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15 - Justice(s)

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Nicolas Werth

The educational staging of the Moscow trials

Le Temps des médias n°15, automne 2010, p. 142-155.


Forty years after the publication of Annie Kriegel’s work on the Moscow trials in the Communist systems, is there anything new to learn about the political-media roles of such parodies of justice? The continuity between Leninist and Stalinist practices in terms of pedagogy is more obvious. It is now possible to analyze thoroughly the direct involvement of Stalin himself in the staging of the Great Purge trials. But we have also discovered that, in addition to the three “great” Moscow Trials, hundreds of other trials of minor Communist politicians were held on Stalin’s orders. This article analyzes the role of these "small provincial trials”, their staging, but also the “excesses” that occurred because local officials were unable to anticipate the reactions of the witnesses called upon to participate in this carnivalesque inversion of roles.

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