Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili

"Koba" (the "Indomitable") "Stalin" ("Man of Steel")

Part One--1928-1934
Stalin song < >
Marxist "histeria" < >
Cloud Biography of Stalin < >

Stalin Documentary
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Brief retrospective on Stalin
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1992 Stalin movie (HBO made for TV--go to 3:57)
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Robert Duvall plays Stalin a bit woodenly, but the movie
was carefully researched and considered accurate--
Stalin and Lenin 26:41
death of Nadya 1:14/22

The Inner Circle is an interesting movie, kind of a fable or ruminationd
on Stalin, Beria, and various victims. Was on Youtube, now flown away.

Born in Gori, Georgia, in 1879, Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili came from humble origins; his father, an impoverished cobbler, died in a drunken brawl in 1890; his mother, though herself an illiterate scrubwoman, had lofty ambitions that her son Josef would complete seminary studies and become a priest. Instead, young Josef was expelled from the seminary in 1899 for revolutionary activities, having been drawn first to Marxism and the Russian Social Democrats and latterly to the writings of Lenin. Even today, Gori honors Stalin, the Georgian, who ruled the USSR with his iron fist (sans velvet glove) essentially from 1927 until his death in 1953.
By 1906, Stalin had already ingratiated himself with Lenin and allied with the Bolsheviks when the SDs split in 1903 at the II Party Congress, though not with Trotsky, Zinoviev, or Kamenev, all Jews; Stalin was a virulent anti-Semite. The same year, 1906, Stalin married Ekaterina Svanidze, who bore him a son, Yakov in 1907 (Gottfried, The Road to Communism 64).

image source "Ekaterina Svanidze" < >

Stalin's first revolutionary pseudonym was "Koba"--the Indomitable. His contributions to the revolutionary movement in the years before the seizure of power consisted of organizing demonstrations, riots, and "confiscations" (armed robbery to raise funds for the movement.) Repeatedly arrested by the tsarist Okhrana, Koba had a lengthy police record while still a young man.
"Koba," as he identified himself in the revolutionary underground before 1913, attached himself to Lenin, always supporting him and associating himself with Bolshevism after the 1903 schism. Not recognized as a particularly effective writer or orator, Trotsky, ever contemptuous of Stalin as an intellectual inferior, referred to him as a "grey blur," "a colorless...mediocrity" (Gottfried, The Road to Communism 64). (See right for mug shot of Stalin taken in Tiflis, 1912)

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Not a theoretician, as noted above, Stalin did have value to the Bolsheviks; not only was he loyal, but he had a ruthless streak and gangster connections, masterminding a bank robbery in 1907 Tiflis to provide the comrades with necessary funds to finance their revolutionary activities in the Witte-Stolypin era. By his own admission, "I hung around mostly with criminals" (Gottfried, The Stalinist Empire 21).

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For his loyalty to Lenin, for his perceived understanding of peasants, for his Georgian nationality, Stalin secured the post of Commissar for Nationalities in the Sovnarkom after the Bolshevik coup d'├ętat in 1917, a post he held until 1923.

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In 1919, Stalin--a widower--married Nadya Alliluyeva. She was 18 to his 41. They had two children, Vasily, born in 1921 and Svetlana born in 1926. Although the actual facts are murky, one version of the story is that Nadya committed suicide in November, 1932, on the eve of the meeting of the Central Committee and the 15th anniversary of the Revolution. The event (suicide?) took place after a public spat and, allegedly, her protest against the harshness of Stalin's First Five Year Plan. The official version attributed her death to appendicitis. 1932 was the occasion of the Ryutin defection, of which more later, below.

image source < >
Nadezhda's funeral < >
alas, only 45 seconds

***As noted on the "Revolution" page, Lenin reorganized the Party apparatus
at the same time as he announced (NEP) the New Economic Policy.
In 1922, he named Stalin General Secretary of the CPSU, which gave
Stalin positions on the three nerve centers of policy making and policy
implementation: the Politburo, the Orgburo, and the Secretariat,
as well as a seat on the Central Committee.
Stalin set agendas and made low level (and not-so-low-level) appointments.
Thus, he positioned himself in the "succession crisis" (1922-1927) to manipulate,
cajole, threaten his way to defeating his rivals and assuming Lenin's "mantle."
The Old Bolsheviks, who thought they knew Koba, were no match
for his machinations. By the end of 1927, he had isolated and/or weakened
all rivals and potential rivals.

