Slides in this set
Stalin's takeover of power
· It would be easy to assume that the natural successor to Lenin (who died in 1924)
would be Leon Trotsky, often regarded as the second in command. But Joseph
Stalin, the secretary of the Communist Party, got the job - why?
Struggle for power
· A struggle for power developed between Stalin, the secretary of the Communist
Party, and Trotsky, the brilliant Commissar for War. In a way, the struggle was about
what the Soviet Union would become, for Trotsky believed in encouraging world
revolution, whereas Stalin advocated Communism in one country' and said Russia
had to establish its power before there was any attempt to spread revolution.
· Stalin was a master of political trickery. He used his position as secretary to put his
supporters on the Central Committee of the party. He even told Trotsky the wrong
date for Lenin's funeral, so Trotsky turned up a day late. And so it was Stalin who
became party leader in 1924. Trotsky was dismissed, then exiled and murdered in
Stalin takes control
Stalin did not stop with eliminating Trotsky...
· In 1927, he removed the left-wing Communists
old Bolsheviks such as Kamenev and Zinoviev
who had opposed the NEP - from the Politburo.
· Two years later, he claimed that the NEP was
un-communist, and got right-wing Communists
such as Rykov and Tomsky thrown out of the
· Political purges
In 1934, Kirov, the leader of the Leningrad Communist Party, was murdered, probably on Stalin's
orders. Stalin used this episode to order massive purges by which anybody suspected of
disloyalty was murdered, sent to prison camps, or put on public show trials at which they
pleaded guilty to incredible crimes they could never have done.
The Communist leadership was purged - 93 of the 139 Central Committee members were put to
death. The armed forces were purged - 81 of the 103 generals and admirals were executed.
The Communist Party was purged - about a third of its 3 million members were killed.
Photographs and history books were changed to eliminate even the memory of people who
had been arrested.
· Ordinary people
By the end of the 1930s, the Great Terror had spread to ordinary people - anybody who looked
as though they had a will of their own. Some 20 million ordinary Russians were sent to the
gulag - the system of labour camps mostly in Siberia - where perhaps half of them died. The
Christian Church and the Muslim religion were forbidden. Ethnic groups were persecuted,
and Russification - the acceptance of Russian language and customs - was enforced
throughout the Soviet Union. People who had annoyed their neighbours were turned in to
the NKVD (the secret police) and arrested, never to be seen again…read more
· Everybody had to praise Stalin, all the time. Newspapers credited
him with every success. Poets thanked him for bringing the
harvest. People leapt to their feet to applaud every time his name
was mentioned. His picture was everywhere parents taught their
children to love Stalin more than themselves. They dared not do
· Why did Stalin do it?
He needed to create unity, and certainly strong control was needed
to modernise Russia. He was also at least homicidally paranoid.
However, by 1939, he had set up a personal totalitarian
dictatorship where - on one word from him - the entire Soviet
Union did exactly what he said…read more
Stalin's Five-year Plans dealt with industrial production, but something
needed to be done about the food supply so Stalin introduced
collectivisation. After years of resistance and famines Stalin eventually
executed those who resisted, or sent them to labour camps.
Collectivisation in practice
· Stalin advocated collective farms
· By the end of the 1920s, it was clear that Russian agriculture was
inadequate. Although the kulaks were relatively wealthy and successful,
the thousands of tiny, backward peasant farms were not producing
enough to feed the population.
· In 1927, Stalin declared that the way forward was for people in each
village to voluntarily unite their farms into one collective farm. This
kolkhoz would be able to afford machinery, be more efficient, and be able
to create a surplus to send to the towns.
· the peasants burned their farms
· After two years, when everyone had ignored his idea and there had been
a famine, Stalin made collectivisation compulsory.…read more