Joseph Stalin | Wikipedia audio article

Joseph Stalin | Wikipedia audio article


Joseph Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili;
18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) was a Soviet revolutionary and politician of Georgian ethnicity.
He ruled the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953, holding the titles
of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952 and
the nation’s Premier from 1941 to 1953. Initially presiding over an oligarchic one-party system
that governed by plurality, he became the de facto dictator of the Soviet Union by the
1930s. Ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to
formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.
Born to a poor family in Gori, Russian Empire (now Georgia), Stalin began his revolutionary
career by joining the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party as a youth. He edited
the party’s newspaper, Pravda, and raised funds for Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik faction
via robberies, kidnappings, and protection rackets. Repeatedly arrested, he underwent
several internal exiles. After the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia during the 1917 October
Revolution, Stalin joined the party’s governing Politburo, where he was instrumental in overseeing
the Soviet Union’s establishment in 1922. As Lenin fell ill and then died in 1924, Stalin
assumed leadership over the country. During Stalin’s rule, “Socialism in One Country”
became a central tenet of the party’s dogma, and Lenin’s New Economic Policy was replaced
with a centralized command economy. Under the Five-Year Plan system, the country underwent
collectivisation and rapid industrialization but experienced significant disruptions in
food production that contributed to the famine of 1932–33. To eradicate those regarded
as “enemies of the working class”, Stalin instituted the “Great Purge”, in which over
a million were imprisoned and at least 700,000 executed between 1934 and 1939.
Stalin’s government promoted Marxism–Leninism abroad through the Communist International
and supported anti-fascist movements throughout Europe during the 1930s, particularly in the
Spanish Civil War. In 1939, it signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, resulting in their
joint invasion of Poland. Germany ended the pact by invading the Soviet Union in 1941.
Despite initial setbacks, the Soviet Red Army repelled the German incursion and captured
Berlin in 1945, ending World War II in Europe. The Soviets annexed the Baltic states and
helped establish Soviet-aligned governments throughout Central and Eastern Europe, China
and North Korea. The Soviet Union and the United States emerged from the war as the
two world superpowers. Tensions arose between the Soviet-backed Eastern Bloc and U.S.-backed
Western Bloc which became known as the Cold War. Stalin led his country through its post-war
reconstruction, during which it developed a nuclear weapon in 1949. In these years,
the country experienced another major famine and an anti-semitic campaign peaking in the
Doctors’ plot. Stalin died in 1953 and was eventually succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev,
who denounced his predecessor and initiated a de-Stalinisation process throughout Soviet
society. Widely considered one of the 20th century’s
most significant figures, Stalin was the subject of a pervasive personality cult within the
international Marxist–Leninist movement, for whom Stalin was a champion of socialism
and the working class. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Stalin has retained
popularity in Russia and Georgia as a victorious wartime leader who established the Soviet
Union as a major world power. Conversely, his totalitarian government has been widely
condemned for overseeing mass repressions, ethnic cleansing, hundreds of thousands of
executions, and famines which caused the deaths of millions.==Early life=====Childhood to young adulthood: 1878–1899
===Stalin was born in the Georgian town of Gori
on 18 December [O.S. 6 December] 1878. He was the son of Besarion Jughashvili and Ekaterine
Geladze, who had married in May 1872, and had lost two sons in infancy prior to Stalin’s
birth. They were ethnically Georgian and Stalin grew up speaking the Georgian language. Gori
was then part of the Russian Empire, and was home to a population of 20,000, the majority
of whom were Georgian but with Armenian, Russian, and Jewish minorities. Stalin was baptised
on 29 December. He was nicknamed “Soso”, a diminutive of “Ioseb”. Besarion was a shoemaker and owned his own
workshop; it was initially a financial success, but later fell into decline. The family found
themselves living in poverty, moving through nine different rented rooms in ten years.
Besarion became an alcoholic, and drunkenly beat his wife and son. To escape the abusive
relationship, Keke took Stalin and moved into the house of a family friend, Father Christopher
Charkviani. She worked as a house cleaner and launderer for local families sympathetic
to her plight. Keke was determined to send her son to school, something that none of
the family had previously achieved. In late 1888, aged 10 Stalin enrolled at the Gori
Church School. This was normally reserved for the children of clergy, although Charkviani
ensured that the boy received a place. Stalin excelled academically, displaying talent in
painting and drama classes, writing his own poetry, and singing as a choirboy. He got
into many fights, and a childhood friend later noted that Stalin “was the best but also the
naughtiest pupil” in the class. Stalin faced several severe health problems; in 1884, he
contracted smallpox and was left with facial pock scars. Aged 12, he was seriously injured
after being hit by a phaeton, which was the likely cause of a lifelong disability to his
left arm. At his teachers’ recommendation, Stalin proceeded
to the Spiritual Seminary in Tiflis. He enrolled at the school in August 1894, enabled by a
scholarship that allowed him to study at a reduced rate. Here he joined 600 trainee priests
who boarded at the seminary. Stalin was again academically successful and gained high grades.
He continued writing poetry; five of his poems were published under the pseudonym of “Soselo”
in Ilia Chavchavadze’s newspaper Iveria (‘Georgia’). Thematically, they dealt with topics like
nature, land, and patriotism. According to Stalin’s biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore,
they became “minor Georgian classics”, and were included in various anthologies of Georgian
poetry over the coming years. As he grew older, Stalin lost interest in his studies; his grades
dropped, and he was repeatedly confined to a cell for his rebellious behaviour. Teachers
complained that he declared himself an atheist, chatted in class and refused to doff his hat
to monks.Stalin joined a forbidden book club active at the school; he was particularly
influenced by Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s 1863 pro-revolutionary novel What Is To Be Done?
Another influential text was Alexander Kazbegi’s The Patricide, with Stalin adopting the nickname
“Koba” from that of the book’s bandit protagonist. He also read Capital, the 1867 book by German
sociological theorist Karl Marx. Stalin devoted himself to Marx’s socio-political theory,
Marxism, which was then on the rise in Georgia, one of various forms of socialism opposed
to the empire’s governing Tsarist authorities. At night, he attended secret workers’ meetings,
and was introduced to Silibistro “Silva” Jibladze, the Marxist founder of Mesame Dasi (‘Third
Group’), a Georgian socialist group. In April 1899, Stalin left the seminary and never returned,
although the school encouraged him to come back.===Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party:
1899–1904===In October 1899, Stalin began work as a meteorologist
at a Tiflis observatory. He attracted a group of supporters through his classes in socialist
theory, and co-organised a secret workers’ mass meeting for May Day 1900, at which he
successfully encouraged many of the men to take strike action. By this point, the empire’s
secret police—the Okhrana—were aware of Stalin’s activities within Tiflis’ revolutionary
milieu. They attempted to arrest him in March 1901, but he escaped and went into hiding,
living off the donations of friends and sympathisers. Remaining underground, he helped plan a demonstration
for May Day 1901, in which 3,000 marchers clashed with the authorities. He continued
to evade arrest by using aliases and sleeping in different apartments. In November 1901,
he was elected to the Tiflis Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party
(RSDLP), a Marxist party founded in 1898.That month, Stalin travelled to the port city of
Batumi. His militant rhetoric proved divisive among the city’s Marxists, some of whom suspected
that he might be an agent provocateur working for the government. He found employment at
the Rothschild refinery storehouse, where he co-organised two workers’ strikes. After
several strike leaders were arrested, he co-organised a mass public demonstration that led to the
storming of the prison; troops fired upon the demonstrators, 13 of whom were killed.
Stalin organised a second mass demonstration on the day of their funeral, before being
arrested in April 1902. He was initially held at Batumi Prison, and later moved to the more
secure Kutaisi Prison. In mid-1903, Stalin was sentenced to three years of exile in eastern
Siberia.Stalin left Batumi in October, arriving at the small Siberian town of Novaya Uda in
late November. There, he lived in a two-room peasant’s house, sleeping in the building’s
larder. Stalin made two escape attempts; on the first he made it to Balagansk before returning
due to frostbite. His second attempt was successful and he made it to Tiflis. There, he co-edited
a Georgian Marxist newspaper, Proletariatis Brdzola (“Proletarian Struggle”), with Philip
Makharadze. He called for the Georgian Marxist movement to split off from its Russian counterpart,
resulting in several RSDLP members accusing him of holding views contrary to the ethos
of Marxist internationalism and calling for his expulsion from the party; he soon recanted
his opinions. During his exile, the RSDLP had split between Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks
and Julius Martov’s Mensheviks. Stalin detested many of the Mensheviks in Georgia and aligned
himself with the Bolsheviks. Although Stalin established a Bolshevik stronghold in the
mining town of Chiatura, Bolshevism remained a minority force in the Menshevik-dominated
Georgian revolutionary scene.===The Revolution of 1905 and its aftermath:
1905–1912===In January 1905, government troops massacred
protesters in Saint Petersburg. Unrest soon spread across the Russian Empire in what came
to be known as the Revolution of 1905. Georgia was one of the regions particularly affected.
In February, Stalin was in Baku when ethnic violence broke out between Armenians and Azeris;
at least 2,000 were killed. Stalin publicly lambasted the “pogroms against Jews and Armenians”
as being part of Tsar Nicholas II’s attempts to “buttress his despicable throne”. He formed
a Bolshevik Battle Squad which he used to try and keep Baku’s warring ethnic factions
apart, also using the unrest to steal printing equipment. Amid the growing violence throughout
Georgia, Stalin formed further Battle Squads, with the Mensheviks doing the same. Stalin’s
Squads disarmed local police and troops, raided government arsenals, and raised funds through
protection rackets on large local businesses and mines. They launched attacks on the government’s
Cossack troops and pro-Tsarist Black Hundreds, co-ordinating some of their operations with
the Menshevik militia. In November 1905, the Georgian Bolsheviks
elected Stalin as one of their delegates to a Bolshevik conference in Saint Petersburg.
On arrival, he met Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, who informed him that the venue had been moved
to Tampere in the Grand Duchy of Finland. At the conference Stalin met Lenin for the
first time. Although Stalin held Lenin in deep respect, he was vocal in his disagreement
with Lenin’s view that the Bolsheviks should field candidates for the forthcoming election
to the State Duma; Stalin saw the parliamentary process as a waste of time. In April 1906,
Stalin attended the RSDLP Fourth Congress in Stockholm; this was his first trip outside
the Russian Empire. At the conference, the RSDLP—then led by its Menshevik majority—agreed
that it would not raise funds using armed robbery. Lenin and Stalin disagreed with this
decision, and later privately discussed how they could continue the robberies for the
Bolshevik cause.Stalin married Kato Svanidze in a church ceremony at Senaki in July 1906.
In March 1907 she bore a son, Yakov. By that year—according to the historian Robert Service—Stalin
had established himself as “Georgia’s leading Bolshevik”. He attended the Fifth RSDLP Congress,
held in London in May–June 1907. After returning to Tiflis, Stalin organized the robbing of
a large delivery of money to the Imperial Bank in June 1907. His gang ambushed the armed
convoy in Yerevan Square with gunfire and home-made bombs. Around 40 people were killed,
but all of his gang escaped alive. After the heist, Stalin settled in Baku with
his wife and son. There, Mensheviks confronted Stalin about the robbery and voted to expel
him from the RSDLP, but he took no notice of them.In Baku, Stalin secured Bolshevik
domination of the local RSDLP branch, and edited two Bolshevik newspapers, Bakinsky
Proletary and Gudok (“Whistle”). In August 1907, he attended the Seventh Congress of
the Second International—an international socialist organisation—in Stuttgart, Germany.
In November 1907, his wife died of typhus, and he left his son with her family in Tiflis.
In Baku he had reassembled his gang, the Outfit, which continued to attack Black Hundreds and
raised finances by running protection rackets, counterfeiting currency, and carrying out
robberies. They also kidnapped the children of several wealthy figures to extract ransom
money. In early 1908, he travelled to the Swiss city of Geneva to meet with Lenin and
the prominent Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, although the latter exasperated him.In March
1908, Stalin was arrested and interned in Bailov Prison. There, he led the imprisoned
Bolsheviks, organised discussion groups, and ordered the killing of suspected informants.
