Key Personality: Josef Stalin

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Stalin is a Key Personality for:
Russia in the Inter-War Years

Josef Stalin, c. 1930s
  • Josef Stalin was born in Georgia in 1879. He joined the Bolsheviks and was a follower of Lenin. He took part in the October Revolution in 1917 and was involved in the defence of Tsaritsyn (later renamed Stalingrad).
  • After the Revolution, Stalin began a slow rise to power. He became General Secretary of the Communist Party, and he appointed loyal supporters to key positions in the party. When Lenin died in 1924, there was a struggle for power between Stalin and Trotsky.
  • Stalin joined with two other Communist leaders - Kamenev and Zinoviev - to oppose Trotsky, who was expected to succeed Lenin. Trotsky wanted to pursue "Permanent Revolution", spreading Communism through Europe. Stalin favoured the policy of "Socialism in One Country", which would transform the Soviet Union into a powerful and modern state.
  • Once Trotsky was defeated, Stalin turned on Kamenev and Zinoviev. By 1928, he was in complete control. He turned the Soviet Union into a totalitarian state. The Communist Party controlled all industries, farms, and the press. A Cult of Stalin was developed. Propaganda posters and statues of Stalin were spread everywhere, and many cities were named after him.
  • In the 1930s, Stalin organised the Great Purge in order to remove anyone he considered to be an opponent to him. People to be purged were tried in show trials in Moscow. He killed Kamenev and Zinoviev this way, and he also wiped out the entire old Communist leadership and large sections of the army, secret police and the public. The Red Army was weakened as a result.
Stalin had photos manipulated to remove anyone he had purged.
This collage shows the same photo being altered
three times, after each person was eventually purged
by Stalin.
  • Stalin developed his policy of "Socialism in One Country" by starting the Five Year Plans to industrialise Russia. Stalin targeted heavy industry (coal, iron, gas and electricity) to be developed. Although Russia did become more industrialised, the living standards for workers declined. Stalin used prisoners for slave labour in work camps called gulags
  • Stalin also began Collectivisation. Individual farms were taken over by the government and combined into collective farms. The kulaks (rich peasants) were opposed to this, so Stalin eliminated them.
  • By 1939, a Second World War was looming. Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Hitler to give him more time to prepare for war. Hitler invaded Russia in 1941 and Stalin organised Russian resistance in what he called the Great Patriotic War. He sided with the Allies and took part in wartime conferences with Churchill and Roosevelt. He took credit for playing a big role in defeating Hitler.
  • Stalin remained in power until his death in 1953.


In short...

  • Background:
    • joined the Bolsheviks, follower of Lenin.
    • took part in the Revolution and Civil War.
  • Rise to power:
    • General Secretary of the Communist Party - appointed followers to key positions.
    • Joined with Kamenev and Zinoviev to take down Trotsky after Lenin's death.
    • "Socialism in One Country".
  • Totalitarian Dictatorship:
    • Government in control of everything, Cult of Stalin developed.
    • Great Purge and show trials.
    • The effect of the purges.
  • Five Year Plans and Collectivisation:
    • Aim of the plans.
    • Five Year Plans focus and results, results of Collectivisation.
    • Gulags.
  • Second World War:
    • Nazi -Soviet Pact.
    • Great Patriotic War.
    • Joined the Allies and met with Roosevelt and Churchill.
  • Remained in power until his death in 1953.
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin: the "Big Three" at Yalta, 1945.