BIOGRAPHY: Josef Stalin
Dzhugashvili [ Josef Djugashvili ]; Soso, Beso
to be updated: 2009
Latest Best Source on early years, Young Stalin
Dzhugashvili; December 18 [O.S. December 6] 1878 – March 5,
1953), better known by his adopted name, Joseph Stalin (alternatively
transliterated Josef Stalin), was General Secretary of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 until 1953.
Despite his formal position being originally without significant influence,
and his office being nominally but one of several Central Committee
Secretariats, Stalin's increasing control of the Party from 1928 onwards
led to him becoming the de facto party leader and the dictator of his
Stalin became General
Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1922. Following the death
of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, he prevailed in a power struggle over Leon
Trotsky. In the 1930s Stalin initiated the Great Purge, a campaign of
political repression, persecution and executions that reached its peak
Stalin's rule had
long-lasting effects on the features that characterized the Soviet state
from the era of his rule to its collapse in 1991—though Maoists,
anti-revisionists and some others say he was actually the last legitimate
Socialist leader in the Soviet Union's history. Stalin claimed his policies
were based on Marxism-Leninism; they are now often considered to represent
a political and economic system called Stalinism.
the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the 1920s with Five-Year Plans in 1928
and collective farming at roughly the same time. The Soviet Union was
transformed from a predominantly peasant society to a major world industrial
power by the end of the 1930s.
grain and other food by the Soviet authorities under his orders contributed
to a famine between 1932 and 1934, especially in the key agricultural
regions of the Soviet Union, Ukraine (see Holodomor), Kazakhstan and
North Caucasus that resulted in millions of deaths. Many peasants resisted
collectivization and grain confiscations, but were repressed, most notably
well-off peasants deemed "kulaks."
Bearing the brunt
of the Nazis' attacks (around 75% of the Wehrmacht's forces), the Soviet
Union under Stalin made the largest and most decisive contribution to
the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II (known in the USSR as
the Great Patriotic War, 1941–45). After the war, Stalin established
the USSR as one of the two major superpowers in the world, a position
it maintained for nearly four decades following his death in 1953.
Stalin's rule -
reinforced by a cult of personality - fought real and alleged opponents
mainly through the security apparatus, such as the NKVD. Millions of
people were killed through famines, executions, deportations, and in
the Gulag. Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's henchman and eventual successor,
denounced Stalin's rule and the cult of personality in 1956, initiating
the process of "de-Stalinization" which later became part
of the Sino-Soviet Split.
Childhood and early
Stalin's home town of Gori and his class photo. Stalin is two boys beyond
what is shown.Reliable sources about Stalin's youth are few; however
those which were left were subject to censorship as was common during
Stalin's reign. Some consider the writings of Stalin's daughter, Svetlana
Alliluyeva to be the most reliable sources, since they were not censored.
Joseph Stalin was
born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili in Gori, Georgia, Russian Empire
to Vissarion Dzhugashvili and Ekaterina Geladze. In 1913, he adopted
the name Stalin, which is derived from the Russian stal’ (Russian:
?????) for "steel". His mother was born a serf. The other
three Dzhugashvili children died young; "Soso" (the Georgian
pet name for Joseph), was effectively the only child. Stalin's father
Vissarion was a cobbler, who opened his own shop, but quickly went bankrupt,
forcing him to work in a shoe factory in Tiflis. (Archer 11)
Rarely seeing his
family and drinking heavily, Vissarion often beat his wife and small
son. One of Stalin's friends from childhood wrote, "Those undeserved
and fearful beatings made the boy as hard and heartless as his father."
The same friend also wrote that he never saw him cry.
circa 1894.Another of his childhood friends, Iremshvili, felt that the
beatings by Stalin's father gave him the hatred of authority. He also
said that anyone with power over others reminded Stalin of his father's
cruelty. Stalin had broken his arm several times over his life. There
have been reports of Stalin having one arm shorter than the other. [citation
card on Joseph Stalin, from the files of the Tsarist secret police in
St. PetersburgOne of the people for whom Ekaterina did laundry and house-cleaning
was a Gori Jew, David Papismedov. Papismedov gave Joseph, who would
help out his mother, money and books to read, and encouraged him. Decades
later, Papismedov came to the Kremlin to learn what had become of little
"Soso". Stalin surprised his colleagues by not only receiving
the elderly man, but happily chatting with him in public places.
In 1888, Stalin's
father left to live in Tiflis, leaving the family without support. Rumors
said he died in a drunken bar fight; however, others said they had seen
him in Georgia as late as 1931. At the age of eight, "Soso"
began his education at the Gori Church School.
When attending school
in Gori, "Soso" was among a very diverse group of students.
Joseph and most of his classmates were Georgian and spoke mostly Georgian.
However, at school they were forced to use Russian. Even when speaking
in Russian, their Russian teachers mocked Joseph and his classmates
because of their Georgian accents. His peers were mostly the sons of
affluent priests, officials, and merchants.
During his childhood,
Joseph was fascinated by stories he read telling of Georgian mountaineers
who valiantly fought for Georgian independence. His favorite hero in
these stories was a legendary mountain ranger named Koba, which became
Stalin's first alias as a revolutionary. He graduated first in his class
and at the age of 14 he was awarded a scholarship to the Seminary of
Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia). Although his mother wanted him to be a priest
(even after he had become leader of the Soviet Union), he attended seminary
not because of any religious vocation, but because of the lack of locally
available university education, in addition to the small stipend from
the scholarship Stalin was paid for singing in the choir.
Stalin in exile,
1915.Stalin's involvement with the socialist movement (or, to be more
exact, the branch of it that later became the communist movement) began
at the seminary. During these school years, Stalin joined a Georgian
Social-Democratic organization, and began propagating Marxism. Stalin
quit the seminary in 1899 just before his final examinations; official
biographies preferred to state that he was expelled. He then worked
for a decade with the political underground in the Caucasus, experiencing
repeated arrests and exile to Siberia between 1902 and 1917.
Stalin adhered to
Vladimir Lenin's doctrine of a strong centralist party of professional
revolutionaries. Stalin and Lenin attended the Fifth Congress of the
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in London in 1907 (see ).
This congress consolidated the supremacy of Lenin's Bolshevik Party
and debated strategy for communist revolution in Russia. Stalin never
referred to his stay in London.
In the period after
the Revolution of 1905 Stalin led "fighting squads" in bank
robberies to raise funds for the Bolshevik Party. His practical experience
made him useful to the party, and gained him a place on its Central
Committee in January 1912.
, Vladimir Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin meeting in 1919.
All three of them were "Old Bolsheviks"; members of the Bolshevik
party before the Russian Revolution of 1917.His only significant contribution
to the development of the Marxist theory at this time was a treatise,
written while he was briefly in exile in Vienna, Marxism and the National
Question. It presents an orthodox Marxist position (c.f. Lenin's On
the Right of Nations to Self-Determination). This treatise may have
contributed to his appointment as People's Commissar for Nationalities
Affairs after the revolution .
In 1901, the Georgian
clergyman M. Kelendzheridze wrote an educational book on language arts,
including one of Stalin’s poems, signed by 'Soselo'. In 1907 the
same editor published “A Georgian Chrestomathy, or collection
of the best examples of Georgian literature” including a poem
of Stalin’s dedicated to Rafael Eristavi. His poetry can still
be seen in the Stalin Museum in Gori.
Marriages and family
Stalin's first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, died in 1907, only four years
after their marriage. At her funeral, Stalin allegedly said that any
warm feelings he had for people died with her, for only she could melt
his 'stony heart'. To him, her life was the only thing that made him
happy. They had a son together, Yakov Dzhugashvili, with whom Stalin
did not get along in later years.
Stalin with his children: Vasiliy and Svetlana.His son finally shot
himself because of Stalin's harshness toward him, but survived. After
this, Stalin said "He can't even shoot straight". Yakov served
in the Red Army during World War II and was captured by the Germans.
They offered to exchange him for Fieldmarshal Paulus, but Stalin turned
the offer down, allegedly saying "A lieutenant is not worth a general";
others credit him with saying "I have no son," to this offer,
and Yakov is said to have committed suicide, running into an electric
fence in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was being held.
Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva.His second wife was Nadezhda Alliluyeva,
who died in 1932; she may have committed suicide by shooting herself
after a quarrel with Stalin, leaving a suicide note which according
to their daughter was "partly personal, partly political".
died of an illness. With her, he had two children: a son, Vasiliy, and
a daughter, Svetlana.
