Pro Stalin Essays

Even before the start of World War II in 1939, Stalin’s principle foreign policy objectives were clear, he pursued consistently a geopolitical policy, which sought to quench his relentless desire for security by expanding the Soviet borders outwards, making Russia the dominant power on the Eurasian landmass with buffer states to her West. This objective was sought before and throughout the war and was driven by a mix of pragmatism, ideology and Stalin’s paranoia- which made security his chief concern. Stalin’s ‘security objective’ did not change in response to Western policy, however his methods for achieving it did. Before the war and until 1941, this was sought in the context of an alliance with Nazi Germany, who used Stalin so that they could achieve their aims in Poland and France. After Barbarossa, Stalin’s objective remained the same, but his methods for achieving it had to change. When it became evident the Allies were hostile to Russia retaining its 1941 borders post-war, Stalin adopted the National Front Strategy, which emphasised democracy and moderation to achieve his goals without antagonising the West. When this clearly faltered, and when Stalin realised Russia’s importance to the allies, especially after Yalta, he became less conciliatory, and was not afraid once again to be obstructive, and to use force to achieve his objective. Stalin also wanted economic aid and a second front from the West to relieve the pressure on the Red Army. Like the issue of borders, these objectives remained constant throughout the war, though his methods for achieving them did change in response to the policies of the Allies. Most remarkably, Stalin resorted to ‘blackmailing’[1] the Allies, hinting of a separate peace with the Germans to force their hand.

Stalin was obsessed with borders because he believed that without their extension Russia was vulnerable; she had after all been invaded three times between 1914-1941. An important factor that must not be underestimated when regarding what Stalin wanted from the Western Powers is his personality and his paranoia. This was behind everything Stalin did. As Raymond Birt convincingly demonstrates, ‘the clinical description of the paranoid almost perfectly describes Stalin’s personality’; Stalin could not trust even those closest to him, let alone men such as Churchill, quoted once as saying that the Bolshevik baby should be strangled in its crib[2]. Throughout the war Stalin regularly accused the Allies of seeking a separate peace with Germany, this was why he was so desperate for a second front- to get Allied commitment. Events exacerbated Stalin’s paranoia, he was particularly anxious following the ‘Hess Affair’ in 1941 and the ‘Bern negotiations’ in 1945. After Barbarossa, Stalin feared that the British policy was to sit back and watch Germany and Russia bleed each other dry. In a cable to Ivan Maisky (the Russian ambassador to Britain), 19 October 1941, Stalin wrote: ‘Churchill is aiming at the defeat of the USSR, in order to come to terms with Germany… without making this assumption it is difficult to explain Churchill’s conduct on the second front and the quantity of supplies to the USSR’[3]. Stalin believed that ‘Churchill is the kind of man who will pick your pocket for a Kopeck if you don’t watch him’[4]. Stalin’s suspicion could not be shaken off even after Overlord, as demonstrated by his messages to Roosevelt in April 1945, where paranoia over meetings with the Germans in Bern led him to state ‘you affirmed that no negotiations have been entered into. Apparently you are not fully informed’[5]. Stalin’s paranoia is also a principle reason why security was so important to him, and why he persistently pursued territorial diplomacy, seeking buffer states to his West, and the recapture of strategic ports and islands from China and Japan in the East. These goals and the achievements of a Soviet ‘sphere of influence’ remained important to Stalin even after Russia was allied to the only remaining ‘Great Powers’ following the Axis defeat, and after a framework (the United Nations) had been set up to deal with inter-state conflict.

Stalin’s security objectives remained constant throughout the war. Up to 1941, Stalin sought security through allegiance with Nazi Germany, believing that this was the best way to achieve balance of power in Europe and forestall a German attack that was expected sometime, as yet undefined, in the future. Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact because he was suspicious of British and French motives, fearing they would ally with Germany, as well as the fact that Britain would not (unlike Germany) allow Russia to annex Finland and the Baltic states. Whilst Hitler caused consternation in Moscow with the 1936 Anti-Comintern Pact and the Spanish Civil War, Britain’s disregard for Soviet policy in 1938, favouring the self-determination of the Sudetenland Germans over the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia, led Stalin to believe that to maintain peace in the short-term a treaty with Germany was preferable. Stalin hoped to maintain peace and organise a series of buffer states on Russia’s borders by keeping Hitler close.

The strategy of avoiding war to achieve his security interests in Europe was due to the weakness of the Red Army and Stalin’s fear that in war the capitalists would unite to overthrow the Communist regime. The pact did therefore have an ideological backdrop, and on this occasion Stalin’s suspicions are understandable: Britain wore its anti-bolshevism brazenly whilst Germany devised the Anti-Comintern pact. Stalin later told Churchill that he believed negotiations with France and Britain ‘were insincere and for the purpose of intimidating Hitler, with whom the [Allies] would later come to terms’[6]. The Nazi-Soviet Pact split the capitalists down the middle, and allowed Stalin to take parts of Eastern Europe.

The significance of the Pact for the future course and evolution of Soviet foreign policy ‘cannot be overemphasised’[7] as it defined the contents of a spheres of influence agreement- that is the exclusive freedom of political and diplomatic manoeuvre in a dedicated area, which Stalin sought throughout the war. The Pact was undoubtedly a success for Stalin, as although short-lived, he had got what he wanted from the Powers to his west: a buffer-zone from aggression and an intra-capitalist conflict. Stalin hoped he could work this to his advantage by enhancing Russia’s position relative to both sides. Following Barbarossa, Stalin’s objectives obviously had to change. Principally he wanted the destruction of Germany, and help doing so. However, he still desired a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, the value of which was demonstrated by extending Germany’s advance in 1941. Restoration of the 1941 borders was what Russia was fighting for.

Even though the Wehrmacht’s Operation Typhoon had moved the front to the Gates of Moscow by December 5 1941, remarkably, when Eden arrived in the city on December 16, Stalin asked the British Foreign Secretary not just for economic aid for the immediate dilemma, but also for an agreement as to where the Soviet borders should be when the war was won, Stalin insisting they should return to where they were in 1941. Eden was somewhat surprised, and when he revealed that he did not have the authority to agree to such a wide range of proposals Stalin’s response was to refuse to sign an alliance. Even as the war progressed, Stalin’s demands for the 1941 borders remained constant, at Yalta in 1944 when Zukhov’s forces were 40 miles from Berlin, Stalin still felt the need to explain that ‘throughout history Poland was always a corridor through which the enemy has come to attack Russia… [this is] because Poland was weak’[8].

