Joseph Stalin and First Five-Year Plan
The historical scope of this research study essay concentrates on the methods undertaken by Joseph Stalin in industrializing the Soviet Union through his Very First Five-Year Plan. Hence, the main concern occurring throughout this essay is the following: To What Extent Were Joseph Stalin’s Approaches In Utilizing The Very First Five-Year Strategy (1928-1932) Reliable In Attaining His Original Industrial Objectives? In order to be able to evaluate such questionable subject, the essay very first addresses how Stalin approached the idea for economic development, generally by utilizing 3 methods: centralized, directive planning, utilization of political propaganda campaigns, and a focus on heavy industry.
The results of industrialization are then analyzed and compared to the originally proposed goals. Much of the research conducted was based on main sources of proof as well as secondary sources that a lot of properly portrayed the situation of the Soviet Union at the time and its progress through the specified time period of the Stalin administration.
Analysis of such documents was also needed in order to correctly deduce the trustworthiness and validity of the evidence presented in order to have the ability to base the conclusions on the info. Last but not least, making use of historians’ interpretations was used in order to corroborate claims or supply practical alternative viewpoints. This research essay therefore concluded that, although he did managed to expand tremendously financial investment in market and require the nation out of its backward, agrarian state, Stalin did not attain extensive industrialization for the Soviet Union. Basically, the deep bureaucratization of the economy, in concert with the particular functions of the Soviet policy, produced a combination of inconsistent forces originating from bureaucratic self-interests and impulsive political will.
This would avoid the introduction of the right mix of elements that would assure the typical functioning of the economy.
Table of Contents
Abstract ———————————————————————————————————2 Abbreviations and Glossary ——————————————————————————— 4 Introduction —————————————————————————————————- 5 Stalin’s Realization for Industrialization
1. Explaining the Five-Year Plan (1928 – 1932) —————————————————-7 Analysis of Soviet Model of Industrialization under Stalin
1. Stalin and Centralized Directive Planning ——————————————————– 9 2. Stalin and Political Propaganda Campaigns —————————————————- 10 3. Stalin and Focus on Heavy Industry ————————————————————- 13 Results of First Five-Year Plan
1. Development of Overall Industrial Sector ——————————————————-10 Conclusion —————————————————————————————————-17 Notes ———————————————————————————————————- Bibliography ————————————————————————————————–19
Abbreviations and Glossary
2. Central Committee: Soviet Communist Party supreme body, elected at
3. Gosbank: Gosudarstvenny bank SSSR (USSR State Bank); Soviet Union central bank and the only bank in the entire USSR from the 1930s until 1987.
4. Gosplan: Gosudarstvenniy Komitet po Planirovaniyu (State Planning Committee); committee responsible for economic planning in the Soviet Union. One of its main duties was the creation of Five-Year Plans.
5. Gossnab: State Supplies of the USSR; the state committee for material technical supply in the Soviet Union. Primarily responsible for the allocation of producer goods to enterprises, a critical state function in the absence of markets.
6. Gulag: Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei (main camp administration); eventually in charge of Soviet concentration camps.
7. Mensheviks: Minority faction of the RSDLP, founded in 1903
8. NEP: New Economic Policy (1921-1929) introduced by Lenin.
9. Pravda: the semiofficial newspaper of the Communist Party
In October 1928, Joseph Stalin(1) executed the First Five-Year Plan (piatiletka) in order to strengthen the economy of the Soviet Union and accelerate its rate of industrialization. Part of a series of nationwide, centralized exercises in rapid economic development, the First Five-Year Plan would become the basis for future overall industrial production and development of heavy industries (manufacturing and military goods).(A) Since the conclusion of the First Five-Year Plan, however, numerous accounts have surfaced either praising or criticizing Stalin’s model of economic growth (depending on the interpreter’s predilection of results) in relation to the Soviet Union’s future development. Although modern historians, including Evan Mawdsley(2) and Robert Gellately(3), debate over the extent of Stalin’s success in achieving the original aims of the First Five-Year Plan, the majority of them will agree that he did accomplish a significant and essential increase in industrial growth that would ultimately elevate the Soviet Union as a world class power.
(E) Nevertheless, due to the unreliability of primary resources originating from Soviet archives and recurring debates among historians, some difficulties continue to exist in accurately defining the extent of Stalin’s success and whether his methods were applicable in employing the First Five-Year Plan most effectively. Advocates of Marxism-Leninism assert that the coercive and abrasive methodology in achieving major industrialization was the most appropriate and necessary in both the economic and social modernization of the USSR as well as indispensable for its survival in the face of capitalist “enemies”. However, Non-Soviet Marxists, from Mensheviks to Herbert Marcuse(4), criticize this approach for its long-term detrimental effects on the economy and working class, as well as the profound mark on the Soviet cultural life and standard of living.(F) Therefore, a critical examination of the diverse range of historical interpretations and analyses concerning this controversial subject should thus be conducted, making the topic of Soviet industrialization worthy of investigation.
This research paper, in spite of the limited availability of Soviet primary sources and their dubious credibility, will thus attempt to answer the following question: To What Extent Were Joseph Stalin’s Methods In Employing The First Five-Year Plan (1928-1932) Effective In Achieving His Original Industrial Aims? In this way, valuable insight into historians’ methods in incorporating evidence to support their claims and constructing their arguments based on such evidence will be gained. In order to maintain clarity and focus, this research paper will essentially discuss industrialization and will thus revolve around two themes: First, the Soviet model of industrial advancement was not comprehensive and its achievements can only by attributed and limited to certain sectors. Second, the methods employed by Stalin to achieve industrialization and economic modernization were fallible and precluded complete achievement of the proposed goals.
Stalin’s Realization for Industrialization
Explaining the First Five-Year Plan (1928-1932)
It is important to first gain an understanding of what Josef Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan entailed and what he aimed to accomplish in the industrial sectors by the end of the five year period. The latter approach will enable a qualified analysis examining how the results of the plan compared to the originally established objectives, thus, providing the necessary perspective in evaluating Stalin’s methods for economic reformation. In October 1928, Stalin incorporated the Soviet blueprint for the institution of socialism in the First Five-Year Plan, representing the first attempt by a major power to transform all aspects of economy and society. This new Soviet strategy focused primarily on establishing a heavy industrial sector to expedite the growth of manufactured products and armaments as well as reconstructing the agricultural sector on a new technical foundation.(G) This would create a self-dependent USSR in terms of military and industry and, more importantly, propagate the socialistic doctrines throughout the nation.
Overall, the plan would mainly impact the industrial and agricultural sectors, but it was also set to transform the social and cultural aspects of the Soviet populace. The aims were to surpass capitalism’s per capita output; to make greater technological advancements; employ a radical transformation of agriculture through the employment of machinery and modern techniques; to give priority to heavy industry, rather than consumer goods; produce the infrastructure of a modern, efficient state; raise the standard of living, providing people access to better education, health care, and welfare; and to secure the country against foreign invaders.(H) However, this research essay will narrow the scope of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan objectives by focusing on the industrial aspects of the plan. Quantitatively, in terms of industry, the projected growth for overall industrial production was to increase by 250% and heavy industry by 330%.(I) The extent to which this economic feat of modernization was plausible was a matter often discussed and disputed inside the Communist Party.
Sergo Ordzhonikidze, the commissar of heavy industry, admitted the challenge to be formidable considering the agrarian, industrially-backward state of the USSR. Stalin himself admitted in his 1933 speech on the results of the First Five-Year Plan that “the restoration and development of heavy industry, particularly in such a backward and poor country as [USSR] was at the beginning of the five-year plan period, was an extremely difficult task.”(K) Their justification in making such statements probably was that heavy industry requires both the enormous financial expenditure and the existence of experienced technical forces (both of which the Soviets could not afford or did not have), without which, generally speaking, the restoration of heavy industry is impossible. Certainly, with Stalin’s steep demand in industrial development, the Five-Year Plan appeared barely achievable. Historian Evan Mawdsley correctly points out how the two major policies stipulated in the plan were extremely demanding and in the long run proved to be unattainable. It is probable he based such observation on several factors including unavailable seed capital because of international reaction to Communist policies, little international trade, and virtually no modern infrastructure. Essentially, Stalin’s proposition of the First Five-Year Plan seemed unviable and unsustainable, but it is for this same reason that it is necessary to evaluate how Stalin achieved his goals and to what extent.
Analyzing the Soviet Model of Industrialization under Stalin Stalin and Centralized Directive Planning
Perhaps one of the clearest distinctions in Stalin’s methods of Soviet industrialization was that it was not based on private enterprise, but that it was totally state-driven and was largely based on centralized directive planning.(J) Most effective, argues Evan Mawdsley, was the system of economic administration that was based on the party leadership, Gosplan, the ministerial system, the commissariat of heavy industry (Narkomtiazhprom), and the supervisory role of the Central Committee. In contrast to Lenin’s NEP, the First Five-Year Plan represented this new system’s movement towards establishing central planning as the basis of economic decision-making and the stress on rapid heavy industrialization.
This economic mechanism displayed particular strengths at periods when the political objectives of the regime demanded a rapid breakthrough in some branches of the national economy or during the emergency of war. However, Evan Mawdsley further argues against other historians that referring to the Soviet economy as a “planned” economy would be misleading, especially for the initial period of Soviet industrialization.(M) First of all, Stalinist planning did not make for the balanced growth of industry, or consider investment rates versus consumption rates. Historian Andy Blunden makes a similar argument in which he proposes that the Stalin economic model of development was not based on the Marxist concept of planned economy, but rather (to some extent) on a bureaucratic centralist-command economy.(N) Combining both historical interpretations, it thus follows to infer that what the system did provide was a means of rigid prioritization, concentrating production in key areas of the Soviet economy (heavy industry), but at the same time limiting the expansion and diversification of the economic sector as a result of stringent political issues.
Thus, Alex Chubarov, a professor at Coventry University in England, makes a rather true statement about the overly centralized planning system in the Soviet Union: It did not always work in practice. Stalin’s policies to “tighten work discipline” often worsened economic output instead of promoting production. Because of the stringent political climate that permitted few people to provide negative input or criticize the plan, Soviet planners had very little reliable feedback which they could use to determine the success of their plans.(O) Thus, economic planning was often done based on faulty or outdated information, especially in sectors with a large clientele. As a result, certain goods, especially consumer goods, tended to be underproduced, leading to shortages, while some goods such as manufactured goods, armaments, etc. were overproduced and put in storage. Furthermore, factories took to inflating their production figures due to the severe punishment of failure and the poor quality of products inhibited their use.(P) Stalin and Political Propaganda Campaigns
The next important distinction was that Stalin’s industrialization was greatly politicized. Industrialization as a process usually accompanies the movement towards modernization in any country. However, in the Soviet Union, the achievement of industrialization was greatly a result of political influences, mainly the power of carefully stage-managed propaganda campaigns. These political campaigns ultimately focused on socialist industrialization as the essential and indispensable step in building the material foundations of socialism, a theme constantly used by Stalin in several of his public appearances. The Stalinist political regime and the inflation of ideological principles for the rapid economic growth to prevent hindrance in the global “competition” would thus prove to be perhaps one of the most necessary components of the economic success. During the late 1920s, the need for rapid industrialization arose from the question of whether Soviet Russia could provide the needs to support socialism in a country that was industrially underdeveloped and agriculturally backward. Thus, as reiterated constantly by Stalin in his public speeches, socialist industrialization was the key element in instituting the material basis for socialism in the Soviet Union as well as ensuring its success. In November 19, 1928, Stalin delivered a speech warning the populace about the vulnerability of socialism to the capitalist nations, and the survival of the ideology through industrial fronts: “…[Soviets] have overtaken and outstripped the advanced capitalist countries by establishing a new political system. That is good. But that is not enough.
