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Joseph Stalin

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Joseph Stalin
Иосиф Сталин (Russian)
იოსებ სტალინი (Georgian)
Stalin in 1943
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
3 April 1922 – 16 October 1952
Preceded by Vyacheslav Molotov
(as Responsible Secretary)
Succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev
(as First Secretary)
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
In office
6 May 1941 – 5 March 1953
First Deputies Nikolai Voznesensky
Vyacheslav Molotov
Nikolai Bulganin
Preceded by Vyacheslav Molotov
Succeeded by Georgy Malenkov
Personal details
Born Ioseb Jughashvili
(1878-12-18)18 December 1878
Gori, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 5 March 1953(1953-03-05) (aged 74)
Kuntsevo Dacha, Kuntsevo, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Resting place Lenin's Mausoleum, Moscow (9 March 1953 – 31 October 1961)
Kremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow (from 31 October 1961)
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s) Ekaterine Svanidze
Nadezhda Alliluyeva
Children Yakov Dzhugashvili
Vasily Dzhugashvili
Svetlana Alliluyeva
Parents Besarion Jughashvili and Ekaterine Geladze
Military service
Nickname(s) Koba
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Armed Forces
Years of service 1943–53
Rank Marshal of the Soviet Union (1943–45)
Generalissimus of the Soviet Union (1945–53)
Commands All (supreme commander)
Battles/wars World War II

Leader of the Soviet Union

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin[a] (18 December 1878[2] – 5 March 1953) was a Georgian-born Soviet revolutionary and political leader. He governed the Soviet Union as dictator from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953, serving as Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1953 and as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. Ideologically a Marxist and a Leninist, he helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism while his own policies and theories became known as Stalinism.

Born to a poor family in Gori, Russian Empire, as a youth Stalin joined the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He edited the party newspaper Pravda and raised funds for Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik faction via robberies, kidnappings and protection rackets. Repeatedly arrested, he underwent several internal exiles. After the Bolsheviks gained power in the October Revolution of 1917 and established a one-party state, Stalin sat on the governing Politburo during the Russian Civil War and helped form the Soviet Union in 1922. Despite Lenin's objections, Stalin consolidated power and a cult of personality developed around him. During Stalin's tenure, the concept of "Socialism in One Country" became a central tenet of Soviet society, and Lenin's New Economic Policy was replaced with a centralised command economy, industrialisation and collectivisation. These rapidly transformed the country from an agrarian society into an industrial power, but disrupted food production and contributed to the famine of 1933–34. Between 1934 and 1939, Stalin organised the "Great Purge", in which millions of so-called "enemies of the working class", including senior political and military figures, were interned in Gulag-run prisons, exiled or executed.

Stalin's government promoted Marxism–Leninism through the Communist International and supported anti-fascist movements throughout Europe in the 1930s, including during the Spanish Civil War. However, in 1939 they signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, resulting in their joint invasion of Poland. Germany ended the pact by invading the Soviet Union in 1941. Despite initial setbacks, the Soviet Red Army halted the German incursion and captured Berlin in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe. The Soviet Union annexed the Baltic states and supported the establishment of pro-Soviet Marxist governments throughout Eastern Europe and in China, North Korea and North Vietnam. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as the two world superpowers, and a period of tensions began between the Soviet-backed Eastern Bloc and U.S.-backed Western Bloc known as the Cold War. Stalin led his country through its post-war reconstruction, during which it developed a nuclear weapon and initiated major construction and land development projects in response to another major famine. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced his predecessor and initiated a de-Stalinisation process throughout Soviet society.

Stalin is widely considered one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. Stalinism influenced Marxist–Leninist groups and governments across the world, for whom Stalin was a champion of socialism and the working class. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Stalin has retained popularity in Russia and Georgia as an effective wartime leader who established the Soviet Union as a major world power. Conversely, his autocratic government has been widely denounced for overseeing mass repressions, hundreds of thousands of executions and millions of deaths through famines and labour camps.


Early life

Childhood: 1878–1899

Stalin in 1894, at the age of 15

Stalin was born Ioseb Jughashvili in Gori,[3] on 18 December [O.S. 6 December] 1878.[4] He was the son of Besarion Jughashvili and Ekaterina "Keke" Geladze;[5] they had married in May 1872,[6] and had lost two sons in infancy prior to Stalin's birth.[7] They were ethnically Georgian and Stalin grew up speaking the Georgian language.[8] His surname may possibly be of non-Georgian origin.[9] His paternal grandfather was possibly of Ossetian ancestry.[10] Gori was then part of the Russian Empire, and was home to a population of 20,000, the majority of whom were Georgian but with Armenian, Russian, and Jewish minorities.[11] Stalin was baptised on 17 December.[12] He earned the childhood nickname of Soso, a diminutive of Iosif (Joseph).[13] Beso was a cobbler,[14] and in the early years of their marriage, the couple prospered.[15] However, he did not adapt to changing footwear fashions, and his business began to fail.[16] The family soon found themselves living in poverty,[17] moving through nine different rented rooms in ten years.[18] Given this situation, the historian Robert Conquest later suggested that Stalin's class background was "uncertain and indeterminate".[19]

Beso was also an alcoholic,[20] and drunkenly beat his wife and son.[21] To escape the abusive relationship, Keke took Stalin and moved into the house of a family friend, Father Christopher Charkviani.[22] She worked as a house cleaner and launderer for several local families who were sympathetic to her plight.[23] Keke was determined to send her son to school, something that none of the family had previously achieved.[24] In late 1888, when Stalin was ten, he enrolled at the Gori Church School.[25] This was normally reserved for the children of clergy, although Charkviani ensured that Stalin received a place.[26] Stalin excelled academically,[27] displaying talent in painting and drama classes,[28] writing his own poetry,[29] and singing as a choirboy.[30] He got into many fights,[31] and a childhood friend later noted that Stalin "was the best but also the naughtiest pupil" in the class.[32] Stalin faced several severe health problems; in 1884, he contracted smallpox and was left with facial pock scars.[33] Aged 12, he was seriously injured after being hit by a phaeton; the accident resulted in a lifelong disability to his left arm.[34]

Stalin came under the influence of Karl Marx.

At his teachers' recommendation, Stalin proceeded to the Spiritual Seminary in Tiflis.[35] He enrolled at the school in August 1894,[36] enabled by a scholarship that allowed him to study at a reduced rate.[37] Here he joined 600 trainee priests who boarded at the seminary.[38] Stalin was again academically successful and gained high grades.[39] He continued writing poetry; five of his poems were published under the pseudonym of "Soselo" in Ilia Chavchavadze's newspaper Iveria ("Georgia").[40] Thematically, they dealt with topics like nature, land, and patriotism.[41] According to Stalin's biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore, they became "minor Georgian classics",[42] and were included in various anthologies of Georgian poetry over the coming years.[42] As he grew older, Stalin lost interest in his studies; his grades dropped,[43] and he was repeatedly confined to a cell for his rebellious behaviour.[44] Teachers complained that he declared himself an atheist, chatted in class, and refused to doff his hat to monks.[45]

He had joined a forbidden book club active at the school,[46] and was particularly influenced by Nikolay Chernyshevsky's 1863 pro-revolutionary novel What Is To Be Done?.[47] Another influential text was Alexander Kazbegi's The Patricide, with Stalin adopting the nickname "Koba" from that of the book's bandit protagonist.[48] He also read Capital, the 1867 book by German sociological theorist Karl Marx.[49] Stalin devoted himself to Marx's socio-political theory, Marxism,[50] which was then on the rise in Georgia, one of various forms of socialism opposed to the governing Tsarist authorities.[51] At night, he attended secret workers' meetings,[52] and was introduced to Silibistro "Silva" Jibladze, the Marxist founder of Mesame Dasi ('Third Group'), a Georgian socialist group.[53] In April 1899, Stalin left the seminary and never returned,[54] although the school encouraged him to come back.[55]

Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party: 1899–1904

Stalin in 1902

In October 1899, Stalin began work as a meteorologist at a Tiflis observatory,[56] a position that allowed him to read while on duty.[57] Stalin gave classes in socialist theory and attracted a group of radical young men around him.[58] He co-organised a secret mass meeting for May Day 1900,[59] at which he successfully encouraged many of the men to take strike action.[60] By this point, the Tsarist secret police—the Okhrana—were aware of Stalin's activities within Tiflis' revolutionary milieu.[60] They attempted to arrest him in March 1901, but he escaped and went into hiding,[61] living off the donations of friends and sympathisers.[62] Remaining underground, he helped to plan a demonstration for May Day 1901, in which 3000 marchers clashed with the authorities.[63] He continued to evade arrest by using aliases and sleeping in different apartments.[64] In November 1901, he was elected to the Tiflis Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), a Marxist party founded in 1898.[65]

That month he travelled to the port city of Batumi.[66] His militant rhetoric proved divisive among the city's Marxists, with some suspecting that he might be an agent provocateur.[67] He found employment at the Rothschild refinery storehouse. There he helped organise two workers' strikes.[68] After several strike leaders were arrested, he co-organised a mass public demonstration against the arrests that led to the storming of the prison; troops fired upon the demonstrators, 13 of whom were killed.[69] Stalin organised a second mass demonstration on the day of their funeral,[70] before being arrested in April 1902.[71] He was initially held at Batumi Prison,[72] and later moved to the more secure Kutaisi Prison.[73] In mid-1903, Stalin was sentenced to three years of exile in eastern Siberia.[74]

Stalin left Batumi in October, arriving at the small Siberian town of Novaya Uda in late November.[75] There, he lived in the two-room house of a local peasant, sleeping in the building's larder.[76] Stalin made several escape attempts; on the first he made it to Balagansk before returning due to frostbite.[77] His second attempt was successful and he made it to Tiflis.[78] Here, he co-edited a Georgian Marxist newspaper, Proletariatis Brdzola ("Proletarian Struggle"), with Philip Makharadze.[79] His calls for a separate Georgian Marxist movement resulted in several RSDLP members calling for his expulsion, claiming that his views were contrary to Marxist internationalism.[80] Under Mikha Tskhakaya's influence, Stalin renounced these views.[81] During his exile, the RSDLP had split between Vladimir Lenin's Bolsheviks and Julius Martov's Mensheviks.[82] Stalin now aligned with the Bolsheviks, growing to detest many of the Georgian Mensheviks.[83] Although Stalin established a Bolshevik stronghold in the mining town of Chiatura,[84] Bolshevism remained a minority force in the Menshevik-dominated Georgian revolutionary scene.[85]

The Revolution of 1905 and its aftermath: 1905–1912

In January 1905, government troops massacred protesters in St Petersburg.[86] Unrest soon spread across the Russian Empire in what came to be known as the Revolution of 1905.[86] Georgia was one of the regions particularly affected.[87] In February, Stalin was in Baku when ethnic violence broke out between Armenians and Azeris; at least 2000 were killed.[88] Stalin publicly lambasted the "pogroms against Jews and Armenians" as being part of Tsar Nicholas II's attempts to "buttress his despicable throne".[89] He formed a Bolshevik Battle Squad which he used to try and keep Baku's warring ethnic factions apart, also using the unrest to steal printing equipment.[89] Amid the growing violence throughout Georgia, Stalin formed further Battle Squads, with the Mensheviks doing the same.[90] Stalin's Squads disarmed local police and troops,[91] raided government arsenals,[92] and raised funds through protection rackets on large local businesses and mines.[93] They launched attacks on the government's Cossack troops and pro-Tsarist Black Hundreds,[94] co-ordinating some of their operations with the Menshevik militia.[95]

Stalin first met Vladimir Lenin (pictured) at a 1905 conference in Tammerfors

In November 1905, the Georgian Bolsheviks elected Stalin as one of their delegates to a Bolshevik conference in St. Petersburg.[96] On arrival, he met Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, who informed them that the venue had been moved to Tammerfors in the Grand Duchy of Finland.[97] At the conference Stalin met Lenin for the first time.[98] Although Stalin held Lenin in deep respect, he was vocal in his disagreement with Lenin's view that the Bolsheviks should field candidates for the forthcoming election to the State Duma; Stalin saw the parliamentary process as a waste of time.[99] In April 1906, Stalin attended the RSDLP Fourth Congress in Stockholm; this was his first trip outside the Russian Empire.[100] At the conference, the RSDLP—then led by its Menshevik majority—agreed that it would not raise funds using armed robbery.[101] Lenin and Stalin disagreed with this decision,[102] and later privately discussed how they could continue the robberies for the Bolshevik cause.[103]

Stalin married Kato Svanidze in a church ceremony at Tskhakaya in July 1906.[104] In March 1907 she bore a son, Yakov.[105] By that year—according to the historian Robert Service—Stalin had established himself as "Georgia's leading Bolshevik".[106] He attended the Fifth RSDLP Congress, held in London in May–June 1907.[107] After returning to Tiflis, Stalin organized the robbing of a large delivery of money to the Imperial Bank in June 1907. His gang ambushed the armed convoy in Yerevan Square with gunfire and home-made bombs. Around 40 people were killed, but all of his gang escaped alive.[108]

After the heist, Stalin settled in Baku with his wife and son.[109] There, Mensheviks confronted Stalin about the robbery and voted to expel him from the RSDLP, but he took no notice of them.[110] In Baku, Stalin secured Bolshevik domination of the local RSDLP branch,[111] and edited two Bolshevik newspapers, Bakinsky Proletary and Gudok ("Whistle").[112] In August 1907, he attended the Seventh Congress of the Second International in Stuttgard, Germany.[113] In November 1907, his wife died of typhus,[114] and he left his son with her family in Tiflis.[115] In Baku he had reassembled his gang, the Outfit,[116] which continued to attack Black Hundreds, and raised finances by running protection rackets, counterfeiting currency, and carrying out robberies.[117] They also kidnapped the children of several wealthy figures in order to extract ransom money.[118] In early 1908, he travelled to the Swiss city of Geneva to meet with Lenin and the prominent Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, who exasperated him.[119]

In March 1908, Stalin was arrested and interred in Bailov Prison,[120] where he led the imprisoned Bolsheviks, organised discussion groups, and ordered the killing of suspected informants.[121] He was eventually sentenced to two years exile in the village of Solvychegodsk, Vologda Province, arriving there in February 1909.[122] In June, he escaped the village and made it to Kotlas disguised as a woman, and from there to St Petersburg.[123] In March 1910, he was arrested again,[124] and sent back to Solvychegodsk.[125] There he had affairs with at least two women; his landlady, Maria Kuzakova, later gave birth to his second son, Konstantin.[126] In June 1911, Stalin was given permission to move to Vologda, where he stayed for two months.[127] There, he had a relationship with Pelageya Onufrieva.[128] He proceeded to St Petersburg,[129] where he was arrested in September 1911,[130] and sentenced to a further three-year exile in Vologda.[130]

Editing Pravda and the Central Committee: 1912–1917

Stalin in 1911 mugshots taken by the Tsarist secret police.

