Joseph Stalin - Иосиф Сталин - Revolution and Power

Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин
Joseph Stalin - Revolution and Power

Role during the Russian Revolution of 1917

Prior to the revolution of 1917, Stalin played an active role in fighting the tsarist government. Here he is shown on a 1911 information card from the files of the Tsarist secret police in Saint Petersburg.
After returning to Petrograd on March 12, 1917 from exile in the village of Kostino and later in the village of Kureika in the region of Turukhansk in northern Siberia.
Returning with Stalin to St. Petersburg was Lev B. Kamenev.
By virtue of their seniority in the Party, Stalin and Kamenev replaced Vyacheslav Molotov and Alexander Shlyapnikov on the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Party.
Writing in Pravda, the official newspaper of the Party, both Stalin and Kamenev reflected a shift in Party policy toward Alexander Kerensky's provisional government.
Whereas, previously, the Russian Bureau under Shyapnikov had been urging Russian soldiers at the front to engage in fraternization with enemy German and Austrian soldiers to force an end to the war and/or turning the war into a class war against the capitalist imperialist class, Stalin now wrote in Pravda that the slogans like "Down with the War" were not enough.
There was now a need for soldiers and workers to "come out openly and publicly" in mass demonstrations to put real "pressure on the Kerensky provisional government" to immediately negotiate an end to the war.
Events were moving so fast during that revolutionary year of 1917, that party policies seemed to change every few weeks. Indeed just a few days later on April 3 (16 new style), Lenin arrived in St. Petersburg returning from his ten year exile in Switzerland. He had brought with him an article called "The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution" which became popularly known as Lenin's "April Theses."
After Lenin prevailed at the April 1917 Communist Party conference, Stalin and Pravda shifted to opposing the provisional government.
At this conference, Stalin was elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee.
In October 1917, the Bolshevik Central Committee voted in favor of an insurrection. On 7 November, from the Smolny Institute, Trotsky, Lenin and the rest of the Central Committee coordinated the insurrection against Kerensky in the 1917 October Revolution. On October 25, 1917 (November 8, 1917 on the new style calendar) the Bolsheviks had stormed the Winter Palace and arrested the Kerensky's Cabinet.

Role in the Russian Civil War, 1917–1919

A group of participants in the 8th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, 1919. In the middle are Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin.
Upon seizing Petrograd, Stalin was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs. Thereafter, civil war broke out in Russia, pitting Lenin's Red Army against the White Army, a loose alliance of anti-Bolshevik forces.
Lenin formed a five-member Politburo, which included Stalin and Trotsky. In May 1918, Lenin dispatched Stalin to the city of Tsaritsyn.
Through his new allies, Kliment Voroshilov and Semyon Budyonny, Stalin imposed his influence on the military.
Stalin challenged many of the decisions of Trotsky, ordered the killings of many counter-revolutionaries and former Tsarist officers in the Red Army and burned villages in order to intimidate the peasantry into submission and discourage bandit raids on food shipments.
In May 1919, in order to stem mass desertions on the Western front, Stalin had deserters and renegades publicly executed as traitors.

Role in the Polish-Soviet War, 1919–1921

After the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War, Poland invaded Ukraine, starting what became known as the Polish–Soviet War, but the Bolsheviks pushed them back into Poland. As commander of the southern front, Stalin was determined to take the Polish-held city of Lviv. This conflicted with the general strategy set by Lenin and Trotsky, which focused on the capture of Warsaw further north.
Trotsky's forces engaged those of Polish commander Władysław Sikorski at the Battle of Warsaw, but Stalin refused to redirect his troops from Lviv to help.
Consequently, the battles for both Lviv and Warsaw were lost, and Stalin was blamed.
In August 1920, Stalin returned to Moscow, where he defended himself and resigned his military command.
At the Ninth Party Conference on 22 September, Trotsky openly criticized Stalin's behavior.

Rise to Power

For over a decade before the Russian Revolution of 1917, Stalin was one of the chief Bolshevik operatives in the Caucasus, organising cells, spreading propaganda, and raising money through criminal activities.
He eventually earned a place in Lenin's inner circle and the highest echelons of the Bolshevik hierarchy. In 1917, he participated in the Bolshevik uprising in the Russian capital of Petrograd. His name, Stalin, means "man of steel".
In the civil war that followed, Stalin forged connections with various Red Army generals and eventually acquired military powers of his own.
He brutally suppressed counter-revolutionaries and bandits.
After winning the civil war, the Bolsheviks moved to expand the revolution into Europe, starting with Poland, which was fighting the Red Army in Ukraine.
As joint commander of an army in Ukraine, Stalin's actions in the war were later criticized by many, including Leon Trotsky.

