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eds. Barry McLoughlin and Kevin McDermott (London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
2003), 85“117. One may note that, as with recent accounts of the Holocaust, which tend now
to emphasize the con¬‚uence of a variety of factors such as racial anti-Semitism, the unexpected
conditions of rule in German-occupied Europe, and the con¬‚ictual nature of the German state,
most accounts of the Great Terror now tend to eschew monocausal explanations.
See J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction

of the Bolsheviks, 1932“1939 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 125“7, 197“8,
See David Shearer, “Social Disorder,” 86, 97“8, 100, 111; Paul Hagenloh, “˜Socially Harmful

Elements™ and the Great Terror,” in Sheila Fitzpatrick, ed., Stalinism: New Directions (London:
Routledge, 2000), 290“4, 297“300.
Political (Dis)Orders 69

and ethnic element into Soviet policies of repression and gave those policies a
sense of urgency.”106
These concerns over political resistance, social disorder, and national con-
tamination coalesced in 1937“8, as over one and a half million people were
arrested on political charges, of whom approximately 681,000 were executed,
in a chaotic frenzy of bloodletting and denunciations which came to be known
as the Great Terror. The political purpose of the terror “ and even if there
was such a thing “ is a matter over which historians continue to disagree. It
does appear, however, that, at ¬rst at least, the purges were initiated by a
small central leadership under Stalin.107 The degree of centralization of the
terror is underlined by the fact that in July 1937, prior to the mass repres-
sion, the Politburo provisionally agreed and subsequently con¬rmed “targets”
for the number of executions that were to take place in each region.108 In
subsequent months, the Politburo monitored the implementation of this order
very closely.109 Equally, underlying the ¬rst phase of the terror, in the sec-
ond half of 1937, was a strong impetus to continue the centralizing trends
which had begun earlier in the decade, by penetrating and ¬nally breaking
down regional political networks. The attack on “family circles” and “local
cliques” had indeed been one of the main themes of Stalin™s speech at the
February“March 1937 Central Committee plenum which effectively set the
stage for the Great Terror. In the second half of 1937 nearly all of the eighty
regional party leaders, as well as party leaders in the republics, were arrested
and most were executed. In most cases this process was centrally orchestrated,
with Stalin dispatching plenipotentiaries to the regions to oversee the purge

Shearer, “Social Disorder,” 111; and in general, 104“5, 111“13. Shearer™s argument draws on

the seminal article by Oleg Khlevniuk, “Objectives of the Great Terror, 1937“1938,” in Soviet
History, 1917“53: Essays in Honour of R. W. Davies, eds. Julian Cooper, Maureen Perrie,
and E. A. Rees (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), esp. 152, 168“9, 173; Oleg Khlevniuk, “The
Reasons for the Great Terror: The Foreign Political Aspect,” in Russia in the Age of Wars,
1914“1945, eds. Silvio Pons and Andrea Romano (Milan: Feltrinelli 1998), 163“5. A recent
article which also stresses the importance of the oncoming war to the instigation of the 1937“8
¨ ¨
purges is Hiroaki Kuromiya, “Accounting for the Great Terror,” Jahrbucher fur Geschichte
Osteuropas 53, no. 1 (2005): 86“101, esp. 88“93.
Ahead of the purges, on the eve of the February 1937 plenum, the head of the leading party

organs sector of the Central Committee, Georgii Malenkov, prepared an inventory of those
of¬cials, most of whom were later to be arrested, who had, at one stage or another, deviated
from the “party line.” See Khlevniuk, “Objectives of the Great Terror, 1937“1938,” 159,
160, 162, 165.
See the infamous NKVD Order no. 00447 of 30 July 1937, “On Operations to Repress For-

mer Kulaks, Criminals, and Other Anti-Soviet Elements,” which approved an overall target of
269,000 sentences, and which in turn was rubber-stamped by a Politburo resolution the fol-
lowing day, reproduced in V. N. Khaustov, V. Naumov, and N. S. Plotnikova, eds., Lubianka:
Stalin i glavnoe upravlenie gosbezopasnosti NKVD 1937“1938: Dokumenty (Moscow: Mezh-
dunarodnyi fond “Demokratiia,” 2004), 273“82.
On this see, in particular, Barry McLoughlin, “Mass Operations of the NKVD: A Survey,” in