"The Darkness Descends" excerpts from Russia's War: Blood on the Snow--01
< > Powerful film--watch
go to 8:35-12:45--collectivization < >
13:45-14:15 industrialization

In 1928, Stalin looked at the Russian economy and knew, as Trotsky had been saying since the onset of NEP, that the nation was farther from socialism than it had been in 1917: the kulaks and NEPmen cared only about profit. Again, as Trtosky had repeatedly stated, they were, in fact, enemies of socialism who held a stranglehold on the economy. Supported by a massive propaganda blitz and without calling a Party Congress, Stalin announced the First Five Year Plan to collectivize agriculture and emphasize heavy industry over consumers goods. The 1928 propaganda poster (right) shows the NEPman scorning the First Five Year Plan and being crushed by its successes.

image source Meyer < >

Collectivization moved peasants off their individual plots on to massive collective farms (duh) called Kolkhozy or Sovkhozy where they would take advantage of tractors and other machinery not available on "Grandpa's farm." War on the kulaks began: "We must smash the kulaks so hard they will never rise to their feet again" ("Collectivization"). The text reads, "...increasing crops, establishing a technological culture."

image source "Collectivization" < >
Kulaks < > 3 minutes--very powerful

While the peasants (and kolkhozniks) resisted with every ploy they could muster, including destruction of their assets, the police, communist cadres, and the Red Army moved in. The poster text (right) reads, "Come Comrades, join us on the Kolkhoz!" The First Five Year Plan ended NEP dabbling in market economics and re-established central, i.e. Party, control over the economy. Stalin was not so crazy about the artistic experimentation of the avant garde either; it was soon replaced by Soviet Realism, which extolled heroic workers and peasants.

image source Siegelbaum < >

Along with dekulakization, collectivization, and industrialization came a "tightening of the screws" in all aspects of Soviet life. Forbidden was the artistic experimentation of the avant garde; in its place, Stalin demanded a glorification of heroic workers and peasants in a new genre called Socialist Realism. Such statues (right image) abounded in the Soviet Union era.

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A student, not unlike yourselves, created a Weebly website about Stalin
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Ukrainian famine <>
"Harvest of Despair: Genocide by Famine" with propaganda footage at the beginning
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The statistics (left) and happy kolkhoznik (below/left) are at odds with the stats: 2-4,000,000 deaths; the number of horses, goats, and sheep declined by half; the number of cattle declined by one third; hundreds of thousands, even millions, of peasants were dispossessed and forcibly moved to the collective farms. Agricultural production plummeted and, yet again, famine stalked the land. (below/right)

image source < >


image source/left Igor, et al. < >
image source/right Smallwood < >

While the evidence chronicles hunger, famine, and 3,000,000+ deaths during the de-kulakization program, propaganda posters such as this one (left) tell a different story. The text reads, "Work hard during harvest time and you will be rewarded with plenty of bread." The loss of life, the slaughter of livestock, and destruction of grain led Stalin to deliver the extraordinary "dizzy with success" speech in 1930, gently admonishing the cadres for their excessive enthusiasm.

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The suffering of the peasants, especially kulaks has been termed a genocide, right up there with the Holocaust. Stalin, like Lenin before him, used every weapon available to collectivize agriculture and destroy the kulaks. By 1931, 20,000,000 individual farms had been absorbed by 250,000 collectives (either kolkhoz or sovkhoz) through coercive means as peasants slaughtered their livestock and destroyed the seed rather than, willingly collectivize. (Valcourt)

image source Valcourt < >

The tweedle-dee to the tweedle-dum of collectiization was industrialization.
The First Five Year Plan squeezed the peasants (especially kulaks)
to provide
the capital to industrialize with a heavy emphasis (pardon the pun)
on heavy industry--guns > butter, so to speak: the Moscow Subway System,
the Don-Volga Canal, the gigantic Dnieper Power Station, the White Sea Baltic Canal.
These endeavors showcased Soviet industrial prowess and transformed
the nation from overwhelmingly rural and agrarian to industrial, at
enormous social and personal cost. Think of these projects in the same
context as Hoover Dam, The Tennessee Valley Authority, and the various
alphabet agencies of the New Deal.
Take a tour of the Moscow Metro
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or an even better one Moscow Subway video < >

The great Dnieper Power Station was actually a dream of Lenin, who allegedly commented, "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country." Trotsky campaigned for its construction back in the 1920s, but it was Stalin's project, begun in 1927, anticipating the First Five Year Plan.

