Stalin, Joseph 1879-1953
(Born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) Soviet dictator.
Stalin led the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as absolute dictator for twenty-four years. While he is credited with transforming the USSR into a world superpower, Stalin's use of mass execution—called "purgings"—and terror made him one of the most reviled political figures in history. As a writer and editor at the Communist Party newspaper Pravda, as well as the author of books and articles, Stalin contributed to the body of works delineating Soviet ideology. However, critics are divided over the importance of his writings; some maintain that Stalin simply regurgitated Marxist doctrine as it had already been interpreted by Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik movement. Nonetheless, Stalin created for himself as leader a supreme status that gave rise to a cult-like following despite his renowned tyranny.
Stalin was born in the small town of Gori, in czarist Georgia, in 1879. His father, a poor shoemaker, was an abusive alcoholic who was killed in a brawl when Stalin was eleven years old. His mother was an illiterate peasant who, after his father's death, prepared Stalin to enter the Orthodox priesthood. Stalin entered the Tiflis Theological Seminary when he was fourteen, but he was expelled in 1899 because of his involvement in a revolutionary anti-czarist group. In 1901 he officially joined the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party. A year later he was arrested and sent to a prison in Siberia, from which he escaped in 1904, returning to the underground Marxist movement in Tiflis. When Russian Marxism split into two factions—the radical Bolsheviks and the more moderate Menshiviks—Stalin sided with the Bolsheviks, thus aligning himself with Lenin and other major party leaders. Beginning in 1905 he attended several international conferences of the Russian Social Democrats, where he was first introduced to Lenin. In the following years Stalin was arrested and imprisoned on several instances; each time he escaped. In 1912 he went to Vienna to study Marxism; at that time he wrote Marxism and the National Question. The following year he began writing for the party newspaper Pravda, under the pseudonym Joseph Stalin, which means "man of steel." During the Russian Revolution of 1917 Stalin concentrated his efforts at the paper's editorial offices, rather than taking part directly in the events. In fact, most historians agree that Stalin played a rather insignificant role in the first years following the revolution; he was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities and was a military commissar during the civil war of 1918-1921. Although Lenin valued Stalin for his organizational abilities and appointed him to the post of general secretary, a powerful position, Stalin's emphasis on Russian nationalism made Lenin uncomfortable. Leon Trotsky also quarreled with Stalin on policy and theoretical issues at this time; Lenin usually sided with Trotsky, but as general secretary Stalin's position of power was secure. Lenin, before his death, allegedly warned other party members about Stalin's potential for abusing power but was too ill to take action. Lenin died in 1924, and within five years Stalin had total control of the party. His first act was to extinguish Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP)—intended to introduce a limited amount of free trade to the Soviet system in order to revive the economy after the civil war—and replace it with his own policy of collectivization, which nationalized the agricultural industry. Collectivization was an unmitigated disaster: peasants who refused to turn over their livestock and farms to the state were executed or sent to Stalin's prison work camps, called gulags. With agricultural production cut in half, mass famine ensued, and at least three to ten million peasants died of starvation. Stalin denied blame for the failure of collectivization, accusing others of misunderstanding his directives. His other major goal was to introduce widespread industrialization to the USSR, in order to move the country from an agriculture-based to an industry-based economy. In this he succeeded—initiating the machinery that would eventually make the Soviet Union a superpower nation—in large part because of the slave labor provided by the millions of Soviet citizens imprisoned in the gulags. Around 1934 Stalin launched the period that would be known as the Great Terror. Throughout the 1930s about one million old Bolshevik party members (those who had taken part in the pre-Stalin revolutionary era) and countless millions of citizens were accused of sabotage, treason, and espionage and were arrested, tortured, and either executed or sent to the gulags. This massive effort to ensure Stalin's absolute power was called "purging." Dramatic purge trials of party officials and senior members of the Red Army were set up. Defendants were accused of treason and other trumped-up charges and were always found guilty. The purging of the army had particularly devastating effects when the Soviet Union became involved in World War II. Stalin signed a Non-Aggression Pact with German dictator Adolf Hitler in the summer of 1939. The Pact included secret plans for the two leaders to control the European territories each considered essential to his country's expansion. But when Germany invaded Poland in September of that year, Stalin sought to increase the Soviet Union's presence in western Europe by invading Finland in November; Finland surrendered, and in June of 1941 Hitler broke his Pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union, which, because of the military purgings, suffered devastating losses for nearly two years. Historians are divided over the degree of Stalin's success as a military commander during the German invasion. Many blame the huge Soviet losses on his increasing paranoia and megalomania. Nonetheless, the Red Army did hold off the Germans until they surrendered in 1945. After the war Stalin moved quickly to seize control of Eastern European countries to create the Soviet bloc. In 1949 the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, ushering in the arms race and Cold War with the United States that would last into the late 1980s. In 1953 Stalin was planning another series of purges, this time because of an alleged traitorous plot among the mostly Jewish Kremlin physicians. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage before the new purge trials could take place.
