The so-called Great Purge is best defined as a period of intense political turmoil inside the Soviet Party & State Apparatus, although it did also spread outside it to the military and other segments of the population.
The Military Purge & Vlasovites
The purge of the military involved hunting down anti-government elements, nazi-sympathisers, trotskyists, bourgeois nationalists & corrupt careerists inside the Soviet Red Army. In previous parts I already discussed the Tukhachevsky Trial, however the military purge extended beyond merely removing Marshall Tukhachevsky and some other Red Army leaders connected with him. Many lower officers were also demoted or removed, even arrested.
However the numbers of the people removed or arrested are wildly exaggerated in Western cold-war propaganda. One often hears ridiculous speculations about half, or even 75% of the Red Army leadership being removed, and in effect this greatly damaging the defensive capability of the USSR. This is baseless.
In reality the number of military leaders kept constantly increase during the course of war preparations. The number increased from approximately 140,000 to almost 300,000 within the years 1937-1939. The purge reached its height in 1937 when 7.7% of the army leaders were removed. (Let us also note that 30% of all those removed were re-instated in the military before the Second World War.)
This 7.7% is nothing close to the claimed 50-75% and would not have crippled the army. In reality, as there were fifth columnists and unreliable elements in the army, it was crucial they be removed. There were attempted Nazi or Pro-Nazi military coups and conspiracies in many other countries such as Finland, USA, Brazil, Denmark, Romania, Brazil and elsewhere. There were pro-nazi elements and collaborators in all the allied countries but this is often forgotten by anti-communist propagandists who accuse the USSR of paranoia and pointlessly purging the army & state.
|Total number of military leader||144300||179000||282300|
|Number of leaders removed||11043||6742||205|
|Leaders removed (%)||7.7%||3.7%||0.08%|
(Source: Getty, Stalinist Terror)
Even despite this purge there were notable cases of Soviet generals or officers defecting to the fascist side, most famously general Vlasov, Bunyachenko and Meandrov. There were Brits, French and Americans also fighting on the Nazi side. In the case of the British and French they formed entire battalions: British Free Corps, Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism and individual Americans served in the Luftwaffe, Wehrmacht and SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers. Nazi collaboration and plots were a real threat.
The Purge of the Bureaucracy
Anti-Communists claim the purge was something ordered by Stalin to crush dissent. In actuality this is a major misconception. The purge was many different contradictory things. On the one hand it was the state removing enemies, nazi-sympathisers, trotskyists and bourgeois elements. However this didn’t happen with the State crushing popular dissent, instead it mostly targeted the state and bureaucracy itself.
Not only that but together with the NKVD hunt for enemies there was a wave of populist anti-bureaucratism and denouncing of corrupt careerists and right-wing elements by the lower ranks and non-party members.
“The two radical currents of the 1930s had converged in July 1937, and the resulting turbulence destroyed the bureaucracy …. Antibureaucratic populism and police terror destroyed the offices as well as the officeholders. Radicalism had turned the political machine inside out and destroyed the party bureaucracy.” (Getty)
“(T)he center was trying to unleash criticism of the middle-level apparat by the rank-and-file activists. Without official sanction and pressure from above, it would have been impossible for the rank and file, on their own, to organize and sustain such a movement against their immediate superiors.”
“The evidence suggests that the … ‘Great Purges’ — should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy’s stamping out dissent and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite … a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy. The entrenched officeholders were destroyed from above and below in a chaotic wave of voluntarism and revolutionary puritanism.” (Ibid.)
Yagoda’s Right-Wing plot
“Kirov in Leningrad must be removed… Brothers, fascists, if you can’t get to Stalin, kill Gorky, kill the poet Demiyan Bieni, kill Kaganovich.”
~ Za Rossiyu, Nov. 1, 1934 (Organ of the fascist Russian National League of New Regeneration)
Kulaks, ex-capitalists & nationalists would have served as the popular base for an anti-soviet coup’de’tat. But there were anti-soviet forces at every level of Soviet society, including among the military men, officials and police men.
The NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda was part of the Right-Wing conspiracy led by the Bukharin-Tomsky-Rykov triumphirate. He was complicit in the Leningrad Zinovievite-Trotskyite group’s assassination of party secretary Sergei Kirov.
“In 1934, before the murder of Kirov, the terrorist Leonid Nikolayev was picked up by OGPU agents in Leningrad. In his possession they found a gun. and a chart showing the route which Kirov traveled daily. When Yagoda was notified of Nikolayev’s arrest, he instructed Zaporozhetz, assistant chief of the Leningrad OGPU, to release the terrorist without further examination. Zaporozhetz was one of Yagoda’s men. He did what he was told. A few weeks later, Nikolayev murdered Kirov.”
(Kahn & Sayers, The Great Conspiracy)
“Yenukidze informed Maximov that “whereas formerly the Rights calculated that the Soviet Government could be overthrown by organizing certain of the more anti-Soviet minded strata of the population, and in particular the kulaks, now the situation had changed… and it is necessary to proceed to more active methods of seizing power.” Yenukidze described the new tactics of the conspiracy. In agreement with the Trotskyites, he said, the Rights had adopted a decision to eliminate a number of their political opponents by terrorist means.”
“Preparations for it have already begun,” Yenukidze added. He told Maximov that Yagoda was behind all this, and the conspirators had his protection.”
“The forces of the conspiracy were: the forces of Yenukidze plus Yagoda, their organizations in the Kremlin and in the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs ”
~Bukharin, court proceedings
“Not all the details are yet known of the strange struggle which Stalin carried on for years against his own secret police…. The leading members of the secret police, which had become a separate caste, were bound neither to any ideology nor to any party policy. What they wanted–in the name, of course, and for the benefit of, the party–was far-reaching powers and also certain material advantages… They therefore kept up a continual struggle against any limitation of their authority. When Stalin sought to impose certain restrictions on their right to pronounce death sentences, they simply secured that the new courts which were to hear certain cases with the public excluded, should be formed from their own members, that is to say members of the police caste. Stalin’s continual pressure for more rigid supervision by organs of the party was just what drove Yagoda and his colleagues into opposition and later into conspiracy.”
(Nikolaus Basseches, Stalin p. 236)
The Right-Wing conspirator Grigory Tokaev, member of the Red Army who defected to the British in 1948 was part of a group which had connections to the Zinovievite-Trotskyite conspirators but also to Yenukidze & Yagoda. He wrote in his 1956 book:
“Not that our movement was completely at one with the Sheboldayev-Yenukidze group, but we knew what they were doing and… considered it our revolutionary duty to help them at a critical moment …. We disagreed on details, but these were nevertheless brave and honorable men, who had many a time saved members of our group, and who had a considerable chance of success.”
(Tokaev, Comrade X)
“The NKVD… took another step forward. The Little Politbureau had penetrated the Yenukidze-Sheboldayev and the Yagoda-Zelinsky conspiracies, and broken through the opposition’s links within the central institutions of the political police… Yagoda was removed from the NKVD, and we lost a strong link in our opposition intelligence service.”
(Tokaev, Comrade X)
The Ezhovshchina – “Ezhov-terror”
“How can anyone now allow himself the stupidity of criticizing Stalin for repression and crimes? This was a psychosis that was cleverly instituted by Yezhov and other enemies of the State… this psychosis took over the minds of millions of people. Practically all were involved in looking for “enemies” … the resolution to do these things which were undertaken by the REAL ENEMIES of the Soviet people. No directives either of Stalin, Molotov, or Voroshilov were to be found in all of these documents.”
(Aleksei Rybin, Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard)
Another complication in the Purge was the so-called Ezhovshchina, the terror initiated by NKVD chief Nikolai Ezhov. While the NKDV cracked down on real enemies, real conspirators and counter-revolutionaries the leader of the NKVD itself, Ezhov was himself an anti-soviet conspirator. He protected the real conspirators to the best of his ability, while also arresting and even executing many innocent people to create popular distrust and hatred toward the government:
“Ezhov interrogation 04.30.39
“All this was done in order to cause widespread dissatisfaction in the population with the leadership of the Party and the Soviet government and in that way to create the most favorable base for carrying out our conspiratorial plans.””
