Russian Revolution Name: ____________________________
The Cult of Stalin – Cultural Impact of Stalin
Understanding 3.5: The ideals of revolution are not always present in post-revolutionary
This understanding will be achieved by investigating:
The nature of leadership and its style in the post-revolutionary period
The direction of economic, political and social changes compared to those of the revolutionary
The extent of change as compared to the revolutionary period the impact of the post-
revolutionary regime on people's lives.
Read through the following text detailing Stalin’s life and rule of Russia. Into the table below compare and
contrast Stalin and NicII rule of Russia.
Nicholas II Tsar of Russia Joseph Stalin Leader of Russia
Censorship of papers, books, art etc. all forms of
Tsar as ‘Little father’ - chosen by God - Education via
Russian Orthodox Church - they instilled this into the
peasants or you weren’t educated. - Education a tool.
No people representation
No alternative political groups - elimination of political
Labour Camps - few survived harsh conditions. Camps
all around Russia - worst in Siberia. Terrible, harsh
conditions - work, food, disease, rats, fleas, bed bugs,
extreme weather conditions etc.
Army was weak in WWI due to appointed leaders
Several severe famines were a feature of NicII’s rule
NicII had no idea of the plight of the common people
Russian History Year 12 Sarah Bolland
Joseph Stalin – from bitter poverty to the ruler of one sixth of the earth’s surface.
Stalin ruled by terror during most of his years as dictator. He allowed no one to oppose his decisions. Stalin
executed or jailed most of those who had helped him rise to power because he feared they might threaten his
rule. Stalin also was responsible for the deaths of millions of Soviet peasants who opposed his program of
collective agriculture (government control of farms). But in terms of Russia as a country he changed the Soviet
Union from an undeveloped country into one of the world's great industrial and military powers. In World War
II (1939-1945), the Soviet Union was an ally of the United States and the United Kingdom against Germany.
Stalin had little personal charm, and could be brutal to even his closest friends. He seemed unable to feel pity.
He could not take criticism, and he never forgave an opponent. Few dictators have demanded such terrible
sacrifices from their own people. After Stalin became dictator, he had Soviet histories rewritten to make his
role in past events appear far greater than it really was. In 1938, he helped write an official history of the
Communist Party. Stalin had not played a leading part in the revolution of November 1917 (October by the old
Russian calendar), which brought Communism to Russia. V.I. Lenin led this revolution, which is known as the
October Revolution, and set up the world's first Communist government. But in his history, Stalin pictured
himself as Lenin's chief assistant in the revolution. Stalin died in 1953. He was honoured by having his body
placed beside that of Lenin in a huge tomb in Red Square in Moscow. In 1956, Nikita S. Khrushchev strongly
criticized Stalin for his terrible crimes against loyal Communists. Later, in 1961, the government renamed many
cities, towns, and factories that had been named for Stalin. Stalin's body was taken from the tomb and buried in
a simple grave nearby.
In 1898, Stalin joined a secret Marxist revolutionary group. The Tbilisi seminary, like many Russian schools, was
a center for the circulation of forbidden revolutionary ideas. In May 1899, Stalin was expelled for not appearing
for an examination. His interest in Marxism probably played a part in his dismissal. After Stalin left the
seminary, he got a job as a clerk at the Tbilisi Geophysical Observatory. Within a year, he began his career as an
active revolutionist. In 1900, Stalin helped organize a small May Day demonstration near Tbilisi. The
demonstration was held to protest working conditions. In March 1901, the Tsar's secret police arrested a
number of socialists in Tbilisi. The police searched Stalin's room, but he was not there and escaped arrest. He
left his job and joined the Marxist revolutionary underground movement that was springing up in Russia. In
September 1901, Stalin began to write for a Georgian Marxist journal called Brdzola (The Struggle). By this
time, he had read revolutionary articles written by Lenin. Stalin's first writings closely imitated the views of
Lenin, but lacked Lenin's style or force. In November 1901, Stalin was formally accepted into the Russian Social
Democratic Labor (Marxist) Party.
Using various false names, Stalin carried on underground activity in the Caucasus Mountains region. He organized
strikes among workers in the Batum oil fields. He helped start a Social Democratic group in Batum and set up a
secret press there. In 1902, Stalin was arrested and jailed for his revolutionary activities. In March 1903, the
several Social Democratic groups of the Caucasus united to form an All-Caucasian Federation. Although Stalin
was in prison, the federation elected him to serve on its governing body. In November 1903, he was transferred
from prison and exiled to Siberia. Also in 1903, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, which included many
Social Democratic organizations, split into two major groups. Lenin headed the Bolsheviks, who demanded that
party membership be limited to a small body of devoted revolutionists. The other group, the Mensheviks, wanted
its membership to represent a wider group of people. Stalin escaped from Siberia in January 1904. He returned
to Tbilisi and joined the Bolsheviks. Stalin met Lenin in Finland in 1905. Between 1906 and 1913, Stalin was
arrested and exiled a number of times. He spent 7 of the 10 years between 1907 and 1917 in prison or in exile.
