During his rise to power in the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin arranged a number of assassinations on key political opponents in order to consolidate his power over the USSR. These purges of political opponents were systematic, and were aimed at eliminating all opposition to Stalin's regime. Many of the potential successors to Vladimir Lenin, including those listed in his 1922 testament were declared enemies of the state, and soon after executed, sent to concentration camps, or assassinated by government agents. Through the efficiency and brutality of these actions, Stalin was able to gain complete control over Russia, and begin his plans to create a model communist society. Some of the main figures assassinated by Stalin during his totalitarian regime include:

Leon Trotsky

As one of the most influential leaders of the Bolshevik revolution, Trotsky was a key member of the communist party, and a direct rival to Stalin for power over the country. Trotsky's history before the Russian Revolution was based on the promotion of radical leftist ideals, and attempts at fast revolutionary change. During the Russian Revolution, Trotsky's skill for public speaking, as well as his radical revolutionary writings made him a key figure within the Bolshevik party. He moved up through the ranks of the Communist Party, until he eventually became Lenin's right hand man. Trotsky held many key positions in the Soviet Government, such as the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and the People's Commissar of Army and Navy Affairs. He was also involved with the direct negotiations with the German Army at Brest-Livotsk. His status and popularity within the Communist Party made him a key figure of the Revolution, and at the same time a great source of opposition to Joseph Stalin. In his final testament, in regards as to who would succeed him, Lenin promoted
Lenon Trotsky
Trotsky as a possible successor, and denounced Stalin. As written by Lenin,

"Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the C.C. on the question of the People's Commissariat of Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C..."

Trotsky was promoted as one of the most promising successors to the leadership of the Communist Party, and was most adherent to Lenin's ideals as to the perfect communist society. This testament alone established Trotsky as one of the greatest challenges to Stalin's desires for power, and consequentially, one of the most important figures to be eliminated from the Party. Trotsky was very much in support of Lenin's Marxist beliefs of communism, and opposed to the methods and use of power displayed by Stalin. Stalin and Trotsky had very different views on how to govern the new Communist society; Trotsky wanted to implement the Marxist view of the dictatorship of the Proletariat, a classless society and democracy, while Stalin wanted to be the elite ruler of the people through authoritarianism. Trotsky was a key and influential leader of the Revolution, and the Communist Party, with goals and beliefs of a pure Marxist society, very much in line with the pragmatic thinking of Lenin. As such, he became a key figure of opposition to Joseph Stalin, and his dogmatic views, leading to his fall from power, his exile, and eventually his death.

To eliminate Trotsky from the political stage, and expel him from any position of power or influence, Stalin combined a number of methods, which lowered Trotsky's prestige within the party, and turned him into a national scapegoat. One of the main methods used was the manipulation of the bureaucracy of the government, who wished to hold onto their power instead of giving it up for the democracy and stateless society that Trotsky wanted to impose. Stalin appealed to those in the Communist Party, who were enjoying the perks of government that came from Stalin's regime. They were easily persuaded to discredit Trotsky as well as all of the other old Bolsheviks, paving the way for the eventual exile or murder of these figures. Publicly, the Communist Party labeled Trotsky as an agitator, who would bring about chaos, to a country desiring peace. Using propaganda, trumped up charges, false convictions, and even a letter written by Trotsky to Lenin many years earlier, arguing about the finer points of Communism itself, Stalin made Trotsky up to look like a traitor to Russia whose only goals were further revolution and war within the troubled state. Through these actions, Trotsky was reduced to a criminal and scapegoat in the country he worked so hard to build. In exile, he wrote:

"I answered him to the effect that at that moment there could be no question of reconciliation, not because I did not want it, but because Stalin could not make his peace with me. He was forced to pursue to the end the course set him by the bureaucracy. 'How will it end?' 'It will come to a sticky end', I answered. 'Stalin cannot settle it any other way'. My visitor was visibly startled; he obviously had not expected such an answer and soon left."
He reflected on the necessity of Stalin's actions in order to maintain his regime, and realized the grim truth of his predicament.