General Secretary and Invasion of Georgia

In late 1920, Trotsky argued for a ban on trade unions and a formal imposition of Party dictatorship over the industrial sectors.
Fearing a backlash from the unions, Lenin asked Stalin to build a support base for him against Trotsky.
Lenin's faction eventually prevailed at the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921.
Frustrated by the squabbling factions within the Party during what he saw as a time of crisis, Lenin convinced the Tenth Congress to pass a ban on any opposition to official Central Committee policy (the 'Ban on Factions', a law which Stalin would later exploit to expel his enemies).
Lenin still, however, encountered difficulties pushing his policies through and decided to give his reliable ally, Stalin, more power.
With the help of Kamenev, Lenin successfully had Stalin appointed to the post of 'General Secretary'on April 3, 1922.
Stalin still held his posts in the 'Orgburo', the 'Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate' and the 'Commassariat for Nationalities Affairs', though he agreed to delegate his workload to subordinates.
With this power, he would steadily place his supporters in positions of authority.
Stalin played a decisive role in engineering the 1921 Red Army invasion of Georgia following which he adopted particularly hardline, centralist policies towards Soviet Georgia, which included severe repression of all opposition within the local Communist party (e.g., the Georgian Affair of 1922), not to mention any manifestations of anti-Sovietism (the August Uprising of 1924).
It was in the Georgian affairs that Stalin first began to play his own hand.
Lenin, however, disliked Stalin's policy towards Georgia, as he believed all the Soviet states should be on equal standing with Russia rather than be absorbed and subordinated to it.

Lenin's Retirement and Death

On May 25, 1922, Lenin suffered a stroke while recovering from surgery to remove a bullet lodged in his neck since a failed assassination attempt in August 1918. 
everely debilitated, he went into semi-retirement and moved to his dacha in Gorki.
After this, Trotsky and Stalin were stressing about who was going to be the next successor. Trotsky and Lenin had more of a personal relationship and Lenin and Stalin had more of a political relationship.
Yet, Stalin visited him often, acting as his intermediary with the outside world.
During this time, the two quarrelled over economic policy and how to consolidate the Soviet republics.
Lenin and Stalin were agreeing on more political ideas and disagreeing, which was creating a closer relationship.
One day, Stalin verbally swore at Lenin's wife for breaching Politburo orders by helping Lenin communicate with Trotsky and others about politics; this greatly offended Lenin.
As their relationship deteriorated, Lenin dictated increasingly disparaging notes on Stalin in what would become his testament.
Trotsky criticised Stalin's rude manners, excessive power, ambition and politics, and suggested that Stalin should be removed from the position of General Secretary to Lenin.
One of Lenin's secretaries showed Stalin the notes, whose contents shocked him.
Before Stalin could mend any bridges, Lenin suffered a heart attack on March 10, 1923 which left him completely incapacitated.
During Lenin's semi-retirement, Stalin forged an alliance with Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev against Trotsky.
These allies prevented Lenin's Testament from being revealed to the Twelfth Party Congress in April 1923.
Although they too were disconcerted by Stalin's power and some of his policies, they needed his help in opposing Trotsky's faction and his possible succession to Lenin.
Lenin died of a stroke on January 21, 1924.
Stalin was given the honour of organising his funeral.
Against Lenin's wishes, he was given a lavish funeral and his body was embalmed and put on display.
Thanks to Kamenev and Zinoviev's influence, the Central Committee decided that Lenin's Testament should not be made public.
At the Thirteenth Party Congress in May, it was read out only to the heads of the provincial delegations.
Trotsky did not want to appear divisive so soon after Lenin's death and did not seize the opportunity to demand Stalin's removal.

Downfall of Trotsky

In the months following Lenin's death, Stalin's disputes with Kamenev and Zinoviev intensified. These two Bolsheviks did not regard Stalin highly, and often disparaged him in private even as they had aided him publicly.
Stalin allied himself now with Nikolai Bukharin, whom he had promoted to the Politburo at the Thirteenth Party Congress.
At the Fourteenth Party Congress in December 1925, Stalin openly attacked Kamenev and Zinoviev, revealing that they had asked for his aid in expelling Trotsky from the Party.
Stalin began advocating "Socialism in One Country," which says that the Bolsheviks should focus building communism in the countries they already controlled rather than spreading the revolution.
This drew to him many like-minded Party members, but put him in ideological opposition to Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev. Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev formed a United Opposition against Stalin, demanding greater freedom of expression and a repeal of Lenin's 1921 'Ban on Factions'.
Stalin eventually defeated this opposition, and forced Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev to sign a letter of submission to him.
Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev grew increasingly isolated and were ejected from the Central Committee in October 1927.
On November 14, Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the Party itself, followed by Kamenev at the Fifteenth Party Congress in December.
Kamenev and Zinoviev were readmitted some six months later after writing open letters of apology, but Trotsky was not.
Trotsky lived in exile in Alma-ata for a while, and was finally exiled from the Soviet Union itself in January 1929.

