According to Thoman Carlyle, a "great man" is one who shapes history and affects the course of the future. In the case of Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union from 1929-1953, one can perceive that through torment and brutal force, he was able to modernize a nation and oppress his own people.
One can argue that Stalin was a great leader of the 20th century. After all, he took an undeveloped country and molded it into one of the world's greatest industrial and military forces. But, this transformation did not come at a small cost. Stalin was so paranoid that his Communist regime would be crushed' by one of the dominating Capitalist countries of the West that he became obsessed with the mass production of industrial and agricultural machinery, neglecting the production of basic goods needed to sustain human survival. In his mind, getting Russia's industrial sector up to par was more important than producing adequate clothing and household goods. Setting completely absurd targets for increased production in agriculture, and of coal, pig iron, oil, and steel products in his three five-year plans did work well for Stalin, and other countries began to take notice. But, in history, very few leaders have forced their own people to make the kinds of sacrifices Stalin imposed on them.
To increase agricultural production, and bring in a surplus of food products, Stalin enforced and regulated his idea of "collective agriculture" government control of farm land. In turn, the kulaks felt completely oppressed and were unwilling to give up the small amount of land they owned. Stalin would not tolerate opposition from anyone, and as a result, millions of kulaks and peasants were sent off to labor concentration camps, known as "gulags," or were simply eliminated.
It wasn't just the lower-class peoples that he wouldn't tolerate opposition from. Stalin was known for having other political figures that could possibly pose a threat to his regime eliminated. In 1935,...
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