He was eventually sentenced to two years exile in the village of Solvychegodsk, Vologda Province,
arriving there in February 1909. In June, he escaped the village and made it to Kotlas
disguised as a woman and from there to Saint Petersburg. In March 1910, he was arrested
again, and sent back to Solvychegodsk. There he had affairs with at least two women; his
landlady, Maria Kuzakova, later gave birth to his second son, Konstantin. In June 1911,
Stalin was given permission to move to Vologda, where he stayed for two months, having a relationship
with Pelageya Onufrieva. He escaped to Saint Petersburg, where he was arrested in September
1911, and sentenced to a further three-year exile in Vologda.===Rise to the Central Committee and editorship
of Pravda: 1912–1917===While Stalin was in exile, the first Bolshevik
Central Committee had been elected at the Prague Conference, after which Lenin and Grigory
Zinoviev invited Stalin to join it. Still in Vologda, Stalin agreed, remaining a Central
Committee member for the rest of his life. Lenin believed that Stalin, as a Georgian,
would help secure support for the Bolsheviks from the Empire’s minority ethnicities. In
February 1912, Stalin again escaped to Saint Petersburg, tasked with converting the Bolshevik
weekly newspaper, Zvezda (“Star”) into a daily, Pravda (“Truth”). The new newspaper was launched
in April 1912, although Stalin’s role as editor was kept secret.In May 1912, he was arrested
again and imprisoned in the Shpalerhy Prison, before being sentenced to three years exile
in Siberia. In July, he arrived at the Siberian village of Narym, where he shared a room with
fellow Bolshevik Yakov Sverdlov. After two months, Stalin and Sverdlov escaped back to
Saint Petersburg. During a brief period back in Tiflis, Stalin
and the Outfit planned the ambush of a mail coach, during which most of the group—although
not Stalin—were apprehended by the authorities. Stalin returned to Saint Petersburg, where
he continued editing and writing articles for Pravda. After the October 1912 Duma elections resulted
in six Bolsheviks and six Mensheviks being elected, Stalin wrote articles calling for
reconciliation between the two Marxist factions, for which he was criticised by Lenin. In late
1912, he twice crossed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire to visit Lenin in Kraków, eventually
bowing to Lenin’s opposition to reunification with the Mensheviks. In January 1913 Stalin
travelled to Vienna, there focusing on the ‘national question’ of how the Bolsheviks
should deal with the Russian Empire’s national and ethnic minorities. Lenin wanted to attract
these groups to the Bolshevik cause by offering them the right of secession from the Russian
state, but at the same time hoped they would remain part of a future Bolshevik-governed
Russia. Stalin’s finished article was titled Marxism and the National Question; Lenin was
very happy with it. According to Montefiore, this was “Stalin’s most famous work”. The
article was published under the pseudonym of “K. Stalin”, a name he had been using since
1912. Derived from the Russian word for steel (stal), this has been translated as “Man of
Steel”; Stalin may have intended it to imitate Lenin’s pseudonym. Stalin retained this name
for the rest of his life, possibly because it had been used on the article which established
his reputation among the Bolsheviks.In February 1913, Stalin was arrested while back in Saint
Petersburg. He was sentenced to four years exile in Turukhansk, a remote part of Siberia
from which escape was particularly difficult. In August, he arrived in the village of Monastyrskoe,
although after four weeks was relocated to the hamlet of Kostino. In March 1914, concerned
over a potential escape attempt, the authorities moved Stalin to the hamlet of Kureika on the
edge of the Arctic Circle. In the hamlet, Stalin had a relationship with Lidia Pereprygia,
who was thirteen at the time and thus a year under the legal age of consent in Tsarist
Russia. Circa December 1914, Pereprygia gave birth to Stalin’s child, although the infant
soon died. She gave birth to another of his children, Alexander, circa April 1917. In
Kureika, Stalin lived closely with the indigenous Tunguses and Ostyak, and spent much of his
time fishing.===The Russian Revolution: 1917===
While Stalin was in exile, Russia entered the First World War, and in October 1916 Stalin
and other exiled Bolsheviks were conscripted into the Russian Army, leaving for Monastyrskoe.
They arrived in Krasnoyarsk in February 1917, where a medical examiner ruled Stalin unfit
for military service due to his crippled arm. Stalin was required to serve four more months
on his exile, and he successfully requested that he serve it in nearby Achinsk. Stalin
was in the city when the February Revolution took place; uprisings broke out in Petrograd—as
Saint Petersburg had been renamed—and Tsar Nicholas II abdicated to escape being violently
overthrown. The Russian Empire became a de facto republic, headed by a Provisional Government
dominated by liberals. In a celebratory mood, Stalin travelled by train to Petrograd in
March. There, Stalin and fellow Bolshevik Lev Kamenev assumed control of Pravda, and
Stalin was appointed the Bolshevik representative to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd
Soviet, an influential council of the city’s workers. In April, Stalin came third in the
Bolshevik elections for the party’s Central Committee; Lenin came first and Zinoviev came
second. This reflected his senior standing in the party at the time. Stalin helped organise the July Days uprising,
an armed display of strength by Bolshevik supporters. After the demonstration was suppressed,
the Provisional Government initiated a crackdown on the Bolsheviks, raiding Pravda. During
this raid, Stalin smuggled Lenin out of the newspaper’s office and took charge of the
Bolshevik leader’s safety, moving him between Petrograd safe houses before smuggling him
to Razliv. In Lenin’s absence, Stalin continued editing Pravda and served as acting leader
of the Bolsheviks, overseeing the party’s Sixth Congress, which was held covertly. Lenin
began calling for the Bolsheviks to seize power by toppling the Provisional Government
in a coup. Stalin and fellow senior Bolshevik Leon Trotsky both endorsed Lenin’s plan of
action, but it was initially opposed by Kamenev and other party members. Lenin returned to
Petrograd and secured a majority in favour of a coup at a meeting of the Central Committee
on 10 October.On 24 October, police raided the Bolshevik newspaper offices, smashing
machinery and presses; Stalin salvaged some of this equipment to continue his activities.
In the early hours of 25 October, Stalin joined Lenin in a Central Committee meeting in the
Smolny Institute, from where the Bolshevik coup—the October Revolution—was directed.
Bolshevik militia seized Petrograd’s electric power station, main post office, state bank,
telephone exchange, and several bridges. A Bolshevik-controlled ship, the Aurora, opened
fire on the Winter Palace; the Provisional Government’s assembled delegates surrendered
and were arrested by the Bolsheviks. Although he had been tasked with briefing the Bolshevik
delegates of the Second Congress of Soviets about the developing situation, Stalin’s role
in the coup had not been publicly visible. Trotsky and other later Bolshevik opponents
of Stalin used this as evidence that his role in the coup had been insignificant, although
later historians reject this. According to the historian Oleg Khlevniuk, Stalin “filled
an important role [in the October Revolution]… as a senior Bolshevik, member of the party’s
Central Committee, and editor of its main newspaper”; the historian Stephen Kotkin similarly
noted that Stalin had been “in the thick of events” in the build-up to the coup.==In Lenin’s government=====Consolidating power: 1917–1918===
On 26 October, Lenin declared himself Chairman of a new government, the Council of People’s
Commissars (“Sovnarkom”). Stalin backed Lenin’s decision not to form a coalition with the
Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionary Party, although they did form a coalition government
with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. Stalin became part of an informal foursome leading
the government, alongside Lenin, Trotsky, and Sverdlov; of these, Sverdlov was regularly
absent, and died in March 1919. Stalin’s office was based near to Lenin’s in the Smolny Institute,
and he and Trotsky were the only individuals allowed access to Lenin’s study without an
appointment. Although not so publicly well known as Lenin or Trotsky, Stalin’s importance
among the Bolsheviks grew. He co-signed Lenin’s decrees shutting down hostile newspapers,
and with Sverdlov chaired the sessions of the committee drafting a constitution for
the new Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. He strongly supported Lenin’s formation
of the Cheka security service and the subsequent Red Terror that it initiated; noting that
state violence had proved an effective tool for capitalist powers, he believed that it
would prove the same for the Soviet government. Unlike senior Bolsheviks like Kamenev and
Nikolai Bukharin, Stalin never expressed concern about the rapid growth and expansion of the
Cheka and Terror. Having dropped his editorship of Pravda, Stalin
was appointed the People’s Commissar for Nationalities. He took Nadezhda Alliluyeva as his secretary,
and at some point married her, although the wedding date is unknown. In November 1917,
he signed the Decree on Nationality, according ethnic and national minorities living in Russia
the right of secession and self-determination. The decree’s purpose was primarily strategic;
the Bolsheviks wanted to gain favour among ethnic minorities but hoped that the latter
would not actually desire independence. That month, he travelled to Helsinki to talk with
the Finnish Social-Democrats, granting Finland’s request for independence in December. His
department allocated funds for the establishment of presses and schools in the languages of
various ethnic minorities. Socialist Revolutionaries accused Stalin’s talk of federalism and national
self-determination as a front for Sovnarkom’s centralising and imperialist policies.Due
to the ongoing First World War, in which Russia was fighting the Central Powers of Germany
and Austria-Hungary, Lenin’s government relocated from Petrograd to Moscow in March 1918. There,
they based themselves in the Kremlin; it was here that Stalin, Trotsky, Sverdlov, and Lenin
lived. Stalin supported Lenin’s desire to sign an armistice with the Central Powers
regardless of the cost in territory. Stalin thought it necessary because—unlike Lenin—he
was unconvinced that Europe was on the verge of proletarian revolution. Lenin eventually
convinced the other senior Bolsheviks of his viewpoint, resulting in the signing of the
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. The treaty gave vast areas of land and resources
to the Central Powers and angered many in Russia; the Left Socialist Revolutionaries
withdrew from the coalition government over the issue. The governing RSDLP party was soon
renamed, becoming the Russian Communist Party.===Military Command: 1918–1921===
After the Bolsheviks seized power, both right and left-wing armies rallied against them,
generating the Russian Civil War. To secure access to the dwindling food supply, in May
1918 Sovnarkom sent Stalin to Tsaritsyn to take charge of food procurement in southern
Russia. Eager to prove himself as a commander, once there he took control of regional military
operations. He befriended two military figures, Kliment Voroshilov and Semyon Budyonny, who
would form the nucleus of his military and political support base. Believing that victory
was assured by numerical superiority, he sent large numbers of Red Army troops into battle
against the region’s anti-Bolshevik White armies, resulting in heavy losses; Lenin was
concerned by this costly tactic. In Tsaritsyn, Stalin commanded the local Cheka branch to
execute suspected counter-revolutionaries, sometimes without trial, and—in contravention
of government orders—purged the military and food collection agencies of middle-class
specialists, some of whom he also executed. His use of state violence and terror was at
a greater scale than most Bolshevik leaders approved of; for instance, he ordered several
villages to be torched to ensure compliance with his food procurement program. In December 1918, Stalin was sent to Perm
to lead an inquiry into how Alexander Kolchak’s White forces had been able to decimate Red
troops based there. He returned to Moscow between January and March 1919, before being
assigned to the Western Front at Petrograd. When the Red Third Regiment defected, he ordered
the public execution of captured defectors. In September he was returned to the Southern
Front. During the war, he proved his worth to the Central Committee, displaying decisiveness,
determination, and a willingness to take on responsibility in conflict situations. At
the same time, he disregarded orders and repeatedly threatened to resign when affronted. In November
1919, the government awarded him the Order of the Red Banner for his wartime service.The
Bolsheviks had won the civil war by late 1919. Sovnarkom turned its attention to spreading
proletarian revolution abroad, to this end forming the Communist International in March
1919; Stalin attended its inaugural ceremony. Although Stalin did not share Lenin’s belief
that Europe’s proletariat were on the verge of revolution, he acknowledged that as long
as it stood alone, Soviet Russia remained vulnerable. In December 1918, he drew up decrees
recognising Marxist-governed Soviet republics in Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia; during
the civil war these Marxist governments were overthrown and the Baltic countries became
fully independent of Russia, an act Stalin regarded as illegitimate. In February 1920,
he was appointed to head the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate; that same month he
was also transferred to the Caucasian Front.Following earlier clashes between Polish and Russian
troops, the Polish–Soviet War broke out in early 1920, with the Poles invading Ukraine
and taking Kiev. Stalin was moved to Ukraine, on the Southwest Front. The Red Army forced
the Polish troops back into Poland. Lenin believed that the Polish proletariat would
rise up to support the Russians against Józef Piłsudski’s Polish government. Stalin had
cautioned against this; he believed that nationalism would lead the Polish working-classes to support
their government’s war effort. He also believed that the Red Army was ill-prepared to conduct
an offensive war and that it would give White Armies a chance to resurface in Crimea, potentially
reigniting the civil war. Stalin lost the argument, after which he accepted Lenin’s
decision and supported it. Along the Southwest Front, he became determined to conquer Lwów;
in focusing on this goal he disobeyed orders to transfer his troops to assist Mikhail Tukhachevsky’s
forces. In August, the Poles repulsed the Russian advance and Stalin returned to Moscow.
A Polish-Soviet peace treaty was signed; Stalin saw this as a failure for which he blamed
Trotsky. In turn, Trotsky accused Stalin of “strategic mistakes” in his handling of the
war at the Ninth Bolshevik Conference. Stalin felt resentful and under-appreciated; in September
he demanded demission from the military, which was granted.===Lenin’s final years: 1921–1923===The Soviet government sought to bring neighbouring
states under its domination; in February 1921 it invaded the Menshevik-governed Georgia,
while in April 1921, Stalin ordered the Red Army into Turkestan to reassert Russian state
control. As People’s Commissar for Nationalities, Stalin believed that each national and ethnic
group should have the right to self-expression, facilitated through “autonomous republics”
within the Russian state in which they could oversee various regional affairs. In taking
this view, some Marxists accused him of bending too much to bourgeois nationalism, while others
accused him of remaining too Russocentric by seeking to retain these nations within
the Russian state.Stalin’s native Caucasus posed a particular problem due to its highly
multi-ethnic mix. Stalin opposed the idea of separate Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani
autonomous republics, arguing that these would likely oppress ethnic minorities within their
respective territories; instead he called for a Transcaucasian Socialist Federative
Soviet Republic. The Georgian Communist Party opposed the idea, resulting in the Georgian
Affair. In mid-1921, Stalin returned to the southern Caucasus, there calling on Georgian
Communists to avoid the chauvinistic Georgian nationalism which marginalised the Abkhazian,
Ossetian, and Adjarian minorities in Georgia. On this trip, Stalin met with his son Yakov,
and brought him back to Moscow; Nadya had given birth to another of Stalin’s sons, Vasily,
in March 1921.After the civil war, workers’ strikes and peasant uprisings broke out across
Russia, largely in opposition to Sovnarkom’s food requisitioning project; as an antidote,
Lenin introduced market-oriented reforms: the New Economic Policy (NEP). There was also
internal turmoil in the Communist Party, as Trotsky led a faction calling for the abolition
of trade unions; Lenin opposed this and Stalin helped rally opposition to Trotsky’s position.
