Late 1934, Stalin introduced political terror which cost millions of lives and left 12 million people in forced-labour camps. There were several reasons for Stalin’s new policy including the events leading up to the feeling that his political partners could no longer be trusted, Stalin’s personal paranoia which had been built up further by the NKVD, the ambitious economic aims and finally the removal of his rivals. It is arguable that the purges were highly influenced by the wish to remove former political rivals because Stalin wanted to leave no stone unturned to ensure his position as a leader was secure.
Stalin definitely suffered from endless paranoia since he had obtained the strong position of soviet leadership. Despite being the ‘supreme leader’ of the Soviet Union he was always in fear of his former rivals. He believed in the theory that after holding a valuable post in soviet politics would mean an even greater fall in power which was witnessed in Trotsky, Zinoviev and Bukharin. He wasn’t willing to fully accept that his former rivals had completely converted to socialism, well Stalin’s version of socialism anyway and nor did he exactly have faith in them. In addition, there was the fear within Stalin of the old communists which had been a part of the party since the civil war which meant they were well aware of the tactics used by Stalin to gain power and the view that Lenin never wished Stalin to be general secretary. Furthermore, Stalin felt there was too much control belonging to the NKVD and the Red Army and so he felt that attempts of assassination would be made. Yagoda had a hand in fuelling the mind of Stalin with paranoia by gathering information on resistance and questioning of Stalin due to the greed.
The economic problems the soviet union were facing had become a great burden on the shoulders of Stalin. The purges enabled him to blame them on his political enemies. Furthermore, the collectivisation issues were also blamed on the ‘wreckers’ in the workforce. According to Stalin these saboteurs were employed by Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev – again another method of removing and ruining the reputation of old rivals even further. Secondly, the terror had created a greater force of labourers as most people were sent to prison camps and this allowed many of the industrial projects of the five year plans to be completed. Stalin was able to use the legal system to ‘find’ the wreckers through series of cases like the Menshevik case of 1931.
The ‘Congress of the Victors’ was originally created to celebrate Stalin’s economic achievements. However, Stalin was developing doubts as time went on. When the congress voted to elect the central committee, Kirov rather than Stalin topped the poll. Kirov received 1,225 votes compared to Stalin’s 927 votes