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Joseph Stalin Less than a month before Hitler invaded Poland on September 1 1939 and started World War II he signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin Less than two years later he broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union in the early morning hours of June 22 1941 There was plenty of evidence for German aggression before the war broke out yet Stalin nevertheless signed the pact which contained the secret protocol that divided Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union The reason for signing the pact was complex yet one of the most important ones was the domestic factors Among them the terrible effect of the purges during the 1930s on the population economy and especially the army The purges were set off on December 1 1934 with the murder of Sergei Kirov He was a member of the Politburo leader of the Leningrad party apparatus and had considerable influence in the ruling elite His concern for the workers in Leningrad and his skill as an orator earned him considerable pop ularity Stalin used his murder as a pretext for launching a broad purge that would claim hundreds of thousands of victims and have lasting repercussion felt to this day Stalin never visited Leningrad again and directed one of his most vicious post-War purges against the city -- Russias historic window to the West No segment of the society was left untouched by the purges Anyone who caused the slightest suspicion was removed and numerous legislature was enacted to help enforce them In 1935 a law was passed which lowered the age of criminal responsibility That meant the death penalty could be applied to twelve-year-old children McCauley There was also a panic response in the primary party organizations to expel and expose people in order to protect oneself and to show vigilance Getty The slaughter of armed forces began on 12 June 1937 when Tukhachevsky and some top army men were executed
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