Depth Study B: Russia 1905 – 1941
Assignment B: Objective 3
Stalin: Man or Monster? 1) Study Sources A, B and C.
Do these sources give similar or different impressions of Stalin?
Source A is a cartoon published in Paris in the 1930´s. It shows Stalin and the results of his policies according to the artist. The cartoon features Stalin showing three pyramids of skulls as if he was a tour guide. The caption under reads, “Visitez L´URSS ses pyramides!” This translates to, “Visit the pyramids of the USSR!”
This source is very famous and was drawn by an exiled Russian, therefore the artist could be bitter and biased against Stalin and his policies.
Source B is an official Soviet painting of Stalin with workers at a hydroelectric power station in the 1930´s. It is trying to show the results of industrialization. It shows Stalin talking to the workers, they seem very proud to be meeting Stalin. Because it is an official Soviet painting it is very likely to be biased and a source of propaganda as it would be Stalin or the government who commissioned it.
Source C is a photograph of Stalin congratulating wives of army officers. The women are reaching for Stalin in a fanatical manner; they seem desperate to touch him. The source is a photograph, which gives the impression that it is a reliable source. However this isn´t true, Stalin could have had the photograph doctored or had people pose and claimed it was showing something it wasn´t.
The sources give very different impressions of Stalin.
Stalin´s policies were responsible for the death of millions of people. Collectivization caused the death of thousands of Kulaks and left many homeless and starving. One million people were executed during the purges, two million people died in camps, one million people died in prison and eight million people died as a result of the work ethic Stalin began.
Stalin´s industrialization did make Russia a very successful industrial country. By the late 1930´s many Soviet workers had improved their conditions by gaining well-paid skilled jobs and earning bonuses for meeting targets. There was an almost non-existent unemployment rate. Stalin also encouraged woman to work by setting up childcare services; four out of five new workers recruited between 1932 and 1937 were women. Stalin also made education compulsory and free for all.
However the source does not show the negative side of Stalin´s industrialization. Life was very hard, factory conditions were very dangerous. Any kind of discipline problems such as lateness or absence would be punished with sacking, which could also mean the loss of homes.
Source C shows Stalin to be a caring man who was congratulating the wives of his army officers. It shows him to be admired, even idolized by his people and put in a hero like position. This is a good representation of some Russian people´s view of Stalin. Many people saw him as the hero of Russia and a very great man. However many opposed Stalin and his policies, but in voicing their view they could be punished with death. Stalin had one million people executed during the purges. Many of the people executed had opposed Stalin but were accused of crimes such as spying and plotting to murder. Many others were sent to labour camps.
However, sources B and C are similar in some ways. They both show Stalin to be a great man who cared about his people and was prepared to talk to them. They also show Stalin to be greatly admired by his people and thought of as the hero of Russia.
In conclusion, the sources are very different in the impression they give of Stalin. However both source B and source C share some similarities. Although the sources seem very different they show how people saw Stalin. Some people idolized him, while others thought he was fiend like dictator.
2) Study Source D.
Does this source provide any useful evidence about Stalin? Explain your answer. (7) Source D was written by Stalin in 1945. This means the source will give good representation of how Stalin portrayed himself within the U.S.S.R at this time.
It will also be biased, as Stalin would be trying to improve his public image after the measures he had taken during his reign. The evidence suggests that Stalin wasn´t at all how he portrays himself in the source.
In the source Stalin is describing a time he spent in Siberia in exile. He is using the example to try make him look good and the old leaders look like tyrants. The source is describing an event that took place in Siberia during the spring floods, the river had swollen and some of the men had gone the pull out timber that had been washed away by the river. When they returned one of the men was missing. Stalin describes the man as “Comrade” which is a communist word for brother showing that he thought of this man as equal, an attempt at showing he was a true communist not a dictator. Stalin showed concern for the man asking where he was, the simply replied that he “remained at the river”. Stalin, again trying to improve his public image goes on to say that the men didn´t have any interest in the man saying he asked them what they meant by that. They replied by saying, “He drowned of course”. The men hurried off saying they had to water the mare. He goes on, “When I told them off for having more concern for animals than men.” He is trying to justify his actions by showing that in this case he had a very good reason for taking action against the men. The men then go on to say “why should we be concerned about men? We can always make another man.”
