This history of the Red Army as an institution is frequently described in terms of its proximity to the Stalinist purges. Especially in wartime, the strategic deployment of terror begs the question of whether it was an effective motivational technique compared to other methods of non-coercive motivation such as propaganda or awards of medals. Examining various case studies and memoirs, it becomes clear that terror tended to reduce morale and group cohesion, while positive motivators were far more effective at ensuring an effective fighting force. When the Red Army soldiers feared being caught in the net of terror, they were less likely to trust their comrades, and more likely to act in self, rather than group, interests. As terror decreased, activity such as desertion or voluntary capture declined across all fronts. Soldiers worked far more effectively as a unit, with increased confidence in decisions by high command. This result strongly contests the frame that Soviet soldiers acted as a scared collective, willing to sacrifice themselves out of fear. Rather, Soviet soldiers performed at their best when they trusted in their fellow soldiers and believed the other side was more barbaric than their own.

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