Segment descriptions
Countries of the World Series
Russia, Part 3

           Description: Purge trial 3

    Russia, Part 3    
3-5     (72 lecture)

In the Russian purge trials of the 1930s, what could be another stunning reason the defendants confess to charges that are patently absurd on their face?

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Stalinist Russia (continued)





The achievement and the cost. Stalin's policy of rapid industrialization.  A series of 5 year plans after 1928 force industrialization and collectivization of agriculture into state farms run by the government, as quickly as possible. 

Millions are forced to the cities from farms.  The effort is geared to make machines which make machines, not consumer goods. 

Russia achieves in 10 years what England and the U.S. took 50 years to achieve.  Without this rapid industrial growth Russia would probably have been defeated in World War II.  Yet it was an extremely brutal process, additionally brutal because of Stalin's nature. Peasants who resist the Stalin program, including the Kulacs are destroyed by Stalin. 




The Purge Trials of the mid-to-late 1930s.  This wipes out the original brilliant generation of Bolsheviks and some capable generals.  Accused of being Hitler's agents and of sabotage, they all confess, possibly because of their rock bottom belief that the Party is always right.  An element of anti-Semitism is also evident. 




International view of Russia.  Capitalist countries blockade Russia.  Stalin offers advice to Communist parties of other countries based on Russia's interests, often with disastrous results for them.  For example, Stalin advises the Chinese Communists to cooperate with the government, and the Communists there are all but wiped out.  The American Communist Party cannot duplicate Russia's experience because of our democratic institutions.




World War II




Prelude to World War II.  Nazi Germany comes to power and arms for war in 1933.  Unopposed, Germany marches into the Rhineland and the Saar, later seizes Czechoslovakia and the Sudetenland..  The Spanish Civil War rebels are helped by Germany and Italy.  The loyalists are helped by Russia but not the Western democracies.  England and the U.S. prefer Nazi Germany as a capitalist country, despite the horrors at home, as a bulwark against Russia.  Rejected by the West, Russia buys time and shocks the world and other Communist parties in August 1939 by signing a non-aggression pact with Germany.  Poland is divided up between them.  




World War II starts.  Germany invades Poland September 1, 1939.  England and France declare war on Germany.  Germany conquers most of Europe including France in the spring of 1940.  There is extensive bombing of England but no invasion.  Germany invades Russia June 1941.  Russia is unprepared, a major Stalin blunder.  Germany makes major advances.  Scorched earth tactics and retreat by Russia.  Defeat seems inevitable. 




Stalingrad is turning point.  In the winter of 1942-1943 a major German army is defeated and almost wiped out by the Red Army and the Russian winter.  The Germans are pushed back out eventually to Europe. 




Russia's Western allies.  Churchill accepts Russia as an ally to oppose a common enemy.  Russia fights 80% of the German army, pleads for a second front to relieve that pressure but the second front comes in June 1944 and only after the Stalingrad victory. 




Russian invasion of Manchuria.  The Yalta  conference is held early in 1945 to decide how to divide up the smaller countries.  FDR asks Stalin's help in the war with Japan.  Stalin promises to move against the major Japanese army in Manchuria 3 months after victory in Europe.  On August 8th Russia declares war on Japan and invades Manchuria exactly as promised, but 2 days earlier the U.S. drops the atomic bomb on Japan.  The atomic bomb was not a reality when FDR approached Stalin for help with Japan.




The Cold War.




Beginning of the Cold War.  Harry Truman becomes U.S. President after FDR dies in April, 1945, authorizes the atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan.  This is viewed as a way of avoiding the invasion of Japan. This can also be seen as the opening salvo of the Cold War.  In his memoir, James Byrnes, then Secretary of State, says the bomb was a political warning to Russia to behave itself in East Europe.  Russia occupies and strips Manchuria, then hands it over to Chang Kai-Chek of China.  There are various positions about whether Russia poses a threat or is entitled to a sphere of influence to protect its borders. 




The Cold War builds on itself.  The Cold War economy benefits the U.SHarsh occupation of East Europe.  As the Cold War becomes harder, Stalin becomes harsher, using purges and promoting anti-Semitism.  His grip on the Russian people remains strong to the end. 



Stalin dies in 1953.  Nikita Khrushchev becomes Russian leader, begins the "thaw" by publicly revealing the extent of Stalin's crimes and brutalities.  Revolts against Soviet rule in Hungary and Czechoslovakia are crushed by Russian tanks. 




The Cold War heightens.  China becomes Communist in 1949.  Russia explodes the atomic bomb also in 1949.  Communism is depicted as a monolith centered in Russia.  The 1950 Korean War is a civil war but is seen as part of the Russian agenda.  The McCarthy era hysteria. 




Post-war Russia.  The Russian economy recovers.  There is life-long health care but the quality is questioned.  There is full employment but choice is lacking.  There is free education but students face severe testing for entry.  There is cheap but shoddy housing.  Food and consumer goods are available but not delivered.  The Party leadership as a privileged  class.  Stifling atmosphere damages creative and intellectual efforts. 




The arms race.  Russia can't keep up.  Khrushchev falls from power.  After Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev ascends to power, promotes openness and reform while retaining the socialist society, wishes to end the Cold War. 




The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Some say President Reagan caused the collapse by the arms race stress, but the economic collapse had already begun before that. 




Shock therapy.  Boris Yeltsin comes to power, moves for instant change to capitalism.  The guarantees of life are wiped out.  There is incredible corruption and a small group of newly rich.  Freedom loosens control and crime increases. Life span decreases. 



Present day Russia.  Elections are rigged.  Dictatorial conditions still exist from the days of the Czar.  Russia becomes an economic basket case.  The rise of ultranationalist voices against foreigners.  Increased anti-Semitism, which has a long history in Russia.  The abuse of nuclear power and Chernobyl.  What has replaced communism is worse for the people. Russia is currently in great flux and uncertainty, remains an international world power.