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Legacies of 1937

The Great Terror had a deep and lasting impact on Soviet society. Millions of families were damaged or destroyed. Relationships were lost. Children grew up without fathers, with mothers broken by the camps.

People learned to remain silent, not to question the authorities, not to trust in anyone outside their immediate family and friends. They became passive, without initiative, frightened to step out of line.

Politics was emptied of content. People in positions of responsibility were too scared to speak their minds or say anything political. They followed the Party line, mouthed its slogans, and gave obeisance to Stalin.

The loss of initiative and energy was particularly damaging in the military. So many senior commanders were arrested, and the juniors who replaced them so inexperienced, that the armed forces were unprepared to defend the Soviet Union when the Germans invaded in 1941.

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