Stalin™s Terror, eds. Barry McLoughlin and Kevin McDermott (New York: Palgrave Macmil-
lan, 2003), 129“32.
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

process.110 Unlike the “mass operations,” which affected the vast majority
of victims and which were held in secret and usually lacked any semblance of
procedure, the Central Committee went to some length to ensure that trials of
regional potentates were held in public; that they followed the rules, elemen-
tary as they were, for military tribunals; and that the arrests themselves were
preceded by highly publicized regional party plena.111
When the Great Terror was eventually brought to a halt in the autumn
of 1938, the process was closely managed by the center and, in particular,
by the Party™s Central Committee. Two directives, of 20 September and 14
November, accorded the department of leading party organs of the Central
Committee the right to screen, and to con¬rm the appointments of, all NKVD
executives down to the local level, while a third, of 15 November 1938, signed
by Stalin and Molotov instructed: “We order in the strongest possible terms:
Until further notice, a halt as of 16 November to examination of all cases by
the troiki and military tribunals.” A Politburo resolution, two days later, on
17 November 1938, strictly prohibited any further “mass operations” by the
NKVD, liquidated the “troiki,” and reintroduced strong qualitative controls
on authorizations for arrests.112 The relative suddenness with which these
procedures were implemented has indeed led some commentators to suggest
that Stalin succeeded in “turning off the mass terror.”113
The purges paradoxically fostered a new, more stable and centralized leader-
ship system. The central government, the military, the regional and republican
leaderships, and the economic infrastructure had all been chastened. At the
very summit of the system, the immediate prewar years may be regarded as
the highwater mark of Stalin™s dictatorship.114 Having had ¬ve members of
the Politburo arrested and executed, Stalin put in their place a new genera-
tion of young leaders, all known for their work qualities, who had played no
role during the revolution and who owed their rise entirely to him. At the
top level, Stalin also constituted around himself an informal “ruling group”
centered on the Politburo and the newly created executive committee of the
Sovnarkom. Similarly, in the regions, Old Bolsheviks were replaced by a new
generation of young, proletarian, Soviet-educated incumbents. “Stalin,” writes
Oleg Khlevniuk, “considered the promotion of young leaders [in the regions]

E. A. Rees, “The Great Purges and the XVIII Party Congress of 1939,” in Centre-Local Rela-

tions in the Stalinist State 1928“1941 (Basingstoke: Palgrave), 192. For persuasive evidence of
central coordination of this process through Stalin™s plenipotentiaries, see Sovetskoe rukovod-
stvo, 364“5, 393“7.
McLoughlin, “Mass Operations of the NKVD,” 144.

The full text of the ¬rst two directives is in Khaustov, Naumov, and Plotnikova, eds., 550“2,

604“6. The latter two are reproduced in ibid., 606“11, and, in English, in Getty and Naumov,
Road to Terror, 531“7.
Peter H. Solomon, Soviet Criminal Justice under Stalin (New York: Cambridge University

Press, 1996), 264.
For a fuller discussion, see Gorlizki and Khlevniuk, “Stalin and his Circle,” 252“4; and

Khlevniuk, Politbiuro, 246“7, 248“9, 256.
Political (Dis)Orders 71

to be the best means of strengthening the regime. They were better-educated,
healthy, energetic and free from the routine of former ˜revolutionary service™
and bureaucratic family circles.”115
The ending of the purges witnessed a variety of moves to consolidate and
stabilize the political order. A recent survey of the NKVD in the city of Nizhnii
Novgorod detected a clear pattern in early 1939 of “normalization “ affecting
everything from newspaper publications to rules of dress and hygiene.”116
The restoration of governmental authority was also augmented by a largely
successful effort to stamp out the chorus of appeals against the actions of the
NKVD.117 Stalin™s infamous telegraphic text of 10 January 1939 clarifying that
the “application of methods of physical pressure in NKVD practice [had been]
made permissible in 1937 in accordance with the Central Committee” was,
as Khlevniuk convincingly argues, intended less to justify future secret police
abuses, as Khrushchev would later claim, than to close ranks and halt social
criticism of the Commissariat.118 More generally, the ending of the purges saw
the Communist Party resume its position at the heart of the political system.
The prepurge equilibrium between the Party and the NKVD, which in many
areas had been broken with the First Moscow Show Trial in August 1936, as
NKVD of¬cials took charge of party elections, assumed party positions, and
arrested leading party functionaries, was quickly restored in the immediate
aftermath of the terror.119 The Central Committee was quick to stamp its
authority on lower levels of the party and state apparatus, as its nomenklatura
was formalized and extended and a new huge cadre administration was set up
under Georgii Malenkov.120 In order to placate of¬cials, at the XVIII Party
Congress in March 1939, Stalin claimed that though the purge of 1937“8
had been unavoidable, there would be no repetition, while Zhdanov assured
delegates that the party™s method of mass purging would not be used in the

Khlevniuk, “First Generation of Stalinist ˜Party Generals,™” 58“60.

