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Recently I have read an article that claimed that Stalin wanted to introduce competitive, alternative elections in the USSR while the regional secretaries were strongly against the idea and pushed for a "great purge" of 1937 so to secure the positions after the new constitution of 1936 was introduced.
Some background. Following the constitution of 1926 the deputies were elected by the working collectives rather than by a popular vote. This was done so the the bourgeoisie could not participate.
The "stalinist" constitution of 1936 was the first to introduce the voting principle similar to the capitalist countries: the deputies were to be elected based on territorial principle. The newspapers of the time described the forthcoming voting as alternative and Stalin himself made a speech underlining the importance of the possibility of "revoking" a deputy, which as he claimed, was absent from the law of capitalist countries which made the deputies completely independent from the voters during their term.
The article claims that the secretaries were very much in fear about them to loose elections and pushed for political purges which they hoped to control.
Note also that Stalin was behind many other ideas that made the USSR more like other capitalist countries: he pushed for re-introducing military ranks, scientific degrees, reconciliation with the church, abandoned the idea of the world revolution, disbanded Comintern, renamed Red Army into Soviet Army, substituted the political commissars in the army to the commanders.
Basically, this is a lot of tosh. This, ahem, quaint theory is a nice specimen of the modern neo-Stalinist cottage industry. Reality was much simpler: the purges were ordered and organized by Stalin; no alternative elections were ever held in the Soviet Union (till the late 1980s when the system was in its death throes). This was of course by design - the party and Stalin were not willing to relinquish their monopoly of power.
The neo-Stalinists try to rewrite history in various ways. In this particular instance they try to argue that Stalin had nothing to do with the purges and that the "party elites" organized them in order to stimy Stalin's liberal reforms. This is really rich…
One simple question can clear up all this smoke and mirrors: if the "elites" were behind the purges and if they organized them against Stalin - why didn't they just purge Stalin himself?
You read a very correct article. Unfortunately, we are very few. I read a whole book about this moment - "Иной Сталин" ("Another Stalin"). You understand history better than others. My regards.
Were Soviets behind Roswell UFO?
Investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen's new book, "Area 51," suggests that the Soviets stirred up the Roswell UFO incident in 1947 by sending flying disks into New Mexico with child-size aviators on board, as a warning that they could spark a UFO panic if they wanted to.
But will that explanation fly?
Jacobsen's revelation is based on an account from just one unnamed source. This source said he was an engineer with the company EG&G at Area 51, the hush-hush military research site in Nevada. He told Jacobsen that he studied the remnants of the Roswell crash in 1951, along with four other EG&G engineers.
There are no documents to confirm the account — because, Jacobsen says, this was one of the most tightly held secrets of the Cold War. Even though that confirmation is lacking, Jacobsen says she stands by her source's amazing account. "He had nothing to gain and everything to lose by telling me," she told me, "but it was a matter of conscience for him."
Jacobsen's source recounted what he says he saw, as well as what he was told and what he surmised based on that information. Here's the scenario presented in "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base," based on the source's account:
- After World War II, the Soviets capitalized on the work being done on stealthy flying-wing aircraft by a group of Nazi German engineers headed by two brothers, Walter and Reimar Horten. They developed disk-shaped flying machines that could sporadically evade radar detection. The U.S. military perfected such technology at Area 51 over the decades that followed to produce planes such as the F-117 stealth attack aircraft.
- Soviet leaders were spooked by the U.S. military's use of the atom bomb to bring the war to a quick close. They were a couple of years away from developing their own atomic weapons, based on secrets stolen from the U.S. bomb effort. The Roswell incident was aimed at warning the Truman administration that the Soviets could create a UFO hoax, stirring up fears similar to those that were sparked inadvertently by the fictional "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in 1938.
- Jacobsen's source believes that the Soviets dispatched flying-disk drone aircraft from a mothership flying near Alaska. Intermittent radar signals were picked up by U.S. installations, but the disks were nevertheless able to enter U.S. airspace and come down near Roswell, N.M.
- "Child-size aviators" were aboard the disks: humans, seemingly about 13 years old, who may have been surgically or biologically altered to give them enlarged heads and eyes. Jacobsen quotes her source as saying he was told that the alien look-alikes were the result of experiments conducted by Nazi mad scientist Josef Mengele. The bodies were recovered from the wreckage, and two of them were alive but comatose.
- The wreckage and the bodies were transported from New Mexico to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for study, then transferred again to Area 51 in Nevada. This is where Jacobsen's source saw them in 1951. The source is quoted as saying he saw Russian writing stamped on a ring that went around the inside of the aircraft, and that he saw the child-size bodies on a life support system.
- When Jacobsen asked why President Harry Truman didn't report all this in 1947, she said the source replied, "Because we were doing the same thing." She notes in the book that the Atomic Energy Commission and the Defense Department carried out human experiments on the effects of radiation, and suggests that the hundreds of experiments revealed in 1995 were just the tip of the iceberg. "I believe that a lot of what the Atomic Energy Commission did was reckless and dangerous," she told me.
This latest explanation runs counter to the scenarios put forward by the federal government — first, that the Roswell wreckage came from a weather balloon, and then that it was debris from a crash-test dummy drop as well as a balloon-borne experiment to monitor nuclear blasts. It also runs counter to the long-held claims by UFO activists that the crash actually represented a covered-up visitation by extraterrestrials.
Drawing fire from both sides
As such, Jacobsen's Roswell account is taking fire from UFO skeptics as well as those who give the alien scenario more credence. In a novel twist, Clifford Clift of the Mutual UFO Network told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the linkage to German aerospace technology was too tenuous to be believed.
"After researching the claim, I found little truth in this theory," he said. "It is a stretch. One of my concerns is if they wanted to create panic, why in New Mexico and not in New York where there are more people to panic? I would suggest it is another conspiracy theory, and heavens, MUFON knows about conspiracy theories. They do sell books."
Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center said he also was skeptical about Jacobsen's account, although he stressed that he hasn't yet read the entire book.
"People have been studying the Roswell case for decades now," he told the New Mexican. "They've got deathbed testimony. They've got testimony from military officers who were involved, eyewitnesses. I think I'll go with the latter, rather than this young lady who penned this new book."
Investigator Kal Korff — who took aim at the alien claims in his 1997 book, "Roswell UFO Crash" — said he wasn't buying the "Area 51" story either. "Of all the crazy ideas as to what is behind Roswell, this is one of the most extreme out there," he told me in an email.
Beyond the substance of the story, there's the issue of basing such a dramatic story on one person's account. "I would never report anything related to UFOs based on only one unnamed source!" journalist Leslie Kean, the author of "UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record," wrote in a Facebook update.
Jacobsen told me that getting the story out of even one of the five engineers who were involved in the Area 51 follow-up to the Roswell incident was a months-long job.
"What's important to understand is that all of the top five EG&G engineers had top secret clearances and also Q clearances. . So you're dealing with the most upper-echelon clearances you could possibly have within the federal government, in the Atomic Energy Commission. Your 'need-to-know' is so strict that you only know what you know. . To suggest that the five engineers could stand around and discuss, 'Hey, what do you think is,' is a bit naive," she said. "It's 'take this craft apart and put it back together . take these bodies and move them over here.' And that is about the extent of it."
It's also important to understand that there's a lot more to "Area 51" than Roswell. The Roswell tale, which takes up about 30 pages of the 544-page book, is the only one that depends on a single unnamed source, Jacobsen said. Most of the book focuses on the stories behind formerly secret programs ranging from nuclear bomb tests to the development of the U-2 and A-12 Oxcart spy planes. To this day, military officials avoid referring to Area 51 by that name.
The gorilla-mask scenario
So if the Roswell UFO wasn't an alien (or Soviet) intruder, and if you don't buy the official explanation that it was a balloon experiment, what else might it have been? One of the alternate explanations is that the "UFO" was indeed a flying disk, but that it was a U.S. rather than a Soviet experimental craft. In this scenario, the alien-looking bodies might have been dummies designed to create a preposterous cover story.
Jacobsen herself refers to a similar disinformation strategy that the Air Force used in 1942, when the first jet aircraft were being developed at California's Muroc dry lake bed. She said one of the test pilots for the Bell XP-59A jet plane, Jack Woolams, put on a gorilla mask when he went on a flight — just in case other pilots training on different planes came flying nearby to take a look.
"Instead of seeing Woolams, the pilot saw a gorilla flying an airplane — an airplane that had no propeller," Jacobsen wrote. "The stunned pilot landed and went straight to the local bar and ordered a stiff drink. He told the other pilots what he'd definitely seen with his own eyes. His colleagues told him he was drunk, that he was an embarrassment, that he should go home."
Thus was the secret of the Bell XP-59A preserved, even from the other fliers at the Muroc base (now known as Edwards Air Force Base).
Were the Roswell aliens actually dummies, the equivalent of pilots wearing gorilla masks? Or is Jacobsen's source correct? Is the truth more monstrous than people thought? Even though the eyewitnesses are dying off, Jacobsen believes the real story may be contained within the hundreds of millions of documents about "black" projects that are still said to be classified.
She notes that all of the sources she consulted while researching "Area 51" told her they knew much more than they were telling. "Everyone always ends with, 'Well, Annie, I've actually told you 5 percent of what I know,'" Jacobsen said.
Is the truth out there? Or will it remain mired in reams upon reams of conjecture and disinformation? Feel free to weigh in with your comments below.
More about UFOs:
You can connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page or following @b0yle on Twitter. Also, give a look to "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.
Davies, Sarah. (1997). Popular Opinion in Stalin's Russia: Terror, Propaganda and Dissent, 1934-1941. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Getty, J. Arch. (1991). "State and Society under Stalin: Constitutions and Elections in the 1930s." Slavic Review 50(1):18-35.
Petrone, Karen. (2000). Life Has Become More Joyous Comrades: Celebrations in the Time of Stalin. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Unger, Aryeh L. (1981). Constitutional Developments in the U.S.S.R.: A Guide to the Soviet Constitutions. London: Methuen.
Wimberg, Ellen. (1992). "Socialism, Democratism, and Criticism: The Soviet Press and the National Discussion of the 1936 Draft Constitution." Soviet Studies 44(2):313-332.