Stalin also agreed to supervise the Department of Agitation and Propaganda in the Central
Committee Secretariat. At the 11th Party Congress in 1922, Lenin nominated Stalin as the party’s
new General Secretary. Although concerns were expressed that adopting this new post on top
of his others would overstretch his workload and give him too much power, Stalin was appointed
to the position. For Lenin, it was advantageous to have a key ally in this crucial post. In May 1922, a massive stroke left Lenin partially
paralysed. Residing at his Gorki dacha, Lenin’s main connection to Sovnarkom was through Stalin,
who was a regular visitor. Lenin twice asked Stalin to procure poison so that he could
commit suicide, but Stalin never did so. Despite this comradeship, Lenin disliked what he referred
to as Stalin’s “Asiatic” manner, and told his sister Maria that Stalin was “not intelligent”.
Lenin and Stalin argued on the issue of foreign trade; Lenin believed that the Soviet state
should have a monopoly on foreign trade, but Stalin supported Grigori Sokolnikov’s view
that doing so was impractical at that stage. Another disagreement came over the Georgian
Affair, with Lenin backing the Georgian Central Committee’s desire for a Georgian Soviet Republic
over Stalin’s idea of a Transcaucasian one.They also disagreed on the nature of the Soviet
state. Lenin called for the country to be renamed the “Union of Soviet Republics of
Europe and Asia”, reflecting his desire for expansion across the two continents. Stalin
believed this would encourage independence sentiment among non-Russians, instead arguing
that ethnic minorities would be content as “autonomous republics” within the Russian
Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Lenin accused Stalin of “Great Russian chauvinism”;
Stalin accused Lenin of “national liberalism”. A compromise was reached, in which the country
would be renamed the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” (USSR). The USSR’s formation was
ratified in December 1922; although officially a federal system, all major decisions were
taken by the governing Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow.Their
differences also became personal; Lenin was particularly angered when Stalin was rude
to his wife Krupskaya during a telephone conversation. In the final years of his life, Krupskaya
provided governing figures with Lenin’s Testament, a series of increasingly disparaging notes
about Stalin. These criticized Stalin’s rude manners and excessive power, suggesting that
Stalin should be removed from the position of General Secretary. Some historians have
questioned whether Lenin ever produced these, suggesting instead that they may have been
written by Krupskaya, who had personal differences with Stalin; Stalin, however, never publicly
voiced concerns about their authenticity.==Rise to power=====Succeeding Lenin: 1924–1927===Lenin died in January 1924. Stalin took charge
of the funeral and was one of its pallbearers; against the wishes of Lenin’s widow, the Politburo
embalmed his corpse and placed it within a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square. It was incorporated
into a growing personality cult devoted to Lenin, with Petrograd being renamed “Leningrad”
that year. To bolster his image as a devoted Leninist, Stalin gave nine lectures at Sverdlov
University on the “Foundations of Leninism”, later published in book form. At the following
13th Party Congress, “Lenin’s Testament” was read to senior figures. Embarrassed by its
contents, Stalin offered his resignation as General Secretary; this act of humility saved
him and he was retained in the position.As General Secretary, Stalin had had a free hand
in making appointments to his own staff, implanting his loyalists throughout the party and administration.
Favouring new Communist Party members, many from worker and peasant backgrounds, to the
“Old Bolsheviks” who tended to be university educated, he ensured he had loyalists dispersed
across the country’s regions. Stalin had much contact with young party functionaries, and
the desire for promotion led many provincial figures to seek to impress Stalin and gain
his favour. Stalin also developed close relations with the trio at the heart of the secret police
(first the Cheka and then its replacement, the State Political Directorate): Felix Dzerzhinsky,
Genrikh Yagoda, and Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. In his private life, he divided his time between
his Kremlin apartment and a dacha at Zubalova; his wife gave birth to a daughter, Svetlana,
in February 1926.In the wake of Lenin’s death, various protagonists emerged in the struggle
to become his successor: alongside Stalin was Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin,
Alexei Rykov, and Mikhail Tomsky. Stalin saw Trotsky—whom he personally despised—as
the main obstacle to his dominance within the party. While Lenin had been ill he had
forged an anti-Trotsky alliance with Kamenev and Zinoviev. Although Zinoviev was concerned
about Stalin’s growing authority, he rallied behind him at the 13th Congress as a counterweight
to Trotsky, who now led a party faction known as the Left Opposition. The Left Opposition
believed the NEP conceded too much to capitalism; Stalin was called a “rightist” for his support
of the policy. Stalin built up a retinue of his supporters in the Central Committee, while
the Left Opposition were gradually removed from their positions of influence. He was
supported in this by Bukharin, who like Stalin believed that the Left Opposition’s proposals
would plunge the Soviet Union into instability. In late 1924, Stalin moved against Kamenev
and Zinoviev, removing their supporters from key positions. In 1925, Kamenev and Zinoviev
moved into open opposition of Stalin and Bukharin. They attacked one another at the 14th Party
Congress, where Stalin accused Kamenev and Zinoviev of reintroducing factionalism—and
thus instability—into the party. In mid-1926, Kamenev and Zinoviev joined with Trotsky’s
supporters to form the United Opposition against Stalin; in October they agreed to stop factional
activity under threat of expulsion, and later publicly recanted their views under Stalin’s
command. The factionalist arguments continued, with Stalin threatening to resign in October
and then December 1926 and again in December 1927. In October 1927, Zinoviev and Trotsky
were removed from the Central Committee; the latter was exiled to Kazakhstan and later
deported from the country in 1929. Some of those United Opposition members who were repentant
were later rehabilitated and returned to government.Stalin was now the party’s supreme leader, although
was not the head of government, a task he entrusted to key ally Vyacheslav Molotov.
Other important supporters on the Politburo were Voroshilov, Lazar Kaganovich, and Sergo
Ordzhonikidze, with Stalin ensuring his allies ran the various state institutions. According
to Montefiore, at this point “Stalin was the leader of the oligarchs but he was far from
a dictator”. His growing influence was reflected in the naming of various locations after him;
in June 1924 the Ukrainian mining town of Yuzovka became Stalino, and in April 1925,
Tsaritsyn was renamed Stalingrad on the order of Mikhail Kalinin and Avel Enukidze.In 1926,
Stalin published On Questions of Leninism. Here, he introduced the concept of “Socialism
in One Country”, which he presented as an orthodox Leninist perspective. It nevertheless
clashed with established Bolshevik views that socialism could not be established in one
country but could only be achieved globally through the process of world revolution. In
1927, there was some argument in the party over Soviet policy regarding China. Stalin
had called for the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Zedong, to ally itself with Chiang
Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists, viewing a Communist-Kuomintang alliance as
the best bulwark against Japanese imperial expansionism. Instead, the KMT repressed the
Communists and a civil war broke out between the two sides.===Dekulakisation, collectivisation, and
industrialisation: 1927–1931=======Economic policy====The Soviet Union lagged behind the industrial
development of Western countries, and there had been a shortfall of grain; 1927 produced
only 70% of grain produced in 1926. Stalin’s government feared attack from Japan, France,
the United Kingdom, Poland, and Romania. Many Communists, including in Komsomol, OGPU, and
the Red Army, were eager to be rid of the NEP and its market-oriented approach; they
had concerns about those who profited from the policy: affluent peasants known as “kulaks”
and the small business owners or “Nepmen”. At this point, Stalin turned against the NEP,
putting him on a course to the “left” even of Trotsky or Zinoviev.In early 1928 Stalin
travelled to Novosibirsk, where he alleged that kulaks were hoarding their grain and
ordered that the kulaks be arrested and their grain confiscated, with Stalin bringing much
of the area’s grain back to Moscow with him in February. At his command, grain procurement
squads surfaced across Western Siberia and the Urals, with violence breaking out between
these squads and the peasantry. Stalin announced that both kulaks and the “middle peasants”
must be coerced into releasing their harvest. Bukharin and several other Central Committee
members were angry that they had not been consulted about this measure, which they deemed
rash. In January 1930, the Politburo approved the liquidation of the kulak class; accused
kulaks were rounded up and exiled to other parts of the country or to concentration camps.
Large numbers died during the journey. By July 1930, over 320,000 households had been
affected by the de-kulakisation policy. According to Stalin biographer Dmitri Volkogonov, de-kulakisation
was “the first mass terror applied by Stalin in his own country”. In 1929, the Politburo announced the mass
collectivisation of agriculture, establishing both kolkhozy collective farms and sovkhoz
state farms. Stalin barred kulaks from joining these collectives. Although officially voluntary,
many peasants joined the collectives out of fear they would face the fate of the kulaks;
others joined amid intimidation and violence from party loyalists.
By 1932, about 62% of households involved in agriculture were part of collectives, and
by 1936 this had risen to 90%. Many of the collectivised peasants resented the loss of
their private farmland, and productivity slumped. Famine broke out in many areas, with the Politburo
frequently ordering the distribution of emergency food relief to these regions. Armed peasant
uprisings against dekulakisation and collectivisation broke out in Ukraine, northern Caucasus, southern
Russia, and central Asia, reaching their apex in March 1930; these were repressed by the
Red Army. Stalin responded to the uprisings with an article insisting that collectivisation
was voluntary and blaming any violence and other excesses on local officials. Although
he and Stalin had been close for many years, Bukharin expressed concerns about these policies;
he regarded them as a return to Lenin’s old “war communism” policy and believed that it
would fail. By mid-1928 he was unable to rally sufficient support in the party to oppose
the reforms. In November 1929 Stalin removed him from the Politburo.Officially, the Soviet
Union had replaced the irrationality and wastefulness of a market economy with a planned economy
organised along a long-term, precise, and scientific framework; in reality, Soviet economics
were based on ad hoc commandments issued from the centre, often to make short-term targets.
In 1928, the first five-year plan was launched, its main focus on boosting heavy industry;
it was finished a year ahead of schedule, in 1932. The USSR underwent a massive economic
transformation. New mines were opened, new cities like Magnitogorsk constructed, and
work on the White Sea-Baltic Canal begun. Millions of peasants moved to the cities,
although urban house building could not keep up with the demand. Large debts were accrued
purchasing foreign-made machinery. Many of the major construction projects, including
the White Sea-Baltic Canal and the Moscow Metro, were constructed largely through forced
labour. The last elements of workers’ control over industry were removed, with factory managers
increasing their authority and receiving privileges and perks; Stalin defended wage disparity
by pointing to Marx’s argument that it was necessary during the lower stages of socialism.
To promote the intensification of labour, a series of medals and awards as well as the
Stakhanovite movement were introduced. Stalin’s message was that socialism was being established
in the USSR while capitalism was crumbling amid the Wall Street crash. His speeches and
articles reflected his utopian vision of the Soviet Union rising to unparalleled heights
of human development, creating a “new Soviet person”.====Cultural and foreign policy====
In 1928, Stalin declared that class war between the proletariat and their enemies would intensify
as socialism developed. He warned of a “danger from the right”, including in the Communist
Party itself. The first major show trial in the USSR was the Shakhty Trial of 1928, in
which several middle-class “industrial specialists” were convicted of sabotage. From 1929 to 1930,
further show trials were held to intimidate opposition: these included the Industrial
Party Trial, Menshevik Trial, and Metro-Vickers Trial. Aware that the ethnic Russian majority
may have concerns about being ruled by a Georgian, he promoted ethnic Russians throughout the
state hierarchy and made the Russian language compulsory throughout schools and offices,
albeit to be used in tandem with local languages in areas with non-Russian majorities. Nationalist
sentiment among ethnic minorities was suppressed. Conservative social policies were promoted
to enhance social discipline and boost population growth; this included a focus on strong family
units and motherhood, the re-criminalisation of homosexuality, restrictions placed on abortion
and divorce, and the abolition of the Zhenotdel women’s department. Stalin desired a “cultural revolution”, entailing
both the creation of a culture for the “masses” and the wider dissemination of previously
elite culture. He oversaw the proliferation of schools, newspapers, and libraries, as
well as the advancement of literacy and numeracy. “Socialist realism” was promoted throughout
the arts, while Stalin personally wooed prominent writers, namely Maxim Gorky, Mikhail Sholokhov,
and Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy. He also expressed patronage for scientists whose research
fitted within his preconceived interpretation of Marxism; he for instance endorsed the research
of agrobiologist Trofim Lysenko despite the fact that it was rejected by the majority
of Lysenko’s scientific peers as pseudo-scientific. The government’s anti-religious campaign was
re-intensified, with increased funding given to the League of Militant Atheists. Christian,
Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist clergy faced persecution. Many religious buildings were
demolished, most notably Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, destroyed in 1931 to
make way for the (never completed) Palace of the Soviets. Religion retained an influence
over much of the population; in the 1937 census, 57% of respondents identified as religious.Throughout
the 1920s and beyond, Stalin placed a high priority on foreign policy. He personally
met with a range of Western visitors, including George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, both
of whom were impressed with him. Through the Communist International, Stalin’s government
exerted a strong influence over Marxist parties elsewhere in the world; initially, Stalin
left the running of the organisation largely to Bukharin. At its 6th Congress in July 1928,
Stalin informed delegates that the main threat to socialism came not from the right but from
non-Marxist socialists and social democrats, whom he called “social fascists”; Stalin recognised
that in many countries, the social democrats were the Marxist-Leninists’ main rivals for
working-class support. This preoccupation with opposing rival leftists concerned Bukharin,
who regarded the growth of fascism and the far right across Europe as a far greater threat.
