Stalin, Joseph


Stalin, Joseph
(1878–1953)
   Real name: Ioseb Besarionis Jugashvili, also known as Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin. Politician. Born to a poor family in Gori, Georgia, Stalin rose through the Bolshevik ranks to become Vladimir Lenin’s successor. He assumed the role of general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1922, and held that office until his death more than 30 years later. He industrialized Russia through the imposition of a command economy, while simultaneously collectivizing agriculture. In the late 1930s, he conducted a purge of the CPSU that resulted in the deaths of approximately a million Soviet citizens and sent countless more to the gulag. As the Soviet leader during World War II, he brought the country into alignment with the United States and Great Britain to defeat Nazi Germany. Fearful of treasonous fifth columns, he also ordered the mass deportation of the so-called punished peoples to Central Asia and Siberia. In the postwar period, he incorporated the Baltic States into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), annexed large portions of interwar Poland and Romania, and established Soviet dominance over what came to be known as the Eastern Bloc. As disputes between Washington and Moscow regarding the future of Europe intensified, Stalin led his country into the Cold War against the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. He died on 5 March 1953 of cerebral hemorrhage, though speculation remains that he was poisoned.
   In the wake of Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev conducted an anti-Stalinism campaign to do away with the worst abuses of the regime, though the effects ultimately proved lackluster. Many Soviet citizens continued to revere Stalin for his ability to bring stability and prosperity after the civil war, for defeating the forces of fascism, and for turning the USSR into a global power. With Mikhail Gorbachev’s institution of glasnost, the full extent of Stalin’s crimes against the Soviet people came to light; however, this did little to diminish his reputation in certain quarters of the population. During the 1990s, as political chaos, shock therapy, and economic crises robbed older Russians of their pensions, apartments, and health care, many waxed nostalgic for the days of the firm hand and meager, but reliable guarantees of the Stalin era.
   Shortly after coming to power in 2000, Vladimir Putin signaled that he planned to rehabilitate Stalin within the Russian Federation. History books were rewritten to accentuate his accomplishments and whitewash or delete his misdeeds. Surveys conducted throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s regularly demonstrated that, if he were still alive, approximately one-quarter of all Russians would vote for him for president. Interestingly, many young Russians now have a positive or ambivalent attitude toward the dictator, a trend that likely reflects the general support for Putin’s neo-authoritarian style, which has accompanied Russia’s economic growth and return to greatpower status. In a recent nationwide campaign to select the greatest Russian figure in history, Stalin placed third; however, it was later discovered that Internet activists had rigged the process by generating automated votes.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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  • Stalin, Joseph — orig. Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili born Dec. 21, 1879, Gori, Georgia, Russian Empire died March 5, 1953, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R. Soviet politician and dictator. The son of a cobbler, he studied at a seminary but was expelled for… …   Universalium

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