The first Bolshevik Central Committee had been elected at the Prague Conference, after which Lenin and Grigory Zinoviev invited Stalin to join it.[131] Still in Vologda, Stalin agreed, remaining a Central Committee member for the rest of his life.[132] Lenin believed that Stalin would be useful in helping to secure support for the Bolsheviks from the Empire's minority ethnicities.[132] In February 1912, Stalin escaped to St Petersburg,[133] tasked with converting the Bolshevik weekly newspaper, Zvezda ("Star") into a daily, Pravda ("Truth").[134] The new newspaper was launched in April 1912,[135] although Stalin's role as editor was kept secret.[135] In May 1912, he was arrested again and imprisoned in the Shpalerhy Prison; in July he was sentenced to three years exile in Siberia.[136] In July he arrived at the Siberian village of Narym,[137] where he shared a room with fellow Bolshevik Yakov Sverdlov.[138] After two months, Stalin and Sverdlov escaped back to St Petersburg.[139]

During a brief period back in Tiflis, Stalin and the Outfit planned the ambush of a mail coach, during which most of the group—although not Stalin—were apprehended by the authorities.[140] Stalin returned to St Petersburg, where he continued editing and writing articles for Pravda.[141] After the October 1912 Duma elections resulted in six Bolsheviks and six Mensheviks being elected, Stalin wrote articles calling for reconciliation between the two Marxist factions,[142] for which he was criticised by Lenin.[142] In late 1912, he twice crossed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire to visit Lenin in Krakow,[143] eventually bowing to Lenin's views on reunification with the Mensheviks.[144]

In January 1913, Stalin travelled to Vienna,[145] there focusing his attention on the 'national question' of how the Bolsheviks should deal with the Russian Empire's national and ethnic minorities.[146] Lenin wanted to attract these groups to the Bolshevik cause by offering them the right of secession from the Russian state; at the same time, he hoped that they would remain part of a future Bolshevik-governed Russia.[147] Stalin's finished article was titled Marxism and the National Question;[148] Lenin was very happy with it.[149] According to Montefiore, this was "Stalin's most famous work".[147] The article was published under the pseudonym of "K. Stalin",[149] a name he had been using since 1912.[150] This name derived from the Russian language word for steel (stal),[151] and has been translated as "Man of Steel".[152] Stalin possibly retained this name for the rest of his life because it had been used on the article which established his reputation among the Bolsheviks.[153]

In February 1913, Stalin was arrested while back in St. Petersburg.[154] He was sentenced to four years exile in Turukhansk, a remote part of Siberia from which escape was particularly difficult.[155] In August, he arrived in the village of Monastyrskoe, although after four weeks was relocated to the hamlet of Kostino.[156] In March 1914, concerned over a potential escape attempt, the authorities then moved Stalin to the hamlet of Kureika on the edge of the Arctic Circle.[157] In the hamlet, Stalin had an affair with Lidia Pereprygia, who was thirteen at the time, and thus a year under the legal age of consent in Tsarist Russia.[158] Circa December 1914, Pereprygia gave birth to Stalin's child, although the infant soon died.[159] She gave birth to another of his children, Alexander, circa April 1917.[160] In Kureika, Stalin lived closely with the indigenous Tunguses and Ostyak,[161] and spent much of his time fishing.[162]

The Russian Revolution: 1917

While Stalin was in exile, Russia entered the First World War, and in October 1916 Stalin and other exiled Bolsheviks were conscripted, leaving for Monastyrkoe.[163] They arrived in Krasnoyarsk in February 1917,[164] where a medical examiner ruled him unfit for military service due to his crippled arm.[165] Stalin was required to serve four more months on his exile, and he successfully requested that he be allowed to serve it in nearby Achinsk.[165] Stalin was in the city when the February Revolution took place; uprisings broke out in Petrograd—as St Petersburg had been renamed—and the Tsar abdicated, to be replaced by a Provisional Government.[166] In March, Stalin travelled by train to Petrograd.[167] There, Stalin and Lev Kamenev assumed control of Pravda,[168] and Stalin was appointed the Bolshevik representative to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet.[169] In April, Stalin came third in the Bolshevik elections for the party's Central Committee; Lenin came first and Zinoviev came second.[170] This reflected his senior standing in the party at the time.[171]

The existing government of landlords and capitalists must be replaced by a new government, a government of workers and peasants.
The existing pseudo-government which was not elected by the people and which is not accountable to the people must be replaced by a government recognised by the people, elected by representatives of the workers, soldiers and peasants and held accountable to their representatives.
—Stalin's editorial, October 1917[172]

Stalin helped to organise the July Days uprising, an armed display of strength by Bolshevik supporters.[173] After the armed demonstration was suppressed, the Provisional Government initiated a crackdown on the Bolsheviks, raiding Pravda.[23] During this raid, Stalin smuggled Lenin out of the newspaper's office and subsequently took charge of the Bolshevik leader's safety, moving him between Petrograd safe houses before smuggling him to Razliv.[174] In Lenin's absence, Stalin continued editing Pravda and served as acting leader of the Bolsheviks, overseeing the party's Sixth Congress, which was held covertly.[175] Lenin began calling for the Bolsheviks to seize power by toppling the Provisional Government in a coup. Stalin and Leon Trotsky both endorsed Lenin's plan of action, but it was opposed by Kamenev and other Bolsheviks.[176] Lenin returned to Petrograd and at a meeting of the Central Committee on 10 October, he secured a majority in favour of a coup.[177]

On 24 October, police raided the Bolshevik newspaper offices, smashing machinery and presses; Stalin managed to salvage some of this equipment in order to continue his activities.[178] In the early hours of 25 October, Stalin joined Lenin in a Central Committee meeting in the Smolny Institute, from where the Bolshevik coup—the October Revolution—was directed.[179] Bolshevik militia seized Petrograd's electric power station, main post office, state bank, telephone exchange, and several bridges.[180] A Bolshevik-controlled ship, the Aurora, opened fire on the Winter Palace; the Provisional Government's assembled delegates surrendered and were arrested by the Bolsheviks.[181] Although he had been tasked with briefing the Bolshevik delegates of the Second Congress of Soviets about the developing situation,[182] Stalin's role in the coup had not been publicly visible.[183] Trotsky and other later Bolshevik opponents of Stalin used this as evidence that his role in the coup had been insignificant, although several historians reject this.[184] According to the historian Oleg Khlevniuk, Stalin "filled an important role [in the October Revolution]... as a senior Bolshevik, member of the party's Central Committee, and editor of its main newspaper".[185]

In Lenin's government

Consolidating power: 1917–1918

On 26 October, Lenin formed a new government, the Council of People's Commissars ("Sovnarkom"),[186] which he led as Chairman.[187] Stalin was among the Bolsheviks who backed Lenin's decision not to form a coalition with the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionary Party, although they did form a coalition government with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries.[188] Stalin was soon part of an informal foursome leading the government, alongside Lenin, Trotsky, and Sverdlov; of these, Sverdlov was regularly absent.[189] Stalin's office was based near to Lenin's in the Smolny Institute,[189] and he and Trotsky were the only individuals allowed access to Lenin's study without an appointment.[190] Although not so publicly well known as Lenin or Trotsky,[191] Stalin's importance among the Bolsheviks grew.[192] He co-signed Lenin's decrees shutting down hostile newspapers,[193] and with Sverdlov chaired the sessions of the committee drafting a constitution for the new Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.[194] He strongly supported Lenin's formation of the Cheka security service and the subsequent Red Terror that it initiated; noting that state violence had proved an effective tool for capitalist powers, he believed that it would prove the same for the Soviet government.[195] Unlike senior Bolsheviks like Kamenev and Bukharin, Stalin never expressed concern about the rapid growth and expansion of the Cheka and Terror.[195]

Having dropped his editorship of Pravda,[196] Stalin was appointed as the People's Commissar for Nationalities.[197] In November, Stalin signed the Decree on Nationality, according ethnic and national minorities living in Russia the right of secession and self-determination.[189] The purpose of this decree was primarily strategic, designed to woo the support of ethnic minorities for the Bolshevik cause; the Bolsheviks hoped that the minorities would not actually desire independence.[198] That month, he travelled to Helsinki to talk with the Finnish Social-Democrats, to whom he promised independence, which was then granted in December.[198] His department allocated funds for the establishment of presses and schools in the languages of various ethnic minorities.[199] Socialist Revolutionaries accused Stalin of using talk of federalism and national self-determination as a front for centralising and imperialist policies.[194]

As a result of the ongoing conflict with the Central Powers, Lenin's government relocated from Petrograd to Moscow in March 1918.[200] Stalin brought Nadezhda Alliluyeva with him as his secretary;[201] he had been a longstanding friend of her parents.[202] At some point, the couple married, although the exact date is unknown.[203] Lenin wanted to sign an armistice with the Central Powers regardless of the cost in territory, and was supported in this by Stalin.[204] Stalin thought it necessary because he was unconvinced that Europe itself was on the verge of proletariat revolution, a view that irked Lenin.[205] Lenin eventually convinced the other senior Bolsheviks of this, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.[206] The treaty gave vast areas of land and resources to the Central Powers and angered many in Russia; the Left Socialist Revolutionaries abandoned the coalition government over the issue.[207]

Military Command: 1918–1921

After the Bolsheviks seized power, both right and left-wing armies rallied against them, generating the Russian Civil War.[208] To secure access to the dwindling food supply, in May 1918 Sovnarkom sent Stalin to Tsaritsyn to take charge of food procurement in southern Russia.[209] Eager to prove himself as a commander,[210] once there he took control of regional military operations.[211] He befriended two military figures, Kliment Voroshilov and Semyon Budyonny, who would form the nucleus of his military and political support base.[212] Believing that victory was assured by numerical superiority, he sent large numbers of Red Army troops into battle against the region's anti-Bolshevik White armies, resulting in heavy losses; Lenin was concerned by this costly tactic.[213] In Tsaritsyn, Stalin executed suspected counter-revolutionaries,[214] and—in contravention of government orders—purged the military and food collection agencies of middle-class specialists, some of whom he also executed.[215] His use of state violence and terror was at a greater scale than most Bolshevik leaders approved of.[216] For instance, he ordered several villages to be torched to ensure compliance with his food procurement program.[217]

Joseph Stalin, Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin meeting in 1919. All three of them were "Old Bolsheviks"—members of the Bolshevik party before the Russian Revolution of 1917.

In December 1918, Stalin was sent to Perm to lead an inquiry into how the Red Army forces based there had been decimated by an attack by Alexander Kolchak's White forces.[218] He returned to Moscow between January and March 1919,[219] before being assigned to the Western Front at Petrograd.[220] When the Third Regiment defected, he ordered any captured defectors to be publicly shot.[219] In September he was returned to the Southern Front.[219] During the war, he proved his worth to the Central Committee, displaying decisiveness, determination, and a willingness to take on responsibility in conflict situations.[210] At the same time, he disregarded orders and when affronted he repeatedly threatened to resign, forcing Lenin to convince him to reconsider.[221] In November 1919, the government awarded him the Order of the Red Banner for his service in the war.[222]

The civil war was over by the end of 1919, having resulted in a Bolshevik victory.[223] Sovnarkom turned its attention to spreading socialist revolution abroad, to this end forming the Communist International in March 1919.[223] Although Stalin did not share Lenin's belief that the European proletariat were on the verge of revolution, he acknowledged that as long as it remained alone, Soviet Russia remained vulnerable.[224] In December 1918, Stalin had drawn up decrees recognising Soviet republics in Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia,[225] however these Communist governments had been overthrown and the Baltic countries became fully independent, an act which he regarded as illegitimate.[226] In February 1920, Stalin was appointed to head the Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate;[227] that same month he was also transferred to the Caucasian Front.[228]

Following earlier clashes between Polish and Russian troops, the Polish–Soviet War broke out in the spring of 1920.[224] Stalin was moved to Ukraine, on the Southwest Front.[228] The Red Army forced the Polish troops back into Poland.[229] Lenin believed that the Polish proletariat would rise up to support the Russians against their own government. Stalin had cautioned against this; he believed that nationalism would lead the Polish working-classes to support their government's war effort. He also believed that the Red Army was ill-prepared to conduct an offensive war and that it would give White Armies a chance to resurface in Crimea, potentially reigniting the civil war.[230] Stalin lost the argument, after which he accepted Lenin's decision and supported it.[228] Along the Southwest Front, he became determined to conquer Lwów; in focusing on this goal he disobeyed orders to transfer his troops to assist Mikhail Tukhachevsky's forces.[231] In August, the Poles repulsed the Russian advance and Stalin returned to Moscow.[232] A peace treaty between the two countries was signed, for which Stalin blamed Trotsky.[233] Stalin felt resentful and under-appreciated; he was angry at how the war had been run and in September demanded demission from the military, which was granted.[234] At the 9th Bolshevik Conference, Stalin was accused of insubordination and military incompetence during the war with Poland, with Trotsky accusing him of making "strategic mistakes".[235][236]

Lenin's final years: 1921–1922

Stalin is too crude, and this defect which is entirely acceptable in our milieu and in relationships among us as communists, becomes unacceptable in the position of General Secretary. I therefore propose to comrades that they should devise a means of removing him from this job and should appoint to this job someone else who is distinguished from comrade Stalin in all other respects only by the single superior aspect that he should be more tolerant, more polite and more attentive towards comrades, less capricious, etc.
Lenin, 4 January 1923[237]

Stalin believed that each nation and ethnic group should have the right to self-expression,[238] facilitating this through "autonomous republics" within the Russian state in which ethnic minorities could oversee various regional affairs.[239] Some Communists accused him of bending too much to "petit-bourgeois" nationalisms, while others accused him of remaining too Russocentric by seeking to maintain these nations within the Russian state.[238] Stalin's native Caucasus posed a particular problem due to its highly multi-cultural mix.[240] Stalin opposed the idea of separate Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani autonomous republics, arguing that it would lead to ethnic oppression; instead he called for the formation of a Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.[241] The Georgian Communist Party opposed the idea, resulting in the Georgian Affair.[242] In the summer of 1921, he returned to the southern Caucasus, there calling on Georgian Communists to avoid the chauvinistic Georgian nationalism which he believed marginalised the Abkhazian, Ossetian, and Adjarian minorities.[243]

After the civil war, workers' strikes and peasant uprisings broke out across Russia, often criticising Sovnarkom's food requisitioning project; as an antidote, Lenin introduced a level of market-oriented reform as the New Economic Policy (NEP).[244] There was also internal turmoil in the Communist Party, as Trotsky led a faction calling for the abolition of trade unions; Lenin opposed this and Stalin helped him to drum up support against Trotsky's position.[245] Stalin also agreed to supervise the Department of Agitation and Propaganda in the Central Committee Secretariat.[246] At the 11th Party Congress in 1922, Lenin nominated Stalin as the party's new General Secretary.[247] Although concerns were expressed that adopting this new post on top of his others would give him too much power and would overstretch his workload, he was appointed to the position.[248] For Lenin, it was advantageous to have one of his allies in a post crucial for the maintenance of his policies.[249]

In May 1922, Lenin had a massive stroke and was partially paralysed.[250] Residing at his Gorki dacha, Lenin's main connection to Sovnarkom was through Stalin, who was a regular visitor.[251] Lenin twice asked Stalin to procure poison so that he may commit suicide, but Stalin never did so.[252] Despite this comradeship, they were not friends; Lenin disliked what he referred to as Stalin's "Asiatic" manner, and told his sister Maria that Stalin was "not intelligent".[251] Lenin and Stalin argued on the issue of foreign trade; Lenin argued that the Soviet state should have a monopoly on foreign trade, but Stalin supported Grigori Sokolnikov's view that doing so was impractical at that stage.[253] Another disagreement came over the Georgian Affair, with Lenin backing the Georgian Central Committee's desire for a Georgian Soviet Republic over Stalin's idea of a Transcaucasian one.[254] They also disagreed on the nature of a Soviet state. Lenin called for the country to be renamed the "Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia", reflecting his desire for expansion across the two continents. Stalin believed that his would result in growing independence sentiment, instead arguing that ethnic minorities would be content as "autonomous republics" within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.[255] Lenin accused Stalin of "Great Russian chauvinism"; Stalin accused Lenin of "liberalism".[254] A compromise was reached, in which the country would be renamed the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" (USSR).[254] The USSR's formation was ratified in December 1922; although officially a federal system, all major decisions were taken by the Politburo in Moscow.[256]

Lenin dictated increasingly disparaging notes on Stalin in what would become his testament. He criticized Stalin's political views, rude manners, and excessive power and ambition, and suggested that Stalin should be removed from the position of general secretary.[257] During Lenin's semi-retirement, Stalin forged an alliance with Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev against Trotsky. These allies prevented Lenin's Testament from being revealed to the Twelfth Party Congress in April 1923[257] (after Lenin's death the testament was read to selected groups of deputies to the Thirteenth Party Congress in May 1924 but it was forbidden to be mentioned at the plenary assemblies or any documents of the Congress[258]).

