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How and with what results to 1939 did Stalin succeed in asserting his personal authority over the USSR?

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Introduction

How and with what results to 1939 did Stalin succeed in asserting his personal authority over the USSR? During the period between Lenin's death, 1924, and the end of the 'Great Purge', 1939, Stalin managed to assert personal authority over the USSR by gaining complete control of the Communist Party and using terror to eliminate opposition to his role as leader. After a successful joint effort with Kamenev and Zinoviev to remove Trotsky from the Communist Party, Stalin turned his attention towards eliminating Kamenev and Zinoviev themselves, as they were a threat to his influence over the party. Both had attacked Stalin's authority and criticised the idea of having one single leader in the party. Therefore in 1926 party meetings were held in Moscow and Leningrad and attended by critics of both Zinoviev and Kamenev. These meetings saw that loyal members of the party were put in control of the two cities and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were removed as Secretaries of local parties. Zinoviev and Kamenev however, in 1926, joined with Trotsky in the 'United Opposition' to attack the policies of the Communist Party. Rather than debasing the party as they had hoped, this action led to their complete removal from the Politburo in 1926 and 1927. ...read more.

Middle

It was perhaps then inevitable that this change in policy should be accompanied by a purge of party members. During 1928-1930, 11 per cent of members were removed from the party, and then from 1933-1935 another 20 percent were ejected. A further 9 percent of party members were expelled in 1936 by not being issued new membership cards. Whether this was a way of ridding the party of lazy members and drunks or whether Stalin was trying to rid himself of critics and potential rivals is debatable. However, the reasons given for expulsion such as being spies or linked to spies, being Zinovievites and being former White Guards or Kulaks, suggest that it was a fear of opposition within the party that incited these purges as opposed to a desire for more respectable party members. Whether this was due to Stalin's insecurity or not, this way of controlling party membership was certainly a key factor in the assertion of Stalin's authority in the USSR. On 1 December 1934, Politburo member and Leningrad party leader Kirov was assassinated. A young party member, Nikolaev, was accused and shot without trial for the murder. The NKVD announced that he had been part of a Trotskyite centre in Leningrad which all party members were then ordered to guard against. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, out of the vast numbers shot by the NKVD, it is unlikely that more than a few were personally known to Stalin, and it was not he alone who selected the victims, even though he did authorize mass killings. These factors suggest that the 'Great Purge' and the show trials were not Stalin personally eradicating opposition, but were high ranking members of the Communist Party, loyal to Stalin trying to protect him from the so called threat of resistance in order to stay in his favour. However, whether Stalin was personally in control of these events or not, they still played a major part in the assertion of his authority over the USSR. Therefore by 1939, Stalin had succeeded by various means in gaining unquestionable authority over the Communist Party and the USSR. Aided by Lenin's system of a one party government, Stalin managed to remove all those seen as major or even minor threats to his position, both within and outside of the Communist Party. This resulted in what can be seen as a personal dictatorship over the USSR which was kept in place by the use of terror rather than due to mass support. Francesca Robson ...read more.

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