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The Don-Volga Canal, actually completed in the closing decades of Stalin's regime, was built with convict labor.

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Another giganto Stalinist project was the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal, also built with convict labor. According to Anne Applebaum, 25,000 of them lost their lives.

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To be fair to Stalin--like Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev--he saw Russia's vulnerability as a nation of peasants: it was essential to modernize, to build up infrastructure, and to expand heavy industry. Hard-liners noted the rise of anti-communist fascist dictators in Europe (Mussolini in Italy, Pilsudski in Poland, Horthy in Hungary.) The CCP was taking China down "Mao's Road." Chiang K'ai-shek's Bandit Extermination Campaign seemed to be winning the Chinese civil war. Japanese militants threatened the Soviet Far East! Isolated with no access to foreign loans and investment, with enemies everywhre, the Soviet Union had to be strong irrespective of social cost!

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By the time of Stalin's 50th birthday in 1929, Lenin was dead and Trotsky was in exile. Stalin had achieved dominance in the Party and the nation. The "cult of the personality," while not in full swing, was emerging. The purges had not yet begun, and only hints of the coming Terror were evident. An invitation to Stalin's birthday party was no guarantee of surviving the horrors of the 1930s. The text reads, "Beloved Stalin--happiness of the people."

image source < >
propaganda/Stalin's 50th birthday < >

Stalin announced an early fulfillment and end to the First Five Year Plan in 1932, achieving its goal of "5 in 4" (Elliott 2). Despite the enormous human cost and tragedy, it (and the subsequent Five Year Plans) constituted a Third Revolution. The Second Five Year Plan allowed for a modicum of attention to be paid to consumers goods (Riasanovsky 490). By the time of the Third Five Year Plan, military considerations trumped all. Convict labor from the ever-expanding gulag provided manpower for such enterprises as the White Sea-Baltic Canal and the Moscow Subway system (Elliott 22).

The rise in production between 1928 and 1937 were phenomenal:

  • Coal - from 36 million tonnes to 130 million tonnes
  • Iron - from 3 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes
  • Oil - from 2 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes
  • Electricity - from 5,000 million to 36,000 million kilowatts

statistics source < >
Interesting artwork/socialist realism praising Stalin, collectivization, industrialization
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According to Robert Conquest, Stalin directed the First Five Year Plan--collectivization, and de-kulakization--from his desk, never visiting the countryside after 1928. In the field, so to speak, the ruthless, vicious deportations and expulsions took their toll on the cadres having to implement the policies, not to mention the slaughters and massacres that accompanied them.

image source/forced deportation Olheiser < >

De-kulakization, aka liquidation, brought unspeakable suffering to rural Russia. Dedicated to Stalin as they were, nevertheless, some of Stalin's closest associates, though not Kaganovich, breathed a sigh of relief at the proclaimed early fulfillment of the First Five Year Plan. They hoped for a reconciliation of the Party with the people, especially the peasants.

image source/expulsion of kulaks < >
See [ Secret Police ] for this unsavory cast of characters

The indescribable horrors of the First Five Year Plan caused some of Stalin's
closest associates to cringe. Stalin published his ambiguous "Dizzy with Success"
in March, 1930. Alas, he wrote, Some of the comrades showed "excessive enthusiasm."

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"Dizzy with Success" < >
Begin here < >

In 1932, as the Central Committee of the CPSU met, Martemyan Ryutin circulated a petition cataloging the horrors of the preceding four years (this before the worst of the famine in Ukraine,) calling Stalin an "evil genius" and demanding his removal (Wesson 149). He called for a restoration of and Party memberships for the Old Bolsheviks. Stalin got wind of the 200 page memorandum, the "Ryutin Platform," as it came to be known, accused Ryutin of conspiracy and terror. Stalin demanded Ryutin's prosecution under the law, including the death penalty. However, even loyalists like Ordzhonikidze and Kirov (who had themselves shown "excessive enthusiasm" in collectivization) balked at the death penalty for Party members. Unable to achieve more than Ryutin's expulsion, Stalin built an even stronger base. The men closest to him, Yagoda, Yezhov, Kaganovich, Zhdanov, and Beria were scary! It should come as no surprise that Ryutin died in the Terror.

