How powerful was Stalin?

By: Thanakorn (Tito) Chaichankul


Stalin was the leader of the USSR during WWII (1924-1953).
The Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin in 1936-1938.

A propaganda is a information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution or nation.
The NKVD was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Stalin.
The act, or process of setting something up, or establishing something.
The chief executive and political committee of the Communist Party

Joseph Stalin was the head of the communist party and the leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953. He came to power after the death of Vladimir Lenin ( 21 January 1924(1924-01-21) (aged 53)). He created the centrally planned economy in the Soviet Union in order to expand its industries and become a modern industrial power, carrying out Lenin’s dreams of industrial development.
Joseph Stalin

Born: 18 December 1878 Gori, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire

Died: 5 March 1953 ( aged 74) Kuntsevo Dacha near Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

Nationality: Soviet

Political Party: Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Stalin's Signature: external image moz-screenshot.png


How Stalin Takes Power (1924- 1929)

Lenin died in 1924. Everyone thought Trotsky, the brilliant leader of the Red Army would become the leader, especially as Lenin left a testament saying that Stalin was dangerous and should be dismissed. But it was Stalin who took power. Stalin was made General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. Everybody thought that it was an unimportant job, but Stalin used it to get his supporters into important positions.

Trotsky was unpopular:

  • Trotsky was brilliant, but nobody liked him, they thought he was too big-headed.
  • Stalin told him the wrong date for Lenin’s funeral, so he missed it, this made him even more unpopular.

  • Trotsky wanted to try to cause a world revolution; many Russians feared that this would ruin Russia.

The Politburo was divided into two halves (Leftists and Rightists). The Leftists (Zinoviev and Kamenev) wanted a world revolution, and wanted to abolish the NEP, but they hated Trotsky because they thought he was too ambitious. The Rightists (Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky) wanted to continue the NEP until the USSR was stronger.

Stalin played one side against the other to take power:

  1. First, he allied with Zinoviev and Kamenev to cover up Lenin’s Will and to get Trotsky dismissed (1925).Trotsky went into exile (1928).
  2. Then, he advocated ‘Socialism in one country’ (he said that the USSR should first become strong, then try to bring world revolution) and allied with the Rightists to get Zinoviev and Kamenev dismissed (1927). Stalin put his supporters into the Politburo.
  3. Finally, he argued that the NEP was uncommunist, and got Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky dismissed (1929).

The Secret Police NKVD

Stalin controlled Russia to a degree that most citizens feared even thinking about opposing him.Stalin used the secret police called NKVD ( First called Checka then OGPU)to crush his opponents. The main function of the NKVD was to protect the state security of the Soviet Union. This function was successfully accomplished through massive political repression, including the use of sanctioned political murders and assassinations.

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs abbreviated as NKVD was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Stalin.

Click on this to hear the Pronunciation of NKVD

The Great Purge (1936-1940)

The terrifying period in Stalin's rule was known as the Great Purges, it began in 1936. The Purge started when Sergey Kirov the leader of the Leningrad party was assassinated. Stalin used this murder as an excuse to eliminate his opponents in the party. Historians strongly believe that Stalin arranged Kirov's murder to give him this excuse. The old Bolsheviks whose power threatened Stalin were all executed.

Bolsheviks who was executed:
Kamenev, Zinoviev executed
–1938: Bukharin executed
–1940: Trotsky murdered in Mexico

Estimate suggest that around 500,000 party members were arrested on charges of Anti Soviet activities and either executed or sent to labour camps in Siberia called Gulags. After the trial Stalin turned his attention to the army. About 25,000 officers were removed including the Supreme Commander of the Red Army, Marshal Tukhachevsky.

Marshal Tukhachevsky

As the Purge extended university lecturers and teachers, and ordinary workers all disappeared. It was said that every family in the USSR lost someone in the Purges. Arrests would take place in the middle of the night and victims were rarely told what they were accused of. By 1937 an estimated of 18 million people had been sent to Gulags (Labor Camp).Ten millions of Soviet leaders, officials, and other citizens had been executed, imprisoned, or exiled.

The Costs of the Purges

By 1937, 18 million people in gulags, 10 million dead. Stalin seriously weakened the USSR by removing so many able individuals. The Red Army was so weakened it almost failed against Hitler in 1941. The main problem in the Red Army was lacked of skilled leaders. Everyone who was spared knew that their lives depended on thinking exactly as Stalin did.


The New Constitution

In 1936 Stalin created a new constitution for the USSR.Freedom of speech & free elections guaranteed, this was of course to a certain measure. Only communist party members could stand. Only approved newspaper & magazines published.



Religious worship of any kind was banned. Stalin didn't want the people to have loyalty to anyone else but him. Words of priests and the belief in God had to be replaced by the belief in Communism and words of its leaders.

What Most People Thought of Stalin

Communist Party saw Stalin as the winner. People saw him as Dictator of the People. Most Soviet citizens believe that the Purges had nothing to do with Stalin, this was so because the Soviet education system was geared not to independent thinking but to Stalin's propaganda. Other people saw Stalin as the hero, because Stalin helped in the defeat of the Nazis. He launched his five year economic plan and turned The Soviet Union into a international super power. He defeated Germany and ended the war with Hitler. But at what cost. An estimated twenty million people died at his hands. In Russia today half of the country likes him, while the other half does not. It is a matter of opinion.

