The Great Terror was Primarily Driven by the Insecurities and Paranoia of Stalin himself. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

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The Great Terror was Primarily Driven by the Insecurities and Paranoia of Stalin himself. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

The Great Terror began in 1934, fuelled by Stalin’s decision to murder Kirov, and finally wound down in 1939 – not before the authorisation of Trotsky’s murder (1940) who was at this time living in Mexico. The Great Terror was a period of paranoia and assassinations in Russia, where Stalin, through the use of imprisonment, murder and show trials, ruled with an Iron fist over Russia. Stalin’s personal insecurities and paranoia is known as a main cause of the Terror, but other influencing factors, like the power of the NKVD and economic pressures, also powered this era.

The argument that it was Stalin’s personal insecurities that drove The Terror is a traditionalist’s view of history. Stalin was increasingly worried about his power base at this time, threatened by the support of Kirov in the 17th party congress; Stalin instigated The Terror to allow him to remove his rivals. Using the purges and applying the use of show trials and forced confessions, Stalin condemned his political rivals such as Bukharin, Kamenev & Zinoviev to death. After The Terror few of the original Bolsheviks were left. Robert Service, a respected author on this subject, can be cited to support the idea that Stalin’s character was the main cause of The Terror. The Terror began to climax after the death of Stalin’s wife by suicide in 1932 – Stalin and Nadezhda had had a strained relationship up to this point, and in her later years she had publically stood up to Stalin – some have even argued that the death was framed to look like a suicide, whether this was true or not, this did foreshadow a period of Stalin being indifferent to death. Stalin could be argued as a man who believed that most problems could have a physical solution: “A man, problem; no man, no problem”. Stalin had no problem executing a 1,000 people as long as one of them was guilty. This is evidenced by comparing Stalin to the other previously potential leaders of communist Russia: although many party members were normalise to violence for the bloody revolution, many – like Bukharin – saw it as a necessary last option, Stalin however would use it as the only option. This could have stemmed from his violent father, or the fact he came from Georgia – known for its brash and forceful culture – either way, it is un-doubtable that Stalin was not shy to use violence: “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic” – a quote often attributed to Stalin.

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However there were other causes, one being the weight of economic problems in Russia. This is an incredibly important argument, which fits within the revisionist view of history, and stipulated that Russia had many economic problems in the early 1930s, in particular when it came to collectivisation. Failure to reach targets set in the five year plans (although many of the quotas were set too high and optimistic to ever be realised) made Stalin hunt for a scape goat. Professor Edward Acton argues that it was these economic reasons that were the main driving force for The Terror. Stalin was ...

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