To secure the final victory of Socialism in our country, we must also overtake and outstrip these countries technically and economically. If we do not do this, we shall find ourselves forced to the wall.” (B) In this excerpt from his 1928 speech, Stalin instilled fear in the population about imminent attacks from the capitalists if the USSR “did not overtake and outstrip” the Western nations through technical and economic means. However, this method of conveying war panic through the manipulation of the “catch up and overtake” (dognat’ i peregnat’) theme was used as justification to dissolve Lenin’s New Economic Policy and attain populist appeal to adopt major industrialization. Robert Gellately, the Earl Ray Beck Professor of History at Florida State University, argues that Stalin inflated a “war scare” inspired by “Anglo-French” imperialism that came up in 1927, “one he deliberately exaggerated to drive home the point that the USSR was vulnerable to the hostile West.”(N) He denotes how Stalin used the elimination of diplomatic relations by Britain in May and the presence of political friction with France, Poland, Romania to the west and Japan to the east accordingly in “his demand to industrialize the country as rapidly as possible, to focus on heavy industry, and to drop the NEP in favor of a more Communistic five-year plan.” (D) Based on Gellately’s observation, it would follow that Stalin could then make the argument that it was crucial to the health and security of the Soviets that the Party take this change of course, facilitating popular support for the Five-Year Plan. (C) Stalin was not the only communist to take the threat seriously, and the crisis had an important influence on the decision to industrialize. But of those nations, Romania was the only threat to ever develop. More important, however, was a subsequent “war scare” in his speech to industrial managers on February 1931 (during the height of the enthusiasm for the Five-Year Plan), when Stalin proclaimed: “To reduce the tempo, means to fall behind. Those who fall behind get beaten…We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed.” (C) Ten years later, in 1941, Adolf Hitler commences military mobilization for “Operation Barbarossa” to invade the Soviet Union.
But to see the German invasion as proper justification for Stalin’s rapid industrialization solely from the perspective of the 1941 invasion would be misleading. During 1931, Germany was suffering deep economic turmoil from the Great Depression and Hitler was still a fringe politician, so it was no real danger to the USSR. Germany’s army had also been limited to 100,000 soldiers, without tanks or aircraft. Historian Mawdsley also identifies the elaborate propaganda machine, “coupled with upward mobility and popular nationalism at critical periods,” as successful in winning support for the program of industrialization.(M) However, unlike Gellately, he proposes that the acceleration of industrialization as a result of tentative attacks may have been justified. Industrialization came from the Soviets’ general mistrust of the outside world which, in turn, had root both in the Russian tradition and in the Communists’ perception of the outside world. Russia’s rulers had promoted industry for military opposition and defense as well as to assure the country’s power status. In part, Stalin and the Communist Party proselytized the ideology of “capitalist encirclement” and the real memories of invasion from European powers and Japan during World War I and the Russian Civil War. Stalin’s Method and Heavy Industry
Finally, the doctrine of “socialist industrialization” put great emphasis on massive expansion of heavy industry, particularly the means of production, as a necessary first step on the way to the technological restructuring of the entire economy. Only after a massive surge in heavy industrial capacity had been achieved would it be possible to embark on a more balanced economic strategy, including the development of consumer-oriented light industry. As a result of a whole number of factors, the Soviet industrialization would be confined, for the most part, to the one-sided priority development of heavy industry. Aside from receiving special attention from the planning the economic system of administration, industrial production was relatively easy to plan even without minute feedback, which led to significant growth in that sector. Consequently, industrial production was disproportionately higher in the Soviet Union than in Western economies, with production of consumer goods also being proportionately higher.
However, one of the most eminent Marxist scholars in the world of economics, Maurice Dobbs, points out the problems of Soviet economic “planning” and explains the fallible economic logic behind the Soviet way of industrialization with investment priority for heavy industries. First of all, the rate of investment or the average savings ratio in an economy will be rather static, largely determined within fairly narrow limits by past history and past decisions. Therefore, focus should be given to distribution of investment because it may essentially determine the future output and consumption in a major way. Dobbs argues that “it may in fact be more important than the overall rate of investment.”(Q) Dobbs seems to base his argument on the theory of factor proportions, a doctrine of ‘comparative costs’ in terms of marginal productivity, which states that those factors of production that are relatively abundant have a low marginal productivity and hence a low price and conversely with factors that are relatively scarce. Consequently, those forms of production that use relatively more of the abundant factors and economize on the scarce ones would have the lowest expenditures. He argues that in a country like Russia with plentiful labor and scarce capital, relatively labor-using techniques are most economical (rather than capital-expensive ones). It is thus more beneficial and appropriate for the applications on handicrafts and light industries rather than heavy industries, where there is a large expenditure of fixed capital (plant and equipment).(R)
Results of the First Five-Year Plan
Development of Overall Industrial Sector
After having analyzed Joseph Stalin’s methods in employing the First Five-Year Plan, it is then necessary evaluate their impact on the proceeding industrialization results. First of all, by directing and focusing investments on heavy industry and not consumer goods, it was possible to attain industrialization over a relatively short period. The industrialization enabled the Soviet Union to mass-produce aircraft, trucks, cars, tractors, combine harvesters, synthetic rubber, and different types of equipment designed primarily for the expansion of heavy industry and military might. In the years of the “great leap” industrial production grew at an average annual rate of 10 to 16 percent, displaying the remarkable dynamism and seemingly boundless potential of the new economic system. Table 1-1 shows the specific advancements made in heavy industries as a result of concentrating in such sector, thus, illustrating Stalin’s accomplishment of his aforementioned goal of focusing in heavy industry. Table 1-1: Russian Industrial Growth under Stalin.
| 1928| 1932| Prescribed Target| Percentage Increase|
Pig Iron (million tons)| 3.3 | 6.2 | 8.0 | 87.8%|
Coal (million tons)| 35.4 | 64.0 | 68.0 | 80.8%|
Steel (million tons)| 4.0 | 5.9 | 8.3 | 47.5%|
Oil (million tons)| 11.7 | 21.4 | 19.0 | 82.9%|
Electricity (mill. kWhs)| 5.0 | 13.4 | 17.0 | 168%|
However, it is important to evaluate these results and compare them with the larger global context. Table 1-1 shows significant growth for heavy industries in the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1932 despite only achieving the prescribed target in one of the five areas of production. Nevertheless, these results were relatively small compared to Western standards and were accomplished at a great human cost. Furthermore, reported Soviet aggregate output figures were too high, not least by failing to take into account of the rising prices. Thus, Stalin’s aforementioned methods of industrialization did indeed make advancements in heavy industrial output but did not accomplish his previous goal of the ‘catch up and overtake’ slogan considering that the Soviet Union still lagged behind Western capitalist nations in terms of economic power. In terms of manufacturing infrastructure and technological advancements, a colossal industrial complex and city were constructed at Nizhni Novgorod on the Volga with the help of the Austin Company (a large American firm), which was designed to produce over 100,000 vehicles per year. Other American companies were also involved in building tractor plants in Kharkov, Stalingrad and Chelyabinsk.
Among the other spectacular projects was the construction of the steel complex at Magnitogorsk, a brand-new city built from the ground up. (S) The colossal project of Magnitogorsk was one prime example of the sixty or more towns created out of nothing during the First Five-Year Plan. Through the accelerated pace of industrialization employed in the Five-Year Plan, the Soviet Union began producing all the machinery and manufacturing plants necessary to supplement heavy industrialization. Major works included the Moscow, Nizhni-Novgorod, and Gorky automobile plants, the Urals and Kramatorsk heavy machinery plants, the Dnieprostroi hydro-electric project, the mammoth steel plants at Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk, and the network of machine shops and chemical plants in the Urals. Entirely new branches of industry were developed, such as aviation, plastics, and synthetic rubber. The plan constituted an important milestone in the process of the socioeconomic transformation of Russia. At the end of the Five-Year Plan in 1932, Stalin declared that the First Five-Year Plan had been achieved ahead of time.
However, the extent to which it was achieved was vague and unclear, with newspapers only allowed to report “outstanding achievements” of the Soviet Union advance toward socialism and local state agencies prohibited from publishing any economic data other than the official figures given by Gosplan. Based on the figures in Table 1-1, Stalin declared that the Five-Year Plan for industrial development had been fulfilled by 93.7% in only four years, while development for heavy industry was achieved by 108%. But considering the levels of deception and figure inflation, it is hard to determine how accurate these figures are and to what extent the statements of “success” can be trusted. Certainly, it was not surprising that the plan did not achieve its prescribed goals of 250% projected growth for overall industrial production and 330% projected growth in heavy industry.
Essentially, the coercive and abrasive methods of industrialization employed by Stalin during his First Five-Year Plan were admittedly successful when viewed from a holistic perspective. However, it cannot be acknowledged that the plan and how it was particularly executed was comprehensive in achieving its originally proposed objectives of economic development and that the methods applied were completely effective and appropriate for the Soviet Union. Overall, this essay explicitly raises the question of exactly what constituted the “achievements” of the Soviet industrial system as a whole, and whether, in fact, the Stalin model of industrialization was ultimately the most effective solution based on its particular approach. First of all, there were several consequences of the over-centralization and very high level of state power reflected in the economic policy of the USSR.
The ‘planning’ system established targets emphasizing quantity at the expense of quality, with the particular system of reward and punishment distorting output reports and encouraging ‘storming’ (last-minute attempts to achieve targets) and hoarding, i.e. waste, of raw materials. This system of economy was responsive to a small number of ‘customers’ but inherently inflexible for it could not change to rising demands. Furthermore, due to the stringent political climate that drove the command, bureaucratic economy and encouraged severe output inflation among factories, the extent to which the industrialization results are credible is still unknown. Secondly, the incorporation of the Stalinist political regime into the promotion of economic success would prove to be effective yet also damaging. The elaborate propaganda campaigns set out by Stalin and the injection of popular nationalism at critical periods, won popular support for the program of industrialization. Furthermore, there was a particular kind of motivation present in the enthusiastic officials to establish the pace of industrialization.