Trotsky was able to escape immediate persecution by Stalin's secret police by writing and publishing a letter to both the Politburo, and the local press, spreading the word of his long standing struggle, and the lengths the government would go to silence those in opposition. In effect, Trotsky ensured that he would not simply "disappear" but through his death, he would broadcast the cruel methods used by the Stalinist government in order to maintain power. However, in order to maintain public support, Stalin simply sentenced Trotsky to exile from the Soviet Union. Trotsky moved from country to country, seeking asylum, and refuge from Stalinist agents from the USSR. Many countries turned him down because of his Communist Revolutionary roots, or fear of Stalin. Eventually, he settled down in Mexico, and continued to write, and attempted to gain support for Leninist Communism. Eventually he was discovered by Soviet GPU agent Raymond Mercader, and he was struck by an ice axe. He died in hospital a day later.

Trotsky was a key figure in the Russian Revolution, a hero to the people, and one of the most promising successors to Lenin. He was a supporter of Marxism, in all of it's stages, including the eventual surrender of power from the state into the hands of the people. He held considerable influence within the communist party, and his talents for strategy, diplomacy, and public speaking made him a figurehead in the public eye, and therefore an obstacle to Stalin in his bid for power. Through the manipulation of power hungry party members, the use of propaganda and false evidence, and the final assassination of Trotsky, Stalin continued his methodical purge of key members of opposition in the USSR. Trotsky was Stalin's main political rival for power, and the leadership of the party. As such he became one of many victims of the Great Purge, taking with him many of the original ideals of the revolution, and all future hope for a peaceful, democratic Soviet Union. Trotsky's death is a main example of the fears written by Lenin in his last testament, were realized in their full proportions. Stalin turned against not only the people involved in the revolution, but also the very ideals the revolution was originally founded upon. The murder of Trotsky was a clear indication of the lengths Stalin was willing to go to, to gain power, and the dire consequences it had on the rest of the world.

Yuri Pyatakov

In Lenin's testament he was labeled as "one of the most outstanding figures (among the youngest ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them... unquestionably a man of outstanding will and outstanding ability." Yuri Pyatakov worked in the Bolshevik party for approximately 40 years. He was mainly responsible for propaganda, mainly directed at the Scandinavian countries, and later reached the position of deputy in the Supreme Economic Council of the USSR. As Stalin began his attempts to consolidate power in the Soviet Union, Pyatakov initially joined Trotsky in opposition to the regime, later labeled "Trotskyism." He was expelled from the party, but later reinstated after renouncing Trotsky, and stating his loyalty to the Communist Party, and Stalin. He then went on to become the Deputy of Heavy Industry. In 1936, Pyatkov was once again brought up on charges, accusing him of a variety of different offenses, ranging from support of Trotsky, to an attempt to overthrow the Soviet Government, and giving the Nazi's large portions of Soviet land. During the show trial, Pyatakov was forced to "confess to these crimes," and was soon after executed on January 30, 1937. The death of Yuri Pyatakov is another example of a common method used by Stalin to consolidate power in the Soviet Union. Using a widely broadcasted show trial, and forcing the defendant to admit guilt made a clear impression in the minds of the average Soviet citizen, and turned this one time hero of the revolution, and possible successor to Lenin into a conspirator, terrorist, and scapegoat, with intentions of overthrowing the government, and causing harm to the country. Through the use of a false confession of guilt, in a plot to overthrow the USSR, and her citizens, Stalin was easily able to convince the Soviet citizens of the traitors in their midst, and gained further support in his movement to consolidate power. Yuri Pyatakov began his career as a promising member of the Bolshevik party, and a possible successor to Vladimir Lenin. He fell victim to the Great Purge, was executed because of his support of Trotsky, and the Soviet Union that Lenin was attempting to create. He legitimized Stalin's right to power, both through the initial renunciation of Trotsky, and then later, during his confessions of treason. His death is another example of Stalin's ruthless methods, and strategies used to gain power, and eventually eliminate all opposition in the USSR.

Grigory Zinoviev

As one of Vladimir Lenin’s closest political allies and supposedly ranking amongst the top 4 or 5 key figures that constituted the Bolshevik party, Gregory Ovseyevich Zinoviev was a key driving figure during the Bolshevik revolution. Little was known of him until 1917 because of the low profile he had to keep thanks to Russian plotters who attached forgery to his name. Nevertheless the significance of this individual cannot go unknown.

