Assess the impact of stalin’s social and cultural policies of the USSR up to 1941.

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According to orthodox Marxism, it was necessary for the conditions of capitalism to ripen before a socialist revolution could take place. This meant that such revolutions could only break out in advanced industrialized societies. Yet the Russian Revolution of October 1917 appeared to turn received wisdom on its head as Russia's was an overwhelmingly agrarian economy, with the vast majority of its people working the land.

Having achieved power, the Bolsheviks were determined to do everything they could to hold on to it. Among other things, this involved embarking upon a rapid program of industrialization, creating millions of workers on which the future stability and survival of the new regime would depend. The Bolsheviks were inherently distrustful of the peasantry for their conservatism and wanted instead to construct a true workers' state on the basis of a new, mass-industrialized society, hence the overriding necessity of industrialization.

This process was greatly accelerated under Stalin, who set (over)ambitious plans for catching up with the advanced capitalist powers of the West. Ever more demanding output and production targets became the order of the day. But without proper planning and adequate supplies, huge problems soon developed. As well as its chronic inefficiency, Stalin's industrialization plan caused suffering on a massive scale, with those toiling in the new factories slaving away under appalling conditions in this so-called workers' paradise.

As for the peasants, they were forced into collective farms controlled by the government. They were required to produce food which would mainly be used to supply the workers in the rapidly expanding industrial towns and cities. Once again, however, lack of proper foresight and planning led to disaster. Agricultural output tanked, leading to famine on a catastrophic scale. To make matters worse, the regime actually confiscated already dwindling stocks of grain to sell abroad in order to fund the purchase of industrial tools and machinery. The consequences were truly horrific, with tens of millions of people dying of starvation. As well as the immense suffering they caused, mass industrialization and collectivization fundamentally changed the whole nature of Soviet society, as they were intended to do.

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The most important of Stalin's social policies was forced collectivization of farmlands. Essentially millions of peasants were forced to labor to meet production quotas, and were often forced to live on agricultural collectives. Many resisted, in particular the land-owning kulaks, who were almost entirely liquidated. Collectivization was generally inefficient, unlike the massive industrialization of the USSR that occurred simultaneously, and it came at an enormous cost that even Stalin himself admitted was over ten million people. 

One of the most important cultural policies was the creation of a cult of personality in the Soviet Union. Stalin used modern technology, particularly photography and film, to portray himself as a heroic leader of the Revolution and a father figure to his people. This process was also backed by terror, as he purged the ranks of the Communist Party of any potential rivals in the late 1920s and early 30s, even people who had been personally loyal to him for decades.

In short, Stalin's social and cultural policies completely revolutionized, and to some extent modernized, the Soviet Union, but did so at an almost unthinkable human cost, and to the detriment of anything approaching basic human freedoms.

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