Recently I have read an article that claimed that Stalin wanted to introduce competitive, alternative elections in the USSR while the regional secretaries were strongly against the idea and pushed for a "great purge" of 1937 so to secure the positions after the new constitution of 1936 was introduced.

Some background. Following the constitution of 1926 the deputies were elected by the working collectives rather than by a popular vote. This was done so the the bourgeoisie could not participate.

The "stalinist" constitution of 1936 was the first to introduce the voting principle similar to the capitalist countries: the deputies were to be elected based on territorial principle. The newspapers of the time described the forthcoming voting as alternative and Stalin himself made a speech underlining the importance of the possibility of "revoking" a deputy, which as he claimed, was absent from the law of capitalist countries which made the deputies completely independent from the voters during their term.

The article claims that the secretaries were very much in fear about them to loose elections and pushed for political purges which they hoped to control.

Note also that Stalin was behind many other ideas that made the USSR more like other capitalist countries: he pushed for re-introducing military ranks, scientific degrees, reconciliation with the church, abandoned the idea of the world revolution, disbanded Comintern, renamed Red Army into Soviet Army, substituted the political commissars in the army to the commanders.

  • So what exactly is your question? Mar 3, 2013 at 17:22
  • @Felix Goldberg Was Stalin the one who pushed for the territorial (civil) principle and competitive/alternative elections instead of elections by the working collectives (labour principle), effectively removing the dictatorship of proletariat.
    – Anixx
    Mar 3, 2013 at 17:25
  • But did alternative elections ever take place at all in the Soviet Union? Mar 3, 2013 at 18:03
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    And I take it that the one who was most afraid of being repressed was Stalin, right? LOL Mar 3, 2013 at 18:44
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    What kind of answer do you expect here? Alternative elections were not implemented and government position on them was pretty much clear. Do you expect somebody to bring some kind of personal interview with Stalin regretting unfulfilled dream of universal elections? I believe in its current form question is not answerable. Mar 5, 2013 at 7:10

2 Answers 2


Basically, this is a lot of tosh. This, ahem, quaint theory is a nice specimen of the modern neo-Stalinist cottage industry. Reality was much simpler: the purges were ordered and organized by Stalin; no alternative elections were ever held in the Soviet Union (till the late 1980s when the system was in its death throes). This was of course by design - the party and Stalin were not willing to relinquish their monopoly of power.

The neo-Stalinists try to rewrite history in various ways. In this particular instance they try to argue that Stalin had nothing to do with the purges and that the "party elites" organized them in order to stimy Stalin's liberal reforms. This is really rich...

One simple question can clear up all this smoke and mirrors: if the "elites" were behind the purges and if they organized them against Stalin - why didn't they just purge Stalin himself?

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    Guess it made for a better propaganda. Mar 4, 2013 at 0:13
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    "the purges were ordered and organized by Stalin." None of the post-archival histories of the sociology of the purges suggests this. Nor do they suggest that the purges were organised by "party elites." The sociologies I've read suggest that the purges were organised and supported at all levels of the party (from top to bottom) and amongst pro-party individuals. (Ðilas, Fitzpatrick, Solzhenitsyn, etc.). And that they weren't organised to stymie liberal reforms, but ensure the economic position of newer party members against older party members. Mar 4, 2013 at 0:15
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    @SamuelRussell: Do you mean to say the purges were not initiated by Stalin? Mar 4, 2013 at 0:36
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    and without the knowledge and approval of the Leader (Stalin that is) nobody'd dare purge anyone of any power. Or do you suggest someone in the armed forces decided to purge all the officers who were potentially not 100% loyal to Stalin on his own authority, and similar at all levels of the system? Maybe in remote areas a local party boss would order a few people murdered he considered potential rivals to his position, but nothing on the scale and at the high levels as did happen would ever pass muster had it not been approved by Stalin himself.
    – jwenting
    Mar 4, 2013 at 7:04
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    Nice discussion, but when you think about purges, consider that Stalin's USSR was not orwelian, there was no TV in every house, even telegraph and radio in 1937 was still covering tiny parts of huge USSR. Moscow newspaper would arrive in some cities days later and others month later, small towns were connected to the others by country-roads and industrialization was only taking place, so horses. When you think about almighty dictator, note that he was just a small body in kremlin.
    – exebook
    Mar 5, 2013 at 5:09

You read a very correct article. Unfortunately, we are very few. I read a whole book about this moment - "Иной Сталин" ("Another Stalin"). You understand history better than others. My regards.

  • 1
    I read the review of "Иной Сталин". To be honest, I'm always very cautious about books that claim to offer "a completely non-standard version of events". Here in the West, they're almost always written by conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, and Hitler apologists. I hope this one is an exception to that rule. Sep 25, 2017 at 13:15
  • This appears to be a comment rather than an answer.
    – justCal
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:29

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