My opinion towards Stalin

Stalin controlled the USSR to a degree that his citizens feared even thinking of opposing him. Stalin twisted the ideology of Marxism/Leninism to fit his own personal greed, and assassinated the Bolsheviks whose power threatened him. He also created a "Cult of Personality" through excessive propaganda while the nation was developing methods of communication, therefore the first voice many peasants heard over the radio was Stalin's. The education system in the USSR was geared not to independent thinker, but to Stalin's propaganda. He maintained a police state focused on silencing all forms of dissent, and altered pictures and historical documents, cutting all other revolutionaries out of Soviet history until it was just him and Lenin, the only man he could not deny existence of to the public. In my opinion, Stalin wasn't a good leader. Even though he had industrialized USSR, it wasn't worth all the killing. "I am convinced that no development of a country no success or ambition of the state should be achieved through human’s grief and loses. Nothing can be value above human’s lives." (President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev)

Bloom's questions:

Evaluation: Do you agree that Stalin was a good leader?
Knowledge: What is the great purge?
Analysis: What are the similarities between Hitler and Stalin?
Comprehension: What are 4 adjectives describing Stalin?
Application: Why was Stalin significant?
Synthesis: What will happen if Joseph Stalin didn't exist?

Answers to the Bloom's questions:

Evaluation: Joseph Stalin was a horrible leader, he killed many innocent people for no reason. Then Russia had the second best economy in the world at that time but it wasn't worth all the sacrifice.

Knowledge:The Great Purge refers to collectively related campaigns of political repressions and persecution in the soviet union led by Joseph Stalin during the 1930's which removed all of Stalin's opponents.
Analysis: At the age of 45 Hitler started purges of Nazi party foes. At age 45 Stalin started purges of Communist party foes. Both strongly disliked the western.

Comprehension: Ruthless, Cunning, Self important, Murderous.

Application: Stalin was involved in the defeat of Germany during WWII.

Synthesis: Trotsky would have succeeded as the ruler of the Soviet Union. The Great Purge wouldn't have started.

Challenge Question

To What Extent was Stalin's rule successful?

Stalin's rule was successful to a moderate extent towards the USSR. He was the "General Secretary of the Communist Party of Russia", but his real title was dictator. He was responsible for more deaths than Hitler, and he killed millions of his own citizens. He started the Great Purge which didn't benefit the USSR. However, there were a number of positive things that Stalin did for Russia. He provided stability after the civil war, and several revolutions in Russia. He gave more equality towards the citizens compared to the Tsar. He industrialized the USSR. He ruled for 31 years, in which time Russia became a world superpower along with the United States. The Russian people were tired of civil war, and unrest in their government, so when Stalin came to power, he was treated as a hero.

Stalin started the great purge which didn't benefit the USSR. The great purge started when Kirov the leader of the Leningrad party was assassinated. Stalin used this murder as an excuse to eliminate his opponents in the party. The old Bolsheviks whose power threatened Stalin were all executed. As the Great Purge extended teachers, lecturers, and ordinary workers were all executed. Stalin then removed so many able officers. Stalin seriously weakened the USSR by removing so many able individuals. The Red Army was so weakened it almost failed against Hitler in 1941. The main problem in the Red Army was lacked of skilled leaders.

One of the great achievements that Stalin made for the Soviet Union were the Five Year Plans in industry. Russia had not yet had their industrial revolution and were far behind the other powers of the world. Even Stalin said,” We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed.” So, that is what Stalin set out to do . Stalin started the First Five Years Plan. It’s purpose was to increase Russia’s industrial production. On December 31, 1932, the First Five Year Plan was declared officially completed ahead of schedule. Total industrial output increased two hundred and fifty percent, steel production increased three hundred percent, production of large-scale industry showed an increase of one hundred and eighteen percent, production of machinery and electrical equipment increased one hundred and fifty-seven percent, heavy metal increased sixty-seven percent, coal output increased eighty-nine percent, and consumer goods increased about seventy-three percent. The First Five Year Plan was a success.
Although rapid industrialization helped improve Russia, it hurt the workers. “Industrialization moved so fast and was often so poorly planned that disasters often resulted. The amount of work that had to be put in was also hard on the workers. The workers had to work longer under Stalin than when they were ruled by the tsars. Depending on the industry, they worked between forty-eight and sixty hours a week, Sundays included.
Stalin also gave women far more rights than they had under the Tsars. They were given equal rights in education and employment, improving lives for many. They were urged to work outside the home. Divorces and abortions were also made very easy. Young women were constantly told that they should be fully equal to men, that they could and should do anything men could do.
Most women had to work outside the home because it took both the husband and wife working to support their family.Stalin also greatly improved the healthcare of his nation, increasing the life expectancy in Russia by decades. More jobs were created because of the large loss of life in World War II.

So, while there are many horrible things that Stalin did while he was in power, not all was bad.

GCSE modern world history by Ben Walsh


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