Vasiliy rose through
the ranks of the Soviet air force, officially dying of alcoholism in
1962; however, this is still in question. He distinguished himself in
World War II as a capable airman. Svetlana emigrated to the United States
In his book The
Wolf of the Kremlin, Stuart Kahan claimed that Stalin was secretly married
to a third wife named Rosa Kaganovich (allegedly the sister of Lazar
Kaganovich, a Soviet politician). However, the claim is unproven and
many have disputed it, including the Kaganovich family, who deny that
"Rosa" and Stalin ever met, and even state that Kaganovich's
sister wasn't named Rosa. Kahan also claimed that both Lazar and Rosa
were responsible for the death of Stalin (by poisoning), however this
(as well as most of the remainder of Kahan's assertions) were dismissed
as fabrication by the Statement of the Kaganovich Family.
died in 1937; he did not attend the funeral but instead sent a wreath[citation
Yakov Dzhugashvili, captured by the GermansIn March 2001, Russian Independent
Television NTV discovered a previously unknown grandson living in Novokuznetsk.
Yuri Davydov told NTV that his father had told him of his lineage, but,
because the campaign against Stalin's cult of personality was in full
swing at the time, he was told to keep quiet. The Soviet dissident writer,
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, had mentioned a son being born to Stalin and
his common-law wife, Lida, in 1918 during Stalin's exile in northern
Following the February
Revolution, Stalin and the editorial board took a position in favor
of supporting Kerensky's provisional government and, it is alleged,
went to the extent of declining to publish Lenin's articles arguing
for the provisional government to be overthrown.
In April 1917, Stalin
was elected to the Central Committee with the third highest vote total
in the party and was subsequently elected to the Politburo of the Central
Committee (May 1917); he held this position for the remainder of his
According to many
accounts, Stalin only played a minor role in the revolution of November
7. Other writers, such as Adam Ulam, have argued that each man in the
Central Committee had a specific job to which he was assigned.
The following summary
of Trotsky's Role in 1917 was given by Stalin in Pravda, November 6
“ All practical
work in connection with the organisation of the uprising was done under
the immediate direction of Comrade Trotsky, the President of the Petrograd
Soviet. It can be stated with certainty that the Party is indebted primarily
and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison
to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work
of the Military Revolutionary Committee was organised. ”
Note: Although this
passage was quoted in Stalin's book The October Revolution issued in
1934, it was expunged in Stalin's Works released in 1949.
Later, in 1924,
Stalin himself created a myth around a so-called "Party Centre"
which "directed" all practical work pertaining to the uprising,
consisting of himself, Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky, Uritsky, and Bubnov. However,
no evidence was ever shown for the activity of this "centre",
which would, in any case, have been subordinate to the Military Revolutionary
Council, headed by Trotsky.
During the Russian
Civil War and Polish-Soviet War, Stalin was a political commissar in
the Red Army at various fronts. Stalin's first government position was
as People's Commissar of Nationalities Affairs (1917–1923).
He was also People's
Commissar of the Workers and Peasants Inspection (1919–1922),
a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the republic (1920–23)
and a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets
On April 3, 1922,
Stalin was made general secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Russian
Communist Party (Bolsheviks), a post that he subsequently built up into
the most powerful in the country. It has been claimed that he initially
attempted to decline accepting the post, but was refused. This position
was seen to be a minor one within the party (Stalin was sometimes referred
to as "Comrade Card-Index" by fellow party members) but, when
coupled with leadership over the Orgburo, actually had potential as
a power base as it allowed Stalin to fill the party with his allies.
Stalin gained plenty
of political power because of his popularity within the Bolshevik party.
This took the dying Lenin by surprise, and in his last writings he famously
called for the removal of the "rude" Stalin. However, this
document was voted on as to its adoption by the Party in a Congress
- and a unanimous vote to reject the document was taken by all members
of the Congress as Lenin was at this time deemed very ill.
After Lenin's death
in January 1924, Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev together governed the
party, placing themselves ideologically between Trotsky (on the left
wing of the party) and Bukharin (on the right). During this period,
Stalin abandoned the traditional Bolshevik emphasis on international
revolution in favor of a policy of building "Socialism in One Country",
in contrast to Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution.
In the struggle
for leadership one thing was evident: whoever ended up ruling the party
had to be considered very loyal to Lenin. Stalin organized Lenin's funeral
and made a speech professing undying loyalty to Lenin, in almost religious
terms. He undermined Trotsky, who was sick at the time, possibly
by misleading him about the date of the funeral. Thus although Trotsky
was Lenin’s associate throughout the early days of the Soviet
regime, he lost ground to Stalin. Stalin made great play of the fact
that Trotsky had joined the Bolsheviks just before the revolution, and
publicized Trotsky's pre-revolutionary disagreements with Lenin. Another
event that helped Stalin's rise was the fact that Trotsky came out against
publication of Lenin's Testament in which he pointed out the strengths
and weaknesses of Stalin and Trotsky and the other main players, and
suggested that he be succeeded by a small group of people.
An important feature
of Stalin’s rise to power is the way that he manipulated his opponents
and played them off against each other. Stalin formed a "troika"
of himself, Zinoviev, and Kamenev against Trotsky. When Trotsky had
been eliminated, Stalin then joined Bukharin and Rykov against Zinoviev
and Kamenev, emphasising their vote against the insurrection in 1917.
Zinoviev and Kamenev then turned to Lenin's widow, Krupskaya; they formed
the "United Opposition" in July 1926.
In 1927 during the
15th Party Congress Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the party
and Kamenev lost his seat on the Central Committee. Stalin soon turned
against the "Right Opposition", represented by his erstwhile
allies, Bukharin and Rykov.
Stalin gained popular
appeal from his presentation as a 'man of the people' from the poorer
classes. The Russian people were tired from the world war and the civil
war, and Stalin's policy of concentrating in building "Socialism
in One Country" was seen as an optimistic antidote to war.
Stalin took great
advantage of the ban on factionalism which meant that no group could
openly go against the policies of the leader of the party because that
meant creation of an opposition. By 1928 (the first year of the Five-Year
Plans) Stalin was supreme among the leadership, and the following year
Trotsky was exiled because of his opposition. Having also outmaneuvered
Bukharin's Right Opposition and now advocating collectivization and
industrialization, Stalin can be said to have exercised control over
the party and the country.
However, as the
popularity of other leaders such as Sergei Kirov and the so-called Ryutin
Affair were to demonstrate, Stalin did not achieve absolute power until
the Great Purge of 1936–38.
Soviet secret service
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Stalin vastly increased the scope and power of the state's secret police
and intelligence agencies. Under his guiding hand, Soviet intelligence
forces began to set up intelligence networks in most of the major nations
of the world, including Germany (the famous Rote Kappelle spy ring),
Great Britain, France, Japan, and the United States. Stalin saw no difference
between espionage, communist political propaganda actions, and state-sanctioned
violence, and he began to integrate all of these activities within the
NKVD. Stalin made considerable use of the Communist International movement
in order to infiltrate agents and to ensure that foreign Communist parties
remained pro-Soviet and pro-Stalin.
One of the best
early examples of Stalin's ability to integrate secret police and foreign
espionage came in 1940, when he gave approval to the secret police to
have Leon Trotsky assassinated in Mexico.
The Russian Civil
War and wartime communism had a devastating effect on the country's
economy. Industrial output in 1922 was 13% of that in 1914. A recovery
followed under the New Economic Policy, which allowed a degree of market
flexibility within the context of socialism.
Under Stalin's direction,
this was replaced by a system of centrally ordained "Five-Year
Plans" in the late 1920s. These called for a highly ambitious program
of state-guided crash industrialization and the collectivization of
With no seed capital,
little international trade, and virtually no modern infrastructure,
Stalin's government financed industrialization by both restraining consumption
on the part of ordinary Soviet citizens, to ensure that capital went
for re-investment into industry, and by ruthless extraction of wealth
from the kulaks.
In 1933, worker's
real earnings sank to about one-tenth of the 1926 level. There was also
use of the unpaid labor of both common and political prisoners in labor
camps and the frequent "mobilization" of communists and Komsomol
members for various construction projects. The Soviet Union also made
use of foreign experts, e.g. British engineer Stephen Adams, to instruct
their workers and improve their manufacturing processes.
In spite of early
breakdowns and failures, the first two Five-Year Plans achieved rapid
industrialization from a very low economic base. While there is general
agreement among historians that the Soviet Union achieved significant
levels of economic growth under Stalin, the precise rate of this growth
estimates placed it at 13.9%, Russian and Western estimates gave lower
figures of 5.8% and even 2.9%. Indeed, one estimate is that Soviet growth
temporarily was much higher after Stalin's death. 
