Totalitarianism: STALIN’S RUSSIA ross Johnson

Stalin Becomes Dictator, From 1922 to 1927, Stalin began his ruthless climb to the head of the government. In 1922, as general secretary of the Communist Party, he worked behind the scenes . He shrewdly moved his followers into strategic government offices. By 1924, he had placed many of his supporters in key positions. By 1928, Stalin was in total command of the Communist Party. Trotsky, forced into exile in 1929, was no longer a threat. Stalin now stood poised to wield absolute power as dictator.

This picture depicts Joseph Stalin being sworn in

Stalin Builds A Totalitarian State, The term totalitarianism describes a government that takes total, centralized state control over every aspect of public and private life. Stalin appears to provide a sense of security and to give a direction for the future. Totalitarianism challenges the highest values of western democracies. By 1928 Stalin began taking great strides to build a totalitarianism state. He had achieved personal power and was ready to begin overhauling the economy.

This image depicts people under total rule of Stalin

Stalin Seizes Control of the Economy, Stalin's economic policies involved total state control. His plans called for a command economy--a system in which the government made all economic decisions. Political leaders identify the country's economic needs and determine how to fulfill them. To modernize the Soviet state, Stalin ushered in revolutions in industry and agriculture.

Stalin utilized collective farming to make economic pushes

An Industrial Revolution, In 1928, Stalin outlined the first of several Five Year Plans for the development of the Soviet Union's economy. The government would take drastic steps to promote rapid industrial growth and strengthen national defense. The plans set impossibly high quotas to increase the output of raw materials. As a result people faced severe shortages of housing, food, clothing, and other necessary goods. The government controlled every aspect of the worker's life. Stalin's methods produced fantastic economic results. Most of the targets of the plans fell short, but made impressive gains. A second plan, launched in 1933 proved equally successful.

Dmitrii Debabov: Construction of Magnitogorsk (1930)

Agricultural Revolution, Stalin's agricultural revolution was successful and far more brutal than his industrial revolution. In 1928, the government seized over 25 million privately owned farms in the USSR. They combined the farms into large government owned farms. Hundreds of families worked on these farms, producing food for the state. Peasants resisted fiercely. Many killed livestock and destroyed crops in protest. Stalin used terror and violence to force peasants to work on collective farms. Between 5 and 10 million peasants died as a direct result of Stalin's agricultural revolution. Resistance was especially strong among kulaks, a class of wealthy peasants. The soviet government decided to eliminate them. Thousands were executed or sent to work camps. By 1938, more than 90 percent of all peasants lived on collective farms. That year the country produced almost twice the wheat than it had in 1928.

This chart shows the drastic increase in crop production

Police Terror, dictators of totalitarian states use terror and violence to force obedience and crush opposition. Stalin's secret police use tanks and armored cars to stop riots. Secret police arrested and executed millions of traitors. In 1934, Stalin turned against members of the communist party by launching the Great Purge. It was directed at eliminating anyone who threatened his power. The state had the authority to punish even the most minor acts. When the Great Purge ended in 1929, Stalin had gained total control of the Soviet government and the Communist Party.

Stalin had secret police to stop riots

Indoctrination and Propaganda, Totalitarian states rely on indoctrination--instruction in the government's beliefs--to mold people's minds. Totalitarian states also spread propaganda --biased or incomplete information used to sway people to accept certain beliefs or actions. Soviet newspapers and radio broadcasts glorified the achievements of communism, Stalin, and his economic programs.In 1930, an editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda explained the purpose of art: "Literature, the cinema, the arts are levers in the hands of the proletariat which must be used to show the masses positive models of initiative and heroic labor." Socialist realism was an artistic style that praised Soviet life and Communist values.

Soviet Union"Stalin's Kindness Enlightens the Future of Our Children!" 1947

Censorship, Many Soviet writers, composers, and other artists also fell victim to official censorship. Stalin would not tolerate individual creativity that threatened the conformity and obedience required of citizens in a totalitarian state. The government also controlled all newspapers, motion pictures, radio, and other sources of information.

Stalin removed people that threatened him

Religious Persecution, Communists aimed to replace religious teachings with the ideals of communism. Under Stalin, the government and the League of the Militant Godless, an officially sponsored group of atheists, spread propaganda attacking religion. Yet many people in the Soviet Union still clung to their faiths. The police destroyed magnificent churches and synagogues; and many religious leaders were killed or sent to labor camps.

Soviets attacked the Churches

Comparing Revolutions, In its immediate and long-term effects, the Russian Revolution was more like the French Revolution than the American Revolution. The American Revolution expanded English political ideas into a constitutional government that built on many existing structures. In contrast, both the French and Russian revolutions attempted to destroy existing social and political structures. France eventually became a constitutional monarchy, but the Russian Revolution established a totalitarian state that lasted for decades.

Russian Revolution

Soviet Women, With the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, women won equal rights. Given new educational opportunities, women prepared for careers in engineering and science. Medicine, in particular, attracted many women. By 1950, they made up 75 percent of Soviet doctors. Soviet women paid a heavy price for their rising status in society. Besides their full-time jobs, they were responsible for housework and child care. Soviet women were expected to provide the state with future generations of loyal, obedient citizens.

Women worked in the factories

Education, Under Stalin, the government controlled all education--from nursery schools through the universities. Schoolchildren learned the virtues of the Communist Party. College professors and students who questioned the Communist Party's interpretations of history or science risked losing their jobs or faced imprisonment. Stalin's economic plans created a high demand for many skilled workers. By the mid-1930's, Stalin had forcibly transformed the Soviet Union into a totalitarian regime and an industrial and political power. He stood unopposed as dictator and maintained his authority over the Communist Party. His network of laws and regulations guided every aspect of individual behavior.

Under Stalin, school life and education became stricter once more

Terms and Names

Joseph Stalin- Russian leader who succeeded Lenin as head of the Communist Party and created a totalitarian state by purging all opposition (1879-1953)

Totalitarianism- a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state

Command Economy- an economy in which production, investment, prices, and incomes are determined centrally by a government

Collective Farm- a jointly operated amalgamation of several small farms, especially one owned by the government

Kulak- a peasant in Russia wealthy enough to own a farm and hire labor. Emerging after the emancipation of serfs in the 19th century, the kulaks resisted Stalin's forced collectivization, but millions were arrested, exiled, or killed

Great Purge- a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union which occurred from 1936 to 1938.

Socialist Realism- a style of realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in that country as well as in other socialist countries


"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." -Stalin

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." -Stalin

"Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas." -Stalin

Important Dates

1917- Women gain equal rights

1928- Stalin gains total control of the communist party

1928- Five Year Plans

1934- Great Purge

1938- 90% of peasants worked on collective farms

Important People

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