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Trotsky and Stalin Russia and the Soviet Union 1917–1941


Cliff Cranfield


bureaucracy A form of organisation - usually of Government, based on a hierarchy of various specialised bureaus or agencies. Bureaucracies are typically large and complex administrative bodies that implement government policies.
In Russia the bureaucracy comprised government departments and their personnel.
capitalism An economic system that encourages individuals to make profits through investments and the private ownership of goods, property and the means of production, distribution and exchange.
It is a system where the production and distribution of goods and services is privately controlled by people, or groups of people, who may become wealthy by organising (and perhaps exploiting) the labour of others.
civil war A war fought between two groups within a country. In Russia this war was between the Bolsheviks (the Reds) and the Whites (a loose alliance of generals, nobles, landowners, monarchists and armies from Russia's allies in the First World War).
collectivisation In Russia this meant the pooling of all land, equipment and labour resources to permit more efficient farming methods, including large-scale mechanisation. The purpose behind the move was to generate large agricultural profits which could be used to fund increased industrialisation, as well as to release many agricultural workers for work in the new factories. Russian leaders also believed these large collectives would be easier for them to control.
communism A theory or system of social organisation promoting shared ownership of property and the means of production by the community as a whole or the state.
In Russia, however, communism came to be the dictatorship of the entire country by the leaders of the Communist Party.
gulag In Russian GULAG are the initial letters of Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps. The word is commonly used for the camps themselves.
ideology A framework of beliefs that guides actions, for example - the ideas underlying the actions of a political party.
kulaks These were peasant farmers who resisted the pressure to collectivise the land. They were accused of being actively hostile to the policy. Crops were destroyed, livestock slaughtered, and new crops were not planted. Kulaks and those falsely accused of being kulaks were harshly treated. One French historian, Professor Sorbin, has claimed that 3 million died out of a possible 41 to 42 million, although accurate figures are not available.
marxism A political and economic theory developed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels that called for the abolition of private property and emphasised the role of the state in providing work and benefits for all leading eventually to a socialist order and a classless society. The theory gives rise to a system where the peasants and the workers own the means of production, the means of distribution and the methods of exchange of goods.
propaganda The organised transmission of information, both true and false, designed to aid one's cause.
purges Purge means 'to get rid of'. Initially it was used in a positive way to refer to the removal of inefficient or corrupt people from positions of power. Later, however, it was used as an excuse to remove almost anybody from any position. Millions of Russians were purged during the 1930s and after the Second World War. Such people came from all walks of life, including the government, civil service, army, lawyers, teachers, doctors, farmers and Communist Party members. Prominent people were often put on Show Trials. The purpose behind this violent and brutal policy was to safeguard Stalin's leadership by removing potential rivals and to protect the Soviet Union by removing any potential internal threat. Victims were those who had offered any criticism of Stalin or of the Soviet Union, or whose loyalties might in some way be suspect. Even not to denounce someone could be considered suspicious behaviour! No one was safe.
russification The policy which forced non-Russian subject people of Russia to adopt Russian language and customs.
secret police Secret police had existed in Russia from the sixteenth century. Tsar Nicholas II's secret police was called the Okhrana and it used such methods as arbitrary arrest, imprisonment without trial, torture, informers to gain information, agents provocateurs (people who pretended to oppose the regime in order to bring out into the open real opponents) and exile to the Arctic or Siberian regions of Russia.
Lenin established the first Bolshevik Secret Police known as the Cheka to help fight for the revolution and against all counter-revolutionaries. The leader of this group was Felix Dzerzhinsky.
After the Civil War the Cheka became the GPU. It had its own prison camps and was given the task of investigating individuals' political beliefs. From this organisation came the OGPU, which further expanded into helping to control the Russian economy. In 1934 Stalin reorganised the secret police into the NKVD, an enormous organisation with agents in virtually every part of Russian life. It kept files on millions of people. The secret police themselves were under surveillance by the secret police. By this stage the secret police, instead of protecting the Party, were virtually in control of the Party.
totalitarianism A system of government where the state seeks to gain complete control over its citizens and does not recognise or tolerate parties of differing opinion.
It includes a central government by one person or party. No alternative political views or parties are allowed. It is an attempt to mould all aspects of society, including people's thoughts and relations.
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