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Stalinism is the means of governing and Marxist–Leninist policies implemented in the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1953 by Joseph Stalin. It included the creation of a one-party totalitarian police state, rapid industrialization, the theory of socialism in one country, collectivization of agriculture, intensification of class conflict, a cult of personality, and subordination of the interests of foreign communist parties to those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, deemed by Stalinism to be the leading vanguard party of communist revolution at the time. After Stalin's death and the Khrushchev Thaw, de-Stalinization began in the 1950s and 1960s, which caused the influence of Stalin’s ideology begin to wane in the USSR. The second wave of de-Stalinization started during Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Glasnost.
Stalin's regime forcibly purged society of what it saw as threats to itself and its brand of communism (so-called "
Officially designed to accelerate development towards
Stalinism is used to describe the period during which Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union while serving as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to his death on 5 March 1953.
The term Stalinism came into prominence during the mid-1930s when Lazar Kaganovich, a Soviet politician and associate of Stalin, reportedly declared: "Let's replace Long Live Leninism with Long Live Stalinism!" Stalin dismissed this as excessive and contributing to a cult of personality which he thought might be used against him at a later date by the same people who praised him excessively, one of those being Khrushchev - a prominent user of term Stalinism in Stalin's life who would later be responsible for de-Stalinization and the beginning of the Revisionist period in the USSR.
While some historians view Stalinism as a reflection of the ideologies of
From 1917 to 1924, though often appearing united, Stalin,
Despite this, by the autumn of 1924, Stalin's notion of socialism in
Traditional communist thought holds that the state will gradually "
Sheng Shicai, a Chinese warlord with Communist leanings, invited Soviet intervention and allowed Stalinist rule to be extended to the Xinjiang province in the 1930s. In 1937, Sheng conducted a purge similar to the Great Purge, imprisoning, torturing, and killing about 100,000 people, many of whom were Uyghurs.
Stalin blamed the kulaks as the inciters of reactionary violence against the people during the implementation of agricultural collectivization. In response, the state, under Stalin's leadership, initiated a violent campaign against the kulaks. This kind of campaign would later be known as classicide, though several international legislatures have passed resolutions declaring the campaign a genocide. Some historians dispute that these social-class actions constitute genocide.
Purges and executions
Middle: Stalin's handwriting: "за" (support)
Right: the Politburo
As head of the
In the 1930s, Stalin became increasingly worried about the growing popularity of the Leningrad party head Sergei Kirov. At the 1934 Party Congress, where the vote for the new Central Committee was held, Kirov received only three negative votes (the fewest of any candidate), while Stalin received at least over a hundred negative votes.[i] After the assassination of Kirov, which Stalin may have orchestrated, Stalin invented a detailed scheme to implicate opposition leaders in the murder, including Trotsky, Lev Kamenev, and Grigory Zinoviev. From thereon, the investigations and trials expanded. Stalin passed a new law on "terrorist organizations and terrorist acts" that were to be investigated for no more than ten days, with no prosecution, defence attorneys, or appeals, followed by a sentence to be executed "quickly."
After that, several trials, known as the
Many military leaders were convicted of
In light of revelations from Soviet archives, historians now estimate that nearly 700,000 people (353,074 in 1937 and 328,612 in 1938) were executed in the course of the terror,
Some Western experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete or unreliable.
Stalin personally signed 357 proscription lists in 1937 and 1938 that condemned to execute some 40,000 people, about 90% of whom are confirmed to have been shot. While reviewing one such list, he reportedly muttered to no one in particular: "Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years time? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one." In addition, Stalin dispatched a contingent of NKVD operatives to Mongolia, established a Mongolian version of the NKVD troika, and unleashed a bloody purge in which tens of thousands were executed as "Japanese spies", as Mongolian ruler Khorloogiin Choibalsan closely followed Stalin's lead.: 2
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Soviet leadership sent NKVD squads into other countries to murder defectors and opponents of the Soviet regime. Victims of such plots included
Shortly before, during, and immediately after World War II, Stalin conducted a broad-scale series of deportations that profoundly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union. Separatism, resistance to Soviet rule, and collaboration with the invading Germans were the official reasons for the deportations. Individual circumstances of those spending time in German-occupied territories were not examined. After the brief Nazi occupation of the Caucasus, the entire population of five of the small highland peoples and the Crimean Tatars—more than a million people in total—were deported without notice or any opportunity to take their possessions.
As a result of Stalin's lack of trust in the loyalty of particular ethnicities, ethnic groups such as the
According to official Soviet estimates, more than 14 million people passed through the gulags from 1929 to 1953, with a further 7 to 8 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union (including entire nationalities in several cases). The emergent scholarly consensus is that from 1930 to 1953, around 1.5 to 1.7 million perished in the gulag system.
In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the deportations as a violation of Leninism and reversed most of them, although it was not until 1991 that the Tatars, Meskhetians, and Volga Germans were allowed to return en masse to their homelands. The deportations had a profound effect on the people of the Soviet Union. The memory of the deportations has played a significant part in the separatist movements in the Baltic states, Tatarstan, and Chechnya, even today.
At the start of the 1930s, Stalin launched a wave of radical economic policies that completely overhauled the industrial and agricultural face of the Soviet Union. This became known as the
According to several Western historians,
Relationship to Leninism
Stalin considered the political and economic system under his rule to be Marxism–Leninism, which he considered the only legitimate successor of Marxism and Leninism. The historiography of Stalin is diverse, with many different aspects of continuity and discontinuity between the regimes Stalin and Lenin proposed. Some historians, such as Richard Pipes, consider Stalinism as the natural consequence of Leninism, that Stalin "faithfully implemented Lenin's domestic and foreign policy programs." Robert Service notes that "institutionally and ideologically Lenin laid the foundations for a Stalin [...] but the passage from Leninism to the worse terrors of Stalinism was not smooth and inevitable." Likewise, historian and Stalin biographer Edvard Radzinsky believes that Stalin was a genuine follower of Lenin, exactly as he claimed himself. Another Stalin biographer, Stephen Kotkin, wrote that "his violence was not the product of his subconscious but of the Bolshevik engagement with Marxist–Leninist ideology."