The list of publications about Stalin’s Gulag might be long, but what do we know about the lives of queer people in Soviet concentration camps? This interview introduces the work of acclaimed historian Dan Healey, who sheds light on how gay men survived the Soviet Gulag, their life afterwards and different attitudes in the USSR to gay men and lesbians.
Dan Healey, Professor of Modern Russian History at Oxford University, has explored the history of homosexuality in tsarist and Soviet Russia, the nature of masculinity under socialism, the problems of sexual disorders and sexual violence in the USSR and the history of medicine in Stalin’s Gulag. Healey is the author of the only published monograph on the history of homosexuality in Russia: Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent.
Kirill Guskov spoke to Dan Healey after the launch of his latest book: Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi.
What do we know about gay/queer people in Gulag? Who were they?
We know from FSB archives and publicly accessible court papers that homosexual inmates of the Gulag were generally men aged between 25 and 50, most of them urban dwellers. We also know that 30% of these men had some connection with culture and the arts: they worked in worked in theatres or libraries or had literary occupations. The other 70% was made up of manual workers and people in “white collar” jobs. That gives you a kind of snapshot of the composition of the group of people imprisoned for their homosexuality under Article 154-a of the RSFSR Penal Code.
Sexual relations between men were punishable by imprisonment of between three and five years, and sexual relations between men with the use of violence or the subjugation of one party to the other were punishable by imprisonment of between five and eight years.
The subjects of your book were not only people arrested under Article 154-a. You talk about homosexual relations between prisoners convicted of other offences. What do we know about this second category?
Dan Healey's latest book: Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi.
In the first place, we need to be careful when we talk about what it meant to be a homosexual in the Gulag. We don’t know for certain whether the prisoners analysed were actually gay or lesbian, or whether they just accommodated themselves to a particular culture. It’s hard to talk about this without any personal stories that could provide an idea of what these people thought.
In the second place, I can say that single sex relationships have existed in prisons at all times and in all countries. We have to remember that in most prison systems, men and women do not share accommodation. So in this kind of system, there are always people of a sexually active age who will try to enter a same-sex relationship. They existed in Russia as well as anywhere else. We know about this from Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead, Chekhov’s Journey to Sakhalin and numerous other pre-revolutionary memoirs. There were same-sex relationships between women as well: these relationships were documented in the 1920s by Soviet criminologist Mikhail Gernet.
How did guards in the camps relate to these two categories of prisoner?
In different ways, but I want to answer your question by first talking about something else. We still don’t really know why Stalin decided to criminalise homosexuality. There are two theories about this. The first concerns the social purging of the cities, the second that Stalin had political reasons connected with the issue of national security. Soviet leaders feared that homosexual groups could make a pact with Germany or other powers to destabilise the USSR.
We can, however, offer a circumstantial explanation about the political nature of the decision. It’s known that in 1933 Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Soviet secret police, wrote a letter to Stalin in which he said that “homosexuals are being arrested, but we have realised that we don’t have an article to charge them under. We think they are planning a plot.” Gays had their own groups, and this put the Soviet government on edge. Also, “outing”, the public disclosure of information about gays’ sexual orientation, could, in an atmosphere of public homophobia, become a potential risk for blackmail by foreign intelligence services.
The political interpretation of this “crime” was the reason for the severity of sentences under Article 154-a, as “politicals” were “socially hostile” inmates in the Soviet prison camp system. Homosexuals were treated even more harshly than prisoners convicted under Article 58 (anti-revolutionary activity), as everyone knew that “political” charges were often fabricated. This leads to the conclusion that those convicted under Article 154-a were the lowest of the low in the prison system, although homosexual criminals were treated less harshly, especially under Stalin.
Homosexuals were treated even more harshly than prisoners convicted under Article 58 (anti-revolutionary activity)
The second reason for the severity shown to gays was to do with public homophobia. Agents of the OGPU/NKVD (as the Soviet secret police was known at different times), the police and other bodies that dealt with these matters knew exactly what “crime” they were arresting homosexuals for. They feared and hated the arrestees, or at least showed hostility to them.
There’s one more important factor here: We know that Stalin personally corrected the draft law in 1934, and added the stipulation that the minimum sentence should be three years. People with sentences of less than three years were sent to penal colonies for “social correction”. These were usually to be found in the European part of Russia and close to towns, and their inmates were “socially close” and were expected to have become model Soviet citizens by the end of their sentence. But gays didn’t fall into that category. They were sent to camps in remote parts of the country and with inhuman conditions. Stalin seemed to be giving a “sign”: “They are the lowest of the low, they can’t be reformed”.
What kind of harsh treatment were they subjected to?
Homosexual prisoners were humiliated both physically and psychologically, separated from other inmates, forced to use separate toilets and kitchen equipment. They were also sometimes subjected to rape. Here the rapist, taking the active role, was not regarded as gay: he was a person asserting his power over a “degraded element”. We have, however, very few documents from this period, and no access to the ones that could provide us with more information. The “politicals” were mostly educated people who left memoirs behind them. The “ordinary” criminals were not educated people and had little desire to write autobiographies.
What do you know about other types of gay relationships in the Gulag? Is there anything known about prison guards, for example?
The singer Vadim Kozin. Source: Wikipedia. Public domain.
It’s nearly impossible to answer these questions, because few even amongst the most educated of Gulag inmates left any written documentation behind, given the homophobia of Soviet society and the all-embracing fear in the population. When ex-prisoners began to write about gay relationships in the Gulag, they would always talk about them as someone else’s experience, not their own. The singer Vadim Kozin spent five years in the camps, between 1945 and 1950, convicted partly under Article 154-a and partly under Article 58 (for making anti-Soviet remarks during the war). Kozin’s case is interesting because he left a diary which he had kept all his adult life, and part of it, the entries for 1955-1956, has been published.
But even Kozin doesn’t speak about his own homosexual experiences, if he had any, in the camps. He writes about “homosexuals in the theatre”, i.e. “them”, not “me”. Kozin worked in his local theatre with a pianist called Kabanov, whom he describes as “a tall, good-looking man”. When they went on tour around Siberia, Kabalov would always find a new “friend”. Kozin’s diary then records a conversation between him and Kabanov and a third, straight man, where Kabalov talked openly about his sexuality. Kozin was, of course, staggered by this frankness, as his diary entry shows.
You write in your book that the most open gays in the camps belonged to the “criminal” population. What do you mean by this?
The memoirs written about homosexuals in the camps are mostly about common criminals. We have fewer reminiscences of members of the intelligentsia, because they saw their sexual and romantic lives as private and not to be “shown off”. They were also just plain ashamed of their sexuality. The prison management “loved” the criminals and didn’t particularly interfere with their activities. We know from the works of Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov that they had quite a lot of freedom: they could spend the whole day playing cards in their barracks and send their slaves out to work. This wasn’t a universal situation, but it was pretty widespread.
Could gay men and lesbians hold hands, for example, without anyone bothering about it?
I would say that no one would make any fuss about it, because the “masculine” half of the couple would have a knife and could defend himself. Some memoirs talk about whole barracks-full of lesbians who worked together as couples and “controlled”, as you might say, the situation. Sometimes these couples would divide work between them: the “femme” would cook and clean while her “butch” partner would do the tree felling. It’s also known that protection from a mature, experienced partner was a big advantage for a younger woman. The younger partner in a male gay relationship would sometimes become more feminine and even take a female name, and an equivalent development might take place in a lesbian relationship.
Did society become more homophobic after the Gulag was closed down?
That’s a difficult question. On the one hand, there were a lot of “visible” gays returning from the camps. On the other, the 1950s and 1960s were years when the average Soviet citizen began to pay more attention to his or her own private life. People escaped from communal flats into housing estates. And what do we see? I noticed that in the Leningrad region, people realised that some of their neighbours were in gay relationships but paid no attention to it: it was just other people’s private lives. In 1988-1989 I brought a group of American tourists to Leningrad. Our guide was Sasha, a tall blond with several layers of makeup on his face. He would do his face right in front of our tour bus, as he told us about the city’s sights. The tourists were, of course, just amazed.
What happened to homosexuals after their release from the camps? Might they be open in Moscow?
In Moscow, no, but definitely in other places! The question is more about how successfully they could “pass” for the opposite sex when they, for example, smoked or had typical male or female haircuts, clothes and so on. After 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, doctors and people in the Gulag administration started talking openly about the issue at various conferences.
Were people punished for having gay relationships in the Gulag?
It did happen, but we have very little evidence of what happened to them because the relevant documents have been kept in camp archives, which are deposited in a kind of multi-layer matryoshka of OGPU-NKVD archives. Take the case, for example, of a paediatrician named Titov who was imprisoned in the Solovki prison camp (from which the entire Gulag grew) in Russia’s far north in the 1930s. From what I remember, he was convicted on Article 154-a but then given an additional 10 year sentence for being caught “in flagrante” in the camp. There are similar examples in various memoirs.
Things like this happened throughout the Soviet period for various reasons, including political ones. One famous case was that of filmmaker Sergey Paradjanov, who was arrested and imprisoned several times for his homosexuality, the first time in 1948.
It’s well known that there were gays and bisexuals in the political and cultural elites of the Stalin era. Could you say that there was one law for the elite?
Dan Healey. Source: history.ox.ac.uk
The USSR was no different from other countries in that sense. Yes, members of the elites were treated differently from the common crowd, because they were valued for their other talents. But there was another factor involved. Stalin definitely had problems with talented people. His relations with film director Sergey Eisenstein and composer Dmitry Shostakovich show that as soon as someone became world famous, they couldn’t be sent to the Gulag, although some – the renowned botanist and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov and writer Isaac Babel, for example – were made exceptions to the rule. Stalin’s logic was not always easy to understand. Eisenstein was bisexual (we know this from numerous sources) but Stalin didn’t touch him. He may have had compromising material on him. There was definitely compromising material on Vadim Kozin the NKVD had him under surveillance. They knew he hung around with young men in Moscow's . Metropole Hotel, where he lived, and which was of course a careless thing to do.
Is there any evidence of workers, peasants and other groups which were not part of the intelligentsia being punished for homosexuality?
