The Great Fear

The Great Fear : Stalin's Terror of the 1930s

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Between the winter of 1936 and the autumn of 1938, approximately three quarters of a million Soviet citizens were subject to summary execution. More than a million others were sentenced to lengthy terms in labour camps. Commonly known as 'Stalin's Great Terror', it is also among the most misunderstood moments in the history of the twentieth century. The Terror gutted the ranks of factory directors and engineers after three years in which all major plan targets were met. It raged through the armed forces on the eve of the Nazi invasion. The wholesale slaughter of party and state officials was in danger of making the Soviet state ungovernable. The majority of these victims of state repression in this period were accused of participating in counter-revolutionary conspiracies. Almost without exception, there was no substance to the claims and no material evidence to support them. By the time the terror was brought to a close, most of its victims were ordinary Soviet citizens for whom 'counter-revolution' was an unfathomable abstraction.
In short, the Terror was wholly destructive, not merely in terms of the incalculable human cost, but also in terms of the interests of the Soviet leaders, principally Joseph Stalin, who directed and managed it. The Great Fear presents a new and original explanation of the Stalin's Terror based on intelligence materials in Russian archives. It shows how Soviet leaders developed a grossly exaggerated fear of conspiracy and foreign invasion and lashed out at enemies largely of their own making.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 140 x 222 x 18mm | 386g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199695768
  • 9780199695768
  • 608,241

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Fear and Violence ; 2. Peace and Insecurity ; 3. The Uncertain Dictatorship ; 4. The Great Break ; 5. Relaxation? ; 6. Tensions Mount ; 7. The Perfect Storm ; Epilogue ; Bibliography
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Review quote

sparkles with learning * Andre van Loon, The Australian * The Great Fear presents a nuanced reading of history drawing on a number of primary sources; its strength is to see the Great Terror in the context of world and Russian events which contribute to the structure of society and mindset of the people in power, rather than as the result of one's man's paranoia or capriciousness ... for those with a keen interest in Soviet history, this excellent book is a must for the light it throws on a dramatic and appalling
period of the regime's history. * Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings blog * [a] well-researched and tightly argued study ... [Harris] has produced the most important book we have on the origins of the great purges. But in the process he has done more than that. The chapters tracing the story up to the perfect storm of 1937 are in themselves a very attractive general survey of the first two decades of Soviet history. This clearly written book will be required reading for specialists in the field; general readers will find it useful as a
compact survey of the state of the field. * Arch Getty, History * One can only applaud him [Harris] for tackling the most vexing and morally charged issues in Soviet history, and for doing so in a crisply, succinctly written volume ... A brief review such as this cannot do justice to Harris's nuanced argument and careful use of sources. The volume is not only a valuable contribution to the literature but also a book that, because of its coverage and readability, will work well in undergraduate classes. * William J. Chase, The Russian Review *
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About James Harris

James Harris is Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Leeds. He is the author of The Great Urals: Regionalism and the Evolution of the Soviet System (1999) and co-author (with Sarah Davies) of Stalin's World: Dictating the Soviet Order (2015). He co-edited (with Sarah Davies) Stalin: A New History (2005), and edited Anatomy of Terror: Political Violence under Stalin (2013).
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10 ratings
3.8 out of 5 stars
5 10% (1)
4 60% (6)
3 30% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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