Dominating the Politburo

Stalin began pushing for more rapid industrialisation and central control of the economy, a position which resonated with many Party members who disliked Lenin's New Economic Policy.
At the end of 1927, a critical shortfall in grain supplies prompted Stalin to push for collectivisation of agriculture.
In January 1928, he personally travelled to Siberia where he oversaw the seizure of grain hoards from kulak farmers.
Many in the Party supported the seizures, but Bukharin and Premier Rykov were outraged.
Bukharin criticized Stalin's plans for rapid industrialization financed by kulak wealth, and advocated a return to Lenin's NEP.
However, he was unable to rally sufficient support from the higher levels of the Party to oppose Stalin.
Stalin accused Bukharin of factionalism (banned by Lenin since 1921) and capitalist tendencies.
The other Politburo members sided with Stalin, and labelled Bukharin a "Right Deviationist" from Marxist-Leninist principles.
Bukharin was ejected from the Politburo in November 1929.
Stalin's agricultural policies were also criticized by fellow Politburo member Mikhail Kalinin.
In the summer of 1930, Stalin exposed Kalinin's embezzlement of state funds, which he spent on a mistress.
Kalinin begged forgiveness, and effectively submitted himself to Stalin.
In September 1930, Stalin proposed dismissing Premier Rykov, who was Bukharin's fellow oppositionist.
The other Politburo members agreed with Stalin, and supported his nomination of Vyacheslav Molotov.
On December 19, the Central Committee dismissed Rykov and replaced him with Molotov.
By the 1930s, open criticism of Stalin within the Party was virtually non-existent, though Stalin continued to hunt for discreet dissenters.
Stalin dominated the Politburo (the executive branch of the Soviet government) through staunch allies such as Lazar Kaganovich, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Kliment Voroshilov.

Death of Stalin's Wife

On the night of November 9, 1932, Stalin's wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, shot herself in her bedroom.
Stalin was sleeping in another room that night (he often slept in a different room each night to confuse assassins), so her death was not discovered until the next morning.
To prevent a scandal, Pravda reported the cause of death as appendicitis.
Stalin did not tell his own children the truth to prevent them from spreading the truth accidentally.

The Great Terror

On December 1, 1934, Sergei Kirov was murdered by Leonid Nikolaev.
The death of this popular, high-profile politician shocked Russia, and Stalin used this murder to begin 'The Great Terror'.
Within hours of Kirov's death, Stalin declared Grigory Zinoviev and his supporters to be responsible for Kirov's murder.
Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev were arrested and, to escape long prison sentences, confessed to political and moral responsibility for Kirov's murder.
They were sentenced to five and ten years respectively. Stalin sanctioned the formation of troikas for the purpose of extrajudicial punishment.
Hundreds of oppositionists linked to Kamenev and Zinoviev were arrested and exiled to Siberia.
In late 1935, Stalin reopened the case. Kamenev and Zinoviev were interrogated again, and Trotsky was now implicated in Kirov's murder.
In July 1936, Stalin personally promised to Kamenev and Zinoviev that there would be no executions or persecution of their families if they confessed to conspiring with Trotsky.
This promise was broken.
After a show trial, Kamenev and Zinoviev were executed that August.
Spearheading Stalin's campaign was a Commissar called Nikolai Yezhov, a fervent Stalinist and a believer in violent repression.
Nikolai Yezhov continued to expand the lists of suspects to include all the old oppositionists as well as entire nationalities, such as the Poles.
Stalin distrusted the Soviet secret police - the NKVD - which was filled with Old Bolsheviks and ethnicities he distrusted, such as Poles, Jews and Latvians.
In September 1936, Stalin fired the head of the NKVD, Genrikh Yagoda, and replaced him with the more aggressive and zealous Yezhov.
Since his falling out with Stalin in the late 1920s, Bukharin wrote an endless stream of letters of repentance and admiration to Stalin.
However, Stalin knew Bukharin's repentance was insincere, as in private Bukharin continued to court Stalin's opponents (the NKVD wiretapped Bukharin's telephone).
Kamenev and Zinoviev had denounced him as a traitor during their trial. At the December 1936 plenum of the Central Committee, Yezhov accused Bukharin and Alexey Rykov of treachery.
In March 1938, Bukharin was coerced through torture into confessing to conspiring against Stalin, and later executed.
Stalin eventually turned on Yezhov.
He appointed Yezhov Commissar of Water Transport in April 1938 (a similar thing had happened to Yezhov's predecessor shortly before he was fired).
Stalin began ordering the executions of Yezhov's protégés in the NKVD.
Politburo members also started to openly condemn the excesses of the NKVD.
Yezhov eventually suffered a nervous breakdown and resigned as NKVD chief on November 23.
He was replaced by Lavrentiy Beria.

