Referred to as the Man of Steel, Iosef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili or Stalin was born on December 18th, 1878 in Georgia. He went to school at the Tiflis Theological Seminary but got expelled for Marxist propaganda. His father worked as a cobbler. He later joined the Bolshevik underground movement, got arrested and jailed in Siberia where he escaped in 1904. He then became an editor of a magazine and identified closely with revolutionary Marxism. He was appointed as General Secretary to the Central Committee where he began building up power, which would make sure he led the Soviet Union after Lenin died. He led the USSR from 1924 to 1953 (Boobbyer, 5-7). He was known to be ruthless to those who opposed hid ideas.
Stalin and his regime made a move to force the idea of collectivization in agriculture. They intended to make tax collection efficient, make peasantry politically controlled, and increase the agricultural produce from mechanized farms that are of large scale in nature. The idea of collectivization meant the introduction of drastic social changes on a large scale. It also meant separation from the control of land and its produce. Collectivization translated to a drastic drop in the living standards of many Soviet peasants. It is due to this reasons that the idea faced a lot of violent opposition.
During the first years of the idea, estimates were that agricultural production would increase by fifty percent, while industrial production would rise by over two hundred percent. However, none of the estimates were met. Stalin blamed the failure on rich peasants who were opposed to collectivization. He dealt with all those who opposed the idea by a number of brutal means; they were shot at, put into labor camps or deported (Boobbyer, 25-6). Those who were punished included also better-off peasants. More than twenty thousand peasants were executed at the time. The two-stage collectivization progress is an example of his tactics in political withdrawal, which were always followed by intensification of initial strategies.
Stalin led the Soviet Union into World War Two. In 1939, he made a pact with Nazi Germany that saw the division of Eastern Europe between the two powers. However, in the year 1941, Hitler broke the pact and invaded the Soviets. Stalin led the Soviet Red Army in putting up a fierce resistance, but his army was not efficient. He became wary of the Germans and did not allow his army to put up defensive positions; he feared of sending the wrong signal to Hitler and his forces. He was hoping that the pact they had signed would give him some time to strengthen his army, which had been weakened by purges (Tucker, 50).
The Germans pushed forward and reached the outskirts of Moscow; however, they were stopped by a counter-offensive by the Soviets and also an early winter. The Red Army regained the initiative of the war at the battle of Stalingrad after loosing about a million soldiers. They were aided by military equipment to regain the territory they had lost and pushed the Germans back to their country. Towards the end of 1944, Stalin occupied a large section of eastern Germany and took Berlin on the 2nd of May, 1945. Many Russians died, and as a result, May is celebrated as Victory Day.
In 1928, Stalin introduced Five-Year Plans and a command economy that was highly centralized, which replaced the New Economic Policy. These plans brought about rapid industrialization, as well as, economic collectivization in the countryside. The USSR transformed itself into a great industrial power; it emerged as the second largest economy after World War II. Industry and commerce were nationalized, and peasant farmers were forced to collectivize their land and work on them. People were force mobilized to do various construction projects and foreign experts were called in to design new factories. The manufacturing processes were improved. Despite all the failures and breakdowns, the two Five-Year plans brought about rapid industrialization from a low economic base. It is indisputable that these gains came with a lot of price to pay. The Five-Year Plan helped in modernizing the Soviet economy. It is the industrialization that helped the Stalin and the Soviet Union fight and win in the Second World War.
After economic achievements, many delegates cross out his name for the Central Committee. It is then that Stalin believed that there was a plan to oust him. He assassinated Kirov in December along with other suspected of not being loyal. Numerous other Leningrad party members were deported to work in Siberia; only few survived. Show trials were organized for party leaders to confess their crimes against the state. They usually ended up being executed. More than a half of the Congress of Victors delegates did disappear during the time, including Zinoniev and Kamanev. By 1938, most leading members of the Bolsheviks had been executed.
This campaign of terror was executed by the secret police, who were the forerunner of the KGB. It targeted almost everybody in the entire community including priests, artists, intellectuals, the military, and the community in general. More than one million were executed, which came to be known as the Great Terror or the Great Purge (Tucker, 65-6). About ten million were detained or imprisoned in work camps, while most of them did not turn back alive. Stalin personally ordered 44,000 to be tried and signed numerous death warrants. He was the one to end early detention if one showed good conduct.
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It is important to note that Stalin was a leader in the Red Army in most civil wars that the Soviet Union participated in. he personally planned for war. After seizing Petrograd, Stalin was appointed to the position of the People’s Commissar for Nationalities‘Affairs. A civil war broke out, where the Red Army went against the White Army (Wettig, 65). Stalin gained new allies and thereafter imposed his influence on the military. He made several changes in the army by ordering the killings of former Tsarist officers in his army together with those who were deemed counter-revolutionaries.
In conclusion, Stalin, as a Russian leader from 1952-1953 always wanted to ensure that Communism spread across Europe. However, he faced opposition from Europe and the United States during the Cold War. Throughout his rule, he was considered ruthless especially when he had shared power with Vladimir Lenin. Many Soviets lost their lives due to executions, starvation or disease. Towards the end of the 1920’s, Stalin came to be a dictator of the Soviet Union. He died of a stroke on March 5th 1953.
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