Stalin produced a number of works on Soviet ideology—including Marxism and the National Question, Marxism and Linguistics, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, and his collected lectures on Foundations of Leninism—but whether or not he added anything new or innovative to theoretical communism is debatable. Many critics consider his writing unoriginal and repetitive. He did, however, transform Soviet communism, in his writings and his practices, from a revolutionary system to a strategy of conservative, isolationist authoritarianism. His talent for propaganda allowed him to establish an astonishingly effective cult of personality despite his reputation for brute violence. By neutralizing anyone he considered or suspected of being an enemy, Stalin opened an avenue to total control of both his party and his people, whether they were followers or not. Pictures and statues of him were placed in all public places, as well as in private Soviet homes. His writings were studied, and poems and songs were written to glorify him. He encouraged his image as "Father of the Soviet People" and the "Great Teacher," and, after the Germans were driven out of the USSR in World War II, he exploited the role of savior of his country. After his death Stalin was still revered by Soviet citizens, many of whom wept openly when they heard he had died. Although he continued to receive credit for advancing Soviet society into the technological age to successfully compete with other world powers, in 1956 his successor Nikita Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders officially denounced Stalin and his actions. His policies were directly responsible for the deaths of as many as thirty million Soviets.
Marxism and the National Question (nonfiction) 1913
Trotskyism or Leninism? (nonfiction) 1924
Leninism. 2 vols. (nonfiction) 1928-1933
The October Revolution: A Collection of Articles and Speeches (essays and speeches) 1934
Dialectical and Historical Materialism (nonfiction) 1938
Foundations of Leninism (lectures) 1939
The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union (nonfiction) 1945
Marxism and Linguistics (nonfiction) 1950
Selected Works of Joseph V. Stalin (nonfiction) 1971
The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-1952 (nonfiction) 1972
Stalin's Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936 (letters) 1995
(The entire section is 69 words.)
SOURCE: A review of 'Leninism,' in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 4, 1934, pp. 634-36.
[In the following review, Karpovich finds Leninism valuable because of its contemporaneity with Stalin 's early years in power but otherwise finds the theories espoused "monotonous" and unoriginal.]
Those interested in political theory will not find anything new in this collection of Stalin's articles and speeches Leninism. He himself does not claim authorship of new and original ideas. His position is that of a faithful interpreter of the revelation, a guardian of orthodoxy. The fundamentals of the dogma cannot be questioned, and discussion is permissible only within its limits. In every case final authority is the word of the master. "Lenin says", with an appropriate quotation, is used again and again to prove the correctness of the "general line" of the party and to confound the dissenters. Neither was Lenin an originator of new theory. He merely developed the basic ideas of Marx in accordance with the conditions of his times. Consequently, Leninism is defined as "Marxism of the epoch of imperialism and of the proletarian revolution". It is an international doctrine, and it should not be looked upon as a "product of Russian primitiveness". The core of Leninism is the dictatorship of the proletariat, and not the solution of the peasant problem, which is of a derivative and subsidiary nature....
(The entire section is 1017 words.)
SOURCE: A review of 'Marxism and the National and Colonial Question,' in The American Political Science Review, Vol. XXX, No. 5, October, 1936, pp. 1026-27.
[In the following review, Sandelius finds Stalin in Marxism and the National and Colonial Question "persuasive" and "orderly. "]
Among the publications prepared by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute appears now, in English, Marxism and the National and Colonial Question by Joseph Stalin, being a collection of articles, reports, and speeches, ranging in date from 1913 to 1935, on the subject—one may say—of Stalin's most distinctive interest and experience. A rather central thread appears throughout, though in the Marxian vein, yet in a certain judicious adjustment of the objectives of proletarian dictatorship with those "rights of nationalities" which, on the whole, have found in Stalin a consistent champion. The working class interest must come first. But the Great-Russian Communists, again and again, are charged with failure, in their party work, to reckon with the peculiarities of historical background of the lesser nationalities. War must be waged against Great-Russian chauvinism. On the other hand, the Native Communists, haunted still by the horrors of the period of national oppression, tend to exaggerate the importance of national peculiarities, and so to deviate toward bourgeois-democratic nationalism. This tendency, in...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin, Trotsky, and Willi Schlamm," in From the Uncollected Edmund Wilson, Ohio University Press, 1995, pp. 217-27.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in the Nation in 1937, Wilson provides a critical examination of the report of the Trotsky Commission.]
The report of the Trotsky Commission is a remarkably interesting document, which makes one realize the inadequacy, if not frivolity, of the newspaper accounts of the Mexican hearings.
In regard to the question of Trotsky's guilt on the charges brought against him at the Moscow trials, these hearings made public a great deal of material which helps to establish his innocence. As is already well known, the Oslo airdrome reported that no foreign planes had arrived at the time of Pyatakov's supposed visit to Trotsky; and the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen, where Torosky's son was alleged to have met Holtzman, no longer existed at that time. The Stalinists later discovered a Bristol Cafe; but Holtzman had testified that he had stopped at a Hotel Bristol, and subsequent investigation on the part of the Defense Committee showed that what actually existed was a Konditori Bristol, which had a Grand Hotel with its cafe several doors away.
It is asserted that in a photograph of these buildings published in Soviet Russia Today the door of the cafe was blackened out in order to make...