Enemies hiding in the party also expelled many members to create distrust and hatred towards the party and the government. One of them said:
“We endeavored to expel as many people from the party as possible. We expelled people when there were no grounds for expulsion. We had one aim in view – to increase the number of embittered people and thus increase the number of our allies.” (Getty)
Stalin responded by urging caution and trying to limit the amount of expulsions.
“It was necessary to hunt down active Trotskyites but not everyone who had been casually involved with them, Stalin announced. In fact, such a crude approach could “only harm the cause of the struggle with the active Trotskyist wreckers and spies.” … Each case of expulsion from the party for connections with the former oppositions should be dealt with carefully”
(Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia p. 47-48)
“…the specific remedies he [Stalin] proposed for the remaining “problems” were in the benign areas of party education and propaganda rather than repression.”
(Getty & Naumov, p. 129)
In the end many expulsions were discovered to be unjustified and many members were allowed back in their posts:
“In the majority of cases the commission examined from 40 to 60 percent of those thrown out of the party had been reinstated. ”
(Thurston, p. 107)
In 1938 Ezhov’s actions were exposed and he was removed from power and sentenced as a traitor. Journalist Edgar Snow wrote about the Purge, or more accurately the Ezhovshchina:
“The sadistic Yagoda and Yezhov, who for a time ruled a state within a state–the GPU, were chiefly responsible for these outrages. By Yagoda’s own account his hirelings faked thousands of documents and so mixed up the records that it was impossible to tell a genuine dossier from a bogus one. Curiously the public does not seem to blame Stalin for having permitted such a Frankenstein to develop, but instead gives him credit for having cleaned up the Yagoda gang and brought the secret police back under full control of the Politburo–which he did when the GPU was crushed.”
(Edgar Snow, The Pattern of Soviet Power p. 148)
When Stalin still thought the NKVD under Ezhov’s command was carrying out wrongful actions only mistakenly, not deliberately, he said that:
“Wholesale expulsions based on this “heartless attitude” alienated party members and therefore served the needs of the party’s enemies. According to Stalin, such embittered comrades could provide addittional reserves for the Trotskyists “because the incorrect policy of some of our comrades on the question of expulsion from the party… creates these reserves… It is high time to put a stop to this outrageous practice, comrades.””
(Getty, Origins of the Great Purges p. 147)
Stalin and the Politburo tried to stop the NKVD from committing excesses. Eventually he would become suspicious and realize Yezhov and Yagoda had been carrying out these anti-people activities deliberately to create de-stabilization, popular resentment and distrust in the government.
The Communist Party Central Committee issued a decree to limit the NKVD’s power. They were worried that the NKVD’s wrong actions could cause mass resentment among the population. It would take some time until they learned this was precisely what Ezhov attempted to do:
“I. ON DISCONTINUING THE MASS EXPULSIONS OF PEASANTS
All mass expulsions of peasants are to cease at once… Only persons accused of counterrevolution, terroristic acts, sabotage… [and other serious crimes] may be taken into preventive custody.”
“The organs of the OGPU are to obtain the prior consent of the directorate of the procuracy in making arrests, except in cases involving terroristic acts, explosions, arson, espionage, defection, political gangsterism, and counter-revolutionary, antiparty groups…”
(Getty & Naumov)
“In 1937 and 1938, Stalin and company tried to contain radicalism through press articles, speeches, revised electoral plans, and deglorifying the police. That they had to take such measures shows their lack of tight control over events.”
(Getty, Origins of the Great Purges)
“In June 1936, Stalin interrupted Yezhov at a Central Committee Plenum to complain about so many party members being expelled:
YEZHOV: Comrades, as a result of the verification of party documents, we expelled more than 200,000 members of the party.
STALIN: [interrupts] Very many.
YEZHOV: Yes, very many. I will speak about this….
STALIN: [interrupts] If we expelled 30,000… and 600 former Trotskyists and Zinovievists, it would be a bigger victory.
YEZHOV: More than 200,000 members were expelled. Part of this number of party members, as you know, have been arrested.
