1935 pp.715-722, 1936 pp.727-734, 1937 pp.700-707, 1938 pp.696-702, 1939 pp.764-769 [G]
Article : Russia, in : New International Year Book 1930 pp.693-700 [G]
Article : Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in : New International Year Book 1932 pp.799-804, 1933 pp.799-804, 1934 pp.700-705, 1935 pp.713-718, 1938 pp.736-742, 1939 pp.770-775 [G]
Article : Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia 1932 pp.515-517, 1933 pp.502-504, 1934 pp.509-511, 1935 pp.509-511, 1936 pp.500-504, 1937 pp.503-506, 1938 pp.502-505, 1939 pp.514-517 [G]

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First posted in 2000, last revised on August 24th 2007

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