That’s a good question, but we don’t have enough information on the subject to be able to talk about it. None of them kept diaries or wrote memoirs. When historians interested in the history of the LGBT community get into the archives, they will be able to find some material: researchers from Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Latvia have already begun to write about this, but they are still in the early stages of their quest.
Why has there been no public forum or media campaign around all this? It would be an easy target for inciting hatred and rallying the people around their leader and party.
I think they were working on that scenario. A document shedding light on your question was discovered in the 1990s. It is a letter written in 1934, with the heading: “An open letter from Moscow and Kharkiv homosexuals to Mr Marinus van der Lubbe”. Van der Lubbe was a Dutch communist who was accused by Germany’s Nazi government of setting fire to the Reichstag in that year. He was also known to be an active homosexual. The letter seems in fact to have been a piece of provocation on the part of the OGPU, designed to justify arresting gays in the interests of national security.
In another letter to Stalin, the OGPU proposed more severe sentences for public expressions of homosexuality and for payment for sex between men. Stalin singled out the word “public” and crossed out the whole paragraph. That suggests to me that public discussion of this issue would have been extremely detrimental to Soviet prestige. There is another document from 1939 in the archives of Andrey Vyshinsky, the USSR’s General Prosecutor at the time, which talks about the organisation of a show trial, but this didn’t happen because it would have been politically inexpedient.
So Stalin was worried about prestige?
Yes, of course, especially in the years before 1939 when the USSR was looking for friends and trying to become accepted by the global community via the League of Nations and talks with European powers in order to avoid war with Germany. If Stalin wasn’t worried about the prestige of his country, why should he have produced a purely ornamental Constitution in 1936? This constitution claimed that the USSR was the most democratic state in the world, with normal, civilised laws. And in any case, public trials were more of an exception than a rule: people were just quietly arrested and that was that.
I looked up the figures for people imprisoned for their homosexuality. There weren’t that many. Did some avoid the Gulag?
There are a number of reasons for that. The law didn’t inevitably run its course in every case in other countries either. Also, the Soviet Security Services had enough on their plate without looking for homosexuals to arrest.
Was there a demand from “below”?
We don’t know. One document from the Stalin era (discovered by historian Irina Roldugina) talks about the fact that when in 1932-1933 open gay men in Leningrad suggested having relations with straight men, the latter responded with violence and aggression. There is also a known case where gay and straight sailors got into a fight with one another. But there has been no systematic research on public homophobia.
Why were lesbians immune from prosecution?
It’s a question of comparative gender attitudes. Most countries never introduced laws against lesbianism because women were traditionally restricted to the private sphere and were under the control of their husbands. Stalin and his circle did not approve of women’s emancipation: there was not a single woman in the Politburo, for example. I think that for Stalin, homosexuality was a “male” issue, connected to national security.
Stalin and his circle did not approve of women’s emancipation: there was not a single woman in the Politburo
Women, on the other hand, didn’t serve in the armed forces and weren’t particularly active in the security organs, so they were less of a risk. I also think that Stalin and his associates also believed that a good “seeing-to” by a man would cure them of any lesbian tendencies.
How did you find your sources? What difficulties did you face?
I didn’t set out to study homosexuality in the Gulag. My project was to be about health and medical care in the Gulag. But my initial work was on homosexuality, so I was immediately able to get into that area. I call this ability “a queer eye for the archive”. I found essential documents on homosexuality while working on my original subject. Sometimes people sent me stuff: they knew about me because I had published several pieces on the subject.
Anna Barkova. Source: bessmertnybarak.ru
The difficulties I faced? As the saying goes, “the more haste, the less speed”. I think that when we talk about homosexuality, and especially when you are a foreigner, you can’t just go into the archives and ask for material on the subject directly. Most Russian archivists, apart from anything else, have no clear idea of what is in there. They believe inventories that were made ages ago. And the last thing is that you need a bit of imagination and a comparative approach. I would ask myself, “Where would the Germans and Americans have looked?” When I was doing research on health, I interviewed people who observed homosexual relationships. They were very old.
How did they react? Did their expressions change?
No. I think that when you are over 80 in Russia, you couldn’t give a damn. I interviewed a doctor in Canada who had worked in the Magadan region between 1949 and 1989, and she, without my asking, described the venereal diseases in the camps where there were lesbians. And she used specific terms that would sound pretty homophobic to Canadian ears now: “All kinds of sexual perversions would take place”, and so on. But then she said, “Nowadays, of course, we would use a different, more positive language to describe lesbians and gay men”. She first heard about homosexuality during the war, when she was at medical school. Then she told me how she understood homosexuality: for her, it’s a biological mistake. She believes that some men become homosexual under the influence of “real” gays. This is a pretty widespread attitude towards homosexuality among educated Soviet doctors and experts.
Did your research produce anything surprising or shocking, or give you any hope?
My source of inspiration was the stories of people who managed to survive. One of them was the openly lesbian poet Anna Barkova. She was convicted on a political charge and was in and out of prison three times between 1930 and 1966, in other words her entire adult life. Vadim Kozin’s story is also tragic: the singer was refused permission to follow his profession to the end of his life. On the other hand, his diaries describe a world without homophobia, a world where human dignity will be respected. And that instils optimism in me.
Already, Kotkin is determined to establish Stalin’s sympathy for the Bolshevik “dictatorship” of the intellectuals in contrast to the Menshevik “democracy” of the workers, a standard theme in the field. In truth, the factions known as “Bolsheviks” and “Mensheviks,” along with the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), of which they were a part, would not appear on the scene until three years later. Kotkin backdates the 1903 Bolshevik-Menshevik split to 1900, mixing up the issues that divided the RSDLP at that point with those that agitated Social Democrats sic et simpliciter in 1900. Kotkin’s teleology leads to incoherence.
By 1903, whether or not to agitate in the mass workers’ movement was no longer an issue for Social Democrats like Stalin, as it had been for them in 1900. Even Kvali, long hostile to such agitation, finally came around to the new, interventionist politics. The issue now was the kind of mass-agitation politics they needed to develop, and the type of organization required to develop it.
Georgi Plekhanov, Lenin, and Julius Martov launched Iskra in 1900 and campaigned for three years to unite their fellow socialists in a duly constituted, Empire-spanning party with an elected leadership and an explicitly revolutionary program. When Stalin learned of the Menshevik-Bolshevik split in late 1903, he sided with Lenin. But Kotkin mischaracterizes Stalin’s political choice at that point, just as he does with the earlier one.
As part of Iskra’s literary campaign for political unity, Lenin wrote What Is to Be Done? (1902). He attacked the political strategy of reformism and economism advocated by the anti-Iskrist paper, Rabochee Delo. No one among the Iskrists then saw in Lenin’s widely-disseminated pamphlet a sinister, conspiratorial call for a Blanquist party of intellectuals to make the revolution behind the backs of workers.
Martov did not see this conspiracy. Neither did Plekhanov. Stalin did not see it either as he was pressing Iskra into workers’ hands. But Kotkin does see it. The Mensheviks also saw it — but only after the split.
The Mensheviks decided that Lenin’s approach was disastrously un-Marxist only after they refused to recognize the leadership the London Congress had elected — Lenin, Martov, Plekhanov — rather than those members the Congress had not elected — Vera Zazulich, Alexander Potresov, and Pavel Axelrod. Martov boycotted leadership conferences. Plekhanov, relenting, brought the unelected back.
Lenin demonstratively resigned, protesting that undisciplined, franc-tireur intellectuals should not impose an unelected leadership on the party’s rank and file — a rank and file that, according to Lenin, valued discipline highly, and understood leadership had to be held to account in any democratically-run organization, regardless of its political line. Lenin’s line of argument persuaded Stalin the Menshevik one did not.
Stalin's Dictatorship and Totalitarian Rule
Why was Stalin able to establish his dictatorship in Russia? (June 2011)
Why, by 1939, had Stalin been able to impose totalitarian rule on the Soviet Union? (June 2006)
These are the two possible questions and to be honest, they're fairly similar. I would say the main difference is where you end your essay: I would argue Stalin achieved a dictatorship before he achieved totalitarian rule. The two are slightly different he is in sole control as opposed to he has absolute control over everything. They look similar but if you can understand the difference it may stop you from making mistakes. Either that or I'm rambling on about rubbish here. one day a Russian dude decided he hates everyone and wants to be rich. now hes dead
Nevertheless, Stewie broke the question down for us.
Main Points: [ edit | edit source ]
- Control of Party Machine
- Great Purges
- Propaganda/Cult of Personality
- Collectivisation/5 Year Plan
____ means end of point reffered in the bullet points at the start of the first few sections.
Control of Party Machine [ edit | edit source ]
Appointed members at all levels
Confident in having the majority at congress
Member of Ogburo and Secretariat
Lenin's death gave him the opportunity
Lenin's testament - did he plan on removing Stalin earlier?
Ban on factions (1921) (this is important as you will see in a later note)
tricked Trotsky (funeral) dodges testament Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin are effectively a triumvirate - critisised Trotsky, easily outvoted 1924 Zinoviev and Kamenev attack Left, Stalin remains int he background, Left tears itself appart 1925 "Socialism in one country", Stalin allies with Bukharin and Right, Zinoviev and Kamenev attack Stalin, due to control of party they posed little threat, 1926 they joined with Trotsky to form the "United Opposition", could now be accused of factionalism (Ban on Factions 1921). 1928 Stalin turned on NEP and Right, took up Trotsky's policies and outvoted Right December 1929, 50th Birthday, undisputed leader of USSR. Due to powerful base of supporters and enemies' mistakes
"not yet realising what power was accumulating therein" - Hosking (the other leaders in regard to Stalin's post as General Secretary)
"it seemed to Trotsky almost a bad joke that Stalin. should be his rival" - Deutscher
"He changes his theories according to whom he needs to get rid of next" - Bukharin
"voted with the majority" - Deutscher. He also changed his policies without fickily, was without hesitation to change opinion, unlike the others.