At about this time, Stalin wrote a letter to regional party secretaries complaining about their excessive “repression” of the rank-and-file. This led to a national movement to reinstate expelled party members,…
[Later in this plenum, Stalin spoke specifically on this question. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was genuinely concerned that too many of the rank-and-file had been expelled because such large numbers of disaffected former members could become an embittered opposition.”
(Getty and Manning, Stalinist Terror)
In 1938 Stalin and the Politbureau finally became so suspicious of Ezhov they appointed Beria as the NKVD second-in-command to keep an eye on Ezhov. Within the year Ezhov was removed:
“By the fall of 1938 Yezhov’s leadership of the NKVD was under steady fire from various directions. The regime responded officially on Nov. 17, in a joint resolution of the Sovnarkom and the party Central Committee. This document went to thousands of officials across the USSR in the NKVD, the Procuracy, and the party, down to the raion level. Thus, the acknowledgement that grotesque mistakes and injustice had occurred … Enemies of the people and foreign spies had penetrated the security police and the judicial system and had “consciously…carried out massive and groundless arrests.”
(Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, p. 114)
Ezhov the Traitor
“Beria … at a closed joint session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee of the Party, held in the autumn of 1938 … declared that if Yezhov were not a deliberate Nazi agent, he was certainly an involuntary one. He had turned the central offices of the NKVD into a breeding ground for fascist agents.” —Tokaev
“Yezhov bears great personal responsibility for the destruction of legality, for the falsification of investigative cases.”
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. p. 29
“The airplane designer Yakovlev recalls the following in his memoirs:
“In the summer of 1940 Stalin said these precise words in a conversation with me:
“Yezhov is a rat; in 1938 he killed many innocent people. We shot him for that.””
(Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge p. 529)
Ezhov as a member of the right-wing conspiracy was involved with foreign powers, with the Bukharin-tomsky-Rykov trio and Yagoda-Yenukidze plot:
“Later, in 1939, during interrogation, Ezhov confirmed that in 1935 he had indeed gone again to Vienna to be treated for pneumonia by Dr. Noorden … he confessed to having used the visit for contacting the German intelligence service.”
(Jansen & Petrov, Yezhov p. 36)
As Stalin and Beria were on his trail Ezhov and his group hastily began thinking of ways to save themselves:
“After his arrest, Ezhov was accused of having schemed against the Party leadership. He testified himself that after arrests began within the NKVD he, together with Frinovskii, Dagin, and Evdokimov, made plans to commit a “putsch” on 7 November 1937… Dagin, who was chief of the NKVD guard department, was to execute the plan, but on 5 November he was arrested, followed a few days later by Evdokimov. Ezhov alone could not prevent Beria’s initiative. “This way all our plans collapsed.”
“Evdokimov gave similar evidence. According to him, in September he discussed the threatening situation after Beria’s appointment with Ezhov, Frinovskii, and Bel’skii. Allegedly, they agreed to prepare an attempt on Stalin and Molotov. Ezhov was also said to have had plans to murder Beria.”
“After arrest he [Yezhov] himself confessed to having conspired against Stalin and having planned an attempt on him; this was confirmed by a number of accomplices and witnesses.”
Putting an end to Ezhovshchina
On November 17, 1938, Stalin and Molotov issued a decision, putting an end to Ezhov’s excesses:
“The general operations — to crush and destroy enemy elements — conducted by the NKVD in 1937-1938, during which investigation and hearing procedures were simplified, showed numerous and grave defects in the work of the NKVD and prosecutor. Furthermore, enemies of the people and foreign secret service spies penetrated the NKVD, both at the local and central level. They tried by all means to disrupt investigations. Agents consciously deformed Soviet laws, conducted massive and unjustified arrests and, at the same time, protected their acolytes, particularly those who had infiltrated the NKVD.
“The completely unacceptable defects observed in the work of the NKVD and prosecutors were only possible because enemies of the people had infiltrated themselves in the NKVD and prosecutor offices, used every possible method to separate the work of the NKVD and prosecutors from the Party organs, to avoid Party control and leadership and to facilitate for themselves and for their acolytes the continuation of their anti-Soviet activities.
“The Council of People’s Commissars and the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) resolves:
“1. To prohibit the NKVD and prosecutors from conducting any massive arrest or deportation operation ….
