To what extent does Stalin deserve the title of Red Tsar when assessing his rule in the context of Russian government from 1855- 1964?

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To what extent does Stalin deserve the title of ‘Red Tsar’ when assessing his rule in the context of Russian government from 1855- 1964?

When Stalin rose to power in 1929 he claimed to the Russian public that he was a devote follower of Leninism; his slogan ‘Lenin is always with us’ meant that Stalin wanted to show how similar he was to Lenin. However Stalin asserted his power at the head of government much like the Tsars by employing tactics of fear and propaganda. Stalin’s personal dictatorship meant he had strong elements of being ‘Red Tsar’ as he established unquestionable rule, this idea of being a  ‘Red Tsar’ came from the belief that Stalin wasn’t committed to communism, as his traditional ideas were reminiscent of Tsarist autocratic rule, so effectively he was a fusion between the two ruling styles. As Stalin wished to portray himself as a ‘God-like’ figure; this made him an isolated leader who tolerated no criticism, similar to the style of ruling under the Tsars, as both leaders dismissed ministers at their own will and chose to act on their own personal feelings, for example like the Russification policy of employed by all the Tsars, but in particular Alexander II and the nationalistic policies of Stalin.

Stalin’s government was ‘top-down’, and unlike Lenin and Khrushchev, Stalin was very wary of how much his fellow party members knew. Therefore he employed a clear hierarchy, where information was withheld from lower members. The Tsars relied on loyalty of élites to strengthen government, in particular the nobility and the Russian Orthodox Church, who helped to keep firm control over the Russian people. Although it is true that both Lenin and Stalin surrounded themselves with loyal élites called nomenklatura, these élites became more important under Stalin, as the influence of the wider CCP was reduced he descended into his ‘personal dictatorship’. The growth under Stalin of the Party Secretariat, which was created under Lenin, meant there was a growth in bureaucracy, something which communist ideology disapproved of. As the General Secretary of the CCP Stalin had influence over all areas of the party, whilst the Politburo became the most influential body, as it controlled the actions of all government departments. Therefore the party became more centralised, as the influence of the grass-roots became less significant.  Hence historians such as Richard Pipes claim that Leninism caused Stalinism, as Lenin’s party resembled “a more secret order than a party in the normally accepted sense”, this led to an elitist structure, meaning that Stalin’s dictatorship was unavoidable. Although some disagree with this view as they understand we could never have predicted the extent to which Stalin employed a ‘personal dictatorship’. The democracy strived for during the revolution and declined into a dictatorship laced with censorship and nationalism reminiscent of Tsarist autocracy, as only views complementary of the regime were allowed and media from outside Russia were prohibited for fear of radicalisation. Therefore concerning the type and running of government Stalin appears more similar to his Tsarist predecessors than any of his Communist comrades, as he relied on élites, bureaucracy, elitism and a tightly controlled government, therefore this makes him a Red Tsar.

Both Lenin and Stalin believed in a strong internal state, in which the party had complete control in the running of government. However Lenin did not believe in a creation of a cult of personality as Stalin did, as Stalin established himself as ‘the fount of all wisdom’, this glorification as the ‘Father of Russia’ never appeared in such extreme force under Lenin nor Khrushchev. Therefore historian Moshe Lewin argues that Stalin’s system of government was “a hybrid of Marxism and Tsarism”, as a creation of a cult of personality contains few Marxist-Leninist roots, but harkens back to the Russian tradition of leader worship. However Stalin and Khrushchev can be seen as similar as both leaders employed “cunning” and spin-doctoring. But there are clear differences, as Khrushchev lacked the temperamental nature of Stalin and the Tsars. He claimed Stalin was a “litsedi” meaning a man of many faces, therefore there is a parallel between Stalin and the Tsars, as both made ‘rash’ decisions out of spite, in particular the weak Tsar Nicholas II, who left his wife Alexandrina in charge of Russia in 1915 when he took direct charge of the army. Moreover Khrushchev denounced Stalin and his methods of Terror in his “de-Stalinisation” speech when he rose to power in 1956. Similarities between the Tsars and Stalin can also be drawn between the bad temper and brutal natures of both rulers. This is illustrated by when servants discovered Stalin’s wife’s death they were reluctant to tell him, these ‘Little People’ had a reasonable aversion to breaking bad news to the Tsars and Stalin, and they fell “faint with fear”. Therefore both rulers commanded and frightened the Russian people with their tempers, making Stalin a Red Tsar.

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The fear that Stalin implemented was reinforced by his use of use of ideology, which was reminiscent of the religious attitudes under the Tsars, as his use of glorification kept a tight reign on the Russian people. This use of ideology led to his unquestionable rule like that experience under the Tsars, but Stalin emphasized separation of the state from the Church, unlike The Tsarist autocratic rule was strengthened by the support from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Tsars and the Church supported each other for mutual interest, and the teachings of the Church favoured autocracy, since the majority ...

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This is a thorough and well-structured exploration, which is supported by a great deal of research and comes to a strong conclusion. A little more evidence is needed to prove points in places but this more than answers the question and is convincing. 5 out of 5 stars.