How far do you agree that Stalin's paranoia was the main cause of the Great Terror?

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How far do you agree that Stalin's paranoia was the main cause of the Great Terror?

At the end of 1934, Stalin launched the Great Terror, a time that was to be difficult and tortuous for even the highest ranking members of the Communist Party as well as the rest of the Russian population. It’s clear that throughout his dictatorship, Stalin was extremely paranoid. After all, he did hold immense power and a position that many within Russia would only dream of obtaining. However, although Stalin’s paranoia was indeed extremely significant in causing the Great Terror, there were many other factors that can be deemed just as important; the murder of Kirov perhaps being one of the most prominent, as well as economic reasons and the outcome of the ‘Congress of Victors’. But were any of these causes more detrimental than the prominent paranoia of Stalin?

Stalin’s paranoia seemed to originate within the Communist Party itself. Events that occured led to him believing that many of his so-called comrades could no longer be considered trustworthy. He acted against these people by removing anyone who he saw as a potential threat to himself and more importantly, his position. Despite the fact he was an unchallenged ruler of Soviet Russia, Stalin consistenly believed that he still had a great deal of enemeis, enemies that he would have no choice but to eradicate. Past events increased the paranoia and anxiousness that he already had. With Trotsky, Zinoviev and Bukharin all losing their once high status within the Communist Party, he was led into thinking that he too could have his immense power taken away from him, a thought that he could no longer bear. This was not irrational thinking coming from Stalin, however, it was completely possible that he would suffer the same fate. Moreover, he distrusted former rivalry, believing that they were perhaps not truly converted to his version of Socialism as well as his opinions. Another side of his paranoia came from his fear of old Communists who had been vital members before the occurance of the Civil War. Unlike most, they were fully aware of how his rise to power came about, as well as Lenin’s view that Stalin was not deserving of the role of General Secretary, let alone leader of Soviet Russia. It’s clear that these people were to be in a great deal of trouble due to this. Another source of Stalin’s fear came from the Red Army and the secret police; he believed they had far too much power. Stalin lacked control of these bodies and so this led him to the fear of assassination. To make matters worse, Genrikh Yagoda, second in command of the OGPU, only further enhanced Stalin’s paranoia by fuelling his suspicions. Little did Stalin know this was simply an act to win him over and work in the favour of Yagoda. Extensive reports were compiled on the discontent of collectivisation by the OGPU and later the NKVD, clearly worrying Stalin greatly. Finally, Yagoda collected evidence that suggested that many Communist officials questioned the wisdom and motives behind Stalin’s policies, which would only further increase the paranoia that he already felt. Paranoia can therefore be deemed massively important in terms of causing the Great Terror, but can it be classed as the main cause?

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The Congress of Victors was intended to be a celebration of the economic achievement brought about due to Stalin’s work, however it certainly produced a different outcome. Stalin was worried further for various reasons. Firstly, when the Congress voted to elect the Central Committee, it was Kirov who came out on top rather than Stalin - creating obvious issues, especially one of jealousy. Stalin only gained 927 votes, whereas Kirov managed to obtain 1,227. This result worried Stalin greatly, as it appeared that Kirov was significantly more popular than himself within the Communist Party. What further worsened the issue ...

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