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Collectivisation was equally extensive; however, it ended up being rather counter productive as the land given to peasants by Lenin was effectively being taken away again by Stalin. As a result of the strong opposition to collectivisation, some collectives burned all evidence that they were ever part of collectivisation to get out of the programme but to avoid being caught by the secret police, causing a decline in the amount being produced. Furthermore, most of the grain acquired by farmers could be sold for a much higher price on the black market, so very often grain was not available.
As a result, grain production fell from 73. 3 million tonnes in 1928 to 67. 6 million tonnes in 1934. However, the biggest decline was in livestock, for example the number of sheep and goats fell from 146. 7 million in 1928 to 51. 9 million in 1934. However, as a result of the rapid economic progress, Russia were able to fight and win the great patriotic war with an expanded military and better weapons due to the stronger economy. By the time of Stalin’s death, Russia was a world super power. The Tsarist period generally coincided with rapid economic growth.
Under Alexander II, Witte’s great spurt started and the trans-Siberian railway was built which seen an improvement to Russia’s infrastructure, potential trade links and therefore economy. By the time of Alexander III’s reign, Russia was the 5th largest industrial power by 1914. The NEP furthered the success in economic terms as they experienced a moderate success in stabilising the economy. Khrushchev also helped to improve the economy, however, he improved it for the people of Russia, rather than improving it for industrial means, and improved general standard of living.
However, the Virgin Lands scheme was a complete disaster and damaged the economy. However, under Lenin, the economy was second thought to many other policies, and was floundered due to the war and the revolution. Furthermore, he was presided over a catastrophe, war communism. Therefore, in conclusion, economic progress was mostly made in the Stalin era. However, without the trans-Siberian railway or emancipation of the serfs, Stalin would not have been able to make such a prominent difference to the economy. Therefore, although Stalin improved the economy the most, such progress could not have been made if it were not for the Tsars.
What defines a leader is their people and, ultimately this means their attitude towards their people. Stalin did what he could for rapid industrialisation. Ultimately, he did not care who he killed, as long as he reached his goal, and in his words, the ends justified the means. He also stated that ‘one death is a tragedy, one million in just a statistic’ suggesting that he did not care how many were killed either, he just seen them as a statistic. However, as stated, although this should have resulted in vast opposition towards him, dissidents cried on the news of his death.
The tsars, however, had a paternalistic, autocratic and spiritual interpretation of welfare and generally ended up with no real distinction between them. As they were seen as the ‘little father’, they did not have to look after the welfare of the people as tradition meant that the people would still support them. However, they did, with policies such as emancipation and attempts to generally improve living standards. Even though these did not seem to help the people vastly at the time, they lay the foundations for further improvements in the future.
Lenin, however, was much like Stalin in the way that he did not mind who he killed as long as he reached his ultimate goal. Hanging orders generally demonstrate this as he did not mind who were hanged, as long as it was put in full view (for example, many were hung on busy crossroads for many to see) to promote that he was a no-nonsense leader. However, Lenin let conditions decline as this was his overall goal. He believed in the dictatorship of the proletariat and wanted conditions to get worse, so that revolution would occur.
Therefore, Lenin also did not look after the welfare of the people. However, again, similarly to Stalin, people cried when they heard the news of him dying. Therefore, although it can be said that they did not look after the welfare of their people, they were still respected leaders. However, Khrushchev saw the happiness of the people as paramount. As a born peasant himself, he placed a bigger priority on the production of consumer goods than heavy industry and even introduced the minimum wage in 1956 with the aim to improve the lives of Russians.
Therefore, in conclusion, although the people seemed to prefer leaders such as Stalin and Lenin, Khrushchev was the most concerned about the welfare of the people and did all he could to improve their lives, especially in terms of availability to consumer goods. Therefore, in conclusion, if success equals military and political power, coupled with the means to transform the social and economic fabric of a country, Stalin is indeed to most successful ruler over the whole of the 101 year period. In Russian political culture, this is good enough.
However, if we define success in a more western sense, with an emphasis on popularity, then Khrushchev deserves the credit. He may have been deposed, but his success in demolishing Stalinism was apparent when his overthrow was not accompanied by an obituary. The tsars collectively failed to impress. Despite two equalling Stalin in terms of longevity, none of them succeeded in transforming the empire or defended it as successfully as Stalin did. Lenin and Khrushchev, like Alexander III, simply ran out of time. Therefore, the most successful ruler, most definitely, was Stalin.