After Bukharin’s departure, Stalin placed the Communist International under the administration
of Dmitry Manuilsky and Osip Piatnitsky.Stalin faced problems in his family life. In 1929,
his son Yakov unsuccessfully attempted suicide; his failure earned Stalin’s contempt. His
relationship with Nadya was also strained amid their arguments and her mental health
problems. In November 1932, after a group dinner in the Kremlin in which Stalin flirted
with other women, Nadya shot herself. Publicly, the cause of death was given as
appendicitis; Stalin also concealed the real cause of death from his children. Stalin’s
friends noted that he underwent a significant change following her suicide, becoming emotionally
harder.===Major crises: 1932–1939=======Famine====Within the Soviet Union, there was widespread
civic disgruntlement against Stalin’s government. Social unrest, previously restricted largely
to the countryside, was increasingly evident in urban areas, prompting Stalin to ease on
some of his economic policies in 1932. In May 1932, he introduced a system of kolkhoz
markets where peasants could trade their surplus produce. At the same time, penal sanctions
became more severe; at Stalin’s instigation, in August 1932 a decree was introduced meaning
that the theft of even a handful of grain could be a capital offense. The second five-year
plan had its production quotas reduced from that of the first, with the main emphasis
now being on improving living conditions. It therefore emphasised the expansion of housing
space and the production of consumer goods. Like its predecessor, this Plan was repeatedly
amended to meet changing situations; there was for instance an increasing emphasis placed
on armament production after Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor in 1933.The Soviet
Union experienced a major famine which peaked in the winter of 1932–33; between five and
seven million people died, and many resorted to cannibalising the dead to survive. Worst
affected were Ukraine and the North Caucuses, although the famine also impacted Kazakhstan
and several Russian provinces. Historians have long debated whether Stalin’s government
had intended the famine to occur or not; there are no known documents in which Stalin or
his government explicitly called for starvation to be used against the population. The 1931
and 1932 harvests had been poor ones due to weather conditions, and had followed several
years in which lower productivity had resulted in a gradual decline in output. Government
policies—including the focus on rapid industrialisation, the socialisation of livestock, and the emphasis
on sown areas over crop rotation—exacerbated the problem; the state had also failed to
build reserve grain stocks for such an emergency. Stalin blamed the famine on hostile elements
and wreckers within the peasantry; his government provided small amounts of food to famine-struck
rural areas, although this was wholly insufficient to deal with the levels of starvation. In
keeping with their ideology, the Communists believed that food supplies should be prioritised
for the urban workforce; for Stalin, the fate of Soviet industrialisation was far more important
than the lives of the peasantry. Grain exports, which were a major means of Soviet payment
for machinery, declined heavily. Stalin would not acknowledge that his policies had contributed
to the famine, the existence of which was denied to foreign observers.====Ideological and foreign affairs====
In 1935–36, Stalin oversaw a new constitution; its dramatic liberal features were designed
as propaganda weapons, for all power rested in the hands of Stalin and his Politburo.
He declared that “socialism, which is the first phase of communism, has basically been
achieved in this country”. In 1938, The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
(Bolsheviks), colloquially known as the Short Course, was released; Conquest later referred
to it as the “central text of Stalinism”. A number of authorised Stalin biographies
were also published, although Stalin generally wanted to be portrayed as the embodiment of
the Communist Party rather than have his life story explored. During the later 1930s, Stalin
placed “a few limits on the worship of his own greatness”. By 1938, Stalin’s inner circle
had gained a degree of stability, containing the personalities who would remain there until
Stalin’s death. Seeking improved international relations,
in 1934 the Soviet Union secured membership of the League of Nations, of which it had
previously been excluded. Stalin initiated confidential communications with Hitler in
October 1933, shortly after the latter came to power in Germany. Stalin admired Hitler,
particularly his manoeuvres to remove rivals within the Nazi Party in the Night of the
Long Knives. Stalin nevertheless recognised the threat posed by fascism and sought to
establish better links with the liberal democracies of Western Europe; in May 1935, the Soviets
signed a treaty of mutual assistance with France and Czechoslovakia. At the Communist
International’s 7th Congress, held in July–August 1935, the Soviet government encouraged Marxist-Leninists
to unite with other leftists as part of a popular front against fascism. In turn, the
anti-communist governments of Germany, Fascist Italy and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern
Pact of 1936.When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, the Soviets sent 648 aircraft
and 407 tanks to the left-wing Republican faction; these were accompanied by 3000 Soviet
troops and 42,000 members of the International Brigades set up by the Communist International.
Stalin took a strong personal involvement in the Spanish situation. Germany and Italy
backed the Nationalist faction, which was ultimately victorious in March 1939. With
the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937, the Soviet Union and China signed
a non-aggression pact the following August. Stalin aided the Chinese as the KMT and the
Communists had suspended their civil war and formed the desired United Front.====The Great Terror====
Stalin often gave conflicting signals regarding state repression. In May 1933, he released
from prison many convicted of minor offenses, ordering the security services not to enact
further mass arrests and deportations. In September 1934, he launched a commission to
investigate false imprisonments; that same month he called for the execution of workers
at the Stalin Metallurgical Factory accused of spying for Japan. This mixed approach began
to change in December 1934, after prominent party member Sergey Kirov was murdered. After
the murder, Stalin became increasingly concerned by the threat of assassination, improved his
personal security, and rarely went out in public. State repression intensified after
Kirov’s death; Stalin instigated this, reflecting his prioritisation of security above other
considerations. Stalin issued a decree establishing NKVD troikas which could mete out rulings
without involving the courts. In 1935, he ordered the NKVD to expel suspected counter-revolutionaries
from urban areas; in early 1935, over 11,000 were expelled from Leningrad. In 1936, Nikolai
Yezhov became head of the NKVD. Stalin orchestrated the arrest of many former
opponents in the Communist Party as well as sitting members of the Central Committee:
denounced as Western-backed mercenaries, many were imprisoned or exiled internally. The
first Moscow Trial took place in August 1936; Kamenev and Zinoviev were among those accused
of plotting assassinations, found guilty in a show trial, and executed. The second Moscow
Show Trial took place in January 1937, and the third in March 1938, in which Bukharin
and Rykov were accused of involvement in the alleged Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist plot
and sentenced to death. By late 1937, all remnants of collective leadership were gone
from the Politburo, which was controlled entirely by Stalin.
There were mass expulsions from the party, with Stalin commanding foreign communist parties
to also purge anti-Stalinist elements.During the 1930s and 1940s, NKVD groups assassinated
defectors and opponents abroad; in August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico,
eliminating the last of Stalin’s opponents among the former Party leadership. In May,
this was followed by the arrest of most members of the military Supreme Command and mass arrests
throughout the military, often on fabricated charges. These purges replaced most of the
party’s old guard with younger officials who did not remember a time before Stalin’s leadership
and who were regarded as more personally loyal to him. Party functionaries readily carried
out their commands and sought to ingratiate themselves with Stalin to avoid becoming the
victim of the purge. Such functionaries often carried out a greater number of arrests and
executions than their quotas set by Stalin’s central government.Repressions further intensified
in December 1936 and remained at a high level until November 1938, a period known as the
Great Purge. By the latter part of 1937, the purges had moved beyond the party and were
affecting the wider population. In July 1937, the Politburo ordered a purge of “anti-Soviet
elements” in society, targeting anti-Stalin Bolsheviks, former Mensheviks and Socialist
Revolutionaries, priests, ex-White Army soldiers, and common criminals. That month, Stalin and
Yezhov signed Order No. 00447, listing 268,950 people for arrest, of whom 75,950 were executed.
He also initiated “national operations”, the ethnic cleansing of non-Soviet ethnic groups—among
them Poles, Germans, Latvians, Finns, Greeks, Koreans, and Chinese—through internal or
external exile. During these years, approximately 1.6 million people were arrested, 700,000
were shot, and an unknown number died under NKVD torture.Stalin initiated all key decisions
during the Terror, personally directing many of its operations and taking an interest in
their implementation. His motives in doing so have been much debated by historians. His
personal writings from the period were — according to Khlevniuk — “unusually convoluted and
incoherent”, filled with claims about enemies encircling him. He was particularly concerned
at the success that right-wing forces had in overthrowing the leftist Spanish government,
fearing a domestic fifth column in the event of future war with Japan and Germany. The
Great Terror ended when Yezhov was removed as the head of the NKVD, to be replaced by
Lavrentiy Beria, a man totally devoted to Stalin. Yezhov was arrested in April 1939
and executed in 1940. The Terror damaged the Soviet Union’s reputation abroad, particularly
among sympathetic leftists. As it wound down, Stalin sought to deflect responsibility from
himself, blaming its “excesses” and “violations of law” on Yezhov.==World War II=====Pact with Germany: 1939–1941===
As a Marxist–Leninist, Stalin expected an inevitable conflict between competing capitalist
powers; after Nazi Germany annexed Austria and then part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Stalin
recognised this war was looming. He sought to maintain Soviet neutrality, hoping that
a German war against France and Britain would lead to Soviet dominance in Europe. Militarily,
the Soviets also faced a threat from the east, with Soviet troops clashing with the expansionist
Japanese in the latter part of the 1930s. Stalin initiated a military build-up, with
the Red Army more than doubling between January 1939 and June 1941, although in its haste
to expand many of its officers were poorly trained. Between 1940 and 1941 he also purged
the military, leaving it with a severe shortage of trained officers when war broke out. As Britain and France seemed unwilling to
commit to an alliance with the Soviet Union, Stalin saw a better deal with the Germans.
In May 1939, Germany began negotiations with the Soviets, proposing that Eastern Europe
be divided between the two powers. Stalin saw this as an opportunity both for territorial
expansion and temporary peace with Germany. In August 1939, the Soviet Union signed a
non-aggression pact with Germany, negotiated by Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov
and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. A week later, Germany invaded Poland, sparking
the UK and France to declare war on it. On 17 September, the Red Army entered eastern
Poland, officially to restore order amid the collapse of the Polish state. On 28 September,
Germany and the Soviet Union exchanged some of their newly conquered territories; Germany
gained the linguistically Polish-dominated areas of Lublin Province and part of Warsaw
Province while the Soviets gained Lithuania. A German–Soviet Frontier Treaty was signed
shortly after, in Stalin’s presence. The two states continued trading, undermining the
British blockade of Germany.The Soviets further demanded parts of eastern Finland, but the
Finnish government refused. The Soviets invaded Finland in November 1939, yet despite numerical
inferiority, the Finns kept the Red Army at bay. International opinion backed Finland,
with the Soviets being expelled from the League of Nations. Embarrassed by their inability
to defeat the Finns, the Soviets signed an interim peace treaty, in which they received
territorial concessions from Finland. In June 1940, the Red Army entered the Baltic states,
which were forcibly merged into the Soviet Union in August; they also invaded and annexed
Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, parts of Romania. The Soviets sought to forestall dissent
in these new East European territories with mass repressions. One of the most noted instances
was the Katyn massacre of April and May 1940, in which around 22,000 members of the Polish
armed forces, police, and intelligentsia were executed.The speed of the German victory over
and occupation of France in mid-1940 took Stalin by surprise. He increasingly focused
on appeasement with the Germans to delay any conflict with them. After the Tripartite Pact
was signed by Axis Powers Germany, Japan and Italy, in October 1940, Stalin proposed that
the USSR also join the Axis alliance. To demonstrate peaceful intentions toward Germany, in April
1941 the Soviets signed a neutrality pact with Japan. Although de facto head of government
for a decade and a half, Stalin concluded that relations with Germany had deteriorated
to such an extent that he needed to deal with the problem as de jure head of government
as well: on 6 May, Stalin replaced Molotov as Premier of the Soviet Union.===German invasion: 1941–1942===In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union,
initiating the war on the Eastern Front. Although intelligence agencies had repeatedly warned
him of Germany’s intentions, Stalin was taken by surprise. He formed a State Committee of
Defence, which he headed as Supreme Commander, as well as a military Supreme Command (Stavka),
with Georgy Zhukov as its Chief of Staff. The German tactic of blitzkrieg was initially
highly effective; the Soviet air force in the western borderlands was destroyed within
two days. The German Wehrmacht pushed deep into Soviet territory; soon, Ukraine, Belorussia,
and the Baltic states were under German occupation, and Soviet refugees were flooding into Moscow
and Leningrad. By July, Germany’s Luftwaffe was bombing Moscow, and by October the Wehrmacht
was amassing for a full assault on the capital. Plans were made for the Soviet government
to evacuate to Kuibyshev, although Stalin decided to remain in Moscow, believing his
flight would damage troop morale. The German advance on Moscow was halted after two months
of battle in increasingly harsh weather conditions.Against the advice of Zhukov and other generals, Stalin
emphasised attack over defence. In June 1941, he ordered a scorched earth policy of destroying
infrastructure and food supplies before the Germans could seize them, also commanding
the NKVD to kill around 100,000 political prisoners in areas the Wehrmacht approached.
