Stalin's cult of personity

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Stalin's cult of personity

  • Stalin had always been portrayed as a god like figure and this status was reinforced by the Soviet victory in 1945.
  • In private Stalin claimed he disapproved of the excesses of the Stalin cult that appeared throughout the media.

  • In practice he showed no sign of wanting to stop it.
  • He was presented as the leader who cared for his people and was ruthless in protecting their interests.

  • Some argue that he recognised the political advantages of allowing his subordinates to promote his god like image.
  • Stalin was given titles such as“Coryphaeus of Science,”“Father of Nations,” “Brilliant Genius of Humanity,” and“Great Architect of Communism”.

  • Stalin did not like the emphasis put on him as being the leading interpreter of Marxism.
  • He claimed, “We already have the teaching of Marx and Lenin. No additional teachings are required."

  • The cult of Stalin was at its height at the celebrations held for his 70thbirthday in December 1949.
  • There were parties, festivals and processions held throughout the USSR.

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Social policies under Stalin

  • Zhadanov was one of Stalin’s most trusted and favourite subordinates.
  • He had similar views to Stalin.
  • Zhadanov ensured that all intellectuals – writers,artists, scientists, musicians or economists - followed the Party line.
  • During the war, religion had been harnessed by Stalin to boost support for the regime.
  • After 1945, religious practice was tolerated as long as it presented no threat to the State’s control of ‘public opinion’.
  • Stalin introduced the campaign against ‘cosmopolitanism’, which was largely associated with Zhadanov.
  • Cosmopolitanism’ was associated with increased anti-Semitism, which was evident in increased discrimination and violence against Jews.
  • Cosmopolitanism was also reflected in a campaign to eliminate virtually any contact with the outside world.
  • Only high-ranking Party officials could travel abroad.
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Social policies under Stalin 2

  • Marriage with foreigners was forbidden.
  • Foreign films, books and arts were denounced.
  • There was an upsurge in Russian nationalism, which took the form of praising all things Russian.
  • The official Soviet line was that anything Russian was greatly superior to anything in the West.
  • All great achievements of previous generations were attributed to the Russians
  • Some historians have suggested that while there were limitations to Stalin’s power, it was not due to lack of will but simply inefficiency, because decisions were sometimes made haphazardly or because Stalin become more isolated himself.
  • On the other side, some historians believe that Stalin’s power was less supreme than is popularly imagined.
  • Chris Ward described Stalin as ‘no self-confident tyrant in charge of a smoothly functioning totalitarian machine, but a sickly old man
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New Terror

  • Stalin was an alcoholic.
  • Manoeuvring created fear and uncertainty ( e.g. demoting the war hero Marshal Zhukov).
  • Leningrad Affair- 200 leading Leningrad Party officials were arrested some shot. Loyalty of Leningrad party was in doubt, ‘window to the West’-Simply the prelude to an extension of terror across the USSR.
  • New outburst of Anti-Semitism, 1948, even Molotov’s Jewish wife arrested.
  • The Georgian purge seen as an attack on Beria.
  • Bizarre ‘Doctors Plot’; leading Kremlin doctors,many Jewish, accused of plotting the deaths of Stalin- Stalin was ill at this time which added to his paranoia.
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Gov under High Stalinism

  • Stalin uses the war success to abuse the system.
  • The communist party structure was now dictated solely by Stalin gaining more power.
  • Soviet One Party State – The Nomenklatura and Politburo most privileged.
  • Stalin the very hub of government, his orders was obeyed without question.
  • Party leaders were terrified of getting it ‘wrong’, as he was unpredictable and had a temper.
  • According to Molotov ‘gov. ceased to function’,Stalin dealing directly with individual officials rather than leading party colleagues as a group.
  • Constantly jealous or suspicious of those around him. 
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Stalin's death

  • In 1952 Stalin begun to criticise leading subordinates such as Molotov and Mikoyan.
  • Likely on a verge of massive new purge. If so, in March 1953 his sudden death stopped this in its tracks, possibly saving some of his successors from liquidation (Khrushchev).
  • Left his subordinates in a state of relief they’d survived but uncertainty because there was no clear line of succession and each saw others as potential rivals.
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