(The entire section is 2879 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The History of the Civil War in the U. S. S. R.,' in International Affairs, Vol. XVII, 1938, pp. 581-82.
[In the following review, Oudendyk finds The History of the Civil War in the U.S.S.R. interesting but unfortunately too biased to leave the reader with anything but a distorted picture.]
A New generation has grown up in Soviet Russia of men and women who have never lived under any other régime. The old generation has practically disappeared. The days of revolution and civil war are now considered sufficiently remote for the successful partisan of those days to write a history of them as seen exclusively from his point of view. Much if not most of the material from which this book has been compiled is already known (partly thanks to the publications of the Soviet Government), but here it is presented not in an objective manner (as, for instance, in Serge Oldenbourg's Le Coup d'État Bolchéviste), but is full of class hatred and vituperation against the Bolshevik's political opponents. Of course the very names of the authors preclude their treating this subject with the broadness of vision of a scientific historian. For them there exists only the narrowest party point of view. Nevertheless the book provides much interesting reading matter, as it is the product of the diligent and painstaking collection of material from many sources, not the least interesting of which...
(The entire section is 789 words.)
SOURCE: A review of 'Leninism,' in Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy, Vol. LII, 1941-42, pp. 118-20.
[In the following review, Burns finds the English translation of Stalin's Leninism a valuable source for Westerners studying the socio-political climate of the Soviet Union.]
This volume [Leninism] is an authorized translation of the eleventh Russian edition of Problems of Leninism. It contains speeches and articles which were not in the two-volume edition of 1933 or in the volume, also called Leninism, published in 1938. But the more important speeches of Stalin, included in the earlier English editions, are republished here. The speeches and articles included represent the views of Stalin from 1934 to 1939 (March 10). The development of Stalin's views will no doubt continue, but it appears to be an established tradition that whatever changes of policy are adopted by him, or by the Communist party under him, must be justified by quotations taken from the sacred texts of Marx and Lenin. Western Europe went through a similar stage of dependence for political ideas upon the sacred scriptures during the controversies about tyranny and liberty in the late Renaissance. Probably, therefore, Russian political theory is only about three hundred years behind that of western Europe. But it is interesting that this book should contain the views,...
(The entire section is 760 words.)
SOURCE: "Trotsky's Stalin," in From the Uncollected Edmund Wilson, Ohio University Press, 1995, pp. 231-40.
[In the following essay, which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1946, Wilson reviews the English translation of Leon Trotsky's biography Stalin, finding it a volume of great historical and political importance.]
Leon Trotsky, during the later years of his exile, set out to write a life of Lenin. The first volume of this biography, which ends with Lenin's graduation from law school, was brought out, in a French translation, in 1936, but Trotsky did not get very much further with it. Needing money, he was persuaded by a New York publisher, on the strength of a considerable advance, to break off and do a life of Stalin. It was thought that such a book could not fail to be a timely and lucrative exploit, but, like so many bright ideas of publishers, this turned out to be very much less sound than the author's own ideas for his work. A life of Lenin was needed; a life of Stalin was not. There was no full-length study of Lenin which was not either a mere journalistic job or a reflection of Soviet propaganda, and the first section of Trotsky's life seemed to indicate that the book, had it been finished, would have been one of his most remarkable works, as this installment of it constitutes what is probably the most brilliant piece of biography that pure Marxism has ever produced. In the...
(The entire section is 2656 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin and Hitler: A Lesson in Comparison," in The Pacific Spectator, Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1953, pp. 152-66.
[In the following essay, Sandler argues that Stalin's Soviet Union more closely resembled Hitler's Germany than the socialist society proposed by Karl Marx.]
One day en route to Tiflis a guest of the Soviet government, André Gide, stopped at Gori, a small village where Josef Stalin was born. To the great French writer, who for years had followed the "experiment" in Russia with enthusiasm, the arrival in Gori was an occasion charged with emotional impact. Impulsively he decided to send the Russian leader a telegram expressing his gratitude for the lavish hospitality with which he had been treated.
At the post office Gide wrote out a message which began: "Passing through Gori on our wonderful trip I feel the impulse to send you—" The translator interrupted him with the information that the use of the address "you" was neither proper nor sufficient. He suggested as a better form of address, "You Lord of the people." Gide thought the suggestion absurd, for surely Stalin was not a vain man and did not need flattery, but to no avail. The translator was adamant.
This incident, which in other ways and situations has been experienced by other visitors to the Soviet Union, is suggestive of a prevailing concept of government that is fascist rather than...
(The entire section is 5534 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin as an Economist," in The Review of Economic Studies, Vol. XXI, No. 56, 1953-54, pp. 232-39.
[In the following essay, Meek examines Stalin's economic theory.]
Whenever great changes in basic economic and social institutions are brought about, the theoreticians of the new order begin seeking to express its experience in generalised form. And sometimes—but only very rarely—it happens that the political leaders who usher in the changes are themselves men with a taste for theoretical generalisation, in which case both the new order and the theory of the new order may come to be constructed under the guidance of one and the same hand. This was the position with Joseph Stalin.