Stalin uses this story to say that the lack of concern these men had was like that of the leaders, “It seems to me that the lack of concern our leaders show towards the people is the same attitude I met in far-off Siberia.”
The source shows some interesting things about Stalin, it shows that Stalin had the means to broadcast these kinds of stories about his past. It also shows that he had the power to make people believe these things.
3) Study Sources E and F.
Which of these two sources is the more reliable? Explain your answer. (8) Source E is from a speech by a writer to the Congress of Soviets in 1935 and was published in Pravda, the paper of the Communist Party. From this we know that the source is going to be very censored as everything that was published in Pravda was heavily censored, it is also written by a Communist for a Communist paper so it will be nothing but positive things about the party.
Source F is a speech made by Bukharin in Paris in 1936. Bukharin was a supporter of Stalin against Trotsky. This was because Trotsky wanted world wide Communism whereas Stalin and Bukharin wanted one country Communism. He fell into disgrace in 1929 and was executed in the Purges in 1938. This information shows that the source will be biased as Bukharin disliked everything about Stalin and would be trying to show everyone how evil he was.
Source E is a speech that is extremely complimentary of Stalin. It is thanking Stalin for everything, claiming him to be the greatest man that ever lived. The source contains many repetitions, which is an effective way of putting across a point. It contains many praising words about Stalin and statements which are monomaniacal and a very exaggerated way to describe anyone.
“Generations to come will regard us as the happiest of people because we lived in the same century as Stalin,”
“And when the woman I love presents me with a child the first word it shall utter will be: Stalin.” This is a very fanatical statement, as most people would want their child´s first word to be “Mummy” or “daddy”, this shows that the man has totally disregarded himself for Stalin. Every word in this source is exaggerated.
However source F has a contrasting view of Stalin. The source is a speech made by Bukharin in 1936. Bukharin disliked Stalin because he had used him to become the leader then turned on him when he´d got rid of him. He started off by opposing Stalin then after Stalin had turned against Kamenev and Zinoviev Stalin allied himself with Bukharin. They were united in the idea of Socialism in One Country, whereas Trotsky wanted worldwide communism to ensure the security of The USSR. Once Stalin had got rid of Trotsky, Stalin turned on Bukharin using the same arguments Trotsky had used before. Bukharin was expelled from the Communist Party in 1929, leaving him bitter because of how he´d been used. Bukharin was executed during the Purges in 1938. He was accused of spying for Japan and Germany and also plotting with Trotsky. He was killed along with other Bolsheviks, Kamenev and Zinoviev who “confessed” to being traitors of the state. Bukharin was friends with Lenin and was responsible for the NEP, he knew what Lenin really thought f Stalin which scared Stalin. He tried very hard to ensure nobody knew how Lenin thought of him. The source suggests that Bukharin knew Stalin would eventually have him killed somehow.
“Stalin is unhappy at not being able to convince everyone, himself included, that he is greater than everyone else.” This suggests that Stalin was incredibly insecure about anyone being better than he is. This is proven in his actions during the Purges. Here he got rid of anyone who was a threat.
“If someone speaks better than he does, that man is for it! Stalin will not let him live,” Bukharin knew that he was a good politician and was an opponent for Stalin. Bukharin speaks openly against Stalin knowing this could be dangerous, “He is a narrow-minded, malicious man – no not a man, but a devil.”
4) Study Sources I and J.
How far do these sources agree about Stalin´s show trials?