He purged the military command; several high-ranking figures were demoted or reassigned and others
were arrested and executed. With Order No. 270, Stalin commanded soldiers risking capture
to commit suicide or fight to the death, describing the captured as traitors; among those taken
as a prisoner of war by the Germans was Stalin’s son Yakov, who died in their custody. Stalin
issued Order No. 227 in July 1942, which directed that those retreating would be placed in “penal
battalions” used as cannon fodder on the front lines. Amid the fighting, both the German
and Soviet armies disregarded the law of war set forth in the Geneva Conventions; the Soviets
heavily publicised Nazi massacres of communists, Jews, and Romani. Stalin exploited Nazi anti-Semitism,
and in April 1942 he sponsored the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) to garner Jewish
and foreign support for the Soviet war effort. The Soviets allied with the United Kingdom
and United States; although the US joined the war against Germany in 1941, little direct
American assistance reached the Soviets until late 1942. Responding to the invasion, the
Soviets intensified their industrial enterprises in central Russia, focusing almost entirely
on production for the military. They achieved high levels of industrial productivity, outstripping
that of Germany. During the war, Stalin was more tolerant of the Russian Orthodox Church,
allowing it to resume some of its activities and meeting with Patriarch Sergius in September
1943. He also permitted a wider range of cultural expression, notably permitting formerly suppressed
writers and artists like Anna Akhmatova and Dmitri Shostakovich to disperse their work
more widely. The Internationale was dropped as the country’s national anthem, to be replaced
with a more patriotic song. The government increasingly promoted Pan-Slavist sentiment,
while encouraging increased criticism of cosmopolitanism, particularly the idea of “rootless cosmopolitanism”,
an approach with particular repercussions for Soviet Jews. Comintern was dissolved in
1943, and Stalin encouraged foreign Marxist–Leninist parties to emphasise nationalism over internationalism
to broaden their domestic appeal.In April 1942 Stalin overrode Stavka by ordering the
Soviets’ first serious counter-attack, an attempt to seize German-held Kharkov in eastern
Ukraine. This attack proved unsuccessful. That year, Hitler shifted his primary goal
from an immediate victory on the Eastern Front, to the more long-term goal of securing the
southern Soviet Union to conquer oil fields vital to a long-term German war effort. While
Red Army generals saw evidence that Hitler would shift efforts south, Stalin considered
this to be a flanking move in a renewed effort to take Moscow. In June 1942, the German Army
began a major offensive in Southern Russia, threatening Stalingrad; Stalin ordered the
Red Army to hold the city at all costs. This resulted in the protracted Battle of Stalingrad.
In December 1942 he placed Konstantin Rokossovski in charge of holding the city. In February
1943, the German troops attacking Stalingrad surrendered. The Soviet victory there marked
a major turning point in the war; in commemoration, Stalin declared himself Marshal of the Soviet
Union.===Soviet counter-attack: 1942–1945===By November 1942, the Soviets had begun to
repulse the important German strategic southern campaign and, although there were 2.5 million
Soviet casualties in that effort, it permitted the Soviets to take the offensive for most
of the rest of the war on the Eastern Front. Germany attempted an encirclement attack at
Kursk, which was successfully repulsed by the Soviets. By the end of 1943, the Soviets
occupied half of the territory taken by the Germans from 1941 to 1942. Soviet military
industrial output also had increased substantially from late 1941 to early 1943 after Stalin
had moved factories well to the east of the front, safe from German invasion and air attack.In
Allied countries, Stalin was increasingly depicted in a positive light over the course
of the war. In 1941, the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed a concert to celebrate
his birthday, and in 1942, Time magazine named him “Man of the Year”. When Stalin learned
that people in Western countries affectionately called him “Uncle Joe” he was initially offended,
regarding it as undignified. There remained mutual suspicions between Stalin, British
Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who were
together known as the “Big Three”. Churchill flew to Moscow to visit Stalin in August 1942
and again in October 1944. Stalin scarcely left Moscow throughout the war, with Roosevelt
and Churchill frustrated with his reluctance to travel to meet them.In November 1943, Stalin
met with Churchill and Roosevelt in Tehran, a location of Stalin’s choosing. There, Stalin
and Roosevelt got on well, with both desiring the post-war dismantling of the British Empire.
At Tehran, the trio agreed that to prevent Germany rising to military prowess yet again,
the German state should be broken up. Roosevelt and Churchill also agreed to Stalin’s demand
that the German city of Königsberg be declared Soviet territory. Stalin was impatient for
the UK and US to open up a Western Front to take the pressure off of the East; they eventually
did so in mid-1944. Stalin insisted that, after the war, the Soviet Union should incorporate
the portions of Poland it occupied pursuant to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Germany,
which Churchill opposed. Discussing the fate of the Balkans, later in 1944 Churchill agreed
to Stalin’s suggestion that after the war, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Yugoslavia
would come under the Soviet sphere of influence while Greece would come under that of the
West. In 1944, the Soviet Union made significant
advances across Eastern Europe toward Germany, including Operation Bagration, a massive offensive
in the Byelorussian SSR against the German Army Group Centre. In 1944 the German armies
were pushed out of the Baltic states, which were then re-annexed into the Soviet Union.
As the Red Army reconquered the Caucasus and Crimea, various ethnic groups living in the
region—the Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingushi, Karachai, Balkars, and Crimean Tatars—were accused
of having collaborated with the Germans. Using the idea of collective responsibility as a
basis, Stalin’s government abolished their autonomous republics and between late 1943
and 1944 deported the majority of their populations to Central Asia and Siberia. Over one million
people were deported as a result of the policy.In February 1945, the three leaders met at the
Yalta Conference. Roosevelt and Churchill conceded to Stalin’s demand that Germany pay
the Soviet Union 20 billion dollars in reparations, and that his country be permitted to annex
Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands in exchange for entering the war against Japan. An agreement
was also made that a post-war Polish government should be a coalition consisting of both communist
and conservative elements. Privately, Stalin sought to ensure that Poland would come fully
under Soviet influence. The Red Army withheld assistance to Polish resistance fighters battling
the Germans in the Warsaw Uprising, with Stalin believing that any victorious Polish militants
could interfere with his aspirations to dominate Poland through a future Marxist government.
Although concealing his desires from the other Allied leaders, Stalin placed great emphasis
on capturing Berlin first, believing that this would enable him to bring more of Europe
under long-term Soviet control. Churchill was concerned that this was the case, and
unsuccessfully tried to convince the U.S. that the Western Allies should pursue the
same goal.===Victory: 1945===In April 1945, the Red Army seized Berlin,
Hitler committed suicide, and Germany surrendered. Stalin had wanted Hitler captured alive; he
had his remains brought to Moscow to prevent them becoming a relic for Nazi sympathisers.
As the Red Army had conquered German territory, they discovered the extermination camps that
the Nazi administration had run. Many Soviet soldiers engaged in looting, pillaging, and
rape, both in Germany and parts of Eastern Europe. Stalin refused to punish the offenders.
After receiving a complaint about this from Yugoslav communist Milovan Djilas, Stalin
asked how after experiencing the traumas of war a soldier could “react normally? And what
is so awful in his having fun with a woman, after such horrors?”With Germany defeated,
Stalin switched focus to the war with Japan, transferring half a million troops to the
far east. He was aware that the United States had developed nuclear weaponry, with which
it intended to subdue the Japanese, and wanted to enter the war before he could be denied
the territories promised to him. On 8 August, in between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, the Soviet army invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria and defeated the Kwantung Army.
These events led to the Japanese surrender and the war’s end. Soviet forces continued
to expand until they occupied all their territorial concessions, but the U.S. rebuffed Stalin’s
desire for the Red Army to take a role in the Allied occupation of Japan.Stalin attended
the Potsdam Conference in July–August 1945, alongside his new British and U.S. counterparts,
Prime Minister Clement Attlee and President Harry Truman. At the conference, Stalin repeated
previous promises to Churchill that he would refrain from a “Sovietization” of Eastern
Europe. Stalin pushed for reparations from Germany without regard to the base minimum
supply for German citizens’ survival, which worried Truman and Churchill who thought that
Germany would become a financial burden for Western powers.
He also pushed for “war booty”, which would permit the Soviet Union to directly seize
property from conquered nations without quantitative or qualitative limitation, and a clause was
added permitting this to occur with some limitations. Germany was divided into four zones: Soviet,
U.S., British, and French, with Berlin itself—located within the Soviet area—also subdivided thusly.==Post-war era=====Post-war reconstruction and famine: 1945–1947
===After the war, Stalin was—according to Service—at
the “apex of his career”. Within the Soviet Union he was widely regarded as the embodiment
of victory and patriotism. His armies controlled Central and Eastern Europe up to the River
Elbe. In June 1945, Stalin adopted the title of
Generalissimus, and stood atop Lenin’s Mausoleum to watch a celebratory parade led by Zhukov
through Red Square. At a banquet held for army commanders, he described the Russian
people as “the outstanding nation” and “leading force” within the Soviet Union, the first
time that he had unequivocally endorsed the Russians over other Soviet nationalities.
In 1946, the state published Stalin’s Collected Works. In 1947, it brought out a second edition
of his official biography, which eulogised him to a greater extent than its predecessor.
He was quoted in Pravda on a daily basis and pictures of him remained pervasive on the
walls of workplaces and homes. Despite his strengthened international position,
Stalin was cautious about internal dissent and desire for change among the population.
He was also concerned about his returning armies, who had been exposed to a wide range
of consumer goods in Germany, much of which they had looted and brought back with them.
In this he recalled the 1825 Decembrist Revolt by Russian soldiers returning from having
defeated France in the Napoleonic Wars. He ensured that returning Soviet prisoners of
war went through “filtration” camps as they arrived in the Soviet Union, in which 2,775,700
were interrogated to determine if they were traitors. About half were then imprisoned
in labour camps. In the Baltic states, where there was much opposition to Soviet rule,
de-kulakisation and de-clericalisation programs were initiated, resulting in 142,000 deportations
between 1945 and 1949. The Gulag system of labour camps was expanded further. By January
1953, three percent of the Soviet population was imprisoned or in internal exile, with
2.8 million in “special settlements” in isolated areas and another 2.5 million in camps, penal
colonies, and prisons.The NKVD were ordered to catalogue the scale of destruction during
the war. It was established that 1,710 Soviet towns and 70,000 villages had been destroyed.
The NKVD recorded that between 26 and 27 million Soviet citizens had been killed, with millions
more being wounded, malnourished, or orphaned. In the war’s aftermath, some of Stalin’s associates
suggested modifications to government policy. Post-war Soviet society was more tolerant
than its pre-war phase in various respects. Stalin allowed the Russian Orthodox Church
to retain the churches it had opened during the war. Academia and the arts were also allowed
greater freedom than they had prior to 1941. Recognising the need for drastic steps to
be taken to combat inflation and promote economic regeneration, in December 1947 Stalin’s government
devalued the ruble and abolished the ration-book system. Capital punishment was abolished in
1947 but reinstalled in 1950.Stalin’s health was deteriorating, and heart problems forced
a two-month vacation in the latter part of 1945.
He grew increasingly concerned that senior political and military figures might try to
oust him; he prevented any of them from becoming powerful enough to rival him and had their
apartments bugged with listening devices. He demoted Molotov, and increasingly favoured
Beria and Malenkov for key positions. In 1949, he brought Nikita Khrushchev from Ukraine
to Moscow, appointing him a Central Committee secretary and the head of the city’s party
branch. In the Leningrad Affair, the city’s leadership was purged amid accusations of
treachery; executions of many of the accused took place in 1950.In the post-war period
there were often food shortages in Soviet cities, and the USSR experienced a major famine
from 1946 to 1947. Sparked by a drought and ensuing bad harvest in 1946, it was exacerbated
by government policy towards food procurement, including the state’s decision to build up
stocks and export food internationally rather than distributing it to famine hit areas.