Nevertheless, when the situation on the front was more desperate, Stalin’s priorities changed. In May 1942 in London, Molotov remarkably dropped his demands for an agreement on post war borders and signed, to Eden’s surprise, only a treaty of alliance with Britain for twenty years. It has been speculated that this U-turn was because Russia needed a second front more urgently and, in response to the Allied policy to not talk about borders until the peace, they changed their objectives[9]. Molotov the argument goes, dropped the border demands in order to create a sense of obligation on Roosevelt’s part. Through their correspondence, Stalin believed that Roosevelt was willing to take steps towards opening a second front to relieve pressure on the Soviets. He had written to Stalin that he had ‘in mind a very important military proposal involving the utilisation of our armed forces in a manner to relieve your critical Western front. This objective carries weight with me… time is of the essence if we are to help in an important way’[10]. This was encouraged on 24th May when the American ambassador to Britain, John Gilbert Winant, told Molotov that the second front counted more for Roosevelt that did border treaties. Thus Moscow was encouraged to desist from pushing the borders issue in London ‘by a promise from Roosevelt of a second front that very year’[11]. Derek Watson argues that ‘with the deteriorating military situation… broader objectives had to be abandoned for a second front to relieve pressure on the USSR and ensure its survival’[12].

In fact, the American position had nothing to do with Molotov accepting Eden’s proposal- before Molotov had even told the Kremlin that he was to meet with Winant, Stalin cabled him to say that Eden’s ‘was an important document. It lacks the question of frontiers, but is not bad perhaps, for it gives us a free hand. The question of security… will be decided by force’[13]. Eduard Marks believes that the ‘unavoidable conclusion’ was that the alliance was in fact an important objective for Stalin[14]. Stalin’s policy was evolving and he was beginning to see a post-war continuation of the ‘Big Three’ as increasingly important. The Soviets themselves recognised the alliance ‘was an important historical landmark’ given the hostility evident since 1917[15]. Geoffrey Roberts argues the meeting in London was the beginning of a slowly evolving but nevertheless ‘fundamental re-orientation of Soviet foreign policy’[16]. Stalin was beginning to commit himself to achieving security through the continuation of the alliance in peace. This, however, did not mean that his project of security through spheres of influence had been abandoned, it was being re-conceptualised into the division of the world into three Allied spheres of influence which would be the foundation of a Soviet-Western alliance. This is evidenced by enthusiasm about Roosevelt’s post-war plans, expanded upon to Molotov on 29 May. In a cable to Molotov, 1 June 1942, Stalin wrote: ‘Roosevelt’s statements on preserving peace after the war are absolutely correct. One cannot doubt that without the creation of an association of the armed forces of England, the USA and the USSR to forestall aggression, it will not be possible to preserve peace in the future’. Stalin expressed essentially the same view in November 1944, saying the Grand Alliance ‘came not from accidental or transitory motives, but vitally important and long lasting interests’[17].

Stalin was adjusting his security policy to one that combined aggrandizement with collaboration. For Stalin, these were not separate, but entwined: component parts of a single policy. Stalin was beginning to see the coalition not as an obstacle to his desires, but as central to achieving his expansionist and security aims. There are two evident reasons for the high value Stalin was now beginning to place on the Allies: firstly, for the Soviet economy to recover it would need significant Western economic aid, and secondly, at the end of the war Russia would be in no position for a trial of strength. There were other, more subtle reasons that were important to Stalin. Principally there was a defensive consideration, the Western militaries were impressive but an alliance would complicate their capitalist conviction to work against Russia. Stalin also wanted participation in the occupation of Japan, a North African trusteeship, revision of the Montreux treaty, and most importantly, reparations from Germany and a say in its post-war administration. These could only be achieved in the context of Allied unity.

Stalin therefore had to change his Eastern European approach. Whilst his aim of spreading Soviet influence remained the same, to keep the Grand Alliance Stalin could not openly impose revolution through murders and deportation as he had done previously. Roosevelt had sold the war to the American people as a crusade for liberal democratic values as expressed in the Atlantic Charter, and he induced the Allies to endorse this programme. If Stalin flaunted this Roosevelt might not survive, and the Grand Alliance would go with him. To keep the alliance alive and to spread Soviet influence, Stalin had to change his tactics, and ordered the Comintern not to push for revolution, but rather to stress the common threat of fascism. By causing the Nazi’s trouble without aiming for revolution, Europe’s Communists demonstrated to the West their patriotism and dedication to democracy- whilst also laying the foundations for future political influence, in ways which the Allies could not object to, and might actually be grateful for. Stalin himself made light of world revolution at Tehran, saying: ‘We won’t worry about that. We have found it not so easy to set up a Communist society’[18].

The National Front strategy was implemented across Europe to draw the masses towards communism without antagonising the West. This consisted of an stress on nationalism (rather than class) emphasising ‘national roads to socialism’[19], calls for moderate and non-revolutionary socio-economic reform, such as land reform and mixed economies (popular ideas across Europe that were not overtly radical but would also break the power of the high-bourgeois and be a step towards socialism), a respect four ‘bourgeois democracy’ with its parliaments and parties, and finally the promise of effective governance: the Communists should be the responsible party in any parliament with practical answers to pressing problems. The purpose of these instructions was also made clear; Stalin stressed Allied solidarity and the need to preserve the alliance.

This strategy was a response to the democratic and liberal policies of the Western Powers, who refused to talk about borders until the peace. It was a way of achieving Soviet predominance in Eastern Europe without Western condemnation that might damage the Grand Alliance. Some historians have argued that this was not the case and that Stalinist foreign policy was ad hoc, reactive and opportunistic. Vojtech Mastny argues that ‘nowhere beyond what Moscow considered the Soviet borders did its policies foresee the establishment of Communist regimes’[20]. However, evidence since Mastny’s time of writing shows that, although we still do not have the entire picture, Stalin did have a distinct strategy for Eastern Europe. The editors of the Russian Institute of General History’s new collection of documents believe that ‘it is obvious that the activity of the Comintern conducted until May 1943 was not only broken off thereafter but became more extensive’[21]; letters and cables sent to Europe’s Communist parties make this clear. On 4 April 1943, the Polish PPR received a message stating that ‘The political structures in Poland must be defined according to the decisions of the party platform, that is to say, as a democratic not a Soviet order’, whilst in February 1944 it was instructed that it was most important not to ‘create the false impression that PPR is carrying out a source of Sovietisation in Poland, which in the present state of external affairs, can only give encouragement to every sort of provocateur and every enemy of the Polish people’. The Comintern’s successor, the OMI, was more explicit, telling the PRR that radicalism would ‘make Poland a bone of contention between the Tehran powers’, instead they should strive to create a ‘situation favourable for our long term plans’ (18 July 1944)[22]. Similar messages were sent out to the Communist parties throughout Europe in both East and West.