In 1924, Georgian nationalists aimed to restore Georgia independence in the August Uprising which was mercilessly suppressed by the Red Army under the orders of the native Georgians Stalin and Sergo Ordzhonikidze.[259]

Rise to power

Anastas Mikoyan, Stalin and Sergo Ordzhonikidze in Tiflis (now Tbilisi), in 1925

Lenin died of a stroke in January 1924.[260] Against the wishes of Lenin's widow, Stalin ordered the embalming of the deceased leader, using the corpse as part of a state-sanctioned personality cult devoted to him.[260] Following Lenin's death, a power struggle began, which involved the following seven Politburo members: Nikolai Bukharin, Lev Kamenev, Alexei Rykov, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Tomsky, Leon Trotsky, and Grigory Zinoviev. [261] Stalin saw Trotsky as the main obstacle to his rise to power.[190]

Again, Kamenev and Zinoviev helped to keep Lenin's Testament from going public. Thereafter, Stalin's disputes with Kamenev and Zinoviev intensified. Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev grew increasingly isolated, and were eventually ejected from the Central Committee and then from the Party itself.[257] Kamenev and Zinoviev were later readmitted, but Trotsky was exiled from the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

The Northern Expedition in China became a point of contention over foreign policy by Stalin and Trotsky. Stalin wanted the Communist Party of China to ally itself with the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), rather than attempt to implement a communist revolution. Trotsky urged the party to oppose the Kuomintang and launch a full-scale revolution. Stalin funded the KMT during the expedition.[262] Stalin countered Trotsky's criticisms by making a secret speech in which he said that the KMT were the only ones capable of defeating the imperialists, that Chiang Kai-shek had funding from the rich merchants, and that his forces were to be utilized until squeezed for all usefulness like a lemon before being discarded.[263] However, Chiang quickly reversed the tables in the Shanghai massacre of 1927 by massacring the membership of the Communist party in Shanghai midway through the Northern Expedition.[264][265]

Stalin pushed for more rapid industrialization and central control of the economy, contravening Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP). At the end of 1927, a critical shortfall in grain supplies prompted Stalin to push for the collectivisation of agriculture and order the seizure of grain hoards from kulak farmers.[257][266] Nikolai Bukharin and Premier Alexey Rykov opposed these policies and advocated a return to the NEP, but the rest of the Politburo sided with Stalin and removed Bukharin from the Politburo in November 1929. Rykov was fired the following year and was replaced by Vyacheslav Molotov on Stalin's recommendation.[citation needed]

In December 1934, the popular Communist Party boss in Leningrad, Sergei Kirov, was murdered. Stalin blamed Kirov's murder on a vast conspiracy of saboteurs and Trotskyites. A massive purge was carried out against these internal enemies, putting them on rigged show trials and then having them executed or imprisoned in Siberian Gulags. Among these victims were old enemies, including Bukharin, Rykov, Kamenev and Zinoviev. Stalin made the loyal Nikolai Yezhov head of the secret police, the NKVD, and had him purge the NKVD of veteran Bolsheviks. With no serious opponents left in power, the purges were ended in 1938. Yezhov was held to blame for the excesses of the Great Terror. He was dismissed from office and later executed.[citation needed]

International Communism

After 1928, Stalin took an interest in international affairs through his control of the Comintern which gave him a powerful voice in policy making in Communist parties across the world, and made protection of the USSR the highest goal, putting the previous Leninist goal of world revolution on the back burner. In the 1920s he directed the other parties to focus on the fight against socialists.[267] He reversed this course in the 1930s and directed the parties to make a common cause on the left against fascism through the Popular front movements. He was particularly focused on the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Stalin dissolved the Comintern in 1943 as a wartime gesture to his non-Communist allies in the US and Britain.[268][269][page needed]

Changes to Soviet society, 1927–1939

Bolstering Soviet secret service and intelligence

The scope and power of the state's secret police and intelligence agencies vastly increased during Stalin's tenure. Soviet intelligence forces began to set up intelligence networks in most of the major nations of the world, including Germany (the famous Rote Kappelle spy ring), Great Britain, France, Japan, and the United States.[citation needed]

One of the most notable examples of Stalin's capability to integrate secret police and foreign espionage came in 1940, when he gave approval to the secret police to have Leon Trotsky assassinated in Mexico.[270]

Cult of personality

A cult of personality developed in the Soviet Union around both Stalin and Lenin. Many personality cults in history have been frequently measured and compared to his. Numerous towns, villages and cities were renamed after the Soviet leader (see List of places named after Stalin) and the Stalin Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize were named in his honor. He accepted grandiloquent titles (e.g., "Coryphaeus of Science," "Father of Nations," "Brilliant Genius of Humanity," "Great Architect of Communism," "Gardener of Human Happiness," and others), and Soviet history was rewritten to provide himself a more significant role in the revolution of 1917. At the same time, according to Nikita Khrushchev, he insisted that he be remembered for "the extraordinary modesty characteristic of truly great people."[271]

Stalin became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film that exhibited fawning devotion. Increasingly, portraits of Stalin erased his Georgian facial characteristics and depicted him as a generalized national hero. Only his eyes and famous moustache remained unaltered. Zhores and Roy Medvedev say his "majestic new image was devised appropriately to depict the leader of all times and of all peoples".[272] According to journalist David Remnick, Stalin had painters shot who didn't depict him as tall with powerful hands.[273]

In Soviet films, he was often played by Mikheil Gelovani and, less frequently, by Aleksei Dikiy. In 1944, Stalin's name was included in the new Soviet national anthem. He was sometimes credited with almost god-like qualities, including the suggestion that he single-handedly won the war. The cult of personality distorted and concealed many of the facts of Stalin's early life.[274]

The degree to which Stalin himself relished the cult surrounding him is debatable. The Finnish communist Arvo Tuominen records a sarcastic toast proposed by Stalin at a New Year's Party in 1935 in which he said "Comrades! I want to propose a toast to our Patriarch, life and sun, liberator of nations, architect of socialism [he rattled off all the appellations applied to him in those days] – Josef Vissarionovich Stalin, and I hope this is the first and last speech made to that genius this evening."[275]

In a 1956 speech, Nikita Khrushchev denounced the cult of personality surrounding Stalin with these words: "It is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god."[276] Khrushchev's speech and especially the confirmation reflected in the decisions of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1961 led to the destruction of thousands of monuments of Stalin not only in the Soviet Union but in many other Socialist countries in the following years. In November 1961, for example, the large Stalin Statue on Berlin's monumental Stalinallee (promptly renamed Karl-Marx-Allee) was removed in a clandestine operation.[citation needed]

Purges and deportations

Purges and executions

Left: Beria's January 1940 letter to Stalin asking permission to execute 346 "enemies of the CPSU and of the Soviet authorities" who conducted "counter-revolutionary, right-Trotskyite plotting and spying activities"
Middle: Stalin's handwriting: "за" (support).
Right: The Politburo's decision signed by Stalin

In the 1930s near-absolute power was consolidated by Stalin as head of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with a Great Purge of the party that was justified as an attempt to expel "opportunists" and "counter-revolutionary infiltrators".[277][278] Those targeted by the purge were often expelled from the party, however more severe measures ranged from banishment to the Gulag labor camps to execution after trials held by NKVD troikas.[277][279][280]

Stalin apparently had become increasingly worried about the growing popularity of the Leningrad party boss Sergey Kirov. At the 1934 Party Congress where the vote for the new Central Committee was held, Kirov received only three negative votes, the fewest of any candidate, while Stalin received over one hundred negative votes.[281][282] After the assassination of Kirov, which may have been orchestrated by Stalin, Stalin invented a detailed scheme to implicate opposition leaders in the murder, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev.[283] The investigations and trials expanded.[284] Stalin passed a new law on "terrorist organizations and terrorist acts" that were to be investigated for no more than ten days, with no prosecution, defense attorneys or appeals, followed by a sentence to be executed "quickly."[285]

Thereafter, several trials known as the Moscow Trials were held, but the procedures were replicated throughout the country. Article 58 of the legal code, which listed prohibited anti-Soviet activities as counterrevolutionary crime, was applied in the broadest manner.[286] Pretexts were often enough to brand someone an "enemy of the people", starting a cycle of public persecution and abuse, often proceeding to interrogation, torture and deportation, if not death. The Russian word troika gained a new meaning: a quick, simplified trial by a committee of three subordinated to NKVD—NKVD troika—with sentencing carried out within 24 hours.[285] Stalin's hand-picked executioner, Vasily Blokhin, was entrusted with carrying out some of the high-profile executions in this period.[287]

Nikolai Yezhov, walking with Stalin in the top photo from the 1930s, was killed in 1940. Following his execution, Yezhov was edited out of the photo by Soviet censors.[288] Such retouching was a common occurrence during the period of Stalin.

Many military leaders were convicted of treason and a large-scale purge of Red Army officers followed.[289][290] The repression of so many formerly high-ranking revolutionaries and party members led Leon Trotsky to claim that a "river of blood" separated the government of Stalin from that of Lenin.[291] In August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico, where he had lived in exile since January 1937; this eliminated the last of the opponents of Stalin among the former Party leadership.[292]

With the exception of Vladimir Milyutin (who died in prison in 1937) and Joseph Stalin himself, all of the members of Lenin's original cabinet who had not succumbed to death from natural causes before the purge were executed or assassinated. The purges even claimed Stalin's brothers-in-law Alexander Svanidze and Stanislav Redens.[293] When Georgy Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, asked him to intercede in some cases, Stalin replied, "What can I do for them, Georgy? All my own relatives are in prison too."[294] Stalin told Khrushchev, "They're gathering evidence against me, too," and a file on Stalin was found in Yezhov's safe after his arrest.[295] Stalin publicly distanced himself from the terror; for example, deploring the execution of theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold.[296]

Mass operations of the NKVD also targeted "national contingents" (foreign ethnicities) such as Poles, Germans, Koreans and other groups. A total of 350,000 (144,000 of them Poles) were arrested and 247,157 (110,000 Poles) were executed.[266] Many Americans who had emigrated to the Soviet Union during the worst of the Great Depression were executed; others were sent to gulags or prison.[297][298] Concurrent with the purges, efforts were made to rewrite the history in Soviet textbooks and other propaganda materials. Notable people executed by NKVD were removed from the texts and photographs as though they never existed. Gradually, the history of revolution was transformed to a story about just two key characters: Lenin and Stalin.

In light of revelations from Soviet archives, historians now estimate that nearly 700,000 people (353,074 in 1937 and 328,612 in 1938) were executed during this period,[299] with the great mass of victims being "ordinary" Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, musicians, soldiers, pensioners, ballerinas, and beggars.[300][301] Many of the executed were interred in mass graves, with some of the major killing and burial sites being Bykivnia, Kurapaty and Butovo.[302]

NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin and Lazar Kaganovich, 10 July 1935

Some experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete or unreliable.[303][304][305][306][307]

Stalin personally signed 357 proscription lists in 1937 and 1938 that condemned to execution some 40,000 people, and about 90% of these are confirmed to have been shot.[308] At the time, while reviewing one such list, Stalin reportedly muttered to no one in particular: "Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years' time? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one."[309] In addition, Stalin dispatched a contingent of NKVD operatives to Mongolia and established a Mongolian version of the NKVD troika, by which a purge was carried out in which tens of thousands were executed as "Japanese spies." Mongolian Prime Minister Khorloogiin Choibalsan followed the Soviet line.[310]

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Soviet leadership sent NKVD groups into other countries to execute defectors and other opponents of the Soviet government. Victims of these included Yevhen Konovalets, Ignace Poretsky, Rudolf Klement, Alexander Kutepov, Evgeny Miller, Leon Trotsky and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) leadership in Catalonia (e.g. Andreu Nin).[311]


Shortly before, during and immediately after World War II, a series of internal-population transfers were conducted on a huge scale that profoundly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union. It is estimated that between 1941 and 1949 nearly 3.3 million people [312][313] were deported to Siberia and the Central Asian republics. Rummel estimates up to 43% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.[314]

Separatism, resistance to the Soviet government and collaboration with the invading Germans were cited as the official reasons for the internal-population transfers, rightly or wrongly. Individual circumstances of those spending time in German-occupied territories were not examined. After the brief Nazi occupation of the Caucasus, the entire population of five of the small highland peoples and the Crimean Tatars – more than a million people in total – were deported without notice or any opportunity to take their possessions.[315]

Ethnic groups such as the Soviet Koreans, the Volga Germans, the Crimean Tatars, the Chechens, and many Poles were moved out of strategic areas and forcibly relocated to places in the central Soviet Union, especially Kazakhstan in Soviet Central Asia. By some estimates, hundreds of thousands of deportees may have died en route.[312]

According to official Soviet estimates, more than 14 million people passed through the Gulag from 1929 to 1953, with a further 7 to 8 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union (including entire nationalities in several cases).[316]

In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the deportations as a violation of Leninism and reversed some of them, although it was not until 1991 that Tatars, Meskhetians and Volga Germans were allowed to return en masse to their territories. The memory of the deportations has played a major part in the separatist movements in the Baltic states, Tatarstan and Chechnya.[317]


Children digging up frozen potatoes in the field of a collective farm, 1933

Collectivization of agriculture was carried out during the period of Stalin. This was intended to increase agricultural output from large-scale mechanized farms, to bring the peasantry under more direct political control, and to make tax collection more efficient. Collectivization brought social change on a scale not seen since the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and it alienated the peasantry's control of their land and its produce. The rapidity and scale of these changes also led to a drastic drop in the living standards of many peasants and some of them reacted violently to collectivization.[citation needed]

In the first years of collectivization it was estimated that industrial production would rise by 200% and agricultural production would rise by 50%.[318] These estimations were not met. Stalin blamed this unanticipated failure on kulaks (rich peasants), who resisted collectivization. However, kulaks proper made up only 4% of the peasant population; the "kulaks" that were targeted included the slightly better-off peasants who took most of the repression from the OGPU and the Komsomol. These peasants were about 60% of the population. Those officially defined as "kulaks", "kulak helpers", and, later, "ex-kulaks" were to be executed, placed into Gulag labor camps, or deported to remote areas of the country, depending on the charge. Archival data indicates that 20,201 people were executed in 1930, the year of Dekulakization.[310]

The two-stage progress of collectivization—interrupted for a year by Stalin's famous editorials, "Dizzy with Success"[319] and "Reply to Collective Farm Comrades"[320]—is a prime example of his capacity for tactical political withdrawal followed by the intensification of his initial strategies.[citation needed]


Famine in the USSR, 1933. Areas of most intense famine marked with black
Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933, during the Soviet famine of 1932–1933

Famine affected Ukraine, southern Russia and other parts of the USSR. The death toll from famine in the Soviet Union at this time is estimated at between 5 and 10 million people.[321] The worst crop failure of late tsarist Russia, in 1892, had caused 375,000 to 400,000 deaths.[322] According to British historian Alan Bullock, "the total Soviet grain crop was no worse than that of 1931 ... it was not a crop failure but the excessive demands of the state, ruthlessly enforced, that cost the lives of as many as five million Ukrainian peasants." Stalin refused to release large grain reserves that could have alleviated the famine, while continuing to export grain, and he strictly enforced new draconian anti-theft laws on the collective farm.[323][324] Other historians hold the view that it was largely the insufficient harvests of 1931 and 1932 caused by a variety of natural disasters that resulted in famine, with the successful harvest of 1933 ending the famine.[325] Soviet and other historians have argued that the rapid collectivization of agriculture was necessary in order to achieve the equally rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union and ultimately win World War II.[citation needed]

The USSR also experienced a major famine from 1946 to 1947. The conditions were caused by drought, the effects of which were exacerbated by the devastation caused by World War II. British economist Michael Ellman argues that it could have been prevented if the government had not mismanaged its grain reserves. The famine cost an estimated 1 to 1.5 million lives as well as secondary population losses due to reduced fertility.[326]

Ukrainian famine

The Ukrainian portion of the wider Soviet famine of 1932–1933 is sometimes referred to as the Ukrainian Genocide, implying it was engineered by the Soviet government, specifically targeting the Ukrainian people to destroy the Ukrainian nation as a political factor and social entity.[327][328][329][330] While historians continue to disagree whether the policies that led to Holodomor fall under the legal definition of genocide, twenty-six countries have officially recognized the Holodomor as such. On 28 November 2006, the Ukrainian Parliament approved a bill declaring the Soviet-era forced famine an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.[331] Michael Ellman believes that Ukrainians were victims of genocide in 1932–33 according to a more relaxed definition that is favoured by some specialists in the field of genocide studies. He asserts that Soviet policies greatly exacerbated the famine's death toll. Although 1.8 million tonnes of grain were exported during the height of the starvation, enough to feed 5 million people for one year, Ellman believes that the use of torture and execution to extract grain under the Law of Spikelets, the use of force to prevent starving peasants from fleeing the worst-affected areas and the refusal to import grain or secure international humanitarian aid to alleviate conditions led to human suffering in the Ukraine. Ellman claims that Stalin intended to use the starvation as a cheap and efficient means (as opposed to deportations and shootings) to kill off those deemed to be "counterrevolutionaries," "idlers," and "thieves," but not to annihilate the Ukrainian peasantry as a whole. Ellman also claims that, while this was not the only Soviet genocide (e.g., the Polish operation of the NKVD), it was the worst in terms of mass casualties.[308]

Current estimates on the total number of casualties within Soviet Ukraine range mostly from 2.2 million[332][333] to 4 to 5 million.[334][335][336]

In January 2010 a Ukrainian court found Josef Stalin, Lazar Kaganovich, Stanislav Kosior and other leaders of the former Soviet Union guilty of genocide by "organizing mass famine in Ukraine in 1932–1933." However, the court "dropped criminal proceedings over the suspects' deaths".[337][338]


Wartime policies during the Russian Civil War coincided with a large decrease in the country's economy. Industrial output in 1922 was 13% of that in 1914. A recovery followed under the New Economic Policy, which allowed a degree of market flexibility within the context of socialism. Under Stalin's direction, this was replaced by a system of centrally ordained "Five-Year Plans" in the late 1920s. These called for a highly ambitious program of industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture.

Stalin on building of Moscow-Volga canal. It was constructed from 1932 to 1937 by Gulag prisoners.