Now, whether such enthusiasm was felt by the Communist Party as much as Stalin is still under question. However, the darker side of the system was that the pace of industrialization could only be accomplished at the human cost and real sacrifices. Lastly, the urban economy was kept static and investment exclusive to heavy industry at the expense of consumer-oriented production. Certainly, the prominence of military production in the economy can be potentially beneficial, but at the same time imminently harmful. Paul Kennedy would later disclose an analysis of the rise and fall of great powers that applied especially to the Soviet Union in which he warned that “if…too large a proportion of the state’s resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term”. (T) The huge investments in producer-goods industries led to acute shortages of labor, capital, and material in other crucial sectors. Factories did not meet their expected targets and would provide quantity at the cost of quality. Instead of producing the projected 2,000 tractors by September 1930, the Stalingrad tractor factory produced only forty-three, which began to fall apart after seventy-two hours of operation.
Thus, the deep bureaucratization of the economy, in concert with the particular features of the Soviet policy, produced a combination of contradictory forces originating from bureaucratic self-interests and impulsive political will. This would prevent the emergence of the right mix of factors that would assure the normal functioning of the economy. Completely new branches of industry were built and massive manufacturing plants were undertaken, certainly contributing to the notion of the USSR as an emerging industrial power. However, this new power was endowed with fallible features: the inherent tendency to produce harmful imbalances, the blatant ignorance to consumer goods, production of quantity at the expense of quality, ineffective economic administrative system, etc. Essentially, Stalin did not achieve comprehensive industrialization for the USSR, but he did force the nation to advance from its backward, agrarian state and into a momentum towards economic growth and industrial development.
1. Joseph Stalin (18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953): born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhughashvili. In office as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 3 April 1922 – 16 October 1952 and Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. 2. Evan Mawdsley: Professor of International History in the Department of History, University of Glasgow. His previous publications include The Russian Civil War (1983/2008), The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev: The Central Committee and its Members, 1917–1991 (with Stephen White, 2000), The Stalin Years: The Soviet Union, 1929–1953 (2003) and Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War, 1941–1945 (2005). 3. Robert Gellately: Newfoundland-born Canadian academic who is one of the leading historians of modern Europe, particularly during World War II and the Cold War era. He is presently Earl Ray Beck Professor of History at Florida State University and was the Bertelsmann Visiting Professor of Twentieth-Century Jewish Politics and
Josephe Stalin DBQ
One of the most controversial leaders in world history was Joseph Stalin. He transformed the Soviet Union into a modern superpower between the years of 1928 and 1941. His ruling could be characterized as rapid industrialization, collectivized agriculture, great purges, and the extermination of opposition. Stalin’s rule could be proven both positively and negatively towards Russia. He powered the Russians military force but his methods negatively affected Russians. Stalin launched his first Five-Year Plan in 1928 by setting up a command economy.
The purpose of the Five-Year plan was to create a road map for Stalin’s great goals of industrialization and the development of the Soviet Unions (OI.
) Specific goals were set in the areas of electricity, coal, oil, pig-iron, and steel (DOC 2.) The Five-Year plan resulted in strengthening the Soviet Unions economic position and turned it into a powerful industrial state. In an excerpt from The Land of the Soviets its stated, “The rate of industrial growth in the USSR considerably exceeded that of the capitalist countries.
” (DOC 8.) This is proven in several charts showing the rapid growth in farming and industrialization (DOCS 2, 3, 4.) Stalin said, “To slow down would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind are beaten.
But we do not want to be beaten! One feature of the old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered for falling behind, for her backwardness….” (DOC 1.) This momentum helped arouse Russian pride to motivate the people. Stalin’s method of motivation imposed the people to come together as one and get ahead in order to dodge falling behind or any kind of harm to their country (OI.) Stalin presented himself as if he were greater and more powerful than everyone else (DOC 10.) Unfortunately for him the people of Russia didn’t see this characteristic; Stalin’s methods damaged the Russians. His act of collectivization was found to be extremely unfair and hurtful. Numerous actions were taken place against the kulaks. They murdered collective farm activists, set fire to the collective farm buildings, poisoned the cattle, and destroyed farm machinery (DOC 7.) Because of Stalin’s relentless drive to collectivize Soviet agriculture, famine arose and became a huge problem in Ukraine. Starvation or famine and peasants being shot and deported as rich, landowning “kulaks” were the explanations for elimination of between 4.5 and 7 million Ukrainians between 1931 1933.
In the end, Stalin was the only one left to blame. Lastly, Stalin found it necessary to increase agricultural production. He was planning on increasing it by collective farms and state farms to join together the small peasant farms into large collective farms. After this Stalin said Kulaks must be eliminated to substitute them with connective and state farms (DOC 4). Nobody had much of option because if they were to refuse Stalin would torture, execute or exile his or her opposition (OI.) Therefore, Stalin was one of the most controversial leaders in world history. His intelligence in economic venues assisted Russia to become an industrial society and lead them to a rise of world power. Thus his prodigious accomplishments he completed them in severe, unnecessary terms that put his people in life threatening positions.
Assess the main achievements of Détente
Détente can be defined as a period of lessening or relaxation of stress between the 2 superpowers. It came about in 1963, with the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and its primary accomplishments had a notable influence on worldwide relations during this period.
One accomplishment of détente, SALT (or the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), signed in 1972, had the function of reducing the number of nuclear weapons of both sides. Its significance lies generally with the Basic Concepts Arrangement, were both superpowers swore to “do their utmost to avoid military fights”.
This produced enhancements financially considering that trade was encouraged – and undoubtedly, worldwide trade increased substantially. Nevertheless, this trade remained in practice restricted to grain products from the United States.
In addition, Nixon’s visitation to China in 1972 put the USSR on guard, as it was witnessing possible cooperation in between its two adversaries – stress in between the USSR and China was at a high. Nevertheless, despite SALT’s limitations and a real increase in tension in between the USSR and China, it was a significant accomplishment for détente as the 2 superpowers wanted to cooperate relating to the arms race matter.
Another significant accomplishment was the Helsinki Contract of 1975, a turnabout from the tense circumstance that existed in between East and West when Stalin was in power. With this agreement, the US recognized the USSR’s territorial control of Eastern Europe, and the USSR accepted appreciate human rights, such as the freedoms democracy advocated. It was a huge improvement considering the scenarios of the 1940-50s, where both sides assaulted and retaliated through speeches, the formation of companies (such as NATO and Cominform), and financial measures such as the Marshall Plan and Comecon. Hence the Helsinki Agreement was a high point in international relations.
Mutual cooperation in many areas likewise resulted in relieving of stress. The 2 nations worked together with the research of heart illness and cancer, and the Soyuz and Apollo ships docked together in area objectives. Again, it was a major enhancement from the hostile scenario of earlier years – both sides wanted to work together for a typical cause, and was a considerable accomplishment of détente.
Although détente was a period of relaxing in tensions and increase stability between the two superpowers, many of the agreements established were very limited and not strictly adhered to. In addition, tension was high between the USSR and China. Further events would lead to the breakdown of détente, but its accomplishments were significant improvements from previous years and thus decidedly noteworthy.
An Evaluation of the Rule of Joseph Stalin
Following the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, new powers slowly rose to replace him. One of those people was Joseph Stalin. Stalin was a young revolutionary that fought for independence, and slowly rose through the ranks of the Communist Party, and became the general secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. After Lenin’s death, he and Leon Trotsky fought to be the next dictator of the Soviet Union.
By the late 1920s, Stalin had effectively become the dictator of the Soviet Union. He launched series of reforms in attempt to make the Soviet Union a world power, and wanted to turn the Soviet Union into a socialist state as soon as possible. I think he was a good ruler in building up the nation’s power. He accomplished many of these goals that he set, but forgot about the life of the people (Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)).
When Stalin ruled, heavy industry was emphasized over the production of consumer goods. He wanted to industrialize the nation, and have the Soviet Union become a socialist state as soon as possible One of the first actions he took was launching the first Five-Year Plan in 1928.
Stalin said that the Soviet Union is behind other capitalist countries by fifty to one hundred years and urged the people to overpass the other nations in ten years time. He planned to set up a command economy, and increase the industrial production of steel, coal, oil, iron, and electrical power. Targets for industries were set and the coal and steel production rates grew. By the end of the first and second Five-Year plans, the USSR was a powerful industrial state and its economic position was strengthened, but the people’s lives were forgotten .
Due to the rapid industrialization that was happening, increased food productions were also needed to support the rising need of food for workers and to buy the needed machinery. To support this need, Stalin planned an agricultural reform to collectivize the farms and to stop privatization of land. In collectivization, farms are joined together to farm land, sharing tools and methods of farming. At first, the people rebelled against this plan because it was carried out by force, and the people destroyed livestock and crops.
Then the agriculture gradually built up. Enough food was being produced to feed the rapid industrialization, and modern ways of farming were finally being used. Livestock and wheat productions rose. However, during this time, the people were heavily taxed, food was taken away to feed the city workers which resulted in starvation, and opposition toward the plan was eliminated (The Period of Stalin’s Rule). Kulaks were also almost completely destroyed. Opposition against Stalin was eliminated, many of whom were educated and able to work (The Period of Stalin’s Rule).
Stalin’s plans were able to reform the nation, and bring the nation into power again. The five-year plans were successful in industrializing the nation, and the collectivization provided food for the industrial growth. However, they were accomplished harshly, and human rights were not put into account, and people suffered from starvation, purges, harsh ruling, and were forced to follow in the plans. Stalin ruled successfully in industrializing the nation and building its power, but not successfully in raising the quality of life. Overall, I think he was a good ruler.
“Joseph Stalin (1879 – 1953).” BBC-History- Joseph Stalin (1879 – 1953). 4 November 2008 < http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/stalin_joseph.shtml>.
“The Period of Stalin’s Rule (1924-53).” The Period of Stalin’s Rule. 4 November 2008 .
During the years following the death of Lenin in 1924, there was an immense power struggle in the politburo of the Communist Party, as its leading figures competed to replace him. By 1929, Joseph Stalin had defeated his rivals – and therefore become leader of the party – through three stages: the defeat of the left opposition (and therefore Trotsky), the united opposition (Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky), and finally the right deviation (Bukharin).
Stalin gained power due to a number of factors, particularly his position as General Secretary of the party, along with his other roles, but also through errors made by the Bolsheviks, most notably their underestimation and dismissal of Stalin.
However, his position as General Secretary gave Stalin such tight control over the party machine that, although the failure to publish Lenin’s testament and general underestimation of Stalin were contributing factors, this role was the main reason for his success in the power struggle.
Stalin held the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party from 1922 onwards, which was an incredibly powerful place to be, and aided him immensely during the power struggle. The role was predominantly bureaucratic and many people were unaware of the influence that Stalin held; being General Secretary, he could control membership of the party, which won him popularity with the peasants, whose social standing and benefits were raised by becoming party members.