According to Robert
Lewis, the Five-Year Plan substantially helped to modernize the previously
backward Soviet economy. New products were developed, and the scale
and efficiency with which existing products were made also greatly increased.
Some innovations were based on indigenous technical developments, and
others were based on imported foreign technology. 
.Stalin's regime moved to force collectivization of agriculture. This
was intended to increase agricultural output from large-scale mechanized
farms, to bring the peasantry under more direct political control, and
to make tax collection more efficient. Collectivization meant drastic
social changes, on a scale not seen since the abolition of serfdom in
1861, and alienation from control of the land and its produce. Collectivization
also meant a drastic drop in living standards for many peasants, and
it faced violent reaction among the peasantry.
In the first years
of collectivization, it was estimated that industrial and agricultural
production would rise by 200% and 50%, respectively; however, agricultural
production actually dropped. Stalin blamed this unanticipated
failure on kulaks (rich peasants), who resisted collectivization. (However,
kulaks only made up 4% of the peasant population; the "kulaks"
that Stalin targeted included the moderate middle peasants who took
the brunt of violence from the OGPU and the Komsomol. The middle peasants
were about 60% of the population). Therefore those defined as "kulaks,"
"kulak helpers," and later "ex-kulaks" were to be
shot, placed into Gulag labor camps, or deported to remote areas of
the country, depending on the charge.
The two-stage progress
of collectivization — interrupted for a year by Stalin's famous
editorial, "Dizzy with success" (Pravda, March 2, 1930), and
"Reply to Collective Farm Comrades" (Pravda, April 3, 1930)
— is a prime example of his capacity for tactical political withdrawal
followed by intensification of initial strategies.
assert that the disruption caused by collectivization was largely responsible
for major famines. The 1932-1933 famine in the Ukraine and the Kuban
regions has been termed the Holodomor (Ukrainian: ?????????). According
to Alan Bullock, "the total Soviet grain crop was no worse than
that of 1931... it was not a crop failure but the excessive demands
of the state, ruthlessly enforced, that cost the lives of as many as
five million Ukrainian peasants." Stalin refused to release large
grain reserves that could have alleviated the famine (and at the same
time exporting grain abroad); he was convinced that the Ukrainian peasants
had hidden grain away, and strictly enforced draconian new collective-farm
theft laws in response.
hold it was largely the insufficient harvests of 1931 and 1932 caused
by a variety of natural disasters that resulted in famine, with the
successful harvest of 1933 ending the famine. 
also affected various other parts of the USSR. The death toll from famine
in the Soviet Union at this time is estimated at between five and ten
million people. (The worst crop failure of late tsarist Russia, in 1892,
caused 375,000 to 400,000 deaths.)
and other historians have argued that tough measures and the rapid collectivization
of agriculture were necessary in order to achieve an equally rapid industrialization
of the Soviet Union and ultimately win World War II. This is disputed
by other historians such as Alec Nove, who claim that the Soviet Union
industrialized in spite of, rather than thanks to, its collectivized
The Russian Orthodox
Church Synod's recognition of the Soviet government and of Stalin personally
led to a schism with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia that
remains not fully healed to the present day.
Just days before
Stalin's death, certain religious sects were outlawed and persecuted.
Many religions popular
in the ethnic regions of the Soviet Union including the Roman Catholic
Church, Uniats, Baptists, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. underwent ordeals
similar to the Orthodox churches in other parts: thousands of monks
were persecuted, and hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples,
sacred monuments, monasteries and other religious buildings were razed.
Left: Beria's January 1940 letter to Stalin, asking permission to execute
346 "enemies of the CPSU and of the Soviet authorities" who
conducted "counter-revolutionary, right-Trotskyite plotting and
Middle: Stalin's handwriting: "??" (support).
Right: The Politburo's decision is signed by Secretary Stalin.
Stalin, as head of the Politburo, consolidated near-absolute power in
the 1930s with a Great Purge of the party, justified as an attempt to
expel 'opportunists' and 'counter-revolutionary infiltrators'. Those
targeted by the purge were often expelled from the party, however more
severe measures ranged from banishment to the Gulag labor camps, to
execution after trials held by NKVD troikas.
The Purges commenced
after the assassination of Sergei Kirov, the popular leader of the party
in Leningrad. Kirov was very close to Stalin and his assassination sent
chills through the Bolshevik party. Stalin, fearing that he might be
next, began tightening security, (and in effect to remove those who
might have threatened Stalin's leadership) by seeking out alleged spies
Several trials known
as the Moscow Trials were held, but the procedures were replicated throughout
the country. There were four key trials during this period: the Trial
of the Sixteen (August 1936); Trial of the Seventeen (January 1937);
the trial of Red Army generals, including Marshal Tukhachevsky (June
1937); and finally the Trial of the Twenty One (including Bukharin)
in March 1938.
Most notably in
the case of alleged Nazi collaborator Tukhachevsky, many military leaders
were convicted of treason. The shakeup in command may have cost the
Soviet Union dearly during the German invasion of 22 June 1941, and
The repression of
so many formerly high-ranking revolutionaries and party members led
Leon Trotsky to claim that a "river of blood" separated Stalin's
regime from that of Lenin. Solzhenitsyn alleges that Stalin drew inspiration
from Lenin's regime with the presence of labor camps and the executions
of political opponents that occurred during the Russian Civil War. Trotsky's
August 1940 assassination in Mexico, where he had lived in exile since
January 1937, eliminated the last of Stalin's opponents among the former
Party leadership. Only three members of the "Old Bolsheviks"
(Lenin's Politburo) now remained — Stalin himself, "the all-Union
Chieftain" (?????????? ????????) Mikhail Kalinin, and Chairman
of Sovnarkom Vyacheslav Molotov.
the young man strolling with Stalin to his left, was shot in 1940. He
was edited out from a photo by Soviet censors . Such retouching
was a common occurrence during Stalin's reign.
No segment of society was left untouched during the purges. Article
58 of the legal code, listing prohibited "anti-Soviet activities",
was applied in the broadest manner. Initially, the execution lists for
the enemies of the people were confirmed by the Politburo.
Over time the procedure
was greatly simplified and delegated down the line of command. People
would inform on others arbitrarily, to attempt to redeem themselves,
or to gain small retributions. The flimsiest pretexts were often enough
to brand someone an "Enemy of the People," starting the cycle
of public persecution and abuse, often proceeding to interrogation,
torture and deportation, if not death. Nadezhda Mandelstam, the widow
of the poet Osip Mandelstam and one of the key memoirists of the Purges,
recalls being shouted at by Akhmatova: "Don't you understand? They
are arresting people for nothing now?" The Russian word troika
gained a new meaning: a quick, simplified trial by a committee of three
subordinated to NKVD.
Towards the end
of the purge, the Politburo relieved NKVD head Nikolai Yezhov, from
his position for overzealousness. He was subsequently executed. Some
historians such as Amy Knight and Robert Conquest postulate that Stalin
had Yezhov and his predecessor, Genrikh Yagoda, removed in order to
deflect blame from himself.
In parallel with
the purges, efforts were made to rewrite the history in Soviet textbooks
and other propaganda materials. Notable people executed by NKVD were
removed from the texts and photographs as though they never existed.
Gradually, the history of revolution was transformed to a story about
just two key characters: Lenin and Stalin.
Main article: Population transfer in the Soviet Union
Shortly before, during and immediately after World War II, Stalin conducted
a series of deportations on a huge scale which profoundly affected the
ethnic map of the Soviet Union. It is estimated that between 1941 and
1949 nearly 3.3 million  were deported to Siberia and the Central
Asian republics. Separatism, resistance to Soviet rule and collaboration
with the invading Germans were cited as the official reasons for the
deportations, rightly or wrongly. Historian Allan Bullock explains:
“ Many no
doubt had collaborated with the occupying forces... but many had done
so not out of disloyalty but from the instinct to survive when abandoned
to their fate by the retreating Soviet armies. The individual circumstances
were of no interest to Stalin... After the brief German occupation of
the Caucasus was over... the entire population of five of the small
highland peoples of the North Caucasus, as well as the Crimean Tatars
- more than a million souls - (were deported) without notice or any
opportunity to take their possessions. There were certainly collaborators
among these peoples, but most of those had fled with the Germans. The
majority of those left were old folk, women, and children; their men
were away fighting at the front, where the Chechens and Ingushes alone
produced thirty-six Heroes of the Soviet Union. ”
rule the following ethnic groups were deported completely or partially:
Ukrainians, Poles, Koreans, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks,
Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachays, Meskhetian Turks, Finns, Bulgarians,
Greeks, Armenians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and Jews. Large
numbers of Kulaks, regardless of their nationality, were resettled to
Siberia and Central Asia. Deportations took place in appalling conditions,
often by cattle truck, and hundreds of thousands of deportees died en
route . Those who survived were forced to work without pay in the
labour camps. Many of the deportees died of hunger or other conditions.