Bolstering Soviet Secret Service and Intelligence

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 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 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.

Stalin's Cult of Personality

Joseph Stalin's cult of personality became a prominent part of Soviet culture in December 1929, after a lavish celebration for Stalin's 50th birthday.
For the rest of Stalin's rule, the Soviet press presented Stalin as an all-powerful, all-knowing leader, and Stalin's name and image became omnipresent.

Stalin's image in propaganda and the mass media

Flowers for Stalin
The Soviet press worked to portray Stalin as a caring father figure, with the Soviet populace as his "children", - creating a similar relationship of ruler and ruled which existed under the Tsarist regime.
Interactions between Stalin and children became a key element of the personality cult.
Stalin often engaged in publicized gift giving exchanges with Soviet children from a range of different ethnic backgrounds.
Beginning in 1935, the phrase, "Thank You Dear Comrade Stalin for a Happy Childhood !" appeared above doorways at nurseries, orphanages, and schools; children also chanted this slogan at festivals.
The image of Stalin as a father was one way in which Soviet propagandists aimed to incorporate traditional religious symbols and language into the cult of personality: the title of "father" now first and foremost belonged to Stalin, as opposed to the Russian Orthodox priests. The cult of personality also adopted the Christian traditions of procession and devotion to icons through the use of Stalinist parades and effigies.
By reapplying various aspects of religion to the cult of personality, the press hoped to shift devotion away from the Church and towards Stalin.

Initially, the press also aimed to demonstrate a direct link between Stalin and the common people; newspapers often published collective letters from farm or industrial workers praising the leader, as well as accounts and poems about meeting Stalin, however, these sorts of accounts declined after World War II; Stalin drew back from public life, and the press instead began to focus on remote contact (i.e. accounts of receiving a telegram from Stalin or seeing the leader from afar).
Another prominent part of Stalin's image in the mass media was his close association with Lenin.
The Soviet press maintained that Stalin had been Lenin's constant companion while the latter was alive, and that as such, Stalin closely followed Lenin's teachings and could continue the Bolshevik legacy after Lenin's death.
Stalin publicly defended Lenin's infallibility with a fierce loyalty; in doing so, Stalin implied that his own leadership was similarly faultless, as he was a faithful follower of Leninism.
Before 1932, most Soviet propaganda posters showed Lenin and Stalin together, however, eventually the two figures merged in the Soviet press; Stalin became the embodiment of Lenin. Initially, the press attributed any and all success within the Soviet Union to the wise leadership of both Lenin and Stalin, but eventually Stalin alone became the professed cause of Soviet well-being.

Stalin and Culture

Although he was Georgian by birth, Stalin became a Russian nationalist, and significantly promoted Russian history, language, and Russian national heroes, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s.
There are also claims that he held the Russian people up as the elder brothers of the non-Russian minorities.
During Stalin's reign the official and long-lived style of 'Socialist Realism' was established for painting, sculpture, music, drama and literature.

'Ivan the Terrible'
Previously fashionable "revolutionary" expressionism, abstract art, and avant-garde experimentation were discouraged or denounced as "formalism".
The degree of Stalin's personal involvement in general, and in specific instances, has been the subject of discussion.
Stalin's favorite novel 'Pharaoh', shared similarities with Sergei Eisenstein's film, 'Ivan the Terrible', produced under Stalin's tutelage.
In architecture, a Stalinist Empire Style (basically, updated neoclassicism on a very large scale, exemplified by the Seven Sisters of Moscow) replaced the constructivism of the 1920s. Stalin's rule had a largely disruptive effect on indigenous cultures within the Soviet Union, though the politics of Korenizatsiya and forced development were possibly beneficial to the integration of later generations of indigenous cultures.

