[OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] 70 years after Stalin's Moscow frame-up Trials

From: Martin Kragh (Martin.Kragh@HHS.SE)
Date: Thu May 24 2007 - 14:03:51 EDT

Dear Juriaan, all OPE-l members

A while ago Juriaan asked me for some litterature on the famous Soviet purge trials 1936, and the lesser known repression of leading SR and Menshevik leaders of 1931-32. As a matter of fact, there is not so much research on this as one might think, at least not research informed by archival research since the perestroika and onwards. The most informative "hands on" evidence to this day on how the repression was conducted in reality are the in extensio publications of protocols from interrogations with Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. The later are published as:

"The Menshevik processes 1931-32" (Rosspen, Moscow 200?)

Unfortunately I do not have the books at hand in Stockholm, since I had to leave them in Moscow last time I was there. But what they show clearly is how questions were asked, how the NKVD men tried to play different persons against each other (for example, Rubin-Ryazanov), and how they were subsequently "broken down" to the point they agreed to admit anything. They do not say anything about the "techniques" used (for example, deprivation of sleep, repression of family members including children, but also the breaking of fingers etc). For the English and French speaking audiences these are the books that come to my mind.

Let history judge : the origins and consequences of Stalinism / Roy A. Medvedev ; edited by David Joravsky and Georges Haupt ; translated by Colleen Taylor 

The road to terror : Stalin and the self-destruction of the bolsheviks, 1932-1939 / J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov ; translations by Benjamin Sher 

Stalin's masterpiece : the show trials and purges of the thirties - the consolidation of the Bolshevik dictatorship / Joel Carmichael 

The Stalinist terror in the thirties : documentation from the Soviet press / comp., with preface and introd., by Borys Levytsky 

Les grands procès dans les systèmes communistes : La pédagogie infernale 

Les procès de Moscou : comptes rendus du Commissariat du peuple à la justice : dossiers de la révision depuis le 20e congrès du P.C. de l'U.R.S.S. : bibliographie critique / présentés par Pierre Broué 

The great purge trial / ed., and with notes, by Robert C. Tucker and Stephen F. Cohen ; with an introd. by Robert C. Tucker 

As regards rehablitation, many if not most leading politicians, technicians and intellectuals have by now been rehablitated. But I cannot give any exact source for this information. 

Hopefully this information has been to some help.

Kind regards


-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Från: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] För Jurriaan Bendien
Skickat: den 19 april 2007 21:55
Ämne: [OPE-L] 70 years after Stalin's Moscow frame-up Trials

In a recent retro article on the meaning of the Moscow frame-up Trials of 1936-38, Prof. James Woudhuysen http://www.woudhuysen.com/index.php writes:

"Despite the fact that we are currently living through an anniversary frenzy - where any event from the past judged to have 'meaning' for the present is pored over - nobody seems to want to talk about the Moscow Trials. Indeed, there has been silence on these events, especially among the Western left, for decades. The Trials tend to be revisited by historians only as a confirmation of Stalin's rotten nature and personality, or as easy 'proof' that any attempt to create a progressive alternative society is doomed; rarely are they properly interrogated or fully explained."

This is not quite accurate. After Khruschev's secret speech of 1956, initially a commission led by Molotov cleared Tuchachevsky et. al. of the charges. The subsequent Shvernik Commission of 1961-63 recommended that all the accused except a few (e.g. Radek and Yagoda) should be rehabilitated.
However Kruschchev was deposed, and it never happened in the Brezhnev era.
In the Gorbachev era, there were new campaigns for rehabilitating the accused in the Moscow trials. I remember around 1990 collecting signatures from notable personalities in the New Zealand labour movement and from scholars for an international petition in this regard. The petition was launched in the West by the elderly Ernest Mandel and other European socialists. I do not know what the effect of the petition was in the end.
Some of the bolshevik leaders like Bukharin were rehabilitated, others weren't, but what role the international petition played in all this, I do not know.

Prof. Woudhuysen offers a vacuum theory of Stalinism:

"How can we explain the Stalinist terror? Its origins lay not in Stalin's evil character, as many claim today, but in the vacuum created by the defeat of the revolution and the crisis in the system"

Which is an intriguing formulation. He claims that:

"Economic chaos ruled - in fact, from about 1929 to the collapse of the USSR in 1989-91."

Actually, there were not three main fake trials, as Prof. Woudhuysen suggests, but four, namely:

- the trial of the 16 leaders accused of being the "Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre," (August 1936) including Zinoviev and Kamenev.

- the trial of 17 less important leaders like Radek, Piatakov and Sokolnikov (the "Parallel anti-Soviet Trotskyist Centre") (January 1937).

- the secret trial of a group of Red Army leaders ("The Case of Trotskyist anti-Soviet Military Organisation"), including Tukhachevsky, Primakov, Yakir and Uborevich (June 1937).

- the trial of 21 leaders (the "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites") including Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky and Krestinsky (March 1938).

One historical account of the trials is: Arkadij IosifovicVaksberg, The prosecutor and the prey : Vyshinsky and the 1930s' Moscow show trials.
London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990. There were also quite a few more trials in the countryside as well, but these did not make the Western news much.

A precedent for the Moscow frame-up Trials was the show trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries. See about this:  Marc Carel Jansen, A show trial under Lenin: the trial of the socialist revolutionaries, Moscow 1922.  The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1982.

The report of the Dewey Commission is now available online:

Some of the official Stalinist reports of the Moscow trials seem to be available online, see e.g.

There's also e.g. Rogovin's account

In Russian, there are these titles among others:

A.N.Yakovlev (ed), Rehabilitation: Political Processes of the 1930s to the 1950s, Moscow 1991.
Rehabilitation: As It Happened. Documents of the CPSU CC Presidium and Other Materials. Vol. 2, February 1956-Early 1980s. Moscow, 2003. Compiled by A.
Artizov, Yu. Sigachev, I. Shevchuk, V. Khlopov under editorship of A. N.

Perhaps Martin Kragh can tell us more about current thinking.


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