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    Great Purge

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    Great Purge

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    This article is about the 1936–1938 Soviet purge. For political purges in general, see Purge. For the period of the French Revolution, see Reign of Terror. For other uses, see Great Terror (disambiguation).

    Great Purge

    Part of Bolshevik Party purges

    People of Vinnytsia searching for relatives among the exhumed victims of the Vinnytsia massacre, 1937

    Location Soviet Union

    Date 1936–1938

    Target Political opponents, Trotskyists, Red Army leadership, kulaks, ethnic minorities, religious activists and leaders

    Attack type Summary executions Massacres Mass murder Ethnic cleansing

    Deaths 700,000[1][2] to 1.2 million[3]

    (higher estimates overlap with at least 116,000[3] deaths in the Gulag system)

    Perpetrators Joseph Stalin, the NKVD (Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov, Lavrentiy Beria, Ivan Serov and others), Vyacheslav Molotov, Andrey Vyshinsky, Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, Robert Eikhe and others

    Motive Elimination of political opponents,[4] consolidation of power,[5] fear of counterrevolution,[6] fear of party infiltration[7]

    Mass repression in the Soviet Union Economic repression

    CollectivizationDekulakizationSoviet famine of 1932–1933 UkraineKazakhstan

    Political repression

    Red TerrorGreat PurgeGulagPunitive psychiatry

    Ideological repression

    De-CossackizationReligion 1917–19211921–19281928–19411958–19641975–1987ChristianityIslamJudaismLegislationScienceCensorship Images

    Ethnic repression

    National operations of the NKVDPopulation transfers


    Part of a series on the

    History of the Soviet Union

    show Background show

    1917–1927: Establishment


    1927–1953: Stalinism


    1953–1964: Khrushchev Thaw


    1964–1982: Era of Stagnation


    1982–1991: Decline and collapse

    show Soviet leadership show Related topics Soviet Union portal vte

    The Great Purge or the Great Terror (Russian: Большой террор), also known as the Year of '37 (37-ой год, ) and the Yezhovshchina ('period of Yezhov'),[8] was Soviet General Secretary Joseph Stalin's campaign to solidify his power over the party and the state; the purges were also designed to remove the remaining influence of Leon Trotsky as well as other prominent political rivals within the party. It occurred from August 1936 to March 1938.[9]

    Following the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924 a power vacuum opened in the Communist Party. Various established figures in Lenin's government attempted to succeed him. Joseph Stalin, the party's General Secretary, would outmaneuver political opponents and ultimately gain control of the Communist Party by 1928.[10] Initially, Stalin's leadership was widely accepted, and the doctrine Socialism in One Country became enshrined party policy. However, by the early 1930s, party officials began losing faith in his leadership following the disasters of collectivization and the limited success of the First Five-Year Plan. These policy failures led to Stalin's rivals such as Leon Trotsky attempt to sway the party away from Stalin's command.

    In this atmosphere of doubt and suspicion, a popular high-ranking official, Sergei Kirov, was assassinated in 1934. His death spearheaded an investigation that revealed a network of party members working against Stalin, including several of Stalin's rivals.[11] Many of those arrested in Kirov's assassination had also confessed plans to kill Stalin himself, including high-ranking party officials.[12] Historians doubt the validity of these claims; nonetheless, they do agree that Kirov's death was the flashpoint where Stalin and the party would take action and begin the purges.[13][14]

    By 1936, Stalin's paranoia reached a crescendo. The fear of losing his position, the potential return of Trotsky, and the rising threat of fascism from the West[15] goaded him into authorizing the Great Purge. The purges themselves were largely conducted by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), the secret police of the USSR. The initial stages of the purges were targeted at the Soviet government itself. The NKVD began the removal of the central party leadership, Old Bolsheviks, government officials, and regional party bosses.[][16] Eventually, the purges were expanded to the Red Army and military high command, which would have a disastrous effect on the military altogether.[17][18] Three successive trials were held in Moscow that removed most of the Old Bolsheviks and challenges to Stalin's authority.[19] As the scope of the purge began widening, the omnipresent suspicion of saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries began impacting civilian life. The NKVD began targeting certain ethnic minorities such as the Volga Germans, who were subjected to forced deportation and extreme repression. During the purge, the NKVD widely utilized imprisonment, torture, violent interrogation, and arbitrary executions to solidify control over civilians through fear.[20]

    Source : en.wikipedia.org


    Reign of Terror, also called the Terror, French La Terreur, period of the French Revolution from September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794 (9 Thermidor, year II). With civil war spreading from the Vendée and hostile armies surrounding France on all sides, the Revolutionary government decided to make “Terror” the order of the day (September 5 decree) and to take harsh measures against those suspected of being enemies of the Revolution (nobles, priests, and hoarders). In Paris a wave of executions followed. In the provinces, representatives on mission and surveillance committees instituted local terrors. The Terror had an economic side



    By The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica • Edit History

    Key People: Étienne Dolet

    Related Topics: clericalism

    See all related content →

    anticlericalism, in Roman Catholicism, opposition to the clergy for its real or alleged influence in political and social affairs, for its doctrinairism, for its privileges or property, or for any other reason. Although the term has been used in Europe since the 12th and 13th centuries, it is associated in more recent history with the French Revolution and its aftermath.