"In six years Stalin outmanouvered a series of opponents" - Conquest
"a circular flow of power" - Daniels (in regard to the people that Stalin appointed owing him patronage/loyalty)
Stalin pursued policies which the general party membership wanted
Portrayed outwardly as a man of the party, moved behind the scenes
Lenin enrolment (1925/26) - ensured majority of supporters
"without personal grudge and rancour, as a detatched Leninist, a guardian of the doctrine" - Deutscher
Sole infallible interpreter of the party ideology
Cult of Leninism - Cult of Personailty
Great Purges (1934-38, peaked in 1938) [ edit | edit source ]
Growing signs of opposition
1934, 17th Party COngress, 292 votes against Stalin, 3 against Kirov December 1934 Kirov murdered (you may want to mention the close relationship with Stalin yet killed ruthlessly to keep power) excuse for starting purges
Engulfed all sections of population, notably the armed forces
First Phase: 1932-33, 20% of the party expelled nonviolently
Zinoviev and Kamenev arrested, trialed in 1935, executed in 1936
Yezhovschina - mass terror 1937-38
Had figures for killing people like industry = quotas
Party members, state officials, members of the armed forces, industrial workers
July 1937 Politburo passed resolution condemning "Anti-Soviet Elements" - artsists, writers, managers, musicians, administrators
At the end Stalin emerged as dictator of the USSR
70% of Central Comittee elected at the 17th Party Congress arrested and shot
1108/1966 delegates of the Congress shot (the ones that voted for Kirov)
This shows grudge, revenge in eliminating past and future opponents
Many managers at all levels
4/5 reginal party secretaries lost posts, by 1935, 10,000 arrested in Leningrad alone
Yagoda arrested in 1937, 23,000 NKVD men perished by the end of the 1930s
Volgonov - 16.5million imprisoned - official historian
Lenin used purges in the name of the revolution, lest they be overthrown vs. Stalin used them while in power, to secure control.
This reflects paranoia and personality
Totalitarian view: 'top down', Stalin wrote the names of every person, he was in complete control of the purges
Revisionist view: 'les byt he masses', result of decisions, they gained a momentum of their own
Was Stalin in complete control?
Stalin removed past opposition
Eliminated future threats (paranoia?)
Propaganda/Cult of Personality [ edit | edit source ]
Almost God-like status
From 1935 it was only possible to speak of Stalin in glowing terms
Strong leader to take them through difficult times
Hid his dark side, cruelty and repression
"Stalin is the Lenin of today"
Image spread through collectivisation
By 1931 huge portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin were everywhere
Indoctrinate those he was not controlling through executuion or arresting
He ctronolled through Terror, or the delusion of the Cult
Collectivisation / 5 Year Plans [ edit | edit source ]
MTS (tractor stations in the collectives that had a propaganda office)
Communal buildings (communal halls in the collectives where they had talks etc)
Dekulakisaton - deported / killed rebels
"The free peasant. constituted one of the main obstacles on the path to the absolute feudal power that Stalin wanted" - Saraskina
"Collectivisation would bring the peasants that much closer to socialism" - Hartfee
Allowed Stalin to control their lives and indoctinate them - dictator
He got the grain he wanted/needed - totalitarian
Famine of 1932, orginally estimated at 7million by Conquest, now said to be more like 10-15million
Unquestionably man-made famine that killed 10-15 million - total power and rule
control of economy and industry told who to work where
Focussed whole country on singular aim: -Stalin ordered collectivisation, caused famine in order to industrialise - dictator
Total power, could make people do things, but could not ensure success
Question: do you think we need to explain collectivisation and the 5 year plans briefly first? I would say no but idk, one of the teachers may have said otherwise. Possibly just a quick line like "pooling all the land for efficient farming"
Terror [ edit | edit source ]
Used exiles for slave labour
could tell them what to do, work them to death
By 1931, 2million men and omen sent to Gulags
Eliminated rebels opposing power
Alternate way to ensure loyalty and control
Opposite to the Cult of Stalin and Propaganda
Basically Stalin controlled those he did not with propaganda with terror. They either followed him like oblivious sheep, or were shot. There is a really good music video which demonstrates this point. It was made by a band who make more aristic songs, the song is called 'Counting Bodies like Sheep to the Rythym of a war Drum' by A Perfect Circle, it's not about this dictator but if you watch from like 3:50 onwards you will get my idea.
Conclusion [ edit | edit source ]
Stalin's mentality and personlity were the key to his rise to power
mentality - 100% focussed / dedicated to achieveing power
personality - ruthless / cunning
"Stalin had luck on his side" - McCauley
"was a triumph not of reason, but of organisation" - Carr
population controlled it's own freedom
inititatives did exist at a local level that were not in accordance with the Party Line
Terror was a hysterical respone to the restrictions of the bureacracy - Arch Getty "what Stalin set in motion had a dynamic of it's own" -Hoskins Totalitarianism = suppressed on one hand, demonstrated mad chaos on the other
Lenin created the apparatus of a totalitarian state that Stalin inherited - the nation was already on it's way to totalitarianism under Lenin.
The Stalin Puzzle: Deciphering Post-Soviet Public Opinion
Joseph Stalin is not yet dead, it would seem. The Soviet leader who was responsible for the deaths of millions over his thirty-year rule still commands worryingly high levels of admiration for a host of reasons. These findings are clear in the first-ever comparative opinion polls on the dictator in the post-Soviet countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia. The surveys, commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment in 2012, suggest de-Stalinization has not succeeded in the former Soviet Union and most post-Soviet citizens have not come to grips with their history.
- In Russia, support for Stalin has actually increased since the end of the Soviet Union.
- There is a correlation between Stalin&rsquos rehabilitation in Russia and the presidency of Vladimir Putin.
- There is a growing level of indifference toward Stalin, especially among young people. This is especially apparent in Azerbaijan, where 39 percent of young respondents do not even know who Stalin is.
- Georgians display alarmingly high levels of admiration for Stalin&mdash45 percent of them express a positive attitude toward the former Soviet leader.
- The polls are symptomatic of a case of &ldquodoublethink.&rdquo Respondents say that Stalin was both a &ldquocruel tyrant&rdquo and a &ldquowise leader.&rdquo
Analyzing the Results
Post-Soviet citizens are confused. The poll results are more an illustration of feelings of dependency and confusion than genuine support for a dictatorial government. Russians in particular lack alternative historical models.
Stalin is still identified strongly with victory in World War II. The memory of the defeat of Nazi Germany remains very strong in all four countries polled, especially among older citizens. Stalin is still admired as a wartime leader&mdasheven as the same people reject his acts of repression.
De-Stalinization in Russia has been half-hearted. There have been two-and-a-half attempts to engage the public in a debate on Stalin&rsquos crimes, but only one of them, begun under Mikhail Gorbachev, had some success. Putin&rsquos Kremlin has found the image of Stalin useful in his effort to solidify his authority.
A new generation thinks differently. Many Russian urbanites are de-Sovietized, more self-sufficient, and more critical of Russian history. Stalin is losing his power to attract or repel this segment of society.
De-Stalinization in Georgia has not run deep. The anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin campaigns launched by the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili were conspicuous but superficial, and underlying opinions of the leader remain favorable. However, for Georgians, Stalin is much more a national icon than a political model.
Thomas de Waal
Sixty years after his death in March 1953 and more than twenty years after the end of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin has not been properly consigned to history.
Thomas de Waal
He remains in a prominent tomb in Red Square in the heart of Moscow, his image is on sale in flea markets in Russia and Georgia, his portrait is carried in political rallies. In 2012 Stalin held first place in a poll of great figures in Russian history. In 2013 buses carried his image as Russians marked the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad in the city of Volgograd, which had been renamed Stalingrad for the day.
It is natural to be alarmed about this&mdashand over the last few years many panic-inducing headlines have warned about &ldquoStalin worship&rdquo in the former Soviet Union. 1 After all, this is a man the world regards as being one of the three chief monsters of the twentieth century, alongside Hitler and Mao, having been responsible for the deaths of millions of people between the early 1920s and 1953.
Yet the enduring admiration for Stalin is first of all a puzzle that needs decoding. Certainly, no one wants to restore the gulag, and even the authoritarian post-Soviet states are still a long way from being Stalinist. 2 What exactly lies behind the positive expressions of support for Stalin? Who and where are the admirers and what motivates them?
The Stalin question is not just important as part of the debate about the uses of history. It goes to the heart of contemporary questions about politics, the relationship between society and state, democratization, and education in the former Soviet Union.
To shed light on these issues, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commissioned two respected polling organizations, the Levada Center in Moscow and the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) in Yerevan, Baku, and Tbilisi, to ask citizens in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia eight questions about their attitudes toward Stalin. The surveys were conducted in October and November 2012.
This was the first time a full comparative cross-country survey of this kind had been undertaken. The Levada Center was able to compare its results with a number of previous polls in Russia on Stalin, but no such poll had ever been conducted in the three South Caucasus countries since they gained independence in 1991&ndash1992.
The variance in survey answers is a reminder that among his former subjects, there is not just one Stalin but many&mdashRussia&rsquos Stalin is (very) different from Georgia&rsquos, for instance. In a famous essay, the historian Alfred Rieber called Stalin the &ldquoMan of the Borderlands,&rdquo who built for himself a triple mythical identity as a non-national proletarian, a Georgian, and a Russian. 3 Stalin&rsquos success in projecting those three different identities at once explains why he is still venerated by categories of people who have little in common with each other (die-hard Communists, Georgian nationalists, Russian statists).
Some of the results are shocking. Perhaps the most worrying figures come from Stalin&rsquos homeland, Georgia. An extraordinary 45 percent of Georgians have positive attitudes toward the dictator, and 68 percent call him a &ldquowise leader.&rdquo Meanwhile, 38 percent of Armenians (the highest number in the four countries polled) agree with the statement, &ldquoOur people will always have need of a leader like Stalin, who will come and restore order.&rdquo In Azerbaijan, whose population&mdashto its credit&mdashshowed the greatest antipathy toward Stalin, perhaps the most striking finding was that 22 percent of the population (and 39 percent of young people) do not even know who Stalin is.
There are many contradictions that give important nuance to the picture. For example, even those who say they admire Stalin also admit that they do not approve of his brutality. And the number of people who say there is &ldquono justification&rdquo for Stalin&rsquos crimes is fairly high, ranging from 45 to 57 percent across the four countries.
