The rise of Joseph Stalin.
Joseph Stalin was the authoritarian leader of the Soviet Union for 31 years between 1922 and his death in 1953. During this time, he revolutionised the Russian economy with a combination of rapid industrialisation and centralised economic collectivism, reforms that in some instances caused massive devastation in rural parts of the country (including the famine of 1932-1933, in which up to 6m people starved to death). A hugely controversial figure on the global political stage, Stalin carried out ruthless purges of the Soviet military, political and judicial classes (Applebaum, 2004), sending political opponents to work in work camps (or gulags) in Siberia from which few ever returned.
He also led Russia into a non-aggression pact with Germany's Adolf Hitler that lasted until Hitler's spectacular miscalculation in June 1941 when the German army attempted to invade the Soviet Union. Upon Stalin's death in 1953, he was simultaneously one of the most revered and feared political leaders in modern times, and the influence of his shadow remains strong in Russia even today.
Before the Russian revolution of 1917, Stalin was a Bolshevik operative in the Causacus, organising resistance against the Tsar. This earned him the respect and trust of Vladimir Lenin, who invited Stalin to join the highest levels of Bolshevik power, although others - including Leon Trotsky - subsequently criticised the brutality of Stalin and his troops while suppressing counter-revolutionary insurgents in Poland and Ukraine. By 1921, Stalin had been asked by Lenin to help secure his power base against a perceived threat from Trotsky, culminating in Lenin's victory at the Tenth Party Congress later that year.
As a reward for his help, Stalin was appointed by Lenin to become General Secretary of the party, and following Lenin's first stroke in 1922 it was Stalin, more than any other party member, who became the link between Lenin and the rest of the world....
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