Russia at the turn of the twentieth century was enduring hardships that proved to be detrimental to the reigning sovereign, Tsar Nicholas II. The Russian people were suffering from poverty at the hands of the Romanov dynasty which had dismantled the once great Russian nation. The pressure and resentment from the people finally exploded in 1917 resulting in the total dismantling and destruction of the Tsarist authority. The entire Romanov family was brutally slain on the eve of the revolution and as a result a provisional government was implemented in March of that year. Furthermore, a second revolution took place in October of 1917, which resulted in the promotion of the Bolshevik (Majority) Communist party to power. Their leader, Vladimir Lenin, had captivated the Russian populous with his engaging speech and radical ideologies to improve Russia and return it to its once former glory. However his time at the head of the country was short lived and as a result, the now infamous Joseph Stalin took the opportunity to take control of the government and enforce a brutal and harsh dictatorship. The ideas of Lenin were dramatic and pushed the limits of Marxism to new boundaries, perhaps breaking them; but Stalin uncontrollably broke all borders of Marxism. His political theory was based on communism but altered and is aptly named Stalinism. Though despite the violence of the Revolution, Stalin was able to keep his power and his authority without much competition. The measures that he took to keep his dictatorial authority are world-renowned and infamous for the cruelty and drastic measures undertaken. The Great Purge in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s was a period in history that is likened to the atrocities performed by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) commonly referred as the Nazi Party; and thus produced the Holocaust at the behest of Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. Radical political ideologies, totally unbridled terror and fear, as well the manipulation of the media and education system were tactics that Joseph Stalin implemented during his rise and reign of power following Lenin’s death. Each component augmented his status as a ruthless tyrannical dictator and as the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union’s attempts of returning to former glory.
Joseph Stalin was a member of the Bolshevik party that replaced the provisional government and despite rumoured warnings former the then party leader, Lenin. He was able to rise to unquestionable power because of the degraded state of the Russian people. They had suffered hardships under the reign of Nicholas II who gained notoriety for his anti-Semitic campaigns. The rise of the Bolsheviks to power saw a new era that promised Russia a return to its former glory and even surpass the former dominance in terms of agriculture and industry. Stalin’s rise to power did not start with his initiative alone; the Bolshevik party was a key component of his rise. Lenin stated, “We shall have occasion further on to deal with the political and organisational duties which the task of emancipating the whole people from the yoke of autocracy imposes upon us.” This type of powerful statement to the proletariat and the Russian population was instrumental in Stalin’s rise to power merely because he was a member of this government. It can be argued that he attained control because of his association with Lenin and the rest of the Bolsheviks. Without this he would not have been held in such high regard and ultimately unable to attain and retain his power. Lenin’s death in January 1924, as a result of numerous strokes, allowed Stalin to play the interim leadership of the party against one another and ultimately remove them in a move that foreshadowed the fear that was to ensue during the Great Purge. Stalin’s advocacy of public ownership is shown in an interview with English Author Herbert George Wells (H. G. Wells) on 23 July 1934. In response to Wells’ question, Stalin responds as follows;
“As soon as Roosevelt, or any other captain in the contemporary bourgeois world, proceeds to undertake something serious against the foundation of capitalism, he will inevitable suffer utter defeat. The banks, the industries, the large enterprises, the large farms are not in Roosevelt’s hands. All these are private property. The railroads the mercantile fleet, all these belong to private owners.”
