.. ion, for he remained in the background as an administrator. His work was largely responsible for the success of the bloody October Revolution in 1917. During the civil war that followed the revolution, Stalin served as political commissar with Bolshevik armies on several fronts. In 1918, he directed the successful defense of vital Tsaritsyn against the White Army.
The city was renamed Stalingrad in his honor in 1925, but the name was later changed in the 1950’s and 60’s to Volgograd to downgrade Stalin’s importance. Back to Top Stalin’s Slow Rise to Power: (1921-1928) In 1921, Stalin led the invasion that won his homeland, Georgia, for the Communists, or Bolsheviks as they now called themselves. The next year Stalin became general secretary of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. As Lenin’s trusted aide, Stalin methodically assumed increasing power. Scarcely a month later, on May 25, 1922, Lenin suffered a major stroke.
For the next few months, Lenin and Stalin were involved in a series of disputes. For example, Stalin proposed that the former Russian provinces which had not managed to fully escape Moscow’s grip be fully incorporated into the Russian state; Lenin’s proposal, which eventually became the basis for the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was to allow the outlying provinces some degree of self-rule and their own governments (although they were not to be fully independent). Of course, when Stalin assumed total control over the Soviet Union he fully centralized the government according to his original suggestion. After Lenin’s first stroke, he suffered from several more which eventually left him bedridden and practically an invalid. During this period, Lenin began secretly writing his Political Testament, in which he outlined his plans for the future of the Party.
In particular, Lenin individually criticized the major leaders of the Bolsheviks — Trotsky, Lev Kamenev, Nicolai Bukharin, Grigori Zinoviev, Alexis Rykov, and (of course) Iosif Stalin. In general, Lenin did not praise any of the major leaders, finding none completely suited for the task of leading the Party and the government. However, Lenin suggested that Trotsky might be the best man for the job. About Stalin Lenin had only negative things to say — in fact, Lenin recommended that the Party should find some way to get rid of Stalin. Lenin quite ominously predicted that Stalin was, in his opinion, unable or unwilling to exercise power cautiously or selflessly enough. During the same period, Stalin became involved in an abusive argument with Lenin’s wife Krupskaya.
On December 22, 1922, Stalin found out from one of his sources that Lenin had written a personal letter to Trotsky. Lenin had been previously placed under virtual house arrest by Stalin and his cadre, in order to protect him from assassination attempts and allow him to recover in a relatively stress-free environment. Stalin, in a fit of rage, called Krupskaya on the telephone and screamed at her ferociously (for allowing Lenin to write the letter). Stalin, among other things, called her a whore and threatened to have her removed from her political positions. Krupskaya told this to Lenin several months later. By March of 1923, Lenin had learned of Stalin’s phone call; this discovery, coupled with Stalin’s ruthlessness in dealing with Georgia (see above), prompted Lenin to begin seriously planning Stalin’s removal from power. Unfortunately, Lenin had yet another stroke that month.
This one, however, took away Lenin’s ability to speak. Lenin’s condition progressively worsened until his death on January 21, 1924. Stalin, upon hearing of Lenin’s death, was allegedly in a very joyful and jubilant mood. He had good reason to be — the major obstacle in his drive for power was gone. In 1924, there were three primary factions that had sufficient power to seriously contend for control of the Party — the Bukharinists (or Rightists), the Troskyites, and the newly-formed Troika (consisting of Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev). Stalin and his men at the end of 1928 struck out to turn regressive Russia into a modern state.
With vigorous and ruthless action as the basis, Stalin launched forced industrialization and collectivization. He established crude and unrealistic five-year economic plans, the deportation and execution of hundreds of thousands of kulaks (peasants) and forced the rest to enter into state-controlled collective farms. Top leaders such as Nikolai Bukharin, Aleksei Rykov, and Mikhail Tomsky, who urged restraint and more realistic procedures were swept out of office. Despite the death of millions from famine and goods shortages that these measures caused, Stalin still pursued the program. He met resistance and criticism with mass deportations, executions, and show trials of alleged saboteurs.
Back to Top Stalin in Power: (1928-1953) This produced considerable dissatisfaction that led to a secret movement to replace Stalin with Sergei Kirov. The murder of Kirov in December 1934 began a period of purging and terror that lasted until 1939 and was marked by the execution of virtually the entire political and military elite and the incarceration in forced labor camps of millions of Soviet citizens. In this way Stalin with the help of the secret police, established his personal dictatorship over the party and the country. In the face of the growing threats from Nazi Germany and Japan, Stalin reverted increasingly to traditional forms of foreign policy, seeking diplomatic alliances with the European powers. Finally in August 1939, he concluded a bilateral nonaggression treaty with Hitler.
Stalin liquidated a hundred thousand farmers in the name of progress, killed half a million intellectuals to eliminate opposition, executed all his top army officers to consolidate his power, and then purged his own secret police. He unleashed a famine that starved millions. Then he led Russia to victory over one of the largest armies ever to invade a foreign land. From the beginning of the purges in 1935 until his death in March 1953, he was extremely suspicious, seeing everyone as not only enemies but as enemies of the state. He was unable to resume his trust in anyone from whom he had once withdrawn it, and he was unshakably convinced that the system of political terror must be allowed to work even if it touched those around him. Back to Top Political Science.