Josef Stalin- Leader Of Terror Essay, Research Paper
(Sorry, I didn’t add my work’s cited page.)
The words and actions of Joseph Stalin, Russian leader from 1922 to 1953, rippled throughout Russia and carried on to countries all over the world, including America. A ruler of terror, Stalin’s ideas spread quickly, causing many to fear him. By exploring his younger years and his rise to power, one can understand his importance and degree of influence on American culture during the 1920s and 1930s.
Born Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili, in Georgia, in the midst of poverty, Stalin was the only child of a shoemaker and house cleaner. His father is said to have been “a drunkard who was cruel to his young son” (”Joseph Stalin” 648a). At age nine, through great financial strife, he attended a church school in 1888, excelled in his studies, received a scholarship at the T’bilisi Theological Seminary in 1894, and was exposed to radical ideas from his peers about revolution. He was punished on several occasions for reading forbidden books by and became interested in the ideas of a German political philosopher, Karl Marx.
In 1898, he joined a revolutionary group based on the ideas of Marx. A year later, he lost his interest in the seminary, and then focused all of his energy on the revolutionary movement against the Russian monarchy (Knight 1). Stalin spread revolutionary propaganda with zeal, moved to Batum, and organized a demonstration in 1902. Russian police caught up with Stalin and arrested him. Within a year, he was exiled to Siberia but escaped in 1904.
On his return, he discovered that the Russian Social Democratic Party had divided into the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks wanted the party to be more exclusive and only accept the most loyal revolutionists while the Mensheviks wanted a party open to a wide range of people. Stalin was attracted to the military-like Bolsheviks that were being led by Vladimar Lenin, whom Stalin was also drawn to.
In 1908, Stalin was again arrested and exiled for illegal revolutionary activities. This was a frequent occurrence during 1906 to 1913. He was arrested eight times and escaped six of those times. It was also during this period, in 1910, that he acquired the name, Stalin, meaning “man of steel.”
In 1913, under the aid and promoting of Lenin, he wrote “Marxism and the National Question,” his most important work. This, along with other acts of revolution caused him to be arrested and exiled for the last time and remained so for three years. He was released upon the Russian Revolution of February, the overthrowing of the monarchy. He then carried on an editorship for a Bolshevik newspaper. At this time, Lenin criticized Stalin for not completely opposing the temporary government set up after the Revolution.
In October of 1917, there was a Bolshevik Revolution in which the Bolsheviks obtained ultimate power. Stalin’s role was not an important one in the overthrow but he became an important player in the new government. He became the Commissariat for Nationality Affairs. A commissariat is a Communist party official assigned to a military unit to teach and enforce party principles. This position gave Stalin vital significance at a time when the Bolsheviks were trying to keep areas of the Russian Empire (Knight 1), helping the Bolsheviks grasp victory in the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). In 1922, Stalin was elected general secretary. This gave him a stronghold on political affairs. He began quiet planning and serious conflict arose between Stalin and his mentor, Lenin. Lenin, who was dying, voiced that Stalin should be removed from his position.
When Lenin died in 1929, the Bolsheviks embraced Stalin, paying little attention to the warnings of Lenin. He used his newly found power and depleted any rivals and became dictator in 1929.
Stalin established the Five-Year Plan at this time. This was aimed at rapid industrialization of Russia and the collectivization of farming. Farming production, including the mechanizing aspect, was fully focused on by Russian leaders instead of the production of household goods and clothing. Individually owned farms went against a chief principle of Communism; especially that all means of production be transferred to public ownership (Ebenstein, Fogelman 26).
Collectivization caused immense problems for Russia socially and economically. Farmers strongly opposed this plan and Stalin punished their opposition by sending them and their families into exile. During the early 1930s, Stalin activated an astounding elimination, or purge of Bolsheviks associated with Lenin, as he had become extremely paranoid of conspiracies being planned against him after the suicide of his second wife.
By 1936, thousands of party members were arrested and even executed. In the years 1937 and 1938, the purge spread all over Russia and it is estimated that 1.5 to 7 million people were executed or arrested during this time. Stalin had set up a police system so much more horrible than that of the past czars. Many were also forced to work in labor camps. By the time Stalin “decided to cooperate with the German dictator Adolf Hitler in 1939, there was no one left to oppose his policies” (”Joseph Stalin” 648c). The two dictators became partners in crime and agreed to divide Poland for themselves. The Soviet Union also secured Finland after a struggle and obtained a lot of the country.
Through this examination of Stalin’s rise to power and most importantly, his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, one can see why Americans had such a grave suspicion and fear of Communists by the display seen through the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin and his ruthless plans for rapid industrialization that virtually stripped his country and lead them into the dark hole of poverty.