Stalin’s demand and vigorous argument for dismantling the privatisation of agriculture and industry, amongst other facets) is further bolstered with his argument of planned economy in the same interview. “What is planned economy? What are some of its attributes? Planned economy tries to abolish unemployment.” These words are inspirational to a country that was strife with poverty during the Tsarist autocracy and as a result influence belief and adoration for Stalin. This type of adoration is prevalent in modern society and will continue to flourish because of the inadequate support from governments that in turn suppresses the populous. A modern day example is of the Palestinian Islamist organisation, Hamas. They have taken control of the West Bank and ousted the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) with the help of public approval. The PLO has been unreliable for helping the Palestinian people and as a result, they have adopted Hamas as their political leader because they offer aid and support to the people whilst opposing suppression. Despite their “terrorist” or extreme actions, they are generally accepted and are in good standing with the Palestinians in the West Bank that as aforementioned is similar to the situation in Russia, then Soviet Union. Apart from a demonising nature, Stalin was accepted because of promises such as the abolishment of unemployment through the practice of planned economy. He also denounces the violence that is used during the revolution, ironically. As a stern practiser of communism, Stalin assures that, “communists do not in the least idealise the methods of violence…they see tat the old world is violently defending itself, and that i why the communists say to the working class: Answer violence with violence.” This is similar to the attempts by Lenin to promote Marxism to the Russian population, “ Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the need for a state for the purpose of the transition to socialism.” In the text “Stalin: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium,” reference is made to Lenin’s own “reign of terror.” Alter Litvin and John Keep relay; “it is wrong to distinguish between Stalin’s ‘Great’ Terror and a relatively ‘petty’ one under Lenin – especially if one bears in mind that during the civil war at least 1.5 million peaceful citizens fell victim to violence by the Reds or the Whites.” Stalin’s infamous Great Purge, has been popularised as ‘the Great Terror,’ and is the epitome of political censorship and the implementation of the police state. Leon Trotsky wrote about Stalin’s rise to power in his book, ‘The Revolution Betrayed,’ “He brought it all the necessary guarantees: the prestige of an old Bolshevik, a strong character, narrow vision, and close bonds with the political machine as the sole source of his influence.” There are various portrayals of Stalin though this recount of his personality and ‘strong character’ is unfamiliar to most. In contrast it is an appropriate summation of public opinion at the time. Propaganda, doctored photos, and inspiring speeches of eliminating poverty invoked spirit and promise in the newly found leader.
The Great Purge was a political oppression that was brutish and nasty, shaking down the, then Soviet Union population and eradicating all who posed a threat to Joseph Stalin’s government or spoke out against it. It has been aptly portrayed in several works of fiction throughout history, three of the most prominent are, “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” both written by George Orwell and “Darkness at Noon” by Arthur Koestler. Each of these novels depict the Great Purge in a fictional setting, but are an accurate portrayal of the radical and oppressive regime that Stalin erected from the disorganisation after Lenin’s death. “Animal Farm” takes place on Mr, and Mrs, Jones’ farm with a variety of animals that expel them, similar to that of Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanov family. As a result the animals are left to control the farm (Russia) The pigs are in control and eventually succumb to the power that they have over the other animals and secretly “edit” the rules that all of the inhabitants of the farm are supposed to abide by. Eventually the leader of the animals, Old Major dies, which is synonymous of Lenin’s death leaving the pigs Napoleon (J. Stalin) and Snowball (L. Trotsky) to earn for leadership. Eventually Snowball, like Trotsky was ousted leaving Napoleon (Stalin) in charge of the animals. He has vicious dogs to become his police much like The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) was the secret police during the Great Purge. Eventually Napoleon becomes the absolute dictator and forces them to work on the windmill, which could represent the Gulag (political prisoner camps) and the nefarious ‘Road of Bones.’ Despite the cruelty that the animals endure at the hands of Napoleon (Stalin), they are brainwashed and led to believe that their lives are much better off than with the humans (Tsar). At a meeting of all the animals Napoleon forces four pigs confess to conspiracy with the exiled Snowball (Trotsky), as a result they are brutally slain in front of everyone resulting in three hens to comfort with false confessions because, “Snowball had appeared to them in a dream.” The animals are horrified by these acts but nonetheless return to work indignant with themselves; Boxer the horse exclaims, “I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could happen on our farm. It must be due to some fault in ourselves. The solution, as I see it, is to work harder.” This is symbolic of the workers in the Soviet Union who thought that punishment of others was a result of their own shortcomings. This use of terror is what kept Stalin in power despite the corruption and unbridled terror. Similarly, in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” the Thought Police plague society and keep them in a state of constant suspicion of others and fear of being prosecuted for what they say, do, or with whom they associate with. This is the precise embodiment of life in Soviet Russia during Stalin’s reign; no person was able to make a notion against the government for fear of the NKVD finding out through spies or a neighbour, friend, or even a relative. The following quote from the novel is a prime example of the oppression enforced by the NKVD, “A Party member lives from birth and death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone.” The mysterious Big Brother figure is unquestionably Joseph Stalin, “black-haired, black mustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm….” The torture and punishment one endured, if/when caught and ‘found guilty’ was infamously brutal and led prisoners to incriminate themselves and others; much of the time falsely. The infamous Room 101, where the final torture scene for the protagonist William takes place, which is the ultimate fear within the Big Brother society, is resonant of the Kremlin and it’s secret innermost thoughts. Thirdly, “Darkness at Noon,” also relays a torture scene where he protagonist falsely incriminates himself and others under the insurmountable duress of torture and psychological hardships employed by the interrogators.