коренизация - (Korenizatsiya) sometimes also called korenization, meaning "nativization" or "indigenization", literally "putting down roots", was the early Soviet nationalities policy promoted mostly in the 1920s but with a continuing legacy in later years. The primary policy consisted of promoting representatives of titular nations of Soviet republics and national minorities on lower levels of the administrative subdivision of the state, into local government, management, bureaucracy and nomenklatura in the corresponding national entities. The term derives from the Russian term "коренное население" (korennoye naseleniye, "root population") for indigenous nationals.

Stalin became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film that exhibited fawning devotion.
An example was A. V. Avidenko's "Hymn to Stalin":

'Thank you, Stalin. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. No matter how old I become, I shall never forget how we received Stalin two days ago. Centuries will pass, and the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see Stalin, our inspired leader ... Everything belongs to thee, chief of our great country. And when the woman I love presents me with a child the first word it shall utter will be : Stalin ...'

Numerous pictures and statues of Stalin adorned public places.
Statues of Stalin depicted him at a height and build approximating the very tall Tsar Alexander III, but photographic evidence suggests he was between 5 ft 5 in and 5 ft 6 in (165–168 cm).
Stalin-themed art appeared privately, as well: starting in the early 1930s, many private homes included "Stalin rooms" dedicated to the leader and featuring his portrait.
The advent of the cult also led to a renaming craze: numerous towns, villages and cities were renamed after the Soviet leader.
The 'Stalin Prize' and 'Stalin Peace Prize' were also named in his honor, and he accepted several grandiloquent titles (e.g., "Coryphaeus of Science", "Father of Nations", "Brilliant Genius of Humanity", "Great Architect of Communism", "Gardener of Human Happiness", and others).
The cult reached new levels during World War II, with Stalin's name included in the new Soviet national anthem.
The cult of personality primarily existed among the Soviet masses; there was no explicit manifestation of the cult among the members of the Politburo and other high-ranking Party officials, however, Stalin had a notoriously low tolerance for dissent within the Party; as such, the fear of backlash from Stalin made Party officials hesitant to honestly express their viewpoints, especially during the Stalinist show trials of 1937 and 1938.
This atmosphere of fear and self-censorship created the illusion of undisputed government support for Stalin, and this perceived support further fueled the cult for the Soviet populace.

Purges and Deportations

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Stalin, as head of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, consolidated near-absolute power in the 1930s with a 'Great Purge' of the party that was 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.
In the 1930s, Stalin apparently became increasingly worried about the growing popularity of the Leningrad party boss Sergei Kirov.

Серге́й Миро́нович Ки́ро
Sergei Mironovich Kirov
Серге́й Миро́нович Ки́ров (Sergei Mironovich Kirov) (27 March [O.S. 15 March] 1886 – 1 December 1934), born Sergei Mironovich Kostrikov, was a prominent early Bolshevik leader in the Soviet Union. Kirov rose through the Communist Party ranks to become head of the Party organization in Leningrad.
On 1 December 1934, Kirov was shot and killed by a gunman at his offices in the Smolny Institute. Some historians place the blame for his assassination at the hands of Stalin and believe the NKVD organised its execution, but any evidence for this claim remains elusive. Kirov's death served as one of the pretexts for Stalin's escalation of repression against dissident elements of the Party, culminating in the Great Purge of the late 1930s in which many of the Old Bolsheviks were arrested, expelled from the Party, and executed. Complicity in Kirov's assassination was a common charge to which the accused confessed in the show trials of the era.
The cities of Kirov, Kirovohrad, Kirovakan, and Kirovabad, as well as a few Kirovsks, were renamed in Kirov's honor after his assassination. Following the collapse of Soviet Union Kirovakan and Kirovabad returned to their original names: Vanadzor and Ganja, respectively.

At the 1934 Party Congress where the vote for the new Central Committee was held, Kirov received only three negative votes, the fewest of any candidate, while Stalin received at least over a hundred negative votes.
After the assassination of Kirov, which may have been orchestrated by Stalin, Stalin invented a detailed scheme to implicate opposition leaders in the murder, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev.
The investigations and trials expanded.
Stalin passed a new law on "terrorist organizations and terrorist acts" that were to be investigated for no more than ten days, with no prosecution, defense attorneys or appeals, followed by a sentence to be executed "quickly."
Thereafter, several trials known as the 'Moscow Trials' were held, but the procedures were replicated throughout the country. Article 58 of the legal code, which listed prohibited anti-Soviet activities as counterrevolutionary crime, was applied in the broadest manner.
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.
The Russian word troika gained a new meaning: a quick, simplified trial by a committee of three subordinated to NKVD -NKVD troika- with sentencing carried out within 24 hours.
Stalin's hand-picked executioner, Vasili Blokhin, was entrusted with carrying out some of the high profile executions in this period.
Many military leaders were convicted of treason and a large-scale purge of Red Army officers followed.

