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Russia – The Great Terror, 1936-38

1. The Sources

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the sources available for studying Stalin’s Great Terror, focusing in particular on the transcripts of the Moscow Trials, the memoirs of Russian émigrés such as Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko and Victor Kravchenko, Khruschev’s ‘Secret Speech’ (1956) and the Gorbachev-era revelation, and the opening of the state archives after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.


In this course, Professor James Harris (University of Leeds) thinks about the Great Terror, Stalin’s campaign of political repression between 1936-38 that left more than 750,000 dead. In the first module, we think about the sources available for studying this period of history, and how different sources have become available over time – not least with the opening of the official archives after 1991. In the following three modules, we think about how different historians have interpreted the Great Terror over the years, thinking first about the period 1940-68 and the work of Deutscher, Friedrich and Conquest, then the period 1968-85 and the work of Getty, and finally the period 1985 to the present. In the fifth and sixth modules, Professor Harris outlines his own research on how we should interpret the Great Terror, and in the seventh, we introduce an important online sources for those studying Russian history: the The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online (HPSSS).


James Harris is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on dictatorship and anti-liberal ideas on 20th-century Europe, particularly the Soviet Union under Stalin. His most recent publication resents a new interpretation of the origins of Stalin’s Terror: The Great Fear: Stalin's Terror of the 1930s (2016).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Harris, J. (2019, February 06). Russia – The Great Terror, 1936-38 - The Sources [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Harris, J. "Russia – The Great Terror, 1936-38 – The Sources." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Feb 2019,

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