Stalin's work in building the theoretical foundations proceeded more or less concurrently with his direction of the work of "building socialism". In part, it took the negative form of criticism of various economic theories which in Stalin's opinion were inappropriate to the new conditions.1 And in part, it took the positive form of the systematic expression of new concepts and theoretical propositions designed to illuminate the essential character of the new society which finally took shape in the U.S.S.R. in the 'thirties. An article in Bolshevik on "Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.",2 published a few months before his death, represents the culmination of...
(The entire section is 4827 words.)
SOURCE: "Anatomy of Tyranny: Khrushchev's Attack on Stalin," in The World Today, Vol. 12, No. 6, June, 1956, pp. 265-71.
[In the following essay, the anonymous writer discusses Khrushchev's criticism of Stalin's policies.]
Rarely has a document aroused more interest and speculation than the paper issued by the State Department purporting to be the text of the speech delivered on 25 February 1956 by Mr Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to its twentieth Congress. The United States Government does not vouch for its authenticity; nevertheless it has been received everywhere as plausible; it is in keeping with the tenor of statements made by responsible officials of non-Soviet Communist parties, and Communist newspapers in the West have made no attempt to denounce it as a forgery. On the contrary, they have treated it as genuine.
To read this paper is to recall a dozen highlights of Soviet history between the assassination of Kirov in 1934 and Stalin's death in 1953. Of these two events the first is presented in a highly equivocal light, suggesting a plot by the secret police in collusion with Stalin, the second as a release from unparalleled tyranny. Overshadowing all the rest is the sombre horror of the great purge of the later 1930s.
The ostensible purpose of the speech was to destroy Stalin's reputation, or, in its own terms, to...
(The entire section is 2894 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin and the Cold War: A Second Look," in The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. LIX, No. 1, Winter, 1960, pp. 1-12.
[In the following essay, Warth contends that Stalin's notorious personal defects—including vanity, deceit, and brutality—did not necessarily have a negative impact on his political skills or his leadership ability.]
The image of Joseph Stalin in the Western world was never a pleasant one—except, obviously, during the war years when the heroic achievements of the Red Army in the common cause lent a glow of enchantment to the Soviet Union and its paternal "Uncle Joe." Through the prism of the cold war his image was refracted to become one of calculated deceit, monstrous vanity, and senseless brutality, a view which Nikita Khrushchev's celebrated "secret" speech of February, 1956, did much to confirm.
These unsavory traits Stalin undoubtedly possessed, though to what extent they warped his political judgment is far from clear. Without seeking to rehabilitate a deceased tyrant—even to the extent that Khrushchev and his colleagues have felt is expedient—this essay will suggest that popular and even well-informed opinion about Stalin, at least in relation to the onset of the cold war, is not necessarily correct.
However one assesses his personal defects, Stalin was a skilled politician—at times a master at...
(The entire section is 4080 words.)
SOURCE: "Khrushchev's War with Stalin's Ghost," in The Russian Review, Vol. 21, No. 1, January, 1962, pp. 3-10.
[In the following essay, Chamberlin examines the possible motives behind Nikita Khrushchev's decision in the early 1960s to openly denounce Stalin and his tyranny by having Stalin's body exhumed and removed from its exalted spot next to Vladimir Lenin's.]
There was high historical drama and some political risk in Nikita Khrushchev's decision to carry his war with the ghost of Josef Stalin to the point of removing the embalmed corpse of the deceased dictator from what was, until recently, the Lenin-Stalin Mausoleum, the great secular shrine of the Soviet Union. Even more challenging was the decision to erect a memorial to the innocent victims of Stalin's tyranny.
Eloquent proof of the powerful spell Stalin cast upon the country he ruled with a rod of iron for twenty-four years is the fact that only now, more than eight years after his death, are the Russian people being told the truth about his grim record of brutal criminality. It is true that about three years after Stalin's death, at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, in February, 1956, Khrushchev took the first step toward destroying the image of Stalin as the all-benevolent, all-wise, all-powerful "father of peoples" and "sun of the universe," to recall two phrases of Byzantine flattery which were...
(The entire section is 2415 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin's Contribution to Soviet Philosophy," International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. V, No. 2, May, 1965, pp. 267-303.
[In the following essay, Donoso traces Stalin 's place in the development of Soviet philosophy, arguing that his most significant contribution was "his ability to bring theory in line with practice. "]
It has been said that "throughout the whole of the Stalinist period Stalin himself was the only person in the Soviet Union who ever dared to say anything new."1 This was especially true in the field of philosophy. The history of Dialectical Materialism in the Soviet Union from the death of Lenin on January 21, 1924 until the ascendency of Khruschev in the later 1950's is largely the history of Stalin's philosophical activities. It will be the purpose of this paper to present an account of these activities, to examine any significant contribution made by Stalin to Soviet Dialectical Materialism, and, finally, to attempt to determine how the so-called "de-Stalinization" has affected this contribution in respect to the contents of selected, current Soviet textbooks in philosophy.
In order to place his contribution to Soviet Marxism in its proper historical context I shall preface my remarks with a short prologue dealing with the origins of Russian Marxism and the philosophical situation in the Soviet Union at the time of Stalin's rise to power....
