Stalin's Purges

This paper collects information from a number of pages on a school History department website:



Why did the purges take place?

1)  Unpopularity: by the summer of 1930 the governmentís popularity had fallen because of collectivisation and the first five year plan.

2)  Some important communist leaders were appalled by the brutalities of collectivisation and were calling for more moderate policies - Lominadze the party chief in Transcaucasia Ďif there is to be a spring cleaning every piece of furniture has to be removed, including the biggest oneí - Lominadze was sacked.

3)  The Rytov Platform: Rytov was head of a party committee in a district of Moscow - circulated a document known as the Rytov platform called for: the easing of pressure on the countryside, more democracy in the party and the removal of Stalin by force. Stalin  had informers everywhere had Rytov and 17 of his group arrested - he wanted them executed but Kirov and other moderates defeated Stalin.

4)  17th Party congress met February 1934 - Stalin only just voted onto party central committee. Sergie Kirov was more popular


The Murder of Kirov

1) 1st December 1934 Leonid Nikolaev walked into the party headquarters in Leningrad. Kirov was shot in his office.

2)  Stalin and his entourage rushed from Moscow to investigate. They claimed that they had unveiled a huge plot to murder Stalin, Molotov and Kirov.

3) A campaign was launched to uncover the plot. This led to at least 3 million being executed or sent to labour camps between 1933 and 1938.

4) There is evidence that Stalin was involved in the murder of Kirov - for example Kirovís bodyguards were removed from the headquarters on the day of the murder, one of whom was battered to death and his death certificate was falsified - it was claimed that his death was a road accident.

5) Stalin stood to benefit from the death of Kirov - it removed a threat



1) The First Show trial:

a) Summer 1936 NKVD claimed to have discovered evidence that Trotsky had been in touch with a wide range of people in a plot to kill Stalin.

b) Kamenev and Zinoviev were brought from prison - after threats that Kamenevís son would be shot and promises that their lives would be spared the two confessed to being involved in a conspiracy with Trotsky. They were found guilty and shot as were members of their family.

2) Only a few days after the execution Stalin ordered Yagoda the head of the NKVD to pick out 5,000 political opponents including Trotskyites, Old Bolsheviks and Zinovievites who were already in labour camps to be shot.

3) September 1936 Yagoda himself was removed on the grounds that he had been too lax in rooting out the enemies of Stalin he was replaced by Yezhov

4) The Army - Stalin claimed that there was a military plot against him - Stalin killed more Russian generals and commanders than world war two - 15 out of 16 generals were killed.

5) Ending the purges. They were supposed to be ended at the 18th congress in 1939. Stalin made Yezkhov scapegoat and had him shot, Ďthat scoundrel Yehzkov! He finished off some of our finest people..í Stalin kept his popularity.

6) The aftermath of the purges:

a) The power of the Bolsheviks were eliminated.

b) 60% of those who had been party members in 1934 had been expelled

c) At the end of 1940 Stalin was the only survivor of Leninís 1st politbureau.


C Clayton, Stalinís Purges, extracted from ff.


Amalgamated from a number of pages on the AskWinston website