In February 1956,
Nikita Khrushchev condemned the deportations as a violation of Leninist
principles, and reversed most of them, although it was not until as
late as 1991 that the Tatars, Meskhs and Volga Germans were allowed
to return en masse to their homelands. The deportations had a profound
effect on the peoples of the Soviet Union. The memory of the deportations
played a major part in the separatist movements in the Baltic States,
Tatarstan and Chechnya, even today.
Number of victims
Early researchers of the number killed by Stalin's regime were forced
to rely largely upon anecdotal evidence, and their estimates range from
a low of 3 million to as high as 60 million. But with the collapse
of the Soviet Union in 1991, evidence from the Soviet archives finally
became available. The government archives record that about 800,000
prisoners were executed (for either political or criminal offences)
under Stalin, while another 1.7 million died of privation
or other causes in the Gulags and some 389,000 perished during kulak
resettlement - a total of about 3 million victims.
however, since some historians believe the archival figures to be
unreliable. Also, it is generally agreed that the data are incomplete,
since some categories of victim were carelessly recorded by the Soviets
- such as the victims of ethnic deportations, or of German population
transfer in the aftermath of WWII.
Thus, while some
archival researchers have posited the number of victims of Stalin's
repressions to be no more than about 4 million in total ,
others believe the number to be considerably higher. Russian writer
Vadim Erlikman, for example, has made the following estimations:
Executions 1.5 million, Gulag 5 million, Deportations 1.7 million (out
of 7.5 million deported), and POW's and German civilians 1 million,
for a total of about 9 million victims of repression.
Some have also included
the 6 to 8 million victims of the 1932-33 famine. In this
case, historians differ as to whether the famine was deliberate - as
part of the campaign of repression against kulaks - or simply an unintended
consequence of the struggle over forced collectivization. (See also:
Regardless, it appears
that a minimum of around 10 million surplus deaths (4 million by repression
and 6 million from famine) are attributable to the regime, with a number
of recent books suggesting a probable figure of somewhere between 15
to 20 million. Adding 6-8 million famine victims to Erlikman's estimates
above, for example, would yield a figure of between 15 and 17 million
victims. Pioneering researcher Robert Conquest, meanwhile, has revised
his original estimate of up to 30 million victims down to 20 million.
Others, however, continue to maintain that their earlier much higher
estimates are correct.
World War II
After the failure of Soviet and Franco-British talks on a mutual defense
pact in Moscow, Stalin began to negotiate a non-aggression pact with
Hitler's Nazi Germany. In his speech on August 19, 1939, Stalin prepared
his comrades for the great turn in Soviet policy, the Molotov-Ribbentrop
Pact with Nazi Germany. According to a controversial Russian author
living in the UK, Viktor Suvorov, Stalin expressed in the speech an
expectation that the war would be the best opportunity to weaken both
the Western nations and Nazi Germany, and make Germany suitable for
"Sovietization". Whether this speech was ever delivered to
the public and what its content was is still debated. (see Stalin's
speech on August 19, 1939).
Officially a non-aggression
treaty only, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had a "secret" annex
according to which Central Europe was divided into the two powers' respective
spheres of influence. The USSR was promised an eastern part of Poland,
primarily populated with Ukrainians and Belorussians in case of its
dissolution, as long as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland were
recognized as parts of the Soviet sphere of influence. Another clause
of the treaty was that Bessarabia, then part of Romania, was to be joined
to the Moldovan ASSR, and become the Moldovan SSR under control of Moscow.
On September 1,
1939, the German invasion of Poland started World War II. Stalin decided
to intervene, and on September 17 the Red Army entered eastern Poland
and the Baltic states and annexed these territories.
In November 1939,
Stalin sent troops over the Finnish border provoking war. The Winter
War between the Soviet Union and Finland proved to be more difficult
than Stalin and the Red Army were prepared for, and the Soviets sustained
high casualties. The Soviets prevailed in March, 1940, but the problems
of the Soviet army had been revealed to the rest of the world, including
On March 5, 1940,
the Soviet leadership approved an order of execution for more than 25,700
Polish "nationalist, educators and counterrevolutionary" activists
in the parts of the Ukraine and Belarus republics that had been annexed
from Poland. This event has become known as the Katyn Massacre.
In June 1941, Hitler
broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa.
Although expecting war with Germany, Stalin may not have expected an
invasion to come so soon — and the Soviet Union was relatively
unprepared for this invasion. An alternative theory suggested by Viktor
Suvorov claims that Stalin had made aggressive preparations from the
late 1930s on and was about to invade Germany in summer 1941. Thus,
he believes Hitler only managed to forestall Stalin and the German invasion
was in essence a pre-emptive strike. This theory was supported by Igor
Bunich, Mikhail Meltyukhov (see Stalin's Missed Chance) and Edvard Radzinsky
(see Stalin: The First In-Depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents
from Russia's Secret Archives). Most Western historians reject this
In the diary of
General Fedor von Boch, it is also mentioned that the Abwehr fully expected
a Soviet attack against German forces in Poland no later than 1942.
Such speculations are difficult to substantiate, however, as information
on the Soviet Army from 1939 to 1941 remains classified, but it is known
that the Soviets had received some warnings of the German invasion through
their foreign intelligence agents, such as Richard Sorge.
Even though Stalin
received intelligence warnings of a German attack, he sought to
avoid any obvious defensive preparation which might further provoke
the Germans, in the hope of buying time to modernize and strengthen
his military forces. In the initial hours after the German attack commenced,
Stalin hesitated, wanting to ensure that the German attack was sanctioned
by Hitler, rather than the unauthorized action of a rogue general.
The Germans initially
made huge advances, capturing and killing millions of Soviet troops.
The Soviet Red Army put up fierce resistance during the war's early
stages, but they were plagued by an ineffective defense doctrine against
the better-equipped, well-trained and experienced German forces.
Stalin feared that
Hitler would use disgruntled Soviet citizens to fight his regime, particularly
people imprisoned in the Gulags. He thus ordered the NKVD to take care
of the situation. They responded by executing hundreds of thousands
(perhaps more) of prisoners throughout the western parts of the Soviet
Union. Many others were simply deported east. 
had expected eight weeks of war, and early indications appeared to support
their predictions. However, the invading German forces were eventually
driven back in December 1941 near Moscow.
The Big Three:
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference.Stalin met in several conferences
with Churchill and/or Roosevelt in Moscow, Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam
to plan military strategy (Truman taking the place of the deceased Roosevelt).
In these conferences,
his first appearances on the world stage, Stalin proved to be a formidable
negotiator. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary noted:
as a negotiator was the toughest proposition of all. Indeed, after something
like thirty years' experience of international conferences of one kind
and another, if I had to pick a team for going into a conference room,
Stalin would be my first choice. Of course the man was ruthless and
of course he knew his purpose. He never wasted a word. He never stormed,
he was seldom even irritated."
as strategist are frequently noted regarding massive Soviet loss of
life and early Soviet defeats. An example of it is the summer offensive
of 1942, which led to even more losses by the Red Army and recapture
of initiative by the Germans. Stalin eventually recognized his lack
of know-how and relied on his professional generals to conduct the war.
Yet Stalin did rapidly
move Soviet industrial production east of the Volga River, far from
Luftwaffe-reach, to sustain the Red Army's war machine with astonishing
success. Additionally, Stalin was well aware that other European armies
had utterly disintegrated when faced with Nazi military efficacy and
responded effectively by subjecting his army to galvanizing terror and
unrevolutionary, nationalist appeals to patriotism. He also appealed
to the Russian Orthodox church and iimages of national Russian heroes.
On November 6, 1941, Stalin addressed the whole nation of the Soviet
Union for the second time (the first time was earlier that year on July
According to Stalin's
Order No. 227 of July 27, 1942, any commander or commissar of a regiment,
battalion or army, who allowed retreat without permission from above
was subject to military tribunal. The Soviet soldiers who surrendered
were declared traitors; however most of those who survived the brutality
of German captivity were mobilized again as they were freed. Between
5% and 10% of them were sent to gulags.
Time Magazine (1943-01-04). Time had previously named Stalin
Man of the Year for the year 1939.In the war's opening stages,
the retreating Red Army also sought to deny resources to the enemy through
a scorched earth policy of destroying the infrastructure and food supplies
of areas before the Germans could seize them. Unfortunately, this, along
with abuse by German troops, caused inconceivable starvation and suffering
among the civilian population that were left behind.
