Was Joseph Stalin an effective leader?  

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question depends on how you define an effective leader.  In the short run, you would have to say Stalin was effective because he led his country to some pretty impressive achievements.  In the long run, you could say he was ineffective because he did not help to build a system that could last.  You would also say he was ineffective if you believe that an effective leader has to treat his or her subjects well.

On the one hand, you can argue that Stalin was clearly an effective leader.  Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union in 1929.  At that point, the country was only about a decade old and was rather backwards and weak.   By the early 1940s, the country had industrialized enough that it was a major world power.  In fact, it did most of the fighting against Germany in WWII, doing much to defeat a military that overwhelmed Western Europe with ease.  After WWII, Stalin led the Soviet Union to the point where it was, at least in military terms, one of the two strongest countries in the world.  You can argue that only an effective leader could take a newborn, backwards, poor country and make it into a world power.

On the other hand, you can say that a truly effective leader would not have done the things Stalin did.  Stalin committed all sorts of human rights abuses as he drove the USSR to modernize.  His policies were responsible for the death of millions.  You can say that a truly effective leader has to treat his people well.  On that measure, Stalin was completely ineffective.

In addition, you can say that an effective leader has to build something that will last.  Stalin did not really do this.  This is partly due to the brutality with which he ruled.  He helped to create a system that could only remain in place through coercion.  This meant that his system was not able to last very long at all.  The Soviet Union collapsed about 60 years after Stalin took power, largely because of the fact that he pushed for military power with no regard for the welfare of the masses of his people.  Thus, you can say that Stalin was only effective (if at all) in the short term.

 

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