Why Were There Tensions Between Stalin and His People?

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  • Topic: Soviet Union, Great Purge, Joseph Stalin
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  • Published : May 22, 2012
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Why was there tension between Stalin and his people between 1928-1941?

After Lenin’s death in 1924, the two leading candidates for his successor were Stalin and Trotsky-both with opposing ideologies in the manner in which the country should be run. Despite being a brilliant speaker and writer, Trotsky’s policy on a ‘permanent revolution’ worried people in the fear that the USSR would get involved with more conflicts while Stalin’s proposition of ‘Socialism in One Country’ was far more comforting for people. After being elected leadership of the party in 1924, Stalin did not have complete supremacy in his power until 1929 and once acquired, despite his best efforts, between the period of 1928-1941 saw economic, political and social tension between Stalin and his people. Politically, Stalin used his secret police, originally called the OGPU and then the NKVD, to eliminate any opposition of his policies and resulted in a major part of the tension created. Stalin did not want to share power and so moved against other leading communists who might threaten him like his removal of power of left-wingers Kamenev and Zinoviev in 1926 and 1929. There were initial signs of terror in 1928 when engineers were accused of sabotage and later in 1931 where former Mensheviks were put on charge. However the true start of the horrific period known as the Purges began in 1934 where Kirov, the leader of the Leningrad, was murdered when there were suspicions that his opponents were planning to replace him. This was the perfect motive for Stalin as he proceeded to ‘purge’ out the rest of his opposition in the party. Source 23 in the source booklet demonstrates the extent of the purges as we can see that ‘Stalin the executioner alone remains’ from Lenin’s general staff of 1917; the rest of the members including famous names likes Trotsky, Bukharin and Kamenev are either missing, dead or executed. The reliability of the source can be questioned as it was put together by Trotsky supporters, whom Stalin had fought for power with, so was likely to be biased against him however there is accuracy in what they say as he did arrest around 500,000 party members who were either executed or sent to the gulags. Furthermore Stalin then moved onto purging military officials as shown in source 29 in the Booklet where ‘7 leading generals were shot’ and ‘ all admirals and half the Army’s officers were executed and imprisoned’. This would have caused tension as people would have seen these numerous famous political figures fleeing for their lives and the terror that the NVKD would have caused severe tension as all soviet people lived in the fear of arrest and any sign of independence or individualism would ignite this. The thought of one man with such extensive power over the entire country would have frightened many. Stalin however was not the first leader to enforce rulings using the secret police: Nicholas’ rule was enforced by the Okhrana and his critics were often arrested or imprisoned and Lenin had the Cheka which he used to spy on civilians. Similar to the Purges, Stalin’s fear of rebellion resulted in a control of ideas and the New Constitution. The state controlled all newspapers, books, films and radio programmes; essentially, the Russian people only received the information that Stalin wanted them to receive so further tension was created. An example of this is in source 26 page 335 in Ben Walsh OCR GCSE MODERN WORLD HISTORY where we can see one of Stalin’s opponents deleted from a photograph. Source 29 on the same page also backs up this source where it describes the burning of works from ‘disgraced leaders’. This source shows a similar message to source 26 but delivers it from a first person perspective increasing its reliability and is also useful for showing perceptions of the event This links back to the Purges and any other misdemeanours Stalin committed as it allowed him to cover up his actions from the general public. For those who were...
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