Not surprisingly, the poll also shows massive endorsement, especially among pensioners, for Stalin as the victor of the Great Patriotic War over Hitler. Interestingly, the support is even stronger in the Caucasus than in the country that bore the brunt of the conflict, Russia. This is a reminder of how even in the West (just take a look at the pictures of Stalin sitting with Churchill and Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference in 1945) Stalin&rsquos brutal image is complemented by his role as the wartime leader who defeated Hitler.
Clearly, these figures deserve careful reading. In this volume, three respected scholars in Russia and Georgia reflect on them.
Levada Center director Lev Gudkov&rsquos comparison of survey results in Russia since the perestroika period, culminating in the Carnegie poll, shows definitively that support for Stalin has strengthened rather than weakened since the end of the USSR. This of course has many explanations at the least it suggests that many Russians continue to have strong feelings of dependency on and loyalty toward an autocratic ruler. Gudkov explains that in Russia, Stalin is a cipher for the perceived failings of democracy, and that the current president, Vladimir Putin, has deliberately manipulated the dictator&rsquos image to reinforce his effort to build a &ldquopower vertical&rdquo in Russia.
Lasha Bakradze, the director of the Georgian State Museum of Literature, makes a powerful case that those Georgians who admire Stalin do so in a quasi-religious way that does not necessarily overlap with their political convictions. After all, when responding to a question in the October 2012 CRRC poll, a high number of Georgians also approved of democracy. (To add to the contradictions, polls show that consistently the most popular figure in Georgia is the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, the head of an ancient institution that has battled both Communism and Westernization.)
Around half of our respondents told the pollsters that they regard Stalin as a &ldquowise leader.&rdquo And the authors address the question of why de-Stalinization has not worked in the post-Soviet Union.
Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center writes of &ldquotwo-and-a-half&rdquo de-Stalinization campaigns in Russia, all incomplete, that have not penetrated society deeply enough. Lasha Bakradze analyzes how the proudly pro-Western government of President Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia dismantled Stalin statues but failed to engage the public in a debate about why it was doing so&mdashor indeed failed to put up a memorial to Stalin&rsquos victims. Just as in 1961, when Nikita Khrushchev withdrew Stalin&rsquos body from Lenin&rsquos Mausoleum in Red Square at night by stealth, so too the Georgian government in 2010 pulled down the massive statue of Stalin in his hometown of Gori without warning or consultation. In both Moscow and Gori, the body and the statue were moved only a few meters away.
Carnegie&rsquos survey unfortunately confirms that in the post-Soviet space, Stalin is still a figure of the present, not the past. The hope is that this publication will help stimulate a new debate on the failures to de-Stalinize the minds of post-Soviet citizens and bury him once and for all.
Today is Stalin's birthday and I have decided to make a mater post about him, his accomplishments and debunking some of the lies about him.
This master post is divided into 8 parts.
The rise of Stalin, debunking Trotsky
The 1936 constitution and the 1937 elections
The accomplishments of the USSR under him
THE RISE OF STALIN, DEBUNKING TROTSKY
Many are the slanders against Stalin, and even more are the myths surrounding him, and the USSR, epsecially during his tenure as the General secretary of the CPSU. Many lies also surround his "rise to power", and his faction's conflict with trotskye's. Even today, many leftists still believe that Stalin was somehow an ussurper, and that trotsky was the "rightfull" (whatever that means) successor of Lenin.
i)Stalin during the civil war and the first years of the soviet government
It is many times painted, that stalin played a minimal role in the civil war and in the first years of the soviet union, or even a negative role.(leave aside that he was one of the first bolsheviks, contrary to trotsky who only entered the bolsheviks in 1917, stalin was a close ally of lenin since 1905, writing the book Marxism and the national question, and also doing real revolutionary work by attacking banks for the sake of the revolution.
If stalin was not so famous during the revolution in the masses, was because he was in the gulag for about a decade right before he was freed in a little before the revolution) But let's examine the facts. It is impossible that stalin did not enjoyed support from the party since the very beginning. He was one of the ministers since the first days of the October revolution he was the editor of Pravda before the revolution even occurred. Therefore it is illogical to even claim that stalin was "mediocre" as Trotsky wrote.
During the first days after the revolution, even bourgeoisie historians such as Montefiore, describe that Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov and trotsky were the four most powerful bolsheviks. How could stalin be "relatively irrelevant" while he was a high member of the bolsheviks (and this means he enjoyed support) since the very beginnings after the revolution?
During the civil war, stalin was sent to many important posts, where he unmasked many traitors who were working for the white army (some of them were also on good terms with trotsky)
Bourgeoisie historian Robert H. McNeal wrote:
Stalin had emerged . as a political military chief whose contribution to the Red victory was second only to Trotsky's. Stalin had played a smaller role than his rival in the overall organizationof the Red Army, but he had been more important in providing direction on crucial fronts. If his reputation as a hero was far below Trotsky's, this had less to do with objective merit than with Stalin's lack of flair . for self-advertisement.
During the preparations for the Polish soviet war, stalin argued against the war as unrealistic. After the defeat of the Soviets in the war, (to which stalin was a general in the front) most bolsheviks agreed with stalin that indeed the war was a mistake. Unfortunately, it was too late. Due to his actions during the war (plus his previous involvement before the revolution), stalin had achieved high prestige. He held two commissariats, one of the nationalities and one of the workers and peasants inspections. When another high bolshevik, Yevgeni Preobrazhensky(who was later a trotskyist and a member left opposition), complained against stalin holding these positions, Lenin himself replied:
What can we do to preserve the present situation in the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities to handle all the Turkestan, Caucasian, and other questions? These are all political questions! They have to be settled. These are questions that have engaged the attention of European states for hundreds of years, and only an infinitesimal number of them have been settled in democratic republics. We are settling them and we need a man to whom the representatives of any of these nations can go and discuss their difficulties in all detail. Where can we find such a man? I don’t think Comrade Preobrazhensky could suggest any better candidate than Comrade Stalin. The same thing applies to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is a vast business but to be able to handle investigations we must have at the head of it a man who enjoys high prestige, otherwise we shall become submerged in and overwhelmed by petty intrigue.
All this implies that even Lenin considered Stalin obviously a first rate Bolshevik. If trotskyists or any other person wants to present Stalin as a mediocre and a second rate bolshevik, then it can be said that Lenin himself, was also a mediocrity and a second rate bolshevik for having such a good opinion of stalin and entrusting him with such crucial tasks.
Lenin indeed wrote a letter, but it was not a will, and it could not be, because the party was not Lenin's plaything, nor Lenin was the king of it. So, this exposes the mentality and the very un marxist thinking of the people who tried to refute stalin on the grounds of this "testament". Before anything, it must be asserted that Stalin was the second more powerful, if not the most, at around 1922-23 Now the question around on the word "power". Power comes from somewhere, in this case, stalin was chosen to by these people, (he was appointed) who vested this power in his shoulders to represent them. In 1923, he was the only person who as a member of both the politburo, the orgburo, the Central committee, and the secretariat. He was also the man responsible for Lenin's relations with the doctors.
The doctors had ordered that Lenin must not be bothered by political matters, as this would make him lose the peace needed to recover. Stalin sough to obey this order, for Lenin's sake. But Lenin's wife, passed information to Lenin bypassing the orders of the doctors. Stalin angry at this, verbally attacked lenin's wife on the phone. When lenin heard this, he became very angry at stalin. Therefore the contents of the letter, need to take in light this personal anger of lenin at the time. When the writings became famous to the west, and many anti communists attacked stalin in 1925, and that the bolsheviks were hiding this "will". Trotsky responded at the time.
Eastman asserts in several places that the Central Committee has “concealed” from the party a large number of documents of extraordinary importance, written by Lenin during the last period of his life. (The documents in question are letters on the national question, the famous “Testament,” etc.) This is pure slander against the Central Committee of our party. Eastman’s words convey the impression that Lenin wrote these letters, which are of an advisory character and deal with the inner-party organization, with the intention of having them published. This is not at all in accordance with the facts.
If all of these letters have not been published, it is because their author did not intend them to be published. Comrade Lenin has not left any “Testament” the character of his relations to the party, and the character of the party itself, preclude the possibility of such a “Testament.” The bourgeois and Menshevik press generally understand under the designation of “Testament” one of Comrade Lenin’s letters (which is so much altered as to be almost unrecognizable) in which he gives the party some organizational advice. The Thirteenth Party Congress devoted the greatest attention to this and to the other letters, and drew the appropriate conclusions. All talk with regard to a concealed or mutilated “Testament” is nothing but a despicable lie, directed against the real will of Comrade Lenin and against the interests of the party created by him. 
Eastman’s assertions that the Central Committee confiscated my pamphlets and articles in 1923 or 1924, or at any other time or by any other means has prevented their publication, are untrue, and are based on fantastic rumors. Eastman is again wrong in asserting that Comrade Lenin offered me the post of chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, and of the Council of Labor and Defense. I hear of this for the first time from Eastman’s book.
The funny part is, that this is true! Lenin was neither a despot, nor the party his personal guard to follow "wills". Now if trotsky and his supporters ignore this, in favor of an explanation such as "trotsky was forced to write this by stalin", and if we take that what trotsky wrote is not true, and that trotsky wrote it under pressure, then this gives us a very strong info about these people. They thought lenin as a king? The party as his plaything?
Whoever agrees with the narrative pushed about the "will", he is fundamentally against the principles Lenin himself supported, which is democractic centralism. Therefore if someone is trying to paint what trotsky himself wrote, he attacks both Lenin, the viability of democratic centralism and the historical facts of stalin growing to become the leader of the party, little by little, by his own contribution as a bolshevik, as a pupil of lenin, and this was manifested to the appointments of him by the whole party in positions of power. Now, one needs to consider what the contexts around the letter is.
The context is Lenin as a sick, paralyzed man who was angry at stalin for speaking badly against his wife on the phone, and who lenin himself never spoke on the letter about any successor. He pointed that stalin was a perfect General secretary, and he would be replaced by someone who was less "rude". If we are to speak about rudeness being the issue(with rudeness even being mentioned, showing that Lenin was not in the best of conditions) for sure Lenin did not mean trotsky, who he was famous for being just that. After Lenin died, Stalin asked the CC to release him from the position of the General secretary. What happened was that all voted against it, including Trotsky.