    Three principal forms can be identified. The first, developed during the 18th century, was based on opposition to clerical privilege, often corrupt, as established by feudalism. The second is associated with the rise of liberalism, which in general accused the clergy of servility to the monarchy or of ignorance in terms of scientific thought. The third, endorsed by some totalitarian systems, considered clerics to be chronically opposed to the “race,” the “nation,” or some other presumed ideology.


    In the 18th century such skeptics as Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists chafed under royal censorship and the clergy’s influence on the monarchy. The culmination of such anticlericalism was the French Revolutionaries’ assault on the Roman Catholic church, abolishing its privileges and confiscating property. In 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte ended the Revolution, signed a concordat with the papacy, and “established” the church as a religious agency supported by and subservient to the French state. With modifications, this system lasted for a century, during monarchist, republican, and Bonapartist regimes.

    The creation of the Third Republic in 1871, however, intensified the old-time conflict between clericals and anticlericals. In the struggle between 1871 and 1879, royalist-clerical parties opposed republican-anticlerical parties. Léon Gambetta phrased the slogan, le cléricalisme, voilà l’ennemi (“clericalism is the enemy”). The victorious republicans enacted a good deal of anticlerical legislation. The Jesuits were suppressed (1880); and the Ferry laws (1881–82) established free, secular education, compulsory civil marriage, and the opportunity for divorce. The second conflict took place as a result of the bid of Georges Boulanger for dictatorial powers, and ended with a republican, anticlerical triumph. The third took place during the Alfred Dreyfus affair (1894–1906), when an anticlerical republican bloc was formed, consisting of all republican groups in the Chamber of Deputies, determined to oust royalists, militarists, and clericals from public life. Further anticlerical legislation resulted. The Law of Associations (1901) suppressed nearly all of the religious orders in France and confiscated their property, and the separation law (1905) sundered church and state.


    Spreading from France, anticlerical ideas and methods were adopted, in varying ways, in other Latin countries. In Italy anticlericalism was fused with nationalism and liberalism. Pope Pius IX, defending his position as temporal ruler of the Papal States, opposed Italian unity. When Camillo Cavour embarked on his career as architect of a united Italy, he put through the Piedmontese Parliament a series of anticlerical laws, abolishing the civil jurisdiction of canonical courts and suppressing many monasteries. Cavour’s slogan, “a free church in a free state,” was adopted by the anticlerical liberals of Italy.

    After the unification of Italy, the struggle between clericals and anticlericals continued. When Rome became the capital, the temporal power of the popes was ended. Anticlerical legislation decreased the number of monastic establishments, suppressed university theological faculties, and sanctioned civil marriage. But no divorce law was enacted, nor was religious instruction banned from the schools. The Law of Guarantees accorded the pope full power to exercise his spiritual function. Pius IX did not, however, recognize the Italian government and in 1874 forbade Catholics to participate in political activities. This caveat was not ended until 1919. The advent to power of Benito Mussolini in 1922 for a time intensified anticlericalism, since Fascism claimed absolute control by the state. Yet no serious conflict occurred, despite continuing papal opposition to some curtailments of religious liberty. In 1929 the Lateran Treaty was signed, ending the dispute over the temporal power by making the pope ruler of the small state of Vatican City.


    The Napoleonic invasion (1808) started an anticlerical movement in Spain. The Constitution of 1812 abolished the Inquisition and restricted the number of religious orders but recognized Catholicism as the established church. This constitution was in turn abrogated when Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne in 1814. Anticlericals reacted bitterly, and from that time until 1939 the struggle between the right and left in Spain was far more a conflict between clericals and anticlericals than elsewhere in Latin Europe. The conflict became especially intense after 1870. Barcelona, traditionally a centre of anti-Catholic feeling, witnessed the formation of powerful syndicalist and anarchist groups. The first Spanish Republic (1873) enacted some anticlerical laws, but these were repealed or disregarded when the monarchy was restored in 1875. During an anticlerical outbreak in 1909, mobs burned churches and attacked priests. As a pacification measure, religious orders were restricted in number and taxes were levied on their industrial enterprises. Civil marriage was made compulsory. The revolution of 1931 that established the Second Republic brought to power an anticlerical government. The legislation adopted resembled that of France. The government was, however, unable to curb mob attacks on churches and monasteries, during which priests and nuns were slain. Catholics mustered their forces in opposition. Counterrevolutionaries led by General Francisco Franco declared war on the republic, and the Falangist dictatorship that was subsequently established repealed or ignored the anticlerical laws, though conflict between church and state did not cease, even after the death of Franco in 1975.