The purges began in 1934 when the leader of the Leningrad, Kirov, was murdered. Stalin used the murder as a reason to “purge” the opponents in the party. It is believed that Stalin had arranged Kirov´s murder to use it as an excuse. Many leading figures were purged by confessing to being traitors and were executed. The purges were aimed at Party members to begin with, 500,000 were arrested and executed or sent to labour camps. After the trails the purges were extended. By 1937 estimations show that 18 million people from all backgrounds, had been sent to labour camps.
Source I shows the courtroom at Stalin´s show trails. It shows Stalin as the judge and the defendant´s appear to be Yagoda, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin. These people were all executed during the purges of the 1930´s. Yagoda was in the NKVD and was accused of spying for Japan and Germany and plotting to murder Lenin. Zinoviev and Kamenev helped with Stalin´s rise to power but also were used by Stalin to do this. Zinoviev was accused of plotting with Trotsky against Stalin and Kamenev was accused of the murder of Kirov and plotting to murder Stalin. Bukharin was responsible, along with Lenin for the NEP and also allied with Stalin over One Country Communism during his leadership campaign when Trotsky wanted Worldwide Communism. Stalin then turned on Bukharin and expelled him from the Communist party.
The accused are all confessing very openly and in a sarcastic manner.
“Yes, I´m guilty!”
“Sure, I tried to betray my country!”
“Of course I´m a traitor!”
“There´s no doubt about my guilt!”
These statements are that of the accused in the source, they are almost joking about their guilt. This is used to show the absurdity of the confessions; even if the men were guilty they wouldn´t confess so openly or would at least try to defend themselves. The source is trying to show that the men were some how forced into confessing.
Source J is a cartoon published in France in the late 1930´s. It show´s the courtroom at a show trial. In the courtroom Stalin is everyone, the judge, the barrister, the court clerk and the whole jury is Stalin. The source is trying to show that the show trials were a farce, Stalin had total control over what was going to happen. There was no point in a trial they were going to be executed no matter what the court may say.
The two sources are similar in many ways, they both agree the show trails were a sham, they were completely controlled by Stalin and the outcome was predetermined, source I shows this with the gallows in the background and source J shows this with everyone in he courtroom being Stalin. They both mock the show trails.
5) Study Sources L and M.
Source L is basically saying that Stalin was a very good politician but had an evil side to his nature.
“It is my belief that Stalin was a very skilled, indeed gifted politician,”
The source is contradictory to the beliefs of many other historians who have the belief that Stalin was not a good politician and only ruled the USSR through terror and intimidation. Being able to control people doesn´t necessarily make him a good politician.
The source does point out Stalin´s dark side.“He had a dark and evil side to his nature.”
Source M describes how Stalin was effected by power and he wouldn´t have been how he was if it wasn´t for power.
“Absolute power turned a ruthless politician into a monstrous tyrant.”
The source attempts to justify Stalin´s actions by saying that the use of terror was necessary. “The terror was necessary, not only to keep men obedient, but even more to make them believe in him.”
The source appears to be defending Stalin but it goes on to say that Stalin shouldn´t have been in power, if he hadn´t used terror everyone would have seen how bad Stalin was at leading.
“Without terror, who would have failed to notice the clear absurdity of Stalin´s rule?”
The sources differ in the opinions of Stalin, source L shows Stalin to be a good politician despite his evil side, whereas source M shows Stalin to be a bad politician who only kept power due to his use of terror.
However they do both agree that Stalin had a dark side and did evil things during his reign.
6) Using the sources in this paper and your knowledge of Stalin explain whether or not you think Stalin was a monster. (10) Stalin was born in Georgia in 1879 his given name was Josef Djugashvili, he changed it to Stalin which means man of steel. His father was an alcoholic shoemaker who abandoned his family when he was young. He made his name in violent bank raids to raise party funds and was exiled to Siberia twice by the Tsarist secret police, escaping each time. Stalin became a leading Communist figure after playing an important role in the defending of he Bolshevik city of Tsaritsyn during the civil war. Stalin was known to hold grudges and make his enemies suffer.
