Russia - The Nature of Stalin's Dictatorship 1924-39

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  • Created by: lou123
  • Created on: 13-06-16 20:12

Lenin's Death and Leadership Contest

After Lenin's stroke in may 1922, and the next in december, it was clear he would no longer be running the party or counrty. He dictated his Political Testament to his wife, telling her it had to be read at the congress of soviets after his death.

Lenin saw two main characters for leadership - trotsky and stalin - but didnt name one as he feare it would split the party apart. He didnt think one person should dominate, and assumed the politburo - the committee that ran the party would take over.

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Stalin - Leadership Contest

  • Most ambitious
  • main disagreement with trotsky was that like lenin, he believed in world revolution. Stalin believed the SU had to modernise fast to make it strong enough to protect itself from the capitalist countries of the west
  • could be charming
  • had a quick temper and was suspicious
  • clever and an excellent organiser and planner
  • had been preparing to take over. By 1922 was a member of the politburo and was general secretary of the party. he made sure his work kept him close to moscow an lenin. 
  • tried hard to seem the fave
  • as general sec, he chose who got what jobs in the party and government, so people tried hard to please him
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Stalin working against trotsky

Stalin knew he was not popular enough to just take over leadership on Lenin's death, so gradually worked against his rivals, starting with Trotsky.

Stalin worked in moscow, and knew the other politburo memers well, and they trusted him. Distrusted Lenin as he didnt know the others well and appeared to be lenins fave.

Stalin stopped the testament being read to the congress of soviets. Kamenev and Zinoviev, supporters of Stalin, persuaded the other politburo members not to sack stalin as general sect. or have the testament read.

Trotsky was not in Moscow when lenin died. S may have given T wrong informatio, but T was supposed to lead the funeral march and give the speech but instead Sta;lin did this, making him seem the fave.

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Trotsky's removal

Trotsky still seemed important after Lenins death as a member of the politburo, but in actual fact was shut out of much of the decision making. Stalin and supporters spread rumors that he never really had lenin's approval, he disrupted the work of the politburo etc.

Trotsky didnt help himself by writing a book critising Lenin and the NEP in 1924.

He lost Jobs and power:

  • 1926 - Expelled from the politburo
  • 1927 - Expelled from the Communist Party
  • 1928 - Exiled to Kazakhstan
  • 1929 - Exiled from the SU
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Removing other rivals

As soon as Trotsky was out of the picture, Stalin moved against his other rivals.

Although they had worked with him against Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev were his next targets. He made an alliance with Bukharin (an earlier supporter of Trotsky) and Rykov against them.

Again, stalin used rumors of disloyalty to get them removed. by 1926, the rivalry was out in the open. they left in the same year as lenin

by 1928, it had become clear that stalin had succeeded lenin as leader of the Communist party

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Police State and Prison Camps

1n 1922 the Cheka reformed as the GPU then the OGPU, as it had a bad rep.

The OGPU dealth with politcial crimes against the state.

They could:

  • get confessions by torture
  • send people to rpison camps without trial
  • set up trials where the verdict of guilt was already decided
  • look for evidence of sabotage by anti communists

camps for political prisoners were set up at the same time as th Cheka. There were also normals prisons but these used the prisoners as cheap labour and were in the countryside.

by the end of 1920, the cheka had sent 250,000 people to prison camps

Stalin expanded the powers of the ogpu and they began encouraging people to tell on family and friends who spoke out aainst the state. 

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The Purges and Effects

By 1934, Stalin began to fear political opposition to himself and the state. He began purges to remove the opposition - were people were excecuted, exiled to labour camps or abroad.

The OGPU purged: the politburo; the communist party; teachers; engineers; scientists and industrial workers; the armed forces; secret police

They were so harsh between 1936-8 they were called the great terror


  • created atmosphere of fear and suspicion -> obedience and resentment
  • took away trust in the justice system
  • killed 1million, sent 7million to prison camps
  • lost seful people at all levels
  • removed skilled workers so production dropped
  • produced a country and party completely loyal to stalin. experience people at all levels were replaced by people stalin approved of. the made the cuntry and army weaker as a result
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Show trials and importance

In 1936 show trials began. they were a series oftrials whre political leaders stalin wanted rid of were put on trial and found guilty for crimes they almost certainly did not committ. They all confessed and were likely under torture. they were sent to gulags or excecuted.

they were important because:

  • ordinary people didnt know how unfair they were
  • the accused confessed
  • the trials suggested there was a great threat to the revolution inside the SU which made people more likely to support stalin against it 
  • they scared people and made them mless likely to be critical
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Propaganda is giving information, true or false, to get people to think or act in a certain way. Stalin used propaganda: to turn peoople against his enemies; to get people to accpet his decisions; to get poeple to put up with hard ships; to get people to work harder; to build up a cult of stalin.

The state controlled all edia so they had to roduce propaganda

the government sent officials all over the USSR to give talks in towns and villages who stressed about how everyone had to work together for the USSR and stalin

banners and posters everywhere spead messages with slogans

stalin was regularly photographed with people from all over the USSR to show how popular he was

Foreign visitors had to travel under state supervision and guides took them to show homes to make it look like people had a far better life than ordinary people actually did

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Bolsheviks provided free education, intending to wipe out the high levels of illiteracy in the Soviet Union. 

Under stalin, schools became a place to spread propaganda. textbooks had to be state approved and were full of propaganda. teachers were purged if they didnt teach the stalinist view of the world - which changed often as people fell out of favour. children were given pots of paste and paper to paste over the faces of those who fell.

Childen were encouraged to denounce family members and friends of the family who were anti-stalinist, and children of the suspected were often bullied

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Cult of Lenin and Stalin

Stalin did his best to remove political opposition and revolutionaries, except lenin, as by making L seemmore important, he made himself seem more important as Lenin's chosen successor.

Stalins supporters began building a cult of stalin. His propaganda was everywhere. there were always articles about how his reforms were making the country a better place and how much people loved him.

the effects of the cult of stalin:

  • made him more popular
  • believed in propaganda more
  • less likely to mind about censorship
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The 1936 Constitution

The 1936 constitution was praised as the most democratic in the world - but it was mostly an illusion of propaganda.

the Supreme Soviet now ran the country, everyone could vote and voted directly for representatives.

everyone was garanteed rights such as the right to work, education and healthcare.

the local laws of the 15 republic were to be as important as the laws from moscow

in practive the ** only met for a few days each year - the politburo ran the country. there was only 1 party and the state chose all the candiates for lcetion

various garnteed rights such as the right to a fair trial were ignored in th 'intrests of national security'

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