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Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

History: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Marie Seong-Hak Kim

Second Advisor

Mary Wingerd

Third Advisor

Edward Greaves

Fourth Advisor

Plamen Miltenoff

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Stalin, Russia, Terrorism, Revolution, State Terror


While scholars continue to debate the manner in which the Great Terror took shape in the Soviet Union, Stalin’s education as a revolutionary terrorist leader from 1905-1908 is often overlooked as a causal feature. This thesis analyzes the parallels between the revolutionary terrorists in Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century, particularly within Stalin’s Red Brigade units, and the henchmen carrying out the Great Terror of the 1930s. Both shared characteristics of loyalty, ruthlessness and adventurism while for the most part lacking any formal education and existing in a world of paranoia. As violence spread after the 1905 Revolution, the justifications for indiscriminate murder expanded across a variety of revolutionary parties in the face of state repression. In a striking resemblance to the 1930s, revolutionary terrorists employed ideology to legitimize atrocious acts which were criminal in nature and often intended only for personal gain or empowerment. In the revolutionary atmosphere of the first decade of the twentieth century, Stalin learned how to manipulate ideology to commit unseemly acts of violence, and discovered the criminal types needed to carry them out. By viewing the Great Terror in this context, this thesis attempts to break down the categorizations between insurgency terrorism and state terror, and refute the interpretation of state terror as a character or regional-based tradition.

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