    Source : www.britannica.com

    What was the Reign of Terror?

    The Reign of Terror, also called the Terror, was a period of state-sanctioned violence and mass executions during the French Revolution

    What was the Reign of Terror?

    By Callum McKelvie , All About History published October 20, 2021

    Thousands of people were arrested and executed during the French Revolution.

    Depiction of an execution during the Reign of Terror, at Place de la Revolution, now called Place de la Concorde, Paris. (Image credit: Getty)

    Jump to:

    Background to the Terror

    Beginning of the executions

    Leaders and instigators

    Victims of the Terror

    Political opposition

    Fall of Robespierre

    Additional resources

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    The Reign of Terror, also called the Terror, was a period of state-sanctioned violence and mass executions during the French Revolution. Between Sept. 5, 1793, and July 27, 1794, France's revolutionary government ordered the arrest and execution of thousands of people. French lawyer and statesman Maximilien Robespierre led the Terror, which was caused in part by a rivalry between France's two leading political parties: the Jacobins and the Girondins.


    At the end of the French Revolution, a revolutionary government called the National Convention came into power and formed the first French Republic. The Convention found King Louis XVI guilty of treason in 1792 and beheaded him by guillotine in January 1793. Many areas of France — including Normandy and the city of Lyon — opposed the revolution and rebelled against the new government.

    In March 1793, an armed revolt in the Vendée resulted in first several towns and eventually the entire region being captured by a counterrevolutionary army. After a bloody campaign, republic forces defeated the rebellion, resulting in around 200,000 deaths, New Republic

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    A copperplate engraving of the execution of King Louis XVI on Jan. 21 1792. (Image credit: Public Domain / Georg Heinrich Sieveking)

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    On March 18, 1793, the French army lost the Battle of Neerwinden against a superior Austrian force, causing further opposition to the Convention's rule. "The new regime had to devise a new executive form to replace the monarchy," Peter McPhee, emeritus professor of history at the University of Melbourne in Australia, told All About History

    (opens in new tab) magazine.


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    "The critical military and political situation was felt to require an emergency executive," McPhee said. "In April 1793, the National Convention created a 12-man Committee of Public Safety, with the aim of taking the emergency measures necessary to save the revolution." According to McPhee, the Committee arrested alleged opponents of the revolution, who were then tried by revolutionary courts.

    On Sept. 5, 1793, the Committee for Public Safety declared France "revolutionary until peace," according to Anne Sa'adah's book "The Shaping of Liberal Politics in Revolutionary France

    (opens in new tab)

    " (Princeton University Press, 2014). This meant that a state of emergency was in force and that the Committee was prepared to use violence against its own citizens to bring stability to France. This triggered what would become known as the Terror, or Reign of Terror.


    On Sept. 17, 1793, the Convention passed the Law of Suspects

    (opens in new tab)

    in order to identify and punish any alleged enemies of the revolution. This law also created the Revolutionary Tribunal, which would try accused enemies of the state and execute them if found guilty, according to Ian Davidson's book "The French Revolution

    (opens in new tab)

    " (Pegasus Books, 2016).

    The Storming of the Bastille painting by  Jean-Pierre Houël. The prison was attacked on July 14, 1789, during the French Revolution.   (Image credit: Wiki/ Bibliothèque nationale de France)

    (opens in new tab)

    The Law of Suspects also authorized the arrest of anyone who "by their writings have shown themselves partisans of tyranny," according to Liberty Equality, and Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution

    (opens in new tab)

    , a website run by George Mason University and City University of New York. This prevented any criticism of, or opposition to, the Convention.

    On June 10, 1794, the Law of 22 Prairial

    (opens in new tab)

    was passed. It said that those accused of being "enemies of the revolution" were not allowed lawyers for their defense during trial, that there would be no interrogation or evidence presented against them, and that the only possible verdicts were acquittal or death, according to Mike Rapport's chapter in the book "The Routledge History of Terrorism

    (opens in new tab)

    " (Routledge, 2019).

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    Source : www.livescience.com

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