purge

purge trials

Soviet trials of critics of Joseph Stalin. After the assassination of Sergey Kirov, prominent Bolsheviks were accused of conspiracy to remove Stalin from power. In three widely publicized show trials (1936–38), which presented confessions obtained under torture or fabricated by the secret police, the accused were found guilty and executed or sent to prison. Numerous closed, unpublicized trials of Soviet military leaders were also held and resulted in a massive purge throughout the armed forces. The trials eliminated such potential rivals and critics of Stalin as Nikolay Bukharin, Lev Kamenev, Aleksey Rykov, Mikhayl Tukhachevsky, Genrikh Yagoda, and Grigory Zinovyev but earned worldwide condemnation.

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In history and political science, to purge is to remove people considered by the group in power to be "undesirable" from a government, political party, a profession, or from community or society as a whole, often by violent means. Restoration of people from a purge is known as rehabilitation.

Historical use of the term

The earliest use of the term itself was the English Civil War's Pride's Purge. In 1648, the moderate members of the English Long Parliament were purged by the army. Parliament would suffer subsequent purges under the Commonwealth including the purge of the entire House of Lords. Counter-revolutionaries such as royalists were purged as well as more radical revolutionaries such as the Levellers. After the Restoration, obstinate republicans were purged while some fled to New England.

The term "purge" is often associated with the Stalinist and Maoist regimes. Those who were purged (among them artists, scientists, teachers, people in the military, but also many long-time communists who dared to disagree with the party leadership) were sent to labor camps or executed. The most notorious of CPSU purges was the Great Purge initiated by Joseph Stalin during the 1930s. Deng Xiaoping was known for the distinction of returning to power multiple times after surviving multiple purges.

After France's liberation by the Allies in 1944, purges were processed by the Free French and mostly the French Resistance against former collaborationnists, the so called vichystes. The legal term was known as épuration légale ("legal purge"). Similar processes in other countries and on other occasions were denazification and decommunization.

Purge in fiction

  • In the Star Wars films, an event called Great Jedi Purge happened, when Sith Lord turned ruler of the galaxy Palpatine ordered his troops to chase and kill his enemy, the Jedi, under Order 66. Few survived the purge.
  • In the TV series Lost, most DHARMA Initiative members were killed by a group they called "Hostiles" on an event called "The Purge" by Mikhail Bakunin.
  • PURgE is the nickname for a guild of MMO players spread across the world. Purgatory, or PURgE was originally formed in the currently all but defunct MMO Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) in the summer of 2002. PURgE players can be found in Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, and Vanguard, just to name a few of the games with currently active PURgE guilds.

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