Joseph Stalin, the “Man of Steel”, is one of the most powerful dictators in history. Stalin was the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union’s sole leader from 1924 until his death in 1953. Stalin is one of the most controversial figures in Russian history; he is still the subject of fierce discussions. Stalin was a very powerful leader who had a huge impact on USSR; Stalin consolidated power in the USSR through propaganda, fear and, the five-year plan.
Stalin’s rise to power was methodical and strong. The construction of his image was very well thought of and arranged. Nearly every medium propagandized Stalin’s image, propaganda was used to build up Stalin’s image. Like a religious worship, a cult of Stalin was formed. Stalin was like a godlike leader to the people, praised in the newspapers, books and in films, posters and poems. Everything praised his deeds, his skills, his modesty, his wisdom and his brilliance. Censorship was used to censor anything and everything that might reflect badly on Stalin. Leaving, no one a chance to see the bad side of Stalin, hence having everyone love and praise him.
“The soviet education system was geared not to independent thinking but to Stalinist propaganda.” Parents taught their children that Stalin was the wisest and greatest. History books and photographs were changed to make him the hero of revolution, and obliterate the names of purges people. Stalin gave the people no chance to worship any kind of religious path; he did not want the people to have loyalty to anyone but him. Belief in god was replaced by belief in communism and Stalin. Cities and towns were named in his honor. Stalin established and consolidated his power through propaganda, thus gaining the love, respect and trust of the majority of the Russian people.
However, propaganda alone was not enough to consolidate full power. Stalin was a paranoid ruler, always feared that political opponents, military officials, even common citizens were plotting against his political position and even his life. Perhaps as self-defense, Stalin was responsible for killing millions. Stalin consolidated his power base with the Great Purges against his political and ideological opponents. “Under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, tens of millions of ordinary individuals were executed or imprisoned in labor camps, that were little more than death camps. The Purge period of Soviet history can be considered the worst period of the twentieth century.” Stalin managed to use purges and violence to make people fear him, and therefore support him. Stalin imprisoned and executed anybody who opposed industrialization, and the kulaks who opposed collectivization.
“Stalin also arrested thousands of his political opponents, they were put on show trials, where they pleaded guilty to impossible charges of treason.” Stalin executed or imprisoned almost all of the admirals and half the Army’s officers. Many people disappeared including teachers, miners, doctors, and ordinary people. Around 18 million were sent to labor camps, ten million died. “Stalin’s secret police had very effective torture methods. Many of the accused’s families were also killed or tortured in order to provoke confessions.” “Stalin had succeeded in destroying any sense on independent thinking. Everyone knew that his or her lives depended on thinking exactly as Stalin did.” Stalin accomplished power through fear, by using purges and violence to make people fear him and therefore support him, by having anyone who threatened his leadership, killed or murdered.
“Propaganda and fear are not enough to explain Stalin’s extraordinary power. No dictator can hope to rule without popular support, and this was also true of Stalin. Power can only be acquired and retained by delivering benefits to significant numbers of people.” In Stalin’s case, this was achieved via five-year plans. Collectivization brought mechanization, rationalization to the many small plots that peasants worked on and put in place the distribution and supply networks needed to modernize agriculture and to produce enough grain for export. This system gave Stalin effective control over the entire economy, and thereby the Soviet people. The most effective means of increasing Stalin’s power was collectivization. “This involved the elimination of private ownership of agricultural land, and its replacement with a system of state-owned and collectively owned farms.
The peasants who worked on these farms were under the control of the Party, which in turn was under the control of Stalin. Collectivization also gave Stalin the opportunity to eliminate large numbers of class enemies, the kulaks, and to steal Party members to wholesale murder.” Serious famines resulted, livestock and grain were destroyed and agriculture never fulfilled its potential. Yet most peasants remained grateful to Stalin for giving them a better standard of living. The Five Year Plans were also an essential part of Stalin’s consolidation of power. Targets were set for coal, iron and electricity production and progress was achieved through propaganda, fear, education, forced labor and socialist competition.
“Stalin had declared that Russia was at least 100 years behind the industrialized world and, in setting out to modernize Russia; he was symbolically breaking with the past.” Stalin consolidated power through the achievements of the fiver year plan; new cities, dams and hydroelectric power, farm machinery, coal; steel, plastic, education and no unemployment and doctors and medicine were available. “For all the problems and hardship caused by the Five Year Plans, by 1941, Stalin had transformed Russia into a world class industrial power. This was to be vital for Russia as the war was about to test her to the extreme.”
Today the role of Stalin in Russian history is the subject of bitter debate, with a number of Russian history textbooks calling him “an effective manager” and others presenting him as absolute evil dictator. Nevertheless, It can be seen that Stalin succeeded in consolidating power through many factors, mainly from propaganda, fear and terror, and the five-year plan.
Courtney from Study Moose
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