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[O] History(Elect) Smart Guides

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  1. Unit 1: The World in Crisis

    1. Impact of World War I in Europe
    14 Topics
  2. 2. Stalin's Soviet Union
    12 Topics
  3. 3. Hitler's Germany
    27 Topics
  4. 4. Outbreak WWII in Europe
    13 Topics
  5. 5. Germany's Defeat in World War II
    21 Topics
  6. 6. Outbreak War in Asia Pacific
    6 Topics
  7. 7. Japan's Defeat
    10 Topics
  8. Unit 2: Bi-Polarity and the Cold War
    8. Reasons for the Cold War in Europe
    21 Topics
  9. 9. The Korean War
    19 Topics
  10. 10. Cuban Missile Crisis
    25 Topics
  11. 11. The End of Cold War
    19 Topics
Chapter 2, Topic 9
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Stalin’s Dictatorship (Political Impact)

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Impact of Stalin’s Rule

Political Impact

1. Stalin’s Purges: Development of a Terror State – The Great Terror (1934-1938)


  • By 1933, the Communist Party was very unpopular and the Russian society became very unstable. Stalin’s policies of collectivisation and industrialisation, and the ruthlessness with which they were imposed, had caused a lot of discontentment.
  • To strengthen his power and enforce party discipline, Stalin turned his attention to create a series of purges to eliminate his enemies & remove any domestic opposition to the Soviet government between 1934 and 1938. This period became known as the Great Terror.
  • The excuse for starting the purge (means to get rid of enemies of the state’ who were working against communism or who might possibly be critical of Stalin and his policies) was actually the murder of Seregei Kirov, the Secretary of the Leningrad Party organisation whom many expected to a potential alternative candidate for Stalin’s position as Secretary-General.
  • Stalin used Kirov’s death as an excuse to launch an attack against his opponents in the Party. The secret police supposedly investigated’ the matter and concluded that Kirov’s assassination was part of a plot to kill Stalin and other politburo members.
  • Stalin thus took advantage of this opportunity to eliminate his political opponents & all others whose loyalty to him and his policies were questioned. Within a few weeks of Kirov’s murder, there was an extensive purge of the Party in Leningrad, Kirov’s power base.
  • Political rivals such as Kamenev, Zinoviev and Bukharin were accused of conspiring with Trotsky to overthrow the government, and were tried in public show trials before being executed.
  • Those who were tried often confessed to crimes they did not commit, after being tortured or having their families threatened.
  • Stalin was also suspicious of the Red Army due to Trotsky’s connections with the army. Thus, high-ranking commanders & tens of thousands of Army officers were accused of treason, tortured into confession & shot.
  • Stalin’s development of a terror state had destroyed the Soviet administration and military strength as Stalin’s use of fear had removed capable people from the government & the army, thus reducing its military capability.


  • Stalin became extremely powerful as a result of the purges and show trials.
  • Therefore, Stalin’s dictatorship had strengthened Stalin’s position as Stalin was able to stop his opponents from threatening his power through his use of fear and intimidation. His dictatorship had created political stability for him to focus on strengthening the military power of the country.

2. Arrests and Interrogation


  • The secret police arrested, questioned and forced people to inform against their friends and family who voiced opposition against Stalin. A quota system was put in place and those who were often arrested and killed included Bolshevik politicians, former party leaders and officials, generals in the Red Army, scientists, priests, factory managers so as to prevent them from organising opposition to Stalin’s rule.
  • Millions were sent to labour camps, in isolated parts of the USSR where living and working conditions were so bad that many died.
  • Stalin’s purges were also considered a disaster as they damaged Stalin’s reputation still further and created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.
  • The biggest effect of the purges was the misery and suffering they caused for millions of Russians.
  • Thus, Stalin’s dictatorship had destroyed the morale of his people who constantly suffered fear for their lives.

3. Loss of Intellectuals, Skilled Workers and Officers


  • The purges damaged USSR by removing many of the best brains in the government, the army & the industry.
  • Economic progress was thus slowed in a country where the highly educated class was already small. So many scientists, engineers and teachers had been purged that it affected economic productivity, industrial expansion and education.
  • Loss of skilled administrators also affected the efficiency of running the government.
  • Purging of the Red Army commanders and officers meant that there were no experienced military personnel to lead the army and guide the inexperienced soldiers. The armed forces were in such a bad state that in 1939-40 Russia had great difficulty in preparing for World War II.
  • Therefore, Stalin’s dictatorship had destroyed the effectiveness of the administration as the purges had removed educated and capable people in the administration.

4. Propaganda: Cult of the Leader


  • One of the most striking features of the Soviet Union under Stalin was the use of propaganda. People were not allowed to think but were told what to believe.
  • Stalin used propaganda to build up his own profile as the rightful successor to Lenin.
  • Part of the propaganda message was the cult of the personality’. The Soviet people were taught that Stalin was all-powerful and all-knowing. He was the father figure who ruled with all their interests at heart.
  • In education, children were taught the communist version of history and encouraged to believe that there was only one fair and effective way of running the country – the Communist way.
  • For adults, propaganda was part of their everyday life. Loyal or intimidated artists praised the leader in films, books, posters, paintings and musicals, giving rise to a new style of art called Soviet Realism’.
  • Pictures and propaganda posters of Stalin were placed everywhere.
  • Large portions of Soviet history were rewritten to boost Stalin’s status and discredit his rivals.
  • Even photographs were edited to remove unwanted people or whom Stalin later saw as a threat to his rule.
  • Thus, Stalin’s dictatorship had stifled the creativity and thinking of the people as the people were only allowed to learn and think what Stalin had wanted them to. This would hold back the development of the Soviet Union as Stalin imposed restrictions on the learning of its people and the information they were allowed to have.


  • All of these measures boosted his authority and status, as the undisputable leader of the Soviet Union. It also made opposition against him even more impossible.
  • Therefore, Stalin’s dictatorship had provided a kind of political stability as the nation was forced to be united under the dictatorship of Stalin.