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13 Jun, 2007 02:00

Russia remembers Stalin’s purges

It's been 70 years since the show trials of leading Communists took place in Moscow. Joseph Stalin's assault on old the Bolsheviks and oppositionists was one of the most notorious episodes of the Great Purge of the 1930s.

The city of grandeur, Moscow took centuries of building and the leaders often didn’t hesitate to sacrifice their people for bigger things. Joseph Stalin, killed millions, but first he got rid of his opposition. 

The “Enemies of the People,” as they were branded, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and other key Bolsheviks faced trial. They didn’t agree with Stalin. They wanted socialism worldwide, whilst Stalin wanted one communist super-state.

The Soviet leader started a campaign to eliminate all Bolsheviks who took part in the Revolution of 1917. Accused of crimes from espionage and sabotage to forming a terrorist organisation to assassinate Stalin, they all confessed.

Bezborodov Aleksandr, a historian, explains, “There was no conspiracy, no threat to Stalin’s life. Stalin was sensitive to disapproval and he eliminated any division within the Communist party.”

His only fault was his proximity to Lenin, says the daughter of Bolshevik Leonid Serebryakov, who was among the first to be accused at the show trial. She was 13 when her father was executed.

“We say Stalin's repressions, but we don't realise repressions are a form of punishment. But my father was punished for a crime he did and could not commit. And later, people were shot without trial, without paperwork, or any explanation,” Zoya Serebryakova says.

A House on the Embankment of the Moscow River saw the first mass arrests following the show trials. It was built specially for high-level party officials, and virtually every night black cars came for its residents.

“This house used to be like a merry village – everyone knew each other, what’s cooking at which flat, but 1937 changed it all, people became enemies,” Olga Trifonova, a writer, states.

The mood of hostility and suspscion spread beyond the house yard. In fear of accusations, the people showed no mercy for the accused.

The cult of Stalin grew in strength as the leader consolidated his power. He now had no obstacles to his way to leading the country. Despite the damage of the Great Purges, some even today say Russia owes its industrial base to Stalin.

“There was no other way but Stalin’s way. In a decade we leaped economically like no other country in world history,” Youry Mukhin, a writer, believes.   

But the super-state Stalin envisioned collapsed in 1991.