With seed capital unavailable because of international reaction to Communist policies, little international trade, and virtually no modern infrastructure, the government of Stalin financed industrialization both by restraining consumption on the part of ordinary Soviet citizens to ensure that capital went for re-investment into industry and by extraction of wealth from kulaks.[citation needed]

In 1933 workers' real earnings fell to about one-tenth of the 1926 level.[citation needed] Common and political prisoners in labor camps were forced to perform unpaid labor, and communists and Komsomol members were frequently "mobilized" for various construction projects. The Soviet Union used numerous foreign experts to design new factories, supervise construction, instruct workers, and improve manufacturing processes. The most notable foreign contractor was Albert Kahn's firm that designed and built 521 factories between 1930 and 1932. As a rule, factories were supplied with imported equipment.[citation needed]

In spite of early breakdowns, the first two Five-Year Plans achieved rapid industrialization from a very low economic base. While it is generally agreed that the Soviet Union achieved significant levels of economic growth under Stalin, the precise rate of growth is disputed. Official Soviet estimates stated the annual rate of growth at 13.9%; Russian and Western estimates gave lower figures of 5.8% and even 2.9%. Indeed, one estimate is that Soviet growth became temporarily much higher after Stalin's death.[339][340]

According to Robert Lewis, the Five-Year Plan substantially helped to modernize the previously agrarian Soviet economy. New products were developed, and the scale and efficiency of existing production greatly increased. Some innovations were based on indigenous technical developments, others on imported foreign technology.[341] Despite its costs, the industrialization effort allowed the Soviet Union to fight, and ultimately win, World War II.[citation needed]


Science in the Soviet Union came under strict ideological control by the government during the period of Stalin, along with art and literature. There was significant progress in "ideologically safe" domains, owing to the free Soviet education system and state-financed research. However, the most notable legacy during Stalin's time was his public endorsement of the agronomist Trofim Lysenko, who rejected Mendelian genetics as "bourgeois pseudoscience" and instead advocated Lamarckian inheritance and hybridization theories (which had been discredited by most Western countries by the 1920s in favour of Darwinian evolution), which caused widespread agricultural destruction and major setbacks in Soviet knowledge in biology. Many scientists came out publicly against his views, but the majority of them, including Nikolai Vavilov (who was later hailed as a pioneer in modern genetics), were imprisoned or executed. Some areas of physics were criticized.[342][343]

Social services

Under the Soviet government people benefited from some social liberalization. Girls were given an adequate, equal education and women had equal rights in employment,[266] improving lives for women and families. Stalinist development also contributed to advances in health care, which significantly increased the lifespan and quality of life of the typical Soviet citizen.[266] Stalin's policies granted the Soviet people universal access to healthcare and education, effectively creating the first generation free from the fear of typhus, cholera, and malaria.[266] The occurrences of these diseases dropped to record low numbers, increasing life spans by decades.[266]

Soviet women under Stalin were the first generation of women in the country able to give birth in the safety of a hospital with access to prenatal care.[266] Education was also an example of an increase in the standard of living after economic development. The generation born during the period of Stalin was the first in the USSR to achieve widespread literacy.[344] Engineers were sent abroad to learn industrial technology, and hundreds of foreign engineers were brought to Russia on contract.[266] Transport links were improved and many new railways built. Workers who exceeded their quotas, Stakhanovites, received many incentives for their work;[344] they could afford to buy the goods that were mass-produced by the rapidly expanding Soviet economy.[citation needed]

The increase in demand due to industrialization and the decrease in the workforce due to World War II and repressions generated a major expansion in job opportunities for the survivors, especially for women.[344]


Stalin depicted in the style of socialist realism. Painting by Isaak Brodsky

Although Stalin remained proudly Georgian,[345] politically he took positions that, in comparison to Lenin's policies, favoured Russian nationalism,[346] describing the Russians as the elder brothers of the non-Russian minorities.[347] Contrary to what has been previously suggested, although Stalin spoke of Russian nationalism, he never tried to present himself as a Russian during his rule of the Soviet Union.[151]

During the period of Stalin, the official and long-lived style of socialist realism was established for painting, sculpture, music, drama and literature. Previously fashionable "revolutionary" expressionism, abstract art, and avant-garde experimentation were discouraged or denounced as "formalism".[citation needed]

The degree of Stalin's personal involvement in general, and in specific instances, has been the subject of discussion. Stalin's favourite novel Pharaoh,[348] by Polish writer Bolesław Prus, shared similarities with Sergei Eisenstein's film, Ivan the Terrible, produced under Stalin's tutelage.[citation needed]

In architecture, a Stalinist style (essentially updated neoclassicism on a very large scale, exemplified by the Seven Sisters of Moscow) replaced the constructivism of the 1920s. The government's policies during the period of Stalin had a largely disruptive effect on indigenous cultures within the Soviet Union, however the earlier politics of Korenizatsiya or "indigenisation" were potentially beneficial to the integration of later generations of indigenous cultures.[citation needed]


Photograph taken of the 1931 demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in order to make way for the Palace of the Soviets

While studying at a Georgian Orthodox seminary, Stalin became an atheist.[349] Stalin had a complex relationship with religious institutions in the Soviet Union.[350] Historians Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov have suggested that "Stalin's atheism remained rooted in some vague idea of a God of nature."[351]

His government promoted atheism through special atheistic education in schools, anti-religious propaganda, the anti-religious work of public institutions (Society of the Godless), anti-religious laws and the fermenting of repression against religious believers. By the late 1930s, it had become dangerous to be publicly associated with religion.[352]

Stalin's role in the fortunes of the Russian Orthodox Church is complex. Continuous persecution in the 1930s resulted in its near-extinction as a public institution: by 1939, active parishes numbered in the low hundreds (down from 54,000 in 1917), many churches had been levelled, and tens of thousands of priests, monks and nuns were persecuted or executed. Over 100,000 were executed during the purges of 1937–1938.[353][354] During World War II, the Church was allowed a revival as a patriotic organization, and thousands of parishes were reactivated until a further round of suppression during the government of Nikita Khrushchev. The Russian Orthodox Church Synod's recognition of the Soviet government and of Stalin personally led to a schism with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. One reason could have been to motivate the majority of the population, who had Christian beliefs. The reasoning behind this is that by changing the official policy of the party and the state towards religion, the Church and its clergymen could be at his disposal in mobilizing the war effort. On 4 September 1943, Stalin invited Metropolitan Sergius, Metropolitan Alexius and Metropolitan Nicholas to the Kremlin and proposed to reestablish the Moscow Patriarchate, which had been suspended since 1925, and elect the Patriarch. On 8 September 1943, Metropolitan Sergius was elected patriarch.

The CPSU Central Committee continued to promote atheism and the prohibition of religion during the remainder of Stalin's lifetime after the 1943 concordat.[355] Stalin's greater tolerance for religion after 1943 was limited by party machinations.


Stalin and his supporters highlighted that socialism can be built and consolidated by a country ("Socialism in One Country") as underdeveloped as Russia during the 1920s. Indeed, this might be the only means in which it could be built in a hostile environment.[356] In 1933, Stalin put forward the theory of aggravation of the class struggle along with the development of socialism, arguing that the further the country would move forward, the more acute forms of struggle will be used by the doomed remnants of exploiter classes in their last desperate efforts – and that, therefore, political repression was necessary.[citation needed]

In 1936, Stalin announced that the society of the Soviet Union consisted of two non-antagonistic classes: workers and kolkhoz peasantry. These corresponded to the two different forms of property over the means of production that existed in the Soviet Union: state property (for the workers) and collective property (for the peasantry). In addition to these, Stalin distinguished the stratum of intelligentsia. The concept of "non-antagonistic classes" was entirely new to Leninist theory. Among Stalin's contributions to Communist theoretical literature were "Dialectical and Historical Materialism," "Marxism and the National Question", "Trotskyism or Leninism", and "The Principles of Leninism."[citation needed]

Calculating the number of victims

Photo from 1943 exhumation of mass grave of Polish officers killed by NKVD in Katyń Forest in 1940

Before the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, researchers who attempted to count the number of people killed during the period of Stalin produced estimates ranging from 3 to 60 million.[357] After the Soviet Union dissolved, evidence from the Soviet archives also became available, containing official records of 799,455 executions (1921–1953),[358] around 1.7 million deaths in the Gulag and some 390,000 deaths during kulak forced resettlement – with a total of about 2.9 million officially recorded victims in these categories.[359]

The official Soviet archival records do not contain comprehensive figures for some categories of victims, such as those of ethnic deportations or of German population transfers in the aftermath of World War II.[360] Eric D. Weitz wrote, "By 1948, according to Nicolas Werth, the mortality rate of the 600,000 people deported from the Caucasus between 1943 and 1944 had reached 25%."[361][362] Other notable exclusions from NKVD data on repression deaths include the Katyn massacre, other executions in the newly occupied areas, and the mass shooting of Red Army personnel (deserters and so-called deserters) in 1941. The Soviets executed 158,000 soldiers for desertion during the war,[363] and the "blocking detachments" of the NKVD shot thousands more.[364] Also, the official statistics on Gulag mortality exclude deaths of prisoners taking place shortly after their release but which resulted from treatment in the camps.[365] Some historians also believe that the official archival figures of the categories that were recorded by Soviet authorities are unreliable and incomplete.[366][367] In addition to failures regarding comprehensive recordings, as one additional example, Canadian historian Robert Gellately and British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore argue that the many suspects beaten and tortured to death while in "investigative custody" were likely not to have been counted amongst the executed.[266][368]

Historians working after the Soviet Union's dissolution have estimated victim totals ranging from approximately 4 million to nearly 10 million, not including those who died in famines.[369][370][371] Russian writer Vadim Erlikman, for example, makes the following estimates: executions, 1.5 million; gulags, 5 million; deportations, 1.7 million out of 7.5 million deported; and POWs and German civilians, 1 million – a total of about 9 million victims of repression.[372]

Gulag Museum in Moscow

Some have also included the deaths of 6 to 8 million people in the 1932–1933 famine among the victims of repression during the period of Stalin. This categorization is controversial however, as historians differ as to whether the famine in Ukraine was created as a deliberate part of the campaign of repression against kulaks and others,[308][373][374][375][376] was an unintended consequence of the struggle over forced collectivization[324][377][378] or was simply primarily a result of natural factors.[379][380][381]

Accordingly, if famine victims are included, a minimum of around 10 million deaths—6 million from famine and 4 million from other causes—are attributable to the period,[382] with a number of recent historians suggesting a likely total of around 20 million, citing much higher victim totals from executions, Gulag camps, deportations and other causes.[390] Adding 6–8 million famine victims to Erlikman's estimates above, for example, would yield a total of between 15 and 17 million victims. English-American researcher Robert Conquest, meanwhile, has revised his original estimate of up to 30 million victims down to 20 million.[391] In his most recent edition of The Great Terror (2007), Conquest states that while exact numbers may never be known with complete certainty, at least 15 million people were either executed or worked to death in the camps.[392] Rudolph Rummel maintains that the earlier higher victim total estimates are correct, although he includes those killed by the government of the Soviet Union in other Eastern European countries as well.[393][394] Some of these estimates rely in part on demographic losses as American historian Richard Pipes noted: "Censuses revealed that between 1932 and 1939—that is, after collectivization but before World War II—the population decreased by 9 to 10 million people."[395] and Conquest explained how he arrived at his estimate: "I suggest about eleven million by the beginning of 1937, and about three million over the period 1937–38, making fourteen million. The eleven-odd million is readily deduced from the undisputed population deficit shown in the suppressed census of January 1937, of fifteen to sixteen million, by making reasonable assumptions about how this was divided between birth deficit and deaths."[396] American historian Timothy D. Snyder has assessed the evolution of research on the numbers as follows:[397]

Today, after two decades of access to Eastern European archives, and thanks to the work of German, Russian, Israeli, and other scholars, we can resolve the question of numbers. The total number of noncombatants killed by the Germans—about 11 million—is roughly what we had thought. The total number of civilians killed by the Soviets, however, is considerably less than we had believed. We know now that the Germans killed more people than the Soviets did.[...] All in all, the Germans deliberately killed about 11 million noncombatants, a figure that rises to more than 12 million if foreseeable deaths from deportation, hunger, and sentences in concentration camps are included. For the Soviets during the Stalin period, the analogous figures are approximately six million and nine million. These figures are of course subject to revision, but it is very unlikely that the consensus will change again as radically as it has since the opening of Eastern European archives in the 1990s.

World War II, 1939–1945

Ribbentrop and Stalin in Kremlin

Pact with Hitler

After talks with Germany regarding a potential political deal,[398][399][400] on 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union entered into a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, negotiated by Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.[401] Officially a non-aggression treaty only, an appended secret protocol, also reached on 23 August 1939, divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.[402][403]

The eastern part of Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and part of Romania were recognized as parts of the Soviet sphere of influence,[403] with Lithuania added in a second secret protocol in September 1939.[404] Stalin and Ribbentrop traded toasts on the night of the signing discussing past hostilities between the countries.[405] German-Soviet trade agreements completely undermined the British blockade of Germany.[406] Economic cooperation was so considerable that in 1939 Trotsky called Stalin "Hitler's quartermaster".[407]

Implementing the division of Eastern Europe and other invasions

On 1 September 1939, the German invasion of its agreed upon portion of Poland started World War II.[401] On 17 September the Red Army invaded eastern Poland and occupied the Polish territory assigned to it by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, followed by co-ordination with German forces in Poland.[408][409] Eleven days later, the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was modified, allotting Germany a larger part of Poland, while ceding most of Lithuania to the Soviet Union.[410]

Planned and actual territorial changes in Eastern and Central Europe 1939–1940

After Stalin declared that he was going to "solve the Baltic problem", by June 1940, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were merged into the Soviet Union, after repressions and actions therein brought about the deaths of over 160,000 citizens of these states.[411][412][413] After facing stiff resistance in an invasion of Finland,[414] an interim peace was entered, granting the Soviet Union the eastern region of Karelia (10% of Finnish territory).[414]

After this campaign, actions were taken to bolster the Soviet military, modify training and improve propaganda efforts in the Soviet military.[415] In June 1940, the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina was directed, this formerly Romanian territory becoming part of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. But in annexing northern Bukovina, the Soviet Union had gone beyond the agreed limits of the secret protocol.[416]

Stalin and Molotov at the signing of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact with the Empire of Japan, 1941

After the Tripartite Pact was signed by Axis Powers Germany, Japan and Italy, in October 1940, Stalin traded letters with Ribbentrop, with Stalin writing about entering an agreement regarding a "permanent basis" for their "mutual interests."[417] After a conference in Berlin between Hitler, Molotov and Ribbentrop, Germany presented Molotov with a proposed written agreement for Axis entry.[418] On 25 November, Stalin responded with a proposed written agreement for Axis entry which was never answered by Germany. Shortly thereafter, Hitler issued a secret directive on the eventual attempts to invade the Soviet Union.[419] In an effort to demonstrate peaceful intentions toward Germany, on 13 April 1941, Stalin oversaw the signing of a neutrality pact with Axis power Japan.[420]

On 6 May, Stalin replaced Molotov as Premier of the Soviet Union. Although Stalin had been the de facto head of government for a decade and a half, he had concluded relations with Nazi Germany had deteriorated to such an extent that he needed to deal with the problem as de jure head of government as well.[421]

Hitler breaks the pact

In the early morning of 22 June 1941, Adolf Hitler broke the pact by implementing Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union that began the war on the Eastern Front.[422] Already in autumn 1940 Stalin received a warning from the Dutch Communist Party, via the network of the Red Orchestra, that Hitler was preparing for a winter war by allowing the construction of thousands of snow landing gears for the Junkers Ju 52 transport planes.[423] Although Stalin had received warnings from spies like Richard Sorge, Stalin's top spy in Imperial Japan, and his own Red Army generals,[424][425][426][427][428] he felt that Germany would not attack the Soviet Union until Germany had defeated Britain.[424] In the initial hours after the German attack commenced, Stalin hesitated, wanting to ensure that the German attack was sanctioned by Hitler, rather than the unauthorized action of a rogue general.[266]

Accounts by Nikita Khrushchev and Anastas Mikoyan claim that, after the invasion, Stalin retreated to his dacha in despair for several days and did not participate in leadership decisions.[429] However, documentary evidence of orders given by Stalin contradicts these accounts, leading some historians to speculate that Khrushchev's account is inaccurate.[430] By the end of 1941, the Soviet military had suffered 4.3 million casualties[431] and German forces had advanced 1,050 miles (1,690 kilometers).[432]

Soviets stop the Germans

With all the men at the front, Moscow women dig anti-tank trenches around Moscow in 1941

In September 1941, Stalin told British diplomats that he wanted two agreements: (1) a mutual assistance/aid pact and (2) a recognition that, after the war, the Soviet Union would gain the territories in countries that it had taken pursuant to its division of Eastern Europe with Hitler in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The British agreed to assistance but refused to agree upon the territorial gains, which Stalin accepted months later as the military situation deteriorated somewhat in mid-1942.[433] By December 1941, Hitler's troops had advanced to within 20 miles (30 km) of the Kremlin in Moscow. On 5 December, the Soviets launched a counteroffensive, pushing German troops back 40–50 miles (60–80 km) from Moscow.[434]

In 1942, Hitler shifted his primary goal from an immediate victory in the East, to the more long-term goal of securing the southern Soviet Union to conquer oil fields vital to a long-term German war effort.[435] In July 1942, Hitler praised the efficiency of the Soviet military industry and Stalin:

Stalin, too, must command our unconditional respect. In his own way he is one hell of a fellow! (German: ein genialer Kerl) He knows his models, Genghiz Khan and the others, very well, and the scope of his industrial planning is exceeded only by our own Four Year Plan.[436]

While Red Army generals saw evidence that Hitler would shift efforts south, Stalin considered this to be a flanking campaign in efforts to take Moscow.[437]

Soviet push to Germany

The centre of Stalingrad after liberation, 2 February 1943.