This has a lot to show about trotsky and stalin. On stalin's own words on the issue
It is said in that "will'' Comrade Lenin suggested to the congress that in view of Stalin's "rudeness'' it should consider the question of putting another comrade in Stalin's place as General Secretary. That is quite true. Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have never concealed this and do not conceal it now . At the very first meeting of the plenum of the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Congress I asked the plenum of the Central Committee to release me from my duties as General Secretary. The congress discussed this question. It was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, obliged Stalin to remain at his post . A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was obliged to remain at my post.
Stalin was already far more liked, trusted, and capable than any other in the party. It was obvious that in the case of Lenin would die, Stalin would become the leader. Trotsky tries to paint this as a conspiracy of stalin (conspiracy with whom? Did stalin stay in power for 30 years with the help of the Holy spirit? We will never know, according to bourgeoisie historians..One of the seven mysteries of the world) to "assassinate" Lenin, and to move to the leadership position. What trotsky and others miss, is that Stalin was already the leader in practice. He was the most capable of the post, he had all the requirements, he was already trusted in posts no one was trusted.
iii)Factionalism, and removal of Trotsky and other dividers from the party
But lets take things from the start. Trotskists and the like, accuse Stalin of banning people from the party (trotsky included) without legitimacy. The people claiming so, ignore that Lenin was the one that passed the resolution of ban of factions and removing people from the party that were supporting and seeding factionalism.
All class-conscious workers must clearly realise that factionalism of any kind is harmful and impermissible, for no matter how members of individual groups may desire to safeguard Party unity, factionalism in practice inevitably leads to the weakening of team-work and to intensified and repeated attempts by the enemies of the governing Party, who have wormed their way into it, to widen the cleavage and to use it for counter-revolutionary purposes.
In order to ensure strict discipline within the Party and in all Soviet work and to secure the maximum unanimity in eliminating all factionalism, the Congress authorises the Central Committee, in cases of breach of discipline or of a revival or toleration of factionalism, to apply all Party penalties, including expulsion, and in regard to members of the Central Committee, reduction to the status of alternate members and, as an extreme measure, expulsion from the Party. 
There are of course, people who claim that Lenin intended the ban of factions to be temporary But there are no any evidence to suggest this. Clearly, it can be shown that Lenin meant for the ban of factions to be in place as long as enemies were there. And through the USSR's history, especially the period of 1917-1950(which also covers this topic), where it was perhaps the most "threatening" (at least in appearance) time for USSR, with famines, attempted counterevolutions, and invasion, it is ludicrus to claim that the removal of Trotsky and other party members on the basis of factionalism and fragmentation of the party was not legitimate. It was basically in line with Lenin himself. Therefore, any attack against Stalin in this topic, is also an endorsement of attacks made by the mensheviks, syndicalists, and the like against Lenin on the very same issue.
The supposed "Leninists" such as trotsky ignore this because it suits them.
McNeal: Stalin, Man and Ruler
Lenin at the Eleventh Congress Of The R.C.P.(B.) March 27-April 2, 1922
Leon Trotsky: Letter on Eastman's Book (1925)
Stalin:The Trotskyist Opposition Before and Now
Lenin at the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)
The holodomor was a man made famine, we are always told. But in reality it much more complex than that.
The thing that triggered the famine was not that Stalin took the grain from the Ukrainian land owners, in fact it was the opposite.
Stalin tried to initiate collectivization but the rich landowners, kulaks, deliberately burned their stockpiled grain and killed their animals so the Soviets wouldn't take them.
When the crops failed, the kulaks didn't have any food left since they burned the food that was supposed to keep them going.
The famine has been used by western historians, especially before 1991 (so people who didn't have access to the Soviet archives) to claim that Stalin magically killed millions of people. One finds estimates anywhere between 2 million to a staggering 10 or 20 million deaths.
The Holodomor is nazi propaganda and not an actual genocide.
Few people of the left know about the 1936 Soviet constitution. It was called the "Stalin" constitution by the west. In this constitution, one does not need to look too much. This is the most proggresive constitution of its time, and even today it eclipses the today's western "democracies". We will examine some of the most crucial parts that may interest the reader, namely the economy and the elections. First, the part about economy. In the constitution, it is stated that there are only two types of property. The socialist property, (i.e, the state property, which is simply the proletariat class organized) and the cooperative property. The capitalist mode of production of NEP was disappeared. We are left only with these two modes, to which, no exploitation of man by man is made. The USSR was the only country to achieve this first.
ARTICLE 4. The socialist system of economy and the socialist ownership of the means and instruments of production, firmly established as a result of the abolition of the capitalist system of economy, the abrogation of private ownership of the means and instruments of production and the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, constitute the economic foundation of the U.S.S.R.
ARTICLE 5. Socialist property in the U.S.S.R. exists either in the form of state property (the possession of the whole people), or in the form of cooperative and collective-farm property (property of a collective farm or property of a cooperative association).
In addition to these, there exists also petty bourgeoisie property, where self employed people own their means of production, but they cannot employ other people.
ARTICLE 9. Alongside the socialist system of economy, which is the predominant form of economy in the U.S.S.R., the law permits the small private economy of individual peasants and handicraftsmen based on their personal labour and precluding the exploitation of the labour of others.
Also, it is cleared that USSR is a socialist country, yet to reach communism where the principle of "to each according to his ability, to each according to his need" does not apply.
ARTICLE 12. In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat." The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism : "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."
Second Part, Electoral system It is highlighted, that all organs of government are elected by the people, in a secret ballot each election.
ARTICLE 134. Members of all Soviets of Working People's Deputies - of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics, the Soviets of Working People's Deputies of the Territories and Regions, the Supreme Soviets of the Autonomous Republics, the Soviets of Working People’s Deputies of Autonomous Regions, area, district, city and rural (stanitsa, village, hamlet, kishlak, aul) Soviets of Working People's Deputies - are chosen by the electors on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot.
In all, the soviet constitution of 1936, was, and still is a role model to the socialists of the world. The sheer attacks made against it to disprove it or slander it, is a proof of the fear the bourgeoisie have on this constitution. Their fear that this constitution will one day become the constitution of their own countries
Some people claim that the great purge was completely unnecessary, but in fact it was the opposite. Without it the USSR would be weak with traitors and opportunists in its ranks. Here are some of the most notable counter revolutionaries in the USSR.
First four traitors, Zinoviev, Trotsky his son Sedon and Kamenev. They formed an illegal underground bloc to try to sabotage the USSR. Trotsky was exiled to Mexico but the others remained and tried to sabotage the USSR from within.
After the trials of his Comrades, Trotsky famously denied the existence of the underground bloc, claiming instead that it was a fabrication of Stalin. But evidence, including the following letter, suggests otherwise.
Letter from Sedov to Trotsky
The (…) is organised it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists (former ”…”). The Safar–Tarkhan Group have not yet formally entered they have too extreme a position they will enter very soon. The declaration of Z. and K.on the very grave mistake which they made in 1927* was made at the time of the negotiations with our people about the bloc, just before Z. and K. were deported.
The collapse of the I.N. (…)  Group, Preobrazh. and Uf. 6 was provoked by a sick, partly insane man. They arrested him by chance and he began to talk. They have certainly found no document in the homes of I.N. or the others that could be “Trotskyist literature”. Some days before I.N. was arrested, he told our informant: “X. has betrayed and I am expecting to be arrested from one day to the next.
1 The missing word has been cut out with scissors. It seems to be the word “bloc”
2 The missing word has been carefully erased. It seems to be “capitulators”.
3 Z and K are obviously Zinoviev and Kamenev. *Capitulated to the Party majority instead of siding with Trotsky
4 The missing word has been carefully erased. It seems to be “Smirnov”
An other traitor, Yagoda, the head of the OGPU and the killer of Kirov, the best friend of Stalin and a very influential politician.
In 1934, before the murder of Kirov, the terrorist Leonid Nikolayev was picked up by OGPU agents in Leningrad. In his possession they found a gun. and a chart showing the route which Kirov traveled daily. When Yagoda was notified of Nikolayev's arrest, he instructed Zaporozhetz, assistant chief of the Leningrad OGPU, to release the terrorist without further examination. Zaporozhetz was one of Yagoda's men. He did what he was told.A few weeks later, Nikolayev murdered Kirov.
What did he hope to accomplish ?
Yagoda had his own ideas about the kind of government whichwould be set up after Stalin was overthrown. It would be modeled on that of Nazi Germany, he told Bulanov. Yagoda himself would be the Leader Rykov would replace Stalin as secretary of a reorganized Party Tomsky would be chief of the trade-unions, which would come under strict military control like the Nazi labor battalions the "philosopher" Bukharin, as Yagoda put it, would be "Dr. Goebbels."
Now let's talk about Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky and Tukhachevsky. They were planning to coup Stalin when the war with Nazi Germany started.
Also they promised Hitler everything Germany had in 1917 if they recognized their coup
How does Tukhachevsky visualize the mechanism of the coup?"
"That's the business of the military organization," Tomsky replied. He added that the moment the Nazis attacked Soviet Russia, the Military Group planned to "open the front to the Germans" - that is, to surrender to the German High Command. This plan had been worked out in detail and agreed upon by Tukhachevsky, Putna, Gamarnik and the Germans.
"In that case," said Bukharin thoughtfully, "we might be able to get rid of the Bonapartist danger that alarms me."
Tomsky did not understand. Bukharin went on to explain: Tukhachevsky would try to set up a military dictatorship he might even try to get popular support by making scapegoats of the political leaders of the conspiracy. But, once in power, the politicians could turn the tables on the Military Group. Bukharin told Tomsky: "It might be necessary to try those guilty of the `defeat' at the front. This will enable us to win over the masses by playing on patriotic slogans. "
Here is also a pro Germany quote from Tukhachevsky
"You are wrong to tie the fate of your country to countries which are old and finished, such as France and Britain. We ought to turn towards new (nazi) Germany. Germany will assume the leading position on the continent of Europe"
Now finally let's talk about Yeznov.