Current estimates indicate that between one million and 1.5 million people died from malnutrition
or disease as a result. While agricultural production stagnated, Stalin focused on a
series of major infrastructure projects, including the construction of hydroelectric plants,
canals, and railway lines running to the polar north. Much of this was constructed by prison
labour.===Cold War policy: 1947–1950===In the aftermath of the Second World War,
the British Empire declined, leaving the U.S. and USSR as the dominant world powers. Tensions
among these former Allies grew, resulting in the Cold War. Although Stalin publicly
described the British and U.S. governments as aggressive, he thought it unlikely that
a war with them would be imminent, believing that several decades of peace was likely.
He nevertheless secretly intensified Soviet research into nuclear weaponry, intent on
creating an atom bomb. Still, Stalin foresaw the undesirability of a nuclear conflict,
saying in 1949 that “atomic weapons can hardly be used without spelling the end of the world.”
He personally took a keen interest in the development of the weapon. In August 1949,
the bomb was successfully tested in the deserts outside Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. Stalin
also initiated a new military build-up; the Soviet army was expanded from 2.9 million
soldiers, as it stood in 1949, to 5.8 million by 1953.The US began pushing its interests
on every continent, acquiring air force bases in Africa and Asia and ensuring pro-U.S. regimes
took power across Latin America. It launched the Marshall Plan in June 1947, with which
it sought to undermine Soviet hegemony in eastern Europe. The US also offered financial
assistance as part of the Marshall Plan on the condition that they opened their markets
to trade, aware that the Soviets would never agree.
The Allies demanded that Stalin withdraw the Red Army from northern Iran, which he did
in April 1947. Stalin also tried to maximise Soviet influence
on the world stage, unsuccessfully pushing for Libya—recently liberated from Italian
occupation—to become a Soviet protectorate. He sent Molotov as his representative to San
Francisco to take part in negotiations to form the United Nations, insisting that the
Soviets have a place on the Security Council. In April 1949, the Western powers established
the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), an international military alliance of capitalist
countries. Within Western countries, Stalin was increasingly portrayed as the “most evil
dictator alive” and compared to Hitler.In 1948, Stalin edited and rewrote sections of
Falsifiers of History, published as a series of Pravda articles in February 1948 and then
in book form. Written in response to public revelations of the 1939 Soviet alliance with
Germany, it focused on blaming Western powers for the war. He erroneously claimed that the
initial German advance in the early part of the war was not a result of Soviet military
weakness, but rather a deliberate Soviet strategic retreat. In 1949, celebrations took place
to mark Stalin’s seventieth birthday (albeit not the correct year) at which Stalin attended
an event in the Bolshoi Theatre alongside Marxist–Leninist leaders from across Europe
and Asia.====The Eastern Bloc====After the war, Stalin sought to retain Soviet
dominance across Eastern Europe while expanding its influence in Asia. Cautiously regarding
the responses from the Western Allies, Stalin avoided immediately installing Communist Party
governments across Eastern Europe, instead initially ensuring that Marxist-Leninists
were placed in coalition ministries. In contrast to his approach to the Baltic states, he rejected
the proposal of merging the new communist states into the Soviet Union, rather recognising
them as independent nation-states. He was faced with the problem that there were
few Marxists left in Eastern Europe, with most having been killed by the Nazis. He demanded
that war reparations be paid by Germany and its Axis allies Hungary, Romania, and the
Slovak Republic. Aware that these countries had been pushed toward socialism through invasion
rather than by proletarian revolution, Stalin referred to them not as “dictatorships of
the proletariat” but as “people’s democracies”, suggesting that in these countries there was
a pro-socialist alliance combining the proletariat, peasantry, and lower middle-class.Churchill
observed that an “Iron Curtain” had been drawn across Europe, separating the east from the
west. In September 1947, a meeting of East European communist leaders was held in Szklarska
Poręba, Poland, from which was formed Cominform to co-ordinate the Communist Parties across
Eastern Europe and also in France and Italy. Stalin did not personally attend the meeting,
sending Zhdanov in his place. Various East European communists also visited Stalin in
Moscow. There, he offered advice on their ideas; for instance he cautioned against the
Yugoslav idea for a Balkan federation incorporating Bulgaria and Albania. Stalin had a particularly
strained relationship with Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito due to the latter’s continued
calls for Balkan federation and for Soviet aid for the communist forces in the ongoing
Greek Civil War. In March 1948, Stalin launched an anti-Tito campaign, accusing the Yugoslav
communists of adventurism and deviating from Marxist–Leninist doctrine. At the second
Cominform conference, held in Bucharest in June 1948, East European communist leaders
all denounced Tito’s government, accusing them of being fascists and agents of Western
capitalism. Stalin ordered several assassination attempts on Tito’s life and contemplated invading
Yugoslavia.Stalin suggested that a unified, but demilitarised, German state be established,
hoping that it would either come under Soviet influence or remain neutral. When the US and
UK remained opposed to this, Stalin sought to force their hand by blockading Berlin in
June 1948. He gambled that the others would not risk war, but they airlifted supplies
into West Berlin until May 1949, when Stalin relented and ended the blockade. In September
1949 the Western powers transformed Western Germany into an independent Federal Republic
of Germany; in response the Soviets formed East Germany into the German Democratic Republic
in October. In accordance with their earlier agreements, the Western powers expected Poland
to become an independent state with free democratic elections. In Poland, the Soviets merged various
socialist parties into the Polish United Workers’ Party, and vote rigging was used to ensure
that it secured office. The 1947 Hungarian elections were also rigged, with the Hungarian
Working People’s Party taking control. In Czechoslovakia, where the communists did have
a level of popular support, they were elected the largest party in 1946. Monarchy was abolished
in Bulgaria and Romania. Across Eastern Europe, the Soviet model was enforced, with a termination
of political pluralism, agricultural collectivisation, and investment in heavy industry. It was aimed
for economic autarky within the Eastern Bloc.====East Asia and Israel====
In October 1949, Mao took power in China. With this accomplished, Marxist governments
now controlled a third of the world’s land mass. Privately, Stalin revealed that he had
underestimated the Chinese Communists and their ability to win the civil war, instead
encouraging them to make another peace with the KMT. In December 1949, Mao visited Stalin.
Initially Stalin refused to repeal the Sino-Soviet Treaty of 1945, which significantly benefited
the Soviet Union over China, although in January 1950 he relented and agreed to sign a new
treaty between the two countries. Stalin was concerned that Mao might follow Tito’s example
by pursuing a course independent of Soviet influence, and made it known that if displeased
he would withdraw assistance from China; the Chinese desperately needed said assistance
after decades of civil war. At the end of the Second World War, the Soviet
Union and the United States divided up the Korean Peninsula, formerly a Japanese colonial
possession, along the 38th parallel, setting up a communist government in the north and
a pro-Western government in the south. North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung visited Stalin in
March 1949 and again in March 1950; he wanted to invade the south and although Stalin was
initially reluctant to provide support, he eventually agreed by May 1950. The North Korean
Army launched the Korean War by invading the south in June 1950, making swift gains and
capturing Seoul. Both Stalin and Mao believed that a swift victory would ensue. The U.S.
went to the UN Security Council—which the Soviets were boycotting over its refusal to
recognise Mao’s government—and secured military support for the South Koreans. U.S. led forces
pushed the North Koreans back. Stalin wanted to avoid direct Soviet conflict with the U.S.,
convincing the Chinese to aid the North.The Soviet Union was one of the first nations
to extend diplomatic recognition to the newly created state of Israel in 1948. When the
Israeli ambassador Golda Meir arrived in the USSR, Stalin was angered by the Jewish crowds
who gathered to greet her. He was further angered by Israel’s growing alliance with
the U.S. After Stalin fell out with Israel, he launched an anti-Jewish campaign within
the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. In November 1948, he abolished the JAC, and show
trials took place for some of its members. The Soviet press engaged in attacks on Zionism,
Jewish culture, and “rootless cosmopolitanism”, with growing levels of anti-Semitism being
expressed across Soviet society. Stalin’s increasing tolerance of anti-Semitism may
have stemmed from his increasing Russian nationalism or from the recognition that anti-Semitism
had proved a useful mobilising tool for Hitler and that he could do the same; he may have
increasingly viewed the Jewish people as a “counter-revolutionary” nation whose members
were loyal to the U.S. There were rumours, although they have never been substantiated,
that Stalin was planning on deporting all Soviet Jews to the Jewish Autonomous Region
in Birobidzhan, eastern Siberia.===Final years: 1950–1953===In his later years, Stalin was in poor health.
He took increasingly long holidays; in 1950 and again in 1951 he spent almost five months
vacationing at his Abkhazian dacha. Stalin nevertheless mistrusted his doctors; in January
1952 he had one imprisoned after they suggested that he should retire to improve his health.
In September 1952, several Kremlin doctors were arrested for allegedly plotting to kill
senior politicians in what came to be known as the Doctors’ Plot; the majority of the
accused were Jewish. He instructed the arrested doctors to be tortured to ensure confession.
In November, the Slánský trial took place in Czechoslovakia as 13 senior Communist Party
figures, 11 of them Jewish, were accused and convicted of being part of a vast Zionist-American
conspiracy to subvert Eastern Bloc governments. That same month, a much publicised trial of
accused Jewish industrial wreckers took place in Ukraine. In 1951, he initiated the Mingrelian
affair, a purge of the Georgian branch of the Communist Party which resulted in over
11,000 deportations.From 1946 until his death, Stalin only gave three public speeches, two
of which lasted only a few minutes. The amount of written material that he produced also
declined. In 1950, Stalin issued the article “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics”, which
reflected his interest in questions of Russian nationhood.
In 1952, Stalin’s last book, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, was published. It
sought to provide a guide to leading the country for after his death. In October 1952, Stalin
gave an hour and a half speech at the Central Committee plenum. There, he emphasised what
he regarded as leadership qualities necessary in the future and highlighted the weaknesses
of various potential successors, particularly Molotov and Mikoyan. In 1952, he also eliminated
the Politburo and replaced it with a larger version which he called the Presidium.===Death, funeral and aftermath: 1953===On 1 March 1953, Stalin’s staff found him
semi-conscious on the bedroom floor of his Volynskoe dacha. He had suffered a cerebral
hemorrhage. He was moved onto a couch and remained there for three days. He was hand-fed
using a spoon, given various medicines and injections, and leeches were applied to him.
Svetlana and Vasily were called to the dacha on 2 March; the latter was drunk and angrily
shouted at the doctors, resulting in him being sent home. Stalin died on 5 March 1953. According
to Svetlana, it had been “a difficult and terrible death”. An autopsy revealed that
he had died of a cerebral haemorrhage and that he also suffered from severe damage to
his cerebral arteries due to atherosclerosis. It is possible that Stalin was murdered. Beria
has been suspected of murder, although no firm evidence has ever appeared.Stalin’s death
was announced on 6 March. The body was embalmed, and then placed on display in Moscow’s House
of Unions for three days. Crowds were such that a crush killed around 100 people. The
funeral involved the body being laid to rest in Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square on 9 March;
hundreds of thousands attended. That month featured a surge in arrests for “anti-Soviet
agitation” as those celebrating Stalin’s death came to police attention. The Chinese government
instituted a period of official mourning for Stalin’s death.Stalin left no anointed successor
nor a framework within which a transfer of power could take place. The Central Committee
met on the day of his death, with Malenkov, Beria, and Khruschev emerging as the party’s
key figures. The system of collective leadership was restored, and measures introduced to prevent
any one member attaining autocratic domination again. The collective leadership included
the following eight senior members of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union listed according to the order of precedence presented
formally on 5 March 1953: Georgy Malenkov, Lavrentiy Beria, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment
Voroshilov, Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin, Lazar Kaganovich and Anastas Mikoyan. Reforms
to the Soviet system were immediately implemented. Economic reform scaled back the mass construction
projects, placed a new emphasis on house building, and eased the levels of taxation on the peasantry
to stimulate production. The new leaders sought rapprochement with Yugoslavia and a less hostile
relationship with the U.S., pursuing a negotiated end to the Korean War in July 1953. The doctors
who had been imprisoned were released and the anti-Semitic purges ceased. A mass amnesty
for those imprisoned for non-political crimes was issued, halving the country’s inmate population,
while the state security and Gulag systems were reformed, with torture being banned in
April 1953.==Political ideology==Stalin claimed to have embraced Marxism at
the age of fifteen, and it served as the guiding philosophy throughout his adult life; according
to Kotkin, Stalin held “zealous Marxist convictions”, while Montefiore suggested that Marxism held
a “quasi-religious” value for Stalin. Although he never became a Georgian nationalist, during
his early life elements from Georgian nationalist thought blended with Marxism in his outlook.
