Joseph Stalin was the Soviet leader of Russia for over 25 years. Stalin was very paranoid and executed anyone he deemed to be a threat. In 1934, Kirov, the leader of the Communist Party and also a workplace colleague so to speak, was murdered, probably on Stalin's orders this is widely acknowledged as the even that started the ‘Purges’. Stalin used Kirov’s death as an example to order massive purges in which anybody suspected of being disloyal was murdered, sent to prison camps known as ‘Gulags’ or exiled to Siberia. This example Stalin used at the start of the purges demonstrates the length Stalin was willing to go to achieve his goals and the level of his paranoia.
J.Arch Getty says that “The Great Terror of the 1930s in the Soviet Union was one of the most horrible cases of political violence in modern history”[i] but was this political terror a result of Stalin’s own paranoia or a necessity to maintain control in Soviet Russia? Robert Service argues that “Nowadays, virtually all writers accept that he [Stalin] initiated the Great Terror”[ii] however historians are careful to acknowledge that Stalin’s paranoia is not the only factor in the creation and continuation of the Purges and the Great Terror. Nevertheless, it can be argued that Stalin’s paranoia did play a
The purges not only impacted those openly opposed to Stalin and party members, but had devastating effects on ordinary people too, also resulting in the prevention of progress in the Soviet community, impacting it’s future. During Stalin's rule of the country over 20 million people were sent to labor camps of the Gulag, where nearly half of them died. Fear of losing his power and dictatorship led Stalin to believe that the educated would be most likely to challenge his authority. The origins of Stalin’s lower class background are rumoured to have left him feeling inferior towards the educated class, also leading to obsessive determination to remove the threat. Subsequently, scientists, doctors and engineers, became targets, and were also imprisoned and killed. As a consequence, the execution of Russia’s educated during the Terror, stopped the social development and growth in the Soviet initiated after the revolution, predominantly in the area of science and technology. Many people in Russia believed everything Stalin said, with most blinded by the vision of a father figure of authority who would do them no harm. If anyone
This highlighted not only Stalin’s fear of being subsided as leader of the USSR, but his ruthlessness in the face of opposition. Then followed the 1936 Show Trials, in which there were many arrests of party members, ex-opponents, military figures and non-party members. The first involved Zinoviev, Kamanev and their allies, who confessed under force for falsified crimes of being responsible for attempts to wreck Soviet industry and to kill Soviet leaders, and subsequently were shot after being convicted. The second followed in January 1937, in which Karl Radek, a well known Trotskyite and Pyatakov was shot, again on falsified crimes. In March 1938, Bukharin and 20 members of the old Right Deviation were tried, and found guilty of working with Trotsky and foreign governments against the USSR. All confessed and were shot, with Tomsky being so crippled by fear that he committed suicide. The Show Trials were a grotesque sham by which Stalin cast immense fear into the hearts and minds of Russia’s political clout, ensuring total control over any opposition through fear alone. Removal of any potential opposition was extended in July 1937 when Yezhov (Stalin’s head of the secret police from 1936) drew up a list of over 250,000 ‘Anti-Soviet elements’, which included intelligentsia such as artists, writers, musicians, priests and so forth. This became known as the Anti-Soviet List, ad anyone unfortunate enough to be found on it was arrested,
Stalin used the media in order to convince the Russian citizens that there were saboteurs and spies within Russian population. Stalin used the secret police and military forces to carry out the arrests of so called
Totalitarianism is a form of government in which the national government takes control of all aspects of both public and private life. During the 20th century, when Stalin took power, he transformed the Soviet Union into a totalitarian state. To dominate an entire nation, totalitarian leaders devise methods of control and persuasion like propaganda and censorship. From nursery schools to universities, Stalin controlled all education to mold people’s minds. Stalin aimed to replace religious teachings with the ideals of communism. Stalin worked to establish total control of all aspects of life in the Soviet Union by building a police state to maintain his power.These were some of the strategies he took to establish a totalitarian country.
