Review of Vadim Rogovin's "1937: Stalin's Year of Terror"

Updated on December 18, 2017
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson is a graduate student who specializes in the field of Russian and Ukrainian history.

"1937: Stalin's Year of Terror"
"1937: Stalin's Year of Terror"

Synopsis

Throughout historian Vadim Rogovin’s book, 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror, the author provides an analysis of Joseph Stalin’s “Great Purges” from the vantage point of 1937 (the high point and culmination of mass-arrests and executions in the Soviet era). Similar to other historical works on this time period, Rogovin attempts to address the origins of the Great Purges in order to better understand the motive behind Stalin’s desire to eliminate such a large number of individuals in a short amount of time.

According to Rogovin’s interpretation, Stalin’s primary reasons for instituting a purge of Soviet society was to eliminate former Bolshevik party members; particularly those who believed in the ideals espoused by Leon Trotsky (Trotskyites). Rogovin asserts that these socialists represented a challenge to the Stalinist regime since their ideals and view of the future differed significantly from that of Stalin himself. Thus, as Rogovin proclaims, Stalin’s purges served to essentially “hijack” the spirit of the Russian Revolution away from these former Bolsheviks in the 1930s, and to turn the Soviet populace against individuals deemed as a threat to Stalin’s power. In doing so, Rogovin makes the argument that Stalin effectively eliminated political opposition and dissent within the USSR which, in turn, allowed for the Soviet regime to develop in a manner that fit his own particular image and tastes for the future.

Concluding Thoughts

Rogovin’s rendition of the “Great Purges” is unique to modern historiographical works in that it explores Stalin’s "reasoning" behind the purges in a manner that is not discussed by most historians. Moreover, his interpretation demonstrates that the purges were not a “spur-of-the-moment” ordeal. Rather, the purges were rooted in nearly two decades worth of political resentments and hatreds that initially emerged in the years prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Rogovin’s book uses a great deal of primary resources including letters and government documents to support each of his claims. However, a large portion of his book also incorporates the testimonies and confessions of the countless individuals who were blackmailed, intimidated, interrogated, and tortured by the Stalinist regime in the buildup to 1937 and beyond. This, in turn, gives Rogovin’s book a well-balanced account of the purges since the author attempts to incorporate a wide array of documents from both political elites and ordinary individuals.

All in all, I give this work 5/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in an early account of the Soviet Union. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity. You won’t be disappointed!

Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion

  1. What was Rogovin's thesis? What are some of the main arguments that the author makes in this work? Is his argument persuasive? Why or why not?
  2. What type of primary source material does the author rely on in this book? Does this help or hinder his overall argument?
  3. Does Rogovin organize his work in a logical and convincing manner? Why or why not?
  4. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this book? How could the author have improved the contents of this work?
  5. Who was the intended audience for this piece? Can scholars and the general public, alike, enjoy the contents of this book?
  6. What did you like most about this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?
  7. What sort of scholarship is the author building on (or challenging) with this work? Does this book add substantially to existing research and trends within the historical community? Why or why not?
  8. Did you learn anything after reading this book? Were you surprised by any of the facts and figures presented by the author?

Were the "Great Purges" a success for Stalin in the long term?

See results

Suggestions for Further Reading on the "Great Purges"

Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Figes, Orlando. The Whisperer’s: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007).

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. Everyday Stalinism, Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Getty, John Archibald. Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Goldman, Wendy. Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin’s Russia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Kocho-Williams, Alastair. “The Soviet Diplomatic Corps and Stalin’s Purges.” The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 86, No. 1 (2008): 99-110.

Rimmel, Lesley. “A Microcosm of Terror, or Class Warfare in Leningrad: The March 1935 Exile of “Alien Elements.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 30, No. 1 (1995): 528-551.

Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror (Oak Park: Mehring Books, 1998).

Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).

Whitewood, Peter. “The Purge of the Red Army and the Soviet Mass Operations, 1937-1938.” The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 93, No. 2 (2015): 286-314.

Whitewood, Peter. The Red Army and the Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Soviet Military. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2015).

Works Cited:

Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror (Oak Park: Mehring Books, 1998).

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Larry Slawson

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)