When looking at a single event in history that has a huge impact on worldwide events right up to our present and even into the future, one has to wonder what may have happened if things turned out a little differently. Stalin became the most powerful man in the world’s largest country, and did it over many dead bodies. However, Stalin himself said, “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.” That begs the question: what are two deaths considered? Did Stalin lose sleep over betraying people who were once considered his friends and allies? (I don’t think Stalin lost sleep over anything)
Lenin may have been the architect of the Soviet revolution, but Stalin was a great opportunist and used anything he could to his advantage. Stalin was not an individual who beat around the bushes. His thuggish methods existed long before he actually became General Secretary. Russia wasn’t the only nation that was changing governments through revolution. Stalin’s country of origin, Georgia, had managed to gain its own independence as the Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG) and it was legally recognized by the Soviet Russia in 1920.
However in 1921, Stalin orchestrated an invasion of Georgia by the Red Army. Up until WW1, Georgia was part of the Russian Empire and Stalin sought to bring it back under Soviet Russian control. This was contrary to Lenin’s belief that all Soviet states should exist as equals. Lenin suffered a stroke, which forced him to limit his political involvement. Stalin visited Lenin often, acting as his connection to the outside world, but the two bickered often and their relationship deteriorated. Lenin made a testimony that criticized Stalin concerning his his political views, rude manners, and excessive hunger for power. Lenin suggested that Stalin be removed from his position of General Secretary. Stalin made sure that these words never reached the public. Once Stalin successfully buried Lenin’s last wishes, he could concentrate on his other rivals.
Trotsky became famous among the Bolsheviks for his role in leading the armed overthrow of the provisional government. Trotsky had a clear vision of how the revolution should take place, and many considered him to be the next leader upon Lenin’s death. However, he had a conflicting personality that put him at odds with other Bolshevik leaders.
Against Stalin’s policies, Trotsky called for a continued world revolution and Stalin saw this as a threat to the newly formed Soviet state. Trotsky also criticized the new government for cracking down on democracy in the communist party. In response, Stalin and his supporters launched a propaganda campaign against Trotsky.
Trotsky was removed from his post, and later exiled from the U.S.S.R. He eventually was granted asylum in Mexico. Even on the other side of the planet, Trotsky would not be safe from the long arm of Stalin. Trotsky was found guilty of treason during one of Stalin’s purges to remove all political foes. Trotsky survived a machine gun attack on his home August 20th, 1940 but was killed by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish communist with an ice axe the very next day.
Stalin violently and thoroughly removed any opposition to his power, either real or imagined. While it is impossible to tell what might have happened in Russia if it were someone else besides Stalin who rose to power, it is easy to argue that it would have been preferable to having Stalin in charge.
Lang, David Marshall. A Modern History of Soviet Georgia. New York: Grove, 1962. Print.
Service, Robert. Stalin: A Biography. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2005. Print.
“Stalin Banishes Trotsky.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/stalin-banishes-trotsky>.
This is a great, in depth post about Stalin’s climb to power. Stalin’s quote in the first paragraph sets a good tone for the rest of the blog and foreshadows his dictatorial strength and countless crimes against humanity.
I liked your comment that stalin didnt lose sleep over anything. I agree; considering the things that stalin did, he would have never been able to sleep.
Stalin was definitely a brutal guy. Your post really shows how powerful and thorough Stalin was when it came to eliminating threats to his rule. The fact that he doctored pictures and could kill Trotsky from half way around the world shows that. Reading this also makes me wonder if the U.S. had any interest in giving Trotsky asylum in order to play him against Stalin in the future?
Stalin’s rise to leadership of the Soviet Union is one of the endlessly fascinating narratives. Check out Anna’s post on the same topic, which approaches the same issue from a slightly different perspective: http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/annapope/2014/09/21/lenins-succession-and-stalins-rise/
This was an insightful post on the different styles and personalities of Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. I didn’t know who Trotsky was before reading this post, and he strikes me as a good character. I didn’t realize how brutal Stalin was, ordering a machine gun attack on Trotsky’s house.
In an ironic way, I edited this post after the fact to include the doctored Trotsky photos.
This definitely goes well with a few of the other posts from this week, none of which were repetitive. I have always been curious as to how Stalin gained popularity to the point of being able to gain control of the Soviet Union, and then later becoming so unpopular people in contemporary Russia like to pretend he never ruled. While Trotsky was more ambitious, it is hard to imagine him being as brutal of a ruler as Stalin would become.
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