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How Successful Were Stalin's Policies During His Leadership of the Soviet Union?

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Introduction

How Successful Were Stalin's Policies During His Leadership of the Soviet Union? There has been much historical debate concerning the nature of Stalin's leadership and his impact on the Soviet Union. In order to fully assess the question it is important to consider the strengths and limitations of Stalin's regime, and how far the overall situation in the Soviet Union changed. Certainly during his twenty years in power Stalin did leave a profound mark on Russian history. His Five Year Plans led to rapid industrialisation and strengthened the economy significantly. Moreover the last of the three Five Year Plans placed a huge emphasis on Russian security and invested heavily in military defence. Stalin was successful in modernising the Russian defence industry and in creating a formidable Soviet military machine which was able to ensure the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Internally Stalin drastically modernised the infrastructure of the country with a system which included minimal unemployment, free housing, free education and free health care. Thus Stalin deserves credit for building an economy that transformed the Soviet Union from a backward semi-colonial land of the tsars into a modern superpower and the world's second most industrial, scientific and military power. Despite this, there were also severe limitations of the Stalinist system such as the terror campaign and numerous purges which led to the mass-murder of innocent and law-abiding members of Russian society who would have been beneficial to the future of the country. One such example was the 'Engineer Trials' of 1929 where large numbers of the Russian elite such doctors, lawyers and teachers was brought forth by Stalin on the account of treason. Confessions were often extracted from the accused through torture after which thousands were executed. These trails had a terrible effect on the progress of Russia as there were far fewer people left to lead the country into the future, and the few elite's that still remained in Russia lived in constant fear of their lives. ...read more.

Middle

The autonomy of the Soviet collective farms was severely limited and this stunted both their initiative and economic growth. An important theme which developed under Stalin was the hunt for both external enemies and those within the system. There was suspicion of a possible infection of the proletarian party by the petty bourgeois peasantry and it was this that had made the collectivisation policy popular amongst many party members. There were also worries about the reliability of specialists employed in the economic structure and between 1928 and 1934 these worries were reflected in a series of trails of specialist in the economy. For example, the trial of Shakhty engineers in 1928 which sought to link the domestic class enemy with the hostile capitalist powers and cast suspicion over the reliability of all technical experts working in the economy. The party purge of 1933-34 further demonstrated the aim of he leadership to break down all resistance to central directives. After the lack of success of this purge, the murder of Sergei Kirov who was Stalin's main rival as leader was used as a pretext for the immediate introduction of a series of extra-ordinary anti-terrorist measures and an extensive purge of those suspected of complicity in the affair. For example 70 per cent of the 139 members and candidates elected at the 1934 XVII Congress were arrested and shot dead as were 1,109 of the party's 1,966 delegates9. The notorious show trials staged in Moscow between 1936 and 1938 also accused political figures such as Kamenev and Zinoviev of plotting to murder Stalin despite there being no material evidence brought against them and no defence. After a confession was forced out of the accused, they were shot dead. Stalin introduced legislation which denied those accused of terrorism any protection in the investigation of the charges and immediate execution if convicted. The police could intervene at will in party affairs and remove party members for trail and execution without the prior permission of party authorities. ...read more.

Conclusion

Stalin's unsuccessful economic blockade of Berlin in 1948 in order to secure full control over Berlin also soured relations with the West. Hostility to the Soviet regime was increased even further in 1950 when Stalin encouraged Kim IL Sung, the communist ruler of North Korea, to invade South Korea. This occurred when the Soviet representative at that time had been ordered to boycott the Security Council, which meant there was nothing to stop the United Nations sending troops to defend South Korea. The Korean War ended in 1953 and provided further support to the argument held by right-wing American politicians such as Joseph McCarthy that the Soviet Union was intent on world domination. In the post-war period the world became clearly divided between the two power blocks and Stalin's policies in Eastern Europe and Korea caused the Cold War to develop considerably. Like all leaders, Stalin did have his weaknesses and short-comings. He was unable to transform productivity in Russian agriculture and his collectivisation policy may have done more to disrupt the economy than support its progress. Stalin's terror campaign also led to the arrest and execution of copious numbers of people who were of value to Russia in economic, political and military affairs. Furthermore Stalin did much to harm Western interpretations of the Soviet Union in the post-war period and increased the thaw in relations between East and West. Still, Stalin's achievements were phenomenal and helped to revolutionize Russia. The emphasis placed on industrialization had phenomenal results with Russia emerging from a backward, peasant country into one of the world's leading industrial and military powers. The centralization of economy and political structures also increased Russia's military efficiency. In addition Stalin carried out a successful cultural revolution which played on Russian nationalism and raised enthusiasm by glossing over Russia's past and stressing the need for the people to work together to construct socialism in order for a new powerful, Communist Russia to surface. Although the results of Stalin's various policies were of mixed success, his was of great value as it enabled the Soviet Union to emerge as a genuine global superpower. ...read more.

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