JOSEPH STALIN b. December 21, 1879 d. March 5, 1953.
Joseph Stalin was born on December 21 , 1879. His birth name was Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. He was the son of a poor cobbler and washerwoman in Gori in the Caucasus (between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea). He was not a Russian and as a child he only spoke Georgian. The Caucasus was a Russian colony. He learned Russian at school in Gori (1888-94). He then went * Tiflis and at the Theological Seminary he read Karl Marx. he was expelled in 1899 for revolutionary activity.
Josef Dzhugashvili was short, heavily built, strong, and had great determination. He learned to disguise his motives and to bide his time whilst implacably scheming revenge against those who offended him. In December 1899, he was briefly employed as a clerk in the Tiflis Observatory, the only paid job other than politics. he was never employed in any form of manual work.
In 1900 he joined the political underground, and stirred up strikes in the main industrial centres of Georgia. He was arrested was seven times in the next eleven years for revolutionary activities, but found it easy to escape.
Within the party he was slow to progress, and this caused him much resentment. He became active behind the scenes, and was involved - after plotting it - in a spectacular robbery in Tbilisi in June 1907, to get money for the party.
His first promotion came in early 1912, when Lenin invited him him to serve on the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. he then changed his name to Stalin ("steel") In 1904 he married a devout Georgian girl, Ekaterina Svanidze. She died some three years later and leaving a son, Jacob.
Returning from exile in Siberia on March 25 1917, Stalin resumed editorship of Pravda but was far more interested in plotting how the Bolsheviks could seize power. This they did in November 1917.
Stalin was active both politically and militarily during the Civil War of 1918-20, He held two ministerial posts in the new Bolshevik government. He was commissar for nationalities (1917-23) and then became secretary general of the party's Central Committee. He was a cunning schemer who outmanoeuvred Trotsky and Grigory. Because he was a provincial, was uneducated and coarse, no-one thought him a serious rival.
From 1921 onward Stalin flouted the ailing Lenin's wishes, so much so that Lenin wrote was said to have written a paper advising that he be removed as the secretary general. But too late - for Lenin died in January 1924.
Stalin then cunningly developed the cult of Leninism and to advertise his achievement the following year he renamed the city of Tsaritsyn - Stalingrad. There by now being no independent police or judiciary everyone went in fear of their lives, for their loved ones, and for their property. With blood already on his hands, why worry about further murders?
Dismissing his rivals, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Rykov, and Kamenev - they were all eventually executed - he was left with his main rival, Trotsky (once Lenin's heir apparent). Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Soviet Union in 1929. He was assassinated in Mexico in 1940 - it was said - by Stalin's orders.
In 1928 Stalin adopted all out state-organized industrialisation under a succession of five-year plans. This was devastating in its effects - especially to the 25 million small farmers. They were forced to hand over their land to state farms or be shot, exiled, or enslaved and worked to death under terrible conditions in Siberian labour camps.
This caused a great famine in the Ukraine. It is estimated that over 10 million peasants starved to death, yet Stalin would not allow food to be sent to them. The massive industrialisation of Russia under Stalin had appalling failures. In his fury, Stalin forced managers he - or his henchmen - disliked, by torture, to admit to crimes they never committed - all to prove in spurious widely publicised show trials, that they - not he or the government - were the cause of the failures. Yet in spite of these, his propaganda about his country's new found industrial agricultural and commercial and successes fooled many Westerner's, including H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Remember no travel was allowed by foreigners; there was no Radio in those days and all newspapers were State controlled.
In 1919 Stalin married a second time. She was a young girl called Nadezhda Alliluyeva. They had two children. She committed suicide in 1932. His son, Vasily, rose by his father's influence to high rank in the Soviet Air Force but died an alcoholic. Stalin treated his first son Jacob (by his first wife) so badly that he attempted suicide. When Jacob was taken prisoner by the Germans during World War II, Stalin refused a German offer to exchange his son. His daughter, Svetlana, also suffered great insecurity. After his death, she emigrated, but could not settle. She wrote revealingly about Stalin's very closely guarded private life.
