Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, a Georgian revolutionary and political leader who ruled the Soviet Union from 1927 until he died in 1953. Served as both General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, Stalin became one of the successful dictators of history just like Hitler.
Joseph Stalin Childhood
On December 18, 1879, in the Russian peasant village of Gori, Georgia, Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, later known as Joseph Stalin was born.
The son of Besarion Jughashvili, a cobbler, and Ekaterine Geladze, a washerwoman, Joseph was a frail child. He was called “soso” in his childhood.
An unsound childhood is what Stalin got. He faced emotional as well as physical abuse by his own father. Once he was beaten so much that his elbow was damaged and could not be repaired throughout his life.
He also developed a cruel streak for those who crossed him. Joseph’s mother, a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, wanted him to become a priest. They were ethnically Georgian and Stalin grew up speaking the Georgian language.
1888, she managed to enroll him in a church school in Gori, Georgia. Stalin did well in school, and his efforts gained him a scholarship to Tiflis Theological Seminary in 1894.
The Young Blood
As he grew older, Stalin lost interest in his studies. His grades dropped and he was repeatedly confined to a cell for his rebellious behavior.
Teachers complained that he declared himself an atheist. For a time, he found work as a tutor and later as a clerk at the Tiflis Observatory.
In 1901, he joined the Social Democratic Labor Party and worked full-time for the revolutionary movement.
Meanwhile, in the midst of 1901-1905, he was continuously involved in revolutionary activity and protests. He made himself renowned as “Koba – The Revolutionary”.
In November 1905, the Georgian Bolsheviks elected Stalin as one of their delegates to a Bolshevik conference in Saint Petersburg.
On arrival, he met Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, who informed him that the venue had been moved to Finland. At the conference, Stalin met Lenin for the first time.
Though never a strong orator like Vladimir Lenin or an intellectual like Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin excelled in the mundane operations of the revolution, calling meetings, publishing leaflets, and organizing strikes and demonstrations.
In March 1908, Stalin was arrested and interred in Bailov Prison, where he led the imprisoned Bolsheviks organized discussion groups, and ordered the killing of suspected informants.
In February 1912, Stalin escaped to Saint Petersburg, tasked with converting the Bolshevik weekly newspaper, Zvezda (“Star”) into a daily, Pravda (“Truth”). The new newspaper was launched in April 1912, although Stalin’s role as editor was kept secret.
Rise in Politics
February 1917, the Russian Revolution began. By March, the Tsar had abdicated the throne and Lenin formed his government. Stalin executed suspected counter-revolutionaries, sometimes without trial. His use of state violence and terror was at a greater scale.
In 1922, Stalin was appointed to the newly created office of general secretary of the Communist Party. Though not a significant post at the time, it gave Stalin control over all party member appointments, which allowed him to build his base.
The violent nature of Stalin led Lenin to be scared of him as a future leader of the Soviet. During his last days, he even published a testimonial stating that if Stalin forms a government of his own, it would be the most dangerous thing that could happen to the Soviets.
After Lenin’s death, in 1924, exactly what Lenin had thought, Stalin set out to destroy the old party leadership and take total control, and the reign of terror began.
At first, he had people removed from power through bureaucratic shuffling and denunciations. Further paranoia set in and Stalin soon conducted a vast reign of terror, having people arrested in the night and put before spectacular show trials.
Potential rivals were accused of aligning with capitalist nations, convicted of being “enemies of the people” and summarily executed. Stalin saw Trotsky as the main obstacle to his rise to dominance within the Communist Party.
By the latter half of the 1920s, the Soviet Union was still lagging behind the industrial development of Western countries. There had also been a shortfall of grain supplies; 1927 produced only 70% of grain produced in 1926.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Stalin reversed the Bolshevik agrarian policy by seizing land given earlier to the peasants and organizing collective farms.
Stalin believed that collectivism would accelerate food production, but the peasants resented losing their land and working for the state Millions were killed in forced labor or starved during the ensuing famine.
Stalin also set in motion rapid industrialization that initially achieved huge successes, but over time cost millions of lives and vast damage to the environment.
The carnage was unprecedented. Any resistance was met with a swift and lethal response; millions of people were exiled to the labor camps of the Gulag or were executed.
Stalin faced problems in his family life. In 1929, his son Yakov unsuccessfully attempted suicide. His relationship with Nadya was also strained amid their arguments and her mental health problems.
In November 1932, after a group dinner in the Kremlin in which Stalin flirted with other women, Nadya shot herself.
Within the Soviet Union, there was widespread civic disgruntlement against Stalin’s government Social unrest, previously restricted largely to the countryside, was increasingly evident in urban areas, prompting Stalin to ease on some of his economic policies in 1932.