In 1912, Stalin was suddenly elevated by Lenin into the small but powerful Central Committee of the Bolshevik
In 1913, with Lenin's help, Stalin wrote a long article called "The National Question and Social Democracy." Also
in 1913, Stalin was arrested and exiled for the last time. Before his arrest, he served briefly as an editor of
Pravda (Truth), the Bolshevik party newspaper. Germany declared war on Russia in 1914 at the beginning of
World War I. Stalin was in exile in Siberia, where he remained until 1917. By the end of 1916, Russia was
suffering badly because of the war. Conditions became steadily worse at home. Food shortages in the capital,
Petrograd (St. Petersburg), led to riots and strikes. Finally, on March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II gave up his
throne. A provisional (temporary) government, run mostly by liberals, was formed the next day. The government
released Stalin and other Bolsheviks from exile. They returned to Petrograd on March 25. Stalin took over the
editorship of Pravda from Vyacheslav Molotov. Lenin became concerned that Stalin did not strongly oppose the
provisional government in Pravda. Lenin arrived in Petrograd from exile three weeks later and criticized Stalin
for not taking a strong Bolshevik stand. Lenin launched a radical program for overthrowing the provisional
government. This action led to the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917.
Russian History Year 12 Sarah Bolland
Rise to power: The Bolshevik revolution.
Stalin played an important, but not vital, part in the revolution. Lenin worked most closely with Leon Trotsky in
the Bolshevik take-over of the government. After Stalin became dictator of the Soviet Union, he had history
books rewritten to say that he had led the revolution with Lenin. Lenin became head of the new government
after the revolution and named Stalin Commissar of Nationalities. Within a few months, opposition to the new
government developed in many parts of the country. Armed uprisings broke out and grew into civil war. Stalin
was active on the southern military front. In Stalin's version of history, he repeatedly corrected the mistakes
of others. Stalin took credit for a victory at Tsaritsyn, the city later named Stalingrad. During the civil war, the
Russian Social Democratic Labor Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). Stalin became
one of the five members of the newly formed Politburo (Political Bureau), the policymaking body of the party's
Central Committee. In 1922, the Communist Party's Central Committee elected Stalin as its general secretary.
Stalin takes over
The Bolsheviks won the civil war in 1920. They then began to rebuild the war-torn country. At first, Lenin and
the others were unaware of Stalin's quiet plotting. But by the end of 1922, Stalin's growing power began to
disturb Lenin. Before a series of strokes prevented Lenin from working, he wrote a secret note warning that
Stalin must be removed as general secretary. He wrote that Stalin was too "rude" in personal relations and
abused the power of his office. Because of his illness, however, Lenin was unable to remove Stalin. Lenin died in
1924. The leading Bolsheviks finally learned of the secret note warning against Stalin, but they ignored it. They
accepted Stalin's promise that he would improve his behaviour. Instead, Stalin continued to build his own power.
He cleverly used this power to destroy his rivals. In December 1929, the party praised Stalin on his 50th
birthday. He had become a dictator.
Dictator of the Soviet Union & World War II
The five-year plan. In 1928, Stalin started the first of the Soviet Union's five-year plans for economic
development. The government began to eliminate private businesses. Production of industrial machinery and farm
equipment became more important, and production of clothing and household goods was neglected. In 1929,
Stalin began to collectivize Soviet agriculture. He ended private farming and transferred the control of farms,
farm equipment, and livestock to the government. But the farmers resisted his order and destroyed about half
of the U.S.S.R.'s livestock and much of its produce. As punishment, Stalin had millions of peasants killed or
exiled. The destruction of livestock and grain caused widespread starvation. The economy moved forward, but at
the cost of millions of lives. During the 1930's, Stalin adopted a policy of Russification. The minority
nationalities in the Soviet Union were subject to increasingly strict control by the government. In 1939, the
Soviet Union seized a large part of Poland. In 1940, Soviet troops invaded the Baltic countries-Estonia, Latvia,
and Lithuania. Stalin tried to destroy the middle classes in these countries. He set up Communist governments
and joined them to the Soviet Union.
