The Great Terror had been designed to increase the economic production for Russian but it turned out to be a disaster. At the end of 1934, a wave of political terror claimed a million lives and resulted in twelve million people being sent to forced-labour camps.
There were many reasons as to what caused the Great Terror for example Stalin’s paranoia, terror economics, and the murder of Kirov. First of all, Stalin’s paranoia stemmed from the root that he believed he still had enemies. Stalin feared the pro Trotsky Red Army and secret police who had a lack of control and could potentially assassinate him.Stalin feared what had happened to his previous rivals who had power and fell would also occur to him further fuelling his paranoia.
Stalin was also unable to trust members in his party and his paranoia further increased when Kirov outvoted him. When the congress voted to elect the Central Committee, Kirov rather than Stalin topped the poll. Kirov received 1225 votes, compared to Stalin’s 927 votes. The result indicated that Kirov was more popular within the Communist Party than Stalin. Party Acting on this fear Stalin decided to remove those he saw as a threat and thus the great terror began.Stalin greatly feared older members of the party too as they knew the truth of Stalin’s rise to power and what Lenin’s testament contained which would have ruined Stalin’s career.
Under Yagoda’s influence of suggesting communists questioned Stalin, his paranoia further developed and caused the emergence of the great terror. Undoubtedly Stalin felt he had to perform the mass purges because of his paranoia that he would be removed from power. As Stalin was in control this must be the main cause of the great terror as his desire to remain in power was the drive for allowing the great terror to happen.Furthermore, another factor causes the Great Terror was the bad economy condition. The Great Terror served two important economic functions.
First, it allowed Stalin to blame economic problem on political enemies. The ongoing difficulties with the Five-Year Plans could be explained by the presence of ‘ wrecker’ in the workforce. These ‘wrecker’, according to Stalin, were in the employ of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, and were working to deliberately sabotage Russia’s economy.In this way, Stalin was able to create scapegoats for the economic problems that might otherwise have been attributed to inherent problems with the Five-Year Plans. Secondly, the purges provide a huge reservoir of cheap labour. The majority of the people purged in Stalin’s Great Terror were sent to prison camps.
Prisoners in Soviet gulags were effectively a source of slave labour. Prison workers completed many of the most important projects commissioned and built during the Five-Year Plans, in large part.Evidence that Stalin’s motives were partly economic can be found in the trial of the Shakhty engineers, the Menshevik Trial of 1931, and the trial of state farm and agricultural officials in 1933. In each case, the accused were tried and found guilty of economic sabotage.
Last but not least, the next immediate pretext for the Great Terror was the murder of Kirov. Following the ‘Congress of Victors’, Stalin had attempted to exclude Kirov form the Politburo by insisting that he stay in Leningrad to supervise the local party. Indeed, Stalin had good reason for wanting to keep Kirov out of Moscow.In 1932, Kirov had helped to defeat him on an important issue concerning Mikhail Riutin. Stalin was furious and demanded Riutin’s execution. In spite of this, both the Central Committee and the Politburo refused to order Riutin’s execution.
Stalin viewed this as betrayal. In December 1934, Kirov was murdered by a lone gunman. The Soviet press quickly pinned the murder on Leonid Nikolayev who was working for a secret ‘Trotskyite-Zinovievite’ terror group and who wanted nothing less than the overthrow of the Soviet government.Following the announcement, Zinoviev and Kamenev were arrested for the conspiracy to murder Kirov. This explanation was convenient for Stalin. The murder had rid him of his most important rival, whilst allowing him to imprison two of his old opponents.
What is more, the murder gave Stalin a pretext for hunting down this ‘secret terror group’. Finally, Stalin could claim that the murder showed that political dissidents were plotting acts of terror. This justified the execution of Party members who opposed Stalin’s policies.The Communists had always used terror. But the Great Terror was something new. Although the ‘terror economics’ and the ‘murder of Kirov’ can be the causes of Great Terror, Stalin was always the key character in these cases.
Moreover, the Great Terror under Stalin was an integral part of securing his power over the Party; he wanted to remove his rivals and those people who had personally known Lenin. Therefore, the biggest reasons for the Great Terror can be Stalin’s paranoia.