As the majority of the Soviet population consisted of peasants, this gave Stalin a solid base of support during the power struggle. This was emphasized by his other roles, for example he was Head of Workers and Peasants Inspectorate, and Peoples Commissar for Nationalities, both of which allowed Stalin to make connections all over the country in seemingly ‘low-level’ positions, meaning that he was able to fill the central committee with his supporters during important votes, effectively controlling the entire system to support his campaign in the power struggle.
This was especially useful when rivals opposed Stalin and tried to usurp him, as any movements carried against him were instantly outvoted by Stalin’s supporters, demonstrated during the defeat of the United Opposition (Stage 2 of the power struggle) where every attack made by Zinoviev and Kamenev was instantly quelled by Stalin’s unparalleled control of the voting. The influence Stalin held over the party machine allowed him o manipulate any situation to his means, undermine the power of his opponents and make vital connections, gaining loyalists whom he could place in powerful positions, giving him incontrovertible control in the party. Despite the view that Stalin’s roles were unimportant and bureaucratic, he used them to gain access to the highest control and therefore his position as General Secretary (and other positions), was the most important reason for his rise to power.
However, there were other reasons for Stalin’s success in the power struggle, as the contending Bolsheviks made many errors during the years 1924-29, whether they were general mistakes or errors made by individuals. It is the underestimation of Stalin that allowed him to build a strong political power base largely unnoticed. Stalin was often described by other leaders as “Comrade Card-Index” or the “grey blur”, due to the view that he was a dull bureaucrat holding no real influence.
People were more concerned about Trotsky, who was the most obvious contender for the Lenin’s replacement and had the makings of a military dictator – leadership of the Red Army and a strong supporter of radical change – so the fear of radical Trotsky overshadowed any concern about the ‘moderate’ Stalin. Most failed to see that he was gradually manipulating the role of General Secretary of the Bolshevik Party into the key post in the Soviet Union, building a strong following and maintaining his image as a moderate whilst his rivals publicly battled, ruining each others reputations and leaving Stalin’s untarnished.
Before his death, Lenin became uneasy about the amount of power in Stalin’s control, and in his testament – which gave opinions of each party member – he expressed concern that Stalin had ‘concentrated an enormous power in his hand’ and could not always be trusted to use this wisely. Had Stalin’s opposition published Lenin’s Testament during the conflict for leadership, he would never have made it to power and Russian history would be very different.
However the fact remains that they failed to publish this until it was too late; Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky attempted to publish the testament in 1926 but Stalin was already too strong – he ordered the secret police to remove the illicit copies, leaving the United Opposition to appear desperate and undermined. These general errors by the Bolsheviks made Stalin’s rise to power easier, as they could have ended his political career if people had recognized his vast control and power within the party.
In addition to the general errors of the Bolsheviks, each contender made mistakes that allowed Stalin to gain the upper hand in each stage of the power struggle. For example Trotsky did not attend Lenin’s funeral – he claimed Stalin told him the wrong date – and therefore appeared disrespectful to Lenin, while Stalin carried Lenin’s coffin and made a speech, appearing loyal and one of Lenin’s ‘disciples’. Trotsky also made the mistake of factionalism after the ban on factions in 1921, along with Zinoviev and Kamenev when they attempted to oppose Stalin and Bukharin’s alliance during stage two of the power struggle.
This meant Stalin was able to expel them from the party, eliminating them as opposition once and for all. As well as creating a faction, Zinoviev and Kamenev tarnished their image in stage one of the struggle, as they publicly battled Trotsky, ruining their reputations, whilst Stalin sat back and watched, reputation intact. After their public conflict and defeat of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev then formed an alliance with him to form the United Opposition, which was not credible, and seen as a slightly desperate attempt for power, leaving Stalin seem like the voice of reason.
Bukharin and the right of the party made less obvious oversights, however Stalin won out in the third stage by making the Great Turn, whereby he shifted his ideologies from the NEP when it began to fail. Bukharin was slightly naive in thinking that Stalin and their shared policy of Socialism in One Country were compatible with the NEP, but when Stalin made a u-turn he realized that was not possible and Bukharin was exposed to criticism.
Afraid of factionalism accusations, Bukharin was unable to rally support and was easily defeated by Stalin, leaving him victorious and leader of the Party. Another factor that favoured Stalin was his chosen ideologies, which appealed to the population and party. Stalin manoeuvered his political standing to benefit him, and his position as a moderate made it easy for him to change policy without looking like a hypocrite, if needed.
A prime example of this is the debate of Rapid Industrialization against the NEP: initially Stalin supported the NEP during his alliance with Bukharin in order to defeat the United Opposition, however once they had won Stalin made ‘the Great Turn’ and became pro-Rapid Industrialization, pointing out the flaws in the NEP and undermining Bukharin’s authority. This helped Stalin because the country had become disillusioned with the NEP; people had not benefitted the way they had hoped, particularly the proletariat.
Rapid Industrialization promised a brighter future, with Russia as a military and industrial powerbase and an idealistic communist state where everybody worked hard and reaped the rewards as one, or at least that is the picture he painted for the Russian public. Furthermore, Stalin’s ideology of ‘Socialism in One Country’ was much more popular than Trotsky’s idea of ‘Permanent Revolution’, as Stalin’s focus on the USSR seemed much more patriotic, making Trotsky seem less than committed to communist Russia, as he wanted to expand communism abroad and help other countries, seen as disloyalty to Russia.
Stalin was seen as a moderate before he came to power, and people were more attracted to collective leadership as this seemed more in the communist spirit, whereas Trotsky was an advocate of dictatorship, and people were concerned he was more interested in ‘Bonapartism’: that he would use his leadership of the Red Army to become a military dictator like Napoleon Bonaparte.
Stalin used these three ideological debates to overcome his competitors, finally outwitting Bukharin over the NEP as it flagged in the late 1920s, adapting his policy to the situation around him, which is another reason for his success. Overall, Stalin came to power through a number of factors: his own positions within government, particularly General Secretary, the mistakes of his opposition, and his chosen ideologies regarding certain key issues at the time.
Although his standing on issues such as the NEP, and the fact that everybody underestimated him certainly helped him in his rise to power, it was Stalin’s tight control of the party machine that secured his success, which he influenced through his role as General Secretary. Stalin manipulated this position so that he was in charge of the party’s affairs, and nobody suspected him as his campaign was not as overt as Trotsky’s, effectively ‘scheming’ his way to the top, which is why Stalin being General Secretary is the main reason for his triumph in the power struggle.
Yalta and Potsdam
The Yalta and Potsdam conferences stay as one of the key sources when studying about Cold War and the alliance of the “Big 3.” The focus question of the essay asks, “To what degree did the Yalta and Potsdam conferences contribute to the advancement of Cold War in Europe?” The 2 conferences have considerable relevance when trying to come to the conclusion regarding why did the Cold War emerge?
To precisely understand the significance of the conferences, the individual interaction of the leaders, the choices that were made and what was stated is carefully examined.
Yalta marked the peak for the Big 3 in the sense that the 3 were together in the belief that they were choosing the fate of the world. While Potsdam was more of a high decrease, marking the collapse of the Big 3. The modification of Roosevelt to Truman in the second conference also considerably impacted the alliance because Truman had different technique towards Stalin than Roosevelt did. The conferences that were expect to decide the post-war world and guarantee no future war just worsened the scenario as the various visions for that post-war world hit currently increased misconceptions.
The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences were not the factor for Cold War however were what kick-started the brand-new sort of war that lasted for forty-six years. Indeed, its necessary to study the two conferences as they played an essential function in choosing the future of the world during that period.
On April 25, 1945, the Red Army, 58th Guards Department were commemorating their triumph over Nazi Germany with U.S Army, 69th Infantry Department on German Land1. Five days later on Adolf Hitler shot himself and a week later on Germany surrendered. The “Big Three” who originally met — in expect a much better world– in Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in February, 1945, fulfilled as soon as again at Potsdam in July, 1945. Churchill was thanking Stalin for his ‘hospitality and friendship’ at the Yalta Conference2.
Then how come, despite these friendly gestures, did the Soviet Authorities tried to break up pro-American demonstrations that erupted in Moscow? Why did American Authorities suspend shipments of aid for the USSR and then resume them? Why did Truman turn cold towards Stalin and decided to keep the knowledge of the atomic bomb a secret from the Soviets? The answer lies in the fact that the war was won by the Grand Alliance and its member who were already at war – ideologically and geopolitically – with each other3.
Near the end of World War II, global politics were at peak level and after 1945; a series of clashes and misunderstandings widened the gap between the Americans and Soviets even more and eventually lead to open hostility. The United States believed that a country should be run on a capitalist system – that is all industry, business and agriculture should be owned privately or by firms. In contrast, the Soviets believed in socialism, meaning that everything should be owned by the state and should be run by the government. These two – very different ideologies – were conflicting to each other and believed that the alternative ideology was a threat to their own way of living.
In 1945, two conferences, Yalta and Potsdam were held with the top political leaders of Russia, America and Britain, otherwise known as the ‘Big Three’. These conferences were meant to decide the future of the world after the war and what to do with Germany. America and Russia’s different beliefs and post-war aims and the increasing tension between the two sides became apparent at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences. Therefore, it is significant to closely examine what was said and decided during these conferences that drove both sides.
The focus question of this essay deals with what was discussed and agreed upon during the Yalta and Potsdam conferences and will answer: To what extent did the Yalta and Potsdam conferences contribute to the development of the Cold War in Europe?
WHAT THEY BELIEVED AND THE POST-WAR AIMS
The two great powers, even though they had united to fight against the Nazis, were completely different in everything else. Ideology was very important for the Soviet Union, since it was built around it and the west viewed the USSR as a growing threat and distrusted them. The Soviet Union was a communist country, which was ruled by a dictator and put the needs of the state ahead of human rights, while America was a capitalist democracy which valued freedom and feared communism. Although the ideological differences between the two great powers were immense and important in creating a tense atmosphere between them, ideology alone does not offer an explanation for the cold war.
A capitalist economy is based on private ownership, private profit and free competition. It encourages private individuals to own businesses and make profits. A communist economy on the other hand, is quite different. The economy is controlled by the government. A country’s wealth and resources are owned by the state or government. The state controls and plans all economic activity so that everybody benefits. Thus, it can be seen how different these ideologies were and how conflict could arise from these differences.
Going into the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, Soviet Union wanted to ensure security, establish control over Eastern Europe, and get reparation from Germany. On the other hand, Britain and America wanted to help Germany recover to avoid any future turmoil from Germany and wanted to prevent large areas of Europe from coming under Communist control.
In recent history, the USSR had been invaded a total of three times, once in WWI, once in the Russian civil war and once in WWII4. As a result, there were many Russian casualties and as a way of making sure that the USSR would be secure from any future attack or aggression along the western border, Stalin decided to surround Russia with a buffer of “friendly” countries which later came to be known as the Iron Curtain. During the World War, as the Russians pushed the Germans out of their border, they also pushed inwards into Eastern Europe, occupying many countries, making it easier for them to establish control. As they established controls in these areas, they gave the local Communist parties a lot of support and thus, widened their influence in their countries. Also, as they pushed back, they brought along Moscow-trained Communist leaders who had gone to the USSR during the war.
