What was the purpose of Stalin's "purges" of the civilian and military leadership?

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,768
#1
What was the purpose of Stalin's "purges" of the civilian and military leadership?

He had the people who could depose him killed. Was this because his position was in danger? I assume it gave him more complete control of the government. Was it just his paranoia? Did he turn a system designed to target people really hostile to Communism against Communist leaders?
 
Jul 2015
439
Midwest
#2
I heard or read it was to eliminate the Old Bolsheviks in the Red Army who he believed were plotting with Germans to overthrow Stalin. I'll search Richard Pipes's books for an explanation.
 
Apr 2015
57
UK
#3
Let me answer your question with another question:

If you were the ruler who came in following a period of strong political uncertainty and some short term claimants to the post, who followed the nearly assassinated previous ruler, who himself killed the previous ruler and his entire family after many of the people revolted in a brutal and bloody coup would you be inclined to allow those around you to gather much in the way of personal power?

It's actually how many rulers and indeed organised crime families have settled/still settle any rumours of dissent, find the blades of grass in the garden that grow taller than the rest and cut them down to size or rip them out entirely.
 
May 2015
102
Poland
#4
I read about several reasons:
- killing old guard and installing obedient people on their place
- eliminating those who knew about his alleged work with Ochrana
- killing to make sure there are no spies in these circles
- killing cause this is how USSR was ruled: by fear and rivers of blood

Interpretations wary, from Stalin being bloodthirsty idiot to crafty politician who did only what was necessary.
 
Jul 2015
9
Roma
#5
Who knows what was going on in his mind?

Perhaps the fear of a Monarchist or Republican faction drove him to a state of paranoia where he assumed his own Military and people stood again'st him. Maybe he knew in his mind that there was some traces of rebellion in the Military/Population but he didn't know exactly who or where to look. Or maybe he was just batshit insane.
 
Jul 2015
925
Salfordshire
#6
Stalin, as a good Marxist, saw revolutionaries as a means to an end. When the circumstances changed, new means were required. The Ancien Regime had been toppled and the opposition crushed. The Party was firmly in control. But the representatives of the Party were largely of a type suited more for revolutionary activity than actual running of a socialistic state. So they had to be replaced. And given that many of them had gotten rather comfortable in the saddle, this could only be done by total liquidation. This then gave freer reign to the new crop of administrators. At the same time, this meant a greater induction of actual proletarians into the ranks. Too many of the Old Bolshevik elite were more acquainted with the extravagant tastes of the pre-revolutionary salons and emigré dalliances. There was a great deal of work to be done, with war looming on the horizon, and there was no room any more for "personalities" or "eccentricities" from the likes of Trotsky or his followers... ;)
 

Port

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
2,058
portland maine
#7
Stalin, as a good Marxist, saw revolutionaries as a means to an end. When the circumstances changed, new means were required. The Ancien Regime had been toppled and the opposition crushed. The Party was firmly in control. But the representatives of the Party were largely of a type suited more for revolutionary activity than actual running of a socialistic state. So they had to be replaced. And given that many of them had gotten rather comfortable in the saddle, this could only be done by total liquidation. This then gave freer reign to the new crop of administrators. At the same time, this meant a greater induction of actual proletarians into the ranks. Too many of the Old Bolshevik elite were more acquainted with the extravagant tastes of the pre-revolutionary salons and emigré dalliances. There was a great deal of work to be done, with war looming on the horizon, and there was no room any more for "personalities" or "eccentricities" from the likes of Trotsky or his followers... ;)
Maybe it was his interpretation of continual revolution plus his need to make the Kulaks a target for the difficulty with collectivization From previous land reform may peasants now had land. Fear and blame would be a tool to gt them off any land they had.
 
Jun 2009
1,971
North Andover MA
#8
He had the people who could depose him killed. Was this because his position was in danger? I assume it gave him more complete control of the government. Was it just his paranoia? Did he turn a system designed to target people really hostile to Communism against Communist leaders?
Stalin wasn't the first leader to use terror as a political tool, and he won't be the last. Saddam Hussein similarly used terror to cow his people, Paul Pot did the same. These historical figures utilized fear to maintain power. Anyone thinking of usurping power knew that it was a simple matter for Stalin to murder him, his wife, and his family in the most brutal manner. Stalin and Saddam were so effective in their brutality that only their deaths eliminated the threats they represented.
 
Nov 2014
259
Tennessee
#9
To eliminate people he thought in his paranoid mind were plotting to remove him from power. For instance in the purges of the army 90% of Generals were executed,80% of commissioned officers and 60% of Brigade Commanders. This left them very weak causing them to barely beat Finland and caused them to be slaughtered and almost beaten in 1941 before the winter saved them.
 
Jan 2013
5,835
Canberra, Australia
#10
For instance in the purges of the army 90% of Generals were executed,80% of commissioned officers and 60% of Brigade Commanders
Those percentages are gross exaggerations.

Although the majority of the marshals were executed, there were few executions at lower levels. Less than half the officer corps was purged, and the great majority of those who were purged were simply dismissed, with a minority being imprisoned; very few were executed.

After Beria replaced Ezhov as head of the political police at the end of 1938, he gradually reinstated most of the purged officers, including those who had been imprisoned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge#Purge_of_the_army

At first it was thought 25–50% of Red Army officers had been purged; the true figure is now known to be in the area of 3.7–7.7%. This discrepancy was the result of a systematic underestimation of the true size of the Red Army officer corps, and it was overlooked that most of those purged were merely expelled from the Party. Thirty percent of officers purged in 1937–39 were allowed to return to service.[31]
 
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