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Stalin: Man Or Monster?

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Introduction

MEG GCSE Modern World History Coursework Assignment 2: Depth Study B: Russia, 1905 - 1941 Stalin: Man Or Monster? Question 1 Source A was drawn by one of Stalin's enemies, so it shows Stalin a bad way. It is a mock travel poster showing piles of human skulls and with Stalin inviting you to "Visit the USSR's pyramids" This is a rather macabre and sarcastic caption as the 'pyramids' are pyramids of human skulls. These are meant to show all the millions of people Stalin had caused to be killed. The 'pyramids' have black birds perching them, possibly vultures. These are traditional harbingers of death, and reinforce the image of Stalin as someone responsible for death. Stalin himself appears to be proud of his 'achievements' as we can see from his stance and the expression on his face. Source B was an official Soviet painting and was painted by someone with Stalin's approval. It shows Stalin standing in front of a newly built dam. This is a symbol of soviet achievement and Stalin is show in front of it to associate him with it. He is also shown with ordinary workers to associate him with them and make him seem like a 'friend of the people'. He is also shown as being better dressed than the workers, trying to show that "all men are equal, but some are more equal than others". Both sources show Stalin's power and control. Source A shows how he has power over life and death and source B shows associates him with the power and success of the dam construction project. The sources are different in that source B is supporting Stalin and his use of power and source A is saying he has abused his power. The points the two sources are trying to make are the opposite of each other. Stalin is also made to look more ugly in source A, to make the reader not like him. ...read more.

Middle

This is a very simplistic cartoon with only one main point. This is again showing how Stalin as acting as "Judge, Jury and Executioner". There is no chance of a fair trial as Stalin is deciding what is happening. Also the way Stalin is writing the transcript of the trial might be showing how Stalin liked to 'change the past' to make himself sound better. The cartoons are similar in that they both agree that Stalin had control over the show trials and they weren't really proper trials at all. They both show Stalin as the only person with any power in the courtroom. The two sources differ in that source J is only showing that Stalin is the only person in control in the courtroom whereas source I shows more details such as the way the accused admitted their guilt even when they weren't guilty and the gallows in the background showing how Stalin had already made up his mind. However this is not a very significant difference, they still both agree fundamentally that the show trials were not real trials at all and were controlled by Stalin. Question 5 In order to decide whether Stalin was a man or a monster I first need to define what I mean by monster. Once I have done that I can start to look at the information I have to decide whether he was a man or a monster. I would define a monster as someone with a lack of compassion and as someone who performs inhuman or immoral acts on a large scale without understanding how he or she is hurting people or without remorse for the suffering they have caused. However it could be argued that the things Stalin accomplished justified his inhuman actions. Did the ends really justify the means? I will look at sources and my own knowledge to decide. Firstly I will see if I can find evidence that Stalin was a monster. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is either a fake photo or he has carefully selected who he is photographed with from people loyal to him. Either way this is propaganda designed to associate Stalin with the women and make him seem like a man of the people. A historian, reading source D, might know that Stalin was exiled to Siberia and thus know that at least part of the source is true. However it seems hard to believe that the Stalin who ordered he deaths of millions really was so upset over one death (although as he said "One death is a tragedy, a million is just a statistic"). This source seems to have been written by Stalin to make himself sound better. But can we be sure? There's no real reason why the story could not be true and Stalin had changed over time. It is impossible to know for sure as there are no other records to cross-reference it with. Sources E and F are again sources that present opposing views of Stalin. Both of them use very emotive language and are clearly strong personal opinions. This is another factor that makes it difficult for historians to extract the truth from a given statement. Another problem is that these are both personal experiences, what Stalin may have seemed like to one person may be totally different to the way he appeared to someone else and no-one knew exactly what Stalin was like. Sources K, L and M all present a different view of Stalin. These are three viewpoints presented by historians and they all disagree. This is because they have all looked at different evidence and drawn their own conclusions. There may also be bias because of what the historian himself believes. For example source K was written in the USSR when Stalin was still alive so the writer may have been afraid to criticise him. So in conclusion the main problem is that historians have to judge sources that have been distorted by time and propaganda and avoid personal bias. That is why there have been disagreements. Because of that. ...read more.

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