These leaders took over the reins of the governments in some parts of Eastern Europe, spreading the influence of Communism. After the Soviets had pushed the Germans out of Poland, it fell under communism and remained so until Stalin’s death. Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia are some of other countries that fell under Communism. Stalin then proceeded to establish one-party governments in these countries by first establishing coalition governments, then removing the partners in these governments. The coalitions were needed as the Communist Parties in the different countries were not strong enough on their own to gain the support of the people and govern the country. In this way, the USSR could then proceed to tighten its control over Eastern Europe, successfully forming the satellite states or the Iron Curtain.
The west was afraid that the Communist ideology would spread as its nature was expansionist. Thus, when the USSR attempted to improve security by having satellite states, the West saw this as an attempt to spread the influence of Communism. This especially affected USA as it needed new markets and Europe could provide them. As more and more markets were dominated by USSR, USA lost these potential markets. There was mutual suspicion and mistrust between the east and the west because of this. As well, there were still suspicious from WWII’s atomic bomb incident and the second front. The second front was not opened till 3 years after Stalin started demanding it and few days before it was dropped, the US informed the other allies except Russia that the atomic bomb was about to be dropped on to Japan. This severely discredited the West and spoiled the relations between the East and the West.
This meant that the ‘Big Three’ found it very difficult to agree upon anything at the Conferences (Yalta, Potsdam) and if anything achieved more misunderstandings. Although ideology made some degree of conflict likely between the Capitalist West and Communist East, in actual the struggle was largely fought over issues such as global power and prestige which became obvious at the two conferences, Yalta and Potsdam.
The Yalta conference was held on February 4, 1945. The Americans arrived with the long-term goal of gaining final Soviet approval to the formation of a peace organization, a structure to ensure peace, the United Nations5. The Allies also made it necessary to discuss European political and military problems. Their major goal was to fix a date for the USSR to attack Japan, which the Soviets decided would be three months after Germany surrendered. Stalin kept this promise, in return for territorial concessions in Asia6.
The future role of France was also discussed. Britain wanted France to play a full role in postwar Germany but the Soviets felt that France had not played much of a role in the war and should not have any say now. At the conference the Big Three agreed that France would have a zone of occupation in Germany out of US and Britain’s share – this sat well with the Soviets as they didn’t lose anything. France was to also have membership in the Allied control council for Germany. However, French leader Charles DeGaulle was not invited to the conference.
The three leaders also discussed German reparations, which required the Germans to pay for some of the damage done by them during the war. Churchill pointed out the Germany was so damaged by the war that the Allies could not hope to extract any money from Germany. German reparations after World War I had been paid with the help of loans from the United States. The official State Department minutes of the meeting noted that “. . . there had been only two billion pounds extracted from Germany in the form of reparations by the Allies after the last war and that even this would not have been possible had not the United States given Germany credit.”7 Roosevelt responded to this, “that he remembered very vividly that the United States had lost a great deal of money. He said that we had lent over ten billion dollars to Germany and that this time we would not repeat our past mistakes.”8 Roosevelt never anticipated how strong the United States would emerge from the war, and added that the United States could not afford to aid the Germans economically.
Winston Churchill was strongest in raising the issue of the dangers of starving Germany if too many reparations were demanded and taken. He focused on the fact that the Germans must be left enough resources to pay reparations. A starving Germany would benefit no one. Churchill was thinking of the way reparations were handled after World War I. Even though Germany paid reparations with loans from the United States, Germany was economically devastated. Poor economic conditions created resentment, and laid the groundwork for Hitler. Realism at Yalta put limits on reparations. Churchill was well advised to use the arguments he used, that Germany needed to keep enough resources and to produce enough to pay what reparations were demanded. The leaders decided to leave the details to a commission. Reparations did not prove to be a major practical issue.
8 U.S State Department, 621.
Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov later complained “We collected reparations after the war, but they amounted to a pittance.”9 However, the Soviets took enough from their occupation zone in Germany to make it harder when they tried to create the German Democratic Republic, East Germany. Molotov later commented on this dilemma, “Quietly, bit by bit, we had been creating the GDR, our own Germany. What would those people think of us if we had taken everything from their country? After all, we were taking from the Germans who wanted to work with us.”10
The most controversial decision to emerge from Yalta dealt with the postwar Polish government. Poland had been divided between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, and invaded by both that September. However, the Soviets were accurate when they told Churchill that the Nazi-Soviet pact of that year was made obsolete by the German invasion of the Soviet Union. By August 1944, the Soviet army had pushed the German back almost to Warsaw. On August 1, 1944, the Polish Home Army, the chief non-communist resistance force, heard the sounds of German-Soviet combat not far to the east11. They began an uprising against the Nazis, partly to liberate themselves before the Soviets arrived. Stalin stopped his army in the area for several weeks as the Germans defeated the uprising, wiped out the Home Army, and almost obliterated Warsaw.
Just before leaving for Yalta, Churchill told his private secretary, “Make no mistake, all the Balkans, except Greece, are going to be Bolshevised, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. There is nothing I can do for Poland either.”12
Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshkov, Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev
(Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996) 31.
11Bruce L. Brager, The Iron Curtain: The Cold War in Europe (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004) 32.Churchill was a realist, in October 1944, for example, Churchill and Stalin had come to the “percentages” agreement on how much influence each nation would have in the Balkans. The Big Three, at Yalta, eventually agreed that, until elections would be held, the Soviet-supported government of Poland would be the government, but with added non-Communist members. Before World War Two, Poland was basically a landlocked country between the main body of Germany and East Prussia. A small corridor gave Poland an outlet to the Balkan Sea. Recreated in 1945, Poland moved west, giving up territory to the Soviet Union in the East in exchange for German territory in the west.13
At Yalta, Churchill and Roosevelt were dealing at Yalta with a man, Stalin, more complex than he is normally credited with being, combining balance of power, Communist ideology, a fair amount of personal paranoia, and the overwhelming desire not to allow any further invasions of Soviet territory.14 He had shown himself in the past willing to use extreme brutality, but this was not the only method he had available. “By 1945 one could find some rudiments of the revolutionary imperial paradigm in Stalin’s foreign policy, but he was fully prepared to shelve ideology, at least for a time, and adhere only to the concept of a balance of power.”15 This meant that Stalin was willing to put aside ideology and focus only on gaining power.
The Yalta Conference issued a statement declaring that all countries had the right to choose their own form of government. Stalin made it clear what was his first priority. In discussing Poland’s post war future, Stalin at one point said, Mr. Churchill had said that for Great Britain the Polish question was one of honor and that he understood, but for the Russians it was a question both of honor and security. Throughout history, Poland had been the corridor for attack on Russia. . . It was not only a question of honor for Russia, but one of life and death.
Roosevelt remained the most idealistic of the three leaders at Yalta. He wanted a post war world based on mutual cooperation, not on power and spheres of influence. The last time he spoke to the American Congress, on March 1, 1945, Roosevelt summarized what he thought he had achieved at Yalta by stating that “The Crimea Conference ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power all the expedients that have been tried for centuries – and have always failed.”
After the conference, Churchill and Roosevelt were criticized for giving away too much to the Soviets. Political commentators and historians have also complained that the Soviets broke their word. Historian Isaac Deutscher writes, “It is useless to try to discover who made the first move to break the alliance. It is impossible to trace the first ‘broken promise’ … In this ‘marriage of convenience’; the thought that a divorce was inevitable had been in the mind of each partner from the beginning“.18 However the Soviet Army already had control of most of Eastern Europe, or would have this control before the war ended.
At Yalta, the negotiations went very much in Stalin’s favour, but this was because Roosevelt needed Russian help in the Pacific and was ready to agree to almost anything as long as Stalin agreed to go to war with Japan. Although the conference appeared successful, behind the scenes tension was growing, particularly about reparation and Poland. Two years later James F. Byrnes, who became American Secretary of State two months after Yalta, wrote about the conference that “There is no doubt that the tide of Anglo-Soviet-American friendship had reached a new high. But President Roosevelt had barely returned to American soil when the tide began to ebb.”
The Potsdam Conference was the last of the wartime summits among the Big Three allied leaders. On July 17, 1945, the leaders met in Potsdam, Germany to finalize the principles of the post-war peace – Potsdam was the Versailles of World War II. Although still allies, much had changed since the three countries’ last major conference just five months before: the Yalta Conference on February 4-11, 1945. Perhaps most significantly, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died on April 12, taking with him the relationships he had built with Churchill and Stalin and his ability to smooth over differences.
His vice president, Truman, was now president, and Potsdam was his first international conference. The only constant figure in the conference was Stalin, the leader of one of the most controversial nations in the world. Two capitalist nations allied with a communist – who already poses communication problems – and the change from Roosevelt to Truman between the conferences only added to the discrepancies between Yalta and Potsdam. Churchill, too, was soon replaced. After the Potsdam Conference was underway the results of the U.K.’s general election were announced on July 26, Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as prime minister.
At the conference, the leaders agreed on setting up the four “zones of occupation” in Germany. The Nazi Party, government and laws were to be destroyed, and German education was to be controlled to completely eliminate Nazi and militarist doctrines and to make successful development of democratic ideas in peoples mind. They also decided to bring Nazi-war criminals to trial and to recognize the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity and hold free elections as soon as possible. This is significant because soon the Western-Allies recognized Poland as a communist dominated government. Russia was allowed to take reparations from the Soviet Zone, and also 10% of the industrial equipment of the western zones as reparations. America and Britain could take reparations from their zones if they wished.
The atmosphere at Potsdam was often bitter, presaging the imminent Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West20. In the months leading up to Potsdam, Stalin took an increasingly hard line on issues regarding Soviet control in Eastern Europe, provoking the new American president and the British prime minister to harden their own stance toward the Soviet leader. This is what Truman had to say about the Soviets, “The Russians only understand one language – ‘how many armies have you got?’ I’m tired of babying the Soviets.”21
20Joseph L. Nogee, “Potsdam Conference“, Encyclopedia, 2004 2012
21Harry S. Truman, “Letter to James F. Byrnes“, BBC, 2012 2012
During World War II, Roosevelt followed a policy of “the Grand Alliance” with the determination to get along with the Soviet Union. He was determined to follow this policy after the war and believed the United Nations, one of his pet projects, would maintain the postwar peace. This policy continued throughout the war although there is some evidence Roosevelt began to have some apprehensions at Yalta over Soviet policy in Poland and the other eastern European countries, but Roosevelt maintained he that could handle Stalin. With Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Truman attempted to maintain Roosevelt’s policy in getting along with the Soviet Union. However, at the Potsdam Conference in July-August 1945, Truman was exposed to the high-demands of Stalin.
