JOSEPH STALIN: A Revolutionary Figure of Conflicting Nature
Words fall short when it comes to describing a man as powerful and as supreme as Joseph Stalin. No doubt, a towering figure within Soviet history, in western history,
and in the history of Russia, Joseph Stalin’s name and image has become omnipresent. Today, recognized as a controversial figure, people have mixed views about Stalin; while some consider him to be an absolute leader, others consider him to be one of the most brutal and murderous dictators of the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the indomitable power that he had within him, a power which enabled him to transform the Soviet Union from a peasant society into a military and an industrial superpower, despite all odds. For all his contributions the Soviet journalism hailed him with the title ‘Father of Nations.’
Early Life and Childhood
Born as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on 18 December 1879 in Gori, a small town in eastern Georgia, Joseph Stalin as he is today known to the world, grew up in a relatively meager circumstances. His father Besarion Jughashvili was a cobbler and his mother Ketevan Geladze, a laundress and domestic worker. He was the only surviving child of the couple and a frail one as that. He was said to be born with two adjoined toes on the left foot. At a young age of 7, he was plagued with smallpox that left his face scarred for life. He went on to injure his left arm at the age of 12 that left it slightly deformed.
His father eventually became addicted to drinking which led to Stalin’s rowdy nature as a young boy. His mother a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, wished to see him as a priest and in 1888 she managed to admit him in a church school in Gori. Joseph prospered in this school and went on to earn a scholarship to attend the Georgian Orthodox Tiflis Spiritual Seminary in Tbilisi.
Though his record in the seminar had been good, he was expelled from the seminar in 1899. The exact reason is not really known, but as per the official school records; the tuition fees were not paid. There was also another assumption that he was expelled due to his political views and due to his involvement in the socialist movement. During this time Joseph was introduced to the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and showed a keen interest in the revolutionary movement.
He did not return home and instead started working at the Tiflis Observatory while at the same time engaged himself full-fledged in the revolutionary movement.
He eventually went on to join hands with the Marxist group – Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. During his stint with the Bolsheviks led by Lenin, he indulged in various mundane activities like distributing propaganda, bank robberies, ordering assassinations, organizing strikes, etc. Between the years 1902 to 1913 he was arrested several times and was sentenced to exile in Siberia on several occasions. His strong will and skill raised him in the eyes of Lenin and made Stalin one of Lenin’s top leaders.
Russian Revolution of 1917, Stalin’s Rise to Power and Soviet Union under Stalin’s Reign
The Russian Revolution took place in the year 1917, during which the Tsars government was defeated bringing Lenin and Bolsheviks into the limelight. The Bolsheviks came into power and Russia came to be known as the Soviet Union in 1922. His popularity soared to great heights and he became a major leader. In the year, he was appointed the secretary general of the Central Committee of the Communist Party a position that allowed him to develop a strong political foundation.
After the death of Lenin in the year 1924, Stalin set out to establish a strong foothold in the party taking complete control of it. He meticulously destroyed all the old leaders of the party by removing them from their posts and sentenced them to exile. All his potential opponents were accused for being “enemies of the people” and finally executed. He killed those who didn’t agree with him or those whom he thought were against him. Though not sure, but historians believe that he killed millions of people.
The decrease of such thinkers and scholars in the Soviet Union made Stalin the lone intellectual power and by late 1920s he became the dictator of the Soviet Union. The late 1920s and early 1930s saw Stalin follow an economic policy of transforming the entire Soviet Union into an industrial superpower. To meet his purpose, he vehemently collectivized Soviet agriculture and implemented a five-year plan and constructed heavy industry for rapid productivity and economic growth. He wanted to see the Soviet Union at par with the Capitalist powers and for this he reversed the policy of the Bolshevik agrarian, snatching the land that was earlier given to the peasants and arranging collective farms. This brought down the peasants to the status of serfs.
No doubt, the economy of the Soviet Union bloomed and there was rapid industrialization and creation of industrial infrastructure, but in the process millions lost their lives. There were millions of farmers who refused to oblige with Stalin’s orders and Stalin either had them killed or sentenced them to exile. In fact, any kind of resistance was met with a deadly response. The collectivization also resulted in famine across the length and breadth of the Soviet Union leading to the deaths of millions. Stalin enforced terror all over, expanded police powers, had millions killed, and had millions other sent to the Gulag camps.