Лев Троцкий
Lev Davidovich Bronshtein
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.
In August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico, where he had lived in exile since January 1937; this eliminated the last of Stalin's opponents among the former Party leadership.

 Лев Троцкий - Leon Trotsky - born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein; 7 November [O.S. 26 October] 1879 – 21 August 1940) was a Russian Jewish Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army.

Trotsky was initially a supporter of the Menshevik Internationalists faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He joined the Bolsheviks immediately prior to the 1917 October Revolution, and eventually became a leader within the Party. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army as People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. He was a major figure in the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War (1918–20). He was also among the first members of the Politburo.
After leading a failed struggle of the Left Opposition against the policies and rise of Joseph Stalin in the 1920s and the increasing role of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, Trotsky was successively removed from power (1927), expelled from the Communist Party, and finally deported from the Soviet Union (1929). As the head of the Fourth International, Trotsky continued in exile in Mexico to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. An early advocate of Red Army intervention against European fascism, in the late 1930s, Trotsky opposed Stalin's non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler. He was assassinated on Stalin's orders in Mexico, by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish-born Soviet agent in August 1940

With the exception of Vladimir Milyutin (who died in prison in 1937) and Joseph Stalin himself, all of the members of Lenin's original cabinet who had not succumbed to death from natural causes before the purge were executed.
Mass operations of the NKVD also targeted "national contingents" (foreign ethnicities) such as Poles, ethnic Germans, Koreans, etc.
A total of at least 350,000 (144,000 of them Poles) were arrested and 247,157 (110,000 Poles) were executed.
Many Americans who had emigrated to the Soviet Union during the worst of the Great Depression were executed; others were sent to prison camps or gulags.
Concurrent 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.
In light of revelations from Soviet archives, historians now estimate that nearly 700,000 people (353,074 in 1937 and 328,612 in 1938) were executed in the course of the terror, with the great mass of victims merely "ordinary" Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, musicians, soldiers, pensioners, ballerinas, beggars.
Many of the executed were interred in mass graves, with some of the major killing and burial sites being Bykivnia, Kurapaty and Butovo.
Some Western experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete or unreliable.
Stalin personally signed 357 proscription lists in 1937 and 1938 that condemned to execution some 40,000 people, and about 90% of these are confirmed to have been shot.
At the time, while reviewing one such list, Stalin reportedly muttered to no one in particular: "Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years time ? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of ? No one."
In addition, Stalin dispatched a contingent of NKVD operatives to Mongolia, established a Mongolian version of the NKVD troika, and unleashed a bloody purge in which tens of thousands were executed as "Japanese Spies." Mongolian ruler Khorloogiin Choibalsan closely followed Stalin's lead.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Soviet leadership sent NKVD squads into other countries to murder defectors and other opponents of the Soviet regime.
Victims of such plots included Yevhen Konovalets, Ignace Poretsky, Rudolf Klement, Alexander Kutepov, Evgeny Miller, Leon Trotsky and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) leadership in Catalonia (e.g., Andreu Nin).

Population Transfer

Shortly before, during and immediately after World War II, Stalin conducted a series of deportations on a huge scale that 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.
By some estimates up to 43% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.
Separatism, resistance to Soviet rule and collaboration with the invading Germans were cited as the official reasons for the deportations, rightly or wrongly.
Individual circumstances of those spending time in German-occupied territories were not examined.
After the brief Nazi occupation of the Caucasus, the entire population of five of the small highland peoples and the Crimean Tatars – more than a million people in total – were deported without notice or any opportunity to take their possessions.
As a result of Stalin's lack of trust in the loyalty of particular ethnicities, ethnic groups such as the Soviet Koreans, the Volga Germans, the Crimean Tatars, the Chechens, and many Poles were forcibly moved out of strategic areas and relocated to places in the central Soviet Union, especially Kazakhstan in Soviet Central Asia.
By some estimates, hundreds of thousands of deportees may have died en route.
According to official Soviet estimates, more than 14 million people passed through the Gulag from 1929 to 1953, with a further 7 to 8 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union (including the entire nationalities in several cases).
The deportations had a profound effect on the peoples of the Soviet Union. The memory of the deportations has played a major part in the separatist movements in the Baltic States, Tatarstan and Chechnya, even today.


