Western Civ 300
Stalin: Dictator, Killer, Savior?
How does a man, nominated twice for the Nobel peace price, die with such equivocal feelings from his country? Why was he thought of as an advocate of freedom to some, but compared to Hitler by others? All these mixed feelings revolve around Joseph Stalin. Joseph Stalin ruled Russia from 1924 until his death in 1953. In his reign, he fiercely used tactics of collectivization, purging and deportation. By the time of his death, Russia was transformed into a modernized, protected, and larger land. Although Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of over 20 million people and suppressed many more, his leadership was beneficial to Russia in the early 1900's because he ended Nazism and modernized Russia.
Stalin was born Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili in Gori, Georgia on December 18th, 1878. Georgia was part of Russia at the time of his birth. At that time the Tsar governed Russia. Although the serfs had been liberated by Tsar Nicholas II, they were still bound to the land and the country remained economically backward (“Joseph Stalin”). Stalin’s brilliance shined through as a child, and soon he began attending a seminary school (“Joseph Stalin”). At this school his interest in politics began and he became involved with. He became involved in a revolutionist socialist party, and was expelled from the institution for advocating socialist theory. Stalin joined the Russian central committee in 1912, and slowly rose up the ranks of the movement. Soon he became Lenin’s administrator, playing an important administrative role on the military fronts and in the capital (“Joseph Stalin”). When Lenin passed, ousted his main rival Trotsky. He became dictator in 1929.
One of Stalin’s first moves as dictator was to initiate the “Great Purge”, which removed all opposition to his power in the 1930’s. The KGB hid in all different areas of Russia, and found and killed anyone opposed to his views. Eventually, the Army and KGB itself were purged. No one was safe. Stalin believed that Russia had to be united with him as a leader if it were to prosper. He also believed Russia had 10 years to catch up with the Western world before Germany invaded. He wanted to rapidly industrialize Russia in order to prepare for oncoming wars. Many of these executions in the purges took place in the form of “show trials”. These public executions terrified the Russian people into following Stalin. However, the people’s support of Stalin was crucial as Hitler invaded in 1941. While the Red Army was severely depleted from the purges, Stalin’s troops rallied and led the country to victory. While the human cost may have been enormous, Stalin repelled the Nazis and kept his country from losing the war.
Shortly before, during, and after World War II Stalin conducted a serious of deportations that greatly impacted the ethnic map of the Soviet Union. By deporting the ethnic groups to other parts of the country, Stalin weakened their potential resistance and strengthened his central authority. This movement continued the underlying theme of Stalin’s Dictatorship: Agree or suffer. Separatists were forced to work in Labor camps for almost 24 hours a day without pay. Because of this horrible treatment, Industrialization increased because there was free slave labor.
The agricultural economy was another area in desperate need of reformation.
Stalin also modernized Russia through means of collectivization. The idea was to increase agricultural output through large-scale collective farms. Stalin expected industrial production to increase by 200% and agricultural production by 50%. While these goals were not met, agricultural output increased nonetheless.
Finally, Stalin biggest success in the modernization of Russia came from industrialization. He adopted a 5-year plan that focused on modernizing Russia’s economy; Again, unrealistic goals were set—a 250% increase in overall industrial development and a 330% expansion in heavy industry alone. Collectivization was part of this industrialization. In spite of early breakdowns and failures, the 5-year plan achieved rapid industrialization starting from a very low economic base. Annual growth rate of the economy rose to about 14%. Stalin’s fierce methods proved successful in rapid industrialization. As World War II crept closer and closer, Stalin tightened his grip around his country. He wanted to avoid European conflict at all costs, so making an alliance with a Western country seemed like a peaceful technique for the red army. In 1939 Molotov carved out a treaty of peace with Germany. This pact prevented any future wars between the Soviets and Nazi’s. Although contrary to Soviet beliefs, the pact was a brilliant move by Stalin. He could now drastically improve his position on the Western border without any conflict from Germany. However, Germany broke that pact, and invaded Russia in 1941. This uncalled invasion put the Red Army in grave danger. Already depleted from purges, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg was no match for the Soviets old methods of war. Worried his country would be overrun, Stalin offered up peace treaties giving massive amounts of land to Hitler. But Hitler would not accept the settlement and continued to push through Soviet Russia. Stalin, desperate to keep his country in his own hands, took supreme command of the Red Army. On a national radio address to the Soviet Union, Stain called for national unity to avoid crisis. The country rallied together. The tides turned when the German’s suffered a terrible defeat in the ruins of Stalingrad, losing 750,000 men. The United States then joined the Soviet Forces and pushed Germany out of Russia. Russia invaded Germany from the west, the Allied powers in the East. Together, they drove in on Germany and closed out Hitler and his Army. Hitler committed suicide on April 31, 1945, effectively ending the war in Europe. If it weren’t for Stalin’s fierce determination and bold leadership, Nazism would have prospered for a much longer period of time. Stalin not only drastically modernized the Soviet Union, but he ended Nazism with a fierce aggression and saved the USSR. Before Stalin, Soviet Russia was a weak, undeveloped country with no unity and a lackluster attitude. After Stalin, Russia was a great power with a strong army, strict leadership, and a much more efficient and industrialized country. While the human costs were incalculable, Russia took a bold step in the right direction under the rule of Joseph Stalin.