Joseph Stalin was born on 18 December 1878 to Besarion Jughashvili and Ketevan Geladza in the town of Gori, Tiflis, Russian Empire. At the time of his birth, he was named Loseb Besarionis dze Dzugashvili. While at the age of seven, Stalin contracted small pox that scarred his face permanently. At the age of ten, he attended a church school that forced Georgian students to speak Russian. Stalin was involved in an accident at the age of twelve that left his left arm permanently damaged. Brackman (2003) asserts that at the age of sixteen, Stalin was awarded a scholarship to the Georgian Orthodox Seminary where he rebelled against religious order and the imperialist. However, he was expelled from the Georgian Orthodox Seminary in 1899, and the reasons of his expulsion are unclear as some records indicated he had been involved in reading illegal literature and others indicate that he had formed a Social Democratic study circle. After the expulsion, Stalin decided to become a Marxist revolutionary joining Lenin Bolsheviks in 1903 after deriving a motivation from the writings of Vladimir Lenin. Within a short period, Stalin became one of the chief operatives of the Bolsheviks in the Caucasus playing the role of organizing militaries, spreading propaganda, raising money for operations through bank robbing, and inciting strikes. Stalin married Ekaterina Svanidze during the summer in 1906 giving birth to Yakov, Stalin’s first born. Stalin was captured and sent to Siberia seven times, but escaped these exiles every time. Eventually, he adopted the name Stalin that in Russian means steel. During his last exile to Siberia, the Russian army conscripted Stalin to fight in World War I, but was later deemed unfit because of his left damaged arm.
Revolution, Civil War, and Polish-Soviet War
Stalin’s Role the Russian Revolution War in 1917
Stalin ousted Alexander Shlyapnikov and Vyacheslav Molotov as editors of Pravada after his return to Petrograd from exile in Siberia. He played an instrumental role in supporting Alexander Kerensky’s provisional government. However, the prevalence of Lenin at the April 1917 Communist Party conference made Stalin and Pravada shift to opposing the provisional government as he was elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee. Haugen (2006) affirms that in November 1917, the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace arresting Kerensky’s Cabinet.
Role in the Russian War, 1917-1919
After taking control of Petrograd, Stalin was appointed Peoples’ Commissar for National’s Affairs. In the meantime, civil war pitting Lenin’s Red Army against the White Army broke out in Russia. Lenin formed a five-member Politburo that included Trotsky and Stalin. Stalin was dispatched to the City of Tsaristyn. He encouraged the execution of any renegades in his army in public places.
Role in the Polish-Soviet War, 1919-1921
Poland started invading Ukraine after the Bolshevik victory in the Russian War. This was referred to as the Polish-Soviet War, but the Bolsheviks managed to push them back to Poland. Stalin was determined to take the City of Lviv, which was under the control of the Polish. This plan was against the strategy desired by Trotsky and Lenin, which had been aimed at capturing Warsaw on the north. In line with these disagreements, the Bolshevik lost both Lviv and Warsaw. Stalin refused to comply with the orders of Lenin and went back to Moscow where he resigned his military command job.
Rise to Power
In 1921, Stalin played a decisive role in masterminding the Red Army invasion of Georgia. In line with this, he adopted a hardliner position and centralist position toward Soviet Georgia. This motivated the rise of the Georgian Affair in 1922 and other oppressive actions. Lenin was not happy with the actions of Stalin because he believed that all Soviet states should stand in an equal position. Later on, Lenin appreciated Stalin as a more loyal ally and he added him more power. Ingram & Kenworthy (2002) assert that Lenin pushed for the appointment of Stalin as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1922 with the help of Lev Kamemev. With the acquisition of the position, Stalin appointed more of his allies to government positions with the aim of accessing more support. Lenin suffered stroke in 1922, and this forced him to a semi-retirement in Gorki. Stalin was his frequent visitor, but their relationship deteriorated as they quarreled frequently about Stalin’s political views.
Stalin formed an alliance with Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev against Trotsky during Lenin’s semi-retirement. The alliance was aimed at preventing Lenin’s Testament from being revealed to the Twelfth Party Congress in April 1923. Lenin died in January 1924 and his Testament was highly prevented from getting to the public. The key point of contention between Stalin and Trotsky was the Northern Expedition of China. Stalin was of the opinion that the Communist Party of China should ally itself with the Nationalist Kuomintang. Trotsky on his side urged the party to oppose the Kuomintang and launch a full-scale revolution. Stalin was determined at countering Trotsky’s criticisms through a secret speech in which he noted that the Kuomintang were the only ones who were capable of vanquishing the imperialists, that Chiang-Kai-shek received funding from rich merchants, and that his forces were to be used completely.
