To what degree does Stalin's use of brutality share similarities with his successors during and after the Soviet Era?
If I understand the question correctly, the pattern that Stalin laid down with his brutality was followed by others in the position of power in the Soviet Union. Having the rather dubious distinction of possible being responsible for more deaths than Hitler, Stalin was able to use the government as an instrument to accomplish his goals of silencing "the other," which turned out to be anyone who opposed him. Consider how Stalin was able to crush the farmers in the Ukraine who opposed him. The planned famine known as the "Holodomor" was a government initiative that was meant to eliminate oppositional voices who were against his plans of collectivization. Stalin's ability to marshal the government underneath his own cult of personality allowed him to be able to eliminate anyone who opposed his ideas under the guise of national security. This was a tactic that other leaders in the Soviet Union used in order to further their own agendas. Stalin was skilled at using the power of intelligence and the secret police, something that other leaders of the Soviet Union did not hesitate to use in order to consolidate their own power. I certainly think that a case can be made for other leaders like Kruschev who sought to distance themselves from Stalin's example. Of course, Gorbachev would be seen as someone that is divergent from Stalin's approach. However, the vast majority of Soviet Union leaders kept Stalin's apparatus in place as a way of consolidating their own power and silencing voices of dissent. Stalin's tendency of being rather direct and forceful in putting down opposition could be seen in Vladimir Putin's use of police action in the 2007 Dissenters' March. A former member of the KGB, Putin has demonstrated a Stalin- like tendency to overlook issues such as human rights, as noted in 2008 by Human Rights Watch. In this light, the influence of Stalin is still present in Soviet style politics in the modern setting.