Soon after arriving at the conference Truman learned (on 21 July) that America had tested the first atomic bomb. It gave the Americans a huge military advantage over everyone else. It also meant that Truman didn’t need Stalin’s help in Japan. Instead, Truman’s main aim at the conference was to find out from Stalin what date the Russians intended to enter the war in the Pacific – something which (unlike Roosevelt) he did not want. “On July 24 I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make good use of it against the Japanese,”22 was said by Truman to Stalin.
Truman actually never told the Soviets what their `new weapon` was and when, a week after the Potsdam conference ended, the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and this further added to the Soviet distrust of United States. This is important because after learning about the atomic bombs, Truman’s attitude at the conference became more aggressive and developed an attitude of confrontation. Stalin saw the dropping of the bomb as directed more at Russia than Japan. Many historians believe that Truman caused the Cold War when he dropped the bomb.
After the Potsdam conference ended and the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, Stalin had lost any trust in the west. They became under the impression that the west preparing to attack them and felt threatened.
Yalta and Potsdam were two major peace conferences in World War II which were suppose to ensure no future war. They were both intended to achieve a state of post-war peace, and yet somehow changed into a cold war. If anything the conferences achieved a great heightening of tension among the leaders and further widened the gap between the capitalist west and communist Soviet. During World War II, a very unusual alliance was made between America, Britain and the Soviet Union. Usually not on the friendliest terms, the Americans and the Russians saw each others as allies to defeat their common enemy – Nazi Germany. But as soon as war ended, the difference amongst the Big Three started to become noticeable. Stalin who wanted to ensure the safety of the Soviet territory and wanted more power set his post-world war demands accordingly. This did not sit well with the Americans and the British.
Very soon the politicians in Moscow started to believe that United States had no intentions of supporting the USSR any more than they had to. The American vision of the postwar world conflicted with the goals of Stalin, who was also motivated to shape postwar Europe and with Truman vastly different approach towards the soviet that Roosevelt, prompted the two powers to become hostile towards each other. These two conferences were what set the standards for life after World War II, and were the preludes to the events of the Cold War.
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Brager, Bruce L. The Iron Curtain: The Cold War in Europe. Chicago: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
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Truman, Harry S.. “Letter to James F. Byrnes.“ BBC, 2012 2012
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The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
The general theory of politics and governance that the Founder of Modern Political Science, Niccolo Machiavelli presented espouses the attainment of successful governance and political leadership by whatever means it takes. His monumental book “The Prince” therefore depicted that rulers and leaders must attain control and power by any means necessary. And to this Joseph Stalin strongly believed in – as he is said to have slept everyday with “The Prince” by his bedside. Ruling with power and strength can only be ensured because a ruler will first and foremost give visible and tangible results to the constituents or citizenry.
To achieve this, the consolidation of everyone under his control is a strategy to take. A ruler must not be bound by traditional norms and values. The only thing that a ruler must keep in mind is to obtain, maintain and contain power by any means. (Moschovitis, Von Dehsen & Harris, 1999) Therefore Stalin imbibed the principle of “princeship” by ruling with power using a double edged method: to look seemingly honest, gentle, trustworthy, and exercise it and yet to gain loyalty and fierce obedience in exchange for those endowments.
Without obedience and fierce loyalty from the subjects, there should be no hesitation to impose the rightful punishment. He espoused that to rule with fear is being that to rule by popularity or being loved. Subjects and citizens will rather obey out of fear because they know what punishments are involved in disobedience and disloyalty. In establishing power as he gain loyal following, he propagated “the cult of his personality”. The idea is for people to idolize him. It creates a uniformed and common perception among followers; subjects and citizens that their leader, Stalin, is powerful and effective. He is made to look like a hero.
The unification of the Bolshevik principle made it accessible for Stalin to “systematically organize and force upon the whole citizenry” such perception. (Van Ree, 2002) “The Prince” also taught Stalin that generally people and subjects should only see in a ruler what they seem to believe to be what and how the ruler is. The real characteristics and traits of a ruler must be revealed only to very few trusted collaborators in power with the ruler. It is part of being shrewd and such attribute means that a ruler must only ask for advice and listen to those who choose to listen to and if only he chooses to listen to.
Therefore, Stalin imbibed the principle of effectiveness as the true measure of the goodness of a man. A man is good if he has inner strength; he is practical; he is clever and he is assiduous. How one would pursue his responsibility is immaterial compared to the main purpose of achieving the cause or the result. In this principle of result oriented belief, Stalin abhors stupidity, idleness and weakness amongst his people. The influence of Machiavelli’s teachings in “The Prince” made Stalin crave for and love absolute power.
Congruent to this, Stalin is very exacting and very demanding. He exemplifies quick decision to action based on logical judgment. Therefore, as Stalin read and re-read, night after night “The Prince”, he even annotated the pages of the book. Stalin truly imbibed the virtue of courage and inner strength – as it is what Machiavelli described to be a supreme attributed of a ruler. Stalin believes he is a complete embodiment of Machiavelli’s description of a true ruler: full as a man; hardworking; courageous and excellent in decision making. (Service, 2005)
Stalin and His Personality The Communist movement in Russia from its beginnings, and even within the Soviet Government that was established after the Bolshevik Revolution, did not even consider Joseph Stalin as an outstanding leader. Being one of the secretaries in the Central Committee of the party, Stalin’s holds a technical post and is of secondary importance. However, all throughout his career in government, Stalin has been noted for his enduring patience and attention to details. He always depicted the trait of endurance to quiet thinking and astute decision-making that portrays exemplary patience.
This has been considered as the key combination of his personality and character. Joseph Stalin is not a very tall man. He is just nearly five feet six inches tall. He looks coarse and moves with regular and common strides and moves. He has a pockmarked and sallow face. In his younger days, his hair is pure jet black. When he grew older and darkish gray hair emanated his bushy mustache and thick eyebrows also revealed a touch of gray. The facial expression and the looks in the eye of Stalin never ever revealed his true feelings and thoughts. He has dark brown, hazel eyes. He projects a look of heaviness and sullenness.
His total look is a cross between European and Asian. Joseph Stalin practically wears military costume always. It is his way of demonstrating his power complex. It is also his defense mechanism because of the trauma brought about his being rejected to become part of the Army of the then Czar of Russia. This is because the Army considered his physical defect to be unsuitable for the military. Stalin has one arm that is withered and he has got two toes that grew together. Therefore, when he was able to attain his power, he showed his sense of defiance and righteousness by being in a soldier’s uniform always.
Another reason for the consistency of his military image is based on Stalin’s reasoning that the mass of the people must look up to a leader and a ruler with a strong image of infallibility. This requires an image that is constant and confident. The shrewd attribute in Stalin believes that his strong military image creates a perception of infallibility among the Russians. Stalin’s courage and strength and power are also exuded in his habit of positioning himself at the rear end of any meeting or political gatherings. He listens intently to the discussion as he smokes his pipe or cigarette.
He always takes written notes. He believes that this way he sees everybody and can quietly assess everything and everybody. At social parties, especially when he is the host, he maintains graceful silence; he is simple in his movements; very friendly to everybody. He takes upon himself to get the party going; selects the music to play and encourages everybody to dance and be merry. Stalin is indeed thought of as a “man of mystery” because he keeps most of his inner thoughts to himself and thus “keeps his own counsel”. This is his way of technique of absolutism.
But other people interpreted Stalin’s silence as an inferiority complex. People think that because of such complex caused Stalin’s infamous shrewdness; ruthlessness; vindictiveness and very suspicious habit. They branded him to be “cautious as a lion”. Stalin was even said to have said: “Healthy suspicion is the best basis for collaboration”. (Barmine, 2007) Stalin and His Fame Amidst the stronghold he has established as he plays a major impact during the Bolshevik Revolution, it is the recognition of Lenin that Stalin is a formidable ally that began the fame that Stalin started to trek.
Thus, Stalin was appointed by Lenin in 1905 to be organizer of the Bolshevik Party. After seven years, Stalin was one of the leaders of the Bolshevik underground in 1912 as he becomes part of the first Central Committee. Eventually, Stalin was likewise placed on the editorial board of the newspaper of the party: Pravda. After the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin was rose to become Minister of Nationalities in the administration of the communist government of Russia in 1919 that he became one of the most powerful men in the Soviet Union.
He successfully campaigned for everyone in Russia to believe and follow the Bolshevik movement and principles. Stalin, together with two other Bolshevik strongmen – Yakov Sverdlov and Leon Trotsky – they were able to aid Lenin in making the ruling Bolshevik Party real and strong. They helped Lenin make important decisions on any problems arising during those early stages of setting up the government. However, there friction grew between Stalin and Trotsky. In April 1922, Lenin appointed Stalin as General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party. He is therefore a member of the Politburo.
It is the focal body that creates policy in the Soviet Union. Stalin further assumed the position to become Head of the Workers and Peasants Inspection Bureau. This office and his position monitor any wrongdoing of any official in the Soviet Union. It might have been a very minor role and there were so much paper work to be done. No one liked the job but nobody knew that it was an opportunity that Stalin made good use of as he wields power over official appointments. As he was the one who decides who occupies what post, bases of gratitude of course ensued.
All the appointees became very loyal to him and guaranteed their full support to Stalin. He maneuvered his way towards creating a network of spies to watch out each and every party officials and everything they do. Stalin was able to gather a wide array of information on everybody that gave him leverage. It was this base that paved the way for Stalin to inherit the title and job of Lenin when he died in 1924. Stalin eventually became the strongman and dictator of the Soviet Union and became a most powerful man in the Soviet Union as he absolutely rules it for 25 years.
From the time he assumed leadership of Russia after Lenin’s death, Stalin indulge the Communist Party to deliberate on the future of Russia through a campaign called industrialization. It is therefore in 1928 that they adopted the “Five Year Plan”. Included in the plan is the organization of agriculture wherein exportation is eyed as major key to ease up the foreign debt of Russia. The farm lands were eventually organized into collectives in 1929. This made all farmlands to be owned and controlled by the state. Production quotas were enforced on farmer peasants that they must harvest.
Stalin insisted and ruled that collectivization of farm produce and exporting them would be the only way for Russia to earn more money and buy the necessary machineries for industrialization. Stalin enforced his economic five year plan as strict and as hardcore as it could be – even at the sacrifice of many lives. Farmers and peasants who refused were punished either by death or exiled. Those who obeyed were not left with any crops and therefore died of starvation nevertheless. He keeps on emphasizing that he implemented rules and programs to industrialize the country.
He wanted the economy of the country to grow. And indeed, the economy of the Soviet Union improved. The major sacrifice that the Russians incurred was tremendous. When industrialization has set in, the farmers were trained to convert their skills towards running factories. Stalin however exercised fairness at the end. Even if labor pay is minimal, he ensured that factory workers are given free medical are; they were made to pay very low housing rent; and were provided with retirement funds. The remaining years of the 1920’s is the surge of fame and power of Joseph Stalin. He defeated and demolished is detractors.