These works of fiction are unfortunately accurate to Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship. It is well documented that by his order unrelenting terror swept the Soviet Union just as the fear of ‘Big Brother’ engulfed life in ‘Oceania,” the book’s fictional setting; “No reliable figure has yet been established for the total number of victims of political repression.” Though further research has proven that the statistics are inaccurate, but resent studies denotes previous estimates are higher than recorded. According to these studies, “slightly less than 1 million people Robert Conquest’s number of seven million in the camps by 1938).e were confined in NKVD run camps on 1 January 1937, a number that rose to 1.3 million by 1939…These figures are a good deal lower than earlier estimates (for example, Robert Conquest’s number of seven million in the camps by 1938).” (There is irrefutable evidence that the information released by the present day KGB, which developed from the NKVD, is irregular and suspect). In addition, the late Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow, Alexander Nove (1915-1994) published accounts of the inmates in the Gulag from “1937-1939: 1 January – 31 December 1937 = 996,367; 1 January 1938 – 31 December 1938 = 1,317,195; 1 January 1939 – 31 December 1939 = 1,344,408.” It must be fervently stressed that readers must keep in mind, any facts that are presented with regards to the number of inmates and executions are subject to falsities and inaccuracy as per the tone of the Soviet Union during the era as well as the maltreatment of prisoners from the Gulag that were buried into the road makes an exact total near impossible. Not only did the populous suffer at the hand of dictatorship but so did the elite and military. “Recent Russian studies show that he was directly involved in the repression of the Red Army leadership during the Terror;” this could be the result of fear for a military coup orchestrated by military leaders. The paranoia that Stalin endured throughout his reign as dictator contributed to his brutal atrocities. As powerful and untouchable as he appeared to be to the commoners, he saw himself to be extremely vulnerable to a variety of incidents that could end his career and his life. Even his closest acquaintances and allies were possible threats, “Stalin was always afraid of assassination and regarded his physicians and the security chiefs as his most dangerous foes.” With that in mind, no person within or outside of Stalin’s inner circles of the Kremlin were safe nor truly trustworthy, other than Joseph Stalin himself; “In 1934 he organised a judicial investigation into the so-called ‘case of the killer doctors.’” One of Stalin’s most notorious actions during the Great Purge was that of the Kulaks. In a speech given on 31 January 1930, Stalin separates himself further from the Tsarist (Old) regime by describing his actions of eliminating as different from restricting. Stalin dictates the following proclamation, “Can it, then, be affirmed that the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class is a continuation of the policy of restricting (and ousting) the capitalist elements in the countryside? Obviously, it cannot.” by comparing and contrasting the minute differences between his regime and the Tsars, Stalin was able to invoke a sense of accomplishment and improvement in social order amongst his followers. He concludes the speech with riveting and resounding denouncement of the kulaks as a class and speaks of smashing them in open battle, depriving them of productive sources.
“Hence, the Party’s present policy in the countryside is not a continuation of the old policy, but a turn away from the old policy of restricting (and ousting) the capitalist elements in the countryside towards the new policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class.”
The threat of elimination was prominent in Stalin’s political language and philosophy, but was never refuted with success as a result of unknown numbers of prisoners in the Gulag being killed whilst under forced labour.
