Russia has enjoyed and at times endured a very mixed history so it is a shame that historians often choose to concentrate on the bleak times that the country has suffered over the years. It is fair to say however that the reign of Stalin is probably the darkest time that Russia has ever had to face. Stalin’s cruelty was widespread and unimaginable.
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was born in 1878 in Gori, Georgia.
It appears that the major turning point in his life came when he left Seminary and began to immerse himself in the works of Lenin. At that moment he decided to become a Marxist Revolutionary and that led to a direct involvement in the October Revolution.
From there, Stalin worked his way through the ranks to become the first General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922 and his first acts of cruelty weren’t far away.
In 1928, Stalin introduced a new Economic Policy and the first of his five year plans. The aim was to turn the Soviet Union from a largely agricultural society into a major industrial power that was to outweigh any other nation in the World.
By now, millions of people were being sent to labour camps or forced into exile in remote parts of the Soviet Union, but this new move towards industrial revolution was to have catastrophic effects in certain rural areas.
One of Stalin’s most notorious acts of genocide led directly from his new Economic Policy. He introduced a land management system known as Collectivisation. In essence, this procedure seized all land and property from farmers across the union and in a country where over 80% of the people came from a village farming background, this had devastating effects.
Among these farmers were a class of people known as ‘Kulaks’ who Stalin declared as enemies of the people. They had their land taken away and were forced to work in Soviet factories.
Meanwhile in the Ukraine, growing unrest among the Kulaks led to one rebellion where Soviet Troops moved in and killed many farmers. However, as this insubordination continued, Stalin ordered a reduction in food being transported to the Ukraine until there was simply nothing left. As a result of this forced famine, millions of Ukrainians died.
Stalin is mostly remembered for his purges which began with a complete re-organisation of the political system of the Soviet Union. Opponents both in and outside of the Communist party were dealt with and punishments ranged from expulsion from the party to execution in some cases.
Many felt that death would have been merciful when they were sentenced to life in a Gulag Labour Camp. Nearly 500 camps and colonies were established in the Soviet Union, mainly in the remotest areas of Siberia and millions died in the extreme conditions.
The reign of Joseph Stalin will be solely remembered for the purges and famines and the countless deaths that the country endured. It’s sad to say that his time in power can be summed up by his own chilling quote,
“One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”