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 brought social change 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 production would rise by 200% and agricultural production by 50%, but these expectations were not realized. Stalin blamed this unanticipated failure on kulaks (rich peasants), who resisted collectivization, however, kulaks proper made up only 4% of the peasant population; the "kulaks" that Stalin targeted included the slightly better-off peasants who took the brunt of violence from the OGPU and the Komsomol.

Komsomol Emblem
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Всесоюзный Ленинский Коммунисти́ческий сою́з молодёжи (ВЛКСМ) (The All-Union Leninist Young Communist League), usually known as Комсомо́л (Komsomol) a syllabic abbreviation from the Russian Kommunisticheskii Soyuz Molodyozhi), was the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The Komsomol in its earliest form was established in urban centers in 1918. During the early years, it was a Russian organization, known as the Russian Young Communist League, or RKSM. During 1922, with the unification of the USSR, it was reformed into an all-union agency, the youth division of the All-Union Communist Party.

These peasants were about 60% of the population.
Those officially 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.
Archival data indicates that 20,201 people were executed during 1930, the year of Dekulakization.
The two-stage progress of collectivization—interrupted for a year by Stalin's famous editorials, "Dizzy with success" and "Reply to Collective Farm Comrades" —is a prime example of his capacity for tactical political withdrawal followed by intensification of initial strategies.


Famine affected other parts of the USSR.
The death toll from famine in the Soviet Union at this time is estimated at between 5 and 10 million people.
The worst crop failure of late tsarist Russia, in 1892, had caused 375,000 to 400,000 deaths.
Most modern scholars agree that the famine was caused by the policies of the government of the Soviet Union under Stalin, rather than by natural reasons.
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, while continuing to export grain; he was convinced that the Ukrainian peasants had hidden grain away and strictly enforced draconian new collective-farm theft laws in response.
The USSR also experienced a major famine in 1947 as a result of war damage and severe droughts, but economist Michael Ellman argues that it could have been prevented if the government had not mismanaged its grain reserves.
The famine cost an estimated 1 to 1.5 million lives as well as secondary population losses due to reduced fertility.

Ukrainian Famine

The 'Holodomor' famine is sometimes referred to as the 'Ukrainian Genocide', implying it was engineered by the Soviet government, specifically targeting the Ukrainian people to destroy the Ukrainian nation as a political factor and social entity.
While historians continue to disagree whether the policies that led to Holodomor fall under the legal definition of genocide, twenty-six countries have officially recognized the Holodomor as such.
On 28 November 2006, the Ukrainian Parliament approved a bill declaring the Soviet-era forced famine an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
Professor Michael Ellman concludes that Ukrainians were victims of genocide in 1932–33.
He asserts that Soviet policies greatly exacerbated the famine's death toll.
Although 1.8 million tonnes of grain were exported during the height of the starvation—enough to feed 5 million people for one year-the use of torture and execution to extract grain under the 'Law of Spikelets', the use of force to prevent starving peasants from fleeing the worst-affected areas, and the refusal to import grain or secure international humanitarian aid to alleviate conditions led to incalcuable human suffering in the Ukraine.
It would appear that Stalin intended to use the starvation as a cheap and efficient means (as opposed to deportations and shootings) to kill off those deemed to be "counterrevolutionaries," "idlers," and "thieves," but not to annihilate the Ukrainian peasantry as a whole. Ellman also claims that, while this was not the only Soviet genocide (e.g., the Polish operation of the NKVD), it was the worst in terms of mass casualties.
Current estimates on the total number of casualties within Soviet Ukraine range mostly from 2.2 million to 4 to 5 million.


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 agriculture.
With seed capital unavailable because of international reaction to Communist policies, little international trade, and virtually no modern infrastructure, Stalin's government financed industrialization both by 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 workers' real earnings sank to about one-tenth of the 1926 level.
Common and political prisoners in labor camps were forced to perform unpaid labor, and communists and Komsomol members were frequently "mobilized" for various construction projects.
The Soviet Union used numerous foreign experts to design new factories, supervise construction, instruct workers and improve manufacturing processes.
The most notable foreign contractor was Albert Kahn's firm that designed and built 521 factories between 1930 and 1932.
As a rule, factories were supplied with imported equipment.
In spite of early breakdowns and failures, the first two Five-Year Plans achieved rapid industrialization from a very low economic base.
While it is generally agreed that the Soviet Union achieved significant levels of economic growth under Stalin, the precise rate of growth is disputed.
It is not disputed, however, that these gains were accomplished at the cost of millions of lives.
Official Soviet estimates stated the annual rate of growth at 13.9%; Russian and Western estimates gave lower figures of 5.8% and even 2.9%. Indeed, one estimate is that Soviet growth became temporarily much higher after Stalin's death.
The Five-Year Plan substantially helped to modernize the previously backward Soviet economy.
New products were developed, and the scale and efficiency of existing production greatly increased.
Some innovations were based on indigenous technical developments, others on imported foreign technology.


