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Stalin - Source based work

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Introduction

.Jocelyn White HISTORY COURSEWORK STALIN 1. The sources portray Stalin in very different ways. Source A shows three pyramids built completely from human skulls. Stalin stands at the right of the picture smiling and inviting the French to visit the USSR and her pyramids as though they are a tourist attraction like the famous pyramids in Egypt. The cartoon was published in Paris and shows that there was a view of Stalin at that time, 1930, as a cynical and cruel controller who was proud of the devastation and huge loss of life, which were a result of his rule of terror. Stalin had introduced his first five-year plan in 1928, which concentrated on the modernisation of heavy industry: coal, iron oil and electricity giving quotas to be aimed for in each area. The unrealistic production quotas of the first five-year plan resulted in huge pressure on the industrial workers. Safety was minimal and many died or were injured, and punishments were extremely harsh for those who made mistakes. They were accused of being 'saboteurs' or 'wreckers' and were sent to prison camps, or executed. He had also introduced 'collectivism' in agricultural production in which was intended to bring the scattered peasant farms into large collectives where peasants would work together. The policy was resisted by the richer farmers, or 'Kulaks,' who were treated harshly. Their farms were taken from them by force, and they were sent to labour camps, or made to work on very poor land. Many were murdered. Although the precise numbers of deaths is unknown, there was knowledge outside the country that many were dying as a result of Stalin's policies for rapid industrialisation. At the same time set amounts of the harvest were being given to the state causing shortages amongst the peasants themselves many of who died of starvation. Source B is an official painting of Stalin talking with peasants and workers in front of a newly built dam. ...read more.

Middle

Source G describes Stalin as using "terror and executions as necessary for the defence of Socialism and Communism", while source H. describes him as a neurotic and paranoid man who saw 'enemies', 'double dealers' and 'spies' everywhere. Although in source G Khrushchev makes some attempt to justify Stalin's actions as being 'in the interests of the Party and the working masses', source H indicates that he believed them to be the results of a suspicious and distrustful man. Khrushchev had worked alongside Stalin since the purges, and his assessments seem to be accurate and reliable as they fit in with what is already known. The purges, the 'show trials', and the labour camps are all well documented as examples of a man using terror as a means of control. His extreme control of all media for use only for propaganda, to praise him and his ideas, and his extreme reaction to any hint of criticism certainly point to a paranoid personality. The speech shows us that Khruschev wanted to expose a negative side to Stalin without being seen to criticise him too much. However the account cannot be seen as being totally reliable because Khruschev had his own desire to say what he thought people wanted to hear to gain popularity for himself as the new leader. 5. Sources I and J are cartoons of Stalin's 'show trials'. Opposition had been growing within the party when in March 1933 Trotsky wrote from exile, 'the slogan "Down with Stalin" is heard more and more widely." On 1st December 1934 Sergei Kirov was assassinated in his office and the 'purges' began. At first only minor figures were arrested for opposition, but in August 1936 sixteen people were arrested for plotting and terrorist activities. Their trials became the first of the 'show trials'. In court the men stood up and openly confessed their guilt, which was surprising as the penalty was death. ...read more.

Conclusion

These deaths are caricatured in source A where the mountains of skulls represent the millions dying under Stalin's monstrous regime. Stalin demonstrated the same ruthlessness he showed towards the farmers in the way he treated his political opponents, and the senior army officers. His suspicious nature made him afraid of all opposition and meant that people were sent to labour and prison camps for opposing him or making mistakes. Sources I and J draw a picture of his supreme power to send people into exile or to their deaths without reference to true justice. Stalin deliberately used propaganda to manipulate the opinions of others. Source B is an example of the successful and approachable way he wanted to be seen, and Source E is an example of the excessive and uncritical praise published about him to raise a positive view amongst the people, and to squash any critical thoughts. Those who dared to speak out against him, like Bukharin in source F paid a severe penalty. Bukharin became a victim of the purges. Even Khruschev who had supported Stalin when he worked with him wanted to distance himself from Stalin after his death, as can be seen in the guarded criticism in sources G and H. Stalin was a skilled organiser and clever thinker, but he was also an arrogant and ruthless monster who showed little respect for human life or human feelings. He was manipulative as can be seen by his use of propaganda and the way he played the right and left wings against each other, and paranoid as can be seen in the way he ruthlessly removed opponents, and also the way he emphasised the 'danger from abroad' even though there was no real threat to the USSR until the second world war. Although the USSR did become an industrial giant during his time, it was at too great a cost to the Russian people. It is my opinion that he was indeed a monster who exploited his country for personal recognition. 1 ...read more.

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