As a result, an estimated 7,000,000 persons perished in this farming area, known as the breadbasket of Europe, with the people deprived of the food they had grown with their own hands.
Due to Stalin’s own anger about the Ukrainians, by the midst of 1932, nearly 75% of the farms in Ukraine had been forcibly collectivized.
On Stalin’s orders, mandatory quotas of foodstuffs to be shipped out to the Soviet Union were drastically increased in August, October, and again in January 1933, until there was simply no food remaining to feed the people of Ukraine.
By the end of 1933, nearly 25% of the population of Ukraine, including three million children, had perished. The “Kulaks” as a class were destroyed and an entire nation of village farmers had been laid low.
Among those farmers, were a class of people called Kulaks. They were formerly wealthy farmers that had owned 24 or more acres or had employed farm workers.
Declared “enemies of the people”, the Kulaks were left homeless and without a single possession as everything was taken from them, even their pots and pans. It was also forbidden by law for anyone to aid dispossessed Kulak families.
Some researchers estimate that ten million persons were thrown out of their homes put on railroad boxcars, and deported to “special settlements” in the wilderness of Siberia during this era, with up to a third of them perishing amid the frigid living conditions.
Men and older boys, along with childless women and unmarried girls, also became slave-workers in Soviet-run mines and big industrial projects.
Terror of Stalin
Regarding state repressions, Stalin often provided conflicting signals. In May 1933, he ordered the release of many criminals convicted of minor offenses from the overcrowded prisons and ordered the security services not to enact further mass arrests and deportations.
In 1935, the lethal NKVD was ordered to expel suspected counter revolutionaries, particularly those who had been aristocrats, landlords, or businesspeople before the October Revolution.
Stalin orchestrated the arrest of many former opponents in the Communist Party: denounced as Western-backed mercenaries, many were imprisoned or exiled internally.
The first Moscow Trial took place in August 1936; Kamenev and Zinoviev were among those accused of plotting assassinations, found guilty in a show trial, and executed.
There were mass expulsions from the party in August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico, eliminating the last of Stalin’s opponents among the former Party leadership.
Stalin During WW-2
As war clouds started hovering over Europe in 1939, Stalin made a seemingly brilliant move, signing a nonaggression pact with Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Stalin was convinced of Hitler’s integrity and ignored warnings from his military commanders that Germany was mobilizing armies on its eastern front. And as of his nature, Hitler attacked the Soviets.
After heroic efforts on the part of the Soviet Army and the Russian people, the Germans were turned back at Stalingrad in 1943.
The recent victory in Stalingrad put Stalin in a solid bargaining position making him a hero as he was the only one who made Hitler taste the defeat at that time.
In April 1945, the Red Army seized Berlin, Hitler committed suicide, and Germany surrendered unconditionally. Stalin was annoyed that Hitler was dead, having wanted to capture him alive.
Within the Soviet Union, he was widely regarded as the embodiment of victory and patriotism. The NKVD was ordered to catalog the scale of destruction during the war.
It was established that 1,710 Soviet towns and 70,000 villages had been destroyed. They recorded that between 26 and 27 million Soviet citizens had been killed, with millions more being wounded, malnourished, or orphaned.
Stalin’s health was deteriorating, and heart problems forced a two-month vacation in the latter part of 1945. In August 1949, the nuclear bomb was successfully tested in the deserts outside Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan and the cold war started between USSR AND the USA.
Stalin also initiated a new military build-up; the Soviet army was expanded from 2.9 million soldiers, as it stood in 1949, to 5.8 million by 1953.’
Last Years of Stalin
In April 1949, the Western powers established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an international military alliance of capitalist countries. Within western countries, Stalin was increasingly portrayed as the “most evil dictator alive” and compared to Hitler.
In his later years, Stalin was in poor health. He took increasingly long holidays. Stalin nevertheless mistrusted his doctors.
There, he emphasized what he regarded as leadership qualities necessary in the future and highlighted the weaknesses of various potential successors.
In 1952, he also eliminated the Politburo, The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and replaced it with a larger version which he called the Presidium.
On 1 st of March 1953, Stalin’s staff found him semi-conscious on the bedroom floor of his Kuntsevo Dacha, having urinated on him. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
Stalin’s death was announced on the 6th of March, 1953. The body was embalmed for long-term preservation and then placed on display in Moscow’s House of Unions for three days. Crowds were such that a crush killed around 100 people.
The subsequent funeral involved the body being laid to rest in Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square on 9 March. Hundreds of thousands attended.
Stalin was eventually denounced by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1956. However, he has found a rekindled popularity among many of Russia’s young people.
Though Stalin was responsible for the carnage of millions, he got the death of a hero. Victory in World War 2 & Soviet development was the primary reason behind it.