Stalin's Purges and Show Trials
In 1931-1932, Stalin's brutal collectivisation policy began to be criticized by some Communist Party members. Stalin gradually becmae more isolated and paranoid. After Sergei Kirov's support at the 1934 Party Conference, he was assassinated. It is thought that Stalin organized the assassination - he claimed it was evidence of a 'Trotskyite Plot'. He used the 'plot' as an excuse to purge the party - he wanted all of the 'Old Bolsheviks' whose memberships dated back to Lenin to be gotten rid of and wanted only those who owed their membership tp him to stay.
The NKVD - USSR's secret police - rounded up thousands of party members and people close to them. Some were tortured or shot, while others were sent to slave labor camps. The State's propaganda insisted that anyone arrested was an 'enemy of the people' or a 'Trotskyite' who was plotting with the exiled Trotsky and Hitler to kill Stalin and destroy the Soviet Union.
As part of this propaganda, Stalin organized his Show Trials in Moscow. Anyone accused was not tried to test innocence or guilt, but to show their 'guilt' to the world. In August 1936, 16 senior party members - including Stalin's old rivals Zinoviev and Kamenev - were put on trial. The state prosecutor, Vyshinsky, accused them of killing Kirov, plotting to kill Stalin and collaborating with foreign governments against the Soviet Union. They were subjected to physical and psychological torture for months and their families were threatened. This forced them to plead guilty, reciting confessions which had been written out for them. They were sentenced to death and were executed at once. Many of the foreign observers which had been invited to the trials unbelievably were convinced that the men received a fair trial and sentence! Stalin's paranoia pushed the minds of people all over the world to doubt what they would consider morally right or wrong and when he became more paranoid himself, he held more show trials -...