However, despite this, one must also remember that there were incidents throughout the war where Stalin made it very difficult for the West to believe that he did indeed intend on maintaining the Alliance. At the same time as instructing Europe’s Communists not to be antagonistic, Stalin himself was doing exactly that. By ending relations with the Polish Government in Exile in 1943 for example, he was hardly showing his commitment to Alliance. Furthermore, throughout the war he pursued policies that were often utterly unacceptable to the Allies, importantly leaving the Polish Home Army to be slaughtered by the Germans in Warsaw, July-October 1944, despite the Red Army being only ten kilometres away. Glantz has argued that the Red Army was not in a position to take Warsaw at that time[23], however, even if that was the case, refusal to allow Allied planes to operate in Soviet territory to assist the Poles was inexcusable. This resulted in a loss of Allied faith in the Soviets, US Ambassador Harriman wrote to Cordell Hull that refusal to aid Warsaw was ‘based not on operational difficulties, but on ruthless political considerations’[24]. However, Stalin did not see such actions as obstacles to a post-war peace. Instead, he thought it was appropriate, and his paranoia convinced him that the Home Army were ‘power-seeking criminals… exposing unarmed people to German guns… Hitlerites [who] are cruelly exterminating the civilian population’, telling Churchill that ‘Soviet troops are doing all they can’[25]. To Stalin, the Poles were an enemy. Furthermore, it is likely that he underestimated Allied concerns about Warsaw. After all, hundreds of Soviet cities had been ravaged by the Nazi’s and millions had died without such Allied concern. For Stalin, Allied disquiet over Warsaw seemed remarkable.

Towards the end of the war the National Front Strategy evidently failed to achieve its objectives. Nowhere in Europe did the Communists succeed in winning a critical-mass of support, and they could not hold onto power without resorting to dictatorial methods and the brute strength of the Red Army, something that was antagonistic to the Western Alliance. Furthermore, Stalin’s inconsistent behaviour such as over Warsaw in 1944, his constant demand for the 1941 borders and his feeling that Russia had been badly treated, made the Allies feel threatened and concerned. Although ultimately the National Front strategy did not work, its adoption in 1943 was a clear response to the policies of the Allies whom the Soviets realized they had to work with to defeat fascism. Although brutality did eventually emerge in Eastern Europe, it was not supposed to be so- indeed repression was the result of the failure of the National Front Strategy, the attempt to achieve Sovietisation beyond Russia’s borders and still be a member of the ‘Big Three’.

Stalin ultimately chose the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe over a continued Alliance with the West. This is because in Stalin’s ideologically warped mind, security was more likely to be achieved through the creation of a sphere of influence than it was through the continued friendly relations of the other world powers- Stalin was always suspicious that the capitalists would unite against Russia sometime in the future, so therefore the continuation of an alliance was always temporary anyway. One must always be careful not to judge this decision with the benefit of hindsight, nevertheless, to many in the West who hoped for a continuation of relations with Russia in the future, such as Eden, Stalin’s decision seemed an aberration of sense. In the end, as Stalin said in 1942, Eastern Europe was ‘decided by force’. Stalin succeeded in bringing socialism to Eastern Europe, but not by methods he would have preferred, at a cost he had hoped not to pay.

After Yalta, to satisfy his paranoid security concerns, Stalin brought the ‘iron veil’[26] down over Poland, much to British chagrin. Poland was the key to Soviet security, and to create the strong and friendly Poland Stalin wanted, a government made up of the London Poles was unacceptable as they were unwilling to play the role of a client state. Although it was an anathema to the British, Stalin felt he needed his Polish buffer-zone, and ultimately stopped at nothing to achieve it.

Stalin’s more immediate objectives at the beginning of the war was to secure the agreement of economic aid and to get a second front launched in France. In his very earliest exchanges with Churchill, Stalin wrote: ‘It seems to me that the military situation of the Soviet Union… would be significantly improved if a front against Hitler was opened in the West’[27]. As the situation grew more desperate, Stalin pleaded: ‘How can we get out of this more than unpleasant situation?’, before answering his own question: ‘I think the only way out is this very year to create a second front in the Balkans or France, capable of drawing thirty to forty German divisions off the Eastern Front’[28]. This objective remained constant, despite repeated changes in Allied policies: Stalin still wanted a second front even after the Red Army looked as if it could win the war alone following the Wehrmacht’s defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk. However, Stalin did change his tactics to achieve this goal, and was not afraid to play hardball to get his way; from 1942 onwards, bizarrely given the National Front strategy, Stalin’s ploys to achieve a second front became consistently more aggressive until the operation was agreed[29]. This to some extent reflected Stalin’s frustration at the failure to launch a second front after so much hope, as well as the dire military situation and the tremendous sacrifices Russia was making.

Stalin’s determination to get a second front hardened in response to what he believed to be broken Allied promises, and their pursuit, at the expense of Soviet troops engaging the Germans, of imperialist aims in the Mediterranean. In April 1942 Roosevelt wrote to Stalin hinting of a possible second front, and in Washington in May 1942 Molotov pushed this, stressing the precarious Russian situation and arguing that if forty division were to be drawn off the Eastern Front that year, the subsequent Russian breakthrough could end the war before 1943. However, what Molotov did not know was that Churchill had already rejected Sledgehammer (1942 invasion of Europe) and was cowardly placing responsibility for informing Molotov on Roosevelt’s shoulders, or allowing him to commit resources independently to a second front in 1942.

Roosevelt however told Molotov that he did have hope for a second front in 1942 and that this would be more practical if the Soviets were to reduce their demands for supplies from 8 million tons to 2 million, thereby freeing up ships to transport men to Britain. Roosevelt told Molotov that ‘the United States was striving and hoping to create a second front in 1942’ and by reducing their demand for materials the chances would be improved[30]. However, Roosevelt followed this by saying that it was necessary to consult the British, as it was they who would have to bear the main burden- he had therefore skilfully placed the decision firmly back on Churchill’s shoulders. Roosevelt was genuinely concerned about the Eastern situation. He wrote to Churchill after Molotov’s visit saying ‘Molotov has made it very clear his very real anxiety as to the next 4-5 months… I have a very strong feeling that the Russian position is precarious and may grow steadily worse during the coming weeks… the important thing is that we may be and probably are faced with real trouble on the Russian front and must make our plans to meet it’[31]. Churchill however, believed the Mediterranean strategy offered the highest chances for success.

