Stalin pp 161-180 | Cite as


  • Robert H. McNeal
Part of the St Antony’s book series


In a letter to Gorky in 1930 Stalin made it clear that he scorned ‘bourgeois pacifism’. Like most non-pacifists he obviously thought that killing people might be justified in war, and as a militant Marxist he saw class struggle as the highest form of war.1 As a combatant Stalin was by the opening of 1934 more or less responsible for the killing of a large number of the enemy, mainly members of the White forces of the civil war and peasants who had the misfortune of being classified as kulaks. Still, it is difficult to demonstrate that he had, by the start of his fifty-fifth year, committed what non-pacifists would normally call murder. Not only were his killings wartime acts in a Marxist-Leninist perspective, the lacked the individualized character that common usage attributes to murder.2


Central Committee Party Congress Politburo Member Reception Room State Decree 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    J. E. Abbe, I Photograph Russia (New York, 1934 ) 278;Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    E. Lermolo, The Face of a Victim (New York, 1955 ) 227–31, 227–9;Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A. Kuusinen, The Rings of Destiny (New York, 1974) 91–3; M. Vishniak in Novoe russkoe slovo 21 December 1949, exemplify the different versions of the murder thesis. A more recent version comes from Shatunovskaia, Zhizn’ v Kremle (New York, 1982) 199, who maintains that the widow of Sergo Ordzhonikidze said that she had washed Nadezhda’s corpse and saw only one bullet wound, which was in the back of the skull. Shatunovskaia interprets this as evidence that Stalin shot his wife from behind. It seems equally possible, however, that this was an exit wound of the sort that temporarily confused physicians in the case of John F. Kennedy. A suicidal shot through the mouth might have created such an exit wound without leaving an obvious entry wound. Shatunovskaia (205) also considers that statements by her own interrogator in 1947 implied that she knew too much about the death of Nadezhda, and that this meant that the officer knew that Stalin had murdered her. But it is equally possible that he meant that she knew the death was suicide, something that the public was not supposed to know.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    S. Allilueva, Twenty Letters to a Friend (New York, 1967) 123–5, also 99.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Allilueva (1967) 107, 152; Allilueva (1969) 385; Allilueva (1984) 117; KR 301; A. Tuominen, The Bells of the Kremlin (Hanover, 1983) 163–6; BKM, 87;Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    M. Djilas, Conversations with Stalin (New York, 1962) 109;Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    B. Bajanov, Avec Stalin dans le Kremlin (Paris, 1930) 138.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Allilueva (1969) 18–22; A. S. Yakovlev, Tsel’ zhizni (Moscow, 1969) 505; author’s visit to the outside of the compound, December 1983.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Yakovlev (1969) 505, 584; Yakovlev (1972) 497; G. K. Zhukov, The Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov (New York, 1971 ) 280–1.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Yakovlev (1972) 497–500; Tuominen (1983) 164; A. Barmine, One Who Survived (New York, 1945) 212 (a witness to one such meeting);Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    C. E. Bohlen, Witness to History 1929–1969 (New York, 1973 ) 145;Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    K. P. S. Menon, The Flying Troika (London, 1963 ) 29.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Allilueva (1967) 15, 97–9, 122; Allilueva (1969) 412; R. A. Medvedev, Nikolay Bukharin (New York, 1980 ) 110.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Allilueva (1967) 143–4, 96–7, 150–1; V. Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom (New York, 1946 ) 398–9.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    E. Zaleski, Stalinist Planning for Economic Growth 1933–1952 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1980) 129; there was a diminishing number of published interventions by the party in industrial matters in the mid-1930s compared to the period of the First Five-Year Plan. [See Guide 162–89;Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    M. Fainsod, Smolensk under Soviet Rule (Cambridge, Mass., 1958) 185–7; Istoriia KPSS v shesti tomakh (Moscow, 1971) IV, kn. 2, 432.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    J. A. Getty, Origins of the Great Purges (Cambridge, 1985) 36–57; RDCPSU, III, 124–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 28.
    A. Antonov-Ovseenko, The Time of Stalin (New York, 1980) 89;Google Scholar
  19. 28.