The historian Alfred J. Rieber noted that he had been raised in “a society where rebellion
was deeply rooted in folklore and popular rituals”. Stalin believed in the need to adapt
Marxism to changing circumstances; in 1917, he declared that “there is dogmatic Marxism
and there is creative Marxism. I stand on the ground of the latter”. Volkogonov believed
that Stalin’s Marxism was shaped by his “dogmatic turn of mind”, suggesting that this had been
instilled in the Soviet leader during his education in religious institutions. According
to scholar Robert Service, Stalin’s “few innovations in ideology were crude, dubious developments
of Marxism”. Some of these derived from political expediency rather than any sincere intellectual
commitment; Stalin would often turn to ideology post hoc to justify his decisions. Stalin
referred to himself as a praktik, meaning that he was more of a practical revolutionary
than a theoretician.As a Marxist, Stalin believed in an inevitable class war between the world’s
proletariat and bourgeoise. He believed that the working classes would prove successful
in this struggle and would establish a dictatorship of the proletariat, regarding the Soviet Union
as an example of such a state. He also believed that this proletarian state would need to
introduce repressive measures to ensure the full crushing of the propertied classes, and
thus the class war would intensify with the advance of socialism. The new state would
then be able to ensure that all citizens had access to work, food, shelter, healthcare,
and education, with the wastefulness of capitalism eliminated by a new, standardised economic
system. According to Sandle, Stalin was “committed to the creation of a society that was industrialized,
collectivized, centrally planned and technologically advanced.”Stalin adhered to the Leninist variant
of Marxism. In his book, Foundations of Leninism, he stated that “Leninism is the Marxism of
the epoch of imperialism and of the proletarian revolution”. He claimed to be a loyal Leninist,
although was—according to Service—”not a blindly obedient Leninist”. Stalin respected
Lenin, but not uncritically, and spoke out when he believed that Lenin was wrong. During
the period of his revolutionary activity, Stalin regarded some of Lenin’s views and
actions as being the self-indulgent activities of a spoiled émigré, deeming them counterproductive
for those Bolshevik activists based within the Russian Empire itself. After the October
Revolution, they continued to have differences. Whereas Lenin believed that all countries
across Europe and Asia would readily unite as a single state following proletariat revolution,
Stalin argued that national pride would prevent this, and that different socialist states
would have to be formed; in his view, a country like Germany would not readily submit to being
part of a Russian-dominated federal state. Stalin biographer Oleg Khlevniuk nevertheless
believed that the pair developed a “strong bond” over the years, while Kotkin suggested
that Stalin’s friendship with Lenin was “the single most important relationship in Stalin’s
life”. After Lenin’s death, Stalin relied heavily on Lenin’s writings—far more so
than those of Marx and Engels—to guide him in the affairs of state. Stalin adopted the
Leninist view on the need for a revolutionary vanguard who could lead the proletariat rather
than being led by them. Leading this vanguard, he believed that the Soviet peoples needed
a strong, central figure—akin to a Tsar—whom they could rally around. In his words, “the
people need a Tsar, whom they can worship and for whom they can live and work”. He read
about, and admired, two Tsars in particular: Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. In
the personality cult constructed around him, he was known as the vozhd, an equivalent to
the Italian duce and German fuhrer. Stalinism was a development of Leninism, and
while Stalin avoided using the term “Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism”, he allowed others to do so. Following Lenin’s
death, Stalin contributed to the theoretical debates within the Communist Party, namely
by developing the idea of “Socialism in One Country”. This concept was intricately linked
to factional struggles within the party, particularly against Trotsky. He first developed the idea
in December 1924 and elaborated upon in his writings of 1925–26. Stalin’s doctrine held
that socialism could be completed in Russia but that its final victory there could not
be guaranteed because of the threat from capitalist intervention. For this reason, he retained
the Leninist view that world revolution was still a necessity to ensure the ultimate victory
of socialism. Although retaining the Marxist belief that the state would wither away as
socialism transformed into pure communism, he believed that the Soviet state would remain
until the final defeat of international capitalism. This concept synthesised Marxist and Leninist
ideas with nationalist ideals, and served to discredit Trotsky—who promoted the idea
of “permanent revolution”—by presenting the latter as a defeatist with little faith
in Russian workers’ abilities to construct socialism.Stalin viewed nations as contingent
entities which were formed by capitalism and could merge into others. Ultimately he believed
that all nations would merge into a single, global human community, and regarded all nations
as inherently equal. Stalin argued that the Jews possessed a “national character” but
were not a “nation” and were thus unassimilable. He argued that Jewish nationalism, particularly
Zionism, was hostile to socialism. In his work, he stated that “the right of secession”
should be offered to the ethnic-minorities of the Russian Empire, but that they should
not be encouraged to take that option. He was of the view that if they became fully
autonomous, then they would end up being controlled by the most reactionary elements of their
community; as an example he cited the largely illiterate Tatars, whom he claimed would end
up dominated by their mullahs. Khlevniuk therefore argued that Stalin reconciled Marxism with
imperialism. According to Service, Stalin’s Marxism was
imbued with a great deal of Russian nationalism. According to Montefiore, Stalin’s embrace
of the Russian nation was pragmatic, as the Russians were the core of the population of
the USSR; it was not a rejection of his Georgian origins. Stalin’s push for Soviet westward
expansion into eastern Europe resulted in accusations of Russian imperialism.==Personal life and characteristics==Ethnically Georgian, Stalin grew up speaking
the Georgian language, and only learned Russian when aged eight or nine. He remained proud
of his Georgian identity, and throughout his life retained a Georgian accent when speaking
Russian. According to Montefiore, Stalin was profoundly Georgian in his lifestyle and personality;
Service noted that Stalin “would never be Russian”, could not credibly pass as one,
and never tried to pretend he was. Stalin’s colleagues described him as “Asiatic”, and
he told a Japanese journalist that “I am not a European man, but an Asian, a Russified
Georgian”. Montefiore was of the view that “after 1917, he became quadri-national: Georgian
by nationality, Russian by loyalty, internationalist by ideology, Soviet by citizenship.”Stalin
had a soft voice, and when speaking Russian did so slowly, carefully choosing his phrasing.
In private he used coarse language, although avoided doing so in public. Described as a
poor orator, according to Volkogonov, Stalin’s speaking style was “simple and clear, without
flights of fancy, catchy phrases or platform histrionics”. He rarely spoke before large
audiences, and preferred to express himself in written form. His writing style was similar,
being characterised by its simplicity, clarity, and conciseness. Throughout his life, he used
various nicknames and pseudonyms, including “Koba”, “Soselo”, and “Ivanov”, adopting “Stalin”
in 1912; it was based on the Russian word for “steel” and has often been translated
as “Man of Steel”.In adulthood, Stalin measured 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 m) tall. To appear taller,
he wore stacked shoes, and stood on a small platform during parades. His mustached face
was pock-marked from smallpox during childhood; this was airbrushed from published photographs.
He was born with a webbed left foot, and his left arm had been permanently injured in childhood
which left it shorter than his right and lacking in flexibility, which was probably the result
of being hit, at the age of 12, by a horse-drawn carriage. During his youth, Stalin cultivated
a scruffy appearance in rejection of middle-class aesthetic values. He grew his hair long and
often wore a beard; for clothing, he often wore a traditional Georgian chokha or a red
satin shirt with a grey coat and red fedora. From mid-1918 until his death he favoured
military-style clothing, in particular long black boots, light-coloured collarless tunics,
and a gun. He was a lifelong smoker, who smoked both a pipe and cigarettes. He had few material
demands and lived plainly, with simple and inexpensive clothing and furniture; his interest
was in power rather than wealth.As Soviet leader, Stalin typically awoke around 11 am,
with lunch being served between 3 and 5 pm and dinner no earlier than 9 pm; he then worked
late into the evening. He often dined with other Politburo members and their families.
As leader, he rarely left Moscow unless to go to one of his dachas; he disliked travel,
and refused to travel by plane. His choice of favoured holiday house changed over the
years, although he holidayed in southern parts of the USSR every year from 1925 to 1936 and
again from 1945 to 1951. Along with other senior figures, he had a dacha at Zubalova,
35km outside Moscow, although ceased using it after Nadya’s 1932 suicide. After 1932,
he favoured holidays in Abkhazia, being a friend of its leader, Nestor Lakoba. In 1934,
his new Kuntsevo Dacha was built; 9km from the Kremlin, it became his primary residence.
In 1935 he began using a new dacha provided for him by Lakoba at Novy Afon; in 1936, he
had the Kholodnaya Rechka dacha built on the Abkhazian coast, designed by Miron Merzhanov.===Personality===Trotsky and several other Soviet figures promoted
the idea that Stalin was a mediocrity. This gained widespread acceptance outside the Soviet
Union during his lifetime but was misleading. According to Montefiore, “it is clear from
hostile and friendly witnesses alike that Stalin was always exceptional, even from childhood”.
Stalin had a complex mind, great self-control, and an excellent memory. He was a hard worker,
and displayed a keen desire to learn; when in power, he scrutinised many details of Soviet
life, from film scripts to architectural plans and military hardware. According to Volkogonov,
“Stalin’s private life and working life were one and the same”; he did not take days off
from political activities.Stalin could play different roles to different audiences, and
was adept at deception, often deceiving others as to his true motives and aims. Several historians
have seen it appropriate to follow Lazar Kaganovich’s description of there being “several Stalins”
as a means of understanding his multi-faceted personality. He was a good organiser, with
a strategic mind, and judged others according to their inner strength, practicality, and
cleverness. He acknowledged that he could be rude and insulting, although rarely raised
his voice in anger; as his health deteriorated in later life he became increasingly unpredictable
and bad tempered. Despite his tough-talking attitude, he could be very charming; when
relaxed, he cracked jokes and mimicked others. Montefiore suggested that this charm was “the
foundation of Stalin’s power in the Party”.Stalin was ruthless, temperamentally cruel, and had
a propensity for violence high even among the Bolsheviks. He lacked compassion, something
Volkogonov suggested might have been accentuated by his many years in prison and exile, although
he was capable of acts of kindness to strangers, even amid the Great Terror. He was capable
of self-righteous indignation, and was resentful, vindictive, and vengeful, holding onto grievances
against others for many years. By the 1920s, he was also suspicious and conspiratorial,
prone to believing that people were plotting against him and that there were vast international
conspiracies behind acts of dissent. He never attended torture sessions or executions, although
Service thought Stalin “derived deep satisfaction” from degrading and humiliating people and
keeping even close associates in a state of “unrelieved fear”. Montefiore thought Stalin’s
brutality marked him out as a “natural extremist”; Service suggested he had a paranoid or sociopathic
personality disorder. Other historians linked his brutality not to any personality trait,
but to his unwavering commitment to the survival of the Soviet Union and the international
Marxist-Leninist cause. Keenly interested in the arts, Stalin admired
artistic talent. He protected several Soviet writers, such as Mikhail Bulgakov, even when
their work was labelled harmful to his regime. He enjoyed music, owning around 2,700 albums,
and frequently attending the Bolshoi Theatre during the 1930s and 1940s. His taste in music
and theatre was conservative, favouring classical drama, opera, and ballet over what he dismissed
as experimental “formalism”. He also favoured classical forms in the visual arts, disliking
avant-garde styles like cubism and futurism. He was a voracious reader, with a library
of over 20,000 books. Little of this was fiction, although he could cite passages from Alexander
Pushkin, Nikolay Nekrasov, and Walt Whitman by heart. He favoured historical studies,
keeping up with debates in the study of Russian, Mesopotamian, ancient Roman, and Byzantine
history. An autodidact, he claimed to read as many as 500 pages a day, with Montefiore
regarding him as an intellectual. Stalin also enjoyed watching films late at night at cinemas
installed in the Kremlin and his dachas. He favoured the Western genre; his favourite
film was the 1938 picture Volga Volga.Stalin was a keen and accomplished billiards player,
and collected watches. He also enjoyed practical jokes; he for instance would place a tomato
on the seat of Politburo members and wait for them to sit on it. When at social events,
he encouraged singing, as well as alcohol consumption; he hoped that others would drunkenly
reveal their secrets to him. As an infant, Stalin displayed a love of flowers, and later
in life he became a keen gardener. His Volynskoe suburb had a 50-acre park, with Stalin devoting
much attention to its agricultural activities.Stalin publicly condemned anti-Semitism, although
was repeatedly accused of it. People who knew him, such as Khrushchev, suggested he long
harbored negative sentiments toward Jews, and anti-Semitic trends in his policies were
further fueled by Stalin’s struggle against Trotsky. After Stalin’s death, Khrushchev
claimed that Stalin encouraged him to incite anti-Semitism in Ukraine, allegedly telling
him that “the good workers at the factory should be given clubs so they can beat the
hell out of those Jews.” In 1946, Stalin allegedly said privately that “every Jew is a potential
spy.” Conquest stated that although Stalin had Jewish associates, he promoted anti-Semitism.
Service cautioned that there was “no irrefutable evidence” of anti-Semitism in Stalin’s published
work, although his private statements and public actions were “undeniably reminiscent
of crude antagonism towards Jews”; he added that throughout Stalin’s lifetime, the Georgian
“would be the friend, associate or leader of countless individual Jews”. According to
Beria, Stalin had affairs with several Jewish women.===Relationships and family===Friendship was important to Stalin, and he
used it to gain and maintain power. Kotkin observed that Stalin “generally gravitated
to people like himself: parvenu intelligentsia of humble background”. He gave nicknames to
his favourites, for instance referring to Yezhov as “my blackberry”. Stalin was sociable
and enjoyed a joke. According to Montefiore, Stalin’s friendships “meandered between love,
admiration, and venomous jealousy”. While head of the Soviet Union he remained in contact
with many of his old friends in Georgia, sending them letters and gifts of money.Stalin was
attracted to women and there are no reports of any homosexual tendencies; according to
Montefiore, in his early life Stalin “rarely seems to have been without a girlfriend”.
