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Sherry, Jonathan (2017) STALINISM ON TRIAL: SPANISH REPUBLICAN LEGALITY, THE SOVIET UNION, AND THE PERFORMANCE OF JUSTICE IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, 1936-1939. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation analyzes judicial politics in Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War. It examines the relationship between the Republican government and its Soviet ally by way of a micro-history of the prosecution of the leadership of the dissident communist Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM; Workers Party of Marxist Unification). The prosecution took place amidst the mass repressions and show trials in the Soviet Union, and given the growth of communism in Spain during the war, many have conceptualized the POUM’s trial as an extension of the Moscow trials to Republican Spain. This dissertation challenges interpretations of Soviet involvement in Spain that attribute political repression to vacuous notions of “Stalinism” and the all-powerful hand of Moscow. Interrogating the notion of the “Moscow Trial in Spain,” it reconsiders the political influences that shaped the prosecution and draws upon previously unused archival material. It argues that the prosecution of the POUM leadership should be understood within the context of a broader state-building effort led by Prime Minister Juan Negrín.

While the POUM’s prosecution reflected the material circumstances in which it took place, Negrín’s judiciary remained firmly dedicated to a conception of Republican legality that preserved the rights of the accused and provided guarantees to the defendants. In the struggle for control over the prosecution between Spanish Republican officials and Soviet-affiliated advisors, the former prevailed over the latter, with Negrín acting as a skilled mediator between the two parties. The trial represented the finale of the long and contentious debate about what form justice should take in a nation in the throes of revolution and civil war; it was a judicial performance of Republican state power that rejected the Moscow trials in both form and content. Rather than providing Soviet representatives an opportunity to extend their campaign against “Trotskyism” to Spain, the prosecution constituted a sharp rebuke of Soviet politics. The project re-conceptualizes the Premiership of Juan Negrín, rejecting interpretations of Soviet subservience and control. It also illustrates how the wartime Republican state used its judiciary as both an instrument of social control internally and a platform for communicating Republican politics abroad.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sherry, Jonathanjms355@pitt.edujms3550000-0003-2340-2582
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCHASE,
Committee MemberANDREWS,
Committee MemberLIVEZEANU,
Committee MemberHARRIS,
Date: 28 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 May 2017
Approval Date: 28 September 2017
Submission Date: 26 August 2017
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 379
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: POUM; Spanish Civil War; Soviet Union; Juan Negrín;
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2017 00:40
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2017 00:40


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