Zinoviev made many outstanding speeches that supposedly compared to none except of course for Lenin’s and Trotsky’s speeches. Zinoviev was as good a journalist as was an orator, many arguing the only difference being that his powerful voice could not be heard first hand through his writing.

In 1903 Zinoviev met Vladimir Lenin; just two years after joining the social democratic party. Little did he know that he would be spending a lot more time with the Bolshevik leader in the near future. Due to the outbreak of the 1905 revolution, Zinoviev seized position as Lenin’s henchmen and was referred to as the leader’s inseparable “amanuensis and aide-de-camp”. It was a role that he taken up in Switzerland before the revolution began. Zinoviev was Lenin’s number one escort during their voyage to Russia in the “sealed train” of April 1917. At times Zinoviev was the only person traveling with Lenin such as the time of the armed insurrection during the so called “July days” in which case the two were forced into hiding. They fled Petrograd and stayed beside a pond in Finland pretending to be two Finnish farmhands.

Zinoviev began to back down in October 10th 1917 when he and another key political figure by the name of Lev Kamenev decided to vote against the revolutionary coup. Most likely, the fear of being discovered in Russia by plotters led to Zinoviev’s back down. It should be noted that Zinoviev took no part in the actual October revolution. Clearly this is the reason why no portfolio was created for him during the formation of the Council of the Peoples’ Commissars (Lenin’s Cabinet). Despite that loss for him, he was elected chairman for the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet in 1919. Basically this gave him official rule over the city. He remained in charge of the city until 1926 when Stalin removed him from his post together with his removal as chairman of the third international or Comintern. The Comintern was responsible for advocating revolution abroad.

Stalin’s step up the political ladder signified Zinoviev’s step down. Zinoviev tried to play his cards right believing that if he switched support from Joseph Stalin and Lev Kamenev to Leon Trotsky he could overthrow Stalin. Unfortunately, his plans failed as Stalin only grew stronger by gaining support from Nicolai Bukharin. Zinoviev was deprived of all his offices and kicked out of the party. He got in again, and again and again. Finally Stalin resorted to the use of purging. Zinoviev was imprisoned in 1935 under “moral complicity” for the murder of Sergy Kirov. After 10 years in prison Stalin arraigned him at the first purge trial of 1936.Zinoviev was charged with forming a terrorist organization to kill Joseph Stalin and other leaders of the governments. Zinoviev was condemned and shot in Moscow on 25th August, 1936. His death was merciless.

Gregory Zinoviev was possibly Lenin’s number one political associate, a strong and necessary link in the Bolshevik revolution and one of the most influential speakers and journalists of the times. He was an absolutely essential player to Lenin who recognized this and who for the same reason was gravely disappointed when Zinoviev voted against his revolutionary coup. Despite that sadness, he has been recognized by many as Lenin’s closest assistant and confidant. His talent as both a speaker and journalist combined with his hard-working and intellectually oriented mind were ultimately what made him a threat to Stalin. Along with Lenin and Trotsky, Zinoviev aspired to create change and in a sense this change was achieved by Zinoviev in his own way.

Lev Kamenev

His parent were in the student movement (1870). He was born in July 18 1883 Moscow. When the party leaders Lenin and Martov devided the party into the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks he staited with the Bolsheviks, Lenin.
The Central Committe made He and Gregory Z. singed an agreement later not to create conflict by not giving speeches that opposed the new policies implemented. Trotsky did not sing and as a result was sent to Kazhastan.
In 1935, he was arrested arguing that he was involved with Sergy Kirov assesination. They sentence him to 10 year imprisonment, however next year he was executed (agoust 25, 1936) with the argument that he formed a terrorist group to kill Stalin.

Grigory Sokolnikov


Lenin's Testament
Assasination of Trotsky
Twenty Years of Stalinist Degeneration (Trotsky)
Gregory Zinoviev
Revolutionary Silhouettes (Zinoviev)

( Kamenev) http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUSkamenev.htm

Article: Court Vindicates 2 Stalin Victims Who Were Close Allies of Lenin's