1879-1953, Russian revolutionary, head of the USSR(1924-53). A Georgian cobbler’s son namedDzhugashvili, he joined the Social-Democratic partywhile a seminarian and soon became a professionalrevolutionary. In the 1903 party split (see BOLSHEVISMAND MENSHEVISM) he sided with LENIN. Stalinattended party congresses abroad and worked in theGeorgian party press. In 1912 he went to St. Petersburg,where he was elected to the party’s central committee.
About this time he took the name Stalin (man of steel).His sixth arrest (1913) led to four years of Siberian exile.After the RUSSIAN REVOLUTION of March 1917, hejoined the editorial board of the party paper Pravda.When the Bolsheviks took power (Nov. 1917) he becamepeople’s commissar of nationalities. He also played animportant administrative role in the civil war (1918-20). In1922 Stalin was made general secretary of the party.
Lenin, before he died in 1924, wrote a testament urgingStalin’s removal from the post because of his arbitraryconduct; but in the struggle to succeed Lenin, Stalinwas victorious. By 1927 he had discarded his erstwhileallies BUKHARIN, KAMENEV, and ZINOVIEV; in 1929TROTSKY, his major rival for the succession, was exiledfrom the USSR. Forcible agricultural collectivization andbreakneck industrialization began in 1928. The state,instead of withering away, as Marx had foreseen, wasglorified.
Nationalism was revived as socialism in onecountry. The military was reorganized along czarist lines.Conservatism permeated official policy on art,education, and the family. Political repression and terrorreached a height in the 1930s.
In a public trial Bukharin,Kamenev, Zinoviev, and others were charged withconspiring to overthrow the regime; they confessed andwere executed. Enormous numbers of ordinary citizensalso fell victim. Stalin’s foreign policy in the 1930sfocused on efforts to form alliances with Britain andFrance against NAZI Germany; the 1939 Russo-Germannonaggression pact marked the failure of these efforts.In 1941 Stalin took over the premiership fromMOLOTOV. The German invasion (June 22) found himunprepared; at war’s end (1945) 20 million Russians weredead (see UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS).
At the TEHERAN CONFERENCE and the YALTACONFERENCE Stalin gained Western recognition of aSoviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Theparanoia of his last years led to a period of terrorreminiscent of the 1930s. On his death (1953) his bodywas placed next to Lenin’s.
In 1956, at the 20th PartyCongress, KHRUSHCHEV denounced Stalin’s tyranny,but destalinization has never been thoroughgoingBibliography:WolfsonLowe