(The entire section is 15540 words.)
SOURCE: "Dismantling the Cults of Stalin and Khrushchev," in The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. XXI, No. 3, September, 1968, pp. 383-90.
[In the following essay, Larson examines the differences in retrospective opinion of the leadership of Stalin and his successor, Nikita Khrushchev.]
Whatever else Communist power brought to Russia, it did not guarantee rule by "good" leaders. The toppling from their pedestals of Stalin and then Khrushchev forced the introduction of a very sobering note into the treatment of the past history of the Soviet regime. The present top leaders can point to no honorable predecessors in the chief party and government posts for the entire period between Lenin's death in 1924 and the ouster of Khrushchev forty years later. The list of fallen chiefs included every single chairman of the Council of Ministers (formerly Peoples Commissars) of the period.
These government chiefs were not much celebrated during their tenure of office, however, so the only serious problems of iconoclasm related to Stalin and Khrushchev, the principal party secretaries during the four decades. It is now admitted even by party ideologists that Stalin amassed and retained almost absolute power despite a long catalogue of costly mistakes and serious abuses. Despite this experience, the system allowed his successor Khrushchev to impose his impulsive ideas and "hare-brained" schemes on...
(The entire section is 3978 words.)
SOURCE: "Literary Policy in Stalin's Last Year," in Soviet Studies, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, July, 1976, pp. 391-405.
[In the following essay, Frankel discusses the period of "liberalization" regarding literary activity during Stalin's last year in power.]
In recent years Western scholars have been deeply interested in determining the nature and degree of change which has taken place in the Soviet Union since Stalin's death. Numerous works have analysed and assessed the transformation of post-Stalin Russia: changes in economic policy, in the effectiveness of group pressures on policy-making, in the use and role of terror, and in the area of public discourse, debate, and cultural creativity. But relatively little effort has been made to establish a reliable gauge with which to measure change. Studies of what was happening in specific areas of interest during the late Stalin years—studies in detail—have been few and far between, so that comparisons have often been based on well-documented research covering recent years but on generalizations about the Stalin era. One exception has been Marshall Shulman's study of Stalin's foreign policy,1 which emphasized its complexity and broad range of options. It is the purpose of this brief study to investigate another specific field—literature—within a highly limited time span (the last year of Stalin's life) in order to examine the degree of uniformity...
(The entire section is 7069 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin's Archipelago," in Terrorism: From Robespierre to Arafat, by Albert Parry, The Vanguard Press, Inc., 1976, pp. 187-202.
[In the following essay, Parry discusses changes in the policy of terror instituted by Stalin, most notably the policy of arresting and executing loyal followers of Stalinism in addition to those openly against it.]
From Lenin and Trotsky the path of terror led to Stalin and Stalin's heirs. Over these decades the character and organization of Soviet terror underwent certain changes. The transformation can be traced through the vast literature by survivors and scholars, available not in Russian alone but also in other languages, especially by such writers as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Roy Medvedev, and Robert Conquest.1
In the reminiscence of one little-known survivor of the Lenin-Stalin camps, Nikolai Otradin, now residing in the United States, we find a concise analysis of the Red terror from Lenin on up to the end of Stalin's rule as consisting of essentially three periods.2
During the first period, that of the civil war of 1918-21, the arrests, executions, and other repressions were the combined result of both the spontaneous anger of the lower classes against the middle and upper ones and the calculated action of the revolutionary government. Many shootings were done by men of the masses, on the spur of the moment,...
(The entire section is 7490 words.)
SOURCE: 'The Rise of Stalin's Personality Cult," in The American Historical Review, Vol. 84, No. 2, April, 1979, pp. 347-66.
[In the following essay, Tucker discusses the reasons behind Stalin's rise to the status of cult figure despite the objections of earlier Soviet leaders, particularly Lenin, to public adulation.]
The cult of Lenin, which Lenin himself opposed and managed to keep in check until incapacitated by a stroke in March 1923, subsequently became a pervasive part of Soviet public life. No single cause explains its rise. Undoubtedly, the Bolsheviks genuinely venerated their vozhd' as the man whose personal leadership had been critically important for the movement from its origin to its assumption of power and for the creation and consolidation of the Soviet regime in the ensuing years. But it is also true that after Lenin's death that regime had a pragmatic need for a prestigious unifying symbol. The Lenin cult, whose obvious religious overtones were at variance with the Communist Party's professed secularism, is likewise an example of how Soviet culture came to incorporate certain elements of the Russian past, in this case the ruler cult. For centuries the Russian people, overwhelmingly composed of peasants, had been monarchist in outlook. The Revolution had opened the door for many peasant sons to have careers in the new society. Industrialization and collectivization resulted in the...
(The entire section is 9883 words.)
SOURCE: "The Mind of the Tyrant: Tolstoj's Nicholas and Solzenicyn's Stalin," in Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4, Winter, 1979, pp. 479-90.
[In the following essay, Layton finds parallels between Leo Tolstoy's portrayal of Czar Nicholas I in Xadzi-Murat (1912) and Aleksandr Solzenicyn's depiction of Stalin in The First Circle (1968).]