Stalin and World War II
Before the commencement of the World War II, on 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union agreed upon a non-aggression pact with the Nazi Germany. Stalin even ignored word of warnings from his commanders on a possible attack by the Germans. In June 1941, Germany/Hitler broke the pact and attacked the Soviet Union. Stalin’s ignorance led to the Soviet’s defeat in the hands of the Germans as they were totally unprepared. Shocked Stalin locked himself up in this office for several days. And because of the purging of the best minds, the Soviet army and government leaders had weakened. As a result it took several months before the Soviets were able to drive away the Germans at Stalingrad in the year 1943.
Stalin became a part of the major Allied conferences like the one in Tehran (1943) and Yalta (1945). He negotiated with such political figure as Roosevelt and Churchill and managed to retain the countries of the Eastern Europe in the Soviet sphere of influence and also managed to secure three seats for his country in the UN.
Age did not soften the man nor made him generous enough. His reign of terror, executions, purges, exiles, and trials continued even at a later stage. Throughout Eastern Europe, the communist governments were established by him. He made the Soviet Union enter the nuclear age in the year 1949.
Post the World War II, Stalin’s health worsened. He was said to be suffering from atherosclerosis due to his heavy smoking. During the Victory Parade, he suffered a mild stroke and that was followed by a massive heart attack in October 1945. A bedridden Stalin breathed his last on 5 March 1953. He was 74.
Stalin’s first wife was Ekaterina Svanidze with whom he had a son named Yakov. Yakov is said to have committed suicide. With his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin had a son Vasiliy and a daughter named Svetlana. There are various speculations on what might have caused the death of his second wife. While officially the reason was cited to be ‘illness,’ there were some who believed that she committed suicide and some others who believed that she was murdered by Stalin.
Stalin wrote several articles/texts and some of the noted ones are Anarchism or Socialism, The Principles of Leninism, Marxism and the National Question, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, etc. His works also comprise of poems written in his youth and they were published in Ilia Chavchavadze’s journal Iveria. They were later said to be anthologized.
Awards and Recognitions
During his tenure Stalin was hailed as the “Hero of the Soviet Union,” “Hero of Socialist Labour,” and received such military decorations as “Order of the Red Banner,” “Order of the Red Star,” “Order of Suvorov,” Medal “For the Victory over Japan,” Medal “For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945,” and a host of others.
|Born as||Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili|
|Born on||18th December 1879|
|Place of Birth||Gori, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire|
|Died||5 March 1953 (aged 74)|
|Resting Place||Lenin’s Mausoleum, Moscow, Kremlin Wall Necropolis|
|Political Party||Communist Party of the Soviet Union|
|Spouses||Ekaterina Svanidze (1906-1907)
Nadezhda Alliluyeva (1919 – 1932)
|Military Service||Soviet Armed Forces
1943 – 1953
|General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union||In office
3 April 1922 – 16 October 1952
|Chairman of the Council of Ministers||In office
6 May 1941 – 5 March 1953
|People’s Commissar for Defense of the Soviet Union||In office
19 July 1941 – 25 February 1946
|Member of the Secretariat||In office
3 April 1922 – 5 March 1953
|Member of the Orgburo||In office
5 April 1920 – 16 October 1952
|Full member of the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th,19th Presidium||In office
10 October 1917 – 5 March 1953
|Decorations and Awards||Hero of the Soviet Union
Hero of Socialist Labour
Order of Victory, twice
Order of the Red Banner, three times
Jubilee Medal “XX Years of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army”
Order of Lenin, three times (1939, 1945, and 1949)
Order of Suvorov, 1st class
Medal “For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945”
Medal “For the Victory over Japan”
Medal “In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow”
Order of the Red Star, three times
Czechoslovak War Cross 1939-1945, three times
Order of the White Lion, 5th class and 1st class (Czechoslovakia)
|Works||“Anarchism or Socialism?,” 1907
“Marxism and the National Question,” 1913
“Dialectical and Historical Materialism,” 1938
“The Principles of Leninism,” 1924
“Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR,” 1952
“Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” 1950
“The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” 1938
“The Questions of Leninism,” 1946