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Josef Stalin was dictator of the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1953. In this capacity, he oversaw, indeed directed, the transformation of the nation into an industrial power. This was an important part of the development of state socialism in the USSR, but it had an enormous human cost. Millions of Russians were forced onto collective farms, and millions more went to work in state-run factories. Rural peasants in particular resented these changes, and millions were killed or starved to death in a massive famine that hit the Ukraine especially hard. Stalin, a suspicious and thoroughly ruthless man, also maintained his power by a series of bloody purges that killed hundreds of thousands of people, including many senior Party members. This was part of the construction of a police state that governed by terror and surveillance. Stalin oversaw the Soviet Union during World War II, a conflict that witnessed more than 25 million Soviet deaths. He had tried to forestall the conflict by concluding a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939, but Hitler broke this agreement in 1941, beginning the bloodiest conflict in human history as the Germans penetrated deep into Soviet territory, murdering in massive numbers as they went. They were eventually repulsed with staggering losses. Stalin oversaw the beginnings of the Cold War, as he sought to expand Soviet influence into Eastern Europe, contrary to the wishes of the United States. He was in charge when the Soviets developed the atomic bomb. Stalin died in 1953, leaving behind a legacy of death and destruction alongside the establishment of communism in the Soviet Union. He achieved much while in power, but he is remembered as one of history's most bloodthirsty tyrants.

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