Who was Joseph Stalin?
“Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”
― Joseph Stalin
This is not going to be a typical biography about Joseph Stalin which are overflowing online. We’ll try to have a fresh look on him from an unbiased perspective.
To briefly run through his name, Joseph Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. His real name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, and he was also known as Koba to his closest sphere. Joseph Stalin lead Russia throughout World War II and up to his death in 1953. Joseph Stalin was leader of Russia when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 and saw his nation survive the battles fought at Moscow and Leningrad and oversaw a vital victory at the Battle of Stalingard in 1942/43. It was the Russian Army that launched the final victory over Germany at the Battle of Berlin in the spring of 1945.
He was the man who made a success of Bolshevik rule in Russia. He hadn’t been very keen on the initial seizure of power. But once it was done, he followed through the logic.
His reputation suffered because of determined criticism by rival Leninists who achieved nothing. The decline of World Communism began with Khrushchev, who lost a vital ally by quarreling with China after denouncing Stalin without consulting anyone.
For starters check this video out, which goes through some interesting facts you don’t know about him.
Stalin was willing to do what others were not. He was not burdened by conscience or a moral code, and was thus able to ignore any human, economic or military cost in furtherance of his objectives, whether that was reforming the economy through forced collectivization and industrialization, fighting the Nazis or competing with the West in the Cold War.
There is too much partiality about Stalin and his legacy on the Internet. At this point, I would like to highlight some of the significant favorable and bleak arguments regarding his deeds and ideas so that you can judge for yourself.
- Killed quite a lot of people (official Soviet records say 660.000, figures could be higher of course);
- Initiated mass deportations of ethnic and religious minorities such as Crimean Tatars and Chechens;
- Conduct show trials that helped him successfuly purge his political “rivals” who were mostly innocent, such as Bukharin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Rykov;
- Refused to save his son when he was captured by Nazis fighting for the Soviets in the war. While this may be bad, we must realize and accept that had he saved his son, the people of the USSR would be angry at him since that would mean he would have to save everyone’s sons. He couldn’t afford to do that, and thus, let his son die for his country.
- Purged his army generals (a majority of them) RIGHT WHEN Hitler began invading Ĉechoslovakia and Austria, which we can see was a big mistake from the initial success of Operation Barbarossa.
- Brought much-need stability to the USSR as they had witnessed a series of turmoils in the past;
- Helped standardize education by encouraging Russian which helped bridge the language barrier within the various republics, thus contributing to increased efficiency and productivity;
- His 5-Year Plans for rapid mass-industrialization were by far the best the world had seen. It was his 5-Year Plans that formed the basis for numerous others for countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Iraq, Ethiopia, Argentina, South Korea, etc. He:
- Made the economic growth rate at a staggering 23% per annum
- Expanded electricity output from 5million KWh to 35million KWh
- Expanded iron production 5-folds
- Expanded steel production 6-folds
- Expanded railways extensively
- Helped kick-start the Soviet armament industry
- He championed gender equality and women were allowed to work with men for equal time and equal wages. Voting was open to women, albeit they could only vote within the Communist Party;
- Helped the Soviets get their first Atomic Bomb. Now while this may be a bad thing to develop nukes, one must realize that to maintain the balance of power, developing nukes for the Soviets was necessary, otherwise, they would have well fallen behind militarily and politically on the international stage. Another note, had the Soviets not developed their nukes, there would be no arms-limitation treaties and there would have been no NPT;
- He transformed the Soviet Union into a superpower in a time-frame so quick, even the American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt admired it. This was also the reason why the Americans feared Soviets and introduced “Red-Scares” to start witch-hunts and purges of their own;
- He helped abolish homelessness, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and hunger by dedicating vast resources to this cause. He had managed various success until WW2 broke out, after which he resumed, but died shortly before every Soviet citizen had a roof over their head and food on their plate, however, employment was near 100%
While Stalin was in power, the cause of the left advanced globally. This included left-wing anti-Communism which implemented a lot of traditional socialist ideas that had previously been blocked.
The fear created by the Soviet Union made the ruling class much more willing to accept moderate reform. When the Soviet Union alienated much of the left in the West in the 1970s, the ruling class began a counter-offensive and took back a lot of the economic gains made by ordinary people.
Anti-Stalin Leninism proved a complete bust. By contrast, China refused to make any blanket comdemnation of either Stalin or Mao, and this approach continues to flourish.
Top 5 Misconceptions about Stalin:
→ Stalin was Russian. Actually, he was Georgian, who was speaking Russian with rather strong accent.
→ Stalin was worse than Lenin. Actually, Stalin was worse than Lenin to the Communists. Lenin made Communists above the law – he made them the law. Stalin was murdering Communists with ease, especially those who were senior enough to have some ideas about having some influence.
→ The Great Purge, Katyn Massacre and Holodomor were Stalin’s greatest crimes. Actually, the Great Purge of 1937 was a small fragment of the third assault on Russian and ethnic Intelligentsia (Lenin’s Red Terror of 1918 was the first and 1929–1932 was the second), where Communists “Old Guard” who thought too much about themselves, many of them themselves murderers or accessories to mass murder, were added to the mix. With their children and family members – been a man from Caucasus, Stalin was not going to risk blood revenge. However between 1956 and 1991, only writing about the crimes against Communists was tolerated, and the information was picked up on the West as well.
→ The victims of Stalin terror were not that many, and were not noticed. What the Stalin apologists are doing here is matching the victims of a particular campaign – killing and sending to Gulag 2–3 million people – with the population of the whole country – 170 million. In reality, the mainly rural population was literally decimated during Dekulakisation, when the activists had to find and exterminate kulaks in every village, or else. The 1937 campaign was focused mainly on urban intelligentsia and had similar effect – at least one out of ten was taken.
→ Stalin unquestionable achievement is industrialisation of USSR. That sounds like he achieved something that was incredibly hard to do, like industrialising Afghanistan or Sudan. In reality, it was incredibly hard to prevent industrialisation of Russia before him, the Russian Empire was well overdue for it. Nicholas II dedicated a lot of effort to stopping it, through restrictions, even assassinations of own PM and moderate MPs. And then Lenin murdered pretty much everyone who wanted to industrialise the country. Eventually Stalin had it done, using slave labour and confiscations instead of entrepreneurship and investments, which could achieve the same painlessly. After all, what is now called “Eastern Ukraine” was turned from sparsely populated backwater into the national powerhouse in 1870s not by force and slave labor, but just because Alexander II The Liberator allowed it – even raised some funds and came all the way from Welles to play a role in that. By the dawn of the 20th Century, Russia had strong school of engineering, the number of well educated people was small per capita, but on par with the likes of UK in absolute numbers. She also had millions of natively bilingual young people – Russian Germans and Jews – who would be able to receive knowledge directly from German experts – and before WW1 was the leader in Engineering. If not for Nicholas II desire to keep Russia rural and illiterate as a way of ensuring loyalty, she would be industrialised by 1914.
There is no doubt that the man was evil. There is also no doubt that the Soviet Union was not a superpower when he took over and managed to become one under his leadership. Though someone else may have done better, many Russians today give Stalin tremendous credit for doing what he did.
Right here we’ve got an article on the most important figure of today’s Russia.