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Study questions on Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998)  

Week 8

Chapter 11, Building Stalinism, pages 252-268

Detailed questions:

According to Suny, why was it so important that the regime find ways to build up popular support, and in what kinds of ways did it do this?

Did Stalin really end all debate within the party when he crushed the "Right Opposition" in 1929?  Explain.

According to Suny, why were there waves of purges in the 1920s and early 1930s (before the Great Purges)?

Why did Stalin remove Syrtsov and Lominadze from the leadership in 1930?

Why did Stalin remove Riutin and his "faction" in 1932?  What had Riutin argued?

Was Stalin an advocate of "mild" punishment of opponents in 1930-33?   Explain and give an example.

Did Stalin and his cohort seem to really believe that there were wreckers and hidden enemies?  Explain.

What is Suny's point on the bottom of p. 257, in the series of sentences that begins with "Stalin skillfully fostered an atmosphere of fear..."?

When and why did the party retreat from the extreme economic policies of the First Five Year Plan?

In what ways did the regime "ease up" on repression in 1933-34?

What does the term "The Great Retreat" refer to?  Explain.

When did the Great retreat begin and why?  What did it involve?  Why?

What signs of internal conflict emerged at the 1934 party congress (the "Congress of Victors")?  Explain.

Who was Kirov?  Does Suny consider him to have been a threat to Stalin?

What ended the 1933-34 period of "moderation" and began the new wave of terror?

How did Stalin "use" the Kirov murder?

When and why were Zinoviev and Kamenev arrested?

Who directed the purges of 1935?  For what sort of reasons were people purged from the party, and what groups were targeted?

On p. 261, how does Suny describe the characteristics of Stalinism?

How does Suny explain the reasons that repression intensified in 1936?  Who were the main targets in 1936-37?

Of what crimes were Kamenev, etc. accused?

Why did Stalin replace Iagoda with Ezhov, and what were the results? 

When did the terror reach its peak?  Explain.

Did foreign officials think the purge trials were bogus?  Explain.

Read over Bukharin's "final testament" on pp. 263-64, and compare it to his statements at his trial in 1938.  Was Bukharin really confessing to his own guilt?  Explain.

What effect does Suny say the purges had on the Red Army leadership?  Explain.

For what purposes did the Stalin regime use prison camps in the 1930s?

What effect did the Great Purges have on the pre-1933 party membership?  On the 1934 Central Committee?  On the 1934 Politburo?  On the surviving members of Lenin's government?

According to Suny, how many people were imprisoned in labor camps during the 1930s?   How many people were executed  in 1937-38 alone?  How many people probably died at the hands of the Stalin regime in the 1930s when we add together victims of terror, prison, and famine?

When did the Great Purges end and why?  What happened to Ezhov?

On p. 267, how does Suny explain the causes of the Great Purges?

Did Molotov, even as an old man, think that the purges were wrong?

What does Suny think were the results of the Great Purges?

 Big Questions

What does Suny mean when he says on p. 252 that "Stalinism was at one and the same time revolutionary and conservative"?

How did the Communist Party try to justify its right to rule?  In 1937-38, how did they try to use the Terror to justify their rule?

Why did the Stalin regime "loosen up" in the application of purges and terror in 1933-4?

How would you explain the fact that around 1935 the Stalin regime stopped talking about the threat of old "class enemies" who had infiltrated the regime 1935 and started talking about the threat from  "enemies of the people"?

How would you respond to this statement:  In 1937 the purges were organized in a manner similar to the planned economy"?

Why would people have admitted to be guilty of crimes. 

Were the Stalinist labor camps the equivalent of the Nazi death camps?  Be prepared to defend your answer!!!

Based on the discussion in Suny, what different arguments have historians made to explain the causes of the Great Purges (also called the Great Terror)  What argument makes the most sense to you?  Why?

Be prepared to defend a position in favor or against this statement:  the Great Terror actually reveals how weak the Stalin regime was. 

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