Propaganda and education used by Stalin leading up to and during his dictatorship of the Soviet Union has proven to be notorious and rivalled by a select few. Just as re-education was the final straw the broke the ‘proverbial camel’s’ back that is Winston Smith in George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ it was a part of the reconstruction for Soviet youth and more importantly the re-education of the broken spirits of the people. The doctoring of photographs was not an uncommon practice for Stalin’s government and he was oft portrayed in a ‘Big Brother’ theme, as previously described in the second paragraph (terror and fear). In addition to censoring of material, re-educating traditional Marxists and subscribers to Bolshevism and Menshevism was a key component for Stalinism to flourish. In reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States, Stalin wrote, “Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism. In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law…Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.” In both the interview referenced in paragraph one (political ideologies) and the this response to anti-semitism in the Soviet Union, Stalin appears to be a sympathetic “internationalist” who is striving for the better of the nation whilst bringing change from the autocratic ‘Old Regime’ of the Romanov’s. It has been well documented that Stalin’s imprisonment and sentencing to the Gulag during the Great Purge had anti-semetic connotations, however, this was not fully addressed by his government and never fully admitted. This would have cause public outcry and would have diminished the party’s distinction from the former autocracy that was notorious for anti-semitism. The NKVD also aided in the re-education and propaganda by enforcing harsh penalties for persons that did not conform to the, “ideologically homogenised population.” In the interview with H. G. Wells, Stalin decrees that, “Communists do not in the least idealise the methods of violence,” in spite of evidence suggesting otherwise. The international portrayal that he created of himself for his people was that of good standing with the ‘enemies’ of his own particular form of Communism, which in turn promoted his ‘false popularity.’
In conclusion, the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin is infamous and tyrannical without a doubt to the present day and can only be rivalled by a select few throughout humanities already cruel and dark history of violence and oppression of classes, cultures, and religions. The implementation of the NKVD having near total control to arrest whomever they deemed was conspiring against the state, regardless the tone of the remark or the seeming severity. The people became afraid of one another and discouraged each other from relaying potentially incriminating information about themselves or persons they knew; it would be the duty of the attending party to report the potential or real ‘offences’ or face the risk of their own imprisonment. After The Revolution of 1917 Russia faced a potential problem with the failing health of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party. Upon taking advantage of a distraught and amorphous society over the death of the vibrant and inspirational leader of the revolution, Stalin was able to introduce radical political ideologies that played on the desperation of the people to remove the autocracy from their social order. Following his political victory, the Great Purge brought about rampant terror and fear from the NKVD and of family members and friends, and finally the use of propaganda and re-education with ardent emphasis on an altered form of Communism. Despite Stalin’s promises of eradicating unemployment by means of planned economy and of returning the newly named Soviet Union to it’s former glory before the Romanov Dynasty. Ultimately Joseph Stalin will not be remembered for returning Russia to its former glory, but for being a brutish and harsh dictator, sentencing the masses to the Gulag, ravaged the people and country in its entirety into a catatonic state of fear in a post-revolution era that had much promise for a flourishing brilliant future.
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 Joseph Stalin, interview by H. G. Wells, 17.
 Vladimir Lenin, Collected Works of V. I. Lenin V. 24 April-June 1917 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1964), 85.
 John Keep and Alter Litvin, Stalin:Russia and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium (London: Rutledge, 2005), 59.
 Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is The Soviet Union And Where Is It Going? (New York: Merit Pub., 1965), 93.
 George Orwell, Animal Farm (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1963), 73.
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 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1963), 93.
 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 8.
 John Keep and Alter Litvin, 58.
 Lewis Sigelbaum, “Building Stalinism 1929-1941,” in Russia A History Third Edition, ed. Gregory L. Freeze (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 368.
 Alec Nove, “Victims of Stalinism: How Many?,” in Stalinist Terror: New perspectives, ed. J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), (Table 13.1) 270.
 John Keep and Alter Litvin, 41.
 John Keep and Alter Litvin, 38.
 John Keep and Alter Litvin, 38.
 Joseph Stalin, Works of J. V. Stalin V. 12 April 1929 – June 1930 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1956), 188.
 Joseph Stalin, Works of J. V. Stalin V. 13 July 1930 – January 1934 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1955), 30.
 John Keep and Alter Litvin, 41.
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