Under the Tsars, the Russian secret police had often arrested revolutionists and sent them into exile without
trial. Stalin set up a police system that was just as terrible. Millions of persons were executed or sent to labour
camps. Stalin also turned over many industries to the secret police, who forced prisoners to work in them. Fear
spread through the U.S.S.R. as neighbours were ordered to spy on one another. The Soviet government broke up
families, and it urged children to inform on their parents to the police. In 1935, Stalin started a purge
(elimination) of most of the old Bolsheviks associated with Lenin. During the next few years, he killed anyone
who might have threatened his power. He also executed thousands of other Communist Party members, including
the chiefs and countless officers of the Soviet army. Stalin achieved his purpose. When he decided to
cooperate with the German dictator Adolf Hitler in 1939, there was no one left to oppose his policies. Even when
the Soviet Union later suffered terrible military defeats from Hitler's army, no political opposition to Stalin
was possible. After World War II ended in 1945, Lavrenti P. Beria, chief of the secret police, became a leading
figure in Stalin's government. Police control grew tighter. The bloody purges went on, but in secret. No one was
safe. Anti-Semitism, which had been encouraged by Stalin during the 1930's, was now practiced throughout the
By the late 1930's, Adolf Hitler was ready to conquer Europe. Soviet leaders bargained unsuccessfully with the
French and the British for a defence agreement against Germany. Then, on Aug. 23, 1939, the U.S.S.R. and
Germany suddenly signed a treaty agreeing not to go to war against each other. In a secret part of the treaty,
Stalin and Hitler also planned to divide Poland between themselves. On Sept. 1, 1939, German troops marched
into Poland. On September 3, France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. World War II had
begun. Germany quickly conquered western Poland, and the Soviet Union seized the eastern part. On September
28, Germany and the U.S.S.R. signed a treaty, which set the boundaries for the division of Poland. The Soviet
Russian History Year 12 Sarah Bolland
Union invaded Finland on Nov. 30, 1939, and, after a bitter struggle, took a large portion of that country. By
December 1940, Hitler began planning an attack on the U.S.S.R. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United
Kingdom and President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States told Stalin that their secret agents warned of
a coming invasion. But Stalin ignored the warnings, as well as those of his own secret service. In May 1941, Stalin
named himself premier of the Soviet Union. Germany invaded the Soviet Union the next month. In spite of the
two extra years that Stalin had to get ready for a war, the country was not prepared. Because of Stalin's purge
of the army, the U.S.S.R. lacked experienced officers. The country also lacked up-to-date weapons and
equipment. The German army approached Moscow, the capital, in October 1941, and many government officials
were moved to Kuybyshev (now Samara). Stalin remained in Moscow to give the Soviet people hope and courage.
The army finally beat back German attacks on Moscow in the winter of 1941-1942. Stalin reached the height of
his popularity during the war.
Stalinism. Even after Stalin's death, many Communist governments continued to use his style of rule, which
became known as Stalinism. Stalinist governments eliminate all opposition by employing terrorism-that is, by
threatening or using violence to create widespread fear. These governments maintain total control of the media
for propaganda and force economic production without considering market conditions or the needs of workers.
The Cult of Stalin – the Cultural Impact of Stalin
Through out this period of terror, Stalin’s propaganda machine worked hard to present him in the best possible
light. He was portrayed as a loving national father-figure who was devoted to his people, and who could do no
wrong. The purge victims were called traitors and scoundrels who deserved the worst punishment for their
crimes. As ‘saviour of the nation’, pictures of Stalin appeared everywhere some were huge head-and shoulders
portraits, while others showed him mingling with workers or soldiers. He was often shown being hugged and
kissed by children, to illustrate his role of the benign father. Many drawings were circulated showing Stalin as a
close associate of Lenin, giving the impression that he was the co-founder with Lenin of the Communist state.
Although this was far from the truth, no-one dared to challenge the pictures’ accuracy. Artists, writers and
politicians from all parts of the country lavished the most flowery compliments on Stalin in hope of winning his
favour. The need to heap extravagant praise on Stalin had sinister overtones: those who didn’t came under the
suspicion of the NKVD, and so might be arrested. In the Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes a
district party conference in Moscow province in 1938, at which a tribute to Stalin was called for. Everyone stood
and applauded wildly, but after several minutes people were getting tired, their palms sore and their arms
aching. No-one dared to stop, because of their fear of the NKVD. The applause dragged on four eleven minutes,
with everyone in pain but determined not to be the first to stop. Eventually one brave official did stop, and
everyone gratefully sat down. That night the official was arrested and sent to the labour camps for ten years,
on a trumped-up charge. Stalin encouraged the cult of his own hero-worship. It helped consolidate his power and
he also believed it unified the nation.
Read through the information given to you and complete the following, in point form, detailing Stalin’s cultural
impact on Russia.
Russian History Year 12 Sarah Bolland
The role of Women
The Constitution of 1936
Russian History Year 12 Sarah Bolland