A Moscow Trial in Spain? the Poum Trial of October 1938 and the Politics of Stability

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
C3.23 (Oudemanhuispoort)
Jonathan Sherry , History, University of Pittsburgh
A Moscow trial in Spain? The POUM trial of October 1938 and the politics of stability

Jonathan Sherry, PhD candidate

 University of Pittsburgh, Department of History

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Sixteen years after Spain began its democratic transition, the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of deep-seated economic and social tensions. In the wake of this watershed, archives have opened and documentary collections are available for scholars seeking to fill the gaps of 20th century history. My paper draws on recently declassified Spanish, Austrian, and Soviet files to explore the interaction between the Spanish Republic and its strife-torn Soviet ally during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), arguably the most unstable period in the history of both states.

The paper uses materials collected from various Spanish archives during my CES Columbia summer 2012 fellowship award period. It examines the controversial ‘show trial’ of the revolutionary POUM (Partido Obrero Unificación Marxista), an event popularized by George Orwell in his engrossing yet partisan account, Homage to Catalonia. It treats the trial as a microcosm of Spanish-Soviet relations, and examines how both Soviet advisors and Spanish Republican officials attempted to influence the trial of the POUM to achieve their own political goals. It looks at what Soviet and Spanish government officials sought to ‘show’ and what lessons were to be learned from the trial. This approach not only illustrates the origins of the discordant relationship between the Soviet Union and the Spanish Republic in the realm of public order and stability, but ventures also into how the wider European interwar political context impacted the perceptions of both Soviet and Spanish officials with regard to the trial.

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  • Sherry - A Moscow trial in Spain.docx (192.6 kB)