Joseph Stalin, 1879-1953
Iosef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, Koba, the "Man of Steel," or Stalin, was born in Georgia, was educated at the Tiflis Theological Seminary from which he was expelled for "propagating Marxism." He joined the Bolshevik underground and was arrested and transported to Siberia. He escaped in 1904.
The ensuing years witnessed his closer identification with revolutionary Marxism, his many escapes from captivity, his growing intimacy with Lenin and Bukharin, his early disparagement of Leon Trotsky, and his co-option, in 1912, to the illicit Bolshevik Central Committee.
With the Revolution of 1917 and the replacement of Kerensky's weak Provisional Government by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Stalin was appointed Commissar for Nationalities and a member of the Politburo, although his activities throughout the counter-revolution and the war with Poland were confined to organizing a Red "terror" in Tsaritsin (Stalingrad). With his appointment as General Secretary to the Central Committee in 1922, Stalin began stealthily to build up the power that would guarantee his control of the Soviet Union after Lenin's death. When Lenin died in 1924, Stalin took control. By 1928, Trotsky had been degraded and banished.
Stalin's reorganization of the Soviet's resources, with its successive Five Year Plans, suffered numerous industrial setbacks and encountered consistently stubborn resistance in agriculture, where the kulaks refused to accept the principles of collectivization. The measures taken by Stalin to discipline those who opposed his will involved the death by execution or famine of at least 10 million peasants (1932-33). The bloodbath which eliminated the Old Bolsheviks and the alleged right-wing intelligentsia, and the staged "engineers' trial," were followed by a drastic, purge of thousands of the Officer corps, including Marshal Tuchachevsky. Stalin believed they were all guilty of pro-German sympathies. Red Army forces and material went to the support of the Spanish Communist government in 1936, although Stalin was careful not to commit himself too deeply.
After the Munich crisis Franco-British negotiations for Russian support in the event of war were protracted until the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which bought Stalin some time he thought he needed to prepare for a German invasion. In 1941 the prosperity of the nazis' initial thrust into Russia could be accounted for in part by the disposal of the Red Army on the frontiers, ready to invade rather than repel invasion. Stalin's strategy followed the traditional Muscovite pattern of plugging gaps in the defenses with more and more bodies and trading space for time in which imposing climatic conditions could whittle away the opponents' strength. Sustained by material furnished by Britain an the United States, the Red Army responded to Stalin's call to defend not the principles of Marx and Engels, but "Mother Russia."
Quick to exploit the unwarranted Anglo-American fear that Russia might get out of the war, Stalin easily outwitted the allied leaders of the Teheran and Yalta Conferences. With the Red Army's invasion of German soil, Soviet soldiers were encouraged to penetrate far beyond the point where they had last been employed. Thus Stalin's dominance of the Potsdam Conference, followed by the premature break up of the Anglo-American forces, left Stalin with a territory enlarged by more 180,0000 square miles which, with satellites, increased the Soviet sphere of influence by more than 760,00 square miles. While Stalin consolidated his gains an "iron curtain" was dropped to cut off Soviet Russia and her satellites from the outside world. At the same time, a Cold War ensued between east and west.
An entirely unscrupulous man, Stalin consistently manipulated Communist imperialism for the greater glory of Soviet Russia and the strengthening of his own person as autocrat. He died, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, on March 5, 1953.
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copyright � 2001 Steven Kreis