Stalin, responding to what Roosevelt had told Molotov, did agree to reduce his demand for supplies, he was therefore sacrificing one of his objectives to try and secure another. However, this was not what the British had in mind, and at the final negotiations back in London, Churchill suggested a small raid at most, making this very clear to Molotov in an aide-memoir stating that the British government was not bound by any definite obligations on the second front. This, as well as Churchill’s visit to Moscow in August 1942 where he repeated there would be no second front, led to a change in Stalin’s tactics. Stalin dropped the conciliatory, quid pro quo approach that he had adopted when sacrificing supplies for a second front and now put pressure on the Allies by questioning their resolve and by allowing his anger and suspicions to rise to the surface. When Churchill in Moscow told Stalin that there could be no second front in 1942 Stalin reacted harshly, saying ‘you can’t win by not taking risks’ and ‘you mustn’t be afraid of the Germans’[32]. Stalin’s anger is easy to understand, at this point in the war the Allies had secured no major victories (Alamein was to come) whilst the Russians had pushed the German’s back from Moscow and was holding up the Leningrad siege at great cost.

After this meeting, and until Overlord was agreed at Tehran, the tone of Soviet diplomacy became increasingly hostile. In December 1942, an OSS report noted a Soviet newspaper article boldly stating: ‘If the Russians are left to win alone, they would ignore the Anglo-Saxons in establishing peace. A common effort in the war would assure a mutual understanding and sound collaboration for peace’. Articles such as this alarmed the West and therefore did exactly as the Soviet government intended. US Admiral Ernest E King warned the other joint chiefs of staff, 16 January 1943, that ‘unless the West took some definitive move toward the defeat of Germany, Russia would dominate at the peace table’[33]. This rocky relationship continued into the first part of 1943, considerably so after the Casablanca Conference where Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to delay the cross-channel invasion for a second time in order to attack through Sicily.

In 1943 Stalin’s worries about Western intentions regarding a second front reached a point whereby the West believed that Allied-Soviet relations were in crisis. On 11 June 1943, Stalin informed Roosevelt that ‘your decision… may gravely affect the future course of the war’[34] and he pulled out of a planned one-on-one meeting with Roosevelt, to signify his displeasure. Stalin also resented the fact that decisions such as Italy’s surrender 2 May 1943, had been taken without him. This followed the breaking off of relations between Moscow and the Polish Government in Exile in April 1943 in the aftermath of the discovery of Katyn by the Germans. To make matters worse, from March 1943 Churchill suspended convoys to Russia after some heavy losses. Stalin believed the convoys were a binding commitment to the Soviet Union, Churchill, of course, disputed this.

However, we must also bear in mind that it was during this period that Stalin was beginning to consider the necessity of continuation of the post-war alliance. Whilst Stalin’s short-term and most immediate goal was aid and a second front, he realised that in the long-run, to achieve his security desires a continuation of the friendship with the Allies was in Russia’s best interests. At this point therefore, there was a conflict between what Stalin wanted from the Allies in the short and the long-term. To reconcile these two aims Stalin agreed to a ‘Big Three’ summit on August 8 (before the conclusion of Kursk) saying that is was ‘desirable at the first opportunity’[35], but only if there could be a meeting of ‘responsible representatives’ to prepare the ground beforehand. The reason for this is that it gave Stalin a greater chance of achieving his short-term goals so that he could focus on his security ambitions at the Big Three meeting when it came. The Soviet agenda therefore at the Moscow Foreign Ministers Meeting, 19 October 1943, had only one point on it: ‘Measures to shorten the war’. Additionally to this, Stalin ordered a series of initiatives to offset any bad relations he may have caused with his intransigence on the second front. The most important move was to abolish the Comintern May 15 1943, calculated to generate favourable reaction and be a timely measure to facilitate relations between the Allies. Cordell Hull exclaimed that the ‘elimination of the organisation from international life… is certain to promote a greater degree of trust’[36]. In 1943 Stalin also made considerable accommodation towards the Russian Church. This was primarily motivated by the domestic reason of using the Church to promote patriotism and morale. However, Stalin only gave permission for the church to elect a new Patriarch on 8 September, after the tide had turned at Kursk. There is no doubt that Stalin also considered the international reaction when making this decision: the British Aid to Russia Fund had on its board both Mrs Churchill and the Dean of Canterbury Hewlett Johnson, whilst Stalin would have appreciated that t would also have gone down well in America.

Stalin was making sure that he kept his allies onside as he still wanted a post war settlement that met his needs, whilst also warning them of the possible consequences of not opening a second front and reminding them of the vast sacrifices the Soviets had made in comparison to the Allies. At Tehran, Stalin stuck firm to his objectives, and again did not change them in response to Western policies. Indeed, Stalin’s tactic at Tehran was to play hardball. After Russia’s victories in 1943 Stalin felt confident enough to bullishly ask Churchill whether the British ‘believed in Overlord, or are they simply talking about it to reassure the Russians?’[37]. Stalin’s frustration led him to subtle blackmail to get commitment to Overlord: hinting that if Overlord was not conducted, he might be obliged to consider a separate peace. This was not lost on Churchill or Roosevelt. It resulted in the Allies agreeing to a date and a commander for Overlord.

Throughout the war what Stalin wanted most from the Western Powers was their commitment to a second front, economic aid and their agreement to the restoration of Russia’s 1941 borders. These objectives did not change. However, his tactics for achieving them did. Stalin’s agreement with Roosevelt in 1942 of fewer supplies for a second front shows that he was initially willing to compromise with the Allies. When this was not forthcoming he became more and more assertive until Overlord was eventually launched in 1944. Regarding the crucial issue of borders, Stalin’s realisation that this could be a stumbling block to long-term alliance led to the implementation of the National Front Strategy. However, as this clearly failed, Stalin turned to obstruction and force to get his own way over Easter Europe and his buffer-zone. Stalin wanted continued co-operation, but on his own terms, and ultimately he chose the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe over continued alliance. He was not willing to compromise on governments that might be unfriendly to Russia, which meant that they had to be picked by Stalin himself. What Stalin wanted from the West remained the same, even if his methods for achieving them did not.

[1] Keith Sainsbury: The Turning Point: Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill and Chiang Kai-Shek, 1943- The Moscow, Cairoand Tehran Conferences (Oxford, 1985) Chapter VIII: ‘The Tehran Summit: Stalin Decides Allied Strategy’.