By November 1942, the Soviets had begun to repulse the important German strategic southern campaign and, although there were 2.5 million Soviet casualties in that effort, it permitted the Soviets to take the offensive for most of the rest of the war on the Eastern Front.[438]

Germany attempted an encirclement attack at Kursk, which was successfully repulsed by the Soviets.[439] Kursk marked the beginning of a period where Stalin became more willing to listen to the advice of his generals. By the end of 1943, the Soviets occupied half of the territory taken by the Germans from 1941 to 1942.[440] Soviet military industrial output also had increased substantially from late 1941 to early 1943 after Stalin had moved factories well to the East of the front, safe from German invasion and air attack.[441]

In November 1943, Stalin met with Churchill and Roosevelt in Tehran.[442] The parties later agreed that Britain and America would launch a cross-channel invasion of France in May 1944, along with a separate invasion of southern France.[443] Stalin insisted that, after the war, the Soviet Union should incorporate the portions of Poland it occupied pursuant to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany, which Churchill opposed.[444]

In 1944, the Soviet Union made significant advances across Eastern Europe toward Germany,[445] including Operation Bagration, a massive offensive in the Byelorussian SSR against the German Army Group Centre.[446]

Final victory

Soviet Marshals Zhukov and Sokolovsky with General Rokossovsky and Field Marshal Montgomery leave the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, 12 July 1945

By April 1945, Nazi Germany faced its last days with 1.9 million German soldiers in the East fighting 6.4 million Red Army soldiers while 1 million German soldiers in the West battled 4 million Western Allied soldiers.[447] While initial talk existed of a race to Berlin by the Allies, after Stalin successfully lobbied for Eastern Germany to fall within the Soviet "sphere of influence" at Yalta, no plans were made by the Western Allies to seize the city by a ground operation.[448][449]

On 30 April, Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide, after which Soviet forces found their remains, which had been burned at Hitler's directive.[450] German forces surrendered a few days later.

Fending off the German invasion and pressing to victory in the East required a tremendous sacrifice by the Soviet Union.[451] Soviet military casualties totalled approximately 35 million (official figures 28.2 million) with approximately 14.7 million killed, missing or captured (official figures 11.285 million).[452] Although figures vary, the Soviet civilian death toll probably reached 20 million.[452] One in four Soviets was killed or wounded.[453] Some 1,710 towns and 70,000 villages were destroyed.[454][455] Thereafter, Stalin was at times referred to as one of the most influential men in human history.[456][457]

At the Tehran and Yalta conferences, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan after Germany's defeat. On 5 April 1945, the Soviet Government officially denounced the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact. Then at the Potsdam conference in June 1945, the Soviet Union reaffirmed its agreement to declare war on Japan and did so on and on 8 August, three months after Germany's surrender. The next day, in between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet army invaded Japanese occupied Manchuria and quickly defeated the Kwantung Army. These events led to the Japanese surrender and the complete end of World War II.[458][459]

Human rights abuses

Part of the 5 March 1940 memo from Lavrentiy Beria to Stalin proposing the execution of Polish officers

After taking around 300,000 Polish prisoners in late 1939 and early 1940,[460][461][462][463] 25,700 Polish POWs were executed on 5 March 1940, pursuant to a note to Stalin from Lavrenty Beria,[464][465] in what became known as the Katyn massacre.[464][466][467] While Stalin personally told a Polish general that they'd "lost track" of the officers in Manchuria,[468][469][470] Polish railroad workers found the mass grave after the 1941 Nazi invasion.[471] The massacre became a source of political controversy,[472][473] with the Soviets eventually claiming that Germany committed the executions when the Soviet Union retook Poland in 1944.[464][474] The Soviets did not admit their responsibility for the massacre until 1990.[475]

Stalin introduced controversial military orders, such as Order No. 270 in August 1941, requiring superiors to shoot deserters on the spot[476] while their family members were subject to arrest. Thereafter, Stalin also conducted a purge of several military commanders who were shot for "cowardice" without a trial.[364] Stalin issued Order No. 227 in July 1942, which directed that commanders who permitted retreat without permission would be subject to a military tribunal, and it also directed that soldiers who were guilty of disciplinary procedures would be forced into "penal battalions", which were sent to the most dangerous sections of the front lines.[477] From 1942 to 1945, 427,910 soldiers were assigned to penal battalions.[478] The order also directed that "blocking detachments" should shoot fleeing and panicked troops at the rear.[477]

In June 1941, weeks after the German invasion began, Stalin also directed the employment of a scorched earth policy of destroying the infrastructure and food supplies of areas before the Germans could seize them, and he also directed that partisans were to be set up in evacuated areas.[430] He also ordered the NKVD to murder around one hundred thousand political prisoners in areas where the Wehrmacht approached,[479] while others were deported east.[366][480][481]

Beria's proposal from 29 January 1942 to execute 46 Soviet generals. Stalin's resolution: "Shoot all named in the list. – J. St."

After the capture of Berlin, Soviet troops reportedly raped anywhere from tens of thousands to two million women,[482] and 50,000 during and after the occupation of Budapest.[483][484] Many of these women died or committed suicide as a result of rape. In former Axis countries, such as Germany, Romania and Hungary, Red Army officers generally viewed cities, villages and farms as being open to pillaging and looting.[485]

In the Soviet Occupation Zone of post-war Germany, the Soviets set up ten NKVD-run "special camps" subordinate to the gulag.[486] These "special camps" were former Stalags, prisons, or Nazi concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen (special camp number 7) and Buchenwald (special camp number 2).[487] According to German government estimates, "65,000 people died in those Soviet-run camps or in transportation to them."[488]

According to recent figures, of an estimated four million POWs taken by the Soviets, including Germans, Japanese, Hungarians, Romanians and others, some 580,000 never returned, presumably victims of privation or the Gulags.[489] German estimates put the actual death toll of German POWs in the USSR at about 1 million, they maintain that among those reported as missing were men who actually died as POWs.[490] Soviet POWs and forced laborers who survived German captivity were sent to special "transit" or "filtration" camps to determine which were potential traitors.[491]

Of the approximately 4 million to be repatriated 2,660,013 were civilians and 1,539,475 were former POWs. Of the total, 2,427,906 were sent home and 801,152 were reconscripted into the armed forces. 608,095 were enrolled in the work battalions of the defense ministry. 272,867 were transferred to the authority of the NKVD for punishment, which meant a transfer to the Gulag system.[491][492][493] 89,468 remained in the transit camps as reception personnel until the repatriation process was finally wound up in the early 1950s.[491]

Allied conferences on post-war Europe

Stalin met in several conferences with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (and later Clement Attlee) and/or U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (and later Harry Truman) to plan military strategy and, later, to discuss Europe's postwar reorganization. Very early conferences, such as that with British diplomats in Moscow in 1941 and with Churchill and American diplomats in Moscow in 1942, focused mostly upon war planning and supply, though some preliminary postwar reorganization discussion also occurred. In 1943, Stalin met with Churchill and Roosevelt in the Tehran Conference. In 1944, Stalin met with Churchill in the Moscow Conference. Beginning in late 1944, the Red Army occupied much of Eastern Europe during these conferences and the discussions shifted to a more intense focus on the reorganization of postwar Europe.[citation needed]

In February 1945, at the conference at Yalta, Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern Europe. Stalin eventually was convinced by Churchill and Roosevelt not to dismember Germany. Stalin also stated that the Polish government-in-exile demands for self-rule were not negotiable, such that the Soviet Union would keep the territory of eastern Poland they had already taken by invasion with German consent in 1939, and wanted the pro-Soviet Polish government installed. After resistance by Churchill and Roosevelt, Stalin promised a re-organization of the current Communist puppet government on a broader democratic basis in Poland.[494] He stated the new government's primary task would be to prepare elections.[495]

The parties at Yalta further agreed that the countries of liberated Europe and former Axis satellites would be allowed to "create democratic institutions of their own choice", pursuant to "the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live."[496] The parties also agreed to help those countries form interim governments "pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections" and "facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections."[496] After the re-organization of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, the parties agreed that the new party shall "be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot."[496] One month after Yalta, the Soviet NKVD arrested 16 Polish leaders wishing to participate in provisional government negotiations, for alleged "crimes" and "diversions", which drew protest from the West.[495] The fraudulent Polish elections, held in January 1947 resulted in Poland's official transformation to undemocratic communist state by 1949.

At the Potsdam Conference from July to August 1945, though Germany had surrendered months earlier, instead of withdrawing Soviet forces from Eastern European countries, Stalin had not moved those forces. At the beginning of the conference, Stalin repeated previous promises to Churchill that he would refrain from a "Sovietization" of Eastern Europe.[497] Stalin pushed for reparations from Germany without regard to the base minimum supply for German citizens' survival, which worried Truman and Churchill who thought that Germany would become a financial burden for Western powers.[498]

In addition to reparations, Stalin pushed for "war booty", which would permit the Soviet Union to directly seize property from conquered nations without quantitative or qualitative limitation, and a clause was added permitting this to occur with some limitations.[498] By July 1945, Stalin's troops effectively controlled the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, and refugees were fleeing out of these countries fearing a Communist take-over. The western allies, and especially Churchill, were suspicious of the motives of Stalin, who had already installed communist governments in the central European countries under his influence.[citation needed]

In these conferences, his first appearances on the world stage, Stalin proved to be a formidable negotiator. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary noted: "Marshal Stalin as a negotiator was the toughest proposition of all. Indeed, after something like thirty years' experience of international conferences of one kind and another, if I had to pick a team for going into a conference room, Stalin would be my first choice. Of course the man was ruthless and of course he knew his purpose. He never wasted a word. He never stormed, he was seldom even irritated."[499]

Post-war era, 1945–1953

The Eastern Bloc

After Soviet forces remained in Eastern and Central European countries, with the beginnings of communist puppet regimes in those countries, Churchill referred to the region as being behind an "Iron Curtain" of control from Moscow.[500][501] The countries under Soviet control in Eastern and Central Europe were sometimes called the "Eastern bloc" or "Soviet Bloc".

The Eastern Bloc until 1989

In Soviet-controlled East Germany, the major task of the ruling communist party in Germany was to channel Soviet orders down to both the administrative apparatus and the other bloc parties pretending that these were initiatives of its own, with deviations potentially leading to reprimands, imprisonment, torture and even death. Property and industry were nationalized.[502]

The German Democratic Republic was declared on 7 October 1949, with a new constitution which enshrined socialism and gave the Soviet-controlled Socialist Unity Party (SED) control. In Berlin, after citizens strongly rejected communist candidates in an election, in June 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin, the portion of Berlin not under Soviet control, cutting off all supply of food and other items. The blockade failed due to the unexpected massive aerial resupply campaign carried out by the Western powers known as the Berlin Airlift. In 1949, Stalin conceded defeat and ended the blockade.[citation needed]

While Stalin had promised at the Yalta Conference that free elections would be held in Poland,[496] after an election failure in "3 times YES" elections,[503] vote rigging was employed to win a majority in the carefully controlled poll.[504][505][506] Following the forged referendum, the Polish economy started to become nationalized.[507]

In Hungary, when the Soviets installed a communist government, Mátyás Rákosi, who described himself as "Stalin's best Hungarian disciple"[508] and "Stalin's best pupil",[509] took power. Rákosi employed "salami tactics", slicing up opponents of communism in Hungary like pieces of salami,[510] to battle the initial postwar political majority ready to establish a democracy.[511] Rákosi employed Stalinist political and economic programs, and was dubbed the "bald murderer" for establishing one of the harshest dictatorships in Europe.[511][512] Approximately 350,000 Hungarian officials and intellectuals were purged from 1948 to 1956.[511]

During World War II, in Bulgaria, the Red Army crossed the border and created the conditions for a communist coup d'état on the following night. The Soviet military commander in Sofia assumed supreme authority, and the communists whom he instructed, including Kimon Georgiev, took full control of domestic politics.[513]

In 1949, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania founded the Comecon in accordance with Stalin's desire to enforce Soviet domination of the lesser states of Central Europe and to mollify some states that had expressed interest in the Marshall Plan,[514] and which were now, increasingly, cut off from their traditional markets and suppliers in Western Europe.[515] Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland had remained interested in Marshall aid despite the requirements for a convertible currency and market economies. In July 1947, Stalin ordered these communist-dominated governments to pull out of the Paris Conference on the European Recovery Programme. This has been described as "the moment of truth" in the post–World War II division of Europe.[515]

In Greece, Britain and the United States supported the anti-communists in the Greek Civil War and suspected the Soviets of supporting the Greek communists, although Stalin refrained from getting involved in Greece, dismissing the movement as premature. Albania remained an ally of the Soviet Union throughout Stalin's lifetime, but Yugoslavia broke with the USSR in 1948.[citation needed]

In Stalin's last year of life, one of his last major foreign policy initiatives was the 1952 Stalin Note for German reunification and Superpower disengagement from Central Europe, but Britain, France, and the United States viewed this with suspicion and rejected the offer.[citation needed]


Stalin and Mao Zedong on a Chinese postage stamp.

In Asia, in addition to overrunning Manchuria, the Soviets annexed Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands, which were promised to them in the Tehran and Yalta conferences. The Soviets had also taken Korea from the Japanese and occupied it above the 38th parallel north. Having given up on plans to invade the Japanese island of Hokkaido after strong American protest, the Soviets had little influence in occupied Japan.[458] After the Red Army withdrawal from Manchuria, the Chinese Civil War would extend into that region. Mao Zedong's Communist Party of China, though receptive to minimal Soviet support, defeated the pro-Western and heavily American-assisted Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) in the war.[citation needed]

There was friction between Stalin and Mao from the beginning. During World War II Stalin had supported the dictator of China, Chiang Kai-shek, as a bulwark against Japan and had turned a blind eye to Chiang's mass killings of communists. He generally put his alliance with Chiang against Japan ahead of helping his ideological allies in China in his priorities. Even after the war Stalin concluded a non-aggression pact between the USSR and Chiang's KMT regime in China and instructed Mao and the Chinese communists to cooperate with Chiang and the KMT after the war. Mao did not follow Stalin's instructions though and started a communist revolution against Chiang. Stalin did not believe Mao would be successful so he was less than enthusiastic in helping Mao. The USSR continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Chiang's KMT regime until 1949 when it became clear Mao would win.[citation needed]

Stalin supported the Turkic Muslims known today as Uyghur in seeking their own state, Second East Turkestan Republic during the Ili Rebellion against the Republic of China. He backed the Uyghur Communist Muslim leader Ehmetjan Qasim against the anti Communist Chinese Kuomintang forces.[citation needed]

Stalin did conclude a new friendship and alliance treaty with Mao after he defeated Chiang. But there was still a lot of tension between the two leaders and resentment by Mao for Stalin's less than enthusiastic help during the civil war in China.[citation needed]

Mao at Stalin's 70th birthday celebration in Moscow, December 1949

The Communists controlled mainland China while the Nationalists held a rump state on the island of Taiwan. The Soviet Union soon after recognized Mao's People's Republic of China, which it regarded as a new ally. The People's Republic claimed Taiwan, though it had never held authority there.[citation needed]

Diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and China reached a high point with the signing of the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance. Both countries provided military support to a new friendly state in North Korea. After various Korean border conflicts, war broke out with U.S.-allied South Korea in 1950, starting the Korean War.[citation needed]

The North Korean Army struck in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, 25 June 1950, crossing the 38th parallel behind a firestorm of artillery, beginning their invasion of South Korea.[516] During the Korean War, Soviet pilots flew Soviet aircraft from Chinese bases against United Nations aircraft defending South Korea. Post-Cold War research in Soviet Archives has revealed that the Korean War was begun by Kim Il-sung with the express permission of Stalin.[517][518][519][520]


