What was the significance of Stalin and the Purges?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of your focus would have to be on the Great Purge that took place from 1936- 1938.  I think that the significance of such an action exists on a couple of planes.  On one hand, the Great Purge shows to what extent Stalin goes through to eliminate anyone potentially seen as a threat.  It is significant because while Hitler and Mussolini were seen as dangerous threats to the world balance of power, Stalin could claim the dubious distinction as being worse than both of them in terms of what he did to his own people.  Stalin's Purges are also significant because it shows to what extent Stalin viewed political power.  He did not see his own occupation of power as an extension of the Bolshevik Revolution.  Rather, he saw it as a reflection of himself, making sure that his own opposition would be wiped out in the Purge.  The "trials" of those accused of subversive activity against Stalin's government came about in 1936, specifically targeted at Stalin opponents such as Trotsky, with accusations against members of the "Red Army" in 1937.  These dates become significant as they show a consistent and through approach to Stalin eliminating his own enemies and those he saw as potential threats to his power.

eringolembiewski | Student

Gulags and Purges (1937-1939)

Anyone who disagreed with Stalin, or those who were only suspected of unfriendly thoughts, or those who had a bad reputation would be considered an “enemy of the people.” The government of the U.S.S.R. cracked down on anyone who was perceived as a threat to Stalin’s power.  This included other leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution, “disloyal” members of the Communist party, Kulaks, people who did not meet their production quotas (required numbers), Red army leaders, and others.  Estimates are that during the purges, 8 million people were arrested about (5% of the population), of those arrested, about 1 million of ere executed and the rest were sentenced to work in labor camps in Siberia called gulags. About 2 million people died in Stalin’s gulags.


October 1936 - February 1937adopting official plans for purging elites
March 1937 - June 1937Purging the Elites. Plan to suppresss potential aggressors,
July 1937 - October 1938Purge ethnic minorities, family members of opposition members, military officersNovember 1938 - 1939Slow down of purges