[2] Raymond Birt, ‘Personality and Foreign Policy: The Case of Stalin’. Political Psychology, Vol 14, (Dec. 1993). Pp 607-625. At Pp 621.

[3]Jonathan Haslem, ‘Soviet War Aims’, Chapter 2 in The Rise and Fall of the Grand Alliance, 1941-45, eds. Ann Lane and Howard Temperley: (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995). Pp 37.

[4] Ibid., Stalin to Milovan Djilas. From Djilas’s Memoirs. Pp 37.

[5] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Correspondence between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the Presidents of the USA and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain during the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945’,  Volume II: ‘Correspondence with Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry S Truman. (1958). April 3 1945, No. 286. Pp 205-206.

[6] Jonathan Haslem, Soviet War Aims’ in Lane and Temperley, (eds.): The Rise and Fall of the Grand Alliance. Pp 24.

[7] Geoffrey Roberts, ‘Ideology, calculation and improvisation: spheres of influence and Soviet Foreign Policy 1939-1945’, Review of International Studies 25 (1999). Pp 655-673.

[8] Jonathan Haslem, Soviet War Aims’ in Lane and Temperley, (eds.): The Rise and Fall of the Grand Alliance. Pp 27.

[9] Lydia V. Pozdeeva: ‘The Soviet Union: Territorial Diplomacy’, Chapter 14 in Allies at War: The Soviet, American and British experience, 1939- 1945, David Reynolds, Warren F. Kimball and A.O. Chubarian (eds.), (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

[10] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Correspondence, Volume II: ‘Correspondence with Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry S Truman’. (1958). April 12 1942, No. 17. Pp 22.

[11] Michael Balfour, The Adversaries: America, Russia and the Open World 1941-62. Chapter 1: ‘1941-45’. (London, 1981).

[12] Derek Watson, ‘The Making of the Grand Alliance and the Second Front 1939-1942’. Europe-Asia Studies, Vol 5 (Jan. 2002), Pp 51-85. At Pp78.

[13] In Simon Sebag Montifiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003), Chapter 36, ‘Molotov in London, Mekhlis in the Crimea, Khrushchev in collapse’.

[14]Eduard Mark, ‘Revolution by Degrees: Stalin’s National Front Strategy for Europe, 1941-7’, CWIHP Working Paper No. 31 (2001).

[15] Maisky Report. In Pozdeeva: ‘The Soviet Union: Territorial Diplomacy’. Allies at War, Reynolds, Kimball and Chubarian (eds.).

[16] Roberts: ‘Ideology, calculation and improvisation’, Pp 655-673.

[17] In Mark, ‘Revolution by Degrees’.

[19]Georgi Dimitrov. In Roberts, ‘Ideology, calculation and improvisation. Pp 655-673.

[20] Vojtech Mastny, The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). Pp 21.

[21] Institute of General History, Russian Academy of Sciences, ‘The Comintern and the Second World War after June 22, 1941’ (1998) discussed in Mark, ‘Revolution by Degrees’.

[23] David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red army Defeated Hitler. (University Press of Kansas, 1998). Pp 214.

[24] In Glantz and House, When Titans Clashed. Pp 215.

[25] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, ‘Correspondence’, Volume I: ‘Correspondence with Winston S Churchill and Clement R Atlee’. August 22 1944, No. 323. Pp 255.

[26] Winston Churchill to Harry S Truman, 12 May 1945. In Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, (London, 1954) Vol. 6. Pp 498.

[27] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, ‘Correspondence’, Volume I: ‘Correspondence with Winston S Churchill and Clement R Atlee’. July 18 1941, No. 3. Pp 13.

[28] Ibid. September 3 1941, No. 10. Pp 20.

[29] Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1991), Chapter 44: ‘Stalin and his Enemies’.

[30] Derek Watson, ‘The Making of the Grand Alliance’. Pp 72.

[31] Warren F Kimball (ed.), Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence. Part 1: ‘The Alliance Emerging: October 1933- November 1942’May 31 1942, R-152. Pp 503-504.

[32] In Simon Sebag Montifiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Chapter 36.

[33] Mark A Stoler, ‘The “Second Front” and American Fear of Soviet Expansion, 1941-43’, Pp 136-137 Military Affairs, Vol. 39, (Oct 1975). Pp 136-141.

[34]Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Correspondence, VolumeII: ‘Correspondence with Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry S Truman’. June 11 1943, No 92. Pp 70.

[35] Ibid. August 8 1943, No. 101. Pp 78.

[36]Cordell Hull Press Conference, May 16 1943. In Pozdeeva: ‘The Soviet Union: Territorial Diplomacy’.Chapter 14, Reynolds, Kimball and Chubarian (eds.) Allies at War.

[37] Sainsbury, The Turning Point, Chapter VIII.

Written by: Frederick Strachan Written at: University of Cambridge Written for: Professor David Reynolds Date written: May 2011

For the architecture, see Stalinist architecture. For the album by The Stalin, see Stalinism (album). For the EP by The Stalin, see Stalinism (EP).

Stalinism is the means of governing and related policies implemented by Joseph Stalin. Stalinist policies and ideas as developed in the Soviet Union, included rapid industrialization, the theory of socialism in one country, a centralized state, collectivization of agriculture, cult of personality[1] and subordination of the interests of foreign communist parties to those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union—deemed by Stalinism to be the leading vanguard party of communist revolution at the time.[2]

Stalinism promoted the escalation of class conflict, utilizing state violence to forcibly purge society of claimed supporters of the bourgeoisie, regarding them as threats to the pursuit of the communist revolution. This policy resulted in substantial political violence and persecution of such people.[3] "Enemies" included not only bourgeois people, but also working-class people accused of counter-revolutionary sympathies.[4]

Stalinist industrialization was officially designed[by whom?] to accelerate the development towards communism, stressing the need for such rapid industrialization on the grounds that the Soviet Union was previously economically backward in comparison with other countries; and asserting that industry was needed in order to face the challenges posed by internal and external enemies of communism.[5] Rapid industrialization was accompanied by mass collectivization of agriculture and rapid urbanization.[6] Rapid urbanization converted many small villages into industrial cities.[6] To accelerate the development of industrialization, Stalin imported materials, ideas, expertise and workers from Western Europe and the United States[7] and pragmatically set up joint-venture contracts with major American private enterprises, such as the Ford Motor Company, that under state supervision assisted in developing the basis of the industry of the Soviet economy from the late 1920s to the 1930s.[8] After the American private enterprises had completed their tasks, Soviet state enterprises took over.[8][not in citation given]


The term came into prominence during the mid-1930s, when Lazar Kaganovich, a Soviet politician and associate of Stalin, reportedly declared: "Let's replace Long Live Leninism with Long Live Stalinism!". Stalin initially met this usage with hesitancy, dismissing it as excessively praiseful and contributing to a cult of personality.