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1934 is a year that warrants careful examination for what seemed to be true: The delegates to the XVII Party Congress (Congress of Victors) praised and thanked Comrade Stalin for the Party's and nation's triumph over "wreckers" and "saboteurs," the weather, and the Depression. Kamenev, Zinoviev, and Bukharin were forgiven for their errors. Bukharin secured the position of editor of Izvetsia and traveled abroad to secure Marxist archives. Later that year the United States extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union; Stalin and his new foreign minister, Maxim Litvinov, led the USSR into the League of Nations. Image (left) shows Molotov offering public thanks and appreciation to Stalin.

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Stalin's "Report to the Seventeeth Party Congress on the Work of the Central Committee (CPSU/B)"

On the other hand, at that same XVII Congress of Victors, just when everything seemed rosy, some of the comrades voted against Stalin's re-election as General Secretary (more than 200!) Kirov received only 3 negative votes to his elevation to the Central Committee. Even though Stalin had silenced Kamenev, Zinoviev, and Bukharin, he sniffed conspiracy under every rug. Indeed, "...Stalin was faced with powerful opposition from his own allies" (Conquest 59). He bided his time but prepared his next move: he abolished the OGPU and elevated the NKVD under Yagoda, who was empowered to investigate anyone and everyone, including members of the Politburo itself.

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Frank Smitha, "Hopes for Liberalization and the Murder of Kirov
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Stalin noted the growing chorus of enemies on Soviet frontiers: Hitler, with his anti-Semitic and anti-Bolshevik rhetoric, became Chancellor of Germany in 1933; Fascism was on the rise; Japan had already launched its foray into Manchuria. The League of Nations, rejected Litvinov's calls for "collective security" and "Peace Is Indivisible," and met acts of aggression with "stern warnings" and "verbal condemnation."


The 1935 poster (right) has the caption, "Long Live Our Happy Socialist Motherland." The script on the lead plane reads "Vladimir Lenin" and the second "Josef Stalin." Standing with Stalin on the Lenin Mausoleum is General Klim Voroshilov, Minister/Commissar for Defense. Stalinist totalitarianism neared but had not reached its apogee. The assassination of Sergei Kirov in December, 1934, launched the purges/Great Terror [ Great Terror ]. Continuing until 1939, the Terror put Soviet citizens through an agony comparable with that of targeted groups in Nazi Germany. The rise of Hitler's Germany, and its violent anti-communist rhetoric, perhaps influenced Stalin to eliminate all real or suspected internal enemies. Go to [ Biography 2 ] for more on Stalin.

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The poster (above) stands in stark contrast to the daily lives of ordinary Russians during the 1930s, apart from the terror: shortages of daily necessities, such as bread, were widespread; queuing was the norm. Urbanites lived in communal apartments sharing kitchens and toilets (Ascher 193-194). Indeed, the soviets escaped the Depression and unemployment, but life was grim for "Joe and Judy."

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Ablett, Eric, et al. "DystopianF2012: Kulaks and Collectivization." Wikispaces. Online available.
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Ascher, Abraham. Russia: A Short History. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009.

Clare, John D. "Russia: 1917-1941: Collectivization." Modern World History GCSE Revision Site. Online available.
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Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: Stalin and the Purge of the Thirties. New York: Collier Books, 1968.

"Collectivization." Stalin: The Man of Steel. Online available.
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Elliott, David. New Worlds: Russian Art and Society--1900-1937. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1986.

Gottfried, Ted. The Road to Communism. Brookfield, Conn.: Twenty-First Century Books, 2002.

Gottfried, Ted. The Stalinist Empire. Brookfield, Conn.: Twenty-First Century Books, 2002.

Igor S. and Team. "Hard Life on the Kolkhoz." RussiaEnglish. Online available.
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Meyer, Priscilla. "Collectivization." Russian 206: History/Images/The Five Year Plan. Online available.
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Olheiser, Jody. "Study Guide: Animal Farm/USSR." Online available.
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Riasanovsky, Nicholas and Mark Steinberg. A History of Russia, 7th edition. New York and Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2005.

Smallwood, Kirk. "The Ukrainian Famine 1932-1933." 10 Horrific Tales of Cannibalism.
Online available. < >

Siegelbaum, Lewis. "1929: Collectivization--Liquidation of the Kulaks as a Class." Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.
Online available. < >

"Stalin: The Five Year Plans." BBC--GCSE: Bitesize. Online available.
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Valcourt, Phillip de. Collecting Soviet History. Online available.
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Wesson Robert. Lenin's Legacy: The Story of the CPSU. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.

Wikipedia Contributors. "Dnieper Hydroelectric Station." Online available.
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