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Stalin: Man Or Monster?

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Introduction

G.C.S.E. History Assignment B Stalin: Man Or Monster? Question 1: Study Sources A, B and C. Do these sources give similar or different impressions of Stalin? Explain your answer with references to the sources. Source A is a French cartoon, showing how Stalin's policies actually affect the masses. The text reads: "Visit the USSR's pyramids!". It shows Stalin gesturing towards mounds of human skulls, with carrion crows flying overhead. Source B is an "official" Soviet painting picturing Stalin standing with cheerful-looking workers in front of the newly-built Dnieprostroi hydroelectric dam. Source C is a photograph of Stalin shaking the grateful hands of wives of army officers. On the whole, Source A gives a different impression from B or C, because it is drawn form a foreign perspective. Stalin had seized control of all newspapers, and all creative works were "officially" released by the government. A cartoon showing a negative view of Stalin would certainly have not been allowed, and whoever was responsible would have been sent to an internment camp. Some Russians managed to escape Stalin's USSR before his dictatorship really struck fear into the people, or were lucky enough to get out. These exiles often travelled to other parts of Europe or America. In this case, the exiles were in France,which is why the text is in French. I would also estimate that, being able to speak a foreign language, these exiles were more than likely intellectuals who would have suffered under Stalin's regime. It is also probable that they had experienced labour camps themselves and were keen to tell others abroad the horror of his regime (such as in Alexander Solzhenitszyn's works). The French generally would also have agreed with this cartoon, as France and Russia were old allies under the Tsarist regime, and so were deeply suspicious of the Bolsheviks who overthrew the royals. Source B gives an entirely different impression of Stalin, one of friendship and love towards his people, as he seems close and brotherly to his smiling workers. ...read more.

Middle

Bukharin, a high-ranking Bolshevik, would be more aware of what Stalin was up to and what he was like than the writer of Source E. Perhaps a pang of jealousy is evident in Bukharin's speech, when he says Stalin is not the best, and that Stalin knows it, but kills anyone he perceives to be a threat. This, in retrospect, is accurate, but the source is still biased against Stalin as it was written by a man embittered by Stalin's success. The sources are both biased, but I would rate Bukharin's source as more accurate, as Source E was effectively created by Stalin himself. Question 4: Study Sources I and J. How far do these two sources agree about Stalin's 'show-trials'? Explain your answer. Artists outside the U.S.S.R drew both these sources, so neither would be for the show-trials. Source I was an American source, and they were always deeply distrustful of Communism, which went against everything America stood for. It shows Stalin as the judge, and in the background, a noose is hanging. The four defendants in the box are each willingly and smilingly admitting their guilt to Stalin. Source J does not concentrate on the guilty, rather the fact that the trials are all arranged by Stalin. The judge, jury, prosecution and scribe are all figures of Stalin. This source shows more of the bias of the courts rather than the plight of the Party members. Source I implies that the men have no chance of being let off as not guilty, they will all be executed, so they might as well plead guilty. Source J agrees that no men would have a chance to be found not guilty in a court of Stalin. The very reason why someone would be subjected to these trials would be that Stalin didn't like them and felt that they were untrustworthy. This source would have been drawn by Russian exiles in France - perhaps even victims of these 'show-trials'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Absolute power corrupted absolutely, and Stalin grew increasingly determined to eradicate anyone who questioned him. Millions died in the Purges, one of the most terrifying points in his regime. People tried to reason this, saying that Stalin did not want these people to be killed; he was not aware of it. But later, documents were found which listed those in prison camps, destined to die, and Stalin's signature OK-ing it below. If Source D by Churchill is to be believed, it shows Stalin as a man who desperately tried to boost the economy, but tried not to think of its consequences. He said that it was bad, and difficult, but repeats that it was necessary. Perhaps this was his solace - that a few needed to suffer to pave the way for the good of Russia in the future. He also quickly changes the subject when questioned by Churchill about the collective farm struggles, perhaps trying not to think of millions who got put into prison camps, or perhaps just trying to change the subject to prevent his decision from looking bad. Privately, he married twice (he hated his son Jacob by his first marriage) and secondly to a girl called Nadyezhda Aliluyera, 22 years his junior. After some time, Nadyezhda committed suicide, and in her suicide note, criticised Stalin for his ways and his policies. Stalin was said to be very angry, but his chauffeur recalled a gentler side to his nature - he would visit his wife's grave and sit there and grieve for hours. Despite intense speculation, Stalin still manages to retain some mystery about him (no doubt he had his personal history re-written, and the Soviet legend has blurred with the truth), but I do not believe he was a monster who sent millions to slaughter for the sake of it, but as a very insecure man who felt he was acting in the Party's best interests, but twisting the Communist theory to his own style, and leaving his mark on Russia for generations to come. ...read more.

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