“The CPC and the CC of the CPSU(b) warn all NKVD and prosecutor office employees that the slightest deviation from Soviet laws and from Party and Government directives by any employee, whoever that person might be, will result in severe legal proceedings.
–V. Molotov, J. Stalin.”
(Nouvelles de Moscou p. 15)
“Other opposition to Yezhov manifested itself at the beginning of 1938. At that time, a large group of NKVD employees complained to the Central Committee about Yezhov. They accused him of illegal use of government funds and also of the secret execution of a number of prominent party members without investigation or a court examination. In January 1938, the Central Committee Plenum produced a resolution criticizing excessive vigilance. Prominent in the movement to criticize Yezhov’s actions was Zhdanov, who played an important role in drafting the January 1938 resolution.”
(Getty and Manning p. 36)
“…at the end of 1938 Stalin removed Yezhov, disavowed the latter’s excesses, ordered the arrest of the purgers, and released a number of those “falsely arrested.””
(Getty & Naumov, p. 419)
“In December 1938, the campaign came to a complete halt. Most pending investigations for counter-revolutionary activities were dropped and the suspects released. Yezhov was dismissed as head of the NKVD and replaced by Beria. A number of leading NKVD officers were arrested and some executed for having extracted false confessions. Most regional heads of the security police were purged, and many were subject to criminal actions. Past abuses were widely criticized. Both Yagoda and Yezhov were denounced as enemies of the people. Numerous cases were reinvestigated and quite a few of the sentenced released”
(Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union p. 239)
Lack of oversight. This allowed Ezhov to function.
When interviewed by Feliks Chuev for his memoirs, Molotov gave the following explanation:
“CHUEV: Didn’t the security agencies place themselves above the party?
MOLOTOV: No, that’s not so…. There was not enough time. We lacked resources. I did not say that the Politburo was overly trusting, but I did say that insufficient oversight was exercised. I disagree that we were overly trusting. The oversight was inadequate.”
(Feliks Chuev, Molotov Remembers, p. 262)
“I believe there were deficiencies and mistakes. It couldn’t have been otherwise with our enemies operating within the security agencies in charge of investigations…. The major deficiencies were that the security agencies had been left without due oversight by the party during certain periods. The negligence was not purposeful. The resources for adequate oversight were insufficient.”
(Ibid p. 287)
“…These errors were largely caused by the fact that at certain stages the investigations fell into the hands of people who were later exposed as traitors guilty of heinous, hostile, antiparty acts. ”
Ezhovshchina’s role compared to the Purging of real enemies
Despite dwelling on the Ezhovshchina, the majority of enemies arrested & executed were not innocents. The purge was a period of extreme political turmoil but it still only affected a minority of the soviet population. Its impact has been exaggerated.
“To the rest of the world it seemed at the time that Russia was enveloped in a smothering atmosphere of plots, murders, and purges. Actually this was a superficial view since, although the rest of the world was morbidly interested in the trials to the exclusion of anything else about Russia, only a tiny percentage of the population was involved and the same years which saw the treason trials saw some of the greatest triumphs of Soviet planning. While the screws tightened on a tiny minority the majority of Soviet people were enjoying greater prosperity and greater freedom.”
(Jerome Davis, Behind Soviet Power , p. 30)
“In the so called Moscow trials 55 people got capital punishment and 7 imprisonment. Most of those prosecuted were persons in high positions in the party, the state apparatus and the army”
(Mario Sousa, The Class Struggle During the Thirties in the Soviet Union)
Propagandists like Robert Conquest, Solzhenitsyn and Snyder claim that tens of millions perished in the purge, they even ignore the very real nazi-collaboration and trotskyite-bukharinite opposition inside the country. Despite Solzhenitsyn claiming that Stalin had killed 60 million people, nearly half of the Soviet population, the real facts say something very different:
“The true number of those falsely accused of counter-revolutionary activities who were executed in the 1936-38 period, is probably between 20,000 and 100,000… the popular conception of the bloodiness of the Great Purge is a gross exaggeration cultivated by those concerned to discredit developments in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and since, as well as the contemporary or revolutionary process in other countries.”