    R. A. Medvedev, Let History Judge (New York, 1971) 158–9. In general AntonovOvseenko does not inspire confidence, making use of extensive imagined conversations and sometimes erring on verifiable information [L. van Rossum, ‘A. Antonov-Ovseenko’s Book on Stalin: Is it Reliable?’, Soviet Studies no. 3 (1984) 445–7; and n. 32 below]. Medvedev usually displays much more concern with the reliability of his evidence, but on this matter seems rather credulous, citing, for example, a pointless story about a friend of Kirov who supposedly was set upon on the street by two men who tried, with little success, to beat him with ‘iron objects’ [Medvedev (1971) 161].Google Scholar
  20. 33.
    P, 11 February 1934; Zagoria (1965) 35; R. Conquest, The Great Terror (New York, 1973) 42. Nicolaevsky [Zagoria (1965) 92] suggested that Stalin had been removed as General Secretary, noting that the announcement of the new Secretariat omitted the formula of previous announcements that Stalin had been ‘confirmed’ in this office. In 1934 his name merely appeared first in the list of secretaries. But in 1939 when the Secretariat was reconstituted after the next party congress, when Stalin was surely in the fullness of his power, having slaughtered all suspected opposition, the reference to confirmation again was omitted, and this time Stalin’s name appeared in its alphabetical place in the list (P,23 March 1939). Nor was the office of General Secretary specifically mentioned after the Nineteenth Party Congress in 1952 (P,17 October 1952). On the other hand, the announcement of the new Politburo in 1934 enhanced Stalin’s status by placing his name first in the list (whereas it had been alphabetical in the corresponding announcement in P,14 July 1930) and by accompanying it with a photograph of Stalin that dominated the smaller ones of his colleagues on that body. Quite possibly Stalin thought that the explicit reference to the confirmation of the General Secretary, alone among all elected posts, called attention too emphatically to the power of the Central Committee to withhold this prize.Google Scholar
  21. 35.
    P,2 December 1934; S. V. Krasnikov, S. M. Kirov v Leningrade (Leningrad, 1966) 196.Google Scholar
  22. 36.
    A. Orlov, The Secret History of Stalin’s Crimes (New York, 1953) 21–2. In general the testimony of this police defector should be treated with reserve. He was out of the Soviet Union during most of the period he wrote about and must have relied mainly on gossip that was making the rounds in the police. Some of this probably was based on fact, but Orlov does not appear to have been able, or perhaps willing, to make a serious effort to discriminate between the more reliable stories and the less probable. Although he claimed that he took with him from Russia ‘secret data’ on Stalin, none of this has ever appeared. Rarely can his assertions be verified from other sources, but it is reasonably safe to describe as imaginary his assertion (44) that Stalin once explained to foreign ‘writers’ why there was no documentary evidence in the purge trials. In fact Stalin’s few press interviews are well established, and none deal with any such thing. However, Orlov’s assertions on the Kirov assassination seem more credible than most of his writing. His claims to inside knowledge on this subject were comparatively modest at the time he wrote his first memoir, and at that time he did not make the easy sensationalist case that Stalin arranged the killing. His testimony on this matter gains credibility by its assertion that Nikolaev had been taken into custody at Smolny with a gun in his possession, but was released by the police (17). This was corroborated by Khrushchev (CSP rv, 197) almost twenty years after Orlov’s book was published. Granted, this point cropped up in the trial of Bukharin [Report of Court Proceedings: The Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’ (Moscow, 1938) 572], which Orlov could have read, but he could scarcely have guessed that precisely this part of the lengthy fabrications at the trial would be confirmed in 1961:Google Scholar
  23. 38.
    P, 3–10 December 1934; I. Rabinovich ‘Obraz Vozhdia v proizvedenniiakh zhivopisi i skulptury’, Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 12 (1939) 16.Google Scholar
  24. 50.
    L. Sumbadze, ‘Proekt planirovki i rekonstruktsii g. Gori’, Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 12 (1939) 42–8; Allilueva (1967) 203–4; P, 7 October 1935.Google Scholar
  25. 51.
    P, 16 January, 4 March 1935, 20 December 1937; A. Yenukidze, Bol’shevistskie nelegal’nie tipografii (Moscow, 1930);Google Scholar
  26. 51.
    L. P. Beria, On the History of the Bolshevik Organizations in Transcaucasia (New York, 1935 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert H. McNeal 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert H. McNeal
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

Personalised recommendations