Purges of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

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Purges of the Communist Party in the Union (Russian: "Чистка партийных рядов", chistka partiinix ryadov, "cleansing of the party ranks") were a key ritual in which periodic reviews of members of the Communist Party were conducted[by whom?] to get rid of the "undesirables."[1]

According to Sheila Fitzpatrick, in her book Everyday Stalinism, such purges were conducted especially during the cultural revolution, "bringing excitement into the workday bureaucratic routine".[2] Such reviews would start with a short autobiography from the reviewed person and then interrogation of him or her by the purge commission as well as by the attending audience.

Although the term "purge" is mostly associated[by whom?] with Stalinism, the first major purge of the party ranks was performed by Bolsheviks as early as 1921. About 220,000 members were purged or left the party in 1921. The purge was justified by the necessity to get rid of the members who joined the party simply to be on the winning side. The major criteria were social origins (members of working classes were normally accepted without question) and contributions to the revolutionary cause.

The first purge of the Joseph Stalin era took place in 1929–1930 in accordance with a resolution of the XVI Party Conference. More than 10 percent of the party members were purged. At the same time a significant number of new members, industrial workers, joined the Party. Additionally Stalin ordered "Case Spring" the repression and/or execution of the officers of the Red Army who had served previously in the Russian Imperial Army, civilians who had been sympathetic to the White movement, or other subversives rounded up by the OGPU. Over 3,000 people were estimated to be executed and tens of thousands lost their positions and privileges.[3]

The next systematic party purge in the Soviet Union was declared[by whom?] in December 1932 to be performed during 1933. During this period new memberships were suspended. A joint resolution of the Party Central Committee and Central Revision Committee specified the criteria for purging and called for setting up special Purge Commissions, to which every communist had to report. Also, this purge concerned members of the Central Committee, Central Revision Committee, which previously were immune to purges, because they were elected at Party Congresses. In particular, Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Ivanovich Rykov, and Mikhail Tomsky had to try hard to defend themselves during this purge. At this time, of 1.9 million members, about 18 percent were purged.

In itself, the term was innocent enough: between 1921 and 1933 in the Soviet Union, for example, some 800,000 people were purged or left the party, but suffered no worse fate. But from 1936 onwards, during the Great Purge, the connotations of the term changed, because being expelled from the party came to mean almost certain arrest, imprisonment or even execution.[citation needed]

Following Stalin's death in 1953, purges as systematic campaigns of expulsion from the party stopped, and loss of the party membership meant only loss of possible nomenklatura privileges. Many[quantify] victims of the purges were eventually "rehabilitated."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alex Inkeles and Raymond A. Bauer. The Soviet Citizen. Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society. New-York, 1968 (1st published in 1959).
  2. ^ Fitzpatrick, S. Everyday Stalinism. Oxford University Press. New-York, 1999. page 20. ISBN 0195050010
  3. ^ Jaroslav Tinchenko (2000). Calvary Russian officers in the USSR. 1930-1931 years. Moscow: Moscow Public Science Foundation. ISBN 5-89554-195-X.