Cynthia Hooper, “Shifting Stalinism: The ˜Normalization™ of Repression, 1939“41,” in

BASEES Annual Conference (Cambridge, 2004), 3“4, cited with permission. Also see Cyn-
thia Hooper, “Terror from Within: Participation and Coercion in Soviet Power, 1924“1964”
(Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2003), 255“61.
Hooper writes, for example, of how over a period of a few months the regime managed to

“shut down” the wave of criticism and “to raise a cross over the past.” See Hooper, “Shifting
Stalinism,” 13; Hooper, “Terror of Intimacy: Family Politics in the 1930s Soviet Union,”
in Everyday Life in Early Soviet Russia: Taking the Revolution Inside, eds. Christina Kiaer
and Eric Naiman (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2005), 82; and more generally,
Hooper, “Terror from Within,” 292“7, 301“2.
Khlevniuk, “Party and NKVD: Power Relationships in the Years of the Great Terror,” in

Stalin™s Terror, eds. Barry McLoughlin and Kevin McDermott (New York: Palgrave Macmil-
lan, 2003), 31.
Khlevniuk, “Party and NKVD,” 30, cf. 22“6.

See “Postanovlenie Politburo ob uchete, proverke i utverzhdenii v TsK VKP(b) otvetstvennykh

rabotnikov . . . ” of 20 September 1938 in Khlevniuk et al., eds., Stalinskoe politbiuro v 30-e
gody, 42“4; and Khlevniuk, Politbiuro, 248.
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

As with Stalin™s Soviet Union the German political system under Hitler
experienced a tension between the party in its “movement phase,” which relates
to the period until January 1933, and the “regime phase,” when the emphasis
was on consolidating the authority of the state.121 That tension, however,
would play itself out in a different way. The ¬rst stages after the seizure of
power in Germany were signi¬ed by efforts to tame the radical ambitions of
the party and, especially, of the SA Stormtroopers, leading to an open con¬‚ict
between Hitler, Goring, the army, and the SS on the one side, and Ernst Rohm
¨ ¨
on the other, which culminated in the murders of 30 June 1934. On account of
the military weakness of the Reich, Hitler steered a rather moderate course up to
1937, except for the anti-Jewish legislation which started in April 1933. During
this phase, the party found itself in a relatively passive governmental role. The
progressive radicalization of the Hitler regime after this point was not merely
a function of the contingent pressures placed on Hitler and on his system by a
disastrous war. It was also the result of an uncontrollably expansionist ideology
and the institutional disarray, marked by a complete absence of institutions for
reconciling interests or achieving compromise, which lay at the heart of the
Nazi regime.
It would be wrong to deny that the Nazi regime entirely lacked a capacity
for order and self-containment. Following the ¬rst, frenzied wave of insurgency
from below from March 1933, when the NSDAP, with the help of its armed
combat wing, the SA, staged mass meetings in Land capitals across the country,
parading troops, hoisting ¬‚ags, ransacking police stations, and getting even
with long-term political adversaries, in the summer of 1933, with the NSDAP
monopoly of power now secure, Hitler was able to proclaim an end to the
“National Socialist revolution” and move to restore the authority of the Reich
ministries. “The stream of revolution once released,” he famously announced
in a speech of 6 July 1933, “must be guided into the secure bed of evolution.”122
Over the next year, until the establishment of the absolute supremacy of the
Fuhrer in the summer of 1934, there was continual oscillation between the
opposing tendencies to make revolution and to halt it. From then on, however,
until 1937/8 an equilibrium was established between the stabilizing factors
of an authoritarian state and the dynamic forces of the National Socialist
movement. With all its contradictions and contrary tendencies, the distribution
of power within the German state remained relatively ¬xed. For much of this
period, the substance of Nazi policies was also kept broadly within the bounds
of traditional, German nationalist and national-conservative ideas and aims.
That Hitler was able to contain the “revolutionary” elements of his new
regime was due in large part to the fact that he had not presided over a

These categories are derived from Arendt™s discussion of the tension between the party as

“movement” and the party “in government.” Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism,
1st ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951), 389“92.
Max Domarus, Hitler: Reden und Proklationen, vol. 1 (Munich: Domarus [self-published],

1963), 286.
Political (Dis)Orders 73

revolution as such. Basing his accession to power on an alliance with national-
conservative forces, Hitler continued to maintain a coexistence in government
with nonparty elements well into the late 1930s. Rather than sweeping away
existing interest groups, Hitler™s government reached a modus vivendi with
key elements of the German economic establishment. Thus, for example, the
appointment of Schacht, a nonparty man, as president of the Reich Bank on
17 March 1933, served to placate leading business interests.123 It was largely
out of a wish not to alienate big business and the banks and, in particular,
not to bring about major shortages, that soon after coming to power Hitler™s
administration also retreated from its hard line on the department stores.124
Least affected by the party™s political “coordination” were the captains of
industry (Krupp, Thyssen, and Siemens), who, by means of their own special
standing with Hitler, as well as their direct support from the likes of Schacht,
Hugenberg, and Goring, were able to de¬‚ect with ease any encroachments by
party of¬cials. It was a measure of Hitler™s sensitivity to industrial interests that,


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