Stalin: Man or Monster?
Study sources A, B, C. Do these sources give similar or different impressions of Stalin? Explain your answers with references to the sources.
Source A shows an anti-humanitarian side of Stalin which shows the deaths of many Russians. Stalin seems to advertise them as a kind of tourist attraction. This was drawn by enemies of Stalin who were in exile in Paris. The skulls show the victims of the purges as it was drawn in the 1930’s which were ordered by Stalin because of his paranoia. Source B is propaganda portraying Stalin in a positive way, as the man who whilst being friendly with the workers whilst also being an efficient leader by building a dam (the Dnieprostroi dam) which is made to look very modern. The fact that Stalin is smoking shows that while he has built a huge dam he also has the time to relax and be communist, talking with his workers and be an equal.
However, he is dressed in white which indicates that he his angelic and not equal to the workers around him. It also shows Stalin in the middle focusing attention on him, not as an equal to his workers. Source C shows Stalin as a large figure perhaps more than a man. He takes up most of the picture and is supposed to be propaganda for him more of a godly figure like source B. This is a different type of propaganda to source B showing his great political might not his industrial achievements. It also is less human than source B with him towering over his army opposed to him smoking a pipe. Overall, the sources are different as source A shows him to be a tyrant, B shows him to be a good man and achiever which can be linked to source C which shows his military might whilst also showing himself to be superhuman.
Study source D. Does this source provide any useful information about Stalin? Explain your answer.
Source D was written by Stalin himself during his time in Siberia. This source can be seen as authentic as it accounts how Stalin felt and what he thought at the time. Stalin was said to be brutal as we can see by the executions during the Purges in 1930. His time in exile was mostly during the days of the Tsarist system and the source tells us that he had a sign of remorse ‘It seemed to me that the lack of concern our leaders show towards the people is the same as the attitude I met in far-off Asia’. History as made Stalin to be seen as a kind of tyrant, some saying he was worse than Hitler but in this source we learn that he had some care for humanity during the years of the Tsar. He seems to feel loyal to his communist beliefs as he refers to the fallen man as a ‘comrade’.
This can show that Stalin was a man that kept his word and was loyal to the Bolsheviks. However, this source can be seen as not as useful as it may have been used as propaganda by Stalin to show him to be a caring leader and show him to regard all his subjects as equal and most people regard someone as a tyrant throughout his life. Stalin said that ‘one death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic’ this undervaluing of human life is well known by historians. Stalin had also once said that he ‘lost all faith in humanity’. He valued the lives of a few loyal party members over the majority of peasants. For instance during the civil war he led his war train full of food to a place with more loyal Bolsheviks rather than going to Baku where there was a famine and a need for food. Overall I can see source D as useful as since it was written by Stalin it shows us a side of his personality that may have been overlooked by many historians but Stalin’s tyranny can not be overlooked as his regime killed millions and brought fear into the Russian people.
Study sources E and F. Which of these two sources offers the more reliable view of Stalin? Explain your answer.
Sources E and F are two very different views on Stalin’s government. Source E is very congratulatory of Stalin beginning, ‘thank you Stalin’ and makes Stalin sound like the perfect leader. However, source F shares a view that is very much against Stalin. It was written in 1936 by Bukharin, at that time an enemy of Stalin after the losses of key Bolsheviks who were killed in the ‘Purges’. Bukharin himself was a victim and was tried and executed in 1938. The author of source E is unknown but seeing how extreme it is, ‘ the first word it shall utter will be: Stalin’ and how we now know of the terrible murders of the 1930’s this is quite unbelievable and may have been written by the Bolsheviks as propaganda since it appeared in the party newspaper, Pravda.
Bukharin had been betrayed by Stalin after he helped Stalin to become the leader over Trotsky. Not only Bukharin but Zinoviev and Kamanev, former allies of Stalin were said to be traitors to communism during the Purges and were executed. Source F can therefore be seen as reliable with Bukharin stating that Stalin was ‘not a man, but a devil’. Stalin was regarded as a very suspicious man which is also stated in source F. Even though we now see that Stalin was a tyrant, people in Russia may still have seen him as a very successful and powerful man. We can see this from his propaganda. Therefore we can see that source E could be authentic even if it is very extravagant.
Using the sources and your own knowledge of Stalin, explain how far the sources in this paper support the view that Stalin was ‘a monstrous tyrant.’
Stalin has been known in history to be a tyrant to be feared during his 30 years of communist power. However, he was a determined man who turned Russia into a powerful industrial and military power to even rival the USA. He also led the country through the 2nd world war in which 20 million Russians lost their lives.
Stalin however, still remains one of the biggest tyrants the world has ever seen killing millions during his ideas of collectivisation and his cull of great men during the Purges. He betrayed Bukharin, Kamanev and Zinoviev in the 1930’s as we can see in source F, after allying with them in 1926 against Trotsky who he also killed in 1940. His own party was torn apart by his suspicions, with half a million being forced to work in labour camps or were just executed. Stalin seemed to destroy the lives of everyone in Russia since it is said that every family in Russia lost someone during the Purges.
By 1937 over 18 million people were in labour camps all because of Stalin and his secret police. He affected all areas of society, even the army where one in five officers were removed from their posts including Marshal Tukhachevsky, the supreme commander of the army. Stalin’s policies are echoed in source A with the pyramids of skulls. Stalin’s suspicions murdered great leaders and thinks which can be seen in source G, ‘Stalin was a very distrustful man.
Another reason where we can see Stalin as a tyrant is that he created his New Constitution in 1936 where Stalin introduced free speech and free elections. However, these were not what they seemed, as these were only offered for communist party members and only communist newspapers were published. This was just one of Stalin’s propaganda ideas to plague the mind of the people, he also published articles such as source E to make people believe that Stalin was the most important thing in their lives, even religion was banned, ‘the first word it shall utter will be: Stalin’.
Collectivisation also made Stalin seem more like a tyrant. He tried to make all the farms mass into big ones, owned by the state. This was necessary as by 1928 the country was 2 million tonnes short of grain. However, the kulaks, wealthy farmers who had made healthy profits during the time of Lenin’s NEP policy, did not want to give up their land. It was difficult to persuade the peasants even with perks such as free seed. Stalin again used propaganda against the kulaks when they continued to disagree. Many kulaks were arrested and sent to labour camps.
Before the requisition groups came to claim the crop, the kulaks burnt their produce and slaughtered their animals. This led to a famine in 1932-3. Millions died. Stalin said, ‘one death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.’ When the Germans arrived Stalin was so unpopular that at first they were welcomed. Stalin did erase all the Kulaks by 1934. Collectivisation did not achieve a lot only human lives. Stalin did not seem to care
However, on the other hand Stalin did successfully make Russia a leading industrial power. His five year plans could be argued to have saved the Soviet Union from the Nazis. Stalin successfully used Russia’s rich raw materials to his advantage. Unemployment was almost non-existent. Women were allowed to work (40% of workers) and bonuses were given for overachieving. Even with his great successes, the human cost was huge. Discipline in factories was harsh with punishments including death. Workers were not allowed to travel between cities and there were many deaths. 100000 people died in the Belamor canal, the same may have died during the making of the dam in source B. You can see from source C the might of Stalin’s industrial Russia but you don’t see the human cost that was made to make it.
Stalin in his time was seen by many as a good leader this may have been upheld by fear of his labour camps and his secret police; he did get the job done. He is however, without doubt, a tyrant who killed many men to achieve his goals and stay in power. Source I shares my view that even if he was a successful leader, he did have ‘a dark and evil side to his nature’.