Stalin was ruthless in his political career; he stopped at nothing to get where he was. During his political battle with Trotsky he used every available tactic to win. He lied to Trotsky about the date of Lenin´s funeral, this made Trotsky look bad and improve his own image. This move was necessary as the public and the members of the Communist Party idolized Lenin and Lenin disliked Stalin.
“Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary General, has unlimited authority in his hands and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution.” Lenin´s Testament.
Stalin changed his polices to coincide with those of the people he was using to gain popularity at the time. He used Kamenev and Zinoviev to cut off Bukharin and Trotsky as they collectively held the important posts in the Party. He then turned against them and allied with Bukharin. Then eventually turned against him, once he was the leader.
Stalin then set about modernising the USSR, setting out the Five-Year Plans. Although these did aim to improve the way the USSR ran and improve living conditions Stalin would also gain from the USSR being strong. Enforced collectivisation did what it set out to do but also caused a bitter dispute between the Kulaks and the government. By 1934 there were no Kulaks left and there was a famine from 1932-1933.
Stalin´s industrialisation did gain more for the public. Unemployment became almost nonexistent, many people had well paid skilled jobs and got bonuses for meeting targets, health care was readily available and education was free and compulsory for everyone.
However life at this time was very harsh, any mistake in the factory was severely punished.
Stalin ruled the USSR through fear and propaganda, in 1934 he began what became known as the purges. He had any opponent of him killed or sent to labour camps. He had 1 million people executed, 2 million people died in camps, 1 million died in prison and 8 million people died as a result of the work ethic.
The evidence shows that Stalin was a very paranoid man who was aware that his position as leader could be threatened at any time.
“Stalin was a very distrustful man, very suspicious.” Source H
Stalin believed that using terror was the only way of keeping power. He claimed he was defending Communism.
Stalin became admired by the public in many cases he was admired to the point that it developed into the Cult of the Individual. Most of the people thought that Stalin did no wrong.
“The men of all ages will call thy name, which is strong, beautiful, wise and marvelous.” Source E.
The use of censoring and propaganda may however cover up any negative things about Stalin.
“Stalin is the brilliant leader and teacher of the Party,” Source K from a biography of Stalin published in Russia in 1947.
In conclusion, the evidence suggests that Stalin was a monster. He had millions of people killed and was responsible for the deaths of many more. He killed them simply to keep his power and rule by terror. However Stalin did improve the living conditions of many people in the USSR which could suggest he wasn´t a total monster.
Some historians think he was a very bad politician whereas some think he was a superb politician. Some think he was a monster while some think he wasn´t.
Soviet history shows that Stalin´s polices changed the USSR beyond all recognition, this was a positive thing as before Stalin came to power the USSR was very backward. However Stalin is believed, by some to be a very poor politician who used terror and fear to cover up his lack of ability.
“Stalin is unhappy at not being able to convince everyone, himself included, that he is greater than everyone else. If someone speaks better than he does, that man if for it!” Source F.
“Everywhere he saw “enemies” “double dealers” and spies.” Source H a speech by Khrushchev.
Stalin was very paranoid about his ability as leader, he got rid of any opposition during the “purges” where he carried out executions of his opponents.
Stalin was very popular at the time, although he now appears like a monster the Soviet public thought very highly of him.
The disagreement about Stalin is whether or not he was a good politician and whether he was a monster.
It is difficult to know the whole truth about Stalin, the use of censoring and propaganda in the USSR at the time he was in power means the reliability of the sources that came out of the USSR at the time is questionable. Sources that came out of places such as France are also questionable as they are generally written by exiled Russians who will be bitter and produce biased accounts.
In conclusion the sources suggest that the disagreement about Stalin is because of the differing accounts of Stalin´s time in power, some portray him as a monster where some show him as the hero of the USSR. Stalin was a very complex character. He did many evil things but also did many very good things for the USSR. He was a good politician and changed the USSR, but was also very paranoid and felt the need to kill anyone who posed a threat to him.