He quashed any and all objections and debates as to how communism and the Soviet Union should progress and develop. Stalin stood by the meaning of his name “Stalin”: Man of Steel. His ultimate, solitary power gained him the patronage of all those who are loyal to him. They worked together to develop the Soviet Union with the objective to catch up with the advancement of the other countries in Europe. Thus began the strong take over of the state over industries, commerce, agrarian activities and placed them on a nationalization program and under the sole control and regulatory power of the state.
The sign of prosperity started to show and Stalin took the opportunity to issue propaganda right and left. The government campaigned in every nook and corner of the country through posters and photographs of Stalin looking happy with all the activities of success told and re-told. To ensure the coherence of the propaganda of good tidings, Stalin and his government took control of all information materials: books and newspapers. All publication and information materials are united in their stories about the progress that Russia is slowly achieving through the rule and leadership of Joseph Stalin. Haugen, 2006) Stalin and His Errors The decade covering 1927 to 1939 witnessed the infamy that Joseph Stalin inflicted in the Soviet Union – all in the name of ensuring the greatness of his country, more so for the propagation of his self-gratification, as historians noted. Starting from his campaign called “The Great Purge”, Stalin stood firm his absolute power and eradicated party members who he identified as traitors to the revolutionary ideals of the country. Those so called traitors and infiltrators to the good of the Communist Party and the country were tried, executed or sent to the Gulag Labor Camps.
In the 1930s, Stalin ruled that anyone who opposes his policies shall be considered as enemy of the state and the people and therefore were also convicted to die or work in labor camps. That period is known as the “Great Terror” wherein millions of Russians died. Because of these summary deaths by Russian who disobeyed Stalin, the Red Army of the Soviet Union could not recruit and train more men as the population decreased and people were needed to support the economic growth that Stalin wants by means of massive productivity of the population.
Therefore, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin and his army were not ready. More lives were sacrificed and taken as the Russians protected their country from the German invasion. One time when election for membership to the Central Committee was scheduled in 1934, a party member, Sergei Kirov, was becoming more popular. However, he was assassinated and suspicion was high that Stalin was the one who ordered Kirov’s death. Instead it was manipulated to point the guilt to three other opposition leaders: Trotsky, Kamenev and Zioviev.
As the investigations were ongoing, Stalin enacted a law about terrorist acts and organizations and the definition and penalties that come along. This then guided the conviction and execution of the alleged assassination plotters. As Stalin made it part of the law that opposition to Soviet activities to be a crime, subsequent incidents in the said period came about to be known as the “Moscow Trials”. Any one can be easily condemned as “enemy of the state” with even no trial or lawyers. Those identified as “enemy of the state” can just be easily tortured and killed.
This method has been referred to as the “troika”. It refers to instant, simple trial and conviction that happens and concluded within a day. Stalin likewise conducted a campaign against the Ukranian nation. He considered Ukraine as a deterring political and social entity. Famine was induced in the state of Ukraine. It was eventually identified by later historians to be a despicable and deplorable genocide. The very strict implementation of the collectivization of the farms and peasants cause major famine in Russia.
Such massive hunger was caused the people were denied of food from their harvest. As the state controls lands and harvests, it was only intended for the sole purpose of export that even if it paved the way for industrialization, it caused the lives of millions of Russians – not only due to death but deteriorating fertility to increase population. (Zuelhlke, 2005) Purging; punishment; exile; torture; conviction – was the total description of the tyranny that Joseph Stalin implemented and imposed during his reign. Millions of Russians perished during his period of rule.
They either died by torture or punishment or hunger or disease. Some were thrown to exiles or deportation. When Stalin died in March 1953, history had mixed reaction thereafter as his merits and demerits. Nearly 40 million Russians died and suffered under his regime. And yet Russia was able to began to establish itself to be a world power through his ruthless leadership. His successor, Nikita Kruschev nevertheless ruled to demolish his legacy. For however greatness Stalin sought for, some factors believed not all ends can justify any means.
Harry Truman was a realistic, pragmatic president who skillfully led the American people against the menace posed by the Soviet Union. Assess the validity of this statement by examining the Foreign Policy implemented during Truman’s presidency. At the end of the Second World War two major issues were brought to attention. The first was dealing with the destruction of the global catastrophe. The second issue involved the shape of the new world and what political alliances were to be made.
And although the U. S. nd Russia were “allies” during the war the second issue was the foremost cause of the contention between the world’s two political/economic systems, Capitalism and Communism. The Cold War was basically an ideological catch-22 in which the U. S. was caught up in, mostly because of the actions taken by the Federal government and the chief executive, Harry S. Truman. Up until Truman’s speech to Congress in 1947, the most powerful influence on American foreign policy had been the Monroe Doctrine, a policy by President Monroe that proposed America ought to keep out of European affairs.
The Truman Doctrine completely overturned the Monroe Doctrine. The Soviet Union viewed the actions taken during Truman’s administration as further threats of American imperialism. Truman’s Foreign Policy reflected an entirely interventionist attitude with the implementation of the Truman Doctrine, the crisis in Berlin, and NATO. Therefore the statement is primarily invalid. In 1947 Communist insurgents threatened to take over both Greece and Turkey, but England could no longer support them.
So in a speech before Congress in which he asked for $400 million in aid to the two countries, Truman asserted that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures. Truman’s statement became the basis for the larger policy, developed by George Kennan, called containment. This idea said that the United States would not instigate a war with the Soviet Union but would come to the defense of countries in danger of Soviet takeover.
The policy pretty much aimed to prevent the spread of communism and encourage the Soviets to abandon their struggle for power. However, such a policy is quite seemingly contradictory. Is it really possible to not instigate conflict when you’re aiding one side and not the other? The same happened with America’s entrance into WWII, the only way to truly prevent any type of conflict is to not be involved or if there must be any involvement due to economic/political ties, it must be done unbiased.
Just as America feared the Soviet threat, the Soviets’ point of view also characterized American Capitalism as threatening, therefore increasing the tensions between the two powerful nations. In 1945 Germany was divided into four sectors as well as Berlin. Upon learning that the three allies were planning to merge their sectors into one country and bring it into the Western economy, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on Berlin. The Berlin crisis forced Truman to consider the possibility of war, and if it came, whether or not atomic weapons would be used.
Another difficult question arose as it needed to be decided whether the bomb would be under military or civilian control. Thus the Atomic Energy Commission was created in order to control these destructive weapons during both peace and wartime. Civilian control over such weapons was widely feared because of the possibility of Soviet spies getting intelligence on American activities. In 1946 Truman sent Bernard Baruch to make recommendations to the United Nations.
He suggested that the US would dominate any international atomic agency and the Soviets countered with a proposal calling for the destruction of all nuclear bombs and a ban on their use. But the Truman administration never considered giving up the American nuclear monopoly pushing Stalin to focus whole-heartedly on the Soviet atomic bomb project. In 1949 the US formed a mutual defense alliance with Western Europe called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Truman had a hard time convincing Congress that this organization was necessary on account of American sentiment previously being avoidant of entangling alliances.
The NATO charter pledged that an attack on one of the member nations constituted an attack on all of the members. Stalin’s aggressive actions at Berlin accelerated the American effort to use military means to contain communism. So the implementation of this alliance represented Truman’s willingness to disregard the tradition of neutrality. The Soviets also create an alliance called the Warsaw Pact countries that had the equivalent ambitions as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Many of the policies implemented during Truman’s administration were provoking in the minds of the Soviets. And Americans would have probably been less fearful if President Truman hadn’t emphasized Communism as such a big threat. He installed fear in the minds of the citizens and other officials. Maybe not a fear of any tangible threat communism posed but the simple idea of being taken over, from abroad and within. Desperate times do call for desperate measures, but those measures taken should be in the best interests of those among the masses.
Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun
In the tradition of passions plays of a century ago that illustrated the age-old inequalities of unchallenged intrinsic power wielded by a single entity. This is the story of absolute authority and how well earned past loyalties have elapsed and betrayed by fear and replaced with paranoia. Burnt by the Sun, a 1994 film by Russian director and actor Nikita Mikhalkov, the long film even with a tendency to meander, carries the distinction of being the first noteworthy anti-Stalin film produce in post-Communist Russia.
While the subject of matter of post revolution in Russia is not a new platform for addressing the thesis of Stalin’s dictatorial regime, what is interesting and original is the ability and opportunity for Mikhalkov to openly criticize the past without apparent fear of reprisal.
The antagonistic and customary undiscriminating maltreatment launched at the history of the Soviet era has served to strengthen the political movement in late 19th-century Russia that sought to bring about a just new society by destroying the existing one through acts of terrorism and assassination.
The obvious resentment of modern Russian film-makers toward the concept of socialism has not prevented them from producing a considerable number of films about Russia’s past during the past decade. For the most part, the directors of these films have sought to outdo one another in depicting the agonies of Soviet history.
The tale of the films begins in 1936 Russia, slightly less than two decades following the Communist Revolution. This point in time is seated in the midst of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee Joseph Stalin’s era murderous dictatorship. The main characters; a well heeled and socially content Colonel Sergueiv Kotov, a military hero of the Bolshevik revolution, his young beautiful wife Maroussia and their six-year old daughter Nadia are established in peaceful yet sheltered existence from the rest of post revolutionary Russia. Their surroundings are idyllic and rustic, all expected from yearly sabbatical.
However, the untroubled setting is soon disrupted by the untimely entrance of Dimitri; an old love of Kotov’s wife Maroussia, a young entertainer of a man, grew up with Kotov’s wife’s family. Ironically, 10 years ago, Dimitri served under Kotov and hence was ordered away on duty. The motives of such decision was suspect to say the least, but now Dimitri, of unknown means and purpose, has returned with a tacit mission. Even while pleasantries were exchanged, adolescent amusements offer and lover’s memories revisited, Dimitri had assumed the task of arresting Kotov for espionage under order from Stalin. Rather paradoxical since Kotov was openly very patriotic, dedicated to the State of the Soviet Union to the extent of carrying a photograph with him of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
The tale ends as it presents Kotov slowly and tactfully being removed from his relaxed and filled with humor semi-retirement. Obviously, this story being about Stalinist Russia, the closing stages will not reach a cheerful finish. The film has effectively taught us just how brutal those murderous years were and the insanity on which it was all based. The audience is presented with the beauty of happy, content lives crushed by the demands of Joseph Stalin. Directly, in the conclusion, we are shown Kotov, a heroic courageous, dedicated and loyal soldier of Russia who, having devoted a lifetime to serving his motherland, is ultimately destroyed by a fellow soldier.
Despite Kotov’s threats to contact Stalin directly, witnesses are shot, he is badly beaten and eventually executed. Whether a deeper plot envisioned by Stalin existed or not, the plan took the lives two loyalist, from grief, Dimitri commits suicide.