According to recent
figures, of an estimated four millions POW's taken by the Russians,
including Germans, Japanese, Hungarians, Romanians and others, some
580,000 never returned, presumably victims of privation or the Gulags,
compared with 3.5 million Soviet POW that died in German camps out of
the 5.6 million taken.
soldiers who had surrendered were viewed with suspicion and some were
killed. According to historian Alan Bullock:
“ The huge
number of Russian troops taken prisoner in the first eighteen months
of the war convinced Stalin that many of them must have been traitors
who had deserted at the first opportunity. Any soldier who had been
a prisoner was henceforth suspect... All such, whether generals, officers,
or ordinary soldiers, were sent to special concentration camps where
the NKVD investigated them... Twenty percent were sentenced to death
or twenty-five years in camps; only 15 to 20 percent were allowed to
return to their homes. The remainder were condemned to shorter sentences
(five to ten years), to exile in Siberia, and forced labor - or were
killed or died on the way home.  ”
The Soviet Union
suffered the second highest number of civilian losses (20 million) yet
the highest number of military losses (at least 8,668,400 Red Army personnel)
in World War II. The Nazis considered Slavs to be "sub-human",
and many people believe the Nazis killed Slavs as an ethnically targeted
genocide. This concept of Slavic inferiority was also the reason why
Hitler did not accept into his army many Soviet citizens who wanted
to fight the regime until 1944, when the war was lost for Germany.
In the Soviet Union,
World War II left a huge deficit of men of the wartime fighting-age
generation. To this day the war is remembered very vividly in Russia,
Belarus, and other parts of the former Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic
War, and May 9, "Victory Day", is one of Russia's biggest
Stalin and Zhukov
on the tribune of Lenin's Mausoleum.Domestically, Stalin was seen as
a great wartime leader who had led the Soviets to victory against the
Nazis. By the end of the 1940s, Russian patriotism increased. For instance,
some inventions and scientific discoveries were reclaimed by Russian
the boiler, reclaimed by father and son Cherepanovs; the electric bulb,
by Yablochkov and Lodygin; the radio, by Popov; and the airplane, by
Mozhaysky. Stalin's internal repressive policies continued (including
in newly acquired territories), but never reached the extremes of the
Stalin viewed Soviet consolidation of power as a necessary step to protect
the USSR by surrounding it with countries with friendly governments
like the variety seen in Finland, to act as a cordon sanitaire (buffer)
against possible invaders (while the West sought a similar buffer against
alleged "communist expansion").
He had hoped that
American withdrawal and demobilization would lead to increased communist
influence, especially in Europe. Each side might view the other's defensive
actions as destabilizing provocations and these security dilemmas frayed
relations between the Soviet Union and its former World War II western
allies and led to a prolonged period of tension and distrust between
East and West known as the Cold War (see also Iron curtain).
The Red Army ended
World War II occupying much of the territory that had been formerly
held by the Axis countries:
In Asia, the Red
Army had overrun Manchuria in the last month of the war and then also
occupied Korea above the 38th parallel north. Mao Zedong's Communist
Party of China, though receptive to minimal Soviet support, defeated
the pro-Western and heavily American-assisted Chinese Nationalist Party
in the Chinese Civil War.
The Communists controlled
mainland China while the Nationalists held a rump state on the island
of Formosa (now Taiwan). The Soviet Union soon after recognized Mao's
People's Republic of China, which it regarded as a new ally.
reached a high point with the signing of the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty
of Friendship and Alliance. Both countries provided military support
to a new friendly state in North Korea. After various border conflicts,
war broke out with U.S.-allied South Korea in 1950, starting the Korean
A meeting between Stalin and Mao Zedong after the CCP's 1949 victory
over the KMT in the Chinese Civil War.In Europe, there were Soviet occupation
zones in Germany and Austria. Hungary and Poland were under practical
military occupation. From 1946-1948 coalition governments comprising
communists were elected in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania
and Bulgaria and homegrown communist movements rose to power in Yugoslavia
These nations became
known as the "Communist Bloc." Britain and the United States
supported the anti-communists in the Greek Civil War and suspected the
Soviets of supporting the Greek communists although Stalin ended refrained
from getting involved in Greece, dismissing the movement as premature.
Albania remained an ally of the Soviet Union, but Yugoslavia broke with
the USSR in 1948. Greece, Italy and France received enormous support
from the population, which were at the very least friendly towards Moscow.
viewed Germany as key. In retaliation to the Western formation of Trizonia,
Stalin determined to take action.
Armed with intelligence
from the British agent Donald Duart Maclean and other British and American
espionage agents, Stalin was well aware that the United States possessed
neither a sufficient atomic bomb arsenal nor the production capacity
needed to produce atomic weapons to destroy Soviet or Communist land
forces either in Europe or the Far East. He therefore ordered a blockade
of West Berlin, which was under British, French, and U.S. occupation,
to force these powers in retaliation for the planned militarisation
of the western-occupied of Germany. Similar to what America did with
South Korea, Stalin also extensively armed Kim Il Sung's North Korean
army and air forces (with military equipment and advisors far in excess
of that required for defensive purposes) in order to facilitate Kim's
aim to unify the Korean peninsula.
The Berlin Blockade
failed due to the unexpected massive aerial resupply campaign carried
out by the Western powers known as the Berlin Airlift. In 1949, Stalin
conceded defeat and ended the blockade. After West Germany was formed
by the union of the three Western occupation zones, the Soviets declared
East Germany a separate country in 1949, ruled by the communists.
supported the creation of Israel in 1948. The USSR was one of the first
nations to recognize the new country. Golda Meir came to Moscow
as the first Israeli Ambassador to the USSR that year. But he later
changed his mind and came out against Israel.
In Stalin's last
year of life, one of his last major foreign policy initiatives was the
1952 Stalin Note for German reunification and Superpower disengagement
from Central Europe, but Britain, France, and the United States viewed
this with suspicion and rejected the offer.
made few contributions to Communist (or, more specifically, Marxist-Leninist)
theory, but the contributions he did make were accepted and upheld by
all Soviet political scientists during his rule.
Among Stalin's contributions
were his "Marxism and the National Question", a work praised
by Lenin; his "Trotskyism or Leninism", which was a factor
in the "liquidation of Trotskyism as an ideological trend"
within the CPSU(B).
Works (in 13 volumes) was released in 1949. A subsequent 16 volume American
Edition appeared, in which one volume consisted of the book "History
of the CPSU(B) Short Course", although when released in 1938 this
book was credited to a commission of the Central Committee.
In 1936, Stalin
announced that the society of the Soviet Union consisted of two non-antagonistic
classes: workers and kolkhoz peasantry. These corresponded to the two
different forms of property over the means of production that existed
in the Soviet Union: state property (for the workers) and collective
property (for the peasantry). In addition to these, Stalin distinguished
the stratum of intelligentsia. The concept of "non-antagonistic
classes" was entirely new to Leninist theory.
Stalin and his supporters,
in his own time and since, have highlighted the notion that socialism
can be built and consolidated in just one country, even one as underdeveloped
as Russia was during the 1920s, and indeed that this might be the only
means in which it could be built in a hostile environment.
On March 1, 1953, after an all-night dinner with interior minister Lavrenty
Beria and future premiers Georgi Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita
Khrushchev, Stalin did not emerge from his room the next day, having
probably suffered a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body.
Although his guards
thought it odd that he did not rise at his usual time, the next day
they were under orders not to disturb him and he was not discovered
until that evening. He died four days later, on March 5, 1953, at the
age of 74, and was buried on March 9. His daughter Svetlana recalls
the scene as she stood by his death bed "He suddenly opened his
eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible
glance. Then something incomprehensible and awesome happened. He suddenly
lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something above and
bringing down a curse upon all of us. The next moment after a final
effort the spirit wrenched its self free of the flesh." Officially,
the cause of death was listed as a cerebral hemorrhage. His body was
preserved in Lenin's Mausoleum until October 31, 1961, when his body
was removed from the Mausoleum and buried next to the Kremlin walls
as part of the process of de-Stalinization.
It has been suggested
that Stalin was assassinated. The ex-Communist exile Avtorkhanov argued
this point as early as 1975. The political memoirs of Vyacheslav Molotov,
published in 1993, claimed that Beria had boasted to Molotov that he
poisoned Stalin: "I took him out."
in his memoirs that Beria had, immediately after the stroke, gone about
"spewing hatred against [Stalin] and mocking him", and then,
when Stalin showed signs of consciousness, dropped to his knees and
kissed his hand. When Stalin fell unconscious again, Beria immediately
stood and spat.