He tried to sabotage the USSR by falsely accusing innocent party members of betraying the revolution and then kicking them out of the party.
"All of this was done in order to cause in order to cause widespread dissatisfaction in the population with the leadership of the party and the Soviet government and in that way to create the most favorable base for carrying out our conspiratorial plans."
He and his fellow conspirators kicked more than 200 thousand people, about 60% of which were innocent and reinstated when everything was discovered by Stalin.
We endeavored to expel as many people as possible from the party as possible. We expelled people when there were no grounds for expulsion. We had one aim in view - to increase the number the number of embittered people and thus increase the number of our allies"
Speaking about Stalin, he was always opposed to the number of people kicked out from the party. He criticized Yeznov a lot on the issue.
Here is a dialogue between them from a Central Committee Plenum (June 1936)
Yeznov : "Comrades, as a result of the verification of party documents, we have expelled more than 200 thousand party members"
Yeznov : "Yes very many. I will speak about this. "
Stalin : "[Interrupting again] If we expelled 30 thousand, and 600 former Trotskyists and Zinovievists it would be a bigger victory"
An other quote from Stalin about Yeznov after this had all this had ended .
"Yeznov is a rat,in 1938 he killed many innocent people. We shot him for that."
What you might say is that the trials were somehow staged by Beria and the NKVD but that is simply not true, even the American ambassador to the USSR, Joseph E. Davies, who was present at the trials of these criminals said they were not staged.
"With an interpreter at my side, I followed the testimony carefully. Naturally I must confess that I was predisposed to the credibility of the testimony of these defendants. Viewed objectively however and based upon my experience in the trial of cases and the application of the tests of credibility which past experience had afforded me, I arrived at the reluctant conclusion that the state had established it's case, at least to the extent of proving the existence of a widespread conspiracy and plot among the political leaders against the Soviet government,"
Without a purge the USSR would have been weak and unable to fight the fascists. Stalin wasn't a lunatic or a power hungry politician that purged his opponents, he protected the USSR from revisionists and traitors.
6)WW2 myths and misconceptions
“Stalin was a bad military general and a coward”
Stalin never left his cabinet at the start of the war as many people would like you to believe by saying he was “shocked, paralised and did nothing”. Stalin stayed put, this is seen by the people he had meetings with at the start of the war. On the 22nd of June he had meetings 29 times starting from 5:45 am.
Molotov NPO, deputy. Prev SNK 5.45-12.05
Mehlis Nach. GlavPUR KA 5.45-8.30 5. Zhukov NGS KA 5.45-8.30
Malenkov Sec. Central Committee of the CPSU (B.) 7.30-9.20
Mikoyan deputy. Prev SNK 7.55–9.30
Vyshinsky sotr. MFA 7.30-10.40
Dimitrov Comintern 8.40-10.40
Kulik deputy. NCO 15.30-16.00
This is what Vasilevsky had to say about Stalin in his memoirs - “In my deep conviction, Stalin, with the second half of World War II, is the most powerful and colorful figure in the strategic command. He successfully carried out the organisation of fronts, all the military efforts of the country”. During the battle of Moscow, Stalin stated that he would stay in the city when the Wehrmacht was closing in. He had a parade organised for the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution after which troops left off to the frontline which were the outskirts of Moscow. Furthermore, most vital plans had Stalin coordinating them such as the operations to crush the German 6th army at Stalingrad and the German pincer at Kursk. Stalin's name was even assigned to 10 blows to the Germans as “Stalin's ten blows”. Thus, we can conclude that Stalin never turned his back on the Soviet people and did not break as Capitalist leaders did.
“The Soviets won only because of Order 227” - Order 227 was issued by Stalin only after the Red Army kept retreating deeper and deeper into the East of the country. As Stalin states, the Red Army left behind “70 million” Soviets for the Germans to torment, rape and pillage. It was only a countermeasure and was issued towards the commanders and soldiers of the Red Army. Furthermore, the Germans also punished those who deserted their position without an order from the high command of the Wehrmacht. Could we also assume that the Germans conquered all their territory out of fear? Moving on, there were only 200 men behind the frontlines, they would not be able to stop entire divisions even if they wanted to. In reality, most troops were told to return to the frontline or arrested and sent to a military tribunal, only in rare cases were they shot, while many Wetsern movies such as Enemy at the gates depict mass friendly fire instances which were never recorded. Lastly, order 227 was abolished by Stalin on the 29th of October 1944, which shows us that the Soviets did not win the only because of 227. The Red army lost more troops compared to the Axis powers
“The Soviets only won because of numbers, they charged machine gun nests”(cough cough, you mean Omaha beach?). In reality, the Red Army lost around 10 million troops, while the Axis troops combined lost 9.5 million troops(dead + captured). However, 3.5 of the 10 million Soviets died in captivity. While only 500,000 Axis died in captivity. Furthermore, if you look at the frontline in 1941, the Axis troops outnumber the Soviets 2:1, does that also mean the Germans were winning initially just because of their supporierty in numbers? If not, why does the same not apply to the Red Army?
The Soviet winter defeated the Nazi’s - It may be true that the Soviet winter was cold, however one cannot state that the Soviets were not affected by the cold as much as the Germans. Furthermore, it was the Soviets that were always in the offensive during the winter. Primary examples could be seen during the winter of 1941 and 1942, where the Soviets first launched a counter offensive around Moscow and then launched Operation Uranus around Stalingrad, beating back the Nazi’s in both cases. Some may suggest that the winter actually benefited the Wehrmacht as roads would solidify for the Mechanized units to push further along after the long muddy season. Thus, we can conclude that the winter was not the main reason for Nazi defeat, as saying so removes credit from the heroic actions of Soviet men and women.
7) THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF STALIN
Stalin’s greatest achievements:
Economy Created a superpower from a backward agricultural country in just 20 years, we have a saying - “Stalin accepted Russia with a plow, and left with an atomic bomb”. 20 years is a very small amount of time and yet Stalin and the Soviet people which were powered by the Socilalist economy were able to do this for the first time in history. This is humanity's greatest achievement.
From 1926 - 1953 the Soviet Population increased by around 60 million people, ie 146,6 million up to 208,8 even though they went through 3 wars. From 1926 - 1953 the Average humans age increased from 44 to 63, while the death rate fell from 29.1(1913) to 10.1(1950) per 1000 people which shows the great emphasis on medical care the USSR had.
Full industrialization of the country, around 6000 small to large scale factories were built under Stalin’s five year plans. This means that there were 1.5 factories being built per day, most of these factories still run up to this day. In 1920, the National Per capita Income was 120 dollars by 1980’s standards, while in 1950 it was already 1100 dollars by 1980’s dollar value. In 1920 the share of world industrial products was 0.6%, while by 1950 it was 7%. The USSR had eliminated homelessness and joblessness for the first time in history of mankind. The number of scientists in 1950 increased 1.5 times compared to 1940 even though the Soviets went though the bloodiest war the human race has ever seen.
The number of scientific institutions in 1950 increased by 40% compared with 1940. The number of university students in 1950 increased by 50% compared with 1940. There were over 4,000 newly created sovkhozes in the country by 1940 alone, this number kept rising in the 50’s. 531 thousand tractors, 182 thousand grain combines and 228 thousand trucks were built and worked in the fields by 1940. Gross agricultural production in 1940 increased by 1.14 times compared with 1913, including grain - 1.1 times, raw cotton - 4 times, sugar beet - 1.7 times, sunflower - 2.4 times, potatoes - 1.6 times, vegetables - 2 times.(Keep in mind that the Russian empire was a highly agricultural society already). 70,000 Soviet cities, towns and villages were destroyed by the Axis. Destroyed in that process were 6 million houses, 98,000 farms, 32,000 factories, 82,000 schools, 43,000 libraries, 6,000 hospitals and thousands of kilometers of roads and railway tracks, most if not all of which were rebuilt after the war by Stalin without the help of the Marshall plan, which Capitalist Western Europe could not do. (The British empire crumbled with the help of the US and the war did not affect them as much either).He was in charge of one of the first Socialist Nations in the world. Gave equal rights to all ethic groups and races. Gave equal rights to both genders. Eliminated homelessness and joblessness.
Gave the Soviet people, free housing, free medicine, free education. Foreign Achievements Was the first to condemn Nazi Germany and tried to make an alliance with France and Britain to combat them. Offered to send troops to Czechoslovakia when the Western Capitalists sold them out to the Nazi’s.
Beat back the combined forces of Capitalist Europe with Nazi Germany at the forefront in a long 4 year war saving the peoples of Eastern Europe and the world, while showing the might of a planned socialist economy. Spread Socialism to Eastern Europe and held the imperialists at bay by not accepting the dollar, thus saving the people of East of exploitation and dependency towards a more powerful capitalist state. Helped the Chinese Communists defeat the imperialist supported Chinese Nationalists. Helped the Koreans fight off American imperialism and beat them back to the 38th parallel.
As we have clearly have shown you, Stalin was a great leader for his time, he was also one of the most important Marxists ever. He turned a feudal country to a world superpower in just 20 years and he continued Lenin's legacy that destroyed the Nazi invaders both in the East and the West. Many people, mostly bourgeois historians or revisionists lie about him for personal gain. Do not fall for their propaganda comrades!
3 Effective Industrialization
Before the rise of the Soviet Union, Russia was mostly an agrarian country that did not have an effective industrial economy. In this way, it lagged far behind other countries in Europe. However, one of the most important things that the Soviet regime did for its country was to bring it into the modern world.
During the Stalin era, the Soviet Union underwent a massive industrialization process. The minor economy of the tsarist era was transformed into an industrial powerhouse that rivaled other first-world countries.
All of this happened in the 10-year period from 1928 to 1938. Overall, the Soviet Union industrialized at a faster rate than any other country previously had, which improved the lifestyles of its citizens.
Between 1929 and 1934, the Soviet Union achieved a 50 percent increase in industrial growth and an average annual growth rate of 18 percent, which was an unprecedented leap in output.
Of course, the news wasn&rsquot all good. Many products manufactured in the Soviet Union were of low quality. But industrialization helped the USSR to become a first-world country. Former Soviet states like Russia and Ukraine became effective world economies.