Repeatedly Solzenicyn has paid tribute to Tolstoj as the grand master of Realism in the nineteenth century and as a philosopher concerned with the moral service of art. The concept of the artist as teacher and conscience of the nation has acquired major importance for Solzenicyn and has given particular coloring to his assessment of Tolstoj.1 As a writer determined to bear witness to the history of injustice in the Soviet Union, Solzenicyn perceives a heritage in the role Tolstoj assumed in tsarist Russia in the latter part of his career.
The First Circle (1968) pursues the moral task of the writer in a manner strongly reminiscent of Tolstoj's Xadzi-Murat (1896-1904; pub. 1912). In the novella Tolstoj presents imperial Russia of the 1850s as a ruthless power bent on assimilating or exterminating the relatively primitive culture of the Chechens, and he gives a central place to the condemnatory portrait of Nicholas I in order to show the essence of the state. As represented in The First Circle,...
(The entire section is 5490 words.)
SOURCE: "Was Stalin (the Terrible) Really a 'Great Man'?: A Conversation with W. Averell Harriman," in Encounter, Vol. LVII, No. 5, November, 1981, pp. 20-38.
[In the following interview, Urban discusses with Harriman, who was Franklin Roosevelt's special ambassador to Churchill and Stalin from 1941 to 1946, Stalin's behavior and activities during World War II, particularly his wartime leadership abilities.]
W. Averell Harriman was born in November 1891 and, after the usual "Eastern Establishment stations" (Groton, Yale), made a career first in the railroad business which his father, the pioneer of the Illinois Central and the Union Pacific, had established, and then as a prominent Wall Street banker. He was, during the liberal New Deal days, a close adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt, later becoming the President's Wartime Ambassadorat-large. He served after the War in various high governmental posts (including a period as Ambassador to Britain), taking time out only to be elected Governor of New York State (1955-58). Ten years later he was the US representative at the Viet Nam Peace Talks in Paris. He is the author of a number of books and has recently published his memoirs.
I. CHURCHILL AND ROOSEVELT
[George Urban:] What were President Roosevelt's reasons for believing that he knew how to handle Stalin whereas Churchill, as he thought, did not? On 18...
(The entire section is 16583 words.)
SOURCE: "Mandel'shtam's 'Ode to Stalin': History and Myth," in The Russian Review, Vol. 41, No. 4, October, 1982, pp. 400-26.
[In the following essay, Freidin examines the mysterious circumstances surrounding the writing and publication of Osip Mandel'shtam's "Ode to Stalin."]
If manuscripts do not burn, as Mikhail Bulgakov once suggested, they at least get hot sitting in the fire, which is more or less what happened to the "Ode to Stalin" by Osip Mandel'shtam.1 The first indication that Mandel'shtam might have written something like the "Ode" came from Anna Akhmatova's recollections of Mandel'shtam and had the effect of a minor literary bombshell.2 Two years later, in 1967, the issue was taken up in print by Clarence Brown who had been working on Mandel'shtam for nearly a decade.3 In order to determine whether Mandel'shtam had actually written the "Ode," Brown analyzed some twenty-four poems composed during the Voronezh exile (1935-37), relating them to what he had been able to find out about the poet's life at that time. The conclusion of this first thorough and by no means outdated study of the later Mandel'shtam was largely negative. Hard as he tried, Mandel'shtam—it would seem—was unable to twist the arm of his muse even though he knew very well that a panegyric to Stalin might prolong his precarious existence. Yet, some pieces of the puzzle, such as Akhmatova's...
(The entire section is 12661 words.)
SOURCE: "The Lure of Stalinism: Bernard Shaw and Company," in The Midwest Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 4, Summer, 1984, pp. 416-33.
[In the following essay, Nickson uses an examination of the adherence of George Bernard Shaw to Soviet-style communism under Stalin as an example of such adherence among many artists and intellectuals of the time.]
"I am not a fascist; I am, and have been all throughout my political life, a Communist." That was George Bernard Shaw in 1935. But ten years later he was still having to answer the question "Are you a Fascist, Mr. Shaw?" Patiently replying to a newspaper reporter, Shaw said: "No: I am a Communist. That is, I advocate national control and ownership of land, capital, and industry for the benefit of all of us. Fascists advocate it equally for the benefit of the landlords, capitalists, and industrialists." Finally, in the summer of 1950, the question got reshaped for one of his last press interviews: "Are you a Communist, Mr. Shaw?" The nonagenarian replied: "Yes, of course I am. A war on Communism is ignorant, blazing nonsense. . . . The future is to the country that carries Communism farthest and fastest."
Do we have here Tweedledum and Tweedledee? This popular viewpoint has been carried one curious step further by Susan Sontag, who recently declared, "Communism is fascism—successful fascism." In a much-publicized speech Sontag argued, "not...
(The entire section is 5271 words.)
SOURCE: "The Deranged Birthday Boy: Solzhenitsyn's Portrait of Stalin in The First Circle'," in Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, Vol. XVIII, No. 3, Summer, 1985, pp. 61-72.
