In 1917, Russia was crumbling into pieces. The World War I was draining all of Russia’s resources. There was shortage of food throughout the country, which left people starving. At the battlefront, millions of Russian soldiers were dying, they did not possess many of the powerful weapons that their opponents had. The government under Czar Nicholas II was disintegrating, and a provisional government had been set up. In November of 1917, Lenin and his communist followers known as the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government and set a communist government in Russia.
However, in 1924, Lenin died and Josef Stalin assumed leadership of the Soviet Union, which was the name for the communist Russia. Stalin was a ruthless leader who brought many changes to the Soviet Union. Stalin’s goal was to transform the Soviet Union into a modern superpower and spread communism throughout the world, and he was determined to sabotage anyone who stood in his way. He used many methods such as collectivization, totalitarianism and five year plan’s to achieve his goals.
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Stalin’s rule brought both harmful and beneficial consequences to the Soviet Union; however, the negative factors were so terrible, that they overwhelm the positive factors. To modernize the economy, Stalin came up with Five-Year Plans, which were plans that would rapidly develop the economy over a five-year period by setting up high production goals for heavy industry. In 1928, Stalin gave a speech before launching the first Five-Year Plan. Stalin said that they were falling behind other nations. We lag behind the advanced countries by fifty to a hundred years” “And those who fall behind are beaten”, he told the people “you must end our backwardness”. In 10 years, he thought the technological gap between the Soviet Union and the more advanced nations would be filled. He used this speech as a method of motivating the Russian people into participating and supporting his Five-Year Plan. “Either we do it, or we shall be crushed. ” (Document 1) Stalin utilizes Russian pride to try and push people so that they can be a more prosperous nation.
Stalin created a command economy in the Soviet Union, which would allow him and the government to own all businesses and make all economy decisions. A chart from Twentieth Century History shows that the production target for industries such as electricity, coal and steel nearly doubled under the Five-Year Plan. (Document 2) To accomplish this huge increase in production would require a lot of effort from the Russian workers. However, to Stalin these goals were within reach because he basically controlled the people’s lives and the economy, through his totalitarian state (one-party dictatorship) and command economy.
An excerpt from The Land of the Soviets shows that eventually, the Soviet Union turned into a powerful industrial state after the completion of the first and second Five Year Plans. The industrial output in 1937 was 5. 8 times larger than it was in 1913. Also, the industrial growth exceeded that of capitalist countries and in 1940 there were 9,971,000 industrial workers, nearly three times more than in 1928. (Document 7) This evidence illustrates the positive aspects of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. Stalin used a method called collectivization to increase agricultural production.
He seized small farms owned by peasants and joined them making large government owned farms. In 1929, Stalin made a speech explaining his collectivization policy. He said that a nation that is rapidly developing couldn’t rely on an agricultural base provided by small farmers. He states that the agricultural units must be enlarged by “joining together the small peasant farms into large collective farms”. In his speech, Stalin also mentions that kulaks, which were wealthy peasants, must be eliminated as a class. Document 3) In this speech Stalin explained that agriculture must change in order to feed the growing population of industrial workers. The collective farms would receive the needed modern technology and scientific equipment, and it would all result in increased food production. Stalin made clear that the kulaks must be driven out in order for the plan to be successful. Once again, Stalin is using the power of speech to gain support for his collectivization plan. An excerpt from A History Civilization describes the horrific effects of Stalin’s collectivization.
Stalin began deporting the capitalistic farmers (kulaks) to forced labor camps or Siberia, and peasants were being machine-gunned into submission. Peasants slaughtered huge amounts of horses, cattle, sheep and goats, burned crops and broke plows in desperate revolts. The amount of Russian livestock lost due to collectivization was immense. (Document 4) It is true that Stalin’s rule positively affected Russia, after all, the Soviet Union did become a major military superpower under his government, and the economy also thrived.
However, to fulfill these achievements Stalin acted as a harsh and cruel dictator. He ruthlessly killed people who opposed his form of government in his Great Purges. And his execution countless kulaks cannot be forgiven. Instead of protecting his people, he brutally sacrificed them for the benefited of the state, and most people would agree that that is not how a good leader should act. At the end of the day, Stalin’s positive accomplishments are hidden by all the atrocities he committed.