Russian Rulers: Stalin 1928-53

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The Power Struggle 1924-28

Lenin had been idolised, warned against Stalin in his Testament.

Competitors: Trotsky, Stalin, Bukharin, Kameneve & Zinoviev.

Why Stalin? Circular Theory of Power: Stalin was General Secretary > controlled regional Bolsheviks parties (and who was in power), regional parties sent delegates to National Congress > who chose Central Committee > who chose Politburo & Orgburo > who chose General Secretary.

Used Decree on Party Unity to ban factions:

  • Isolated people within the Party.
  • Socialism in one country (Stalin) vs. Permanent revolution (Trotsky) - Trotsky expelled 1925.
  • NEP - right communists agreed (Bukharin & Tomsky), left communists disagreed (Kamenev & Zinoviev) - both expelled 1927.
  • 1928 Bukharin & Tomsky expelled.
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Some argue the purges were a mere continuation of Lenin's policy, but was more extreme.

Chistka (purges of party members)                     

  • 1st: 1928-30 11% gone
  • 2nd: 1933-35 further 20% gone
  • 3rd :1936 further 9% gone, 76% of whom for 'non-political reasons,' others for being a Kulak, being a White.
  • 40,000/100,000 gone by end of Chistka.

The Great Purge 1936-38 - led by Ezhov, head of NKVD

  • 1937 Central Committee authorised purge.
  • Army first, 2/3 officers arrested & killed, 3/5 Marshalls arrested or executed, everyone at risk - in all ranks.
  • Kulaks, Priests, Mensheviks & SRs to Gulags.
  • 1939 Ezhov replaced (killed 1940) by Beria, only 16/77 of 1934 Central Committee still alive.

Show Trials

  • Televised trials of leading Bolsheviks, August 1939 1st Show Trial > all shot (including K & Z along with 14 others) accused of being in league with Trotsky.
  • January 1937 2nd Show Trial.
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Agriculture: Collectivisation

1927 Party Congress: By 1933, 20% of farms to be collectivised - 'Kolkhozy'


  • 1. 'Emergency measures' 1928 Politburo ordered forced requisitioning, 100,000 workers sent to country to make it happen > marks the end of the 'smychka.' 
  • 2. 'Urals-Siberian method' approved by Central Committee 1928, relied on people snitching, not a long term solution, appealed to self interest, those who snitched got 25% of victim's grain, state received remaining 75%. 
  • 3. Summer 1929 forced collectivisation > Collective Farm Centre founded to organise this, November extra 25,000 workers employed to make this happen, January 1929 Stalin called for 100% collectivisation by 1930 > 60% collectivised March 1930. Included Dekulakisation, unpopular as its definition was unclear. March 1930 significant peasant rebellion was brewing. 
  • 4. Stalin said collectivisation had become 'dizzy with success' in Pravda magazine (too extreme) > fell from 60% in March to 20% in August. 
  • 5. Great harvest 1930 - collectivisation resumed > 1931 50% of farms collectivised. 
  • 6. 1932-4 Famine, Ukraine badly affected, cannibalism, yet grain exports and % taken from farms remained the same. 
  • 7. Consolidation 1935 Party Congress, each peasant received 1/2 a hectare and allowed 1 sow, 1 cow & 4 sheep but farms still collectivised - 1937 93% collectivised > peasants worse off than their forefathers.
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Agriculture: Collectivisation - Why?

1. A Marxist idea.

2. A good way to control peasants > dependancy.

3. solved problem of food supply to city.

4. Surplus went to government for export to fund industrialisation.

5. A way to isolate the right communists.

6. An example of the success of communism - a PR tool.

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Industry: Industrialisation

2 main governing bodies, Vesenkya & Gosplan who provided statistics & set targets for industrialisation - 5 year plans.

1928 first 5 year plan. Targets: Coal x100%, Iron x200%, Electricity x400% Outcome: All heavy industry doubled with factories and cities specifically built to aid this.

1928-1940 Gross National Product doubled - annual growth at 5-6%.

1927 vs. 1940.

Coal: 35mil. tonnes 150mil. tonnes

Steel:3mil. tonnes 18mil. tonnes

Oil:   12mil. litres 26mil. litres

Elec.:18mil. MWH 90mil. MWH

How? Forced labour at Gulags, PR effort - Stekhanov, Education improved & became more technically focused, Shakhty Trial, 5 killed for industrial sabotage.

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Ordinary Peoples' Lives

Religion: Religious persecution under Lenin, League of Militant Godless founded, 1930 30,000 churches, 1940 1,000 churches > became 'museums of atheism,' some reopened during War.

Education: 1930 4 years of primary education made compulsory - later 7 years, night schools introduced, 1939 96% literate, Young Pioneers.

Family Life: Divorce & abortion made easier, women had more rights, free childcare (reduced post-1936) > meant women could work.

City Life: Paint shortage - cities looked shabby, overcrowding, Metro System yet to be rivalled, but bread levels at 50% of 1900 level, meat & fish levels at 20% of 1900 level.

Countryside: Poor living standards, 1940 grain only at 1900 level.

Sport & Culture: Thrived, but state directed.

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World War 2


Foreign Policy hed been very inward looking - characterised by 'Socialism in one country,' but 1933 Hitler came to power - hated Jews and Communism, called Slavs Untermenschen & wanted Lebensraum. 1934 Russia joined League of Nations under jewish Litvinov (Foreign Minister) who tried to organise a European alliance against Hitler unsuccessfully - replaced by Molotov who signed Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact August 1939 > spheres of influence (FELL - Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) but Hitler could see Red Army's weaknesses during Winter War 1939 > Operation Barbarossa 1941 moved 50-60 miles per day into Russia, Russians retreated & burnt everything they left behind.

How did Russia win?!

Working week lengthened (6 days), Russian's hardy > prepared to sustain massive (human) losses & Winter of 1943 bad - Germans unprepared, Russian patriotism (peasants realised they were better off under Stalin than Hitler, who killed 1million), Allies (America) gave supplies, Russian industrial capacity > 5 year plans, T34 tank - Battle at Tersk, Russia didn't leave anything valuable for Hitler during retreat.

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