In 2003, a joint
group of Russian and American historians announced their view that Stalin
ingested warfarin, a powerful rat poison that inhibits coagulation of
the blood and so predisposes the victim to hemorrhagic stroke (cerebral
hemorrhage). Since it is flavorless, warfarin is a plausible weapon
of murder. The facts surrounding Stalin's death will probably never
be known with certainty.
His demise arrived
at a convenient time for Beria and others, who feared being swept away
in yet another purge. It is believed that Stalin felt Beria's power
was too great and threatened his own. Whether or not Beria or another
usurper was directly responsible for his death, it is true that the
politburo did not summon medical attention for Stalin for more than
a day after he was found.
Cult of personality
Roses for Stalin (1949), painting by Boris Vladimirski.Stalin created
a cult of personality in the Soviet Union around both himself and Lenin.
The embalming of the Soviet founder in Lenin's Mausoleum was performed
over the objection of Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya. Stalin became
the focus of massive adoration and even worship.
villages and cities were renamed after the Soviet leader (see List of
places named after Stalin) and the Stalin Prize and Stalin Peace Prize
were named in his honor. He accepted grandiloquent titles (e.g. "Coryphaeus
of Science," "Father of Nations," "Brilliant Genius
of Humanity," "Great Architect of Communism," "Gardener
of Human Happiness," and others), and helped rewrite Soviet history
to provide himself a more significant role in the revolution. At the
same time, according to Khrushchev, he insisted that he be remembered
for "the extraordinary modesty characteristic of truly great people."
Many statues and
monuments were erected to glorify Stalin but all of them distorted Stalin's
true build. Going by these monuments and statues it would be easy to
assume that Stalin was a tall and well built man not unlike Tsar Alexander
III. This was not the case however; photographic evidence suggests he
was between 5'5" and 5'6", hardly tall or imposing. His
physical stature was exaggerated in all portraits and statues to avoid
any image of weakness that could harm his cult of personality.
the cult of personality built around Stalin as being against the values
of socialism and Bolshevism, in that it exalted the individual above
the party and class and it disallowed criticism of Stalin. The personality
cult reached new levels during the Great Patriotic War, with Stalin's
name even being included in the new Soviet national anthem.
Stalin became the
focus of a body of literature encompassing poetry as well as music,
paintings and film. Artists and writers vied with each other in fawning
devotion, crediting Stalin with almost god-like qualities, and suggesting
he single-handedly won the Second World War.
It is debatable
as to how much Stalin relished the cult surrounding him. The Finnish
communist Tuominen records a sarcastic toast proposed by Stalin at a
New Year Party in 1935:
I want to propose a toast to our patriarch, life and sun, liberator
of nations, architect of socialism [he rattled off all the appellations
applied to him in those days] – Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin,
and I hope this is the first and last speech made to that genius this
In recent years,
support of Stalin has resurged. Millions of Russians, exasperated with
the downfall of the economy and political instability after the breakup
of the Soviet Union, want Stalin back. A recent controversial poll revealed
that over thirty-five percent of Russians would vote for Stalin if he
were still alive. This is seen by some as a return of Stalin's cult.
In Krasnoyarsk, it has been decided to rebuild a communist-era memorial
complex dedicated to the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Also, a new
statue of Stalin is to be erected in Moscow, “returning his once-ubiquitous
image to the streets after an absence of four decades, a top city official
said yesterday”, as reported by The Scotsman.
Policies and accomplishments
Grutas Park is home to only one monument of Stalin, originally set up
in Vilnius.Under Stalin's rule the Soviet Union was transformed from
an agricultural nation into a global superpower at the cost of millions
of lives. The USSR's industrialization was successful in that the country
was able to defend against and eventually defeat the Axis invasion in
World War II, though at an enormous cost in human life; and in 1957,
four years after Stalin's death, to put into orbit the first ever artificial
satellite, Sputnik 1.
Robert Conquest and other Westerners claim that the USSR was bound for
industrialization, and that its speed along this course was not necessarily
improved by Bolshevik influence. It has also been argued that Stalin
was partially responsible for the initial military disasters and enormous
human causalities during WWII, because Stalin eliminated many military
officers during the purges, and especially the most senior ones, and
rejected the massive amounts of intelligence warning of the German attack.
While Stalin's social
and economic policies laid the foundations for the USSR's emergence
as a superpower, the harshness with which he conducted Soviet affairs
was subsequently repudiated by his successors in the Communist Party
leadership, notably in the denunciation of Stalinism by Nikita Khrushchev
in February 1956. In his "Secret Speech", On the Personality
Cult and its Consequences, delivered to a closed session of the 20th
Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev
denounced Stalin for his cult of personality, and his regime for "violation
of Leninist norms of legality".
However, his immediate
successors preserved major elements of Stalin's rule, including the
political monopoly of the Communist Party presiding over a command economy
and a security service able to suppress dissent. The large-scale purges
of Stalin's era were never repeated, but political repression continued,
albeit on a lesser scale.
It has also been
said that, originally, "Stalin" was a conspiratorial nickname
which stuck with him.
Like other Bolsheviks,
he became commonly known by one of his revolutionary noms de guerre,
of which Stalin was only the most prominent. He was also known as Koba
(after a Georgian folk hero, a Robin Hood-like brigand); and he is reported
to have used at least a dozen other names for the purpose of secret
communications. Most of them remain unknown.
World War II, as the Soviets were negotiating with the Allies, Stalin
often sent directions to Molotov as Druzhkov. Among his other nicknames
and aliases were Ivanovich, Soso or Sosso (mainly his boyhood name),
David, Nizharadze or Nijeradze, and Chizhikov.
Stalin was nicknamed
"Uncle Joe" by the Western media. When told of this nickname
by Franklin D. Roosevelt, he almost walked out of the Yalta Conference.
This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
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This article has been tagged since January 2007.
The Katyn massacre is featured in Robert Harris' WWII thriller
Enigma.  Stalin signed the Katyn death orders on March
5th 1940, and he died exactly thirteen years to the date in 1953. [citation
The Man of Steel",
Joseph Stalin the great revolutionary was born on December 21, 1879
to Catherine and Vissarion Djugashvili. His father was a cobbler by
profession and wanted Joseph to take up his profession.
The boy grew up
in poverty at a cheap family home. At the age of seven Joseph fell in
with small pox which left indelible marks on his face. He was a small
and slim child with a bold, brazen expression in his eyes, which were
slightly Asiatic. The second and third toes of his left foot had grown
together and being a poor cobbler’s child, he was often bare footed
and so other children would often notice this and make fun of him.
Stalin spent his
childhood in the town of Gori in the Caucasus. It was an imperial Russian
colony. The only child of his parents, Stalin was more his mother’s
child than his father’s. It is to her that he owed his ambitions,
repression and inhibitions that colored his entire life and career.
At the age of eight, he was sent to the local Church school. His mother,
who nicknamed him Soso, said about him, "Soso was always a good
boy. Yes, he was always a good boy. I never had to punish him. He studied
hard, was always reading or talking and trying to find out everything
… Soso was my only son. Of course I treasured him. Above everything
in the world… I didn’t want him to be a cobbler. I didn’t
want him to be anything but a priest."
died when he was 11. The mother and son left for Tiflis in 1894, where
he enrolled in the Tiflis Theological Seminary.There, in first, year
Joseph’s conduct was exemplary and his report cards showed that
he received the highest marks for it.
At the age of 15,
Stalin became a revolutionary. "I joined the revolutionary movement,"
he remembered, "at the age of 15, when I established connection
with certain underground groups of Russian Marxists then living in Transcaucasia.
These groups exerted a great influence on me and instilled in me a taste
for illegal Marxian literature."
The same boy who
had received a prize for his conduct was now reported to be rude and
disrespectful and was also punished for the same but in vain.Once the
officers searched his room and discovered a book written by Karl Marx.
As a result of persistent
revolutionary activities, Joseph was finally expelled from school on
May 29, 1899. His expulsion shattered his mothers dreams. But full of
love for her only son, she did not reveal the true reason for expulsion.
Thirty one years later, when Stalin had established himself as a revolutionary
dictator of Russia she said, "Soso was always a good boy…
He was not expelled. I brought him home on account of his health. When
he entered the Seminar he was fifteen and as strong as a lad could be.
But overwork up to the age of nineteen pulled him down, and the doctors
told me he might develop tuberculosis. So I took him away from school.
He did not want to leave. But I took him away. He was my only son."
This was the period
when Marxism had begun to spread widely through Russia along with the
development of industrial capitalism and the growth of working class
movement. Lenin led the foundation of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle
for the Emancipation of the Working Class and thus gave a powerful impetus
to the development of the Social-Democratic movement all over the country.
