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IB History Internal Assessment (IA)

Ephraim Stillberg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

"Josef Stalin (1879-1953), was dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), also known as the Soviet Union, from 1929 until 1953. He rose from bitter poverty to become ruler of a country that covered about a sixth of the world's land area.

Stalin was an early leader of the Bolshevik (Communist) Party, which seized power in Russia in November 1917 (October by the old Russian calendar). V. I. Lenin led this revolution, which is known as the October Revolution, and set up the world's first Communist government. Stalin later depicted himself as Lenin's chief assistant in the revolution, though his role had been relatively minor. He used his position in the Party’s bureaucracy to destroy his rivals and become dictator in the years following Lenin's death in 1924.

As dictator, Stalin oversaw huge economic, social, and cultural changes in the Soviet Union. He transformed the Soviet Union from an agrarian (agricultural) society to an industrial and military powerhouse with a largely urban, well-educated population. The Soviet Union played a key role in the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II (1939-1945). However, Stalin’s reign was also a time of great suffering. His program of rapid industrialization included the forced transition to collective agriculture (government control of farms), which led to the deaths of millions of Soviet peasants. Stalin ruled by terror during most of his years as dictator. He had little personal charm and could be brutal to even his closest friends. He executed or jailed many of those who helped him rise to power, probably because he feared they might threaten his rule. Under Stalin, millions of Soviet citizens were executed or exiled to prison camps and settlements in remote parts of the country. He oversaw the spread of Soviet-style Communism to 11 other countries. His style of government, with its rigid, state-run economy and political terror, became known as Stalinism and continued to influence many governments even after his death.

The Soviet people had cause to hate Stalin, and much of the world feared him. Few dictators have demanded such terrible sacrifices from their own people. Nevertheless, by the time of his death in 1953, Stalin enjoyed the admiration and loyalty of much of the Soviet population and of Communists in other countries. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, strongly criticized Stalin’s brutal crimes and his self-glorification. But many people in the Soviet Union remained loyal supporters of Stalin and his system. The last years that Stalin ruled the Soviet Union were marked by the Cold War, a period of intense rivalry between Communist and non-Communist nations. Stalin died in 1953. Today, he remains a controversial figure in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union."

Sokolsky, Mark. "Stalin, Joseph." World Book Advanced, World Book, 2021, 

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