Stalin originally supported the creation of Israel in 1948. The USSR was one of the first nations to recognize the new country.[521] Golda Meir came to Moscow as the first Israeli Ambassador to the USSR that year. However, after providing war materiel for Israel through Czechoslovakia from 1947 to 1949, Stalin later changed his mind and came out against Israel.[citation needed]

Falsifiers of History

In 1948, Stalin personally edited and rewrote by hand sections of the Cold War book Falsifiers of History.[522] Falsifiers was published in response to the documents made public in Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939–1941: Documents from the Archives of The German Foreign Office,[523][524] which included the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and other secret German-Soviet relations documents.[523][525] Falsifiers originally appeared as a series of articles in Pravda in February 1948,[524] and was subsequently published in numerous languages and distributed worldwide.[526]

The book did not attempt to directly counter or deal with the documents published in Nazi-Soviet Relations[527] and rather, focused upon Western culpability for the outbreak of war in 1939.[526] It argues that "Western powers" aided Nazi rearmament and aggression, including that American bankers and industrialists provided capital for the growth of German war industries, while deliberately encouraging Hitler to expand eastward.[523] It depicted the Soviet Union as striving to negotiate a collective security against Hitler, while being thwarted by double-dealing Anglo-French appeasers who, despite appearances, had no intention of a Soviet alliance and were secretly negotiating with Berlin.[526] It casts the Munich agreement, not just as Anglo-French short-sightedness or cowardice, but as a "secret" agreement that was "a highly important phase in their policy aimed at goading the Hitlerite aggressors against the Soviet Union."[528] The book also included the claim that, during the Pact's operation, Stalin rejected Hitler's offer to share in a division of the world, without mentioning the Soviet offers to join the Axis. Historical studies, official accounts, memoirs and textbooks published in the Soviet Union used that depiction of events until the Soviet Union's dissolution.[529]

"Doctors' plot"

The "Doctors' plot" was a plot outlined by Stalin and Soviet officials in 1952 and 1953 whereby several doctors (over half of whom were Jewish) allegedly attempted to kill Soviet officials.[530] The prevailing opinion of many scholars outside the Soviet Union[who?] is that Stalin intended to use the resulting doctors' trial to launch a massive party purge.[531] The plot is also viewed by many historians[who?] as an antisemitic provocation.[530] It followed on the heels of the 1952 show trials of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee[532] and the secret execution of thirteen members on Stalin's orders in the Night of the Murdered Poets.[533]

Thereafter, in a December Politburo session, Stalin announced that "Every Jewish nationalist is the agent of the American intelligence service. Jewish nationalists think that their nation was saved by the United States (there you can become rich, bourgeois, etc.). They think they're indebted to the Americans. Among doctors, there are many Jewish nationalists."[534] To mobilize the Soviet people for his campaign, Stalin ordered TASS and Pravda to issue stories along with Stalin's alleged uncovering of a "Doctors Plot" to assassinate top Soviet leaders,[535][536] including Stalin, in order to set the stage for show trials.[537]

The next month, Pravda published stories with text regarding the purported "Jewish bourgeois-nationalist" plotters.[538] After Stalin's death, Nikita Khrushchev made the claim that Stalin hinted that he should incite anti-Semitism in the Ukraine, allegedly telling him that "the good workers at the factory should be given clubs so they can beat the hell out of those Jews."[539][540] Stalin also ordered falsely accused physicians to be tortured "to death".[541] Regarding the origins of the plot, people who knew Stalin, such as Khrushchev, suggest that Stalin had long harbored negative sentiments toward Jews,[530][542][543] and anti-Semitic trends in the Kremlin's policies were further fueled by the struggle against Leon Trotsky.[530][544] In 1946, Stalin allegedly said privately that "every Jew is a potential spy."[530][545] At the end of January 1953, Stalin's personal physician Miron Vovsi (cousin of Solomon Mikhoels, who was assassinated in 1948 at the orders of Stalin)[533] was arrested within the frame of the plot. Vovsi was released by Beria after Stalin's death in 1953, as was his son-in-law, the composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg.

Some historians[who?] have argued that Stalin was also planning to send millions of Jews to four large newly built labor camps in Western Russia[537][546] using a "Deportation Commission"[547][548][549] that would purportedly act to save Soviet Jews from an enraged Soviet population after the Doctors Plot trials.[547][550][551] Others argue that any charge of an alleged mass deportation lacks specific documentary evidence.[536] Regardless of whether a plot to deport Jews was planned, in his "Secret Speech" in 1956, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev stated that the Doctors Plot was "fabricated ... set up by Stalin", that Stalin told the judge to beat confessions from the defendants[552] and had told Politburo members "You are blind like young kittens. What will happen without me? The country will perish because you do not know how to recognize enemies."[552]


Stalin's health deteriorated towards the end of World War II. He suffered from atherosclerosis from his heavy smoking, a mild stroke around the time of the Victory Parade, and a severe heart attack in October 1945.[553]

In the early morning hours of 1 March 1953, after an all-night dinner and a movie,[554] Stalin arrived at his Kuntsevo residence 15 km west of Moscow centre, with interior minister Lavrentiy Beria and future premiers Georgy Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin, and Nikita Khrushchev, where he retired to his bedroom to sleep. At dawn, Stalin did not emerge from his room.[citation needed]

Although his guards thought that it was strange not to see him awake at his usual time, they were strictly instructed not to bother him and left him alone the entire day. At around 10 p.m., he was discovered by Peter Lozgachev, the Deputy Commandant of Kuntsevo, who entered his bedroom to check on him and recalled the scene of Stalin's lying on his back on the floor of his room beside his bed, wearing pyjama bottoms and an undershirt, his clothes soaked in stale urine. A frightened Lozgachev asked Stalin what happened to him, but all he could get out of him was unintelligible responses that sounded like "Dzhhhhh." Lozgachev used the bedroom telephone to frantically call a few party officials; he told them that Stalin may have had a stroke and asked them to send good doctors to the Kuntsevo residence immediately.[555][556] Lavrentiy Beria was informed and arrived a few hours afterwards. The doctors arrived in the early morning of 2 March when they changed Stalin's bedclothes and tended to him. They diagnosed him with a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) caused by hypertension (high blood pressure), with stomach hemorrhage facilitating.[557] He was treated in his dacha with leeches, as was customary at the time.[558] On 3 March his double Felix Dadaev was recalled from vacation to Moscow "to be ready to stand in for Stalin if needed", which was never needed. On 4 March Stalin's illness was covered in the media in surprising detail such as pulse, blood pressure and urinalysis; for convenience the time of his stroke was said to be 2 March and his location as Moscow. The bedridden Stalin died on 5 March 1953, at the age of 74.[2]

Assassination theory

The political memoirs of Vyacheslav Molotov, published in 1993, claimed that Beria had boasted to Molotov that he poisoned Stalin: "I took him out."[559]

Stomach hemorrhage is usually not caused by high blood pressure, but is, along with stroke, consistent with overdose of warfarin, a colourless, tasteless, anticoagulant drug.[560] In the treating physicians' final report submitted to the Central Committee in July 1953, any mention of the stomach hemorrhage was "deleted or vastly subordinated to other information." In 2004, American historian Jonathan Brent and Russia's Presidential Commission for the Rehabilitation of Repressed Persons executive secretary Vladimir Naumov published a book proposing that Beria, with the complicity of Khrushchev, slipped warfarin into Stalin's wine on the night of his death.[557]

Stalin's autopsy, conducted by the Soviet Ministry of Health in March 1953 but not released until 2011, confirmed the cause of death as stroke resulting from high blood pressure, and that hypertension had also caused cardiac hemorrhage (not usually caused by high blood pressure) and gastrointestinal hemorrhage as well. In 2011, Miguel A. Faria, President of Mercer University School of Medicine, retired clinical professor of neurosurgery and adjunct professor of medical history, interpreted the autopsy's composition as the examiners' desire to demonstrate for posterity that they had fulfilled their professional duties as best they could by mentioning the non-cerebral hemorrhages. At the same time they would have provided themselves political cover by purposely attributing the hemorrhages to hypertension instead of poisoning by warfarin. Faria noted that when the autopsy was performed, "Stalin was worshipped as a demigod, and his assassination would have been unacceptable to the Russian populace." He also notes that Stalin experienced renal hemorrhages during his death, which is unlikely to be caused by high blood pressure.[560]

Announcement and reactions

A mourning parade to Stalin in Dresden, East Germany

Yuri Levitan, the announcer who during the war brought the Soviet people news of victories—but never of defeats—announced Stalin's death. Slowly, solemnly, with a voice brimming over with emotion, he read:[561]

The Central Committee of the Communist party, the Council of Ministers and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR announce with deep grief to the party and all workers that on 5 March, at 9.50 p.m., Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist party and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, has died after a serious illness. The heart of the collaborator and follower of the genius of Lenin's work, the wise leader and teacher of the Communist party and of the Soviet people, has stopped beating.

After 1.5 million had visited, his embalmed body was laid to rest on 9 March 1953 in Lenin's Mausoleum. On 31 October 1961 his body was removed from the mausoleum and buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis next to the Kremlin walls as part of the process of de-Stalinization.[558]

The Chinese government instituted a period of official mourning for Stalin's death. Mao ordered the flag be flown at half-mast, and banned recreation for three days; he also eulogized Stalin in an article "as a great leader, a Marxist theorist, and a friend of China". On 9 March, the country observed a five-minute period of silence in Stalin's memory.[562]


His demise arrived at a convenient time for Lavrentiy Beria and others, who feared being swept away in yet another purge. It is believed that Stalin felt Beria's power was too great and threatened his own.[563]

After Stalin's death a power struggle for his vacant position took place between the following eight senior members of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union listed according to the order of precedence presented formally on 5 March 1953:[564] Georgy Malenkov, Lavrentiy Beria, Vyacheslav Molotov, Klim Voroshilov, Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin, Lazar Kaganovich, Anastas Mikoyan.[565]

The struggle lasted until 1958 and in September of that year, Khrushchev was elected Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Prime Minister, replacing Bulganin who was elected to the post in March.[566]

On 17 December 1953, some nine months after Stalin's death, Dmitri Shostakovich, who had been publicly denounced twice by the Stalin government, premiered his 10th Symphony, which in the book Testimony was described as being "about Stalin and the Stalin years."[567]

Grutas Park is home to a monument of Stalin, originally set up in Vilnius.
Monument to Stalin stood in Gori, Georgia, until 2010 when it was demolished.[568]

The strictness with which Soviet affairs were conducted during Stalin's tenure was subsequently repudiated by his successors in the Communist Party leadership, most notably by Nikita Khrushchev's repudiation of Stalinism in February 1956. In his "Secret Speech", On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, delivered to a closed session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for the cult of personality surrounding him, and his government for "violations of socialist legality".[569]

Political ideology

Chinese Marxists celebrate Stalin's seventieth birthday

Marxism was the guiding philosophy throughout Stalin's adult life.[570] According to Montefiore, Marxism held a "quasi-religious" value for Stalin.[571] During his early life, Marxism blended with Georgian nationalism as a core component of his outlook.[572] In 1917, he wrote that "there is dogmatic Marxism and there is creative Marxism. I stand on the ground of the latter".[573] Volkogonov however believed that Stalin's Marxism was shaped by his "dogmatic turn of mind", something that Volkogonov suggested had been instilled in the Soviet leader during his education in religious institutions.[574] According to scholar Robert Service, Stalin's "few innovations in ideology were crude, dubious developments of Marxism".[570] Some of these derived from political expediency rather than any sincere intellectual commitment.[570] Stalin referred to himself as a praktic, meaning that he was more of a practical revolutionary than a theoretician.[575]

As a Marxist, Stalin believed in an inevitable class war between the world's working and middle classes.[576] He believed that the working classes would prove successful in this struggle and would establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.[576] He also believed that this proletarian state would need to introduce repressive measures to ensure the full crushing of the propertied classes,[577] and thus the class war would intensify with the advance of socialism.[578] The new state would then be able to ensure that all citizens had access to work, food, shelter, healthcare, and education, with the wastefulness of capitalism eliminated by a new, standardised economic system.[579]

Stalin claimed to be a loyal Leninist.[575] Nevertheless, he was—according to Service—"not a blindly obedient Leninist".[579] Stalin respected Lenin, but not uncritically,[580] and spoke out when he believed that Lenin was wrong.[579] During the period of his revolutionary activity, Stalin regarded some of Lenin's views and actions as being the self-indulgent activities of a spoiled émigré, deeming them counterproductive for those Bolshevik activists based within the Russian Empire itself.[581] After the October Revolution, they continued to have differences. Whereas Lenin believed that all countries across Europe and Asia would readily unite as a single state following proletariat revolution, Stalin argued that national pride would prevent this, and that different socialist states would have to be formed; in his view, a country like Germany would not readily submit to being part of a Russian-dominated federal state.[582] He adopted the Leninist view on the need for a revolutionary vanguard who could lead the proletariat rather than being led by them.[576]

Stalin viewed nations as contingent entities which were formed by capitalism and could merge into others.[583] Ultimately he believed that all nations would merge into a single, global human community.[583] In his work, he stated that "the right of secession" should be offered to the ethnic-minorities of the Russian Empire, but that they should not be encouraged to take that option.[584] He was of the view that if they became fully autonomous, then they would end up being controlled by the most reactionary elements of their community; as an example he cited the largely illiterate Tatars, whom he claimed would end up dominated by their mullahs.[584] Khlevniuk therefore argued that Stalin reconciled Marxism with imperialism.[578] According to Service, Stalin's Marxism was imbued with a great deal of Russian nationalism.[570] However, according to Montefiore, Stalin's embrace of the Russian nation was pragmatic, as the Russians were the core of the population of the USSR; it was not a rejection of his Georgian origins.[585] Stalin's push for Soviet westward expansion into eastern Europe resulted in accusations of Russian imperialism.[586]

Stalinism was a development of Leninism.[587] The Stalinist blend of Russian nationalism, Marxism, and state atheism was—according to Service—"so idiosyncratic a compilation as to be virtually [Stalin's] own invention".[570]

Personal life and characteristics

Stalin was a killer. He was also an intellectual, an administrator, a statesman and a party leader; he was a writer, editor, and statesman. Privately he was, in his own way, a dedicated as well as bad-tempered husband and father. But he was unhealthy in mind and body. He had many talents, and used his intelligence to act out the roles he thought suited to his interests at any given time. He baffled, appalled, enraged, attracted and entranced his contemporaries. Most men and women of his lifetime, however, underestimated Stalin.
—Robert Service[588]

In adulthood, Stalin measured 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 m) tall.[589] To give the impression that he was taller, he wore stacked shoes,[590] and stood on a small wooden platform during parades.[590] His mustached face was pock-marked from smallpox during childhood. He was born with a webbed left foot, and his left arm had been permanently injured in childhood which left it shorter than his right and lacking in flexibility,[591] which was probably the result of when he was aged 12 he was hit by a horse-drawn carriage.[592] During his youth, he usually wore a red satin shirt, grey coat, and red fedora, or alternately a traditional Georgian chokha and white hood.[593] At the time he grew his hair long and often had a beard.[594] His cultivation of a scruffy appearance deliberately sought to reject middle-class aesthetic values.[57] After the summer of 1918 until his death he took to wearing military-style clothing, in particular long black boots and a light-coloured collarless tunics, and also carried a gun.[595]

Stalin had a soft voice,[596] and when speaking Russian he did so slowly, carefully choosing his phrasing.[597] According to Volkogonov, Stalin's speaking style was "simple and clear, without flights of fancy, catchy phrases or platform histrionics".[598] Although he avoided doing so in public, in private Stalin used coarse language.[599] His writing style was similar, having—according to Volkogonov—an "elementary simplicity, without abstruse terminology or complex definitions".[600]

Stalin was ethnically Georgian and had grown up speaking the Georgian language.[597] Stalin remained proud of his Georgian identity and culture,[601] and throughout his life, he retained his Georgian accent when speaking Russian.[602] According to Montefiore, his adoption of Russian culture has been exaggerated, and he was profoundly Georgian in his lifestyle and personality, spending much of his final years in his homeland.[345] Montefiore was of the view that "after 1917, he became quadri-national: Georgian by nationality, Russian by loyalty, internationalist by ideology, Soviet by citizenship."[603] Service stated that Stalin "would never be Russian", could not credibly pass as one and contrary to what has been previously suggested, he never really tried to be one.[151] Stalin was described as "Asiatic" by his colleagues, and told a Japanese journalist, "I am not a European man, but an Asian, a Russified Georgian".[604]

