1879-1953, Russian revolutionary, head of the USSR
(1924-53). A Georgian cobbler’s son named
Dzhugashvili, he joined the Social-Democratic party
while a seminarian and soon became a professional
revolutionary. In the 1903 party split (see BOLSHEVISM
AND MENSHEVISM) he sided with LENIN. Stalin
attended party congresses abroad and worked in the
Georgian 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, he
joined the editorial board of the party paper Pravda.
When the Bolsheviks took power (Nov. 1917) he became
people’s commissar of nationalities. He also played an
important administrative role in the civil war (1918-20). In
1922 Stalin was made general secretary of the party.
Lenin, before he died in 1924, wrote a testament urging
Stalin’s removal from the post because of his arbitrary
conduct; but in the struggle to succeed Lenin, Stalin
was victorious. By 1927 he had discarded his erstwhile
allies BUKHARIN, KAMENEV, and ZINOVIEV; in 1929
TROTSKY, his major rival for the succession, was exiled
from the USSR. Forcible agricultural collectivization and
breakneck industrialization began in 1928. The state,
instead of withering away, as Marx had foreseen, was
glorified. Nationalism was revived as socialism in one
country. The military was reorganized along czarist lines.
Conservatism permeated official policy on art,
education, and the family. Political repression and terror
reached a height in the 1930s. In a public trial Bukharin,
Kamenev, Zinoviev, and others were charged with
conspiring to overthrow the regime; they confessed and
were executed. Enormous numbers of ordinary citizens
also fell victim. Stalin’s foreign policy in the 1930s
focused on efforts to form alliances with Britain and
France against NAZI Germany; the 1939 Russo-German
nonaggression pact marked the failure of these efforts.
In 1941 Stalin took over the premiership from
MOLOTOV. The German invasion (June 22) found him
unprepared; at war’s end (1945) 20 million Russians were
dead (see UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS).
At the TEHERAN CONFERENCE and the YALTA
CONFERENCE Stalin gained Western recognition of a
Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. The
paranoia of his last years led to a period of terror
reminiscent of the 1930s. On his death (1953) his body
was placed next to Lenin’s. In 1956, at the 20th Party
Congress, KHRUSHCHEV denounced Stalin’s tyranny,
but destalinization has never been thoroughgoing