How Far do you agree that the most significant consequence of the Great Terror was the removal of Stalin’s rival’s by 1941?
Stalin’s Great Terror, 1934-1938, had a devastating effect on Russia at the time, and indeed for years to come. One important consequence of the removal of his political opposition, however the Terror was so far-reaching that it is impossible to overlook the social and economic consequences in deciding what was the most significant outcome.
Political factors were indeed major consequences of Stalin’s terror regime, as through methods of terror he managed to cement his solitary leadership until his death. As a result of the Moscow Show Trials, Stalin managed to eliminate Kamenev and Zinoviev (Trial of the Sixteen), as well as Bukharin and Rykov (Trial of the Twenty One) all on the grounds of murder – the murder of Sergei Kirov, another opponent that it is likely Stalin himself had removed after the Congress of Victors, 1934. Through these ruthless executions, Stalin purged the party internally to ensure that his leadership remained unchallenged. This purge extended to Old Leninists, whom Stalin feared due to their knowledge of his ascent to power after Lenin’s death in 1924. by removing all potential rivals, Stalin remained unchallenged leader of the Soviet Union until his death in 1953, and this elimination is therefore clearly a major political consequence of the Great Terror.
There were, however, other political consequences of the Great Terror, stemming from the purges, such as Stalin’s consequential ability to distance himself from any political, social or economic responsibility for failures of the Soviet Union, by simply using those he executed as scapegoats for said failures, such as the brutality of collectivisation etc. This is another crucial consequence of Stalin’s Great Terror, as it allowed him to consolidate his power over all areas of life.
Another political consequence of the Terror was the introduction of ‘Populist Terror’, in which Stalin encouraged workers to denounce their managers as ‘wreckers’ and enemies of the Soviet Union. This consequence is significant as it led to economic chaos – Factory managers and Gosplan workers became terrified to admit to any decrease in economic production; coal production in Russia had actually fallen by 1938; and therefore lied about their totals, resulting in havoc for Russia’s economy. This consequence of the Terror is fundamental, as it highlights the fact that Stalin’s purges did not only affect those purged, but the country as a whole, due to political terror throwing Russia into a state of economic anarchy.
There was, however, a positive economic consequence of the Great Terror – many of Russia’s architectural masterpieces of the time, such as the Trans-Siberian Railways and the industrial city of Magnitogorsk were developed through the huge pools of slave labour that Stalin acquired through the Gulags. However, in reality, this minor positive economic result demonstrates, in my opinion, the most significant consequence of the Great Terror – the social impact.
Social consequences of the Great Terror were, in my belief, the most profound of all the effects due to the sheer range and number of people they affected. The entire educated urban class were targeted during the purges, as well as nationalities such as Poles, Germans, Latvians and Romanians, of which 680,000 were shot and a further 635,000 were sent to Gulags. In addition to this, single women and an estimated 10% of all Russia’s men were purged. In effect, millions of people were shot during the Terror, with millions more sent to Russia’s forced labour camps, Gulags, where a huge number died. I therefore argue that it is impossible to disagree with the fact that this mass murder was the most significant consequence of Stalin’s Great Terror, as it changed the face of Russia for years to come due to the sheer numbers purged.
Another crucial consequence of Stalin’s Great Terror was the way in which it changed the daily lives of the Russian people. Stalin’s Terror changed the nature of family, a profound result as children were expected to denounce their arrested parents, with young children of those arrested subjected to ritual humiliation in schools as well as older children being expelled as organised by the Government body Komosol.
In addition to this, entire class groups were replaced, such as the old elites – factory managers etc – who were accused of being economic ‘wreckers’ and turned over to the NKVD, as well as whole classes changing identities through political fear, such as the Kulaks, NEPmen and Priests.
These social consequences ate of utmost significance as they highlight that Stalin’s Terror affected the daily lives of all Russians, with this fear continuing for years to come.
In conclusion, I believe that the removal of Stalin’s opponents was the most significant factor to Stalin personally, as it allowed him to fully consolidate his sole leadership of the Soviet Union in a political sense. However, I cannot agree with the statement that this consequence was the ‘most significant’, as I believe that the social effects of the Great Terror – the sheer numbers murdered and the changed nature of daily life – were so far-reaching throughout Russia as an entirety, and not merely the Communist Party, that they were undoubtedly the most significant consequences of Stalin’s Great Terror.
Unit 1: Generic Level Descriptors
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