Born on Dec 18, 1878, Joseph Stalin served as the Soviet Union’s Premier and the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Joseph Stalin.
10 Horrendous Facts About Joseph Stalin
- As the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Stalin conducted so-called purges throughout the 1930s during which his administration imprisoned, exiled or executed political enemies and ethnic minorities. The time between 1936 and 1938 was the Great Purge and Stalin had approximately 750,000 people executed and sent millions to forced labor camps. In a forest by Toksovo, a small town near St. Petersburg, human rights workers discovered a mass grave of more than 30,000 victims in 2002.
- The First Plan, implemented in 1928, had a motive to modernize the Soviet Union’s industry. Stalin introduced the concept of collectivization by taking control of farmers’ lands. As a result, many farmers had to move towards cities for work. Stalin created state-run farms in the usurped lands and introduced time-specific quotas for the remaining farmers. These farmers could not eat the food they produced unless they reached the quotas they had to send to the cities. Subsequently, between 7 and 8 million people died on these rural lands from starvation and severe working conditions.
- Stalin designed and nurtured a famine throughout Ukraine between 1932 and 1933 that resulted in the death of approximately 7 million people. The Communist Party specifically targeted Ukraine for its efforts in gaining independence from Soviet rule. Stalin enforced quotas on Ukrainian farms to agricultural products to the Soviet Union. These quotas continued to increase until there was not enough food to sustain Ukrainian populations. When Ukrainian Communists appealed to the Soviet administration, Stalin used military force to purge the Ukrainian Communist Party and subsequently sealed Ukraine’s borders to prevent the shipment of food into the country. Additionally, Soviet forces confiscated all food sources from private Ukrainian residences.
- In 1919, Vladimir Lenin established the first Soviet forced labor camps. However, these camps, called the Gulags, did not reach full notoriety until the early 1930s under Stalin’s rule. Prisoners at the Gulags had to work at least 14 hours of demanding physical labor every day. These tasks included felling trees and digging frozen Soviet lands with rudimentary tools or mining coal and copper by hand. Prisoners received food based on how much work they completed in a day, however, even a full ration was insignificant. This labor force comprised of robbers, rapists, murderers, thieves and political enemies. Yet the majority of the prisoners were those the Soviets arrested for petty theft, lateness or unexcused absences from work.
- During Stalin’s early reign, the communist regime promoted the elimination of religion by confiscating church property, belittling religious beliefs and believers as well as promoting the indoctrination of atheism in schools. The Soviets exected the majority of the Russian Orthodox Church clergy and followers or sent them to the Gulags. The communist regime almost completely blocked the practice of Judaism instigated the systematic suppression of Islam until 1941.
- One of Stalin’s most heavily used tactics of oppression was censorship. Stalin cultivated a personality cult of artists that the state forced to create work that glorified the dictator. Those who read literature, viewed paintings and listened to music that the Soviet administration did not approve would have to go to the Gulags. Many artists committed suicide or attempted to flee the country in response.
- The Communist Party strictly controlled Education in the Soviet Union and based it on indoctrination. The government dictated which subjects schools could teach and test on. Teachers would teach History classes using materials that Stalin appointed, like the book A Short History of the USSR.
- Children received encouragement to join youth organizations outside of schools. Three tiers of these organizations existed: for 8 to 10-year-olds, there were the Octobrists; for 10 to 16-year-olds, the Pioneers; and for 19 to 23-year-olds, the Komsomol. Such organizations taught children how to be good communists. Stalin’s motive behind these youth clubs was to indoctrinate Soviet children into unquestioning obedience to the Communist Party. Further, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, children as young as those in the Pioneers tier received arms to defend the State.
- Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union deported over 1.5 million people. The majority of these people were Muslim. Reasons for deportation included resisting Soviet rule, ethnicity, religion and collusion with Germany’s occupational forces. The Soviets had deportees rounded up in cattle cars and taken to resettlement locations like Siberia or Uzbekistan where almost two-fifths of resettled populations died.
- Following World War II, Stalin began a press campaign of attacks on Jewish culture and Zionism. In 1948, the Jewish Antifascist Committee, an organization promoting Soviet policies, Stalin’s forces had it disbanded and its chairman assassinated.
As seen by the aforementioned 10 facts about Joseph Stalin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union created immense suffering and strife under Stalin’s reign. Scholars and historians assert that between 20 and 60 million people died as a result of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.
– Bhavya Girotra