Further information: Rise of Joseph Stalin, History of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union (1917–27) § The death of Lenin and the fate of the NEP, and History of the Soviet Union (1927–53)

Stalinism is used to describe the period, during which Stalin was acting leader of the Soviet Union while serving as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party from 1922 to his death in 1953.

Stalinist policies[edit]

Stalinism usually denotes a style of a government and an ideology. While Stalin claimed to be an adherent to the ideas of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx, hence purported that his policies were merely a style of government, some critics say that many of his policies and beliefs diverged from those of Lenin and Marx.[citation needed]

From 1917 to 1924, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin often appeared united, but they had discernible ideological differences. In his dispute with Leon Trotsky, Stalin de-emphasized the role of workers in advanced capitalist countries (for example, he considered the U.S. working class as "bourgeoisified" labour aristocracy). Stalin also polemicized against Trotsky on the role of peasants as in China, whereas Trotsky's position was in favor of urban insurrection over peasant-based guerrilla warfare.

While traditional Communist thought holds that the state will gradually "wither away" as the implementation of socialism reduces class distinction, Stalin argued that the proletarian state, as opposed to bourgeois state, must become stronger before it can wither away. In Stalin's view, counter-revolutionary elements will try to derail the transition to full Communism and the state must be powerful enough to defeat them. For this reason, Communist regimes influenced by Stalin have been widely described as totalitarian.

Sheng Shicai collaborated with the Soviets, allowing Stalinist rule to be extended to the Xinjiang province in the 1930s. Sheng conducted a purge similar to Stalin's Great Purge in 1937.[12]

Class-based violence, purges and deportations[edit]

Class-based violence[edit]

Stalin blamed the Kulaks as the inciters of reactionary violence against the people during the implementation of agricultural collectivisation.[13] In response, the state under Stalin's leadership initiated a violent campaign against the Kulaks, which has been labeled as "classicide".[14]

Purges and executions[edit]

Main article: Great Purge

As head of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Stalin consolidated near-absolute power in the 1930s with a Great Purge of the party that claimed to expel "opportunists" and "counter-revolutionary infiltrators".[15] 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.[15][17][18]

In the 1930s, Stalin apparently became increasingly worried about the growing popularity of the Leningrad party boss Sergei 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 at least over a hundred negative votes.[20] 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. The investigations and trials expanded. 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".

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 counter-revolutionary crime, was applied in the broadest manner. Many alleged anti-Soviet pretexts were used to brand someone an "enemy of the people", starting the cycle of public persecution, 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. Stalin's hand-picked executioner Vasili Blokhin was entrusted with carrying out some of the high-profile executions in this period.[25]

Many military leaders were convicted of treason and a large-scale purge of Red Army officers followed.[27] The repression of so many formerly high-ranking revolutionaries and party members led Leon Trotsky to claim that a "river of blood" separated Stalin's regime from that of Lenin.[28] In August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico, where he had lived in exile since January 1937—this eliminated the last of Stalin's opponents among the former Party leadership.

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.

Mass operations of the NKVD also targeted "national contingents" (foreign ethnicities) such as Poles, ethnic Germans, Koreans, etc. A total of 350,000 (144,000 of them Poles) were arrested and 247,157 (110,000 Poles) were executed.[page needed] Many Americans who had emigrated to the Soviet Union during the worst of the Great Depression were executed; others were sent to prison camps or gulags.[31][32] 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 in the course of the terror,[33] with the great mass of victims merely "ordinary" Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, musicians, soldiers, pensioners, ballerinas and beggars.[34][35] Many of the executed were interred in mass graves, with some of the major killing and burial sites being Bykivnia, Kurapaty and Butovo.[36]

Some Western experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete or unreliable.[37][38][39][41] Conversely, historian Stephen G. Wheatcroft, who spent a good portion of his academic career researching the archives, contends that prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of the archives for historical research, "our understanding of the scale and the nature of Soviet repression has been extremely poor" and that some specialists who wish to maintain earlier high estimates of the Stalinist death toll are "finding it difficult to adapt to the new circumstances when the archives are open and when there are plenty of irrefutable data" and instead "hang on to their old Sovietological methods with round-about calculations based on odd statements from emigres and other informants who are supposed to have superior knowledge".[42][43]

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.[44] At the time, while reviewing one such list he 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 boyarsIvan the Terrible got rid of? No one".[45] In addition, Stalin dispatched a contingent of NKVD operatives to Mongolia, established a Mongolian version of the NKVD troika, and unleashed a bloody purge in which tens of thousands were executed as "Japanese Spies." Mongolian ruler Khorloogiin Choibalsan closely followed Stalin's lead.[46]

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Soviet leadership sent NKVD squads into other countries to murder defectors and other opponents of the Soviet regime. Victims of such plots 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).[47]


Main article: Population transfer in the Soviet Union

Shortly before, during and immediately after World War II, Stalin conducted a series of deportations 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[49] were deported to Siberia and the Central Asian republics. By some estimates, up to 43% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.[50]

Separatism, resistance to Soviet rule and collaboration with the invading Germans were cited as the official reasons for the deportations. 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.

As a result of Stalin's lack of trust in the loyalty of particular ethnicities, ethnic groups such as the Soviet Koreans, the Volga Germans, the Crimean Tatars, the Chechens, and many Poles were forcibly moved out of strategic areas and 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.

According to official Soviet estimates, more than 14 million people passed through the gulags from 1929 to 1953, with a further 7 to 8 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union (including the entire nationalities in several cases).[52]

In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the deportations as a violation of Leninism and reversed most of them, although it was not until 1991 that the Tatars, Meskhetians and Volga Germans were allowed to return en masse to their homelands. The deportations had a profound effect on the peoples of the Soviet Union. The memory of the deportations has played a major part in the separatist movements in the Baltic States, Tatarstan and Chechnya, even today.

Economic policy[edit]

At the start of the 1930s, Stalin launched a wave of radical economic policies that completely overhauled the industrial and agricultural face of the Soviet Union. This came to be known as the Great Turn as Russia turned away from the near-capitalist New Economic Policy, and instead adopted a command economy. The NEP had been implemented by Lenin in order to ensure the survival of the Socialist state following seven years of war (1914–1921, World War I from 1914 to 1917; and the subsequent Civil War) and had rebuilt Soviet production to its 1913 levels. However, Russia still lagged far behind the West and the NEP was felt by Stalin and the majority of the Communist party, not only to be compromising Communist ideals, but also not delivering sufficient economic performance as well as not creating the envisaged Socialist society. It was therefore felt necessary to increase the pace of industrialisation in order to catch up with the West.

