"History is past politics, and politics present history." John Robert Seeley

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see." Winston Churchill

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle


Stalin’s Show Trials

Stalin’s Show Trials PowerPoint:

[gview file=”http://www.historyvault.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Stalins-Show-Trials.ppt”]


Key Points of Stalin’s Show Trials:

  1. Stalin’s purge of the ‘Old Bolsheviks’ within the Communist Party
  2. Stalin’s ambition of complete dominance over Soviet society
  3. Stalin’s broader purge of potential opponents & dissidents i.e. Red Army, Intelligentsia etc.
  4. Creation of an-all powerful NKVD (1934)
  5. Manipulation of Soviet society through propaganda & fear
  6. Scapegoating for failures of Collectivisation & Five-Year Plans


  • Internal Effects of Stalin’s Show Trials:
    – terrified the population into submission to Stalin & Communist Party
    – established the NKVD as the most powerful organisation in the USSR
    – convinced many Soviets that there were conspiracies against the state & communism
    – distracted from some of the failures of the  Five – Year Plans
    – distracted attention from the fallout of Collectivisation & famine
    – established Stalin’s absolute dictatorship of Party & Society


  • International Impressions of Stalin’s Show Trials:
    – many, but not all, international observers were convinced by the legitimacy of the trials
    – displayed the personal power of Stalin to foreigners
    – used as much to warn off foreign spies as much as punishing internal dissent


Key Questions:

  • What events took place in Russia between 1932 & 1938 to enable Stalin to pursue a wide range of purges?
  • Why did Stalin want to purge the Party, military & society in general?
  • What organisation was centrally involved in extracting ‘confessions’ from the accused?
  • What effect did these trials have on the Party & Stalin’s control?
  • What effect did these trials have on Soviet society?
  • What were the characteristics of Stalin’s ‘Cult of Personality’ (propaganda)?

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