He was sexually promiscuous, although rarely talked about his sex life. Montefiore noted
that Stalin’s favoured types were “young, malleable teenagers or buxom peasant women”,
who would be supportive and unchallenging toward him. According to Service, Stalin “regarded
women as a resource for sexual gratification and domestic comfort”. Stalin married twice
and had several offspring. He married his first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, in 1906. According
to Montefiore, theirs was “a true love match”; Volkogonov suggested that she was “probably
the one human being he had really loved”. They had a son, Yakov, who often frustrated
and annoyed Stalin. Yakov had a daughter, Galina, before fighting for the Red Army in
the Second World War. He was captured by the German Army and then committed suicide.Stalin’s
second wife was Nadezhda Alliluyeva; theirs was not an easy relationship, and they often
rowed. They had two biological children—a son, Vasily, and a daughter, Svetlana—and
adopted another son, Artyom Sergeev, in 1921. During his marriage to Nadezhda, Stalin had
affairs with many other women, most of whom were fellow revolutionaries or their wives.
Nadezdha suspected that this was the case, and committed suicide in 1932. Stalin regarded
Vasily as spoiled and often chastised his behaviour; as Stalin’s son, Vasily nevertheless
was swiftly promoted through the ranks of the Red Army and allowed a lavish lifestyle.
Conversely, Stalin had an affectionate relationship with Svetlana during her childhood, and was
also very fond of Artyom. In later life, he disapproved of Svetlana’s various suitors
and husbands, putting a strain on his relationship with her. After the Second World War he made
little time for his children and his family played a decreasingly important role in his
life. After Stalin’s death, Svetlana changed her surname from Stalin to Allilueva, and
defected to the U.S.After Nadezdha’s death, Stalin became increasingly close to his sister-in-law
Zhenya Alliluyeva; Montefiore believed that they were probably lovers. There are unproven
rumours that from 1934 onward he had a relationship with his housekeeper Valentina Istomina. Stalin
had at least two illegitimate children, although he never recognised these as being his. One
of these, Constantin Kuzakova, later taught philosophy at the Leningrad Military Mechanical
Institute, but never met his father. The other, Alexander, was the son of Lidia Pereprygia;
he was raised as the son of a peasant fisherman and the Soviet authorities made him swear
never to reveal that Stalin was his biological father.==Legacy==The historian Robert Conquest stated that
Stalin, “perhaps[…] determined the course of the twentieth century” more than anyone
other individual. Biographers like Service and Volkogonov have considered him an outstanding
and exceptional politician; Montefiore labelled Stalin as “that rare combination: both ‘intellectual’
and killer”, a man who was “the ultimate politician” and “the most elusive and fascinating of the
twentieth-century titans”. According to historian Kevin McDermott, interpretations of Stalin
range from “the sycophantic and adulatory to the vitriolic and condemnatory”. For most
Westerners and anti-communist Russians, he is viewed overwhelmingly negatively as a mass
murderer; for significant numbers of Russians and Georgians, he is regarded as a great statesman
and state-builder.Stalin strengthened and stabilised the Soviet Union; Service suggested
that without him the country might have collapsed long before 1991. In under three decades,
Stalin transformed the Soviet Union into a major industrial world power, one which could
“claim impressive achievements” in terms of urbanisation, military strength, education,
and Soviet pride. Under his rule, the average Soviet life expectancy grew due to improved
living conditions, nutrition, and medical care; mortality rates declined. Although millions
of Soviet citizens despised him, support for Stalin was nevertheless widespread throughout
Soviet society.Stalin’s Soviet Union has been characterised as an totalitarian state, with
Stalin its authoritarian leader. Various biographers have described him as a dictator, an autocrat,
or accused him of practicing Caesarism. Montefiore argued that while Stalin initially ruled as
part of a Communist Party oligarchy, in 1934 the Soviet government transformed from this
oligarchy into a personal dictatorship, with Stalin only becoming “absolute dictator” between
March and June 1937, when senior military and NKVD figures were eliminated. According
to Kotkin, Stalin “built a personal dictatorship within the Bolshevik dictatorship”. In both
the Soviet Union and elsewhere he came to be portrayed as an “Oriental despot”. The
biographer Dmitri Volkogonov characterised him as “one of the most powerful figures in
human history”, while McDermott stated that Stalin had “concentrated unprecedented political
authority in his hands”, and Service noted that by the late 1930s, Stalin “had come closer
to personal despotism than almost any monarch in history”. McDermott nevertheless cautioned against “over-simplistic
stereotypes”—promoted in the fiction of writers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vasily
Grossman, and Anatoly Rybakov—that portrayed Stalin as an omnipotent and omnipresent tyrant
who controlled every aspect of Soviet life through repression and totalitarianism. Service
similarly warned of the portrayal of Stalin as an “unimpeded despot”, noting that “powerful
though he was, his powers were not limitless”, and his rule depended on his willingness to
conserve the Soviet structure he had inherited. Kotkin observed that Stalin’s ability to remain
in power relied on him having a majority in the Politburo at all times. Khlevniuk noted
that at various points, particularly when Stalin was old and frail, there were “periodic
manifestations” in which the party oligarchy threatened his autocratic control. Stalin
denied to foreign visitors that he was a dictator, stating that those who labelled him such did
not understand the Soviet governance structure.A vast literature devoted to Stalin has been
produced. During Stalin’s lifetime, his approved biographies were largely hagiographic in content.
Stalin ensured that these works gave very little attention to his early life, particularly
because he did not wish to emphasise his Georgian origins in a state numerically dominated by
Russians. Since his death many more biographies have been written, although until the 1980s
these relied largely on the same sources of information. Under Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet
administration various previously classified files on Stalin’s life were made available
to historians, at which point Stalin became “one of the most urgent and vital issues on
the public agenda” in the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Union in 1991, the
rest of the archives were opened to historians, resulting in much new information about Stalin
coming to light, and producing a flood of new research.Leninists remain divided in their
views on Stalin; some view him as Lenin’s authentic successor, while others believe
he betrayed Lenin’s ideas by deviating from them. The socio-economic nature of Stalin’s
Soviet Union has also been much debated, varyingly being labelled a form of state socialism,
state capitalism, bureaucratic collectivism, or a totally unique mode of production. Socialist
writers like Volkogonov have acknowledged that Stalin’s actions damaged “the enormous
appeal of socialism generated by the October Revolution”.===Death toll and allegations of genocide
===With a high number of excess deaths occurring
under his rule, Stalin has been labeled “one of the most notorious figures in history”.
These deaths occurred as a result of collectivisation, famine, terror campaigns, disease, war and
mortality rates in the Gulag. As the majority of excess deaths under Stalin were not direct
killings, the exact number of victims of Stalinism is difficult to calculate due to lack of consensus
among scholars on which deaths can be attribute to the regime. Official records reveal 799,455 documented
executions in the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1953; 681,692 of these were carried out
between 1937 and 1938, the years of the Great Purge. However, according to Michael Ellman,
the best modern estimate for the number of repression deaths during the Great Purge is
950,000–1.2 million, which includes executions, deaths in detention, or soon after their release.
In addition, while archival data shows that 1,053,829 perished in the Gulag from 1934
to 1953, the current historical consensus is that of the 18 million people who passed
through the Gulag system from 1930 to 1953, between 1.5 and 1.7 million died as a result
of their incarceration. The historian and archival researcher Stephen G. Wheatcroft
and Michael Ellman attribute roughly 3 million deaths to the Stalinist regime, including
executions and deaths from criminal negligence. The estimates of famine deaths have varied
from 5.5–6.5 million to 8.7 million. The American historian Timothy D. Snyder summarizes
modern data, made after the opening of the Soviet archives in the 1990s, and concludes
that Stalin was directly responsible for 6 million deaths along with three million indirect
deaths. He notes that the estimate is far lower than the estimates of 20 million or
above which were made before access to the archives. He also compares this number to
the estimate of 11–12 million non-combatants killed by the Nazi regime, thereby negating
claims that Stalin killed more than Hitler.Historians continue to debate whether or not the 1932–33
Ukrainian famine—known in Ukraine as the Holodomor—should be called a genocide. Twenty-six
countries officially recognize it under the legal definition of genocide. In 2006, the
Ukrainian Parliament declared it to be such, and in 2010 a Ukrainian court posthumously
convicted Stalin, Lazar Kaganovich, Stanislav Kosior, and other Soviet leaders of genocide.
Popular among Ukrainian nationalists is the idea that Stalin consciously organised the
famine to suppress national desires among the Ukrainian people. This interpretation
has been rejected by more recent historical studies. These have articulated the view that—while
Stalin’s policies contributed significantly to the high mortality rate—there is no evidence
that Stalin or the Soviet government consciously engineered the famine. The idea that this
was a targeted attack on the Ukrainians is complicated by the widespread suffering that
also affected other Soviet peoples in the famine, including the Russians, and the fact
that more died in Kazakhstan than Ukraine itself. Within Ukraine, ethnic Poles and Bulgarians
died in similar proportions to ethnic Ukrainians. Despite any lack of clear intent on Stalin’s
part, the historian Norman Naimark noted that although there may not be sufficient “evidence
to convict him in an international court of justice as a genocidaire[…] that does not
mean that the event itself cannot be judged as genocide”.Michael Ellman argues that mass
deaths from famines are not a “uniquely Stalinist evil”, and compares the behavior of the Stalinist
regime vis-à-vis the Holodomor to that of the British empire (towards Ireland and India)
and even the G8 in contemporary times, saying that he is sympathetic to the idea that the
latter “are guilty of mass manslaughter or mass deaths from criminal negligence because
of their not taking obvious measures to reduce mass deaths.” He argues that a possible defense
of Stalin and his associates is that “their behaviour was no worse than that of many rulers
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”===In the Soviet Union and its successor
states===Shortly after his death, the Soviet Union
went through a period of de-Stalinization. Malenkov denounced the Stalin personality
cult, which was subsequently criticised in Pravda. In 1956, Khruschev gave his “Secret
Speech”, titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”, to a closed session
of the Party’s 20th Congress. There, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for both his mass repression
and his personality cult. He repeated these denunciations at the 22nd Party Congress in
October 1962. In October 1961, Stalin’s body was removed from the mausoleum and buried
in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis next to the Kremlin walls, the location marked only by
a simple bust. Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd.Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation process in Soviet society
ended when he was replaced as leader by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964; the latter introduced a
level of re-Stalinisation within the Soviet Union. In 1969 and again in 1979, plans were
proposed for a full rehabilitation of Stalin’s legacy, but on both occasions were defeated
by critics within the Soviet and international Marxist-Leninist movement. Gorbachev saw the
total denunciation of Stalin as necessary for the regeneration of Soviet society. After
the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the first President of the new Russian Federation,
Boris Yeltsin, continued Gorbachev’s denunciation of Stalin but added to it a denunciation of
Lenin. His successor, Vladimir Putin, did not seek to rehabilitate Stalin but emphasised
the celebration of Soviet achievements under Stalin’s leadership rather than the Stalinist
repressions; however, in October 2017 Putin opened the Wall of Grief memorial in Moscow,
noting that the “terrible past” would neither be “justified by anything” nor “erased from
the national memory”. Amid the social and economic turmoil of the
post-Soviet period, many Russians viewed Stalin as having overseen an era of order, predictability,
and pride. He remains a revered figure among many Russian nationalists, who feel nostalgic
about the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, and he is regularly invoked
approvingly within both Russia’s far-left and far-right. In the 2008 Name of Russia
television show, Stalin was voted as the third most notable personality in Russian history.
A 2017 poll revealed that Stalin’s popularity reached a 16-year high among the Russian population,
with 46% expressing a favourable view of him. At the same time, there was a growth in pro-Stalinist
literature in Russia, much relying upon the misrepresentation or fabrication of source
material. In this literature, Stalin’s repressions are regarded either as a necessary measure
to defeat “enemies of the people” or the result of lower-level officials acting without Stalin’s
knowledge.The only part of the former Soviet Union where admiration for Stalin has remained
consistently widespread is Georgia. Many Georgians resent criticism of Stalin, the most famous
figure from their nation’s modern history; a 2013 survey by Tbilisi University found
45% of Georgians expressing “a positive attitude” to him. Some positive sentiment can also be
found elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. A 2012 survey commissioned by the Carnegie
Endowment found 38% of Armenians concurring that their county “will always have need of
a leader like Stalin”. In early 2010 a new monument to Stalin was erected in Zaporizhia,
Ukraine; in December unknown persons cut off its head and in 2011 it was destroyed in an
explosion. In a 2016 Kiev International Institute of Sociology poll, 38% of respondents had
a negative attitude to Stalin, 26% a neutral one and 17% a positive (19% refused to answer).==See also====Footnotes====References=====Citations======Bibliography======Further reading=====
External links==

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