(Albert Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union)
“…(t)he archival evidence from the secret police rejects the astronomically high estimates often given for the number of terror victims.”
(Getty & Naumov, p. xiv)
“(t)he data available at this point make it clear that the number shot in the two worst purge years [1937-38] was more likely in the hundreds of thousands than in the millions… there are good reasons for assuming that they are not wildly wrong because of the consistent way numbers from different sources compare with one another.”
(Getty & Naumov, p. 591-93)
Despite the hysterical anti-communist propaganda, most of those sentenced were guilty, not innocent. The destruction of the anti-soviet Fifth Column was necessary.
“…To say that all the repressions were unwarranted is, I consider, incorrect. There was a sufficiently high number of enemies in the country after the revolution, dissatisfied people–political criminals as well as ordinary criminals. There was also a good deal of banditry going on in the country; on the collective farms they had to put up with murders of activists and people taking up arms. There were victims, of course. The repressions about which so much is written and talked about today were not at all on the scale that is stated now. “Hundreds of millions of repressed”, they say. Nonsense!”
(Rosamond Richardson, Stalin’s Shadow)
“For 10 years I have worked alongside some of the many recently shot, imprisoned, or exiled in Russia as wreckers. Some of my friends have asked me whether or not I believe these men and women are guilty as charged. I have not hesitated a moment in replying that I believe most of them are guilty.”
–Bruce Franklin (in The Essential Stalin p. 26)
“The Fifth Column was at our doorstep. Without destroying them we could not have won the war.”
–Kaganovich (Feliks Chuyev, Thus Spake Kaganovich)
If the fifth column had not been dealt with the USSR would probably have faced the same fate as Norway, Czechoslovakia and France:
“… the Fascists had their own way in the country at large and in the Army. The anti-Communist agitation was a smoke screen behind which was being prepared the great political conspiracy that was to paralyze France and facilitate Hitler’s work… The most efficient instruments of the Fifth Column… were Weygand, Petain and Laval… as they had seized power amid the confusion of the collapse, Petain and Weygand, with the help of Laval and Darlan, hastened to suppress all political liberties, gag the people, and set up a Fascist regime.”
–French Minister of Aviation Pierre Cot, Triumph of Treason
“Hitler’s march into Prague in 1939 was accompanied by the active military support of Henlein’s organizations in Czechoslovakia. The same thing was true of his invasion of Norway. There were no Sudeten Henleins, no Slovakian Tisos, no Belgian De Grelles, no Norwegian Quislings in the Russian picture…
The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I attended and listened to. In re examining the record of these tasks and also what I had written at the time… I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia…
All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government.
There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941 – they had shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason.”
~Joseph E. Davies
“Unfortunately, many foreigners left the Soviet Union during 1937 and 1938 for one reason or another, carrying away with them the impression that the purge ended everything, or at least ended something; an epoch, let us say. Everyone worthwhile had been arrested or shot, it seemed. This impression was basically incorrect. The purge caused many arrests, but the Soviet Union was large, and millions of Russians who had not been involved personally in the purge took it more or less as it came without allowing it permanently to influence their attitude toward the Soviet power. So that in the end of 1938 when the purge ended, when hundreds of arrested people were released with terse apologies for ‘mistakes’ of the investigators, when new arrests stopped or almost stopped, most of the workers in Magnitogorsk had an essentially cheerful and optimistic view of things.”
(Scott, John. Behind the Urals)
The notion that the Purge was the action of an omnipotent state machine to crack down on dissent has proven incorrect. The purge most of all targeted the bureacy itself and not so much the general public.
The idea that all those accused of treason were innocent victims of frame-ups has also been proven false. The axis fifth column in Soviet Russia was destroyed but individual members of it still lived to escape to the West and tell of their treason. However these individuals are ignored by anti-communist propagandists. They don’t fit the narrative.
The purge was a somewhat hysterical and paranoid reaction, but to very real threats and very real enemies.
