Although these two leaders came to power in different countries and under different circumstances, there are many similarities that can be drawn between them. Not only were they to become the most tyrannical dictators of the twentieth century in Europe, but between them, they wiped out over 25 million people.
When Stalin came to power, Russia was in the middle of an economic debate as to whether the New Economic Policy was a viable option for a Marxist country. Stalin was able to manoeuvre within this debate to gain power. He changed what he thought about the state of the Russian economy various times so that he could gain the trust of some and get rid of others. Meanwhile as Hitler came to power, Germany was suffering the after effects of the Wall Street Crash. Although Hitler did not use as cunning tactics as Stalin, he was able to promise the people of Germany who were suffering acutely from the effects of the Great Depression. Hitler offered a way out of the misery faced by the majority of the population of Germany.
Both men were underestimated by their opposite politicians. Stalin had the nickname of comrade paper clip, suggesting that they saw his role within the party as insignificant. Meanwhile Hitler was given the position of Chancellor by Hindenburg and von Papen who thought that they could control him like a puppet. This led to both men ending up in the position in which they were able to take power.
Whilst they were very different in their methods of gaining popularity, they were both accepted by the people. However Stalin was seen as being one of the people, a peasant from Georgia, he had been in similar circumstances to many Russian people and although he was not a great speaker, being unable to speak Russian completely fluently, he could relate to the people. Hitler on the other hand used a slightly different method. He was seen by the people as being a god, nothing like the people he was going to lead, but so great that he could not be wrong. His great oratory skills attracted him to many who heard his speeches and his charm and charisma only improved his image.
In both cases there was a lack of a viable alternative to come to power, however there were different reasons for this. In Hitler’s case it was simply a matter of the other politicians being unsuited to their jobs. Stalin however purposely set out to get rid of his opposition. He was manipulative with Lenin in his last years in such a way that he seemed to be Lenin’s choice of leader. Other alternatives such as Trotsky and Bukharin were sidelined by Stalin and his triumverate with Zinoviev and Kamenev who were both later evicted from the party. This shows how Stalin had a very manipulative side and how he used this to his advantage when coming to power. Hitler on the other hand was not so cunning, he had more of a lucky break.
The fundamental difference between the two ascents to power was that Stalin had to come to power within a party that was already in power whilst Hitler was already the leader of a party which had to come to power. This could explain the manner in which the two came to power. Hitler first tried to come to power with the Munich Putsch in March 1923. However when this failed, he decided that he had to use the existing framework of the Weimar Republic to get into power. Stalin on the other hand was able to use cunning and manipulative prowess to come to power within the existing Communist Party. In this way it could be said that Stalin’s job was easier as Hitler had to change the system of the whole country whilst Stalin simply had to become the leader of the party but Hitler was the only real competitor for the job and Stalin had competition within the party.
Germany as a country was patriotic and nationalist. Hitler offered a system where expansionism was important and the overturning of the Treaty of Versailles was seen by many to be the way to return Germany to its former glory. Russia was however isolationist and Stalin stood for Socialism in one country where some of his opponents such as Trotsky saw world revolution as the way forward. Although both of the countries wanted opposite things, both Hitler and Stalin stood for what the people of their respective countries were looking for at the time.
Although the two dictators went on to become very different leaders, there are some similarities in the way in which they came to power. That is not to say that they were in the same position but they were both able to use the circumstances they were faced with to their advantage.