Unlike most depictions of this time period that display the horrors in surfeit, Burnt by the Sun has clearly focused on presenting a genuine sharp critique of Stalinism. Much of the command of this film is due to the restrained manner in which Mikhalkov integrates a forbidding significance into the script. His clear offering of allowing all the humanity of the characters develop first, in complete humor and visual beauty, before letting them fall prey to their fate.
Symbolism plays a key part in Burnt by the Sun. Some of it, while images are subtle and obscure, imagery is left up to the viewer to determine how literally to take several instances of magic realism. Mikhalkov ensure that his central thesis is so strong and conveyed in such a manner that it’s impossible to overlook or be misunderstood for another point.
Director Nikita Mikhalkov is candid about the definitive meaning of his film by dedicating it to “everyone who was burnt by the sun of the Revolution.” (Bulavka, 1997, p139) This movie is very much an attack on the policies and paranoia of Stalin. The chilling final scenes emphasize the theme as we come to realize just how far-reaching the dictator’s grasp was, and how insecure even the most loyal patriots were.
One result, however it was intended, has been that both Russian audiences and the film-makers communities have tended to grow weary of the traditional national cinema preoccupation with its themes and obsessions. All the reason more Burnt by the Sun., was met with an enthusiastic reception not only in Russia but also in the West, (eventually receiving an Oscar.) Burnt by the Sun uses the medium of film to pose social questions and explore social relationships with some attempts to combine opposing segments of radically different style and presentation.
In many ways, Burnt by the Sun is presented by Mikhalkov as an intense pathos that rivals any cinematic present day effort. The film presents a challenge to the main trends in post-Soviet Russian cinema. Traditionally, film-making in Russia is dominated by the realism in the democratic classification therefore advancing tired themes. Clearly, the Russian audiences have suffered for a realistic candid character that deals with the important dilemma of the moral duality of man. If not with the times in which he is currently living but all times that follow.
However, the only criticism of the production is the over-emphasized methodical process of reaching the main point of the story. The overall finale primarily impacts the audience due to the beginning of the film is subdued, therefore setting up a climatic end. The crux is essential yet distant for it takes an extremely long time for it to be enjoyed by the audience.
Stalin’s Economic Policies
Stalin’s economic policies consisted mainly of two factors, Collectivisation and the Five Year Plans. Stalin’s economic policies were definitely a success to some extent, especially when referring to the increase in production and number of workers that were free to move to industry due to collectivisation. These were two of Stalin’s main aims, therefore economically and politically his policies were highly successful. However when judging the extent of this success we must consider the huge social suffering that was caused due to these polices, as in my opinion these disastrous failures outweigh the contrasting success’s.
One of Stalin’s aims was to achieve rapid industrialisation in the Soviet Union, in order to protect it from the threat of war. Stalin said that ‘We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed.’ This shows that he believed the need to industrialise quickly was just as important as the need to industrialise.
To achieve this Stalin set up ambitious targets known as the Five Year Plans (FYP) to encourage his workers to accomplish rapid industrialisation.
Stalin’s aims for the FYP’s were partially achieved. Especially during the first FYP emphasis was placed on the heavy industry for example, coal, iron, steel and electricity. In most areas Stalin set the target to double production. In December 1932 it was announced that the first FYP had been so successful that it was to finish a year early, although when looking at the figures many of the targets had not been reached, all raw material production had hugely increased. In addition to the funding it received, increased production in heavy industry was achieved by improving efficiency in existing factories, as well as developing new industrial plants.
Stalin used the impressive statistics of increased production in heavy industry as evidence of his wise leadership and the triumph of socialism in Russia. Nonetheless, behind soviet propaganda lay a chaotic economy in which the struggle to meet targets created enormous inefficiencies and low labour productivity. Although it cannot be denied that production had greatly increased by the end of the first FYP, many of the official targets were never met. Party officials who did not meet their production targets were demoted, sacked or in some case executed as enemies of the state. This fear forced some officials to lie about the amount of raw materials produced, making it appear that targets had been met, when in reality many factories were lagging behind.
Also because the targets only referred to the amount of product created and not the quality large proportion of materials produced were of such a poor quality that they were effectively useless. Improving living standards was never an objective of the plan, so to some extent the decline of living standards cannot be judged a failure but it does indicate that the plan was poorly formulated, and Stalin was willing to sacrifice the social aspects of his country to improve the economic. During the first FYP record production was accompanied by a decline of living standards and further restrictions in personal freedom.
The targets for the second FYP were more realistic than the First, and its achievements were more modest. The government announced again that the targets had been met a year early and in fact been overfilled by 3%, the output of steel for example trebled, largely due to production from the new plants such as Magnitogorsk. One of the aims of the second FYP was to improve transport which was a success as the first lines of the Moscow metro were built in 1935. Additionally, the Moscow-Volga Canal was completed between 1932 and 1937. The canal allowed the transportation of large quantities of material throughout Western Russia. In early 1934 bread rationing was ended which was soon followed by the end of rationing other commodities such as meat and butter. The wages of industrial workers also increased and there was a small improvement in living standards.
However along with all of these successes came many new chronic failures. There was a huge lack of coordination between the different branches of industry. For example in order to meet their targets, factory managers would hoard resources that were in short supply which simply meant larger scarcity of these products to others. Also, when the factories had been built and loaded with new machinery to increase efficiency, no one thought about the need for spare parts to fix this machinery when it was broken, without the appropriate parts, machinery remained idle and unproductive. Thirdly due to the threat or exile or execution everyone was too frightened to report faults or problems with the FYP’s so they could not be improved.
Consequently, the practice of lying about figures that emerged under the First FYP continued into the second. Finally, the mid-1930’s saw the emergence of a new and sometimes shocking social inequalities. This became very clear in the Stakhanovite movement, where the most efficient workers would be rewarded with luxury flats and copious amounts of food, whereas the other workers were living in their own squalor. As well as the over-achieving workers, party officials were also living the high life. 55,000 senior Communists were entitled to better food, better clothes and better accommodation to the average citizen. This was a mass divide that should not exist in any society, let alone a Socialist one.
The Third FYP ended brusquely after three and a half years because of Russia’s entry to the Second World War. Largely, the Third FYP used the methods developed in the First FYP in war production, in an attempt to prepare Russia for war with Germany. However while the total number of war products increased significantly there were still many on-going problems with production methods and the quality of products produced. The Third FYP saw the increase of a new style of workers discipline which was now being used to ensure war production continued to rocket. This discipline was enforced by Stalin’s purges, which resulted in the removal or execution of many experienced industrial managers, leading to the chaos of the party that had characterised the First FYP.
Between 1928 and 1941, Russia was transformed from a rural society to a highly industrialised one. Stalin’s objective had been to turn Russia into a world power, which he has succeeded in and many argue that without the FYP’s Russia would have been defeated by Germany. However it cannot be forgotten that along with industrialisation had come famine and social disaster. While large amounts of raw materials were produced, and industry grew at an exceptional rate, the Russian economy as a whole remained hopelessly inefficient.
The second of Stalin’s economic policy was Collectivisation. Collectivisation was the Communists; long-term aim for agriculture. Traditionally Russian peasants had worked individually on small farms with very little technology. Stalin hoped to re-invent the way Russians farmed by joining together many small farms and producing one large farm with less workers and more machinery. This was to free up workers for industry and make farming on the whole, more efficient.
On paper Collectivisation seemed like a good idea for a communist society as it would abolish the class system and the capitalist’s methods of farming, in theory it would mean that everyone would be equal and working towards the good of the country, instead of farming to create food and profit for themselves, nevertheless in practice it was very different. In 1927 Collectivisation was introduced as a voluntary scheme, however at the beginning of 1929 it became clear the Russian peasants were not about to give up their freedom and individualism that easily, and so Stalin re-introduced Collectivisation as mandatory. There was huge resistance from peasants; they reacted to the seizure of their grain by burning their houses and slaughtering their livestock. The majority of the peasant population were not willing to cooperate with these new extreme policies.
Kulaks in particular did not like the new policy of Collectivisation. Stalin responded to this with an instruction to ‘liquidate the kulaks as a class’. Which vastly increased the speed of Collectivisation, Stalin had proposed that by the end of 1934 30% of Russia’s farms would be collectivised, whereas ‘dekulakisation’ entailed immediate collectivisation of all farming in Russia. Stalin’s idea was to have the poorest peasants to lead the way, this was due to the idea that they could join with other farms and share the Kulaks equipment and much greater harvest. However these poor peasants were a minority and the only ones who could see a benefit from Collectivising. To the rest of Russia Collectivisation meant loss of independence as well as financial loss. Therefore most of the peasants rebelled. Stalin simply fought this rebelling with more force.
Collectivisation was Stalin’s method of bringing socialism and economic efficiency to the countryside. In those terms it failed. It was also linked to industrialisation and in this sense there was some success. Although the policy created economic chaos, famine and massive open hostility to the government, it did strengthen Stalin’s position and in this way it was a political triumph.
Economically Stalin’s goals were partially achieved as he did create more free peasants to begin working in industry. By the end of Collectivisation there was 66% of Russian farms collectivised, which could also be seen as a failure as the aim was for all of them to be collectivised. One of the aims was also to provide more grain for export in order to generate funds to begin industrialising. Although the amount of grain produced did fall and never returned to post-war levels, the amount seized and procured did create a surplus for exporting. In 1928 the state procured 11 million tonnes of grain, and this rose to 16 million tonnes in 1929. Along with these economic successes came the economic failures, as grain production had fallen hugely and the peasant’s rebellion meant most of it was burnt and many livestock was slaughtered. The peasants were also working for low wages and had poor living conditions.
Politically, the chaos created by collectivisation in some way had managed to unite the party and made them feel stronger than before. Stalin had also emerged as a powerful leader and his capability was no longer doubted. Also the population was urbanised which was one of the main aims of collectivisation. However the famine and poverty in the countryside had created a feeling of crisis among many of the communist party.
Although there were many successes of collectivisation, and it had created a fund to begin industrialisation and made Stalin appear as a strong and powerful leader, it had had a devastating effect on Russia’s peasantry. 10,000,000 people had been exiled as part of the dekulakisation drive. In 1929 150,00 Kulak families were sent to Siberia, this figure then rose again to 285,000 in 1931.
The peasants who now worked on the new collectivised farms endured humungous hardship. They were constantly set unrealistic targets and paid low wages for the mass of crops that were produced. Most farms were barely able to cover their production costs and instead of filling them with communist spirit and preparing them for industrialisation, it created anger and vast resentment towards the new leader. Grain requisitioning caused 7 million peasants to die of famine, and along with many farms being collectivised came mass unemployment.
In conclusion, Stalin’s economic policies were a personal and a propaganda success, whereas in reality they had had detrimental effects on the Russian population. Many of Stalin’s aims were met and to him that was all that mattered. He refused to acknowledge the mass suffering that his new economic policies had created.