The Moscow show trials of 1936-38 in the Soviet Union were the culmination of failed domestic policies set in place by Stalin to force industrialization through the Five Year Plan, enacted in 1928. The largest shortcoming of the Five Year Plan was the forced collectivization of agriculture, supposedly to increase agricultural output, but which cost the lives of about seven million.
The end of the Five Year Plan gave way to the Great Purges from 1936-38, in which Stalin rid the Soviet Union of over one million convicted ‘conspirators,’ mostly old-time communists. The Moscow show trials featured the confessions of high ranking officials as they were convicted as conspiring against the Soviet state. The ‘show’ was that Stalin had made an example of conspirators – enemies of the state, in order to unite the people of the Soviet Union in support of his “one-person rule.”
The Great Purges of 1936-38 achieved domestic goals of social control by Stalin, but at the high cost of denigrating the international reputation of the Soviet Union as a world power. Western democracies viewed the Soviet Union as a less desirable ally. As a result, an effective alliance against Hitler was not created.
Caitlin O’Connell, ’15
Majors: Russian, International Relations
Sponsor: Robert Givens