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Clearly, Stalin's rise to power represented one of the bloodiest chapters in an already bloody Russian history. But what the Soviet Union really lost, looking back, was any connection to the ideals that the revolution had supposedly been based on in the first place. Stalin accumulated power through vicious purges of thousands of Party officials, many of whom had fought alongside Lenin in the Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War that followed. He also implemented policies completely without regard for their costs in human lives. Millions perished, for example, in his agricultural collectivization effort. Either they died of starvation as they struggled to meet Stalin's quotas, or they were liquidated because they refused to join the new forced collectives. Additionally, Stalin's rapid industrialization program, the so-called "Five-Year Plans" were a massive success in terms of industrial production, but it came at an enormous human cost.
The Bolsheviks and the Communist Party they created never claimed that a communist society could be constructed without sacrifice, but Stalin's brutality went well beyond what had been called for. In addition, its end did not seem to be a more equitable society for the people, but rather to add to Stalin's power. In place of revolutionary rhetoric, Stalin substituted a cult of personality that made him the embodiment of the Soviet people and an avatar of the global communist movement. The society that was created went beyond even the "dictatorship of the proletariat" that had been assumed would have to exist to establish communism. It was a society ruled by terror, and one where, at least during the first years of Stalin's rise to power, conditions for ordinary Russians were scarcely better than under the czars. When, in 1939, Stalin agreed to a non-aggression pact with Hitler, an avowedly anti-Bolshevik dictator pledged to the destruction of communism, his tendency to place pragmatism and self-aggrandization over the ideals of the Revolution was there for the world to see.
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