The Great Purge


In the memoir “Journey into the Whirling” by Eugenia Ginzburg explained and evaluates his life and the why she and others in her position were arrested for conspiracy against the government. In this memoir Ginzburg talks about her being imprisoned for eighteen years during the great purge. Lenin believed there were enemies in the government, and he would call them “Enemies of the People.” He believed that the enemies should be arrested, as these people would have negative impact on the country and the government.

During this time period, Lenin’s leadership, many people such as government officials, politic dissident, and ordinary people were arrested and were sent to labor camps. These labor camps were known as Gulag , they were punishment for people and a solution for cheap labor. Soviet Union wanted to industrialize the country and also catch up to the West. Stalin who came to the power after Lenin, had started the five-year plan which was meant to modernize the country. Therefore to put his plan into action he needed workers. These people, prisoners, were sent off to Siberia to work in horrible conditions. By the time of Stalin death five million party members were sent to these camps. As results millions died in those camps from starvation, disease, execution, and many of the women were raped. Ginzburg was one of these people sent to these camps during the height of the great purge.

When Serge Kirov, the secretary of Communists party general committees, was assassinated, Stalin believed this was a conspiracy by Leon Trotsky against the government. This caused Stalin to be very paranoid about political elements within the party. Therefore Stalin ended up tightening its grip on society . The beginning of the great purge was two weeks after Kirov death. As Stalin arrested and executed seventeen party members including Genrikh Yagoda, Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev , all of whom had become critical of Stalin.

Stalin took advantage of these purges to put intense horror in the hearts of the Russian people. Stalin led people to believe, they were being threatened with dangerous enemies within the Communist Party. He used the assassination of Kiev to get ride of the threat of internal foes. They were first thrown out of the party on false charges, and then they were sent to labor camps which most died of the conditions of the Camps.

Eugenia Ginsburg whom was a professor specializing in communism at a University, also editor of communist newspaper called “Red Tartary” at her local area, was a very loyal party member. She admitted that she was willing “to die for the party.”53 All her life she remained a communist at heart, and she enjoyed being called a comrade. She was shocked and surprised when she first heard of the arrests from the purge. She couldn’t believe that criminals have made their way into the party. She becomes very astonished when her husband was accused. She denounces her husband, when he was arrested as a traitor.

Most people in their country can’t believe that their own government would arrest loyal party members. Even Ginzburg husband remarks to Ginzburg of the arrest of Petrov, when he reads the report in the newspaper “Have you heard? Pedrov has turned out to be enemy of the people! How cunning, he must have been to get away with it for so long.” (Paul p44) This book shows us how loyal men and women remain to their party, after being victimized as enemy of the people.
This book is not about anticommunist. She stays loyal like many other people like her and in her position. These people believed that people whom were being arrested, were really committing something, but just themselves they were wrongly accused and it was just a misunderstanding. One of Ginzburg’s cell mate believed that Stalin didn’t know what was going on in the country and the prisons that people were being sent. Nadya Korolyova was informing everyone in the cells about her feelings, “We must all of us write to Stalin so that he knows the truth, and when he does, how can he let such things happen to the people”(Korolyova, 283). But Stalin knew what was going on, as he was in charge of it.

Ginsburg becomes involve in this purge when one of her friends, professor Elov is arrested for writing a book. This book has chapter about Trotshist undertone. Since Ginzburg was a friend of Elov, the Soviet government became very suspicious of her too. Her own party officials accused her of failing to condemn Elov. She can’t believe this is happening to her, as she doesn’t think Elov has done anything wrong.

When she was first accused of conspiracy, she faces lesser charge from Beylin and his colleague. But later on she is faced with more serious charges when she is interrogated. She is accused of being the ringleader of an international terrorist network, which she can face the death penalty for it. Her friends and family advice her to leave the country, as many others in her position have done. But because of her loyalty to the party she refused to leave the country. She believes that her name would clear up in the legal system. She believed those who were arrested were truly guilty. She couldn’t believe what was going on, she was so naïve to believe that the vans on the streets were carrying milk not spying on her. Her friends, such as her former colleague Volodya Dyakonov and Narya Kozlovo who have signed the interrogation documents whom were also desperate not to get arrested, validated her charges.

Everyone was a victim of this purge, all party members were victims, even Ginzburg’s integrators ended up in these camps. She ends up giving her water in one of those camps to one those whom interrogated her and helped her being arrested. Officials and guards were becoming victims. Anyone with any association directly or indirectly with a traitor was also suspected of being a traitor. That is why a lot of people turned on each other to avoid being purged themselves. But as it tuned out, that didn’t even work as those people were also being purges. But Ginzburg never accused anybody.

During Genzburg integration she was lucked out to miss Stalin worst terror, as she was only psychologically tortured while others were physically tortured as well. Even though the interrogators knew the charges and confessions were false, they would still want her signatures on the false confession. It can be that if they don’t get the signatures the interrogators can also be purged. If the person refuses to sign the confessions, they will face physical and mental abuse, and anywhere from long period of interrogation with no food and water to saying they would arrest their families too. Some of the interrogators would go into rage and hit the accuser. Genzburg still refuses to sign the confession.

Ginzburg believed that she was going to receive a death sentence before a military tribunal, but instead she gets 10 years in jail. After serving two years at Yaroslavi and going through few other prisons she ends up being sent to a labor camp in Kilyma in Northeast region of Siberia with a Cargo Train label “special equipment.” This was used for cattle’s, not people. This cargo train is very similar to the Jewish experience during World War Two Hitler “Final Solution.”

Later on she was put on a boat, which the people tightly grouped in, she goes in and out of conscious during a trip until she lands in Siberia, where it’s a frozen wasteland. Ginzburg was able to bribe the leader who assigns work to various work location, and was able to work at a guesthouse doing housework. Later on she works at a kitchen in men’s quarter. But then she ends up at a difficult job in camp Elgen, where she must cut trees in the cold temperature. Luckily one of the doctors that were doing a routine check on her recognizes her, as he knew her son. This doctor is able to let her work at a medical attendant in children’s home. She never sees her husband again, but she was able to escape death unlike other millions who didn’t make it out alive.

This Purge which was supposed to strengthen the Communist Party weakens the party, economic, and agriculture. It also weakened their army as a lot of officers and generals were purged. It created fear among the people, which prevented some people to join the Communist Party.



Source by Bijan Akhavan
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