Science in the Soviet Union was under strict ideological control by Stalin and his government, along with art and literature.
There was significant progress in "ideologically safe" domains, owing to the free Soviet education system and state-financed research, however, the most notable legacy during Stalin's time was his public endorsement of the agronomist Trofim Lysenko, who rejected Mendelian genetics as "bourgeois pseudoscience", and instead supported hybridization theories that caused widespread agricultural destruction and major setbacks in Soviet knowledge in biology.
Although many scientists opposed his views, those who publicly came out were imprisoned and denounced. Some areas of physics were also criticized.

Social Services

Under the Soviet government people benefited from some social liberalization.
Girls were given an adequate, equal education and women had equal rights in employment, improving lives for women and families.
Stalinist development also contributed to advances in health care, which significantly increased the lifespan and quality of life of the typical Soviet citizen.
Stalin's policies granted the Soviet people universal access to healthcare and education, effectively creating the first generation free from the fear of typhus, cholera, and malaria.
The occurrences of these diseases dropped to record low numbers, increasing life spans by decades.
Soviet women under Stalin were the first generation of women able to give birth in the safety of a hospital with access to prenatal care.
Education was also an example of an increase in the standard of living after economic development.

The generation born during Stalin's rule was the first near-universally literate generation.
Millions benefited from mass literacy campaigns in the 1930s, and from workers training schemes.
Engineers were sent abroad to learn industrial technology, and hundreds of foreign engineers were brought to Russia on contract.
Transport links were improved and many new railways built.
Workers who exceeded their quotas, Stakhanovites, received many incentives for their work; they could afford to buy the goods that were mass-produced by the rapidly expanding Soviet economy.


Raised in the Georgian Orthodox faith, Stalin, who once considered training to be a priest, became an atheist.
He followed the position adopted by Lenin that religion was an opiate that needed to be removed in order to construct the ideal communist society.
His government promoted atheism through special atheistic education in schools, anti-religious propaganda, the antireligious work of public institutions (Society of the Godless), discriminatory laws, and a terror campaign against religious believers.
By the late 1930s it had become dangerous to be publicly associated with religion.
Stalin's role in the fortunes of the Russian Orthodox Church is complex.
Continuous persecution in the 1930s resulted in its near-extinction as a public institution: by 1939, active parishes numbered in the low hundreds (down from 54,000 in 1917), many churches had been leveled, and tens of thousands of priests, monks and nuns were persecuted and killed. Over 100,000 were shot during the purges of 1937–1938.
During World War II, the Church was allowed a revival as a patriotic organization, and thousands of parishes were reactivated.
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.
Just days before Stalin's death, certain religious sects were outlawed and persecuted.
Many religions popular in ethnic regions of the Soviet Union, including the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Baptists, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism underwent ordeals similar to that which the Orthodox churches in other parts of the country suffered: thousands of monks were persecuted, and hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, sacred monuments, monasteries and other religious buildings were razed.

Stalin the Theorist

Stalin and his supporters have highlighted the notion that socialism can be built and consolidated by a country ("Socialism in One Country") as underdeveloped as Russia during the 1920s.
Indeed this might be the only means in which it could be built in a hostile environment.
In 1933, Stalin put forward the theory of aggravation of the class struggle along with the development of socialism, arguing that the further the country would move forward, the more acute forms of struggle will be used by the doomed remnants of exploiter classes in their last desperate efforts – and that, therefore, political repression was necessary.
In 1936, Stalin announced that the society of the Soviet Union consisted of two non-antagonistic classes: workers and kolkhoz peasantry.

колхо́з Kolkhoz, plural kolkhozy - were a form of collective farms in the Soviet Union. Kolkhoz existed along with state farms or sovkhoz, plural sovkhozy.
The word is a contraction of коллекти́вное хозя́йство (kollektivnoye khozyaystvo), suggesting collective farm or collective economy. On the other hand, sovkhoz is a contraction of советское хозяйство (sovetskoye khozyaystvo), suggesting Soviet farm or collective management. 

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 fancied himself as a political philosopher, and among Stalin's contributions to Communist theoretical literature were "Dialectical and Historical Materialism," "Marxism and the National Question", "Trotskyism or Leninism", and "The Principles of Leninism."


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