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The Congress of Victors

Stalin at the 17th Party Congress, CPSU, Moscow, 1934
Stalin at the 17th Party Congress, Moscow, 1934
Sergei Kirov, 17th Party Congress, CPSU, Moscow, 1934
Kirov at the 17th Party Congress

The cult of Stalin was on full display at the Seventeenth Party Congress which met in the Great Hall of the Kremlin from 26 January to 10 February 1934. Because of the purge in 1933 the mass of the almost 2,000 delegates were expected to be pliant Stalinists ready to applaud their Party's achievements under Stalin's leadership.

The date of this 'Congress of Victors' was selected to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Lenin's death. Stalin opening address was exactly ten years after his 'Oath Speech' on 26 January 1924 when he pledged to complete the Revolution Lenin had begun. Stalin stood before the Party as the architect of the Revolution's victory.

In fact the Congress was the last revolt against Stalin from within the Party's ranks. During the secret ballot to elect the Central Committee it was rumoured that Stalin had received at least 150 negative votes but the ballot papers were destroyed and only 3 votes were recorded against him. There was, it is said, a revolt brewing among the regional Party secretaries, who were unhappy with Stalin's policies and were looking to replace him with Kirov, the popular boss of Leningrad.

Whether Kirov knew of this conspiracy remains unclear. It is unlikely that he considered joining it. But Stalin was angry. He saw treachery in everyone - a paranoia amplified by the anonymous ballot - and feared Kirov as a rival.

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