Opponents of this view include
A similar analysis is present in more recent works such as those of Graeme Gill, who argues that "[Stalinism was] not a natural flow-on of earlier developments; [it formed a] sharp break resulting from conscious decisions by leading political actors." However, Gill notes that "difficulties with the use of the term reflect problems with the concept of Stalinism itself. The major difficulty is a lack of agreement about what should constitute Stalinism." Revisionist historians such as Sheila Fitzpatrick have criticized the focus on the upper levels of society and the use of Cold War concepts such as totalitarianism which have obscured the reality of the system.
Pierre du Bois argues that the cult was elaborately constructed to legitimize his rule. Many deliberate distortions and falsehoods were used. The Kremlin refused access to archival records that might reveal the truth, and critical documents were destroyed. Photographs were altered, and documents were invented. People who knew Stalin were forced to provide "official" accounts to meet the ideological demands of the cult, especially as Stalin presented it in 1938 in Short Course on the History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), which became the official history. Historian David L. Hoffmann sums up the consensus of scholars: "The Stalin cult was a central element of Stalinism, and as such, it was one of the most salient features of Soviet rule. [...] Many scholars of Stalinism cite the cult as integral to Stalin's power or as evidence of Stalin's megalomania."
However, after Stalin died in 1953, his successor
Maoism and Hoxhaism
Taking the side of the Chinese Communist Party in the Sino-Soviet split, the People's Socialist Republic of Albania remained committed, at least theoretically, to its brand of Stalinism (Hoxhaism) for decades after that under the leadership of Enver Hoxha. Despite their initial cooperation against "revisionism", Hoxha denounced Mao as a revisionist, along with almost every other self-identified communist organization worldwide, resulting in the Sino-Albanian split. This effectively isolated Albania from the rest of the world, as Hoxha was hostile to both the pro-American and pro-Soviet spheres of influence and the Non-Aligned Movement under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito, whom Hoxha had also previously denounced.
Some historians and writers, such as German
Some reviewers have considered Stalinism as a form of "
David L. Hoffmann raised the issue of whether Stalinist practices of state violence derived from socialist ideology. Placing Stalinism in an international context, Hoffman argued that many forms of state interventionism used by the Stalinist government, including social cataloguing, surveillance and concentration camps, predated the Soviet regime and originated outside of Russia. Hoffman further argued that technologies of social intervention developed in conjunction with the work of 19th-century European reformers and were greatly expanded during World War I when state actors in all the combatant countries dramatically increased efforts to mobilize and control their populations. According to Hoffman, the Soviet state was born at this moment of total war and institutionalized practices state intervention practices as permanent governance features.
In writing The Mortal Danger: Misconceptions about Soviet Russia and the Threat to America, anti-communist and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn argued that the use of the term Stalinism is an excuse to hide the inevitable effects of communism as a whole on human liberties. He wrote that the concept of Stalinism was developed after 1956 by Western intellectuals to be able to keep alive the communist ideal. However, Stalinism was used as early as 1937 when Leon Trotsky wrote his pamphlet Stalinism and Bolshevism.
Writing two The Guardian articles in 2002 and 2006, British journalist Seumas Milne said that the impact of the post-Cold War narrative that Stalin and Hitler were twin evils, therefore communism is as monstrous as Nazism, "has been to relativize the unique crimes of Nazism, bury those of colonialism and feed the idea that any attempt at radical social change will always lead to suffering, killing and failure."
In modern Russia, public opinion of Stalin and the former Soviet Union has
Lev Gudkov, a sociologist at the Levada Center, said, "Vladimir Putin's Russia of 2012 needs symbols of authority and national strength, however controversial they may be, to validate the newly authoritarian political order. Stalin, a despotic leader responsible for mass bloodshed but also still identified with wartime victory and national unity, fits this need for symbols that reinforce the current political ideology."
Some positive sentiments can also be found elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. A 2012 survey commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment found 38% of Armenians concurring that their country "will always have need of a leader like Stalin". A 2013 survey by Tbilisi University found 45% of Georgians expressing "a positive attitude" toward Stalin.
- Anti-Stalinist left
- Bibliography of Stalinism and the Soviet Union
- Comparison of Nazism and Stalinism
- Everyday Stalinism
- Industrialization in the Soviet Union
- Mass killings under communist regimes
- Soviet Empire
- Stalin's cult of personality
- Stalin's Peasants
- Stalin Society
- Stalinist architecture
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Scholars also disagree over what role the Soviet Union played in the tragedy. Some scholars point to Stalin as the mastermind behind the famine, due to his hatred of Ukrainians (Hosking, 1987). Others assert that Stalin did not actively cause the famine, but he knew about it and did nothing to stop it (Moore, 2012). Still other scholars argue that the famine was just an effect of the Soviet Union's push for rapid industrialization and a by-product of that was the destruction of the peasant way of life (Fischer, 1935). The final school of thought argues that the Holodomor was caused by factors beyond the control of the Soviet Union and Stalin took measures to reduce the effects of the famine on the Ukrainian people (Davies & Wheatcroft, 2006).
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In a 1949 portrait, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is seen as a young man with Lenin. Stalin and Lenin were close friends, judging from this photograph. But it is doctored, of course. Two portraits have been sutured to sentimentalise Stalin's life and closeness to Lenin.
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