Fredric Jameson has said that "Stalinism was [...] a success and fulfilled its historic mission, socially as well as economically" given that it "modernised the Soviet Union, transforming a peasant society into an industrial state with a literate population and a remarkable scientific superstructure".[53]Robert Conquest disputed such a conclusion and noted that "Russia had already been fourth to fifth among industrial economies before World War I" and that Russian industrial advances could have been achieved without collectivisation, famine or terror. According to Conquest, the industrial successes were far less than claimed and the Soviet-style industrialisation was "an anti-innovative dead-end".[54]

According to several Western historians,[55] Stalinist agricultural policies were a key factor in causing the Soviet famine of 1932–1933, which the Ukrainian government now calls the Holodomor, recognizing it as an act of genocide.


Pierre du Bois argues that the cult was elaborately constructed to legitimize his rule. Many deliberate distortions and falsehoods were used.[56] The Kremlin refused access to archival records that might reveal the truth, and key documents were destroyed. Photographs were altered and documents were invented.[57] People who knew Stalin were forced to provide "official" accounts to meet the ideological demands of the cult, especially as Stalin himself presented it in 1938 in Short Course on the History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), which became the official history.[58]

Historian David L. Hoffmann, sums up the consensus of scholars:

The Stalin cult was a central element of Stalinism, and as such it was one of the most salient features of Soviet rule ... Many scholars of Stalinism cite the cult as integral to Stalin's power or as evidence of Stalin's megalomania.[59]

However, after Stalin's death in 1953 his successor Nikita Khrushchev repudiated his policies, condemned Stalin's cult of personality in his Secret Speech to the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 and instituted destalinisation and relative liberalisation (within the same political framework). Consequently, some of the world's Communist parties who previously adhered to Stalinism abandoned it and, to a greater or lesser degree, adopted the positions of Khrushchev. Others, such as the Communist Party of China, instead chose to split from the Soviet Union.

The Socialist People's Republic of Albania took the Chinese party's side in the Sino-Soviet Split and remained committed, at least theoretically, to Hoxhaism, its brand of Stalinism, for decades thereafter, under the leadership of Enver Hoxha. Despite their initial cooperation against "revisionism", Hoxha denounced Mao as a revisionist, along with almost every other self-identified Communist organization in the world. This had the effect of isolating Albania from the rest of the world, as Hoxha was hostile to both the pro-USA and pro-Soviet spheres of influence, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito, whom Hoxha had also denounced.

The ousting of Khrushchev in 1964 by his former party-state allies has been described as a Stalinist restoration by some, epitomised by the Brezhnev Doctrine and the apparatchik/nomenklatura "stability of cadres", lasting until the period of glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Some historians and writers (like German Dietrich Schwanitz[60]) draw parallels between Stalinism and the economic policy of TsarPeter the Great, although Schwanitz in particular views Stalin as "a monstrous reincarnation" of him. Both men wanted Russia to leave the western European states far behind in terms of development. Both largely succeeded, turning Russia into Europe's leading power.[citation needed] Others[who?] compare Stalin with Ivan the Terrible because of his policies of oprichnina and restriction of the liberties of common people.

Stalinism has been considered by some reviewers as a "Red fascism".[61] Though fascist regimes were ideologically opposed to the Soviet Union, some of them positively regarded Stalinism as evolving Bolshevism into a form of fascism. Benito Mussolini positively reviewed Stalinism as having transformed Soviet Bolshevism into a Slavic fascism.[62]

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in writing The Mortal Danger: Misconceptions about Soviet Russia and the Threat to America, argues that the use of the term "Stalinism" is an excuse to hide the inevitable effects of communism as a whole on human liberties. He writes that the concept of Stalinism was developed after 1956 by western intellectuals so as to be able to keep alive the communist ideal. The term "Stalinism" however was in use as early as 1937 when Leon Trotsky wrote his pamphlet "Stalinism and Bolshevism".[63]

Kristen R. Ghodsee, ethnographer and Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, posits that the triumphalist attitudes of Western powers at the end of the Cold War, and in particular the fixation with linking all socialist political ideals with the excesses of Stalinism, marginalized the left's response to the fusing of democracy with neoliberal ideology, which helped undermine the former. This allowed the anger and resentment that came with the ravages of neoliberalism (i.e., economic misery, unemployment, hopelessness and rising inequality throughout the former Eastern Bloc and much of the West) to be channeled into nationalist movements in the decades that followed.[64]

In modern Russia, public opinion of Stalin has increased in recent years: 34% of respondents in a 2015 Levada Center poll (up from 28% in 2007) say that leading the Soviet people to victory in the Second World War was such a great achievement that it outweighed his mistakes.[65]


Trotskyists argue that the "Stalinist USSR" was not socialist (and not communist), but a bureaucratiseddegenerated workers' state—that is, a non-capitalist state in which exploitation is controlled by a ruling caste which, although not owning the means of production and not constituting a social class in its own right, accrued benefits and privileges at the expense of the working class. Trotsky believed that the Bolshevik revolution needed to be spread all over the globe's working class, the proletarians for world revolution; but after the failure of the revolution in Germany Stalin reasoned that industrializing and consolidating Bolshevism in Russia would best serve the proletariat in the long run. The dispute did not end until Trotsky's assassination in his Mexican villa by the Stalinist assassin Ramón Mercader in 1940.[66]

In the United States, Max Shachtman, at the time one of the principal Trotskyist theorists in the United States, argued that the Soviet Union had evolved from a degenerated worker's state to a new mode of production he called "bureaucratic collectivism": where orthodox Trotskyists considered the Soviet Union an ally gone astray, Shachtman and his followers argued for the formation of a Third Camp opposed equally to both the Soviet and capitalist blocs. By the mid-20th century, Shachtman and many of his associates identified as social democrats rather than Trotskyists, and some ultimately abandoned socialism altogether. In the United Kingdom, Tony Cliff independently developed a critique of state capitalism that resembled Shachtman's in some respects but retained a commitment to revolutionary communism.