How Potsdam Gave Birth to the Cold War
Between the fall of Germany and the Japanese surrender, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin met for two weeks in a Berlin suburb to negotiate Europe’s fate. Then things went south.
James A. Warren
US National Archives and Records Administration
At the first gathering of the “Big Three” Allied powers in the wake of Germany’s defeat in World War II, there was “no bubbling overflow of talk at luncheons and dinners in the intervals between the appointed meetings, as there had been at their earlier summits,” writes historian Herbert Feis. The presence of a common enemy and a formidable common task—vanquishing the Nazi war machine—had drawn the Soviet Union into a powerful “Grand Alliance” with her sworn capitalist enemies, the United States and Great Britain.
But now, Roosevelt, the charming patrician who had so effectively served as buffer between the loquacious and combative Churchill and the gruff, cryptic Stalin, had died. His replacement was his former vice president, Harry S Truman. Unfortunately, the haberdasher-turned-politician from Missouri had been kept almost entirely out of the picture on war policy in general, and on the delicate matter of negotiations with the Russians in particular. Truman had no previous experience with foreign affairs beyond his exemplary service as a World War I captain of artillery.
Now, in July 1945, in the quiet Berlin suburb of Potsdam, it was time to construct a new Europe and a lasting peace, anchored on the principles of national self-determination, free elections, and rule of law—at least, that’s what had been agreed to in principle at Yalta, where Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill had last gathered. Trouble was, as Feis so quaintly put it, now the victors’ “thoughts were brushed by the cold snow of mutual distrust and dislike.” The vast differences in ideology, history, and worldview between East and West were making it devilishly hard to get much agreed beyond the seating arrangements for the deliberations—and, of course, that the Nazi high command should be vigorously prosecuted for their heinous crimes.
As the war in Europe drew to a close, Truman’s advisors had explained at length to their new boss that Stalin had tipped his hand, subtly and not so subtly, that he would continue to talk the talk of democracy and self-determination even while his vast security and espionage apparatus worked methodically to infect all Europe, West as well as East, with the virus of communism. The Red Army and the notorious NKVD—the secret police—had already eliminated pro-Western, pro-democratic political parties in the former German satellites of Bulgaria and Romania.
Churchill vehemently protested against Soviet crackdowns in those countries, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The British prime minister strenuously objected as well that official British and American observers’ movements in those countries were tightly restricted by Soviet agents. Stalin calmly called these charges “fairy tales.” But of course, the accusations were anything but.
At Potsdam, Truman and Churchill haggled at length with Stalin over the details of what mattered most: the future of Germany. The Western leaders had come to believe that the best protection against a revival of German aggression lay in restoring the German people to a prominent place in the political and economic life of Europe—after a long period of reform and re-education. Stalin, for his part, preferred partitioning the country into a number of loosely connected states, essentially bereft of industrial, as well as military, capacity. And he seemed inclined to repeat the mistake of Versailles by saddling draconian reparation payments ($20 billion) on the backs of a prostrate German people—and transferring most of the country’s remaining industrial base east to the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, as the negotiations ground on tediously in the July heat, Stalin became more thoroughly convinced than ever that his Western counterparts were determined to deny the Soviet Union at the bargaining table what it had earned on the battlefield.
Nonetheless, after some prodigious behind-the-scenes work by the allies’ foreign ministers and their diplomatic staffs, some agreements were finally reached. In the end, the Russian strong man assented to the Western view that Germany should be treated as a single political and economic unit, though the nature of its new national government was put off until another day. “The German people,” as the official Potsdam Declaration issued at the conclusion of the gathering put it, would “be given the opportunity to prepare for the eventual reconstruction of their life on a democratic and peaceful basis.” To fulfill this directive, the country would be temporarily divided into American, Soviet, British, and French zones, each zone to be administered by an army of occupation, led by a commander in chief.
Insofar as it was possible, these armies would enforce uniform general policies of occupation, namely the “five D’s”: demilitarization, denazification, democratization, de-centralization, and de-industrialization. The Soviet Union would be permitted 10 to 15 percent of the industrial base from the Western zones, in exchange for agricultural products badly needed by the German population in the West.
Reluctantly the Americans and British accepted the Oder-Neisse line as the temporary border between Poland and Germany in the West, which meant the transfer of a considerable part of eastern Germany to Poland, and the forced repatriation of at least three million Germans into the Western zones. To soften the blow, Stalin promised that the Polish provisional government would hold “free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage … in which all democratic and anti-Nazi parties shall have the right to take part,” and that the Western press shall enjoy “full freedom to report to the world upon developments in Poland.”
Finally, Stalin confirmed Russia’s agreement to enter into the Pacific War three months after Germany’s surrender, and supported a declaration issued by the U.S., Britain, and China threatening the Japanese with “prompt and utter destruction” if it did not surrender immediately and unconditionally. (The Soviet Union did not sign the document because it had yet to declare war on Japan.) The threat was no bluff. As Truman famously revealed to Stalin during the deliberations at Potsdam, the United States had just detonated the world’s first atom bomb.
The three heads of state presented the Potsdam Declaration to the world as a sound and enduring plan for world peace, but their words, it seemed to many observers at the time, lacked conviction. And not without good reason.
The Potsdam plan for peace began to fray around the edges even before the formal declaration was published and distributed. By 1947, the vicissitudes of great power politics had rendered the blueprint for peace hammered out there pretty much irrelevant, except as a reference point in trading accusations of violations of the spirit and the letter of the agreement itself.
In the event, there would be no “joint” reconstruction of Europe, no collaboration between East and West in rebuilding a war-ravaged Europe. What emerged instead, and rather quickly at that, was a protracted and bitter geopolitical struggle between the two superpowers and their allies, soon to be known the world over as the Cold War.
In blatant violation of the Declaration, the Soviet Union rapidly reconstituted the German Communist Party in the Eastern Sector of Germany, which took its orders directly from Moscow, and placed its members in almost every meaningful position of political and administrative authority. Leading members of pro-Western parties in the eastern sector were efficiently rounded up, thrown in jails, deported, or killed.
Stalin was laying the foundation for an entirely separate, East German nation state, modeled not on the best traditions and values of the German people, but rather on those of the Soviet Union.
This process was duplicated in Poland, despite the strident protests of members of the former Polish government in exile (the “London Poles”) that had done so much to aid in the defeat of Hitler in the West, and the large and passionately anti-communist Polish community in the United States.
Just four days after the conclusion of the conference in Berlin, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After a second bomb devastated Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. “Hiroshima has shocked the whole world,” Stalin told his scientists, as he initiated a crash program to produce a Soviet weapon of even greater power. “The [strategic and military] balance has been destroyed … that cannot be.” Because of the bomb, Stalin had been denied what he dearly coveted: a role in the defeat—and more important, the occupation—of Japan.
Immediately the Soviet Union began to take aggressive, highly provocative measures to enhance its strategic position vis a vis the West. Stalin refused to withdraw the Soviet army from oil-rich Iran, despite having promised to do so by the end of 1945 at Potsdam. Then came outrageous Soviet demands for territorial concessions from Turkey, along with naval bases that would have given the Soviets effective control over the strategically vital Dardanelles straits.
When a U.S. aircraft carrier steamed in the direction of the Dardanelles, Stalin backed down on his demands for bases and territorial concessions from the Turks. After the Americans brought the Soviet army’s occupation of Iran before the new United Nations—its first international crisis—Stalin stalled for a while, and then quietly withdrew the troops.
Why were the Soviets violating their agreements and constantly seeking to expand their influence and power westward by subversive means? American diplomats seemed at a loss to explain what was going on with their wartime ally. A brilliant junior American foreign service officer who had studied Russian history in depth, George F. Kennan, thought he knew. He spelled it out in an 8,000-word telegram, written from his desk in the Soviet embassy in Moscow in February 1946.
Soviet intransigence wasn’t the result of Western provocation. Rather, Soviet leaders had to present the outside world to their people as hostile, for it provided an excuse for repression at home, the domination of Eastern Europe, and the great sacrifices the Soviet people were required to make so that Stalin could further expand his already considerable military and industrial assets.
To expect reciprocity for diplomatic concessions from the Russians would be fruitless. The Soviets would continue to try to expand their sphere of influence whenever and wherever they could. What was needed, as Kennan later put in an essay in Foreign Affairs based on the famous “Long Telegram,” was “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” Therefore, wrote Kennan, American policy must be centered on “the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers in Soviet policy.”
Truman—indeed, the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment—found Kennan’s analysis compelling, to say the least. And they acted on it. On March 12, 1947, Truman appeared before a joint session of Congress to make his case for standing up to communist subversion. “The foreign policy and the national security of this country,” he claimed, were involved in the crises then confronting Greece and Turkey. Greece, he argued, was “threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by communists.” It was incumbent upon the United States to support Greece so that it could “become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.”
The “freedom-loving” people of Turkey also needed U.S. aid, which was “necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity” in the face of pressure for concessions from the Soviets. The president declared that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” And so the Truman Doctrine was born.
A few months later, much to the Soviet Union’s chagrin, Truman initiated a massive reconstruction of Western Europe on America’s dime. The Marshall Plan, named after then-secretary of state George C. Marshall, was designed as a response to the continued economic crisis in Western Europe, which Truman and Marshall feared would cause despair and instability, leading to the spread of Communism.
Pravda, the most prominent Soviet newspaper, labeled the Marshall Plan a “Truman Doctrine with dollars.” Stalin saw the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan as but further evidence of “capitalist encirclement.” His view was elevated to an article of faith in the Kremlin, and so it remained until the Cold War began to sputter to an end in the late ’80s.
The idea of Western encirclement of Russia’s sphere of influence, of course, has been vigorously revived in the past several years by Vladimir Putin in an attempt to justify his own expansionist designs in the Ukraine, as well as the costs of those designs borne by the Russian people in the form of Western sanctions.
As one might expect, given the trajectory of events traced above, Potsdam proved to be not only the first “Big Three” peace conference after the defeat of Germany, but also the last. Today, 70 years later, the conference is best remembered as a noble but tortuous effort that did less to chart the path to peace than to mark the beginning of an entirely new conflict altogether.