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Terror by Quota

Terror by Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (an Archival Study)

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 360
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    Terror by Quota
    Book Description:

    This original analysis of the workings of Soviet state security organs under Lenin and Stalin addresses a series of questions that have long resisted satisfactory answers. Why did political repression affect so many people, most of them ordinary citizens? Why did repression come in waves or cycles? Why were economic and petty crimes regarded as political crimes? What was the reason for relying on extra-judicial tribunals? And what motivated the extreme harshness of punishments, including the widespread use of the death penalty?

    Through an approach that synthesizes history and economics, Paul Gregory develops systematic explanations for the way terror was applied, how terror agents were recruited, how they carried out their jobs, and how they were motivated. The book draws on extensive, recently opened archives of the Gulag administration, the Politburo, and state security agencies themselves to illuminate in new ways terror and repression in the Soviet Union as well as dictatorships in other times and places.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15278-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Dictators, Their Enemies, and Repression
    (pp. 1-32)

    THIS BOOK TELLS HOW the Stalin regime dealt with its enemies: how it spied on, arrested, sentenced, and deported them, forced them to labor in its Gulag, and executed them. Unlike some short-lived regimes, the Soviet Union existed for three-quarters of a century. It endured for a quarter-century in its most extreme form, coinciding with Stalin’s rule from his rise to power until his death in March 1953. With the opening of its state and party archives in the 1990s, the Soviet Union became history’s best-documented totalitarian system. There is no better source for the study the interplay of dictatorship...

  5. 1 Stalin’s Praetorians
    (pp. 33-59)

    SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS EVOLVE much like plants and animals. Some survive; others become extinct, and others mutate into forms scarcely recognizable from the original. Dictatorships and totalitarian regimes are more ancient than democracies and have had more time to evolve special institutions to protect the dictator; yet an optimal arrangement remains elusive.

    This chapter is about Stalin’s strategies of recruiting, managing, rewarding, and removing state security leaders. This was part of the dictator’s search for an optimal arrangement to ensure that his OGPU, NKVD, and MVD protect him and his regime, despite the fact that he might betray them.

    Totalitarian leaders...

  6. 2 Ranks of the Chekist Elite
    (pp. 60-80)

    THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER examined the selection of Chekist heads from Lenin through Stalin’s successors (who decided not to “hire” Beria). Yagoda, Yezhov, and Beria were clearly an unusual cast of characters. They were poorly educated for the most part. They lacked charm; they had deep personal flaws that made them vulnerable. Their most distinguishing feature was loyalty to Stalin, actual or feigned.

    The Soviet dictatorship was a nested dictatorship,¹ meaning one in which the supreme dictator is the “dictator” to a number of subordinates. Each of these subordinates is a dictator to his more numerous subordinates, and these subordinates are...

  7. 3 Organizing State Security
    (pp. 81-105)

    THE PREVIOUS TWO CHAPTERS discussed how a power-maximizing dictator selects heads of state security and their subordinates. He must be concerned about their loyalty because to perform their jobs they must be extremely powerful, and they could turn this power against him. We devoted particular attention to Stalin’s appointments of NKVD leaders during the period leading up to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the Great Terror.

    A dictator can secure loyalty by appointing the “right” people. He can also assure loyalty by creating an organizational structure that maximizes monitoring and control. This chapter analyzes the evolving structure of...

  8. 4 Political Enemies
    (pp. 106-139)

    THIS CHAPTER IS ABOUT the dictator’s enemies: how they are defined and how the dictator represents them to the public.

    There are a number of potential feedbacks from repression to loyalty. Repression may frighten citizens into becoming more loyal and hence deter disloyalty. If, however, citizens conclude that they may themselves be the targets of repression irrespective of their loyalty, they may become disloyal. If they believe that real enemies are being targeted, their loyalty may increase. If they conclude that the dictator’s victims are innocent, support for him may fall. At low levels of repression, there will be less...

  9. 5 Deadly Kremlin Politics
    (pp. 140-165)

    THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER defined enemies of the state as anyone the dictator declares to be an enemy of the state. A dictator can have high-level enemies within the political elite; they have their own following and can offer rival programs. A dictator can also have low-level enemies, drawn from the citizenry, who may become allies of political rivals or of foreign enemies or who may organize on their own. In this chapter, we are concerned with the succession struggles following Lenin’s and Stalin’s deaths and the role of state security in each.

    Stalin had won the succession struggle by the...

  10. 6 Planning Terror
    (pp. 166-201)

    IN PREVIOUS CHAPTERS, we examined how a power-maximizing dictator aka Stalin selected and organized his Chekists and identified political enemies. In the last chapter, we used the selectorate model to frame Stalin’s purge of the party and state elite. We studied how Stalin eliminated potential rivals from the bodies charged with selecting the nation’s leadership—the Politburo and the Central Committee. In this chapter, we study how Stalin “eliminated” large numbers of citizens, presumably to solidify his power.

    This chapter examines the planning and execution of three major terror campaigns: dekulakization (1930–1932), mass operations (1937–1938), and national operations...

  11. 7 Simplified Methods
    (pp. 202-218)

    THE SOVIET DICTATOR must find a way to increase and decrease repression as his demand varies despite the relatively fixity in the number of repressors. Business enterprises with fluctuating demand face a similar problem: how to produce more as demand increases and less when demand falls. The first stylized fact of Soviet repression, presented in the introduction, was the cyclicality of repression—its ups and downs.

    The repression campaigns of 1930–1932 and, most importantly, of 1937–1938 were designed as short-run campaigns. Although there were increases in Chekist-operational workers—the OGPU was given more activists and troops in 1930...

  12. 8 The Repressors’ Dilemma
    (pp. 219-250)

    WE TURN NOW TO CONSIDER the “terror manager” in much the same fashion as economists formerly studied the behavior of Soviet enterprise managers. Terror managers constituted a large cast of characters that included, among others, Chekist-operational workers, deputized high party officials, police officers brought in to assist, and members of troikas who stamped approval on the recommended sentences. Our attention focuses on the two prime terror managers in the mass operations of 1937–1938, the heads of regional NKVD administrations and the regional party leaders, who were held most responsible for the fulfillment of terror plans. The role of the...

  13. 9 Conclusions
    (pp. 251-280)

    THIS BOOK HAS ANALYZED the working arrangements of state security under Stalin and to a lesser extent under Lenin, with a few additional words about the period immediately following Stalin’s death. “Working arrangements” describe how some object, such as an automobile, or even an organization, such as a corporation, functions. How is it organized? By whom is it managed? According to what rules does it operate?

    The working arrangements of an automobile consist of its chassis, engine, hydraulics, and fuel system, how the parts are put together, the driver, and the principle of internal combustion. The working arrangements of state...

  14. Appendix 1: The Power-Maximizing Dictator
    (pp. 281-282)
  15. Appendix 2: The Organization of State Security
    (pp. 283-286)
  16. Appendix 3: Repressed Residents of the Workers’ Village of Mogochino, Tomsk Oblast
    (pp. 287-288)
  17. Appendix 4: Framing Enemies to Limit the Loss of Loyalty
    (pp. 289-290)
  18. Appendix 5: A Selectorate Model of Soviet Succession Struggles
    (pp. 291-292)
  19. Appendix 6: A Dictatorial Eliminations Model
    (pp. 293-294)
  20. Appendix 7: Simplified Methods
    (pp. 295-298)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 299-334)
  22. Index
    (pp. 335-346)