[In the following essay, Rancour-Laferriere attempts a psychoanalytical reading of the character Stalin in Solzenicyn's The First Circle.]
Since Alexander Solzhenitsyn personally experienced the concentration camps of Stalinist Russia, it is not surprising that his extended portrait of Stalin in The First Circle should be "bitter" and "sarcastic."1 What is surprising is that this portrait nonetheless succeeds on an esthetic level and is convincing psychologically. Solzhenitsyn's Stalin is just as real and just as likely to move the reader as his Ivan Denisovich, his Matryona and his Oleg Kostoglotov.
What I propose to do is to psychoanalyze the character of Stalin created by Solzhenitsyn. Any correspondences between this character and the historical Joseph Stalin are merely coincidental for my purposes (though they could hardly have been coincidental from Solzhenitsyn's personal viewpoint).
The portrait begins with Stalin lying on a couch, freeassociating (in literary parlance, having an "interior monologue") about his past, and ends with him continuing to free-associate as he falls asleep. Solzhenitsyn thus seems to have invited a...
(The entire section is 5676 words.)
SOURCE: "The Image of Stalin in Soviet Literature During Stalin's Lifetime," in Images of Dictatorship: Portraits of Stalin in Literature, Routledge, 1989, pp. 17-53.
[In the following essay, Marsh reviews portrayals of Stalin in Soviet literature written and published during his leadership.]
With the exception of Lenin,1 no historical figure in modern times has been the subject of as many literary and dramatic portrayals as Joseph Stalin. Many writers in the USSR, including both hack writers and the best writers in the country, have chosen—or been forced—to treat this subject. In Stalin's time Soviet writers were obliged to contribute to the ever-growing cult of Stalin's personality; and after his death Stalin became a subject of intense speculation by Soviet writers, as a result of the party's reassessment of Stalin's achievements and the need of individual writers to come to terms with their own and their country's past. Hence a sharp dichotomy exists between literary portraits composed in Stalin's lifetime and after his death. Another useful distinction can be drawn between works published in the USSR, where portrayals of Stalin are subject to a rigorous scrutiny for ideological purity, and works published elsewhere, where there are no such restrictions. The latter group includes a wide spectrum of western writers and dissident and émigré Russian authors with different...
(The entire section is 15986 words.)
SOURCE: "A Modern Demonology: Some Literary Stalins," in Slavic Review, Vol. 50, No. 1, Spring, 1991, pp. 59-69.
[In the following essay, Ziolkowski examines the depiction of Stalin in literature published both in and out of the Soviet Union, arguing that such literary representations are particularly important in the absence of accurate historical and biographical documents on Stalin.]
The publication of Anatolii Rybakov's Deti Arbata (1987) was heralded with much fanfare both in the Soviet Union and abroad. In the novel Rybakov seeks to capture the essence of Stalinism as it affected the day-to-day existence of Soviet citizens, a theme that commands intense interest in the Soviet Union today. Yet it seems unlikely that Deti Arbata would have attracted the attention it has were it not for its lengthy passages devoted to the actions and thoughts of Stalin. The novel's protagonist Sasha Pankratov remains curiously flat, too reminiscent of socialist realist paragons; it is instead Rybakov's Stalin who holds the reader's attention.
Few reliable Soviet histories of the Stalinist period or biographies of Stalin exist. Dmitrii Volkogonov and others are trying to rectify this situation, but literature has attempted to fill the gap and to respond to the national desire for some insight into the mysteries of Stalinism and its creator.1 Writers of fiction like Rybakov and...
(The entire section is 6716 words.)
SOURCE: "On the Crimes of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler," in Partisan Review, Vol. LVIII, No. 1, Winter, 1991, pp. 78-87.
[In the following essay, Abel rejects Marxism and national socialism as the moral doctrines they were purported to be by their adherents and focuses the blame for crimes and brutality committed for these causes on those who, Abel believes, mistakenly held them up as rooted in morality.]
In the late summer of 1945, I took issue with James Burnham (in Dwight Macdonald's Politics) for having maintained earlier that year (in the January issue of Partisan Review) that Stalin was the logical and appropriate successor to Lenin in the Communist hierarchy. A Marxist—and much more long-winded—argument to the same effect was given during the seventies by Jean-Paul Sartre (in the second volume of his Critique de la raison dialectique). Here Sartre tried to show that Stalin was chosen to be Lenin's successor, not just by the will of the Communist Party, arbitrary and manipulable as that no doubt was, but by the October Revolution itself, whose needs required the Party to reject Trotsky's bid for power and to endorse Stalin's.
I am convinced today that I was wrong in my condemnation of Burnham's article, and that he was substantially correct in his evaluation of Stalin as Lenin's appropriate successor, as was Sartre in his more recent discussion of the...
(The entire section is 4768 words.)
SOURCE: "Lionel Trilling, 'The Liberal Imagination,' and the Emergence of the Cultural Discourse of Anti-Stalinism," in Boundary 2, Vol. 20, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 94-124.
[In the following essay, Reising investigates the later impact on American cultural studies of the "discourse of anti-Stalinism" that emerged in the 1950s alongside the study of Soviet communism in the American academy, exemplified by Lionel Trilling's The Liberal Imagination.]