In late 1934 - at the identical time Hitler was doing the same thing - Stalin launched another campaign of political terror against the very Communist Party members who had brought him to power; his excuse was the murder in Leningrad of his leading colleague and potential rival Sergey Kirov.
It is thought that Stalin planned Kirov's murder. There followed more show 'trials' of leading Communists as a means for expanding the new terror. In August 1936 Zinoviev and Kamenev were forced into confessions, and after a 'trial' shot. In June 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky, the most Russian soldier, and other leading generals were court-martialed on charges of treason and killed.
Thus it was that Stalin broke the Communist Party to his will and the Soviet elite as a whole. He "liquidated" even high government officials under the slightest suspicion of not being totally loyal to him. No-one was safe, no-one knew who would be next not even doctors lawyers, artists or diplomats not even high or low ranking men within the NKVD - the secret police. The easiest way to have revenge upon anyone who offended you was to report them to the police on any untrue charge that implicated them in disloyalty to Stalin and the party. They were indeed terrible times but much much worse was to come. Stalin's victims were numbered in tens of millions. His motive was to retain absolute power.
Then came the Second World War.
It is said that in August 1939, Stalin attempted to form an anti-Hitler alliance with the Western powers - it is difficult to find out why this failed, but it did; and so - in spite of his total mistrust of Hitler - he changed his tack and formed a pact with him. Seeing how Hitler was succeeding in invading countries with impunity, saw the danger to Russia. To protect Russia; when Hitler invaded Poland Stalin marched into eastern Poland. He also marched into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland and and forced concessions from Romania.
Hitler judged Russia to be so backward and corrupt that he thought she could be beaten by a sudden all out onslaught. Hitler attacked the Soviet Union of June 22, 1941.
The story of Russia's deployment of all her industry deep into the Russian hinterland and far out of reach of German bombers, and the incredible industrial achievement of turning her whole industry over to the manufacture of weapons is a long and deeply depressing experience for the miilions who were forced by circumstances to be involved. Through their incredible hardships they not only turned it into a majestic achievement which won the war on the Eastern front but it also turned Russia into a formidable industrial world class power in less than 5 years.
When the Germans were close to Moscow in the winter of 1941, he remained in the capital, helping to organize a great counter-offensive. The battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk (in the summer of 1943) were won by the Soviet Army under Stalin's supreme direction. They were immense achievements and with the Allied victories after the landings in France led to the ending of the war
Stalin joined high-level Allied meetings, called "The Big Three" (with Churchill and Roosevelt) at Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in 1945. A war weary West, knowing little about Russia other than her recent spectacular military victories, was misled by Stalin's apparent benignity - but Stalin was cunning. Roosevelt, who at this time was a very sick - indeed a dying man - failed to realise the huge implications of Russia not being persuaded to return to within her own borders. He sided with Stalin against against Churchill's more knowledgeable European and Russian perceptions. This was within a few years to be the cause of The Cold War.
Stalin enforced by murder and economic threats, colonial Communist regimes on many countries bordering the Soviets In 1948 the General Tito of Yugoslavia astonished the world and the Soviet satellite countries by breaking away from the Soviet camp. Stalin could not invade for fear of unleashing an atomic war, but he immediately struck back by instigating regional show trials, identical in every way to those of the Great Purge of the 1930s in Russia. Communist leaders were tortured into confessing to 'Titoism', with many being executed.
Churchill realised that for Stalin to stay in power Russia required another Hitler as an external enemy with which he could cower his people. Who better than the Americans? After the war Marxist ideology was harshly enforced. Andrey Zhdanov, a secretary of the Central Committee, created a reign of terror in Russian artistic and intellectual spheres; news of the outside world was suppressed and Western lifestyle scorned as corrupt and decadent. There was to be no relief for the people after the war of their terrible shortages and sufferings. - as promised during the war.
It is impossible here to go into the history of the post war years but towards the end of his life Stalin became even more paranoid and ordered the arrest, in 1953, of the mainly Jewish Kremlin doctors on charges of medically murdering various Soviet leaders, including Zhdanov. The "Doctors' Plot" was thought to presage another great terror, but he died suddenly on March 5, 1953.
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