It is worth noting that Stalin played an instrumental role in the push for industrialization and overall control of the economy, contravening the New Economic Policy (NEP) that Lenin had promoted. Latimer (2007) confirms that in December 1934, Sergei Kirov, a Communist Party boss was murdered in Linegrad. Stalin blamed the vast conspiracy of saboteurs and the Trotsky’s for the murder. He launched a massive hunt for these people, whom he considered internal enemies. He put them on trial and had some of them executed and others imprisoned in the Siberian Gulags. Among the victims captured, some such as Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Rykov. Stalin went further and made Nikolai Yezhov head of the secret police and utilized him to purge the NKVD of veteran Bolsheviks. With the murder of the key enemies, Stalin did not have any other worry and marinated a strong control of the government.
During Stalin’s regime, many changes both positive and negative came into place in the Soviet society. Some of the key changes that came into place include the increase in the powers of secret police and the intelligence, creation of a cult of personality, increased purges and deportations of all enemies, population transfers, and the introduction of collectivization of agriculture with the aim of increasing agricultural produce. Additionally, there was development in industrialization in line with the New Economic Policy, increased research and scientific developments, and promoted the development of culture. This can be evidenced by his decision to become a Russian national despite being born in Georgia. He was also in power when there was an enormous famine in the Soviet Union. Many people died because of the adverse effects of the famine that made their lives difficult.
World War II, 1939-1945
Pact with Hitler
After Stalin failed to sign an anti-German military alliance with Britain and France and talks with Germany concerning a potential political deal, he entered a non-aggression pact with the Nazi Germany after massive negations by Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1939. This led to the division of the entire Eastern Europe into German and the Soviet spheres of influence. The eastern parts of Latvia, Poland, Finland, and Estonia were recognized as parts of the Soviet sphere of influence while Lithuania was added in the second secret protocol of 1939.
Implementation of the Division of Eastern Europe and other Invasions
The German invasion of its agreed portion of Poland led to the start of World War II on 1 September 1939. The Red Army invaded the eastern part of Poland and occupied the Polish territory given to it under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Rappaport (1999) affirms that after the declaration by Stalin that he was going to “solve the Baltic problem” by June 1940, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were merged effectively into the Soviet Union after repressions that had led to the death of about 160,000 citizens in these states. After the signing of the Tripartite by Axis Powers Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1940, Stalin tried to convince Ribbentrop concerning entering a permanent basis for their mutual benefits. With an effort to illustrate his peaceful intentions with Germany, Stalin witnessed the signing of the neutrality pact with the Axis power Japan in April 1941.
Soviets Stop the Germans
Germans were pressing forward at an alarming rate, but Stalin was determined to defeat them. In September 1941, Stalin stated to the British diplomats his desire to get access to two agreements. The first agreement was that he wanted a mutual assistance pact, and the second agreement was that he wanted recognition that after the war, the Soviet Union would gain the territories that had been agreed under the Molotov-Ribberntrop Pact. The British supported the mutual assistance pact, but rejected the desire to gain territories under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. By December 1941, Hitler’s forces were advancing to Moscow at an alarming speed and Stalin’s forces were forced to make a counterattack. They managed to push Hitler’s forces between 40 and 50 miles away from Moscow. Hitler shifted his desire of earning a victory in the East to a long-term goal of securing the Southern Soviet to conquer oil field, which would be vital to Germany. Later, in 1942, Hitler praised the efficiency of Stalin and the Soviet military industry.
The Soviet Push to Germany
The Soviets played a vital role in repulsing the German strategic southern campaign as this could help them in the launch of effective offensive attacks for the rest of the war on the Eastern Front. The Soviets were successful in repulsing Germany’s attempted encirclement attack at the Kursk. Stalin was more willing to listen to the advice of his generals after the incident. Zuehlke (2006) confirms that by the end of 1943, the Soviets formed an effective occupation of almost half of the territory that had been taken by Germans between 1941 and 1942. Stalin had also played a vital role in the development of the Soviet military industrial output by moving the factories to the East of the front hence keeping them away from German attacks.
Further, in 1943, Stalin met Roosevelt and Churchill in Tehran. They came to an agreement that Britain and America would launch an invasion on France 1944. Stalin was of the view that the Soviet Union should incorporate portions of Poland that it had occupied in line with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but Churchill opposed this. The Soviet Union made enormous advances across Eastern Europe toward Germany.
The Ultimate Victory
In April 1945, Stalin successfully lobbied for the acquisition of Eastern Germany into the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence at Yalta. There were no initial plans by the Western Allies to take over the city by a ground of operation. Stalin was instrumental in the vanquish of German invasions hence being referred to as one of the most influential men in the global history.
Haugen (2006) affirms that the health of Stalin was deteriorating at a faster rate toward the end of World War II. He suffered atherosclerosis because of his heavy smoking. It is asserted that after dinner and a movie session, Stalin went to his Kuntsevo home, but failed to emerge from his room the next morning. Peter Lozgachev found him in his room and announced the bitter news of his death. It was alleged that Stalin had died from cerebral hemorrhage.