Stalin inspecting the first ZIS, model 101

Trotsky and several other Soviet figures promoted the idea that Stalin was a mediocrity.[605] This idea gained widespread acceptance outside the Soviet Union but was misleading.[606] According to Montefiore, "it is clear from hostile and friendly witnesses alike that Stalin was always exceptional, even from childhood".[606] Volkogonov noted that "everyone who knew him testified that he had remarkable powers of self-control and imperturbability",[607] while Service commented on the "razor sharp" nature of his "attentiveness, memory and analytical skill", as well as his keen desire to learn.[608] Service stated that as a youth, Stalin was "cantankerous, volatile and ambitious".[609] In his early life, Stalin was not afraid to take physical risks.[610] Montefiore noted that he was "charismatic and humorous, yet profoundly morose".[594] He was known as a hard worker,[611] and when in power scrutinised many details of Soviet life, from film scripts to architectural plans and military hardware.[612]

Capable of ruthlessness,[185] Montefiore described Stalin as being capable of "self-righteous indignation".[613] Service described him as "ambitious and resentful",[614] and noted that "in politics, he was exceptionally suspicious, vengeful and sadistic".[615] Khlevniuk characterised Stalin's personality as dogmatic, "stubborn and inflexible", as well as "cruel by temperament and devoid of compassion".[616] Similarly, Volkogonov described him as having a "cold lack of compassion",[617] suggesting that his coldness had been accentuated by his many years spent in prison and exile.[607] Montefiore also regarded him as a "natural extremist" due to the brutality he displayed when angry.[618] Volkogonov thought that Stalin was "a great actor", who could play many different roles to different audiences.[619] Similarly, Conquest regarded Stalin's "most striking attribute" as his ability to "deceive others, often experienced politicians and intellectuals, about his own motives and aims".[620] He was known to often lie or to exaggerate and distort the truth.[9]

According to Service, Stalin's personality was "a dangerously damaged one", something which "supplied the high-octane fuel for the journey to the Great Terror".[586] Service stated that Stalin "derived deep satisfaction" from degrading and humiliating people, and that he "delighted" in keeping even close associates in a state of "unrelieved fear".[586] According to Montefiore, Stalin's "Messiah-complex led him to believe that anyone opposed to him was an enemy of the cause".[621] Despite his short temper and tough-talking attitude, he could be very charming.[622] When relaxed, he cracked jokes and mimicked others.[608]

It is hard for me to reconcile the courtesy and consideration he showed me personally with the ghastly cruelty of his wholesale liquidations. Others, who did not know him personally, see only the tyrant in Stalin. I saw the other side as well – his high intelligence, that fantastic grasp of detail, his shrewdness and his surprising human sensitivity that he was capable of showing, at least in the war years. I found him better informed than Roosevelt, more realistic than Churchill, in some ways the most effective of the war leaders... I must confess that for me Stalin remains the most inscrutable and contradictory character I have known – and leave the final word to the judgment of history.
—U.S. ambassador W. Averell Harriman[623]

Stalin admired artistic talent,[624] and enjoyed listening to music, owning around 2,700 albums.[625] He was a voracious reader, with a library of over 20,000 books.[626][570] He knew passages from the work of Alexander Pushkin and Nikolay Nekrasov by heart and could also recite Walt Whitman.[627] He spent much time in the Kremlin cinema, where he enjoyed watching films with other high-ranking officials late at night.[628] Khrushchev reports that Stalin was fond of American cowboy movies,[629] and Charlie Chaplin silent film episodes. He banned any hint of nudity. When Ivan showed a film with a naked woman, Stalin shouted, "Are you making a brothel here, Bolshakov?" After a movie had ended, Stalin often invited the audience for dinner, even though the clock was usually past midnight.[629] Stalin enjoyed drinking, and would often force those around him to join in, preferring Georgian wine over Russian vodka.[630][631] As an infant, Stalin had displayed a love of flowers,[632] and later in life he became a keen gardener.[632] His dacha in the Moscow suburb of Volynskoe was surrounded by a 50-acre park, with Stalin devoting much attention to its agricultural activities.[633] Stalin was also an accomplished billiards player.[634]

Stalin was also afraid of flying.[635] He only flew once, to the Tehran Conference, and forbade other Politburo members from flying without special permission.[636]

Beside his suite in the Kremlin, Stalin had numerous domiciles. In 1919, he started with a country house near Usovo, he added dachas at Zuvalova and Kuntsevo (Blizhny dacha built by Miron Merzhanov). Before World War II he added the Lipki estate and Semyonovskaya and had at least four dachas in the south by 1937, including one near Sochi. A luxury villa near Gagri was given to him by Beria. In Abkhazia he maintained a mountain retreat. After the war he added dachas at Novy Afon, near Sukhumi, in the Valdai Hills, and at Lake Mitsa. Another estate was near Zelyony Myss on the Black Sea. All these dachas, estates, and palaces were staffed, well-furnished and equipped, kept safe by security forces, and were mainly used privately, rarely for diplomatic purposes.[637]

Origin of name, nicknames and pseudonyms

Stalin's (Russian: Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Ста́лин, pronounced [ˈjɵsʲɪf vʲɪsɐˈrʲɵnəvʲɪtɕ ˈstalʲɪn]) original Georgian name is transliterated as "Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili" (Georgian: იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი [iɔsɛb bɛsɑriɔnis dzɛ dʒuɣɑʃvili]). The Russian transliteration of his name Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Джугашви́ли is in turn transliterated to English as "Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili". Like other Bolsheviks, he became commonly known by one of his revolutionary noms de guerre, of which "Stalin" was only the last. "Stalin" is based on the Russian word сталь stal, meaning "steel", and the name as a whole is supposed to mean "man of steel".[638] Prior nicknames included "Koba", "Soselo", "Ivanov" and many others.[639]

Stalin was nicknamed "Uncle Joe" by western media, during and after World War II.[640][641]

Relationships and family

Stalin and his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva

Friendship was important to Stalin, and he used it to gain and maintain power.[642][643] After he came to power, Stalin and the other members of the ruling team, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Anastas Mikoyan, Klim Voroshilov, Andrei Andreev, Sergei Kirov, Valerian Kuibyshev, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Mikhail Kalinin, Andrei Zhdanov, Khrushchev, Georgy Malenkov, Lavrenty Beria, Stanislav Kosior, Vlas Chubar, Pavel Postyshev, and Nikolai Voznesensky socialized mainly with each other. In the early years most of them had young children and Stalin's wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva was alive. Later, after World War II, as Stalin became more suspicious of his colleagues, his relationships with other members of the ruling group, now older men, became more forced.[644]

Stalin was sociable and enjoyed a joke.[645] While head of the Soviet Union he remained in contact with many of his old friends in Georgia, sending them letters and gifts of money.[646] According to Montefiore, Stalin "rarely seems to have been without a girlfriend".[55] He was sexually promiscuous, although rarely talked about his sex life.[647] Montefiore noted that Stalin's favoured types were "young, malleable teenagers or buxom peasant women",[647] who would be supportive and unchallenging toward him.[648] According to Service, Stalin "regarded women as a resource for sexual gratification and domestic comfort".[649]

Stalin married his first wife Ekaterina Svanidze in 1906. According to Montefiore, theirs was "a true love match";[650] Volkogonov suggested that she was "probably the one human being he had really loved".[617] They had a son Yakov, who often frustrated and annoyed Stalin.[651] Yakov had a daughter, Galina, before joining the Red Army and fighting in the Second World War. He was captured by the German Army and then committed suicide.[652] Stalin's second wife was Nadezhda Alliluyeva; theirs was not an easy relationship, and they often rowed.[653] They had two biological children—a son, Vasiliy, and a daughter, Svetlana—and adopted another son, Artyom Sergeev, in 1921.[654] Stalin adored his daughter and was also very fond of Artyom.[654] During his marriage to Nadezhda, Stalin had affairs with many other women, most of whom were fellow revolutionaries or their wives.[655] Nadezdha suspected that this was the case,[656] and committed suicide in 1932.[657]

According to Edvard Radzinsky he also had a long-term relationship with his housekeeper Valentina Istomina, beginning in 1934.[658][659] Stalin had at least two illegitimate children.[660] One of these, Constantin Kuzakova, later taught philosophy at the Leningrad Military Mechanical Institute, but never met his father.[661] The other, Alexander, was the son of Lidia Pereprygia; he was raised as the son of a peasant fisherman and the Soviet authorities made him swear never to reveal that Stalin was his biological father.[662]


Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist–Leninist) contingent at London May Day march in 2008, carrying a banner of Stalin.

The historian Robert Conquest stated that Stalin, "perhaps more than any other [person,] determined the course of the twentieth century".[663] According to the historian Robert Service, Stalin was "one of the most notorious figures in history", one who ordered "the systematic killing of people on a massive scale".[664] Khlevniuk stated that Stalin's actions "upended or utterly destroyed literally millions upon millions of lives".[665] Service regarded the Georgian as "one of the twentieth century's outstanding politicians".[586] Montefiore regarded Stalin as "that rare combination: both 'intellectual' and killer", a man who was "the ultimate politician" and "the most elusive and fascinating of the twentieth-century titans".[610] Montefiore suggested that Stalin was ultimately responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 25 million people,[666] with Khlevniuk stating that at least 60 million people faced some form of repression or discrimination under Stalin's regime.[667] Official records show that 800,000 were shot in the Soviet Union between 1930 and 1952, although a larger number died during torture or as a result of poor conditions in labour camps.[667] Many more died as a result of famines and starvation; between 5 and 7 million died during the 1932–33 famine.[667]

Stalin strengthened and stabilised the Soviet Union.[664] Service suggested that without Stalin's leadership the Soviet Union might have collapsed long before 1991.[664] By the time of his death, the country had been transformed into a world power and industrial colossus, with a literate population.[664]

Various biographers have described him as a dictator,[668] and in both the Soviet Union and elsewhere he came to be portrayed as an "Oriental despot".[669] The biographer Dmitri Volkogonov characterised him as "one of the most powerful figures in human history".[670] Service however cautioned against the conventional portrayal of Stalin as an "unimpeded despot", noting that "powerful though he was, his powers were not limitless".[671] Rather, his personal rule depended on his willingness to conserve the Soviet structure that he had inherited.[672] Stalin was repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism;[673] Conquest for instance stated that although Stalin had Jewish associates, he promoted anti-Semitism.[674] Service noted that during his lifetime, Stalin "would be the friend, associate or leader of countless individual Jews".[675] He has also been described as a terrorist for his revolutionary activities in Georgia.[676]

A vast literature devoted to Stalin has been produced; it is so substantial that even specialists could not read it all.[665] During Stalin's lifetime, his approved biographies were largely hagiographic in content.[614] Stalin ensured that these works gave very little attention to his early life, particularly because he did not wish to emphasise his Georgian origins in a state numerically dominated by Russians.[677] A large number of Stalin biographies have been published since his death.[678] Until the 1980s, these relied largely on the same sources of information as each other.[678] Under the administration of Mikhail Gorbachev a number of previously classified files on Lenin's life were made available to historians, with the rest being released after the fall of the Soviet Union.[678] Much new information on Stalin's early life came with the post-Soviet opening of archives, particularly in Georgia.[679] This resulted in a flood of new research.[665] Conquest expressed the view that during the period of glasnost initiated by Gorbachev, Stalin and Stalinism became "one of the most urgent and vital issues on the public agenda".[680]

Leninists remain divided in their views on Stalin. Some view him as the authentic successor to Lenin, who continued and developed his legacy, while others believe that Stalin betrayed Lenin's ideas by deviating from them.[586]

In the former Soviet Union

Stalin remains a revered figure among many Russian nationalists, who feel nostalgic about the Soviet victory in World War II.[681] Across much of the former Soviet Union, Stalin is closely associated with Soviet victory in the conflict, and is admired as a wartime leader even by those who reject his repressions.[682] In a 2006 survey, over 35% of Russians stated that they would vote for Stalin.[683][684] In a 2007 poll, 54% of Russian youth stated that Stalin did more good than bad and 46% disagreed with the statement that Stalin was a "cruel tyrant".[685] In the 2008 Name of Russia television show, Stalin was voted as the third most notable personality in Russian history.[686] A 2017 poll revealed that Stalin's popularity reached a 16-year high among the Russian population, with 46% expressing a favourable view of him.[687] At the same time, there was a growth in pro-Stalinist literature in Russia, much of which relies upon the misrepresentation or fabrication of source material.[688] In this literature, Stalin's repressions are regarded either as a necessary measure to defeat "enemies of the people" or the result of lower-level officials acting without Stalin's knowledge.[688]

Marxist–Leninist activists laying wreaths at Stalin's grave in 2009

In a 2012 opinion survey commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment, 38% of Armenians agreed with the statement, “Our people will always have need of a leader like Stalin, who will come and restore order.”[689][682] 68% of Georgians called Stalin a “wise leader.”[682] A 2013 survey by Tbilisi University found that 45% of Georgians expressed "a positive attitude to Stalin".[690] Many Georgians resent criticism of Stalin, the most famous figure from their nation's modern history.[681]

In a poll taken by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology in February 2013, 37% of all Ukrainians had "a negative attitude to the figure of Stalin" and 22% "a positive [one]".[691] Positive attitudes prevailed in East Ukraine (36%) and South Ukraine (27%) and negative attitudes in West Ukraine (64%) and Central Ukraine (39%).[691] In the age group 18–29, 16% had positive feelings towards Stalin.[691] In early 2010 a Ukrainian court posthumously convicted Stalin of genocide against the Ukrainian nation during the Soviet famine of 1932–1933.[692][693] In the spring of 2010 a new monument in honor of Stalin was erected in Zaporizhia.[693] In late December 2010 the statue had his head cut off by unidentified vandals and the following New Year's Eve it was completely destroyed in an explosion.[694] In a Kiev International Institute of Sociology poll taken in February 2016, 38% of all respondents had a negative attitude to Stalin, 26% had a neutral one and 17% had a positive (19% refused to answer).[695]

See also


  1. ^ Russian: Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Ста́лин. Stalin was born with the name Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (Georgian: იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი), which was transliterated into Russian as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (Russian: Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Джугашви́ли). He adopted the surname "Stalin" after one of his revolutionary noms de guerre; see Origins of name, nicknames and pseudonyms /ˈstɑːlɪn/,[1] Russian: Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Ста́лин, tr. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin; IPA: [ɪˈosʲɪf vʲɪsərʲɪˈonəvʲɪt͡ɕ ˈstalʲɪn].