In the concluding remarks to her excellent study of McCarthyism and the universities, Ellen W. Schrecker reiterates one of her central points—that university professors were not only not "isolated from the political repression that touched their institutions" but that, "in fact, many of the nation's leading intellectuals were directly involved with one or another aspect of McCarthyism."1 Lionel Trilling is one of the few of these intellectuals to whom Schrecker calls our attention for his having "chaired a Columbia committee that developed guidelines for congressional witnesses" (339), guidelines that informed Columbia professors of ways in which they were expected to cooperate with the goals of the committee grilling them on any given day.2 Just how the activities of Trilling and others like him affected university work is, as Schrecker notes, "certainly worth considering" (340). In his introductory remarks to Postmodernism and...
(The entire section is 12297 words.)
SOURCE: "Totalitarian logic: Stalin on linguistics," in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 16-36.
[In the following essay, Gray examines Stalin 's position on linguistics in Marxism and Problems of Linguistics.]
No, no: arrests vary very widely in form. In 1926 Irma Mendel, a Hungarian, obtained through the Comintern two front-row tickets to the Bolshoi Theatre. Interrogator Klegel was courting her at the time and she invited him to go with her. They sat through the show very affectionately, and when it was over he took her—straight to the Lubyanka.
(Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, chapter 1, 'Arrest')
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
Confronting evil men, areas of human experience are often deemed sacrosanct in order to preserve them from the minds we are casting out. Thus it is a commonly held belief that Adolf Hitler was a 'house-painter'. This assertion is made in order to preserve the transcendental dignity of the concept 'artist'. The irony of the canard's refutation is that Hitler was not only a 'painter' but also an aspiring architect: a water colourist who, at one point in his early Viennese years,...
(The entire section is 9077 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin's Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936," in The New Republic, Vol. 213* No. 10, September 4, 1995, p. 34.
[In the following review, Genovese finds Stalin's Letters to Molotov an important source to understanding the Soviet ruler's motivations and methods.]
In 1969, Viacheslav Molotov released eighty-six letters written to him by Josef Stalin between 1925 and 1936. Seventy-one of those letters, which now appear in English in Stalin's Letters to Molotov, were written between 1925 and 1930, years of bitter intraparty struggles and the onset of the bloody collectivization of agriculture and forced-march industrialization. The Bolsheviks were building 'socialism in one country,' as hopes waned for Communist revolutions in Western Europe and China. As might be expected, Stalin's Letters contain only hints of the atrocities that were mounting during the 1920s and rose to a horrifying magnitude in the 1930s. No doubt Molotov winnowed his collection carefully, and he included none of his own letters to Stalin; and to add to the frustration, there are no letters for 1928 and 1934, both years of particular interest. The year 1934 saw a concerted attempt in the party to rein Stalin in, as well as the Kirov assassination. It offered a foretaste of the sweeping purges to come.
Most of the letters were handwritten. Some were written in obvious haste, others were carefully...
(The entire section is 3429 words.)
SOURCE: "Anna Akhmatova: The Stalin Years," in New England Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, Winter, 1997, pp. 105-25.
[In the following essay, Reeder examines the poetry, little known outside of Russia, written by Anna Akhmatova during Stalin's years in power.]
For a long time now Anna Akhmatova has been known in her own country as one of the most gifted Russian poets of the twentieth century. Yet in the West she is still relatively unknown.
For many the only poems by Akhmatova that have been read and recited have been the love poems which she wrote as a young Russian aristocrat at the turn of the century. These poems have always attracted large numbers of enthusiasts, for Akhmatova was able to capture and convey the vast range of evolving emotions experienced in a love affair—from the first thrill of meeting, to a deepening love contending with hatred, and eventually to violent destructive passion or total indifference. But others before her had turned to these themes. What made Akhmatova so revolutionary in 1912, when her first collection, Evening, was published, was the particular manner in which she conveyed these emotions. She was writing against the background of the Symbolist movement, and her poetry marks a radical break with the erudite, ornate style and the mystical representation of love so typical of poets like Alexander Blok and Andrey Bely. Her lyrics are composed of short...
(The entire section is 9174 words.)
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967, 661 p. Focuses on Stalin's political life.
McNeal, Robert H. Stalin: Man and Ruler. Hampshire and London: Macmillan Press, 1988, 389 p.
Examines Stalin's life and work using sources rarely available outside the former Soviet Union.
Trotsky, Leon. Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence. Revised edition. Edited and translated by Charles Malamuth. New York: Stein and Day, 1967, 516 p.
Seminal biography by Stalin's close associate and sometime enemy Trotsky that includes an introduction by Bertram D. Wolfe.
Tucker, Robert C. Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929: A Study in History and Personality. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1973, 517 p.
Presents a "psychohistorical" analysis of Stalin's personal and professional life, focusing on the transformation of individual personality during periods of crisis, such as Stalin's rise to power.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: A Reassessment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, 570 p.
Updates an earlier publication, The Great Terror, based on documents and information revealed after the fall of the Soviet Union about Stalin's most violent...
(The entire section is 665 words.)