There is good evidence to believe most of those punished were really guilty. The number of victims is blown out of all proportion by cold-war propagandists like Robert Conquest, Solzhenitsyn and their modern followers. The fact that archival evidence and other kinds of reliable evidence were not available to western researchers in the cold-war, allowed them to speculate wildly and invent such insane death tolls as 10 million, 20 million or even 60 million.
When the Soviet Union collapsed anti-communist propagandists refused to believe Soviet population was as high as it was, it should have been half of that, if we were to believe tens of millions had been killed and another 27 million had died in WWII.
Many modern western researchers give the real number of deaths as around 700,000 (less then 0.5% of the population) and this includes those wrongfully killed by Ezhov which cannot be blamed on the Soviet Communist Party, while there are those who also propose even lower figures.
The purge was an expression of vicious class struggle and the aftermath of the Revolution & Civil war.
In its method, motive or scale it doesn’t compare to capitalist genocides like:
the Congolese genocide: Belgian Leopold II’s killing 10 million congolese causing the population of the Congo to fall by 25%. The Congo was Leopold’s “private property” which he could exploit as he saw fit.
The Haitian genocide: European colonialists killed off most of the indigineous population (about a million people)
Spanish conquest of the Americas wiped out most of the indigineous population causing it to fall from estimated 22 million to around mere 2 million.
The slave trade killed an approximate 100 million African slaves.
The Nazi holocaust systematically exterminated millions and their wars of aggression killed tens of millions more.
The CIA orchestrated the mass killing of from 500,000 to up a million suspected communists in Indonesia and carried out similar atrocities in other countries.
The United States has killed countless millions around the world in wars of aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan etc. and consciously wiped out most of it’s own native populations.
Some will argue that those things happened a long time ago. But so did the Great Purge. While the purge happened in the late 30s, at the same time capitalist Great Britain still advocated bloody colonialism and knowingly starved millions of Bengalese. At the same time France still considered Vietnam as its own property and pursued a similar policy of shipping rice out from Vietnam starving millions. Supported by German banks and industrial capitalists, Hitler was killing millions of jews, slavs, communists & democratic forces.
In 1953 the CIA overthrows the democratically elected president of Iran and institutes a dictatorship. A year later the CIA overthrows the Guatemalan president and sets up a puppet dictator. The same year the CIA begins to attack independence forces in Vietnam.
The USA which still followed a policy of racial segregation, initiates CIA operation MOCKINGBIRD and recruits hundreds of journalists in various media outlets to become operatives. Shortly 25 biggest media outlets have CIA operatives controlling them.
Atrocities, even genocides, murderous wars of profit, toppling democratic governments, racist policies, outright colonialism & slavery by the capitalist powers are largely ignored by capitalist anti-communist propaganda. Communist wrong doings are invented, or exaggerated and all context is removed. Those targeted are described as innocent victims, whether they be fascists, supporters of monarchist absolutism, colonialism or simply criminals. Anything the communists do is declared to be bad.
History has been turned on its head by the anti-communists. Nazi collaborators & colonialists are treated as respectable figures. To hide their own wrong doings they blame others. Facts are not on their side, but they control distribution. They have a louder voice. The consensus by the corporate and right-wing media and academia to cover up capitalist crimes and slander socialism, can be called nothing else but a modern OPERATION MOCKINGBIRD.
SOURCES & BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Getty, Stalinist Terror
Kahn & Sayers, The Great Conspiracy
Nikolaus Basseches, Stalin quoted here:
Bruce Franklin (The Essential Stalin) available at:
Rosamond Richardson, Stalin’s Shadow
Albert Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union
Jerome Davis, Behind Soviet Power
Feliks Chuev, Molotov Remembers
Jansen & Petrov, Yezhov
Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge (try to find original source)
Getty, Origins of the Great Purges
Edgar Snow, The Pattern of Soviet Power
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia
Pavliukov, Aleksei. Ezhov. Biografiia
Feliks Chuyev, Thus Spake Kaganovich
Scott, John. Behind the Urals
Joseph Davies, Mission to Moscow
The death toll of transatlantic slave-trade is controversial. 105 million death toll is the absolute max. This article places it at an approximate 60 million.
CIA & Suharto mass killing in Indonesia
The Haitian native population fell by 85%
Aztec & Inca population