Mao Zedong famously declared Stalin to be 70% good, 30% bad. Maoists criticised Stalin chiefly regarding his views that bourgeois influence within the Soviet Union was primarily a result of external forces (to the almost complete exclusion of internal forces) and that class contradictions ended after the basic construction of socialism. However, they praised Stalin for leading the Soviet Union and the international proletariat, defeating fascism in Germany and his anti-revisionism.[67]

Relationship to Leninism[edit]

Further information: Leninism § Leninism after 1924

Stalin considered the political and economic system under his rule to be Marxism–Leninism, which he considered the only legitimate successor of Marxism and Leninism. The historiography of Stalin is diverse, with many different aspects of continuity and discontinuity between the regimes of Stalin and Lenin proposed. Totalitarian historians such as Richard Pipes tend to see Stalinism as the natural consequence of Leninism, that Stalin "faithfully implemented Lenin's domestic and foreign policy programmes".[68] More nuanced versions of this general view are to be found in the works of other Western historians, such as Robert Service, who notes that "institutionally and ideologically, Lenin laid the foundations for a Stalin [...] but the passage from Leninism to the worse terrors of Stalinism was not smooth and inevitable".[69] Likewise, historian and Stalin biographer Edvard Radzinsky believes that Stalin was a real follower of Lenin, exactly as he claimed himself.[70] Another Stalin biographer, Stephen Kotkin, wrote that "his violence was not the product of his subconscious but of the Bolshevik engagement with Marxist–Leninist ideology".[71] A third biographer, Dmitri Volkogonov, who wrote biographies of both Lenin and Stalin, explained that during the 1960s through 1980s a conventional patriotic Soviet de-Stalinized view of the Lenin–Stalin relationship (a Khrushchev Thaw and Gorbachev-sympathetic type of view) was that the overly autocratic Stalin had distorted the Leninism of the wise Dedushka Lenin, but Volkogonov also lamented that this view eventually dissolved for those, like him, who had the scales fall from their eyes in the years immediately before and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. After researching the biographies in the Soviet Archives, he came to the same conclusion that Radzinsky and Kotkin had, i.e. that Lenin had built a culture of violent autocratic totalitarianism of which Stalinism was a logical extension. He lamented that whereas Stalin had long since fallen in the estimation of many Soviet minds (the many who agreed with de-Stalinization), "Lenin was the last bastion" in his mind to fall and the fall was the most painful, given the secular apotheosis of Lenin that all Soviet children grew up with.

Proponents of continuity cite a variety of contributory factors as it is argued that it was Lenin, rather than Stalin, whose civil war measures introduced the Red Terror with its hostage taking and internment camps, that it was Lenin who developed the infamous Article 58 and who established the autocratic system within the Communist Party.[72] They also note that Lenin put a ban on factions within the Russian Communist Party and introduced the one-party state in 1921—a move that enabled Stalin to get rid of his rivals easily after Lenin's death and cite Felix Dzerzhinsky, who during the Bolshevik struggle against opponents in the Russian Civil War exclaimed: "We stand for organised terror—this should be frankly stated".[73]

Opponents of this view include revisionist historians and a number of post–Cold War and otherwise dissident Soviet historians including Roy Medvedev, who argues that although "one could list the various measures carried out by Stalin that were actually a continuation of anti-democratic trends and measures implemented under Lenin [...] in so many ways, Stalin acted, not in line with Lenin's clear instructions, but in defiance of them".[74] In doing so, some historians have tried to distance Stalinism from Leninism in order to undermine the totalitarian view that the negative facets of Stalin (terror, etc.) were inherent in Communism from the start.[75] Critics of this kind include anti-Stalinist communists such as Leon Trotsky, who pointed out that Lenin attempted to persuade the Communist Party to remove Stalin from his post as its General Secretary. Lenin's Testament, the document which contained this order, was suppressed after Lenin's death. In his biography of Trotsky, British historian Isaac Deutscher says that on being faced with the evidence "only the blind and the deaf could be unaware of the contrast between Stalinism and Leninism".[76] A similar analysis is present in more recent works, such as those of Graeme Gill, who argues that "[Stalinism was] not a natural flow-on of earlier developments; [it formed a] sharp break resulting from conscious decisions by leading political actors". However, Gill notes that "difficulties with the use of the term reflect problems with the concept of Stalinism itself. The major difficulty is a lack of agreement about what should constitute Stalinism". Revisionist historians such as Sheila Fitzpatrick have criticised the focus upon the upper levels of society and the use of cold war concepts, such as totalitarianism, which have obscured the reality of the system.

See also[edit]


Nikolai Yezhov, walking with Stalin in the top photo from the 1930s, was killed in 1940 and following his execution was edited out of the photo by Soviet censors[26] (such retouching was a common occurrence during Stalin's rule)

Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933
The official propaganda to illustrate "the class struggle for bread". The collection of grain from Kolkhozes in spite of the apparent resistance of "kulaks". 1929
  1. ^Jan Plamper, The Stalin Cult: A Study in the Alchemy of Power (2012).
  2. ^T. B. Bottomore. A Dictionary of Marxist thought. Malden, Massaschussetts, USA; Oxford, England, UK; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Berlin, Germany: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991. Pp. 54.
  3. ^Stephen Kotkin. Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism As a Civilization. First Paperback Edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, USA: University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 9780520208230. Pp. 71, 307, 81.
  4. ^Jeffrey Rossman. Worker Resistance Under Stalin: Class and Revolution on the Shop Floor. Harvard University Press, 2005 ISBN 0674019261.
  5. ^Stephen Kotkin. Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism As a Civilization. First Paperback Edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, USA: University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 9780520208230. Pp. 70-71.
  6. ^ abStephen Kotkin. Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism As a Civilization. First Paperback Edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, USA: University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 9780520208230. Pp. 70-79.
  7. ^de Basily, N. (2017) [1938]. Russia Under Soviet Rule: Twenty Years of Bolshevik Experiment. Routledge Library Editions: Early Western Responses to Soviet Russia. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 9781351617178. Retrieved 2017-11-03.  
  8. ^ abCompare: LTC Roy E Peterson. Russian Romance: Danger and Daring. AuthorHouse, 2011. Page 94. "As described in one account: 'In May 1929 the Soviet Union signed an agreement with the Ford Motor Company [...] the Soviets agreed to purchase $13 million worth of Automobiles and parts, while Ford agreed to give technical assistance until 1938 to construct an integrated automobile-manufacturing plant at Nizhny Novgorod. [...] [Source:]"
  9. ^Gilbert, Felix; Large, David Clay (2008). The End of the European Era: 1890 to the Present (6th ed.). New York City: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 213. ISBN 978-0393930405. 
  10. ^Jones, Jonathan (29 August 2012). "The fake photographs that predate Photoshop". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2016.  
  11. ^


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