Stalinist Repressions
20 January, 2011
Stalinist Repressions

In 1937, Stalin ordered his interior minister Yezhov to arrest Enukidze and the entire top brass. He had everyone apprehended, including marshals Tukkhachevski, Blukher and Yegorov. The same year Stalin signed the document specifying the quota of persons to be executed. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.
GJ – In 1935 Stalin (the ethnic Georgian, but a typical communist leader) started the new series of repressions in the entire Soviet country. This time, his victims were his old friends and his

own comrades-in-arms, the Soviet political elite.
SM – Their court case was made public. Even the foreign journalists were present at trials. In 1936, Stalin had promulgated the text of the new Soviet constitution which happened to be the most democratically sounding text in the world at that time. In compliance with it, Georgia and other Soviet republics were absolutely free sovereign states. They remained part of the USSR as the republics comprising the Soviet Union. Also, based on the constitution, every party and even the non-members of the communist party had the right to participate in the elections.
GJ – So Stalin was out to play democracy, wasn’t he? 
SM – Yes, on the one hand, he was pretending to be ultra-modern and ultra-democratic and on the other, he was doing all his possible best to get rid of his opponents whom he made confess at trials that they were involved in the anti-Stalinist activities against the USSR.  
GJ – As it became known, such confessions were made under terrible duress and torture . . .
SM – Yes, the indicted persons hoped that they could survive that way.
GJ – What did playing of the role of a democrat give to Stalin? People knew everything anyway. 
SM – People knew nothing. Stalin was pulling the wool over the people’s eyes and he was bluffing to the West too. In 1934 the USSR became member of the League of Nations. Right at that time, fascism was gathering momentum and Hitler took over the power in Germany. Hitler’s and Stalin’s slogans sounded almost similar. Both of them perpetuated the continental orientation and fiercely opposed the Anglo-Saxon, British-American leadership. Hitler’s emergence on international political arena had promoted Stalin’s cause. The West became rather loyal towards Stalin, who as a result managed to better manipulate with his new constitution and the election code. Even if he held the elections the way it was stipulated in the Stalinist constitution, his opposing powers would not have been able to achieve victory.
GJ – And why would that be so?
SM – In the first place, he had gotten rid of his old opponents as early as 1936. Secondly, he had adopted the constitution and election code. Meanwhile, he acquired more clout, and he still had about two years left for further action. This was ample time for making additional serious steps. Stalin knew very well that he had enemies in his entourage, but the group of his adversaries had no idea that Stalin was well aware of their intentions and plans. Stalin paralyzed them step by step and very methodically. He appointed Yezhov the head of federal KGB and entrusted Beria with the Caucasus. He also appointed his buddies in the key governmental positions.   
GJ – Does this mean that some new faces had appeared on the political arena who obeyed Stalin blind-fold?  
SM – Very true! That was exactly the time when Khrushchev and Malenkov were promoted. In 1937, Stalin ordered his new KGB chief Yezhov to arrest Enukidze and the entire top brass whom Stalin had ceased trusting. Before arresting them, Stalin had tried to numb their alertness.
GJ – What do you mean by numbing their alertness? 
SM – When in 1934, Stalin learnt that 90% of the top brass were opposed to him, he awarded five of them the rank of a marshal (he deliberately introduced this new military rank). Then, in the spring of 1937, three of those five marshals – Tukhachevski, Bliukher and Yegorov – were apprehended. Nobody knows what happened exactly with Sergo Orjonikidze, whether he was killed or Stalin had him commit a suicide. In their place, he had promoted Mikoyan, Malenkov and Khrushchev. Soon after Stalin had arrested his opponents, he started the trial of the military. Then the election time came and complete purge became necessary.
GJ – Why did he do it? Because he wanted to be free of competition?   
SM – Certainly! He punished the main group of his opponents, and then other members of the Politburo into bargain. For example he had executed the candidate for the Politburo membership comrade Eikh.
GJ – Why? Did he do it for the sake of more credibility?
SM – Yes! In 1937 Stalin signed the document stipulating the quota of the people who were deemed as subject to repression.  
GJ – Was it thousands of people?
SM – The quota of ‘punishable’ persons was broken down by Soviet republics and regions. Somewhere the figure could reach 50 thousand, in other places it might be 20 thousand and still somewhere else would go up to 40 thousand men and women.
GJ – Was it like a plan to be fulfilled? 
SM – It sure was! There were no names specified in the quota papers. The general figure was one million. One million persons were supposed to fall under repressions, and the Soviet historians and archive specialists kept calculating for quite a while the real figures. Nobody can come up with an exact figure, but it is said that the number is fluctuating between two and twenty million repressed people.  
GJ – Would it be true to say that the quota gave an opportunity to Stalin-entrusted people and his faithful performers to find the ‘culprits’ locally and execute them on the spot?
SM – Exactly! For example, the-then leader of Georgia Lavrenti Beria received the quota which stipulated the punishment of twenty thousand people during the period from August to January. Beria would make a personal decision about the list of people to be punished. If the list of the punished people was not complete Beria himself would be the next one to be excoriated. So Beria distributed the quota among Georgian regions. In principle, it was locally known very well who was supposed to be executed immediately and who was subject to exile and who should be punished in addition to those ones. 

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