Presentation on theme: " Alleged Komsomol (Young Communist League) plot against Stalin by students in Gorky Hundreds of former oppositionists arrested and “auditioned” for."— Presentation transcript:
Alleged Komsomol (Young Communist League) plot against Stalin by students in Gorky Hundreds of former oppositionists arrested and “auditioned” for roles Secret police officials arrested and ordered to testify as part of fulfilling of their “duties” to the USSR Valentine Olberg promised freedom and promotion for confessing that Trotsky asked him to kill Stalin Olberg, along with fellow secret police agents Fritz David and Konon Berman-Yurin became defendants in 1936 trial
“The Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre” Judge Vasily Ulrich, prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky Allegations Under orders from Trotsky, defendants created a counter-revolutionary organization that “strived to seize power at all costs” Accused helped Leningrad group murder Kirov, plotted to kill Stalin and top Party leaders To accomplish these murders Trotsky and his son Sedov sent German terrorists Berman- Yurin, Fritz David, N. Lurye and Olberg to the USSR Principal defendants: Zinoviev (pictured), Kamenev, Smirnov, 13 more All confessed. Two “witnesses,” Yakovlev and Safonova (Smirnov’s wife) testified that they were also involved in the plot. All were convicted and shot the next day. World reaction was largely approving, except there was concern about the near-exclusive reliance on confession. “Witnesses” were tried separately and shot. During the trial accused implicated persons who would be tried later: 1937 trial: Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov and Serebryakov 1938 trial: Bukharin and Rykov
“The Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre” (also known as the “Pyatakov-Radek” trial) Judge Vasily Ulrich, prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky Allegations: Defendants were members of a group that worked with the 1936 defendants, caused wrecking, sabotage and murder in furtherance of a plot between Trotsky, Germany and Japan to overthrow the Soviet government and restore capitalism. Principal defendants: (Clockwise from top left) Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, 14 more All confessed. Five “witnesses” testified that they were also involved. Corroborated the testimony of the principal defendants Used to counter criticisms of the 1936 trial’s reliance on confessions All were convicted. Thirteen were sentenced to death and shot. Radek, Sokolnikov, one other got 10 years; another got 8 years Radek and Sokolnikov mysteriously died in prison within two years Four of the witnesses were tried separately and shot The fifth witness, a German expatriate, was turned over to the Gestapo. He then disappeared.
Reports in 1937 & 1938 by "Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials“ Sponsored by wealthy American supporters of Leon Trotsky Chaired by renowned academic John Dewey Open hearings, interviewed Trotsky and many other witnesses Concluded that the trial was completely falsified Trotsky had never been in Paris, so he could not have met with witness Romm Pyatakov did not meet Trotsky in Oslo, as there were no winter plane landings The coffee house next to the Hotel Bristol could not exist as the meeting place for Romm and Sedov, as the hotel did not exist Former Soviet inmates furnished detailed accounts of abuse and torture Foreigners who had worked in the Soviet mines spoke at length about poor safety conditions and the unrelenting pressure to increase output Mother of one of the defendants spoke of a woman mentioned in his confession: “She was an old woman who never left Riga, and had nothing whatever to do with politics. I often sent Valentine to her to collect money. For this reason I think that he mentioned the first name that came into his head, happening to recall the old lady.”
Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Commissar of Heavy Industry commits suicide shortly after 1937 trial Realizing their peril, Nikolai Bukharin (Lenin’s top economist, opposed end of NEP and forced industrialization) and Alexei Rykov strongly protest their innocence at Party meetings, accuse Stalin of wrongdoing Special Party Committee assigned to investigate reports that both were Rightist conspirators and knew of the Trotskyite center Bukharin and Rykov arrested “on the spot” Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization (“The Generals’ Trial”) Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization Eight top members of the General Staff including Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky (pictured) accused of conspiring with Trotsky and conducting espionage for Germany. Based strictly on confessions. Linked to Radek’s mention of Tukhachevsky at 1937 trial Each convicted of treason and executed in June 1937 Aftermath of the second trial; preparing for the next
“Case of the Anti-Soviet Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” (also known as the “Rykov-Bukharin trial”) Judge Vasily Ulrich (bottom, reading the verdicts), prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky (top, video link) Allegations: At the direction of Trotsky, accused helped German, Polish and Japanese intelligence commit wrecking in industry, transport, agriculture and distribution, and commit murder and terrorism, with the goals of overthrowing the government, dismembering the USSR and restoring capitalism. Twenty-one defendants. Main accused were Bukharin, Rykov, Yagoda (former secret police chief). Yagoda testified he told his Leningrad agent not to interfere with the murder of Kirov. He also testified that he recruited physicians to murder high Party officials through poisoning and incorrect treatments. Physicians Bulanov, Levin and Pletnev confirmed Yagoda’s testimony in their confessions. Principal defendants plus fifteen others were shot; three lesser accused got 25, 20 and 15 years.
World reaction to the trials was largely positive American Ambassador Joseph Davies was at the 1937 trial and said it was just. He later financed “Mission to Moscow,” a film that glorified Stalin. N.Y. Times correspondent Walter Duranty, who won the Pulitzer and denied the Ukraine famine of , denounced the show trial defendants in his reports. He also liked Stalin. End of the Purges Propelled by the trials, spy and wrecker hysteria swept the USSR. Citizens and bureaucrats denounced each other. Secret police competed in making arrests. During authorities arrested 1,372,832 persons for counter-revolutionary crimes. A staggering 681,692 were shot. Ordinary citizens became upset; many technical experts were liquidated In 1939 Stalin ended the purges by having secret police arrested for railroading innocents A majority of the nearly two-thousand delegates to the 1934 Party Congress were arrested as counter-revolutionaries. Ninety-eight of 139 members of the 1935 Central Committee, the second-highest stratum of the Party, were shot. A legacy of falsification
Stalin died on March 5, Vyshinsky, now U.N. Ambassador, died twenty months later. Shortly after Stalin’s death the USSR’s new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, ordered the execution of Stalin’s last secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria. In 1956 he went after the old guard. In a major address to the Party known as the “secret speech” (image and video above) he condemned Stalin’s cult of personality and the injustices: “Many thousands of honest and innocent Communists have died as a result of this monstrous falsification of such ‘cases,’ as a result of the fact that all kinds of slanderous ‘confessions’ were accepted, and as a result of the practice of forcing accusations against oneself and others.” Why did Stalin stage the show trials? Paranoid of plots by those who had disagreed Get rid of possible competitors to the Soviet throne Install a new Communist cadre loyal only to him Convince the world of the threat posed by Germany and Japan ▪ Russia still backwards, would need aid if attacked ▪ But America and England very isolationist Secret Speech section begins at 7:40