The role of Joseph Stalin in the history of post-revolutionary Russia is remarkable as well as the history of the USSR itself. Stalin is associated with great purges, repressions, victory over the bloodiest regime in the WWII, mass deportations and the executions. Stalin’s name is also associated with the huge industrial raise of the USSR at the pre-WWII period, forcible collectivization of peasants and relocation of hundreds of thousands of people. He is also responsible for the bloodiest repression system known as Gulag and suppression of any manifestations of oppositions.
The roots of “the red terror” in Russia go back to the attempt of assassination of Lenin in 1918. The thesis of “class struggle” became the dominating one and the ideology of the newly established state was programmed for the violence. This thesis correlated with the general course of the Bolshevik’s propaganda of the “global revolution” and establishing the Communist rule globally as the final aim. Joseph Stalin, a student of the Orthodox seminary in Georgia was grasped with the ideas of Karl Marx and joined the students in their protests against tsar.
Stalin joined the radical organizations attempting to protest against authorities, was arrested by police and exiled to Siberia. Stalin escaped in Siberia several times, made friends with Lenin and became growing in the hierarchy of the Communist Party. After the revolution of 1917 he took the leading posts in the Communist Party. He took on the roles of political commissar for the Red Army during the civil war, and was the editor of Pravda translated as “truth,” In these capacities, Stalin was able to become a powerful figure within the party, but he did make enemies.
One of them was another key revolutionary figure, a man named Leon Trotsky. By 1922, Stalin was powerful enough to take on the role of General Secretary of the Communist Party. 1 After the end of the Civil War the Bolsheviks started to re-evaluate the political course. There were several groups advocating various ways of the future development. Before his death in 1924 Lenin warned his colleagues on the rudeness of Stalin and Stalin opponents tried to get the chance to back him from the power.
Stalin presented an argument that Lenin before his death was sick and all his warnings should not have been taken seriously. Ideologically Stalin in contrast to Trotsky advocated an idea of building the socialism in the particular taken country. It contradicted the idea of the global proletarian revolution supported by Trotsky and his followers. Before his death Lenin introduced NEP, the new economic policy based on the partial liberalization of economy, turning it partially to the private sector. This measure was considered to be temporal and brought certain results.
Before the revolution Russia was one of the main exporters of grain. After getting power Stalin took certain steps to renew the image of Russia as the main grain exporter. The former economic relations had been destroyed and the new ones were not built. The first wave of repression known as collectivization began. Peasants were forced to enter the collective farms, more or less well-to-do peasants were exiled and their property was confiscated. The military units collected the harvest by force and sent the products to cities.
The repression machine started working and people were prosecuted and sent to prison even for to gleaning. One of the most striking phenomena of the 30’s Soviet Union was famine which burst out even in the rural regions of Ukraine famous for its fertile soil. The agricultural products were forcibly collected and sent to the cities. Of course, Stalin was responsible for this. Meanwhile the inner ideological struggle between the Communist Party leaders was going on. Stalin tried to eliminate any influence of the exiled Trotsky.
The advocates of the Stalin’s rule stated that the situation of the USSR was difficult, it was surrounded by the countries with the hostile according to Lenin ideologies and the country needed the strong leader to renew the industry and provide the economic growth. Having nothing but the repressive machine Stalin started the great renewal of the industry. The huge repressive machine started its operations in 1936 after the assassination of Kirov in 1934. Huge formation described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn as “Archipelago Gulag” was established.
GULAG is the abbreviation from Russian of Main Department of Prisons. NKVD (secret police) tried to unmask imaginary anti-Stalin conspiracies throughout the country. One of the most tragic consequences of the Stalin’s repression was the elimination of the Soviet military elite before the WWII. Almost all outstanding military leaders were repressed and executed. At the same time all remarkable pre-WWII industrial achievements were associated with Stalin and mass repressions. Article 58 of the criminal code presupposed severe repressions for being “the people’s enemy”.
The interpretation of the code was very broad. The representatives of intelligentsia, science, and army were imprisoned according to this article. This article could be applied to anyone and condemned had to work hard building the hydropower stations, plants, roads and channels. The cheap labor of Gulag was the main reason of the industrial achievements of the 30’s. At the same time the cult of the Stalin’s personality was steadily growing. A number of songs, poems and films were devoted to “the Father of Peoples”.
The adoration was reaching absurd forms very often and it was nothing more but fear to be repressed moved the Stalin’s admirers. This is one of the examples of widely used odes to Stalin: O great Stalin, O leader of the peoples, Thou who broughtest man to birth. Thou who fructifies the earth, Thou who restorest to centuries, Thou who makest bloom the spring, Thou who makest vibrate the musical chords… Thou, splendour of my spring, O thou, Sun reflected by millions of hearts. 2 The USSR was completely unprepared to the WWII known as the Great Patriotic War in the history of the Soviet Union.
It is very complicated issue to discuss the reasons of the war but the role of Stalin was remarkable. By 1941 when German fascists attacked the USSR the personality cult of Stalin was successfully formed and played its certain (though questionable) role in the consolidation of the nation. The political biography of Stalin is a remarkable phenomenon. Millions of people were executed and the bloodiest human hating fascist regime was eliminated. He turned the theory of socialism upside down; he replaced the original thesis “socialism for people” by his own “people for socialism”.
His saying “there is no problems if there is no a person” reflects his style of leadership. Outstanding scientists were intentionally imprisoned to work in the secret closed scientific institutes developing the mass destruction weapon. Stalin played his certain positive role in the WWII, but the causes and consequences of the war have not been yet still clearly defined. The victory over Nazism is sometimes presented as the Stalin’s personal achievement and historians sometimes don’t care about the 200 million people and brilliant military leaders who directed Soviet soldiers.
The historical evaluation is very difficult thing and the responsibility of Stalin for genocide against the Soviet people is unquestionable. At the same time the dictators are not just villains. This would be a very simplified approach. Soviet people under the guidance of Stalin built one of the world’s most powerful economies though it cost millions of innocent victims. The Soviet leader of the 60’s Nikita Khrushev admitted and unmasked the cult of personality of Stalin but system changes took place only in late 80’s under the guidance of Gorbachev
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