  1. ^ "Stalin". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b Although there is an inconsistency among published sources about Stalin's year and date of birth, Iosif Dzhugashvili is found in the records of the Uspensky Church in Gori, Georgia as born on 18 December (Old Style: 6 December) 1878. This birth date is maintained in his School Leaving Certificate, his extensive tsarist Russia police file, a police arrest record from 18 April 1902 which gave his age as 23 years, and all other surviving pre-Revolution documents. As late as 1921, Stalin himself listed his birthday as 18 December 1878 in a curriculum vitae in his own handwriting. However, after his coming to power in 1922, Stalin changed the date to 21 December 1879 (Old Style date 9 December 1879). That became the day his birthday was celebrated in the Soviet Union. See "Prominent figures". Russian Information Network. Retrieved 19 July 2008. 
  3. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 2; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 11.
  4. ^ Service 2004, p. 14; Montefiore 2007, p. 23.
  5. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 2; Volkogonov 1991, p. 5; Service 2004, p. 14; Montefiore 2007, p. 19; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 11.
  6. ^ Service 2004, p. 14; Montefiore 2007, p. 19.
  7. ^ Volkogonov 1991, p. 5; Service 2004, p. 16; Montefiore 2007, p. 22; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 11.
  8. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 1; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 11.
  9. ^ a b Service 2004, p. 18.
  10. ^ Happaport 1999, p. 71.
  11. ^ Service 2004, p. 15.
  12. ^ Service 2004, p. 16.
  13. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 11; Service 2004, p. 16; Montefiore 2007, p. 23.
  14. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 5; Service 2004, p. 14; Montefiore 2007, p. 22.
  15. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 22.
  16. ^ Service 2004, p. 16; Montefiore 2007, p. 32.
  17. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 11; Service 2004, p. 19.
  18. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 30–31.
  19. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 5.
  20. ^ Service 2004, p. 17; Montefiore 2007, p. 25; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 12.
  21. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 10; Volkogonov 1991, p. 5; Service 2004, p. 17; Montefiore 2007, p. 29; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 12.
  22. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 12; Montefiore 2007, p. 31.
  23. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 32.
  24. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 31.
  25. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 11; Service 2004, p. 20; Montefiore 2007, p. 34.
  26. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 32–33.
  27. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 12; Service 2004, p. 30; Montefiore 2007, p. 44.
  28. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 43–44.
  29. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 44.
  30. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 13; Service 2004, p. 30; Montefiore 2007, p. 43.
  31. ^ Service 2004, p. 20; Montefiore 2007, p. 36.
  32. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 45.
  33. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 12; Volkogonov 1991, p. 5; Service 2004, p. 19; Montefiore 2007, p. 31.
  34. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 12; Service 2004, p. 25; Montefiore 2007, pp. 35, 46.
  35. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 51; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 15.
  36. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 53.
  37. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 52–53.
  38. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 54–55.
  39. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 19; Service 2004, p. 36; Montefiore 2007, p. 56; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 16.
  40. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 18; Montefiore 2007, p. 57.
  41. ^ Service 2004, p. 38.
  42. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 58.
  43. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 69; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 18.
  44. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 19; Montefiore 2007, p. 69; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 19.
  45. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 70–71.
  46. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 19; Montefiore 2007, p. 62; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 18.
  47. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 63.
  48. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 14; Volkogonov 1991, p. 5; Service 2004, pp. 27–28; Montefiore 2007, p. 63; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 17.
  49. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 64.
  50. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 69.
  51. ^ Service 2004, p. 40.
  52. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 66.
  53. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 65.
  54. ^ Service 2004, p. 41; Montefiore 2007, p. 71.
  55. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 73.
  56. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 27; Service 2004, p. 43; Montefiore 2007, p. 76.
  57. ^ a b Service 2004, p. 44.
  58. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 79.
  59. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 27; Montefiore 2007, p. 78.
  60. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 78.
  61. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 27; Service 2004, p. 45; Montefiore 2007, pp. 81–82.
  62. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 82.
  63. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 28; Montefiore 2007, p. 82.
  64. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 87.
  65. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 87–88.
  66. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 29; Service 2004, p. 52; Montefiore 2007, p. 101.
  67. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 91, 95.
  68. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 90–93; Khlevniuk 2015, pp. 22–23.
  69. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 29; Service 2004, p. 49; Montefiore 2007, pp. 94–95; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 23.
  70. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 97–98.
  71. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 29; Service 2004, p. 49; Montefiore 2007, p. 98.
  72. ^ Service 2004, p. 52; Montefiore 2007, p. 101.
  73. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 29; Service 2004, p. 52; Montefiore 2007, p. 105.
  74. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 29; Montefiore 2007, p. 107; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 23.
  75. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 29; Service 2004, p. 52; Montefiore 2007, pp. 108–110.
  76. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 111.
  77. ^ Service 2004, p. 52; Montefiore 2007, pp. 114–115.
  78. ^ Service 2004, p. 52; Montefiore 2007, pp. 115–116.
  79. ^ Service 2004, p. 57; Montefiore 2007, p. 123.
  80. ^ Service 2004, pp. 51–52, 54; Montefiore 2007, p. 117.
  81. ^ Service 2004, p. 54; Montefiore 2007, pp. 117–118.
  82. ^ Conquest 1991, pp. 33–34; Service 2004, p. 53; Montefiore 2007, p. 113; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 24.
  83. ^ Service 2004, p. 59; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 24.
  84. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 131.
  85. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 38; Service 2004, p. 59.
  86. ^ a b Service 2004, p. 56; Montefiore 2007, p. 126.
  87. ^ Service 2004, p. 56.
  88. ^ Service 2004, p. 58; Montefiore 2007, pp. 128–129.
  89. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 129.
  90. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 131–132.
  91. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 132.
  92. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 143.
  93. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 132–133.
  94. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 135, 144.
  95. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 137.
  96. ^ Service 2004, p. 60; Montefiore 2004, p. 145.
  97. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 145.
  98. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 37; Service 2004, p. 60.
  99. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 147.
  100. ^ Conquest 1991, pp. 39–40; Service 2004, pp. 61, 62; Montefiore 2007, p. 156.
  101. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 40; Service 2004, p. 62; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 26.
  102. ^ Service 2004, p. 62.
  103. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 168.
  104. ^ Service 2004, p. 64; Montefiore 2007, p. 159.
  105. ^ Service 2004, p. 64; Montefiore 2007, p. 167; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 25.
  106. ^ Service 2004, p. 65.
  107. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 41; Service 2004, p. 65; Montefiore 2007, pp. 168-170.
  108. ^ Conquest 1991, pp. 41–42; Service 2004, p. 75.
  109. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 180.
  110. ^ Conquest 1991, pp. 43–44; Service 2004, p. 76; Montefiore 2007, p. 184.
  111. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 190.
  112. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 186.
  113. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 189.
  114. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 191.
  115. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 44; Service 2004, p. 71; Montefiore 2007, p. 193.
  116. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 194.
  117. ^ Service 2004, p. 74; Montefiore 2007, p. 196.
  118. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 197–198.
  119. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 195.
  120. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 44; Service 2004, p. 68; Montefiore 2007, p. 203.
  121. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 45; Montefiore 2007, pp. 203–204.
  122. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 45; Service 2004, p. 68; Montefiore 2007, pp. 206, 208.
  123. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 46; Montefiore 2007, p. 212.
  124. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 46; Montefiore 2007, p. 222.
  125. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 46; Montefiore 2007, p. 226.
  126. ^ Service 2004, p. 79; Montefiore 2007, pp. 227, 229, 230–231.
  127. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 47; Service 2004, p. 80; Montefiore 2007, pp. 231, 234.
  128. ^ Service 2004, p. 79; Montefiore 2007, p. 234.
  129. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 236.
  130. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 237.
  131. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 48; Service 2004, p. 83; Montefiore 2007, p. 240.
  132. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 240.
  133. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 241.
  134. ^ Service 2004, p. 84; Montefiore 2007, p. 243.
  135. ^ a b Service 2004, p. 84; Montefiore 2007, p. 247.
  136. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 51; Montefiore 2007, p. 248.
  137. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 249.
  138. ^ Service 2004, p. 86; Montefiore 2007, p. 250.
  139. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 51; Service 2004, pp. 86–87; Montefiore 2007, pp. 250–251.
  140. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 252–253.
  141. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 255.
  142. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 256.
  143. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 52; Service 2004, pp. 87–88; Montefiore 2007, pp. 256–259.
  144. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 263.
  145. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 54; Service 2004, p. 89; Montefiore 2007, p. 263.
  146. ^ Service 2004, p. 89; Montefiore 2007, pp. 264–265.
  147. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 266.
  148. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 53; Service 2004, p. 85; Montefiore 2007, p. 266.
  149. ^ a b Montefiore 2007, p. 267.
  150. ^ Volkogonov 1991, p. 7; Service 2004, p. 85.
  151. ^ a b c Service 2004, p. 85.
  152. ^ Volkogonov 1991, p. 7; Montefiore 2007, p. 268.
  153. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 267–268.
  154. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 268–270; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 28.
  155. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 54; Service 2004, pp. 102–103; Montefiore 2007, pp. 270, 273; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 29.
  156. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 273–274.
  157. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 55; Service 2004, pp. 105–106; Montefiore 2007, pp. 277–278; 29.
  158. ^ Service 2004, p. 107; Montefiore 2007, pp. 282–285; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 30.
  159. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 292–293.
  160. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 298, 300.
  161. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 287.
  162. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 56; Service 2004, p. 110; Montefiore 2007, pp. 288–289.
  163. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 57; Service 2004, pp. 113–114; Montefiore 2007, p. 300.
  164. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 57; Montefiore 2007, pp. 301–302.
  165. ^ a b Service 2004, p. 114; Montefiore 2007, p. 302.
  166. ^ Conquest 1991, pp. 57–58; Service 2004, pp. 116–117; Montefiore 2007, pp. 302–303; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 42.
  167. ^ Volkogonov 1991, pp. 15, 19; Service 2004, p. 117; Montefiore 2007, p. 304.
  168. ^ Volkogonov 1991, p. 19; Service 2004, p. 120; Montefiore 2007, p. 310.
  169. ^ Conquest 1991, pp. 59–60; Montefiore 2007, p. 310.
  170. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 64; Service 2004, p. 131; Montefiore 2007, p. 316; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 46.
  171. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 316.
  172. ^ Service 2004, p. 144.
  173. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 65; Montefiore 2007, pp. 319–320.
  174. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 322–324; Khlevniuk 2015, pp. 48–49.
  175. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 326.
  176. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 68; Service 2004, p. 138; Montefiore 2007, pp. 331–332; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 50.
  177. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 332-333, 335.
  178. ^ Service 2004, p. 144; Montefiore 2007, pp. 337–338.
  179. ^ Service 2004, p. 145; Montefiore 2007, p. 341.
  180. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 341–342.
  181. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 344–346.
  182. ^ Service 2004, p. 145.
  183. ^ Service 2004, p. 147.
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  187. ^ Service 2004, p. 148; Khlevniuk 2015, p. 52.
  188. ^ Volkogonov 1991, pp. 28–29; Service 2004, p. 148.
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  190. ^ a b Montefiore 2003, p. 27.
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  193. ^ Service 2004, p. 149.
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  195. ^ a b Service 2004, p. 158.
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  199. ^ Service 2004, p. 153.
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  201. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 72; Service 2004, p. 151.
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  222. ^ Conquest 1991, p. 86.
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  309. ^ Quoted in Volkogonov, Dmitri (1991) Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, New York, p. 210 ISBN 0-7615-0718-3
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  331. ^ Lisova, Natasha (28 November 2006). "Ukraine Recognize Famine As Genocide". Associated Press. 
  332. ^ France Meslé, Gilles Pison, Jacques Vallin France-Ukraine: Demographic Twins Separated by History, Population and societies, N°413, juin 2005
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  374. ^ Naimark, Norman M. Stalin's Genocides (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity). Princeton University Press, 2010. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-691-14784-1
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  383. ^ Montefiore 2004, p. 649: "Perhaps 20 million had been killed; 28 million deported, of whom 18 million had slaved in the Gulags".
  384. ^ Volkogonov, Dmitri. Autopsy for an Empire: The Seven Leaders Who Built the Soviet Regime. p. 139. ISBN 0-684-83420-0. Between 1929 and 1953 the state created by Lenin and set in motion by Stalin deprived 21.5 million Soviet citizens of their lives. 
  385. ^ Yakovlev, Alexander N.; Austin, Anthony; Hollander, Paul (2004). A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia. Yale University Press. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-300-10322-9. My own many years and experience in the rehabilitation of victims of political terror allow me to assert that the number of people in the USSR who were killed for political motives or who died in prisons and camps during the entire period of Soviet power totaled 20 to 25 million. And unquestionably one must add those who died of famine – more than 5.5 million during the civil war and more than 5 million during the 1930s. 
  386. ^ Gellately (2007) p. 584: "More recent estimations of the Soviet-on-Soviet killing have been more 'modest' and range between ten and twenty million." and Stéphane Courtois. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror Repression. Harvard University Press, 1999. p. 4: "U.S.S.R.: 20 million deaths."
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  564. ^ Ra'anan, Uri, ed. (2006). Flawed Succession: Russia's Power Transfer Crises. Oxford: Lexington Books. pp. 20–21. ISBN 9780739114032. 
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  623. ^ Melvyn P. Leffler (2007). For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. Macmillan. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9781429964098. 
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  636. ^ Cite error: The named reference Fitzpatrick2015 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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  643. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick (2015). On Stalin's Team. Carlton: Melbourne University Press. p. 65. 
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  666. ^ Montefiore 2007, p. 376.
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  687. ^ Taylor, Adam (February 15, 2017). "Positive views of Stalin among Russians reach 16-year high, poll shows". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
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    Yushchenko Praises Guilty Verdict Against Soviet Leaders For Famine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (14 January 2010)
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Applebaum, Anne (2003). Gulag: A History. Doubleday. ISBN 0-7679-0056-1. 
Bideleux, Robert; Jeffries, Ian (1998). A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-05024-8. 
Boobbyer, Phillip (2000). The Stalin Era. Routledge. ISBN 0-7679-0056-1. 
Brackman, Roman (2001). The Secret File of Joseph Stalin: A Hidden Life. Frank Cass Publishers. ISBN 0-7146-5050-1. 
Brent, Jonathan; Naumov, Vladimir (2004). Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948–1953. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-093310-0. 
Bullock, Alan (1962). Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-013564-2. 
Conquest, Robert (1991). Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York and London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0140169539. 
Fainsod, Jerry F.; Hough, Merle (1979). How the Soviet Union is Governed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-41030-5. 
Gellately, Robert (2007). Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Knopf. ISBN 1-4000-4005-1. 
Henig, Ruth Beatrice (2005). The Origins of the Second World War, 1933–41. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-33262-1. 
Khlevniuk, Oleg V. (2015). Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator. Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-16388-9. 
Li, Hua-yu (Spring 2009). "Reactions of Chinese Citizens to the Death of Stalin: Internal Communist Party Reports". Journal of Cold War Studies. 11 (2): 70–88. 
Montefiore, Simon Sebag (2003). Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-842-12726-1. 
Montefiore, Simon Sebag (2007). Young Stalin. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-85068-7. 
Murphy, David E. (2006). What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11981-X. 
Nekrich, Aleksandr Moiseevich; Ulam, Adam Bruno; Freeze, Gregory L. (1997). Pariahs, Partners, Predators: German-Soviet Relations, 1922–1941. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10676-9. 
Overy, R. J. (2004). The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02030-4. 
Rappaport, Helen (1999). Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-084-0. 
Roberts, Geoffrey (1992). "The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany". Soviet Studies. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 55 (2): 57–78. JSTOR 152247. doi:10.1080/09668139208411994. 
Roberts, Geoffrey (2002). "Stalin, the Pact with Nazi Germany, and the Origins of Postwar Soviet Diplomatic Historiography". 4 (4). 
Roberts, Geoffrey (2006). Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11204-1. 
Shirer, William L. (1990). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72868-7. 
Service, Robert (2000). Lenin: A Biography. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-72625-9. 
Service, Robert (2004). Stalin:A Biography. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-72627-3. 
Soviet Information Bureau (1948). "Falsifiers of History (Historical Survey)". Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 272848. 
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Taubert, Fritz (2003). The Myth of Munich. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag. ISBN 3-486-56673-3. 
Tucker, Robert C. (1992). Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928–1941. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-30869-3. 
Volkogonov, Dimitri (1991). Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. Translated by Harold Shukman. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297810803. 
Wegner, Bernd (1997). From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-1941. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781571818829. 
Wettig, Gerhard (2008). Stalin and the Cold War in Europe. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-5542-9. 

Further reading

Kotkin, Stephen (2014). Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-713-99944-0. 
Rayfield, Donald (2005). Stalin and his Hangmen. Penguin. ISBN 9780141914190. 

External links

  • Stalin Library (with all 13 volumes of Stalin's works and "volume 14")
  • Library of Congress: Revelations from the Russian Archives
  • Electronic archive of Stalin's letters and presentations
  • Сollection of songs about Stalin in different languages (another version)
  • Stalin digital archive
  • – A site about the Soviet era (in Russian)
  • "The Revolution Betrayed" by Leon Trotsky
  • Stalin Biography from Spartacus Educational
  • A List of Key Documentary Material on Stalin
  • "Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform, Part One" and "Part Two" by Grover Furr.
  • Stalinka: The Digital Library of Staliniana
  • Modern History Sourcebook: Stalin's Reply to Churchill, 1946
  • Modern History Sourcebook: Nikita S. Khrushchev: The Secret Speech – On the Cult of Personality, 1956
  • The political economy of Stalinism: evidence from the Soviet secret archives by Paul R. Gregory
  • "Demographic catastrophes of the 20th century", chapter from Demographic Modernization in Russia 1900–2000, ed. A. G. Vishnevsky, 2006 ISBN 5-98379-042-0 – estimates of the human cost of Stalin's rule
  • Annotated bibliography for Joseph Stalin from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
  • "Secret documents reveal Stalin was poisoned" study by the Russian paper Pravda of events behind possible death by poisoning
  • Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Current Intelligence. Death of Stalin at the Wayback Machine (archived 8 March 2012), 16 July 1953.
  • How Many Did Stalin Really Murder? by Professor R.J. Rummel
  • The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986)
  • Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse? by Timothy Snyder
  • Untold History: Stalin, the Soviet Union and WWII. Interview with Peter Kuznick on The Real News. 14 January 2013
  • Joseph Stalin on IMDb
Political offices
Preceded by
Vyacheslav Molotov
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
Council of People's Commissars until 1946

Succeeded by
Georgy Malenkov
Preceded by
Semyon Timoshenko
Minister of Defence of the Soviet Union
People's Commissar until 1946

Succeeded by
Nikolai Bulganin
Party political offices
Preceded by
Vyacheslav Molotov
as Responsible Secretary
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Nikita Khrushchev
as First Secretary
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