Tiflis already had Marxist circles. Subversive leaflets were secretly
Stalin entered the
hotbed of restoration and mutiny to receive his baptism for priesthood.
Stalin imbibed the Socialist doctrines and studied Karl Marx. He became
one of the leaders of the secret Marxist band in the seminary. He attended
meetings and was engaged in such subversive activities as distributing
revolutionary proclamations and pamphlets. The atmosphere during that
time was, "saturated with hatred of Tsarist oppression", and
Stalin threw himself "wholeheartedly into revolutionary work."
The espionage system
was well established in the seminary. The monastic inspectors spied
the reliability of their charges and as a result, Stalin was put under
suspicion. He rapaciously and stealthily read books on sociology, natural
sciences and the labor movement. Stalin worked hard to enhance his knowledge.
He read extensively Capital, the Communist Manifesto and other works
of Marx and Engels. He also acquainted himself with Lenin’s work,
which was against Narodism, Legal Marxism and Economism. Lenin’s
writings left an indelible mark on his life. "I must meet him at
all costs," one of Stalin’s close friends is reported to
have told him after reading an article by Tulin (Lenin).
Joseph was not a
candidate for priesthood. He found a job as a minor clerk in Tiflis
observatory but the job did not pay him well, even for basic necessities.Joseph
had talent for organization. He was a man of action and felt special
attraction for secrecy and subversion.
was busy as a revolutionary. He turned to Bolshevism, ushered in the
world by Lenin in 1903.Lenin who was thirty three, wanted his party
to become a stable organization of leaders. Stalin, who was only nine
years younger to Lenin was a devout disciple of Lenin.By 1903 Joseph
and already gained recognition as the master of mind communist movement.
He launched strikes and taught discontented working men the tactics
The primary impulse
of Bolshevism was the will to revolt. Stalin had all the attendant qualities
that furthered the cause. The primary impulse of Bolshevism was the
Leninist interpretation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the
theory of seizure of power. Stalin accepted that principle of Bolshevism.
He attended three policy making assemblies of the Russian Social Democrats
– in Tammerfors, 1905; Stockholm, 1906; and London in 1907. During
these conclaves, he was unable to make any impression on the leaders
then. He kept a low profile and was active behind the scenes. Stalin
also helped in plotting a hold-up in Trifles, on June 25, 1907. The
motive behind the hold-up was to "expropriate" funds for the
In 1908, 1910, 1911
Stalin was imprisoned again for revolutionary activities. Between 1913,
1917 he was imprisoned again but the success of Bolshevik revolution
ended Stalin’s career as a transient prisoner of the Czar and
gave him a permanent apartment in the Czar’s Moscow Kremlin
noticeable appearance in politics was in February 1912, when Lenin co-opted
him to serve on the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party.
Stalin came into direct contact with Lenin during the three assemblies
of the Russian Social Democrats. Stalin was exiled seven times, for
revolutionary activities. His longest term of exile was in 1913, for
four years. When he returned to Petrograd from Siberia, (where he was
exiled) in 1917, he resumed editorship of the Bolshevik newspaper, Pravda.
Stalin published Pravda at the behest of Lenin during 1913. Pravda was
an important vehicle that propelled Marxism in its spread throughout
Russia. Pravda then and even today is considered as the voice of Russia
and is one of the largest circulated newspapers in the world. During
the Communist years, it played an important role not only in propagating
the Communistic ideology but also became the official mouthpiece of
the Russian subcontinent, and achieved an unimaginable number of committed
Joseph Stalin was
a political organizer. He advocated the division of large feudal estates
into small, private capitalistic peasant holdings. His ambition was
to overthrow monarch. Due to this drive, he offended the Czarid police
who seized him in 1913 and imprisoned him beyond the Arctic Circle.
He remained a prisoner throughout 1914, 1915, and 1916.
In 1917, Stalin
advocated Bolshevik co-operation with the establishment of the provincial
government of middle class liberals. The liberals had succeeded to uneasy
power on the last Tsar’s reassignment, during the February Revolution.
Stalin did not continue with the job of editor for long. Under Lenin’s
influence, he joined the militant policy of armed seizure of power by
the Bolsheviks. In the coup d’etat, that took place in November
1917, Stalin played a significant role. However, it was less prominent
than that of his chief rival, Leon Trotsky.
Stalin and Trotsky
had mutual political rivalry. Trotsky underestimated Stalin and regarded
him as a provincial. Both fought for succession even while Lenin was
alive. Lenin was aware of this antagonism between the two.
Stalin was active
as a politico-military leader on various fronts during the Civil War
of 1918 to 20. He also held two ministerial posts in the new Bolshevik
government. His position as secretary general of the party’s Central
Committee, from 1922, to the rest of his life provided the sound base
for his dictatorship. Stalin was also member of the then powerful Politburo
and of many other interrelated and overlapping committees. His rivals
Trotsky and Zinoviev despised such meticulous and bureaucratic organizational
From 1921 onwards,
Stalin began scoffing at the ailing Lenin’s desires. A year before
his death, Lenin wrote a political testament and publicly asked for
Stalin’s removal from the post of Secretary General. Such a testament
from Lenin would have ruined Stalin’s career, but to his luck
and skill, Stalin was able to overpower every dissidence that raised
its voice against him. Such was the skilful and effective leadership
qualities of maneuvering tactics that helped Stalin crush the opposition.
On January 21, 1924
when Lenin died, Trotsky was on his way travelling through Carcasis
and suffered from some mysterious infection which kept his temperature
high.Stalin informed Trotsky that the funeral was on January 27, Saturday
and he would not be able reach in time, whereas the funeral was actually
to be held on Sunday 28. Trotsky could have reached in time but it appeared
as if Stalin deliberately kept him away from the funeral to weaken the
association of Trotsky and Lenin in the minds of people.
death in January 21, 1924, Stalin supported a profligate, quasi-Byzantine
cult of Lenin. In 1925, Stalin promoted his own cult, renaming the city
of Tsaritsyn as Stalingrad. His chief rival Trotsky was in confinement.
Trotsky was deposed by the ruling triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and
Stalin. Stalin later joined rightist leaders Nikolay Bukharin and Aleksey
Ryrov, in an alliance directed against his former co-triumvirs. Stalin
advocated a policy of "Socialism in one country". He dismissed
his most powerful rivals, Bukharin and Ryrov, while following Zinoviev
and Kamenev. Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Soviet Union in 1929 and
got him assassinated in Mexico in 1940.
life also witnessed many changes. After the death of his first wife,
he remarried Nadezhda Alliluyeva, in 1919. They had two children. The
son, Vasily, perished as an alcoholic, after rising to an unmerited
high rank in the Soviet Air Force. The other child, a daughter Svetlana,
became the object of her father’s alternating affection and bad
Stalin led an active
life of 74 years. He was a shrewd politician. His domestic terror-filled
regime (the Stalinist system) left a deep chasm on Soviet society and
politics after his death. Stalin met a natural death on March 5, 1953,
for love and affection, limited by nature. He had grown to be an atheist.
In 1904, while Stalin was busy with revolutionary he married a Georgian
girl, Catherine Svandize. To them was born a son called Jacob in 1906.
Their marriage was a happy one. But within a year of the child’s
birth Catherine died of tuberculosis. Jacob was brought up by Catherine’s
parents. In his teen, Jacob stayed with Stalin but was beaten by his
father often for smoking.
Stalin married Nadiezhada
Sergeiven Alliluyev in 1918. Stalin sacrificed Friends and family to
power. He was basically not a very affectionate man and revolutionary
traits hardened him even more. He had four simple rules of success in
life to achieve desired end men must be discarded when they are no longer
useful, alienators are made to be broken, any method is justified if
it helps to achieve the ultimate goal and, ideas have no existence under
the chariot of power.
With his sharp intellect
and lady luck favoring him, Stalin somehow managed to succeed Lenin.
There was a time when Lenin was unable to pass a single moment without
Stalin. However, as time passed by, there came a phase where differences
cropped up between them. A time came when Lenin found Trotsky, a follower
of Bolshevism, more trustworthy than Stalin. Lenin during his last days
was much worried about the state of his nation after him. He wrote an
article on the same, which attacked Stalin’s policies. Lenin sent
a copy of that article to Trotsky. Trotsky wanted to show the copy to
one of the triumvirate, Kamenev. But Lenin said, "Kamenev will
immediately show everything to Stalin and Stalin will make a rotten
compromise and then deceive us." Trotsky was taken aback at Lenin’s
reply. Lenin’s secretary said, "He does not trust Stalin
and wants to come out against him openly, before the entire party. He
is preparing a bomb."
