There were many reasons as to what caused the Great Terror for example Stalin’s paranoia, terror economics, other individuals and NKVD, threats to Stalin’s leadership and lastly the purges which had developed momentum within the society.
The Great Terror had been designed to increase the economic production but it turned out to be a disaster. Russia was still recovering and was attempting to industrialize itself in order to increase their power. When Stalin had begun the purges, he knew that he would be able to create a high reservoir for cheap labour and prison camps to obtain slave labour and bring in economy and production into Russia. An example of such a labour camp was gulags. This was a harsh labour camp set up in order to get raw materials and help with the industrialisation process. Stalin had introduced collectivisation for peasants in order to reintroduce serfdom in the countryside for all the peasants. However, his main aim for introducing collectivisation was to eliminate the wealthiest peasants known as the kulaks. By eliminating the kulaks, it therefore meant that more money was able to come into the Russian economy. Through the economic problems that Russia were facing, it allowed Stalin to blame them on his political enemies which would have cause Stalin’s paranoia and therefore allowed him to discreetly achieve his aims and increase his own reputation by seemingly trying to save Russia from the economic problems that they were experiencing.
The next cause for the Great Terror was the threats which Stalin had to his leadership and therefore added to Stalin’s paranoia. An example of this was the congress of victors which caused fear in Stalin because during the election, Kirov had received more votes that him and hence made Kirov seem more popular within the Communist Party. This therefore led to Kirov being told to become the General Secretary by a group of old Bolsheviks which Stalin had found out about and hence he decided to purge the communist party as he believed that he was unable to trust them anymore. The doubts and paranoia that were in Stalin’s mind were made worse by the congress and this clearly shows that Stalin’s paranoia would have held importance in the cause of the Great Terror. The congress of victors did not do much in causing the Great Terror but it was the increased speed in time of it’s happening that therefore led Stalin to become more paranoid and persuade him to arrange the purges.
The next factor which contributed to the causes of the Great Terror was other individuals and the NKVD who had a degree of control. The leaders of NKVD known as Generikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov and Laverenti Beria had all made mistakes which had therefore caused them fear of losing their positions. An example of this was Yagoda who ad not been fully trusted by Stalin because of the links which he held with Bukharin. Yezhov had developed a ‘conveyor belt’ method which he used when he was dealing with enemies which included torture, sleep deprivation and questioning until the individual confessed.
Consequently, another factor for the cause of the Great Terror was the purges who had developed momentum within the society. Stalin wanted to punish those who opposed him and hence the only way he could do this was through arresting. The murder of Kirov can be believed as one of then main causes as to the beginning of the purges. Stalin had also got the chance to act upon his paranoia by removing his rivals such as Zinoviev and Kamanev by getting them arrested as he suspected upon them for plotting against him. This allowed Stalin to be able to justify the acts of the Great Terror by executing party members. Stalin feared Kirov as he believed that he was a political opponent of his and by him being murdered, it showed the beginning of the purges and Stalin’s paranoia as being a vital reason as to the cause of the Great Terror.
Stalin’s paranoia began with him still believing that he had enemies. Stalin was unable to trust his party members which caused his paranoia to increase and when he had been outvoted by Kirov, it caused his paranoia to increase further. This therefore led Stalin to remove those individuals who he saw as a threat and consequently the Great Terror had begun. Another reason as to why Stalin had fear of old party members was because they knew the truth behind Stalin’s rise to power and what Lenin’s testament contained which would have caused the ruining of Stalin. Under Yagoda’s influence, Stalin’s old party members had questioned Stalin and therefore caused his paranoia to develop and therefore the beginning of the Great Terror. Due to Stalin being in control, it meant that this was the main cause of the great terror because he wanted to remain in power made him force for the allowance of the Great terror to happen.
In conclusion, I completely agree with the statement made that Stalin’s paranoia was the main cause of the Great Terror. An example of why I think this is because Stalin was in need to divert people’s attention from his failure in economic policy such as the voting which took place in the congress of victors that did not help as it caused Stalin’s paranoia to increase as he had been outvoted by Kirov. All the factors show that Stalin’s paranoia was the central and the main cause as the other factors all show a contribution of his paranoia in them which caused it to develop further and hence the beginning of the Great Terror.