Joseph Stalin greatly influenced Russia in the years 1924 through 1932. His rise to this power can be explained by the Russian Revolutionary experience that allowed him to gain authority in Russia. Although historians often refer to Stalin as a ruthless, mindless dictator, he redirected the Russian Revolution to major economic development. Stalin’s character in Russia during the Revolution catalyzed the many events that took place during the time period. Because of Stalin’s ability to both appeal to the masses, and take advantage of events, like Lenin’s death, Stalin was able to rise to power. Essentially, the Russian Revolution fostered the development of Stalin’s dictatorship leading the country into a state of economic growth and influence. The Revolution fostered Stalin’s ability to maintain a central leadership, use violence to gain control, and regenerate a previously disconnected economy.
Stalin like Hitler “used propaganda, censorship, and terror to force his will on the Soviet people. Government newspapers glorified work and Stalin himself. Secret police spied on citizens, and anyone who refused to praise Stalin and the state faced severe punishment, even death” (“The Soviet”, n.d.).
In order to conclude the extent to which the Great Terror strengthened or weakened the USSR the question is essentially whether totalitarianism strengthened or weakened the Soviet Union? Perhaps under the circumstances of the 1930s in the approach to war a dictatorship may have benefited the country in some way through strong leadership, the unifying effect of reintroducing Russian nationalism and increased party obedience.
Joseph Stalin built up this love with the "Cult of Personality". He was glorified with giant statues and monuments. Stalin appeared daily on the cover of Soviet newspapers; he was in every facet of Soviet life. Daily visual imagery of Stalin portrayed him as a Georgian peasant, which emphasized socialist principles of power from the people. In addition, people called him “father and teacher of the peoples” (Runyan 66) and a deity, because he replaced the Czar and the Church. These daily images were engraved in the minds of the people. Thus, the “Cult of Personality” was flourishing. Propaganda glorifying Stalin and Soviet ideals brainwashed the minds of Russian people. Stalin successfully impressed his socialist philosophies on millions of workers and peasants. Over time, socialism transformed into Stalinism, and it took hold. Stalin was able to hypnotize people towards one belief, the love of Stalin. A simple cause and effect: they saw imagery of Stalin portrayed heroically everyday in the news or on posters and they began to idolize him. Stalin is like Big Brother; he was the focus and with the love and loyalty of his people, he had total power over them and their actions.
Thus, the “Cult of Personality” was flourishing. Propaganda glorifying Stalin and Soviet ideals brainwashed the minds of Russian people. Stalin successfully impressed his socialist philosophies on millions of workers and peasants. Over time, socialism transformed into Stalinism, and it took hold. Stalin was able to hypnotize people towards one belief, the love of Stalin. When they saw Stalin being portrayed heroically everyday in the news or on posters, they began to idolize him. Stalin is like Big Brother; he was the main focus and had total power over the people and their actions.
In 1934, the greatest purge in history started in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union, upon the orders of its dictator Joseph Stalin. At first, the purge, later known as the Great Terror, targeted the upper echelons of the Communist party. Some of the greatest revolutionaries in history, including Leon Trotsky, were erased from all records. Either killed or exiled, these enemies of the state would be forgotten within years as books and photographs were ‘fixed’ by the state. Yet, this was not enough for Stalin. By the end of 1939, an estimated twenty million ordinary citizens were killed or sent to gulags, where they would eventually die. Many never committed any real crimes. It is easy to draw parallels between George
One of the characteristics of Totalitarianism is propaganda. Stalin ruled by terror and with a totalitarian grip in order to get rid of anyone who might oppose him. Stalin expanded the power of the secret police, and encouraged citizen to spy on one another and millions killed and sent to forced labor camps. Stalin had a cult of personality built around himself in the Soviet Union. Cities were renamed in his honor; Soviet history books were rewritten to give him a more important role in the revolution and mythologize parts of life. He was the subject artwork, literature, music, and his name actually became a part of their national anthem. His government controlled the Soviet Media which had a lot to do with propaganda.
During 1937 to 1939, several trials were held where many of the Old Bolsheviks were found guilty of treason. These trials became a means to exterminate potential political rivals and critics of Stalin. Those found guilty were executed. These publically held trials were accompanied by a widespread “purge”, that sent millions to prison camps. Among the purged were several of the Soviet Army’s military headships. A lack of experienced leadership played a significant role in the Soviet Union’s poor performance during the Second World War.