From all this, it
would not have been surprising that Trotsky would have been an heir
apparent to Lenin. But nature had other things in store. Trotsky, full
of theoretical knowledge of politics, was far from practical experience.
The devious means adopted by Stalin and his cronies in successfully
aborting his (Trotsky) election to the highest position in the party
speaks volumes of his abilities to emerge victorious in the leadership
struggle that ensued.
was on the decline. His early death would have resulted into Trotsky
succeeding to power. Unfortunately for Trotsky, Lenin did not die early.
Shortly, he relapsed into coma, which instigated Stalin to prepare for
an emergency. Lenin was of the opinion that Stalin should be removed
from his position of Secretary General. Stalin nonchalantly agreed to
it, but Zinoviev and Kamenev strongly supported Stalin and he was re-elected
as the Secretary General. Trotsky was re-elected to the Central Committee
and the Politburo.
Stalin, slyly managed
to expel Trotsky from the Soviet Union in 1929. In 1940, Trotsky was
assassinated in Mexico. Stalin gradually abandoned Lenin’s quasi-capitalist
New Economic Policy. He favored state-organized industrialization under
a succession of Five Year Plans. The results were devastating for some
two and a half billion rustic households. Uncooperative peasants were
arrested in masses and were shot, exiled or absorbed into the rapidly
expanding network of Stalinist concentration camps. The prisoners, who
were absorbed in those concentration camps, worked to death in the most
atrocious conditions, a grim reminder of the Auschwitz Concentration
Camp of Nazi Germany.
on the other hand was equally disastrous. Stalin arraigned industrial
managers in a succession of show trials. The accused were tortured and
brainwashed to confess hypothetical crimes. Those accused served as
scapegoats for catastrophes arising from the Secretary General’s
policies. Somehow, Stalin was successful in rapidly industrializing
a predominantly backward country like Russia, then.
In late 1934, Stalin
launched and stepped up a new campaign of political terror against those
very Communist Party members who had brought him to power. He stage-managed
the assassination of one of his leading colleagues and potential rival,
Sergey Kirov. Stalin used the show trial to unleash new terror on leading
Communists of the day. In August 1936, Zinoviev and Kamenev were paraded
in court to repeat and make imaginary confessions. They were sentenced
to death and were shot dead. Two more major trials followed in January
1937 and March 1938. In June 1937, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and
other leading generals were court-martialed on charges of treason and
executed upon conclusion of their summary trial.
Stalin used inhumane
methods to tame the Soviet Communist Party members and the Soviet elite
as a whole. He not only "liquidated" veteran semi-independent
Bolsheviks, but also many party leaders, military officials, industrial
managers and high government officers, who denied being totally subservient
Though the war was disgusting, it gave an opportunity to Stalin to emerge
as the most successful leader. In August 1939, Stalin tried to form
an anti-Hitler alliance with the Western powers, but finally concluded
a pact with Hitler. The pact encouraged Hitler to attack Poland and
World War II began. Hitler annexed the western frontiers of Poland,
whereas Stalin annexed the eastern part, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
and parts of Romania. Soviet Union then faced the apprehension of German
attack in 1941, when Stalin appointed himself chairman of the Council
of People’s Commissars. It was his first governmental office since
1923. Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The invasion
exposed the defensive measures taken by Stalin as incompetent. After
a short period of shock and inactivity, Stalin appointed himself as
the Commander in Chief. Stalin was present at Moscow and helped to organize
a great counter-offensive strategy. The Battle of Stalingrad (1942)
and the Battle of Kursk (1943), were won by the Soviet Union under Stalin’s
leadership. Stalin’s supreme direction turned the tide of invasion
against the retreating Germans, who capitulated in May 1945. During
the war time, Stalin maintained personal control over the Soviet battle
fronts, military reserves and war economy.
in high-level Allies meetings, including those of the "Big Three"
with Churchill and Roosevelt in Teheran (1943) and Yalta (1945). An
arduous negotiator, Stalin outwitted Churchill and Roosevelt. After
the war, he imposed on Eastern Europe a new kind of colonial control,
based on native Communist regimes. The regimes were only nominally independently
submissive to Stalin. He thus increased the number of his subjects to
a hundred million. Tito, a Yugoslav Marshal and statesman, organized
a Communist resistance movement after the war ended. He established
Yugoslavia as a non-aligned Communist state with a federal Constitution.
To prevent other states from following Tito’s example, Stalin
provoked local show trials. The show trials were similar to the Great
Purges of the 1930s in Russia, when Communist leaders, who confessed
to Titoism, were mercilessly executed.
towards the United States and Great Britain underwent a drastic change.
He regarded the US and Britain as unrivaled enemies.
role in World War II and his foreign policies were quite political.
At home, he severely reasserted the Marxist ideology. Andrey Zhdanov,
a secretary of the Central Committee, began a reign of terror in the
artistic and intellectual field of the Soviet Union. Foreign achievements
were ridiculed and the pre-eminence of Russians as inventors and pioneers
in practically every field was asserted. All these strategies dashed
the hopes of domestic relaxations and personal freedom that had aroused
during the war.
Failures in other fields – However savage Stalin’s policies
may have been, certain achievements which seemed impossible must be
credited to him. Foremost among his accomplishments was the industrialization
of a country which, when he assumed control in 1928, was backward compared
to other leading industrialized nations of the world. Within a decade’s
rule of a totalitarian dictator, he enhanced Soviet Union’s industrial
output to a point, where it was next, only to the US. The achievement
was indeed a significant one. In 1913, Russia held fifth position for
overall industrial output. Thereafter, it suffered years of great devastation,
in the form of world war, civil war, famine and epidemic. Even under
such trying circumstances the Soviet Union, under Stalin’s leadership,
played a major role in defeating Hitler, and thereby maintaining its
supremacy as the world’s second most powerful industrialized nation
in the world. In 1949, Russia, under Stalin’s leadership emerged
as the second nuclear power of the world, after successfully exploding
the atomic device.
In spite of such
achievements, Soviet Union faced certain failures. Though industrial
outputs were produced at record levels, very little of it was made available
to the ordinary Soviet citizen, in the form of consumer goods. A substantial
proportion of the national income was used by the state to meet military
expenditure, maintenance of the police apparatus and to carry out reforms
The method of collectivization
adopted by Stalin did not heap any positive economic results in agriculture.
Collectivization was a justifiable means to control the politically
intractable peasantry. Stalin’s policies were so accurate that
they were in practice for decades even after his death. In 1937, 56
per cent of the population was engaged in agriculture and forestry.
By 1958, the ratio fell to 42 per cent. The credit, or otherwise, goes
to Stalin. The fact that Stalin’s strategies and policies remained
unchallenged, were chiefly due to the strong arm tactics he employed.
His administration left an indelible mark in the minds of succeeding
Stalin, as the name
suggests, was in every sense of the word, a man of steel.
died in 1953 . He had been leader of the Soviet Union
for nearly 30 years. Though he is now considered responsible for the
deaths of millions of his own people through famine and purges, when
his death was announced to the people of the Soviet Union on March 6,
1953, many wept. He had led them to victory in World War II. He had
been their leader, the Father of the Peoples, the Supreme Commander,
And now he was dead.
Through a succession
of bulletins, the Soviet people had been made aware that Stalin was
gravely ill. At four in the morning of March 6, 1953, it was announced:
"The heart of the comrade-in-arms and continuer of genius of Lenin's
cause, of the wise leader and teacher of the Communist Party and the
Soviet Union, has ceased to beat."
Joseph Stalin, 73
years of age, had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at 9:50 p.m.
on March 5, 1953.
Stalin's body was
washed by a nurse and then carried via a white car to the Kremlin mortuary.
There, an autopsy was performed. After the autopsy was completed, Stalin's
body was given to the embalmers to prepare it for the three days it
would lay-in-state. Stalin's body was placed on temporary display in
the Hall of Columns.Thousands of people lined up in the snow to see
it. The crowds were so dense and chaotic outside that some people were
trampled underfoot, others rammed against traffic lights, and some others
choked to death. It is estimated that 500 people lost their lives while
trying to get a glimpse of Stalin's corpse.
On March 9, nine
pallbearers carried the coffin from the Hall of Columns onto a gun carriage.
The body was then ceremoniously taken to Lenin's tomb on the Red Square
in Moscow. Only three speeches were made - one by Georgy Malenkov, another
by Lavrenty Beria, and the third by Vyacheslav Molotov. Then, covered
in black and red silk, Stalin's coffin was carried into the tomb. At
noon, throughout the Soviet Union, came a loud roar - whistles, bells,
guns, and sirens were blown in honor of Stalin.